“Sweetest Decline” by Beth Orton

Mountain ClimbingThis is the third in my “With Music” series, where I capture moments in my life through a song. The first entry was about a Ben Folds song and a girl with elf ears (you can read it here), the second was about being lost in Europe and Sheryl Crow (here).

It was never supposed to be a hobby. Let’s make that point clear. Since the age of 16, my focus and my aim was on one target, becoming a professional author. I even had an agent when I was a kid (the agent then tried to sell a collection I wrote, but we parted ways when I discovered to my horror they were calling me a new generation Beverly Cleary. I thought I was Ray Bradbury. Yeah, I was a stupid and egotistic teenager… But Beverly Cleary?)

And by the time of this tale (age 24), I had four screenplays, the scripts for a ten-episode radio series, and a mountain of short stories. I knew there were novels in me, but I just wasn’t feeling it yet. I just had too many ideas and the idea of focusing on one like that felt difficult. Whatever the case, my world and identity was engulfed in the idea of me being a writer. Not just any writer, but an important one, for the history books, one of the voices of a generation. Why aim for a lower target when the mountain is freaking right there?

Now this is the rub- I was in the graduate program for English Literature at Michigan State University and I was bored. Bored, bored, bored! The idea of writing and studying more writers (and probably going on for my Ph.D.) sounded so… sigh… dull. Another essay? Another literary criticism? Bored…

The fact is I just wanted to write! My literary cup was full, thank you very much!

So in January, I got this idea and by May it was done. I had dropped out of the graduate program, moved back to Grand Rapids, got a really nice studio apartment (seriously, it had a fireplace, but the flames were blue for some odd reason), and found a normal job. Hello life!

There was a certain amount of logic around this (at least logic that worked for my odd mountain-seeking brain), I would live in this place and create my masterpieces, then when ready I would explode into the world. The problem is that this was all based on the idea that inspiration would be there waiting for me in that apartment.

It wasn’t. Continue reading

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If I was… (part 2)

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If I was a chef I would have cheap macaroni-and-cheese dreams. My kitchen would never hold a single box of it. Heaven forbid! That kitchen would be photographed for magazines and analyzed by other chefs, debating the ingredients and items in it (Oh, he uses that product, I need one too!). One hint of such a box could ruin my reputation, make me a laughing stock. And, yet at 2 AM when everyone else is asleep and I am staring out my window I would think of that little quick dinner my grand-mama would make me so long ago. I would sit on the counter as she did it, and she would sing me songs in French, now and then taking a moment to rustle my hair.  In the morning, my master chef days would return: arguing with my maitre d over the menu, yelling at my assistants, and cursing at the delivery boys who always seem to arrive a little later each day (even though in my heart I know it is the same). Yet, through all of that, I would be reciting in my mind over and over again, “packet of cheese powder, little bit of butter, three tablespoons of milk and pasta…. maybe even with funny shapes.” Continue reading

The Mary Jane Legacy (It’s not about what you may assume…)

Something different on my site today, and from a different Scott Southard! My dad has his own blog where he writes on his experience working in health care and as a manager. In his most recent post he shared memories of his mom, my grandmother. It is a touching piece and I think really captures her strong personality and amazing mind. I hope you enjoy it.

Healthcare Leadership: A Discourse

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my mother, Mary Jane Southard.  She was a hard worker and a very smart woman with several graduate degrees, held a position in public education of which she was the first Michigan woman to do so, and was responsible for launching the education of innumerable children in our community.

Grandma S. copy

Even now, people in her town still recognize our shared last name and ask about her or have an endearing story to share of her seemingly unceasing generosity and kind heart.  It always fascinated my sons and me when out with her that people in their fifties or sixties would approach her and ask if she knew who they were.  And, like some sideshow act, she would look into these people’s eyes and without fail recognize them and call them by the name they preferred as a five-year old… and then…

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So-So-So (3 Days to 40)

Birthday CakeSo I was at the grocery store buying my wife a bottle of wine. The cashier (a broad-shouldered, older woman with a haircut reminiscent of something you would see in a lumberjack camp) took my ID. She looked at me, looked at my ID and then looked at me again. Immediately, I was overcome with a feeling of dread at the conversation coming.

“You got a birthday coming up,” she began. She sounded like a smoker, or she had a cold. Either way, her voice was rougher and deeper than mine. When I speak to people that have voices deeper than my own it always makes me feel like a kid and I should use words like “ma’am” and “sir.”

“Yup,” I replied simply. I hoped my short response with a word that wasn’t really even a word would end the discussion…. it didn’t.

“A big one,” she said with an evil smile. The smile was a tad disconcerting.

“Yes,” I  said with a nod. There was then this awkward pause.  Her, holding my license and smiling; me, doing my best not to make eye contact. After what felt like a minute, I added, “I’m trying not to think about it.” Continue reading

The Art of the Blog: Getting Personal

Blogs are always started with the best intention. A writer feels they have something to share, something that could enrich a reader out there in the stratosphere of the internet.

The funny thing is you see this a lot around the newly published, both self-published and professionally published. Did I say “a lot” in that last sentence? Good, because I meant to say “a lot.” And usually on these newly minted blogs there will be a few posts about their book, their experience writing it, and a few helpful suggestions and then… nothing. The internet is littered with the remains of these kinds of websites, something akin to a field after a rock concert. The party is done, but no one bothered to clean up the mess from the show.

Frankly, what the beginning blogger doesn’t realize is that it takes guts and stamina to write a true blog and to build a readership for it. A blog is more than a marketing tool, it is a new writing platform (and in my opinion could become its own powerful writing medium right alongside writing for plays, books, television, etc.), and if you don’t see it as such, you won’t be able to use it to its full potential. Yes, you can fill it up with advice and your opinion, but for people to come back again and again, there has to be something in your blog that is not available anywhere else on the internet…

I’m talking about you, by the way.

Continue reading

Five Things I Am Into Right Now, July 2012

Yeah, last month I complained about the heat, but I had NO idea what I was talking about when I wrote that. (Naive little man.)

July has been painful here, and besides the heat the weed pollen levels have been off the charts, making my allergies go crazy. Seriously, I awake each morning with red puffy eyes because of it. I look like Rocky Balboa screaming to be cut.

Anyway, through red eyes, here is my list for this month (I apologize in advance for the amount of superheroes in this installment):

Summer Blockbusters

This has been a phenomenal summer for blockbusters; the ones that have found success definitely deserve it. From The Avengers to Brave to The Amazing Spider-Man, each of these films are well-written, well-directed, and, well, just plain good. When was the last time we had a summer that knocked it this perfectly out of the ballpark? I keep thinking back to the summer of Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but that was decades ago. Continue reading

Upon The Ground: The Playground

Thanks to the reaction to A Jane Austen Daydream, GreenSpotBlue.com, has chosen to publish a collection of my short stories entitled Upon The Ground.

Each Tuesday, for the next fourteen weeks, a new story will appear on their site which I will link to in a post (like this) and on a new page I will be creating for the book.

This collection contains some of my best writing, including today’s first entry, which I think is one of the best things I have every done, and may ever do. It is called “The Playground.”  The story begins with a very flattering preface to the collection by Henry Williams, Executive Editor of GreenSpotBlue.com. After the jump is the first few paragraphs of “The Playground.” Continue reading