A Day in the Life of a Writer

It would have to be Saturday.

On Saturdays, my husband and I go down in the morning to Aikido Fresno, where we study Toyama-ryu Iaido, the Japanese Art of the Sword, with Shiomi Sensai.

There are many schools of Iaido. Toyama-ryu was founded about a hundred years ago, after the Japanese push for Westernization created an officer class who were not familiar with the use of the katana, the Japanese sword. The Emperor of Japan caused the school to be founded, to teach officers how to draw and cut with the sword. Consequently, Toyama-ryu’s symbol is the Imperial chrysanthemum.

Toyama ryu

Toyama-ryu is practical, and in part aimed at teaching how to draw the sword very fast, because if you have your sword drawn before your opponent does, that can be a bit of an advantage.

I have been studying with Shiomi Sensai for nearly six years, and have earned my third degree black belt.

When I was young I was told that a black belt means that you have mastered all the basic techniques of a fighting style, and now you are ready to really learn what it’s all about. There are many myths around martial arts, but happily, in studying with Shiomi Sensai, this one turned out to be true.

Classes are small, and since last spring, when our most recent new students (of four years ago), passed their shodan (first degree black belt) tests, it is now a class entirely of black belt students. Thus, by the end of class, we are usually very tired and sore indeed.

By noon, when class is over, we generally grab lunch from one of the many nearby restaurants, and do some shopping. By the time we get home, it’s time to get ready for WITL, Writing in the Library.

Our local library had a NaNoRiMo (National Novel Writing Month – November) event several years ago, and to support writers taking part, the librarian, Sarah Lingenfelter, opened the library on Saturday afternoons (when it officially closed), for writers to come and spend a couple of hours away from distractions, writing in the library. WITL has been going on ever since. Six novels have been completed during that time; four have been published. While Sarah sometimes has writing exercises for us to try, usually we simply offer enthusiastic support for our successes, and companionship during the process of writing. To encourage production, writers decide by the end of each session if they’ve met their goals, and those who have participate in a drawing for little presents. If you win, you have to replace the present next time. It makes an enjoyable reward system for working productively at WITL.

At home we have sheep and chickens, who by the time we get home are overjoyed to be released from the pens while we do chores, and feed them, and shut them up again, with the enthusiastic assistance of our border collies.

Then we feed said border collies, and ourselves. If we’re not too tired, we sometimes play music together; my husband plays the dulcitar and I have been learning the fiddle. It’s fortunate our neighbors are too far away to hear, or at least to throw things.

Then, one more walk around the yard with the dogs to check the stock, and look up the stars, before putting the day to bed.

In the play Our Town, after Emily dies, she gets to go back to her life for one day, one ordinary day. For me, it would have to be a Saturday.

Where is my Very Fast Train?


My very fast train was supposed to be completed in 2008. There has been a lot of we don’t need no fast rail talk, but honestly, when is California, and the U.S., going to join the industrial world? All through Europe, you can get from one major city to another by rail. In Japan you can get to just about every city, and all around the country, by rail.

Not to mention that laying rail is one way to create a whole lot of good-paying jobs. And these are jobs you can’t outsource to China!

Just imagine if I could take a very fast train from Fresno, to San Jose, or San Francisco. I could drive down to the station, catch the train, read or talk, get off in San Jose, have dinner, see a show, or visit with friends, and then come back the same night.

I commuted to Foothill College three terms a year for ten years, driving in every week. Seven hours of driving, 180 miles each way. It is a pleasant drive. Pacheco Pass is beautiful. But I would much rather view it from the train.

If we had a very fast train, people could live in Fresno, and work in the Bay Area. We could go to Los Angeles on a day trip. China is building fast trains! Why are we stuck in the pre-industrial age?

Bring on California’s very fast train! Let’s finally enter the 21st century!