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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

The War Against the Land

Many of the soldiers who fought in Vietnam saw it: the extraordinary beauty of the land they had come to destroy. They took note of the rich natural diversity, lush growth, and dazzling colors – and then called in napalm, dioxin-laden defoliants, and bombs so massive they lifted the tops of mountains. Such measures were “necessary,” it was said. Collateral damage. Acceptable loss. Read more

Writing War

A year ago I sat on a folding chair in an ordinary meeting room listening to poetry. The room had a table with the usual hospitality contributions – bottles of juices and water, crackers, a tray of vegetables and hummus. Another table held books for sale and a third a display of paper made from the pulped uniforms of veterans.

The event was a reading to celebrate the launch of Sound Off: Warrior Writers NJ, a volume whose unassuming size gave little hint of the explosion of power within. Some of the poets were already friends – Vietnam veteran Jim Murphy, Iraq veterans Kevin Basl and Nate Lewis. Others were names I had known for decades but had never met. Jan Barry and W.D. Ehrhart I knew from their work in Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans, published while the war was still waging. Dayl Wise, co-founder of Post-Traumatic Press, Walt Nygard, Everett Cox were names I picked up along the way and, listening to their poetry, glad of it. Read more

Collaboration

10703518_4717179543178_3291343549720035313_nMark and I have been assembling, discussing, ordering, and editing his writing about his two tours in Vietnam for a little over a year now. We have taken care of the thorniest problems, come to agreements about what to leave in and what to delete, and now it is mostly a question of me working my editing magic on the rest. Read more

Method Editing

Seeing things from a soldier's point of view. Dong Nai River, Feb. 10, 1969.  Photo by Mark Smith

Seeing things from a soldier’s point of view.
Dong Nai River, Feb. 10, 1969.
Photo by Mark Smith

Years ago when I worked for a publication of the American Indian Program at Cornell, I frequently had the responsibility of editing the transcription of an oral talk by a Native speaker for print. Listening and reading are very different cognitive processes and they are also different cultural forms. I wanted the readers of a journal published on a university campus to sense the  cadences of a Native speaker for whom oral communication is primary. Read more

Coyote’s Advice

drink45-hurricane-and-barcardi-splashI hadn’t talked to Coyote in a while, not about the blog anyway. He still hung around, looking over my shoulder when I was writing in that annoying way he has and harrumphing occasionally. In a more successful ploy to get my attention, he made me a drink – passionfruit juice mixed with an aromatic and evocative rum he knew I would recognize.

“So what do you think I should do?” I asked. The heat of the day stirred memories. Upstate New York wasn’t Saigon but it was doing its best. Read more

Scary Stories

“I don’t know how Stephen King does it,” I said, looking up from my notebook.

“Does what?” Coyote asked. He was mixing a drink. I’m not sure what was in it but the bottle he was using had a faint green tinge. At least from where I was sitting.

“Keep writing all those scary stories that everybody loves so much,” I said, eyeing the bottle.

“Well, I didn’t think much of Cujo,” he said, looking through the liquor cabinet for something else.

“Oh?” I wondered why there was only one glass.

“Lacked subtlety,” he said, opening the fridge. “Do we have any limes?”¬† Read more

Adverbs on Trial

“I don’t understand the objection to adverbs.” I said, breaking the silence.

“What’s the problem?” Coyote looked up from his novel. Tony Hillerman, I noticed.

I myself was reading about a murder in Savannah, Georgia, and I was keeping track.

“Well, it just seems like some people have a prejudice against them and I am pretty sure it’s not justified.” I was afraid I was picking a fight but I didn’t care. I wanted to get this straightened out.

“Listen to this, for instance,” I continued before Coyote could get a word in. “It’s a sentence in this book I’m reading. ‘This was the hole allegedly made by Danny Hansford during his rampage through the house a month before he was killed.'” Read more

Book Sale

“You’re getting a little scattered, don’t you think?”

Coyote kept his voice casual but he was fooling no one.

“What do you mean?” I matched his tone. No point falling into his trap by getting defensive. “I’m keeping up.”

“Keeping up … how, exactly?” He was helping me sort books. I was getting rid of a bookshelf. Spring cleaning. It had to be done. We had Loreena Mckennitt playing in the background to keep our spirits up.¬† Read more

Writing for reading

A few months ago I attended a workshop to teach writers how to use social media. Bizarrely, I knew almost everything that was in that workshop – for my clients. I had even had a meeting with a client in the previous week and urged many of the things that were in that workshop. I had just never applied the advice to myself. So before I could frighten myself out of it, I bought susanrdixon.com and started this blog. That’s the first thing – to dare to be visible. Read more

Doorway to Somewhere

This piece is inspired by a poem by Marge Piercy called Seven Horses. I riff on the idea of horses as symbol and mediator for the imagination.

I wish I had had horses. I wish I had thought of that. I like to think my imagination is one of my best features but I know that is a debatable point. At first the people around me like it when I say, “I have an idea!” but then it begins to happen that they run the other way. My ideas are too literal. I really mean them. Perhaps I would have drained a little energy if I had imagined myself riding the flying red horse from the Mobil sign. Read more