Click the link below to view a spotlight I did on Southern Charm’s, Landon Clements! A big thanks to Landon for the interview!
Writing is a hard, hard, thing to be in love with. To actually sign a great agent, have a book sold at auction, get a great editor, or see any materialization from the labor is far-fetched. Writers have to believe in long shots going in, nothing but net, in the ninth hour. We have to believe in exceptions to every rule, records being broken, and pots of gold at the ends of rainbows. We have no choice but to believe in leprechauns and unicorns, centaurs and demigods. If we don’t, then what do we have? A mental condition, maybe?
Last night when my heart was pounding out of my chest while I watched game 7 of the NBA finals, I saw a centaur leading a supportive cast of unicorns. I saw beings that were supposed to be men, find the animal, the regality, the x factor inside, and defy statistics, odds, and wrathful warriors to become champions. I saw a man of 6’8, 250, morph into a beast of immeasurable proportions. I saw his teammates grow wings, and fly. I saw a labor of love and passion begin to spin, snowball, and catch on fire. I saw a city who hadn’t seen a victory in over 50 years finally get to celebrate the fruitions of faith. I saw a team become the first in history to ever deliver that victory from such a deficit. I saw a group of players become more fierce when 99% of people out there wouldn’t have seen the point of stepping up, and would be ready just to try again next time. They were down 3 games to 1, with 4 needed to win. They were in an arm wrestling match with their knuckles almost touching the table.
As a writer, I feel like it’s part of my job title to inspire people, to give them a reason to hope, to make their next breath worth while. We’re the dreamers, the innovators. What I realized last night though, is that we need fodder. We have matches, but have to have some sort of flint to touch that fire to, and start a blaze. I was given that spark last night by these individuals who didn’t just talk the talk. They proved it. They did the impossible, and gave me hope that I can too. They stepped up and showed me irrefutably that rejection, criticism, and low low odds DO NOT MATTER. They wrote a memoir that I will forever reference when I need to remember how to fight. With every jump shot, free throw, impossible block, and wood-burnt elbow sliding across the floor, these men wrote a story that I’ve been moved to put words with. It is them, running, sweating, and dribbling all over my keyboard right now.
What I’m saying to the Cavaliers is not only congratulations, but THANK YOU. Oh, thank you from the depths of my weathered writer’s soul. Cleveland wasn’t the only one dreaming, hoping, needing a sign. I needed it. My trench mates needed it. Because of your performance last night, a young writer in South Carolina, no more than 5 feet tall, with manuscripts begging for the shelf time, has hope. More than hope. Defiance. Courage. Refusal of quitting. I will play game 7, and I will fight until the buzzer sounds because YOU did. What you’ve done doesn’t end on the court. Your tears of joy have filled the building, swollen it to capacity, and now seep out. Your dauntlessness has spilled onto the nation, and it’s a tidal wave. Hold hands and take your bow, enjoy your title…the rest of us have some work to tend. I hope when mine is done I will cry Cleveland tears, the ones that still stain the Golden State arena today. I hope I will cry the tears that only come when daring to be great, the tears that only come when achieving the impossible dream, the tears that come from pure uninhabited need for greatness.
Picture courtesy of NBA
It’s no secret at all that I like to write period pieces. I’ll dabble a bit in the high 1800s, but it’s the twentieth century I like to tap dance all over. The dash between 1900 and 2000 fascinates me, and I never thought about why until last night when I had one of my famous random thoughts.
I’ve been watching Cold Case reruns religiously for about a month now. Each show focuses on a crime that’s gone cold, and they touch on about every decade from the last century. I find it scintillating. I’ve gotten to watch a timeline of how these decades developed and eras came to be…and it isn’t just a collection of random fads. There’s something scientific behind poodle skirts, or big hair, or peace signs, or air Jordans.
Each era is not only distinct because of the clothes worn or music played…those things are just a product of mindsets. They reflect what human beings were ready for at the time. They reflect new ideas being formed into things we listen to or put on our body. A war, an athlete, or a beverage could have sparked it…it could have been anything that caused a reaction. A lot of times it was many things, and revolutions started without people knowing they were starting them. However, they could not be rushed.
Time came about organically, and I’ve realized is just an illustration of a growing human being. Seeing as how I always write character-driven pieces, with the era as much as character as people, I’ve had a “eureka” kind of moment. We are the times…I just focus on a different part of the human psyche depending on which era I’m engrossed in. I’m just now realizing why. Different decades represent newness, naivety, rebellion, discovery, and rebirth. We go through all of these emotions in our lifetimes, but we tend to live in an age focused on one of them, and the crazy part is we really have no way of knowing which until we’re just a memory.
Almost everyone could have been considered liberal or conservative at what time or another considering what the mind and body was ready for in relation to what experience was available at the time. Society grew as naturally as it could, and looking back, resembled two teenagers groping around at each other in the dark (I also often write about adolescence…go figure). The reason? We are always that person we were when we asked the question “why” for the first time, discovering our egos. We are always in the age of enlightenment or confusion. One man’s light is another’s dark. That’s why there is a liberal out there for every conservative, and a no for every yes. We aren’t all necessarily on the same path, but we’re on the same timeline. We’re on the earth when we’re on the earth. We’re discovering the same things from different views and trying to figure out how to do it together in a common time…and just like that, a culture is born. It has a heartbeat, a personality, and a tone, that in later years will define it. People will sing about it, and write about it, and draw about it for years to come. A few of us have that stir to document it, and I thank God I’m one of them.
By writing what I write, I’m reflecting on what’s happened, and paving the way, for myself at least, for what’s to come. When I reflect upon it, when I am confused, and when I’m flailing…that’s when I’m writing about today. Maybe there are other writers out there doing the same, and we will one day be the anthems of our own generations. However, there’s no way to know that yet. That’s for someone after my time to look back on and unveil. It’s delicious to me to think what age is it? The one I don’t even know I’m a part of…
I often wonder what draws people to one another. I think about this a lot when writing because I have to make the relationships between my characters real. I have to find that thread that connects them and write it. In order to do this I examine my own relationships, as well as the ones happening around me. It boils down to one thing: magnetism.
Whenever we meet new people, we are either naturally drawn to them or we’re not. We can condition ourselves to tolerate certain people, or even befriend them. However, we cannot create, nor destroy magnetism. The problem is that there is a north and south end to every magnet. There is light and dark. We often hangout in that place in between because we are attracted to people who are like us because of our strengths and because our weaknesses, and for whatever reason, sometimes the dark seems so much yummier.
There’s a song I love from the 90s called 6th Avenue Heartache. It has this great lyric that says, “and the same black line that’s drawn on you, was drawn on me, now it’s drawn me in.” I used to listen to this song and get all warm and fuzzy at the imagery here. Two people have stripped away their skins, noticing their souls sketched in the same likeness. They are marred with the same blackness. I hated that the song was about them ultimately going their separate ways, more jaded by each other than before. They were soul mates, weren’t they?
This was the kind of thing that lured me in, the kind of beautiful mess I wanted to be in. Find me someone with a flaw like mine, and let’s bathe in it…make it a bath of fire too. I wanted to seem more tortured than I was; after all I was an artiste. Ha…I was literally on the lookout, a hungry sojourn, for someone who would magically understand my brand of ugly. Many of the characters I write about start off this way as well. This time, I don’t think my characters come out this way as a direct reflection of myself only. They’re a direct reflection of the warm-blooded kind, self-sabotaging by nature. However, unlike everyone, my characters figure it out. This is probably a reflection of me, because thank God, I figured it out. It took a blue-eyed, fair-skinned boy, I thought was too nice for me to do it…
When I started dating my husband I noticed something about us immediately. Our miseries were different. We’d both had hardships, but different kinds. Our personalities were also seemingly opposite to the core, but there was this draw. It wasn’t how I was usually drawn to people. There was intrigue there, but not that ache I’d grown to think was just part of it…everyone knows that ache…the one that feels good to rub in your own face. It was something else with this time, with this guy. Then it hit me…we were good the same way. Our good qualities synergized and started cancelling out the bad ones instead of feeding them. Anything we feed is satisfied until it wrestles hunger again. When two people feed each other’s monsters, it feels good for a moment, but then the monster calls again. They think they need the other person to stay fed. When two people feed each other’s goodness, it only hungers for what’s even better. Then, they grow together.
The best thing is being able to show someone all that’s ugly about me, knowing he can still look at it, but not feed it. Instead he heals it, because the same white line is drawn on him that is drawn on me…and it’s drawn me in. Our souls look exactly alike because we make each other better. These are the kind of relationships present in the happy endings. When I write, I realize more and more it’s the kind I have, and I am thankful. That taunting kind of tingle we all love of the dark is a minor infliction when compared to the sensation of when we first discover the light. It’s a brightness one never escapes…the much stronger of opposing poles.
I was born in the late ’80s…’86 to be exact, so I only have a few memories of the insatiably irreverent era. I remember my parents splitting up towards the turn of the decade, and I remember my first love being Uncle Jesse, and I remember what everyone else remembers…the music.
Yesterday I saw the movie, Rock of Ages, a fun, broadway-style musical about the omnipresence of rock n’roll in the ’80s. Putting the expected cheesy parts and exaggerations aside, it was a great look at what the music scene was in this era and why people never got over it. Music was not part of the decade, the music was the decade. It was like Catholicism in the middle ages…What else was there? It was love, it was hate, it was livelihood, it was sex, and it was society. If you were rockin’ with it, or if you were doing everything in your power to stop it…you were part of it. You were Dee Snider or Tipper Gore, but whoever you were, like it or not, you were the music.
I’m not saying there aren’t songs from other time periods that have been amazing…there are too many to count. However, about every song from this era was one of those songs. Why else would a 26-year-old woman remember singing “Wild in the Streets” watching her Dad’s wannabe Bon Jovi hair blowing in the wind en route to the beach at three years old. Why would I remember the resemblance between the voice of Axl Rose and my first cat that was his namesake? Why would I remember like it was yesterday, the first time I ever heard “Talk Dirty to Me”, knowing I could already feel it was something someone would shake their finger at me for listening to? It’s because every single thing in that time period reached in and played the soul like restless six-string. It strummed through us, 3-years-old or 30- years-old. It tickled the senses of that monster living deeply within everyone, even the stiff-suited politicians. Everyone wanted to reach out and lick it, taste it, know it…and it hasn’t happened again since then. Not with that strength.
The ’80s smelled like leather, whiskey, and sex, and somewhere in my bones I know it gave me my first kiss before I was ready, and maybe even flared up the writer in me a little bit. I think if I can harness that spark that was so aflame in the year I was born, I might really be something one day; something real, that stings at the same time it soothes. Maybe I can be as penetrating in literature as the music around me was when the doctor first removed me from the only safe place I’ve ever been. Maybe I can use my art the way they did. Mine isn’t about a melody, but it is about pouring out that thing squirming inside onto paper, knowing there must be some reason for it. It’s my craft, often a saving grace, that for about a ten-year stretch people just weren’t afraid of dancing in. Maybe I can pitch what I have that hard..maybe I can wrap my arms around someone and they get it…at least someone else who remembers even an ounce of the ’80s…(shivering)
I was poking around on the computer at my mother’s house when I noticed a file with my name on it. At first I didn’t know what it was, but when I opened it, remembered it immediately. The top of it said Belle Isle, 1949. That’s the name of a poem I did an explication on one of the 428 times I went back to school. I remembered the poem well, and smiled when I looked back at my analysis of it. I had done a good job because I liked the subject. The poem was a coming-of-age, carpe` diem themed piece about a high schooler who skinny-dipped with a foreign stranger on a hot summer night in the late 40s.
This poem in particular stuck out to me because it highlighted the uncooked human soul at it’s finest. It is my favorite kind of tale. It is the kind where two ships pass in the night, yet it makes all the difference in years to come. It was about a memory, a raw memory…the kind I love writing about.
Two teenagers, from different cultures, who spoke different languages somehow communicated through hyper-sensitive teenage pheromones to come to an agreement that they would seize the moment, get naked, and just maybe have a night neither of them would be able to forget. They wouldn’t exchange names or numbers…after all how could they? They would only hang onto the burning rope that was the summer night, then go their separate ways. I recall the poem was written without punctuation or end-stopped sentences. Overflowing with enjambment, I could feel the rushed, passionate pace, and my heart quickened a little. I could feel the energy between these kids. They are soul mates for a moment, the kind of soul mates we all find floating about us once in a blue moon before the real lifetime kind show up, and it’s enough. Their flesh was enough, their humanism was enough, and their circumstance was enough.
We’ve all had a Belle Isle sometime…that place where we let our nature take over, before the adolescence wore off, and age and time told us to change. There’s some place in the corner of our minds where the nonsense still exists, and still calls me to write about it. I love learning about what makes us thrive in that way we do when we’re naive, because that’s who we really are. I love to strip away the bullshit and just look at bare naked nature. That’s where that juice that tastes so sweet to a writer’s tongue lives. That’s the place that doesn’t know language, though I try to use language to describe it. It’s the place where a warm body made of flesh and bones simply wants another just like it nearby. It isn’t about forever, or the other things that have to be present for a lifetime mate. This is that in between place when we first know we have a pulse, and it pulses for someone else, leading us to them. Here is to gravity. Here is to nature. Here is to Belle Isle.
I have written about, on several occasions, the special brand of joy I get from watching people’s dreams come true. Somehow when I see others taking their dreams by the hand for the first time, I think if I get close enough to them, that some of the energy will splash onto me. It’s like getting close to a waterfall…You know you can’t stand underneath it, but as you near it, the mist finds you for a little taste.
The Masters is my favorite sporting event of the year to watch, partly because of its homage to southern tradition, and partly because it is a breeding ground for impossible dreams coming true. With 150 some odd contenders, anything could happen. There’s always some guy out there, in that sea of plaid-wearing men, hoping for his first time to wear that green jacket beside the greats to come. He knows it’s about as likely as seeing a shooting star, but that the right number of swings will put that shooting star in his lap, and that jacket around his shoulders.
This year’s winner was Bubba Watson, and he let his dream do a victory lap down his cheeks when that last little putt sealed the deal. However, when he hit the ball off the tee in the second round of his sudden death match, it wasn’t looking good. He swung that self-expressive pink driver with incredible speed as usual, but it landed him deep in the woods, without that coveted short grass in sight. At some point or another, in the ninth hour, every human has taken that shot in some way. To twist the knife, though his opponent didn’t hit a perfect shot, his position was much better. Some people thought Bubba might have just kissed his victory goodbye. He was, for that moment, the underdog.
However, the man who had never even taken a golf lesson or watched himself swing on camera, waded into that thick brush with a steady hand, and catapulted that ball out of the heavily staggered trees that were begging to keep his ball away from the green. He was unmoved. With an emotionless expression, he shot his dream living in that little white ball all the way to the place the waving flag beckoned him. Two putts later he was a champion. He pursed his lips together and looked into the sky, for a moment too spiritual to recount. Then the tears flowed, paying respect to his dream for clawing its way out of that thicket, and riding the force from his club out of the gates of hell to freedom again.
I can only thank Bubba Watson. I tip my hat to dreamers who still pursue their dreams when they wake up, when it hurts to fail, and when real eyes are watching all around. It was beyond inspiring, and was like catnip to me. I craved what he was feeling, and the writer in me grew thirsty. If he can hit a wild shot from the bowels of Augusta National, I can surely keep throwing my words at literary agents in New York City. One of those wild swings will, against all odds, land on the right desk. If I keep knockin’ the hell out of it, with my unique driver and rugged swing, I WILL wear my jacket too one day. It will just wrap itself around my words instead of my body. It will have my name on front, under the title of my novel, and it will sit on a shelf next to the ones who have already earned their jackets. It will be my moment of greatness that teases me now from afar. I just have to remember, I’ve gotten far enough to stand in the hazard. I’ve written the novel. I swung the club from the brush. Now its up to me to sink that putt.
We weren’t meant to live in the brush…we don’t belong there. We are fashioned by nature to inevitably find the hazard, but we are equally fashioned to rise from it. We have arms made to keep swinging. However, we are mortals, not magicians. We have to organically, with sweat, blood, and tears continue to swing. Whatever we do, no matter how deeply in the woods our balls are buried we MUST swing over and over. We were built with a driver inside begging and battling with us, to make it to the green.
Last week, when the Mega Millions Lottery reached the largest amount in history, I bought a few tickets. I’d never bought a lottery ticket before, but this time I had to. First of all, I liked the camaraderie. There was a general buzz of excitement all around. This was probably nation wide, but I assume was even more scintillating in The South. When the idea of “what if”” infiltrates a small southern town people start scrambling around like ants after a single drop of honey…and frankly, it’s damned enjoyable.
There was an energy floating around in its purest form. It was salt of the Earth, fundamental hope. Somebody was going to win the pot, and for at least a day, that idea reminded people,vastly diverse people, that we’re all human. We like the idea of hope. We like the idea of maybe. We like the idea of dreams coming true. It is practically written into the human genome, but it’s one of those factors that doesn’t show up on the scientific map.
At first glance, winning the lottery doesn’t exactly appeal to deep thinkers as a vessel leading to some kind of universal truth about the human condition, but my single day of studying this matter proved the contrary. It doesn’t matter how seemingly superficial, not to mention unlikely, winning the lottery is. It was a reason to feed that place in the pit of our stomachs that whispers to us all the time. It gave us a reason for a “What if.” We need that…if we knew there was no possibility of an unknown greatness, slumbering somewhere in our lifelines begging to be woken up, why would we care to keep living? Hope, no matter how big or small, serious or playful takes up at least half of the substance flowing through our veins. Maybe it’s what makes our blood turn red when it meets oxygen, when it is released from our bodies into the world. It’s a red-hot excitement for what’s next. Even people who wallow in their own methods self-preservation, proclaiming hopelessness really have it deep down. They are just the ones who don’t tell anyone. It is innate to hope, wired in us to ask, with unrivaled yearning, “What if?”
I avoided the Victoria’s Secret fashion show like Bubonic. I had no interest in watching it whatsoever. I wasn’t really dodging it because I didn’t want to see the beauty. I’m not the bitter, public sweat-pant wearing, she-ogre type. I love that fashion, standards, and pure energy exuding from gorgeous human bodies exist…it’s an art. But, the Victoria’s Secret fashion show? I figured it would be, in the fashion world, the equivalent of what Justin Bieber is in the music world…lots of hype, not so much marrow. Also, I wasn’t exactly excited at the prospect of sitting on the couch with my husband while he tried out of pure respect for me not to admire these women (I must have a few normal insecurities). More than anything though, I just thought it would be boring.
However, tonight, sitting on the couch with my husband and sister, I discovered somehow the show escaped a tivo delete and was staring back at me on the tube. Suddenly I was in a world of panties, wings, sequins, pop songs, and border-line anorexics. Just before I almost completed a successful eye-roll at what I assumed to be a bubble gum runway spectacle, something knocked me abruptly off my high horse and opened my eyes.
Adriana Lima was beginning her catwalk unlike anyone I’d ever seen. The fact that the chorus of “California King Bed” picked up as she stretched her long arms to the extent of their widths only minimally romanticized the moment, because it was a real moment. She couldn’t help but smile, revealing her nature and slightly imperfect teeth to the crowd. As her finger tips reached towards her fans I could almost see light shooting out of them. It was as if she had reached out to Heaven. She was synergizing with the crowd and owned the moment. She , most naturally, thanked them before disappearing behind the curtain, with a look on her face hinting she was still high from the 15 second walk.
She is the best at what she does, because instead of only wearing her rhinestone frock, she wore passion in its purest form. Everytime she takes the runway it’s as if she’s doing it for the first time. Her body goes through the motions, and there’s no thinking. Modeling is the thing that makes her tick, an art that can’t help itself… and I admit, it inspires me. The hair on my arms stood up a bit, and that feeling came…that feeling I get when I watch people’s dreams come true. I would harness that feeling and carry it with me forever if I could. I haven’t known that feeling yet, but I will one of these days. I must. Today, Adriana Lima, of all people in the world, rustled the fire in me because I watched hers explode, full on doused in gasoline. Thanks, Adriana, for loving what you do…it spilled over and fell on to me.