The following is the second to last section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous sections here.
Lesson #1 – Find Beauty in the Smallest Things
Cassandra loved her granddaughter’s smile. Granted, if put under the gun, she would praise all of her grandchildren’s smiles, but there was something about young Toni Lyn’s smile that Cassandra found comfort in.
So when Toni Lyn called to ask if she could spend the summer with her on the Island, Cassandra immediately said yes. Toni Lyn’s parents however were less than amused with the idea when they found out. They feared that Cassandra would be a bad influence on their eighteen-year-old daughter’s perspective of the world. It wasn’t because of Cassandra’s past (they never truly knew about her time in Europe. Even for Cassandra most of it had slipped from memory and would only return as dark images in nightmares that left her strangely humming Mozart songs), but what Cassandra had become.
Cassandra had become a rascally old woman.
Cassandra loved to give her opinion about everything under the sun. Her opinions were always unique (and most of the time too unique). It was amazing to her children the change that occurred. It was almost as if Cassandra found a switch or a button that changed everything. Spending time with their mother soon became a chore of having to smile and nod to many strange and unique points.
Peter (the father of Toni Lyn) claimed the change in her personality arrived after her husband’s death. That was not the case. She was like this for at least three years before the good Reverend disappeared from her side. Living with her during that time could sometimes be uncomfortable for him. Where he seemed to fall back on his conservative upbringing and beliefs (and his questions pushed back into the shadows), she went to the other extreme.
By the “Summer of Poetry,” it had been four years since Jonathan’s death and Cassandra felt more alone each day. Her life seemed to follow a simple pattern. Continue reading
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in a January snow
does not touch your nose
or tickle your skin-
it begins in your bones
deep in your marrows
then slinks out
like a death
never letting go-
there is a limit
in our cold, cold steps
and each could be the fated last
but we trudge
forever counting down-
the sun is lost
baked red, hidden away-
the gray clouds will not free it
trapped like an animal
in a dark covered cave
waiting and growling deep-
when the world ends
it will look like a January morn-
and no amount of breath will bring it back- Continue reading
I am a little bit of a helpless romantic.
For those who read my novel A Jane Austen Daydream that is not at all surprising. And before I met my wife I thought of my writing as a gateway to the heart.
I was one of those fools that bought into the lie of the romantic novels and the romantic comedy films. You see this plot twist all the time! That grand gesture that makes a person reconsider another in a different light. Oh, it is a great idea in a story, but we all know, honestly, it goes against how people are wired in the real world.
Short stories with hidden messages (and not so hidden ones), books, and I still squirm to remember the poetry. I have admitted a lot of embarrassing stuff on this site, but this is one of those few memories I still want to crawl into a cave and live out my remaining days because of. Yup, just the hint of it makes me want to become a hermit.
I, Scott Southard, was the creator of bad love poems. And I have sent them, strategically left them around, and even mailed them once anonymously in the hope that it would make another stop and see me as hotter (as some kind of light rock classic kicks on in the background like in a bad movie). In the end it never worked… and, by the way, the recipient of the anonymous love poems didn’t even figure out they were from me until I said something! Ouch!
All those bad memories aside, there is something to be said for the importance of an audience. I’m not just talking about the readers all writers dream to have, I mean that more enigmatic dream of a reader. The one we hope will find our work, the one in the back of our mind that drives the creation forward. They demand the story. What many don’t realize is that dream reader can be a tool, and can help over many different steps in the creative process if used right. Just be sure to leave the poetry at home… Continue reading
Chicago trip/tolls/Red Vines & a Coke/a podcast about Rome at night/an antique land bathed in spotlights and crowds/loud conversations, broken statues, winding narrow streets lost in shadows/wife tries to sleep-
Too-expensive hotel/broken shower/costumed adults running for a party/I’m seeking a Chicago dog/or a deep dish pizza/settled for sandwich/remembering another I had in Italy-
Dirty streets/with beggars and tourists/tall shining buildings/everyone has someplace to be/everyone has a camera/strangely feel guilty by my noncommitments-
Art Institute/I never look enough, I scan, scan, scan…/crowds fascinate me/I spy on the conversations/their casual mole/stealing moments around the moments captured on canvas/chiseled out of stone/moments around moments/I sit & think of that turn of phrase-
I worry about the clock/I worry about my writing and books/I worry about tomorrow/about the day after tomorrow/I worry about my children/the future/I always worry/in all these years it is now a friend-
I will probably always worry-
I should look around more/but I scan, scan, scan…-
I almost buy a shirt- Continue reading
Recently, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing put up a billboard celebrating a local poet. I first saw this sign while driving on a highway this weekend, and afterwards I spent 20 minutes trying to understand what I read and then wondering how that one little sentence exactly was poetry. How safe that was for me or the other drivers is debatable (Considering my driving skills it is always debatable when I am on the roads).
The sign read only this: “Blood beats history as presence.”
Imagine seeing that in big white letters with a black background while driving and you will understand my car’s slight swervings. (I get what the poet is saying, but the imagery being used feels very aggressive to me; “blood” and “beatings,” etc.).
I’ve never really understood modern poetry and the sad thing is I have tried. But like the Freemasons, they have their own secret rules and initiations into deciding who can and cannot be in the club. I was never honored with the customary black turtleneck and ink quill as it were; but, honestly, I never sought it out.
I like classic poetry. I can be moved by a Shakespeare sonnet. I am a fan of the Romantic poets (and have quoted Keats often in my work), but the freedom from the classic rules you find in modern or contemporary poetry is what disarms me. Some I really like (Henry Williams’ work jumps to mind.) Yet, poetry, like modern painting, seems to now exist somewhere down in the stomach as a gut/emotional reaction as compared to something that can be easily analyzed on the page. And if you don’t get it, well, you don’t get it.
Yet, while I can accept that I do not understand most poetry today, I have a deeper reaction to modern poetry than simple confusion… Fear. Continue reading
The Oscars always make me feel a little queasy. Award shows in general around the arts make me feel that way.
Oh, I’ve won some writing awards (it’s the reason why my books MY PROBLEM WITH DOORS and MEGAN were published- they were both honored in a writing competition), and was very grateful, but it still feels odd to me. I have no problem telling someone that a story they have is great, for example, or another writer that their story needs work, but to say one is better than the other… there is that queasy feeling again. Continue reading