Change History … or Face the Salon?

When I focus on how I changed history, altering someone’s life, I cannot help but think that drawing attention to such a thing is just an exercise in ego massage. Naturally, with the religious guilt I still cart around, I hung my head.

Twenty seconds later, another feeling burst to flower.

“What to heck is wrong with that?”

I like it. However, to deal with a lingering thread of confusion, I can participate only by sharing the spotlight.

Is it wrong to admit that I have helped a friend through two decades of L’Oreal? Talk about change. Oh my gawd! When it worked, it was the best of times. When it didn’t, it was the very worst. (Yes. I dared add that useless adverb so you, dear reader, would dwell on it a few seconds longer, conjuring up images of depth and despair.)

When we’re drowning in the latter, the solution usually needed another trip to the store and two extra colourings–all of which culminated in a fried scalp and a friend I couldn’t recognize in a crowd for weeks.

I don’t know. That sounds dubious to me.

How about that my friend has held my hand through one bad hair year that shot for a trifecta, to fixations on a purple-pink checkerboard, raven black brush cut–a phase when only a bonafide barber would do–all the way to a beehive coronation by an over excited hairdresser.

No matter, we birthed, molded, shaped, and scraped, burnt, teased, and sometimes eased, hair care for each other. Cried and lied (about how much we love it). Shared and laired (holed up while things got better). First, cursed and always coerced, till combs do part us forever.

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“Dreamwood” by Adrienne Rich


In the old, scratched, cheap wood of the typing stand
there is a landscape, veined, which only a child can see
or the child’s older self, a poet,
a woman dreaming when she should be typing
the last report of the day. If this were a map,
she thinks, a map laid down to memorize
because she might be walking it, it shows
ridge upon ridge fading into hazed desert
here and there a sign of aquifers
and one possible watering-hole. If this were a map
it would be the map of the last age of her life,
not a map of choices but a map of variations
on the one great choice. It would be the map by which
she could see the end of touristic choices,
of distances blued and purpled by romance,
by which she would recognize that poetry
isn’t revolution but a way of knowing
why it must come. If this cheap, mass-produced
wooden stand from the Brooklyn Union Gas Co.,
mass-produced yet durable, being here now,
is what it is yet a dream-map
so obdurate, so plain,
she thinks, the material and the dream can join
and that is the poem and that is the late report.

Adrienne Rich, 1987.


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Meet Carol Argyris, A Scottish Author and Poet

What are you working on?

I’ve written an eighty thousand word children’s novel pitched for nine to twelve-year olds about a furry four-armed alien called Yub who, a teenager on his own planet, has a special ability that allows him to travel through space. His planet is dying and all its inhabitants live underground in biospheres built after the Cataclysms (a war) that caused the destruction of the protective atmospheric shield around the planet. Looking for a planet like his own was before the violent changes. Yub arrives in the North of Scotland and contacts a teenage boy, Josh, who is also feeling a bit alien as he is an incomer from the south. With the additional help of another isolated incomer, Leonie, they get Yub’s family and closest friends to Earth and hide them. There are many ups and downs, some humour, and some real-life problems like Leonie’s relationship with her chronically depressed father.

I’ve written it, edited and re-edited, worked on a sequel, and think it is good enough to publish but haven’t enough courage to try sending it to any publishers! My self-confidence comes and goes.

I’m also working on a sort of patchwork novel which gives me a chance to make stories up for the characters that fill my imagination. It’s much more adult but doesn’t yet have a connective ‘voice.’

How does your work differ from others in the genre?

That is an extremely difficult question. Quick answer: I’m not sure either of these novels actually differ much from what’s on the market already. Probably because I am older I will have a more old-fashioned approach to writing children’s stories but I have read a lot and still enjoy teen fiction (Kathy Reich’s ‘Virals’ for instance.)
I love J.K. Rowling’s style and would like to be like her without actually emulating her (if you see what I mean). What I admire is her talent for spinning a good yarn, for creating characters who are real and walk off the page, for always mixing in touches of humour with drama even when the situation is dire. She has created a world of friendship, loyalty, bravery and good intentions, the most valued qualities. She creates a whole world in which children love to lose themselves. In my opinion, children need escapism as much as adults and really don’t want ‘real life’ stuff about drugs, getting pregnant, dysfunctional families, or the terrible life of children in war-torn lands, thrust at them constantly. That sort of ‘good for you’ genre reminds me of the books I used to get given as ‘prizes’ at Sunday School, moralising Victorian works like ‘Mary Jones’s Bible.’ They darkened my days–and completely put me off religion, I might add!

Why do you write what you do?

That’s another poser. I’ve written both the children’s story and portions of the adult novel with great enthusiasm and enjoyment. The characters for the latter are people I would like either to meet or be and their psychology amuses me. Probably they are all projections of myself; that’s fine. It’s like being allowed to be multiple-personality-me.

I love crime novels so it is shaping into one of those, but I do have to avoid police rules or autopsies because, though I’ve read a lot about both, I don’t want to get into areas that I only half understand. It would distract from the intricacies of the human mind behind the crime and the reactions of the other characters involved one way or another.We shall see.

How does your writing process work?

I used to always be writing something but have never been very good at consistency or discipline. Family matters and daily obligations easily distract me. It has been better since I retired properly and I have acres of time to myself – I love that. Once I do hit a hot spot I can write for eight hours a day, coming up for air only for coffee and snacks. I love that. At those times even when I lay down to sleep my mind is busy with the next chapter or event. Then months will go by and I can’t bring myself to add anything or even glance at what I’ve done. During this period, I usually write poetry. Recently there have been times when I write nothing. Strangely, I think this has come about because I joined a writing group. They are supportive people and for nearly a year, I loved my Tuesday evenings. Then I started to feel full up with other people’s words and my output dried.

I’ve stayed away for two months – it’s coming back.

So, no words of wisdom here. I am an author who has self-published three small collections of folk tales indigenous to this part of the world. Everything I hear about getting published, from people who are really successful with their writing, is dedication, determination and discipline. I think that the added ingredient is enjoyment. The most successful authors are the ones who almost can’t help themselves–they have to write. I have found that I feel much better when I am writing poetry, which isn’t what I expected; I thought I was a story-teller. It has been quite a surprise and a great pleasure to find my poetry is acceptable.  The ultimate secret! Do what you’re good at.

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My Story | Our Story Welcomes – Jane C. Colby


It is my pleasure to welcome and interview Jane Colby on our blog today.

Jane has been writing for many years. She has a BA Hons (1st) specializing in creative writing, and was a school principal until she was hit with a severe case of ME from a virus related to polio. She runs The Young ME Sufferers Trust. Her blog is at


My Writing Process

I was very happy Terry Gibson invited me to join her to discuss my writing pursuits. I got to know Terry through Twitter and found her own blog inspiring. Recently she posed a question about memories from childhood that sparked off just the right anecdote for a speech I was writing. Thanks, Terry!


What are you working on now?

Something I can’t wait to get on with–the next episode of my book ME – The New Plague 2. Its theme is the link between the disabling disease ‘ME’ (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and the dreadful scourge of polio, and it advocates strongly for the patient’s voice – too long drowned out – to be truly heard. Given this sobering theme, I need continuing inspiration. If it all sounds terribly ‘worthy’ and suspiciously boring, I’m happy to say that readers so far assure me it’s not!

There’s just no excuse for writing a boring book, is there? I open with a scene in a television studio … I had to lay it aside for a while because June 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the UK charity I run for children with ME at As part of our Fighting Injustice focus we have joined a legal action against a law that Scotland has enacted to give all children state guardians (now called Named Persons) who, it appears from the legislation, will be able to override the will of children’s parents. Now that our anniversary event in the House of Lords (Palace of Westminster) is over,and the papers filed with the Court, I can finally get into the book again.


What makes your work unusual?

Although it’s non-fiction, it’s written using creative writing techniques. I need to draw readers into it – especially those who wouldn’t choose to read about ME – I want to surprise them out of their expectations. It’s quite controversial. You could probably call it ‘friction’. It’s the first time I’ve published a book in this way, episode by episode, while I’m still writing it. Is it a blog or a book? Some readers have called it a blog. Whatever, I excitedly follow a method used by my writing hero, Charles Dickens. And that’s a buzz.


Are you a writer with a cause? Why do you write what you do?

Because I must. I long to write something different after I complete this book. Fiction, poetry, memoir, all of which I have studied and worked at, and love.

My involvement in this is the fault of my consultant microbiologist/friend, who dragged me into it, then vanished into the woodwork when our work caused a media storm! Dear Betty. But that’s another story. Most of my published work has so far been journal articles, features, guidelines, whatever works to spread knowledge of this much misunderstood disease. The rights of families to care for and educate their children in ways that help them recover must be promoted and defended. Like the mountain, this ginormous obstacle is there and I have to try to surmount it.


How does your writing process work?

Organically. Whether I’m converting longhand notes into text, or starting a piece from scratch on my computer, I usually wait until a line or two springs into my head. That indicates that my brain is ready. It takes far less time for the words and ideas to flow and it’s very like free writing. It works best for me to edit section by section, and not wait to do so in its entirety. I treat prose like poetry; each sentence must have rhythm; I must get the wording just so. I read it aloud, over and over; it must feel good in the mouth and be performance-ready. Like music. I’m far more ruthless than I was before. I prune and prune,  and finally I read it out to my ‘critical reader’ who will point out anything that jars.

If I’m writing poetry, it’s always done in a notebook. I’m fussy about notebooks. I like them multicoloured with a good texture. They have to feel good in the hand. Pens too. I grew up watching my artist father produce glorious calligraphy and developed a love of aesthetic writing tools. Does that help the writing itself? Who knows? I like to think it does. If there’s a deadline, I work best right up to it. Scary, but it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Thank you again, Terry, for the opportunity to tell people about my methods. I hope they inspire someone out there to try something new.  My book episodes, and my Stripeysocks blog, are at

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One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVIII – Pablo Naruda

Mural del poeta chileno Pablo Neruda.
Mural del poeta chileno Pablo Neruda.









I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.

I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.


Pablo Neruda.


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My Heart’s Longing …

The World Peace monument in a pond next to a s...
The World Peace monument in a pond next to a statue of the Buddha on a lotus in Swayambhunath temple site, Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My heart’s longing is for a peaceful world and that warring factions everywhere somehow wake up to the senselessness of continuous destruction, bloodshed, and killing.

I yearn for a bliss-ninny’s contentment in love. To find the eternal satisfaction popular media romanticizes. To be soaked in happiness and appreciation for all that I have, instead of focusing on innocuous things that matter little.

My heart’s longing is for the ability to one-day continue my education and complete as many degrees as I want. This is not just because I must be a ‘woman of letters’, but to satisfy myself at having accomplished so much given the dodgy package life gave me with which to build something, anything and hopefully, good.

I yearn for lots of future travel. To check out Vietnam, Chile, Finland, go to Scotland and Cuba again. I hope to work for a friend of a friend’s NGO in Nepal.  All of this—while I write books.

My heart’s longing is to purge my body of the tumultuous emotional tangents I wander off on occasionally.  I want to feel rage against the ails of the world but not lose myself to them.

I yearn for an ever-widening global community, the resources I need as an effective source of support to women’s groups in developing countries. To find some way to honour the struggles of women, especially the isolated and poor, and help advance them toward their immediate goals.

My heart’s longing is that my father-in-law fares well tomorrow for his first chemotherapy treatment for an aggressive stage 4 non Hodgkins lymphoma. However, he said yesterday, “I feel rotten!” and I am afraid he will not do well. I think he will deteriorate rapidly and feel distraught about it. The toll this is taking on my mother-in-law is gut wrenching to watch.

I yearn for the day when people (including myself) become mindful of their choice of language.  Their intentional and inadvertent use of sexist stereotypes, regular ‘slams’ (verbal abuse) against women, even when the speaker is also female.

My heart’s longing is for harmony within this soul of mine, hewed brutally by repeated criminal victimization.  I need courage when I feel like an empty scarecrow faking bravado in a corn field, too alive with the flapping wings of six half-starved four-foot buzzards. I hope for strength.

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Like a kid stuck in a guilty stammer

I just failed a test in grammar

Adverbs and verbs did not agree

They quibbled, declaring

Themselves more worthy!

Why do I bother?

I thought in a huff

Allow them to mingle

Play the role of

Hot Stuff!


Terry Gibson, 2014.






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Adelstrop – by Edward Thomas


English: Adlestrop station sign in the bus she...


Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

by Edward Thomas


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Sitting Quietly

Shambhala Buddhist Shrine



While I was sitting quietly, I thought about our discussion of Blaise Pascale on Roadmap this week. I ran across the name ‘Blais’ once. It was an ex-employer’s surname and the ‘s’ was silent, so you pronounced it as if you were spitting a bit of lint off your tongue. It didn’t have the command or sophistication of so many French words and names. To me, it was like calling your son ‘Milieu’.

While I was sitting quietly, I startled myself with a cough and realized that I was getting sick, again. Then I remembered the husky-voiced star of a movie we watched recently, who reminded me of Susan Brown’s comments on writing sex scenes. How bad ones are, well, really bad. Touted as exhilarating and erotic, this was a primetime stinker. It did not happen, people. You can laugh, throw your hair around and proposition while rasping all you want but if there is no chemistry between the pair, it won’t work. It can’t be sexy just because those three letters, in that order, are in the word. It was a punctuated snooze-fest.

While I was sitting quietly, I realized I wasn’t asleep at all but awake and having fun, wandering through my amazing but ugly-looking brain. (Yes. I saw a diagram of one recently in a course about that very organ.) Opening my eyes, I discovered that I was in my Shambhala ‘Contentment in Everyday Life’ class and the room was full of people of all ages. Many sat, cross-legged, warrior style, on gold satin zafu pillows filled with buckwheat hulls, while others, with bad backs like myself, sat on chairs. I recalled how Shastri Leesa said that our belly muscles would strengthen as we deepened our meditation practice. I looked forward to sitting on the floor with everyone else soon and relaxing, certain I wouldn’t burst into a Tourette-like whirl of profanities in a room so quiet you could hear somebody’s zen state fizzle.

While I was sitting quietly, I discovered that I wasn’t sitting at all. Nor was I silent. In fact,  it was the last night of the Commonweal retreat and I was standing on that tiny white stool in front of the podium, projecting my voice to the last row of the audience. The air was stifling and thick with emotion. I was reading a poem in honour of Laura, given her Mom’s health took a sudden turn sending her daughter off on a two-and-a-half hour drive just after midnight. My mouth was dry and I was at one of those split-second intervals where, as I explained to David later, I was on the verge of panic. Inhaling deeply, fighting back tears, I felt a surge of fire within me. I carried on with the story of my mother, while flashing on Bushwhacker’s flaring nostrils during a random ad for a bullfighting competition. (Although I have cut down on my TV by eight-five percent, occasionally some stupid commercial will pop into my awareness.)

While I was sitting quietly, I realized, yes, life entails suffering. Lots of it. Women are hurting. Aboriginal and Indigenous peoples the world over are hurting. People in the Gaza are dying. The First Nation’s woman who had half her family wiped out in a month was in agony. Despite our differences, I knew that emptiness. The shock. Hurt. Unanswered questions. Why? What did I do to deserve THIS? I knew what it felt like to be so livid you think your head will spontaneously combust after leaving brain tissue on the walls.

While I was sitting quietly, I knew it was all such an exquisite pain. I appreciate every second of this life although my mother threw me and it away like last week’s garbage. My emotions steer me on many tangents at the most inopportune moments but I want this life. People can and will refuse to give me work, look at me with suspicion because I’m depressed, and make me feel like wasted space when my defenses are down. I do, however, want this life–even when my spine is screaming at me, “It’s time for more steroid shots!” I am alive to it all, good and bad. Finally, I can explore who I really am. Between that, and loving others, I have everything. Even if I live in the streets. Thankfully, I am not a Blaise or Milieu and there is nothing average about Terry despite my name.

Now that I can’t even pretend to sit quietly–I’m bursting with life–it’s time to get up and go give my best friend a long nurturing hug.






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