On Leaving

By |January 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

cheryl wilder love leaves

An excerpt from my poem, “Pupa.” Included in the collection What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press 2017).

Photo taken by author. All rights reserved.

On Middle Age

By |January 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

middle age quote Cheryl Wilder

Excerpt from my poem, “Spring Cleaning in Winter.” First published by Strong Verse. Included in my debut poetry chapbook, What Binds Us (Finishing Line Press 2017).

Photo taken by author. All rights reserved.

New Year. New Blog Project.

By |January 6th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Cheryl Wilder blog

Photo Courtesy of Suzanne Farrell Smith

I’ve been trying to figure out how to become more engaged on social media. Though my writing is raw, transparent and personal, I am more a people watcher than a participator, especially in large groups. I am half hermit and more than 50% an introvert. Yet the other side of me loves my friends and family, wants to meet more people and ultimately wants to engage and connect more often. How to do this? Here’s one way I have decided to participate. Yes, it fills more than one role. As a writer, I want people to read my work. I have always loved quotes, especially making a collage of them on the wall of my office. I figured, why not put all these things together: my work, a love of quotes, and my desire to connect. My first one was posted 12/31/16–six days ago (see how backwards I can be with this social media thing?). Haven’t figured out how to connect FB with Pinterest to my website yet (one thing at a time). My goal is to post weekly on Saturdays. I hope you enjoy.

Best wishes to you all on this New Year. Peace.

Bowing Out (for now)

By |September 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

After reading the article “‘Platforms’ are Overrated” by Stephanie Bane in Creative Nonfiction, I have decided to focus on finishing my memoir. Obviously I’m not ready for a blog anyway, with three posts in nine months. Next time I am back to this space it will be to talk about mistakes, shame, perseverance and repairing a clean, broken-slate identity.

This also stems to other social media, namely FB. I’ve become more voyeur than participant and that is largely due to my time constraints of parenting one-year-old twins and an eleventh grader. Eeking out moments to do what I love is not easy but imperative to both my heart and long-term sanity. I will remain a voyeur and check-in to make sure I don’t miss too much of my friends’ awesomeness. It’s just time that shit gets real. As the eleventh grader would say, Peace out.

Writing Process Blog Tour

By |March 10th, 2014|writing life, writing process|0 Comments

This leg of the Writing Process Blog Tour has hit North Carolina via my beautiful friend and writer, Suzanne Farrell Smith. Suzanne’s essays weave sentiment with science, humility with sin, and humor with heartache. She’s a master seamstress with words and one of the hardest working writers I know. To learn about her process, check it out here.

My day to post, March 10th, came after a weekend of surprise for my 40th birthday: a delectable lunch with my husband at a french restaurant, a party with loved ones and a night off from my seven month old twins. My last night out on the town was in December 2012! Needless to say, I was going to finish this post over the weekend, but here I am the evening of the 10th, by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, getting my thoughts together to make the deadline. Like I mentioned to a friend a couple weeks ago, I’m doing everything by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin these days. Two babies. Need I say more.
No matter, however busy I am with the boys, keeping my fingers wet with words is a priority. Alas, a glimpse into my process:

What am I working on?
I just finished taking my full-length poetry manuscript and cutting it down into a chapbook. It reads so much tighter and I love it. I have two essays I am working on and I always write poems, or ideas for poems, or revise poems. A couple years ago I started a memoir and after one hundred pages I put it down not knowing where to take it. That looms over my head all the time. Started another new project but that is all I’m going to say about it for now. I’d like to see if it takes flight or not first.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
No matter what the subject matter, my writing finds a way to connect the everyday task to the cosmos. Poet Richard Jackson mentioned this when he introduced me at my graduate reading from Vermont College of Fine Arts, saying my work reminded him of what Gaston Bachelard calls ‘Intimate Immensity,’ a term found in The Poetics of Space. Here’s Bachelard: “Immensity is within ourselves. It is attached to a sort of expansion of being that life curbs and caution arrests, but which starts again when we are alone. As soon as we become motionless, we are elsewhere; we are dreaming in a world that is immense. Indeed, immensity is the movement of motionless man. It is one of the dynamic characteristics of quiet daydreaming.” Another aspect of my writing was pointed out by my wonderful friend and writer, Claire Guyton, after she read some of my poems: “forcing cliches into freshness is one of your specialties.” I can summarize by saying, I like to refurbish the old into something new and turn the ordinary extraordinary.

Why do I write what I do?
I write poems because I think in interwoven phrases and images. I studied the lyric poem because I wanted to say the most with the least amount of words. Most of my early writing is based on personal experience because I love deciphering the human condition and for me the best way of beginning was to decipher the only human whose brain and emotions I could easily get to. I have since branched out and I love the themes of home and architecture and family and silence and how all those things help me connect to something larger, something beyond my self. As a child I was told that simplicity is beauty and I believe that is what’s behind my desire to unearth the extraordinary in the ordinary. I don’t believe one needs to travel far to experience profundity. I started writing essays to further my exploration. I began writing because I wanted to communicate; I wanted to learn to convey exactly what I was feeling and thinking. I write because it is the most efficient path I’ve found to honesty.

How does my writing process work?
In the morning I write best yet my schedule has changed over the years due to babies and jobs and happenstance that I have taught myself to dip in and out of writing throughout the day. I listen to Philip Glass when I am deep thinking and to Charlie Parker when I am whimsical. The rest of the time I listen to silence. I prefer to have a window for gazing. Place is important so I return to my desk every time I write. I find comfort in having a permanent space for my writing and I require comfort. Ideation happens everywhere but deep writing is only accomplished in my writing space. Attire for my most emotionally difficult material is a bathrobe. For everything else, attire is optional.

Sometimes an image or idea explodes and I freewrite until I have squeezed all I can out if it but most often a piece emerges after long thought-out musings that rattle around in my head. I try to complete pieces on recent experiences but I am unable to so I work through my feelings, place memories on the page and then allow time for the world to influence them. I walk away, sometimes for months or years. I have let pieces sit as long as a decade. There are always open-ended pieces that I dip into for revision, each piece influencing the other. Then comes the time where I am so close to finishing I drop everything else and focus on one piece at a time.

Here is where the tour feeds back on itself. Instead of continuing to a new blog, I leave you with a list of brilliant writers and bloggers who shared (or will be sharing) their process. Enjoy.

Suzanne Farrell Smith
Claire Guyton
Natalia Sarkissian
Diane Lefer
Laurie Cannady
Jeanne Gassman
Jennifer Haugen Koski
James Pounds
Elizabeth Gaucher
Benjamin Woodard
Giano Cromley
Stephanie Friedman

Little Wins

By |January 21st, 2014|win at life|7 Comments

Growing up at the dawn of the video gaming era, I eagerly played the early greats: Donkey Kong, Frogger, Paperboy, Breakout, Galaga, Pole Position, Ms. Pacman. After receiving the coveted Nintendo and saving the princess in Super Mario Brothers during the summer between 7th and 8th grade, I reached gaming satisfaction and put down the controller. After all, the princess was safe. What more could one child want? Yet many peers were enticed to play after the 8th grade and into early adulthood, some of them tainting my view on a subculture of people now known as “gamers.” Gamers, as I knew them, spent too many hours glued to the TV, controller in hand, while the rest of society kept the world spinning. Gamers were lazy.

Not until I met my husband almost twenty years after I put down the controller, and after many lengthy discussions on the nature of games and the gamers who play them, did I come to see the use of video games differently. My husband is extremely productive, having double-majored in undergrad and receiving his Master’s in Computer Science. He works in a University where he excels, contributes equally to household tasks, works on side projects and is the anchor of our family’s time together. He’s also an avid gamer. Gaming is his way to decompress or blow off steam. After a good night of gaming he is more relaxed, more focused even. Gaming doesn’t take away from our family, as I once believed it would, but actually gives back to it.

The 2009 recession hit us pretty hard. My then husband-to-be lost two jobs and stopped receiving pay for a third while my hours at work were reduced and eventually eliminated. To remedy our work woes we relocated in 2010 to a city with better job opportunity. We found a school district we liked for my son, a rental house in a neighborhood we adored, we moved (three weeks after our wedding) and then my husband found work. In 2011 we could finally begin building ourselves back from the recession. Everyone talks about the stress of unemployment and the struggles to find work, but little is talked of the difficulties to build back once work is procured. Two years of work roulette put us in at least ten years of digging out of various debts. The main reason it takes so long to recover is that to survive unemployment (eat, pay bills) we stopped upgrading items that needed it: aging washing machine, aging car, stained and torn jeans, holey shoes. Once money started coming back in and debts began to be repaid, we were hit with having to buy a new washer and dryer, suitable shoes for work and a reliable car which meant adding a car payment to the list of monthly expenses.

By the time we began to build back in 2011, the stress from consistent worry became more and more difficult to release. Though our family was practiced at maintaining perspective and finding the joy and gratitude in even the toughest times, we needed a new reprieve from the daily grind. We already exercised, practiced tai chi and unwound from a long day on our porch swing. But we couldn’t go out to eat or go to the movies let alone splurge on a game of putt putt. We needed something new, but not a one-time fix. Something both uplifting and fun. We needed to play. And we needed play satisfaction that our board games no longer provided. So we splurged, after long deliberation and finagling what we could get away with not purchasing, and spent $150 on a Wii that came with Mario Kart and Super Mario Brothers, games inspired by my youth.

When my husband and I made date night plans, we raced. When we made family night plans, we raced or worked together–at the same time–to save Mario’s princess. On game nights we laughed hysterically watching a car fly off the side of Rainbow Road and burn up in the atmosphere, we took pride in learning to jump on one another’s head to claim a big gold coin in the clouds, or we shook our fists at “the bitches” (Peach, Baby Peach, Daisy, Rosalina) as one always seemed to whiz past the front-runner at the end of a race. The Wii is perhaps our best $150 spent in the last couple years. It’s provided our family an indulgence during a time when we couldn’t afford such pleasantries. But it was more than just fun that we reaped from the games. For what I thought was the first time, I experienced something my husband experiences when he games, something Game Designer Jane McGonigal is trying to bring from the gaming world into the real world, the feeling of an epic win.

In our house we have “little wins,” where we turn ordinary moments into victorious ones. Car repair cost $200 less than expected: little win. Traffic wasn’t bad on the commute home: little win. Restful night’s sleep: little win. Buy-two get-three-free on, well, just about anything at the grocery store: little win. Little wins is our way of recognizing life’s positives while carrying life’s burdens, which for us has primarily been financial stress from the recession. Buying the Wii was a little win that gave epic wins to our family. Find all three big coins in a Mario world, especially the one buried under quicksand: epic win. Hit by a blue shell while crossing the finish line: epic win. McGonigal on epic wins in her book, Reality is Broken: “‘Epic win’ is a gamer term. It’s used to describe a big, and usually surprising, success: a come-from-behind victory, an unorthodox strategy that works out spectacularly well, a team effort that goes much better than planned, a heroic effort from the most unlikely player.” We always left game night with less tension around our eyes, our shoulders loosened. And after the wheel controllers were put away and everyone went back to their respective duties (homework, side work), I found that epic wins did spill from the gaming world and into my real environment.

Little wins reminded me that life is good. Epic wins took that feeling and heightened it by one thousand percent, making me believe that not only was life good but that I was bigger and stronger than our obstacles. Epic wins gave me a feeling of power and control in a time when I felt powerless and out of control. In addition to this boost in confidence and capability, riding the river in Koopa Cape made me not only happy but giddy, child-like. To my surprise the confidence and giddiness stayed with me as I sat down and rubbed two nickels together to pay bills or sent out a dozen résumés. Epic wins re-energized my self-reliance in a completely different way than exercise or reading inspirational stories did. I experienced accomplishment and though it was an arbitrary virtual cartoon accomplishment, the satisfaction was real. The epic win resonated. And it stuck.

My favorite part of the whole experience is that as I re-energized self-reliance, our family’s bond strengthened and we made what could have been bad memories into really good ones. Epic wins remind me of how I felt while saving the princess in Super Mario twenty-six years prior. Picture a group of early teen-aged girls watching scary B movies, gallivanting around town, buying tons of candy at the convenience store and working together to save Mario’s princess. We spent days and nights at one friend’s house, each taking turns to play, determined to accomplish this goal. When I was the lucky one who beat the final castle, I was alone. My friends were off on one of a dozen trips to buy snacks. As the last Bowser descended into a pit of lava I jumped for joy, arms raised up in a V and yelled, then quickly hit pause and waited with bated breath to share our victory–our epic win–with the team.

Throwing my arms up and yelling is the physical expression of an emotion known as “fiero.” McGonigal again: “Fiero is the Italian word for ‘pride,’ and it’s been adopted by game designers to describe an emotional high we don’t have a good word for in English. Fiero is what we feel after we triumph over adversity.” Now that my family’s experienced at digging out of the recession-hole, our resilience has strengthened. We don’t race or work to save the princess as often as we had when we first bought the Wii. When we do return to the racetrack or one of Super Mario’s worlds, it’s like visiting old friends; friends who once helped shoulder our burden. And every time we play we laugh and throw our arms up with fiero. Epic wins, however, haven’t minimized little wins. Little wins remain pivotal in our house, a perspective we vow to maintain once we’re paid in full. What has changed is that now, every time I pay a final installment on recession debt, I raise my arms up in a V and yell for triumph over adversity, for years of little wins accruing to an epic one.

New Year 2014

By |December 31st, 2013|7 deadly sins, new year, resolutions, rilke, writing life|5 Comments

New Year’s resolutions never work out for me. Either I make my list laden with idealistic goals, forget what was on my list and where I put it, or never make one. Some years, instead of resolutions, I conduct mini Burning Bowl ceremonies, a practice I enjoy more than writing resolutions. I see the Burning Bowl as a way to empty the glass before filling it again with all the accomplishments I want for the next year. I feel kinship with letting go. But, even though I appreciate the symbolism of Burning Bowl ceremonies, I cannot commit to a Burning Bowl every year. Sometimes, I just want the years to bump up against one another and see what happens. I want to feel the worn edge of letting go rub against the vulnerability of starting over. I’m a glutton for the sound of screeching steel as the axle turns; to feel it in my bones, the screeching of time. Often, I just want to enjoy the night as a belly-laughing drunk.

Today, I came across Woody Guthrie’s New Year’s Rulin’s in a FB post. His simple, direct Rules spoke to where I am at on this last day of 2013. I’ve adopted his first and last Rules as my own:

#1 Work More and Better
In the spirit of Rilke’s view on work, “We have to mix our work with ourselves at such a deep level that workdays turn into holidays all by themselves, into our actual holidays,” I resolve to continue integrating my work with my art and my everyday life. Integration and balance of the Writing Life is an ongoing conversation with fellow writers that began with an essay series I co-authored with Suzanne Farrell Smith. Working toward every workday being a holiday belongs in the resolution category of idealistic goals. So, I vow to do this year after year after year, turning my lifetime into a series of fulfilling days.

#33 Wake Up and Fight
Enough said.