In one of our classes at UAA, Prof. Sherry Simpson explained what she learned about writing (and life) from Jackie Chan. She showed clips of his movies and read excerpts of interviews with him. One lesson was, "write your own narrative." In other words, pick the story of your life the way you want it to be, and do that. Which sounds a lot like one of our town's old founding fathers, Danish seaman and author Hjlamar Rutzebeck, who observed, "we are what we want to be, mostly." Well, this week, I mostly want to do chores.
When I told the Pandemonium bookstore & cafe in Wasilla I could only sign books there this afternoon if they gave me a ride to and from UAA here in Anchorage, ( a 45 minute highway drive to the 'burbs where the big sprawl of Wasilla is) I had no idea I'd be speeding there along the Glenn Highway in a deep blue Porsche Carrera convertible with the top down. My driver, Cecil (red hair, Georgia accent, 25 or so) works at the store. The car belongs to his boss, who is out of town.
Ed Allen, one of the teachers here at UAA, ( a novelist and poet and English prof. from South Dakota) gave a talk on words the other day, and the way we use them. He spoke of what he called "fundamental rhymes." Words, that for no known reason, go together, or as he said "fall into orbit" with each other. He said they were proof that language has something human at its core, and that, "In the beginning really was the word." This is a fun game to play. Here are a few examples:
We had a field trip yesterday afternoon to the Anchorage Museum, and it was exciting to see an ivory heron necklace by Haines artist Debi Knight Kennedy in one display, and a large photo of our own Wayne Price paddling a Tlingit canoe in another. I showed everyone I could, and told them I was from Haines, too. Our docent (a nice museum term for volunteer guide) was named Lucky and had a thick New York accent and knew tons about the paintings she showed us.
In a workshop here at UAA's creative writing residency in Anchorage yesterday, writer Ed Allen told us that he divides the world into two kinds of people: the ones who have written novels and the ones who haven't. He reminded me of my dad, who used to say the same thing about marathon running. My mother, a teacher in a Quaker school, split the world into the people she called the givers and the takers. My mother taught me to be a giver, and my dad inspired me to run marathons. But writing a novel is all my own impulse.
Here's what I learned in my creative writing classes at UAA yesterday. Novelist Ed Allen (Mustang Sally) said: "In the beginning was the word...With no words we wouldn't be human...
When I was young we drove from New York to Western Pennsylvania every summer and spent weeks at my grandparent's house. They lived in a big old house in a small Allegheny forest town. We picked huckleberries for pies and caught crayfish in the creek. It smelled like tar, the ozone after thunder storms, and the oiled roads. But it sounded like church. There was a church bell that rang on the hour and there was a carillon in the tower that played the angelus morning and evening, and heavy hymns before mealtimes and late, before bedtime.
Sorry I haven't checked in more this week, I am in Anchorage at classes for my master's degree in creative writing from UAA. It is like camp. They keep us busy from early morning to late at night with lectures and workshops and readings so we can't get in too much trouble at the Blue Fox bar.
I heard Chuck hit a bear with his motorcycle last night at 19 Mile. (Or the bear hit him?) I also heard the motorcycle was wrecked, but Chuck's okay. Keep him in your thoughts. No word on the bear, though. I tell you what, bears should know better than to bump a U.M.F. member in good standing off his Harley. (The U.M.F.s are called the Uglies for short, since the whole name is not printable in a family blog.)
I just read a few of E.B. White's letters. I'm back at my desk, for a day anyway, getting caught up on emails, some writing I want to do, and some homework for my summer residency next week at UAA. I like to "warm-up" with some reading, poems, or an essay, or author's letters. Today, it is letters from E.B. White. (He signs them Andy, which is what everyone called him.) My favorite, so far is, "Dear Alice: Thanks for the letter.