Monthly Archives: March 2012

Local Writer of the Week, an Extra Gravy Feature of Biscuit City: Leigh Giza

Introduction:
Good morning and welcome to Extra Gravy, a Harrison Bergeron Production coming to you from the glass-enclosed studios in Biscuit City, a wonderful magical land where all your dreams come true, everyone is intelligent and beautiful and has a ton of money! And it’s 72 degrees and sunny year ‘round. Our guest today is Leigh Giza, poet, Write by the Rails member, my Facebook friend, Gainesville resident, and author of Found and Lost, just published and available at Authorhouse.com.
  
 Dan: Welcome, Leigh, to Extra Gravy, probably the world’s only virtual radio show without an audio. It’s nice to be able to talk with you!
  
Leigh: Thank you, Dan. I’m honored to be a guest on your fantabulous program. Please pass me the gravy.
                        
Dan: Here! Have the whole bowl! Enjoy!
  I first became aware of you as a writer when I read your poems on the Facebook page, Write by the Rails, which is an open group for local writers.
 Your  poems are haiku which are short (of course) but incisive and thought-provoking. You post one almost every day. Would you tell us how you got started using this form and why you like it?
  
Leigh: It’s funny you should ask, because I was asked this question before and I couldn’t remember how I caught the haiku fever. My sister-in-law, who also likes to write, tells me she helped me get started with it a few years ago, and since she has a much better memory than I do, it’s probably true. Haiku appeals to me because it’s short and the lines don’t have to rhyme, so I can write one fairly quickly and then spend time revising it later. I take liberties with it in that I don’t necessarily try to evoke a moment or mood in the natural world like the early Japanese haiku writers did. But I do follow the form requirements, which state that a haiku must have three lines, with the first and third line having five syllables and the second line having seven syllables. I like writing something in which I know when I’ve gotten it “right,” at least in terms of form.
Dan: How did you develop an affinity for poetry and the ability to write poetry so well, which is a difficult challenge? I know you also like Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of my all-time favorites.
Leigh: Well, I’m not sure I write poetry particularly well, but I enjoy it immensely. It probably has a lot to do with the expectation that poems should be brief (compared to short stories and novels), and that works well with my very short attention span. My grandmother liked to write poems, and so did her sister, so maybe some of it’s in the genes.
As for Edna St. Vincent Millay, I am just finishing reading a collection of her sonnets and I can’t say enough about them. They are awe-inspiring. And inspiring. Maybe I’ll tackle sonnets when I get tired of writing haiku.
Dan: I think Edna St. Vincent Millay writes lovely poetry. She has a certain ineffable quality to her work that allows her to be elegant and realistic at the same time. And she has the coolest name in poetry.
Could you share a poem with us right now? The length doesn’t matter—we have time and space.
Leigh: I’ll share a flash poem with you. Here goes:
                                                                              TATTOO
 Red and black and blue
 Are the colors of the tattoo
 He drew upon her cheek
 When she found the nerve to speak
 In hindsight she could have walked
 But she peeled off the tape and talked
 Now she’s branded with a tattoo
 In these bloody awful hues
Dan: What a powerful poem! And it’s a “flash” poem as well. I’d like to feature one of your poems on the Biscuit City Poem of the Week next week. I think our listeners (or is it readers?) would enjoy that!
Leigh: Thanks for asking! I’d be happy to have that happen!
Dan: I’m getting a little ahead of myself. How did you learn to write, and who encouraged you?
Leigh: I’m still learning! I hope I am always learning how to write better. I think it’s a lifelong process. I really don’t have any special training — I took standard high school and college English courses. I have loved writing ever since I got my first diary when I was about 7 years old. I had a great friend in junior high school who wrote poems and I think she inspired me to try it by sharing her work with me. I also listened to a lot of music growing up, and when I bought albums (I listened to records growing up – I’m old!) I always loved reading the lyrics on the sleeves, and I’m sure that inspired me to write poetry too. When I lived in Richmond recently, I took a poetry class that evolved into a poetry writing group, and that motivated me to keep writing and to be open to sharing my writing with others, both inside and outside the group. I am also a member of the Bull Run Adult Writers Group, which is a critique group for writers, so that I can get feedback on my writing and hopefully make it better.
Dan: And you have a book just out. How exciting!  You posted a poem (with picture) about it which went,
At last I can hold
My book in my sweaty hands
It’s called Found and Lost
Please tell us about your book and how you came to write it!
Leigh: A couple of years ago I was looking at my writings and realized I had written a lot of haiku and that maybe I ought to do something with them, i.e. self-publish a book. I grouped together what I hope are some of the better ones into a narrative about a couple who meet, get together, and break up (original, huh?), and then I asked a friend of mine who’s a photographer, Sarah Kane, if she wanted to take some photos to illustrate the story. Thankfully she said yes. My book would not be what it is without her beautiful photography.
Dan: Are you planning a poetry reading in the future? I think that would be cool! I love to go to poetry readings!
Leigh: I am trying to work up the nerve to do a reading in front of people. I think I’d enjoy it, but I’m nervous about doing it.
Dan: I hope you’ll do a reading soon. It’s terrifying but people are very affirming once you take the risk. Although I read something to a group one time that I had found always made people laugh. A lot. For some reason no one laughed even once during this reading. So I slunk away from the podium when I was finished and got in my car and left. I didn’t even stay for the shrimp appetizers and I love shrimp.
So, how does your husband regard your writing? Does he give you special treatment because you are a writer?
Leigh: My husband, John, is very supportive of my writing, so long as I don’t write anything derogatory about him.
Dan: What can you tell us about your day job?
Leigh: I work part-time at a library. I’ve worked in libraries for many years now. It’s a hard habit to break. Kinda like writing.
Dan: I see you graduated from the University of Maryland. Would you tell us about your time at UMd? (Go, Terrapins!)
Leigh: It’s a little hard to recall a lot about it now, since I graduated thirty years ago! I was pretty nerdy back then (some would say I still am), so I didn’t do a lot of partying or socializing. I was a substitute d.j. at the college radio station, WMUC. That was fun!
 Dan: About the only thing I remember about college is reading and writing papers. I had a radio show on WESU-FM, with 15 watts of blazing power.
 I want to thank you for being with us on Extra Gravy from the Biscuit City studios today. I wish you well with your writing. You’ve been a delightful guest.
We’d love to have you back sometime and we’ll look for your poems and your book.
Leigh: Thanks, Dan! The book, Found and Lost, can be bought from amazon.com and authorhouse.com.
Dan: …I have one final question. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? I would be a Brazilian rosewood tree because they are beautiful and their wood is used in high-end guitars.
Leigh: Didn’t Barbara Walters used to ask people that question at the end of her TV interviews with celebrities? I wouldn’t be a tree because then I’d have to cut myself down to make paper for my writing tablets, and that would hurt.
Dan: That’s a very post-ironic answer. And, yes, Barbara Walters ended her interviews with it. It’s goofy and I like it!
We’ve been talking with Leigh Giza, poet, wife, library worker and local resident.
This has been the Local Writer of the Week feature, brought to you on the Extra Gravy show on the Biscuit City Network. The Local Writer of the Week is a Harrison Bergeron Production and is sponsored by Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. For soy sauce that’s poetry in your mouth, pick up some Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Soon you’ll be speaking in five or seven syllables, depending. Put Haiku Brand Soy Sauce on all your food and enjoy that honest to goodness taste of the east in haiku and sauce form. Remember, when life is dull and on the non-poetic side, you need Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Available at fine grocery stores and book sellers everywhere! That’s Haiku Brand Soy Sauce. Get some! You’ll be so glad you did!
This is Dan Verner, bidding you a fond adieu from the glass-enclosed nerve center of the Biscuit City Network until next time when we’ll talk to another local writer.

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The Biscuit City Chronicles: I Can Fly

The first movie I ever saw was Peter Pan, in the first grade . I went as part of a school trip, since my parents never went to movies themselves and certainly never took us . I think this occasion might have been near the end of first grade . I remember several things about the experience : the theater was the biggest place I had ever been in (a bit frightening when the lights went down) , one of the parents bought everyone M & M’s, the first I had ever had, and I was terrified by the ticking crocodile. From this one movie I gained an enthusiasm for movies, a love of M&M’s and a healthy respect for crocodiles–and, oh, yes, an insane desire to fly.
I don’t remember this, but my mother tells me that as a toddler 1 liked to climb to the highest point 1 could find and then jump off. She thought I had a kind of infant death wish, but I think I was trying to fly. One afternoon she looked out to see me standing atop a four-foot fence post. She snatched me off before 1 could jump, but I think  the experience unnerved her.
Peter Pan apparently added a couple of new twists to my aerial career. Again, 1 don’t remember, but I’m told that I would take some salt from the shaker (pixie dust, naturally), throw it in the air above my head, shout |”Christmas!” (the magic word in the story, as you may recall), and jump into the air.
Unfortunately, this ritual didn’t cause me to fly any better than I had before. I think my mother has grateful we didn’t have many visitors to our home. A three-foot child sprinkled with salt leaping into the air shouting “Christmas!” in July is an odd sight.
My next source for ideas on how to fly came from television. I was astounded at the picture of George Reeves barreling across a metropolitan landscape, cape flowing in the slipstream in the small screen version of Superman. It was indescribably cool. 1 studied the screen up close, searching for a clue as to his mysterious abilities, missing the very obvious wires that held him horizontal against a rear-screen projection. I concluded that Superman’s cape enabled him to fly, and all I had to do was to procure one and 1 would soar off into the stratosphere (but 1 would be home in time for dinner). I tried towels tied around my neck, leaping off our front porch and crashing into the bushes. I gained long scratches on my arms instead of altitude, and my mother prohibited me from using any more of her towels after I tore a couple of them.
Then, on a bag of carrots, I saw an ad for an Eagle Flying Cape. For the princely sum of 25 cents, I could send away for this guaranteed flight accessory. The answer to my dreams, and only a quarter! 1 showed the offer to my mom. She laughed and said something she was to say many times in the years after that: “Don’t believe everything you read.” Then she threw the bag away. I knew better than to ask for a quarter.
So, 1 gave up on flying on my own and turned to other means, namely, airplanes. My favorite show became Sky King, a sort of cowboy transition show about a rancher who flew a spiffy twin-engine Cessna and took care of all sorts of incredibly difficult situations through reason, non-violence and a big airplane.
He also lived with his niece Penny who of course in those long- ago days did the cooking and cleaning, but also could pilot the Song Bird when Uncle Sky was disabled. I think it was at this point that I began to think that girls might be OK after all. My main focus, though, was an airplane.
How could I get one? I couldn’t buy one, since they cost upwards of a thousand dollars and my allowance was 25 cents a week.
I would have to build one.
And so I did, with my brother’s help, using scraps of wood I found in the garage. The finished product was about four feet long with a six-foot wingspan and tires scavenged from an old lawn mower. To my mind, it looked like The Spirit of St. Louis, sleek and silver and shiny. In reality it looked like a bunch of scraps nailed together in a cruciform shape. Of course, it didn’t have an engine which was probably just as well. I figured I couldn’t get the engine off the lawn mower without my dad noticing.
So, I needed a way to get my craft airborne. I didn’t care that 1 knew nothing about airfoils. Or aircraft design. I remembered the Wright brothers and how they had searched for exactly the right place to fly their aircraft. Soon l had settled on the ideal launching situation: the sloping roof of our garage. I would haul the airplane to the top of the roof, climb in (or on, actually) and swoop down the roof, become gloriously airborne over the yard, climbing like an eagle far above our neighborhood and the school, vanishing to the east, following Lindberg’s aerial trail all the way to Paris, where 1 would be honored as the first person to fly the Atlantic without an engine.
First, though, there was the problem of getting the aircraft to the roof. It was built of what my dad called ironwood and it weighed about as much as an iron stove. Ron and I could barely push it out of the garage, much less lift it to the roof. I sadly concluded that I would have to take my masterpiece apart and reassemble it on the roof. 1 had read about someone somewhere building an airplane in a basement and then realizing that it wouldn’t fit through the door. That guy had to disassemble his airplane, so why couldn’t I?
And so I did, and Ron and I hauled it up piece by piece with some rope we found. How my parents missed all this I’ll never know. Two kids hammering away at a pile of wood on top of a garage is something we didn’t see every day. Nonetheless, we accomplished the feat. My airplane was ready for its maiden flight.
I stationed Ron in the yard so he could later describe how elegantly the craft and 1 swooped off across the Atlantic. I climbed aboard and waved to him.
“Switch on! I called.
“Stitch only!” he returned. He didn’t know the right words, but it would do.
“Contact!” I called, and made revving airplane engine noises. I pushed off with my foot and my craft made slow grating progress down the shingles–to begin with. By the time we reached the edge of the shingles, the roof was sliding by at an alarming rate.
I really did think it would fly, just as 1 had earlier thought that pixie dust and a cape would let me fly. The pile of wood and I didn’t even clear the flower bed. We sort of slid over the edge of the roof and plummeted down the side of the garage  right into and on top of one of my mother’s huge climbing rose bushes.
Pieces of trellis and erstwhile airplane flew–the magic word–in every direction. I landed in a painful thornstuck heap and sat there, stunned not so much by the physical impact as by the realization that 1 hadn’t flown. My brother pounded over.
 
“Wow! That was cool! He exclaimed. “Do it again.”
“Oh, shut up, I said. That episode ended my attempts to fly beyond a few rubber and gas powered models. 

But Ron caught the vision. He learned to fly in the Army at Fort Gordon, GA, went into the Air Force and became an F-5 fighter jock and then, wanting a career with an airline, joined a C-130 unit out of Andrews to build multi-engine time.

He came through town on his way to Atlanta and his new job with Delta Airlines the day Amy was born in 1977. Ron put in 17,000 flight hours with Delta over 27 years and retired as a captain seven years ago. I only talked and thought about flying. But he put wings to his aspirations. He could fly.

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Voices United 2012

Full disclosure: I am a member of the Manassas Chorale and have been since August, 2003, after I retired from teaching. My wife Becky directs the Chorale and, with the phenomenal help of some incredible people, has grown the group from about 30 singers 20 years ago to its present size of about 100 singers. I am also somehow a part of the select pull-out group of 30 singers, the Chorale Ensemble. We do harder music and sing in a number of smaller venues. All this is the most fun anyone can have indoors.

Part of the Chorale has made an annual trip in December to Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg to sing as a part of their Candlelight Concert series for about a decade now. Generally about 60 singers make the trip and we finish the evening off with a dinner at a local restaurant. This past year, as we were singing in the altar area of the church, packed into the space very closely, I was surrounded by various vocal parts (which is how I prefer to sing SATB) and felt at one point as if I were a part of some large organism that breathed and moved together and produced the most wonderful sounds. Of course we have to breathe together to create a uniform sound and I’ve noticed that we tend to move in the same ways, even though we don’t do choreography. It was quite a revelation.

The people in the Chorale are some of the finest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know. They are almost without exception witty, warm, intelligent, talented, good-looking, faith-filled, responsible, community conscious and devoted to their families. It has been my distinct pleasure to come to know many of them.

This past weekend we experienced Voices United 2012, an annual choral event sponsored by the Chorale. Nearly 130 singers came together for a six-hour workshop with composer and musician Joseph M. Martin, who has written 1500 songs with 15 million copies out there. Martin conducted a seminar not only with the six songs that the VU 2012 Choir sang but also about the relationship between the arts in general and society. He considered music and its relationship to society and culture, talking about the interconnections between and among music, writing, visual art, sculpture, architecture, dance, photography, etc. He could very well teach a graduate level course on art and society.

Joseph talked about one of his anthems, “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go,” as being operatic in nature. It tells a story (of salvation), begins with the statement of a theme both musically and theologically (the “A” part), shifts to a minor treatment of the motif, a variation (or the “B” part), reaches the climax of the story (the Resurrection) with the restatement of the “A” section and closes with a coda, again both musically and narratively. Wow. To do this justice would require a recording of the text and an image of the music score, both of which would violate copyright provisions, so I must leave them out. If you’re interested you can go to   http://www.jwpepper.com/10090346.item#viewer-tab and click on the “sample audio” button for a sample of the song.

Martin also  considered  the creative process, not only about music but also about the poetry he writes for lyrics to the songs. Much of what he said is good practice for any writer: working in odd pockets of time, revising, considering the freight and sound and heft of words, insisting on exactly the right word, and so on.

It was quite the weekend. I hope to explore some of these ideas further in future Biscuit City posts.

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Poem of the Week: Sonnet 116: William Shakespeare’s "Let me not to the marriage of true minds…"

Shakespeare was a total genius. (Late news just in!) Not only could he write plays and sonnets with the best of them, he could write better plays and sonnets than his contemporaries, and of course he is the gold standard by which all other writers are judged (and fall short).

At that time there were certain conventions in play-writing and poetry which lesser poets observed religiously. Shakespeare didn’t. He used the forms and traditions while at the same time working incredible changes on them. Example: Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, correct? Lots of killing and the “star cross’d lovers” tragically dead at the end. (I think they’re a couple of hormonal idiots, but that’s just me.) The change Shakespeare rings on the play is that it begins as a comedy (there are lovers separated by an obstacle–the families’ feud–who nonetheless come together with the help of not one but two tricky servants (the Nurse, Friar Lawrence) and there is a wedding. Up until Romeo kills himself, the play could have been a comedy (I know, Tybalt and Mercutio die, but they’re collateral damage of sorts. And hot-headed fools.). In fact, the Victorians hated sad endings and so re-wrote the last scene. Juliet wakes up in time; Romeo doesn’t kill himself and they run away and live happily ever after. But the ending as originally written is, you know, tragic.

Same thing with the sonnets. The tradition form and themes are worked with and worked over. The sonnet tradition said, “Tell us what love is in your sonnet.” William Shakespeare said, “Because I am an overwhelming genius, I will tell you what love is not in my sonnet.” And he did:

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

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Ideas for Writers: Hints for Taking the Essay Portion of the SAT

I know, I know, the demographic for Biscuit City is not exactly one that will be taking the SAT (I’m not sure just what the demographic for BC is, but I somehow think it doesn’t include a lot of high school readers). Anyhow,  I figure some of you have children or grandchildren who are taking the test so I thought this week’s writing advice should be about taking the essay portion of the SAT. Or maybe you’re headed for college for the first time at age 83. Good for you! Rock on!

I would consider myself an expert at what makes a good SAT essay without bragging  since I have personally scored over 100,000 of the writings. I can’t say how or why I was able to do this or we’d all have to go under the Witness Protection to prevent a large and anonymous company from finding us and making us the victims of “extreme renditions” to obscure places like Newark or Bangor.

So we’ll just assume I know what I’m talking about. That said, here are my tips for writing a good SAT essay:

1. Answer the prompt! Stay on the subject. Essays peripherally connected to the subject count, but I wouldn’t stray too far afield. If the subject is the influence of media on culture, don’t write about your lacrosse career.

2. Be specific! Use examples and stories. Factual accuracy does not count in this test so you can make up facts (“Benjamin Franklin invented the light bulb”), but it doesn’t make scorers happy. The College Board says this is a test of writing and critical thinking, not of factual recall. But the better writers get it right. I’m just sayin’.

3, Don’t waste time doing a rough draft. You’re writing a timed test, not the Great American Novel. Jot down a few ideas if you need to, and then write.

4. Be organized. Transitions are your friends. Do a quick outline or web or jot list or whatever makes you happy. Don’t take all day doing it, though.

5. If you see you’re running out of time and you’re not finished, start throwing down ideas. If it’s there, the scorers can count it. If it’s still in your mind they can’t read that, as good as they might be.

6. Remember the test is one of critical thinking. Show some evidence of that, somehow.

7. Reserve the last one to two minutes for proofreading. Spelling errors and miswritings don’t count against you, but they don’t help, either.

8. Relax and enjoy yourself. Make us proud!

9. Practice before the test. There are sample prompts and papers on line Write, write, write! Good luck!

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Local Writer of the Week, an Extra Gravy Feature of Biscuit City: DeeDee Sauter

Introduction:
Good morning and welcome to Extra Gravy, a Harrison Bergeron Production coming to you from the glass-enclosed studios in Biscuit City, a wonderful magical land where all your dreams come true, everyone is intelligent and beautiful and has a ton of money! And it’s 72 degrees and sunny year ‘round. Our guest today is DeeDee Corbitt-Sauter, mom,  nurse, my Facebook friend, and author of  the “Tambourines and Elephants” column for Prince William Living, a monthly “lifestyle” magazine for Prince William County and greater Manassas. 
  
Dan: Welcome, DeeDee, to Extra Gravy, probably the world’s only virtual radio show without an audio.In fact, it’s all in your head unless you have a friend over and take turns reading it aloud! 
It’s nice to be able to talk with you!
  
DeeDee: Thank you and for the record, I enjoy anything with gravy. That was lovely introduction with only a few corrections. You can go ahead and get rid of the “Corbitt.” That’s my maiden name and is only useful when searching for my juvenile record. I use it on FaceBook so my old friends can find me although I really have no desire to go that far back in life. I was never a school nurse, although I think that would be really funny. My background is mostly ICU. But I have also taught nursing and supervised home health.
Dan: I first became aware of you because my daughter Amy said you were a very funny person and had a column. I read your work and fell on the floor laughing. You are a very funny lady. Could you say something funny right now?
DeeDee: Wow. That is a great deal of pressure for someone who is not a part of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. If you were my 10 year old son, all I would have to say is “sexy.” Follow that with a synonym for lower intestinal gaseous emission and I could have you laughing half the day.
Dan: Have you always had this sense of humor and where did it come from? Did you grow up in a funny family? Or what?
DeeDee: I have always been funny in my head. Inside that cavernous abyss, especially late at night, I regale the house with amazing wit and a sharp tongue. But, for the early part of my life, my humor was hidden behind  coke bottle glasses and Pippi Longstocking pigtails. Wait, maybe that was the genesis of it all. Actually, I give significant credit to my dad. He worked long, hard hours and his time at home was greatly valued. My sister and I would tell him outrageous tales of our made-up adventures or dreams. If you have children, you know these stories want to make you poke your eyes out with a fork. So, as we inhaled to start whatever nonsense, he would look at his watch and say, “Is this going to take long?” She and I both learned how to tell a story that keeps the audience paying attention. I never said I was succinct though…
Dan: Your column is frequently about your family. Your last column was about you’re your children were going to be when they grow up. You wrote about children who aspired to be inanimate objects, right? That was so funny. Can you tell us about that?
DeeDee: Frankly, it’s poor form to mock other people’s families. I mean without their permission. I often do, but change the names…. So, I am forced to make my family the center of my writing. I worry about them enough, might as well use my writing as therapy. That column started at Thanksgiving when I was asked, for the 100th time, what I thought Henry, my youngest, would be when he grew up. Since I didn’t have a good answer, the question was repeated at Christmas. He is two. I am hoping he is potty trained. I would sit with young moms and they would ply me with stories of their children’s genius and their potential futures. Made my eyes hurt. So, as I was ranting to an old friend, (she is older than I am) she honestly told me that her daughter wanted to be a stop sign. And an umbrella. But can you imagine the power you would wield if you could be a stop sign? Phenomenal.
Dan: I’m getting a little ahead of myself. How did you learn to write, and who encouraged you?
DeeDee: I have a vague recollection of learning to write my name in kindergarten. I recall being proud… little did I understand that my name consisted of 2 letters. Later in life, my mother told me that I was in the slow reading group because I just refused to cooperate. I am fascinated by the sentence that can portray a feeling or conjure a smell or reveal a memory… so I started with newsletters. My friends have always encouraged me. I have never believed them.
Dan: So how did you come to write your column?
DeeDee: I know the editor, Elizabeth Kirkland, and she asked me if I would be willing to take my writing to her new magazine. Naturally, not being able to say no, and not understanding the pressure, I agreed. Now that I know all those things, I would still say yes!
Dan: Do you ever get interesting comments from your readers? Could you tell us about those, please?
DeeDee: I have no idea. I never actually get feedback from the column. My friends often tell me they laughed or give me an anecdote that is similar to the storyline and I love that. Love it. But other than that, I don’t hear much!
Dan: How do your husband and family regard your writing? Do they give you special treatment?
DeeDee: I get a great deal of special treatment because I am that wonderful. Has nothing to do with my writing, simply because I am so lovely, easy going, laid back and sweet. Like June Cleaver. My husband is very supportive of my writing… he never even edits it and that drives me crazy because I know it needs it. 
Dan: Are you from this area? If not, where are you from?
DeeDee: I was born in DC, started out in Georgetown and then was raised in a townhouse in Lake Ridge. Lake Ridge was nothing back then and Manassas was considered “the sticks.” If my parents said we were going to Manassas, we would moan with how far that trip would be. I left for college, did stupid things, got married, and eventually ended up back here. My husband is also from the area and we moved back here from Connecticut to be closer to our aging parents.
Dan: What can you tell us about your day job?
DeeDee: Exhausting. I often read organizational magazines to get a better handle on the house. I don’t follow the advice but I am fascinated by the sheer work it takes to come up with those ideas. I like to pretend I am the Mistress of the house and I must run about to ensure the house staff are doing their jobs properly and with respect. Is “staff” plural or singular? But when I start barking orders with a Britsh accent, I realize I have to stop watching Masterpiece Theatre.
Dan:Well, if you’re British, “staff” is plural. “The staff are going go on holiday together.” (Collective nouns in England always take a plural verb.) If you’re American, collective nouns like “tribe” are singular. “The tribe is going to sue the socks off the Redskins for defamation and a few other things.” So you must be British, as you suggest at the end of your answer. 
Mr. Grammar Person is pleased to answer all your grammar questions. That will be 25 cents, please.
I see you graduated from East Carolina University. My wife Becky is an ECU grad, but in music. Can you tell us about your time at ECU? (Go, Pirates!)
DeeDee: I did my undergrad at UVA and Grad school was ECU. Wow, that place has grown. Loved it. Grad students never have the same experience as the younger folk, but I lived the majority of that time in a complex called Tar River Estates which was a mecca for the drunken collegiate. It worked out well, as I worked nights when they were their loudest and I slept all day. It is a great school and the South is something everyone should experience.
Dan: I want to thank you for being with us on Extra Gravy from the Biscuit City studios today. I wish you well with your column. You’ve been a delightful guest.
We’d love to have you back sometime and we’ll look for your column each month. You must be a CCR fan, judging from the name of your column. Right? How did that name come about?
DeeDee: Again, funny story. I had a suggestion but it was considered offensive, which I found offensive. So Elizabeth suggested Tambourines and Elephants because she is a CCR fan. So, about two months ago, someone told her that the title was suggestive of illicit behavior and could be considered offensive. Love it. Full circle.
Dan: More offense than the Redskins have in an entire season in that answer!
Do you have anything you’d like to add to this interview?
DeeDee: Because this was a radio interview without a volume button, no one knew that I was all showered and professional for the occasion. I just wanted to mention that.
Dan: Indeed you were very showered and professional. Thank you…I have one final question. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be? I would be a Brazilian rosewood tree because they are beautiful and their wood is used in high-end guitars.
DeeDee: Apple. I would be an apple tree because I want people to think of me as traditional, classic, dependable and nutritious.
Dan: And indeed you are, DeeDee!
We’ve been talking with DeeDee Corbitt Sauter, columnist, mother, wife, medical professional and humorist.  
This has been the Local Writer of the Week feature, brought to you on the  Extra Gravy show on the  Biscuit City Network. 
The Local Writer of the Week is a Harrison Bergeron Production and is sponsored by Your Momma’s Biscuits. Your Momma’s Biscuits, made with love like your momma used to do. Remember, Your Momma’s Biscuits taste just like your momma’s biscuits. So if your momma isn’t around, you can still have Your Momma’s Biscuits! Just like those your momma used to make only without all the fussing and smacking you in the head. Remember, if it’s not done by Your Momma Bakers, it’s not going to taste like a Your Momma’s Biscuit! 
This is Dan Verner, bidding you a fond adieu from the glass-enclosed nerve center of the Biscuit City Network  until next time when we’ll talk to another local writer.

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Voices United 2012

 Voices United 2012, sponsored by the Manassas Chorale, will take place this Saturday, March 10 at 7:30 PM in Merchant Hall at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, with composer Joseph Martin leading the 150-voice Voices United Choir in a selection of his arrangements. Joe is one of the leading composers of choral music today with over 1200 compositions to his credit. He is also a phenomenal piano player and will play one piece during the concert. 

The first half of the concert will feature the 100-voice Manassas Chorale under the direction of Artistic Director Becky Verner in a program of anthems written, composed or arranged by Joseph Martin. Don’t miss this annual event of great and moving music! http://www.manassaschorale.org/home.aspx http://hyltoncenter.org/ http://www.martin88.com/ 

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Elementary, My Dear Watson

I read to my daughter Amy’s fourth grade class on Read Across America day and also for Mary Ruth Spencer’s class (loved her Cat in the Hat hat!) at Signal Hill Elementary.

I chose part of biography about Amelia Earhart and read the last chapter,  about her last attempt to fly around the world at the equator. Then I taught the class the chorus to a song that was popular right after her disappearance in 1939, “Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight” and we sang it together. I was amazed at how well-behaved the kids were and how well they sang.

I also had a chance to watch the teachers and students in action. The kids move through the halls to French or P.E. or lunch and are orderly and quiet. Kudos to the teachers and staff at this school, at any elementary school or any school for that matter for the amazing job they are doing nurturing and instructing the future. All you guys–students, teachers, staff, wherever you are–ROCK THE HOUSE!

I’ll be back next year! Thanks!

Here’s a link to the original song by “Red River Dave.” Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAvtHMJS1O8

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Poem of the Week: "Birches" by Robert Frost

I was reminded of this poem yesterday when our papers landed in a puddle and, in spite of being in a plastic bag, ended up soaked. I had to spread them out to dry on the deck railings and was reminded of the image in this poem,” Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair/ Before them over their heads to dry in the sun,” a sight not often seen in these days of electric hair dryers.

“Birches” is not as well known at “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” or “The Road Less Traveled,” but well worth a read.

WHEN I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows—
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father’s trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

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Works in Progress

When I am around other writers, they sometimes will talk about having “writer’s block” or experiencing difficulty writing. I feel their pain, having experienced this from time to time myself. I heard a writer once answer the question, “What do you do about writer’s block?” He said, “I lower my standards and keep on going!” He went on to say that he could always revise what he had written when he got his mojo back (my words, not his–he said, “When I’m able to write well again”).

I think a key is also to write at the same time, in the same place if you can do it. I’ve known writers who are still working at their day jobs who get up early (4 AM for example) and put in three or four hours before heading to work. Others who can’t manage a block of time (like me, even though I am retired) will write whenever and wherever they can. That’s what I tend to do although most of my writing is done on our desktop in the “computer room” (AKA the glass-enclosed nerve center of the Biscuit City Network–a fiction of my mind, I have to admit). If I can’t use that, I have a laptop and email the files to myself so I can have them on the desktop. I don’t like to carry a laptop around when I’m running errands, so I will end up putting down ideas or phrases or even paragraphs on notecards if I have one or scraps of paper if one is available or my hand (the original Palm Pilot–ar, ar). I could carry my writer’s notebook but I’m afraid of losing that after I misplaced it for a month because I took it to church and left it there and forgot about it.

I’ve also talked recently with another writer about the usefulness of deadlines to move the process along. I along with others  always want to change what I’ve done, fiddle with it, make it better. A deadline puts a stop to that, although deadlines do result in some late nights and close calls. I do have a deadline for my Observer column although my editor is very understanding. I still try to respect deadlines so I don’t inconvenience the publication which has to meet a publishing deadline.

And if I want to change something that has been published, I can always put a “director’s cut” here. I can do that because I write short pieces that will fit into a blog space, although I don’t really know how long these posts can be. I haven’t written pieces that are that long. It is possible to re-do a book, but you have to be Stephen King or someone like that to do so.

One author said it well about finishing a work when he remarked, “I never finish a piece: I simply give up on it.”

So good luck to all those of us trying to finish pieces and meet deadlines. I hope you’re able to do so, and that you don’t have to give up on them! Keep writing!

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