My Writing

Louisa May Alcott's Owl Painting
by her sister, Abba May Alcott
I was almost 12 when my grandmother died, my first experience of that kind of loss. In my grief, I wrote a poem about her attitude to life, "Keep On," and it was like a stream was suddenly unconfined by a now-removed dam. I found myself enmeshed in a passionate desire and need to teach myself to write...because in the early 60s, that wasn't really taught in school. It was learning by doing, although my biggest and best teacher was Robert Louis Stevenson in his essay on how to write. (I will probably do a post about that on my blog, Adventures in Barding.) Soon I was scribbling prose too, and I began by doing what I now know is called fan fiction--first about the characters in Alcott's Little Women, then in my teens about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and later, and more continuously, about JRR Tolkien's Middle-Earth. At first my stories were set about 1,000 years, in the Fifth Age, after the events of the War of the Rings, centering around a harper named Owlfeather Wanderfoot. A couple of years ago, I found; One of my favorite writers on it is Larner, and along with a dream, her writing caused me to venture into Minas Tirith during the siege, and now (as of July 10th, 2011) I have posted 18 chapters of a serialized novel, Tree & Stone, as well as a short story, "The Storyteller." To my astonished delight, the novel has been nominated for the 2011 Middle-Earth Fan Fiction Awards, kind of the Oscars for Tolkien fan fiction sites. I owe Larner, Isabeau, Virtuella, and  Marta my thanks for inspiration, betaing, and help, as well as to Esteliel, who designed this banner and others you can see here:

My first publication was when I was 12, in a traveling club magazine, and various school and local newspapers and creative writing magazines in high school, college and grad school. I began doing solo readings, which I enjoyed, and joined several poetry workshops over the years, participating through them in anthologies and group readings. Most memorably, I did a solo reading at one Three Rivers Arts Festival poetry event in 1986, as well as belonging for several years to the Squirrel Hill Poetry Workshop om Pittsburgh. For several years, I had a serious writing block, finallly began writing again bit by bit...but I could not bring myself to submit manuscripts to editors until I sent a book to publishers specializing in storytelling books in 1999...where it was universally rejected, and is on my Projects to Rewrite List. Over the years, I've had articles in the Folk Harp Journal (the journal of the International Society of Folk Harpers & Craftsmen, Morgana Keast's Harp Light and in Kilt & Harp (the journal of the Scottish Harp Society of America), along with a column for the latter on Scottish folktales and folklore.

I've taught creative writing classes and workshops, done some professional proofreading, and am currently doing some proofreading/editing/writing coaching for a doctoral student at Duquesne University.

Among my unfinished novels is what's currently known as my Scottish Western, about a Scotswoman who is a cook/housekeeper on a ranch in the 1870s-80s.

Here is one of my earlier poems:

              kinds of Barra

Barra   is the love-name I was given
            when I remember beginning.

Barra   is the name of a Scottish island
            with a cockleshell beach.

Barra   means “cilff” in the Gaelic,
               strong,    sturdy,     enduring.

                                                              I felt
                                                                       as if I was painfully eroding,
                                                                       crumbling, full of fissures, cracking

                                                              I would diminish to a heap of sand
                                                              easily scattered by the wind

                                                   I have begun again
                                                   with a cockleshell of caring

and    Barra      is
my   self,
a little cracked        but

Cockleshell Beach on the Isle of Barra--
only place flat enough to land a plane!