Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy National Camera Day, Etc!

cravengraveIt’s June 29, and the National Day Calendar tells me it’s National Camera Day, National Almond Buttercrunch Day, and National Waffle Iron Day!

So how did we celebrate such momentous occasions? First, we took a little field trip  to scenic Concord Cemetery in Coleridge, N.C. This site has been on my history bucket list for some time, as I’m a descendant (through my mother, Margaret Jane Craven) of Peter Craven, one of the early settlers of Randolph County. He settled here in 1750, back when our county was still part of Orange County, and well before our nation’s independence.

Peter had six sons and his descendants are now scattered across the U.S., but many of the original family members, including my great-great-great-great-great grandfather Thomas Craven, Esquire, Peter Craven’s eldest son, are buried here. Both Peter and Thomas served in the Revolutionary War and became renowned for their pottery.  The bright sunshine, verdant hills, and blue sky made today a perfect day for snapping pictures, such as the one above memorializing our patriarch.

Later, at home, I remembered that it was also Almond Buttercrunch Day. Luckily, I happened to some chocolate-covered toffee cookies stowed away in the freezer.

cookie

Okay, the flavor wasn’t quite almond buttercrunch, but I figured it was close enough, right?

The only thing left to commemorate is National Waffle Iron Day, but I have to tell you that after just two cookies, I’m already full. I love waffles, so maybe I’ll get out the waffle iron later. These long summer days make anything possible.

By the way, the National Day Calendar is a terrific resource for writers (and anybody else who just wants another reason to be happy!).

So have a little fun, and I hope you celebrate your favorite special day with style…..

 

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Bring back the hand mixer….and the thank you!

mixerI recently inherited a host of kitchen gadgets from my beloved Grandma Wilma. They seemed like virtual antiques–a box grater, handheld lemon juicer, and, of all things, her First National Bank apron! But what surprises me is how often I end up using these “old” things and how practical they seem now.

Like my hand mixer. I love my pricey stand mixer with the planetary action as much as anybody, and I count myself very fortunate to have it. But when I need to mix up just a simple batch of mashed potatoes, I’m much more likely to use this old standby. It’s so convenient and far more lightweight.

A meditation on kitchen gadgets led to me muse on the other things that we should bring back. Next on my list: the common courtesy of a ‘thank you.’

Earlier today I retweeted a killer essay, Dating After Divorce, Which One Would You Choose? (Rebellious Magazine) by good friend Joy Wright. Although I didn’t expect it, she immediately thanked me, and I was touched. You see, and I know I’m not alone, but I’ve done much more for other people and received far less. Not even an acknowledgment. Seriously.

Yeah, yeah, I know people are busy, busy, busy. I’ve pledged that excuse myself. And I’m sure that I’m past due on a few sincere thank yous myself. Guilty! So whaddya say? Could we bring back the simple thank you? Maybe even a handwritten note sent by mail (perish the thought!).

The time has never been better. Study after study shows that in spite of the many connections we make on social media, and the whirl of activities in our lives, people in modern society are lonelier than ever.

So let’s bring back not just the hand mixer, but the thank you note, phone calls, and the act of leaving actual messages and returning them! Maybe even the potluck and the sock hop. Okay, maybe not the sock hop. (I’m showing my age, and even I’m not ready for another dose of that awkward adolescence.)

Lest I forget, I do THANK YOU for reading this.

Gratefully yours,
Ashley

 

Be a Shape Shifter!

little puss

What do you see in the magical coat of Little Puss? Evil snowman or smiling panda bear? This tricky feline is a shape shifter!

What’s your favorite genre, someone recently asked me. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, plays? My answer: All of them!

The longer I write, the more I’ve learned that the various writing genres are not mutually exclusive. The same solid idea that sparked a short story could easily morph into an essay or a poem. Especially if you still have curiosity about the topic. So why limit yourself to just one form? Be like Little Puss, a shape shifter!

Case in point. Shirley Jackson. This renowned writer didn’t just pen short stories and novels; she also wrote essays and even drew cartoons! Here’s another:  Vladimir Nabokov. He wrote stories, novels, poetry and his nonfiction memoir, Speak Memory, is a model for any writer in terms of craft. Dorothy Parker: poetry, stories, book reviews. And Tennessee Williams wrote much of the above and even took playwriting to another level by tackling screenplays.

Shakespeare was also a notorious shape shifter, excelling in every form available at the time. If he lived today, in addition to the plays and poetry, he’d probably dash out a sitcom or two, don’t you think?

Shape shifting is also more efficient. In my case, my essay “Eulogy of a Northern Red Oak” eventually turned into a poem. It’s essentially a condensed form of the same essay but with unusual line breaks and intentional omissions, the sadness of the topic–the loss of our natural habitat–is exacerbated. The poem was named a finalist in the 2019 Poet Laureate Competition and will be published in “Waiting for the Wood Thrush,” my first poetry collection by Finishing Line Press in November.

As I plunder through my old writing projects, I’m continuing to “shift shapes.” Or is it “shape shift” ? Maybe I’ll breathe new life into an old essay and turn it into a short story. And I think I have a poem or two that might work as a short story….humm….let the magic begin!

 

Cat in a Wheelbarrow! Interview on the Muffin

cat in a wheelbarrowToday I’m honored to be interviewed on “The Muffin,” the daily blog of the award-winning Women on Writing site.

Here I discuss the inspiration behind my “onion” essay, my forthcoming poetry collection (“Waiting for the Wood Thrush”) from Finishing Line Press, and my favorite writing tip.

For more and to find out the story behind the picture of the cat in a wheelbarrow, read it here.

A Day of Poetry at Weymouth

Ashley-podiumBefore the deluge today, we enjoyed a wonderful day of poetry at the Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities in lovely Southern Pines. The N.C. Poetry Society held its annual awards day, and I was honored to join both old and new friends to read “Eulogy of a Northern Red Oak,” a finalist for the Poet Laureate Award.

“Eulogy” will be one of the poems in my forthcoming collection to be published by the kind and generous Finishing Line Press in Georgetown, Kentucky. After much deliberation, and a conferral with reviewers and friends, my chapbook of 30 poems is now titled “Waiting for the Wood Thrush.” This title makes the most sense, given the book’s strong focus on nature as well as love.

In addition to hearing my fellow poets read, another highlight of the day was the dedication of Pinesong to my friend and celebrated author Ruth Moose. She was regaled for her unwavering support of the poetry community, her love of stories, and, of all things, the exclamation mark! Here’s extra just for Ruth!!!!!

The exclamation mark is both joy and urgency, delight and a bit of fright, a paradox unto itself.  It underscores the words of W.H. Auden, recently shared by a friend. The revered poet’s definition of poetry? “The clear expression of mixed feelings.”

 

What makes a successful writer?

flowers.jpgIn this particular order….

1- Love of language

2 – Internal burning desire to write, write, write….no matter what’s going on in their lives

3 – Abiding curiosity (obsession!) for the human experience

4 – Significant body of work to draw from so there’s always something in circulation — plenty of pieces to submit and re-submit when the times are tough.

What do you think? Am I missing something? It’s entirely possible!