Tag Archives: University of North Alabama

Controlling Your Writer’s Cave

During my recent trip to Chicago to lead writing workshops at Karitos, I had the opportunity to talk to the mom of a young writer. Seems young writer had enjoyed one of my workshops (yea, me!) and had said as much to mom…and mom was simply offering a very kind thank you. She bumped in to me in the parking lot of the hotel where I’d just returned from having dinner with my long-lost (well, sorta. I’m pretty sure he always knew where he was) pal John Metych, whose last name I now pronounce correctly! For those one or two of you who don’t know, John is the writer of the very cool comic series Sniper and Rook. You should check it out!

But anyway, it was fun to talk to the mom with her writer-daughter there because I was able to tell them both things that I think (hope?) will aid their relationship as the young writer grows.

One of the things we talked about was writing environment and getting into the groove while writing…and breaking that groove. A writer’s cave…or back porch or wherever you write…should be set up in such a way as to get UNINTERUPTED creative time. I strongly stress uninterrupted because sometimes when a writer gets in a groove, when the fingers are flying on the keyboard almost faster than the writer can think (not a difficult task for me!), it’s very hard to get that groove back.

I told her the story of me working on my first novel and trying to get BJ to understand that. You see, that’s one of the things I tried to explain to writer-daughter’s mom and writer-daughter herself: people who aren’t writers will NEVER “get” writers. Try though they may and good-hearted though they may be, it just won’t happen.

So when we lived in Loretto, TN, I was teaching at UNA and BJ had quit her job to stay home with the kids. Her being home was a new adjustment for us and she worked hard at it. After a few polite interruptions, I had to tell her no interruptions, period. Wouldn’t you know it, not long after (not in the same day, silly!), I’m on a writing tear and she pops her head in and says “I’m not interrupting; I just wanted to know if you needed anything.”

Now, only a thick-skulled Yankee would not see she was, in her mind, being just as sweet as she could be—even whispering the words. To her, it was a thoughtful thing to do (to me, too, but bear with me). But it was an interruption, sweet though it may have been, and jolted me out of the world that exists only in my head and that I was trying desperately to get onto paper (well, computer file).

It’s a bit like those stop signs (or lights) they put on the highways. You’re rockin’ along at 65 miles per hour (because that is the speed limit!) and out of nowhere a stop sign pops up. You have to stop. Yes, you get going again, but you start from a dead stop and it takes time to pick up speed again, time that you might not have during that sitting.

So I think writer-daughter’s mom walked away with a bit more understanding of her weird writer-daughter.

I told writer-daughter she still has to listen to mom; she’s 14, after all!


Filed under writing

Is it all worked out?

Shortly after the University of North Alabama downsized me, BJ and I were offered a tag-team type of job selling collegiate furniture. It was an interesting job, to say the least. I didn’t really know the first thing about furniture, but we believe it was really BJ and her very long list of contacts they mostly wanted anyway. For the most part, I enjoyed it.

However, it was during this time that I spent a lot of time on the road traveling from University to University, in the tri-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. My travel partner was one of the VPs of the company; a man younger than me who knew a lot about the furniture. As so much of the time was spent traveling, we spent a great deal of time in conversation. He was a devout member of the Church of Christ, and I was fresh off a religious conversion in 2000 (Southern Baptist for those of you with a scorecard).

Now I happen to be one of those who think that most of the folks who call themselves “Christian,” aren’t. [I think it was Billy Graham that said 80% of the people in churches are unsaved] And I don’t get too terribly worked up about the different flavors. Yeah, I think it’s silly the Church of Christ won’t have musical instruments in their churches (but they’ll turn that radio on quickly!), but I don’t think that’s a deal-breaker with God.

I DO think there are some deal-breakers; a core set of beliefs that all those under the “Christian” umbrella should believe. Things like Mary being a virgin, Jesus physically dying AND rising again, etc. Most of the “Christian” religions believe these things.

I don’t, however, think it really matters if a Christian is a pre-trib, post-trib, during-trib…I just don’t think it matters that much. One of the things that I have a tendency to believe that my fellow “Christians” don’t is the idea of predestination: that God picked out everyone who’s going to heaven in the beginning. Yes, I realize that most Southern Baptists don’t believe this—but I’m okay with that—it doesn’t fall on that list of “core” ideas.

But my Church of Christ employer couldn’t grasp the concept of my belief. It wasn’t just that he didn’t agree with it, it didn’t make sense to him how “I” could believe. His major concern, as I recall it, was why do Pre-destiners even bother with sharing the Word and attempting to spread the Gospel. If God has them all picked out, why waste my time talking about it.

To me, however, the answer is simple: Because God told us to do so. Just because I think God’s got it all worked out doesn’t mean I can simply stop doing what He says. It seemed—and still seems—like a no-brainer to me: God says it, so I do it (or at least attempt to do it)…pretty cut and dried.

He never did understand what I was trying to say…but we had many very good looooong conversations about it all and I very much enjoyed them!


Filed under General

Why so much moving?

It seems sometimes that I talk so much about moving. When I stop to think about it, though, I guess it’s because we’ve moved so much the last few years. I read (or heard) somewhere once that the average American family now moves about every seven years. I think my family ends up on the short end of that average.

BJ and I married in 1990 and we moved to Petal, MS., to make our home. I really liked it there–we were way out in the country, but it only took us 15 to 20 minutes to get into Hattiesburg. I could do my writing (and was fortunate enough to be selling several pieces) in a nice quiet setting. In just over a year, however, BJ decided to go on to grad school and so we moved up to Starkville, MS., in 1991.

In 1992, because of many of the contacts I’d made writing, I was offered the job in California with Malibu and so moved out there a few months ahead of BJ -she was finishing up her Master’s degree.

We were in California until 1996. Even though that looks like 4 years, we actually lived in three different places there; three and a half if you count the few months we stayed with a good friend (thanks, Tom!) right after the Northridge earthquake (January, 1994).

We moved back to Starkville, MS., in August of ’96 when BJ decided again to enroll in grad school (Ph.D). We lived in two different locations there. We were in Starkville for that second tour of duty until 1998, when BJ took a job at the University of North Alabama in Florence, AL. I decided to try the grad school thing out and got my degree at UNA.

We had another move in 2005, but I don’t classify it as a full-blown move. It was a city-to-country kind of move. We were able to keep the same doctors and I was at the same job, but the kids changed schools and we had to find a church that was a little closer than the old one which was now 50+ minutes away–depending on traffic.

In 2006 we moved to Piggott, AR., when I was offered the editor position at the weekly newspaper. Actually, we lived in two locations there. Then, just last month, 2008, we moved to Oxford, MS.

As a kid, I can remember moving very little. I remember being in Memphis as a kindergartener, Horn Lake in second grade, and then Jackson, MS. from there on. Mom and Dad moved to Jackson in 1976…and didn’t move away until 1997, when Dad retired.

Since I got married in 1990 (almost 18 years for those of you keeping score), our stays look something like: (where the .x represents the number of months) 1.3, 1.4, 3.9, 2, 6.4, 1.9, 1.3, .1+

No wonder I talk about moving all the time.


Filed under Columns, General, Moving