Sheila Ortego on Time

I’ve known Sheila Ortego for many years, as a writer and even as the president of SFCC. Now she is “retired” and running a bead business and blogging. She writes:

“…you have to MAKE time to do the things that are important to you. It’s never going to give itself to you willingly. (Time, that is.) We’re all going to have different versions of this story, but here’s my average day, and I’m RETIRED!!! I really don’t even want to think about how I juggled everything when I was working. (Nor do I want to talk about all the time it took to get The Bead started up as a small business…).  I think there must be some sort of ‘work adrenaline’ in your brain that makes you able to bear the crushing burden of a “day job”, and sometimes two jobs, and sometimes two jobs and a family. And some people do even more. So back to my average day lately:
7 – 8 a.m. Get up, shower, and go through a regimen of about 25 pills and special tonics for a variety of health issues about evenly distributed between me, my husband and my elderly dog; squeeze breakfast preparation in there somewhere, usually something easy like oatmeal or cereal or boiled eggs;
8 – 8:30 a.m. Walk the dog
8:30 – 9:00 a.m. Drive across town to get to my 88 year old mother’s house so I can:
(from 9 – 11:30 a.m.) …get her to the grocery store, doctor’s office, home improvement store (her favorite place), or one of her other current projects (or needs);
11:30 – 12:30 Have lunch somewhere with mom
12:45/1 – 2:00 p.m. Tackle the chores at mom’s house that she needs or wants help with. This time of year, it’s raking and bagging endless leaves covering her half-acre homesite, or winterizing her fish pond, or cleaning the kitchen and floors, or purging her freezer of antique and questionable “food” she’s left there for too long, or hauling Christmas decorations out of the attic, or getting up on a ladder to change a light bulb (to keep her from getting on the ladder when I’m not around), etc. – you get the drift.
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 Drive home to beat the bad rush hour that seems to start around 3 or 3:30
3:30 – 4:00 Figure out something for dinner & prep

4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Get started on business-related duties. Stuff like taking photographs, loading up a few of the backlogged items I’ve never had time to load up onto the Etsy shop site, do a few marketing things on various social media sites, etc. Try to get as much done before my husband gets home from doing his projects and starts pestering me to do the same kind of stuff for his own EBay shop, because he isn’t too technology savvy and also isn’t too eager to learn a bunch of new computer/social media stuff at this point in his life.
5 – 6 p.m. Finish/Eat Dinner!!
6: – 6:30 p.m. Repeat medication/tonic regimen for the sickly trio (me, hubby and dog)
6:30 – 6:45 p.m. Give the dog another short walk, per vet’s recommendation
6:45 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. More business related work that I didn’t have time to do before dinner (blog writing, bookkeeping, bead organizing, correspondence, etc.)
8: – 9 p.m. If I’m not passing out, as I do sometimes because my body seems to require a LOT of sleep, I watch something on TV with my husband or read part of a book.
9 p.m. Pass Out.”


Kathleen Lee on Writing Her Novel

Kathleen Lee will be reading excerpts from her new book, “All Things Tending towards the Eternal” in Las Cruces, NM, as part of the Nelson/Boswell Reading Series.

When: 7:30pm, March 6th
Where: New Mexico State University, the Health & Social Services Auditorium, Room 101A.

If you’re in Las Cruces, make sure to drop by!


Q. You started off as a travel writer, essayist, and short story writer before tackling the novel. The novel has multiple points of view–it is essentially a web of interconnected stories that are heading for a shared denouement. What major differences do you find between novel and short story. Obviously one is long, ha ha, but how different are the conceptions, impulses, execution. And is the novel “based” in some way on shorter work?

A. No, the novel is not based on shorter work. And I’ve mostly failed in my attempts to extract some story-like excerpts from it. I don’t know how to describe the difference between a story and a novel. A story is a single cookie and a novel is a whole cake. Both are dessert but the cake is larger, with more layers and more complexity; with more opportunity for making a mess of things, too. I wanted to write a book that captured what it feels like to travel loosely, for long periods of time, and I thought a novel would be the best way to do that (in part because you can have all of those different points of view which seems a necessary feature of the portrayal I was after since I think that travel is about so much more than a single self, even a single self as a lens through which to see the world). It turned out that long, unstructured travel might be pretty much the opposite of what a novel requires: some kind of structure, and the necessity that the action and characters be fully engaged with each other. When you’re traveling, cause & effect exists in small, sometimes amusing, sometimes miraculous, sometimes irritating ways. But in terms of a driving force, cause & effect seems to relinquish its hold on your life, to be replaced by a kind of baffling, luxurious randomness. You buy a ticket somewhere for no reason you can imagine and later on you go someplace else and you do that over and over again and after half a year of this going here and there, the world has somehow become distinct to you, and your self within it. Which feels seamless and inevitable, but it’s not a novel.

3 Questions for Steve Ausherman

1. What is your personal/aesthetic relationship to the poetic line? That is, how do you understand it, use it, etc.
The poetic line is a beast that snorts and slobbers. It is a mangy-toothy and biting, musky smelling and perfume-like animal that is beautiful to look at (but only from a distance) and is unwilling to allow me to place a bridle within its mouth.
In other words, it is something slippery, subject to rapid change, and something that I struggle to control. In times of stress, when the frenetic pace of emails, traffic, bills, grocery shopping, yard work, and the small, biting excesses of daily life threaten to overwhelm me, my journals are filled with short and staccato lines, snippets of thoughts, and cursory descriptions of passing sensory experiences. They are words that often feel unsure, or are aggressive, or simply act as life rafts for me to swim towards in the choppy seas of daily living.
In those times when I am relaxed and rested, or have spent time in the mountains, or am sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and the weekend stretches before me like a blank field of freshly fallen snow, my lines become long and full-bodied and stretch out like a person in a standing yoga pose. Even the words that I choose are longer, more subtle and suitable, and have a feeling of “rightness” and ease as they go down on paper.
2. Do you find a relationship between words and writing and the human body? Or between your writing and your body?
I write quite a bit as I walk. Walking has always been a balm and a way to quiet my pacing mind. While hiking in the Sandia foothills, on the streets of Albuquerque at night, or in the high desert mesas, mountains, and dirt roads of the Taos area, I keep a small notepad in my pocket. As my footfalls find pace with my breathing, images and ideas come through me and I find that some of my more interesting poems have their genesis in the experience of walking.
There is something about walking and the process of slowly moving through the world, active yet relaxed, engaged yet detached, and allowing the synchronicity of breathe, footfall, arms and eye movement that gives rise to thoughts and imagery. I haven’t found this to be the case with all physical activity. Certainly the experience of going to the gym, or riding a mountain bike, or playing soccer doesn’t stimulate within me poetic thoughts. But the process of walking does. It is the way that I find the relationship between poetry and my body to be the most direct and fulfilling.
3. Is there anything you dislike about being a poet?
From the reading public: The lack of people reading, buying or supporting poetry. Maybe poets are part of the problem. Maybe we identify and present ourselves so much as wild, angry, sad, drunken outsiders that it is hard for people to connect. As well, maybe in our efforts to write “poetically” we aren’t being clear with our ideas, and that lack of clarity may simply be pushing away potential readers.
From the literary world: Because poets work in shorter forms than novelists, biographers, essay writers or short story writers, I’m afraid that we aren’t taken as seriously for our writing efforts. I feel as if our love of the short form helps to make us seem lazy, undisciplined, and much less hard working than other writers.
Economically: As a poet, you can write every day and dedicate your life to your craft and know that, even if you achieve literary success, you will never be able to make a living at it.
             Footprints and the Dark God
                             (for Allen)
Rising the rough hills that fall into the Chama River
   A rustling arises from nearby scrub and a flank of brown
Reveals the side of a bear awakened by our footfalls.
   He snorts and turns away, muscled legs lifting him higher.
Tonight the stars will fill the sky and Ursula Major
   Will lift his bulk over the domed hills leaving bear prints
Upon the dark mud of the universe. We are shaking
In our hiking boots. Furry god of the back woods
Cleaving the trail amidst our jaw-dropped wonder.
                                                     by Steve Ausherman