Now in this time of the epidemic, racism, mass shootings and threats of war, the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem speaks to me.
“A wounded deer leaps highest.”
The story I imagine from the above line fits with my upcoming novel I’ve been rewriting, Deer Xing, which I began in the early ’90s. A time that seems like forever and also yesterday.
My title evokes the image of a deer crossing a road at a deer warning sign. Its message is clear; drive carefully to save a deer.
The sign gives us humans driving our cars, RVs, trailers and trucks the chance to be present to what is possible and how carefully we can choose to live our lives. And how possible it is to change, to save the life of a deer, such a beautiful, gentle, quiet, vulnerable creature.
Both deer and sign inspire and uplift me to continue reworking my draft. As I edit the final section of my story, I experience deep silence, the same feeling I imagine in the eyes of a deer. And gratitude too.
“Every book is a world.” –Gabrielle Zevin.
Give yourself the gift of a book.
Enchanted by stories? Looking for poetry, drama, biographies, and non-fiction? Yearning to read your next good book? Addicted to the magic and artistry possible with words? Fascinated by small press possibilities? Excited to talk with others who feel the same?
If your answer is “Yes” to any of the above, consider coming to the outstanding Bay Area Book Festival that takes place on Saturday, May 7th, and Sunday, 8th from 11AM to 5PM at Martin Luther King park in downtown Berkeley, CA.
At the festival, there’s so much for you to explore, including book readings by incredible authors from around the world, state-of-the art discussions and fascinating panels. Click Bay Book Festival for all the details.
BAY AREA BOOK FESTIVAL
Saturday, May 7th & Sunday,May 8th
11AM – 5PM
Martin Luther King Civic Center Park
2151 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
At the Festival you will find me, Margaret C. Murray, under the canopy of Booth #36, Thoth Writers Collective, by the Main Stage in the Park.
What is the Thoth Writers Collective? We are a group of six writers across two continents, from Spain to California, who collaborate via Zoom, email, etc., to encourage one another and improve our writing which spans interpersonal and gender dilemmas, global conflicts and myth. We take our name from Thoth, the ibis-headed god who introduced writing to the ancient Egyptians. Below is a short bio of each of us.
Jan Alexander, based in New York, writes both fiction and non-fiction that reflects how globalism and technology are changing everything, in good ways and bad. Her books include Ms. Ming’s Guide to Civilization (novel, Regal Publishers 2020); Getting to Lamma (novel); Bad Girls of the Silver Screen (with Lottie Da; nonfiction). See more at https://www.janalexander.com/portfolio-category/books/
Peter de Lissovoy is a writer and free-lance editor living in New Hampshire; besides his nonfiction memoirs of his days as a civil rights activist with SNCC in Georgia (The Great Pool Jump), his works include the novels Invisible Car Dealer; Wisconsin; Rita; Melusina; The Angels of Zimbabwe; and Feelgood: A trip in time and out: See https://www.amazon.com/-/es/Peter-de-Lissovoy/e/B06XPRQ21X?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1649153619&sr=8-1
Geoffrey Fox, based in Spain and New York, is the author of the novels Rabble! A Story of the Paris Commune (2021) and A Gift for the Sultan (2008), translated into Turkish as BirCihan, Iki Sultan (Nokta Istanbul, 2012) and the short-story collection Welcome to My Contri (1988; augmented e-book 2017). His best-selling sociological work is Hispanic Nation: Culture, Politics and the Constructing of Identity (University of Arizona Press, 1997). See https://geoffreyfox.com/
Karla Huebner is a novelist and professor of art history at Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio, and author of Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (art history, University of Pittsburgh Press), In Search of the Magic Theater (novel, Regal House 2022) and other works. See https://www.karlahuebner.com/
Dirk van Nouhuys writes novels, short stories, experimental forms, and occasionally verse. He has a BA from the Stanford creative writing program and was a minor pioneer of what later became the internet. He has published a book on Macintosh applications, and a translation of two Flemish novels, The Danger and The Enemy. He publishes fiction regularly in literary and other magazines. See http://www.wandd.com/Site/Publications.html
As for myself, I am the author of novels Sundagger.net, Dreamers, Spiral and Pillow Prayers. I’m also the publisher of Writewords Press, and teacher of From Heart to Paper Writing Workshops. Presently I am fine-tuning my upcoming novel, Deer Xing. You can read more about me here.
See you at the Festival!
Pictographs, Petroglyphs and Potsherds
by Margaret C. Murray
I wrote Sundagger.net and Spiral after traveling to the Four Corners area more than 100,000 sites of Native American archeology. Pictographs, Petroglyphs and Potsherds are the clues that point to the mystery of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante National Parks in the Four Corners area of the Southwest: Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
Bears Ears, the largest park in the United States at 1.9 million acres, was designated a National Monument (Park) by President Obama in 2017 after thirty Native American tribes, including the Navajo, Hopi, Ute, Zuni, Paiute, and Apache, advocated for its protection as a sacred site.
The pre-puebloan people known as the Anasazi disappeared from this land by the 13th century, leaving behind their petroglyphs, pictographs and potsherds, a mysterious gift to explore.
“This place is a part of the history of all the Native peoples in this region. It’s like a book for us, and when many tribes have a chapter in this book, it tells us a lot about why we are the way we are. But it’s also part of the history of the peoples of the United States and the world.”— Jim Enote, Pueblo of Zuni
Bears Ears (1.9 million acres, designated by Obama, 2017) and Grand Staircase Escalante (designated by Clinton, 1996) contains 4,000 years of Native American culture.
In Grand Staircase Escalante National Park are buried the richest deposit of dinosaur bones in the world, with fossils 75 million years old. So far twenty-five new species of dinosaurs have been discovered.
There was danger that these precious parks would be destroyed to make National Park land ripe for “development”, i.e., private mining, fracking, conglomerate agriculture, and industrial off-road recreation. An extremely rare dig of dinosaur fossils was looted before development could be stopped.
Click on the YouTube video “Stones of Chaco Canyon” and feel the magic that led me to write Sundagger.net and Spiral.
Click the Paypal button below to order Sundagger.net and Spiral.
Free, hour-long Journaling Workshop on Zoom sponsored by the Richmond Public Library
Received a journal as a gift? Have a journal stuffed in a drawer?
Journaled in the past? Never journaled before?
Join this free, one-hour Journaling Workshop via Zoom on Thursday, March 10th, 2022 at 6PM sponsored by the Friends of the Richmond Public Library.
To sign up for the free Adult Journaling workshop, click HERE.
There’s more! The Richmond Public Library is offering you a Journaling Adult Craft Starter Kit.
Each kit includes:
Sixty-page, lined notebook
Glass jar to hold your journal prompts!
Pick up your free adult journaling starter kit while supplies last at the Richmond Main Library:
Richmond Public Library
325 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, CA 94804
To sign up for the free Adult Journaling workshop, click HERE.
Spark your creativity while writing your life.
–Margaret C. Murray
For more information, go to www.richmondlibrary.org or contact Catherine Ortiz, Adult Reference Librarian,
Give the gift of story this holiday season. Stories are powerful and can change lives. As a writer, I know because I work with them all the time. What a delight for me to find the story in the process of writing it.
In the photo above I’m standing in front of my audience at the book launch of Pillow Prayers in Berkeley, CA about to read from my new book. I’m feeling great and I love my story.
That all happened a few years ago. Maybe you were there!
Around ten years before I published Pillow Prayers, here I am in a friend’s backyard with my first novel, Sundagger.net.
My next book became Dreamers, a Coming of Age novel I began when I was just the age of my characters. Back then it had a different title and feel. It took several decades before Dreamers became the book I wanted.
Dreamers, set in the turbulent 1960s. Street-savvy actor Thomas, desperate for stardom, meets music student, Annie, desperate for love.
A few years after publishing Dreamers, here I am feeling elated as I hold out the first printed copy of Spiral, a prequel to the “old story” in Sundagger.net. It’s a strange kind of delight to find the deeper story when you go back in time.
It took me much less time (and angst!) to complete my companion novels Sundagger.net and Spiral. Maybe the Southwest desert landscape allow my imagination to run wild? Or perhaps it was the amazement I felt visiting the Four Corners area multiple times.
From the start I knew what my titles would be.The “.net” in Sundagger.net speaks to the magic of electronics in our internet/cybernetic culture today. I had a sun dagger in my mind after seeing videos and reading the history of the actual spiral carved at the top of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon National Park. Yes, a spiral! And now the title of my second Anasazi adventure. It wasn’t until 1973 that a perceived “dagger” of sunlight through the spiral was discovered during the summer solstice, leading to the realization of the advanced knowledge these prehistoric Native Americans had of the heavens.
Order now and save.
For New Year 2022, give the gift of story.
Any single title $17.00*
More Savings** when you buy Sundagger.net and Spiral together! Both for $22.00!
*Plus Sales Tax and Mailing charges.
DIRECTIONS: Choose your book titles below by clicking the blue arrows, then press the Buy Now Button to continue.
My best to you in 2022. May you enjoy a good story always!
My friend gave me an attractively covered book to add to the Little Free Library I have in front of my house. But when I examined Crow Planet “Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness” by Lynda Lynn Haupt I realized I wasn’t ready to give this book up.
Crow Planet begins with the author, suffering from depression, looking out the bedroom window of the new suburban home her husband and she just purchased in Seattle, Washington. It’s midday but she’s still in her pajamas, seeing no reason to get dressed. Suddenly twelve feet away she sees a nest and hears a tiny bird preening. Looking through her binoculars, she sees a baby crow with a malignant growth over one eye. Both she and the baby bird are injured she thinks, crying and laughing at the same time.
Haupt is a scientist of the natural world who once worked as wildlife rehabilitator and in addition raised nearly a hundred fledging birds. She is also mother of a young daughter also fascinated with birds. After seeing the suffering baby crow, she captures, feeds and when it is healed frees it to join the hundreds of crows she sees daily on her nature walks. She begins to understand that Seattle can become the beloved wilderness she reluctantly left behind when she and her family moved to the city. She learns that urban nature is infused with magic and wonder and I, the reader, do too. The baby crow creates a “liaison with a truer way of being” that is not the romanticized Walden of Thoreau’s “pure nature”, but her — and our—natural world.
Crows are birds of the Corvid family which is several million years older than humans. Most crow populations are increasing while globally birds are declining due to human environmental destruction. This likely is because crows are omnivores who eat anything, scavengers who feed upon the dead (hence the term “murder of crows”).
Crows are also immensely intelligent in a way similar to apes which is why their behavior is so complex. They have an extensive vocabulary, for example a “remonstrative call” consisting of scolding and screeching if you get too close to a nest. They use mimicry. They also whisper, whine, meow, croak, chuckle and whinny. Crows take care of one another; they can use tools and are able to “reach a contemplative state while sunning themselves”. Crows may have a “helper” third crow to tend their young along with the mother, father and babies in a nest. Crows also attend “funerals”, gathering around their own dead. This is known as “mobbing”.
“Everybody has a crow story,” Lyanda Lynee Haupt writes.
My story centers around my mother’s death. It began when I flew to Pittsburgh to be with her at what turned out to be the end of her two-year struggle with cancer. The doctors had predicted she had a few more months to live so I flew back to California to put my affairs in order, intending to return as soon as possible. Five days after I left her, mom died. I returned for the funeral.
Both times I was in Pittsburgh I stayed in mom’s condominium on the fifth floor of a brand new housing complex in Forest Hills. It was surrounded by old venerable trees and inhabited by hundreds, perhaps thousands of crows cawing morning and night. I wanted to believe the crows calling out incessantly in those dark trees were messages from my mom. I wanted to learn their language and talk through them to her. I still do.
I ‘ve placed Crow Planet in the Little Free Library at the bottom of my driveway now. Whenever I see the crows I feel myself once again staring through that window of my mother’s condo divining answers while outside the wild, free birds peck at the garbage and clean the street, then fly off, screeching and circling above me—“Portents” Lynda Lynn Haupt writes, “of nothing but themselves, swirling like all of us in our beautiful, tangled, transitory lives.”
Intrigued by the title, I picked up Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles at a discounted bookstore. The cover enticed me too—a woman on horseback photographed from behind, her long black hair flying as the dark horse gallops off. Was Enemy Women a Native American story? Fantasy fiction? A sexist polemic? The title as metaphor might describe any era, including 2021.
In the very first pages I discover these “enemy women” were mainly white and poor victims of our bloody American Civil War. The title is based on historical fact regarding the women living in the southeastern Ozarks of Missouri. Author Paulette Jiles prefaces each chapter with factual, primary source documents from the Civil War era that corroborate the riveting plot.
I couldn’t put the book down, mainly because of the first person narrator, Adele Colley, eighteen years old. Adele speaks her mind. She shuns domesticity, knows she’ll likely be imprisoned by marriage, and worries it might be to the wrong man. Her free spirit, her bravery, her independent, tomboy behavior, her feel for nature and her unique dreams resonate with me and most women.
Like her, I have been entranced by the silence of early morning, “a coin to be spent very carefully.”
The stampeding horse on the book cover Adele names Whiskey is given to her by her father, a justice of the peace. Of mixed straw color, grey and gold with black legs, tail and mane, Whiskey becomes Adele’s best friend and her only companion. Her brother covets the horse and so does the Union Militia, made up of dubious characters from the Missouri waterfront who joined up “for a keg of whiskey and five dollars a month”, and who outnumber the retreating Confederate soldiers.
Five years before Adele’s mother died of the fever and she is in charge of her sisters. Her brother with his withered arm has fled to the hills to avoid being arrested and shot, it being the Militia practice to arrest Southern men they deemed “weeds in the garden of humanity” and to punish anyone with Southern sympathies.
Adele and her two little sisters watch as her father is arrested by the Militia. The Militia then sets their house on fire, burning everything, even food and valuables, and beat her father up. He calls out to her to flee with her sisters to a distant relative as they take him away along with her horse. Whiskey looks back at Adele, a look she will never forget.
Looking to find her horse, Adele leads her little sisters away, passing graveyards where Confederate and Union soldiers are buried together. Her own journey has just begun.
Jiles’ careful, singular writing style complements Adele fleeing into the hills of the Ozarks as she follows the flow of the rivers through magnificent wilderness, high mountain territory where the women and children have been left behind. The author’s decision not to use direct quotes provides stark contrast to the meticulous, primary source quotations that precede chapters.
The documents from the Civil War era magnify the power and horror of the era. In one letter penned a few hours before being hanged in a St. Louis prison, Asa Ladd, Confederate soldier, writes to his wife, “I want you to tell all my friends I have gone home to rest. I want you meet me in heaven.” My heart bleeds for the victims.
Can you imagine any book being titled “Enemy Men”? This is not just a story set during the American Civil War, not just a story of the North or South. Reading it, I can see and feel familiar ghosts of “enemy” women everywhere: in the social media, today’s news, catastrophic climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.
Note: This book deserves the five stars I gave it on Goodreads.
Coming up: a chance to write your heart out at my Spring 2021 From Heart to Paper Workshop. There’s a place waiting for you.
The famed mystery writer of the Southwest wrote that advice to me the last year before his death at 83 in 2008. In a note to him, I had been complaining, whining really, about my writing life. “Keep writing, stay heathy,” he wrote back. This is my mantra when I feel confused, at loose ends, or discouraged with my work.
I wonder if renown writer J. D. Salinger had taken this advice, he would have experienced life differently. When he died at 91 in 2010, Salinger was possibly the world’s most renown and most successful literary recluse. “Hermit Crab,” Time magazine dubbed him. Here was somebody who was up there with the Grammy winners in star power and prestige, yet seemed cursed with the dismal personality of old Scrooge.
Back in the ’60s when I read Catcher in the Rye, my teenage heart beat along with Holden Caulfield’s. I was the catcher, those sheep; I was the rye too. J.D. Salinger was my writing hero along with Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde and Dostoevsky (No females in that short list, alas, but that is another story.)
Unlike Tony Hillerman who wrote 29 mysteries set in Navajo country, Salinger wrote one novel, a phenomenal success that he disdained, and three small volumes of short stories–then nothing else for 45 years.
By all accounts, J.D. Salinger was a phenomenal writer who refused his success. Was he was sick with self-loathing of his own genius, his own work? He must have felt he had no choice. He must have done his best from inside the worm of his illness.
But he did take one piece of Tony Hillerman’s advice. His wives and daughters say he wrote all that time. What did he leave us? I am dying to read it. Maybe that’s all he wanted–fans dying to read him. Maybe that’s why he shunned his fame and adulation. To keep us hungry.
Life is strange, wouldn’t you agree? Keep writing, stay healthy.
Thank you, Tony Hillerman.
You might think that a book about the most famous writer in the English language would be boring: trite, repetitious or full of pompous academic abstractions, especially if you researched and wrote your master’s thesis on “Murder and Honor in Hamlet and Othello” like I did at Hunter College. But you’d be wrong.
With impressive credentials and superior narrative ability, Stephen Greenblatt in Will in the World unearths and illuminates Shakespeare in the Elizabethan world in ways I could never before consider, especially given that facts about Shakespeare’s life are, according to the author, ”abundant but thin.” I couldn’t put the book down. The thing is, I was learning so much about myself, how to be a writer in my world.
Greenblatt writes: “We know all about the property Shakespeare bought and sold, the taxes he paid, the theatrical companies he worked for. We have his baptismal record, his marriage license and his last will and testament. But what he felt in his heart, what dreams he nurtured, what beliefs he himself had…..”.
What lover of words isn’t fascinated by the mysterious, brilliant William Shakespeare, aka “Will”? Who was Shakespeare really? I was hooked when Greenblatt sets up Shakespeare, at 18, marrying Anne Hathaway, age 26, in Stratford six months before their first child was born. What, if anything, did it mean that soon after–the exact date is vague like so much else–Will left it all to spend the rest of his life in rented rooms in London, two days ride away? Did he love her? Was he forced to marry her? Did he marry her for her money? Did she love him (But he was Shakespeare. How could she not?!)
Greenblatt speculates how Shakespeare may have been wanted for deer poaching, a 17th century theory. Was Shakespeare down and out, stealing venison and rabbits for food? With many credible details, Greenblatt explores and then discards this possibility with great authority, while being cautious about claiming any other hypotheses as certain either.
I was impressed by how masterfully Greenblatt lays out Shakespeare’s world—and mine too. Maybe Shakespeare left Stratford for the same reason I left my hometown, Pittsburgh, PA, to seek my fortune in the big world.
The artistic, political and religious intrigue is both detailed and gruesome, with beheadings at the bequest of Queen Elizabeth as common as parking tickets today. The victims, many of whom were Roman Catholics, are believable and very sympathetic. Greenblatt explores the possibility that Shakespeare may have been a Catholic too. That could explain the secrecy around his life. After all, it was dangerous to be Catholic in Elizabethan England.
Then there’s the mystery of the love sonnets, seemingly addressed to a man, but who? And did Shakespeare actually write the sonnets? Ah, but Greenblatt shows us how we moderns no longer understand the game of sonnet-making, so popular in Shakespeare’s world, where the trick was to be naked while revealing nothing, and tell revealing secrets to only a few chosen intimates.
So much is speculation! Did Shakespeare even write those plays or was it Marlowe for that matter? Was he a fraud as the feature movie, Anonymous (2011), claims? No, Stephen Greenblatt doesn’t buy that theory.
What really kept me reading Will in the World was that I felt supported and encouraged by Shakespeare as a writer in the world. Greenblatt convinced me to identify with this ”amazing success story,” of a bright young man from the provinces who took on the hard, yet exciting game of writing great plays for a popular audience in a tumultuous, changing, exploding world.
I might have guessed that Shakespeare too had problems I have as a writer: daunting competition from establishment writers (e.g., Marlowe), lack of funds, absence of entitlement, spotty, non-existent publication, pressing family responsibilities, in fact, “an upstart crow” in the literary world as the contemporary playwright Robert Greene called him. But that’s beside the point as Will in the world pressed on—and succeeded. Not just for his time but for all time.
Greenblatt’s astute analysis of the playwright’s characters, so modern in their angst, confusion and daunting dreams, illuminates Shakespeare’s own evolving understanding of the world. Will in the World challenges me to understand our world now, four hundred years later, through my writing.