Out of focus

Focusing on one thing at a time makes it difficult to see the big picture. Photo by Michelle Garren Flye

Today I sat in my silent bookstore hoping for the phone to ring with someone wanting to take advantage of my Covid-19 remote shopping option. The silence is of my own making. I closed to the public at the end of last week. It felt like the right thing to do.

It’s very difficult right now to know what the right thing to do is because it’s difficult to know what to focus on. Medical experts who say this epidemic will not end well if we don’t continue to isolate ourselves? Government hopefuls who expect real life to echo the movies and miracle cures to materialize out of thin air? Economic brains who anticipate the further shutdown of the economy to be more catastrophic than thousands of deaths?

And truly, it’s hard to see the true danger. It’s invisible until it hits you or someone you love. The medical community understands this. They’ve given us the tools to defend ourselves (wash hands, don’t touch face, remain socially distant), but they warn if we don’t use them, the effects will be devastating.

The truth is, though, this silent and invisible enemy will be the most devastating one we’ve ever faced if we don’t listen to facts. Scientific facts—something we’ve been trained to disbelieve in our recent alternative fact universe—are what can save us, but how likely are we as humans to listen now that so much is at stake? Our lives depend on it, but are our pocketbooks more important?

What do we focus on? We can’t focus on any one thing, really. We have to see the whole picture. All at once and from every angle. And know that what we don’t see—the invisible—can harm us.

Poem: What’s Fifty? (Happy birthday to me)

Happy Birthday to me.

I won’t lie, it’s difficult celebrating today. But it’s also sort of necessary, isn’t it? I mean, every year on this day, I look at the flowers blooming and think, I hope I’m here one more year to see this. So, no matter what the next year brings, I celebrate last year and say goodbye to it. It’s time to turn to what’s coming with gratitude for what came before.

What’s Fifty?

By Michelle Garren Flye

It’s not so important, this birthday of mine.

I’ll toast and forget it with a little red wine.

What’s fifty, after all, but a number of sorts?

It’s not like it comes with big lumpy warts.

I’m not really any older than I was yesterday—

I’ll still skip and holler in the midst of the fray.

If you think about it, each day leaves us a bit worn,

And it starts from the very hour we are born.

What’s fifty after all, but the next logical step?

Each year, just a memory, so carefully kept.

We build our remembrances up until the end,

And hope time’s passage brings us another friend.

What’s fifty? I yell to the rest of the world.

I’m nothing without age…let the years unfurl!

It’s not like it’s something we’d want to avoid.

If we try to, our hopes will just be destroyed.

What’s fifty? A point on a timeline, if you would.

Just you wait, this year I’ll make fifty look good.

Going for it: Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate finalist

In April 2017, I began writing poetry. As in writing a poem a day for all thirty days of National Poetry Month. I don’t even know why. I had never thought of myself as a poet. I’m not a classically trained one, anyway. My degrees are in journalism and library science. The only things I know about rhyme and rhythm and meter are the little bit I remember from high school—and what I feel in my heart.

Since April 2017, which I now realize was almost three years ago, I have written poetry often, usually to vent something, political or personal. I’ve taught a few elementary poetry classes to kids because I still remember the first time I read e.e. cummings’s “in just—” and I wanted to share that with them. I’ve read and written poetry for more than one voice, which is not something I learned in school. I’ve played with rhyming and not rhyming, sometimes in the same poem. I’ve written prose poetry and limericks and haiku. (Haiku, done properly, is much harder than you might think.)

Last year, I published a little booklet of my poetry because a friend had passed away and I wanted to dedicate something beautiful to her memory. I chose fourteen of my favorite poems, formatted them with some of my photography and sent them off to a printer. I have given away more of those booklets than I’ve sold (it’s only available at my bookstore).

And that’s what poetry is to me, really. It’s meant to share. I’m more than happy to charge you $9 for one of my romances, but poetry, to me, is something different. Most of what I write goes on my blog, if I think it’s any good. I’ve only ever tried to submit it to poetry magazines or contests once or twice, more because I wanted to share with a wider audience than anything.

So, you might imagine my surprised delight when I was notified yesterday that I am a finalist for the title of 2020 Heart of the Pamlico Poet Laureate. This means I have the opportunity to present my poetry and my view of poetry to an audience at the historic Turnage Theatre in less than a month. I’m thrilled, rattled, uncertain, ecstatic and pretty sure the selection committee sent the email to the wrong person, but at the same time, I’m gonna go for it. This is a huge honor for me, as well as the opportunity to express my love for this art form.

Wish me luck.

My poetry booklet.

Finishing Something

It’s a good feeling, right? Finishing something. I recently realized my next book is finished. I mean, yeah, it was written a while back, but even the editing stages are finished. It’s as polished as it’s gonna get, I think. Well, maybe one last run through.

I’m not going to tell you anything about this book except that it’ll be book 7 of my Sleight of Hand series. If you haven’t read any of my Sleight of Hand series, never fear. All of them are stand-alone romances with occasional appearances of characters from previous books. It’s like a romance series that focuses on a family or a particular small town, but the community that these books focus on is actually a little more…magical. The characters are not related except by marriage (well, there’s one set of brothers…). As for being set in one small town, nope. Settings range from the coast of North Carolina to Hollywood, Las Vegas and New York.

It’s kind of fun to think that this all began with Close Up Magic in 2013. I’d always been fascinated by stage magic. I often tell the story of five-year-old me being chosen by a magician to be on a “flying carpet”. I was instructed to keep my eyes closed so the magic would work. My mother told me afterward it certainly appeared that I flew. Ever since, I have loved stage magic. I know there’s a trick and I sometimes try to catch the magician at it. But even if I do figure out how a trick is done, it doesn’t spoil the fun for me. Often it just increases my respect for the magician’s performance.

So why am I not announcing more about my next book in this series? I obviously am very excited about it. It’s the best one yet, I know it. I put a lot of thought into this one, which is why it took so long. The answer is simple. I’m planning to roll out the next book on The Next Chapter Books & Art’s social media first. This bookstore has become so much a part of my life, including my writing life, it just makes sense.

So if you want to be one of the first to see the cover (which is bound to be beautiful due to being designed by the fabulous Farah Evers Designs) and read all about my new book, follow The Next Chapter Books & Art on Facebook and Instagram.

In the meantime, I have a couple of other projects in the works. I’d like to put out another booklet of my poetry, rework my backlist now that I’ve discovered Vellum, and Book 8 is calling me already. Not to mention my alter-ego Shelley Gee wants to get to work on Jessica Gravely as soon as possible.

So I’m off to the bookstore. Come join me there!

Poem: Mourning Daffodils

Photo by Michelle Garren Flye (that’s me!)

Mourning Daffodils

By Michelle Garren Flye

Time for daffodils is done—

Azaleas are too serious for fun.

And then the dogwood arrives

To sermonize as she staidly thrives.

Beautiful roses may lighten us all

But hark the approach of coming fall.

I’ll have to wait for the mums to grow

To have a little fun before the snow.

Yes, daffodil time is over for good.

Spring’s best bloom now buried in mud.

On the horizon, dark clouds loom

Set to bury us all in eternal gloom.

When yellow buds return, who knows

Which way they will find the wind blows?

Will I be there again to greet my old friends?

So many factors on which that depends.

Poem: Acquittal (not what you’re thinking…or is it?)

Acquittal

By Michelle Garren Flye

No other flower matches the daffodil

For merrymaking in spring.

Enjoy its jocund spirit for it lasts

But a momentary fling.

The yellow blossoms nod and sway, but

The moment is gone too soon.

They acquit themselves in splendor

And are gone within a moon.

No time spent gazing at yellow buds

Should be considered wasted.

For the moment ends, and memory remains

Of the golden glory so ill-fated.

If only all acquittals left such a taste?

If only all fates were so well spent.

If only we took the time to be sure

We knew what each one meant.

Just the next step

The local author “cove” of my bookstore, The Next Chapter Books & Art. Yes, my books are on the shelf!

“I guess I should have expected it,” my husband teased when I said I wanted to take over the local bookstore. “I mean, first you’re a published author, then you start self-publishing, and now you want to own a bookstore.”

I laughed. But really, is he totally wrong?

I want to sell my books.

I told a fellow author who stopped by the store to wish me well that the other day. “I want to sell books. My books, your books, whatever.” And it’s true. That’s what I want to do as a bookstore. Highlight and sell local authors’ books. Because there’s a surprising number of us here in my little town who can spin a pretty good yarn.

My friend, who has several books at the store himself, smiled. “True. But you want to sell your books most. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”

And he’s right, too. I do want to sell my books. Most. So I’m owning it. It occurred to me when I heard that the bookstore was going to close if someone didn’t take over that my books wouldn’t have a spot on a bookstore shelf anymore. I’d have to go looking for more stores willing to take them on.

As I don’t like beating the pavement, maybe it was just easier to take on a bookstore and learn to be a small business owner and pay bills and create a marketing plan and write press releases and be a grownup?

Maybe there’s something slippery about that slope, but it does seem to be working, and I can’t deny taking over this bookstore has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. I look forward to going in to work every day, I work on bookstore ideas at night, the store is my favorite subject—when I started considering setting a picture of the store as my background on my phone, I had to admit, I might be in love.

Everyday it seems a little stronger,

Everyday it lasts a little longer.

Come what may, do you ever long for

True love from me?

—James Taylor, Everyday

So I guess it’s okay if I’ve taken another step along the road of self-publishing. Yeah, I want my books on the shelf, not just here but in bookstores everywhere, but until that happens and as long as the only reason I’m here is not to sell my books only (just most), I’ll do my damnedest to keep this beautiful store open and selling all the books, including mine.