Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cookie Campbell: Q Is for Quirks

Cookie has been using the letters of the alphabet as writing prompts, creating a chronicle of her life from A to Z. She read her latest entry to the Morning morning group this week:

Q is for "quirks." The world is full of them. Or should I say the world is full of people who are full of them? Whatever.

Think of all the people who won’t walk under a ladder, or do a quick turnabout to avoid a black cat.

The elder Clayton Campbell would have been my father-in-law if he had lived long enough. He would not sit at a table with thirteen diners. Nor would he leave the table. His wife was supposed to do that, and long after his death she still left the table if the count was thirteen. I knew “Old Clate” for as far back as I can remember, and I was never aware of any noteworthy quirks except for the number thirteen. However, there must have been many, and as I look back I realize quite a few of them rubbed off onto his sons. . . .

A new job started on Friday always brought trouble. Things broke down, the weather turned foul, livestock came down with something, or maybe even the farmer would be hurt or catch a bug. The answer to this was simple. Thursday night, 9 pm, dark as a pocket and guess what: the job was well started. This particular son would plow two or three furrows or mow two or three swaths; then he would go to bed and sleep the sleep of the just, knowing all would be well.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Next Event: "Farm Girls" Reading @ Korongo May 7

For some time now I've been wanting to host an event that would celebrate farmers who write and writers who farm. Since women outnumber men in the Hale Street Gang, we decided to call our next reading "Farm Girls." Among the readers will be members of the community, including Bette Lambert, author of Farm Wife's Journal. Bette and I went to school together (she was Bette Silloway then), and I'm thrilled that she'll be joining us for what I hope will become an annual event. Korongo is the new art gallery on Merchants Row in downtown Randolph. The May 7 reading will begin at 2 p.m.

Here's an excerpt from a piece Idora Tucker is working on—perhaps we'll include it in the reading, though Idora has said that someone else will have to read it, as her voice is giving out. Working title: "Manager Mom." It is a profile of Idora's mother, Gertrude Small (my maternal grandmother). Gertrude was a town girl who became acquainted with farm life as a young woman when she married a farmer by the name of Harry Cooley:

Gertrude Small, an early portrait.
I don’t know how Mom felt about becoming a farmer’s wife. Had she envisioned that at the time of her marriage? She never told me. It is a hard, demanding life, with no time off if your farm is a dairy farm. Her early life had not prepared her for the sort of life she was undertaking. Mom’s responsibilities did not include milking cows, feeding chickens, or driving horses during haying. There was more than enough to keep her fully occupied about the house. A farm wife, even one who does not work caring for the animals or growing crops, has a house to keep clean, meals to prepare, laundry to do, and children to bear and care for. In Mom’s case there were eventually five of us born over eight years in the 1920s. (continued after the jump)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Come Join Us at VTC on April 20

The next reading by the Hale Street Gang is an event we've been looking forward to all year. VTC prof Sarah Silbert has again invited us to join her class in a joint presentation of memoirs by seniors and college students. This exchange between young and old took place for the first time last spring, and it was just great. We hope you'll join us for this special evening. The event is free and open to the public. We'll gather on Wednesday, April 20, at 6 p.m. at the Shape building at VTC in Randolph Center.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring Writing Classes Begin Monday, April 18

Our touring exhibit has stirred up a lot of interest in memoir writing. The March 19 workshop at the Chandler Gallery brought together 35 aspiring memoirists, an impressive turnout. Now to continue what we’ve begun. I’ve been busily moving forward with plans for more events—8-week classes, introductory workshops, and readings. You don’t have to think of yourself as a writer to sign up. If you can write a letter, you can write about your life.

There are a million reasons to write. People come to my writing groups because they want to preserve family stories, to learn more about themselves, to further a work in progress, to enjoy themselves, make new friends, and have fun. Writing is good for the soul and good for our health (yes, scientists say so). Joining a writers’ group can be a life-changing event. The rewards are truly endless.

I will be continuing to lead the writing groups at the Randolph Senior Center, but for the moment they are full. So in addition, I'll be holding some classes at Korongo, the new art gallery on Merchants Row in downtown Randolph (click here to read about the gallery in 7 Days). The classes will meet during hours when the gallery is closed. It's a cheerful little space and the perfect size for small groups. It will also do nicely for occasional readings—there's room for about 35 folding chairs, the exact size of a good turnout in little Randolph. Our first reading will take place on Saturday, May 7, at 2 p.m. "Farm Women" will feature several members of the Hale Street Gang, as well as younger women who both write and farm (how do they do it?).

The Writers Studio @ Korongo
Spring Classes
April 18–June 21

Memoir Writing (all levels)

Every life is important, and everybody has a story to tell—but where to begin? And how to continue? And who’s going to care? Whether you are writing for family members or strangers, your story must first get past that unpleasant little voice (we all have one) that says, “But you’re not really a writer,” or “What a waste of time,” and so on. This 8-week course is designed to help draw out your story, bring it to life, and give you confidence in both your ability and your right to tell it. We will explore memoir-writing techniques through weekly assignments and small-group discussions. Suitable for beginning memoirists as well as writers wrestling with a work-in-progress. (Cost: $80)

Monday morning: 10:30–12 noon
(April 18 to June 13; no class May 30)

Monday afternoon: 2–3:30 p.m.
(April 18 to June 13; no class May 30)

Tuesday morning: 9–10:30 a.m.
(May 3 to June 21)

To sign up for one of the classes listed above, email me at saratucker@aol.com. (Don't procrastinate, though—there are very few spots left.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bonnie Willis: Raspberry Shoes

The exercise that led to the following piece was to recall an object that had a lasting impact on your life.

In 1966, when I was living and working in Manhattan, I bought a pair of deep rosy pink shoes; the color of raspberry sorbet. They were not expensive, but pretty shoes with sling backs and not too high heels. One might think that these would be for special occasions—however, this was the era before women wore sneakers and changed into their fancier shoes when they got to work, so I wore these or another pair of a similar style for the walk each day. We lived on East 81st and I worked in a design studio on West 39th Street off Fifth Avenue, so the walk was long, especially with the long city blocks. I soon discovered that my raspberry shoes went with everything I wore to work; a little black dress—stunning. Colorful sixties-print dress—great, especially if it was in one of my fabric designs.

I wore the shoes practically every day. They always made me feel happy and gave a bounce to my step. I believe the shoes expressed my most positive creative nature. What I learned was to follow your bliss. Adopt the unique and unusual as your usual, if this is what your true self requires to glow with life. Eventually, the shoes became too worn to wear, so I put them back into their green and white polka-dot shoebox. I kept the box in the back of my closet as a reminder of that happy time. Every time I opened the box, I was back in those moments of confidence and joy.

Last year, I was in the Twin Cities visiting my family. My sisters and I spent a number of hours in one of our favorite places—a thrift shop, of course. The best one in St. Paul is the Unique Thrift Store. (We refer to it as the Unique Boutique.) The store is large, clean, organized with great stuff. We were having lots of fun finding clothes for ourselves and each other, and then I saw them—a brand-new looking pair of shoes in the same beautiful pink! They were just my size. I bought them immediately.

Photo by Jonathan Kim for Creative Commons

Our Chandler Moment

Portraits in Writing spent the month of March at the Chandler Gallery in Randolph, and it was pretty special—kind of like one of those episodes of American Idol where the winner goes home in a limo. Besides the big party, we did three readings and a workshop. About 400 people saw the exhibit during gallery hours, and hundreds more during intermissions for various events. Thank you, Becky, Betsy, Sandy, Andrea, Mickey, Rebi, and everyone else at Chandler who helped to make our homecoming memorable.