Writing is Imporant

Don't Write Like You TalkDon’t Write Like You Talk
What I learned from agents & authors, publishers & poets

Writing a book is important. But before you get all puffed up, so is knitting.    

Writing is an art.  Writing is also a hobby.  My friend Myrna  knits beautiful socks as holiday gifts to family.    My friend Terry cooks amazing meals and share them with lucky me. My mother makes greeting cards.  My sister in law creates an elaborate Halloween scene for the local trick or treaters. A number of my friends travel and happily share their experiences with me so my trip will be even better.

What do I do?  I write.  Sometimes I share, but more often than not, I don’t.  Because unlike socks, writing isn’t a really welcome holiday gift.  Wine is better.  Bourbon is much better.

I write because it’s important to me, to my health and well-being.  Writing is my way to organize the world.  It can be yours too. 

I officially give you permission to write for love.  Write because describing the sky makes it bluer.  Write because detailing the grass makes it softer.  Write because it feeds you like  twice baked potatoes.

Why is it important to write?  Because you are making sense of  the   world  and if you do a good job, you’ll help others see what you see, and make some sense themselves. 

 

Visit us on iTunes  – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
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The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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TBT – Barbie Rages On

In the 80s I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material.  But it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your Scrunchie  and welcome to the 80s.

1980s article on CA BarbieThere wasn’t a time in my life when I didn’t have a Barbie. And there was never a time I didn’t admire her from Bob Mackie Barbie to Scarlett O’Hara Barbie.     But for my granddaughter, there is no Barbie. Not because Barbie is a bad role model, not because Barbie has large breasts. It’s because of Elsa.  A lot of Elsa:  tall Elsa, small Elsa, the Elsa dress, the Elsa lunch box. In this family, when it’s not about Cars, it’s about Elsa.

Barbie has succumbed to politically correct thinking since I played with one as a child.  It is possible to purchase a curvy Barbie, a tall Barbie, a smaller chest Barbie.  A noble effort.  I don’t have the stats on the sales, but I would imagine that little girls still gravitate towards the inscrutable original. The Barbie with the better tan.  The Barbie with the pink house.  The Barbie with tiny high heel shoes.

Her purpose is to not be real.  Play is not real. Barbie is a grown up, and as such, can do anything she wants.  Remember that idea?  That you will be able to to be  anything and everything you want?  It’s as real as creating a whole castle made of ice in the course of a single song.

But if we don’t dream, how barren and tragic our lives would be.

I don’t know about you, but I read countless articles about capturing the sense of play in your (our, my) life.  Be spontaneous, play like a child!  But that only works if you did play like a child. If you did dress up Barbie in a handkerchief or old doilies left from Valentine’s Day and paraded her down the aisle to get married – groom optional.  Or walked her down the cat walk for her fashion show.  Or stuffed she and her friend Skipper into her pink car and drove them both off the bed.

Parents seem to work very  hard to make sure everything in  their child’s life is reality based. A noble attempt, but eliminating play is not the answer.   How can we return to our playful selves if as children we were handed a  doll with small breasts and thick ankles and told, this is Insurance Adjustor Barbie, pretend she is commuting to her cubical.

Barbie is well into her sixties.  She endures. I hope she resists this more recent attempt to make her relevant and more real. She’s not real. It’s not even the point.

I hope there are hundreds of little girls insisting that like Elsa, their Barbie can make ice castles.  Seems fair.   Seems real enough.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Much Better Way – Instagram Poem

Do not start the day

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TBT – Are You Living in the Suburbs?

Suburban life in the 80sIn the 80s I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and
ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material, but  it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your scrunchie  and try on the 80s for a minute.

The suburbs are great for raising kids, and boring for raising adults.  Even in the midst of small children, I both longed for the culture and stimulation of city life, yet loved the convenient Safeway parking lot.  This conflict never really resolved itself.  I loved every city I traveled to (okay, maybe not Cairo so much, but I loved Luxor).  But I did not have to carry my groceries up five flights of stairs to my adorable apartment with interesting views and indifferent electricity.  I loved the noise and action of the city at night, but I didn’t need to get up for an early meeting the next day.

One of those suburban children lives in a small town in the Sierra Foothills and longs for acres of land for his multitude of animals.  The other lives in Kirkland, two blocks from a Starbucks.

My husband and I spilt the  difference and bought a house in a small, but lively town that has most of the culture, bars and restaurants of the big city without the stress.

Almost perfect. Isn’t that what we long for, really?

My friend “Frank” still lives in San Francisco.  And I still visit because I have season tickets to the ballet.  I don’t know why I called him Frank.  His name is Lester.

 To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
And @CBramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp, thank god there is only one of me

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Next Steps after Finishing Your Book

Next step after finishing your book

Chocolate

Wander through the local book store
Observe how many shelves in the local book store
Notice the many books on the shelves  Many books
Pick up the hard covers, the trade, the bargain
Hate john Irving because he published at 26 and you are 56
Resent the writers who are always short listed for a Pulitzer
Detect a trend in the prize lists
Notice you are not part of that trend

Decided to distrust any book described as luminous
Promise not to buy any book described as a brilliant first foyer into the literately field.
Wish you had a better marketing team
Realize you are the marketing team

Order a dirty martini
Be pleased the olives are served on the side –
So there’s more room for the gin

Drink

Either feel grateful there are so many wonderful stories to buy
Or depressed that you are merely part of the problem

Finish the drink
Eat the olives
Send the book to your publisher anyway.

Inspired by the afternoon after I finished the third round of edits for Future Sky, the fourth in the Future Girls series.

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TBT – Princess Diana and Me

Princess Di

In the 80s I wrote a weekly column for the local paper.  I know, that whole sentence that reeks of nostalgic and ancient terms:  1980, newspaper, column. Think of it as an early blog. Only with more readers.   For Throwback Thursday I thought you’d enjoy a taste of the past.  I don’t know how much I enjoy reading over my old material, but  it’s interesting to learn how little things really change.  Comment if you agree or disagree, then dig out your scrunchie  and try on the 80s for a minute.

My sister-in-law called me minutes after the news broke.  We just returned from a Labor Day family picnic, I had just seen her, so the only reason for a call was for an emergency.  I held the cordless phone and eyed the bags of wet bathing suits and extra food that was still piled on the kitchen counter. The boys had already run upstairs to avoid showering.  Did you hear the news?  Oh my God, did you hear what happened?

If I were to ask  any of my sorority sisters where they were when they heard  Princess Diana died, they would be able to tell me. She had belonged to us.  She was our generation and like many good, anti- monarchist Americans, we slavishly followed the British Royal Family.  We loved Diana, we followed her fashion choices, her parenting style, her  her triumphs.  We admired how she lived after the divorce, how she  manipulated the media before it was a thing. Her whole like was a work of art.  We wanted to be her, to live like her.

Until she didn’t. Until we realized in a terrible crash, that her fairy tale hadn’t been re-purposed like Disney, it was a Grimm original:   the mermaid dies for love, the princess doesn’t wake.

I know the sisters of Delta Delta chapter watched William marry Kate.  I was interested in their courtship but did follow the details as closely.  Reading the occasional breathless article in People Magazine was enough.  But I watched the wedding.  I cared when George was born. I cared that William wanted a different marriage that that of his parents.  I understand William vowed to posthumously elevate his mother to HRH status when he ascends the throne.  I know I’m not the only fan who  would love to see that.

To learn more.
Visit us on iTunes – Newbie Writers Podcast – new episodes start again in January 2017
Check out our upcoming book Don’t Write Like We Talk that will be published eventually. All you need to do is wait . . . Like us.
Subscribe to this blog
Or just follow me on Newbie Writers Group on Facebook
And Instagram #catharineBramkampWriter
And Pinterest Catharine Bramkamp
The theme is, Catharine Bramkamp

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Final

She found herself on the web her legends lifted and retoldDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Badly.
Can I fix these? She complained.
There isn’t enough electricity. Sam squinted at the turbine slowly turning
She nodded and continued to look for her gods.

As they labored over the Sierras, they passed
the bone yard of wrecked trains, accordioned against the base of the mountain
on the sides of the narrow trail, blackberries
and poison oak
gold bars, black cooking pans, red parkas in summer, sandals in winter
The air was as thin as a myth
She felt she could melt her wax wings against the implacable sky.

She squatted down and ran a finger over a solid bar
so pretty; so insistent
But after a few miles, too much.
You could exchange the notebooks for it: it’s valuable.
She thought of the notes fluttering like the hawks
after hitting a turbine
No, no, the stories stay.

She slid the bar out and it landed with a thump and puff of dust
He bent and shaved off a handful of wrinkled foil
lighter than air
heavy as greed.

The Drummer was not as kind to the preacher.
He shot him mid-step.
Damn evangelical, thinks one rhythm works for all songs.

In San Francisco there is gold.
In San Francisco there is stripped copper wire.
In San Francisco ship masts litter the bay
Goblins call, chatter and unload boats with scary speed.
Mangos, green nail polish, knives.

The bars served more food than bread
More drinks than only beer
The Westin Hotel and Cabaret
An Official joined them and for a crease of yellow foil
Told them new stories.
Sam knew in wine there would be truth.

There was no elegant solution the Official admitted
no one says that of course
they sent me out here right before.
Goblins? The girl asked.
The Official grimaced, a practiced gesture
anyone who is different is a Goblin.

But you. I’ve heard about you.

They all flocked to her.
A mermaid singing each to each
she sang to them.

The crowd chanted knowing she could
break open their world
Howling through the night
on the corner of Columbus and Fillmore
jugs of wine passed through the group.

The Drummer sidled up to Sam.
She’s going to need a name.
It would be good for her act Sam agreed.
The Drummer shook his head keeping his eyes fixed on the girl
The battered hat, the ragged edges of her pink tutu thin as a memory
That is no act.

The girl looked better – eyes shining
I’ll tell you about the great mother; you are sitting on her skin
You need to caress her more often and stop hitting.

I will tell you the story of the three-hour cruise
How many of us start – believing
we have only three hours and it turns into
The girl lifted her hands – a natural gesture – the crowd roars.
A lifetime?

She insists they throw shoes as tribute
Size 8

I know how it ends. Sam patted the Drummer’s arm
And turned.
I never thought
I’d see how it begins.

Thank you for following the adventures!

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Drinks at the Last Cafe Part III

Everyone moved slowly at the Rapid City Diner  Drinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
The bar tender wiped the countertop with a wet rag
leaving streaks of damp
that did not dematerialize in the heavy air
You know there is never a girl in these stories.

I know, Sam accepted the home brew
With appreciation born of deprivation
I thought it would be more sincere
With the girl
The beer foamed over the mug
Sam wiped his mouth and laughed

More often the RV residents tried to walk the rest of the way
fallen along the high mountain roads
Bring Out Your Dead she whispered

They wintered in airplanes
That’s what Sam liked to call it – wintering.
The sky was so fierce that she named it the Time
of Abandoned Gods
The Travel Gods, the Train Gods, the Grass and Growing Gods
Those hide underground.
Like snakes Sam said.

Of course they weren’t the only ones in line for the planes
A big woman with wild hair in row 16 asked about her.
Daughter?
No, a rescue. Ah, sleeping with her?
Sam shook his head.
The woman eyed the slender girl. She was old enough.
Sam looked at the sky instead of the wild hair
I am not tempting her gods.
So he and the woman went in the back.

Vision of the street. As the street hardly knows.
He called himself the Drummer
since that’s where the first terror gang found him
what were the choices?

Boys wilding in the center of the country, taking on
anything that moved – Goblins; they made the best story
Already the enemy. The terror gangs attacked.
They titled it the great train robbery
The Drummer posted the video on creaky You Tube
It never made money
so the Corporation never bothered to take it down.

The Mother God,
The girl explained to the men in the long light of spring
has to stay with us, must care for us
which is why she is the mother.
which is why she must be a god.

Her logic, impeccable; the beer, helpful
The desperate men nodded and gave them both

If you are abandoned. The girl continued
the Mother God will protect you.
Like a foster mom. One man said.
Yes, she agreed, not knowing what that meant
It didn’t matter; she and Sam were safe for another night.

By reasonable deduction
The rest of the gods were angry gods
I will find out why. She said.
Sam helped her down the muddy banks of the Missouri river
She scrambled and tried to imagine enough water
to wake and drown
Yes, find out
the names of the gods, ask around.
A trained roared overhead.
Cries of the Goblins mocked them from above.

He always tried to stuff her backpack with food
Cans of chips, ding dongs the stuff that survived in the Chevron stop
the notebooks took up too much room.
Leave them?
No, I will carry the stories, leave the cans.

The Preacher still danced on the graves of the wicked
The wicked! The wicked did perish!
I told you all so! He danced and danced a round, spinning dance

The girl drew up as she watched,
the ground shifted, the preacher stumbled,
Sam threw out a warning arm
She pulled up to her full height, taller by much more than when they began
he noticed with astonishment.
The wicked.
The Preacher fell into the dust and rocks.

All the voiceless women, she whispered
the stoned, the burned, the buried, the raped
How do you know the wicked?

Because they are gone!
The howl danced from his lips and was caught up in a train whistle.
What was that?
Sam smiled
The Goblins travel much faster.

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Drinks at the Last Cafe – Part I

Some took pictures with damaged phonesDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
buildings flayed alive
collapsing away from the center
A pattern of worn dominoes hit by an angry child

You had to be quick of course, to see the photos
the cities that became just place names overnight
A rescued laptop hooked to a generator with a minute and a half of charge left
one minute on a rogue site
thirty seconds before the corporation shut it down.

It’s not true that we all died.

She met him right after.
Her parents stayed dead in the back of the dank theater
she was too slow when the carts came by
Bring out your dead.
Tired of rat
she dressed in leg warmers and a top hat
picked her way to the Last Cafe In The City

Call me Sam
he huddled over a beer
smoked his last.
Alone? Worried about the Goblins?

It was always so dark in the alley behind the theater where her mother worked.
It was difficult to imagine how that hard light
penetrated so deep between the V of black vertiginous buildings
the flash of white puncturing the small TV

the children stopped chanting
Eat your Rat
It’s Low in Fat
the terror gangs stopped shooting
didn’t want to do the other side any favors.

She knew she couldn’t stay another day.
Sam finished his beer. How old?
Fifteen
Shit, thought you were 18
They all want me to be 18
We do he agreed.
He helped her order everything that was left.

California, he announced to her and the empty dishes
Sam unfolded a large map, a complex origami project.
This goes back to when it was terribly normal
to drive forever, cars blackened the country
Like buffalo –

It will take a few seasons, he cautioned
Gold Coast, Swimming Pools, Movie Stars
South is faster, you sure?
She knew about seasons – swimsuit season, flu season

He scooped up a computer, three loaves of hard bread
and the girl: top hat, leg warmers and a pink tutu

Once they cleared the domino buildings
the sun, a basketball orange suspended mid-dribble
on an intractable asphalt sky
motioned them to follow its everyday death.

They encountered others – anyone with only a few things
to carry, escaped the quickest
some survived, although they didn’t know it at the time
traveling west served as a last act of defiance.

She told Sam stories
to fill in the silent trudging towards the flaming sun
how she felt trapped between buildings
that squeezed daylight into switch blades of light

the Goblins yelled from the shadows
back and forth, trading a persimmon for an apple
Buy, buy, buy
Don’t be afraid her mother ordered
but don’t eat.

hand size strawberries,
cantaloupes the size of her head
buy buy buy the Goblins
dressed in same kind of clothes and shoes
as she –
Her mother
wore fantastically high platform boots
swayed from booth to booth in her short dress
An uncertain tulip, the stalk too weak to hold up the head

buy buy buy.
Computers glowed at the stalls; displaying web sites with stories,
tiny children held up gigantic strawberries
grapes, bananas, it’s all good, grinned the Goblins,
all organic. Natural. Certified.

No, no we will find the cans. Her mother said
dragging the girl from the fruit.
We’ll find the kind already
chopped up into bite size
bits and pieces, stored in aluminum recycle, reuse, reduce
they pushed the cans home in metal carts with broken wheels.

now the metal carts are filled with bodies.
Bring out your dead.
Did they eat the fruit, the dead?
By the time she knew, it didn’t matter
and the Goblin market was gone.

Blast Away Fat
Her mother read the article out loud every night.
Her mother’s arms
were held together in the middle
by a knob of bone.
The camera adds ten pounds; she tapped at the cover of Glamour
The girl wondered if mother would look better
if she held a camera up between them.

Burnt out days. Sam muttered.
the poets are always right.
It just takes time.

Continued next week.  Subscribe!

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Death Watch

Grief makes you hungry

Not for justice

for taco flavored Doritos
and bags of the new bites –
bite size comfort candy in
Reese’s, Heath Bar, Rollo, Goodbar
Yellow bags of tasty trash, we unconsciously eat themammonia sunrise by Catharine Bramkamp
by the handfuls
between hours of watching
the rise and fall
of scattering breathing by
the loved one

cookies
more chips
a bowl of “Cowboy Casserole”
that by law
should be filled with rattlesnake and buffalo
we dared my brother-in-law to eat a spoonful
he only found lima beans

The Mexican restaurant down the street
plays the soccer game loudly
followed by juke box music of an artist
who is big in Mexico City
but just background noise tonight
the noise carries comfort
California normal

it’s not a matter of questioning
the order of the universe

in a half hearted attempt
fruit was offered one afternoon

we looked up at the sky
and asked for the potato chips
the cupcakes
those cookies with coconut and chocolate

sugar to serve up more tears
life is so fucking short
pass the dessert
we will eat that first.

Catharine Bramkamp
From: Ammonia Sunrise

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