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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

writers’ weekend

imageThis is a picture of an issue of my beloved Nimrod. It’s also (warning! self-advertising!) an issue I especially love, and not simply because I’m included within the pages.

It’s one of my favourites because even when I was very young, I loved older people. My very best friends were my old ladies: my grandmothers, my great-aunts, the old ladies we called Grandma who were no kin at all. But Grandma Shanks & Grandma Pietzel & Grandma Whisenhunt (only 3 of several) were part of my family. With stories as wonderful as their home cooking.

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I can live, I think sometimes, on stories. On poetry and song lyrics and music w/ words and the lightening quick detonation of a haiku or tanka. They feed me in ways only birds and light can, otherwise.

So to be going to the Nimrod Weekend today is HUGE! Tonight I get to sit with more than 100 readers & writers, listening to poets & fiction writers read. I get to catch up with some of my dearest friends, and the people who know a side of me I don’t often share with strangers: geeky writer chick. And tomorrow a WHOLE DAY of the same!

Because I’m NUTS about writing: learning about it, talking about it, teaching it, doing it. I can talk poetics and prosody until you fall out of your chair snoring. Or the nuances of line breaks. And don’t forget about things like voice, and movement, and lyric and to capitalise or not to capitalise and…Hopeless, I know. :)

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But our passions are what make our hearts our own. What we love chinese mirroris like a mirror showing who we are. Me? I’m a writer. Writing has been a life sustainer for me for many years, always an integral element of who I am. And Nimrod has been there for me since I was 18, sitting as a young poet writing sonnets in Nimrod Senior Editor Fran Ringold’s poetry class.

So to have Nimrod Weekend as part of the weekend ramp-up to National Day of Writing is beyond cool.  And since this year’s Nimrod theme is “Hunger & Thirst: Fulfilling Desire,” the Day of Writing theme “write2connect” is a perfect sequel.

This weekend, I’ll be feeding my writing hungers & thirsts. Drinking & eating my way through line after line of poetry & prose. All so that I can better connect. With the world of readers, with my own inner world, with beginner’s heart. How great is that?

 

 

 

 

 

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waiting (impatiently!) for the National Day on Writing

imageSunday is one of my favourite days at any time — it’s the day when, if you’re working as a teacher, you’re (ideally!) caught up with your grading. Your household chores are sorta/kinda done. You can relax. Maybe. :)

But this coming Sunday I’m already getting ready for. It’s the National Day on Writing, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Writing Centers Association, among other organisations.

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This year’s theme is a GREAT one for a blogger: write2connect. It’s what all writers do, of course, but it’s imperative for those of us who blog that we remember you guys — our readers. Even if we never ‘meet’ you, you’re real. And the Buddhist in me knows that we’re connected whether I know it or not — everything’s connected, as is everyone — but it’s not something I always remember…

Except when I blog, and I find myself wondering who will read this? Who will care? And does it even make sense? The same questions students (of all ages) ask in a workshop. When I tell them we (writers) never stop asking that question, they look grim. Somehow, I think they are always hoping for some other answer.

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But I do write to connect. Hence my overly active FB account. My Twitter feed. My emails & cards & notes to friends & family. All an effort to connect, to strengthen the twinings that bind.

So for the next few days that’s the topic. Tune out, if you don’t want to hear a LOT about writing. But then again, you might want to stick around. Writing isn’t about grades, you know — it’s about connection. And passion. And learning about yourself. Actually? It’s about everything.

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armadillo interlude

There is absolutely no serious reason for me to post this goofy clip of dueling armadillos. Except that I’m sick of the sequester, the shutdown, politics, and mean hateful people. Sometimes, you just need a break. Plus, armadillos are one of my favourite animals.

For those of you who may agree, enjoy.

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Yes, America, there IS a rape culture

burnt house 2

Note: This is not the Coleman’s house, but a house similarly burnt out.

When I first read the story of Daisy Coleman’s rape, I was so horrified and angry I didn’t notice where she came from. It was only after I read it a 2nd — or perhaps a 3rd time — that I realised: I know Maryville. I go there every summer, as guest editor for a writing retreat with teachers, some of whom have taught where Daisy’s nemesis, Matthew Barnett, was a senior last January.

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The month Daisy Coleman was left in 22˚ weather, dumped in her family’s front yard.

The former beauty pageant competitor — also a cheerleader, before the January tragedy  — had slipped from her bedroom through her window. She was 14. Matthew Barnett, the boy who handed her a large glass of alcohol when she arrived at the party, was a 17-year-old senior.

Girls do sneak out. I did. So did at least two of my three sisters. Most of our friends did, as well. And thankfully — luckily — no boy took advantage of us. No group of boys plied us with two tumblers of  booze, then raped us while a friend filmed the assault. Daisy’s  13-year-old girlfriend — with her that night — was a little luckier: she wasn’t on film. Raped? Yes. But not on film. (Did I mention that these girls were 13 & 14???)

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The punch line? Matthew Barnett has walked on the charges Daisy’s mother filed against him: sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. A 14-year-old child.rape culture

Subsequently, Daisy’s mother was fired from her job (Mrs. Coleman was a veterinarian). The taped conversation with Coleman’s boss doesn’t match the boss’s later public statement (the boss had a familial relationship w/ one of the 3 boys involved in the rapes).

Enough on the story, which you can read. Or even the lack of follow-up by the Maryville prosecutor’s office. What I want to know is this: given that there is film the sheriff’s office says corroborates Daisy’s story, and that the boys admit to getting Daisy drunk and having sex w/ her, why have they gone stock free? While the Coleman children were bullied & threatened — Daisy tried to commit suicide twice — Barnett & his buds have gone on to college. Two on athletic teams.

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The Buddhist in me is trying very hard to turn my visceral anger towards wrathful compassion. So instead of writing what I, as a victim of assault, as the sister of one rape victim and the aunt of another, would like to do to Matthew Barnett, I am working diligently to try to understand how a boy can grow up with such different values from my own two sons. From my three nephews. From the many young men I know.

rape culture 2What lets a boy think this is okay? Rape culture. And no, America, it’s NOT made-up. It’s a post on a college website (in Missouri, no less) that coaches you on how to get a girl who is saying no to be ‘willing.’ And alcohol is one of the major strategies. Now that’s a lesson Matthew Barnett has, almost certainly, taken with him to university.

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But you know what I also come back to? The fact that his family would protect him. Would sacrifice a young girl’s reputation and peace of mind to make the law not apply to him. Would excuse him to the point of letting his morally reprehensible behaviour go unpunished. Even defended.

So yes, Virginia, there IS a rape culture. One that encourages young men to assault young women by excusing it as ‘boys will boys.’ One that covers up by blaming the victim. One that says there is no lesson here for Matthew Barnett except that influence wins. And that a 14-year-old girl’s life is immaterial. The lesson is one I’m sure Daisy Coleman thought of each time she tried to exit the life that changed so radically that January night.

 

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