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.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

First Review and Real Readers

Joanie brought a special pie to my Book Launch September 22.


The best part of becoming a first time published mystery author has been hearing what my new fiction readers have to say.  “I loved it” is music to my ears.  So much of a writer’s life is spent alone, because it takes time to develop your inner life enough to articulate your real responses to the human situations Life thrust you into.  Then your feelings percolate, and if you have integrity and take care of your creative self, which I call the Muse, you spend time plotting a story, getting to know your characters, and for me, even as you work ahead of time, but especially when you begin to write your book, you learn things you “saw” and “understood” but didn’t yet know you had comprehended and your deeper mind had saved, and now within the framework of a story, you can “tell all.”

DeMetria was happy to get her copy of Killer Frost

When this truth is caught on the page and then let go to reach a wider audience, and real readers take it in, revel in it, and want more, that experience is one of the most satisfying and rewarding of any that I’ve experienced as an individual.  It turns out I have fans.  Who would have thought it?

Connie and David came to celebrate.  Finally, a book!


Yesterday I received my first review from the North Carolina Library Association, and Janet Lockhart of the Wake County Library posted this review on their website.  It will later appear in print.  Janet understood and articulated what I’m dong in Killer Frost better than I’ve been able to do.  I’m deeply grateful and I’m pasting her review below.  

Today and only today, if you don’t subscribe, Durham’s Herald Sun has posted Susan Broili’s feature article on me:  Go to Lifestyle and then Books.  There’s also a sidebar to click on about my journey to publication.

Apparently Killer Frost is off and running.  We have also a new bookstore reading: Paperbacks Plus! in Siler City (Chatham County), October 20, Saturday, 11 AM-1 PM.  Contact: Pat Dawson, 919-742-4033, 208 E. Raleigh St.


Elaine believed it would happen long ago, and Morgan came, too.


 Judy Hogan. Killer Frost. Wethersfield, CT: Mainly Murder Press, 2012. 237 pp. $15.95. ISBN 978-0-9836823-8-7. 

Penny Weaver has been recruited to teach English composition at St. Francis, a historically black college in Raleigh. She feels nervous and just a little rushed. She’s replacing a professor fired for incompetence several weeks into the semester and she’ll have to push hard to cover her material in the remaining time. Plus, her students are among the most academically challenged; many of them left high school without adequate reading and writing skills for college. What happily married sixty-four-year old Penny didn’t expect was to find herself attracted to Oscar Farrell, the new chairman of the English Department. She certainly didn’t anticipate being drawn into a murder case involving the provost and a professor accused of sexually harassing female students. 

What follows is a traditional mystery with little graphic violence or language. It does not focus on forensics or police procedures. It centers on the relationships Penny develops, especially with the students in her class who initially regard her, a new and white faculty member, with uncertainty. Campus politics also figure prominently, as students organize to protest dormitory conditions. Meanwhile, Oscar Farrell clashes with the administration over what he views as the school’s culture of corruption. 

Her attraction to Professor Farrell complicates Penny’s personal life, as does a subplot involving her daughter and grandchild. Penny is able to draw on the support of long-time friends in the area, including fellow faculty member Sammie Hargrave and Sammie’s husband Derek, who just happens to be a law enforcement officer. Penny’s connections at both the college and within the local community give her unique insight into the case, and are crucial to solving it. 

St. Francis will remind readers of Raleigh’s Saint Augustine’s College and Shaw University. The campus setting may appeal to fans of the Simon Shaw series by Sarah Shaber, also set at a fictional Raleigh institution, Kenan College. The subplots involving friends and family will call to mind the Deborah Knott mysteries written by Margaret Maron. Recommended for libraries where demand for these and similar series is high and where local interest warrants. 

Judy Hogan has resided in North Carolina since the 1970s. She started the Carolina Wren Press in 1976 and helped found the NC Writers’ Network, serving as its president from 1984-87. She has taught creative writing since 1974, including two years at Saint Augustine’s College, from 2004-2006. She is the author of several collections of poetry, the PMZ Poor Woman’s Cookbook and a nonfiction work, Watering the Roots in a Democracy. Killer Frost is her first published mystery. 

Janet Lockhart 
Wake County Public Libraries 


Carol has been a faithful reader and cheerer on for years.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Interview with Adoption Worker Placing My Muse

Judy, Author of Killer Frost, a Muse-Inspired Book


Interview Between Judy and an Adoption Worker for the Muse.

Exercise suggested by Michele Berger at the September Triangle SinC meeting based on an exercise in Deena Metzger’s Writing for Your Life.


An adoption worker comes to interview me on my capacity to “adopt the creative.”  I’ll call it the Muse.  She wants to know why I want to have the Muse here, living with me.

Judy: I have already been living with Her for years.  You think it’s time to make it official?

A.W.: Don’t you?

Judy: It’s fine with me.  She can be a little whimsical.  Are you sure she wants to live with me permanently, for all the rest of my life, even if I live to be a hundred, which is my plan, if the gods allow it?

A.W.  If you want it, she’ll want it.  She’s your Muse, no one else’s.  Where would She live if you didn’t adopt her and make it official?

Judy: You’re right.  Of course, I want her.

A.W.  Why do you want her?

Judy: If I had to choose, I’d say She’s what I want the most of all the gifts I could have.  I haven’t given up on having a new love life, but She’s the companion I want most urgently.  She’s the one who feels necessary.  I have this sense, what my reporter friend Susan calls my “drive,” that I need to write, have no choice but to write; that the only unique thing I do, that no one else can do, is write my truth, how I see the world, my vison of human life, with whatever wisdom I’ve learned along the way, mostly by suffering and learning from poor choices.  I like this passage I found in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda:

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.


Judy: I have “an ungotten estate in my pocket.”  The Muse is my inheritance, but I have to earn Her, too.

A.W.: How do you do that?

Judy: By listening to her, following her guide, trusting her sense of what I need to be writing and when, and committing myself to take care of her.  After all, she depends on me.  If something happens to me or I neglect her, She dies.

A.W.: You’re absolutely right about that.  One correction.  Taking on a Muse full-time doesn’t mean you have to neglect your own need to be loved and valued.  There’s a reason why you can’t quite give up on having a love life.  You know how to love.  When you can love, you need to love.  You also need to experience being loved, not only for your abilities and your writing and your Muse, but for yourself.  Keep that in mind.  Stay open to that, okay?  It’s a balancing act, but by this time, you’re smart and savvy enough to manage it. Plus, it’s very good for your Muse.

Judy: Hmm.  I hadn’t thought of that.  I’ll do my best.  I do half expect something very good and surprising to turn up one of these days in the love life department.

A.W.: Tell me how you plan to take care of your Muse now that you’ve committed to making the relationship permanent?

Judy: I’ve had my rituals, keeping my diary in the morning; using my Saturday night-Sunday morning time to write in my diary and then write a poem.  I set aside time to work on novels.  I need two-three months pretty clear to do that.  Two for sure to write it, and another month to plan my novel, using Elizabeth George’s ideas in Write Away.  I’m thinking now that even with this busy September-November time promoting Killer Frost, I can do some of my planning–maybe all–in minutes snatched here and there, and I’ve begun plotting my next one, set in Angelica’s Eatery.  I’ll keep up my rituals as well as I can.  Since I have a lot of weekend events, that will be a little harder than usual.

A.W.  That all sounds good.  Supposing your love life blooms.  Can you manage that and your Muse, stay healthy, get your sleep and exercise?

Judy: That will be harder.  When new things happen, I sometimes lie awake worrying.

A.W.  Then how do things actually turn out?  

Judy: Better than I would have expected.  Usually I worried for nothing.

A.W.: All change brings stress, but generally do you manage your stress?

Judy: Pretty well.  I write in my diary, and doing whatever I was worried I couldn’t do, always helps.  I find my way to a new place.  I learn how to put the new cord on my weedeater.  I kill chickens for the first time.

A.W.: You’ve answered the question about how you’ll care for your Muse and yourself, too.  How will you provide the money you need, the dollars you need after your social security?

Judy: I’d like to do it eventually through book sales.  Meantime, I’ll teach writing classes and chicken workshops.

A.W.: How will you feed your Muse?  What is the food She needs, and will you keep her well-fed and happy?

Judy: She needs time.  She needs me to let go of other things for awhile, name and let go of my problems and worries.  She needs me to listen, to start writing and see where it leads me, to pick up the threads that are niggling at me below the surface and see where they lead.  This conversation has taken place when I expected to write my Sunday morning poem.  But the Muse took off as soon as I began answering these questions.

A.W.: Good answer.  Trust me and give her free rein when you’ve set aside some time.  Then she won’t wake up up at 3 A.M.  Give her complete satisfaction as often as you can, and she’ll let you sleep through the night, even sleep with someone else.  Will you have to relinquish anything else to make this all work?  You’re asking a lot of yourself, you know.  

Judy: I do get a little set in my ways these years.  I’ll have to keep prioritizing carefully, not shut off possibilities too fast when they take me by surprise.  Per Lynn Hayes’ astrological musings, we’re in a period of major change, that now exact square between Uranus and Pluto.  I’ve been trying to think of what in my life that’s outlived its usefulness that I need to let go of, and what new I need to embrace more completely.  The new is, I think, becoming a more widely known writer.  I believe Killer Frost will attract a lot of readers.  I have my first public appearance with the book next Thursday at the Pittsboro Farmers’ market, and then my book launch here Saturday, September 22.  So far people are liking the book, which has been tremendously reassuring.  The old I need to let go of I’m still struggling with.

A.W.: Your best guess?

Judy: Be less of a recluse, maybe.  Let more people come close.  Use the interruptions inevitable this fall as I promote my book to become more adaptable.  I can adapt, but I struggle with it.  Be more gracious and forgiving.  I’m working on that.
I’m putting some hard truths in my cozy mysteries.  Summon my courage to face the consequences.  I sense them coming.  Whenever I’ve put my truth out there in word and deed, someone gets very angry at me.  I don’t like it.  But this time I have to gird up my loins and go into battle, to defend both me and my Muse, my truth, as I see it, even if, as Muriel Ruykheyser predicted it might, when one woman told the whole truth about her life, the world splits open.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

If You're Lucky, You Catch A Glimmer

My hens in the fall 2009.  Now new ones are coming along.


The Telling That Changes Everything XXVIII.

September 9, 2012

True, I am rewarded for getting myself 
down from those stilts and back on 
terra firma.  I write poems.  My
Christmas cactus blooms.
–The Telling That Changes Everything III.

It is easy not to notice that my life
runs smoothly, that I keep to the path
I intended.  These frustrations and delays 
because I can’t re-thread the weedeater
or a heat wave keeps me indoors while
my vegetables hang on for dear life,
do pass.  I ask help from my neighbors.
The weather changes.  Now it’s too wet,
and my beautiful figs rot as they ripen.
Yet there is good news on every side,
and I have birthed my own life’s
purpose as never before.  The older
we get, the more losses, and we feel
them more.  Yet age has ripened
what I couldn’t have lived without.
When we’re young, we yearn to know:
who we are, whom we will love always,
what our life’s work is to be.  Knowledge
gives us Maslow’s plateau.  Not that
we don’t wrestle with our demon
doubts and sometimes wish for more
than we’ve been given–and of course
no resting on our laurels–we’re not 
done yet–but we have the canniness 
and imagination to work out the
puzzles of existence.  God, or whatever
you want to call it, lifts us when we
stumble.  We can look back and marvel
at all that went right and let go what
went wrong.  We forgive all the
rascals and idiots who ministered
to our torments and grinned the while.
When Evil snares you with its sticky
web, you miss the asphodel, fail to
see eyes light up in your presence.
True, you’re fragile, too.  We all are.
But something inside you has a
hard-to-explain fiber, a resiliency,
not proof from harm but understanding
how to change it so we heal–all of us–
those lost and those found.  This isn’t
obvious.  You can’t see it by looking,
though once in a while, if you’re lucky,
you catch a glimmer, as if the sun
glinted on glass or gold in some hidden
place, and flashed once, and only once,
into your eyes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Killer Frost Is Out! Reader Comments

Cover of my first mystery, now on sale!

$15.95 paper; $2.99, Nook and Kindle.  Check out the savings on Amazon and

Here are some encouraging reader comments I've already received.


Killer Frost Reader comments.

Lane Stone (review on book entry for Amazon 8-6-12-five stars): I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  The characters were real.  The ability to write with authenticity about such a diverse group is a rare talent.  Loved it.  

John Merrett (8-14-12) email: A good novel with good characters, plot, etc., but I was simply blown away by your great account of the unprepared students who should not be in college.  Judy, like most people I have known that there were problems in our schools of higher learning.  I had no idea they were as bad as you so vividly present them, though.  Like wow, as the youngsters say.  The dialogues are simply great, and I don’t think that anyone can read this novel and not understand much about the failures of colleges today.  You certainly wrote those passages from the heart and I think readers will respond to them from the heart.  My heartiest congratulations on a novel you can be very proud of.

Katherine Wood (8-15-12) email:
I received your book yesterday...I have read over half.  The more I read, the more absorbed I became...not just about the plot but the characters...  I just want you to know how much I am enjoying the book.  When I got to page 113 [part of Rick Clegg’s speech on Black History], I said WOW... that was a part I will read and reread many times.
2nd email: As I’ve read, I’ve thought about what separates great fiction from mediocre fiction... perhaps it is the intensity with which we believe the story is real...and the characters are real.  As I’ve read your book, I know your characters are real and telling their story is important.  I keep applauding Penny’s tough love and her ingenuity.

Diane Gallagher (8-11-12) email:
I love your book!  It came on Thursday and I completed it last night.  It was a fast paced and enjoyable read.  The current ed system is one I have been connected with so I understood the terrain. ... I hope you are proud!

Sharon Ramirez (8-20-12) email:
Judy, how I enjoyed Killer Frost.  I read it yesterday and appreciated every word.  I liked the characters, especially Penny, who shows a winsome combination of wisdom and naivete.  The theme worked out very well, the way you showed your community of people, how they cooperated together in the garden-trees, their tea and their meals together.  And of the daffodils.  I thought of Wordsworth, and I’m sure you did when writing this book.  Also, I thought of his “Splendor in the Grass” in which he writes that no matter the change or the loss, there’s always something strong that’s left–“We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”  Which leaves us with hope just as your fine mystery does.
I like that the violence is minimal, off stage.  I guess that’s how it’s done in cozies.  I usually read more crime-ridden books where there’s more action, but your book makes me appreciate the calming effect of a good cozy.  I could feel myself relaxing when Penny started making tea.  
At first I struggled with so many characters but you did a good job of helping me keep them straight, employing your “tags” when you could.  And best of all, your message came across to people like myself who don’t have a clue about blacks in education or even the South and its problems.  I’m the better for having read your book, and I know you’ll build up a good following.  I’m going to circulate my two copies.  Good luck with your good book! It’s professionally written.
From a later email (8-30-12): [You] look like a sweet little old lady, maybe like Miss Marple who farms.  Had Christie created Miss Marple as a gentle lady farmer, she would have given us Judy Hogan.

Michele Drier –(review on Amazon, 8-24-12)–Four stars:
Penny Weaver has established a comfortable life moving easily between Wales and North Carolina with her beloved husband, Kenneth.  But when she agrees to take on a mid-term teaching position at St. Francis College in Raleigh, she finds her life and her love for Kenneth challenged.  The school has enrolled students who aren’t ready for college in order to take advantage of state and federal grants and Penny’s department chairman, Oscar, is willing to fight the administration for these students’ futures.  This passion spills over into tension as she struggles with her attraction for Oscar, but who will fight for Oscar when two administrators turn up dead?
Ms. Hogan has drawn a clear picture of some of the forces battering academia today and peopled it with a great, layered cast of characters, all of whom tightly hang onto their secrets.  
A good read and I hope just the first of Ms. Weaver’s adventures.

Elaine Goolsby.  Email 8-28-12.  Killer Frost is a remarkable mystery that combines an engaging, well-written plot with a contemporary social issue.  The killer frost metaphor is an image that readers will keep in their memory.