Perfectly imperfect

This is my way of procrastinating. I have every intention of starting a new novel that’s been churning around in my head for a while, and I started working on a book of inspirational prose and poetry entitled, Echoes. And then stopped.

But I digress. This is about filling one’s time in the age of COVID. Lower case or uppercase? Depends on how pissed off I am when I’m typing the word. The restrictions caused by this pandemic keep loved ones from being with the people they need most – family. It makes me crazy, and yet… I know people in medical care of any kind are more vulnerable and I do not want my dear one to be exposed to the virus, so not being with him is in his best interest… I guess. I feel as though I am in isolation as well, which is ridiculous. I can – and do – get out and about, but life isn’t the same without him by my side. Enough of that!

BEFORE

And back to the topic. I’ve been doing other things to occupy my time, instead of writing. Well, not really, if you follow this blog you know I write now and then, essays and poems, and about local folks and how they are coping with Covid-19. But some of what I’ve been up to has nothing to do with writing at all: keeping my potted plants alive in this dry, dry weather; trimming the indoor plants so my patio doesn’t turn into a jungle; cleaning closets; working with Patti Romero and Susie Tsyitee (and now Mary Rose Henssler) in the development of the Las Vegas Literary Salon series of events for writers and readers; church committees and projects… and a real departure for me, painting furniture. I was inspired by Juli Salman and Angela Meron who are WAY better at this than I am, but it was something to do and I wanted to try it out. I’m also dabbling in watercolor, but we won’t go there. I’m a little heavy-handed with the brush.

Anyway, the table belonged to Bob’s mom. It has been painted and repainted a number of times. I suspect there is decent wood under all the layers, but I decided to give it a bit of flair, with what I consider to be a fairly decent result. It is perfectly imperfect in every possible way. Close inspection will reveal some quirks and mishaps, but I consider these to be marks of unintended panache.

The table has gone from being functional as a plant stand to being… I don’t know what the heck! Anyway, the table has been transformed and my writing is waiting in the wings. My book, Echoes is taking shape; I just need to get back to it. I’m writing a review of Ray John de Aragon’s latest publication, Eerie New Mexico, and will have an interview with him on my blog sometime next week. This is in advance of his spot as a guest on the Las Vegas Literary Salon’s Zoom A Visit With the Author, Sept. 27 from 4-5 p.m. And yes, this is an invitation to register and be in the virtual audience. Go to lvliterarysalon@gmail.com to register. Type September Salon in the subject line.

AFTER

Back to the table. I really enjoyed working on this piece. It took me about a week, not counting the drying time between coats of shellac. And it fired up my brain with writing ideas, so in terms of writing, it was not a complete loss. (Smiley Face Here!) Mostly it energized my flagging spirit. When you have a family member (in my case members) dealing with illness and you can’t be there physically, it does drain you and whittles away at your resolve to be upright and bright. You know what I’m talking about; having a positive attitude goes only so far when the control you thought you had is taken away. Covid-19 did that to many of us. Ask any business person, health care practitioner, those who have lost a jobs… You get it. You know what it means.

What the perfectly imperfect table did for me is help me remember that I’m not the sum of current circumstances; I am someone who knows that defeat is the end game only if I let it be. I have a choice every day to use what God gave me and make the most of it. So, back to writing and back to being creative in the best way I know how. I’m not the bubble gum pink table, I’m the bright new-looking one with something to say. I hope. Anyway, I will be doing it in my perfectly imperfect way.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated. I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I frequently write about my town, Las Vegas, N.M. Occasionally I use interesting and helpful content from other sources. I also invite guest posts. If you have a topic you would like to share, send to fsharon@msn. com.

The Sublime Experience of Poetry

Kathleen Lujan
KATHLEEN LUJAN

Poet Kathleen Lujan has carried her passion for the written word with her from childhood. It was where she focused her education and career trajectory.

Lujan has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and History, a Master’s Degree in American Studies (Southwest History and Literature) from NMHU, where she taught for four years. She also taught for 10 years at West Texas A&M University, where she received a Teaching Excellence Award in 1998-1990.

Lujan developed a writing and reading process called the ARQ (Active Reading Quest), which she presented at a seminar at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and presented to teachers during two-day seminars in New Mexico. She taught Language Arts at Coronado High School for two years and then five years at Lybrook School as the project coordinator for literacy for Alaskan and Native American children.

She is an awarding-winning educator who has conducted studies and seminars in India, England, Scotland and Italy, and served as adjunct faculty for Navajo Technical University to teach AP composition class at Alamo Community. She has always made time for writing with a focus on poetry. Her recently release chap book of poetry, Puddles of Years, is available from the author. Email her at katlujan62@gmail.com for details.

Lujan will be the featured writer at a Zoom Las Vegas Literary Salon event on Sunday, Aug. 23, at 4 p.m. The Zoom link for the event is here.

Q: What writers did you enjoy reading as a child?
Lujan: My father taught me to read at the age of five and I developed a passion for reading. I loved Greek and Roman Mythology. I had two red, cloth-bound books of mythology, which were at least five pounds apiece, and read them from front to back. I loved Homer, Hawthorne, Austen, Bronte, du Maurier, Dickinson, Keene… among so many others. I was a voracious reader. Even today, I usually have three novels going at the same time.

 Q: Did you write as a child?
Lujan:
I started writing poetry when I was about 12. I loved the rhythm and sounds of words and saying so much with so little.

Q: How did you get started as a poet?
Lujan:
At age 12, because of Emily Dickinson and her lyric poem: ​Success​.

Q: Do you find writing easy?
Lujan:
The only time writing is easy is to be totally in the present moment and letting the words come; not forcing the words to appear. And that’s not easy!

Q: How did you manage to fit writing in with other demands on your time? Are you good at managing your time?
Lujan:
Teaching, consulting, and traveling consumed large portions of my time, but I would always carry paper and a pen or find a napkin if a line or idea hit me in a restaurant, at a seminar, or during a class. I had pieces of candy bar wrappers and cocktail napkins that would have my scratches on them. I would empty out my purse on a Sunday, usually, and write poems from the lines I had scribbled down.

Q: Who are your favorite living poets?
Lujan:
My absolute favorite poem is on my refrigerator door held up by a portrait magnet of Frida Kahlo. The Everlasting Self, by Tracy K. Smith. You can find it on poets.org.

Pubbles of Years
PUDDLES OF YEARS

Q: How do you prepare yourself for writing?
Lujan:
P.P.P. (Prior Proper Planning). I never know when an emotion or a tanager or a kiss will inspire a poem, so trying to always have pen, paper, or now, a phone, to jot down the initial true thought or feeling is essential.

Q: What do well-written poems have in common?
Lujan:
I can only speak for myself and what calls me to read and reread what I believe is a well written poem. The “show me don’t tell me” aspect, a rhythm, which matches the image, idea, or emotion being expressed, and a required quiet to read and reread slowly to savor the words.

Q: Talk about your recently published chap book of poetry, Puddles of Years.
Lujan:
Puddles of Years ​is a compilation of poems which have been previously published and written over a twenty-year period. My sister kept after me to publish, and after my sister died last September, I was encouraged to retire and do what she asked me to do: finish the chapbook. I also received, from my brother, a folder kept by my father of all the poems I had written since I was twelve. No one in the family knew about the folder, myself included, until Dad died. When my brother went through his desk, he found it. He sent it to me and encouraged me to keep writing and complete the chapbook. Thus, the dedication to my Dad. I suggest the reader read the poems, enjoy, and take with you the sublime experience of poetry!

Zoom in for the Las Vegas Literary Salon interview with Kathleen Lujan, with Patti Romero as host.


Sharon Vander Meer is an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow her at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


 

Lit Salon celebrates writing

ToolsLas Vegas Literary Salon hosted its first event Sunday, July 12, thanks to the Las Vegas Arts Council and the Las Vegas NM Community Foundation. A special thanks to Susie Tsyitee who walked us through the Zoom technology and acted as host for the event. Below is a video about the event we hope you will watch. It features Patti Romero and me talking about Las Vegas Literary Salon in a broad sense and giving our thoughts on this premier event. Please note that this is a first “video interview” either of us has done and I was at the tech wheel, which in and of itself speaks of disaster! But, all things considered it gets our message across.

And what is our message? Writing is an art. We want to encourage emerging, young, established, genre, literary, nontraditional, fiction, nonfiction, poetry – basically writers and writing across the spectrum. We will do this through workshops, events like the Zoom Writers Roundtable, book fairs, tapping into the skills of experts in areas related to getting the book, essay, memoir, novel, whatever it is, from your brain to the page.

This is not for everyone. Some writers want solitude and choose not to network with other writers. I get that. But for those who do want to be part of a learning and networking community, come on board! And we want readers as well. You are important to the process. You consume our words and make them a part of your story from the time you start reading until you reach the end, and sometimes beyond. Along the way, we hope we’ve made you laugh or cry, pissed you off or lifted you up, perhaps even broadened your horizons.

The Sunday event was a success largely because of our five readers: Joy Alesdatter, Kathleen Lujan, Ray John de Aragon, Tim Hagaman, and Beth Urech. We thank them for the time and effort they put into preparing for their readings.

What’s next? We will be scheduling an event with former Las Vegan, Vera Jo Bustos in the near future. Look for details to be released soon.

We have a lot of ideas, and now we need bodies to help implement them, and come up with more. Join us! Fill in the form below the video and let us know if you’re ready to join, or whether you need more information. Also consider donating to one or both of the organizations working through the pandemic to figure out ways to keep the arts alive and thriving!

Las Vegas Arts Council
Las Vegas NM Community Foundation

Patti and Sharon talk about LV Lit Salon #1

zoom_0 from Sharon Vander Meer on Vimeo.

Please sign up below to join Las Vegas Literary Salon or to find out more.


 

And now for the next adventure

Yes or No

I’m in that battling through ideas stage, wondering what thread of excitement engages me enough to begin story development. It sounds easier than it is. Some ideas will be best expressed as poetry, others as a short story and others in a novel.

How does one get past the muddled mess and move forward? Here are five questions to help you determine how you want your inner storyteller to tell the tale.

Is this a story with interwoven plots and subplots?

  • Complex stories can be told in any form, including poetry. Think of The Iliad by Homer, a marathon Greek poem about the Trojan war, or Caged Bird, by Maya Angelou, a story about freedom. Could these tales have been told in a different way? Probably, but not as poignantly. That said, if you have a story that’s deep and wide, consider writing a novel, or at the very least, a novella. You have more time and space for compelling characters and intriguing plots.

Is this story a shovel or a knife?

  • A shovel digs deep and uncovers what is hidden; a knife is more precise and goes to the central theme without a lot of lead in. Deep is best handled in a novel; precision in a short story or poem. O. Henry was the master of short form writing with satisfying – often unexpected – endings. Remember The Gift of the Magi?

What audience is the story geared toward?

  • I don’t like to bring it up, but yes, you do need an audience for your work, no matter what you write. Children’s books are written in a certain way for very good reasons. Consider carefully the profile of your reader and forge ahead accordingly. One of my favorite authors is David Baldacci.  This is a writer who knows his audience and creates powerful characters in compelling situations. His novels sell worldwide and have been translated into many languages.

How much do you love your idea?

  • Writing a story is a process. The seed is just that, a seed. For it to grow into something that will inform and entertain requires nurture (creativity), weeding (editing), and feeding (revising).

But – as writer and literary agent Lisa Cron would ask – how much do you know about your  character before you push him or her onto page one of your novel?

  • Cron, the author of “Wired for Story” encourages writers to understand their protagonists’ deeply and well before proceeding. This isn’t pre-writing; it’s exploring the lead characters backstory so, as the author, you know going in the “inside intel” that drives the character and mucks up his or her life as they make their way forward. It sounds easy, does it not? Well, it isn’t. It is probably the most difficult thing a writer must do. Is it worth the effort? Cron says, yes, citing authors in her acquaintance who – by way of this process – went from rejection to seven-figure book sales.

My stumbling block is focus. To write, one needs to set everything else aside an focus on the goal, and be willing to do the work.

Back to basics. Who is my story about? What does she want? What does she fear that will keep her from achieving that goal? How can she overcome her fear and succeed? Therein lies – THE STORY.

Wish me luck!


I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central



 

Redesign

Sharon VI am so psyched! For the past several months I’ve been dragging my fanny, and it isn’t funny! I’m so not the sit-on-my-bum kind of person. As a writer, I have options most people don’t have:

  • I can work where I want.
  • I can work when I want.
  • Inspiration is a window, not a door.
  • I can take on clients to write for, or I can get creative with my own writing.
  • I’ve been working from home before it was a thing.

I could easily attribute my lack of productivity to life events that sort of stopped me in my tracks, not the least of which is the mad virus that has brought the world to a stuttering halt. That’s BS, a big BULL and big load of SPIT!

My method of handling life is to write about it, in my journal (which no one will ever see), and through poetry, fiction and essays. Some get publish; most do not.

Why am I psyched? I did a website redesign, or more truthfully, erased a lot of color giving it a cleaner and crisper look. Why does that get me going? This sort of comes under the heading of what COVID-19 has taught me.

  1. Like my website, I live with unnecessary clutter, yet fill my days with procrastination and guilt. The wouda-coulda-shoulda syndrome. I’m over it. One day at a time.
  2. I tend to equate busyness with productivity. So not true! In future, I hope to have the good sense to ‘finish’ one thing rather than half-assing five.
  3. I’m a more social person than I realized. I miss seeing friends and – really, folks – ZOOM is a crappy substitute.
  4. Hugging is healing. Virtual hugs are wonderful, but there is no substitute for a hug from a friend.
  5. When it comes to the virus and the future, nobody has ‘the’ answer. There are too many variables.

My daily prayer is that my friends in small businesses can survive and thrive and that the virus dies out, never to return.

So, why am I psyched? Because there is no alternative. Living in limbo waiting for the next alarming news report is a sad waste of time. I choose to count today as the best opportunity to be… well, me. And, yes, I am ever the optimist.

What COVID-19 has taught me more than anything is to live each day as best you can. We’ve lost so many to this breath-stealing monster. Don’t let fear rob you of the best life you can live, now.


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She said…

Thomas L. FriedmanSo, you think life is moving too fast?

Guess what? It is. I just started reading Thomas L. Friedman’s 2016 book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration. I’m hardly prepared to comment on the entirety of the book, because I’m just in the second chapter, but Friedman grabbed my attention early on, with this statement:

“It’s no surprise so many people feel fearful or unmoored these days. … I will argue that we are living through one of the greatest inflection points in history—perhaps unequaled since Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a German blacksmith and printer, launched the printing revolution in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation. The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined.”

Does that make the world and its chaos a little more understandable, if not manageable?

Think about the life you are living today with instant access to just about everything, thanks to technology. What about globalization and its impact on national and international policy, the economy and social interaction? Climate change incites heated debate, less about how to deal with it, but whether it exists at all. And it’s all happening at the same time at an ever-increasing pace.

Is political chaos, violence, terrorist threats – domestic and global – economic uncertainty, fear, and general unrest attributable to these rapidly accelerating factors? I haven’t done the research, but just by observation, I would respond with a resounding, yes!

The most influential of these three factors (for good or ill) is perhaps technology and our easy access to information. We have hardly absorbed one change when we are bombarded with information about not one but multiples of change in areas over which we have little or no influence. We are barely able to take in reports of one horror or disaster, before we see on our phones yet another. We can’t catch our breath between one new bit of flashy tech and the next. Do we even know the lasting impact of globalization? Climate change isn’t just a political debate; it is an earth-changing behemoth.

This is not seeming to me to be a book that leads to optimism, yet I get it that we must not ignore what is going on around us. We need to learn more and understand more if we are to survive, much less thrive, as a species.

Change, it would seem, no longer comes as a process; it’s more of a bulldozer. If you can’t adapt, you get run over. The reality check for most of us is that we are looking the other way, trying to pretend we can go back to “a simpler time.” We can’t go backward, but I believe we can go forward with deliberation and intention.

The acceleration of technology, globalization, and climate change is already reshaping society – the world, if you will. At one time, big change happened in a bit of a vacuum, rippling into mainstream society over time. Years, even decades could pass before the general population knew about a major innovation, like the aforementioned printing press. Can humankind reimagine and thrive amid supersonic changes? I have about 400 more pages to learn what Friedman thinks, but this is what I think: We can’t control the world; we can control how we live in the world. I guess that makes me an optimist.

–Sharon Vander Meer

For more about Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Acceleration, by Thomas L. Friedman, go to www.thomaslfriedman.com.


Thank you for being a reader/subscriber. It is my goal to present informative, interesting and creative content on this site. Your likes, shares and comments are welcomed and hugely appreciated.


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Author Ray John de Aragón on writing and his latest book

Ray JohnRay John de Aragón is a writer who uses careful research and stories to bring life to New Mexico’s deep and wide history, whether he is delving into fiction, writing nonfiction, or creating a melding of the two. De Aragon broadens the horizon of his prose in every book he writes. He is prolific and dedicated, taking storytelling to the next level. History is the story of a people, a region, an event. In the foreword to New Mexico in the Mexican-American War, by Ray John de Aragon, former first lady of New Mexico Clara Apodaca writes: New Mexico Hispanic women have blazed trails in all walks of life – government, business, education, the arts and the military… The myths this book shatters will hopefully lead to a better understanding and appreciation of the real history.


In this Q&A, author de Aragon talks about his latest book and his journey as an accomplished author of history, myth and the magic of New Mexico.

Q: Talk briefly about what you’re doing now, in addition to writing.
Ray John: Right now I’m only concentrating on my writing. I’m at the point in my career that national editors as well as publishers are very interested in my work, and that is quite exciting.

Q: What drew you to write about New Mexico legends, history and folklore?
Ray John: Coming from northern New Mexico I grew up hearing about our Hispanic heritage, history culture and traditions. I decided that writing about the history, folklore and legends that have been passed down for many generations in local families should be my focal point.

Q: How do you carve out time to write when you are already busy with other work?
Ray John: I am a full time writer. Turnaround on my books from conception to release is six months. I have two other contracts. I have eighteen published books that sell quite well. That keeps me very busy.

Q: Which is the most exciting, the writing or the research?
Ray John: Both the research and the writing is just as exciting. Finding material that has not been previously published, and getting these new findings out to the public eye is truly fruitful. Especially so, when I receive great reviews on my work, and pleasant comments.

NM HistoryQ: What have you learned about yourself in the course of developing story or project lines?
Ray John: I’ve learned that my writing skills have developed professionally. I published my first book nationally when I was 28. I listened to and followed the excellent advice I was given by S. Omar Barker and other established authors, and got published. I feel I have grown in my work to the point that my writing pretty much goes directly from writing to publishing.

Q: You are an oral storyteller in addition to being a writer. Which is more challenging?
Ray John: Both working as a presenter and writing are very challenging. I get tremendous joy from both when I accomplish what I have set out to do. For example, if a presentation is followed by enthusiastic questions, loud applause, and great comments after, that is very enjoyable and very satisfying.

Q: Which do you get the most enjoyment from and why?
Ray John: My New Mexico history books are centered on correcting much of the misinformation, fabrications, falsehoods, and fiction that has been passed on by previous writers as historic fact about the Spanish/Mexican history and eras of our state. I wrote about New Mexico in the Mexican American War to clear up this distorted history.

Q: Some of the illustrations note they are from The Author’s Collection. How does collecting historical memorabilia help you in writing?
Ray John: I have always been interested in historic photos, images, diaries, and documents. When I was eleven years old my father had a large case with family photos from Las Vegas, NM and environs, and documents and papers dating as far back as the eighteenth century. Once when my folks were not at home, I took this case down from a high shelf and went through them. My father got home and caught me. Rather than being punished, he said if I was interested I could have them. I have been collecting since then. Many of those first family photos and documents are in my books.

Q: What do you want your readers to know about you?
Ray John: I like for my readers to know that I have always striven to reveal the truth about our history, not the wild ideas someone came up with at one time that has been rewritten, or quoted by others and then endlessly perpetuated. They also theorize about what may have happened, rather than spend hours researching.

Q: More about your writing experience and where your books may be purchased.
Ray John:
My books are available on-line, through national book chains, through New Mexico state local bookstores, or as E-books.

The book I’m completing now is New Mexico Land Theft, a History of Fraud and Deceit. I believe this will be another eye-opener. I like for people to also read the actual words from both the protagonists and the antagonists in my books. Thereby they can reach their own conclusions, not the biased and prejudiced interpretations written by many others. When I read what Abraham Lincoln said about the War with Mexico, I was stunned. I just had to quote his words.

Last October when my Haunted Santa Fe was released, I had thirteen book signings, four radio shows, two TV shows, and I was covered by several national publications. The most in one month in my career. This July I’m featured in Albuquerque Magazine and I have four out-of-state book signings.

More about Ray John de Aragon


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New Mexico

Summer sky

summer arrives, no simple browns or blues –
rambling plains and mountains covered with
evergreens, shrub and scrub, dusty ocher
touched with rusty reds and sage greens –
the arc above cerulean, vivid and pure,
streaked at times with wispy clouds
or contrails of fighter jets making training runs
as the day settles into mellow yellow dusk –
fade to black, lit by millions upon millions of stars,
incomparable, magnificent, no light pollution to steal their glow
let the splendor of night go on forever,
but Mother Nature has another plan as the first rays of sun
burst across the horizon, bringing into sharp relief
hills, lowlands, trees, mountains soldiering across the horizon,
morning has broken, a new day begins


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For Writers

Thunder Prime Hunter's Light

Sitting in the eye of the storm,
in front of a handful of skeptics.
Will it be an epic fail,
or an open door to converts?
Readings are a test of a writer’s mettle,
something you must do… and do again.
Writing is but half the battle,
sales and reviews become your goal.
The fun is over. Now the work begins.


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Dandelion Light

Dandelion

Dandelions dot the landscape,
yellow bright against spring greens.
Once, I thought them a nuisance,
now I give thanks for their value,
providing nectar for bees
and salad greens for the daring gourmet.
Mostly I love their perky color
and joyful reminder of spring days
and the lazy hum of life.


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