Newsletter 022 – September 9th, 2022
About the image above: It’s a picture I took six years ago of the first checkpoint before entering Stiles Unit, the Texas prison where my brother, Steve, is incarcerated. See the Aggravated website if you don’t already know about Steve’s situation.
In newsletters 10 through 16, I told you about the novels I’m currently working on, and about plans I have for future novels. Newsletters 17 through 21 were about training, about editing, and about writing retreats (see the Blog Index for archived copies of any of those newsletters if you missed them). This time, though, I’d like to let you climb inside my head to see what’s occupying my thoughts at this very moment. If it ends up just being a ramble, I apologize in advance.
Tonight (August 26th, 2022) I’ll be going to bed around 9:00 PM, and will get up about 4:00 tomorrow morning (a couple of hours earlier than usual for both sleeping and waking). I have to leave before 5:00, so I can arrive at Stiles by 7:00 (it’s a little over a hundred miles away). The checkpoint at the image above opens at 7:00, so that’s the earliest I can get there. I’ll be visiting my brother for the first time in over two-and-a-half years (the last time was mid-January 2020, just before Covid invaded our shores). By March 2020, during one of our weekly phone conversations, he told me that the prison system (the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, TDCJ), “wasn’t going to allow visitors for a while, probably a month or so.” Obviously, that estimate was way short of reality. Now, though, even though Texas is still only about three-quarters vaccinated, I finally feel like I’m protected enough (double-vaccinated, double-boosted, with another booster soon to be available) to take a chance on going into an environment where a crowd of people are seated close together in the same room talking very loudly.
During the past couple of years I only ventured outside our house rarely, and (aside from the flight I took to Maine in June – see Newsletter 21) haven’t been on any extended trips, so this will be another step toward normalcy for me. For most of our time during the pandemic, Minay and I took turns running errands, and those were mostly to the grocery store, but occasionally a hardware or electronic store for me or a fabric store for her. On an individual basis, either one of us might go nearly a whole month before it was our turn to make a grocery run again (usually when we ran low on milk and/or fresh veggies). We did of course go to doctors and dentist appointments when necessary, and did try to combine grocery trips with other necessities. I’m sure many of you had similar experiences.
I’ve been thinking about the time the country spent dealing with COVID-19, and have come to realize how fortunate Minay and I were. Neither of us worked at jobs anymore that required us to go to a business on a daily basis. Our work (my writing and her quilting and pattern designing) is almost entirely conducted inside our home. The thirty months (January 2020 to June 2022) that I consider The COVID Years didn’t cause a drastic shift in the way either of us run our businesses, and it didn’t affect our personal lives too much either. We already had over a decade of being together 24 hours a day (I retired in 2009) to get used to living (as Shakespeare might say) “cheek by jowl,” so being forced to isolate ourselves turned out to not be a devastating experience for us. I hope it wasn’t for you as well.
Well, I had better get to bed if I’m going to get any sleep tonight.
It has been said there are two different types of fiction writers, plotters and pantsers. Which of the two I am is the topic of the next newsletter. See you then.
[“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays.
“The incarcerated lead noisy lives of quiet desperation.” Michael Sirois, Aggravated.]
My brother, Steve, at the Stiles Unit, posing with his son and daughter during his 12th year of incarceration (2018). He’s in his 16th year now, not quite halfway through his 35-year sentence.
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