Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Pandemic Meditations: In the golden time between sleeping and awake by Felix Morgan

Editor's Note: On the Origin of Pandemic Meditations, A Series

Found at the edges of a golf course during the pandemic
photo by Erin Pringle
There are a number of articles, probably whole books, and interview question-answers about Writer's Block--how it occurs, what it feels like, and what tips, tricks, recipes, or spells writers use to make it disappear. Outside of grieving someone fallen by death, I haven't had much trouble writing, hacking out time for it, or moving my thoughts into words and shapes.

And then the pandemic came.

And now I have trouble connecting thoughts, or seeing the connections, or remembering that there should be relationships between them. I have trouble creating time and space to work within. Now and then I'll have an interview about my new novel, and I'm asked what I'm currently working on. I wave vaguely. I try to remember. A novel, I think. Stories, too, maybe. Whereas, before the pandemic, I not only knew what I was working on, but I also knew its trajectory--from about how many pages it would take before reaching The End--to how many months or years it would take to formulate those pages. 

What am I working on? 

I don't know. I mean, I'm running a lot. I run and run and run. I take pictures while I run. 

But writing? 

I don't know.

The other day, I bought a journal at Target during one of my first visits there in months. It used to be that having a new journal--all that blank space--would inevitably lead to my writing in it, in the same way a ripe fruit calls to the tongue. 

So far, I've written on one page, and I don't think it's a full page. Nothing about the page calls me. Not its blankness, not the smooth feeling of a fast pen, not even thoughts (because I'm not having them). I carry the journal around in my bag. It's so heavy with guilt I can feel my shoulder ache.

A month or so into the pandemic and into Washington state's stay-home/stay-safe order, I stopped teaching at the preschool-kindergarten where I spend my days in the art room, on the playground, and at the lunch table with my small friends. Instead, I walked for hours on trails by the river. I walked and walked, not at all noticing that after my sister died, I walked and walked. After my best friend died, I walked and walked. After my father? I walked and walked. 

Several months passed of my walking but not teaching. Then one day I went to the school on an errand, and I saw all the children.

There they were!

They yelled out Miss Erin! and we stood at a distance in the doorway, admiring each other and talking about our lives. I commented on their new heights, for certainly they'd continued to grow despite the pandemic. They told me they were now in first grade. They told me of projects. One was reading chapter books now. One had done the hundreds board all by herself. They told me and told me, and I heard under all their words how much we needed to be together. When I left the building a handful of minutes later, I felt full the brightness of our reunion and the utter loss from having been apart; and I realized I'd been living the way I do when someone I love has died: I'd distanced myself, cut off all emotions and memories, severed all of that part of myself so that I could daily undertake my life. 

Spokane river near sunset, during pandemic
by Erin Pringle
And all that severing and floating away from myself and them, upon seeing them, returned me to the flat, hard ground of earth and to the feelings I'd avoided having as I walked long hours along the river trails thinking of everything that wasn't worldwide disease, that wasn't fears of death, that wasn't the personal devastation of losing not only routine but also all the connections to people and community that were required for having thoughts that connected to each other and allowed the artful self to reflect, think, remember, and create.  

In sum, I'd disconnected my emotions and thoughts of them so that I could cope. 

In sum, I'd not realized I'd done any of this until I saw them.

In sum, I had started doing what I do when I'm mourning.

I'm in a state of mourning. Of course. Why didn't I realize it sooner? 

That's when I wondered if other artists were feeling similarly disoriented by the pandemic. Early in the pandemic, I saw that writers were responding to the pandemic in the local weekly. But then the responses stopped but the pandemic continued. 

And continued. 

And continues. 

On social media, there are arguments and wishful reminders of kindness. There's a mudslide of memes and fewer photographs of ourselves doing what we love because so much of what we love is closed, is unsafe, is full of uncertain possibility.

Now and then, the news returns us to scene of the pandemic--from the Italian doctor who had slept at his hospital for months before momentarily returning to his family--to the mobile morgues--to the new cases of children--to the denials and stories of why the pandemic isn't a pandemic, why masks are useless or necessary or awful or just-wear-it-for-gods'sake. The scene of the pandemic, despite our living in it, is no place to stay for very long without undergoing national, worldwide, and personal sadness all at once. It's a place of stasis, confusion, and only fleeting clarity. 

Which, to me, means that we need artists the most when we find ourselves in such a state. Because it has always been the artists' task to communicate the world in a way that helps us better situate ourselves and others within it.

Because I need artists right now, I imagine that you do too.

So I wrote to my friends who are writers and artists. And I asked them to send me meditations on the pandemic. I said I'm blocked and maybe you are too, so let's try a series of essays or meditations or moments in which we are writing at the pandemic. 

And I received replies. So many replies. The result is that this will likely be the longest, continuous running series I've done here. There are pandemic meditations booked from now through March, and I continue to receive more confirmations. Perhaps there is some comfort in knowing that, despite not knowing when the pandemic will end, I don't know when the artists will stop sending me meditations. I think it's comforting.  

Observation during a pandemic by Erin Pringle
As such, once or twice a week, from now on, I'll be publishing creative responses to the pandemic, from poets, book editors, musicians, actors, photographers, painters, rap artists, and illustrators. I gave no guidelines on form, on length, on style. If I've learned anything from mourning and that inability to write that comes with it, guidelines are the opposite of helpful. No one is required to share hope, though some might. No one is required to reach great wisdom about this new way of living, though some might. Everyone has been asked to respond honestly in the way good art always asks of us.

There will be fiction writers who share short films, and photographers who share poetry. When the world has lost clear form, genre will too--which is exciting in the way of sitting in a box on a new roller coaster.

Today, the series begins with a pandemic meditation from writer Felix Morgan. I first met her when the both of us contributed to a chapbook series through Awst Press. Felix lives in Austin, Texas, and you can learn more about her at the end of her piece. 

It's my hope that the meditations will help us connect words to thoughts and us to each other, if even for a moment.

~ Erin Pringle

September 7, 2020

Spokane, WA

While walking in a pandemic
by Erin Pringle


๐Ÿ˜ท

In the golden time between sleeping and awake 

by Felix Morgan 

These are excerpts from my journal since March. When life gets overwhelming, I make lists or write poems (or poems that are lists, or lists that are poems) but mostly this year I have blank pages. I create an entry, in my digital closet, and then I don’t know what to say, and it just stays there in the cloud, with only a date. I have maybe a hundred of these. And even while trying to string a few entries together here, I worry. About all the negative space, that these are too many words or not enough. That they are too much about me and not all the tragedy in the world. That I sound too serious or not serious enough. For me, these past few months have been a constant pendulum of feeling that I am always either over or under-reacting. But this is what I have, these are the words I have, and this is the space I’ve left--for when there are no words, for when I can only feel, and for when I need to listen. 


March  


Things I don’t worry have to worry about 


Charging my phone 

because I’m never out of the house long enough for it to matter 

Makeup or non-comfortable shoes 

Wondering if a different job might be more fulfilling 

Spring fashion trends (high waisted shorts, ugh, and big leafy tiki florals, and denim. Can you even call denim a trend) 

Having too many streaming subscriptions 

Waking up early 

How much gas is in my car 

Dating, babysitters, social things I should go to but don’t want to 

or things I wish I could go to but can’t 

FOMO, in general, we’re all MO now 

Haircuts 

My weight 

Travel plans for work, spending money on vacations and summer camp 

Bras. Like ever. Maybe never again 


April 


I can’t bake because I don’t know how to need

...


Sometimes when I lay down I want to move but I don’t 

Sometimes it’s because there’s a dog or a kid asleep near me 

And if I move they’ll wake up or I’ll have to do something for them 

But sometimes I’m alone 

And I wish I could roll over 

I need one more pillow or one less

But I can’t move and I don’t know what’s keeping me in place 

If I move someone will need something from me 

If I move I’ll need something 




May 


What do I really actually for real need to do today 


Change sheets

A kid or two of laundry 

A lot of rest 

Shower 

Eat a vegetable


Clean car? Not urgent 

Go to target? For what? Really tho?


Why is this list so overwhelming. Just try and take a shower. What is Target going to do for you




June 


“Reflect on your week” prompt.  Spent too much time working but also too much time not working while worrying that I should be working more. I watched TV, passively not even with energy, not even something I loved or that would interest or intrigue me. I slept too much and not enough.


I washed my hair more than once and used lotion on my legs at least once. I took time to be with my brother on zoom and we didn’t do that thing where we feel we have to give a report on our lives or say something profound, we just looked at memes and watched youtube videos. I think I wrote two paragraphs, maybe, last week but I sure thought about not writing for at least an hour every day. 


A single yoga session, half-assed. I wrestled with so many questions and I still don’t have answers. I look old. 



July 


I used to wake up and I’d think about what I wanted, and I used to want things so bad it ached. I thought that if I could imagine them perfectly in the golden time between sleeping and awake where my consciousness is a runny egg, then I could bring them with me into the day. I can’t remember what that feels like, I can’t remember the things I tried to manifest. What were the things I thought I’d die if I didn’t achieve? What if I never remember them? What if the world comes back but I don’t?


List: What do I want?  


Dinner plates with lemons on them

What do I want? 

A life making stuff. Or do I even anymore, why am I so mad at myself for not writing what if I just

What if I did every day just what I wanted and nothing more

Would I be a monster 

What if my life was the book instead of the book being the book

And that could be writing but it could also be learning about plants 

Or dancing 

Where can I go dancing 

Does anyone even like dancing if there’s no people to dance with 

I should write



August 



Recipe for crispy chickpeas from Seth 


Drain, rinse, pat dry,

Let them air dry in a single

Layer  (in the fridge uncovered if possible) for about 15-20


Heat some Oil in a non stick pan. 2-3 TBS on med-high (6 or 7) 

Fry chickpeas in oil moving around every 1.5-2 mins by swishing the Pan (or being gentle with a wooden spoon or spatula)

Should take 10-15 mins 

Don’t add too much oil bc it tends to pop

Season with salt and pepper at the end 

I also sprinkle the garam masala but any spice blend is nice


September


Gratitude 


  1. The color of the sky just after the sunset that Ray Bradbury says is between iron and blue 

  2. Ray Bradbury 

  3. My dad (my whole family) 

  4. Johnny Karate’s weird moody facial expressions 

  5. Cold green water 

  6. The shape of a lover’s mouth

  7. Skin serums 

  8. Red toenails 

  9. Cool sheets, a good night's sleep

  10. Reconnecting with old friends even as I worry about what friends I’ve forgotten to check on, and why am I not being a ray of sunshine writing longhand letters to wonderful people instead of watching another season of a show where the Devil solves murders with a model

  11. Big towels 

  12. Twinkle lights 

  13. Mysteries 

  14. Spell check

  15. Knowing I can make a change at any moment, any day, every day, even when I can’t leave the house


๐Ÿ’Œ


Selfie of woman sitting in driver seat. She has dark-rimmed glasses and long, dark wavy hair. She smiles with her lips closed and she has a tattoo on her left shoulder that seems to be the astrology chart.
Felix Morgan
Felix Morgan is a writer, filmmaker, journalist, and content marketer. Her fiction and poetry have been published by Harbinger Quarterly, Awst Press, Tallow Eider Quarterly, and Peach Fuzz Magazine.

She lives in Austin, Texas with two warrior-princess-ninja-superhero daughters and some other wild animals. Learn more about her work at her website: https://www.felixmorgan.net/











❤ As the series grows, you can find more Pandemic Meditations here: http://www.erinpringle.com/p/pandemic-meditations-series.html

Monday, September 7, 2020

On Writing, Rural Life, and Hezada!: Erin Pringle talks about her new novel on KYRS's Art Hour

I recently met with the hosts of Art Hour, a weekly radio show and podcast aired by Spokane's community radio station, KYRS. Because we live in pandemic times and the stale air of a small radio studio isn't the ideal place to record these days, we set up chairs and a folding table on an old stone bridge in Cannon Hill Park. The air was late summer, the sprinklers zipped in circles, and we spoke about my new novel, Hezada! I Miss You. Which means that we talked about growing up in the rural Midwest, the difficulties and benefits of such a life, why the book took a number of years to form, fully, and more. 

The podcast of the episode is available here: https://anchor.fm/arthour/episodes/65-Erin-Pringle---author-of-the-new-novel-Hezada--I-Miss-You-eie7fm

Thanks to Eric and Mike for the time, finding such a nice space, and to Eric for stitching the interview together from the recordings from each of our phones. And, of course, thanks to all the volunteers at the radio station for keeping our community together, no matter the conditions of our lives.

P.S. My friend Shelli has listened to all the interviews for the book and says it's one of the best. 

Cannon Hill Park 

© 

by Steve Saad 
Used with permission


๐Ÿ˜

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Erin Pringle reads from Hezada! I Miss You 8-30-20

 As part of a virtual reading in conjunction with The Vault Art Gallery in Tuscola, IL, I talked about my new novel, Hezada! I Miss You, and I read from chapter one and a bit of two. Please enjoy it here:


Sunday, August 23, 2020

Where to Find/Buy/Read Hezada! I Miss You

Good news! I'm down to six four copies of Hezada! in my personal inventory, so if you'd like a signed copy, now's the time to order through me. Send me a message via erinpringle.com, and I'll message you the details. If you're fine with an unsigned copy, please order through any of the below outlets. 

๐Ÿ˜ Where to Buy Hezada! ๐ŸŽช


1. My publisher Awst Press: Austin, TX​ 

(https://awst-press.com/shop/hezada) 

Buying from Awst means that most of the purchase price goes to the publisher and to the writer. When in doubt of where to buy a book, purchase from its publisher. 

2. Auntie's Bookstore​: Spokane, WA 

If you live in the Spokane area, support this bookstore by purchasing from its shelves. Auntie's has hosted numerous events I've been invited to read at, and they've been supportive in maintaining a steady inventory of all of my books and those of other local writers and small presses. 

3. Fact and Fiction Books​: Missoula, MT 

Fact and Fiction has supported my books and writing through purchasing and selling copies during two Montana Book Festivals, and through hosting a reading and signing for Hezada! early in its publication. The bookstore does much to support the reading and writing community in Missoula, from its inventory to its events to its central support of the annual Montana Book Festival.

4. Book People​: Austin, TX 

When I lived in San Marcos, TX, most all of the national authors would come through Book People to give readings and signings. They go out of their way to stock local authors' books and host a number of local author events, from readings to signings to release parties and more. I read here the first time when I was a finalist for the Austin Chronicle Short Fiction Prize. The next time would be on my tour for The Whole World at Once, and most recently, Hezada! I Miss You. BookPeople purchased a large number of copies and asked for me to sign all of them. So, you would be purchasing a signed copy were you to buy from here. 

5. Amazon 

(https://www.amazon.com/Hezada-Miss-You-Erin-Pringle/dp/0997193883)
Hezada! is available from here, too. 

6. The bookstore nearest you via IndieBound​ (https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997193886)

If you don't want to purchase Hezada! through the website of your local bookstore, then you can find it (and any book title) through IndieBound, and it will allow you to order that book through  your bookstore or the bookstore nearest you. So IndieBound is a website that connects the book you want to the bookstore you want to buy from.

The distributor is one step away from the publisher/press. This is the company in charge of filling orders from bookstores and libraries. So, any time you pick up a book from a bookstore shelf, a distributor is what got it there. When the store decides it can't sell anymore of a particular title, it returns those books to the distributor at a loss, and those copies are typically not sent out again to be sold. So, while Hezada! is available for individual purchase from the distributor, if you see there are copies of the book at your bookstore, buy from there first.

While this is not an option for private ownership, asking your librarian to purchase a title for its shelves benefits the community and allows the book to be shared with multiple readers who likely wouldn't have heard of the book to begin with. This seems like one of the best options for the environment, readers, press, and writer. It's also a good way to introduce librarians and readers to small presses that they may be unfamiliar with--especially if you live in a rural community where the library counts on its patrons to shape the collection. You can either order the book through your library's website, if it has one, or ask your librarian directly, or use worldcat.org to locate the title and publication information and print off the entry for your librarian.

 

 ๐Ÿ˜ Praise for Hezada! I Miss You ๐ŸŽช

"It's haunting. It's lovely. It's an utterly painful and beautiful look at how life passes. Exploring the consequences of a suicide from those intimately involved to those on the sidelines, Pringle's unflinching view sets a summer circus as a backdrop for everything lost when life is gone." - The Austin Chronicle
"Mournful, funny, piercing, and profound, Erin Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a stirring, vivid novel [and] breathtaking work of art." ~ Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra
"This novel is a lovely meditation on how the inevitability of change and loss is sustained by nostalgia and memory, and survived by that quiet beat of hope that lives in us all." ~ Donna Miscolta, author of Hola and Goodbye

"Set against the fascinating backdrop of a traveling circus, Hezada, I Miss You is a meditation on sorrow—how people deal with it, how they attempt to escape from it, and how, for some, it’s inescapable. It’s a tender novel that should be read slowly, each line given the careful consideration it deserves for the beautiful, heartbreaking insights it holds." 
Rajia Hassib, author of In the Language of Miracles and A Pure Heart

"Brilliant. A heart-wrench of a debut novel. The writing cuts right to the bone, with cadences that sing. Reminiscent of Bradbury and Sherwood Anderson, Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a kaleidoscopic vision of love, desire, loss – and life." Regi Claire, author of Fighting It and two-time finalist for Saltire Scottish Book of the Year

"Graceful storytelling and poetic clarity make this an enchanting and absorbing novel. I thought about these characters long after I finished the book. The lightness of touch belies the fact that Erin Pringle is a wise and fearless writer."  ~ Laura Long, author of Out of Peel Tree

"Pringle captures the dynamics of family and small-town community in a way that recalls Tennessee Williams and Flannery O'Connor, yet her voice is lean and smart and entirely her own. Hezada! I Miss You is a powerful narrative about how we reckon with the cages we're born into, or craft for ourselves. What a beautiful gut-punch of a book.” Melissa Stephenson, author of Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back

"Hezada! is a stunning first novel—quiet and devastating, an elliptical tale of loss and the limitations and failures of a small town. The circus is always on the verge of arrival, and there is something deeply sinister in that." Polly Buckingham, author of Expense of a View

"With the cool-minded skill of a funambulist, the foolhardy courage of a human cannonball, and the secretive, poignant wisdom of a melancholy clown, Erin Pringle will leave you dazzled and bleary-eyed with Hezada! I Miss You. Your lesser half will want to keep this book to yourself. Your better half will want to share its wonders with the world." ~ Tom Noyes, author of Come by Here: A Novella and Stories

Here is a book that gives in novel form—people as stories performing like poems (“Where did your death come from?”) Where language is velocity & mass whereby the turn of phrase is the continually changing way people fall into or out of collective speech, demonstrating how our vulnerabilities to each other can transform into our feeling with others. ~ Julia Drescher, author of Open Epic

“Spare, haunting, as honest as poetry gets, Hezada! I Miss You is a dream of a novel that conforms to neither expectation nor demand. Though the external forces at work on this family succeed in tugging them away from one another, Pringle's precisely woven narrative connections are unbreakable. She again finds a way to render time and place as emotional states, while making memory as corporeal as you or me.” ~ Jack Kaulfus, author of Tomorrow or Forever: Stories

"This is a tale about magic, about longing, about the sometimes crushing weight of dreams. About the flashes of excitement that keep us alive." ~ Ann Tweedy, author of The Body's Alphabet 



๐Ÿ•ฎ

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Book Giveaway: Win Hezada! I Miss You on LibraryThing

Reading a book, photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simรตes 
(used under CC license)

Hezada! I Miss You is now available to win from LibraryThing, a worldwide website for readers of every feather. 

Throw your hat into the book lottery and enter by September 15, 2020.

Enterhttps://www.librarything.com/er_list.php?sort=startdate&program=giveaway&country=us&offeredby=1&batch=open&publisherid=0&media=paper

Summary

The last Midwestern traveling circus is due to arrive in a rural village it has visited for a century of summers. Like the village, the circus is on its last leg. It’s down to one elephant and a handful of acrobats. The circus boss’s sweetheart is dying. The former starring act is recovering from cancer. The assistant, Frank, plans to retire after this show. Meanwhile, twins Heza and Abe wander the hot fields and roads, waiting for the circus or anything better. Hezada! I Miss You is a novel that explores tradition, love, and suicide—set under the fading tents of small-town America and the circus.


Praise for Hezada! I Miss You

"It's haunting. It's lovely. It's an utterly painful and beautiful look at how life passes. Exploring the consequences of a suicide from those intimately involved to those on the sidelines, Pringle's unflinching view sets a summer circus as a backdrop for everything lost when life is gone." - The Austin Chronicle
"Mournful, funny, piercing, and profound, Erin Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a stirring, vivid novel [and] breathtaking work of art." ~ Sharma Shields, author of The Cassandra
"This novel is a lovely meditation on how the inevitability of change and loss is sustained by nostalgia and memory, and survived by that quiet beat of hope that lives in us all. ~ Donna Miscolta, author of Hola and Goodbye

"Set against the fascinating backdrop of a traveling circus, Hezada, I Miss You is a meditation on sorrow—how people deal with it, how they attempt to escape from it, and how, for some, it’s inescapable. It’s a tender novel that should be read slowly, each line given the careful consideration it deserves for the beautiful, heartbreaking insights it holds." 
Rajia Hassib, author of In the Language of Miracles and A Pure Heart

"Brilliant. A heart-wrench of a debut novel. The writing cuts right to the bone, with cadences that sing. Reminiscent of Bradbury and Sherwood Anderson, Pringle's Hezada! I Miss You is a kaleidoscopic vision of love, desire, loss – and life." Regi Claire, author of Fighting It and two-time finalist for Saltire Scottish Book of the Year

Graceful storytelling and poetic clarity make this an enchanting and absorbing novel. I thought about these characters long after I finished the book. The lightness of touch belies the fact that Erin Pringle is a wise and fearless writer.  ~ Laura Long, author of Out of Peel Tree

"Pringle captures the dynamics of family and small-town community in a way that recalls Tennessee Williams and Flannery O'Connor, yet her voice is lean and smart and entirely her own. Hezada! I Miss You is a powerful narrative about how we reckon with the cages we're born into, or craft for ourselves. What a beautiful gut-punch of a book.” Melissa Stephenson, author of Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride to Heartbreak and Back

"Hezada! is a stunning first novel—quiet and devastating, an elliptical tale of loss and the limitations and failures of a small town. The circus is always on the verge of arrival, and there is something deeply sinister in that." ~ Polly Buckingham, author of Expense of a View

"With the cool-minded skill of a funambulist, the foolhardy courage of a human cannonball, and the secretive, poignant wisdom of a melancholy clown, Erin Pringle will leave you dazzled and bleary-eyed with Hezada! I Miss You. Your lesser half will want to keep this book to yourself. Your better half will want to share its wonders with the world." ~ Tom Noyes, author of Come by Here: A Novella and Stories

Here is a book that gives in novel form—people as stories performing like poems (“Where did your death come from?”) Where language is velocity & mass whereby the turn of phrase is the continually changing way people fall into or out of collective speech, demonstrating how our vulnerabilities to each other can transform into our feeling with others. ~ Julia Drescher, author of Open Epic

“Spare, haunting, as honest as poetry gets, Hezada! I Miss You is a dream of a novel that conforms to neither expectation nor demand. Though the external forces at work on this family succeed in tugging them away from one another, Pringle's precisely woven narrative connections are unbreakable. She again finds a way to render time and place as emotional states, while making memory as corporeal as you or me.” ~ Jack Kaulfus, author of Tomorrow or Forever: Stories

"This is a tale about magic, about longing, about the sometimes crushing weight of dreams. About the flashes of excitement that keep us alive." ~ Ann Tweedy, author of The Body's Alphabet 

๐Ÿ•ฎ


Monday, August 17, 2020

Fairy Tales in the Park: Audubon Park, Spokane

From NeedPix

When the pandemic began to affect the way life worked, I started having a harder time writing. How does one write about what it is to live when so much is in flux? To write of the past is to write before the pandemic, but to do that seems to require a way of remembering that hinges on how to think of the present. To write in the future seems to require knowing how to think of that future's past. Perhaps my worrying over how to do this is simply a useful rationalization for why I'm not writing. 

I haven't told a long story since the rise of the pandemic, either, but I am interested in what that experience will be like. Of course, the frames of the fairy tales are there, but the present always influences the way in which I tell the story from the endings to character traits to details I will emphasize or de-emphasize. 

I'm reminded of how fairy tales were once used by those not in power--to empower themselves and each other. Stories where lead characters figured out how to solve the predicaments they found themselves in because they did not lead lives where heroes swung in at the nick of time. 

What is a fairy tale in the midst of a pandemic? 

I certainly know what Hansel and Gretel is like when there is not a pandemic. But what of the story when its setting is so close to the world in which the storyteller sits, casting imaginations back?

Well, we can all find out in September, as I've decided to tell a story most every Sunday in Audubon Park. Because of the pandemic and safety, audiences are limited to six people. I hope that you will be one of the six. All ages welcome, masks and social distancing required. To learn more about the story events, what to expect, and to RSVP, please click on the appropriate link(s) below.


September 6: Splish-Splash, or The Frog Prince

 6:00 PM

๐Ÿ‘‰RSVP required: https://www.facebook.com/events/703504396868398/


September 13: Sleeping Beauty, or She Sleeps

 6:00 PM

๐Ÿ‘‰ RSVP required: https://www.facebook.com/events/787319855370535/


September 20: Jack in the Beanstalk, or The Famine

 6:00 PM

๐Ÿ‘‰RSVP required: https://www.facebook.com/events/687347808795322/


October 4: Hansel and Gretel

 6:00 PM

๐Ÿ‘‰RSVP required: https://www.facebook.com/events/310586030216704/


For additional story times, please check back at ErinPringle.com or like Erin Pringle on Facebook for faster event updates.


๐Ÿ’œ

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Illinois Pandemic Book Tour: Hezada! I Miss You

Small lost airplane by Shannon Clark, used under CC license

Although I did write many pages of a novel featuring a plague, I never imagined going on a book tour during a pandemic.

But, here we are.

Hezada! I Miss You came to being in February, published by Awst Press. There was a book release party, a black formal dress, friends and more friends, and a good enough launch that I looked forward to all the events that would take me from Washington to Texas, from Spokane to Seattle, from home to hometown in Illinois. And I did make it to Missoula, Montana and to Austin and San Antonio, Texas, but that's when everything started shutting down and the virus counts began rising.

April was not only the cruellest month, according to T.S. Eliot, but it was also the month I should have arrived in Illinois and gone to several places to share the book, from the library in the town where I grew up, to a nearby art gallery, to the Champaign-Urbana public library. 

The pandemic unfurled, and April was rescheduled to August.

Funny, in retrospect, to imagine that anyone would have thought August would have found us in an improved situation. 

Now, it's August. My mother has turned 81-years old, I continue to distrust the way death winks at hope, and so I believe more in the pandemic's ability to cast me and my loved ones down than I believe in many other things more or less invisible than the virus.

Hence, I cancelled my flight, and while I have until December 13th to use my flight "credits," I don't know what means or what the world will mean by then.

So! I'm going to try the virtual route, luddite though I may be. 

Here's the plan.

The Plan

Before I go virtual, I'm going to try hosting a reading from my front yard, with an audience of no more than five people. We'll see how that goes. I hope it will go delightfully so.

Then, I'll transport to Illinois via the computer. I hope to meet you there.

Casey Township Library, Casey, IL
On Saturday, August 29th at 2 PM (CST), I'll give a virtual reading for the Casey Township Library. The event is free and open to anyone, but I will be talking primarily about my relationship to the library, why I keep writing about the Midwest, and I'll read a bit from Hezada! I Miss You. You can attend the event on Facebook, via this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/777719309723187

The Vault Art Gallery, Tuscola, IL
On Sunday, August 30th, at 2 PM (CST), I'll talk about Hezada! I Miss You with my brother, writer Kirby Pringle, and read from the book. Those in the area will be invited to view the discussion in the gallery via a projector, and those who prefer the internet can attend on Facebook, via this link https://www.facebook.com/events/736635116828476/


Ordering Hezada! I Miss You
  • To purchase Hezada! in time for the virtual events, please order at least a week before from Awst Press: https://awst-press.com/shop/hezada
  • I'll give away one copy of Hezada! at each virtual event; those who attend will be eligible to participate.
  • If you live in Illinois or Indiana and belong to a book group, I'd be happy to call in to talk about writing and Hezada! For those purchasing the book for a book club, please message me for a possible discount.

Let's do this.



๐Ÿ˜

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

On Reviewing Light bulbs, Novels, and Other Ways Word Travels

The reviewing of books is a strange endeavor. Most any writing-related magazine is nearly always accepting book reviews; many even offer books to be reviewed. For example, I've noticed that Necessary Fiction has had Hezada! available for review since winter 2019, and has yet to be picked up while more books are added to the free inventory. Publishers give away print and/or electronic copies of books to anyone who asks for a copy to review. 

Whole publications or newspaper sections dedicate themselves to the book review, whether that's Kirkus Reviews or the Book Review sections of Chicago Tribune or New York Times. With the ever-increasing population of self-published books, marketers encourage those writers to pay for reviews, which is not the custom but shows the important link between reviews and purchasing. 

Some presses encourage their writers to review books as a way to increase the odds that their own book is reviewed. A kind of Review Exchange.

In thinking generally about reviews, I've realized that I'm far more prone to review a box of light bulbs I've ordered than a book I've loved. 

Black Skin, White Masks

For example, I recently finished reading Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks, which I found to be excellent. Excellent. It's the sort of book that justifies living in the time you're waiting for a good book to appear. Much of my worldview has been altered by reading the book, and I've started connecting many of Fanon's ideas to my experiences and other readings. I know I'll read the book multiple more times, in addition to many of the books that Fanon references that I've yet to explore. I mean, it's a foundational book. He explores colonized and colonizer's thinking and the way in which colonization leads to a shared cultural viewpoint through the lens of the colonizer. He grew up in Martinique and discusses the black man's consciousness, identity, and being and how it is not allowed to exist/or function normally within the neurotic society that holds the white man's consciousness as not only superior but also as the end-all-be-all. I mean, there's SO SO much more to the book than this; a summary is like trying to contain an ocean inside a pebble. 

I was never assigned to read Black Skin, White Masks during the six years of studying literature at the undergrad and graduate levels. But why not? It was published in the 1950s, so all my professors would have known about it. It's the sort of book that I should have been assigned to read multiple times--I had to read Great Gatsby at least three times: in high-school, undergrad, and grad school. Not that Fitzgerald and Fanon are equivalent in their focus or depth, but I mean, Fanon is by far a more important writer to read, study, and know. No question.  

But have I reviewed Black Skin, White Masks on Amazon? 
No.
On Goodreads?
No.
Until this moment, had I taken the time to write about it here?
No.
Did it even occur to me?
I think in passing, and in passing, I thought, Fanon? How could someone review Fanon for Christ's sake? I mean. It's akin to reviewing Aristotle. Who does that? 
But the book was all that I've said and far more, so shouldn't I review it so that it appears on other readers' book-radar? 
Yes.

And yet, I had no difficulty or hesitation in reviewing the string lights I bought for my child's Halloween costume. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

String lights

Or the package of comfortable underwear: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
An umbrella that looks like an owl: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The clay earrings off Etsy that arrived yesterday ⭐⭐⭐⭐  

Sun/moon earrings: 
https://www.etsy.com/listing/664017436/

And the vintage teapot that is on its way? No doubt if it was as described, arrives in a timely manner, and boils water: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

But why do I have an easier time reviewing a assorted box of Clif bars ⭐⭐⭐⭐ than Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts? (Yes, you should read it and thereby shift your worldview on cis/trans/straight/gay relationships and cultural expectations/past/present/future--amid perfect, right and poetic language). 

I've no idea. Certainly, The Argonauts is more sustaining, surprising, and useful to my life than eight Clif Bars. Even the cover is better than the Clif Bar packaging.

Perhaps objects are easier because we buy them to solve a particular problem and, in the purchase, hope that the object does not break. 

I'll think more on this.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson


If you've read Hezada! I Miss You or any book recently that you think other readers should try, then please do. 

Here are some good questions that you could answer, and if you answer the questions, you have a review! Even one answer = a fast, useful review.
  1. What was your experience like in reading the book?
  2. Did you find yourself a slightly (or more) different person by the end?
  3. What other books or movies do you think this book compares to and why?
  4. Will you read this book again and/or will you think back to this book?
  5. What was your favorite part (or a direct passage) from the book and why?
  6. Did the book set out to answer/address/meditate on a particular problem/subject/thought, and in the end did it do what it set out to do?
  7. If you are a reader of reviews, did you find the book to meet the expectations the reviews promised, or did it exceed those, or did you think there were 1-2 aspects of the book that were not covered and/or were undersung that you'd like to address now?
Remember: 
  • Nothing fancy required. 
  • A one-sentence review is better than no review. 
  • Even one word is awesome (if you can find that perfect word). 
Most all readers likely know where to leave reviews, but here are a few easy places:
๐Ÿ˜„ Goodreads 
๐Ÿ“š Amazon 
๐Ÿ˜„ Your personal Facebook page (or other social media--even a picture of the cover by your coffee is a kind of review)

And if you're just not one to review anything, whether that's light bulbs, music albums, or novels, then no worries. I grew up watching my mother send and receive books from her mother and brother and sister. Once one family member finished the book, the book was wrapped in brown paper and mailed to the next family member on the address loop. 

Send Hezada! through the post office

๐ŸŽ  Give your copy of Hezada! to a relative or friend. You can ask on Facebook who would like you to gift you a copy. Or maybe you take part in those Buy Nothing groups. Offer it up there.
๐Ÿ•ฎ  Ask your librarian to purchase Hezada! for your library;
๐Ÿ   Donate your copy of Hezada! to the Little Free Library in your neighborhood;
๐Ÿ“ฌ  Mail your copy to a faraway friend; Lord knows this is the best time to support the United States Post Office.

Whatever length of review you leave, for whatever book you leave it, use the time and space for the books you found worth reading and that you think others will, too. At least, those are the books I want to read. After all, books aren't light bulbs. 

Except for the best ones. 

And those never go out.

๐Ÿ’“  

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Homesickness, Rural Spaces, and why I love Wendell Berry's Writing

Wendell Berry at his writing desk
From Look and See documentary (press kit)
Of course, I'd heard of Wendell Berry in the way a name seems familiar. I knew he wrote poetry. That was it. Then, a year or two ago, I watched the documentary Look and See when it was on Netflix and learned not only about Berry, but also why the farming town I grew up in was the way it was. Finally, I was given the larger context of the relationship between agribusiness and the family farm. It felt great to understand finally why my childhood was a landscape of fields marked by abandoned farmhouses, sun-rotted barns, and a small handful--if that--of family names who owned the land where, clearly, there was evidence of many more farmers who had once lived there.

In not knowing Wendell Berry's work, I had not known how much of a key he would be not only to unlocking the missing puzzle pieces required for real insight into the decline of rural town populations, but also for unlocking all that I've needed to find beautiful the wild landscapes I once biked through, walked through, lived among and now miss with deep heartsickness--and those trails I walk now.

During the pandemic while our city has been sheltering in place, I've found myself drawn to old comforts. Long walks by myself. Eating doughnuts. Reading. And I've been reading mainly Wendell Berry. I'd bought The Peace of Wild Things a while ago, seems like, but picked it up now. And I experienced it like I experienced Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, in that it felt so familiar--so right--that I tried to slow down the reading to make it last. Though, with Berry, it would be difficult to read any of his work fast. I think that's one of the reasons I find his poetry so comforting. There's no rush. None. No rush to move through the poem, and no shove into the next poem. There is only the silence and open air of thought left. To read the poem again is the only decision the poem seems to ask of the reader--and even that feels without requirement.

To read a poem by Berry is, for me, to live fully inside it, and at its end, live within the space created by the poem.

A nest, perhaps.

Here. A few weeks ago, I purchased a field guide for my son and I to learn the wildflowers and plants we encounter on our walks. I didn't grow up in the Northwest, so everything about its landscape lacks a relationship to my knowledge--I don't see a plant and have any childhood memory connected to it, much less any knowledge of its name, habits, etc. Even after a day of using the field guide, every time I see lupine, I think lupine. When I see grape hyacinth, I think not lupine--grape hyacinth, and I think of my friend Crystal who gave me the right word on a recent walk.

Now that I've read Berry's poems, though only a selection, I can feel a change in my experience of walking down by the river, in how I see the trees around our house, and how I think of home. Berry's poems are a kind of field guide to thinking not only about the natural world, but also urban spaces, which I've felt more and more separated from. More short-tempered about the sound of traffic on a busy street that runs by our house. More irritable about not knowing any of the people I encounter in the grocery store. More confused about why we have created these spaces chocked full of so many houses and roofs and powerlines and things that interrupt every thought, that demand our attention but provide little return.

This winter, our favorite neighbors across the street moved across town. We don't really know the other neighbors. I'm working on building those relationships now, but I couldn't match names to more than two faces. But our favorite neighbors were wonderful. We talked to them regularly, waved, smiled, exchanged small gifts--from cookies to blackberries from our backyard. They came to our son's ballet recitals. Like the best neighbors, ever. When they put their house up for sale, we were definitely full of feelings about their departure. And while I didn't assume that the next people to live across the street would be fast friends, I still had some hope. Maybe it would be a family with a child or two near our son's age. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

But while the house sold within the day it was posted for sale, no neighbors moved in that month. Or the next month. Or the next month. From time to time a fancy black car would park across the street, but that was it as far as activity.

Then, we learned that the people who bought the house would never live there--no, they had bought it to become solely an Air BnB.

At least with a Bed and Breakfast, there would be the person or people who lived in the house whether there were guests or not.

But an Air BnB.

I've been bothered ever since I learned about it. But it wasn't until I finished The Peace of Wild Things and bought one of Wendell Berry's newer books, a collection of essays and other writing, The Art of Loading Brush, that I started to understand why I was so bothered by having good neighbors replaced by now-and-then strangers.

One thing Berry talks about in The Art of Loading Brush is how difficult, if not impossible, it is to start a farm these days. One of the reasons is that urban people are purchasing farmland for second homes at prices that are far above the cost of what a farm could return. The land's divided up, and sold as lots, so then you have the trouble of starting a farm with enough continuous acreage.
By increasing the wealth of urban investors and shoppers for "country places," it increases the price of farmland, making it impossible especially for small farmers, or would-be farmers, to compete on the land market. The free market lays down the rule: Good land for investors and escapists, poor land or none for farmers. Young people wishing to farm are crowded to the economic margins and to the poorest land, or to no land at all. Meanwhile overproduction of farm commodities always implies overuse and abuse of the land. (40)
He goes on to talk about the movement away from subsistence farming and toward commercial farming, and how commercial farming/big farming--with its reliance on economic supply and demand--leads to a way of thinking about the land that leads to its demise, basically:
In a natural ecosystem, even on a conservatively managed farm, the fertility cycle may turn from life to death to life again to no foreseeable limit. By opposing to this cycle the delusion of a limitlessness exclusively economic and industrial, the supposedly free market overthrows the limits of nature and land, thus imposing a mortal danger upon the land's capacity to produce. (41) 
This got me to thinking about urban zoning, and how different parts of a city will be designated for retail use or single-family homes, etc. And then, maybe it all came together when I was pulling weeds out front, and the stranger staying in the AirBnb that evening waved at me on his way to his truck. I waved back. Sure, a nice exchange, but I felt kind of like a person playing the role of neighbor. An actor-neighbor. Here to create the verisimilitude of neighbor in order to contribute to the AirBnb experience promised by the house's online ad.

I felt gross.
A kind of meta-neighbor.

When we lived in Texas, we lived in a house across the street from city housing, and so every duplex in the small lot had revolving doors of neighbors. Moving trucks came and went. Cars packed with boxes did too. Trucks from stores often visited to repossess refrigerators, couches, TVs. We watched the neighbors watch the men roll their belongings into a truck and drive away.

But even with ever-changing neighbors, there was still a longer time of having a neighbor before the pattern changed, one that feels different than the sense I'm getting off this AirBnb across the street.

I'm sure I'll get used to it. What pattern of life does a creature not eventually acclimate to, whether that's abuse or wealth or pandemic sheltering-in-place?

It seems, though, when whole houses are bought to be hotels in residential neighborhoods, that the hotel owner has made a decision for the whole neighborhood--has monetized the neighborhood and changed our agreement to living here. I know that the people who purchased the house are in real estate, that they paid quite a bit above the selling price of the house. In doing so, the surrounding houses have become more valuable, right? Which means higher taxes. Which means. And means. Of course, we couldn't afford our house were we to buy it on the market today. I suppose, in some respects, that someone would say that's a good problem to have. I don't know.

Maybe it's just that I've never lived in a city undergoing gentrification, and this is just part of the experience. Even in Texas, our town--caught between Austin and San Antonio--had not reached the levels of gentrification it is at now, ten years since living there. So we missed it. And now, to return to that city, is to miss the one we knew since it looks so different with its eight and ten-floor apartment buildings, its chain restaurants in places that had once been empty or used furniture stores, its new coffee shops that look so different than the one we used to write at every day.

I read somewhere that the neighborhoods where gay women live are often the first to raise in price and displace those same women.  I think about this. There are three queer/lesbian couples within two blocks. I think about this.

I know it's worse a few miles away where a whole swath of land between the river and one of the lowest-income neighborhoods has been developed into townhouses and an urban-chic retail space. There's even a clear dividing line between the affluent new neighborhood and the neighborhood that's existed far, far longer--I call it the Oz line, where you could stand in the street and one side is the green-green turf of the townhouse yards and on the other side, sits the dirt-showing, yellowing yards with their chain-link fences and houses with tired paint. Yards that sound dreary only because of the illusion of grass across the street.

As a kid, when I went to sleep-away camp, I never experienced the stomach-hurting homesickness that a few others would have. And this was supposed to be, or I interpreted this as, a sign of my strength, a kind of resilience in the face of loss. Or something positive.

But recently, I've begun having that feeling in my stomach, or what I assume to be that feeling. Of missing home. I miss thunderstorms with the steady rain going through the night. I miss quiet roads flanked by fields, even if those fields hold long-empty houses. I miss seeing the faces of neighbors and knowing their names, knowing who is the mother of who, whose children's faces match the faces of children I grew up with--to see the face of an old classmate peering out of her children's faces and to know, immediately, whose smile is running beneath that mouth. I see it on Facebook, but I miss being there. I do not miss being known by those who see me. That has always felt like the suffocating part of living in a small town. But more and more, I think I'd trade that for the sound of a train whose tracks I cross daily, for roads I know better than the back of my mother's hand.

Maybe nostalgia is what adults call homesickness. I don't know.

This is my trying to tell you why, right now, Wendell Berry's writing feels so vital to me. Why my throat has been lumping up. Why every day, I hurry to the river and its trees and lack of houses. Why I've started reading the village council meeting notes from Oblong, Illinois from 1978 and finding solace in the minutes.

I don't know if you'll love Wendell Berry as I do. You see, there might need to be something in you that already misses the land, misses what-was, knows what can't-be, and in that need is the voice of Wendell Berry saying, Yes, of course. Yes, but think of this. Yes, and this is what I was thinking the other day.

And it's a voice I'm glad for hearing.

The Plan (Wendell Berry, from The Peace of Wild Things)
My old friend, the owner
of a new boat, stops by
to ask me to fish with him,

and I say I will - both of us
knowing that we may never
get around to it, it may be

years before we're both
idle again on the same day.
But we make a plan, anyhow,

in honor of friendship
and the fine spring weather
and the new boat

and our sudden thought
of the water shining
under the morning fog.


Wendell Berry and daughter
From Look and See documentary (press kit)

๐Ÿ•ฎ

Hezada! I Miss You in Publisher's Weekly

Two affectionate women reading in a field, used under CC license
Looking for books to read during your quiet time, your pandemic time, your restless night hours?

Hezada! I Miss You, my newest book and novel set in the rural Midwest, recently made an appearance in Publisher's Weekly. The article's writer included it in a list of fifteen books to add to your reading list. So, that's good news.

Read "15 New and Forthcoming Indie Press Gems" here: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/83013-15-new-and-forthcoming-indie-press-gems.html

Purchase Hezada! and all your reading through your local store by using IndieBound.org.

๐Ÿ˜