I blame Michael Perry
Michael Perry is an author.
His writing reminded me of driving tractor. Sitting on the metal seat of a Farmall and holding the spindly, hand-blackening steering wheel. I would stand and steer like it was a ship. After all the steering wheel was vertical. The exhaust would roar which was good because there was nothing else to do but think or sing and I sometimes did both at the top of my voice. At the end of the day, my hands would vibrate from the pull of the terrain and the churning of the engine. The big tractor was a different ride. The seat had a cushion, the steering wheel adjusted (I think). One had a cab and a radio. Yet the main difference I think was that these tractors had fenders over the wheels. Something you could rest your hand on or a rider could sit on. It was just more substantial. Yet looking back, I miss the small tractors. Seeing the v-shaped tread go past like a water mill. You got on the platform between the two turning giants wheels and you were as basic as the transmission box.
We had our trees. There was the big pine near the house. The dogs laid under it, the perfect location of coolness and closeness to a bone thrown out the door. We had the tree down the yard. Convenient, especially as a brake when theyoungest put a car in neutral and went for a ride. There was the trees in the back, one forked and the canopy for the sandbox. Then there was the rows of pines for a windbreak that was close to the house and yet it was possible to go to a different world as we scrambled among the branches. We cleared a path. There was a sunny world just beyond it. Weedy graveyard of used up farm equipment and the fields beyond that. I suspect beyond that was the world, but I never found out.
The trees of my dreams, however, are the two trees between the barn and the house. Along the walkway but set back on the lawn. That was where the lawn chairs were setup. Whether it was a party or grandpa and grandma or just us kids, it was our patio, our visitors center.
I think in giving advice to young people, too often we overlook that they are experiencing things for the first time. From love to heartbreak, we apply our view to how they might feel.
Instead we should validate their feelings. They are strong and teenagers are dramatic because if feels overwhelming. What we can do is explain that things will get easier. With age comes the lesson that heartbreak is not so bad because we have gone through it. We learned that we will be okay. That good follows it. Then the next time heartbreak happens, it affects us less because it is not the end of the world. It is life. This is not numbness, but an overall appreciation aat looking at our lives as a whole and not just focusing on the heartbreak.
Saturday, dad and I traded songs via youtube. He showed me who put the overalls in mrs ___ chowder. We also listened to Nellie Jack and my blue heaven. Dad talked about how his dad would come out of his bedroom dancing and singing these two songs. My dad was emotional as he remembered this. He said Grandpa must have been a romantic. Other men didn’t want to get married, but he always wanted a family. Dad said he did too.
I replied that’s what I always wanted as well.
What a gift my father gave to me. To share and to be vulnerable. And to be emotional.
John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eyes, talked about his Asperger’s syndrome going un-diagnosed until adulthood. A great book and in it he talks about the adults being the only ones that interacted with him due to his social skills.
People with autism can be challenging. However, as adults, we can handle it. When behaviors get on our nerves, we need to be the ones that keep them from isolation.
Their behaviors are not a choice to be naughty. They can be organic and they can be learned. They may make comments that are insensitive because they cannot predict how it will be taken.
Those behaviors do not need to be ignored. Depending on the person with autism, they may be thankful that you took the time to explain to them how to be social or why something may be off-putting.
Some problematic behaviors just have to be ignored. However, we need to make sure the person behind those behaviors are also not ignored. You do not know how important you might be to someone without positive relationships. We want people with autism to have friendships. Caring adults may be the only thing keeping them from loneliness.
I am a writer. So you know what that means. Exactly. Socially awkward as hell. I am a better communicator as a writer than as a speaker. This is especially poignant as you are reading this and this aint that good either.
Writers conferences are sometimes put on by writers. A crazy thought, but stick with me. So some conferences then are not as friendly. I mean they are friendly, but because I am socially awkward, I need them to be super friendly.
I think the Lakefly Writers Conference is. I think in my role as a volunteer, I am as well. What I am saying is that I rise to the occasion. Or perhaps it is the right environment and it fosters that in me.
Maybe it’s just that I desperately want the conference to succeed. A conference that I help put on is one less that I have to go to and not interact with people.
Actually, though, it’s a great conference. I love interacting with attendees and the speakers.
It has great attendees. I enjoy meeting writers from all over and I like the responsibility of working to make sure it goes well.
This reminds me of a story. We recently had Michael Perry as a speaker and needed to put a lectern on the risers. I told him it was probably heavy (as in he was a speaker, I shouldn’t expect him to lift it).
Mr. Perry said a very Michael Perry thing- “Are we not men?”
A great bonding moment. Unfortunately he was one of my heroes. So I was tongue tied. My response was mumble mumble mumble. Maybe I’m wrong about Lakefly fostering me.
It will for you though.
This is my review for Louis Clark’s chapbook How to Be an Indian in the 21st Century. This is from the Wisconsin Historical Press.
“The story Mr. Clark tells is fascinating. It’s his story of growing up Native American in Wisconsin and facing racism, discrimination, and a difficult childhood. Don’t worry though, Mr. Clark also focuses on humor and love. He reminds me of a priest our church had that told a homily and broke out into song to punctuate his points. Mr. Clark does that with his poetry.”
In full disclosure, I know Mr. Clark. I interviewed him for my YouTube Channel show AuthorShowcase of Oshkosh. Besides being a great guy and family man, he has many stories to tell (he tells many in this book). So I am biased. Yet I think you will find this to be a great book. He weaves poetry in the story of his life and as he tell us, he does it to the real beat of the pow wow drum.
I have been a part of the Lakefly Writers Conference for the last five years now. I’ve spoken at it twice and I want to invite you to come to #lakefly17.
If you are a writer, you need to go to a conference. They do so many things for you. They teach. They create friendships, and they inspire. Everyone I’ve met that has gone to a writers conference leaves with inspiration to write (aggressively/ passionately??). If Oshkosh, Wisconsin is too far away, find another one.
However, I recommend this one. We pride ourselves on being friendly and well-run.
I am also inspired by The Oshkosh Public Library. The director set out on creating a conference to fill a need for writers in the area. The only goal was to support them. Since then, the library and the Lakefly Volunteers have had one goal- to provide quality speakers at a very affordable price.
We have a powerful lineup this year. Nickolas Butler and Jerome Buting will be are keynote speakers. For more information please go to www.lakeflywriters.org.
If you have been to the Lakefly, please let us know and maybe blog about your experience.