Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Ink!

Just got back from the tattoo parlor where, once again, Bart worked his magic. We got started on a new half-sleeve-- this time the right side. For years I've wanted to get my favorite piece of Henry's art put on. (Okay, I love a lot of his art, but this piece is really special.) This character is called a Tree-ple. Or maybe it's spelled Treople. I think he spelled it Treepul when he drew it. You get the idea-- a cross between a tree and a person. Only not all mean and scary like the trees in the Wizard of Oz. Oh no, this tree person is so cheerful and curvy. I LOVE IT.

We were trying to figure out where to put it and decided placing it on the right side would balance the left half-sleeve. On the other hand, I didn't want the refrigerator magnet/haphazard look and it was hard to visualize how we could manage avoiding that since I have a 21 year-old tat on my right shoulder. Bart thought about it and suggested putting the new one off to the side, rather than directly below the cow that's already there. That still leaves some real estate that we need to fill in. So I need to decide what I want to add. I was thinking maybe a ball of yarn and some needles, though there are quite a few knitting tats out there already. So maybe something more original. Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, I am beyond thrilled with today's work. And Henry even played hooky for a little while to join me at the shop. It reminded me of when he was little and some days I kept him home and we'd hang out, or go to the movies or whatever. A little mental health break. Been way too long since we've done that so today was extra glorious. He got such a kick out of watching Bart work and tat chat at the shop is never dull. His friends even texted from school to check on his "mom's tattoo progress." Also, Bart had Hen sign my arm with a marker and then Bart went over it with ink. A signed masterpiece!

Plus, oh yes, all those endorphins...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Writing Camp 2009

After taking last summer off to work on a book, I am bringing back writing camp this year. I am only offering two sessions-- June 8th - 12th and June 15th - 19th. Sessions run 9 am til noon and will be held at the Griffin School in Hyde Park. The camp is for kids ages 9 - 12 (inclusive). We'll work on all sorts of creative writing including poetry, dialogue, little plays (which we'll perform), and short stories. Each camper will also make a magazine. Cost is $175.

Also, in case you didn't get the notice, please know I am also co-hosting a Fashion Camp for two sessions in July, also at Griffin School. All the details for that camp are here:

Both camps have a really limited number of spaces so please don't wait to sign up. Email me directly at for registration info. And I would so very much appreciate if you'd help spread the word.

And for you big kids wanting some writing camp action, don't forget I'm hosting a writing workshop for adults in May. More info on that here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Open Season

Wedding Season 2009 officially opened for me last night, as I performed a short, wonderful ceremony at the Wildflower Center. It was pretty darn chilly (I think the string quartet was less than pleased about this), but as I pointed out to the congregation, at least it wasn't 110 degrees, which can be at least as bad. I'm pretty psyched about being rather heavily booked for the year-- though I still have plenty of openings so if you know someone who needs an officiant please send them my way. And while performing weddings isn't totally recession proof-- some couples are, I think, shying away from my fee-- folks still keep getting hitched and that's good news for me. Not just in the finances department but also because I get to spend my weekends driving around the Hill Country to gorgeous locations, making people very happy and, when I have the time and appetite, eating some mighty fine food.

Last night, after the ceremony, I hauled ass over to the Paramount to catch the Eggmen play a show with the McCallum High School Orchestra. It was a fundraiser for the latter, which will be performing at Carnegie Hall and so they're raising cash for the trip. The house was packed and it was a lovely show. My friend John, aka Basil, was front and center and watching him I had a favorite wedding memory.

Back in 2007, I was just reeling from my now ex-husband's big, cowardly and sudden exit from our marriage. He had a couple of choices as far as I could see-- he could step up and work on things and ask his violent children to knock off their dangerous behavior (targeted at me and my dogs) or he could slink away. Away he slunk. I wasted a hell of a lot of time missing him, wanting him back, and not able to face the truth that he was beyond wrong for me, another version of my father, another repeat in a pattern I'd repeated for decades.

It was particularly hard performing weddings in the months immediately following the walkout and then the divorce. So sometimes, I'd bring a friend along to help me keep my head in the game. I especially liked borrowing my friends' husbands. Which brings me back to John aka Basil.

As it happened, a wedding I performed just about a month post-divorce had a lot of Beatles' references and a Beatles' cover band. So I figured John would be a most excellent date. And I was so right. Not only did he keep me laughing with his asides, but he caused a bit of a stir just by showing up. Quite often I get recognized out in public. Not just for my writing. Sometimes folks know me as Henry's mom, or as their kids' fearless camp leader, or as an officiant they saw at an earlier wedding. But at this wedding, no one seemed to know me, which was fine. But more than a few people -- remember, there were a lot of Beatles fans at this ceremony-- knew John from his Eggmen gigs. And they were as thrilled as if the real John, Paul, George or Ringo was in attendance. Most hilarious.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Redefining Yoga Balls

As I recall, I started knitting right around the same time I started yoga-- nine or ten years ago. I have, at times, missed yoga for long stretches (no pun intended--okay, maybe pun intended), like, we're talking maybe a year or more at a time. But when I am following through on my goal of keeping up a steady practice, it makes me really happy. Most of the time.

Yesterday, I was at my knitting group at Hill Country Weavers. This is one of the regular gatherings I partake in to help me keep my sanity since being a writer has that blessing/curse of forced solitude which can sometimes feel wonderful but other times equal isolation of the sort that leads to many a dark thought. I also attend a weekly meditation group. Structure-- it's all about structure.

I am, I think, the youngest member of my knitting group. I mention this because I think, unintentionally, sometimes I'm age-ist in that I suppose that my older knit-mates might think and speak differently than me. So I try to keep my often-filthy mutterings down to a minimum, not wanting to offend these lovely women.

So yesterday, I was surprised and delighted when one of my fellow knitters, with little warning of where she was heading with her story, told the tale of being in a yoga class positioned behind some very pale guy who had on loose shorts and no foundation garment. Thus, during some of the class, he wasn't just posing, he was EX-posing. A lot. To hear her tell it-- and she pointed to a bright pink skein of yarn to illustrate her point-- the guy had just one big ball. And it was, apparently, fluorescent and flamingo-esque.

Which, most unfortunately, recalled for me a class during which I, too, was stuck behind a loosely-pantaloned, commando classmate who, while I was innocently attempting a nice cobra position, revealed to me a pair of yoga balls that I had no interest in utilizing to assist me in stretching mind or body. As I have a particularly troublesome memory, one that won't let go of far too many details, I sometimes still have flashbacks to that fuzzy sack. Which would be a rare unhappy yoga recollection.

Gentlemen? PLEASE. Wear pants to yoga. Or at least underpants.

Thank you very much.
Spike Who Already Has Too Many Bad Images In Her Mind

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Keeping Things Whole

As noted, I went to Dallas for a couple of days to be a guest author at this annual literary festival. I've lost track of how many times I've made this trip-- maybe six? And always, it is an outstanding event. The school has a lot of money and so every year they bring in some heavy hitter for the keynote after which all of us smaller names have dinner with the literary star at this awesome mansion in one of the toniest neighborhoods in the country.

In years past, I've had a chance to dine with Russell Banks, Michael Chabon, an Kaye Gibbons among others. This year, former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, was the guest of honor. I confess that, though I was gifted with Collins' Sailing Around the Room years ago, as is the case with so many other books that arrive in my life, that one was relegated to the stack known as One Day I Will Get Around to Reading These.

Well, I still hadn't read it by the night of the keynote so I walked into that reading a total blank slate. I walked out a hardcore Billy Collins fan. It wasn't just his poetry that got me, though that certainly is true. He is funny and silly but also, beyond topic, has this astonishing ability to use a very small handful of words to convey all sorts of things. Beyond that, though, listening to him read, I was thrown back in time to a number of pleasant places.

I have to say that, a big problem I have (and it is a problem) is that I associate nearly everything in my life with something else. So, for example, last night, as I was about to sit down on a patio chair in my backyard, and I saw a pair of gardening gloves there, I didn't think the simple thought, "Move the gloves." Instead-- and I wish I was making this up (making up both the event and the association), I flashed back to when I was 18-- twenty-seven years ago-- when a relative of mine (let's make the story even richer as I confess he was, in fact, a priest) goosed me as I sat down in the passenger seat of his car. Those were no gardening gloves then, but a priest's hand grabbing my ass.

Sadly, I think by far the majority of associations I make are negative and often traumatic. So to sit in a packed auditorium listening to poetry, and having it take me only to the Good Places, was nothing short of remarkable. I was reminded of being in college, when I did not at the time realize the luxury I was living, spending all my days immersed in great literature taught by incredibly passionate professors. I entered that mediocre state college hardly familiar with Shakespeare. I left with an image burned in my mind of Frank Fabry, standing at the head of the class, a lit cigarette dangling from his mouth as he gave the most dramatic reading of Hamlet that I have heard, even to this day, despite the fact I am a Shakespeare junkie now, forever seeking out the next production of the bard.

And I recalled my John Donne professor (though not his name) and how I entered his class dreading metaphysical poetry and left it with a deep appreciation for looking beneath the surface. Dr. Smith taught me Wordsworth, and, upon running into me in the elevator my very last day of my senior year, embraced me and proclaimed how much he had enjoyed my eagerness as a student. There is no understating what this validation meant to a young woman struggling so hard for some self-worth at the time.

I flashed back to more recent-- if still long gone-- memories. A trip to Lincoln, Nebraska in 2001, where I stayed with two friends, both pursuing doctorates in literature, both now professors. And how we read poetry aloud, unselfconsciously, not always the case when reading poetry. I mean, really, how often do you sit around swapping verse with friends?

I thought of my days in Austin as a drunken slam poet. And, even before that, my days in Knoxville, also drunk, when I first attempted poetry. I'm hardly a good poet, but those days (both here in Austin, and reading at the Vatican Pizza in Knoxville) I found my voice and an appreciative audience, and-- this is not hyperbole, this is true-- it was nothing short of exhilarating.

But of all the memories, the one that came in clearest, was Valentine's Day, twenty years ago, a mere month into the romance that would yield my son. His father, also an English major, and I, sat at the kitchen table and read aloud the poems of Mark Strand (I think he was a Poet Laureate, too). For a Jersey girl with blue collar roots, to sit and be part of such an exchange was...well, pick your sappy, romantic description and still, you won't even come close to knowing what I felt that night.

In particular, one Strand poem, Keeping Things Whole, has stayed with me all these twenty years. It is both puzzling and perfectly clear to me, and feels like an especially good definition of my life-- me, one who finds it nearly impossible to sit still (with my thoughts, with my body), who has meditated daily now for more years than I can remember, and who still twitches nonetheless, always in some hurry for clarity or the motion or whatever might be next.

Keeping Things Whole
by Mark Strand

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Announcing Fashion Camp 2009

Yes, that's right, despite the fact I will never let go of my insistence on dressing like a '70's lesbian, once again, with MUCH help from my far more fashionable friend, MaryJ, I am co-hosting Fashion Camp for Kids this summer at the Griffin School. We're offering two sessions, week of July 6 and week of July 13, 9am til noon, $180. It is, if I do say so myself, a most spectacular adventure into the world of garment making, event planning, and unhealthy snacks, culminating with a Friday afternoon fashion show featuring real DJs and an actual catwalk.

Please help me spread the word. More info here:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Next Dick Monologues: March 11, 2009

Next Dick Monologues is Wed, March 11, Hyde Park Theatre. General info about the show is at Tickets are $12 each. You can reserve seats by emailing me directly at We usually sell out so don't wait to reserve.

Thanks and pass it on,

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Finding Your Voice: Writing Workshop

Hey Y'all,
I'm putting on a writing workshop May 29 -31st at the beautiful Clear Spring Studio in South Austin. It's been a long while since I did a workshop but I've had several requests, so here you go. Class size is very limited, so please contact me asap if you're interested. You can make a deposit and then payments if you're on a budget, no problem. Here's the info:

This 14-Hour Weekend Workshop Includes:
Friday Evening Lecture: State of the Art-- Getting Published in 2009
Saturday: lecture, assignments, intensive writing time Noon til 6
Sunday: Q & A, assignment, intensive writing, sharing Noon til 6
Group Dinner Sunday Evening

This workshop is designed to offer insight into the current state of publishing-- what with all the ways the Internet has changed the face of things. It is for both new and longtime writers, those looking for a public place for their voice as well as those looking to jump start journaling and writing for self.

Spike Gillespie has twenty-six years of experience as a published writer and editor. She's the author of four published books and the co-editor of an anthology. Her fifth book comes out Fall '09 and she's working on her sixth book now. So, really, she's got the joy and hell of the whole process down pat.

The workshop cost is $200. Email for more info and to sign up.

Monday, February 2, 2009

God Bless Ben and Jerry

I just had the following forwarded to me:

Ben & Jerry created "Yes Pecan!" ice cream flavor for Obama.
For George Bush they asked for suggestions from the public.
Here are some of the responses:

- Grape Depression
- The Housing Crunch
- Abu Grape
- Cluster Fudge
- Nut'n Accomplished
- Iraqi Road
- Chock 'n Awe
- WireTapioca
- Impeach Cobbler
- Guantanmallow
- imPeachmint
- Heck of a Job, Brownie!
- Neocon Politan
- RockyRoad to Fascism
- The Reese's-cession
- Nougalar Proliferation
- Death by Chocolate... and Torture
- Chocolate Chip On My Shoulder
- Credit Crunch
- Mission Pecanplished
- WMDelicious
- Bloody Sundae
- Caramel Preemptive Stripe
- I broke the law and am responsible for the deaths...with nuts