Meraki, a risk worth taking.

lol.

Of course.

I have sold literally dozens of a certain book recently. Great news, right? (Keep in mind I don’t sell dozens of books usually.)

Except I don’t actually like this particular book…

It’s not a badly written book. I don’t write bad. It’s even got a more complex plot than some of my simpler romances. It’s just that I tried an experiment with this one and I don’t think it worked. At the time I wrote it I’d been writing romances with the typical sweet, likable, strong female protagonists who had faced down challenges in their lives and come out the better for it. (huh) So I decided to write a less likable female protagonist for this one. She’s supposed to be brittle on the outside with a soft core. She’s a bit bitchy, to be honest. And while she was sort of fun to write, I never really connected with her.

I recently heard a word that I relate to. A friend posted it on Facebook. The word is meraki. It is Greek for leaving something of yourself in everything you do. Every artist strives to do this, I think. It’s a risk, though. When you leave something of yourself in your work and it’s rejected, that’s a part of you that suffers. Maybe at the time I chose to write a romance with less of me in it than usual without thinking I’d be less likely to connect to it? Maybe that’s why I am loving poetry so much now. Because it’s easier to leave me in my poetry because if I’m writing it right, I’m lost in it anyway.

Whatever the reason I wrote that way then and this way now, every time I see the numbers tick up on this particular book, I think, No, not that one! Because there’s no meraki to it. There’s not enough me.

From Learning Curve, coming soon! Copyright 2022 Michelle Garren-Flye

What do you do when you’re bored of flowers?

I’m not really bored of flowers. (should that be with flowers? I like of so I’m keeping it.) But for the moment, I’ve discovered mushrooms are super interesting.

lol

This interest in mushrooms started when my daughter developed a love for them so I started taking pictures of them for her while I was on my walks taking pictures of pretty flowers.

Now I’m bored of flowers and mushrooms seem so much more interesting. Of course I know these are actually toadstools (at least I assume they are), but they’re really cool. And our hot, wet summer has produced an amazing variety of them. I often mow them down in my lawn. Not before I stop and take a picture, though.

Just make a left

Do you ever just wish you could stop following all the rules?

I know I do. I see other people doing it. In the carpool lane when it’s obvious there’s a faster way than the long line of cars leading to the proper exit. Just make a left instead of a right. You’ll get out a lot faster.

Forget the rules.

Who’s gonna care?

Ah, but I’m a rule follower. It’s about honesty in my opinion. There are no shortcuts. No legal ones, anyway. No honest ones.

It’s like that in my writing as well. If I’m writing a haiku, it’s going to have the proper number of syllables in each line. I know even haiku master Matsuo Basho said if it’s better with the wrong number of syllables, it’s better to write it that way, but I’d rather write and rewrite and rethink and restructure until I’m happy with it. Because I have to follow the rules.

I was considering entering a poetry contest with some of my villanelles. (I’m that pleased with how they’re coming out.) This contest had a section for traditional rhyming poetry, something few editors have an appreciation for. I was encouraged, so I looked up some of their past winners. One of them was a “villanelle”. I pulled it up and read it.

It broke all the rules.

There were no rhymes where there were supposed to be rhymes.

There were no repeated lines or even words.

It was written in paragraph form.

What’s the fun of that? It’s like writing a short story and calling it a haiku. There’s no challenge. I remember my father saying something that has stuck with me for most of my life, “You can call it whatever you want, it doesn’t make it that.”

Hey judges, it’s not a villanelle if it doesn’t follow the rules.

I’m going to keep plugging along writing my haiku and villanelles and following rules. I have no idea why. I could break the rules and write a paragraph and call it a villanelle. I could write a novel and call it a haiku. I might even win some contests that way. But I won’t.

It’s just that I’m a rule follower.

Villanelle #21

Just make a left instead of right!
It'll get you there much faster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Nobody's gonna care if you take flight
and look for a greener pasture.
Just make a left instead of a right.

I don't mean to make light;
I'm certainly not your master,
and your schedule's really tight

No one can really know your plight.
It can't possibly lead to disaster
if you make a left instead of a right

Rules are not always right.
They're not molded in plaster,
and your schedule's really tight.

Perhaps you'll never feel Karma's bite
graze rear skin of alabaster.
Just make a left instead of a right—
after all, your schedule's really tight.

—Michelle Garren-Flye
Fall is around the corner. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Let’s go swimming: Poem and thoughts about breathing

I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog. I named it “Breathe” way back. Years ago. When it felt like I didn’t have time to breathe. It was supposed to remind me and maybe others to take a moment. A moment to breathe is a precious thing.

Breathing took on a different meaning for me later on. Sometimes breathing isn’t easy. Sometimes this necessary thing hurts.

But maybe you still need the reminder.

I’m still on the villanelle ride. It’s not easy, either. I’m writing and rewriting and rhyming and re-rhyming (that’s a thing!). I’m up to eleven now. I thought I’d share one with you. Not the one with profanity, which is repeated multiple times because this is a villanelle lol.

This is one of my favorites, though.

Villanelle #6

I’m going swimming in a blue lake;

I want to do it once before I die.

Come with me when you wake.

This note will replace what I take.

I hope you’ll understand why

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

I know you’re here for my sake;

our souls are bound by that tie,

so come with me when you wake.

There’s nothing between us that’s fake,

and there’s nothing sad about goodbye.

I’m just going swimming in a blue lake.

I can’t seem to heal this ache…

it just won’t seem to comply.

Come with me when you awake.

Don’t worry, your love I won’t forsake

though I know you hear me sigh.

I’m going swimming in a blue lake.

Come with me when you wake.

Summer Rose. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Extend your love bubble

The blessing/curse of the empathic poet is that you are constantly searching for meaning in the pain of life. It’s not comfortable. Sometimes you have to ponder for a loooooooooong time before you come to any conclusion and sometimes it happens like a lightning strike.

That happened to me today. I almost literally stumbled across a truth about life. And I think it revealed to me the purpose behind the thing we all want in spite of how vulnerable it makes us.

Love.

How did it happen?

I was on my way to work. About a block away a young man carrying a rake who was obviously getting ready to work in one of my neighbors’ yards (in the 95-feels-like-150-degree heat) stumbled. He recovered quickly and looked around to see if anyone had seen. I immediately pretended to be looking straight ahead, not at him at all, and sent him a reassuring thought. Didn’t see anything. You’re safe.

I immediately wondered. Why did I think “You’re safe”? And I realized that’s what we all want. As we stumble through this world full of sharp spikes and tripwires, all we really want is to feel safe. And that’s nearly impossible to achieve, especially in this day and age when you just might be caught on camera and if you are, your stumble might go viral.

I recently made a playlist of songs that make me feel like everything is going to be okay. My life sometimes feels completely messed up. I have even been glad I only have another 30-40 years of it (if I’m lucky). And my life is a good one. I have people to love and who love me. They cushion some of the blows, guard me against some of the spikes, and pick me up when I trip.

And that’s why I think I’ve figured out what the purpose of love is. Love is like a bubble around us, one that gives us a sense of security. Safety. The thing is, if we do love right, it can give others that same sense. Even those we don’t know. Imagine extending your bubble of love to people around you. There are people in need all around us, whether they’re tripping over a rake or hurting for some deeper reason. Maybe you can’t actually help them. Maybe you don’t have resources beyond what you need yourself.

But instead of laughing when someone stumbles or posting someone’s misfortune on the internet for “hits” or “likes”, you can send them a reassuring thought. “It’s okay. I got you. You’re safe.”

Imagine if we could all feel safe?

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Twitter, perfection, happiness and The Princess Bride

I’ve rejoined the world of Twitter.

Don’t judge.

I did it originally because Elon Musk. Need I say more? But I stayed because Twitter is so much more interesting than it used to be. Or maybe I’m just more interested.

It’s kind of like people-watching now. People post about something that interests them and somehow it ends up in my feed. Maybe they’re a fellow writer or Stray Kids fan or posting about magic or movies or something I’ve indicated in some way to the Twitter world that I’m interested in.

At any rate, the other day a fellow writer posted about The Princess Bride and how she’d just watched it for the first time. It reminded me of the time when as a seventeen or eighteen year old (don’t remember which), I rented the movie from Blockbuster, took it home and watched it on a VCR I’d borrowed from somewhere on my little black and white television. I probably watched that movie five or six times in that one weekend. I didn’t have a color television. Just black and white. And it was small. As in, they don’t make tvs that small anymore.

And somehow that didn’t matter.

Watching that amazing movie made me happy in a very content way because the power of the story transcended the medium. It didn’t matter that it was on a tiny screen instead of a big silver one. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see that Buttercup’s dress was red. The story was still told and I still loved it.

I’ve been trying to remember to be happy in the space I occupy. I’m glad I was on Twitter and was reminded of that experience. Watching The Princess Bride on a small black and white television alone in my bedroom might not sound like perfect happiness. But it was. In that moment, I was happy in the space I had.

In fact, it felt pretty perfect.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye Copyright 2022

Far & wee: The (video) audiobook

It’s one thing to tell you how special this little book is. It’s another to show you. So here I am in a one-take video, reading my book out loud and explaining it as well as showing you the pictures as best I could.

Want to look for the balloon-man with me?

What I’ve learned about life from Beat Saber

Be happy where you are. I’ve said it before. What I haven’t said is I learned at least a portion of what I now know about being happy in the moment from my VR headset.

Beat Saber. It’s a game where you have to slice up energy blocks that are flying toward you in time to music. If you’re like me, you feel like each energy block that gets past you is a potential threat to your family, your home, your entire way of life. So you have a tendency to panic.

Panicking doesn’t help. And if you dwell on the energy block that gets past you, you’ll mess up on the ones still coming at you. And if you try to anticipate the ones that you can’t see yet, you are likely to miss the ones you can see.

You get it? Live in the moment. One energy block at a time. One enemy or obstacle or opportunity at a time. Beat the hell out of those and then move on. And if one gets past you, let it go.

In other news, Far & wee is getting some attention with its first five-star review on Amazon!

5 stars! Sweet and beautiful

“Michelle Garren-Flye, novelist, childrens’ book author, and 2021 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate, has put together an entire collection of Sonnets in Far & Wee, which, strung together, tell a story of one woman’s quest. Flye is searching, as we all are, for reasons that life’s roads twist the way they do, and it is during this search that we should look for inner peace. Like the old adage, ‘It’s not the destination but the journey,’ Far & Wee invites the reader into her heart and soul as the poet takes us on her personal journey. It is obvious that this stream-of-consciousness writing can be extremely effective, and, I would imagine, incredibly cathartic for the poet. I read the book in less than an hour, though I did go back and re-read bits and pieces, some out loud. To add to the power of this little book, please know that Flye wrote the book–AND created the illustrations–in 29 days. But even if it had taken her a year to put this together, I’d be impressed!”

I want. (TMI?)

I have a feeling this is gonna be one of those weird stream-of-consciousness posts that might actually be TMI but nobody’s probably gonna read all of it anyway, so what the hell? Caution to the wind, live in the moment, seize the day…

I’ve been thinking a lot about being happy where I am. It’s hard. I don’t want to be happy here because here is prosaic. I want poetry. I want flower paths and sea breezes and to dance among the stars.

I want. And I think it’s okay to want. I think it’s okay to work toward the things you want. But it’s also essential to appreciate the things in your life that are already good. They might be prosy instead of rosy, but they’re still cool.

That’s why I’m dancing more. Even if it’s in my bookstore and not in the night sky tripping through the stars. And when I walk my dog, I stop to take pictures of flowers along the way. They might not exactly line my path, my steps may not be softened by their petals, but they’re still beautiful. And when a breeze lifts my hair and cools my neck, I close my eyes and imagine I’m standing on the deck of a sailboat in the middle of the sea. Even if I’m mowing my lawn.

None of this means I don’t still want the things I want. I’m fifty-two years old and I haven’t yet achieved my dreams. Does that mean I won’t? Nope.

Maybe I’m just taking longer to get there so I can enjoy the journey.

A flower from my walk. Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye

Poem: Adrift (Sonnet #15)

My heart is painful today, and I feel it is shared by so many others. But there’s also an apathy out there, convincing us that others’ blood is not ours. This is a mistake.

Adrift

Sonnet #15

By Michelle Garren-Flye

Safe on my boat of Belief, I will drift,

alone still, listening for your far song;

crimson sea all around—what caused this rift?

What action could create a flood so wrong?

Blood laps at the side of my little boat—

I work hard to avoid each splash and drip.

Something made this sea on which I now float;

An event so awful it caused hardship.

Is it right I ignore what I evade—

what doesn’t hit me will not hurt me—right?

My thoughts and prayers will come to the aid

of those visited by horrors each night.

In the end we are family in Pain

adrift on an ocean of bloody rain.

Photo by Michelle Garren-Flye