Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How I Spent My Summer: Part I- HENRY!

Monday night Warren and I arrived back in Austin. For me it was a 22-day, 5,000 mile journey. For Warren it was a bit less. The short version of the itinerary looked like this:

  • Spike & Henry drive a Scion xb full of Henry's stuff to NJ.
  • Henry ditches Spike in NJ to visit her people.
  • Henry boldly drives to Brooklyn alone to empty the car of his stuff.
  • Warren flies to Philly to meet Spike.
  • Henry returns car.
  • Spike and Warren take off for the Great White North, etc.

Let's see, where did we go? Well, to borrow a metaphor and a quote from Joe, the protagonist in Ian McEwan's Enduring Love, "These were the stations of my cross." I didn't make a super conscious effort to revisit so many old haunts, but there was definitely a subconscious undercurrent pushing us along. When Henry was little there were many summers when I threw him in the back of a car-- sometimes without a/c-- and drove a route that either took us through St. Louis (to see his paternal people) or through Knoxville (the first place I got a job after college). Then we'd go on to Jersey.

This time around, because Henry was eager to start his new life in NYC, he and I made a beeline. Night One: Memphis. Night Two: Knoxville. Day Three: Jersey. To those of you we didn't not stop and say hello to, please forgive me. This trip was about so many things, and the internal landscape I needed to cover was at least as vast as the physical journey. I was trying, with only limited success, to gracefully let go of Henry, as he takes a next very big step in his life. He's lived independently for many years, yes-- for this I am proud and grateful and it was always my stated goal to raise an independent human. But now he no longer lives four blocks away, which was a lot to wrap my head around during the process of getting from point A(ustin) to point B(rooklyn).

This past summer, knowing he was preparing to leave, I'd find myself bursting into tears without warning. Driving home from Wheatsville, for example, where he and I have been going since we moved here when he was ten months old (21 years ago next week). I am so happy for him, so excited about the record, so thrilled at his amazing driving skills, so grateful for our road trip. Because covering a couple of thousand miles in the car with him, seeing and feeling that distance, was oddly comforting.

Analogy time: Anyone can go and buy a factory-made, machine-knitted scarf for four bucks at Target. It'll keep you warm and maybe even be pretty. A hand-knitted scarf is a project that, if you use the kind of yarn I do and knit as slowly as I do, can cost a lot, take a very long time and so- on at least the time/cost levels-- not be terribly efficient. And yet there's something about touching every single stitch. This is what it was like traversing all those miles in the car with my son. Yes, he could've flown up. But this was so much better.

Once Warren arrived we alternated between visiting super ancient haunts of my youth-- I'm talking to you, Wildwood, NJ-- and places we'd never been before. Or maybe that one of us had been to, but not the other. Or at least not together. Canada was stupendous and if you missed my FB post, here's something amazing about that place: people drive well and they drive nice and they USE THEIR TURN SIGNALS. It's like being in another country! Oh wait...

We had four arguments of note. I rarely if ever dissect relationship stuff publicly anymore but I just want to throw that out there, that yes, despite our individual and collective fabulousness, Warren and I, when we go on these monster trips, are a living, breathing, huffing, puffing example of why two people should never, ever spend 24/7 together for extended periods of time, and why it is so important to plan breaks along the way.

And yet. And yet we got through the hollering and-- I don't mean this in a Hallmarky way-- I think we might just be better off for it, though it's going to take a long time before I forget that part where, after I said (ala Thelma and Louise) that under no circumstances did I want to drive in New York, Warren navigated us into the heart of the Bronx at rush hour.

When I travel sometimes I journal and sometimes I don't. This was one of those times when I consciously did not take notes. I'll never really truly relax in my lifetime, but I'm getting slightly better at  easing up my death grip on certain "must dos" when traveling. Warren laughs recalling a week of beach camping we did where I had to tick X number of "relaxation activities" off my list every day in order to be satisfied, which of course is never actually as satisfying as one might hope.

I did take a lot of pictures. And as we went along I began to imagine a series of posts called How I Spent My Summer: X. The X might be Food or Architecture or People or Animals or -- of course-- YARN YARN AND MORE YARN!! So I think that's what I'll attempt to do here over the next week or so. Rather than present a chronology, I'll classify as I see fit.

That said, the first leg of the journey was all about Henry, and so for today's opening post, chronology and subject intersect. I spent a lot of time when Henry was little writing about his life. At a certain point, maybe when he was around 13, he asked me to stop. I have mostly honored that, with a few slip ups that he's forgiven me after the fact or even given me upfront permission to post when I asked. Today is one of those days where I hope he'll overlook my need to gush about him in public.  And so, herewith, a few shots. Stay tuned for How I Spent My Summer: Part II-- FOOD!

packing the Scion
Saying bye to Tatum, who is 13+ now, and who has been with us since Henry was 8 years old and she was a few months old.
Stopping by Big Red's house to say good-bye. 
Henry and Big Red -- the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Thank god he got his father's hips.
I bragged about Henry to an Elvis fan at Graceland. She insisted on his autograph. He embarrassingly obliged and did an elaborate signature. He confessed afterward, "Mom, I never signed my name like that before in my life."

Playing for a bit at the Heartbreak Hotel.

With Elvis. 
In Knoxville with Ollie and Charlie.

In Jersey with Mom-Mom.
I love my boy. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Our First E-Anthology-- HEALING-- Available Now

A few months ago I hosted a weekend writing retreat. We met up on Friday night for dinner and to discuss a possible theme for the weekend. By the end of dinner we'd settled on HEALING, a favorite topic of mine. Then over the course of the next two days attendees wrote and wrote and revised and shared and wrote some more. In the end we came up with a collection of nine pieces on the subject. And now, this collection has been published (by yours truly). These essays cover a broad spectrum of healing experiences, and include stories about healing mentally, physically, emotionally.

You can buy the collection for your Kindle at Amazon right here. 

Or, if you prefer, you can buy it for your Nook right here. 

A new round of workshops and another writing retreat are coming up soon. We'll do another anthology and a public reading. For details on how to sign up for these workshops you can go right here: Write With Spike Workshops.

And please do help us get the word out about our anthology. Thanks!

Friday, August 10, 2012

StoryTime @ Cactus Cafe: Me Reading Big Dig on Buddha Mountain

I had a lovely time reading at the Cactus Cafe as part of StoryTime. Thanks to our lovely hostess Angela Maldonado, not only for inviting me, but for telling one of the most beautiful stories ever. Here's vid of my portion of the show. Oh, and StoryTime has an open mic component, so if you want to find out how you can participate, check out or watch the events listing calendar for the Cactus Cafe.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Get Thee to Hidden Room Theatre for Rose Rage!

Hey Y'all,
I am on vacation and so not writing full on reviews right now. But I am interrupting my carb-laden downtime, putting down the hoagies and soft pretzels long enough to strongly suggest you cancel any other plans you might have and get tickets to see ROSE RAGE, currently being performed by The Hidden Room Theatre. It closes this weekend so do not delay!

The play is an adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry VI Trilogy, created by Edward Hall and Roger Warren for Propellor. It is presented in two parts and features a cast comprised of both Americans and Brits. Before being united in the same space for realtime rehearsals, the company worked together via Skype. That's not the only new twist on ye olde bard. The performance was also livestreamed recently.

So much to love about this production. Master of Company, Beth Burns, is a tremendous gift to Austin. She puts on Shakespeare using original practices-- all-male casts, house lights up, authentic period costumes, and live music performed as it was back in the day. And she does so in The Hidden Room, which has got to be the coolest venue in Austin, period. Her presentation of The Taming of the Shrew featuring Ryan Crowder remains one of my all-time favorite Shakespeare productions ever, anywhere (and I catch Shakespeare whenever I can, wherever I can including at the Stratford Festival in Ontario).

Ryan Crowder!
Crowder is back in this show, playing young Henry. The entire cast is just lovely-- Austin Shakespeare audience regulars will recognize many of the actors here. How lucky we are to have such a dedicated concentration of Shakespeare players in this town. I always love catching Robert Matney, who in this adaptation does a great turn at Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, charged with protecting the minor king. And new to the Austin scene, arrived as part of the London team, is the delightful Laurence Pears. As the rebellious Jack Cade he's part Alex from Clockwork Orange, part Adam Ant and 100% a wonder to behold.

Watching the show with it's drama, sword fights, shouting, plot twists, fabulous costumes and all the rest of it, I had a funny thought. I wanted to post a note to all parents with kids hooked on video games, tell them to hide the iPads and Xboxes, etc, and take their spawn to see this show. So much more exciting and animated and 3D than anything on a screen. I mean thoroughly brilliant.

The show closes this weekend so don't hesitate and do hurry to get your tickets. Thanks so much, Ms. Burns & Company, for another spectacular show.

Announcing Fall Writing Workshops and A Retreat

For those of you who missed the post over at Write With Spike, here's info about my upcoming Fall Workshops and also a Weekend Writing Retreat. We've been having a really great time at these workshops. Hope you can join us:

"I would prefer to Write with Spike," Bartleby the Scrivener

I’m taking a wee sabbatical in August to collect my thoughts, recover from watching five seasons of Big Love in five weeks, and check out knitting shops in Montreal. (OMD-- Oh mon dieu!) Then, poor me, it’s time for my annual, back-to-back West Coast/East Coast retreats. And then, hooray! Back to workshops and retreats! Here’s the schedule for Fall. Please email me soon if you’d like to hold a space—newcomers who reserve by August 15, 2012 get a discount (details below). Oh, and if you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not workshop is for you, please check out the testimonials to see what folks are saying about their experience.

Fall Writing Workshops & Retreats with Spike Gillespie
These are memoir-writing workshops delivered two ways—in six-week series and intensive weekends. Everyone has a story to tell, and writing yours down and sharing it aloud (optional) offers freedom, healing, amusement and all sorts of other feelings you might not initially associate with the act of committing your life adventures to the page. This workshop has morphed over the years, shaped very much by participant input and requests, and forgive me for saying so myself, but damn, it is a thing of beauty!

You can expect a lot of sharing/workshopping, some in class writing time, and a few words each week from yours truly about the state of the art. Sign up and you also receive one-on-one coaching over the course of the six weeks on projects you’re tackling in class. (Sorry—I cannot read full length manuscripts as part of this coaching. For that, consider hiring me as a private coach.) Our emphasis is on positive feedback—no one rips anyone a new one, ever.

You’ll also have an opportunity to participate in a public reading—I host these a few times per year for students who wish to share their stories with a larger audience. And this year we’re adding in an option to have your work appear in an e-anthology, sold at Amazon. (I’m in the process of editing the first one now, which should be available soon.)

Tuesday Series
Six consecutive Tuesdays, September 25th – October 30th inclusive. 7- 9 pm. Cost: $300. Sign up before August 15th and it’s $250. Returning attendees from previous workshops get the usual discount. $50 non-refundable deposit holds your space. We meet at 3400 Kerbey Lane in SOL Studio. Email me to reserve your spot.

Thursday Series
Six consecutive Thursdays, September 27th –Nov. 1st inclusive. 7-9 pm, except October 4th class which meets 8 – 10 pm. Cost: $300. Sign up before August 15th and it’s $250. Returning attendees from previous workshops get the usual discount. $50 non-refundable deposit holds your space. We meet at 3400 Kerbey Lane in SOL Studio. Email me to reserve your spot.

December Weekend Retreat
December 14, 15, 16. Don’t tell me that December is too busy with holiday plans. That’s exactly my point—take time for YOURSELF and forget the holiday pressure to do shit you don’t want to do in the first place. This retreat is an excellent way to get ready for the New Year, to make an early commitment to yourself to take care of you. We meet on Friday, December 14th from 7 – 9 pm for a dinner to discuss our weekend goals. Saturday we meet from 10 – 4:30 for lots of writing and some sharing. Sunday we meet from 11 – 3 for more of the same. Cost is $125. All meals included (meals are vegetarian and I will honor  your dietary restrictions). $50 non-refundable deposit holds your space. Location TBA but it will be central. Email me to reserve your spot.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Photo by Kirk R. Tuck for ZACH

Roll don't walk on over to ZACH to catch XANADU. OMG it is HILARIOUS!! Yes, I am laying on the CAPS pretty heavy here. Big Red and I went to see this musical, which parodies the movie by the same name, and it is a total giggle-fest on wheels. It's packed with '80s music and references, and yes, okay, an extremely vague nod to Greek mythology. There's nothing not to love about it.

And, if I might snark out for just a moment, one thing I especially love is that this is a production that even the most over-zealous and self-congratulatory of Austin critics-- some of whom of late have been really reaching deep into their bag of Lit Crit 101 tricks-- could not possibly afflict it with one of their heavy-handed reviews. (Or could they?) I mean we are talking 200% pure fluff here.

The cast is wonderful-- they sing their hearts out and dance their booties off and emanate pure joy at their happy task. Jill Blackwood as Kira and Matthew Redden as Sonny Malone are especially hilarious. I saw both for the first time in ZACH's production of the Drowsy Chaperone which remains my all-time favorite musical. Blackwood especially has stolen my heart-- I have a massive crush on her comic timing brilliance. She pulls off to perfection that magical thing-- super pretty chick that could pass for a sorority babe but who displays gut-bustingly brilliant antics. And what a set of pipes, too. I might have to rescind my marriage proposal to Martin Burke and see if Jill Blackwood will have me. Or maybe she can be Martin's and my sister-wife. A girl can dream.

Tickets for XANADU can be acquired right here.