Writer of Books and Letters
Letters? How old school. The word suggests someone who might read serious literature, collect hardcover books, and write essays in her leisure. I proudly claim to do all three. And since 1979 I’ve found writing both creative and curative. On el dia del muerto, I will be grateful for family and friends, strangers and artists, Mother Nature’s trees and creeks, and for the Spanish and English languages.
For 53 years I’ve taught literature and writing. I’m still doing it, teaching two courses a year and working with private students. Since 2017 I’ve served as Creative Nonfiction judge for the Soul-Making Keats, a literary competition in San Francisco. In 2012, Bread Loaf, the oldest writing conference in the country, awarded me the Donald Axinn fiction scholarship. Recently, of five submissions to the National League of American Pen Women’s 50th biennial, I won a first or second in all five categories, plus second place in the NLAPW’s Vinnie Ream competition. (What a gutsy artist Vinnie was in the mid-1800s).
What do I value besides teaching and writing? Being the mother of two fine daughters, two grandchildren, wife to a good man for 52 years, four years of volunteer work in Venezuela’s infamous prisons, living in five foreign countries, travel throughout the world, and trash collection. Odd to end with trash? Let me explain. After years abroad, husband Mike and I retired on a creek off the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia’s Northern Neck. This rural landscape with its farms, trees, and creeks is beautiful. Not its ubiquitous litter.
In 2005, in memory of my father who loved nature, I adopted a roadway. Call me Ms. Sisyphus. I don’t roll a boulder uphill; I bend to pick up beer bottles and soda cans. Now I have added two more roadways, and the three cover a swath of Northumberland County. Sisyphean work, not unlike eliminating clutter in writing. Long ago, Chaucer wrote: “The life so short; the craft so long to learn.” When I write, when I fill another orange V-DOT bag with trash, I am grateful for moving feet, moving pen, youthful mind, and searching heart.