Jun. 23, 2009

The Sun Grows In Your Smile

by Linda Rodriguez

When you smile, the air grows warm and soft,
the earth is watered with gentle mists,
seeds sprout and spread leaves above the dark, damp soil,
earthworms pierce the crust and frolic across the surface
to the delight of fat, happily hunting robins,
lilies of the valley unfurl beside purple, grape-scented irises,
fat pink and maroon peonies, and gay California poppies,
damask roses hurl their rich fragrance to the wind,
the crazy-with-sheer-joy song of the Northern mockingbird
echoes above other chirps and sweet winged notes,
gardeners join the worms in the warm, rich dirt,
children gallop across yards and grab handfuls of dandelions
to present to mothers who will set them in glasses of water
in kitchen windows or on dining room tables, weeds
glorious after the dark of winter with the color of the sun
that grows and warms and heals in your smile.

"The Sun Grows In Your Smile" by Linda Rodriguez, from Hearts Migration. © Tia Chucha Press, 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1868 that the typewriter was patented, by Christopher Sholes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1873, he sold the patent to the Remington Arms Co., a famous gun maker, for $12,000. There had been typewriters before, but they weren't very practical — it took longer to type a letter than to write it by hand. The first commercial typewriter based on Sholes' design, a Remington Model 1, went on the market in 1874.

Ernest Hemingway, (books by this author) loved his Royal typewriter. He kept it in his bedroom so it would never be too far away, and he put it on top of a bookshelf and wrote standing up.

Hunter S. Thompson, (books by this author) wrote on a red IBM Selectric. One of his first jobs was as a copy boy for Time, and while he was supposed to be working, he used a typewriter and typed out, word for word, all of The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms, in order to learn something about writing style.

Jack Kerouac, (books by this author) was fast at typing, and it frustrated him to have to change the paper so often. So he took long sheets of drawing paper, trimmed them to fit in the machine, and wrote all of On the Road that way. When he taped them together at the end, the manuscript was 120 feet long.

It's the birthday of novelist Michael Shaara, (books by this author) born in Jersey City, New Jersey (1928). He was a teacher at Florida State University, and he also wrote short stories and a novel, The Broken Place, that didn't sell very well. Then he started reading the letters that his great-grandfather had written while he was a member of the 4th Georgia Infantry during the Civil War. Shaara's great-grandfather had been wounded at Gettysburg, so Shaara decided to take a family vacation to Pennsylvania and try to imagine his great-grandfather's experiences there. He had heart problems, and he couldn't climb many of the hills, so his 14-year-old son Jeff would hike up the hills and then come down and describe the landscape and the feelings he got there as best he could.

After that, Shaara spent years researching and writing a book about the Civil War. Since he taught during the day, he would write at night, drinking cup after cup of coffee and smoking cigarettes. When he finished his book, it was rejected by 15 publishers and finally bought by the David McKay Company. The Killer Angels was published in 1974. It got mixed reviews and sold poorly, and nobody paid much attention to it. So it was a shock to Michael Shaara and everyone else when The Killer Angels was awarded the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. But it still wasn't a commercial success. Michael Shaara died of a heart attack in 1988, and in 1993, Gettysburg, a film based on The Killer Angels, finally made the novel a best seller. It was so successful that his son Jeff, who had taken over his father's estate, decided to try more books in the series, even though he had no writing experience. But Jeff Shaara's prequel, Gods and Generals (1996), and his sequel, The Last Full Measure (1998), were both big best sellers.

In The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara wrote that there is "nothing quite so much like God on earth as a general on a battlefield."

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer David Leavitt, (books by this author) born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1961). He published his first story in The New Yorker when he was just 22 years old, called "Territory." It's the story of a young man who returns home to tell his mother that he is gay. He went on to write many books, including Family Dancing (1984), The Lost Language of Cranes (1986), and The Indian Clerk (2007).

In his essay about his peers, "The New Lost Generation," Leavitt wrote: "Rather than move, we burrow. We are interested in stability, neatness, entrenchment. We want to stay in one place and stay in one piece, establish careers, establish credit. … It's okay to be selfish, as long as you're up front about it. … We trust ourselves, and money. Period."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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