Author: T. L. Sherwood

T. L. Sherwood lives beside Eighteen Mile Creek in western New York. Her work has appeared in Rosebud, Thema, Literary Orphans, and Vestal Review among other places.

Plotting to Plot…or not

Exhausted by our weekend chore list before it has even been written, I walked out to the overflow woodpile for the picture before sitting down to write this. Inspired, I know. There are pictures on the camera of a tree that was obliterated by lightening. Last Monday I’d heard the tremendous crack and waited, but nothing fell and the electric stayed on. After our neighbor returned from a trip, he found parts of an 80-foot pine on his hill. Some chunks were longer and thicker than humans, strewn all over up there. Something ripped through a piece of ¾ inch plywood. I did consider downloading the pictures I took up there when he showed us, but the dishes needed to be done.

Not much later, I noticed the fluorescent orange sky, finished up, and stepped outside. I leaned back against the church door and took in the pleasant crisp air, the beauty, and I wept with gratitude instead of running for my phone or the camera. It’s weird to be swept up by natural beauty in that it isn’t weird at all.

The furniture is arranged in an unusual pattern and a generalized straightening up is in progress. Somewhere I started an essay about how reading “How to Keep House While Drowning” by K C Davis awakened other self-help books I’ve read about tidying and organized and unleashed a monster of neat in me, but I’ve been too busy rearranging Husband’s workshop to finish it. I did finish Sheila Heiti’s, “How Should a Person Be?” but it took forever because I loved it and did not want it to end. I’m currently enjoying Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi’s, “Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions.”

The month has been filled with the normal abundance of things to do before winter as well as some much needed in person visits. Thank you all who I’ve seen and congrats to Kim Chinquee on her forthcoming book, Pipette. Online, I attended a reading and this Christmas gift from Nephew in Oregon (Thank you Michael!) has been deemed the bearer of workshop notes and exercises. The first entry is from Kathy Fish’s 3 in 90.

I was pleased to have a story of mine make the long list in Pigeon Review’s contest, but that’s as far as it went. Once the house is a bit more under control, I plan to tweak it with lines I’ve thought of since the last rewrite. And rewriting might be what I do forever because I can’t figure out a frame for another novel nor a reason to write one what with the way the world is falling apart at the seams. How else do you explain my face on local TV for no other reason than showing up at a meeting? And yes, I do have that segment DVRed and plan to transfer it to a jpeg to post online but, you know, time…

I was asked to look over a story for someone and they also sought writing advice to follow. I gave him the usual places to look:  

‘Immediate Fiction” by Jerry Cleaver

“The Art of Fiction” by John Gardner

“Writing Down to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg

“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

I have many others, but it’s these four that I gravitate to time and again. I also suggested picking up any of the “Best ______ of the Year.” Myself, I’ve delved into the angry-yelly, no nonsense, shut up and write book “Robert’s Rules of Writing,” by Robert Masello. Maybe it will spark something other than the urge to pick up a different book.

Well, it’s September’s end tonight. I have a fire to tend to, beasts to pick up after, and a chore list to construct. I hope you are well. I hope you are safe. Thank you for stopping by and for the read.

Slow gliding into the fall

Are you a bit edgy, excited but apprehensive, feeling yourself wanting to stand tall and say, “Let’s do this.” If so, it may be your season change alert signal going off. Loud little sucker, isn’t it?

Every year I replenish my notebooks and consider adding new desk supplies to my already adequate supply. It takes a long time to realize it isn’t the cost of the equipment, but the dedication to use that should weigh on investments. I have enough beautiful, lush, gorgeous to touch notebooks I never write in – the 70 page college rule notebooks are my go to.

As I sit here in my extremely stripped down office space, I consider the tweaks I want to make for my comfort – and pet interference reduction capabilities. I don’t recall the impetus for the tear down of all the notes, pictures, postcards that had surrounded me, but the lack of clutter now is noticeable and appreciated. Is it affecting my writing? Perhaps. I recently took an old 1600 word story down to 890 words and sent it out. Before that, I expanded a less than 500 flash into a ten-minute play.

I’m looking around and finding it a bit hard to believe I’m as organized as I am now. I really wanted it to be this way, and I made it come true. It’s teeny tiny moments of forcing myself to stop and appreciate how my hard work has paid off that make me say “Yes, but.” It’s the same feeling when I’ve written, published, or won something. “Yes, but.” It’s hard to be alive when nothing is good enough.

No matter. We’re all on our own journeys and apparently this is mine. I meant to take more pictures, but I did the whole scrape, scrub, scour, and paint with the beautiful parlor stove…

… and Husband assembled it in time for our shindig.

Thank you amazing people for stopping by. It made my whole soul happy to share the evening with you…

and Coiletta.

It seems the end of summer rumbles have propelled me back to writing life. I’ve signed up for classes with Kathy Fish, am fairly certain I’ll be attending the Barrelhouse conference masked and in person in October and am mulling taking a Beth Gilstrap class. Plus Community Craft’s series is amaze balls and I want to attend more of those. As well as Hannah Grieco’s Readings on the Pike and Timothy Gager’s Virtual Fridays Dire Literary Series. And there are more I’m forgetting

Adding to the abundance of those good things – my critique group exchanged emails this morning. So, as I’m saying goodbye to August, I want you to know that you are pretty great as is. Thank you for stopping by and for the read! You are awesome and you know it. Ciao!

Squirrels are chillin’ while we toil and other fun near the creek

I’ve decided to find it hilarious that I must have thought out 5 different blog posts this month – with interesting titles – but don’t remember one as I start this post, mid-summer afternoon on the last day of July.

Wood has been an interesting adventure this year. Normally, the last of the wood is being put up in September, just when we need to rearrange the house and stack a partial wall of wood near the stove. Instead, the woodshed is as full of wood as we usually have for a season and no end in sight to the pile. I am grateful for the dilemma.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the amazing generosity of fantastic friends. C and Nina Fosati dropped of a stove and this is the part that goes on top.

Isn’t it fancy? I’m a sanding fool, dancing between restoration and good enough. We’ll be painting it in a manner pleasing to the eye and the environment of the patio upon which it will stand.  I’m excited and it’s a boring chore with a vast reward, so I really do find it a cheery endeavor.

Part of my quest to live in a better world involves more color. I painted the awful blue chair – loot a thief left behind – to something less ugly.

This is my first Thistle design and in person, it does not look this boring.  (I was working with flaws in the wood to tell a tale of how I see plants not coping in the conditions they once thrived in.)

Work on the back of the house stalled as paint had to be hunted down and then someone sold one of the four we ordered so hopefully it will be enough.

Omg! The lack of intelligence like that in customer service has recently been wild. I’m especially singling out the “new” girl at Citizens Bank in the Springville Tops. Ffs, I was paying a little extra on two credit cards. She asked how I wanted my change. I was like what? She only applied the amount due to the account, not the amount I wrote on the slip I was playing with. I asked why she’d changed the amount and she snapped back that she had not changed it. She started over, finally got it right. As I was leaving, I said, “You did change the amount. At least own what you did.” I mean seriously, it was a mistake, but to be so snitty about it? Maybe she needs to explore a less public vocation. Tax preparer, maybe? Perhaps a mortician?  

The computer problems I’m having are deflating my gusto toward the written word – reading, writing, editing. As with the wood, I will remind myself that I don’t need to fix everything all at once, just take one breathe at a time. I snagged this guy to help remind me. 

Thank you for stopping by and for the read. I hope your home and world are stable. The weather I’ve heard about/seen clips of from where friends and family live overwhelms me. I am thinking about you and hoping to hear you’re safe. Sending love and comfort to those reading who need it. Take care of you!

Cheers!

Later

I heard an analogy about how life is a juggle and you’re going to drop balls no matter what, so the trick is to keep the glass ones in the air.

Financial dealings are a glass ball of sorts, so in a banking snafu caused by Key Bank when some moron in a suit decided to fix one problem, he created annoying ones that others have to live with and therefore I got to spend time in a bank today. The problem is unsolvable, so I was searching for any payments linked to a card and in the process I came across a surprise email from a dear friend. Thank you Teresa Tucker – and the owner of Julie’s who took this cover photo! It is from May and I have a shiny rock to also remember this lovely dinner with great friends.

Well, the hour to compose a blog grows late, so this will have to be enough. I don’t need to sweep up glass shards on top of everything else, so off to the dishes I go. I’m full of gratitude today and wish the same for you. Thanks for stopping by and for the read. Cheers!

What did I expect?

On a Tuesday that feels like a Monday it is also two other things. One is having been married for 22 years. I suppose we could have exchanged a card (me) and a rose (him) but it was a hot holiday weekend and we didn’t put up the roof of the writing camp I use in summer. It’s just a 10 X 10 screened in “tent” where I have some chance of being outside in the fresh air without the bugs savaging my blood vessels, but it has become a thing. We fight when we put it up. Scream, bitch, mutter under our breaths. Throw things – not at each other – there are always branches you’d rather move than work around. It always seemed a test of if we’d survive another year. Not doing it has me feeling forlorn.

Everything has extra meaning or no meaning right now. It’s a fall, gravity tugging while the air is as heavy as molasses and you swear again, you’ve done this before, heard the same things and the anger from before is still there and now there is some in every damned place. Maybe not you, but me.

 I’m mad that women and trans aren’t respected enough to be considered whole. They aren’t “adult enough” to make decisions about their own bodies – not ones they’ve bought on credit – but ones they’ve lived in since birth. But 18 year-old-boys can rape and pillage and shoot the unaborted children with hollow points when they are in class learning about presidents and founding fathers but ignoring the part that those white men owned slaves and that they beat them. If they don’t learn about it, they also don’t learn slavery is wrong.

When some white jihadist with a shady bankroll starts spouting off about “owning the libs,” by doing shitty things I know it’s untrue. They don’t want to own the libs. If they were honest, they’d tell you they want to own slaves again. They want to beat and manhandle and be awful to other living creatures with no repercussions. They want to go to all white churches and be soothed with twisted biblical verses to serve their purposes. They do not weep and think Jesus was born in the wrong Testament. It’s not a mental health issue, it’s a caveman attitude and we all know cavemen have no souls.

Everyone wants to rule the world, but there are too many people on the planet to even have 15 seconds of fame so these infantile minds fall into white “supremacy” and shoot to eliminate those they have convinced themselves are beneath them. And so far, America has let them.

I am so angry about so many things and I didn’t get to vent some of that out by putting up the tent roof. Sorry, but you chose to listen.

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe while you go off to school/work/a graduation party/the grocery store/church. I hear no guns are allowed at NRA events…

I’m taking time to admire flowers wherever I find them and I hope you do, too.

Life Goes On Until It Doesn’t

The house is tidy, organized. It’s been a massive undertaking, this year’s “spring-cleaning.”

I no longer remember the specific impetus that led to the first bit of sorting. I know I was quite sick of the mess my office had become. We’d move things in here to get them out of the way when we had visitors, and not everything made its way back to where it had come from and so I was living in close proximity to a lot of clutter. I didn’t like it, but we were storing somethings and even when those things left, I didn’t immediately do a tear down/clean out.

I know an Apex discussion a few months ago made me consider the fact that I’ll probably never publish a book traditionally, and even if I did, well, what then? The “what then” was that I wanted to live in a cleaner and more organized house. I mean, if this is it – the best it will ever be and I never write or publish again – then I’m kind of okay with my life ending up here (except for the wasting of my whole life on literature.)

One of the silly little motivational quips I have taped to my office computer says, “What you are not changing, you are choosing,” so I’ve been choosing to improve my conditions.

Life doesn’t offer a lot of choice in some matters though. We had to say goodbye to Kobi and it sucked to lose my sidekick, but he had cancer in his lungs and even if I were able to afford chemo for him, I don’t think I could put him through that. I know – supposedly – there are new options for cancer treatments but…

I haven’t picked him up yet – his ashes. That seems too final yet.

Our remaining cat made it known that a pet sibling was important, so today – weirdly enough Cat Adoption Day – I went to the Ten Lives Club. (They are a no-kill shelter, so if you’re feeling generous, they have a wish list here.) “Freddy” is acclimating now – though we’re definitely changing that name. This is what he looks like:

It’s not the same as a dog, but I need time to mourn, too.

Creative writing hasn’t happened in a long while, though I have written letters. I’m sorry if I owe you one and you haven’t received it yet. You are very likely on the list.

Until next time (or your letter arrives) I want to thank you for stopping by and for reading.

Cheers!

A chickadee home outside the bedroom window

Mundania Strikes Again

How are you? I hope this post finds you well and your problems solvable. To be honest, I can’t recall if Mundania ever struck before, but there I was, sitting on a toadstool when I noticed my feet were getting wet. I swam to the waterfall and tried to reach the diverter but I lost my grasp and fell into a never-ending chasm called real life. Don’t you hate when that happens to you?

If you’re interested in the boring version: Earlier I was sitting on a wooden stool beside a file cabinet, tabbing the folders with large letters written in magic marker on crisp white paper when I realized the washing machine should have been done by then. I walked into the bathroom and noticed the water like a crime scene. I saw the pool of liquid and marveled at how hard I must have hit something to have made the copper leak. Eventually, my attention was pulled to the larger pool and the true source of the problem. I shut off the washer, but I couldn’t reach to unplug it. I shut the water off. I cleared everything I saw as a possible hindrance. I pulled out a measuring cup and began filling a bucket. As I was filling the bucket a second time, I thought about getting some towels to sop up the water I was standing in. As if there was some cosmic joke running around on the loose, I felt a tingle in my ankle. I don’t think I was shocked, just my sense of self trying to highlight the whole “you are standing in water in front of a machine that might be suffering an electric problem,” shouting to be noticed. I looked to the electric panel, but it’s a 50/50 toss up on which switch to pull. I cleared a path to that closet for Husband to figure out when he arrives home.

 (As I jot this, I’m still waiting.)

Sorry for no interesting pictures. I didn’t think to photograph the bouquets recently. I bought three and washed windows. I forgot a lot about how to host, but also remembered arcane things. In pulling away from what it turns out were contrivances, I do feel quieter and very in tune to the futility of all the things that I think are major in life – but in pursuing those, I ended up where I wanted to be. I think. Maybe. Does that make any sense?

And attuned, I’ve been. I have a “master list” of things I want to “get done” and have put off some tasks. One was taking care of the sleeping bags. It turned out that I was glad I didn’t force the issue because they were used for a makeshift bed for someone. Likewise, there has been a hesitancy to clean/clear the shelves above the washing machine and now this has occurred.

That sounds like a rationalization for procrastination, doesn’t it? Perhaps they are magic words that cast a spell and when someone says they will do something tomorrow, there will be a tomorrow – otherwise the guy doesn’t ride out on his chariot or there’s a minor tremor and Sisyphus catches a break. Who knows how the world works when myth or quantum physics enter the conversation? And look, Mr. Quantum Physics is wearing that damn green felt hat with the long brown feather again even though several variations of this entity know exactly how much I hate that thing…  

Oh! Two deadlines just walked in draped in grey lace. I have to return to my toadstool now. Take care of you and know that you matter to me somehow.

Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

Cheers!

Ready for Mardi Gras; Even More Ready for Lent

How are you and I’m happy to see you here!

Well this month went fast. Until 6:45pm, it didn’t register that today was the last day of February. Speaking of which, if for any reason you are not reading Fictive Dream, you should. I am honored that Laura Black chose to include an experimental story of mine in Flash Fiction February alongside other fabulous pieces by Nina Fosati, Len Kuntz, Meg Tuite,  Jude Higgins, Rosie Garland— the whole month is stellar. Please enjoy them all and the accompanying artwork by Claudia McGill. I thought her piece paired perfectly with mine.

I finished the bird story and resurrected an old one. Most of it was written 10 years ago, but there was no ending. I thought about it, reread it, even swapped it with another author for insight (Fun fact – that author was Tommy Dean whose workshop inspired “All the Love You Cannot See Told in Three Parts.”) When On The Premises announced contest #39, I went back to it again, cut the first two paragraphs, rewrote the beginning, and the ending finally arrived. We’ll see how it does, but I’m happy with the outcome.

Last week I virtually attended Literary Cleveland‘s Flash Fiction Festival. It was a lot of fun, well organized, and it generated new work. Such gratitude to Executive Director Matt Weinkam, instructors Kathy Fish, Vanessa Chan, Lindsay Hunter, Desiree Cooper, editors Tara Isabel Zambrano, Amy Stuber, Scott Garson, Aaron Burch and all the fabulous people who were also attendees!  I plan to spend Lent with those drafts and revisiting some other work. I bought bins to organize and reduce. I’m thinking about pulling together a chapbook or two.Today, I sent three submissions. I won’t say I’m feeling upbeat because that might jinx it, but I’m setting goals.

Thank for stopping by!

Feeling like Janus on a Monday

The sun is shining brightly on a 19 degree Fahrenheit afternoon. Thick snow covers the ground. This “warmer” weather compresses it while it grows dirty with debris. Woodpeckers make a terrible mess. They’ve been around, same with the cardinals. I’ve already seen buds on some trees.

It’s much warmer inside, of course, where I am writing. I recovered from the trip in most respects, but I did enjoy a lot of lovely food in Massachusetts. I only have myself to blame for those extra exercise workouts I’m doing, but I’m nearly back to where I’d been in December so yeah! A little less self-loathing going on always helps, doesn’t it?

As a matter of preference or perceived talent lying elsewhere, I don’t write many short stories. There was a call for contest. I had a few sentences about a bird that I had abandoned, possibly because it was refusing to be a flash and I didn’t think it had novel potential. I pulled up the story start after getting home and it felt weirdly like a trance. I was “in” the story but I kept getting in my own way. I wrote so much more than what was required. I refuse to look back at those extra thousands of words because I don’t want to find a novel. I’m not that in to the bird. But it’s done, Nina Fosati graciously reviewed it and gave me her top line comments – and this is unheard of – I let the story sit for 5 days before returning to correct the flagrant mistakes. Last night I made Kindle read it to me twice. It might be ready to fly soon.

This month has been incredible with art, artists, and friends among them. The talented Gina Detwiler was back in town and we were able to return to one of our writing haunts to catch up. It was good to sit upstairs in Spot Coffee again. There was an unexpected letter. I watched Apex’s Snap Judgement #3 and gained some insight on what those editors were looking for in their slush. The lovely Nina Fosati let me visit for friendship, love, and hope. I and SO many other people in the writing community took a Kathy Fish “Lessons from the Sandbox”class.

On Friday, I was able to take a “Finding Your Writing Groove” class with Jerry Gordon. I’m pondering a lot of things in my life right now, not necessarily from the class, but it pinpointed several things I needed to hear at the right time and in the right order to “hear” them…if that makes sense. The day after that, we went to see live theater. It was a series of 8 one-act plays. In back of us was a person I took a play writing class with and across the aisle were two Buffalo artists I know from Facebook but met at Donna Hoke’s Christmas Potluck. Funny how everyone is connected…

So, like I inferred, I’m looking forward, looking back, and looking at the carnage around me. (I didn’t mean the “two-faced, deceitful” definition of Janus.) It’s a contemplative mood so, I’m off to enjoy that. Thank you for stopping by and for the read!

On the eve of New Year’s Eve

By God’s (or some equally helpful entity in the universe’s) grace, (or one of my best friends in the world sending protective energy,) I traveled over the holiday and I’m back in one piece. It was the first place anywhere I’ve gone to (and stayed overnight) in many years. Not that I’m a big traveler. I thought I could be once, but instead I travel through the world by reading books.

While at Niece and Nephew-in-law’s beautiful and spacious new home, I finished “The Secret Lives of Church Ladies” by Deesha Philyaw. Fantastic collection. I really loved it. I read  “Killing Krause” by Lissa Marie Redmond and I wasn’t enthralled with it. I have no memory of where that book came from either. I picked up Gail Tsukiyama’s “The Language of Threads” and enjoyed its quiet beauty but put it down, not being something I could read and follow a conversation with at the same time. From my book bag, I plucked “The Weird Sisters” by Eleanor Brown and all I could think was, “Where have you been all my life?” I’m afraid to finish it. What if the end disappoints? What a pretty problem to have!

While away, I didn’t have time to worry or think about the normal things I fret over. I won’t say they left me, but I missed having them. If that makes any sense.

Before leaving I pulled up some old writing in a couple of old journals and in those pages I was able to laugh at the cyclical nature of some things, some people in my life and how we can age but not change. I’m TRYING to accept that about other’s too, but alas…It was quite difficult to think that way the last night in Massachusetts, but then again, aren’t all family gatherings fraught with some level of drama?

Some – what an adjective! Particular but unspecified. I may be writing about you. I may be writing about the anonymous family blow out at the service station along the way. About something Husband said. About this story idea that may have occurred to me while sitting around a familiar table with familiar people…

My reflections and your experience will vary and it is strange that anything is possible. I didn’t think things that happened this year would occur, but they did. Not all good, not all bad, but some were downright unexpected and lovely.

Goodness, it was some year, wasn’t it? I bid you adieu until the new one.

(Photo credit to Awesome Niece)

Cheers!