Faithwalk: All by myself

This year’s challenge is to network. Not only via online social networking, but face to face. In addition, I must not socialize with the person or persons I know. Of course that is not networking that’s cliquing. I’m not good at the networking, probably because I have high expectations. I expect a follow up response to my hello-we-met-at-such-and-such.

So, tonight I attend a fundraiser for the House of Hope at a wine bar all by myself. My friend who invited me is out of town. She reminds me to go and that I will know one person in attendance.

I really don’t want to go all by myself so I invite at least 10 or 12 women friends via email. They politely respond: Tuesday is late night at work, or other commitments. Although two ladies will donate to the cause.

I go anyway; for the ladies who did not respond, and to support the cause in person. I walk in and I’m all by myself. I want to donate and walk out the door. I look around and do not recognize anyone. Everyone is cliquing.

Prior to entering these doors I prayed: God if there is someone I’m to meet show me.

I get a glass of Merlot, and introduce myself. Conversation is stiff. I move to another circle. One woman says she recognizes me. Her face looks familiar to me, as well. We begin talking and sharing common ground: divorce. I take her card when she has to leave. She says call me.

I see the one recognizable face; we hug. Then she returns to her conversation. I’m all by myself, again. I take a breath. Then move across the floor to chat with two ladies.

Another common bond. One lady says she came tonight hoping to meet a writer. We talk about writing more than our divorce. She takes my card, and says, I will call you.

Being all by myself was quite delightful and a pleasant evening out. I made three new contacts for three different projects I’m working on. Maybe the face to face networking is not so difficult, after all.

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A Writer’s Inspiration

In December, I read The Writing Class, a humorous and suspenseful novel by Jincy Willett. The novel had not been recommended; I just stumbled upon it perched in the new fiction section of my local library. (I love the library, an extremely practical source; and in today’s economy the library keeps my book budget balanced. You should see my desk I have ten library books stacked on the right hand side and five in my library bag for library return.) Since I’m a writer, initially the title, The Writing Class, captured me; especially since I’d been a student and a leader in dozens of writing classes for more than two decades. Then the cover design: 14 diverse writing instruments with 14 character descriptions adjacent to each one intrigued me. Which one was I: the kiss up with a sharp pencil point, the smart one with a blue Uni-ball roller, the pretty girl with a red Uni-ball or the class clown with a Bic? I wondered what I could learn as a professional writer, a journal-keeper, an adjunct instructor of English, workshop leader and a student of writing or what would affirm and confirm my career choice.

After meeting all the students in The Writing Class I realized, I could be the kiss up, the smart one, the pretty girl or the class clown. More importantly, many people desire to write stories in long and short form, truth or fiction and not all want fame and fortune. The second thing I learned a writer with passion will do anything to get a good story including: terrorize, threaten, and murder the competition. Yes, The Writing Class is a murder mystery. A good writing teacher will always engage and push her students and the students will interact and write more aggressively. If the students trust the teacher, they will be candid and their writing will be honest. A group of writers weave a web of trust. A writing teacher has doubts about her own work, but can never stop writing or teaching. Not all writing instructors teach and practice.

The writing instructor in this novel reminded me that new words create new ideas and you have to introduce them to your students by any means possible. In The Writing Class the instructor’s blog: includes a list of words and letters from the most important to the least. Which letter of the alphabet would you deem least important? “Z”

So if you’re seeking some writer’s inspiration besides a good book or the library try A.Word.A.Day daily newsletter, where a group of linguaphiles introduce their readers to the magic of words. Here’s a word or two I’ve added to my vocab: cohere: to be united or to work together, which was discovered in President-elect Obama’s book Dream From My Father and flummadiddle: something worthless.

What's magically about this newsletter is all the weekly words are themes. Guess this word theme: tenderfoot, dark horse, loquacious, sacred cow, loose cannon. You guessed it, or not, metaphorical descriptions of people. Hmm, when I'm a student I can be a kiss up whose loquacious and when I'm an instructor I remain loquacious, but with eloquence and willingness to know I'm not the smart oneJ
					

 

So, despite the color ink you choose, type of writing instrument you use, if you plan to write privately or publically remember a writing class or a writing group is cohere, fun and inspirational. Did fail to mention that I’ve got two workshops on the horizon: whether you’re a tenderfoot or expert join one of my writing classes:

Transforming Life into Stories

Tuesdays: One 6-week session, 7-9p.m.

March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31- April 7, 14, 21 (No classes March 17 and April 7)

$136

Dutchess Community College, 53 Pendell Rd. Poughkeepsie, NY

Contact Community Services 845-431-8910 or register online @ https://www.sunydutchess.edu/noncreditRegistration/.

 

Creative Journaling -Through My Eyes Only with Angela Batchelor
Clarify your thoughts and discover the hidden patterns of your life through journaling. Then transform your journal into a memoir as your write a slice of your own life’s story.
Thursdays: Two 6-week sessions: 1:30-3:30 pm
Series A:  Feb. 26; Mar. 5, 12, 19, 26; Apr. 2 ·
nm $145 m $135
Series B:  Apr. 16, 23, 30; May 7, 14, 21 ·
nm $145 m $135

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Parish House · Route 9 and Fisk Ave. Red Hook, NY

Contact Mill Street Loft: www.millstreetloft.org or call our office at 845-471-7477.

 

And all you need is a pen and a passion for story.

At a lost for words

Books are like rollercoasters

Books are like rollercoasters

For the moment, yep, I’m at a lost for words. Those long streaming entries are still lost in my head without getting to the blog page. I have to admit, though, my striped journal is filling up. I guess, I have no public thoughts to share at this moment.

Well, when I think about it, I have been reading quite a lot of books and magazines and e-newsletters. Sometimes in depth other times scanning. I have grown quite fond of Ellen Hopkins, fiction author and poet. According to the experts publishers and editors are looking for new and interesting forms of young adult novels and Hopkins happens to be one of those authors with more than one New York Times Best-selling title. So, I checked out Crank and Glass and was enthused with the poetry and its form, of course the main  character Bree/Kristina kept me on her monster roller coaster. Both books were fast reads, especially for the writer whose looking for a new way to present material.

During the fall semester, I taught a six-week journaling/memoir class and  read The Glass Castle by Jeanette glass-castle12Walls, MSNBC columnist who chronicles her extremely poor, nomadic childhood  and A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, one of the African children forced to fight in the Sierra Leone war. Both stories were riveting, candid and chilling. One difference between reading memoir and fiction: in a memoir the reader knows the character lives, because they wrote the book; however it’s how they survive that keeps you turning pages.

After the election, I received a beautiful article in the online “Los Angeles Times” about an 87-year-old butler who has worked for eight presidents in the White House and how marvels at a new White House.

So although,since my last entry I’ve been at a lost for words with not to much to say, reading other people’s words has kept me fulfilled.

Until the next time I have ‘something to say.’

It’s a Summer Experience

Well, so much for blogging through the summer; and what a summer it’s been. Since June I’ve traveled to

Four leading journalers at the 2008 Power of Writing Conference

Colorado and Vermont. In Colorado, at the Journal Conference 2008: Power of Writing, it was indeed an informative and pleasurable experience to listen to the four leading authors in journaling–Tristine Rainer, Christina Baldwin, James Pennebaker and Kay Adams–talk about the why journal-keepers, teachers, poets, and therapists find solace and refuge in a journal or diary. The four-day conference, with 350 diarist from four generations, was the first journal conference I’ve attended in my 14-year writing career. And the gathering was powerful, fun, affirming and rejuvenating. What I took away from the conference I am not the only diarist collecting and collaging pictures and words and images into my journal. I am not the only journalist mapping my life’s story from private writing to public reading. I am not the only journal-keeper studying the lives of other journal-keepers. Who touched me most was Christine Baldwin. At the end of a panel discussion, she took the time to form a circle of women to answer the unanswered question: “What happens when your journal has been invaded?” My heart leaped with joy as 25 women came to the circle and shared their story. One diarist said, her journal was invaded when she was 10-year-old and not able to keep a steady journal since then.

“Nurture the 10-year-old and began journaling again, let the hurt go,” Christine said.

Another acknowledge that she had read her daughter’s journal. I affirmed her invasion, saying that when our children’s lives seem to come undone and signs of danger lurk we as parents must read their journals to help with solutions. However, to snoop and pry that is off limits.

And this quote is for all to place in or on the cover of their journals:

If you read this, be aware–details have been changed to through off busybodies, and half of it is wishful thinking and fiction. Question is, which half?

In July, I headed off to a carefree girls weekend with the Sapphires. Our ninth year, in a place where we relax, talk about our lives as women writers and wives, and as Sarah Bracey White says “Eat lots of chocolate.” This year we took business with us, in a quaint coffee shop we gave a reading at the Hraefnwood Café in Bellows Falls and were invited back for the Third Friday Art Walk on July 17, 2009. If you’re in the area stop by; lattes and chi delicious.

Did I mention that I also met former Essence editor Susan L. Taylor, in person, at a book signing sponsored by Harlem Arts Salon. What an inspiring and humble person. She talked about her life, briefly, read from her book “All About Love,” and with love and care Susan encouraged the audience to get involved with her new project youth mentoring as we remember that “Life gives us what we need to grow.”

So, blossom where you are and pen your story in a notebook, journal or diary.

Here’s the Thing

Still life is not just flora and fauna. So, hands down to artist Robert Cottingham for curating the “Here’s The Thing: Single Object Still Life” spring exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art, where everyday objects are the new still life.

On Wednesday, May 21, I joined 50 fifth-graders for a breathtaking, attention-grabbing tour of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints. Some pieces were created to fool the eye, while others were maquettes and Herculean-size.

We were all fooled by a brick, 1890 $20 dollar bill, and a dirty beaten packing box.

To jump start the tour the docent asked the students if they could take home one piece what would it be. The girls said the oversize chocolate kiss oil on canvas, one student said he’d place the enormous domino on his wall. I couldn’t decide between the framed airmail envelope or the flatten black telephone.

Although the docent told the students not to touch, it was hard not rubbing your hands across the ginormous Excedrin box made from 121 Excedrin boxes as well as the bronze sculpture money bag.

More than finding the beauty in everyday objects and the artist also depicted supersized consumerism in our country with various oversized paintings such as a cinema speaker, a sandal, and a sugar shaker.

Here’s the Thing is worth the trip, the exhibition continues until June 29.

Wearing a red cape

On Thursday, May 15, I awoke at 6 a.m. to complete a deadline and then drove my eldest daughter to school. Upon my return home, I woke up my youngest daughter, not an easy task, then piled lunch food on the counter and returned to my laptop to polish one last article and email it to the editor. My daughter made us lunch for the school field trip, while I dressed. Yes, earlier I drove my teenager to school wearing my pajamas.

Well, I was ready to sit on the bus with 50 fifth-graders and read. I was looking forward to just sitting, after a week of no more than five hours sleep. I entered the classroom, the teacher said, “There’s no room on the bus, parents will have to drive.”

I asked the other parents would they like to carpool. The men said no the women said yes. And guess who was designated driver. I’ve had the book, Fryer Street and Environs, by Marita Bonner, on my desk for almost two months, I was sure today I would read one of her short stories.

In the car we go, off to Esopus River, behind a bus driver who does not stop at yellow lights. I decided this was a good thing, at least I would get home in time to change my clothes and catch the 2:43 Metro North train.

At the river, I learned about beach combing, how to fish with a net, why catfish have whiskers, how to identify pond insects and just because the water is clear doesn’t mean its clean, just because the water is dirty doesn’t mean its polluted. And of course, the session was running into overtime 1:15 p.m. and it was a 30 minute ride home.

In the car, I call my two traveling partners, for estimated time of arrival. 1:50p.m. My phone beeped. “Angela I just can’t go tonight I have a spitting headache,” my friends said. I had expected her to drive, so I could look over my essay for the reading.

In the my house I flat ironed my hair and changed my clothes. I called my other friend and said, “let’s drive.” Again, I am behind the wheel. D and I always have fun together and there are two things we can look forward to: a)getting lost; b)me scaring the pants off her with my erratic driving skills.

“Have you ever had a day, where you know you’re wearing a red cape,” I said to D. “I have mine on.”

She laughed.

Well, with a GPS we did not get lost, but D held her breath several times. We arrived at our designation at 4:30 p.m. One hour before the event. “Let’s go in” I said. “The early bird catches the worm.”

Living the writer’s life

We entered Levine Greenberg Literary Agency and were the first to arrive for the literary reading. The silver journal, “The Truth about the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction” sat along the ledge of the wall. My essay, “The Last Eight Months,” had been included in the Spring 08 issue and D came as a supporter.

A black man with long dreads, silver rimmed glasses and a black hat greeted us. “I’m Michael Datcher, youRaising Fences know like Michael Jordan only cuter.” I introduced myself and my friend and remember my piece, as well as the editor who accompanied us on the elevator ride. “Page 26, take your three copies from the wall.”

He disappeared. The room began to buzz with music and loud chatter. I realized Michael is the author of Raising Fences. ( I read that book last year, I am honored to be at this event.) Chicken, salad, wine and beer are served. Circles of writers, agents and editors stand around. I talk with writers from Chicago, L.A. Turkey Vermont and NYC. Michael doesn’t hesitate to be my evening mentor, pointing out the people I should talk to including his agent and an editor for Simon and Schuster. I had a blast and of course showed off, (only writer wearing a two-piece pin striped suit with white collar) at the reading as they say “I popped a collar.” Yes, I pitched my book.

At evenings end, I soared home red cap and all.

Community theater makes a connection

From book to stage and screen that’s what has been capturing me in the artful world of literature. When “Color Purple” hit Broadway I was determined to see the show, before it ended like a “Raisin in the Sun” and I had to revel in other people’s reviews. During the last week of “the purple” production, I was fascinated and captivated. Brilliant scenery, excellent vocals and dazzling dances. I loved it! Of course, without the original ending when Shugs makes amends with her father — earthly and heavenly the spiritual context of the color purple was lost.

Although I missed Lorraine Hansberry’s original 1958 production of “A Raisin in the Sun” and the BroadwayLorraine Hansberry show featuring Phylisha Rashad, I did read the book in high school and watch PBS adaption of the play starring Danny Glover and the 1961film starring Sidney Poitier. However, the most recent theater debut, produced by Passing the Torch Through the Arts and performed at Dutchess Community College in celebration of Black History Month, added depth and meaning to Hansberry’s Tony-award winning play that I had not garnered from my high school reading or the film adaption.

Langston Hughes’ poem “A Dream Deferred” inspired Hansberry to write “A Raisin in the Sun.”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Hansberry also wrote this play, then, so white America could see blacks in other roles besides housekeepers and minstrels. After connecting the play to the poem, now, as a black woman, mother, parent, wife, and daughter I see people of all races, creeds and colors, who have experienced their dreams dry up in the sun as they make a decision to run or despite the sagging load carry on.

In process

The Girl in the Mirror

By Angela Batchelor

 

The woman set down the tray with Spanish coffee, pastries and custard on the table. She served the gentlemen, leaning on the fireplace mantel, cognac and whiskey. The woman smiled and nodded listening to them brag about their casino winnings. She overheard their spouses talk about club gossip and sales at Neiman Marcus. Exhausted from a week of hosting dinner parties the woman excused herself from her soon-parting guests. Her husband called it a “mere migraine.” She wanted to escape his obnoxious bravado.

The woman, tall and bony, sat down at the vanity in her upstairs bedroom. She looked at her Fashion Fair face in the mirror and touched the crows’ feet that clawed at her eyes. She unfastened her antique earrings, placed them in a velvet box and unhooked her ruby-studded choker. She slipped a tissue around four fingers and dipped them into a jar of facial cream. She smoothed make-up remover with circular strokes over her left cheek, then her chin, right cheek, across her forehead, down her nose and under each eye. The woman slid the sepia smudged tissue from her fingers into the wastebasket. She picked up the brush and wrapped her hair around her head. She clipped bobby pins along the crown, tied and knotted the silk scarf in the front of her forehead. She propped her elbows on the vanity, palmed her cheeks and cried.

“I despise him,” she said.

The woman stuck her finger in the gold-rimmed tumbler, sitting on the vanity, half filled with Corvasia. She batted the ice cubes.

Separation was Roger’s scare tactic. For him leaving required taking initiative. Roger only made the first move in a competitive stance. Otherwise, he waited for his wife to take action. When she did, he criticized and belittled. The woman had become resentful. However, she, the mother, the lover, the mad painter, managed the house, his business and the family.

“I’m still angry.” The woman looked closer at the teenaged reflection. “Twenty-one years ago I loved him, I adored and worshipped the ground he walked on.”

The woman wiped her wet finger on a tissue. She glanced from the mirror to the tumbler. She picked up the tumbler and swirled the amber liquid. Spices and vanilla rose with each swirl and sniff; lingering sweetness; smooth finish with no heat, only numbness. Six years sober, with a new life in Christ she put down the glass.

 

 

***

August, hot and humid, she and Roger met at an office party, roller-skating. Roger Remy, a client and ten years her senior, caught her before she fell. They skated from the Giuseppe Mazzini statue to the 107th Regiment Civil War statue and back to the picnic table, where they isolated themselves from their coworkers. They talked about her internship to study oil painting in Paris, the denouement of her church choir tour, and how Roger thought women made better wives and mothers than business cohorts.

“If you were my wife, I would treat you like royalty– a house in the country, a nanny, and a cook. On weekends we would frequent the opera, museums and art galleries.” Roger held her hand. “Our children would have your long silky hair and doe eyes. We would vacation in Paris and Rome, even Disneyland.” He smiled.

“That’s not the plan I have for my life.” She glanced him over: bowl-shaped Afro, squared pearly whites, open collared polo shirt, creased denims and penny loafers. “Lets just get to know each other before we plan a family.” She smirked. “My mother lost her life scrubbing toilets and taking care of four snotty nose children. My dad worked two jobs so his daughters could go to college and not scrub toilets.”

Roger laughed. “And I would do the same for my daughters.”

Six months later, he took her on six dates, to a Broadway show, an opera, Tavern on the Green and to a gospel concert where they sang and shouted till midnight. She immersed herself in his indulgent chivalry. He always opened her car door, met her in church on Sundays, sent her roses on Mondays, and hired a cleaning lady to clean her loft on Fridays. Summer heat morphed into autumn landscapes and winter sun into spring rains ending their transatlantic rendezvous. One year later, he found her in Paris and they exchanged vows at the French Consulate. She, swelled bellied and painted canvases, moved to the country where some suburban wives clipped coupons that expired before they got to the register, scrubbed the bathroom floor on their knees and starched white shirts by hand. She hired a cook, nanny and cleaning service. After her first daughter, she became a housewife, after the second, she got a part time job; her third and fourth imprisoned her to confines of the managing the household.

“My business is flourishing and I don’t want my partners to think I cannot support my wife,” Roger said, on their sixth anniversary. “Since you are a Parsons graduate, Jacob Lawrence protégé, and fluent in Spanish and French you will homeschool the children.”

“And my art.”

“I will have a studio built for you, the nanny can watch the children while you paint, sketch or whatever it is you artist people do.” He reached inside the pocket of his three-piece suit jacket that he no longer wore to church, and pulled out a velvet box. “I love you.” He handed it to her.

She opened the box. Antique ruby studded earrings and matching choker laid on white satin. “You always know just the right things for me.” She slipped the earrings into each lobe.

“Please wear it tonight at the dinner.” He hooked the choker around her neck. “A few associates and their wives will join us. Be sure to put on your chic Frenchness and that low cut black gown. It enhances your best features.” He stepped close to her, placed both his hands on her buttocks and pulled her into his hardness. He pressed his lips against hers and she melted in his arms. And it was always like the first night he took her, slow, graceful, rhythmic and in.

Hence, dinner parties commenced with every big score, every big contract every partner’s birthday and every holiday. Roger had an art studio built, which doubled as a garage, adjacent to house. After she settled in, he created an office in the garage.

“We can work together, I will manage the children, your art finances and you can help my business,” he declared.

When the children napped, he wanted to make love. When she planned her art and book talks, he held esoteric conversations with her friends. She did laundry twice a week; he said daily was more efficient. After the brood entered high school, he told her to get a job and forget about painting. She sold three oil paintings, and taught collegiate art history. He complained about weekend gallery showings and late night classes.

One night she sat in the studio dabbing paint on a commissioned piece. Roger entered, slamming the door. She jumped.

“Guest are arriving and you are painting,” he said.

“I have a migraine, and want to be alone. I’m sick of hosting these phonies.”

He grabbed her arm, spilling red paint onto black. “I pay the bills, you will follow my rules!” he shouted. “Since you’ve returned to church, you think you are high and mighty. Well, I’m the priest of this house.” He handed her the velvet box, a black gown, open toe sandals, and left.

***

 

The door slammed. Car engines revved. The woman knocked over the glass splattering liquid into the wastebasket. She slipped off her glittery gown and nylons, slid into her nightgown and headed towards the bed. Footsteps thudded up the stairs. She clapped off the light.