Tuesday, December 16, 2014

vermont public radio

Peeps: I was interviewed on Vermont Public Radio this morning about Contemporary Vermont Fiction. Mitch Wertlieb asked the most thoughtful questions, which made my job easy. You can listen and/or read the story here. I got to talk about Wallace Stegner, and Peter Gould's fabulous story, and my badass mama.


Also, I believe this is now the 9th time I've been interviewed on public radio. Which is utterly crazy, considering I'm a stay at home mom and far from famous and terrified every time it happens and reluctant to listen to my own voice coming through the car speakers (thank goodness for distracting children). But I will say this: I spent many hours as a child walking in the woods behind my house pretending I was being interviewed on NPR.  Which makes me strangely happy for that child and her (weird) dreams, and grateful for these woods, which have seen and sheltered and heard it all.

Enjoy if you happen to listen!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

lake people

Snow and freezing rain today but the light is—still—lovely, and the chickadees are at my feeder.

My resolution has come early, too; it's to throw myself back into writing and reading (as opposed to editing and coordinating). I'm starting here, with Abi Maxwell's (so far) beautiful novel, Lake People. Set in a fictional town in rural New Hampshire...families, lakes, secrets. How could I not want to venture between those pages? 

Happy reading, baking, lazing to you all...

R



Monday, December 1, 2014

the light of winter


I feel a bit like a wind blown leaf these days. I've been busy of late. Too busy. As grateful as I am that Contemporary Vermont Fiction is in the world, there's a part of me that just wants to sit in this corner of my living room and feel the snow-reflected light fall on my face.

And drink a cup of tea.

And rest my socked feet on the wood stove.

This is the place I feel at home.

Isn't the light of December lovely?

xx
R

(And because I can't fully let the ghost go, if you're looking to buy a copy of the book, you're welcome to send a check directly to me and I'll send a signed one your way--with love.)


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Sad and infuriating news from Ferguson. Let it snow...

Friday, November 21, 2014

Taproot : Bread

So pleased to have a short piece about my grandmother's (and mother's) bread in the new issue of Taproot, and looking forward to trying the bread recipes therein!



Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow and

Radio silence!

Because...

I was busting my ass trying to get this book to the printers, and then this book launched, and then this book funded. But it is here, folks. And, if I do say so myself, it is pretty, and full of good things!

If you want a copy, I hope you'll consider supporting our Indigogo campaign to help support our overhead expenses (licensing, printing & PR), and of course, also get a signed copy sent to your door.

Rick Bass said of the book: "These writings are as rich and dense and hard and lovely as the state itself." I agree.



Merci and enjoy. (And yes, I hope to be back here a little more often, when I'm not busy drinking, knitting, sitting stove-side and roving with my wily children.)

~R

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Women I Love: H.D.



It's fall in Vermont and I'm hungering for the kind of literary and artistic blasts of inspiration I used to get when heading back to college in Providence each September.

There's also a Lunar Eclipse in Aries unfolding, and according to my new astrological guide (you didn't know this about me, did you? No. Nor did I. But here I am, confessing in public–) it's a time to get one's liberation on. A time to let one's wild child out of the bag. For me this is manifesting as a desire to get back to the female artists whose lives inspire, whose work turns me on, who remind me of a higher calling and a higher form of liberation.

And so I'm going on a little virtual tour, and bringing you along for the ride. There may be more than a few poets in the mix.

C.D. Wright writes: "It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so."
And who is this? This here is H.D., i.e. Hilda Doolittle, who you can read an immense amount about if you follow the link.

To our freedom, in its variant forms, friends.

-R




Friday, October 3, 2014

praying and being cool

The world you see is just a movie in your mind.
Rocks don't see it.
Bless and sit down.
Forgive and forget.
Practice kindness all day to everybody
and you will realize you’re already
in heaven now.
That’s the story.
That’s the message.
Nobody understands it,
nobody listens, they’re
all running around like chickens with heads cut
off. I will try to teach it but it will
be in vain, s’why I’ll
end up in a shack
praying and being
cool and singing
by my woodstove
making pancakes.


-Jack Kerouac


http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/03/12/jack-kerouac-golden-eternity/

Thursday, October 2, 2014

today...







I completed two books this week. Which means I hope to spend a lot more time walking with my camera (and my children). Today...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Good morning, fall: 

veery, apricot-corn muffins, coffee, cream, blackberry jam, 
cheddar, bees, pollen, boys, sweet mustard, sun, tea. 

My walls are being coated in plaster. 

My children are growing older (and sweeter, and wiser).

Contemporary Vermont Fiction is nearing completion.

Blessed be, blessed be, blessed be
and forever and always:
grateful.



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dandy



Happy birthday to my dearest Pops (i.e. Dandy), who has dedicated his life to building good houses for others, loving his wife & children & grandchildren, providing a good education for the children in his community, being a steward of the woods and land he grew up on, providing good food for others, preaching simplicity & sustainability, modeling humility & humor, decorating our hillside with funny stone art, fearlessly loving and caring for all of humankind, practicing curiosity, and, in recent years, being one of the kindest and most badass grandpas that ever walked the earth.  (He has also, on this fine morning, eloped with my two-year-old so that I can work and write this post). All touched by the concentric circles of your generosity and compassion are ridiculously lucky.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

a dreamer

Because it is fall now, and with every new season I seem to have to try and figure out who I am (again). 


Who are you this early autumn?





Saturday, September 6, 2014

the world salvaged from the lords of profit




Teach the children. We don't matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb's quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

*

Attention is the beginning of devotion. 


-Mary Oliver, from "Upstream"



Thursday, September 4, 2014

contemporary vermont fiction



Friends....it's been a loooonnng time coming, but I am currently editing proofs of Contemporary Vermont Fiction and our publishing date is set for November 3rd! It's a beautiful thing to see all of these stories (and writers) together in one document. They are speaking to each other and bouncing off each other and echoing and reverberating in all sorts of surprising and interesting ways. (Helped along their journey by Dede Cumming's beautiful layout and book design.) 

And look at this line-up of writers! Laurie Alberts, Julia Alvarez, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Joseph Bruchac, John Elder, Castle Freeman, Jr., Miciah Bay Gault, Suzanne Kingsbury, Jeffrey Lent, Ellen Lesser, Howard Frank Mosher, E. Annie Proulx, Bill Schubart and Wallace Stegner. Some of my old faves and my new faves, together at last within these pages. 

The book is distributed by Midpoint and can now be pre-ordered from Amazon, here, or better yet, ordered from your favorite local bookstore. 

For Vermont natives and Vermont lovers alike.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

the unconditioned air



How To Be a Poet

BY WENDELL BERRY
(to remind myself)
i   

Make a place to sit down.   
Sit down. Be quiet.   
You must depend upon   
affection, reading, knowledge,   
skill—more of each   
than you have—inspiration,   
work, growing older, patience,   
for patience joins time   
to eternity. Any readers   
who like your poems,   
doubt their judgment.   

ii   

Breathe with unconditional breath   
the unconditioned air.   
Shun electric wire.   
Communicate slowly. Live   
a three-dimensioned life;   
stay away from screens.   
Stay away from anything   
that obscures the place it is in.   
There are no unsacred places;   
there are only sacred places   
and desecrated places.   

iii   

Accept what comes from silence.   
Make the best you can of it.   
Of the little words that come   
out of the silence, like prayers   
prayed back to the one who prays,   
make a poem that does not disturb   
the silence from which it came.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

mint, rising




It's here! Summer, dusk, grass, leaves, green. Visitors, mint, fans, bugs, lakes, rivers, screens.
Last night the lightning blew our phone and modem, blew my parents' inverter, fence charger, phone line. We cooked marshmallows over an open flame while the storm rolled in, took cover 
under the porch eaves, kept away from the windows. 
Avah Margaret floats on her back now, head tipped back, arms flat out, trusting. 
Owen Cricket lives naked in the woods, cooking pizzas made of sticks and leaves. 
Our garden offers: kale, chard, peas, basil, mint, cilantro. 
On its way: sun golds, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, beans.
I'm no gardener (as any of you who have stuck around here know), but alas, a garden!
The room we've been building for three years (unfinished walls, unfinished floors) 
holds: a guest bed, old friends.
An essay of mine was just accepted. 
The old phone we had stashed away in a drawer seems to work. Today: cooler air, a breeze. Up here on the hill I hear it rustling in the maples, whistling
in the cooler, darker pines. 
My grandmother's ghost, rising. Later: cool drinks, cool water, mint in
everything.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

sweet tea, cooling





6 am robins, a veery, other birds I can't yet name.
my daughter's sing-song voice from her room (half-dreaming).
the pop of day lilies, the hush of goat's beard (half-gone by).
bare feet in wet grass, the blue snake of the garden hose, the lemon lilies, the spirea, the clematis vine, rising.
the tea, hot, milky, cooling.
the blush of sunlight across the spider's web in the upper joists of the porch's eaves.
last night: the pond, dinner, the fire, the sand, jars of wine.
the girl learning to swim (to swim!), not wanting to leave that cool dark water, warmer than the evening air, the sensation of underwater agency coupled with risk.
girl, water, dusk, limbs, pond water, dripping.
now: the light, rising. the girl, waking.
footsteps on pine floors.  the sun, rising. the sweet tea, cooling.
good morning, friends.
summer.

Thursday, July 17, 2014





The strangest thing has happened this summer: we've all begun sleeping in. Thus no early morning woodbird posts, no pre-dawn shots of mist rising or skies lightening. We have been busy, happy, healthy, engrossed, and consumed in this thing (too short, too sweet, oh my god, too short and too sweet!) called summer: greens, berries, lakes, woods, trails, peas, friends, mint, wine, sun, rain, lightening, porch, chickens, pigs, friends, lakes, woods, pools, beaches, mint, sun...

That is the refrain. These are the faces. Oh, these faces. And now I hear footsteps, and my tea is cooling, and the day begins...good day, my loves. May it be vivid and bold and remarkably tender in the shadows. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

sweet spot


I don't think I've mentioned my dear friend Desha's book to you yet (it's been a crazy, rich month!), but here it is. In it Desha features the homes of twenty artists, designers, and just plain interesting people whose style reflects their lifestyle, values and thriftiness. Photos of the homes are paired with interviews, in which said artists and interesting people discuss what their house means to them, how their home reflects their lifestyle and values, where they collect all their funky, eclectic stuff, etc. And THOSE pieces are paired with Desha's earthy, sassy and helpful tips (with a bit of Arkansas twang) on how to make your house a reflection of your inner self without the aid of much cash. A win-win combo, no?

My funky, eclectic house is featured in here as well, and in my interview I talk about all sorts of things, including: what I did in my cabin when I was young, the balancing act of mothering, writing and making music, my grandmother's bathtub, and Sharon Olds' poem, "New Mother."

Desha is about to head out on a national book tour (hubby and cute-as-anything daughter in tow): you can check out her schedule and order a copy of the book here!

xx
R




Thursday, June 5, 2014

a thousand words



A couple weeks ago on the playground I overheard a (sweet, kind, innocent) six-year-old girl tell my five-year-old daughter that she should exercise every day so that she can be skinny like her, the friend. 

My daughter, sheltered thing that she is, said, "Why would I want to be skinny?" To which she was told, "Because being skinny makes you pretty. Like me."

I stood there and thought: Fuuuuuuuck!

And then I hopped over towards them, like a twittering bird, and said something about how all bodies are beautiful, all colors, shapes and sizes, but those girls were long gone, running across the playground in hunt of a good tree to climb.

I tried to bring it up in a casual way at home. I infused a couple conversations with comments about the beautiful shapes all bodies take, about how I love the way my post-pregnant belly jiggles, but really I was thinking, Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. 

What power do I have in the face of this big old world? 

Which is why when Dede Cummings gave me a copy of The Bodies of Mothers by Jade Beall, a new release by Green Writers Press, I though, ah, this. I thought: images. Maybe.

I spent hours/days/years poring over The Family of Man as a kid. I memorized those photos, those subtle expressions, those faces, those wants and desires and emotions, finding myself in them and making sense of the world I belonged to. 

I brought home The Bodies of Mothers yesterday and lay it on the table where my daughter was sure to see it. She did. She picked it up. Brought it to the couch. Said, "Mama, will you come look at this with me?' Which we did for an hour, looking at these naked bodies covered in tattoos and stretch marks and moles, these bodies with sagging breasts and big asses and skinny asses belonging to beaming, radiant, self-loving women of all different shapes, colors and sizes.

I thought: yes. 

I didn't buy this book, but I would, for any daughter of mine. Images like this are the best tool or weapon we have to stave off this culture of judgment, body-hatred and competition. My daughter and I looked at the book again this morning. It's a bonafide magnet. We read the women's names. How many children they have. We looked at their bodies. We looked at their radiant faces. 

Go buy a copy, friends!


You can order a copy HERE, though much better would be to order it at your local bookstore. That cheap price they offer? That just means they're giving less than their share to the author and the independent, green publisher. 


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

greening



A couple shots from this rainy day in late May. The first from the early morning, where I sat drinking my tea and conversing with my daughter (and only stealing the occasional look at The Sun, laid open in front of me, I swear).

The second of my mother's blueberry bushes, which are loaded, just now, with blossoms. Let's hope for a sunny day soon (i.e. tomorrow) for the bees to do their all-important dance of pollination.  

I also went to the bookstore today. Yes, the bookstore! On my own! Without my children! And came home with five books. (Five books!) Most of them were on sale, but still, five beautiful new books. This is what happens when you 1. start working (i.e. making money) and 2. work freelance and thus have days off in-between projects.

A couple are bird guides, as I'm determined to hone (alongside my children) my recognition skills this summer. 

Another is Thomas Berry's The Great Work, a book that's been called, "The modern equivalent of the biblical book of revelation." In Berry's own words (he has been called "the bard of the new cosmology,") "The Great Work, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner." Berry is a cultural historian, an Appalachian-born Buddhist scholar, a Catholic priest and an ecotheologian. I hope to share more quotes with you here as I journey in. Feel free to read along. 

Happy late May, friends. It is an amazing (lilacs dripping) time of year.
R

Monday, May 26, 2014

in the early morning



5:20: Owen Cricket wakes to nurse
5:30: He drifts back again
5:31: I'm tiptoeing down stairs, putting water on to boil
5:36: Tea. Hot. Honey. Milk.
5:40: Shit! Facebook. I should never go there first thing in the morning
5:45: But, oh. These funny emails about Eudora Welty and Grace Paley. My book group just read them. We can't seem to let them go. Oh to be as nutty as Eudora or Grace.
5:50: The friend I can't stop thinking about, who just had her second-born, is wondering how one finds time to write with two. Time to write with two....time to write with two...I remember being desperate for camaraderie, solidarity. Thus: Erdrich's The Blue Jay's Dance and a slew of mother-poets I went in search of (Sharon Olds, Beth Ann Fennelly). Today I'd recommend Grace Paley, so that one remembers their humor and their sexuality. Those were somewhat desperate days.
6:00: Oh sweet tea. Caffeine's coursing. That newborn whose birth brought about that desperate search for solidarity/camaraderie will turn two in six days. Two! Two years ago today I was writing this, and this, and this. That was a time and a place.
6:01: Oh how I wash my soul, every day, in the eggshell, almond, beach-salt skin of their wily limbs.
6:02: They're still sleeping. Everyone is still sleeping. What on earth will I do now? What oh what, in these sweet quiet moments, will I work on now?
6:04: Oh, daughter. Hello. Good morning. Thank goodness. Your friendship and your beauty. What adventures will we embark on today??


PS: Michelle, I want you to know that two days ago I printed out the manuscript of stories that I began six years ago. Six years ago! They're not finished, but they're very close to finished. Time accomplishes amazing things.



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

the macarthur house





I don't believe I've officially introduced you to The MacArthur House. It's my family homestead, a stone's throw up the road from where Ty and I started building our cabin fifteen years ago (past the farm stand, the blueberry fields and the cider orchard). 

It's the house my grandparents bought for a few thousand dollars in the late 1940s and fixed up, lovingly and by hand, for the next sixty years. (When they came it was abandoned: shot-out windows, floors eaten by porcupines.)

My grandparents were and are (my grandfather still lives next door) radicals and dreamers: my grandfather is and was a professor of astronomy and physics and a hard-core environmentalist, ecologist and lover of birds; my grandmother was a folksinger, gardener, baker of extraordinary bread, self-trained ethnomusicologist and lover of all things local and all things old. 

For the past six years (since my grandmother died and my grandfather moved next door) our family has been trying to figure out what to do with the house and its land. How to honor my grandparents' dedication to cultural and environmental sustainability, how to honor the beauty of the house itself, how to share it with others in order to foster that bridge my grandparents made between art, the environment,  sustainability and place. 

And so The MacArthur House. We're still not sure just exactly what it will become, but we have opened the doors and windows in order to see what flies in and nests here. 

We are so very excited. 

(For more info/photos, go here.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014





Good morning, friends. The rooster (Whitey) is up. The sun is up. I'm up. Spring/summer, or the love child of the two has officially arrived to our woods. We spend the evenings outside in the yard with cups of chilled wine. Our children are back to being bare-limbed and dirt-caked vagabonds. Our shoulders and cheeks are pink from bike riding and weeding and watering and swinging and digging in dirt with backhoes. A learned to ride a two-wheeler this spring and now she takes off down my uncle's long and winding driveway on her own, hair a blaze behind her. What freedom! What unparalleled freedom. I have not let the chickens out of their coop to troll the yard this spring, which means this little garden of ours, now planted with carrots and peas and beets and spinach and kale and other good things just might have a chance of growing us some food. Regardless, my children are taking great pleasure. My children are taking great pleasure, raking and watering and planting and weeding. Seeds, seeds, seeds, seeds: every mother is a farmer of the utmost important kind. These heirloom seedlings of ours! What astounding variety. What delightful surprises. What utterly delicious limbs.

xx
R

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

margaret





My spunky, beautiful, vivacious, bull-headed, creative, eccentric and fiercely loving grandmother, Margaret, would have turned 86 today. 

I spent the morning writing in the study of her old house, the room where she died eight years ago. It was a spring day like this one; the windows open and the sun shining after weeks of cold and rain. 

This morning two other women were inhabiting rooms in that house as well: artists, working on creative projects and scheming about future ones.  I can think of no better way to celebrate my grandmother's birthday than to witness those rooms of hers--those dearly beloved, pine-shod, two-hundred-year-old rooms--startle with the energy of young, creative, vivacious women, going after their own illusive artistic dreams.  

 What a thing to be: an artist. What a time to be born: spring. 

Happy birthday, G'ma, Toodles, Margaret.
Your house lives on. Imagine that! 

I am so deeply glad.

~R



Tuesday, May 6, 2014

spring?




Morning, friends. I'm up a little early. The tea is strong and black and sweetened with Northwoods Apiaries raw honey, lightened with a little half and half. You would think I'd be writing about spring  about now, but here are some snapshots of what early May looks like in our woods this year: the seedlings still coming indoors for the night, the peach tree not yet in bloom, the front yard--well, maybe that's our problem, not spring's. (We are not lawn manicurists around here, as you all probably know well.)

Thank goodness for my children: their bright clothes and bright faces, adding some bounce to the air. They sing me songs at night until I fall asleep between and, no doubt, before them. They seem to have both adopted their mother's penchant for all things boots. They're frisky and sassy and fully alive. And their cheeks--have I talked enough about their cheeks? Holy do we have that going on around here.

On the reading front: Eudora Welty and Grace Paley. Cool, smart women, who we'd all do well to be a little more like. 

More on that soon. 

Wishing you bright blooms and much green in your own necks of the woods. 

It's got to be coming soon, soon, soon. (Right?!)

~R

Friday, May 2, 2014

bookish



Morning...5:29, a hot cup of raw-honey-sweetend Russian Caravan by my side, the rooster making a racket, the kiddos upstairs sleeping, the world blushing into light from behind my friends the trees (hemlock, spruce, birch, pine).

It's been a literary week. Two nights ago my book group met at The MacArthur House (have I mentioned this here, yet? No I think I have not. More on that soon) and discussed, passionately, Why We Love Alice Munro (and, fortunately for all of  us, why some do not).

There was wine, food, good company, and two hours of talk about her women, her landscapes, her craft. I came home blushing.

Last night I drove with my dad to Green Writers Press's book launch for two new releases: Leland Kinsey's book of poems, Winter Ready and Patti Smith's book, The Beavers of Popple Pond. 

It's been a long time since I've been to a reading, a long time since I've been out on the town in the evening without my kids.

The reading was wonderful, but as wonderful was sitting in the darkness of the pew, sans children, almost alone, feeling words wash over me.

I slipped my feet out of my shoes and thought: I could become some eccentric, crazy old lady in not too long.

I thought: there will be a time, soon, when I am not defined by my children.

I thought: what will I do with my life then?

I'm still figuring that one out, as I hope you are each still figuring that one out. Just exactly who you want to be. What you will do with this "one wild and precious life."

One of the things I love most about Alice Munro's stories is the way her narratives take sharp and surprising turns, just as the lives of her characters do. The way her protagonists relentlessly chase after their own happiness (without predictable outcomes for those turns).

I've always related to those women: their restlessness and their constant desire to know themselves better.

And I blabbing? I am blabbing.

The sun is up. The tea is near-empty. Good morning, dear friends. Your comments here keep me going--without them I'd be a fool.

xx
R


Sunday, April 20, 2014

greening



Happy Easter, friends, lovers, fans, strangers...

This holiday is, for me, about eggs, chickens, spring and reincarnation (in the form of crocuses and budding peach trees). It is--blessed be--sixty degrees and sunny right now. The lawn is tawny, but greening. Flecks: here and there. There are peas in the ground. I pruned the peach (kind of) and the kids hunted for eggs (with friends) and I told my daughter, first thing, before anyone else was up, that there is no Easter bunny, that I am the Easter bunny, and this sent no ripple of shock through her body. There are miracles I want her to believe in and touches of innocence it will pain me to see her lose, but...What more of a miracle does one need in spring--what more of a reminder of rebirth and reincarnation--than crocuses amidst the brown earth after months of snow?

So there is no longer an Easter bunny here. The eggs came from our chickens. We dyed them with straight-up food coloring and devoured them with glee.

Right now my boy (last night, leaning up against my leg as we stood around a fire: "Mama, love me. Love. Me.") is asleep in the car and my girl is upstairs with a friend making worlds out of blankets and dolls. The world is turning. Alice Munro keeps me company at night, helping me know myself better. What more does one want from a writer?

I have been absent here because of a sore wrist but am stepping back with a new desk, a new keyboard, a new wrist support, and seeing if I can find my rhythm with this new set up. Hello? The line is connecting, kind of.

Happy Sunday, Passover, Easter, Spring, friends. It's all the same in my book: this green time of expansion, growth, opening, light. May yours be filled with all of that, and other good stuff, too.

xx
R


Monday, April 7, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour @ Woodbird

My first MFA workshop at Vermont College was taught by two wonderful human beings. One was Larry Sutin, who took me aside the first day I was there, long before my story was workshopped, and in his quiet and ever-humble but when-he-speaks-you-believe-him-voice said, “Your story is really very good. Really. Beautiful.”

I probably would have packed my bags and left (I was terrified) if he hadn’t been there to say that to me.

The other was Diane Lefer, who brought such no-bullshit honesty to our workshop I found myself smiling every time she spoke. She was keeping us real--keeping us honest with ourselves about our motives and the inherent politics in our work and whatever coy shades we were trying to hide behind. 


Diane recently started this blog tour. The idea is for writers, all over the world, to answer these same four questions, and then introduce more writers and invite them into this ever-expanding web/thread of voices about why, how and what we write.

I was previously invited to take part but declined because I’m not working on my own fiction as much as I’d like to right now and thus writing about my work and process seemed like it would contain a little too much BS. But then I was asked again, and I thought about Diane, and all of the other wonderful friends who have participated, and realized I was hiding behind coy shades by saying no.

Plus, this here woodbird is about connection, right?

So here are my answers to the four questions. I’ll then lead you back to some others who have brilliantly traversed this terra firma before me.



What am I working on now?

I am working on finding a way to make a living, raise two young children, build a house, lead a sustainable life, and write. This is, as anyone who has been here before me knows, no easy feat. I recently started an editing business for myself, which is how I’m paying the bills. My writing—oh, sweet writing!—is simmering in the background in multiple pots. At the front of the pack is my nearly-finished-for-two-years collection of short stories. They take place in Southern Vermont where my father was born, where I was born, where my children were born. They are about women and ghosts and animals and the ways in which we humans are shaped by the landscapes we inhabit.

I’m also editing an anthology of short fiction set in Vermont which will be published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2014. Contemporary Vermont Fiction: An Anthology will include work by Annie Proulx, Howard Frank Mosher, Julia Alvarez, Robert Olmstead, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Castle Freeman, Laurie Alberts, Jeffrey Lent, Suzanne Kingsbury, Miciah Bay Bault, Bill Schubart and Joseph Bruchac. Oh my…what a line-up! I’m beyond-elated about this project. (And still have a lot of footwork to do to make it happen.)


How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My whip-smart friend Stephanie Freidman used this George Saunders quote in her writing blog tour and I’m going to steal it to use here. He wrote, “Originality in art means settling into who you actually are.” Any writer’s work, at its best, is unlike anyone else’s because we’re writing from who we authentically are instead of trying on the voices/ideas of others. I am the third generation in my family to live on MacArthur Road (named after my grandparents) in Marlboro, Vermont. Because of this I don’t see the individual as an individual—I see the individual as inextricably intertwined with their extended family and their landscape. My parents are farmers—I grew up shoveling cow shit and moving hay bales and stacking firewood and emptying sap bucket after sap bucket into the tank on the back of an ancient Ford truck. Because of this I don’t see human beings—our livelihood or our happiness—as separable from the trees and fields and seasons and creatures that surround us. I have a deeply rooted world view of interconnection and I try to write that interconnection into my work because I believe in the political and environmental necessity of doing so and because to do so makes the work a genuine reflection of me and the way I see the world.

Another way of saying this would be: my work contains lots of fields, trees, cabins, hippies, farms, wild animals, old houses and daughters. 

The house/cabin we've been building for the last 10 years



Why do you write what you do?

I think I already answered this one…but who doesn’t love another shot.

I write what I do because I’m a quiet introvert who has found writing to be the most effective way to make my voice heard in this world.

I write what I do because it’s what I know, and I think my subject matter contains a window into alternative lives and ways of living that may open windows for others.

I write what I do because I believe we will only know and truly love places when they have been rendered in art, and that doing so can thus birth empathy, understanding, stewardship and compassion.

A non sequitur: in my dream world someone would look up from a story of mine and ask themselves, Am I living the life I want to live?

them mornings


What is your writing process?

Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha. Ha. In my life before children I used to get up at six and write for two hours before going to work.

In my life with one child I used to wake up at five and write for an hour before she woke, then for another hour during her nap.

In my life with two children I occasionally get twenty minutes in the morning, before they wake up, which I use to write a blog post. I can’t go diving into my fiction unless I know I can get safely lost there, and those wide expanses of time just don’t exist in my life right now.

But in some ways that’s okay. Because my children are a deeply important part of the writing process. They are helping me discover what is important to say. They are the fire keeping those pots warm. They flay the heart open with their love and fevers, and what writer’s heart wasn’t better off flayed and open? 




So there you have it. Woodbird’s addition to this ever-expanding web of voices.

In lieu of introducing new writers into this series I’m going to send you back to some former entries, by wonderful writers, deserving of a re-run:


If you follow their links you’ll be lead into a lush world of goodness and find more links to great entries…enjoy the journey, friends!

~Robin

Thursday, April 3, 2014

sugaring




It's sugaring season around here, which means this is the daily afternoon-into-evening scene: these four little ones, sitting on this old van seat next to the evaporator, chowing down on pretzels and sugar on snow and whatever other unhealthy treats they can get their super grubby mitts on. 

They love each other, these children. And are getting to know themselves through one another. 

For my eldest (the butterfly in snow pants) there is school, and the friends she makes there, but at the heart of her life is this family that loves her unconditionally for who she is; that listens when she talks; that lets her know she is an all-important cog in this extended family wheel. 

There are all sorts of reasons it's groovy to make your own maple syrup--synchronicity with the natural world, time outside during mud season, affordable delicious nectar of the tree gods--but this family piece is another one. There is love in the sugar house. There is security in the sugar house. A "we are all in this together" steam-faced stickiness in the sugar house that can override some of the world's less loving elements. 

So to my parents, who are not sitting by the wood stove with tea right now writing this, but are down the road lighting a fire in the evaporator and preparing for the next ten hours of boiling (2000 gallons of sap already and the day's run hasn't even begun!): a simple and inadequate thank you. Your little people are lucky.