Writing at Home Alone

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

I woke up grumpy today. I slept well, but the alarm going off at 6 a.m. really ticked me off. I let my husband sleep for a few more minutes while I made coffee, still grumpy. I came back to bed and couldn’t get the covers up around me because they were tangled around my feet. My husband laughed at my antics, which didn’t help the grumpiness settling in on my brain.

I finally made it to my home office and looked out the window to a dull, gray day here in western Pennsylvania. No snow covers the ground to hide the yellowish green grass that is confused by the lack of winter thus far in January. I played solitaire because the muse also was grumpy this morning. I lost every game, and so I began the pity party made even more pitiful by my aloneness.

Then to make the mood even worse, I remembered that I needed to go out into the rain to put the Netflix movie in the mailbox before our delivery woman showed up. I walked outside and discovered the rain had stopped and the temperature wasn’t all that cold. I took a deep breath and walked down the driveway to the mailbox.

It came to me then. I may be Miss Grump this morning, but at least I don’t have to inflict it upon anyone else. The world doesn’t have to see me at my worst, and I don’t have to fake smiles or sincerity when all I want to do is go back to bed and start the day all over again. I don’t have to drive anywhere and be annoyed by the driver who fails to use his turn signal. I don’t have to push my cart around a woman who is so busy chatting on her cell phone in the grocery store she stops right in the middle of the aisle to talk about what she received for Christmas.

I don’t even have to answer the phone that just rang on my desk. So I turn back to my solitaire game and win a hand.

I’m feeling better already – but I’m still going to stay in my pajamas until I feel like taking a shower. There are hours before my husband returns home, and there’s plenty of time to pound out another chapter or even revise the one that begins: “The day started badly and never quite improved.”

After all, I’m writing fiction.

Cross Creek Sojourn

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

Cross Creek was immortalized in the movie of the same name  in 1983. The small village exists on the banks of Orange Lake in North Florida amid the hanging Spanish moss and spirits of those who once called the Creek their home.

Two women whose photographs grace a hallway in the capitol building in Tallahassee in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame  for their innovative achievements in Florida’s history, both lived there in the 1930s and ’40s.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings  and Dessie Smith Prescott, despite differences in background and personality, became friends. Rawlings immortalized that friendship in her book Cross Creek in the essay, “Hyacinth Drift.”

While Rawlings died before I was born, I had the privilege of interviewing Prescott several months before her death in 2002. The occasion was her 95th birthday, and I was on assignment for a magazine. I arrived at her home on the Withlacoochee River near Crystal River just before the big birthday bash to chat with Prescott, who was the first female licensed wilderness guide and first licensed female pilot in Florida.

One of her friends, Hutch Hutchinson, said at the party, “Even if Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings hadn’t been born, Dessie would be famous in her own right.”

Prescott married six times, with the sixth marriage lasting 26 years and the only marriage to make her a widow.

“If the person didn’t fit in with my life,” she told me, “I decided the best thing to do was to give them their freedom. I paid for all my divorces.

“I enjoyed them all [husbands] for a time,” she said.

Prescott met Rawlings after a neighbor came to the rugged outdoorswoman and asked her to visit a new couple who had recently moved onto an orange grove near Cross Creek. Prescott’s friend predicted that without help the Rawlings might starve to death.

“The grove had been neglected for years,” Prescott said. “Groves take about twice as long to bring back as you’ve neglected them, and they hadn’t got a chicken or pig or anything on the whole place.”

So Prescott visited the house in Cross Creek where Rawlings wrote her Pulitzer-prize winning novel The Yearling  and took Marjorie under her wing. Despite being ten years younger than Rawlings, Prescott took to calling her “young un” because “she didn’t know anything about anything that I did.”

When Rawlings’ marriage began falling apart, Prescott suggested the two take a trip on the St. Johns River from its beginnings in Volusia County up to the Ocklawaha.

“Hyacinth Drift” begins with “Once I lost touch with the Creek …I talked morosely with my friend Dessie. I do not think she understood my torment, for she is simple and direct and completely adjusted to all living. She knew only that a friend was in trouble.”

Prescott summed up the differences between the two women in an interview with Florida Magazine in 1995. “I always said Marge could describe a magnolia and I could smell it. She was that good.”

During the trip, Prescott and Rawlings encountered men who were amazed at the audacity of two women traveling the river without accompaniment, but they paid little attention. They came upon Sanford on a Sunday morning, and Prescott prepared for the place where large-vessel traffic on the St. Johns stopped.

Rawlings writes, “Dess strapped around her waist the leather belt that held her Bowie knife at one hip and her revolver at the other, and felt better prepared for Sanford than if we had been clean.”

The trip helped Rawlings settle her mind, and she returned to Cross Creek ready to end her marriage knowing the Creek had come to own her.

I myself returned to Rawlings’ home in Cross Creek  on a February morning several years ago. The birds sang from atop the orange trees laden with ripe fruit. The frosts of February had not damaged the crop of the  few trees still growing in the yard.

I walked to the front porch and sat on the steps because the house was not open to visitors on this sunny morning. I sat within feet of the typewriter that still rests on the round oak table on the porch. It’s easy to imagine how Rawlings wrote magic in this setting that is still relatively untouched by the conveyances of modern life more than sixty years after she typed Cross Creek, The Yearling and South Moon Under.

No wonder those pieces read like a song with the birds providing a musical score on which her lyrics perch.

My image of myself as a writer rests between the reality and the porch where I sat. The winter sun bore down on me within feet of her place of creation, and I found myself alive with the possibility that I too can create poetry from place.

While both have passed from this lifetime, their words and actions live on in me and others who look to their examples to give us courage and hope and appreciation for the beauty which surrounds us.

“But what of the land? It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed but not bought. It may be used, but not owned …We are tenants and not possessors, lovers and not masters. Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time.”

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Cross Creek, 1942

Writers Write – It’s as Simple as That

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

It’s a rainy April morning in Pittsburgh. If I was starting a novel that would be a boring first line, unless it was followed by this sentence: “The wet ground made it difficult to drag the body from the house to the woods without leaving tracks.”

But this isn’t the start of a novel; it’s merely the beginning of a blog site where I hope to impart a little bit of knowledge, fun and inspiration on the art and craft of writing.

First, let me start with a vision I always had of myself as the artist. It’s late at night, and I sit at an antique oak desk in front of a Royal manual typewriter. A cigarette dangles from my lips as smoke curls around my head. To my right, sits an amber-filled tumbler and to my left a filled ashtray. I sit typing madly away at the next great American novel oblivious to the late hour and the ash building on the end of my fag. This vision was in my head even before I acknowledged myself as a writer. When I finally made the leap nearly 14 years ago and actually said the words, “I am a writer,” the vision was still there although not a part of my actual reality as a writer.

I type too fast to use a manual. I no longer smoke for all the obvious reasons. And drinking and writing accomplish nothing but a hangover. However, it is that unrealistic, romantic vision that remains as I sit at a large mahogany desk with my laptop taking down words as fast my fingers can type them. The light of day brightens my office as two table lamps give a softer glow. Mozart, Beethoven, Greig and Brahms concertos play on my portable CD player. No matter the differences in the vision and the reality – one thing remains constant: I love to write.

The writing and publishing worlds are in a revolution. I’m pedaling and typing just as fast and hard as I can to keep up with the exciting changes. There are days when the actual writing part of my job seems very far away. So my two blogs (www.pczick.wordpress.com and http://www.pittsburghwriter.com) give me the opportunity to write even on the most overwhelming of days as I learn to tweet, post my status, figure out what the heck  SEO means and buy domain names for reasons still unclear to me.

It’s important to always keep the simplest of reminders  at the forefront of my consciousness and so it is a good way to begin this blog site.

It’s so simple, yet one when I first heard it, wiped away all the excuses I used to make about why I couldn’t find time to write. Here it is:

Writers write.

That’s it.