Woman Inspired! | Stella Gibbons and Carson McCullers

One of my favorite bookish swap series to host is “Literary Wisdom” on swap-bot. Through the swaps, participants select a bookish postcard and write on the back a quote which inspires them. The quote must come from imaginative literature (poetry, prose, plays)–not sacred texts, self-help books, or non-fiction. For Women’s History Month, I decided to dedicate the swaps to women writers, since, unsurprisingly, male writers often dominate the swaps.

I created swaps for the Cup and Chaucer and Book Lovers Congregate groups. Lucky me! My randomly chosen partner for both swaps was Geraldine J (Nannydino). I always enjoy receiving postcards from Geraldine. Not only are the postcards well-selected with my varied interests and tastes in mind but the presentation of the written side of the postcard is always clean and inviting–very neat handwriting and unique placement of stickers, stamps, and postage. Somehow, Geraldine packs a lot of information on the 4×6 postcard backs, always including the date and weather.  Bonus–we have some of the same postcard collections so I get back the very postcards I love.

Now, for the literary inspiration:

Stella Gibbons (1902-1989). Photograph, Mark Gerson/National Portrait Gallery, London

Stella Gibbons was a British writer with poetry, short stories, and 25 novels to her credit. The inspired quote Geraldine chose to share comes from her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm, which is a parody of the “loam and lovechild” rural genre.

Every year, in the fulness o’ summer, when the sukebind hangs heavy from the wains. . .’tes the same. And when the spring comes her hour is upon her again … ‘Tes the hand of Nature and we women cannot escape it.

What seems to be most inspiring here–besides the hilarious novel itself–is “sukebind,” a word Gibbons coined. According to the Oxford English Dictionary “sukebind” is an “imaginary plant associated with superstition, fertility, and intense rustic passion.”

Check out two of The Guardian‘s reviews of Cold Comfort Farm:

If you’re interested in reading the novel, you should have no problems borrowing it from many of the e-libraries.

Carson McCullers (1917-1967). Photograph, Bettman/Corbis

Carson McCullers, born Lula Carson Smith, also wrote in many genres–plays, essays, short stories, poetry, and (of course) novels. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, her debut [though not first] novel (at the age of 23), remains her most popular work.

The inspiration Geraldine shared actually comes from McCullers’ commentary on her characters. “She felt her characters powerfully, once stating:”

I live with the people I create and it has always made my essential loneliness less keen.

And one of the inspired quotes form The Heart is a Lonely Hunter:

My advice to you is this. Do not attempt to stand alone. …The most fatal thing a man can do is try to stand alone.”

For more about Carson and her works, see the links below:

The postcards come from the collection, Postcards from Penguin Modern Classics: One Hundred Writers in One Box. I actually have the collection and mentioned it [or its lack of diversity] in a post on Eileen Chang. Despite the shortcomings of the collection, the photographs are stunning, and I’m happy to have two of the women writers “return” to me

Before I go, I leave you with a little homework. On the back of the McCullers postcard was an equally stunning fierce and inspiring woman postage stamp–featuring Elsie MacGill. If you don’t know who she is, you must do a little “research” and come back and report [in the comments] three things you’ve learned about her.

Until next time…

Out of the Zone…

Last week, during the spring break that didn’t feel much like a break, I stepped out of my comfort zone. Gasp!

I did three things that required a bit of a nudge and a bit of courage:

  1. I participated in a two-hour online “intentional creativity” class. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, especially the tools and techniques offered. I even created a piece of art (which I will not be sharing here).  😀
  2. I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project!!! If you know anything about how I feel about my artistic skills, then you know that this required a huge PUSH. The first push came when my friend Christine B sent me a sketchbook to complete. Then, she made sure to remind me periodically of the March 5th deadline. I finished almost half of the book during a church service one afternoon. Doodling helps me to focus and listen, but [still] shh…don’t tell. I’ll share more about the project and a link to my sketchbook when it is digitized and uploaded to the site.
  3. I put a couple of my doodles up for sale!!! I designed two coloring cards [see image above] for Women’s History Month “just because,” but I realized they are really cute enough to sell.  Plus, this parent of a teenager who has 8th grade graduation and a class trip coming up could use a few extra dollars! I decided to sell the set of two cards for $3. My “little sister,” social media influencer, Brittany of Ordinarily Extraordinary Mom, shared to her page. I saw lots of positive feedback and interest there, and guess what! I sold ONE WHOLE SET! 😀

It’s a start. Besides, marketing and selling any type of creative work takes a lot of time and effort.

My friend Cy is encouraging me to keep at it. She strongly believes in the power of my doodles. As a matter of fact, she had me design her business card with one of the doodles. Wanna see? [I “erased” her personal details]

I crossed off very few of the items on my extensive “to-get-done-during-spring-break” list, but I can’t even feel [too] bad about that. Life is so much more than the lists, and look at what I did accomplish!

What about you? Have you stepped outside your comfort zone lately? Tell me all about it…

International Women’s Day | Keep Showing Up

You might have heard about Aleta, my amazing bestie, in earlier posts. Well, she once again sent me a fierce, woman-empowering package. This one for my birthday (in October)–which her hubby delivered to me early December when he visited.

Three of the items rest in “my happy place.” One of the items has a quote on the front that I am compelled to share today:

There are women who make things better…simply by showing up. There are women of wit and wisdom who–through strength and courage–make it through. There are women who change the world every day…women like you.  –Ashley Rice

In your search for whatever it is you’re searching for, remember there is greatness in you. Through the ordinary of your every day, you do amazing things. Keep showing up. Keep showing out. Chin up, shoulders back to tackle the daily grind, the little things you do that make a world of difference in a life or two or maybe 100.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Speaking in Flowers: In Front of a Window

“Wallwurz und kleine rosa Nelken vor Fenster,” 1935. Gabriele Münter [Wallroot and small pink carnations in front of window]

The postcard above, which features the work of German expressionist painter Gabriele Münter, was one of the first I received for International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month. It came from my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

In honor of our sharing flowers with other women throughout the world, Eileen added another “flower.” She affixed to the message side of the postcard the story of the Greek goddess, Iris:

Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages. Greek men would often plant an iris on the graves of their beloved women as a tribute to the goddess Iris, whose duty it was to take the souls of women to the Elysian fields. — Hana No Monogatari, from The Story of Flowers

2019 has been brutal thus far, and I’ve lacked the intellectual energy to give words to my feelings and experiences. Flowers have been easier, so taking a cue from nayirrah waheed, I’ll be “speaking in flowers” for much of the next few weeks. I’ll mix things up a bit and try not to bore you. 😉


Speaking of Love Notes, the deadline to sign up for the next round is in a few days. If you love receiving snail mail and want to be part of a wonderful community of creative mail-loving souls, click the link.

Can We Speak in Flowers? | #WordlessWednesday

can we speak in flowers.
it will be much easier for me to understand.

–other language

——————————————————–

flower work
is
not easy.
remaining
soft in the fire
takes
time.

nayyirah waheed, poems from salt.


About the image: The pansies above were captured last spring during one of my photo walks. I gave the “flowers” (poems included) to sisters and friends for Women’s History Month. Since most have received them, I’m sharing them here for #WordlessWednesday. You need flowers too.

Women | Words and Art III

We’ve reached the final post of our women’s words and art series. Today’s postcards are just as empowering and inspiring as the previous posts.

Artist: Cyla Costa

Talking back to the ideology that a woman’s place is in the kitchen or bedroom, this art speaks volumes:

A woman’s place is in the resistance.

I “designed” my own postcard featuring Hillary Clinton’s “famous” phrase a few years ago:

Women’s rights are human rights.  –Hilary Clinton, from her speech at the United Nations Fourth Conference on Women, Beijing China

And from [my forever] First Lady of the United States, the timeless instruction our mothers instilled in us when we were children–to never, ever stoop to “their” level:

When they go low, we go high.  –Michelle Obama, Democratic National Convention, 2016

Artist: Cyla Costa

Reinterpreting Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer,” Angela Davis‘ oft-repeated declaration is another call to become agents of change.

I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept. –Angela Davis

Even though I want more, more, more revolutionary art, Davis’s quote provides an apt ending. After all, women’s issues can’t be resolved with pretty words and lettering. We’ve got to get up and do something too!

Some of us are traditional activists. We don’t mind taking to the streets and marching or sitting in. Some use writing–letters, poems, opinion pieces, books. Some use art. Some use social media and phone calls. Some choose to approach change through the way we rear our sons and daughters. It all works–as long as the goal is to cultivate a world that does not stifle or limit women’s and girls’ rights, full participation or agency.

If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, be sure to check them out. Then…

Let’s get to work!

Women | Words and Art II

As promised, I’m back today with more art from “The Future Is Female” package. Are you ready to be empowered?

Nevertheless, she persisted.

In his explanation of Elizabeth Warren’s “silencing” during her “lengthy speech” criticizing [then] Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, Senator Mitch McConnell declared, “She was warned. She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted.” Like “nasty woman,” the final sentence became a rallying call and was appropriated by women in a move to dismantle male-centric politics and policies.

Artist: Cyla Costa

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we raise them. May we be them.

Artist: Daiana Ruiz

Why one writes is a question I can answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me — the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.  –Anais Nin, Dairy, February 1954

Artist: Bodil Jane

When no one speaks and the whole world is silent, then even one voice becomes powerful.  –Malala Yousafzai, on acceptance of Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award at Harvard University, 2013

If you missed the first post, be sure to take a look at the four art/quote pieces there. The final four will be in my next post. You’ll need it to complete your full dosage of woman-power. 😉

Women | Words and Art I

Did you see the Google Doodle on International Women’s Day? The doodle featured a collection of inspiring quotes by women beautifully illustrated by [other] women. It’s a pretty impressive collection, and I want the prints!

Fortunately, my bestie–from now on referred to as “the prophet”–anticipated this and sent me a beautiful collection of 12 woman-centered postcards. I finally took time to scan them, so I decided to share them on the blog in three installments.

I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free as long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is anyone of you. –Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger,” National Women’s Studies Association Conference, 1981

Artist: Daiana Ruiz

Many of us recall when #45 described his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as a nasty woman. He intended it as an insult, but his remark–steeped in misogyny–invited a world of women to “stay nasty.”

The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day; a movement is only people moving. –Gloria Steinem

I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.  –Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

The postcards are part of The Future Is Female, a 2019 calendar package published by Workman Publishing. The calendar is a rallying call to women–inspiring “a year of activism, unity, and sisterhood.” A portion of the proceeds from the calendar sales will be donated to Girls Write Now, a nonprofit organization “that mentors underserved young women and helps them find their voices through the power of writing and community.”

I hope you’re inspired by the words and art.

Stay tuned. I plan to write posts featuring the remaining eight postcards some time this week.

March on…

“Black Women Breathe Flowers Too”

black women breathe flowers, too.
just because
we are taught to grow them in the lining of our
quiet (our grandmothers secret).
does not mean
we do not swelter with wild tenderness.
we soft swim.
we petal.
we scent limbs.
love.
we just have been too long a garden for sharp
and deadly teeth.
so we
have
grown
ourselves
into
greenhouses.

–greenhouses
nayyirah waheed, salt.

Happy International Women’s Day 2019

Women’s History Month: Let’s Love Each Other Fiercely

The best kinds of friendships are fierce lady friendships, where you aggressively believe in each other, defend each other, and believe the other deserves the world.

My amazing bestie, Aleta, sent me an almost equally amazing “I AM WOMAN” package just in time for Women’s History Month (WHM), and I’m looking forward to sharing a particular set of woman-centered art she included [later, when I feel like tackling the scanning].

Of course, I love all the goodies she included, but the affirming note she enclosed gave me life and an idea for WHM:

This note is a tiny reminder of how awesome a friend, mother, wife, professor, mentor, intellectual powerhouse, and fierce human being you are. Keep living, growing, believing, and pushing for more. It’s promised you!

Her note lit a fire because it came just when I needed that “tiny reminder” of my fierceness. I want to “pay it forward” to others, so along with [or in addition to] the few dozen International Women’s Day postcards I send, I’m going to send similar notes and postcards to many of the women in my life.

Women take a lot of “stuff” from all directions. It can sap our strength and our self-image, so it’s nice to be affirmed and reminded of how truly awesome we are.

Why don’t you join me? Send a quick, encouraging note to the women in your life. All it takes is a few words and a postage stamp.

If all the girls were taught
how to love each other fiercely
instead of
how to compete with each other
and hate their own bodies,
what a different
and beautiful world
we would live in

–Nikita Gill–