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Sally Bellerose is a seriously beloved friend, one of the mainstays of my life. We met in a writers group, and we've kept a working relationship around writing going for more than twenty years, through all sorts of good times and hard weather.

So I am so excited to say, as some of you saw on facebook earlier in the week, that Sally's moving, beautiful book, The Girls Club, parts of which can make me cry or snort with laughter just thinking about it, is going to be published by Alyson Books. You'll be hearing more about this around here, I'm sure, but for now, whoo hoo Sally!
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My friend Sally Bellerose has three stories that have gone up in online publications recently. Turns out that I've already posted one of them, but here are the other two:

Mother of Pearl at Per Contra.

National Blank Book at Still Blue.

I think that these are an amazing group: tough, nervy and deep. And Mother of Pearl is one of my favorite stories by anyone, ever.
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Here is a really good story by my friend, Sally Bellerose:
Potatoes, Sex and Security in The November 3 Club.

When we took our first writing break at her house today, I sat down on her couch, and there on the coffee table, was the Style Section from this Sunday's New York Times, complete with a great picture of Deb, Anne and Glenn! They are also beautifully quoted in the article about the new Brooklyn Flea Market, where Deb is selling vintage clothes size 14 and up as she gets her new store Re/Dress up and running.

Sally let me take the picture home for my bulletin board.
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My very good friend, writer Sally Bellerose, just posted a little bit about what she thinks of my novel (and also what she thinks about God), which thrills me no end (at the same time that I'm not happy to hear that she's gotten emails giving her trouble for being queer and writing about Christianity).

It's true what she says: Sally was dismayed and alarmed when I told her that I was starting to write about a Calvinist minister. It pretty much freaked her out. (As it did almost everybody else I love, who know by now that when I start a novel, like it or not, they're going to be living with the subject matter for a long time to come. Not that Sally didn't have things to say about how Carline -- the fat, middle-aged lesbian in my last novel, Venus of Chalk -- behaved, too...)

What she gives me is so important, profound, dogged and invaluable. Sally's been my first reader for every single word of the book. I give it to her in sections as I write it, and, no matter what else is going on in her life -- which is usually a lot -- she reads it and gives it back with critical response (including the very important element: convincing, well-backed up praise). I do the same for her work. It's also true, as she says, that I really do love Jonathan Edwards, with his brilliance and his great, burning clouds of language; his family and friends who clearly honored and loved him so much; and his huge, terrific flaws, most notably, pride. Such pride.

Sally's writing has been winning contests right and left lately (and actually, pretty much all of the twenty years that I've known her, including an NEA grant), and her poem about her grandmother, Memere Does Time in the Shirtwaist Factory, was just featured the newsletter of Winning Writers, which has a circulation of 16,000.
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That was very, very sweet. I feel satiated -- beautifully and thoroughly wished happy birthday. Thank you.

And it has been happy. )
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Saw Charles Simic read at Smith last night. He was unassuming and funny, and I liked his work. (One of the poems he read is behind the link.) Also, he said that the last time he had read in Northampton, it had been a long time ago, at Jonathan Edwards' memorial service. This was a joke, as Jonathan Edwards was dead in 1759 (and, well, actually, died in New Jersey), but it pleased me that this good poet said his name, even as I watched people in the rows in front of me turn to each other, asking who he was, and then shrugging.

Also, Lesléa and I saw the Poetry Bus, with exhausted and travel grimed poets trying to sort through poetry books on the grass. The part that usually holds luggage on a Peter Pan or Greyhound was open and full of books. It didn't look that fun, but the bus with "POETRY BUS" painted huge across its side was pretty great, and they'll be reading around here at various spots today and tonight, and then moving on to NYC, Philadelphia, etc. There's a picture of the bus at the links if you scroll down.

I'm editing to add: the poets were looking very wiped out and possibly sick of it all, but if anybody ever asked me to go on a poetry bus tour, I would SO do it. Poetry! Bus!

Good writing with Sally yesterday. And I have a bunch of squash, chard, kale, lettuce, peppers, potatoes, parsley and tomatoes from my love's garden.
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  • Writing at [livejournal.com profile] sallybelle's house yesterday was so productive and delicious. It's the third time we've done it, and I'm so in love with this model of writing hard for forty-five minutes, and then having fifteen minutes to chat and read her refrigerator magnets. Then working again. Plus, nuts and lunch and the world's sweetest pear from her mother's tree. It's so companionable, and it helps me get writing done.


  • I talked with my older brother yesterday. Love that.


  • In a couple of weeks, I'm going to read a short excerpt from the novel I've been writing about the family and community of Jonathan Edwards as part of a benefit in honor of his birthday at the church that was his congregation for 23 or so years in the mid-1700s.


  • Wallace Stevens gives a working definintion: Poetry is an unofficial view of being.

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More about [livejournal.com profile] sallybelle, whose first day on lj this is. I'm looking forward to the spectacle of her sojourn here being on public record. Maybe go say hello?

Here's a post I wrote about what she means to me when she got a Deming grant for fiction a couple of years ago. She's part of the reason I applied for and got one of those grants myself this year.

Here's a picture at a reading we did last year with other old friends. Sally's next to me with her hand on my shouder.
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My beloved friend [livejournal.com profile] sallybelle has just gotten an lj. This is thrilling, I say, thrilling! She just added her first post and an entry that's a link to one of her stories, so go check it out and welcome her. When I'm back at my home computer, I'll add links to earlier posts that I've written about her, but she is funny, tough, marshmallow-hearted, stubborn and fabulous, and I bet her lj is going to be a treat.

Speed LJ

Sep. 24th, 2005 09:47 am
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Am I constitutionally capable of doing this quickly?

  1. The reading filled me with energy. I read after Sally, who is writing a series of funny, wrenching pieces about her father's intense illness, and if I hadn't known that I had to read, I would have been crying. Almost was, anyway. It felt so good to get a piece of the new novel out in the air, and to get response back that let me know that people were getting it.

  2. I made a lasagna (from scratch! with all of the vegetables from my love's garden! started the sauce the day before!), pulled it out of the oven all beautiful and bubbling and golden in its big glass pan and set it on the stove, went into the bedroom to change -- it was half an hour before I was getting picked up for the reading. I was naked when I heard the explosion, ran into the kitchen, and the pan (which I had set on a hot burner), had literally exploded. There were shards of glass everywhere, and the lasagna itself was still burning and sinking down through the burner. I reached from my mop handle -- glass stuck to the handle with tomato sauce. Looked down -- hunks of glass in my onions in the hanging basket. Much glass in the stove, lasagna starting to drip down the front of the over. Glass all over the vacuum, all over the floor, tiny cuts in my hands when I touched a surface. Eeeek. Didn't get it cleaned up until after midnight, but eventually did. Luckily, Sally had tons of salad and shrimp and Janet brought bean salad, so Toni and Janet from Philadelphia -- and the rest of us -- were fed.

  3. I have a beautiful new, bright red, three wheel bike, with a huge white basket in the back and pedal brakes. It's an early birthday present -- I'm turning forty-five on October 17 -- since I was totally shaky getting on and off my old bike (and just got a minor but scary bite from a lunging dog when I rode by.) It is miraculous. I rode all the way to Florence yesterday. I can bring home heavy bags of catfood from the store, no problem. It makes me feel adventurous.

  4. My parents cut down the desert willow in front of their house that my grandmother always loved because it was old and they were worried about it causing damage in winds from Hurricane Rita. They say it needed to be cut down anyway. It's such a small thing in the context of so much loss. My grandmother would sit on the couch in the living room in front of the enormous window and look over the porch at the tree, and down the lane, to see whose truck or car was going by on the road.
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Swam last night in the lake at in the DAR state park, with my dear friend Sally. It was cool and soothing beyond belief. We felt acrobatic touching elbows, knees and fingertips without going under (not all at once, but with attention to the symmetry of it all). When I ducked under to the other side of the safety rope, she seriously wanted a whistle blown at me, but there was a lifeguard chair with no lifeguard at all, so I got off scott free. Eventually, she stuck just her feet in the air on the outlaw side of the rope, like the wild thing she is.

Immersion. The motion of water. Going in, all the way, getting deeper, the ordinary green ripples of the body of it, keeping us afloat. It was beautiful. She gave me a present of crayons to use in the bathtub, to continue the theme, and we stopped for an exquisite pulled pork sandwich (for me, not for vegetarian Sally) and ice cream on the way home.
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Sure enough, tonight's Hampshire Life, page 7, that's me in Sally Bellerose's story, "Pushups at Pulaski Park."
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[livejournal.com profile] charlottecooper is right: a lot of good stuff has been happening. For instance:


  • I've been invited to be part of a reading for Out, the queer affinity group at Time, Inc, in Manhattan next week. I'll be reading with my friend Alison Smith for the first time, which should be lovely, and also Stacey D'Erasmo and Damian McNicholl. Jonathan Harper, who organized the Lambda finalist reading I participated in a while back, sang my praises when he was asked to recommend readers, which I appreciate no end.

    All of the other readers have been published by big mainstream presses. I've mentioned Alison and Stacey's books here before, but haven't yet read Damian's, A Son Called Gabriel, which is a coming of age novel set in Northern Ireland. I'm looking forward to it. The paperback was released Friday. I just read in his blog that Alexandria, one of the reading organizers, told him that more than a hundred Time employees have already signed up for the event. Time to take a deep breath and do laundry.


  • You might remember that my friend, the fabulous writer Sally Bellerose, gave me a ring that she had had for forty years for a talisman for the trip last week. (When I told her that I'd dropped it on the train, and had to search under seats on my hands and knees with help from the teenaged girls in the next seat, she said,"That's the theme of the trip. Everything you think you lost will be found." I love my friends.) Anyway, Sally wrote a story about an incident a few years ago when we were hanging out in downtown Pulaski Park with Janet Aalfs, celebrating that Janet had been chosen as Northampton's Poet Laureate, when I whipped off my shirt to do a push-up or two in my shorts and sport bra, just like the shirtless young men we'd been watching show-off in front of the roses. (What can I say, sometimes something comes over me.) There are pictures to prove it. Sally sent the story to the local paper, and it's been accepted, so, locals take note, it may appear in this Friday's Hampshire Life. One of the editor's questions was whether I'd be offended by it, since Sally very lovingly and accurately describes what I looked like doing those push ups. Me, I'm delighted. In fact, I've been trying to wrangle full credit, but last I heard, it's first names only.

  • Please welcome my wonderful friend [livejournal.com profile] minna_bromberg. Some may remember her beautiful singing from her lullaby line. She's thoughtful, fun and interesting, and about to start rabbinical school in Newton, MA.

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I've been packing for the trip tomorrow. I sewed on a button and made sure that I have a subway map.

Here are some things that are giving me trouble:

  • I can't find my reading and computer glasses. I've lost them before within the past year. I misplace them all the time, but this time I've really searched and retraced my steps, and then doubled back again. I can't find them. I still hope to, somehow, though.

  • I thought I'd lost my debit and credit cards earlier this week, then found them in my wallet. After I'd already cancelled them both. I don't have them for my trip.

  • I heard today that I need more expensive dental work from a specialist.

  • Pain in my joints.

  • Aging, loss, money, mind, decay and mortality, in general and in specific.



Here are some things that are giving me joy:

  • A picture that my love took from upstairs of my parents and another dear friend playing 42 dominoes on a small square table with a slick red surface, perfect for shuffling. The garden up there, especially chives and parsley and early swiss chard.

  • Having seen an old fashioned, very serious, kindly, ethical clown in white slowly walk a tightrope upside down carrying a lit candlestick in its holder at the Cirque du Soleil in the company of my mother. And watching my father study maps and eighteenth century shoes and marbles and drink his first glass of wine in years in Montreal.

  • One friend poured himself into cleaning my living room when it had overwhelmed me. Another friend always listens to my problems, teases me, and does so much to keep my head on my shoulders and pleasure in my life. Together, they brought roses and a strawberry tart to dinner when my parents were here.

  • That my book is being honored with other strong work. That I'll be with friends who are travelling to celebrate that with me, bringing me fishnets, theater tickets, their risky, smart, rigorous work, and their radiant selves. And other friends will be there from nearer distances, with their own work being honored, or, many of them, having been honored in the past.

  • That there are so many reasons to keep doing new work, so many possibilities, reasons to jump in again.

  • That my dear friend Sally -- her own lingered and labored over, much needed and much loved novel not published yet -- who can't come to New York for the award ceremonies, gave me a talisman today for the trip: a ring that a boy gave her when he moved away. She's had it for forty years.

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My dear friend, Sally Bellerose, was just awarded a grant in fiction from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund!

Barbara Deming was a brave and amazing activist and writer. I've linked to a website that includes excerpts from some of her writing.

Sally is also a very hot writer. We first met each other in a writers group in the late eighties, and, all these years later, we still meet once a week to talk about writing. She is solid, steady, honest, funny and loves to drop down to the deepest levels of observation and imagination. She's got a really great novel called The Girls Club. It's about growing up working class and Catholic, about living with chronic illness and coming out as a dyke. Sometimes all of those things melt together in this book in an amazing, unsettling way. It's sexy, unflinching, reverent and very funny -- just gorgeous, gorgeous work.

Sally's received an NEA grant for part of this book, and won the Fiction prize from Writers at Work, and been a finalist for I don't know how many competitions -- including one where an outraged judge called her up to tell her that the only reason she didn't win was because of biased reactions of others to the content. She's been told that her work is unpublishable because of the frankness with which she writes about ostomies and illness, and her work has also been published by a huge association of folks with ostomies because there is such an aching need for exactly such explicit, powerful, honest reflections of those realities in literature. Nursing magazines have published her work (she's a former nurse). Tons of queer erotic anthologies of various kinds have published her over and over -- Sally writes about human realities that include the body like nobody else. She's amazing.

The Girls Club doesn't have a publisher yet. Sally's working on a new book, now, one that I'm very, very excited about.

Yay for her latest award! Here's to getting The Girls Club into more people's hands very soon.
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It’s raining now. Good work weather.

Some of my friends had a house party for me on Sunday. I got to read from the book outside in the sun while people I love beamed or worried about how to handle logistics if it rained and people I didn’t know well let me see their faces listening. I love that. There were Sally’s beautiful cookies –heath bar and oatmeal, both -- and party platters (I’ve been eating leftovers for lunch) and two kinds of really scrumptious quiche made by my friend Vahram. Different people brought plates and napkins and drinks (Elissa smashing ice!), and Angela teased me for wheedling the use of their beautiful house out of them (in truth, it didn’t take any wheedling at all), and Carolyn Cushing praised my book and my bus conversation skills, and Linda Stout talked about how some cities in Europe have twice the arts budget as the entire NEA funding. People readily and generously and gracefully gave money to support my work. Lisa, pregnant and on call at the hospital, came all the way from Boston and brought her lovely friends. Lynn drove me there, drove me home, and worked the whole time – setting up chairs, taking care of books, cleaning up, and talked about it all with me afterwards, tired as she was. James, whose idea the whole thing was and who made sure it happened, brought food and looked relaxed and happy.

There were a few wasps and the neighbors were circling in green go-carts while I read, but, oh my, it was generally miraculous. The quiche melted in my mouth. Elissa brought me a plastic cup of champagne. Lynn bumped foreheads with me when it was all over, and Arthur, a baby I had just met, played with the skirt of my yellow flowered dress. I got to see him eat his first cookie – oatmeal. The books were there, beautiful. People wanted to hear me read my stories – the new book, and a bit from the book after that. Oh. So good. Nothing, nothing like that listening. Unless it’s reading, and then sending something back – looks, more words, cookies, questions, response, love.

And gifts keep coming in online from the button at the Fund for Women Artists.
Some of them, I don’t know who they’re from, but I know that some of them are from you, sweet lj readers. Thank you. I promise you, promise myself, that I’ll keep working hard and give this book all the momentum I can and move persistently more deeply into the writing and come up with something good and true.

And there’s the first bookstore reading on May 5 in Northampton, and then the traveling starts. So much.

Now

Apr. 17th, 2004 09:13 am
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Johnny Cash is telling me again why he wears black. My grandfather's small leather coin purse full of quarters for laundry (a mountain in the bedroom -- last week's effort focusing on underwear and socks barely made a dent), to my left on the desk (a green wooden item rescued years ago from a dump when Smith College was trashing old furniture), a piece of paper on which I attempted a list of things to do today that says:

practice reading -- things to say
really get it/feel it
say it underlined probably a hundred time in an obsessive fluted square shape that some people could probably reproduce in their lj

my battered address book that I started using in the early eighties when I moved away from home in Colorado, yellow legal pads that have been scrawled on on both sides of the monitor, a couple copies of the book, one with an inscription to friends, one that I'm trying to work up to be my reading copy, but haven't had the nerve or renewed familiarity to write in it yet. the rock that looks like a potato propping up some tilting over cds that I only half know how to use to back up my computer, dusty speakers, two rolls of wrapping paper that got smashed when I was trying to haul them home yesterday in my little cart (no car), with a carton of 100 padded envelopes to mail copies of the books out (although I definitely can't afford to send out anything like that since they cost me $7.50 each and all, but the envelopes are cheaper by the carton, and it's foolish to come all this way and then get cheap and desperate at any given key moment), and, to the right neon green watch, old fashioned brown accordion folders folder full of manila folders of notes and writing for the new book (throbbing, waiting, subsiding, there -- not to be neglected), calendar open to April with lots of ink and crayon.

Ghost Riders in the Sky is over. My brother tried to tell me that Johnny Cash didn't sing that. But, although I often listen to my brother, I fact check him and gut check and consult others, so on p 93 of the book, the announcer on the bus driver's radio says, "We just heard Johnny Cash doing 'Riders in the Sky.'"

Okay, and my beloved friend, the unbelievably dogged and brilliant novelist Sally Bellerose -- who has sat down with me every week for years and years and years and years -- years! I mean a lot of them!-- critiquing work, talking writing biz, love, gossip and politics, oh, while I was writing this just now, Sally just knocked on my door with seven dozen cookies for the house party for the book and a frozen pie and some frozen meat and I better go attend to that, but this is just to say, William Carlos Williams wrote a poem about eating plums that someone (probably his wife) was saving for breakfast, and I'm almost overloaded with enormous pleasures and specific physical strains, wanting so much for this book, for the work, and having to work just to breath right and stay present with having so much already, and the plums are sweet, they're cold (hope those frozen hot dogs are still cold...). and there's a placard lavishly giving away that whole poem on the bus I've been riding to work, but there's no way I'm eating them all, there's plenty, really. Have some!

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