I’m not a wedding photographer, but when tasked with such a gig as a favor to family or friends, I find the flowergirls to be powerfully photogenic.
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
Currently editing my client’s book about 30 years in Indian Country (after 30 years growing close as family to a tribe, you get to say Indian Country, I’m told). Loved this story:
When I first met Dani Not Help Him, I asked about her surname: Not Help Him. I assumed that it was a name depicting someone who had somehow been shamed and not deserving of help. I did not understand “Not Help Him,” so I asked Dani to explain the meaning. She told me that the surname is derived from members of one of the warrior societies among the Lakota comprised of men who were destined to be the first line of defense against invaders or other tribes who might raid or battle the Lakota.
A warrior designated as Not Help Him was said to be so brave and so dedicated to the safety of the village that he would lay down his life for the tribe or village and nobody was supposed to help him as he performed his sacred duties to protect the village. She said that some Not Help Him warriors would go so far as to sink a stake into the ground and have another warrior lash their leg to it so that they could not retreat in the face of certain death. You were not to help him, Dani explained, because his death was in furtherance of the protection of his people. Just thinking of this, the dignity, the courage, and the generosity of these warriors brings a lump to my throat, to this day.
*(The man with the drum is a Nottawaseppi (the people who can hear the river) singer. This tribe has lived for generation upon generation in the Michigamme/Michigan: the place where food grows on water–a reference to wild rice. If I had a picture of a Lakota Not Help Him, I’d use it. My pictures are from Pow Wows in the Michigamme and markets and mountains in New Mexico where I love to walkabout listening with my lenses.)
What an incredible name. I had to see if I could find Dani Not Help Him by GTS (google that shit). I couldn’t, but I did find this obituary with a name even more incredible: http://www.lakotacountrytimes.com/news/2014-04-24/The_Holy_Road/Marie_Theresa_Not_Help_HimFox_Belly.html
After work last Wednesday, I dropped the kayak in and paddled up river to the beaver lodge, taking in the only news I can stomach these days.
A pair of trumpeter swans (black billed) have found a congenial welcome by Keats, the omnipresent mute swan (orange billed). Keats is a curmudgeon with uncompromising rules about his territory. Yet there he was being nice. This is above-the-fold news, people.
As the sun set, I paddled back towards my house on the peninsula. There’s plenty of yard work to do and writing deadlines weighing me down, yet the water gives me a sense of calm. It’s hard to feel pressure or anxiety here. I am happy with the idea of growing old in this littoral place that is now serendipitously mine . . . the hard work of getting here rewarded by a contentment both unfamiliar and constant.
I may just mark my height on a doorsill and measure how much shorter I get every year I grow older and new in this place.
Feeling my ancestors calling me, so I’m heading back to the old country in just a few weeks. Here’s a good example (from 2015) of why it feels like home . . .
After a well manneredly morning of service at the Church of Scotland on the Isle of Gigha off the Kintyre Peninsula, the local historian (and relative to practically everyone living here) Alasdair Mc whose family has lived here “a thousand years” invited me back to his farm (circa 1750ish) for a look at the parish records to find my ancestors here.
They abound . . . it was such fun, the BEST of travel. (I am such a cheap date.)
His wife set us up with a wee dram and I wish I had another right now because the weather has turned blustery cold today.
The ferry back to the mainland ‘ll be sloshin’ and it’ll be awhile before I feel the warmth of yesterday.
There are many ways Scotland has to warm ye.
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
Plans are underway for an international conference set for this June in the lovely resort town of Bad Ischl high up in the Alps. I’m on the planning committee for this event and had to go looking this morning for some photos to use for promotional purposes. Here’s a shot I took and will use, along with what I wrote in 2016 that won’t make the promo:
I can’t recall why she said it, but the woman who said “I told him about chairs but not about bushes” is from Lithuania and struggles to express herself in English . . . so does the man from Mauritania who always smiles and has an enthusiastic YES down pat, but little else. He is a medical doctor in his world, but in this country he can barely order schnitzel. He greeted me over midmorning tea with, “How fine are you?”
The communication misfires are nothing short of poetic at times. I’m at a conference where at least 39 countries are represented, many of them small developing nations. I’ve rarely felt so ethnocentric (and ashamed of it). Elvira from Herzegovina says the flowers are so smelly here in Austria. Yes, I nod in agreement, they certainly are.
Winter Light at Wild Turkey Road near Sebewaing, MI
Along about Exit 88 on I-94 Westbound, there is a plastic Santa Claus sitting on top of a steel fence post, part of an old woven-wire fence that separates the highway easement from a swampy horse pasture. He’s back in there a little ways, hidden in the brush and hard to see. It looks like someone was picking up cans, or generally policing the road bank, and found him there. What do you do with a good Santa Claus that you may have found while picking up cans on a summer day? Put him up on a post for others to enjoy, of course. My wife, Jamie, and I rarely pass that way without trying to spot Santa. He always makes our day. We wave and say “Hi Santa!” Be it midnight on a Tuesday in June, or four pm on a random February day.
We don’t decorate for holidays much at our house. We have dogs and a cat. They wreck stuff. We kind of feel that a lot of seasonal decorating is for retired people who have time and money. Our money is tight and if we are not working we need to sleep. Life has tired us out. We used to paint the town red every weekend, Hell, we’d give it two coats and stay up for 3 days to watch it dry.
Now we are exhausted, and things that mean more work just don’t make sense to us. We’ve seen lights, we know a lot about conifers, and wreaths of arborvitae. Holly grows in the swamp down past the old farm. Seen it all. Did it. Know where it is if we need it, don’t feel the need to drag it into the house so we can clean it all up again in three weeks.
But if you want to see a couple in their 50’s get excited, just watch along I-94 at Exit 88 when we come by. We’ll be craning our necks to see if we can spy Santa sitting on his perch, bringing joy to people like us, too tired to decorate at home, but not too jaded to appreciate the random gift of a stranger who thought Santa would look good on the fence. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if we start collecting Santas to stick on fence posts wherever we go. Decorating the house for Christmas is an overwhelming task. For some reason scattering Santas around the countryside doesn’t seem like too much work. Merry Christmas!
(Guest Blogged by Chris A. Ross, Attorney, and a BFF since 6th grade. Thanks, Tallz!)
Somewhere up near West Branch, Michigan, where the hills in the distance are sand dunes.
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:
“Cura Convergence is an inspiring book that should be on the shelves of every practitioner and every person seeking to understand more about the mystery of healing. We continue to learn about the relationship of our spirit to our physical body and Cura is a magnificent addition to this library of knowledge. What a wonderful book. I hope everyone reads this book – the world would be a healthier place if they did.”
~ Caroline Myss, Bestselling Author of Anatomy of the Spirit and Sacred Contracts
Now available on Amazon: