Tag Archives: writing

Pride of Place

18 Mar

Arkansan filmmakers who left the state are coming home—and they’re finding their state is much more than just a setting

chris-hicky

Director Chris Hicky (second from left) on the set of “The Grace of Jake,” filmed in Arkansas in September 2013

BY RHONDA OWEN

Quiet on the set. Roll camera. Roll sound.

The camera’s eye focuses on a man with slicked-back hair and tattooed forearms plucking razor-sharp twangs from an electric guitar as he sings, “It’s gonna rain, it’s gonna rain. Better get ready …” about Noah warning his people of the coming flood. The singer’s gritty voice rises above the metallic patter of raindrops upon a couple of window-unit air conditioners, inspiring a feeling that the tiny church may float arklike into surrounding fields if the rain doesn’t end soon. It’s almost too perfect—the rain breaking a month-long drought in the Arkansas Delta on the day Forrest City native Chris Hicky films a pivotal scene in the movie he’s come home to make. In the scene, ex-con Jake testifies about his coming to grace after traveling from California to Arkansas to confront his father. The rain provides a coincidental metaphor of renewal and restoration that fits the film’s themes but, thankfully, brings with it no threat of biblically proportioned devastation.

The downpour that began before dawn turned the churchyard into a bog, forcing Hicky to rearrange the shooting schedule so the crew could spend the day filming scenes within the church’s paneled walls, saving for the next day an exterior scene in which Jake helps the preacher paint the church. The crew members made the change easily, their synergy representative of everything Hicky had hoped for when he returned to Lee County to shootThe Grace of Jake, the feature-length film he dreamed of making for the past 10 years, which he spent in Los Angeles working his way up the industry ladder, from production assistant to director of commercials and music videos.

In bringing his passion project home to Arkansas, Hicky joins the ranks of other Arkansas filmmakers who left the state to create lives elsewhere but—inspired by nostalgia, personal experience and pride of place—have returned to make independent movies. For them, The Natural State isn’t just a backdrop but a fully realized character, sometimes breathtaking in its beauty, while at other times appearing timeworn, cantankerous and uncooperative. These filmmakers look through the twin lenses of heart and memory to see their home state as a character that is always alive and kicking, with a strong sense of self.

READ FULL ARTICLE as it appeared in Arkansas Life magazine, Dec. 2013

 
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Today’s resolution: Sustain my world

4 Nov

Just a short thought for today as I’m buried in work, playing catch-up after 10 days 0f vertigo. This sums up perfectly what sustains me — and what I am trying to sustain — at the moment:

“The three immovable and perfect rocks on which the judgments of the world are sustained: the poet, the written word, and nature.” — Irish triad from Senchus Mor

Colorado rocks on the deck rail, 2011 (Photo/RO)

Today’s resolution: Spinning a dizzying low

30 Oct

My world has been spinning for a solid week now as I fight vertigo resulting from labyrinthitis brought on by who knows what. A virus? Upper respiratory infection? Gremlins? BPA in my water bottle? A lack of hops?

I feel like I’m walking on the Titanic  and when I’m stationary, my head’s still a top on a string. So I haven’t been writing and I’m sorely missing it. I feel out of touch with reality, with imagination, with life, with the words that are the tools for my connections and how I keep things sorted. Every word puts something in the right spot, regulates flow of meaning like rings on pistons. Or something like that. As I said, spinning here.

My good news this week is that the venerable NPR radio show for Southern writers, Tales from the South, has accepted my story “Tony’s Gift.” I’ll read it on the Nov. 8 show at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock.

I sent the story in last month as a exercise in moving beyond my comfort zone. I figured if that went well, I would proceed on the next phase of pushing even farther outside the C-Zone. So now I’m out here, thrilled and terrified and hoping I don’t stutter.

Fortunately, I’ll be in the good company of fellow writer Tim Bennett, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for more than 20 years.

If you’re inclined, please come to the show and buoy me and Tim with positive vibes, all that good stuff. Tickets can be purchased here.

Now I feel the need to spin off in another direction… the inner ear provides a wild ride. But I know my friend Laura would add a song if she were writing about vertigo, so here you are — U2-Vertigo.

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Today’s resolution: A little mind dance

20 Oct

There have been times when my imagination has gotten me into trouble or thrown me into an anxious looping frenzy. Mostly, though, imagination has been my salvation. The world of my mind is a bright, brilliantly intense place of dance, color, light and song (yes, there, I can actually sing … and I dance, dance, dance in the music video of my life), and it’s full of imaginative people with the faces of flowers. As you may imagine, I have never needed hallucinogens.

Imagination means I never run out of ideas for articles and stories, and I never tire of interviewing interesting people. I marvel at my life sometimes, amazed that I’ve managed a career that allows me to run with my imagination.

So, today, I share with you another favorite passage from J. Ruth Gendler‘s The Book of Qualities:

“When Imagination walks, she writes letters to the earth. When she runs, her feet trace postcards to the sun. And when she dances, when she dances, she sends love letters to the stars.

“Some people accuse Imagination of being a liar. They don’t understand that she has her own ways of uncovering the truth. She studied journalism in junior high school. It gave her an excuse to interview interesting people. She was surprisingly good at writing articles. When in doubt, she just made things up. More recently, Imagination has been working as a fortuneteller in the circus. She has this way of telling your fortune so clearly that you believe her, and then your wishes start to come true.

“Imagination is studying photography now with an eye toward making films. She has no intention of working in one of those factories where they manufacture images that lull us to sleep. Her vision is more complex, and very simple. Even with the old stories, she wants us to see what has never been seen before.”

I very much want to meet Ms. Gendler.

Dancing statues near the Clinton Library, Little Rock, Ark. (2011/RO)

Today’s resolution: Love Whimsy

9 Oct

From The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler. The first time I read this passage, I thought, “This is me!”:

I painted my bathroom a bright shiny purple and put a huge gecko on the wall. It's a little crazy, but I like it..

“Whimsy is not afraid to be outrageous but she is basically shy. She has all kinds of books, and she arranges them on the shelves by the color of the cover or how the titles sound next to each other. She was especially pleased to put a book on African dyeing called Into Indigo next to a dark blue book on Jewish mysticism. Her clothes are also kept by color in the closet.

“When Whimsy was a little girl, she would stay in the museum with the marble walls talking to the statues after everyone else left. She has trouble keeping her shoelaces tied but in every other way she is as practical as your next door neighbor. Because she is wild, people expect her to entertain them. She is not encouraging anyone else to live like her. Remembering how abruptly her brother was locked up for being a troublemaker, she fears people who treat her like a curiosity. Freedom is her lover.”

Today’s resolution: ‘After the mystery’

5 Oct

As a writer, I’m always interested in other writers — why they write, what they get from it, what they hope to convey. Sometimes I look to them for explanations of myself, of what I do. Today, I turned to Wallace Stegner and his essay “The Law of Nature and Dream of Man: Ruminations on the Art of Fiction” (Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs) and found this:

“The writers I admire, and still admire, are not carpenters but sculptors. Their art was and is a real probe of troubling human confusions. … They were after the mystery implicit in the stone.”

Yes, the “mystery implicit in the stone.” That’s what I hope to uncover while writing. I want to reach a deeper meaning of something, of anything, of everything. I want to dig into those “troubling human confusions” that confound me and create currents of anxiety that are somewhat soothed by the perception of having touched upon a pebble of understanding.

The writing process is a struggle for I can never be satisfied with knowing just the facts. I have to find the why — more than the why, in truth. I often compare myself to other writers and wonder what satisfies them and if I’ll ever be satisfied with what meaning I manage to uncover through thought and language — or thought through language. So many doubts.

I find some comfort and inspiration in Stegner’s words: “By now I am prepared to guess that any method that lets a writer lay bare a moment of mystery is legitimate. Skill is whatever works. Different skills will work for different writers, and upon different readers, but any skill must work toward something.”

I have work to do.

Today’s resolution: Paradigms reordered

26 Sep

“You will have written exceptionally well if, by skillful arrangement of your words, you have made an ordinary one seem original.” — Horace

Old bricks made in Malvern. (2011/RO)