An Iceland Writers Retreat Post

If I’m being totally honest, I certainly didn’t expect the most memorable experiences of my Iceland Writers Retreat to occur indoors. In my defense, the reasoning seemed obvious at the time — it’s the “I” of IWR — but I still hesitate to admit it now. I was so impressed with the sharp minds and incredible writers at IWR that I don’t want to embody the quip, so often misattributed to Twain, about what happens when fools open their mouths. And yet, here we are.

GeysirThe promise of the Icelandic landscape initially drew me in. In part, this can be attributed to the total dearth of photographs of hotel conference rooms in Iceland’s tourism adverts. Though, probably more of it has to do with the fact that I am only semi-domesticated. That I feel so much more myself with grass underfoot and foliage overhead in place of carpet and fluorescents. I’m happy to say that this part of me was not left wanting as we traveled the Golden Circle on my first day of the retreat. From Geysir to Gullfoss and Thingvellir, my eyes (and camera) feasted. And then, each clear night thereafter, I got to watch the northern lights dance until my toes threatened to secede from my feet…Read the full post.


It has been an active 2019. Mostly from the “life” standpoint. On the writing front, the only thing worth reporting is that I’m preparing to move my desk halfway across the country.

Above is a little teaser for a small retrospective post about my excellent time at Icelandwritersretreat.com with a couple of my photos for good measure. Check it out.

 

January Events

And so begins a new year. This household rang in the event by working on various Powerpoints or story drafts until about 10 PM and then headed to bed like the responsible adults we pretend to be in front of our parents’ friends. (I was still reading by the time the totally unnecessary fireworks went off. So, you know, I’m not a total square…)

This month is a busy one. My show, Convergence: Challenging Anthropocentrism opens on the 4th. Details for the reception can be found at Convergence: Opening. If you’re in the neighborhood for Tulsa’s First Friday, come on down and chat me and my co-curator up. For those that can’t make it, the exhibition will be up all month long. There will also be some cool programming after MLK Day. Such as:

Animal People— Lecture I will give a lecture on how my work with apes, and my education by animals, led me to writing. Science just couldn’t encompass all the truths I found in nature.

HumanNature— Photography and Writing Workshop For those who would like a more active event, I’ll also be leading a workshop wherein we explore the urban landscape and the ways nature rebels against our efforts to exile it from our human centers. Through photography, we will train presence, which will then be used to generate short written pieces questioning the human/nature binary.

Mural Design and Creation— Yatika Starr Fields My co-curator, Yatika, will be leading a mural workshop throughout the week. He, along with participants, will create a permanent mural exploring the themes of the show. Join in on this collaborative work and leave a (literal) lasting mark on the McKeon Center for Creativity.

The Development of Complex Tool Use Among Chimpanzees— Lastly, perhaps the real treat of the whole month, join us for a lecture with the smart, incredible, illustrious, beautiful, [superlative] [superlative] [superlative] Stephanie Musgrave to discuss her research on the development and transmission of chimpanzee tool use in Central Africa. I’m biased but I can’t recommend enough letting this woman learn you something.

Gratitude

Con Thien
The view from Con Thien (The Hill of Angels), looking north across what was once Vietnam’s DMZ.

I have a lot to be grateful for, always, but especially in the last month. And, as there is no lack of need for more gratitude in this world, I will take this opportunity to quickly and insufficiently outline mine here.

I recently traveled to Vietnam with my Father where, for the first time in 51 years almost to the day, we visited the sites of his war. It was a complicated experience, and my mind is still buzzing with the swarm of implications, emotions, and sensory details of it all. In the next little bit, I hope to find some clarity that will enable me to share this journey and what it meant/means.

Since returning, my upcoming multi-disciplinary art show, Convergence, has finished its call for artists and selected an incredible variety of works to exhibit. I cannot thank the artists who submitted work enough. It was humbling and invigorating to see the many ways people are engaging with both the perceived human/animal divide and the very real effects of the Anthropocene.

And just this past weekend, for Veterans Day/Armistice Day, my Father and I were humbled to put on a workshop/reading/conversation for veterans and their families. It was an intimate and powerful experience. I thank everyone who came out, shared their stories, and listened to our perspectives on how to use writing to convey experiences that can often be difficult to translate into words for the benefit of both the veteran and those who love them.

Both these events were made possible by the support of the Center for Creativity and I look forward to doing more work with them in the future.

Lastly, my Father and I were interviewed for Words on Air, by the OSU Center for Poets and Writers. We each read a bit of our work and spoke, briefly, on what patriotism and service looks like to us and how racism is antithetical to both (though no less common for it). I’m excited to share it with you as soon as it is live.

Thanks to everyone who made these events possible. And thanks to you for being interested.

After Action Reports- Veterans Workshop

The spring and summer of 2018 have been more focused on creating and submitting proposals for events and projects as they have been about actual writing. And as such, I’ve had little to show, publication-wise, for the year, but I’ve been able to create and participate in more events with my community here in Tulsa. That may not inflate my sense of writer-legitimacy, but I think it soothes the soul by bringing meaningful work to audiences who may or may not otherwise have access to it.

That said, another of the projects I’ve been preparing for has been announced and this one is near to my heart.

John Musgrave
John Musgrave— Marine, Poet, Father

After Action Reports is a joint reading/workshop for veterans and their families that I will be facilitating with my father, John Musgrave (recently featured in the Ken Burns Documentary The Vietnam War). This reading comes from two sources: my father’s writing (available here), which has always been a means of healing and processing for him after returning from Vietnam; and my strange relationship to his war, having grown up both utterly disconnected from it and yet intimately shaped by it. After Action Reports hopes to offer tools for how to make writing a viable tool for for veterans and their families, through the combined perspectives of a Marine Infantryman and his adult, civilian son.

For more information, including time, location, and dates of the event, please see the official announcement from the McKeon Center for Creativity.

Correspondence in The Sun

IMG_20170821_090218328_HDR-01
Maynard, August 2017

In the March 2018 issue of The Sun, the editors gave me the opportunity to respond to some reader correspondence. You may read it HERE.  I am very grateful to them for it. Although this is not a new experience, I was still surprised by this particular response to “Eclipse.” How strange, I thought, that someone could read my pain and react with such aggression toward me for it. But this week we’ve seen the teenage survivors of another school shooting receiving an even more venomous reaction to their pain.

I want to believe that those who see pain and think attack are outliers. I want to believe we are better than this.

I know that we can be.

“Eclipse” live at The Sun

My latest essay, of the aforementioned TBA acceptance letter, is now live at The Sun Magazine. (Found here in its entirety.) I just reread it and the words felt new to me even if the events did not. Like someone else had been writing about my life. I wrote the piece to power through my grief and take me outside of the moment and myself. Guess it worked.

Over the holidays, I missed Maynard a lot. I kept forgetting our new normal. That when we returned from one family event or another, there would just be one dog waiting to be let out, not two. I’m thankful that he’s been extended to others through this piece.

The headlines haven’t really let up yet, but I’m hoping that this new 2018 will bring more light to all.

Acceptance Letter (Specifics TBA)

I’m happy to announce that another of my essays has been accepted for publication. Until I have all the details finalized, I can’t give you true specifics. I am proud of this one.

MaynardThe piece, like “Worry,” was very personal and very easy to write. I wrote it to process and in some ways escape the death of my dog (the handsome fella to the right). It just flowed out. After it was done, I was reminded of the sheer biological necessity of my writing. This catharsis was vital. I knew I’d done it right when, after the rush of writing and editing and submitting, I felt scooped out and empty. I’d been excavated. For several days, I lay on the couch and could do nothing. It hurt and was numb and felt good all at once.

I’m so thankful that I’ll be able to share it with you soon. Maynard touched my life very deeply, and I hope this piece manages to extend his reach even more.