The Book of Marks

(Good grief lady, where have you been?) Busy living life, I guess. Some of my time has been spent basking in the sunshine of the warmest October in memory, making friends with feral kitties, Harper Lee and Smarty Marty, harvesting the bounty from my garden (and the weeds that go along with that), playing with my wee donkey and goat, making mead with my Fred, clearing out my parent’s house to sell it (an emotional mountain if ever there was one, thankfully, we’re on the downhill side of that.)  And of course, picking away on the final editing of my novel Drinking from the Fishbowl which has been a long haul of years in the making…the extra attention has been very worth it. (Of course there are the visitations of doubts that come along with that effort, it’s a see-saw of “This sucks” to “did I really write that?”) I’ve written a few poems, but they’re too raw to share…tho’ maybe I’ll just post a long rambling thing with all of them in it, and what the heck, it might make sense! Or not.

November has arrived with wind and rain…and still a little bit warmer than normal. I’m sure someone will flip the Winter Switch and the rain will become snow, and I will continue to expect the unexpected…

I do want to share another art project that I’ve had in the works since summer…it was a nice season of splashing around with India ink and shredding paper into pages and then creating the folio to house these fragments of varying shapes and sizes, none of them square or rectangular – they are for the most part irregular, squarish, rectangular-ish bits with no rhyme of reason other than being made on the same day, with the same ink, the same brushes with which I made the same marks…

The Book of Marks.

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The folio closed and tied.

When the folio is opened, it offers a collection of sketches with which I create arrangements, compositions, displays of marks, layers, textures, some appear geological in nature…ancient, sacred.

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The Folio Opened

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Some things I have no words for…so if I can’t write it, I create images…I know they might not look like anything to write home about, but they do mean a lot to me. This and others like it are part of a larger project that I’m developing that will involve photography, limited edition portfolios for each book (The Book of Fragments and The Book of Maps to the Inner World.) There will be a written element, which will involve a book for each folio, and culminating with an exhibition. This will take years to fulfill. And like the novels I write, I’m very patient, and I will see it through.

These new works make me extremely happy…you have no idea. There are more to come.

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Independent.

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Yup, here I am, in my little 6 1/2’s.

I must tell you, I did it again. I sent a query letter off to a literary agent.

I did it on a whim. A gut feeling told me “Do it, you have nothing to lose by asking.”

This is true.

And I quickly regretted it the moment I pressed SEND. (Shit, what did I just do?)

Why?

It’s not because I’m a control freak. (Which I am when it comes to what I’m creating.)

You must understand how hard it is to share something like a novel with anyone—it’s not like drawing a picture and showing it to someone to see if they like it or not—reading a book is a commitment. It’s very nerve-wracking to wait for a response. The critical eye of someone else who might not be so generous. It is an ordeal to put one’s work out there and hope for the best, knowing that not everyone is going to like it because it isn’t their cup of tea. To appreciate the work that went into it. The years spent dwelling inside my head with characters, trying to tell their story justly, with sympathy.

One thing I do know—which makes me cringe—the minute someone else gets involved, money comes into play, and suddenly all the life will be sucked out of my creative spirit. It will stop being fun, it becomes more like work. All the joy that I feel while writing will turn into a wasteland of blank pages. I don’t want that to happen.

I was more pissed at myself than disappointed by that harmless rejection letter I got back. (Which arrived promptly before noon, less than twelve hours after I emailed it.) I knew I would be rejected, the query letter was quite the whimsical letter. It was not at all the stilted standard query letter that is expected. I did the unexpected, I was myself. I was honest. I told him a story in a manner of speaking. It did me no good. It did me no harm. I did it. I’m glad I got that “nag” out of my system that comes and goes over the years. (“You should get an agent.”)

Whew! It’s over. I should be set for another five years.

At least they didn’t leave me hanging for weeks.

At least it was a “nice” rejection letter. I’ve received worse, like that badly photo copied one (a multiple generation copy of a copy) that wasn’t straight on the page, and then folded in different places to get it to fit right in the envelope. (Who does that?)

At least…

At least…

At least.

I tested the water, and that’s all I wanted to do. I went for one of the Cadillacs of literary agents, I wasn’t going to fool around with anything less, and I was gently told in a few innocuous words to go bother someone else.

I was relieved. Honestly, I am. (Deep cleansing breaths.) I was scared. Getting an agent would add a dimension to my life that I don’t want. Funny isnt’ it? If I received a positive reply, I probably would have run screaming the other way. “Who me? You must be mistaken.” Nope. Not me. You got the wrong person. No. No. NO!

Dreams and realities. A dream come true can be a reality nightmare.

I’m perfectly happy on my own. It’s not easy, but I’m happy to be the one responsible for my work. I don’t need to be hit on the head with a literary agent magic wand to grant me permission to be an author. I might not be making a pile of money being an independent, but I have creative control that I would lose going the traditional route. Yes, I’m a quirky little control freak. As I should be.

How is Drinking from the Fishbowl coming along?

Slow.

But it’s worth every spare minute I have to work on it. I want it to be right. I set it aside, walk away, do other things to occupy my mind, before looking at it again. Forgetting helps. I rewrote the entire first page two weeks ago. It was fantastic, it felt so good, euphoric. I’m glad I did it. Not that it was bad. It wasn’t “there” yet. It needed to be taken one step more.

I spent most of this summer taking that “one step more.”

I become suspicious if I breeze through a chapter without making a single change. Not even a pause to think about what I just read because I know what happens.

Could I ever read it an not want to make a change? Oh, probably not.

Just like with a painting, “How do you know when it’s done?”

I do. I just do.

That’s my story. I’m sticking to it.

 

 

 

Wild Horses

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Saving the Wild Horses and Burros of our country has been a pet project since I was quite young – I did write a letter to President Nixon a very long time ago, and attached a mangled handwritten petition to it. (I had gone door to door, friends, neighbors, and strangers signed it. I’m an introvert, so it was hard to do.) This was my first immersion into a political matter. To be honest, I don’t know if it ever got there or if it was even taken seriously at the time. I was just a kid, not yet ten years old. I don’t remember putting a stamp on it, I wrote “To President Nixon” on the envelope, and stuck it into the neighborhood mailbox. Being from a small town, it’s possible the post office employees had a chuckle upon recognizing the childish scrawl, and maybe one of them was kind enough to send it on its way by adding the missing information. The Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act was signed into law on December 18, 1971. (As much as I could not stand that man, he did the right thing.) I had hoped that this was going to work. No.

That law has been bastardized over the years, protections chipped away by special interest groups with the most money. The ideals that went with this law have been mismanaged by the Federal Government agencies for decades. Now there a thousands of wild horses and burros in government holding facilities – there are more in captivity than there are wild, and they keep rounding up more, attempting to zero-out their populations on lands that had been designated by law for them to roam free. Instead of relocating them somewhere safe where they can remain free, they place them in these corrals. Some are adopted. Some are not. Those who are not, live in what is a purgatory of sorts, they’ve been separated from their families, foals separated from their mothers, stallions gelded, their social structure maimed. They have been degraded to rats with hooves.

There’s a way of doing things, and there’s a way of doing things. This needs to change. These animals are innocents. Their only crime is being alive, and being in someone’s way – in the way of progress. This needs to be corrected. There are better ways. We are a nation of laws.

Please give this some thought. Check it out. It never hurts to arm yourself with knowledge. As a nation, we need to do the right thing.

Paula Fox

What a life and the books, oh the books! I just learned about her passing by happenstance this morning. (I went through a period of not reading/watching the news and missed the announcement.) I would have missed her entirely if Jonathan Franzen and Tom Bissell hadn’t unearthed her treasures a few years ago, and I started reading her  – I was so happy to have found her.

I have a page dedicated to Paula Fox’s books under my Thoughts about books I’ve read page,-but I thought I should put them here today, like a library of sorts – browse through them, please – I highly recommend each one.

Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

The Western Coast by Paula Fox

The Widow's Children by Paula Fox

Poor George by Paula Fox

The God of Nightmares by Paula Fox

A Servants tale

Other links for a trip down the Paula Fox rabbit hole…The Paris Review has a few good ones…

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/03/04/paula-fox-1923-2017/

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/04/09/paula-fox-fighting-perfection/

https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1/paula-fox-the-art-of-fiction-no-181-paula-fox

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/16/from-bad-beginnings

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/jonathan-franzen-remembers-author-paula-fox-whose-work-helped-bring-back-light/

http://bombmagazine.org/article/2817/paula-fox

Birthday wishes…

Okay…so today is Amanda Palmer’s birthday – she’s offline today to enjoy a day with her family and be unplugged for a much needed day of peace and quiet – I have to admire her for her creative energy, quite the dynamo. I totally get her.

I couldn’t do it. Seriously. I am such a home-body there is no fucking way I’d do nearly half the shit this woman does, you dig? She’s like this person I wanted to be when I was in college between the ages of 18-21 and thought I could’ve done something like be this amazing artist, but didn’t quite know what I was doing, and I desperately needed guidance, but really wasn’t finding what I needed from anybody. I was too busy emotionally flailing around, freaking out, thriving on cigarettes and coffee, making some seriously shitty paintings on purpose because some dickhead thought my other paintings that I made were crap not worth talking about, he pretty much said one day that “Painting is dead.” (So like, I’m paying all this fucking money to learn painting and you’re telling me this shit?) After that, I wore sunglasses inside, dark clothes and clunky boots, a scarf and a hat, and said shit like “I painted this, and like, I can’t talk about it cuz it’s too personal” I was totally making fun of this guy (not very mature, but who is at that age?) I knew how to be irritating.

Then one night when some drunken asshole stalked me on my way back to my dorm, talking dirty. I turned around and screamed at him to leave me the fuck alone or I’d have to hurt him so bad he’d never know what him him. (Funny thing, I was  around 95 lbs, but I was a scared 95 lb chick, buzzing on too much nicotine, and wasn’t going to take shit from anyone that night. It was too close on the heels of what happened to Alice Sebold so I was on extra high octane freak out mode, walking home alone late at night, keys in hand, and already pissed off that my friends didn’t show up like they said they would to walk me home.) So yeah, he high-tailed it…fuck. I didn’t die. I graduated with my degree in painting, no marketable skills, no job prospects. But I turned out all right. If anything, I’m resourceful, and I didn’t want to move back home with my parents…oh the formative years!

I still make art. I write books. I stick my neck out quietly in my own way. And I’m a proud patron of Amanda Palmer, because she’s doing the shit I never did. So to honor her on this day of her 41st birthday, I curated a sampling of videos and music on my Tumblr From my acre of the world…. (which is my daily journal where I post mostly photographs of things that are from my acre of the world in theory, tho’ occasionally I go crazy and stray off the acre and post other things there as well.) Anyway, should you want to wander over there to watch and listen please indulge…I’m not normally the gushy fan-girl, that was fine when I was 12 and making myself giddy about the pop stars featured in Tiger Beat magazine c. 1975 because that’s what the other girls did, and I wanted to fit in, but I still didn’t quite fit in, and whatever music I heard on the local AM stations. (UGH!) Then I finally discovered FM stations, and got my music shit together for a bit, and then thankfully, the Internet opened it up for everybody to discover new music on their own…and so that’s how it goes today, April 30th 2017.

This is a totally unedited, stream of consciousness blog post…

Happy Birthday, Amanda.

Going with the flow…

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I made an artist book last weekend…when I’m not writing, I’m always making something, I have a busy mind, so it needs to do something with that energy, and I poured into this artist book the things that I have no words for.

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I kept it simple, black ink on white paper. I let the ink  saturate the paper and it simply sprawled…(the page on the left is a self-portrait, that’s my left hand print (cuz I’m a lefty) and later on I wrote “I Am” in the lower left corner.)

On display with the base Going with the flow sketches

I love this so much – you have no idea.

The artist statement is two sided (tho’ there is no determined front or back to it) and thought I’d translate it since my handwriting in white sharpie is so wildly shitty, it goes like this:

Going with the flow sketches artist statement recto

Side one:

Going with the flow…a Sketchbook (subject to grow more) Handmade book – archival boards + India ink rag paper – hand torn – brush – Ink wash – rubbings on wet to dry paper (often sheets used as blotter paper made interesting marks.) Random mark making – these are the things I have no words for- 4/23/2017 Laura J. Wellner

Going with the flow sketches artist statement verso

Side two:

There is a lot of energy while making art – raw experimentation – Looking, waiting to see what will happen – impulsive – there is no right or wrong – no up or down – no top or bottom – no right or left. Inspiration asks no questions it just is –

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The inside cover without the pages, I wrote the poem Little Things by Julia Abegail Fletcher Carney, I was reminded of it last weekend when Meryl Streep sang it (dedicated it to Amanda Palmer’s little boy, Ash) at the Academy of American Poets  evening event Poetry & the Creative Mind, it was so sweet, and I knew the poem, and it pleased me to be reminded of this lovely piece, so I included it in my sketchbook. It felt right. Then while writing it down I wrote “rain” instead of “water” so of course, there was no turning back…(Little Drops of Rain is a song Judy Garland sang that “borrowed” from the Carney poem. Featured in the 1962 animated film The Gay-Purree, cats in Paris – what the fuck, I love that movie!)

A lot of things poured into this little artist book, I’m quite happy with it.Contents of Going with the Flow sketchbook 4 23 2017_

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My tools…and that big bottle of Higgin’s India Ink, I’ve had since the early 1990’s, a friend of mine who had it when she was an art student in the 1970’s gave it to me. It was nearly full when I started splashing around, it’s about half empty…

I’m still “crawling” through the first proof copy of Drinking from the Fishbowl, I’m taking my sweet old time. I’m looking the spots off of it. I found a few flubs-ups, but nothing too awful. And as always, while I’m working on a book, I’m insecure about it, my inner critic is being a real asshole to me along the way, so the inner battering has been a bit rough going. I expect to make a dent in it today.

Today. April 29th. Oh – today is wow – it’s been 18 years since I started writing my books. I opened up a salt n’ pepper notebook and started writing the first novel that I would ever complete. (I finished writing it on October 29th 1999.) I had a lot of stories that I started and discarded before this, but this is the day that I became more certain about what I must do. The first one, Washed Glass – is not yet published. Being the first one, it’s a bit of a mess. (I know it is a mess, but it’s a good kind of mess, my sitting on it for almost 20 years has granted me to become a better writer, so I can do it right this time around.) Without that first book, there wouldn’t be the others, while writing it, I found the other stories that became Dusty Waters, a Ghost Story, The Fractured Hues of White Light, and Drinking from the Fishbowl, and there’s also the drafts of Layers of Illusion and Wish that are waiting their turn for my attention. They’re all connected, kind of like Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, the characters know one another, and everyone has their story, but the books themselves are independent, they’re not a continuous series with a specific order. It’s complicated, but not.

Anyway, it makes me extremely happy.