Introverts: Be Careful What You Wish For

Junior High, or Middle School.”The Monkey’s Paw.” In that terrifying story-and many others–I learned that humans who wish to undo universal laws are setting themselves up for mockery. The parents who wish their soldier son alive end up with his destroyed but animated remains on their doorstep; the king with the golden touch ends by turning his child from a girl into a statue, and the fisherman’s wife, not satisfied with being the pope, desires to be God, and ends up sitting moodily in her filthy hovel once more. But these vivid warnings never stopped me from wishing for more peace, more solitude, fewer obligations, less business and busyness. What could be better, I thought, than never having to leave the house and grounds?


It turns out that when we never have people over, things get awfully slovenly. It turns out that though we rarely have any social obligation at all, we see our partners or families or ourselves in the mirror much, much more than we want to. In the summer of a pandemic, significance leaks out of time. Moving from one locale to another used to punctuate time. The day of the week identified itself briskly by its proferred faces and voices and roles and tasks. Now, though, in Magic-Mountainous fashion, time flows on unbroken, and possibly unused–a source of unease, if you don’t have much of it to waste.

But time is still told by the budding, blooming and seeding of plants, and the demographics of other comrades (coyotes, voles, mosquitoes, moles, gophers, houseflies, blowflies, bumblebees, honeybees, miner bees, little white butterflies, large yellow butterflies, hummingbirds). They all abide by their critter’s-year clocks, indifferent to us, as we’ve sometimes been indifferent to them. For instance, it’s the season of spiders’ eggs in filamented sacs, insouciant at the intersection of wall and ceiling. So it’s not yet the season of cobwebs and dew. That’s for autumn. That’s still to come.

Messy and Snowy

This site is undergoing a winter update, and may display frustrating tendencies toward mess and chaos. But I assure you it’s much less annoying than the Farm of Cold Comfort, seen below, which has recently experienced frozen pipes, barn flooding, flagrant indoor dog-pooping, a population boom among voracious, bulb-eating voles, and a recalcitrant old-school oil furnace which quit, and then required a six-hundred dollar part, when the outdoor temperature was in the twenties. Therefore be gentle with judgment of this site, and pity us, Cold Comfort denizens, who must always stand tensed for the next disaster.

So. Many. Writers.

Just returning from the Associated Writing Programs 2015 conference in MPLS, where I successfully avoided many events I was duty-bound to attend in favor of reconnecting with a handful of the funniest, kindest and smartest folks I know: Peter Ho Davies and Lynne Raughley, Allyson Goldin Loomis and Jon Loomis, John Brandon, Molly Atwell…I also got to read to and hang with a bunch of undergraduate charmers at University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, where people brave the slings and arrows of Scott Walker and fight the good fight for imagination and education. Also: coupla CRAZEE spider monkeys at the Como Zoo in St. Paul. Bumpy plane ride, but peaceful heart.

An idea about Wisconsin

In a couple of weeks I’ll be in Wisconsin to give a reading in the excellent undergrad writing program at UWEC–that is, if Gov. Scott Walker hasn’t totally dismantled the state’s educational system by that time. I’m really looking forward to supporting the dedicated and talented faculty there–Allyson Goldin Loomis and Jon Loomis among them–who are fighting the good fight for the Wisconsin idea. Universities are not–or not only–meant to train workers: they promote an educated citizenry and the ideals of informed dissent, democracy, inclusion and enlightenment.

Great visit with the Manzanita Writers’ Series

The Berlin airlift, a Japanese naval officer, Sir Francis Drake, rutabagas, a baseball player-turned-spy–just some of the fascinating details and characters that came up in my discussion of the writing of historical fiction and popular history in Manzanita, Oregon, last weekend. This completely adorable coastal town seems to attract intellectual people who’ve had one career and are operating full blast in another. And a big group of folks turned out for the evening reading, though they could have been spending the first Saturday of spring break walking on the beach under clear skies and a gleaming sunset, and they were such a smart, attentive audience. Sometimes I think, as my mother would say, “How did a little girl from the country get so lucky?” My thanks to Kathie Hightower and her comrades for inviting me.

Story-Catcher Writing Workshop: Best Conference Name Ever?

I love the dynamic, romantic, trickster attitude of the title of this festival It’s held annually at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska: not that southern-Willa Cather-Nebraska that’s practically Kansas but the Dawes County sand-hills-and-badlands Nebraska that’s practically Wyoming. As the 2015 Writer-in-Residence, I’ll give the keynote talk and work with writers in a workshop setting, June 12-14. Here’s a link to more information. Reminders to follow as June approaches!

Equinox at the Manzanita Writers’ Series

I’ll be teaching a writing workshop on creating lively historical fiction, and giving a public reading in Mazanita, Oregon on March 21, 2015, as part of the lovely Manzanita Writers Series. The workshop time is not yet set, but will be a couple of hours long in the middle of the day. The reading is at 7 pm. Here’s a link to information on how to register for the workshop or attend the reading. Take a Saturday on the Oregon Coast and drop in!