I'll be taking a break from the blog for a while. Work and family responsibilities require my attention be focused elsewhere, and I don't want to do a halfway kind of job on the posts. Thanks for reading, and I hope to be back soon.
My parents couldn't afford to buy a lot of books, so we used the bookmobile and then our community opened a little neighborhood library. It was called Perry-Highland Library, and it was in two small rooms at the back of someone's building on Perry Highway in Perrysville (north of Pittsburgh).
The adult/chapter book room included two desks for the volunteers who checked the books in and out, plus the stacks that went to the ceiling and two that were back-to-back in the middle of the room, which was probably 8' x 12'.
The children's room had the picture books and was roughly 5' x 5' with mostly shelves in the lower half of the three sides of the room, and windows above.
One of my favorite memories of Perry-Highland Library is the summer day that one of the volunteers didn't show up, and Mrs. Schweers let me sit behind the desk and check in the returned books. I felt as if I'd won a million bucks that day.
Before calling 911 I naturally read up on back pain on the internet, and discovered my particular kind of pain was good (relatively speaking), because it meant I had strained a muscle. Nothing serious, just painful.
The upshot of this was that I was fairly immobile for a few days, didn't write my blog or do any work, but I did get a lot of reading done. One of the things I read was Zachary R. Wood's book Uncensored.
I guess on some level I felt as if I connected with what he had to say. I'm one of those people who watched the entire Republican convention as well as the Democratic convention for the last few presidential elections, because I wanted to know what everyone had to say. I wanted to understand, even if I didn't agree, and I wanted to be open to what was being said.
I hope you'll read his book and listen to his TED Talk. You don't have to have a bad back to do it!
A year later, I was one of 750 freshmen at North Hills High School, and wearing a black armband for the moratorium opposing Vietnam. I had joined an interdenominational Christian youth group and was opposed to violence and killing. In fact, when the moratoriums took a violent turn on some college campuses, I stopped wearing my black armband. I couldn’t see one kind of violence being okay when the other wasn’t.
My sister-in-law is also a writer, and Hope had attended the Writer’s Police Academy when it was still located in North Carolina. She loved the experience, and while I didn’t want to copy the size or scope of it, I thought there might be a need for a smaller intensive in which fewer people all went through the same program together.
There’s also no doubt that Sam has helped me put together an incredible program. And being able to bring in New York Times bestselling author Robin Burcell (she co-authors a thriller series with Clive Cussler), who spent more than 30 years in law enforcement, to teach writers how to make their law enforcement characters realistic.
I’m curious how it will feel to do this workshop, and I’m grateful for the support I’ve had in pulling it together.
I’ll let you know how it turns out!
Enjoy your reading, enjoy your writing, and enjoy your own unusual love story...
We completed the May workshop in Boise, Idaho just over a week ago. There are pictures on the website and the Facebook page and in this blog post, and the people in those pictures are why I want to run a workshop – in particular the Writers Retreat Workshop and the offshoot I started, Wake Up and Write WRW.
The people in those pictures are writers, who want to share their writing with the world, and want to learn whatever they can to make that happen. And there are instructors and an agent in those pictures, many of them also writers. And then there’s me.
Rather than me try to describe it to you, take a look for yourself - here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aQykuIaJVI. Not only is it a gorgeous and heart-wrenching musical wonder, but it is also a fund-raiser for the March For Our Lives Initiative.
What's more inspiring - the music, the creativity, or the making it all work for the good? Isn't this what many of us strive for in our lives? To find work we love, that is personally meaningful, and that touches other lives, maybe even changes them?
It's too easy to say, But that's Lin Manuel Miranda, not me! I couldn't do that. The truth is that most of us have no idea what we are capable of doing, because we don't demand of ourselves that we dig deep and find that which we've buried or hidden because it's safer. I include myself in that group. We all have our reasons, many of them compelling, for why we did so. At times, our survival may have depended on it.
But there is a time when something reaches into that deep space and suddenly there is a hint of light, a hint of inspiration. Hamilton didn't start as a big, Broadway musical. It started publicly at a poetry jam at the White House - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNFf7nMIGnE - a night when a young performer took the risk of exposing his dream.
May the light of inspiration find you, and the deepest heart of what matters most to you...
My very first journal, however, was a spiral-bound steno pad that I used as a journal the summer I was an exchange student in Costa Rica. A returned exchange student urged me to keep a journal, as she said it's so easy to forget things once you get home. She was right. When I read through it years later I was stunned by my 16-year-old perceptions, and the experiences that had completely escaped my memory.
The eight years between my Costa Rican adventures and the law school journal were filled with my senior year in high school, college, and my first year or so of law school. I don't think it ever occurred to me to keep a journal in those years - I was far too busy living them to keep that kind of record. It was in law school that the scream inside of me began to demand an outlet. And I started a journal.
I've lost count of the number of notebooks I've filled with poetry. For years I kept telling myself I wasn't a poet. And I'm not, if you are looking for a Mary Oliver or David Whyte. On the other hand, I've written hundreds of poems in various notebooks. One of the workshops I attended with Natalie Goldberg was the haiku workshop she did with Clark Strand. I still write haiku when inspiration strikes. No matter the notebook, I find something magical in taking my pen in hand to fill the empty page with things that only I can write.
With the workshop coming up at the end of May, I'm already wondering what notebooks to take with me...
I'm a day late with this post. The past few days my dad and I spent hanging out with my nephew Quinn (Dad's grandson) before he deploys to the Middle East. His twin brother, Lane, started Ranger school on Sunday. I wanted to share (with his permission) the letter I wrote to him this morning, before he left.
24 April 2018
I’m glad we had a chance to spend some time together before you deploy. While I will be concerned for your safety, I’m also excited for you, because I know you are excited to have this opportunity. During our conversations there was one thing you mentioned that I thought was important to both acknowledge and also address.
You mentioned in passing that there are some things you only discuss with others in the military, because they are the only ones who really understand it. That’s true. Each world of work has its own lingo, its own culture, its own rules and experience, and no one who isn’t in it truly knows what it means. Anna can never fully convey to you what it is to design a dress and see a model take it down a runway, Your mother can never fully convey what it is like to face the empty page and bring characters and a story to life on it. Your dad, Hattie, even Lane, who will have and already has had different experiences of becoming an officer than you have – all of them, all of us who were there last night, on Sunday, each have our own worlds in addition to the one we share and interact in with family.
At the same time, each person in your military world, even the people you work with every day, has a different experience of that world than you do. Even when we are most connected we are also most separate. That’s the human condition. We all feel a range of emotions, have a range of experiences, yet no other individual will experience them in exactly the same way you do. So things like a good musical, a good book, a good movie will tap into a universal experience of love or grief in a very specific way, like Rick in Casablanca, and though we are not Rick and experience love and grief in our own ways, we understand his and feel for him.
Whatever experiences you have, we can’t ever know exactly what that will be like for you. What we can know is what it is to feel completely alone and isolated, and that no one in the world can really understand what we are going through. That we all know at one time or another. As close as you and Lane are as twins, he can never fully share your years at West Point, you can never fully share the Ranger training he is going through right now. What you do share is the experience of being tested and pushed to the limits, and the comradeship you have with those who are with you in it.
Dainin Katagiri-roshi, a Buddhist teacher who taught several of my teachers, wrote that when you go deeply into practice, or any experience, you feel more connected to people and the world. At the same time, the deeper you go, the more alone you are. I suspect your faith will help to carry you through your life, and I also acknowledge that for some people, their faith is not able to sustain them. I don’t know why it is different for different people, but it is. What I do know is that if you are aware of the universality of the sense that no one can understand exactly what I’ve experienced, that awareness is already connection. At the times of greatest distress and despair in my own life, that awareness has kept me going, sometimes one day at a time, but always still going.
Safe travels and lots of love,
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop