Sunday, March 30, 2014

"This is going to melt? Say it ain't so!"

On what was the first real day of spring, we hiked around the Joe Pond trails and then enjoyed the sunshine and near-50 degree temperatures on the back deck of the house. Bailey just loves the snow, and I know if he could talk, he'd say "Let's go north for the summer." But then again, I think he loves mountain streams during a hike and the brook at Weld when we're hanging out.

"This is going to melt?"

"It's getting warmer." 
"Time for a nap." 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Books, books, books

Avoiding my taxes and book revisions, I roamed my house this early morning taking photos of the stacks, rows, piles, and clumps of books that line my tables, shelves, desks, and piano. Some of the books I've read; some I haven't. Some are hand-me-downs from my grandfather, F. Allen Burt; others are in storage for Ken, my brother-in-law, a dyed-in-the- wool bibliophile. A select few come from my graduate school studies--those books have been read multiple times, the pages are dog-eared, sticky-noted, Post-It'd, and scribbled on. I feel smart when I see those books, except when I remember how often I sat staring at the dense writing, reading it over and over again, puzzled, left wondering. 

Hundreds of my books come from my old high school English classroom, Room 109 of Mountain Valley High School. There, my students and I collected 2500+ books for our classroom library. In fact, my students got extra credit once a quarter for donating a book! (Yes, I could be bought, but only with books.) In Room 109, we had every-anything in our stacks, from "The Basketball Diaries" and "When Someone You Know Is Gay" to "How Cars Work" and a book on forensics with a full-blown autopsy report and detailed photographs.

John Steinbeck said, "I guess there are never enough books."  This morning, I’d agree. Time to get to work.

To see all of the album, just click here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Visiting Friends…. Kate, Nate, and Lulu 35/60

It is Spring Break, so I traveled south with a keg of beer in tow. OK. So, no keg, but we did go south as far as Cape Elizabeth for a long-overdue visit with my friends LULU, Kate, and Nate. Kate is a writer whose book End Over End is a favorite. She also directed the Southern Maine Writing Project up until a few months ago when she retired (lucky girl). We've shared many an email and phone call over our writing project work and our favorite: budgets. (Kate went to the Richard B. Kent School of Finance… we were quasi-clueless but never gave up.) Nate's a former college administrator-turned-landscaper who keeps a mean garden and loves to give tours of Prouts Neck. And then there's Lulu… sweet Lulu… she ran Bailey ragged out on Higgins Beach. At full sprint, she'd throw herself at Bailey like a defensive back and nipped playfully at his hind quarter--again, at full sprint. Bailey's exhausted!

We ate homemade soup and bread while talking writing and life. The dogs roamed, tested each other's treats, sniffed, and played. I do love knowing people's place--geography says a lot. Kate, Nate, and Lulu have a warm and welcoming  home with over-stuffed chairs, inviting artwork and family photos, lots of daylight, and backyard full of bones and toys and an itsy-bitsy writer's cabin that I'm coming back to visit. Remember to click on photos to enlarge!

Nate & Kate (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Sweet Lulu before she ran Bailey into the ground
"What's next?" 
"I'm digging Bailey's treat." 
Ride home: Exhausted… he slept all the way. 

Back home: "Where's Lulu?" 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Old Friends

There's nothing like meeting up with an old friend at an unexpected time. That happened today on Whitecap Mountain when we met up with Mike Simoneau and his pup near tree line. Mike coached and taught over in the Jay/Livermore area for many years while I did the same in Rumford/Mexico. Mike's one of the easiest people on the planet--always smiling and upbeat (except about snowmobiles). We hiked back down the mountain chatting about mutual friends, former athletes, and local hikes.  Here's to old friends and easy conversations. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Mike and the pups at tree line. Click on the photo to enlarge. 


Blue-Collar Writer

"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. 
They are the ones who keep writing."

–Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark 

In my writing classes someone inevitably reads a stunning few lines from a 5-minute quick write. Her classmates will gush OhMy or mouth Mmmm. Then, I might say, "Gosh, you sure can write." The writer will smile and avert her eyes to the praise. Thing is, writers in writing classes like mine rarely keep writing beyond their graduate school assignments. Most are teachers whose busy lives sap their energy, and the notion of squeaking out 20 minutes at 5:30 in the morning or at recess to work on a short story demands putting off some kid-related chore. Most teachers I know, especially those adding to their week's work in graduate school, put their students at the top of their to-do lists.    

But every once in a while someone will come to me and talk about getting serious about their writing. They're looking for advice. If they're interested in writing short stories or articles, I send them off to library collections or bookstores to review magazines and journals. I say, "Read what they're publishing and see where your work might fit." I picture myself back in 1979, fresh from quitting a good job in Indianapolis "to write," going to the UMF library and perusing its stacks of Maine publications like Maine Life, DownEast, Puckerbrush, Maine Sunday Telegram, or Bittersweet. First, I targeted Maine Life and Bittersweet.

The poems I wrote fit well in these magazines. Mine were accessible Maine poems, free from clutter and secret meanings. Same with my articles. I simply told the story of "The East-West Wilderness School" or how the sport of ski jumping in Maine and across the country was dying. I loved the rush of composing and completing this writing. And if the piece made it to publication, I read and reread it, looking at my name, author bio, and the hefty black print on the page. I loved seeing The Title "by Richard Kent" in the Table of Contents.

But my suggestion of looking at publications often takes the writer by surprise. Even if they don't say it aloud, I can sense the "I won't get into one of those magazines." Really, what they're after is the key to the published writer's castle. And at some point, in some way, I always say, "Just write." 

I offer other advice like find a trusted reader/editor (sometimes I'll recommend "my" Anne Wood). I explain that they'll need to keep drafting until what they need to say surfaces. I'll probably share Ron Carlson's line, "The writer is the person who stays in the room." I may tell about the 40 drafts of the introduction to Writing on the Bus (and how my first reader Gayle laughed at me--made fun of me-- from drafts 30 to 40) or talk about an article I've recently written that took me 60 or 70 hours to compose over the course of several months. Writing is hard for me, I'll say. And at some point I'll always add, "If you want to be published, you will be published. Just keep writing." 

I have good ideas for articles and books, and I'm entrepreneurial. That's my forte as a writer. My writing center book and Room 109 were original. So are my series of books for athlete and teams. Recently, I did a book with my friend Josie Bray… this book, Writing the Dance, may open possibilities for other workbooks-journals in the arts. Beyond my ability to recognize and write about original ideas, I also stay in the room and do the work. 

I suppose that's why I call myself a blue-collar writer. Rarely do I produce eloquent prose like those students whose quick-write lines stop us in class. But I do keep writing until the job is done, just like a house painter or a chimney sweep.          

Friday, March 7, 2014

Hiking Red Hill

We hiked Red Hill today on a 35-degree day. Talk about awesome to be above freezing! Remember to click on the photos to enlarge.
Rich on the left and Bailey on the right :)

Sunday River
Red Hill Road

Mount Blue in Weld
Mount Washington behind Sunday River (or so we believe)

Road Trip--Rangeley to Weld

I've never seen the roads this bad in western Maine. Pot holes and frost heaves make traveling a nauseating affair. But, the views are still quite wonderful in the winter.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Water Polo Team Notebook

After a few weeks of discussion, I started working on a Water Polo Team Notebook with John Vargas, former Olympic and National Team coach, and current coach at Stanford University. He's a good guy who spent 19 years at the high school ranks. I know little about water polo other than it's a ball sport in the water not unlike soccer. My niece and nephews play(ed). In fact, Victoria just scored three goals in a match for UCLA. We're using the same template that I used for the Soccer Team Notebook with Amy Edwards of Gonzaga University, so with that model in place the writing should be a bit easier on John and me.