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Monthly Archives: October 2008

Halloween Prep


    It’s that time of year. For those of you wondering, I have at long last perfected my specialty talent of performing Thriller in my kitchen whilst making a triple batch of curried pumpkin soup. I’m a multi-tasker, what can I say. I can even make cinnamon salted pumpkin seeds at the same time. Now, why has no one thought to create a reality TV series about me, I wonder?

     The one bad part of reinventing your life and starting over from scratch is that when you wipe the slate clean, you end up throwing out the good with the bad. Halloween is one of those days that I miss the good from our past. I miss having a hundred people drop by to sample my pumpkin buffet. I miss the cooking and forcing pumpkin soup down innocent friend’s gullets, easy because they are too polite to say no. I miss Stewie, because he was always the bravest guest, willing to try any recipe I conjured up. Halloween is supposed to be scary, after all.  If we celebrated Halloween here the way we did there, I’d make pumpkin wine. It would have been the perfect addition to my pumpkin feast. But we don’t get a single trick or treater here, so who would drink a thirty bottle batch of holiday wine? 
    In Blue Ridge, everyone goes downtown to a huge festival where stores give out candy and music is piped in on a loud speaker. It is quaint and wholesome, and we do have fun. We are creating new traditions I suppose, but I miss decking our house in orange lights, dry ice, and strobe lights. (My house is tastefully decorated with classy fall décor this season, just in case a buyer comes by to see it. That isn’t fun a’ tall. I did, however, put a “Beware” and “Happy Halloween” sign up on my barn door. )
     I miss my husband hiding in the bushes to scare the wits out of the older students who used to stop by to say “hi”.  I miss giving out 100 bucks worth of candy and then bargaining with my kids to sell me the stuff in their bags they don’t like because I’m running out regardless of how carefully I planned ahead. 
    I miss Halloween week at FLEX, not because it was fun decorating and teaching all those themed dances year after year, but because the staff was such good sports. They had way of smiling with that glazed look in their eye that said, “If I play Monster Mash one more time, I’m going postal . . .”  We laughed a lot at FLEX this time of year – at students, at Halloween bloopers, and mostly at each other. I gotta hand it to my dear old employees, they had a sense of humor. I loved that about them, loved that they could take a joke, that they didn’t take dance so seriously that they forgot that joy comes before discipline and a touch of comedy in every dance gives it depth. I love their willingness to blow up a zillion balloons, do the “Scardey Cat dance two thousand times, and “Wiggle Your Bones” until their bones did indeed wiggle. I even miss the way they ate all the candy I bought for them to give to students and the way they blinked innocently and said, “Me? Eat the candy? Why no, Miss Ginny, I have no idea why all the bins are empty.” Meanwhile, they definitely have candy breath.

Tonight, my kids gathered for some Halloween prep. They carved pumpkins – I took the guts out to the chickens so they could have their own pumpkin feast (new tradition) The kids gave in to creative passion trying to one up each other in the pumpkin carving war. There was some serious cheating going on with the use of toothpicks to hold pieces together that otherwise would have fallen off. Hummm… whatever happened to good old fashion triangle eyes and toothful grins on a pumpkin? Each kid’s pumpkin (and boyfriend Eric’s) were unique. neva made the spider, kent the baby-face, denver the Nightmare Before Christmas characters, and Eric the face…. I am just the pumpkin cheerleader and chief cook in charge of nurishment for the artists – in this case, homemade pizza.

They made fun of their mother’s Thriller rendition (everybody’s a critic). Denver then helped Neva make a jack in the box costume.

Kent was trying to make a costume out of boxes, just to prove he can. Wish you could see him break dance in this get up. Big laugh. I really should get a camera for this blog this– some things words can’t describe. For the last few years, my son dressed as baloney, but his baloney broke, so now he is going to be his version of a “mail man”.  Don’t ask.

My house is rocking tonight with our ten hour continuous play Halloween music. Every song reminds us of a dance. We can’t resist breaking out in steps or chuckling as we recall a class that did this dance or that. Shake your bones . . . .  Give me a smile . . . the memories are as thick as my pumpkin soup.

So for old friends out there who remember us this time of year . . . well, we are remembering you too. Always will.


The Heart of Ginny keeps beating

For most people, it takes discipline to blog. For me, it takes discipline NOT to blog.

So much of my writing time gets absorbed by my essay length entries about my country adventures, that several weeks ago I decided if I was every going to finish my book in progress, I’d need to take a blog sabbatical. And that is what I did.

The good news is, I’ve just completed my memoir project. I still need to do some rewriting and tweaking, but the basic skeleton of the novel is in place. I’ve even written query letters for agents or editors, though I won’t send them out until the book is truly polished. I’m aiming for the end of November. Unlike my historical novels, which are difficult to place because they straddle the line between commercial romance and literary historical, (thanks to too many rewrites and my drastic evolution as a writer) the memoir has a distinctly marketable subject matter. It’s timely, and thanks to it being an “after the MFA” project, I can honestly say it is far better than my previous work. Anyway, I have high hopes for it.

I’ve also spent this time off applying myself to building a writer’s dossier. I joined AWP(Association of Writers and writing programs) to set up a career services file and made requests for letters of recommendation from professors, put together a resume, worked on a writing sample, and tried to drum up some teaching experience. I’ve made arrangements to teach memoir writing at the arts association of Blue Ridge (no easy feat to set up considering this will be new subject matter in the program) and contacted Appalachian Tech  about trying some creative writing classes again, this time at their main facility. It’s frustrating, because I’d have so many outlets for teaching if I lived anywhere else, but here in the mountains, pick’ins are slim. Teaching, as you can guess, comes naturally to me. I don’t believe there is any better a way to celebrate your art and indulge your idealistic values than by teaching others. I’m as committed to teaching creative writing now as I once was about dance. So, I’m starting at the bottom and trying my best to find an outlet. And I’m diligently working on classroom material and a syllubus.
I applied for a two year fellowship at Emery University. The competition will be steep, and frankly, I fall short in the teaching experience category (which is a killer considering all my teaching experience in dance makes me a seasoned communicator, but still, it doesn’t count) so being selected for a fellowship at a fine school like Emery is a long shot, but I applied anyway. Sometimes, the act of trying is as valuable to your growth as succeeding. I’ve certainly learned a great deal by putting my packet together. Today I received confirmation that the department received my information. I swallowed, thinking “Did I do the best I could?” Of course, its too late to worry about that now. But I am glad I made the effort. Sucess begins with seeds of effort.

Mark says, “What if you actually did get it? Are you going to drive all the way to Atlanta everyday to teach at Emery? That will be a killer.”

True, but I’ll worry about that when and if it happens. Like I said, this is a long shot. But even so, I’m willing to go where I must go and do what I must do to build a foundation for this new career. You have to operate that way if you’re serious about your craft. I remember all the inconvenient and impractical (in a monetary terms) endeavors I undertook to build a dance career. Years later I could attribute much of my talent and experience to those early efforts. I can’t help but believe it will be the same for writing.
Anyway,  this is why I haven’t been posting.

Now, I’m ready to resume my casual meandering about my reinvented life. Of course if I’m ever selected for a fellowship or teaching position, I’ll not be able to write about it, other than a general announcement and expression of glee. Blogging about my students, fellow teachers or employers is just too invasive and threatening to consider, even when you doubt they will ever stumble on the site. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that a blog is PUBLIC, even though it feels like an intimate exchange between friends.

Confidentiality is paramount to developing the intimate environment necessary for helping a student through the discomfort that surrounds personal growth as an artist. I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve only been able to blog these past years because everyday adventures – animals, family and country living, are safe subjects, easy to address. I sure never could have blogged while owning FLEX. Eesh, the very thought makes me laugh. The potential for catastrophe would have been greater than the atomic bomb. Besides which, when the people involved in your livelihood are invited into your head, you can’t resist but to become on guard. You end up saying what you think they want to hear, or worse, sending subtle messages that deep down you wish you could say to their face. Either way, the work is affected. If you can’t be really honest, writing is a waste of ink.

So this is my announcement that I’m back. And since catching up is hard, I’ll just pretend you haven’t missed anything and write about whatever is going on in the present as if I didn’t take a break. If you missed all my riviting talk about llamas and chickens and bears, oh my, you won’t have to wait long for more . . .