I write every day for a living, and as a hobby, I also write (and take photos).
If I could do this any other way, I’m sure I would. But perhaps you can relate–knowing what you are here to do brings a kind of peace along with torment . . . the poison and the antidote . . . the creative imperative . . . the sleeping and waking. Elaine Pagels quoted it best here:
“If you bring forth that which is in you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is in you, what is in you will destroy you.”
– Elaine Pagels quoting from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
Before it titled Michelle Obama’s book, it was the title that perfectly described the subject of BECOMING MARJORIE, the story of one of America’s unsung heroines of the feminist movement, so that’s what I used! I wrote that biography and launched it in 2017. And today (for the first time), I saw one of the TV interviews done at that time:
The grove of pecan trees had been planted generations earlier, long before Hodge was born in the shelling shed to Esperanza, who left him there when it was time to move on with the crew to pick the next farm. His mother gave him his first name, although he never used it. Also, the umber cast to his skin that set him apart in Missouri in 1927.
From Grigg Hamblin, Hodge would inherit the land where the trees had been set out in orderly rows along the floodplain.
From the trees, he got both a living and an identity. As if he’d been bred for it, and perhaps he was, Hodge was the special kind of being that is a pecan farmer. Atop sturdy, straight legs, he was mostly trunk supporting a thick V of shoulders, muscles knotting his arms down to long fingers. A head of nut-brown curls went uncut during the harvest season when he didn’t even bother to return to the house at night.
Arizona Hodges Hamblin belonged only to the trees, and that’s how it went until he was almost 30.
I’m storytelling in Cromarty Courthouse Garden, June 23, 2018.
Last month I was invited to read from my own work at the Cromarty Courthouse Museum Garden during Garden Opening Weekend (see photo) in this beautiful village on the Black Isle of Scotland. I’ve written a lot about Cromarty–a search of this blog will reveal that. But I am rarely paid to write in my own voice for my own reasons. Instead, my clients commission me to write, ghostwrite, edit, develop and doctor their books. It’s incredibly satisfying work, especially when my clients are as amenable as David Bland whose book (working titled provided below) is going to change the world. What a privilege to participate in his story.
I felt the same with about ghosting Dr. William Reed’s memoirs, The Pulse of Hope, and every other client I’ve had (see http://www.seavercreative.com).
Vivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books with William Reed and me, November 2014.
Promoting myself professionally is always awkward for me, so I just avoid it. Every client I’ve had has come to me word of mouth, which is good because I wouldn’t have the first inclination to get out there and find them. But if I did, it would probably be wise to post something like a client testimonial, so here goes:
Leeanne is, to me, much like a sculptor. Underneath the rough layers of my long-winded prose was a much better writer. Leeanne carefully and gently chipped away at that outer layer to reveal the story-teller below. My writing became crisper, clearer, and more purposeful. And I never felt berated, belittled or embarrassed. Try as I might, I could never find fault with her criticism and her suggestions were always on the mark, which is maddening, of course. Every time I sat upon my high horse Leeanne exposed the puny pony I was atop. In a very nice way. It is a rarity to find someone who can both find fault and suggest remedies. We all know the critic who offers nothing better. Leeanne supplies thoughtful criticism and insightful suggestions.
She took care with my work. She honored the time and energy I had spent, and she never diminished the pride I had in my writing. But she showed me where it could be better. That is a powerful talent.
~ David Bland, Author
Smudge: The Narrative Economics of Indian Country
Washington DC, 10 July 2018
I no longer want to write the Great American Novel,
or the pretty good Canadian essay,
or the tolerable Norwegian short short story,
or the shitty haiku of unknown nationality.
from Troy Jollimere’s Upgrades
Sharing the stage with (left to right) Rainy Day Books founder and owner, Vivien Jennings, Marjorie’s daughters Barbara and Debbie, the author (me!), and Marjorie’s friend and colleague, Janice Kreamer, Chair of the Kauffman Foundation.
More than two years ago, I began a book commission to capture the story of one of our nation’s unsung feminists–the sort of woman who wouldn’t have even called herself a feminist. It all culminated with an incredible launch week for me full of media interviews and promo stuff from September 19 to 24, 2017. All those spoon-bending, how-in-the-heck-am-I-gonna-do-this hours spent (and will experience again–I’m already into the next commission) do somehow grow from an idea into the words and they find their pages and get beautifully bound and into the hands of readers.
The NPR gig: now to remember everything I wrote!
I’m going to give enormous credit to the most amazing artists who comprise 94 Design–Paul and Laura Adams. Their exquisitely art-directed style turned boxes of artifacts into thoughtful visual assets. This is our second book together and I really don’t want to ever try this without them. They make my concept real, and then they make even better than I hoped it could look.
Paul and Laura Adams of 94 Design are the consummate professionals behind the art-directed look.
If you’d like to learn more about the woman who prompted a book to be written about her amazing life and legacy 25 years after she died, she’s here:
the Impotence of Proofreading
Has this ever happened to you?
You work very horde on a paper for English clash
And then get a very glow raid (like a D or even a D=)
and all because you are the word1s liverwurst spoiler.
Proofreading your peppers is a matter of the the utmost impotence.
This is a problem that affects manly, manly students.
I myself was such a bed spiller once upon a term
that my English teacher in my sophomoric year,
Mrs. Myth, said I would never get into a good colleague.
And that1s all I wanted, just to get into a good colleague.
Not just anal community colleague,
because I wouldn1t be happy at anal community colleague.
I needed a place that would offer me intellectual simulation,
I really need to be challenged, challenged dentally.
I know this makes me sound like a stereo,
but I really wanted to go to an ivory legal collegue.
So I needed to improvement
or gone would be my dream of going to Harvard, Jail, or Prison
(in Prison, New Jersey).
So I got myself a spell checker
and figured I was on Sleazy Street.
But there are several missed aches
that a spell chukker can1t can1t catch catch.
For instant, if you accidentally leave a word
your spell exchequer won1t put it in you.
And God for billing purposes only
you should have serial problems with Tori Spelling
your spell Chekhov might replace a word
with one you had absolutely no detention of using.
Because what do you want it to douch?
It only does what you tell it to douche.
You1re the one with your hand on the mouth going clit, clit, clit.
It just goes to show you how embargo
one careless clit of the mouth can be.
Which reminds me of this one time during my Junior Mint.
The teacher read my entire paper on A Sale of Two Titties
out loud to all of my assmates.
I1m not joking, I1m totally cereal.
It was the most humidifying experience of my life,
being laughed at pubically.
So do yourself a flavor and follow these two Pisces of advice:
One: There is no prostitute for careful editing.
And three: When it comes to proofreading,
the red penis your friend.
©2017 Taylor Mali
our summer vacay smiles (bunny-filter by Dane)
It was the first morning of our summer vacation. Before my eyes had opened, my brain registered this sound—light rain. Light rain with an unfamiliar bird chorus. I got out of bed, went over to a window of our adorable rental cottage and looked for the source of all this loveliness. No bird and no rain. This was the sound of a breeze blowing through thousands of heart-shaped leaves on an enormous poplar tree hanging over the lake. The wind was singing through them and the tree was responding with unanimous applause.
As I have often done since becoming the mother of a deaf son, I tried to stop hearing what I was experiencing and just see it. I plugged my ears, watched the light twinkling through leaf on leaf ruffling and the branches billowing. The whole scene became as delightfully visual as it had been auditory.
As a hearing person, honing my visual perspective has been an adapted skill. I’ve been working on my “deaf filter” for years so I could share more accurately and empathically with my son Dane. Paradoxically, my listening-filter has been equally important and just as challenging. A lot of auditory input is just taken for granted by hearing people. My friend Carter, a wise H&V-type mom, told me to think like this: raise Dane as if he hears everything and nothing all at the same time.
That seemed like the key . . . but I had no idea what that meant.
What it came to mean was this: Don’t lower your expectations of him but make sure Dane has everything he needs to meet them.
What did he need? There were plenty of people with an opinion on that, but I wanted his perspective. He was too little to tell me for such a long time, so I practiced seeing the world like he saw it. I still do.
I try to think of myself as Deaf looking at the trees lifting leaf on leaf . . . lovely and loving.
I try to think of myself as Deaf . . . feeling a face without touching it.
I can’t hear them . . . I have missed every joke, every barb, every insult, every condescension and offense that is What are ya, deaf or something?
I apply a profoundly-deaf filter to see the things I want to remember more completely.
Nowadays Dane shares his perspectives readily. I want to capture them, so we started co-writing a book this year that includes his thoughts on many of the issues I’ve explored in this column. It’s time to for him to have his say. I expect to know him better after reading what he writes.
Dane is excited about this. Months ago when it was still winter, he sent me a three-word text: leaf on leaf
Intuitively, I replied Is that the title of our book? He wrote, Yes.
Now I know why.
(From my regular column, In a Perfect World, this essay appears in the Fall 2017 issue of The Communicator)