I have been furiously editing Jordan’s Sister over the summer while my test readers enjoyed the story. Each of them found different things that I hadn’t. Editing my own work is the most difficult task, but it is also the most rewarding. Finding a better, smoother way to say what I need to in order to convey the right meaning is satisfying. I’m proud of my work. Each day, I am a better writer than I was the day before.
It was different writing Jordan’s Sister than Caroline’s Lighthouse because I wasn’t pulling heavily from previous material. Caroline’s Lighthouse was a rewrite of a story I wrote at 15—the most polished of my teenage works. Jordan’s Sister was originally part one of a two-book series I wrote at 14 about the events leading up to a teen’s suicide in the first book and the events after in the second book.
“One Night in a Coffeehouse” Free-Verse, March 20, 2017
He sings in the near-empty coffeehouse
About alcohol addiction and love.
He thinks no one in the lackluster crowd is listening.
Two employees try their best to acknowledge him,
While a college student studies his books,
And a lady whose whole life is a musical hums her own tune.
Annoyed by the six laughing ladies in their bible study group,
He changes his line-up to include
All songs he knows that take the Lord’s name in vain.
The ladies talk over the too-loud guitar music,
Determined to finish their lesson,
While he plays louder and louder to drown out the noise.
The ladies ignore him, all but one.
One listens to the man sing out his soul,
Reminded of the coffeehouses of her youth—now long gone.
Where did time go? She wonders.
How did they all end up there,
And is it still art if no one appreciates it?
I wrote this a while back after an unexpected encounter with a traveling musician, Rue Snider, at Penny University in Russellville, Arkansas. I don’t write poetry near as much as I did as a teen and in my early 20s.
I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Why are we (the collective “we”) so moved by and intertwined with celebrity deaths? Celebs are mortal just like the rest of us, so it is inevitable that they will die someday, but when they do, they have more mourners than the rest of us. This is especially so when they die tragically or die young, which often coincide.
When someone dies at age 98 in their bed surrounded by family, we say it’s a good death because they lived a long life. Many people die much younger than that. Tragically young. What’s the cutoff age? Is it 40? 50? 60? What about 70? I don’t have the answers. My dads died at 32 and 55—too young in my opinion. My maternal grandparents died at 56 and 60, ages I now see as young, but at the time since I was a young child, I saw them as old.
The first celebrity death I remember being aware of was that of actor/singer River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose on Halloween night, 1993. He was only 23 years old and quite famous. I had seen him in several movies such as Stand By Me and Running on Empty. He was talented, and I remember being so sad when I found out he had died, especially because of the way he died. Anti-drug messages at school started using him as an example of what drug abuse could do. Continue reading “When a celebrity dies”