Getting ready for the 3rd annual MV regional high school writer's week visit. Prepping a class on studying the art of writing your bio as a tool to get to "know thyself" with the 10th grade honors class.
The New York Times calls a twitter bio, a post modern art form. Considered the most important thing you will write, and yet, it is one of the hardest. The balance needs to be finely tuned and the message clear, this is who I am. (preferably with a tinge of humor or a compelling message that makes the reader want more)
If you have a great Twitter bio, or have seen a young (teen, young adult) compelling bio, will you post it below?
The first bio I wrote was awash with magic and wonder as I was writing for children, I've moved more towards writing for adults and will update my bio to show that. I'm hoping these modern day savvy kids will help me out as we look at how to project our message and ourselves.
If you show me yours, I'll show you mine.
Cleggan Beach Ride.
After completing a travel writing course with Perry Garfinkel at the Noepe center of the Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard, Photographer Adrianne Ryan and novelist Lara O’Brien took off to discover the best place to ride when visiting Ireland. They chose Cleggan riding stables for its location to ride freely on the strand surrounded by the beauty of the Wild West of Connemara.
When Judy Cazabon met fisherman Enda Keane, over twenty years ago, they developed a mutual vision to create the premiere beach riding school in Ireland. They bought a small property, they built a stable, barn, office, all tucked in off the main road in the small town of Cleggan, located 11 km from Clifden and an hour and a half from Galway city, and they got to work.
Judy is a gentle woman who speaks softly as she tells us about the beginning of the stables, acquiring ponies for her children to compete with, and the big one, having the most expensive outdoor arena in Ireland.
“We blasted it out of rock,” she said, and you can see the determination in her eyes as she nods to the wall of thick granite that remained after the rock was blown to pieces, to make way for the training arena. Her fortitude shows in her yard, strong walls and strong horses, with years of growth as a small stable and solid operation. Judy runs a neat and safe operation. The horses are in great nick and she is very much the orchestrator of this fun adventure stable offering not just beach rides but private lessons and summer pony camps. Judy, a dressage trainer, speaks most proudly of her daughters' accomplishments on the national youth circuit.
There are many reasons to visit Cleggan stables whether a novice or experienced rider but the gem that makes this yard different than any other is Omey strand.
Omey is a tidal island located near Cleggan on the western edge of Connemara. Once a year at the end of July or beginning of August, people come from all over Ireland to watch with great excitement the race horses compete at the annual Omey beach races when the tide is out and the flag goes up.
But when the tide turns and the fanfare of the races is over, Cleggan stables remains. They are willing and able to bring you there to let your hair and stirrups down and gallop into the wind, any day of the year, weather and tide permitting. They also offer shorter rides 60 minutes beach rides to Sellerna beach with a 30 minute arena training for beginners and youths.
The beach trekking is Judy and Enda’s bread and butter and the horses seem to get the idea fairly handily, meandering along the road through town, past the pub and shop and along stone walled fields full of grazing horses and a few cows. Black bushes are heavy with berries and the verges thick with grass. These horses know how much distance to keep from cars and each other, when to turn, and when to increase the tempo. They are sound stable masters, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Happy to be the passenger, I ask nothing from my huge Henry, a shire/piebald mix with a whooping mustache. He seems content I’m not asking. We have a bonded agreement from the start. My horse training days are well over, no more cross-country, dressage, show-jumping, those days are behind me and he understands, I’m here to enjoy the scenery. I’m grateful for his easy manner and willingness to watch out for me. He has a gentle love of his surroundings, lifting his head when he sees a friend in the field or increasing the pace at his own time, or a gentle flick of an ear in recognition for a pat on his neck, as I show my appreciation. Every time... every time, I pat him, he flicks his ear to let me know, he got it.
It’s a love story. I fall for him. I think it’s his mustache that wins me.
At the beach we transition from trot to canter along the shore where the waves gently break and roll. He sets a steady rhythm and soon the canter becomes a rocking cloud. My man Henry, he’s a charmer.
Behind us lie the Twelve Pins, huge majestic mountains and a hundred shades of greens. He canters on, the wind whistles across my ear, my shoulders and seat relax as his hooves strike the waves and send salty spray in a million different directions.
Henry is the type of horse your non-horsey friends would also love. He’s out to please, to take gentle care of a child or an elder. Henry is at ease in his own world. Only a happy horse is so chilled.
After a wonderful blow-out of Atlantic air for both of us, Henry knows it’s time to head home. He has it down without a clock or watch this horse, and we begin our trek back through town and to the barn. Perfection personified, if this is your type of horse adventure. The key is to enjoy while remembering why you are here. Here and now… I am.
It’s not to join the races or national show jumping team, but to enjoy the most spectacular scenery with a horse who sees it everyday, and still enjoys it, too.
While Judy and Enda have much to be proud of; their children have brought home more ribbons than they can hang, I can’t help but think they have created more than they envisioned, the stables is a perfect balance of horse heaven for both horse and rider. Visit if you can, give Henry a hug for me.
Let me know your favorite place to ride and why it makes for a great visit?
On Monday I was given the great honor of moderating a panel at a writers event that takes place each year on the Vineyard, called Islanders Write.
The panel was made up of the very funny Halley Feiffer, actress, screen and playwright. Novelist, actress, and playwright Nicole Galland, who I love and always sit back in awe as she rolls out ideas and new work in our little writing group that meets every two weeks, and Adam Mansbach, humorist, cultural critic, and writer who had the big NY Times surprise hit in 2011 with Go the Fuck asleep, a children's book for adults.
It was a lot of fun and each of the authors gave us great insight into how they work and how they show up in their work.
Here's what reporter Jack O'Shea said about it for the MV Times.
A howling laughfest broke out during an often-profane panel discussion on ”Fictionalizing Your Life.” The levity was fanned by Adam Mansbach, New York Times best-selling novelist and a truly nutty guy who managed to turn the panelists into an audience and an audience member into the subject, resulting in a hilarious intervention attempt by panelists after one woman revealed a dangerous plan to complete a book which could ignite a family civil war.
At the end of the day, we all fictionalize our lives. Just check your Facebook or instagram posts and read your whole story, the told and the untold. What interests me most is the unspoken words, and that's where I feel writing comes into your life. If you can't get a deeper and better understanding of your life as a whole, write. See what comes out on the page, it will amaze you.
The full review is here.
I've been rambling, galloping, and running over Howth Head, just eleven miles northeast of Dublin city, a peninsula and scenic gem of Dublin, since I was a child. This year I wanted to hand the torch, (the love of the place,) to my American born children. So we went back to my hometown for April break and got our hiking boots on.
To give them the history of Howth I could have sat them down, taken out the books and pens and given them a traditional lesson, but that wouldn’t work for them. Like me, they do better learning orally, from storytelling. So I joined with a recently launched safari and hiking company, Shane O'Doherty of Howth Hikes and Trails, a man with history on his mind, and a keeper of the flame.
Shane was kitted out in safari wear, water, first aid accessories, and an energetic young dog named Bruno. He met us (a group of 5 hikers) in the heart of the busy village. Born and raised in Howth, Shane has an extensive knowledge of the area and as we took off at a steady march, past the Church and Country Market through the village, he began to tell of the characters and tribes of Howth and soon we were transported back in time.
We heard of the prehistoric man, the Celts and Druids, we walked to Aideen’s Grave (a 4,000 year old Dolmen at Howth Castle) and saw the Island of Saints and Scholars on Inis Mac Nessan (Ireland’s Eye). We imagined the Vikings arriving in 795ad, and land on her sister island, Lambay Island. And we listened to Shane tell how the Vikings eventually left when our King Brian Boru was victorious in battle, but died in the process. The Normans came next and their decedents are still living in Howth Castle which dominates our view as we walk.
Shane, a chatty, warm-natured, man in his early 50's traveled and worked as an airline executive. He lived in many European countries, but found there is no place like Howth, with her unique and beautiful qualities, and rightly so, he felt the need to share his love and knowledge for her. He now leads tours on history, literature, cave exploration and coastal climbs.
We strode across the greens to the ridge of a reservoir and into the most magical of mossy forests of rambling Rhododendrons and wild garlic, the white flower making abundant beds underfoot and the pink/purple petals of the flowers overhead.
As Shane led the way he told of more modern times. Of 100 years ago and Howth’s crucial role in the 1916 Easter Rising and the gun-running expedition on board the Asgard. Local men landed those guns and volunteers marched them into Dublin for the rebellion that lead to the War of Independence and the Free State, which is now the republic of Ireland, that we know and love.
Not just a history tour, Shane mixed in Howth's literary giants that came and wandered and were inspired by the landscape; Dean Swift, Samuel Ferguson, James Joyce and HG Wells.
One W.B. Yeats lived above the cliffs, and said this; We are not strangers, just friends who have yet to meet, and he captured what Howth is all about.
We, like our kids, made like goats and climbed twisted paths to the crackle of the yellow buds opening on the gorse, brushed past ancient mossy boulders and jumped trickling streams of the clearest water, until we entered into a natural tree-lined tunnel and emerged at 'Lover's meet' at the peak of Mushrock. We stood trance-like, captured by the purple and blues of the Mourne Mountains to the glitter of ocean surrounding Ireland's Eye and Lambay, across to the Sugarloaf and Dalkey mountains where a patchwork-quilt of Dublin city meets meadows and emerging crop fields, bound by treads of road and hills.
This is how the beauty of a place can hold you, calm a beating heart, force your eye to rest as each majestic detail is observed and absorbed.
If I could give the kids anything more, it would be time, more time to explore and discover. When you come across natural beauty of this magnitude it can only be understood slowly letting it soak in and be appreciated over time.
Thanks Shane (and Bruno) for a great adventure.
Join us for a beautiful afternoon under the tent. 5 authors and storytellers reveal their inspiration and influences in becoming a writer. Very happy to be part of this sweet event.
Long live the writing life.
I found him in the hospital bed in Reykjavik white as the sterile sheets. It was 6.30 in the morning and the sun was trying to break through fast-moving clouds. He was tripped at a hockey tournament on Friday night and tried to save his shoulder. He broke a rib, punctured a lung, bruised his kidney, had surgery and can't fly home. I'm glad to be here.
He was discharged nine hours later after a lung scan. I had a car rental and we drove North, away from the city. His hockey gear spread out in the back seat to air.
We were newly weds when I found out he played hockey. He came home late one night. I was sleeping and woke, startled, as he leaned over me with a goofy grin and a huge black eye. "What the fuck happened you?"
"I''m on an A team," he said, and was so proud.
"What A team? What sport?"
We eyed each other. If ever there was a moment of, who-did-I-just-marry, this was it.
We didn't ask the questions that were in our heads, like, "You play field hockey?" ME, or "What the hell does she think I was playing?" HIM (I'm guessing at his thoughts, but it was that suspicious look of his, the squint)
He's been playing fifty years. I'd never ask him quit. I've enjoyed watching him. I get it. It isn't just a sport, it's a way of life, a chosen life style. He plays in leagues on the Vineyard and in whatever state he is working in. He travels to tournaments every few months and its what brought him to Iceland. It is physical, mental and social. It is a passion. We live it, we encourage our kids to live theirs. Living your passion is what makes life, life.
It was Grace (10) who asked the big question. She did a cost to benefit analysis (hysterically, this is what Chuck does in his work, so she is a chip off the old block) She tallied all the days spent away from family, injuries incurred and threw in the fact that he just missed her tenth birthday. Is it worth it?
In the last twenty years, Chuck's had rotary cuff surgery, broken his tooth, stitched his own face, damaged the bones in his hand, now his ribs and lungs are in tatters, all for the love of the game. He's a tough one.
We checked into a small fishing village in the north west tip called Hellissandur. Its silence is deep, sitting on the base of a glacier. The last of the snow is melting and the waterfalls are raging. It's a beautiful and perfect place to regain strength and heal while he waits for the scan results.
The native ponies are friendly and cheeky, nipping you in the arm when you turn. The people are chatty and helpful, they loved Chuck in the hospital, want him to come work as a guide on the hiking trails. There are hot springs to heal in, trails to explore, spring water to drink and there is silence.(That's for me, he's still chatting the hind leg off a donkey)
Time to hang up the skates? We'll see what he does, but I suppose the harder part of letting a life style go, one that you love...is aging. It's admitting you are getting older. BOOO HOOOOOO...
Of course we can always take up BINGO and Croquet!
It's a hard call. He loves this life he's created.
It is the second annual Writers week at the high school. Last year I was terrified. This year I wanted to talk about what we can learn about ourselves through writing.
We talked about how we can express our thoughts, emotions and opinions in writing. How writing heals and how by observation we can shatter self-imposed limits or restrictions of who we think we are.
By using the ides of Michael Arndt, screenwriter (Oscar winner for Little Miss Sunshine,) Toy Story 3
Step 1: Show Your Hero Doing What They Love Most.
The kids picked, Kevin, 16, a star student and hockey player, playing an important game before a scout from Boston College.
Step 2: Add a Flaw
While Kevin was a star athlete and A student, he was not a good listener.
Step 3: Add a Storm
He skates toward the goals, he winds up, he shoots, he scores, and they win the game. Jubilation, he feels the victory and believes he has secured his spot at BC. BUT the scout pulls him aside, tells him he should have passed the puck, he needed to be a team player, he wasn't looking for a showman. Kevin fells his world crumble and fall.
Step 4: Add Insult to Injury
He returns home and gets into a fight with his loving parents. He lashes out. His mother revels his biological mother is alive and hands him her papers. Step 5: Make Your Character Pick the Unhealthy Choice
Kevin takes off in a car in search of a love he believes is missing in his life.
The kids were asked put their own ending to the story.
Laurel Redington, radio host of 88.7 MVY Radio, talked to the kids about writing for communication and presenting yourself and point of view. She shook each hand, asked for solid eye contact. They each stood and presented their story. They had 30 seconds.
The result gave me goosebumps. Some wanted Kevin's problems resolved quickly, placing him firmly back home with his parents and back on the ice, others told of his gritty, dark, discovery when he found his biological mother and how he then became her savior. All their endings were emotionally strung, real to life, captivating. They walked a mile in Kevin's shoes. IN 30 seconds.
They understood that the brainstorming model is also true for all of us. We set goals, hold passions, they don't always work out, we strive to overcome our challenges, we learn who we are along the way. It doesn't always have a happy ending, but surely worth the observation. The story is in the journey.
Thanks to the High School, Kate Hennigan and Ryan Kent for sharing these creative writing 9th graders. Thanks Laurel Redington.
The TUESDAY WRITING & POETRY SERIES at Pathways continues with an evening dedicated to readings by student novelists and their mentor.
Hosted by novelist, and writing teacher, JOHN HOUGH Jr., who will also read from his latest work in progress.
John's students from two ongoing writer's groups showcase work from novels in progress. The writers meet weekly, and have all persevered through rigorous editing and group criticism.
John Hough Jr., is the author of five novels and is a respected teacher of writing, known for penning masterful dialogue.
He is a graduate of Haverford College, a former VISTA volunteer, speech writer for Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland, and assistant to James Reston at the Washington Bureau of the New York Times. His grandfather and his father edited the Falmouth Enterprise and his great-uncle was for many years the editor of the Vineyard Gazette. Hough's novels include, "Little Bighorn", "Seen the Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Gettysburg," winner of the American Library Association's 2010 W. Y. Boyd Award, and three works of nonfiction.
John Hough, Jr. grew up in Falmouth, Massachusetts and now lives on Martha’s Vineyard.
TUESDAY, MARCH 22nd, 2016
From 6:30 to 9:00PM / Readings Start at 7:00PM
Free Admission / Light Refreshments
All writers, poets and community welcome to relax, and enjoy the readings.
If time allows after the scheduled readings, the floor will be open to other writers who wish to read.
See You There!!