Eight Days of Telluride

I’ve check out of my hotel room, packed everything into the van. After eight full days, it’s come time to leave Telluride and return back home to Salida, and all that goes with that. I’m not wanting to leave. It hasn’t seemed like eight full days. So what else is new?

Downtown Telluride, last Thursday afternoon, Oct 8th.

Downtown Telluride, last Thursday afternoon, Oct 8th.

And what else is also new in that I didn’t get accomplished pretty much any of the plans I’d made? But perhaps what I needed, more than anything I had planned, was simply to rest. As it turned out, I spent three of my days lying in-bed, watching X Factor and America’s/Britain’s Got Talent videos on my laptop; and on one of those days, I never left the hotel room at all—no shopping, no eating out, no anything.

One of the things I came here for was to take one of my periodic looks at my current life, and see what needs changing, and how I can go about effecting such change. I didn’t get, perhaps, as much of that done as I’d wished, but I did gain some significant ground in that direction. However, come 5AM, tomorrow, I’ll be back at work, back at the grind. What seems doable while you’re away from work, away from the usual tugs and obligations of your everyday life can suddenly seem ridiculous once you’ve returned to regular life.

But the time I spend in Telluride has a way of staying with me. And I did get a few decent walks done, two of them with an incredible woman that I’ve been graciously blest to have in my life. She and I seem incapable of having superficial conversations. Our talks always hit immediately into the essential core of what’s going one with one another. These, too, linger with me for weeks, months, years afterward.

Go figure, I’m already planning and scheming my return.

The labyrinth at Christ Presbyterian Church.

The labyrinth at Christ Presbyterian Church.

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Not So Simple

This afternoon, I happened upon a Facebook post that included a fairly recently-published book by one of my FB Friends. Seems Amazon was significantly marking down (at least) some of its books, including this one, for its “Prime” members. I replied with a snarky comment, along the lines of, “If you truly care about books and writers and blah-blah-blah, then you’ll stay away from Amazon and their ilk, and do your book shopping at Independent Booksellers.”

Well, the person who posted, with whom I’ve had no previous/other contact with, graciously replied that for true book-aholics, it can be hugely cost-prohibited to purchase all their books at “indies.” Further, there are also the issues of “lesser-known” books and new-releases not always being stocked at locally-owned bookstores; and that those same sellers occasionally charge authors for having book-signings and -readings at their stores. Finally, as writers and lovers of books, it just might be a niggling thing being concerned about where readers get their books. Once again, I was reminded the world isn’t always so black and white. I was so taken and grateful for the deepening and broadening of the conversation, a few back-and-forths between me and the woman who’d done the posting, I asked permission to “Share” our post, which was granted.

I’m not a published author, yet. But when I do have my first book published, and also all the subsequent ones, how important will it be, really, how my book(s) arrived in my readers’ hands? Will I be more hung-up on because some of them bought my book on Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble, than the fact that they’re reading my work, that my writing is making further progress in the world?

I don’t like online conglomerates and their big-boxed ilk. But I do (yes) occasionally shop there. But I also make a point to regularly order from my own local “indie;” and each time I’ve visited Telluride, I’ve stopped (at least once) at Between the Covers, their local independent bookstore. More than just with books, I’m a huge believer in, “putting your money where your house is.” Local business typically do so much more for their communities than simply hiring your neighbors, friends, and family. Next time you go to a school athletic game, or a concert, or a play, look inside the program and see who have been the contributors to the event you’re about to watch. I’ll bet the majority will be local, small businesses.

I’m still getting comments from that “Shared” posting of mine. As suspected, everyone so far has grumbled about Amazon, etc; but they’ve also mentioned some of the good even those Conglomerates perform. So, no, it’s not a black and white world. Nor is it always a simple one.

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Valuing What You Do

Once again, I’m in Telluride. En route to here, Monday, I stopped in Ouray, where a writer friend of mine, who lives elsewhere in Colorado, was visiting their Hot Springs Pool, with the family. The pool is just ten miles off my route to Telluride, so we made plans to meet, there.

I’ve known this friend—let’s call him, Roger—for a handful of years. He’s been writing for roughly the same amount of time that I have, but he’s had much better success than I. Frankly, it’s due to his being more dedicated, and a bit more talented. I even knew who he was for nearly a full decade before we ever physically crossed paths. Even though we’ve since become good friends, I still look up to Roger. Still kinda put him on a pedestal.

A short while ago, Roger was part of a gallery show, in the Roaring Fork Valley. He and a Northern Colorado painter had done some collaborative work together, which was now being presented. That evening, each of their pieces were sold, some of them for close to a thousand dollars. Both things surprised Roger, especially how much they were selling for. (These all were “simple” pieces: a handful of written lines from Roger, a similar number of brush-strokes from the painter.)

I’m in the process of taking on editing work, and I’ve been quibbling with myself, lately, about how much to charge. I’ve been doing small bits of editing work, gratis, for friends and colleagues for awhile. It feels odd and a little unsettling, thinking about charging folks, now. Within the last year or so, Roger has also begun charging for the same work he used to do as a favor for people. And it sounds like he struggled much more than I currently am in allowing himself to be paid. In fact, I’m not quite sure he’s gotten comfortable with it, yet.

I’m still sorta shaking my head over this. Roger has had more than a handful of books published, and has gotten to travel to all sorts of nifty places due to his writing. It’s not at all uncommon to hear people utter his name in reverential tones. (I’m not alone in placing him on a pedestal.) All these and more, and yet he still questions the value of what he does. It didn’t/doesn’t make sense that someone of his caliber and renown would have these sorts of issues—at least not on the surface.

And so it goes. I’ve blogged about this, before. Somehow, some of us have difficulty discerning the value of what we do. You can hold thousands spell-bound with your words, have organizers clamoring to have you speak and/or present at their up-coming events, pack a bookstore when you come to sign your latest book—and, still, question the worth of what you do. Success doesn’t necessarily take away feelings of inadequacy, of not mattering. In fact, it can aggravate those same self-perceptions by making you feel even more like a fake.

And, perhaps, just maybe, I might be calling the kettle black, here. After all, I’ve had scads of folks who know about such things compliment my own writing, over and over again. In fact, Roger is one of my biggest cheerleaders. You’d think having my writing being admired by a writer whom I admire would be enough to dispel any niggling perceptions I have about my writing; however…

How about you? Do you feel you own talents are lacking—even though you’ve been told otherwise? If so, what’s up with that?

(I don’t know, either.)

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And, speaking of valuing your talents, this picture was taken during my second night, here. For the close of their author event, that evening, Between the Covers had scheduled a jam session. Only a single musician showed up with his instrument. Nonetheless, even though it was only him, here he is, jamming away.

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One More Small Step

There’s a local on-line literary journal that’s in the works, and its head-honcho recently put the word out that he was looking for editors. Actually, it’d been a good week or longer, and I was interested in applying for both fiction and creative non-fiction, but hadn’t gotten around to doing so.

Well, yesterday, I finally emailed, asking if the two positions were open, and they still were. A few more back-and-forth emails later, it looks like I’ll be their non-fiction editor—or at least one of them. This is at the very beginning, at the ground-floor level. carbonate may take off, or it may wind up fizzling quickly out. Still, I’m glad that I finally got around to applying to be one of their editors. Writing-wise, it’s another step forward, another way to use those skills, and another connection into the writing community at large.

Like much anything else, it’s a small leap into the unknown, the taking of a risk. Of course, we’re all hoping it pans out well, and in our favor.

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Moving Forward: The Next Step

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A few weeks ago I set-up a Facebook page to promote my upcoming copyediting services. Today, I’m fleshing it out, beefing it up, adding to it. There’ll still be more to do later on, as other ideas come to mind or become apparent, and as this venture grows: its own email account, a website, an actual business license(?), and so forth and so on.

This has been sooooo long in finally coming, this getting going, in a real sense, with having my writing begin to financially support me. Well, okay. This isn’t writing, nor “my writing,” per se. But it is something writing-centered that I can do, that I do well (when you consider where I currently am in the scheme of things copyediting-wise), and that hopefully will begin getting monies coming in from someplace other than my current hospital job.

And, speaking of which, I’ve recently had yet another nudge from the Universe reminding me that I really do need to start taking action in transitioning away from the sort of work that I took on when I moved here, out of necessity, and toward the heart-centered vocational writing stuff that I moved here to do. In numerous ways, things are now lined up favorably. There’s never gonna a perfect, risk-free, easy time to do this; but this current time is the widest opening I’ve had since moving here. Best to squeeze in, now, while the door is at its most opened.

The next phase of my plan to start some sort of professional freelance writing. In order to get things started, to get my foot in the door and my name out there, and in order to (once again) get non-hospital-job funds coming in, I might initially have to take on the writing of copy, and other sorts of writerly jobs, that I’m not particularly fond of and that I’d really rather not pursue. But I’ve gotta start somewhere, and even the “bottom” of the professional writers’ pit will still be getting paid to write.

Onward and (eventually) upward.

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The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

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So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

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What am I Doing Here?

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i’m currently at a weekend-long poetry workshop and retreat, in Breckenridge, about an hour and a half from where I live. Mucho months ago, Wendy Videlock invited me. I’ve known Wendy for about two years, and although we’ve actually met just once before, we’ve kinda kept up via Facebook and the poets’ grapevine.

I arrived here, yesterday early-evening. Just a handful of folks had arrived already. Many (most?) of us are staying at a lodge that’s a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). Wendy and Laurie James (who lives roughly just a mile from me) greeted and hugged me when I stepped outta the van. As more folks started arriving, I began wondering what I’d gotten myself into, agreeing to this workshop with who knows how many other people, and being jammed-in with twentysome strangers in a suddenly-not-really-all-that-huge lodge. I feared I was about to enter introvert overload.

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This first morning has been quiet and calm. Seems the majority of folks are night owls, whereas I’m an early riser. Fortunately, there was enough dawning light coming through the window that I was to be quietly active without (I hope) waking anybody. It’s being an overcast day, and we’ve had a bit of drizzle. On paper, the day’s schedule is packed. However, in practice, it’s being relaxed and open. My introversion is being nurtured, rather than assailed.

But, there’s this, and it isn’t something new: I’m looking around wondering, in a different sense, what I’m doing here. Because I’ve placed so much crap onto the notion, I’ve pretty much forbidden myself from using “belonging” in reference to myself and my place in things. But nonetheless, I’m at it again. With the likes of (what seems to me, correctly or not) the majority of folks here being published poets, and many with award-winning, or at least nearly-so, books, what am I, unpublished poet, and scarcely-so writer, doing here, hobnobbing with the likes of say, Valerie Szarek, whose most recent work is a Finalist for this year’s Colorado Authors’ League, Book of the Year; Rachel Kellum, whose, ah, is highly-regarded; and also Wendy Videlock, who’ll be in this year’s Best American Poetry, and Laurie James who is considered an Elder in the tribe?

One of the many reasons I’ve placed myself on hiatus in using, “belonging,” is because I’ve placed something of an unattainable extremism upon it—likely coming from my dad only being happy with me if, “you’ve done your best.” (What is, “best,” anyway? Couldn’t you have always done a little more, a little better?) What was my best was, itself, an unattainable extreme. But it’s still somewhat the ruler I measure myself by. So, amid such successful poets, such _actual_ ones, what the hell am I doing, thinking I’m worthy of hanging out with ’em, thinking I’m anywhere in the same league?

Well, one reason just might be because they’ve accepted me as, “one of us.” And one them, Wendy, did make a point of inviting, after all. If I hold these people as being higher than myself, then doesn’t it also hold that their perceptions might hold more weight than mine? Maybe. But, rather, I think it’s moreso the case that what they think and perceive simply, intrinsically, matters—period, never mind whether they’re “higher” poets/people than I. What they say matters too. I don’t have the sole and final word regarding who and what I am.

So, what am I doing here? I’m honoring an endeared one, Wendy, who asked me to come. I’m following through with what I wish my life to become: more writing-centered. I’m rubbing elbows with others of my tribe, some of whom, like Rachel Kellum and Valerie Szarek, make my jaw drop in humbleness when they act as though I’m their equal. And perhaps the biggest thing I’m doing here is stretching my comfort zone of my own perception(s) of who I am, and whom I can become.

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