>Artful Hat Trick

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My cup overfloweth… with three days of creative activities… soulful times back here in the U. S. of A. (Still slightly jet-lagged, but recovering!)

Starting on Saturday, as I carpooled down to Oxford (Mississippi) for the second monthly meeting of the Yoktapatawpha Writers Group. With three new “members” (everything about this group is pretty loose) in tow―Sue Brownlow, Terry Bernadini, and Cindy Beebe―we met up with Doug McLain, Herman King and Tom Hamilton on the balcony at Square Books for a full day of peer review, lunch, and, at the end of the day, drinks on the balcony of City Grocery (above, right.) It was “my pleasure” (inside joke for Terry) to buy drinks for everyone this month, as we agreed last month that anyone who got published was buying. My essay, “myPod,” appeared in the October issue of Skirt! Magazine. And actually, we should have made Cindy buy, because she’s already a published poet, with a recent publication in The Southern Review. See her name under “poetry” on this link. Only problem is, she can’t find a print copy of the magazine, so if anyone reading this knows where she can get one, please leave me a comment or send me an email at susanmaryecushman@yahoo.com and I’ll pass the info on to Cindy. She’s an amazing poet… I can’t share a sample of her work, though, as poems in blogs are considered published. The group gave Terry a nickname, “The Slasher,” which gives you an idea of how shy she was with her criticisms! Seriously, with two folks writing poetry, four writing fiction, and two writing creative nonfiction,the peer review was fun, enlightening and very useful. Again, thanks to Doug, our fearless leader!

Sunday afternoon and evening brought another fun event, the RiverArtFest on South Main in Memphis. Dozens of artists sold their works from booths (check out these homemade hats by Kimmerle Green … that’s me and Elisabeth Crabb, who works at the Brooks Museum of Art here in Memphis. She’s married to Will Crabb. They’re both friends with our son, Jon, who was home from Fort Drum, New York, for a 5-day visit. (He’s the one who flies helicopters for the army and spent a year in Iraq back in 2003-4.) Anyway, the RiverArtsFest was full of music, wine and beer, and art… beautiful weather… and a great place to hang out with friends and family. (Sounds like a Sprint commercial. Ugh. Not sure why I’m so sappy tonight.) Jon got a poster commemorating a previous “Blues on the Bluff” event (cute girl at the booth, we don’t know who she is!) and we also ran into an old roommate of Jon’s, Jeff, who is in the trolley picture. We ended up at the Pearl Oyster House for dinner.

I loved this sign at the restaurant!

It reminded me of the one at the Blue Fish, also downtown:

We love children, too, but

unattended children will be
given a shot of expresso
and a free puppy.

You think these places have been overrun with ankle-biters?

Final pix from Arts Fest… Elisabeth and WIll show Jon their art find.

This morning I woke up at 6 a.m. inspired to write. But I drank my first cup of coffee with the new issue of Poets and Writers, which always inspires me. A favorite article this time is “And the Winner Is” … Tips from a Pushcart Prize Editor, by Anthony Brandt. What I loved about this article is the way he describes the two very different approaches to writing that characterize himself and his good friend, Bill Henderson. It reminded me of conversations I’ve had with my friend and fellow YWG member, Sue Brownlow. Sue’s a purist … she’s of the Bill Henderson ilk. (about painting and writing) All Bill cares about is writing because you love it, but doing it well, again because you love it. Anthony is all about writing as a business… writing for money, where you have to satisfy others first… others like editors. I was wondering why you can’t do both (you know me, I want it all!) and just as I was thinking this Brandt says, “When you write for literary journals and the small presses, you’re writing to satisfy yourself first of all, and not for the money.” Okay. So I’m trying to start out there… but when I get this novel cleaned up, I’ll be a marketing maniac… Later in the article he gives some warnings about the exciting new genre, “creative nonfiction,” … the warning being that the genre encourages a certain amount of self-indulgence with its plethora of personal essays, the most common being about the loss of a parent. Huh. Just as I was putting together my stories about nursing my father and aunt and brother during their deaths. I’ll probably keep working on the piece… even if the market is flooded with this type of story… with a nod to Bill Henderson. And Sue. Anyway, there were lots of good articles in the Nov/December P&W, so run out and get it if you’re not a subscriber! (If you’re interested in writing….)

My 2nd, 3rd and 4th cups of coffee fueled three hours of writing after a little time with P & W. It felt sooooo good to get back to serious work after two weeks of traveling. After lunch with our son (still in town visiting) I headed over to Starbucks for more writing… this time outside on their sunny patio. Gorgeous day… and a few more pages… in longhand, my preference for first drafts. I just like the way a good pen and paper feel in my hand… and watching the words follow the pen is much like watching the paint flow from my brush. The image was doubly satisfying today, as I was writing about painting. (creative nonfiction essay… working title is “Painter’s Block.”)

Tonight (Monday) I traveled all of three blocks from my house in midtown to the “Gallaway Mansion” for a reception sponsored by the River City Writers Series (University of Memphis MFA Program) honoring author Charles Baxter. Baxter is author of four novels, including A Feast of Love (2000) which was recently made into a movie, four collections of stories and three volumes of poetry. Hear an interview with him here. I purchased his latest book (this one is for writers) called The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot, which he graciously autographed “with best wishes and good hopes for your work.” Tonight he read from his forthcoming book (February 2008) The Soul Thief… based on a brush he had with identity theft. He was thoughtful, entertaining, and personable… and the event was lovely… complete with wine and fancy finger foods… and and introduction by Rebecca Skloot, new director of the RCWS, Creative Nonfiction Writing instructor in the MFA program, and published author. (I didn’t snap her picture tonight, but here’s one from the net.)

So… that’s my artful hat trick for the “weekend” (Saturday-Monday this time)… stay tuned as the week unfolds! And please let me know if you find a hard copy of The Southern Review. (Although they recently rejected a short story I sent them…. no sour grapes here… way to go, Cindy!)

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