At The Fault Line, Bravery, Memoir, Read, Support, writing

At The Fault Line

Today, Friday June 8, I am reading one of my recent essays at a ticketed event in Seattle. Eleven writers in my memoir group have crafted, honed and polished their words with grace and guts for the last few months. Writing a personal trauma story is a naked enough feeling. To read it in public takes exposure to a whole new level.

Last year, after my diagnosis and series of surgeries, three years of writing a manuscript went up in smoke. The questions came fast and hard, especially at night: do I bury my mother’s story, interweave mine, move on from past to present or take the story present to past? Do I even have the skills to do any or all of this? Do I want to?

When I finally wrote down the words which became my essay, “We Don’t Know Everything,” I felt there had been a nuclear explosion in my head; the collision of my story, my mother’s story, cancer information and understanding illness, all locking together in believable — and unbelievable — ways. All the pieces will be sharing, for lack of a better word, the radioactive fissure — the cracking of the fault lines —  that comes from speaking out on trauma. Eleven times over.

This is the second year of this event At The Fault Line. I hope we do this forever. The experience of professional coaching — by our mentor Tara Hardy —  speaking our words aloud into a microphone, into the atmosphere, into the ears of friends and strangers, validates our writing. And our existence. And our purpose.

Last year we sold tickets at the door. This year we have been sold out for almost two weeks. I am watching the seedling of a mighty tree of storytelling grow and grow and grow.

The stories will crack open hearts, from the mundane to the profound, from folding laundry to holding an Alzheimer patient. I am so proud of all of us.

Buddha

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Choices, Knitting, Read, writing

Essentials.

What I am reading: The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison —  The Tao of Raven: An Alaska  Native Memoir, Ernestine Hayes —  Dancing Bears, Witold Szablowski.

What I just finished : The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister — Devotions, Mary Oliver — Songs of Willow Frost, Jamie Ford.

What I am knitting: A vest out of maize-colored Rowan Felted Tweed. A Churchmouse Yarn cowl pattern, wildly adapted to what I had in my yarn bag. An orchid-colored Alexandra’s Airplane scarf out of Rowan Kid Silk Haze and beaded with pink iridescent micro-beads.

What I am writing: Draft #20 of a personal essay piece, about to be submitted.

You get the picture: books, yarn, needles, paper. Last weekend my cousin and I went to an estate sale, early in the morning while the dew was still shivering on the cherry blossoms. We parked by a stone archway and stepped into a long room anchored by a walk-in fireplace, fully ablaze. I wandered this old farmhouse, stripped bare and crackling with story. When I returned to the front room the owner was saying “It just got away from us.” I fingered a chipped bowl full of scissors. My heart broke around the edges.

There is letting go and there is not keeping up. I want to be the former, smart and brave and realistic when the time comes. Recently the time has come for certain things: clothes I will never wear, shoes I cannot walk in anymore. And books. And furniture.

I sense I am in a race with myself, a new look at the future —  to not be caught short of sense and burdened by stuff. Last year’s health scares just simply brought home that  there is not an endless stretch ahead. So what do I really need each day?

Books, yarn, needles, paper works every corner of my brain, now that I have it back inside my head. Everything is portable and can be pulled from the same bag. Perhaps a toothbrush would be good.

And the people that love me, that are on this journey with me? I will have toothbrushes for all of you, too.

Ten months and counting from that double-whammy last year. I am learning to pack a bag of the essential ingredients and let the rest go.

 

Bainbridge Island, March 18th, 2018 Camelia

Bainbridge Island, March 18, 2018. Camellia blossom: essential spring.

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Read, writing

Books I Loved in 2016

Seems like a great day to review Alexandra Dane’s Best Reads of 2016 — a purely self-interest, subjective culling from the fifty books I read over the course of the year. I read everything and anything that catches my eye, mostly everything recommended to me, and then thousands of words every week of other writers’ rough drafts. I like to believe this is better than Sudoko.

2016 Favorites

Slade House — David Mitchell: I went down the rabbit hole with this author and would do it again. Don’t read late at night.

My Name is Lucy Barton — Elizabeth Strout: Spare scenes, complicated memories, will go down in literary history as one of the best books that makes the reader fill in the blanks and work for the story.

When Breath Becomes Air — Paul Kalanithi: Just read it. You need these words to wake up every day and feel blessed and mindful.

Girl at War — Sara Novic: With so much of our world at war, this story, through the eyes of a girl, will make you listen to the news differently.

Sweetbitter — Stephanie Danler: You can see a pattern of my favorites. Give it to me slant and I will eat it up. Pardon the pun. Intense story from behind the food scene.

Another Brooklyn — Jaqueline Woodson: Don’t let this thin volume fool you, the story whacks a good punch of awareness and meaning.

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian — Sherman Alexie: I am late to the gate with Sherman Alexie, especially since I spend so much time in the city of Seattle which adores him. It is no secret I love the straight-forwardness of YA and this is no exception. I asked my local Seattle bookstore owner (Phinney Books) which one of Alexie’s many genres to begin with (poetry, non-fiction, fiction, YA) and this is what he plucked off the shelf. And FYI Tom Nissley’s monthly newsletter offers a trove of good, thoughtful suggestions. Just saying — anyone can subscribe.

How To See: Looking, Talking and Thinking About Art — David Salle: The character of art itself not just the artists. Thought provoking for your year of culture ahead.

The Man Called Ove — Frederick Bachman: Don’t see the movie first, find a copy of this book and feast your eyes and heart on the unexpected lessons of love, life, anger and cats.

The Atomic Weight of Love — Elizabeth Church: A woman, an atomic bomb, an era. When I read it, in spring 2016, women were about to break the last glass ceiling. Rereading it at the end of the year, I feel the tragedy of women’s choices even more acutely. Perhaps my favorite read of 2016.

There are plenty of books I wrote down in the back of my diary that I would never read again, fiction and nonfiction, but every, single read makes me think and that is the goal, no?

Cheers and Merry and A Healthy New Year, readers.

And ps. send me ideas for 2017!

Alexandra Dane

 

cuppa

 

 

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