R. S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Thank You (page 1 of 7)

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Hillside Monday: 5/29/17

“Art Is Where You Find It, No. 4”
(Acrylic, oil, watercolor, tempera, and charcoal on plywood)
LaGrange College Department of Art
LaGrange, Georgia – 1 May 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 5/26/17

“Handed Down in Stone”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 February 2015

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Two new pieces in Sleipnir!

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve got two new pieces, “In the Studio” (poem) and “Clearcut” (flash nonfiction), in the Spring 2017 issue of Sleipnir literary journal. Named for Norse god Odin’s fearsome eight-legged horse, Sleipnir strives to

…create a space for other crooked-smile clowns wandering away from the path of courtiers and kings, [and who are] burning the midnight oil to tell a story.

Yep. My kind of publication.

Editors Robin Andreasen and Liana Vrajitoru Andreasen teach English at South Texas College in McAllen, TX. They’re a dream to work with. Liana and Robin tell me that the next issue will feature fiction, poetry, and art about Texas. By all means, send them your Lone Star State-themed work!

Cover illustration by Leszek Kostuj and quoted text appear courtesy of Sleipnir
Other text © R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 5/17/17

“Hello, Tiny Friend”
LaGrange, Georgia – 25 April 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

My latest, at Columbus and the Valley Magazine

Many thanks to publishers Mike Venable and Jill Tigner for running my short piece “Reverie with Coffee and Hash Browns” in the June 2017 edition of Columbus and the Valley Magazine. (The piece is on page 72.) My fellow contributors have really outdone themselves this month—so I expect you to check out their delightful articles, as well.

Photo: “Waffle House, 12:19pm”

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 4/28/17

“I Can’t Be a Pessimist, Because I’m Alive”
Denver, Colorado – 27 February 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wherever someone’s in need

Two years ago today, I submitted final grades for the last time—and, to celebrate, posted on Facebook this photo of my 1960s neon Pabst Blue Ribbon bar sign (a lucky eBay purchase). While I miss my former students, my friends, and the steady (if small) paychecks, I don’t miss teaching. At all. Ever.

In some ways, though, I’m still teaching. For example: most of this week has seen me helping people figure out how to do the things that confuse or frighten them—and figure it out through writing. I’ve helped people’s ideas take shape on the printed page, whether in plain text or as part of a graphic layout. I’ve talked people through the stories they’re afraid to write, when their dreams literally point them toward taking great creative risks. In a sea of disinformation, I’ve helped people find the knowledge they need to make hard decisions.

I walked out of the classroom two years ago. I haven’t looked back. But when I think about my own writing, and how I’ve used what I know to help others, I know that the classroom isn’t always in a school building. The classroom is wherever someone’s in need.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Notes from the Happy Kitten Cottage; or, I’ve Got a Newsletter Now

Yes, I’ve got a newsletter now (even if I don’t have any eyebrows in this photo).

It’s taken me six years, but at last TinyLetter’s easy-to-use format found me, and I’ve begun Notes from the Happy Kitten Cottage. It’ll come to you once a week, on average. Don’t worry, I won’t spam you. We’ve all got plenty of stuff in our email inboxes as it is.

As I note in the About section, it’ll be “weekly notes on my writing & photography, my cats, rural places, plants and wild animals, dilapidated buildings, country music, and Lord knows what else.”

Interested? Sign up here.

I’ll probably send the first newsletter in another day or so. They’ll all be archived, so no worries if you miss one.

TinyLetter will show you a confirmation page, and will send you an email with a link to click (to verify your sign-up). You can unsubscribe anytime.

Thanks again for reading. You folks are the best.

Love,
Me

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 4/7/17

“Skeleton with Camellia”
LaGrange College Department of Art
LaGrange, Georgia – 24 March 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Wednesday Photo: 4/5/17

“Breakfast and Check”
Waffle House #646
LaGrange, Georgia – 25 March 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Reunion in Brass and Mother-of-Pearl

Twenty-four years have passed since we last met. Strange, because it seems like just yesterday when we waved goodbye. She looked a little sad, but assured me that she’d be around whenever I needed her. No worries. She’d be right where I left her. And she meant it.

Even as she approaches her 73rd birthday, she’s still radiant. Her voice remains strong and smoky. She hasn’t grown gaunt with age, as some of us do, but still weighs in at a hefty, healthy 20 pounds. She’s never been ashamed of her worn lacquer, her scratches,  her oft-repaired and dangerously thin brass. Don’t make the mistake of suggesting to her that those are flaws to be camouflaged and hidden away. Oh, no. She won’t hear of it. Those “wrinkles” mean she’s been places. She’s seen things. She has loved and been loved—and she will continue to love. She has lived fully and deeply, as most of us never will.

Does she ever think of France? Does she long for that little factory south of Paris where she came into the world, where one of Monsieur Noblet’s craftsmen  stamped “9346” in the small of her bell seam? Whenever I ask, she changes the subject.

She’d rather talk about the Rubank exercises that we both hated at first but quickly grew to love, or that grueling Dvoràk piece we aced in the winter of 1993. She gets excited when I suggest we try “Night Train” again, and pushes for a dirty, raunchy, uptempo “gut-bucket” version. She wonders why I still haven’t bought the Dukoff 10* metal mouthpiece that I wouldn’t shut up about all those years ago.

Is she protecting me? Or herself?

It doesn’t matter. She kept her two-decades-old promise: I needed her, and there she was. Or, rather, here she is, as patient and solid and accepting as ever. As I slowly rebuild my wind and dexterity,  she stays with me. She picks up where we left off, telling her story and mine in that steady, husky tenor—singing every note with longing, and with love.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

NOTE: I first posted this piece on 16 March 2015. It appears here today with revisions.

 

A Good Plan

Yesterday, I remembered a brilliant idea I had as I entered the sixth grade: “I’ll write a bunch of papers way ahead of time. That way, I’ll be prepared.”

I told my father my idea on a July afternoon at our little house in Randolph County, Alabama. I sat at one end of the dining room table. In front of me sat the massive electronic Sears typewriter Val and I had gotten for Christmas. Daddy sat at the other end of the table, sharpening his pocketknife.

The house smelled of whetstones and oil and ink-soaked rayon ribbon. The typewriter’s nervous hum filled the air between the shhhp-shhhp-shhhps of steel against stone. Daddy stopped, looked thoughtful, then nodded: “Sounds like a good plan.”

And it was—at least until school started. Alas, “Write a bunch of essays ahead of time” is not how sixth-grade language arts class works. Somehow, though, eleven-year-old me must’ve known that it’s a pretty good plan for freelance writers. I’m glad I managed to hold onto it.

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 3/10/17

“Mother Church Windows”
Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, Tennessee – 16 September 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

A Quick Update

Lately, my creative well has been completely dry. So I spent a week in Denver, Colorado, visiting my sister and letting my artistic eye/mind rest. It was wonderful. For the first time in months, I took some good photos. I even did some scholarly work for the John Prine talk I’ll be giving this June at the International Country Music Conference in Nashville. Prine is one of America’s greatest living songwriters. I love him so much.

I’m still working on my novel, Songs My Father Barely Knew. It’ll be done whenever it’s done. In the meantime, I’m revising a guest blog post, and working on music-related pieces for a business client. I’ve got a flash CNF (creative nonfiction) piece and a poem coming up in the same literary journal. And, though they’re a few months away, I’ve got two pieces appearing in Columbus and the Valley Magazine. More details when these go to press.

I’m waiting to get word on a metric shit-ton of other submissions I’ve flung out into the Void over the last few months. Kim Liao prompted me to aim for 100 rejections this year. “That’s a worthy goal,” I thought, “an average of 8.33 rejections per month.” Every No brings us one step closer to Yes. Such is the writer’s life.

So that’s what’s been going on. Meanwhile, here’s a photo of me in the ladies’ room mirror at a regional-circuit pro wrestling match last summer (purse and phone in hand). Don’t say I never gave you anything.

Photo: “Self-Portrait, Middle School Girls’ Restroom” (Carrollton, Georgia – 16 July 2016)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Hillside Monday: 2/13/17

Marshall Ruffin‘s Girl”
Pure Life Studios
LaGrange, Georgia – 21 January 2017

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Some Quick Writing Advice

Recently, a friend asked me for some writing advice. In the midst of three different projects, though, I didn’t have many extra words to spare. But I did have these quick tips to offer. They often help me. I hope they’ll help you, too.

  1. Read a lot. Read the same things multiple times, and at different points in your life.
  2. Write down little pieces and snippets of ideas whenever you have them, and however you can write them down. Text them to yourself. Type them in your phone’s “notes” feature. Scrawl them on the back of your hand, or in the margin of your class notes. Get them down, any way you can.
  3. Save all those weird snippets. They will come in handy.
  4. Notice everything around you—especially the things that the rest of the world refuses to acknowledge.
  5. Let all this touch your soul.
  6. Write about it.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

Friday Photo: 1/13/17

“Willow (Barred Owl), in Flight”
| Pine Mountain, Georgia – 27 December 2016

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

One Small Voice against the Storm

The other night, I dreamed I was at a friend’s house during a terrible thunderstorm, the kind of storm that makes people think Armageddon really has arrived. The winds shook the spring-green, baby-leafed trees like eighty-foot-tall pompoms. Parts of people’s houses flew by: downspouts, shingles, screen doors. I could see even darker, nearly-black clouds rolling in from the west.

The green of the trees lit up neon-like against the angry dark gray clouds. Those clouds billowed slow and steady across the fields opposite my friend’s house—embryonic tornadoes, rolling close to the ground. They moved so slowly that at first I thought I could outrun them on foot. But they moved in such a stop-motion, unpredictable way that I knew I’d better not even try. In the vacant lot across the road, half a dozen newborn funnel clouds stood up and lumbered toward us.

The sensible thing to do would have been to run back indoors and hide in the bathtub, or in the crawl space. But for whatever reason, we decided to drive my car into town and take shelter on the university campus. In the basement of one of the huge concrete classroom buildings, we figured, we’d be safe.

As we drove down the narrow country road, the storm grew even stronger. Entire roofs and porches now flew over the car, like dollhouse parts at the mercy of a giant commercial vacuum. We saw people cling to telephone poles and mailbox posts, then lose their grip and disappear into the dark, hungry tornado mouth. The trees whipped in every direction. In the all-powerful wind and rain, proud hickories and towering oaks became as pliable as flimsy ornamental grasses.

When an ancient tulip poplar crashed across both lanes of the road, I stopped the car. We were about to get out and head for the ditch—another last-resort place to hide from a tornado—when we felt the car’s rear end lift, fall, and lift again.

Then the tornado was upon us.

It yawned wide, and again picked up the car by the rear axle. We were now suspended in the air, far above the ground. For a moment, I thought my hands had grown into the steering wheel. I couldn’t even scream. But then the car began to shudder. Through my terror, my words returned.

“This is it?” I shouted. “This is how it’s supposed to end?” I grabbed my friend and held her against me, shielding her face from the chaos swirling just beyond the windshield.

The tornado shrieked louder, and bobbled the car a little. It was trying to scare me, trying to shut me up. I held my friend even tighter, and kept shouting.

“I can’t believe this—after everything she’s been through.” The winds rocked the car again, dipping the front end and then the back. “Her grandmother, two uncles, an aunt, and her husband have all died over the last year.” Tears rolled down my cheeks. “And now you bring her this?”

The car began spinning counter-clockwise, with an occasional, ungainly dip back toward the earth. Now the tornado was just toying with us—just a bully, picking on two much smaller kids in the far corner of the playground.

My anger rose. One way or another, life or death, that storm would know forever that I had its stupid little game all figured out.

“So this is the best you could do, huh? A tornado?” The car’s rear end dipped again. This time, the roller-coaster feeling in my solar plexus did not unnerve me. “Talk about corny! You’ll have to come up with something better.”

The tornado’s mouth opened wide. It meant to swallow us whole. Soon, we would be scattered all over the west Georgia countryside. Images came to me of search parties finding our various unidentifiable body parts flung hither and yon, mixed with bits of vegetation and scraps of Honda.

Nope. This would not do.
I poured out my rage at the gigantic gray funnel. “No! NO! You cannot have her! NO!”

The towering column lurched away from us. Its monstrous roar turned to a sputter, and then a frightened half-cough. The car leaned suddenly to one side, and then gently floated back to the ground. I peered up into the swirling vortex, only to watch it turn a lighter gray, then white, and then disappear. I turned to my friend. “Are you okay?” She nodded yes.

I awoke in awe at the power of one small voice against the storm.

 

Photo: “Metal Roof and Storm” (LaGrange, Georgia – 23 November 2014)

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

I’m a real person. Here’s what I sound like.

I’ve been blogging for almost 11 years, on this site and elsewhere. One good thing about this is that, when I’m having trouble creating new material, I’ve still got (literally) hundreds of pages of material to re-post. This saves both my sanity and my hide, in times of creative emptiness.

While my words are slowly coming back to me, I rediscovered this video from a reading I gave a couple years ago. A beloved writer friend organized a Creative Nonfiction Open Mic Night at Underground Books in Carrollton, Georgia. For such a small town, Carrollton boasts an astonishing number of amazing writers. I had a blast meeting new people and hearing them read their work. Here, I read “On Inspiration,” which I first posted in January 2014. It’s been pretty popular, and is also one of my favorites.

A few readers have asked me to post more videos in which I read my work. That might be fun. Stay tuned.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

In a Churchyard at Dusk

MyCousinsKeeper_COPY

“In a Churchyard at Dusk”
Heard County, Georgia – 7 February 2015

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)

 

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