April in Books and Birds

I finished listening to two books in the last couple of days, The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, both of which I highly recommend. 

I’m really into figuring out structure of books lately and thinking about the ways that authors assemble their thoughts, especially in nonfiction, and the image that came to mind for Solnit’s book is a french braid. The entire book does this incredible job of weaving in apricots, Alzheimer’s, loss, Frankenstein, Iceland and Icelandic tales, storytelling, meaning, and more. Each chapter introduces a new strand without leaving the previous strands behind, delivering an overarching gift of interconnectedness. I listened to the book on my commute, and while I really loved it, I don’t think I’d recommend listening to the audiobook– this is the kind of book that deserves a more attentive reading, a pencil, a glass of wine, and the time and space to set it down, think about it, pick it up again, and think some more.
Bird by Bird, on the other hand, was a great car listen, and since it’s a bit shorter (four hours to listen, I think), it would be good for those who have a shorter commute. I’ll admit that there wasn’t a whole lot I hadn’t heard before in terms of authorly advice, but that doesn’t matter, because writing wisdom is like Bible verses: it doesn’t matter how simple the concepts are, it’s the doing that’s the hard part, and any additional encouragement and companionship along the way helps.
Speaking of birds, I wrote two whole poems this month! This is up from zero the last year, so please, round of applause. They are both inspired by birds. It felt so fun to write new things about birds that I have something of a poetic project in mind with them. I have a secret ambition to write a poem a day in the month of May, but shhh. If it doesn’t happen it, no big deal.
In other April-related news, I spent four days in Minneapolis for the AWP Conference, where I presented on a panel called Bravery and Bearing Witness: Vulnerability in Writing, and I think we knocked that panel’s socks off. All of the panelists brought wonderful perspective and insight, but who’s surprised by that, since they were Bonnie Rough, Kate Hopper, Brenda Miller, and Marilyn Bousquin? You just can’t go wrong with that line-up. I also spent loads of time with my community of writers of faith, and that always fills the soul (and belly) like nothing else for me.
Brandon and I went to the John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett concert this past Sunday, together, alone. Date night reminds us both that we’re funny and goofy and obnoxious and sexy and that we quite like each other as human beings, actually. Sometimes that’s forgotten in the daily shuffle, eh? The concert, for me, put the lid back on my Pandora’s box of insecurities, and from this side of the box, I stare in disbelief at that sad, hollow person who couldn’t imagine ever escaping the spiral. I dislike the ebb and flow of these seasons… except for the growth and reminders of grace and mercy that come along with them.
I don’t know much else, except that I will have a series of blog posts on Off the Page in the next few weeks, I think, on the desire to be desired, so hang on tight.
Back then —
2011: Explaining Easter (poem)
2009: Thunder (poem on top of a photo… blech)

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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