Tag Archives: mom

Writers leave Legacy

As most of you who read this page know, I’ve had the privilege to Mentor the Fall version of the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writers Retreat held at the Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Education Center in Piggott, Arkansas. I generally sing the praises of the writers, but thought I’d do something slightly different this time—not to suggest the writers shouldn’t have their praises sung: they created brilliant writings, as always.

Noticeably missing this year were Bob and Wanda Jones. Wanda, an exceptional poet, passed away just weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. She wrote a story last year about craving blood that still haunts me.

A retreat is a different monster than a workshop or a conference. In general, a retreat allows the writers to get away from the daily grind at home and focus solely on whatever it is they wish to write. Not all of them come with something in mind to write, but many do. Those who don’t, rely on the daily writing exercises to get their writing muscles going.

Each morning, I present the writers with some sort of writing exercise, generally with the idea of targeting some specific aspect of writing. One of the favorites at Arkansas is an exercise I do about dialogue, forcing the writers to listen to the different voices around the table and then attempt to convey personality and attitude simply by specific choice of words.

Last year I tried a “smell” exercise, trying to hone in on the five senses. I think smell is often overlooked in most writings. While it was a good idea, it didn’t work as I’d hoped.

This year, I tried a POV (Point of View) exercise in which I scattered the writers (there were 13 of them) around the Education Center and then had them watch a skit (brilliantly performed by Diana Sanders and Karen Trout!) which wound into several of the rooms in the center allowing them only glimpses at best and often not allowing them to hear parts of the conversation. One writer was placed outside the front door (it’s all glass) and had to try to discern what was happening by peeking inside.

At the end of the week, the exercises are collected into an anthology. The writers may also include other work they’ve created while at the retreat, but the exercises makes up the bulk of the material.

This year, I had a special treat in that Mom decided to attend. She’d mentioned it a couple of times before when I first started doing it and decided at the last minute she wanted to try it. Thankfully there was room for her (thanks, Diana!). It felt a little odd “critiquing” Mom. J

The Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writing Retreats are, I think, the model for retreats—and not just because I’m a mentor. In fact, there is a retreat in the summer which is mentored by someone else and I recommend it as well. But I think writers should at least try a retreat sometime during their writing career—just get away from all of life’s day-to-day worries and write.

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That little contraption

I’ve got this little tray-contraption chock full of nuts and bolts and screws. It’s something I got several years ago when I realized that tossing every little piece into a Tupperware bowl just wasn’t working. Plus, the bowl couldn’t hold them all anymore. One of the trays has so many screws in it that it’s hard to open. So why is it that when I need a certain sized bolt or screw I don’t have the size I need?

It’s true. Just this last week I was re-attaching bathroom cabinet doors, drawer knobs, and the hardware that goes along with them. Without getting into my wife’s method of UN-attaching them, I discovered I needed 10 screws to reattach the doors. I could put the hinges back on the doors, but couldn’t attach the hinges to the cabinets themselves.

So I went to visit my little contraption.

Notice the duct tape at the bottom and the plastic "hand cuffs" holding the handles together.

Notice the duct tape at the bottom and the plastic "hand cuffs" holding the handles together.

It’s not that big; about 18 inches tall. There are 3 “doors” across and 4 down, giving me a total of 12 doors (see Mom, I can do math!). One latch at the top releases all the doors so that they fold down opening the trays up to me so that I can remove the necessary piece and then close it back. I’ve got an exact duplicate attached to back of it, making the contraption seem 2-sided.

Which reminds me of a time my Dad asked me about my little contraption. Once on the phone shortly after I’d purchased the contraption, Dad asked me where I got it. He said he’d seen it during his last visit and wanted something similar for himself. I told him I’d purchased it at Sam’s and it wasn’t one, but was two. He insisted that it was not. He had seen it very closely and examined it and it was one solid piece which had trays and opened up on both sides. I assured him he was wrong…but he’s my Dad.

During his next visit, he wanted to see it. I took him to the shed, showed him the plastic “handcuffs” that still held the handles together…and then pointed out the duct tape across the bottom. I had to promise him that I had indeed added the duct tape after the bottom “handcuffs” broke and that the tape didn’t come as part of the purchase. I offered to buy him 2 contraptions and tape them for him.

He returned to the house.

Anyway, I had one screw the size that I needed. I rifled through for a minute but couldn’t find any because they’re so small. So I dumped them all out…on the ground. In over 100 screws, not one…NOT ONE…was the size I needed. That’s just hard to believe. What in the world, then, do all those 100+ screws I have go to? Why do I have them?

I didn’t want to go to the store, so I did was all good Southerners did.

I used duct tape.

No, not really…I got the next size up, but I sure thought about using duct tape!

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Man or mouse?

I don’t like mice.

Actually, I don’t like most rodents, not even squirrels. Yeah, I know that’s nearly blasphemous in this neck of the woods. And yes, I’ve eaten squirrel, too—it was fried. That statement doesn’t carry the same sort of weight as it did, say when I was in California—you should have seen the reactions from them—but many of our younger generations around here have never tasted it.

You know how the saying goes, though…tastes like chicken.

Now is that time of year, though, when many commonly discover they’ve been landlording an immigrant family of mice. We usually discover they’ve left in a hurry and left their droppings for us to find.

I remember my grandpas always had cats around the house, farm and barn to help keep the mice at bay.

I also remember my first real personal experience with a mouse. I’d just graduated college and was renting a house with a good buddy of mine. One night while trying to sleep, I kept hearing a scratching noise. I’d never heard the noise before so I had no clue what it was. After about an hour, I decided to see what it was, and turned on the lights.

That’s when I saw him run.

I was about 22 or 23, fresh out of college, and thought I was far superior to this mouse.

You’d have to have seen my room to understand what I am talking about here; the only real furniture in my room was the bed. I’d taken milk crates and 2×6 pieces of wood to make a set of “shelving” for myself. This open shelving held books and clothes alike, and it ran the length of one wall.

I chased the mouse around for an hour before he proved to be faster than me and ducked into a hole.

I set a mouse trap directly in front of that hole the next night…once again proving my superiority over the mouse.

When I first moved to Piggott and was staying with Mom and Dad for a while, I must have brought one with me.

Once again, Mann set out to prove superiority to the mouse.

The good thing about modern homes is there aren’t many little holes for mice to duck in. I first spotted it when it ran under the treadmill. This mouse, idiot thing that it was, was probably looking for a lighter workout than it received that night.

Mom and Dad were both there that night and the three of us set out to trap and get rid of it. Dad got on one end of the couch, Mom on the other, and I waited out front, cutting off any possible route of escape.

Mom had a towel, I had a rolled up newspaper, and Dad’s weapon of choice was a flyswatter. I’d like to admit here publicly as to never having seen a flyswatter used a weapon against a mouse. As they say, there’s a first for everything.

Well, that little mouse would run one way and Dad would swat at him with a flyswatter…then he’d run another and Mom would scream and throw a towel at him. Then he’d run at me…poke his head out from under the couch just enough that I couldn’t swat him with the newspaper. I really think he was trying to size me up, see if he could make a dash past me. Maybe he thought since I had a paper I’d just read to him.

Either that or he was catching his breath.

He eventually ended up under an antique buffet in the corner and the process started all over again. That mouse ran so much I could hear him huffing and puffing. Dad eventually got him with the flyswatter—who’da thought that, huh? But the whole process of the hunt took nearly an hour.

I wonder what mouse tastes like? I bet it tastes like chicken.

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