The Secret to Writing

I spoke about writing from the heart this weekend in Galveston at the Blog Elevated Conference. Yes I actually did it, despite being knocked silly and unable to turn my head after the car accident. And despite my being a deer in the headlights, the crowd laughed, and cried, and they were right there with me. And the genuine “thank you’s” afterward shook me to the core and made it all completely worth it because there is always that doubt: why would anyone want to come and hear what I have to say about writing?  I have no certified expertise.  I never did well in English and literature classes when I was in school.  I thought I’d share a few things that I shared with those that attended my session because it’s all so very close to my heart right now. This is what I know today:

1. A writer actually has to WRITE.

This is a work in progress for me. I’m always thinking about writing, but not always actually WRITING.  The book Page by Page by Amy Sellers is one that I love to read over and over, and never in order:

The secret to writing, books on writing

 

2. A writer has to disconnect every once in a while. 

I am the QUEEN of excuses when it comes to writing: I’m too busy. The phone is ringing. It’s too hot . It’s too cold. I have to organize my space first.

I have to find a quiet place to really write. Maybe it’s for an hour a day, maybe for an entire weekend.  Since we have such a small living space right now, I cleared out a section of my daughter’s room that I can use as an area for writing each day when she is at school. It isn’t glamorous but it’s all I need. It’s quiet, and without distractions.  Stephen King used to write in his laundry room.  It was a place where he could shut the door and show the world he meant business.

Sometimes I go to the library. Sometimes I just sit in my car in the library parking lot. Sometimes I ride the train by myself.

anne lamott quote, on writing

 

 3. A writer needs input. 

Just like Johnny 5 from Short Circuit….”need input”….who consumed books: I think a writer needs to consume books. I took this photo over the summer of Carl Sandburg’s house in Hendersonville, NC:

carlsandburg

It was like walking into a time capsule.  Incredible. Every square inch of his house is covered in bookshelves, to house the 14,000 books that he stored there.  He had twice that but he donated half to a university. And in each book were tiny pieces of paper where he had marked things to come back to.  He devoured anything he could get his hands on. When he died they found his jacket pockets full of newspaper clippings and phrases.

I am never without a book. I sleep with books. Books stack up next to my bedside. Magazines. Wikipedia. I live in bookstores. The more good stuff I put in, the more good stuff that comes out.

Also, input isn’t just about books. Dayna Steele who was the keynote speaker at the conference gave some great advice:

Never stop learning. Google everything. Google everyone. Look at the morning news. Know what’s going on around you. Continue to learn about things you know nothing about. Teach yourself stuff. Get out and meet people. Talk to people you don’t know. 

I love to wander because I never know where it’s going to take me. It also give me a chance to observe and write about what I would never notice otherwise:
quote by maya angelou

I think to write from the heart you have to live from the heart.  They are undoubtably linked.

Live to write, not the other way around, right?

 

A few books that I recommend:

Page by Page by Heather Sellers

“Writing a book is exactly like love. You don’t hold back. You give it everything you have. If it doesn’t work out, you’re heartbroken, but you move forward and start again anyway. You have to. You don’t hold some of yourself in reserve. It’s all or nothing. There are no guarantees.” 

page-by-page

 

 

On Writing: Memoir of a Craft by Stephen King

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

on-writing

 

 

Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” 

bird-by-bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Town USA

I really do live in Mayberry. i.e. Bryson City

This is Buford’s Barbershop. He waved at me each time I walked by today.

Barber Shop in Bryson City, NC - Buford's Barbershop  - just like Mayberry

 

A store that sells guns and ice cream:

donsicecream

 

The view from Main Street and Everett Street:

Visiting Bryson City, NC

Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us. We need hours of aimless wandering, or spates of time sitting on park benches, observing the mysterious world of ants and the canopy of treetops.

-Maya Angelou

Fall Table Decor: Mason Jar Firefly Lanterns

Easy Fall Table Decor: Mason Jar Lantern Lights using LEDs #wedding #fall #entertaining #masonjar

 

This month’s theme for Michaels Makers is fall decor.  Fall is always hard for me because I rarely buy anything orange, yellow or red…all classic fall colors. But…I love acorns and barn wood and moss….so I made these cute little “firefly” inspired lanterns using mason jars and Michaels’ LED string lights (found in the floral section of the store):

diy firefly mason jar lanterns

I also made the barn wood tray and the small rustic twig balls but I’ll follow up with a tutorial on those. The acorns were collected on the Hemlock Inn driveway tonight:

fall table decor ideas and wedding table decor #wedding #falltabledecor #entertaining

To make the lanterns I used a mason jar and a battery operated set of LED string lights from Michaels.  Each set of lights takes 3 batteries and the pack can be tucked nicely into the back of the jar.  I used dried moss to give the inside of the jar an earthy rustic look. The great thing about the lights is that you can leave them on “timer” and they will come on at the same time each night.

diy mason jar lanterns using LED string lights #diy #masonjar #wedding

 

An easy way to decorate a table for fall entertaining:

fall entertaining decor ideas using mason jars #masonjar #fall

 

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The Sky is Falling

Today I tried a new table down by the river and I checked underneath like I always do before climbing on top….and there was the largest spider I’d ever seen.  She was upside down on the table, her egg sac carefully wrapped up in her web, and hundreds of little babies were swarming about. Charlotte is very ill. She only has a short time to live. Instead of chasing her away I found my usual table.

The sweat bee came back from a few days ago and brought all of her friends. Swarming they began to take over my personal space and eventually I moved to the bright red picnic table under the walnut tree.  Butternuts were falling like bombs around me.  I was a sitting duck. One of these would have probably knocked me out:

walnut

A man approached me and asked if my truck was for sale.  I told him no. He told me he lived on the Cherokee reservation nearby, and then he told me his life story. Which I thought was awesome….I didn’t even have to ask any questions for once.  His brother and his dog sat near his truck and waited for him to finish talking and eventually I mentioned that to him. He told me his brother was scared of him.  As he left I told him to please be nice to his brother…and he hung his head a little as if he felt guilty all the sudden.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon working in the used book store…and the most important thing I learned is that it is not:

Used Bookstore

but

Used Book Store

Details, shmetails. Until it clicked and I realized we weren’t selling used bookstores.  Obviously in my last post about the book store I didn’t know this difference. I never did that well in English.  After that very important lesson, I spent my time going through 8 boxes of books brought in by the same elderly man. You can tell a lot about someone by the books they read. I think this man must have been a professor once, of history or philosophy….or anthropology.

I saw this rainbow as I drove home last night driving home from the bookstore:

rainbow

 

It doesn’t even look real. When I took it I thought: no one will believe this is real.

Something I Read in a Book

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void. So good night, dear void. -Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

Today was my first day volunteering at the Friends of the Marianna Black Library store in downtown Bryson City.  It’s a used bookstore that benefits the local library.  I’ve always wanted to work at a bookstore, especially after watching You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill and The Neverending Story.  Today was really just a training day and I learned how to use a cash register again (it’s been probably 15 years since I used one).  I rang up 2 customers. One of those customers was me…because I bought 6 books on my first day.

Friends of MBL (located right next to Cork & Bean)

Used Bookstore in Bryson City, Friends of Marianna Black Library

Speaking of The Neverending Story…I watched that last night. It was just kinda weird, nothing like I remembered it. Falcor wasn’t the cute doggy dragon I remembered, Atreyu yelled way too much, and the Swamp of Sadness was just a big swamp of sadness.  Sometimes childhood movies should not be revisited. But the whole idea of being lost in a book…well I love that.  I’ve tried to set aside at least an hour a day now just for reading, and then I write. I sat by the river this morning and read a book as I drank a Grape Fanta:

grapefanta

If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger–

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early–

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless–

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won’t understand what Bastian did next.

-Michael Ende, The Neverending Story
  

That quote reminds me of when I read my last Steinbeck novel…I cried closing the last page, because I knew it was the end and no more would ever be written. Or when I read Katherine’s Graham’s Personal History…and I got to the scene in the middle of the book about her husband’s death…I had to close the book and put it away for over a year before I could read the rest. And Sylvia Plath’s Unabridged Journals I’ve read so many times the pages are falling out…and some journals are missing because they were either destroyed or lost and that drives me cuckoo. And when I read them it’s like she’s reading my mind. And so on and so on. And then there’s the whole appeal of a used book…especially the old and tattered ones. There’s something very mysterious about them, there’s something very mysterious about used bookstores in general…especially when they are in the setting of an old historic building, with the original soda fountain stools from years ago. And the treasure hunt! A very young couple today came in looking for Steinbeck. They were staying in the Yurt village for a few days up at the Nantahala Gorge. I loved hearing about their experience in a Yurt. And that all created a flashback to when I once studied Chinese movies in college and we watched Mongolian movies….everyone lived in Yurts. Mongolia may have invented the Yurt.  Someone asked me the other day about daydreaming….how I manage to do it. Learn to lose yourself in books first, then the daydreaming comes easily after that…

…and it could be really awesome in a Yurt.

Life Piled on Life

A bit of Tennyson, from Christy

There’s a conference all week here at the Hemlock Inn for the Francis Asbury Society and Boo has gotten to know some of the attendees…including the worship leaders April and Jason.   They asked her to sing a song for the group tonight. As she practiced, Donna one of the cooks came out of the kitchen screen door with tears streaming down her face (which then made the rest of us cry).

As Boo sang her song to the crowd a little later in the night, 10,000 reasons by Matt Redman, I noticed a small crowd inside the dining room window….where the staff had congregated to watch her sing.  Boo is getting over a cold, and was so nervous, but she still had us all in tears just the same.  It was her first time ever singing by herself in front of anyone, out of her comfort zone. Running into the kitchen afterwards she was greeted with hugs and her proud new inn family. She was beaming.

Meanwhile Brett was at Tsali, part of the Nantahala National Forest, helping to work on the bike trails. It’s a volunteer effort to keep it clear and safe.

Tomorrow Harper “the intern” and I are off to visit Carl Sandburg’s home….something we’ve talked about doing all summer.

I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way. -Carl Sandburg

 

 

Life piled on life.

 

 

 

The Letter We Got from Our House Buyer

The letter below has to be one of the most favorite letters I’ve ever received.

A little background: As many of you know we made some huge life changes recently….including selling our dream house. We sold the house furnished meaning we sold the furniture, plates, silverware, pots/pans, vacuum cleaner…everything. Even our pet fish were included in the sale (it was the first time our realtor had ever heard of fish being listed by name in a household inventory).

As soon as we moved we started receiving communication from the new owner…every message expressed appreciation at the condition we left the house for him:

I hope you’re all doing well.  House is great. Fish are fine.

Even though it was a nightmare closing, we tried to maintain a positive view of the situation. We left the house the way we would have wanted someone to leave a house for our family:  We fixed more than was requested in the list of repairs, anything that might be a safety issue. I ordered parts that needed to be replaced, even though they would arrive after the closing. I also left the new owner with the most detailed owners manual imaginable.  It included, among other things:

  • little quirks about the house that took me forever to figure out
  • a map of the surrounding neighbors and contact info
  • pre-paid pest control, landscaper and pool service in hopes that he would continue to use the wonderful people that had for so long taken care of our home (plus short stories/bios about each person to personalize them)
  • the mailman’s name, trash days, etc.
  • paint colors and swatches
  • directions and manuals for every appliance
  • how to take care of the pet fish

I guess I’m a tad OCD.

Anyway, as a family we look forward to the correspondence with the new owner of our old home.  It’s bittersweet (and funny):

 

P.S. I wrote him a letter back…to tell him how impressed I was that he had filled all 47 photo frames on the gallery wall with photos.  And to tell him that the black fish has a name: Smokey. ” and the fish with the mustache is Penelope.”

P.P.S. Everyone wanted to know about the earring.  It was a faux pearl earring of my mother’s.  It’s still in the envelope.  I noticed at my sister’s that my mother had two faux pearl earrings that didn’t quite match so I think I may have completed one of the set.  Now to find the other odd earring. Maybe that will be a follow up letter one day.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things

A few of my favorite things this summer….shoes, games, gifts and bug spray! Links are at the bottom of the post.
My favorite things this summer - Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo via lilblueboo.com

 

1. The Donna Hemp Sanuks in Natural.
I wear these pretty much everyday. Super comfortable and match everything….plus they are washable. I think they fit very true to size.

 

2. Girls’ Donna Sanuks in Pink Poncho
Boo’s favorite shoes…and everyone asks where we got them.  The Pink Poncho fabric reminds me of those woven aztec belts you know you loved in the 80′s. I replaced her flip flops with these because she’s so accident prone!

(Note: Brett has a pair too.  We all match. Dorks.)

 

3. Gap Always Skinny Jeans.
My new favorite jeans. I hoard them. I roll the bottoms and crop them when it’s warm….and roll them down if it gets cool at night.

 

4. Spot it
This was a gift Boo received from a family we are close to.  It can be played anywhere and by almost any age.  Between any two cards there is always one and only one matching symbol. Whoever spots it first gets the card.  Love that it fits in my handbag easily and takes up very little space when it’s being played (great for restaurants!)

 

5. RayBan New Wayfarer in Tortoiseshell
My go-to sunglasses. Always a classic.

 

6. California Baby Insect Repellent
My friend Grace brought this last week when they visited and now I’m hooked. Nothing ever works as well as the super toxic stuff…but who wants to put that on?  Not perfect but a much better alternative to the gross stuff. I also like one that I picked up from a local garden store called Don’t Bug Me. Smells amazing and they have soap too.

 

7. Waterproof Fuji Camera
Best purchase ever. We bought this as a camera that Boo would be able to use on hikes.  Now she’s 10 times more interested in what we are looking at instead of “oh another waterfall” reactions.  She’s constantly looking for things to capture (even under water).  It’s waterproof and shockproof…AND it has a wristband that floats in case it falls in a creek.

 

8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My friend Eric gave me this just a few days ago and I’ve already devoured it.  i’ll never enter an art museum again without thinking about this book.  Also, The Secret History by Tartt was one of my favorite books I read as a teenager. If you haven’t read it…you are missing out!

 

9. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
Just reread this for a second time. I love her writing….and her story. It’s witty and dark all at the same time….my favorite kind of book.

 

10. Keeping a Journal You Love
This is probably the tenth time I’ve reread this book.  It’s more of a guide for me and a glimpse into some beautiful writing.  If you are a writer, a journaled, both or neither….I think you’ll love it. I don’t think it’s in print anymore but I linked to the used books…you can get it for almost nothing.

 

Disclaimer: Sometimes I use affiliate links. All products were picked by me, purchased by me, used by me and loved by me.

 

A House of Windows

When I was at my sister’s house last weekend she had a huge pile of old windows sitting outside her garage.  At first I was like: hey can I take one of these? But that turned into: hey, can I take all of these? So…on a trip to empty out the rest of the items we had in our trailer we ended up bringing back a truckload of old windows.  Brett sure lucked out when he married me (when it comes to accumulating free junk).

I love this photo of my 8.5 months pregnant sister Perry blowing off the window for me as Sienna darts after a ball. Chaos.

 

I started searching for projects that used large quantities of windows and I came across this:

 

I love the video by Half Cut Tea:

 

Now all I need is a few acres of land and lake!

 

What I Want To Be

For our move cross country to the Hemlock Inn, we took Boo out of school 2 weeks early. Her teacher Mrs. Mayfield sent us a large package today with a letter, work missed and awards from the end of school. Included in it was this essay that Boo wrote for a local essay contest in Palm Desert:

 

Boo's essay on growing up "What I Want To Be" via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

In case the scan doesn’t show up here is the text:

What I Want to Be…
(By Boo Hackshaw)

When I grow up, I want to be a writer. My mom writes in her journal and she writes a blog about our family. I love my mom and what she writes. I like to write stories too. I like to write stories about how my day has gone and how my year has gone.

When I grow up, I want to be kind. I want to be a person who is helpful and who has a smile on their face. I will try to have good manners. I won’t smoke or litter or lie. I would like to be a person who respects others.

When I grow up, I want to be a mom like my mom. My mom gives me gifts of love. She helps me with my homework. She likes to write stories with me.

Growing up is going to be inspiring and imaginative.

 

She gives me way too much credit in her essay. It’s Brett that does most of the parenting around here.  I feel like I’m mostly hard on her when I need to be giving more gifts of love.  I’m often deep in thought in another universe before I realize she’s talking to me.  Earth to Mom.

I do have three things going for me: I don’t smoke or litter or lie.

Oh, I can’t wait to grow up too…it will be inspiring and imaginative.  That’s a lot to look forward to.

I loved this essay.

Thank you Boo.

 

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