Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Chapbook Beaver Soul Will Be Published

Mikhail Bazankov's Cover Drawing for the Russian Beaver Soul


Not long ago I learned to my delight that my book of poems Beaver Soul will be published in 2013 by Finishing Line Press of Kentucky.  Beaver Soul was written in 1992, the early part along the Haw River in Saxapahaw, on what I called my poetry rock near a beaver dam.  The second part was written in Russia, where I spent two months, July and August, that year, the first month in two Houses for Creativity, Peredelkino, near Moscow, and Komarovo, near St. Petersburg, and the second month in the Kostroma region, in Sharya, then in the Mezha District, in the village of Gorka, and later in Kostroma.  The final poem in the book was written in Devon, near the River Teign, where I was able to spend another month.
The Kostroma Writers’ Organization published Beaver Soul [Bobrinaya Dusha] in Russian translation in 1997.  I had wanted to see it published in English, so finally 21 years after it was written, it will come out in English.  I’m going to give you my Russian editor’s preface and the first poem, to give you a feeling for the book.  It will sell for $12, and if you order ahead of time [Details when I know them], it’s only $2 postage.  Welcome to the world of Beaver Soul.

Russian Editor’s Preface A Smile from Across the Ocean

When he smiles, a person causes kindness to come into being for himself and for others.  People say that a smile helps us be happy.  I’m thinking about this, having received an interesting photograph and trying to see across the ocean a face not yet known to me, using my imagination to fill in what her character is like, what her situation in life is, and it seems to me that somewhere once before I’ve seen this woman from America.  I can hear her voice in the lines of her letter, her speech which brings with it a long ago melody, maybe from the last century.  Just now, on that continent lying on the opposite side of the water, in the state of North Carolina, it’s a different time of day.  Probably Mrs. Judy Hogan is thinking about her children.  There are three of them, already adults now, living in different cities and her responsibilities as a mother haven’t decreased, although in her letters sent to Kostroma, she doesn’t often mention them.  Even once I thought: if my mama composed such long letters, she would definitely have mentioned each one of her eleven children, which one she was happy about, which one she’d reprimanded, which one she worried about, feeling in her heart that all was not okay.  If you will, she wouldn’t have considered or worried her head about journeys, or if so, it would, for her, have been better to visit her grandchildren.  I will think about this again later on when meeting with the mother of Judy Hogan, who is a famous mountain climber.
But Judy’s smile and her confessions about another life and other interests, suggest that there is another psychology, another understanding of the idea of being human.  “When I was young, I was very serious, but, as my life has gone on, I have learned to laugh more and more.  I think my own struggles and my difficulties and troubles have tended to mean I had to laugh more and more.”
A person is always more important and better than other people realize, than what the people immediately around him know, and he himself doesn’t know everything about himself, if he doesn’t manage to break out from a conventional way of life, if he doesn’t take into account, doesn’t realize all his possibilities, and, because of that, he isn’t even able to say what the chief thing about him is.  Obviously, my new acquaintance’s varied activities and communications with others helped her to be self-confident and to feel emancipated.  The letters and books of Judy Hogan share her character, her artistic taste, her organizing ability, attract attention to her reflections about creativity, conceptions of what it is to be a human being enjoying all the signs of freedom and independence, her methods of working with people of different ages interested in creative writing.
The letters, books, collections of poetry of Judy Hogan, and the manuscript of poems only just now appearing to the author of these notes, strengthened his interest and involved him thoroughly in a conversation about “eternal questions,” about creativity, about masters of world literature.  We were tactful and patient, we didn’t have to reproach one another for not understanding or not agreeing as to the value of the authoritative works of the last and present centuries.  We had apparently already mastered the idea in the words of Pushkin from his article on Radishchev: “there is no ability to persuade in slander, and, where there is no love, there is no truth.”  Now I know: in our joyful conversations about “the gift” that is given to others and about how, in getting closer to the truth through getting acquainted with the loved thing, which breaks through in the love for one’s fellow countrymen, we influenced each other.
The distance, the lack of time, and the language barrier slowed down our communication by letter.  But literature ennobled it and made it more complex.  It gave us the possibility to push farther our understanding, the stories about these subjects in our letters, and it determined the orientation of our discussions.  It opened the perspective and inclined us to realistic thoughts of a project for cultural ties between the sister cities.  Now it’s impossible to mention all the subjects of our letter dialogues across the ocean.  Of course, we didn’t neglect to mention Chekhov, Turgenev, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Bunin, Akhmatova, Esenin, Tsvetaeva.  It turned out that we spoke only of those who are already well known in America, but now she’s probably also oriented to some other authors, because I reminded her of them.
She comforted us, she gave us hope, both in the idea that there are still people with the capacity for reading and understanding Pushkin and who are striving to know some Russian writers besides those famous in America.  There appeared in the dialogue that we had aspirations which united us, in which neither the ocean, nor the language barrier, nor our different styles of life were able to be hindrances.  Judy Hogan agrees with me in this.
So we “closed ranks” in everything, in our individual lives and our past, and what was thought by others, in different decades, in different centuries, on the different shores of the ocean and on different sides of the earth, in villages and cities, in various forms of society.  From one family home we are drawn invisibly to go to another.
Judy’s as free as the sun (she has written about this in her poems).  She confirms:  “We are changed, and we give ourselves up to the joy of living, to the attractive stars.  In the darkness the fireflies are drawn toward the light and they open places where we feel even more at home.”
Mikhail Bazankov
Editor for the Kostroma Writers Organization publication, 1997


THIS RIVER 6 January 6, 1991

Memories are like fish: they rarely break
the surface.  The trick is remembering
they’re there, more active where there’s no air,
where they least appear to move.  The beavers,
too, do more than shows.  I watch for signs
of their nocturnal labors, hold the bites
of wood and bark in my hands, distinguish
the pale orange of fresh wood from the grey
look that follows rain; think I see their
prints.  Definitely deer have passed this
way, and raccoon.  The beaver eludes me
like the fish do–so much so that, when
I did once see her swimming near shore,
it took me days to believe my eyes.
Love is like this.  Lulled among
our memories, it rarely shows itself,
and then we don’t believe what we’ve seen.
Belief.  In the absence of those chance flips
in the air.  Belief.  In the secret life of
the beaver to which she devotes her whole
intelligence in order to preserve her life,
her livelihood, and the lodge where her
children grow fat and strong; the lodge she
has hidden so well that I am baffled: I
can’t read the signs, tell whether the old
lodges are newly inhabited; I think not.
Probably she has a new nest; has outwitted
me; has not only safety on her mind, but
longevity.  She has learned from the river
winds how to fool the eye, how to blind the
heart that isn’t pure and able to believe
what it has seen.  The truth is always there:
it’s in the way the current follows the
river bed, however dammed and held back that
flowing is.  And the beaver’s life leaves
proofs a trusting heart has no trouble taking
for evidence: a few fresh chips of wood,
and she knows the whole story.  So she can build
a world on one sentence she almost didn’t 
hear, which it took her months to believe.
The life of the river birds is known to her,
too.  When they flap off, she knows by
their not having warned the other inhabitants,
that she is recognized, and that, after she
has settled on her chosen stone and begun
to trace the current of the poem across
the page, that they will swing back in
to their favorite fishing shallows soundlessly,
keeping her form in mind, but not thinking
of her; their keen eyes more on the motion
of the water which implies fish are moving
their way.  She always has wanted proofs:
she has been so demanding, she frightened those
who loved her away.  She would force their secrets
from them in order to have what she needed:
their pledge.  Now she understands that she
must not drag the river for proofs;
that every day the river is new for her.
That her memories are not by any means inert, but
feed and grow large, and sometimes, when she
least expects it, leap for pure joy into an
air so foreign to them, and risky, but ultimately
so attractive in its quiescence, because
it asks nothing, is simply there, responsive
to the wind’s tricks and the sun’s showing off,
yet not fooled by either.  Her intelligence
is mobile and ingenious and, like the air, it
buoys up the creature or the man who breathes it
deeply even into his very soul.  It holds the
river smells–mud and old sticks, dead
fish and new eggs, the gradual salting by those
particles worn off rocks and swept from earth.
Water, mud, and air: they are our universe.
Without them we can’t live, much less invent
our lives.  For Life learns to hide herself
not just for safety, but for the pleasure
of those leaps into the welcoming embrace of
air, so soft today, and comforting; as knowing
as old trees that it is wise to surrender
willingly to the teeth of the beaver, to allow
oneself to be as erotically alive as are
the fish, snug in their muddy beds.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Comforts Beyond Your Present Imagining

Zinnias in Penelope Vase, August 2011.


The Telling That Changes Everything XXX. October 14, 2012

For Beatrice and Sharon

To flourish, we allow the mind to
empty, the feelings to experience
hunger.  Then the words and the love 
rush in.  –The Telling That Changes Everything V.

To live well, 
to stay our whole life course and make
our final homeward journey, we have 
only one choice: to pay close attention
to the world within and the world without.
The grain of the universe doesn’t destroy
us unless we let it.
–The Telling That Changes Everything XI.

It took you
seventy-five years to touch this home
truth?  Be grateful you stepped ashore,
however wounded in soul and body.
Comforts beyond your present
imagining lie straight ahead. 
–The Telling That Changes Everything XIII.

The awful, awesome nature of Life!
So much vibrancy and fight in every 
living being.  Without it we die and
make food for a new world rising 
unbidden from our ashes.  No need
to fail before our time of full aliveness,
before knowing that the fate we knew
years ago has reached its ripening.
We are who we longed to be.  Our words 
have the potency to change how other
people see the world.  I knew words 
were the most powerful weapon there
is.  Bombs destroy.  Words transform.
Corporate greed reduces, dehumanizes.
A writer’s vision heals, engenders 
belief in people who feel trapped in
mind-numbing despair.  A children’s
book reminds us: “there is enough
for all.”**  Be known as one who
gives and receives.  Lewis Hyde
called it “the gift-giving circle.”
You may call it Love, or God.
Deeply planted in us lives our Hope.
Do not crush that first flower.  Feed
it, water, nurture, enjoy.  Stop to see
the leaves of the self-heal plant that
finds its place in grass and weeds 
along a busy road.  Notice the 
exuberant sweet potato vines that
overwhelmed even the most obnoxious
weeds.  Then, when you rise to your
full height, believe all those prophetic
words you wrote for years and years.
When you see that your faith in 
yourself was not misbegotten, that
other people see and love what 
your Muse commanded you to tell
as best you knew how, then stand
tall, give to your writing, to your
readers, your creatures and plants,
your best self–everything good
that you can conceive.  If cruelty
comes against you, then fight with
the truth sword you now know how
to wield.  Defend your life and 
your words to the end of Time.

** Rabbit Hill

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Splitting Open the Whole World

My Christmas Cactus in the Kitchen Window--Blooming Now.
Photo from 2011.  Light in winter.


The Telling That Changes Everything XXVII. September 2, 2012

You see, the ecstasy the true self experiences is outside time, and it’s contagious.
–The Telling That Changes Everything II. 

How does one human being help hold back
the woes of desolation and dismay that
descend, despite our best efforts?  By belief
that the More in our human nature’s still 
there, will always be there if we stay 
attuned to that deeper, wiser chord we
have the ears to hear, the vision to 
recognize and obey; that leads us into our 
own imagined promised land either 
before or after we die.  
–The Telling That Changes Everything XVII.

When Susan came to interview me
and pressed me to know where my 
drive came from, I told her it started
early.  By age twenty-seven I knew my
destiny was to do something important.
Vague enough then and sometimes
forgotten–yet, like a hard pebble of
truth inside me, I couldn’t entirely forget.
It kept me on this path I later called
my leyline: doing what I must do,
while I have life and limb.  At age
fifty-four I wanted to fulfill Muriel
Ruykheyser’s dictum: “If one woman
told the whole truth about her life,
the world would split open.”  I worked 
for truth and justice here and abroad, 
wanted people who are different
to overcome their fears and hostilities.
I saw how my words became catalysts
and changed things, though I was often
castigated: “trouble-maker;” hated,
feared, avoided.  I turned to my books:
I’d send their arrows of truth zinging
out into the wider world.  I, a catalyst,
have been giving birth to books, also
catalysts, which carry their passionately
winged words into other minds.  
Some of my arrows may come right
back and wound me.  That’s inevitable
when you once begin the work of
splitting open the whole world.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Whole New Place in Your Life

Judy's okra, August 2011


The Telling That Changes Everything XXVI.
August 26, 2012

You have to trust it,
let it take you into a whole new place in your 
life and in the lives of other people, a new room 
where communion is frequent and possible,
where people love the characters you’ve 
created and hunger for the wisdom you’ve
locked into words, made alive in stories
they will search out far into the future, long 
after you are dead. – The Telling That Changes Everything XIV.


What is this new room then?  It’s
a room of my own, but in a different
sense than in Virginia’s sense.  A new
room in the House of Man, in the
dwelling place of human beings.  
I have words to give and a new room
in which to put them down on paper
where they will be read and loved,
where they will shape lives, all this
very quietly.  The potency is in the
words not spoken, yet the words
themselves reassure.  A new role
that yet has been with me from the
beginning, that sense that never left
me once I came of age in a spiritual
sense.  One professor who showed off
and seemed both fake and fierce to me
yet gave me a picture of what has
happened that I’ve never forgotten:
a woman, naked on top of a mountain
not worrying about her nakedness.
Below her, as far as the eye can see, 
people–all kinds and conditions,
all colors, ages, ethnic and economic
backgrounds–in short, the human
race, and the only race we have–
all looking up at her, and in their eyes
hope, while she looks at them and
loves them.  In her soul is pure
compassion.  That is a spiritual
pinnacle I never expected to reach,
much less to be.  Curiously, now,
with a shock, I realize I’m there.
It’s not anything to make a noise 
about, and yet I must say to myself:
yes, this is the new room.  I’ve
known this role at times, but all
the separate pieces have never all
knitted themselves together.  Yet
this new book does it.  I can tell by
what people say, by how it moves 
them, also by what they don’t say.
I have learned to listen to the
silences, too.  I’ve been alone a lot
these last nine months, asking people
to let me be, let me write.  They have.
At times I’ve been lonely, but my
soul grew fast like an okra stalk
in late summer sun, rising higher,
its big leaves stretched out.  Now
it bears me fruit.  I see where I
walked blind and blind-sided.  I’m
still me--in most ways, unremarkable,
and yet my life has shifted into 
perfect focus.  Yes, my new room
has people in it.  It’s about community.
It means accepting my fate, that is
to say, my gift, to go naked into 
the world and heal people because
I see and love them.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Map of an Ungotten Estate

Medicinal Self-Heal plants in my 2011 early spring garden**


The Telling That Changes Everything XVII.
April 15, 2012 

Sometimes we have to be very patient indeed before we can speak our truth. 
–The Telling That Changes Everything I.

Among the heirs of art, as at the division of the promised land, each has to win his portion by hard fighting: the bestowal is after the manner of prophecy, and is title without possession.  To carry the map of an ungotten estate in your pocket is a poor sort of copyhold.  And in fancy to cast his shoe over Edom [Palestine] is little warrant that a man shall ever set the sole of his foot on an acre of his own over there...

The most obstinate beliefs that mortals entertain about themselves are such as they have no evidence for beyond a constant, spontaneous pulsing of their self-satisfaction–as it were a hidden seed of madness, a confidence that they can move the world without precise notion of standing-place or lever.
–Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, p. 213.

You see, the ecstasy the true self experiences is outside time, and it’s contagious.
–The Telling That Changes Everything II. 

Like an Old Testament prophet, I see visions.
Because spring arrived so recklessly early,
in March, no rain mid-April gives me a 
queasy feeling.  How coax seedlings to
fuller life in hot, dry conditions?  If spring
weather makes growing food more difficult, 
what will summer bring?  I water, weed, 
protect from sudden cold.  The same spring
heralds my book five months early.  Farther
out are the skeptics, the small-minded
critics, but near me are people who want 
to be close, know me better through my
book, and even when I teach a chicken
workshop.  What is it I give these readers
and students?  Validation for their human
longings, their desire to live as close as
I do to the world of creatures and plants,
both wild and tamed?  It’s not a passive 
life.  The natural world is very active
and inexplicable.  Why suddenly does
nitrogen-producing clover spring up 
everywhere about this place, or a large
patch of purple flowers that look like
harebells arise from a familiar weed?  
Then there’s the grass I’ve never seen
which has taken over part of the orchard.
I have in my pocket, like George Eliot
did, “the map of an ungotten estate.”  
It makes me both strange and beloved.  It 
gives me sight of trouble brewing like the
ominous black sky that precedes tornadoes,
leaves its path of destruction but no rain.
How does one human being help hold back
the woes of desolation and dismay that
descend, despite our best efforts?  By belief
that the More in our human nature’s still 
there, will always be there if we stay 
attuned to that deeper, wiser chord we
have the ears to hear, the vision to 
recognize and obey; that leads us into our 
own imagined promised land either 
before or after we die.


** Self-heal is a natural astringent, antiseptic, antiviral, and antibiotic.  As a tea, it relieves colds, sore throats, allergies, with no dangerous side-effects.  Can also be used on cuts, wounds, hemorrhoids, and herpes.
Chinese medicine used it in Han Dynasty, 206 BC-AD 23.  In the West it was used to heal inside and outside wounds, called Woundwort and Heal All.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Compassion Will Be the New Lesson

View of my early spring garden 2011--beets and onions


The Telling that Changes Everything XVI.
April 8, Easter, 2012

It comes down to the I, the center
of my innermost being or soul.
You could say God.  It’s what I
know as God.  My father thought
my sixteen-year old quest to find
God would inevitably lead to
disappointment.  He wanted to
protect me.  He couldn’t.  I found
what I was looking for, by whatever 
name: that inside place where I 
learn and then tell what’s true.
Passion, with all its ways, starts
there–from our sensual beginnings
to our stubborn insistence on
compassion as a way of seeing
the world around us.  Ultimately,
it merges with our willingness
to die for how we see this life,
our fellow travelers, and our
beautiful blue-green planet.
This deep indwelling place tells
me I will live a long time, have
many losses, and yet survive
them.  I am to give everything
away, especially my love, my
way of seeing, the paradoxical
truth of transformation.  Death
is such a change, but so is life
eternal.  Nine years ago I had
a vision of my many unpublished
books when I saw those mature
trees scattered singly and in
groups around a farmer’s meadow.
Fifteen years after my last poetry
book, Beaver Soul, here comes
Killer Frost, about my love and
grief for ill-prepared students on
an historically black campus.
Americans are losing their prosperity,
except for the few, who gorge on
our misfortunes.  But Artemis
prepares her vengeance.  Neglected,
intelligent children turn to crime.  
The abused earth and seas rise
up to punish us.  Great suffering
lies ahead.  Will we learn?  
Compassion will be the new lesson;
the wisdom of the inner life, our
new solace.  Then we will live
again, find our exuberant joy to
watch this drunken, reckless spring,
which came too early but boldly
cast aside fears of the killing frost,
sent rain, bright sun to make a
green that floods earth and yearns
skyward into a pure, clear blue
from which sun pours down its
benignly indifferent golden grace.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Killer Frost--Reader Comments III

Fall colors from Sugar Loaf Mountain in Maryland, looking to woods.  Thanks to John Ewing.

Our frost came during a drought, so not such vibrant colors, and right here, not everything has yet been touched by that killer.

Meantime, people continue to send me their impressions of Killer Frost.  I've finished my fall readings and signings, which have brought many new readers close as well as many dear friends.  Now I'm resting from that, except for the radio show on WCOM 103.5 FM, local Carrboro, Chapel Hill, and Durham community radio the Friday after Thanksgiving, November 23, 6 PM, with Jackie Helvey and Valarie Schwartz.  A video will be available on Jackie's TV show website at, and you will be able to listen live on the radio from their website:


Marian Copeland, Pittsboro writer (in an email 10-23-12): It’s your fault I didn’t have any lunch!  I started reading your book this morning and couldn’t stop–didn’t want to stop–long enough to make myself some lunch.  It is SO good–I hope to be able to write half as well some day.  It’s amazing that you are able to create so many characters that are all real–I could clearly picture each of them, how they looked, how they carried themselves, how they thought.  You are a terrific writer.  I loved the book.

Pat Dawson, owner of Paperbacks Plus! in Siler City (in an email 10-23-12): Midway through Killer Frost I was sure I knew “who done it,” but still I was surprised.  You have woven a story on many levels.  The struggles of the students to overcome their initial reluctance for change, the struggles of the faculty to actually help, and the struggles to solve the murder.  Amongst all those struggles is the joy in coming to know your characters.  I felt that, by the end of the book, they were friends, and I want to know more about them and their lives.  Looking forward to reading the books that come before this as well as the ones after.

Marian Westbrook, Goldsboro writer (in an email 10-23-12): Judy, I’ve been meaning to write and tell you that I enjoyed reading Killer Frost.  You did such a good job developing the characters and the plot, as well as weaving in issues that you care about.  As a former English teacher at a community college, I could identify with some of the students’ deficiencies.  And the dialog seemed very natural.
The only quibble I had with the book was that things seemed to happen so fast, and Penny got pulled into the problems after being on campus such a short time. I think she goes only twice a week.  You did have Oscar confiding in her a lot, so that helped.  This is a minor complaint considering how good the book is.  Good luck on getting your others published.

Gloria Alden, mystery writer friend (in a comment on I enjoyed this book from beginning to end. Her characters were very real to me, and her plot was excellent, keeping me reading on to see what would happen next. I love to solve the mystery before the end and couldn't in this case even though the murderer was plausible when I found out who it was. I also learned things I didn't know, which is a plus for any book, in my opinion. I can't wait to read the sequel to find out what happens to Penny and her other ongoing characters.

Mary Susan Heath, Goldsboro writer (email of 11-7-12): I had a “milky drink” this afternoon when I needed a bit of comfort.  Although I got my own this time, I will never have a cup of hot chocolate or warm milk without thinking of Killer Frost, where the characters offer each other this refreshment, along with their empathy.

The commentary on academic responsibility for academically deficient students is certainly most timely.  But what I enjoyed most about the book were the relationships.  Any woman who has a daughter will smile when Penny recognizes that her daughter isn’t really asking for advice, but merely affirmation for what she has already decided to do.  Women will, of course, understand and relate to the daughter’s quest to create a “real” family for herself.  Then there is Penny’s dilemma with the men in her life and how she works that out for an interesting subplot.  A most interesting read!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Next Big Thing: The Sands of Gower

Photo of Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsula, near Swansea, in Wales.  Photo by John Ewing.


We mystery writers currently have a chain blog going.  Linda Rodriguez tagged me.  Check out her blog on her next big thing, Every Broken Trust, back on Sept 29:

The Next Big Thing for Judy Hogan.  

1.  What is the working title of your book?  The Sands of Gower

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is the first mystery in my series, written in 1991.  I hope it will be the third published.  Killer Frost (#6) came out September 1, 2012, from Mainly Murder Press.  I’m waiting to hear from MMP about #7, Farm Fresh and Fatal, which I hope to publish in 2013.  Then I’d like to get The Sands of Gower published as soon after that as practicable.

Since 1981 I’d been going to Wales every few years to take a writing vacation, away from my family and work responsibilities.  I’d range the footpaths on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea and write poems.  To rest, I read mysteries.  My Bread and Breakfast landlady, when I sprained my ankle in 1990 and was housebound, suggested I write a “murder.”  For fun I began plotting one.  Sands takes place in a fictional B &B modeled on Mrs. Merrett’s.  I wrote it in 1991.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?  Traditional mystery.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Penny Weaver: amateur sleuth, mid-50s American poet–Sally Field.

Kenneth Morgan: Welsh police inspector, mid-50s, becomes Penny’s lover–Daniel Craig

Evelyn Trueblood: Bed and Breakfast English-speaking Welsh landlady of Penny’s; 75 years old–Judi Dench

Lucy Straley–local librarian on Gower peninsula, a rare feminist, friend of Penny’s, retired from Midlands, 65–Felicity Kendal.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript?

In the process of solving the murder of a German guest, American poet Penny Weaver and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan experience a powerful erotic attraction, and this, plus the British post-World War II continuing hatred of the Germans, complicates their investigation.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

I hope to have it published by a small press, ideally Mainly Murder Press.  

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  Two months.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

Agatha Christie and other Golden Age village mysteries for the plot.  For the erotic attraction, to Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Miller’s Kill series.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?  I learned from the mystery writers, mainly of the Golden Age, which I began reading in 1980, after my first child went to college: Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Marjorie Allingham.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Readers of Killer Frost have been wanting to know more about how Penny and Kenneth got together.  I think the love story, as well as the anti-German and anti-Semitic themes will interest readers, too.  Perhaps also the coastal Wales descriptions and the cross-cultural conflicts, not to mention how poet Penny Weaver became an amateur detective.


Here are the writers to whom I’m linking.  Check out their plans for Their Next Big Things.

B.K. Stevens.  Story “No Good Deed” in anthology To Hell in a Fast Car, edited by John French and published by Dark Quest Books.  Blog at Untreed Reads:  Date: Between Nov 12 and Nov 18.  

Diane Vallere: Other People’s Baggage. Blog:  Nov. 12.

Karen Pullen: Cold Feet from Five Star, 2013.  Blog:
November 14.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: The Resurrection of Nat Turner: Sharon Ewell Foster

Winfield Farm in Randolph County, where the Churches believe that all farmers should do their own labor.


The Resurrection of Nat Turner: Part One: The Witnesses and Part Two: The Testimony.  Sharon Ewell Foster.  Howard Books, Simon and Schuster, Inc., New York, 2011 and 2012.  Part One: ISBN: 978-1-4165-7803; Part Two: ISBN: 978-1-4165-7812-3.  Paper $15.99 each part.
Sharon won the Michael Shaara Prize for Civil War Fiction for these books and attended the ceremony this fall at Gettysburg College.

My old World Book Encyclopedia from the late 1940s, which my sister won in a spelling contest, gives this info about Nat Turner, and from what I learned in American history in school, that was all I knew about Nat Turner:

Turner, Nat (1800-1831) was a Negro slave in Southampton County, Virginia. He persuaded many of his fellow slaves to rise up in revolt against their masters in 1831.  He was captured and hanged.

Sharon Ewell Foster has indeed resurrected Nat Turner, whom the slaves of 1931 in Southampton county, Virginia, called a prophet. He is like nothing so much as an Old Testament prophet, an 1830s version of Jonah preaching to Nineveh.  In his suffering and death, there are parallels with the death of Jesus.  Both parts of this story are essential to seeing the vision Sharon Ewell Foster has carefully researched and now presents in a deeply moving portrait of a figure who played a key role in the eventual emancipation of the American slaves.

When Sharon set out to write about Nat Turner, she didn’t expect to overturn the “knowledge” about Turner that had been publicly available before.  She didn’t expect the truth to take her in such a different direction.  She interviewed descendants both of former slave owners and their slaves still living in Southampton County, was given access to actual trial records and official documents.  She spent five years doing research.  

Using the privilege of a novelist, she paints all the events that led up to the rebellion and the massacre of fifty whites on the night of August 22, 1931. She goes back to the life Nat’s Ethiopian mother, Nikahywot, was living in the Ethiopian Highlands about 1798, when she and her cousin were captured by Muslims, sold as slaves, and taken in slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean.  Nikahywot ended up as the property of Benjamin Turner, and was given the name of Nancie.  

In 1800 she bore Nat, and his white father treated him better than most of his slaves, allowed Nat to learn to read and write.  His mother taught him Amharic, her native language, and her Ethiopian culture’s Christian heritage, and called him Nagasi, Prince.  When his owner, who had promised him freedom and had put Nat’s name on the deed to the Turner’s Meeting Church, died, Nat, at about age twelve, was sold away from his mother and put to work in the fields.  Nikahywot had kept telling him: “We are all captives, and you must set us all free. You must be brave and must remember.”

Nat learns, when Benjamin gives him a Bible and allows him to go to the Turner’s Meeting Church, that his mother’s Ethiopian Christianity (Pre-Roman Catholic) is the same as the religion of the white slave-owners.  This becomes his message: The Christian religion was being used to justify slavery.  Nat insists that God considers it wrong for one human being to own another. He cites the passages in the Old Testament.  To the end of his life, he is preaching that, if the slave-owners don’t repent their man-stealing, God will punish them.  God loves them, too, but he will not allow their shameful behavior to their fellow human beings to go unpunished.

I have read other books which took up the subject of American slavery, e.g. Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but none so vivid and harrowing as the portrait painted here.  I experienced the cold in the same way that I experienced hunger in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, to give one example.

All of us–black and white–need to know this history.  The Civil War is now 150 years behind us, but our American culture is still haunted by it and the terrible injustice that led to it.  As a nation, as a people, we are still having trouble with the concept that God (or whatever name we give the Created Order) loves all of us, rich, poor, black, white, all cultures and ethnicities, all kinds and conditions of human beings.  We still try to separate ourselves from people who are different and say we are better, we are “more” human, and they are “less” human.

It won’t wash, and ultimately, there is a price to be paid.

In Part I: The Witnesses Sharon uses the point of view of many of the key players around Nat Turner, and some who came later, like Harriet Beecher Stowe: Sallie Francis Moore Travis, who was Nat’s owner in 1831; Nathaniel Francis, her brother and one of the most obsessed and cruel slave owners; Will, a slave belonging to Nathaniel Francis, who had sold Will’s wife and baby daughter; auntie Easter, another of Nathaniel Francis’s slaves; Nat’s mother; and William Parker, the white lawyer who would “defend” Nat at his trial.

In Part II: The Testimony we learn up close how Nat feels and thinks, down to the pain he has in his feet as he walks barefoot through the snow (slaves had no shoes and inadequate clothing for the winter).  We also are with Harriet Beecher Stowe as she learns the true story from Will, who in 1856 is an escaped slave living in Boston.

I learned how the original confession of Nat Turner came to be written by the local slave-owners when the court case fell apart.  The truth burns through the pages of these books and will sear your heart.  Take your courage in both hands and read them.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

So Subtle and Gentle a Happiness

Zinnias on my dining table, August 2011, After Hurricane Irene.  Now we wait to see what Hurricane Sandy off the coast will do.
The vase was from my first Roadmap to Great Literature for New Writers class in 1981, a Penelope vase, she who was faithful.


The Telling that Changes Everything XV. April 1, 2012

For Judi Ivie, my editor at Mainly Murder Press

Be content.

Life showers Her gifts on those who live

well, fulfill the purpose for which they
were born, and go out to meet others with
their hands full, their hearts warm, their
smiles genuine and freely given.  
–The Telling That Changes Everything I.

We can be
killed, maimed, have lies told
about us, but our truth will
shine into their darkness,
whoever they are, whatever
their intentions.  Their humanity
is as frail and needy as our own.
They also have the choice: to be
who they are or betray themselves,
the worst evil there is, and so
often not named in our world,
more and more confused about
what matters. 
–The Telling That Changes Everything II.

Keep on being who you 
are, doing what you love.  It counted before.
It counts now.  It will always count.  Don’t
worry.  You have what it takes.  
–The Telling That Changes Everything XIV.

A more complete yet so subtle and gentle a
happiness lifted me until I felt suspended
all day, for no reason, for every reason.
My work was light.  Nothing disturbed
my equanimity, the serene confidence
that was like white, layered clouds under me,
a protective quilt come to assert that, yes,
I was where I needed to be, doing what I 
needed and wanted to do.  My own life,
my way of seeing the world and other
people, my words and books, my life 
here with plants and creatures, loving
neighbors and friends, is exactly right.
I’m past the crossroads now.  It will get
harder.  It already has.  To be in the world

and not of the world is never easy, always 

fraught with potentially disturbing
consequences.  I feel ahead of time the 
jealousy, hatred, rage I may stir because 
I succeed, because I’m putting my simple 
vision of love and transformation into 
stories, into words, and other people
embrace them.  A neighbor man tells me
he loves me.  I’ve had a Christmas hug
from another man who will care for my
hens when I’m gone.  “When I was 
a little boy,” Clavin says, “I wanted to
ride the school bus.  I wanted knowledge.
But all I got was a cap gun.”  Now he sits
with Robert, who is dying of cancer.  They
have been friends since they worked in 
tobacco fields as children.  My friends
mail me checks for my new book, cheer
me on.  Susan in the post office is as
excited as I am when my new book arrives
in the mail.  Another woman copies my
pre-sales flyer and gives it to her book-
reading friends.  There may be contemptuous
looks, scornful smiles, bitterness because
I succeed where they have failed.  Always
we can choose which voices we heed and
hold close to our hearts.  I choose the
ones that made me float with seeming flimsy
clouds holding me up.  But words do lift.
My editor writes: “Yes, we believe in
your book, but, more importantly, we
believe in you, Judy.”  We choose the
reality we trust, the bonds of affection
that best pull us up to our full height,
egg us on to do our most outstanding
work, give our gifts whole and unclouded
by doubt or dismay.  It’s called an act
of faith.  It doesn’t make you rich, 
but it does make you happy. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Killer Frost Reader Comments--Part II.

Autumn trees at Sugarloaf Mountain (MD).  Photo by John Ewing


Killer Frost Reader Comments, Part II.

Carol Hay, writer friend, in an email (Sept. 16): I finished [Killer Frost] yesterday morning and loved it!  I like Penny very much and enjoyed spotting similarities between her and her creator.  I also feel drawn to the neighborhood community Penny and Kenneth have at home.  Is the next book a sequel?  You could knock off Sarah, and give joint custody of Seb to Leroy, Penny, and Kenneth. :) And I’m very concerned about the futures of those students!  I’m looking forward to the launch party and to the next book!  My warmest congratulations!

Elisabeth Stagg, writer friend, in an email (Sept 23): I enjoyed Killer Frost so much!  It was especially interesting to see the connections between Penny Weaver’s experiences and yours–and to see how artfully you turned life into fiction to illuminate so many important issues at HBCUs.  No shortage of scandals in higher ed, of course, including at our flagship UNC-CH.  Bravo!  And I hope to have the chance to read more of the series.

Debra Goldstein, mystery author, in an email (Sept. 27): I finished your book and truly enjoyed it.  I haven’t decided if I like Penny or Sammie or one of the younger girls best, but I want to get to know them all better.  

Rosalyn Lomax, English and Drama teacher, in an email (Oct 7, after the reading in Goldsboro):
Meeting you was a pleasure, but you are not the only new friend I have made.  I now have met and come to love Penny and all the characters who populate Killer Frost.  I treated myself to the luxury of reading it in its entirety today.   Your dialogue is natural; your characters are real; your murder mystery is intriguing; your portrayal of an issue dear to my heart, the sadness of underprepared college students and the frustration yet determination of faculty to make a difference, is very powerfully woven into the story as an integral part of the mystery itself.  Brava!

Chief Gary Tyson, Siler City Police, in an email Oct. 10: Judy, I just finished reading Killer Frost. It was one of the most incredible books that I have read.  I became engulfed in the reality of the plot.  In my mind, I became an eyewitness to a struggle that is all too common in many African American families.  The characters were indeed real.  They were as real as folks that I come into contact with on a regular basis.  The unsung heroes that make a difference in so many young people’s lives each and every day.  Folks like Malvina (AKA Margie Horton Ellison) who was community organizing before it became fashionable.*
The book flowed with such grace.  It kept me engaged.  There were also some jewels that could be plucked from the plot.  One was the awesome power of protest.  If only folks still remembered the protests of the Civil Rights Movement.  Folks would be doing more than “being sick and tired of being sick and tired” with ungodly stuff that is on the news and spoken at our kitchen tables on a daily basis.  Another jewel to be plucked was the dire need for good leadership and mentorship.  The raw kind of leadership that is willing to go down with the ship if the cause is right.  (We know that God looks after his soldiers.)  The kind of leadership that will either give a young person a gentle push, or, if needed, a swift kick in the butt to get them back on track (Mr. Oscar’s type).  The book offered a lot of drama with no blood, guts, and sex that dominates our airwaves and books in our current society. You were able to capture a lot of drama, with a few horrific moments, in a clean kind of old-fashioned manner.  How refreshing to read a modern day drama with an old-fashioned twist.
Wow!  Thanks for a narrative that reminds us all that even with the dire problems we face today, “the frost” has not destroyed our determination to overcome.

*Note: Killer Frost is dedicated to Margie Ellison, with whom I was privileged to work in our local Chatham County politics, 2005-6.  The character Malvina is modeled on Margie.

Margaret Stephens, writer friend (in an email Oct 10): Judy, what an intriguing cast of characters!  I especially like the feisty young black female students, nice and mouthy.  I’m glad you killed off the more objectionable of the faculty/staff.  Why not?  Glad that Penny stuck with her job, because she was obviously doing good there.  Curious about how kind and supportive Kenneth is.  Is he for real?  Or just a wonderful daydream?
I did feel a little like I was coming into the middle of things, especially when the community got together at Penny’s house.  But then, I was coming in in the middle–this is book five of the series, or so, yes?***  It would be nice to have had more background, mostly about the relationship and the local friends, who are a good combination of ages and personalities.  Really liked the twist with Sarah’s ex being such a good dad, the whole ‘who’s keeping the kids tonight’ bit.  Sarah has some growing up to do...
Penny and Kenneth are such unique couple, and the whole Wales/NC six-month life is special.
Good work.  What an achievement!  What a way to be celebrating your 70s!

*** Note: Killer Frost is #6 in the series.  I hope to get the early ones published soon, and #7-10 are already written.

Marie Hammond, writer friend (in a letter received 10-19-12): For me [Killer Frost] was revealing and enriching.  If it’s an accurate representation of student life at HBCUs (as I think it must be), then it’s a tragedy.  How sad for all those kids whose primary and secondary education has been such a failure.  Of course I realize that many of these students would not be in college at all except that the better African-American students are recruited by other schools.  That’s no excuse, however, for allowing so many to graduate high school without learning basic skills.  Your book is an eye-opener in that regard.
Other observations: the book is not a typical mystery, in that the plot contains many elements that have nothing to do with the murders.  The story is as much about good teaching, friendship, student rights, farming, and basic human decency as about crime.  I like that!  It reveals who you are.  In fact, Judy Hogan comes through as clearly and forcefully in this book as in any of your journal entries I’ve read.  Penny’s compassion, encouraging spirit, and willingness to work hard for the students are ideal traits for a teacher–we need more like her (you) in the classroom.
Here are [my favorite parts of the book]: 1) Rick Clegg’s speech at the Black History convocation is superb.  It’s a sermon worthy of Elaine Goolsby, simple on the surface, seemingly easy to understand, yet quite profound.  “The truth will out” was one of my mother’s favorite sayings and therefore is one of mine, too.  Did the speech come straight out of your head, or was it based on something you heard or read?
2) The ending is touching and multi-layered.  Various threads are tied together by the text of the song “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”  Merilee’s dream, her singing talent, the vulnerability of children, the sad and deprived childhood of many of the students, and how much better things could be if people cared for each other are some of the ideas suggested by the song.
So, congratulations on a good book, which I enjoyed reading.  Hope to see you at the Regulator Bookshop reading on November 8.

**Note: I did write Rick Clegg’s speech out of my head.  Elaine Goolsby is a good friend who writes sermons as a lay person in the Methodist Church.  I have heard African American preachers and speakers on numerous occasions.  My editor at Mainly Murder Press asked if they needed to get permission to use the speech.  That pleased me.  JH

Katherine Wolfe, writer friend, in an email 10-19-12: Sounds like your discussions of the book have been interesting and helpful.  I like the idea of ways St. Francis can help unprepared students.  An important topic!  As I read your book, I never thought about you presenting black students in a bad way... I just thought you were presenting them as they were.. And being their champion, practicing “tough love” to help them succeed.  I could feel Penny’s concern and joy in successes.

Pam Kilby, writer friend, in an email 10-19-12: Killer Frost introduces Penny Weaver, an intelligent, sensitive North Carolina writer and teacher.  She’s also no slouch as a sleuth, amateur variety, who not only walks the walk but jumps in with both feet.  By novel’s end the central mystery is solved, but the reader wants to know more about Penny.  For example, how did she meet Kenneth, her Welsh policeman husband, and what’s the source of the underlying tension between Penny and her daughter Sarah?  I’m looking forward to subsequent novels featuring Penny that will answer these questions and reveal more of her character while plunging into the midst of another compelling mystery.


I welcome more comments from my readers.  This is the best part! JH

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: Louise Penny's The Beautiful Mystery

The Beautiful Mystery.  Louise Penny.  August 2012.  St. Martin’s Minotaur Books.  ISBN: 968-0-312-65546-4.  Hard cover. $25.99.  373 pages.

Louise Penny’s eighth mystery novel, The Beautiful Mystery, blends many meanings of the word mystery.  It is a mystery novel, with a straight-forward plot.  Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his second in command, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, live for some time in the monastery of St. Gilbert-Entre-les-Loups in order to discover and arrest the monk who killed their choir master, Prior Mathieu.

A second mystery is that surrounding the very ancient Gregorian chants, which were “soothing, contemplative, magnetic,” and were known as “the beautiful mystery.”  Monks believed they were “singing the word of God, in the calm, reassuring, hypnotic voice of God.”  In the ninth century those ancient plainsong chants were written down in the first form of musical notation: “waves--short, squiggling lines” called neumes.  When this monastery released a recording, the Church realized that they were singing that form of ancient plainsong which had gotten lost and corrupted.  But these monks lived outside civilization in the wilds of Quebec, not leaving their monastery, except for the abbot, or allowing visitors in, until the murder occurs.  So a second mystery is: how did these monks learn that very early plainsong that had been lost for a thousand years?

Gamache and Beauvoir have only begun their careful investigation into the split that had occurred among the monks between those led by the dead prior, who wanted to make a new plainsong recording and lift their vow of silence so the monks could travel and be interviewed, and those monks who wanted to keep the status quo, led by the abbot, when Gamache’s boss, Chief Superintendent Sylvain Francoeur, arrives by noisy plane and takes over the case.  A third mystery: why has the Chief Superintendent come and what is he up to besides trying to upstage and wrest control from Gamache?  Gamache and Francoeur are fully aware that they are enemies.  Gamache is determined to root out the corruption at the top of the Surete, and Francoeur is determined to destroy Gamache.
Then there is a fourth mystery: the moral struggle in Gamache.  He can’t let himself be pulled into the insidious game-playing, the baiting of traps to set off his anger that are Francoeur’s specialty.  He can’t give in to his rage.  Will he be able to stay calm, sane, in control when threatened in new and devious ways?

Beauvoir has his moral struggle, too.  He is only recently recovered from his addiction to the pain medicine he needed after his injury in the raid when so many of Gamache’s team were killed.  A fifth mystery: will Beauvoir be able to stay clean as the tension ratchets up?  He also hates Francoeur and wants to protect Gamache, who doesn’t want to be protected.

Throughout the book, we, too, contemplate the beauty of the music, and how devoted to it the monks are, its seeming to compensate for all the things in the outside world that they don’t have.  The music and their participation in it, the way they are transported and transfixed by the music, apparently satisfies them on both human and spiritual levels.  This experience of ecstasy is compared to that of an addict high on his drug of choice.  A sixth mystery: how can music be so powerful?  How could murder happen in such blessed circumstances?
Not specifically articulated here, but present, is a seventh mystery:  is the magnum mysterium a truth that can be known only through divine revelation?  

Also implied, as we explore the monastery with Gamache and Beauvoir, is an eighth mystery: the baffling, nearly unknowable reality of human character.

Louise Penny recently won the Anthony award for her 2011 novel, Trick of the Light.  She has been, with this new book, number two on the New York Times Best-Selling list; high also on many other lists, including: NPR, Washington Post, Vancouver Sun, Los Angeles Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, Macleans, Publishers’ Weekly, San Francisco Chronicle; Independent Booksellers, USA, Independent Booksellers, Canada.

This novel explores all those mysteries without once being oblivious to all the skepticism and even hostility in our twenty-first century to formal religion, to the Church.

The Church through the ages valued music as way to enchant, enlighten, delight, and reveal truth to the human soul.  Penny’s book will remind you of deep truths that often elude us twenty-first century dwellers.  Don’t miss it.  If you haven’t yet read the first seven novels, do that first.  You have a treat in store.  

This author, with her first book, Still Life, was rejected over and over by agents, in the U.S., in Canada, in the U.K.  She said in her interview [on this blog: see May 29, 2011]: “I was an international failure... If I could have had my manuscript shot into outer space, I’d have been an intergalactic failure.  No one wanted it.  The objections were three-fold–the ‘traditional mystery’ is passe, the protagonist is too content, not enough people are killed.  Never mind the agents and editors who just thought, generally, it stank.”

This last is for you writers who think of giving up!  Don’t.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

We Have To Know What We Feel

Photos taken at Goldsboro reading by Mary Susan Heath


The Wayne County Library in Goldsboro, which hosted me Friday afternoon, Oct 5, to read and sell books, was rewarding in new ways.  Katherine Wood Wolfe, who once studied creative writing with me, had prepared so carefully and decorated for fall and Halloween, laid out cookies and lemonade, gathered in her friends, many from her writing group, and even a rector and a local columnist for the News-Argus.  Their interest and excitement was so reassuring: they bought books, and they want me to come back for my next book.  I could tell that my characters already live in their minds.  Talk about rewarding.  Thank you, Goldsboro folks! 

Back in March, as I worked to prepare for fall readings, signings, reviews, I wrote this poem (below), already feeling that Killer Frost was going to take off.  Now here it goes!  I’ll hope to meet and interest folks at Durham’s South Regional Library next Tuesday, 7 P.M. October 9.  Durham County Library was my stomping ground back in the 80s when I taught Roadmap to Great Literature for New Writers.  It will be like coming home.  Judy


The Telling that Changes Everything XIV.
March 25, 2012

For Margaret and Paul

I wanted fame after my death, not before, but time has ripened both me and my words.
–That Inner Circling Sun XI.  January 16, 2011


I’ve passed a dizzying week and not from the pollen,
which is heavy and everywhere.  The breath of success
is what has me pulled high into a new atmosphere–
purer oxygen but harder to breathe.  The libraries, 
bookstores, mystery websites are drawn to the book
and to me, its author.  I’ve been writing stories since
I was seven; poetry, since thirteen; diary, since fourteen; 
books, since age thirty-seven–half a lifetime ago–
mystery novels since age fifty-four.  I’ve published 
some poems, articles, books, but now my debut
mystery has plunged itself into the surf and begun
to swim far out, to ocean depths I never conceived
were possible for me, for my books during my
lifetime.  So it is.  Not that I won’t be castigated,
scoffed at, dismissed, but I’m used to that.  What’s
new is being this wanted–for my words, my stories,
my truth-telling; in short, for me, the way I really
am.  I’ve rededicated myself so many times to 
my own life purpose: showing love, writing out 
my mind, putting the wisdom of transformation
into my words, helping people see each other 
and the world they live in more accurately,
letting go of stereotypes and hurried, careless
solutions to ongoing, relentless human dilemmas
and suffering. We have to know what we feel,
what we think about ourselves and other people.
We can’t glide through life, or we slip right
over the edge into the abyss and are lost.  No,
we have to make an effort, hear the lonely voice
in our soul, go out on a limb, learn who we are 
and what we’re passionate about, and then fight.
There’s no winning without some pluck and
persistence; some grit and humor.  Then,
when a wind comes along and lifts you, after
all that struggle, that picking yourself up again
every time you fall down, you have to trust it,
let it take you into a whole new place in your 
life and in the lives of other people, a new room 
where communion is frequent and possible,
where people love the characters you’ve 
created and hunger for the wisdom you’ve
locked into words, made alive in stories
they will search out far into the future, long 
after you are dead.  Keep on being who you 
are, doing what you love.  It counted before.
It counts now.  It will always count.  Don’t
worry.  You have what it takes.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

That Invisible and Unlikely Sword of Truth

Judy's Launch Day, Sept. 22, ready for the party.


The Telling That Changes Everything XXIX. September 30, 2012

After the Flyleaf Reading, Sept. 29.  For Jamie and Land.


Any sword is
heavy to lift and hard to wield effectively,
especially the sword of truth. 
–The Telling That Changes Everything I.

Community is a
miracle I wanted, and yes, worked for.
Yet it doesn’t happen that easily.
It can’t be forced, only coaxed.
It means I forgive myself and other
people often.  It means I respect the
garden spider who set up housekeeping
among the raspberry canes, and she
respects me.  It’s the basis, the
raison d’etre of the turning, whirling
planet, if we attune ourselves and see.
–The Telling That Changes Everything XXV.

A major moment in Universal Time,
this transformation.  The secret, here, too,
is to be yourself.  Authenticity wins
in the long run.  Now all those 
whose fake smiles and pretend
enthusiasm has dismayed you will
have Old Pluto, with the help of his
sidekick, Uranus, stripping off the
layers.**  Now is not the time to be 
afraid of being naked.  It’s an art
to go defenseless, to take off armor
instead of putting it on, to lift that
invisible and unlikely sword of truth.
People would rather whisper it; 
bury it deep in their bosom; take a
sneak peek only once in a blue moon.
Terrifying to say what you actually
think; admit what you feel in front
of other people.  Then a curious
thing happens.  People love you 
because you said what they hear 
in their own ears and valiantly try
to ignore.  It’s catching, too.  They
begin to risk themselves.  Truth
spills out, souls catch fire, sparks
fly from one person to another. 
Hence begins a bloodless revolution.
Doug buys a copy of Killer Frost
for his mother; Billie will review
it on Amazon.  Sharon will put the
word out on Facebook.  Lori
persuades Joyce, who was in the
bookstore after the reading, to buy
the book, and I sign it.  Debra is 
trying to decide which character
she likes best.  Carol agrees to 
be reader for my other books; 
Andrea buys a copy at Walter’s 
launch; Marsha stops me when
I’m walking my dog: “How’s
my favorite author?”  The tech
giving me a flu shot wants to 
take her mother to a reading;
Jim, met on the sidewalk, will
go the McIntyre’s reading;
Katherine in Goldsboro works
to get newspaper attention. 
Susan splashes it across a page
in the Herald-Sun.  A community
police officer and I fall into a
dialogue about how to help 
young African Americans.  Mia
sends me an article on turning
around high school students 
through analytic writing.  Elaine
buys copies to give as gifts.
Seven-year-old Beckett wants
to read it.  This is the miracle.
This is the telling that changes
everything.  This may not be the
first split that opens a new world
inside the old one, but it’s the 
transformation on this cusp of 
Time that I am witnessing,  
resulting in nothing less than that 
human sacrament: community.

**  Thanks to Lynn Hayes for her thoughtful interpretations of the square between Pluto and Uranus.  See this link for details.