Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Letter to a Television Titan

By Kimberly Johnson

Dear Regis,
I miss you, man.
I miss our morning chit chat sessions. First with Kathie Lee, then with Kelly.
I miss our trivia games and our trips to the Caribbean.
I miss our eye-rolling digs at Gelman.
I miss our witty repartee with the entertainment elite: Clooney, Paltrow, Pitt, Washington.

So, when Gelman, Art, and the rest of the gang compiled a week-long farewell, I cried a little. The tears dried when I read your memoir, How I Got This Way. With a smile, I read how famous people (Bing Crosby, Don Rickles, and Joey Bishop to name a few) and not-so-famous people (Major Rankin and Major Flake, USMC) made indelible footprints on your life. As always, I enjoyed the poignant tales about your youthful days at Notre Dame.

The best part of the book, Reeg, is all that advice. I loved the way you dropped some serious knowledge about your interaction with each person you write about. It really goes to show that you can learn something from someone as you go through this long and winding road we call—Life.

Here are some keepers from selected chapters:
Chapter 14: Recounts your admiration for Notre Dame’s Coach Leahy: “Remember, whatever or whoever inspires or moves you enough to give you goose bumps at the time is very likely to mean more than you know over time.”

Chapter 18: Describes your optimism about Kelly Ripa: “People who sparkle tend to make you sparkle, too, when they’re near.”

Chapter 19: Showcases your takeaway from being around Donald Trump: “The bigger you build your dreams, the more likely you are to take heat from detractors. Forget about the heat and just keep building.”

Chapter 3: Reveals your 'aha moment' with Steve Allen: “When other people believe in you, they believe in you for a good reason. Don’t worry about that reason—just believe right along with them.”

Chapter 22: Recollects your awestruck wonder about Yankees great, Joe DiMaggio: “Our quietest heroes, more often than you think, make the loudest impact of all.”

Chapter 24: Highlights your reflections on Steven Spielberg: “When starting out, it’s probably best to first demonstrate your prospective talent than to try talking about it—especially before that talent has had its chance to develop.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The MFA's Place in Publishing: An Opinion

By Ginny Padgett

I’ve been perusing the November/December, 2011 issue of Poets & Writers magazine. I am astonished to find the numerous ads for MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) programs displayed here – one on nearly every page. Before reading this widely regarded resource, I was aware of one of today’s trends, namely to become published in the traditional manner, an MFA is the way to go. It made me think.

• Is academia the force behind the publishing business these days?
• MFAs are very expensive. Is that making writing an elitist’s profession with an elitist attitude?
• What literature, innovative concepts, and unique points of view might we be missing from those writers who cannot afford to go to graduate school?
• Would William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens get published today without an MFA entrĂ©e? Both were men of the people – far from academia – who dealt in the drama of every-day life.
• William Faulkner considered himself a Mississippi farmer. In fact, in a 1956 interview in The Paris Review, he said, “There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error.”
• Flannery O’ Conner was a recluse from Milledgeville, Georgia (even though her bio says Savannah).
• Does this raise other points you’d share as a comment to this blog? I’d really like to hear other thoughts. Pardon me. My egalitarian sensibilities are showing.

Once again, I suppose the debate goes back to “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Unless we’re writing for monetary gain (in which case get an MFA), the reward from our creative pursuits may be the personal satisfaction in quelling the need for self expression.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Spark of Inspiration

By Deborah Wright Yoho

People we know spark a writer's passion. My mother has been a puzzle to me since earliest childhood. Her name was Rose.

Mom never downsized, having resisted all my cajoling to please, please deal with her three bedroom house crammed to the rafters with stuff. She was a hoarder, perhaps not interesting enough to be featured on TV, but bad enough. Since she died eight months ago, I have been dealing with her leavings. Mom, why did you do this to me?

I started with her kitchen. In the refrigerator, packed wall to wall, top to bottom, lived twelve packets of sliced cheese, all of it outdated, the oldest moldy package two years old. In a cabinet, I found nine cans of expensive Melitta coffee, six bottles of olive oil, and five jars of gourmet orange marmalade. Mom, you couldn't afford to stock up on such things!

I don't think she did. I realize only now her memory was compromised long before her last hospitalization. How many times had I helped her put away bags of groceries? How often had I struggled to find room in that fridge? Yet it had never occurred to me she had been buying duplicates of favorite items she had already stashed away.

My mother was a collector. Angels and elephants, tablecloths, costume jewelry, five different sets of Christmas dishes, knick knacks from our travels. But plastic bags, bread ties, dried up ballpoint pens, hundreds of clothes pins? She had been using an electric dryer since 1967.

In her basement, Mom saved all our Samsonite suitcases. A family of Air Force vagabonds with three kids, we had a lot of suitcases; none of them had wheels. She also kept all the curtains she ever hung in more than a dozen different homes. I won't discuss her clothes, except to mention 82 pairs of shoes.

My mother's last ten years weren't so easy. You could tell by her stuff. She saved four diabetes glucometers and three blood pressure cuffs.

I am by now expert at solid waste disposal and recycling. Half a dozen charities recognize my car when I drive up. I know which brand of trash bags is the strongest and how to organize a garage sale (I made $600). I survived sore muscles, sleepless nights, and long-distance arguments with my brothers. I now suffer from myopia, having focused for weeks on handling, cleaning, sorting, folding, packing, lifting, loading, and unloading.

I left her underwear drawer for last, unable to touch her fragile, lovely lingerie. Underneath her sizeable collection of lacy slips, I found my reward, a photo album I had never seen before. Clinging to the faded pages, my parents, circa 1946 - before the kids, before they were married, before the moves, before all the stuff.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Addicted to Children’s Literature

By Tiem Wilson

Okay, a show of hands…how many adults enjoy reading children’s literature? I’m talking not just Harry Potter or the Twilight series, but all genres of children’s literature. During a recent conversation with a coworker, she made an interesting comment. “I’m an adult, so I read adult books.” Well, that got me thinking about others like me.

First, I’ll throw out a couple of disclaimers. As a children’s author, I do read a lot of the literature for research purposes. I also read to keep abreast of what type of things my children are reading. Just like with TV, music, and video games, I need to be aware of what’s happening in their world. However, I find myself enjoying the stories more than the children.

I’ll also admit I am able to read more than the kids (my son, specifically) because they have schoolwork, homework, projects, etc. to occupy their time. However, I believe I enjoyed the 39 Clues series way more than the kids. I was also able to introduce new series my son would enjoy because I have read them myself. The added benefits are great family discussions and the stronger bond I build by understanding how they see the world during these stages of life.

I still read “adult books.”

Children’s literature is similar to looking through an old photo album at Grandma’s house. It can bring back nostalgic feelings.

Now, I know I am not alone. Whatever the reason, surely there are others who enjoy reading children’s literature just as much I do. You don’t even have to be a parent or librarian. The Napping House and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane were favorites of mine long before the kids came. So, who’s with me? Raise your hand if you are addicted to children’s literature.