Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Why Rome (part 4)

Posted: June 30, 2019 in Uncategorized

There are five Saturdays in June.

As this post goes live, I’ll be finishing up packing. For me, there is a ritual for it. There is a backpack that I salvaged from an old job, that has been with me everywhere — from my first trip to DC almost a decade ago — and will be coming with me. There is the addition of a black roller bag that joined me on last year’s journey to Galway, Ireland. I wish I didn’t need it. But a month is too long with only a few changes of clothes.

The clothes get rolled. The electronics go in a bag, that go into their pocket. My stainless steel water bottle, which has sat forlornly next to my sink for months, will go in it’s place. The day backpack has a home, the laptop, the iPad, the headphones, the chargers. I have a jacket that I got for my first trip to the United Kingdom that I do not know if I will take — I love it, but it is heavy. Perhaps too heavy for the Mediterranean. There is my grey baseball cap, a replacement for the first one lost in Ireland. I hope it will be better broken in.

Leave taking is sacred, and I think and dream and pray as each item goes in its place. It feels like a mantra made with my hands, letting the world go, pulling silence in with each inhale.

Why Rome?

I went to Ireland for the first time as part of a program through my graduate program. They spend a week in a suburb of Dublin called Howth, in a bed and breakfast overlooking the sea. I went, because carpe diem, and why not? My life fell apart somewhere during that trip. I lost my job of nine years as I sat in a hostel in Sligo after climbing a mountain. After…

On the road to hell was a railroad line..

I left Howth earlier than planned, sharing a taxi with my new friend Maxene. We were going different directions, but when I hopped out of Connolly Station, I booked an earlier train to Belfast than planned. There was a cover band playing at the station singing Journey songs. I took the earlier train north to Belfast. Because one of my favorite Elton John songs sang about it, and as a teenager growing up in the woods of New Hamsphire, it had spoken to me.

Scrolling through social media, I started chatting with a guy who liked lasagna. I told him we should hang out, I was only in town for a couple of days. That it would change his life.

And in a lot of ways, that weekend with Hugh, in fact, changed my life. In the way of all travelers, I thought I was in love with him. And in the way of all such experiences, it never really existed outside of a time and a place. There’s that idea again — that some things can only exist at a certain time, in a certain place. But what it did took a long time to understand.

Hugh was the first person I’d met outside of my teenage years that I felt like the idea of “forever” could be possible, that I *wanted* it to be possible. A new idea, me? The world changed since then. I’ve changed since then. But that weekend set up goal posts for the last few years.

Galway was Hugh’s favorite city in Ireland. I wanted to know why. I spent a month there last summer. We talked about Rome and how beautiful it was, and i’ll spend a month there this summer, walking along the Tiber, thinking about the stories we tell — and live — we need to live our stories as well — at a certain place, in a certain time.

It’s important to be clear that I’m not in love with a guy I met on a long weekend two years ago. But what seemed possible before Belfast and what seems possible after Belfast are drastically different. It is as much a watershed moment in my life as that night on the bridge in the dark. I’m seeing a great guy, who makes me laugh. He’s carting me to the airport and watching my cat while I’m gone. But this relationship is only possible because of those places, those times that have led me here.

So, as I prepare to go, as I prepare to leave and think and dream again, i’ll be thinking of these things, pulling in on my thoughts of past times where I’ve left what I know for something that I need to learn, new places to make my own. And that feels right, and proper.

Why Rome (Part 3)

Posted: June 16, 2019 in Uncategorized

I watched the Julia Roberts film Eat Pray Love when it came out. The book (which I read for the first time about a month ago) is pretty solid as well. I particularly like how the author talks about the experiences of travel and how they match (or don’t) her expectations. That said, I want to go to Rome because there’s a scene where Roberts is in the Mausoleum of Augustus and it’s sort of a ruin and unbearably quiet.

The place has been refurbished in the last few years and opened in April as a more traditional museum experience. I’m excited to check it out, though I do wonder a bit at the majesty of faded glory.

That said, what you really want to know if what i’m doing in Italy. At least a little. I’ve rented an apartment in the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome. Initially, this was because I’d intended to take a “Writing in Rome” class through the American University of Rome, but the class schedule didnt line up with my travel dates, so i’m going solo.

Also included is a long weekend to Venice. Second , I’ll be heading to Sorrento. Sorrento will be a home base for a couple of day trips down the boot of Italy, and a boat trip (because I can’t manage to not get on a boat) to Capri. I’ll stop in at Pompeii and possibly Herculaneum on my way back to Rome.

Not pictured is the notebook i’m building of places I want to go — lots of ruins and markets, as well as thoughts as they pass by. Looking forward to getting this trip underway.

But as of this posting, I am in New York City. School let out yesterday and I’ve treated myself to see my favorite Broadway show: Hadestown. For the third time since March. I saw it opening night for previews, and again with Casey during it’s official opening week, and here we are again.

Why Rome (Part 2)

Posted: June 9, 2019 in Uncategorized

Think about where you are right now, reading this.

Think about where you are in relation to everything: are you at work? At home? In your office? Driving (don’t read blog posts while you’re driving) to or from something? All of these are places, intersecting. Think about where you are in your life — did you just start a relationship, leave a job, get good news? Are you sleepy? These are places. We could argue (and i’m inclined to) that each of these locations are places where we intersect. They’re rhetorical spaces.

A year ago, I sat on the Cog Railway and climbed Mount Washington (in the train, I didn’t hike. No way). The year before, I was with my cousin exploring the final resting places of some of my ancestors. Before that, I was on the Isle of Skye. Before that I was in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania (and also exploring final resting places). Before that was, I think, the depressed failure of my aborted trip to New Orleans. Why do I know what I was doing on this day over the years? Because it’s my birthday today. Which is a place that I remember, a time that I remember. This post will go live at 1:23pm, the time I was born.

A year ago April, I went to the University of Washington’s Whiteley Center in Friday Harbor, Washington. I spent a week with an office overlooking the water, writing. I wrote a series of essays about my life: my parents, my job, the people I worked with. They’re pieces of writing i’d started over the years, but never finished. Could never seem to finish. It wasn’t until I changed the place I was in, that the words came. It took space and perspective to understand the shape of the story I wanted to tell.

This theme of space and place and writing is the goal of my time in Italy. I want to explore how they intersect. Some of this will feed into a section of Composition i’ll be teaching in the Fall. More will be, I hope the subject of my dissertation, as I apply for Plymouth State’s EdD program beginning next summer.

But like all research, and all writing, it feels like a set of notes that will become a melody, will become verses, will become something larger.

I’ve begun a reading list (some of which I’ve begun, some of which is To Be Read) that I’m hoping starts stringing things together. I would be delighted if folks had additional thoughts or things to read.

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath our Feet by Will Hunt
  • A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
  • The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert MacFarlane
  • Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes
  • Why They Can’t Write by John Warner
  • Hollowing out the Middle by Patrick J. Carr

It’s hard to know what soup will be built out of these ingredients and the ingredients that will be added later. But it’s interesting to think about.

Why Rome (Part 1)

Posted: June 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

A month from today, I’ll be disembarking a plane at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. I’ll spend a month in Italy with the generous support of a grant by the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation. My purpose (which will be the subject of another “Why Rome” post) is to consider the idea of place as it relates to teaching, writing, and the stories we tell. The trip includes a few days in Venice, and several days exploring the Amalfi Coast — all with the idea of expanding my mind, pedagogy, and perhaps get some of my own writing done (which will also be the subject of another “Why Rome” post).

So, why Rome? Why Italy?

Folks who know me personally are aware of my frequent travels. On a personal level, travelling feels much like praying. Being alone, without the attachments that link us to each other (professional expectations, personal relationships, social media, etc.) feels like a weight is lifted from inside me. I see the world differently, and see a different world.

When I was a student at Plymouth State University, there was a green iron bridge that crossed across the Pemigewasset River. In my late-night ramblings, I’d cross the river, get a soda at the gas stations, and head back to my dorm room. The bridge itself was worn down, and was replaced by the time I graduated. It shook when cars crossed it, and the wooden slats that made up the pedestrian walkway had a path carved down the middle, from the feet of many, many students. Walking across it at night felt like I was taking my life in my hands.

One night I was walking across the bridge, and about half-way across the walkway was a lump. At first, I thought it was a dog, and then thought it was a bag of garbage, carelessly left. It turned out to be a girl, about my age. She was sitting across the path, legs dangling over the edge, looking up.

I like to think that I asked her if she was okay, or if she needed help. But I might have mumbled something and tried to edge past her. Remember: the bridge shook every time a car went by, and the boards were comfortably three inches thinner in the middle than the sides, and the ever-growing gaps between them proved that there was nothing else between me and the river but air.

She asked me if I wanted to join her. She had a harmonica, and the stars were out. Because I was 19-or-so I politely said perhaps another time, and tried to skirt past her. Her response is something that’s stuck with me across hours in a car, in a boat, in planes, and on my own two feet: “people always say that, but they never really do, because there isn’t always a next time.”

I mean, it’s a fair assessment.

I wound up sitting next to her while she played her harmonica, dangling my feet over the side of the bridge, looking at the stars. We walked down the railroad tracks in the dark, looked at the river-flooded trees, and then, ultimately, moved on.

I never caught her name. I think I saw her again across campus at one point, but I don’t remember clearly. It was (what feel like) a long time ago.

My life has been made up (as everyone’s has, if we’re being honest) by the choices they make, and the diem they carpe. I think of watershed moments in my life like this; equally by the opportunities i’ve had, and the opportunities i’ve passed on, or not gotten. They became places where my life drastically took a turn I wasn’t expecting. Or stayed a course when I could have diverted.

  • A friend asked me to be in a play at UMass Boston and paid for my gas. I commuted to UMB for a month three days a week to be in The Bakkhai. A friend I made in that production was instrumental in helping me finish my soon-to-be-published novel.
  • I was offered a job in AmeriCorps in Fairbanks, Alaska, working with people recently released from jail. The recruiter discussed how the company provided housing in a dry cabin (the link goes to a nice little article that summarizes my feelings of horror) and the periodic attention of the neighborhood polar bears. For $15k a year. I declined.
  • Joining USM’s Stonecoast program to Howth, Ireland for a writing retreat. This is, in a lot of places, the time where my life fell apart and has been radically transformed. I think about a night on Howth Harbor, watching the black sea, hearing the ring of ships in the night. The intersection of that trip to Ireland and this trip to Italy will be the

This is all to say that Rome comes from a series of decisions. I set my ship heading that way about a year ago, deciding that I wanted to spend a solid amount of time in Rome, because, as they say, all roads lead there.

What I’m doing there, and perhaps some more thoughts on the “why” question will continue.

Happy to share that my short story, “Pumpkin and Glass” is available to read for free at Diabolical Plots: http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-44a-pumpkin-and-glass-by-sean-r-robinson/

This story began as a response to a Humans of New York article that broke my heart. It also features one of my favorite dogs (except Gus is a boy in real life, not Pumpkin). I hope you enjoy!

Tide Child

Posted: August 4, 2018 in Uncategorized

Hello!

Happy to share that my short story, “Tide Child” is available through On Spec. You can follow the link here: https://onspecmag.wordpress.com/current-issue/

“Tide Child” is one of those stories that I can track the genesis of pretty easily. It started with this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037734/The-lonely-seal-wanted-Pup-abandoned-having-rare-brown-fur.html

And my brain got to thinking — what if it wasn’t a seal? What if it was a Selkie? For those who dont know, in myth, they’re shape shifters who trade human form for seal form by using a seal skin. Legend says that a man who steals a selkie’s fur can take the selkie as their wife. But if the selkie ever finds the fur, she’ll return to the sea forever.

Singer Heather Dale has a great song, “The Maiden and the Selkie” which I have listened to on repeat for years, since hearing it in person. This one expands the story, talking about how a male selkie cannot survive on shore.

Throw in one more idea, Talis Kimberly’s “Still Catch the Tide” as performed by Seanan McGuire. You can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOXHcaHJRss

Thus, you have a story about an almost-man who lives on the shore with his father, and the secrets that he doesnt want to know. Because when you know your father’s secrets, you need to become a man. Happy reading.

Very happy to share that the 5×5 Anthology is now out and available for Amazon. Check out that cover! You can find it online HERE

 

Reading 5X5: Readers' Edition by [Allen, B. Morris, Stenhouse, Meryl, Warner, Caleb, Chan, L., North, T.R., Fogg, Vanessa, Hamilton, Paul A., Robinson, Sean,  Kemp, Juliet, Anderson, K. G., Ross, James, Goder, Beth, Thompson, Matt, J. Willis, Suzanne, Earl, Chanel, Acs, Y. X., Wiltgren, Filip, Brazos, Rhoads, Rennie, Ian, Hammond, David, Krsteski, Damien, Yates, Pauline, Dandenell, Karl, Hamilton, Paul A., Robinson, Sean R., Leibowitz, Sandi, Francis, Rob, Fedyk, Karolina]

This project was really unique to work with. 5 group of 5 writers (so 25 writers in total) created stories. Each group was assigned a genre and created stories off of a shared outline. I developed the outline for the High Fantasy group. In reading through the entire anthology, it’s amazing to see the different approaches folks took, and how they are similar and different.

My story is called “Child of Flowers”. In it, Berai Rosewarden is about to come into her own as the heir of the city of Velinar. Except, she’s not sure she’s ready to commit to that. Because power and responsibility go hand-in-hand. She’s also not sure she’s the princess everyone wants her to be.

“Child of Flowers” shares a milieu with two other stories i’ve published: “Scander and the Red Briar Prince” which came out through Red Rose Review and “Madder Root and Rampion” which came out in Betwixt. Folks who also saw my story “Cala Lily and Celadon” in the Art and Words Show would see some similarities.

In all, for $5 on Kindle, this book is worth the money. Proceeds go to charity, and there are a lot of great stories in it. Happy reading!

On Heroes

Posted: November 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

Every story needs a hero. Maybe that’s Frodo or Alice. Holden or Gatsby. Anne or Toby. There needs to be a character for the reader (viewer, whatever) to invest in. Someone in which the reader sees some part of themselves. The best heroes are ones in which the reader invests and identifies with on many levels.

But, as I discussed in a class recently, people are stories too. More than one story, in fact. Because our lives are complicated and multi-faceted and longer than just a single novel. We, I would argue, need heroes. People to show us how to live, and how to dream, and how to move forward toward the ending of our story — regardless of what that ending is.

My first hero was a woman named Deb. If you’re a friend of mine in the real world, I have spoken about Deb many times. She was the new teacher at 1451692537.jpgmy high school when I was in junior year. The path I walk these days is because of her. Not just because I am now an english teacher, but because i’m a writer. In her class, I learned to write, wrote my first short story, netted my first publication.

But more, she was more hero because she saw me. Not just the usual teenage angst and search for identity, but because she was able to see who I was trying to become. She challenged me to “Break on through” and “get thee to a city” (quotes from my year book that year that she wrote next to her head shot, because the photograph from the picture company that did the photos wasn’t good enough.

So when you are writing, or when you are living, think about what and who your heroes are. Search them out, find out what makes them tick and motivates them. A hero changes the lives of the people they interact with–good or bad. Pushing them farther to the end goal of the story.

The first story I remember writing was in kindergarten and was heavily borrowed from an episode of the animated ghostbusters TV show. In it, a boy and a girl went to a castle and somehow or other had cloaks that spat out fireballs. The only other thing I remember was that I forgot to put ground underneath the castle when I drew the pictures, so it was hanging mid-air.

This was, incidentally, the same year that I thought my best friend was a boy named Canyon (her name, twenty five years later is still Kenyon, and she’s still a girl), Kristina Stevens had a worm in her oreo, and I colored a worksheet about the letter K in purple so well that I decided that purple was my favorite color.

But I digress.

I wanted to talk about (write about, whatever) the idea that there are many stages of becoming a writer. There’s a whole taxonomy of evolution from the kid who did ghostbusters (TM) fan fiction in elementary school to the published novelist with a book deal (which I am not). All of those paths, and all of those stages of evolution are completely okay. In writing, and in much of life, one size does not fit all.

I fell into writing somewhat accidentally. At age 12 or 13 I found a book called In the Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She wrote it at age 14 and it was a hit. Basically, vampires before vampires were done-to-death and sparkly. When high school hit, and I discovered the internet, I joined an online group associated with the world the book was written in, became friends with one of the webmasters of a fan site (hi Kel!) and ultimately, a friend of Amelia.

And, because we were the cool kids, everyone was writing a book. There are worse kinds of peer pressure.

My first novel, Vampire Lord, was written my sophomore year of high school. I failed Geometry and most of my other classes because I was more interested in my main character, Nathaniel Edgars, than I was in equations and classes.

But I don’t think I was a writer then. Not when I went to college and got a degree in Writing, either. And maybe not even in grad school when I got a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts in Popular Fiction with emphases in Pedagogy and Literary Theory.

There came a point where things changed for me. For a long time, I could write or not. I mean, sure, I scribbled poems or notes to myself on my phone, or on napkins or pieces of paper. But that’s writing, not being a writer.

Perhaps it was when I started writing my second novel At the Heart of the World is a City in earnest. Or when I started submitting stories for publication regularly. I found that writing had stopped being a take-it-or-leave-it activity–I couldn’t not write. Writing became how I processed the world, how I saw things, how I unwound and how I dreamed.

That isn’t to say I don’t do those things in other mediums, but my preference is to do it through writing. Even in November, when I don’t work on projects (The Curse of NaNoWriMo) I still find myself scribbling notes or thinking about stories or making blog posts. That’s how I know i’m a writer. And when December 1 hits, I’ll be back to the wordmines, ready to see what comes next.

I sometimes think that people are like sharks. Not that they have big teeth (though some do), or if they’re carnivorous (also, though some are), but that we need to keep swimming in order to stay alive. By swimming, I mean moving forward. But…moving forward toward what?

That’s a question that folks ask themselves (or at least I do). What am I moving forward toward? It’s important to have goals and things to achieve. Goal setting serves as an inoculation against ennui and stagnation. If you keep moving, you’ll never be bored.

Not that you won’t get frustrated, but that’s why the goals we set matter.

I wear many hats day-to-day. I teach high school english. I teach college english. I am a writer. I have started going to the gym. I am a dual citizen. I’m a human being. And for each of these things, I have goals. Some of them are simple and easily achieved.

There’s a new pizza place down the street from me. My goal is to have dinner there tonight. It might not be earth-shattering, but it’s been a long week and I am going to treat myself.  It’s easily achieved, but that’s okay.

Some are more long-term. I would like to buy a new car in the spring. My current car his 210k miles on it the other day and, though still going well, we’re starting to need to invest money into replacing things that are larger than windshield wipers and tires. In order to do this, I need to get my finances in order. This required calling my student loan companies, my bank, and discussing a lot of things that didn’t come with directions when I became an adult.

When you set a goal–even a medium-or-big goal–it’s best to break it into achievable parts. Yesterday was the day to call my student loan companies. And in achieving that, I get steps closer to getting a new car. Success!

Other goals are professional. I set a goal years ago to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). It’s the professional association for speculative fiction writers. To do so, you need to make sales to a particular level of market, being paid a particular wage. It’s a little daunting. I didn’t obsess over it. I just wrote and wrote and submitted and submitted. And, weirdly, I got to a place where I qualified for admission, I applied, and got admitted. Goal accomplished.

As a writer, I have goals. They keep me looking forward when the writing isnt going the way I want it to. When I have a story that isnt working correctly, or I get down because I havent heard back from an agent, or I get a rejection in my in-box. These professional goals are sometimes silly, or specific. For example, I want–badly–to write a story for a Mercedes Lackey anthology of Valdemar stories. If anyone knows anyone…I know a writer who’s in love with telepathic white horses.

And then there’s what I call my Bucket List. It’s things I want to do with my life. I wanted to learn to breath fire. To visit Seattle. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Visit the Isle of Skye in Scotland. These are the things that move me forward.

By setting goals, I think about where the next step is. Sometimes that’s the next rock in the wall i’m building in my life, or the next breadcrumb in the forest. By planning and making goals, you keep your eye on the prize (and have a prize in the first place).

What are yours?