Posts Tagged ‘Writing a book

18
Aug
18

Stamina

I’ve noticed it all summer long—small minute observations of not being on my game. Whether it’s slowing down in the ring as the rounds add up or the feeling that I’m going to run out of breath when I walk from home to my writing room or from my office at work towards the subway.

These are things I take for granted: having the pep and vigor to work hard through my 16 rounds of training at Gleason’s or walking at my fast pace wherever I go, in fact hating when I amble as some sort of flaw in the process of how I move through space

And yep, it’s been hot and humid, even at 6:15 in the morning. And as for Gleason’s – well it’s a boxing gym! Air conditioning is for the winter when cold air barrels through because there’s very little heat—and summer, well, the heat and mugginess is just part of the “allure,” not to mention a sure fired way to loosen up tight muscles.

In contemplating why my stamina is off, and why there have been times this summer when I’ve had to stop in the middle of running pads with my trainer Lennox Blackmoore, sit for a while under one of the overhead fans with a wet towel on my head before picking it up again on the double-end bag or the speed bag, I’ve wondered if it’s just the heat, or something else.

Is it turning 64? Is it the process of the body inevitably slowing down even when one does the same thing repetitively? Is it mental? A sense of not being in the moment, my thoughts wandering off somewhere, stealing glances at CNN’s early morning news show as I shadow box around the ring—feeling my guts tighten and cringe at whatever the latest outrage is about children being separated from their parents or yet more cuts to things like food stamps and healthcare?

In thinking about stamina—that ability to work at something long and hard whether it’s something physical or mental or both for that matter—I’ve been thinking through the processes that gives one the feeling of invincibility as one works through the problem, whether it’s running five miles in a set amount of time, boxing a set number of rounds, or putting in the hours to write a book; efforts that require focus, attention, and a sense of being present with what one is trying to accomplish.

I’m hoping that my being “off” in the gym—is some combination of heat and mental focus, and in thinking it through even further I do have to own up to the fact that I’ve not been resting as I should and have been letting the day-to-day stuff we all live with “get” to me.

And so in trying to tease out stamina—I can see it as a “trifecta” of sorts: one part being in shape, one part being focused, and one part being present enough to let it all happen. And sure, it can be physical too—but the truth is, I just don’t buy, at least not yet, and so off I’ll go on Monday to work it out on the bag again.

13
Jan
14

Patti’s porch …

Patti’s porch …

Patti's porch ...

My friend Patti’s porch in Williamsville, Vermont, is one of those places in the world that forms still life images that are indelible.

I’ve sat on it, in winter and summer, spring and fall, but it never quite leaves me.

Red Keds, April 2013

When I was there last, the remaining vestiges of winter were still apparent. And yet I gamely insisted on wearing my summer Keds, despite the mud.

As a writer’s retreat, it was a perfect place with just the right amount of mist to shroud me as I strung together the words I needed to propel me that much further into my book, A History Of Women’s Boxing.

Yellow Barn in the Mist, April 2013, Credit: Malissa Smith

Now that it’s actually sitting with the publisher, I carry the images from Patti’s porch as some sort of proof that writing is a labor of love, no matter what its purpose.

Yellow Barn Close Up, April 2010

A road to travel.

Maybe to arrive some place and maybe not.

08
Aug
13

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Dixie Dugan

Dixie Dugan, Comic Book #1, Issued July 2, 1942, one of several comic books during the war years that featured women as strong fighters.

Hattie Stewart, 1883

Hattie Stewart, 1883, published in the National Police Gazette. She was one of two fighters who were known as the Female John L. Sullivan. The other was Hattie Leslie.

The process of writing a book is humbling (as in the magnitude of the task), daunting (as in a HUGE undertaking), exciting (researching and finding tiny pearls are truly the cookies), maddening (as in losing my way) and ultimately immensely satisfying with the proviso that you see humbling.

Writing a history of women’s boxing which has to be teased out of endless newspaper stories, still images, and bits of surviving slim and distant memories, is particularly so.  I worry that I won’t get it right, or in delving into one subject or another, that I’ll be tickling my own fancy to the point where the random reader will exclaim “WTF” never to crack the book open again.

Fact checking is also difficult (see daunting), but one does find a rhythm and learns to use phrases such as “it has been said” or “it was dubiously reported” … and so on.

What’s extraordinary to me is that women have persevered in a sport that loved to hate them.

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, that meant that women didn’t have the chance to fight professionally so they took to the variety theater stage instead.

Hattie Stewart was one boxer who plied the boards in the era. She and another fighter named Hattie Leslie were both known as the “Female John L. Sullivan.”  The never did meet in combat, though they called each other out in the boxing press. Unfortunately, Hattie Leslie passed away in 1892 from a sudden illness, so the fight of the dualing female Sullivan’s never did happen.

It’s also amazing to me that the writer Djuna Barnes penned articles about boxing–both from the point of view of being a spectator (My Sisters and I at the Prizefights) and in two interviews: one with Jess Willard not too long after he defeated Jack Johnson in 1915 (Jess Willard Says Girls Will be Boxing For A Living Soon) and one with Jack Dempsey published in 1921 (Jack Dempsey Welcomes Women Fans).

I find I have favorites too among the women I am writing about.

Belle Martell loses license.SANJoseEveningNews.27May1940.Page4.googleBelle Martel, the first female boxing referee, is someone I just adore.

She was a vaudvillian who met her husband Art, a former boxer, during her show business career. As the business died out with the advent of Talkies, she and Art settled in Van Nuys, California. He started a gym and began training youngsters how to box. Before long, she was in there with him and the two of them became very well known for the quality of the amateur boxing shows they put on–but really it was all Belle.

By 1940 she’d been a trainer, a boxing announcer, a time keeper, and as of April 1940, a duly licensed referee by the state of California Athletic Commission. Unfortunately, the hue and cry among certain folks in the boxing establishment and the press caused the Commission to issue a new rule less than a month later forbidding women from officiating at men’s fights. It was truly a blow to her heart, but she persevered and along with her husband opened the Martell Arena–fondly known as Belle’s Arena.

Gussie FreemanI also love Gussie Freeman (sometime known as Loony) who fought against Hattie Leslie in 1892 shortly before Hattie’s death.

They had a four-rounder at a theater on Grand Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was talked about for decades.

It was the kind of fight that tall tales were made for.

On the first telling Gussie, her blond hair in a tizzy, barely made it into the third round before the fight was called.

A second telling had the two of them nearly spent,  after going four hard rounds that ended in a draw.

And by the next telling–Gussie soundly defeated Hattie in the fourth with a resounding knock out blow!

Whatever the real outcome of the bout, it gave Gussie, a rope maker on the docks at Newtown Creek, the chance to travel as far west as Chicago when she signed to fight in Hattie Leslie’s show. Gussie also earned enough money to open a bar for a while, until with the money gone, she went back to the ropewalk. Along the way she made a lot of people smile and fifty years after her fight, it was still fondly remembered.

I’ve got a way to go–and a hard deadline coming up, but when I feel overwhelmed by it all, I just think of the sheer nerve of those women and push on.

They are truly my heroines–every last one.




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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