Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Not Out of the Woods Yet

I’ve not contacted the dating sites for old people that I thought might be the basis for my next novel, as I may have promised in the last blog. Last week I was hacked, that is, my computer was hacked, and I decided I didn’t care to share my interest in a new man with the Russians. The old one I have is adequate enough although not grist lately for my writing mill. Since I’ve heard no new stories of aging hands across the internet, my next inspiration came when I noticed that when one is driving along a road lined with second and third growth evergreen trees, all the same height like a field of corn because they were planted all in the same month, except that sometimes one tree many feet taller sticks up above  the rest.  My son, the woodsy guy, explained that when the first-growth trees were cut years ago, often one tree was left behind to mark the boundary of the plot. This tree is called a Witness Tree. It is probably over one hundred years old, still witnessing the world of second and third growths below it.

Think about this in terms of a novel:  a long-lived, tall old woman witnesses of the activity of younger ones living around her, their desires to grow, the havoc of natural disorders they endure, the destruction and scars left by mistakes and fate, and finally, the thinning out and weakening of that generation. When a new crop of seedlings is planted at her feet, our old woman settles back in her comfortable rocker and watches the third growth take over. 

I thought I had my next old lady novel. I could imagine my straight, tall Grandmother Gage, whom I knew only from a l930 photo, her gardening tools at her side, as my protagonist. She watches a second growth in her family, and I’m part of the third growth, my sons, already tall, are the fourth growth in this metaphor. I’d call the book Witness Tree, of course.

So, I Googled “witness tree” to get to make sure the facts in this nature-inspired story were mostly correct.  Lucky I did. I discovered that a book with my title, based on a woman’s fascination with a very old tree in New England, was published last year. That particular tree witnessed the Civil War and later historical events.  On the cover, the author sits at the base of the tree, patting its old bark. The book has very good reviews. Not only that, but other east coast Witness Trees were mentioned, mostly deciduous, none of them  a tall Doug fir.

When I told my son this disappointing news, he said I should consider other trees.  Had I ever heard of Nurse Trees, fallen old, old logs on top of which new, huge trees grow from the tiny seeds that have dropped on them? I Googled “Nurse tree,” saw photos. I remembered, then, I had seen them in the Hoh Valley of the Olympic National Park, roots tangling around the rotting trees that gave the new ones their start. They are intriguing, beautiful. I got excited for a minute or two. Maybe? But then I had trouble coming up with a plot involving a dead old woman with babies growing out of her body. I don’t write paranormal.  It scares me. Perhaps I’ll go back to old ladies placing ads on the Internet. 

Jo Barney Writes

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


I spent a sleepless night.  My midnight questions had to do with this blog. I’m already over two weeks overdue getting my monthly ponderings out.  So, what’s happening? Have I run out of blog gas? 

Probably.  I’ve written about my own misgivings about writing, my despair with being published, my dreams of a couple of new books which just won’t get written. Why no ideas now?

 I have looked at other writer’s blogs.  They describe the use of apostrophes, about the importance of the first sentence of a story, about building a platform, about buying their new books of advice.  I, for the past five years, have offered nothing of value to my readers ––o­­nly cries of frustration, anguish, a few visions of the tulips on my terrace, and maybe one or two dismal observations on being an old woman.  Advice, wisdom, words of value? NO.

It may be time to say goodbye to my readers, whoever they are, except for Steve, who always comments on my attempts to connect, and I am so glad for him, but how long can he keep jacking me up, making feel as if I’m connecting with someone?

I just read a free, unasked-for piece of advice about blogs that informed me that I should be having a conversation with my readers, asking them for help, for yesses and noes, for ideas, even.

I haven’t done any of that.  Only a few of my readers have felt it necessary to respond to my musings or my questions, or my deep thoughtliness. Last night I decided to try one more time to touch hands and minds with my readers.  I have had my evening white wine and I’m ready.

I write for older women, like myself.  My three books have done as well as can be expected, kind of like in a hospital for books. I have two more, also centering on older women and the new paths on which they hesitantly step. I haven’t found a publisher who wants to risk accepting them. I haven’t the energy to self-publish them. (I’m 82, now, as you know, if you have been following for a while.) For my sense of well-being, I need to get writing again and I need some advice—or inspiration—or a few new characters to inspire me–– from you, so here goes:

A friend calls, also “elderly” although the adjective makes us both sick to our stomachs. We start laughing as she tells about another friend, Mabel, who decided to find love somewhere, even in the over-fifty dating sites on the internet.  She has had several responses. Each leads her to believe that she may have to do this on her own: church choir, mah jon table, or a world-wide trip on a ship with lots of sea time and a few lonesome sailors. Or maybe, never, a loverless maybe where she and a few friends will drink white wine and stream TV shows.

 Mabel’s stories of searching for a man made us snort out loud. She turned down the thoughtful fellow who asked her if she minded if his erection lasted three hours.  “V, you know.”   And the one with the greasy forehead and nose hair who stiffed her for their wine and small plates, leaving her for the “boys” room, never to return.  And the shaky fellow who worried that if her children lived in her house, would there be any privacy?  “I live in a group home,” he added, not revealing what kind of group.  One nice, seventy-year-old, younger by a few years than Mabel, made it to her front hall, where he apologized for not heading directly to her bedroom because he’d masturbated an hour before and probably couldn’t function for a day or so. She hadn’t been thinking about bed at that point, only whether he drank decaf.

Okay, if you have read this far, I need your help.  Without names, tell me about other older folks who have tried to find love on the internet, because your stories will be in my next novel.  My 102-year-old mother unwittingly created the title when I asked how she was doing.  “Just plugging along,” she answered.

I will continue this blog, and I’ll try to make it a two-way conversation. I’ll ask for inspiration and you, if you want to, can answer in the comment column—or call me. 

Jo Barney Writes