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On Blasting Away ... And Joni B. Cole


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Dear Friends,

By the time you read this, we will have hurtled ourselves to Buenos Aires for one night and then on to Ushaia, the southern most tip of Argentina. We were there in 2018 on a three-week hiking adventure through Patagonia and a four-day cruise through the Strait of Magellan. It was a spectacular trip in every way and we've been wanting to get back.


That opportunity arose by invitation of friends Chris and Peggy Wiley but on a cruise this time. Given my recovering shoulder and Michael's wait for a new hip, this seemed like a good year to try out only unpacking once and letting someone else take care of us!


If you follow me on social, you've likely already seen some of what we're experiencing. If not, come along on Facebook or Instagram


This time we'll cruise around Cape Horn and on through the Chilean Archipelago which has 43,471 islands!!! This is a scientific expedition with researchers from Cambridge University so we'll be hearing about glaciers, sea birds, animals, the and the weather. And we'll be able to hang out in their lab while we're on board. We'll cruise up this western coast of Chile's sliver of a country and land in Santiago for a day before returning home.

 

Hope you enjoy whatever traveling you're doing — either out in the world or all inside — and thanks for reading! 


 

A Special Conversation with Joni B. Cole


Photo of Joni B. Cole

As I look back on my evolution as a writer, it sometimes feels as if I've fashioned my own self-designed and entirely intuitive MFA by way of working with FIVE enormously generous, talented, and inspiring teachers.I will profile each of them over time.


First up, representing my first LONG SEMESTER is Joni B. Cole whose latest book Party Like it's 2044 has recently been released by University of New Mexico Press. This is a wonderful compilation of thirty-two nonfiction treats, each essay like an artful form of dark chocolate. As with chocolate, I tried to read only one a day, to savor it, except, also like chocolate, I frequently couldn't wait and had to imbibe more. Joni's a humble, insightful, and deep observer of life, her friends, family, politics, nuisances, and everything most of us ignore as we flit through our days. Her essays are poignant, important, sharp, grace-filled, deep, and hysterical and each one of them took me somewhere I hadn't known I'd wanted to go.


I had the pleasure of working with Joni at her Writer's Center in White River Junction, VT, and spent about a decade in that orange-painted room as she pulled the creative writing out of my business writing trained heart, and then turned my early memories of my dad into Poetic License.


That seminal learning included three key skills gained:


  • how to render a scene (clumsily at first, better over time, and still learning)

  • how to give feedback to fellow writers in ways that are both helpful and make them want to write more (in my critique group, with writer friends)

  • how to figure out (for me, the hardest part) "what about what it's about" that I was trying to say in any given scene or exposition.


Thank you Joni for being who you are and for being there just when I needed you! Best way to start my little MFA :-)



I caught up with Joni last week. Take a listen. Skip around as you wish and all faults with the video are mine but Joni serves up one gem after another on how she writes; her passion for revision (mine too!); communicating with those we write about; her obsession for Dracula (!); and how she's created a rich life (ala Ramit Sethi, I might say) from her writing and teaching. See below for Joni's workshops which are online so we can join from anywhere!



BUY HER BOOK WHEREVER BOOKS ARE SOLD.


Joni B. Cole is the author of seven books, including the new release Party Like It’s 2044: Finding the Funny in Life and Death, and two acclaimed writing guides: Good Naked: How to Write More, Write Better, and Be Happier (listed as a “Best Books for Writers” by Poets & Writers magazine) and Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive. For twenty-five years she has taught creative writing to adults online and in person at a variety of academic programs and community organizations. Joni lives in Vermont, and is currently working on a new collection of personal essays. You can contact her at jonibethcole@gmail.com or learn more through her websites at www.jonibcole.com and www.thewriterscenterwrj.com.


 

From My Stack


Samantha Harvey

Orbital


Two years ago I worked through one blessed long weekend with author Kerri Arsenault, not only an accomplished writer and mentor, but, in the past year has created the Environmental Storytelling Studio at Brown University to train science writers in creative nonfiction. Kerri's belief is that for environmental writing to fully land and create action, it needs to come first from great story.


Fast forward, and perhaps with a silent nudge from Kerri, I I picked up British author Samantha Harvey's new book, Orbital and it's a tiny jewel.


Four astronauts (American, Japanese, British, Italian) and two cosmonauts (Russian, Russian), four men, two women, are hurtled into space and suspended in their no-gravity module in what Harvey calls "Earth's fabulous and improbable backyard."


The module is a tranquil home where their every need is met, not like the "multiple perils of earthly freedom....beset by ledges and roads and guns and mosquitoes and contagions and the hapless criss-cross of eight million species all vying to survive." They slither alongside each other as they go through tubes from exercising to eating to growing food to experimenting with mice. They reflect on their loved ones and places while watching a typhoon gather unearthly steam across the Philippines, childhood home to one of them.


I loved thinking about this perspective: "Maybe human civilisation is like a single life," Harvey writes, "we grow out of the royalty of children...to the late smash-it-all-up teenage stage of self-hate...because we didn't ask to be alive, we didn't ask to inherit an earth to look after, and we didn't ask to be so completely unjustly darkly alone."


Grab a copy — it's exploded my thinking about a lot of things and is a great example of why Kerri Arsenault created her Environmental Storytelling Studio, so that other writers about the environment will do as well.


 

Here's to travelers, explorers, wanderers, seekers, and all those who love this whole earth and its beautiful people. Michael and I are looking forward to gaining new perspectives, spending time with good friends, and meeting new people out in the world.


With love,

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