Updates from My Small Corner of the Writing World

Once again, it’s time for me to check in and say I need to blog more often and then disappear for a while only to resurface months later and say the same thing all over again. It’s frustrating, but also kind of comforting in a way. (It’s mostly frustrating when I get my annual bill and realize I’m not getting my money’s worth. And there’s no one to blame but myself.) Anyhow, enough rambling. Summer goes on here at the compound. Veggies are plentiful, as is the virus in our area, unfortunately. We’re back in semi-isolation here, which is borderline maddening. I’ve been feeling a lot like Sisyphus recently. There were two wonderful months of getting together and not wearing masks and gathering for family meals, and now it’s all been shot to pot thanks to the Delta variant. We are all vaccinated, but several members of my household are severely immuo-compromised and unfortunately breakthrough infections happen even if you’re vaccinated. I feel like this giant rock has rolled back down hill and crushed me, and there’s nothing I can do but shove it over and start pushing it back up the hill again. Will it crush me all over again? I don’t know, but I do know I can’t be the only one feeling this way.

There are still work events to do, despite the surge. Money has been invested, and it’s very hard to throw the brakes back on once they’ve been completely released. Most of my events are outside, thank goodness, but I can’t do that forever. Once again I am questioning my fall and winter events and wondering what the future months hold.

In other, non-virus news, we welcomed a new cat to our household this summer. His name is Jacob. I rescued him from work, just like I rescued Duncan 11 years ago. They’re both named after people who owned the old house I work in. Unfortunately, Jacob caught an upper respiratory infection, which he shared with Duncan. They were both sick. Duncan had had his second tumor removal surgery, which was more involved this time, and he was struggling to heal from that. He does have cancer, and the virus knocked him for a loop. He was hospitalized for two nights. He is still recovering, but he is doing much better. All of this happened the week we were supposed to go on vacation. We did not go anywhere. Maybe it was for the best? I would like a do over, though, because that was a very stressful way to use my vacation hours. (First world problems, I know. I know.)

#EternalMood
Jacob in all his glory. He’s about seventh months old. We’d forgotten what it was like to have a kitten.
Duncan is very clingy in the recovery ward that is our bedroom. He is still quarantined from the other cats. I’m very happy he’s still with us, but I would appreciate less cat snot on my face.

I’m not doing a whole lot of new writing right now. I probably should. It might help my funk. We’re having record breaking attendance at work, though, and at the end of the day I’m just tired, so I don’t write. One of the bright spots this year, though, is my original, history-based play Nancy about Elihu Embree’s enslaved woman. It’s been my goal for years now to tell her story so that she’s known as well as Embree. Embree wrote The Emancipator in 1820, which is the first publication dedicated solely to the abolition of slavery. It only had seven editions, because he died in December of that year, but you can read them all online here through the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I encourage you to read it.

While he was writing the paper, Embree was also an enslaver. He owned Nancy and her five children. The historical record is complicated. At one point, Embree owned her, sold her, and then brought her and her children back. Once he brought them back, he claims to have educated the children, provided them with a place to live, and paid them for their labor. He was certainly concerned about what would happen to Nancy and her children when he died, and the first two pages of his will are about them. It’s still not clear whether or not they were manumitted after he died. I am still actively searching for that answer. I had the honor of working with area actress Ubunibi-Afia Short to bring Nancy’s story to the stage on Juneteenth at the Embree House Historic Farm. (Elihu spent part of his childhood on that farm.)

Actress and playwright after three, sold out shows.
Afia in action. Photo by Mark Larkey.

This is only part one of getting Nancy’s story out there. We will be performing the play again at Washington College Academy on November 13th. We will also be performing the show on November 19th as a part of the NAACP’s annual banquet. It’s an honor to be able to share her story and to do so with such an accomplished actress. I’m also working on a museum exhibit Nancy, and I’d love to figure out a way to get her story into the public/private schools. (Of course, all of this depends on Covid, but I hope we’ll be able to do it.) My whole job as a historian and writer is to find these stories that have been overlooked and bring them to the light. I have never felt more accomplished in my job, and that’s a good feeling.

In other writing news, I’ll be a guest on Dan-A-Plooza’s Facebook livestream with Dan Hawkins on Friday, September 10th. I worked together in the theatre with Dan, and he’s become quite the entertainment streamer. I’ll be talking about my eBook Comes in Threes which is a collection of short stories available on Amazon.

Maybe I should write another short story for the blog? It would probably be depressing and dark. Most of my short stories are depressing and dark. Does anyone want to read that kind of stuff right now?

#writing #blogging #catmom #overthispandemic

“Comes In Threes” Ebook Release April 27

How are you all feeling? Honestly? Truthfully, I have been better. I’m struggling to go from pandemic survival brain to pre-pandemic planning all the events for my work and museums’ brain. There’s been no time to go from one to the other. I don’t know why I ever thought there would be, but my mind is reeling in place nonetheless. Good news, my family compound is now fully vaccinated. That’s a great relief. Still, I feel sort of numb. I read a great article in the New York Times earlier this very day that described the emotion I’m feeling, “languishing.” It helped me to put a name to it. The article also had some ideas for how to overcome it, but it’s a process. You can read the article here – https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html.

In other news, I do have an exciting announcement. This time next week my latest Ebook collection of short stories is available through Mountain Gap Books. You can preorder Comes In Threes from Amazon now!

Cover art by Jeanne G’Fellers for Mountain Gap Books.

“Two boys. One girl. Three different eras. Three different short stories. One outstanding author. Whether these tales provoke heart-warming feelings or heart-palpitating dread will be up for you to decide.” (I did not write the teaser, but I appreciate the sentiment.)

Lots of things come in threes; courses in a meal, trilogies, primary colors, celebrity deaths.

Fair warning, these are not the happiest of stories, but they are good stories, in my opinion. Some of them, in fact all of them, have their unsettling moments. They also have their moments of triumph. I don’t tend to write happy short stories. I write suspenseful short stories and thought provoking short stories, but the ending is never tied up in a pretty bow. I’m especially excited because this Ebook contains a short story I wrote years ago while going to college at Mars Hill. I wrote it for a class. I’ve loved that story from the moment I wrote it, and I’m so happy it is finally being published.

Here’s a sneak peek from “The Boy on the Red Bicycle.”

The young boy peeked out from behind the wall.  He was only visible for a moment, but it was the third time the man had spotted him.  The sporadic appearances of the boy were the only thing keeping the man’s interest in the here and now.  The company at his table was warm and inviting, but only in the sense that it was required to be so.  The witty banter and conversation topics were old, and the food was by no means spectacular.  It was like every other afternoon he’d spent at the café.  The waiters changed.  The company changed, but never the scene.

            “What do you think, James?” the person across from him asked.

            “That we have every right to do so,” the man replied.  This was a good, solid answer, and it could be used for any question these days.  His company seemed pleased by this, and they responded with the appropriate nod.

            The boy appeared for the fourth time.  James watched him as the conversation stalled with routine progression.  The boy was bolder this time, and he edged himself around the corner.  With quick, stubby fingers, he reached out and tried to snatch some food from the nearest tray.  The boy was not quick enough.  One of the waiters spotted him and called out.  Another waiter hurried over and engulfed the boy’s tiny wrist in his hand.  He shook the boy’s hand until the crust of bread fell from it.  “Oh, let him have it,” James thought.  The waiter smacked the boy for good measure before pushing him out.

            “Go on!  Shew!  Get out of here!” the waiter called.  Satisfied he’d righted the wrong, he returned to his position on the sidelines.

            James watched the small, colorless figure retreat without a fuss.  “Excuse me, but I’m afraid I must adjourn for the afternoon.”  He stood and bowed to the ladies.  There was always someone to bow to.

What happens next? Who is this boy? What is his story? Purchase a copy of the Ebook and find out.

I transformed this short story into a problematic play. One day I’ll fix the play, but this is step one in getting the story out there.

Happy reading!

If you’re “languishing” like me, I hope you can find your way out of it. I’m trying. I’m trying.

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