Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Lookin' on the bright side

The other day I was looking through Bill Moyers “A World of Ideas,” published in 1989. It is billed as conversations with thoughtful men and women about American life today and the ideas shaping our future.

In the course of talking with historian Barbara Tuchman in the Watergate era, Moyers said to her, “You said that the American presidency has become a greater risk than it is worth. You said, “It’s no longer my country right or wrong, but it’s my president, right or wrong, so that the loyalty has been transferred from the country to the man, from the institution to the incumbent.”

And Tuchman responds, “No man can support that now. The only person whoever did was George Washington, who’s my example of a true hero… She went on to say that an earlier revolutionary hero, William the Silent of the Netherlands, is supposed to have said, “It is not necessary to hope in order to persevere.” She thinks that is a wonderful sentiment and notes that the Dutch revolt against the most powerful empire of Europe took 80 years.

Washington had faith in Providence, Tuchman says. He believed that no matter what we’ve suffered and what is going wrong, Providence will bring it right, as it so often has before.

It is comforting that while we tend to despair over these times, they aren’t new, times have been worse, and if we are to believe George Washington, Providence will prevail.

Meanwhile, it is glorious summertime. Make the best of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Filling a need: writers groups

Writing is a lonely business. And it can be scary. It requires confronting a blank screen or sheet of paper in hopes of filling it up with little black marks that will have some value and contribute to a whole that floats elusively around in your head insisting on coming to life.

Sometimes it seems like a disease or an addiction or a time-consuming hobby that makes you sit still and think—and thinking is hard work. Well, so is sitting still.

That’s why people who write tend to gather together to form little groups to help each other. Over time these groups become a place to find friends, confidantes, mentors and sources of encouragement.

The writing/critique group that I belong to has been meeting every other Friday morning for well over a decade. There’s food and drink and chit chat before we get down to business, sharing our work with each other and offering suggestions from little nitpicks to bigger issues such as plot, dialogue and creation of scenes.

I feel fortunate to be part of this group that helped me to turn a non-fiction account into something resembling a novel. It wasn’t easy, for them or for me, a journalist at heart.

Our group has formed Penstemon Publications to bring our writings to life. We are celebrating with an “authors potpourri” event at a unique and charming bookstore in Loveland, Colorado in a couple of weeks.

It’s going to be great fun to be together to share our work with visitors in a readerly location. Is readerly a word?  I’ll have to ask my writers group.

My new book, Still Running, will be available as well. I'm excited to share it!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

An incentive to head for the hills

It’s a long way from Manchester, UK to Fort Collins, Colorado, especially if you’ve never been to the USA before and you aren’t exactly sure what you are in for. John Waterhouse, a friendly fellow from Manchester who joined our group a year ago as we walked the Coast to Coast path across England, decided sometime this winter that he’d like to cross the pond and check out the Colorado mountains.

Despite never being in the U.S., John is a well-travelled hiker and mountain climber and has seen much of the world pursuing his love of the outdoors. A couple of days after his arrival, we headed for the Indian Peaks area near Boulder to climb up to Blue Lake. After a 90-minute drive into remote back country, we arrived at a nearly-full parking lot. We were not the only ones with this idea, even though it was a weekday.

It took about two hours of hiking on a trail sometimes rocky, sometimes soggy with spring runoff and with a log crossing over a swiftly running stream before we arrived at a small lake, nestled into a depression among the surrounding hills, rapidly filling up as streams of melted snow cascaded down the hillsides. The sky was blue, blue, there was a breeze blowing and huge chunks of melting ice in several shades of blue floated in the icy waters.

I was thankful to John for coming to these parts. It had been way too long since I’d been up in these hills, and if it weren’t for him, I’d no doubt have been pulling weeds in my sorry-looking garden.  The weeds will never go away for good, but these amazing summer days and the spectacular nature of the Rocky Mountains is only accessible for a few months every year. And we have only so many years to do these things.

Today we are off to show John some Wyoming rock formations and the next day we’ll hike again, closer to home this time and with as many of our Coast to Coast walking group that we can round up to go with us.

Thanks again, John. Come back soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A collection of stories about running

As of this morning, Still Running is a reality. Find it on Amazon as a paperback or ebook. It has been such a fun project. Now my task is to let people know that it exists.

I didn't enter a running race until 1976, the summer of my 40th birthday. Forty-two years later, I'm still at it. I've had so many great experiences--going places--meeting people--learning life lessons--through running. This compilation of stories, many of them originally written for a newspaper column, is my way of sharing my love of the sport. I hope it helps to explain the magic of this passion of mine for runners, would-be runners, and anyone curious about what's so fascinating about putting one foot in front of the other over and over again.

Reviewers say:

“Libby James has created a charming volume filled with the pleasures of running whether out her back door into the Colorado foothills or through the streets of downtown Tokyo in a mass of marathoners. She shares adventures, travels, friendship, disaster and advice with a humorous touch. Read and be inspired by an American legend.”

Paul Carlin, head writer, long distance running, National Masters Running News
Blog: --

“Runners are often guilty of talking about nothing but running at parties. Partners and friends of runners beware: Libby James’ fascinating and entertaining book provides runners with a pile of humorous and touching stories to keep the tradition going. Her exquisite writing preserves for all of us the thousands of details of a runner’s life which elevate the status of our running stories to ‘epic.’ As you read these entertaining stories, you will crack a smile as details of this enduring and joyful runner’s life invite memories of your own to surface.”

Melody Fairchild, 3-time winner, Bolder Boulder 10k, first US woman to break 10 minutes for 2 miles, coach, Boulder Mountain Warriors, Boulder Women Run and kids running camp.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Art of Storytelling

Last night I heard six people get up on a stage and tell a story about the song that changed their life. Four of them knew ahead of time that they were going to perform, but the other two did not. They were willing tellers though, because they had thrown their names into the hat agreeing to speak if their name were drawn, but they’d had no time to plan or make notes.

This is an event presented four times a year by KUNC, the local Public Radio station in Greeley-Fort Collins. Admission is free. The venue is the newly-opened, funky art theatre, the Lyric in Fort Collins. The evening is reminiscent of the Moth Radio hour on National Public Radio.

This evening was special because after each story, a talented singer-guitar player played and sang the life-changing story.  One storyteller remembered how her dad’s rendition of Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore often followed by Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley and the one about that life-long ride on the MTA in Boston quieted six rambunctious kids bound for Cape Cod squeezed into the back of the family station wagon. Somehow, the repetition of round after round calmed down the fractious siblings and they made it to the beach in one piece every weekend, a routine that continued all summer.

Others remembered songs that helped them out of a tight spot, saved them from possible harm when they accepted a ride from a questionable hitchhiker, set them on the road to a singer-songwriter career or even saved their lives at a dark point.

These people were poised and funny, emotional and authentic, so willing to share, with a roomful of strangers, how a piece of music had changed their lives. I admire their guts and their talent. They make it look easy. I don’t think it is.

Thanks to KUNC and National Public Radio for giving them the opportunity and making possible a fun-filled and meaningful evening.

By the way, Still Running a book of stories about my life on the run will be available soon on Amazon. I’m waiting for a final proof.