I write creative nonfiction, essays, and letters with a unique world view
Where’s the Tree House?
I took my children out of school one year to travel. When we were home, school was a room tucked in behind my bedroom. I named it the Tree House because it is three floors above the ground and surrounded by poplar and birch. We moved a love seat, added a secretary desk, and threw up a white board. Voilà. We had a schoolroom.
Why the letter?
Friends asked how it was going and I began writing the TreeHouseLetter. The personal letter is a format I shared with my father most of my life. When I write, I imagine sitting with him or a friend, sharing a story and telling him what is on my mind. This one-sided format is part of a dying art and one I want to hold on to. It gives the writer an expansiveness to stretch, detour, examine, and laugh.
What’s music have to do with writing?
Everything. The best music, like the best writing, depicts beauty and truth. We don’t need analysis to know that we like what we like and we love what we love. Music and writing may reveal joy or sorrow, lifting the soul or plunging it into despair. Every human emotion may be represented in music and in language. The skillful construction of notes or words gives us joy and meaning.
What makes a song stick, like certain writing, and stay with me?
Melodies we love, like passages and images, are hardwired, held close in that deepest part of us. And, rhythm is the foundation to music, the universal language. With music, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or whether you speak English or Russian or Chinese.
The elements of music and writing are eerily similar because song is story. Writing must have rhythm or cadence. Music and writing begin with notes and words, deriving meaning from adding more notes and words. These build into phrases and sentences, then sections or paragraphs and chapters. See the parallel? This building includes harmony, discord, embellishment and tension, ultimately seeking resolution. And, both require rhythm to function.
Certain compositions and stories have a melody that resonates in a profound way. You find yourself humming the tune or seeing the character, imagery, or conflict, feeling and thinking of a passage or line at different points in life, when they are called up involuntarily. Oh! I know that feeling or that experience, a kind of dejavu you live because of the song or writing. They stick with us because of this resonance, stronger at times than lived experience.
What are your writing and music influences?
They are too numerous to include them all, but here are some.
Nonfiction: Beryl Markham, Haruki Murakami, David Foster Wallace, Joan Didion, George Orwell, David Sedaris, Marcus Aurelius, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ursula Le Guin, Emily Fox Gordon
Music: Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn, Grieg, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, folk harp, fiddle tunes, Old-time, show tunes
Childhood: My father’s stories, guitar ballads, and poetry; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Norman Blake; Kipling’s Just So Stories, Aesop; Mozart, Tchaikovsky, folk, playing pop songs on piano
In the Tree House, taking a break on the wobble board helps with the sedentary and solitary craft of writing. My dogs and music help too. I have a fiddle on the desk and my piano and harp are downstairs.
MyLinh loves adventures in the world as much as adventures of the mind, whether that is on the page or in the realm of music. Piano lessons began when she was five years old; violin, in grade school; and the folk harp, after the birth of her children so as not to wake them.
Playing piano soothes her soul and has the capacity to transport her from the mundane. She likes to bike and walk, and is a mediocre runner at middle-age. She started yoga, the kind suitable for an inflexible body and someone slightly out-of-shape.
Mylinh covers numerous topics in her writing. She wrote for the Tampa Tribune, taught in college, and managed human resources. In the Army, she had the great privilege to lead U.S. soldiers at the end of the Cold War in a reunified Germany. In the eleventh class at West Point that allowed women, she was a Cadet Captain and Captain of the Women’s Track Team.
MyLinh holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Queens University and a Master in Business Administration from Florida Southern College. She has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy, West Point.
She mentors students interested in college and the armed forces, she continues to support the military community as a board member of the Night Stalker Foundation, and she is a panelist for U.S. Senator Christopher Murphy’s Military Academy nominations committee.
MyLinh is married to her classmate and they have three grown children.
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