Friday, August 24, 2012

Who Knew? I'm a Juggler!

I’ve been juggling three books this week.  Found them all on our vacation to Maine and each one is a gem to read and a great addition to my writing library in their own unique way.   

I found the first two when we stopped at the Big Chicken Barn.  On the second floor of the building about half a block long, I walked the creaking floorboards to the writing section near the far end.  The very first book I reached for was HOME – American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own.  It’s hardcover, with near opaque parchment wrapper with bold black writing was soothing to the eye even before feeling so comforting in the hand.  HOME had found its place with me. Each of the contributing eighteen writers shares a story of home, of rooms they lived in and the people found there, where memories were made and woven with dreams and imagination.  I love it not only for the stories, but for the opportunity to view in one book the styles and points of view used to express the same theme.  No case of writer’s block could stand against the flow of characters, settings and plots found within.
A few creaky steps later, I came across Writing Articles from the Heart – How to write & sell your life experiences, by Marjorie Holmes, waiting for me.  Written in 1993, it comes across at times as a bit dated, yet there are sections on ideas, organization and techniques that have classic staying power or can be updated for today.  Its tone is conversational and at times feels like Marjorie is your own personal cheerleader.  What I love most so far though is the previous owner’s markings.  Many of the pages are dog eared and there are notes scribbled in the margins.  One part of the book that reviews “Contrast and Comparison” has a line to the margin where it’s written in blue ink “styles of Russian researchers vs. statistical caution of Americans.”  In the middle of the table of contents, written in shaky, capital letters is, “DASHING MY DREAM OF SPEECH FOR THE DUMB & DEAF”.   Sometimes the most joy in a used book is in imagining it in the hands of a previous owner and what it meant to them.
A few days later, strolling down the sidewalk of a little town on Route 1 we came across a few tables on the lawn in front of a library with boxes for a book sale.  It didn’t take long to glide my hands over the book spines as I read them and I got very near to the last of the boxes empty handed.  Then, the big red hardcover spine caught my eye.  Booknotes – America’s Finest Authors on Reading, Writing and the Power of Ideas, by Brian Lamb. This is a BIG BOOK.  Booknotes was a television show that ran on C-Span from 1989 – 2004 and showcased 801 one hour interviews with the author of a recently released non-fiction book.  I’m going to plead a mother’s excuse here and point out that I had a newborn distracting me in 1989.  How I defend the ignorance of not knowing about this show for the following 23 years until I saw this book in a little box on that sidewalk table a few weeks ago I don’t know.   But I know now and this treasure trove of author interviews full of personal history, writing practices, and tips is like Christmas morning each time I open it. I may even treat myself and watch the author interviews (available online) after each author’s section to get the double effect!
So I juggle a little each day on which to pick up and how long to read before moving onto the next one.  I didn’t intend to be reading them all at once, and certainly Booknotes will take me the longest, but what a writing smorgasbord!  And lucky for me, this is one spread where the goodness never seems to end and I never get my fill. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Maine: Land of lobster, hikes and writing tidbits…

Steven and I spent five glorious days in Bar Harbor, Maine in early August filled with hiking, eating, drinking and relaxing.  Steve looked forward to the “Lob-stah”, of which he got plenty and I came away with a treasure trove of writing goodies.  Vacations have always been an opportunity for me to collect “detail tidbits”.  Away from the distracting daily grind, my writers mind is more attuned to people and my surroundings and thoughts of how to weave those details in to future characters, settings and plots.  

Just makes you smile!
This trip’s constant turned out to be an enormous blow up white swan, strapped to the top of a Subaru.  We saw it at least once a day.  It was everywhere we went.  It was big.  It was bold.  It elicited ridiculous smiles. 

After a glass of wine or two on our balcony at the Holland Inn B&B, we strolled down the block for a quiet dinner at the Black Friar Inn, choosing a table in the near empty bar area.  Just after we ordered, a young woman at the bar made her presence known to anyone within earshot.  Throughout our “quiet” dinner, we learned of her Portuguese heritage, listened to her commentary on the Olympics, and found out that her husband was upstairs in their room with a headache.  We honored him with a silent toast and the future that lay ahead for him. 

Crying children have been a part of our vacations and a source of amusement to us in how they always show up since our honeymoon 30 years ago.  This one, around three years old, cried as she leaned on her mother’s knee for ten minutes straight as we all sat waiting for a shuttle bus.  Remarkably, her mom was able to totally ignore her, offering no consolation at all as she texted on her phone the whole time.  The dynamics of their mother-daughter relationship a few years down the road will be fascinating!      

One evening found us at a unique local attraction, Timber Tina’s Great Maine Lumberjack Show as the sun set in the woods of Trenton, Maine. It was surprisingly entertaining, with displays of wood chopping, tree climbing and ax throwing, sprinkled with a side of campy jokes, some lumberjack education and the larger than life personality of Timber Tina. The audience was split into two teams cheering for either the red or green flannel shirted team.  Our red team won, which meant loud a “Yooooo-Hooooooo” shout out for us!

A trip to the Big Chicken Barn, a huge antiques and book market, netted me a couple books on writing.  At an impromptu stop at another antique store down the road I scored the BIG FIND of the trip, a teapot with cozy.  The search for this piece has taken years.  Steve says they are probably so tough to find because the cozy is probably asbestos lined, but the childhood memories of my Nana’s pot & cozy make the asbestos risk worth it!

We spent most of our time in Acadia National Park. Hiking every day is something I could get used to very quickly.  I fell in love with my walking stick, the rhythm and pace it helped me set and the tricks I learned to use it to help my ascent and descent.  It made me feel almost athletic for the first time in my life!

Saw my first tide pool here!
Our trails ran the gamut from the flat sand bar at low tide to rocky shoreline, evergreen forests, rocky stairs and stone steps.  I mused about the workers establishing those trails, the multitude of other hikers that walked the same steps that I did and what they experienced as they travelled them.  Where they in awe of the clouds and fog that rolled in over the mountains around them?  Did they feel the solitude of their surroundings?  Did they find the tide pools as fascinating as I did and wonder at the delicate balance of life contained there?

Our last hiking day, our arrival at the summit on Champlain Mountain coincided with the clouds as they rolled across the top.  A first for me to have the front roll in and engulf me.  To feel the force as it approached, it’s cool whisper caress on heated skin, and the settling dampness.  To close my eyes, breathe in and be a part of it. A memorable moment to say the least.

When we got home and I looked through the (hundreds!) of pictures, I 
smiled to see one in particular.  It was a bumper sticker we saw during our walk through a little town maybe a mile long total where we’d stopped to stroll the sidewalk and look in the shops.   It reminded me of Steven and I, and of other couples I know of who do (and don’t) live their life by this motto. It has me thinking of the plot possibilities and the twists and turns of living a life where you strive to simply …. Be Excellent to Each Other.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Women Like Me on Writer Unboxed!

One of the websites I visit DAILY is Writer Unboxed ~ in short a website all "about the craft and business of fiction".  I love it.  The articles are informative, encouraging and engaging. This summer they've been running The 7 Sizzling Sundays of Summer Flash Fiction Contest, Week 5.  I entered week 5 and although I didn't win, I got a respectable number of likes, so I thought I'd share the piece I entered (below) and introduce the site in case you don't know about them already. AND you can check out the winning stories as well! 

You can find full rules on the site, but the basic rules are:

  • The story must be inspired by that week’s visual prompt.
  • Each submission must be 250 words or less. 
  • Each story must contain a beginning, middle, and end.
  • All submitted work must be original–not published anywhere else, and written by you, for this contest.

  • Women Like Me

    The box arrived by courier around noon.  Big and gold, with a dark red velvet bow. 

    She opened the card:
             Meet me.
             Lexington and Park ~ 8 pm.
             Wear only this.

    Slowly she pulled the bow apart and lifted the lid.  Her knees buckled, and she sank to the floor, pulling the black ankle length mink cape out of the box and down with her.

    Dear God, what had he done? 

    She thought back to their stroll last month past Williamson Furs.  “In another lifetime,” she murmured, gazing into the window. 

    “So get it, Rebecca.  It would be beautiful on you,” he said, surprising her. 

    “Harry, women like me don’t wear furs.”

    “What do you mean, ‘women like you’?”

    “Sensible, middle aged women.  For god sakes, Harry, I’ll be 50 next week. Where would I wear it, grocery shopping?  It’s just a silly dream…”

    And they’d walked away.  And that should have been the end of it.  He couldn’t really expect her to… really, could she?

    At 8 pm, she approached the man at the corner.

    “Harry…” she called softly.

    He turned towards her.  She let the mink hang open just enough and he smiled as he approached her, then slowly ran a finger from the pounding pulse in her neck, down between her breasts.

     “Women like you Rebecca?  You can wear this anywhere and anyhow, you damn well please.”

    He pulled the edges closed, pulling her towards him.  “Any other dreams for a woman like you?”