by CLW |
November 6, 2017 · 11:02 am
Last week, my dear friend Lynne Snyder died.
When my daughter approached me, her face had this look like–how do I tell Mom? I knew another person had died. But Lynne? She was just diagnosed with leukemia. How could this be?
Don’t think you know Lynne? She’s the person who commented so often here on the blog. Always words of encouragement. Man, am I going to miss seeing what she thinks of what Ann Dee or Kyra or I have written.
I love Lynne and I will miss her. She was funny, extremely kind, and man, had she hoed the road. I remember she told me she walked around for a week–in agony–having no idea she had a broken leg (had she broken her femur?). Her writing was incredible. I met her years ago when someone trashed her work–along with the work of many other writers–and she was determined to never write a gain. Then I read her stories. I was blown away. So much talent. She painted (watercolor) and made caramels that would make you cry, they were so good. But what she did best was love people. All people. No matter who they were or what they did. She opened her arms to the world. Lucky for me, I made it into those arms.
I asked a dear friend, DeAnn Campbell to say a few things about Lynne. Here is her tribute.
Years ago, when I lived in Utah, Carol Lynch Williams introduced me to Lynne Snyder. “You should be in a writing group together,” she told us. And so we were. Our small group of three and sometimes four met weekly. We wrote, we critiqued, but we also loved and laughed and cried and shared each other’s lives. I once heard an author say that all writing in its heart is about loss. Now we’ve lost our beloved Lynne Snyder.
I will tell you that she was witty and funny. She had a great, big open heart. She was a whiz in the kitchen. She painted beautiful watercolor paintings. Her family was her everything and she loved everyone she met. She was a writer. Lynne had had her share of loss and she wrote about it, beautifully. She had a lot to share as a writer, but the part of herself that she shared as a person was always greater than what she gave as a writer. Because of this, there are no published books with her name on the cover. I don’t know if her essays and writings are hidden in notebooks in a drawer somewhere, or on a hard drive or if they’re in a sampling of letters in a shoebox. Knowing Lynne, they are probably in all of those places, scattered like feathers.
Lynne wrote amazing stories. Some were poignant, like the one about the death of her baby and the dream she had of that baby – a dream that taught her how to keep living after such loss. Some were funny, like when she almost ate an entire cake and so she baked another before her husband came home from work. Some were difficult, like the story of when her first father took off in an airplane while her mother begged him not to go; he died when that airplane crashed. Although Lynne wrote fiction her personal essays, the stories of her own life and losses, were especially beautiful.
In “The Lonely Man” Louis L’Amour wrote, “And if I have not written words upon paper as I should like to have done, I have written large upon the page of life that was left open to me.” That was our Lynne. And I wonder if is it okay not to write grandly or far-reaching. Not all of us will publish or have our names in lights. Maybe for some of us the writing is simply for the sorting out of our own souls. Maybe the writing is to help us navigate the loss, the difficulties, and even the joy that comes to us all. Those sorts of personal stories were Lynne’s greatest writings and I was lucky enough to have heard some of them. Not all who knew her were able to read her stories, but all who knew her were the recipient of her great love, her great generosity, and her ability to take you as you are. There was never any judgment or trying to fix you. There was just candid, honest conversation and love. So much love.
To know Lynne was to love her. She was famous for homemade caramels and bottles of delicious sun-dried tomatoes. She doled out love on the lawn swings in front of her house. She doled out love everywhere. I will tell you that her family was her everything, but everyone was family. Her love cast a wide, wide net. It reached everyone she knew. She was funny. She saw the world in a beautiful way and she believed in all of us. She believed that we would be the best versions of ourselves.
I remember talking with her not long ago after the death of her son. “I am changed,” she said. “I will continue to live and love, but I will never be the same.” She understood that loss changes us. Her life changed us; now her loss changes us too. When my own mother died fifteen year ago, the faith that I had carried for a lifetime dwindled to only a hope. Despite my public declarations at a pulpit, the reality was that I knew nothing. I only hoped. I hoped everything. I hoped that everything I believed was true.
Now, I hope it for my dear friend Lynne. I hope that she is welcomed home by all those that she has lost. I hope they love her as much as we do. I believe they do. And I believe that the reunion is grand.
by CLW |
January 12, 2015 · 11:55 am
by Cheri Pray Earl
I started a new blog when I turned fifty-five in October. Funny how staring sixty right in the naval can inspire you to dismiss that snotty poet who lives in your head. The one who says, “Isn’t it bad enough you can’t write poetry? Now you’re writing a genre novel? On a BLOG?!” My poet is a man, by the way. He also doesn’t approve of that exclamation point I just used.
Yes, I’m writing a genre novel. A murder mystery. Out loud. Scene by scene, chapter by chapter on a blog. Because I love murder mysteries. I read them like I eat candy—right off the shelf. I sit in the car in the library parking lot, reading the first chapter. I watch murder movies and murder television series for hours on end and listen to my mother’s heinous “true stories” of murder and mayhem. Crime fiction is my barrel of meal, my cruise of oil. My shelf Twinkies because I don’t mind if the books and movies and TV series are not good for me and offend my literary sensibilities with lots of nutty dialog tags and adverbs. My poet says my analogies are goosey. Sometimes I shake my head real hard and knock him around in there.
Do you know why I decided, after all these years, to write a mystery novel? Mortality. Menopause. Because I want to give it a shot before I die. Life is short, as they say, and too short to listen to poets. Poets, by the way, talk about death a lot in their poems. Billy Collins once said that all poems are about death. I asked him what he meant and he explained that everything is about death, isn’t it? Since we will all die. Anne Lamott, on the other hand, says that because we are all going to die there’s no point in writing about it. What is worth writing about is how men and women live in the face of death. American writers should be willing to let a novel end well, she says, rather than in tragedy or worse, unresolved.
I also believe that every writer should have the experience, at least once, of writing what he or she loves to read. If that’s possible. For instance, besides genre murder mysteries I love Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and Annie Proulx’s Shipping News. I doubt I’ll ever write the way they do because I don’t think the way they do, even though I try; that’s brain-melting work. A murder mystery, however, is just plain fun. My poet raises an eyebrow over that one—writing should depress you and force that inappropriate psychological disorder into the open and then make you brood a lot. He doesn’t like me using “a lot,” either.
QUALIFYING EXPLANATION: When I say write something fun, I don’t mean that a fun story can’t also be beautiful. It can be and should be. I can write a beautiful murder mystery if I try. Maybe. We shall see.
So today I told my daughter that she should stop trying to revise that serious, literary, depressing short story she wrote in “Introduction to Creative Writing” at Brigham Young University. She had become discouraged because she had no story; what she had was an abstract philosophy and some pretty words on the page. I told her to give herself permission to write something fun. “Write a clown scene instead,” I said. She smiled because she knew what I meant; the scene popped into her head in full color and live action. This. Is. Where. She. Lives. In her hilarious imaginings, anyway. And this is what she loves—quirky humor.
Talking all over each other, we described the scene—clowns wearing fezzes and big red rubber noses practicing their act and having dialogs about how to cram twenty of themselves in a VW Bug and someone’s got to take the lead of this insanity in the center ring of a circus tent before the matinee begins. Then we laughed about that one scene in Uncle Buck where the professional clown comes to the door and Buck answers it and the clown is drunk and dressed in a clown suit but he has a major five o’clock shadow and he drove to the house for a kids’ party in a VW Bug decked out like a mouse. Buck tells him to get in his mouse and leave but the clown says “Who are you, Mother Theresa?” Then Buck punches the clown in the rubber nose and the clown falls backward but bounces back up like that Bozo the Clown punching thingy and his nose is all caved in.
Hahahahahahhahahaha! That’s what we said. “Low hanging fruit” is what my poet says and he walks off to write a poem about death with a superior but brooding look on his face.
There you have it.
Filed under CLW, Depression, Family, Life, Voice, writing process
Tagged as Anne Lamott Annies Proulx, Billy Collins, Cormac McCarthy, dying, Harper Lee, life, old age, Poets, Shipping News, The Road, To Kill a Mockingbird, Uncle Buck
Today my six year old asked if he could catch a stroke.
My mom has had a few mini-strokes lately. At first I was panicked about it. Now I realize it’s part of the process.
The hardest part of end of life is helping my kids understand it. Actually maybe it isn’t the hardest part, but it’s the trickiest for me to negotiate. How do I explain strokes? How do I explain why my dad spoon feeds his wife? How do I explain when I am fine one moment, and overcome with tears and shaking the next?
What’s wrong? they’ll ask.
My mom is sick. I miss her.
Why do you miss her? She’s right there?
And she is. She’s right there. She’s at my dinner table, stirring her food around. She’s in the kitchen pouring dish soap into mugs. She’s in the family room, picking up quesadillas.
She is right here.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about how to tell them things, how to explain things. The way they interpet or rather see life is so much more pure. So much more simple. Like revelations that are right in front of me.
It’s a privilege to have kids. It’s a privilege to write for kids. It’s a privilege to be near kids.
Writing Exercise: Try to write a scene from a four year old’s point of view. Something big. Death, divorce, illness, heartbreak, abandonment, fear, etc. See if you can simplify it, see from their eyes. What do you discover? How does the world change? Is there new possibilities? Wonder? Hurt? Joy?
Recent conversation with my four year old:
He said, I really love you, Mom and I hope you never die.
I said, thank you. I love you too.
Then he said, I hope you always stay the same number so you can always do what you want to do and not get Alzheimer’s.
What if we could always stay the same number and always do what we want to do?