Congratulations to Tom French and Zoo Story

Thomas French, who is a super nice guy, a fantastic writer, and a mentor at Goucher College where I got my MFA degree, now has a book on the New York Times bestseller list. The book is Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, and yesterday, he went on “The Colbert Report” to talk about it.

Watch the interview here.

It was really awesome to see him on the show, and I thought he did a great job. Lots of guests seem to have trouble keeping up with Colbert, but Tom just rolled with it and looked like he had a good time. It’s always good to see writers like him succeed, for so many reasons. Of course, he’s a good writer and he’s very smart, but he also cares immensely about everything he writes, and he shares that passion and intelligence with his students.

This summer, I had the opportunity to study with Tom at the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival in Chautauqua, NY, and I truly enjoyed it.

So, congratulations, Tom. May many more great things come your way!

Read More

Memories of Kissing

Memories of Kissing from Mary Richert on Vimeo.

So, it’s my 2nd video! Ever since finishing my MFA manuscript, I’ve been pondering what to do with these essays. I wrote about 150 pages of essays on something I call personal myth, which is an idea that I still want to write about more, but I haven’t wanted to touch the manuscript with a 10 foot pole since finishing the degree. I just needed to let it sit for a while. My husband keeps telling me to send it out to agents as-is, but I feel like it’s not ready for that. On the other hand, I do have a few pretty nice pieces in there, so I decided to share this one with y’all.

I thought this was a pretty fun piece. Interestingly, I didn’t really think it was funny, but when I read it for my classmates, people were guffawing. I swear, I actually heard a snort at one point. I hope you’ll find it funny, too, and hey … maybe you can help me figure out what to do with the rest of these pages!

P.S.: I realize the aspect ratio is off. I’m still new to this video stuff, so with my next video, I will fix that problem.

Read More

Preparing for Snowmageddon

snow

If you’re on the East Coast, then like me, you’re probably in the midst of preparing yourself to get snowed in for the next couple days. Everyone knows you have to stock up on toilet paper, milk, and other basics, but here’s what I’m counting on to keep my mind stable and my body fed this weekend.

  • soy milk (because it’s delicious, but also because the store was sold out of regular milk by time I got there)
  • coffee
  • hot tea (something decaf to keep warm and relaxed)
  • fresh fruits and veggies (I was surprised that the produce area was pretty well picked over. I really thought everyone else would go for the canned food. Nonetheless, I got home with some apples, pears and a nice big butternut squash to bake.)
  • ingredients for bread (hooray! I already have this stuff at home, so we don’t have to buy bread tonight.)
  • blogs to read: Gala Darling’s TiLT and Carousel posts typically give me plenty of reading material for a relaxed afternoon
  • books: Still working on Women Who Run With the Wolves, which is amazing but requires lots of processing time, the likes of which are provided in bulk with snow fall like this.
  • snow shovel: my new “favorite” workout. (uhhh… sure)
  • someone warm and sweet to curl up with
  • fuzzy socks
  • yoga mat: because when I can’t get outside, I get seriously restless. Movement and meditation are absolute requirements.
  • a post full of fantastic things that I’ll put up on Saturday to help keep you entertained an inspired through the cold

And you know what else? I am REALLY glad we bought toilet paper last week.

Stay warm,  y’all, and be safe! Don’t forget to come back on Saturday for a fun roundup of things I’ve found beautiful, exciting, inspiring and enlightening recently.

xoxo, roar, etc.

-dirt

*photo credit: Josh Liba

Read More

2010 Resoutions and Getting Started on the Right Foot

glitter_shoesChristian Louboutin Piagelle glitter 10 cm

How do you feel about New Year’s resolutions? Did you make any resolutions at the start of 2009? How’d you do?

For years, I didn’t set any because I felt it was setting myself up for disappointment. Last year, I got a wild hair and decided I would (1) lose 10 pounds and (2) read 12 books in as many months.

On the first goal, I didn’t actually lose any weight. However, I took a systematic approach involving regular exercise and careful eating choices. I developed a pretty good exercise pattern, and I learned to challenge myself a little bit, which made a huge difference in my overall sense of health and well-being. I still have some unhealthy eating habits, which is probably why I’ve stayed about the same weight despite exercising more. I want to improve that, but I also learned this year that I really don’t believe in punishing myself just to be thin.

On the reading goal, I passed with flying colors. I revisited books I loved before and tried again with books I once hated, which was pretty enlightening. This is definitely a new tradition for me. For 2009, I didn’t have a clear plan of what books to read, and I just found them as I stumbled along. That resulted in some cool finds (re-reading the book that first got me interested in writing followed by a biography of the author), but it also left me floundering when I was too busy to even think about what to read. I think for 2010, I’ll better avoid slumps if I start with a reading list, so that’s my homework for the next couple days.

So, what about you? Do you plan to make a resolution? Or maybe you can dedicate your year to a theme. My sister (a painter) dedicated 2009 to creativity, and she produced some truly amazing work this year. You could dedicate 2010 to creativity, health, improving your career, planning your wedding, making new friends, or trying new things.

How will you gear yourself up to accomplish the goals you’re setting right now? We’ve all had resolutions that went absolutely nowhere because we didn’t have a plan or any motivation. I highly recommend vision boards, inspirational objects and themed play lists to help keep you focused. You can incorporate your goals into your daily routine in all kinds of small and large ways. You can tell people about your goals via your blog, Twitter or Facebook and get moral support from your friends that way. You can use 43Things to track your goals and progress and to find others with similar goals. You can even join Meetup groups of local peeps peeps who share your interests.

Personally, you know I love to publicize my goals and progress via the blog, since it keeps me honest. But there are some goals I prefer to keep to myself until they’re ready to be hatched. For those, I’ll be using vision boards made up of glitter, stickers and inspirational magazine clippings. What other ideas do you have?

Read More

An Open Letter to Sharon Olds

Dear Sharon Olds,

When I was in the 4th grade, inspired by Shel Silverstein, I started to write little rhymes. Noticing my interest in sharon-olds-bookwords, my parents did a good thing and encouraged me to read more. My Dad and I would sometimes read together. He was enthusiastic about “The Congo,” by Vachel Lindsay. Mom let me adopt what must have been her poetry text from some high school lit course. It’s a very good book, introduced me to some of the best poems of all time, and I still have it although it’s now got packing tape instead of a cover.

I read your poems for the first time around the 5th grade. I would go into my big sister’s room and snoop through her things. The best things she owned were lipstick, CDs, a strapless bra and books of poetry. On her bookshelf, I discovered Maya Angelou and you.

Your book, The Dead and the Living, was published in 1983 the same year I was born, and that’s the one that was on my sister’s shelf. I read it cover-to-cover. Of those poems, “The One Girl at the Boys Party” and “Death of Marilyn Monroe” have stuck with me the most powerfully. I didn’t fully grasp them at the time, but I remember how they struck me. I remember your fascination with your daughter, how numbers bounded around in her head like the giant foam props on Sesame Street, how there was a sense of your love for her and her independence, and how she was on the verge of something. With “Death of Marilyn Monroe,” I understood more than I realized. I understood that there was a great value to a breathing woman. I understood that the men in the poem were affected powerfully by the death of a sexual icon, and that for each it was different. To be honest, I’m still processing that poem, but I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be with good ones.

sharon-oldsOne thing about writing is that you never know who will read your work. Did you know I would be reading your poems?

There I was, probably about the same age as your daughter was when you wrote that poem about her, reading the secret thoughts of parents. That’s what it was with that book — the secrets. I felt I’d been let in on something I wasn’t technically supposed to know yet. It was  a moment of discovery, and I have to say now that I think your writing quietly helped to shape my views on sex, gender, life and death, and growing up female in America.

So, this is all just to say thanks. I’m really glad you were out there writing, and that you’re still out there. In school, they always teach works by old and/or dead white dudes, and it’s mostly boring and moralistic at worst or subversive and homoerotic at best, and I’m just glad you were out there as an alternative. What would I have read if your poems hadn’t been there? How would I have learned about sex and the power dynamic between genders? It would not have been as beautiful, that’s for sure. I’ve come to think that art eases the learning of difficult lessons. Yours is a great example. So thanks.

Sincerely,

dirt

Read More