The Great Horned Owl is one of many "non-target" species harmed by rat poison.

Saturday Night Augur–The Owls of Summer

My blog posts have been few and far between lately. What started out as a three thrice-per-week endeavor has become, shall we say, a seasonal endeavor. But not blogging doesn’t mean I’m not writing. This summer I’ve been keeping my head down while I work on two novel manuscripts, and currently I’m engaged in a one-week, one-on-one creative nonfiction workshop with writer Lisa Romeo called “Narrative in Nonfiction.” I’m all about “story” these days, something, I was surprised to discover, I haven’t always attended to in my nonfiction or fiction writing. This November I’m headed to Salem, Massachusetts, for the inaugural Writer Unboxed Un-Conference, and I hope to arrive with my little laptop gravid with story.

All the while the owls keep calling, and the augur takes heed. Have a listen to this two-minute BirdNote piece “Night Voices of Summer,” featuring my personal favorite owl sound, a pair of barred owls making their rollicking “monkey call.”  In a previous post (see below), I wrote about dangers faced by migrating snowy owls. I encourage you to check out this 10,000 Birds post about the threat to owls and other wildlife, as well as children and pets, posed by rat poison, and the long battle to implement alternative methods of rodent control that are less hazardous to “non-target” species.

The Great Horned Owl is one of many "non-target" species harmed by rat poison.

The Great Horned Owl is one of many “non-target” species harmed by rat poison.

For an owlicious Saturday Night Augur throwback (all the way back to last December), see Midwinter Auspices: Saturday Night Augur, Winter Solstice Edition.

The Tweeting Whitmans: How a Dead Poet’s Mother Made Me Love Twitter

Friends, I have a confession to make.

Several posts back I professed my dislike of Twitter. I may even have used stronger words than “dislike.” True, for lo these many years I did not see the potential benefits of tweeting and being tweeted at. I’m a natural-born Slow Reader, skimming when it suits my needs but generally preferring, in reading as in all endeavors, not to rush. In my previous explorations of the Twitterverse, loose arrays of words seemed to hurtle toward me with meteoroidal velocity and indifference. Too much, too fast.

Since first reading Walt Whitman as a teenager, I have taken to heart the poet’s admonition to dismiss whatever insults my soul (which, despite the egalitarianism expressed in his poems, I now know would include some of Whitman’s own beliefs). And so it was with Twitter. Aside from engaging in some mass tweeting at Congress, I have pretty much avoided Twitter altogether. Two things prompted me to reconsider Twitter:

First, I read “Should You Be on Twitter?” by Annie Neugebauer at Writer Unboxed, in which the author enumerates the pros and cons of joining Twitter. After considering the considerable pros (some of which apply to writers with books to promote, but I think Twitter can be more generally useful in connecting writers with other writers), I felt that perhaps it was time to lay down my “grudge” against Twitter and give it another try.

And then, just as I was beginning to soften to the idea of Twitter, I came across “The Tweetable Letters of ‘Mother Whitman’” on the blog of Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The poet’s mother’s “tweets” are excerpted from “walter dear”: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt.” The full volume, edited by Wesley Raabe, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Kent State University, appears on the Walt Whitman Archive, along with Whitman’s correspondence with other family members and with eminent figures of the time. With tweets such as these, I was won over:

It turns out that the Good Gray Poet himself is pretty tweetable. Were Whitman alive today, I’m not sure he would use Twitter, but then again, his poetry has always struck me as rather urgent. Maybe letting loose with a few barbaric tweets over the Internet would have satisfied his need to sound his “barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.” Or maybe not.

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Out of the cradle endlessly rocking–read Whitman’s Sea-Drift poems at http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/1891/poems/106.

Maybe the fact that I was spurred to join Twitter by the “tweets” of people who have been dead for more than a century doesn’t bode well for me socially. But in the week or so that I’ve been using Twitter, I’ve come to appreciate its spareness, relative to Facebook, as well as its capacity as an information-sharing medium and a tool for connecting like-minded people. (I also see the potential for distraction, procrastination, and feeling bad about myself.) In order to keep it manageable, I’ve decided to limit my following to writers, agents, editors, literary journals and writing-related publications, libraries, historical societies, bird organizations (well, because birds), and friends. Writer Nina Badzin provides a great primer for new Twitter users. Following Nina’s advice, I’ve truly enjoyed my Twitter experience so far.

Writing, as we know, can be a lonely undertaking. I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy myself on Twitter, slow-reading introvert that I am. Obviously, I was wrong.

To see what I’ve been up to since joining the 21st century, check out Tweets Like Birds in the sidebar at right.

Writers, Report for Duty: *I Should Be Writing* Boot Camp Starts April 14

If you are a follower of this blog, you may have noticed a precipitous drop in my output over the past few months. When I began the blog, I intended to post two to three times per week. I eventually came to accept that such frequency was not sustainable given the competing demands of full-time work and parenting; still, I thought I was good for one post per week. I might feel rather sheepish confessing this if not for the fact that since January I have been working intensively on establishing a workable writing routine and pressing on with a novel manuscript I began in November. My new priorities have rendered blogging an occasional thing, and I’m fine with that. After all, the blog has served its original purpose as a means of building and flexing my writing muscles, atrophied from years of non-use. Now those muscles are a bit more toned and are being strengthened through a cross-training routine of fiction and essay writing. I’m even feeling fit enough to add some blogging back into the mix.

Lisa Romeo: writer, editor, teacher, coach, drill sergeant.

Lisa Romeo: writer, editor, teacher, coach, drill sergeant.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote that I would be taking a five-week, online course–*I Should Be Writing* Boot Camp: Reclaiming Your Writing Life–offered by writer Lisa Romeo. It was one of the smartest things I’ve done in a long while. Through weekly written lessons and assignments, Lisa helped me distinguish real, practical obstacles to carving out time for writing–for instance, a 40-hour per week job–from what Lisa calls “mental maneuvers,” such as the little fibs we tell ourselves about how “busy” we are while wasting precious chunks of time on Facebook and weekend viewing sprees of whole seasons of cable television series. Maybe that’s just me. But I’m pretty sure it’s not. Lisa’s boot camp helped me see not only where the time goes, but also the unconscious processes behind why I fritter it away. Following the boot camp, I signed up for two months of individual coaching with Lisa in order to focus on my novel manuscript while availing myself of her knowledge of all things writing, from submitting essays to literary journals to applying to low-residency MFA programs. If you are a writer who needs a kick in the pants to begin taking this whole writing enterprise seriously, you could do no better than to sign up for Lisa’s boot camp.

The reason I’m telling you this today is that you have mere hours to get in on one of the last group boot camps that Lisa will be able to run for a while.** If I had taken Lisa’s boot camp just to benefit from her knowledge and experience, that would have been enough. But the group format has the added advantage of mutual support and shared wisdom of writers with varied backgrounds and experience. I know of two novelists who took Lisa’s *I Should Be Writing* Boot Camp to figure out how to direct their writing energies following the publication of a first book or a series of books. So no matter where you are in your writing career, you stand to gain from participating in the boot camp. The group boot camp starts this Monday, April 14, so don’t procrastinate (Lisa can help you with that too). Visit Lisa Romeo Writes for more information.

**Lisa also offers an on-demand solo course, but I would recommend trying the group option at least once.