ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Before there were blogs, FaceBook and sundry other electronic ways to communicate there was email. In years gone by, I used to labor over journal entries, sometimes transferring them into longish emails accounting for TRAVELS WITH MOSES. Moses was our Basenji, rescued from the  local pound. He was more cat than dog, short haired, pointy eared, silent–a barkless dog breed from Africa who travel on the shoulders of a hunter to find lions! Independent, obstinate and a runner, our Moses stole our hearts and then broke them when he disappeared near Tyler, Texas.

A life time later, I’m on the road again with writer friend Anne Schroeder and we’re in Medford, Oregon for the night. Do you like driving in fog, rain and sunshine? From the flats and rice fields of Sacramento through the wide open spaces of Highway 5’s lonesome hinterlands we sped, slowed, stayed close to the speed limit or not. All depended on the amount of rainfall from minute to minute, how heavy a foot hit the pedal and getting lost in writerly conversation. Then, there were the rivers, streams and arched bridges to drool over.

Passing through towns, villages and hamlets with names like Corning, Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Sweetbriar, we met up with Shasta. A heavy cloud layer sat on Mt. Shasta, the 14,000’ lovely volcanic home of Big Foot (mythic or real?) The mountain, its top half cut-off by clouds,  looked more like Acoma or
another New Mexican mesa…stately, impressive and a bit intimidating. Coffee and blackberry cobbler and pumpkin spice cake at the Hi-Lo Cafe,  in the same family for 60 years, nurtured  us well and we went on our way.

If I had taken the picture I should have, you wouldn’t be seeing so much of Mt. Shasta. ENJOY!

Now what do writers talk about as they skim mountain roads and passes at 55-75 MPH? They talk about anything that strikes their fancy. In our case, we covered family, writing and writers, books we’ve read or are reading, have written or plan on writing. Sharing horror stories about self-centered, non-reciprocating published authors kept us busy for a good little while.  As our stories grew, so did the mountains, trees and hills along our way. The sky cleared and threw out the sun from time to time, warming the cockles of our hearts and lighting our spirits. The trees came taller, wider in the colorful hues of pine, redwood, and cedar with a few autumnal oaks in changing cloaks.

When two friends venture out on the road together for the first time, there are lessons to be learned, communication problems to work through, decisions to make. Finding each other’s style is part of the process…one I last experienced when my son and family moved in with me. It is all about negotiating time, space, feelings and expectations. In the latter, I have too often lapsed in expressing myself, operating instead on assumptions. At this point, all is smooth sailing/traveling  and I fully expect it will continue to be as we head to Oregon’s Aurora Colony which Jane Kirkpatrick has written of so well and wisely.

ANNE’S TRAVEL TIP: when you’ve looked high and low for your telephone charger and it is no where to be found, check with the front desk for lost and left behind chargers. She did and is now a much happier camper.

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Filed under Family, Reflection, Travel, Writing

TIME PASSES

I’ve only seen Midnight in Paris twice, so far. I’m not a fan of Woody Allen or of the theater where the film is showing. But, I broke my self-imposed boycotts
and went the first time, then had to go again. You surely know the plot, the romances, the historical characters, the incredible photography and costumes
and outstanding performances. No need to go into them here.

What I most loved was the message of time passing and our romantic view of what has come before us as we avoid, reject, or dangle in the present.

Salvador Dali

I had a birthday recently, always the start of my New Year. It would also have been our 46th anniversary if Jim had survived the last three years. My granddaughter started kindergarden.  Such is the way I have of measuring the time that passes. Landmarks,. Days on the calendar. Periods of
playing hermit. Shuttering my mind. Avoiding events, the telephone, leaving the house. Or speed-dialing along on full steam, participating fully, actively and
enthusiastically in what life brings and what I seek out.

Have you visited elderly friends as their minds retreated into yesterdays and the future held little or no promise? One friend was so delighted with the teenagers we’d brought along that she went to the piano in the dayroom and put it to use. She pounded out segments of songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s while the staff and other residents looked on in amazement. She’d lived there quite a while and no one had ever heard her play. For Bessie, time was now and she made the most of it.

It is too soon for me to withdraw from all that I love: family, writing, traveling, being with friends. As I write, today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. A day of remembrance and judgment. And, I think, of hope. Time to take stock and look to the year ahead. What does it hold? What might I make of it?

I’ll start my new year with a road trip to Seattle for the Women Writing the West Conference. My traveling partner and writing friend, Anne, is coming along. We’re in the throes of planning the trip: what to see and do along the way, in Tacoma/Seattle and on to Victoria. There’s a stop in Battle Ground, Oregon for
tea with friends; the Richard Brautigan library in Vancouver, WA; the WA State Historical Museum in Tacoma; a great conference to attend; exploration of
Seattle’s underground and hills for nostalgia and research; and onto the ferry to Victoria in search of writer-artist Emily Carr, the totems and First
People’s culture.

Emily Carr: Kwakiutl House

Do you smell the adventure in the redwood and red cedar countryside, the grey skies and our sunny expectations? Do you feel the inspiration and joy about to settle on us? The opportunities to see old friends, make new ones and spin our dreams?  Without a doubt, it will be a time to store up remembrances, fill our senses with new energy.

I’ll journal and blog from the road.

How do you
celebrate your New Year?

What do you do
to mark your time and how it passes?

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Filed under Emily Carr, Family, Nostalgia, Opinion, Reflection, Writing

CREATIVITY AND COMMUNITY

I labored over a concept this past Labor Day when I turned to PBS and caught a repeat showing of Charlie Rose’s twelfth
episode regarding the Brain (10/28/2010.) It was a re-run that I’ve now played over a couple of times in my effort to grasp what the varied contributors had
to say.  Go to: http://www.CharlieRose.com

Rose did the series with Eric Kandel, a Nobel Prize winning neuroscientist. The Round Table included Amy Tempkin,
curator of painting and sculpture at NY’s MOMA,painter Chuck Close, sculptor Richard Serra and neurologist and writer
Oliver Sacks.

The Charlie Rose Show tv show

Serra & Kandel

Tempkin

Tempkin pointed out that Close and Serra were at Yale together along with several other emerging artists who
subsequently moved to NYC where Serra’s “day job” was a small trucking firm at which he hired other artists, musicians, creators. At Yale, imitation of
previous generations of artists was part of working their way toward finding their intuitive creative work. Tempkin described the founding of community in which togetherness, rivalry, the desire to support one another, seeing others’ work and “talking and talking” as freeing the originality of work. A common
language evolved.

Rose & Close

Many aspects of creativity were spoken of: the little that is understood of brain biology’s role; how dyslexia, face
blindness and other compromises act on it; imitation as a route to finding one’s own expression; the role of emotion/sublimation with Sacks giving an
enlightening story on Melville, Hawthorne and Moby Dick.

Sacks (cap to protect his eyes)

I was struck by the idea of community and creativity and thought back to my own experiences with other writers. I find that a sense of unity with diversion, common ground and strong energy tends to evolve whenever two writers or more convene. Just as creative writing programs press writers to work in the style of an established writer, even to he point of simple copy typing, we read voraciously to study style, offer critiques, share information and talk, talk, talk.

As the panel noted, the days of isolation in the attic garret are long gone, if they ever truly were. Think of the Impressionists gathering at cafes, Bohemians in North Beach, etc. drinking and talking at all hours. It is in community that originality is freed to generate itself.  Mysteries abound. What motivates or drives the creativity juice. What compels one to communicate, to share even while/if narcissistic and self-involved? What determines the Eureka or Aha response?

My friend Janet Reihl (www.riehlife.com) describes creativity “…as a life force that runs through all of us” and takes hard work. As Chuck Close said,

“…inspiration is just for amateurs, the rest of us just show up for work.”

What does it
take for you to show up for work?

 

Where do you
find community and does it help the creative juices to flow?

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Treasures on the Shelf

Do you prowl used book stores, library sales, flea markets or garage/yard sales wondering what odd or unusual book you may find? Maybe you work from a favored authors’ list to find the ones you’ve
missed in a recent, or old, series. A friend told you of a must-read and you are willing to pay the 50 cents, up from the dime or quarter of years past, to try something you aren’t sure of.

And as you mosey along, does some quaint title, odd or old fashion looking cover grab your attention?  You pick it up, see it’s over a hundred years old and has lovely artwork or a long deceased but famous author’s name on it. You slide it into the middle of your stack and sidle up to the check-out, not sure if they’ll snatch your treasure back and tell you it’s NotForSale.

Or maybe you are a master of the quick perusal; you know exactly what to look for, its value and even have a client who wants that book, that edition and will take it in that condition. In other words, you are a professional Book Scavenger. You are lucky to have developed your craft while the rest of us are still
struggling, even inept amateurs.

But we are also lucky who wander about with little knowledge and just admire something because it charms us with its beauty, its age, its author. I’ve stumbled into such finds over the years and snatched up some treasures to place on my shelves.

I’ve also been dumb enough to sell treasures at my own yard sales and lived to regret it.  Oh, for that early ‘60’s set of Shakespeare….the Mark Twain and Zane Grey collections, my childhood book of rhymes and stories I loved so much. Where are they now?

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913 Disappeared in Mexico)

at Bohemian Grove with George Sterling and Jack London

Recently I paused to take a look at something I bought in the last year at a library sale…and not in the rare book section, for I never go past that gate assuming I can’t afford them!  It is a republished edition, in 1971, of Ambrose Bierce’s WRITE IT RIGHT: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults, originally published by Walter Neale in 1909. My edition from Grabhorn-Hoyem, with an introduction by Oscar Lewis, was the first
re-issue but several have followed.

I decided to run it by one of the best known rare book sites on the web: www.AbeBooks.com . I found it for sale at $200…wow! Who knew? And my book is in excellent (not “near fine”) condition with not a smear,
turned corner or crayon mark to be seen.

Not only that, the book, a 44-page style manual, is delightful in pressing for precision and correctness in language…tho’ some of his ideas are now quaint, obsolete or beside the point:

“authoress. A needless word—as needless as ‘poetess.’

brainy.      Pure slang and singulary disagreeable.

chin whiskers. The whisker grows on the cheek, not the chin.

illy for ill.  There is no such word as illy, for ill itself is an adverb.

pants for trousers.  Abbreviated from pantaloons, which are no longer worn. Vulgar exceedingly.

seldom ever.  A most unusual locution.

unkempt for disordered, untidy, etc.  Unkempt means uncombed, and can properly be said of nothing but the hair.

vulgar for immodest, indecent.  It is from vulgus, the common people, the mob, and means both common and unrefined, but has no relation to indecency.”

It’s time to return my treasure to the shelf and search out something else there to charm, amuse and perhaps even educate but not to sell.

               What do you have on your shelves, on your shopping list?

                              What treasures are hiding there?

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MUSEUM CRAWLING IN SEARCH OF GERTRUDE STEIN

Picasso's Stein

Museums are one of the most vivid and fruitful ways for me to do research. I’ve visited more museums than I can count across the country, in Europe and, especially, in the American west.  Here I find nuances of the local lifestyle, culture and the stories of area personalities, whether famous, infamous or simple folk. Museums have wealth in their archives and curators and docents are unerringly happy to talk of their collections. I recently went museum crawling with one of my favorite fellow travelers, Barbara.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art are running two very special exhibits: Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories and The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde. The Five Stories reflect on aspects of her life: her public persona, lifestyle, relationships, her tour of the US in 1935-36 and life in France during WWII.

Based on material in both settings, I would guess that Stein had to have been one of the most drawn, painted and photographed women of the first half of the twentieth century. She sat for Picasso 80-90 times in 1904-05 for his most famous portrait of her, only to have him wipe out the face, return to Spain and come back in 1906 to paint from memory. Carl Van Vechten, Cecil Beaton, Man Ray photographed her; Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Sherwood Anderson, and others she dubbed “the Lost Generation” filled her salons.

Stein’s evolution in appearance follows changes in her haircut from the Buddha bun atop her head to the “Butch” cut of her later years, from her thinner self to the rotund. Alice B. Toklas, her lover/companion/wife of forty years, was also a writer and a seamstress. Alice worked carefully to modify Stein’s look, taking her from corduroy to velvets, from schoolmarm to handsome and business-like in skirts, blouses and gorgeous vests.

Alice and Gertrude at home

Alice ran the household, shopped and cooked, typed Gertrude’s brief daily output of words. Many fawned over Gertrude but Alice was always near, in a chair opposite, in the doorway, sitting at her embroidery screen, preparing food for guests. Stories are told in both exhibits of their salons, originally shared with the Stein brothers. Here, luminaries of the arts gathered, ate, drank and, undoubtedly, argued.

With brothers Leo and Michael and his wife Sarah, the Steins amassed a glorious collection consisting of the post-impressionists, cubists and assorted others. Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Gris, Gauguin hung on their walls. Much of the original collection has been brought under one roof at MOMA for the first time in decades. It is an amazing review of early twentieth century art.

Much is also minimized or overlooked in the exhibits. The couple remained in France throughout both world wars, with protection from a Vichy leader during WWII. Why would the Nazis permit a Jewish American lesbian couple to live peacefully in the French countryside except for political kinship? Gertrude was described as a sectarian Jewess. I wish the Contemporary Jewish Museum exhibit had explored her beliefs and motivations more thoroughly. My impression is that she was an anti-Semitic Nazi sympathizer despite her efforts to aid the injured in World War I.

Then, too, there was the separation from Leo in 1914 after nearly ten years of compatibility in their joint living and collecting arrangements. Alice appeared on the scene in 1905 but it was 1910 before she moved in. Was the triangulated household too uncomfortable or was Leo truly jealous of his sister’s rising star among Parisians and ex-pats alike?

It is left to us to seek truth in Stein’s writing, if the words are there. Several exhibits bring us the sound of her voice, in sing-song and hypnotic repetitious renderings of her poems and fiction. I’ll delve, again, into The Autobiography of Alice. B. Toklas and writings about her. In seeking out information, I came across an illuminating article by Janet Malcom, one of Stein’s biographers, in an on-line copy of The New Yorker from 2003.  Gertrude Stein’s War: The Years in Occupied France. It can be found at: http://newyorker.com/archive/2003/06/02/03060fa_fact2

The article is a very intriguing examination of the questions I had as I wandered the exhibits, including questions about her “innovative” writing which was minimalist, often confusing and difficult to read. Malcom shares a discovery by Stein experts about Alice’s strong influence on Stein’s writing, especially in The Making of Americans (1925.)

A self-proclaimed genius, Gertrude Stein’s gift was in assembling talent at her side, mostly young gay men, encouraging many and writing-off others. Few friends remained so for long periods.

If you are in the Bay Area, I encourage you to explore the museums and this icon of American and French social history.

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART III 

Previously in this series, I have explored biography and autobiography as ways in The Telling of Lives.  Now, I want to turn your attention to fictional autobiography.

Clara Estby, the real-life protagonist in Jane Kirkpatrick’s The Daughter’s Walk, had no understanding of her mother’s farfetched idea to walk across the United States in hopes of winning a $10,000 prize that would save the family farm near Spokane. Helga was a very determined Norwegian immigrant, a believer in women’s right to vote and even to wear the “reform/bicycle dress” that the backers of the contest were putting forth. In near financial ruin after her husband’s disabling accident, the family was in desperate straits. 

In May 1896, mother and daughter set off on a journey of 3500 miles, a multitude of hardships and some kindnesses along the way. Their destination was New York City by December 13. Their route went along railroad tracks. It was to be a test of feminine stamina. It was also seen by Helga as a means to protect Clara from making a mistake in falling for the son of her rich employer. Clara’s plans for college and a life different from the farm literally fell by the wayside. 

The story draws on truth from the many newspaper accounts and records of the day, on interviews with descendants and on interpretation or speculation from those facts to fill in the unknown parts of the story. Two weeks late at their December arrival and losing the challenge, mother and daughter are left to make their way back home nearly penniless. On arrival, desperation greets them. Two of the younger children have died and the family is in quarantine. Helga collapses and Kirkpatrick catches the emotions of grief eloquently and succinctly:

“Grief has many siblings. Anger, isolation, sadness, guilt, and, yes, distraction, avoidance, pretense. I met them all in the weeks that followed. So did our family.”

 Feeling detached from the only family she has known, Clara leaves, assumes another name and is befriended by two older women. They offer her employment and the fulfillment of her college dreams. The women are furriers and have many contacts in New York as well as overseas. As Clara is drawn into the business, she is also drawn to the company’s salesman. Clara moves from bookkeeper to business owner/manager; she seldom turns away from a challenge, including learning to trap and going out by herself into the wintery woods.

Jane Kirkpatrick writes strongly of human relationships in the characters she depicts. The author shows us the attitudes, values and mannerisms of her characters:

            “Design doesn’t interest me,” I said.

            “To humor you: where would we trap?” Franklin asked. He wasn’t scowling now. He  looked more curious, surprised even.

             “I’d buy land. The right kind of land, where I’d trap.”

            “It’s not women’s work. You’re already thin as spaghetti,” Louise said.

             Franklin shook his head.

            “Women’s work is defined by women doing it,” I said.

 

The issue of Clara’s estrangement from her family is woven throughout the story and explains or accounts for twenty years of silence. This, too, is a source of grief and it seems Clara relies on relentless work to stave off its “siblings.” Reconciliation eventually occurs.

A talented writer like Jane Kirkpatrick takes the tiniest thread of a story and weaves it into a whole with fact and fiction.

* * *

At her website, Susan Vreeland writes on the origin of her book The Forest Lover, a biographic novel of the Canadian artist, Emily Carr. Vreeland poses and answers a question: “Then what are the differences between biography and fiction on a historical person? A biography reports while a novel shows. A biography is read in order to become informed about a person’s life. A novel is read in order to feel what it might have been like to live that life.”   

Do you agree with Vreeland? 

Do you have a preference in form?

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART II

Autobiography

Emily Hahn wrote for The New Yorker for a period spanning the late 1920’s into the 1990’s; a prolific writer, she wrote various autobiographies, including No Hurry to Get Home.

A unique person and writer, Hahn went her independent way in a world awakening to feminine realities. Of her parents’ six children, she appears to have been the precocious one, always testing the standards and mores of her time. When Hahn describes tales of her childhood, it is easy to see her emergence as a singular woman. She makes her own mark in the family, little understood, always loved and marveled about even when her parents were mystified by her.

Bought up in St. Louis and Chicago, she was the first young woman to graduate with a degree in mining engineering from the University of Wisconsin. She took a job out west and saw men assigned to the oil fields while she remained a file clerk despite her training. After that, she seldom took a routine job, turning to horse trail guide in Santa Fe and eventually finding her way to Columbia University and the bohemian lifestyle of NYC.

Always a writer of letters to her large family, it was her brother-in-law’s 1929 submission of her work to the recently developed New Yorker magazine that gave Hahn her start as a writer. Her life was made by her into one huge adventure throughout the world. She wrote of what she saw and felt against the backdrop of history-in-the-making. This book, and her earlier autobiographies, came out of her many articles written for The New Yorker. As such there is a certain scatter and the feeling of missed stories hinted at by Ken Cuthbertson in the introduction to the 2000 edition of No Hurry to Get Home.

At Christmas 1932, Hahn was trapped in the Belgian Congo after following an archaeologist there and seeing him turn into a colonial tyrant. She took refuge with a British couple while trying to get a ride to the coast from a trucking company. Her request was denied for nefarious reasons. I found her description of the area very lyrical:

            “…I have a vivid recollection of the country, the unfenced miles of red soil open to a brilliantly sunny sky. Far off, mountains crouched like blue tigers.”

To discover the rest of the Emily Hahn story I will have to seek out four of her earlier books: China to Me (1944), Hong Kong Holiday (1946), England to Me (1949), and Kissing Cousins (1958.)

My thanks go to author Sharon Hamilton for bringing this exciting woman to my attention.

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FROM MY READING CHAIR

THE TELLING OF LIVES, PART I

In the telling of lives, writers may choose any number of forms: biography, autobiography/memoir and fictionalized biography/autobiography.  My recent readings included one of each type.  Max Perkins; Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg is a biography I first read when it came out in the late 1970’s and reread this spring.  Emily Hahn wrote for The New Yorker for a period spanning the late 1920’s into the 1990’s; a prolific writer, she wrote various autobiographies, including No Hurry to Get Home. Much historical fiction takes the form of fictional biography or autobiography and Jane Kirkpatrick has often written of the lesser known heroines of the American West, including Clara Estby of The Daughter’s Walk.

 One reviewer of Max Perkins complained that there was not enough about Max’s personal life in the book. I didn’t find that to be the case for the other part of the title is Editor of Genius. This indicates the focus will be on the man’s work-life and, in this case, that of a workaholic. Max Perkins nurtured, financially supported and coached or coerced some of the greatest writers of the 1920’s through the 1940’s in producing their memorable works.  His “stable of writers” at Charles Scribners’s Sons continues to impress with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Edmund Wilson.

Perkins had a strong sense of each author’s quality and gifts; he worked hard to bring their best into the light. The editor would travel to Europe, the Florida Keys, California or wherever his writer of current concern could be found. He’d help Fitzgerald have Zelda admitted to care, make loans out of his own or Scribners’s purse, and talk of the WIP (work in progress) to encourage changes he deemed necessary. Cajoling a reluctant Tom Wolfe to produce, to edit, to eliminate often meant seeking him out in a NYC London or Parisian garret and walking long miles in the dead of night with the “lone wolf.”

 While Max’s family of five daughters and his would-be-actress wife (she promised not to act when they married) went to upstate New York in the summers, Max seldom joined them. He worked long hours, often well into the night at his office, or read manuscripts on the train and over his weekend. When Hemingway finally induced Max to join him in deep-sea fishing, he loved it but fretted if he was away more than four or five days.

 Tireless, committed to excellent writing and loyal to his writers, Max Perkins showed genius in his choice of authors to bring into the company and in his intense work with them. We will not see the likes of Max Perkins again in this dramatically changing era of book writing and selling.

Scott Berg has done all readers and writers a great service in this greatly detailed and extensively researched volume. He writes beautifully as he wends his way through the life of Max Perkins: Editor of Genius and the lives of his writers.

 

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TRAVELING ON

 

I got out of Dodge very quickly after the HNS conference and headed toward the Huachucas and Cochise County, AZ, one of my favorite places in this marvelous country. Temperatures quickly climbed as I left  fog-cooled coastal San Diego. I’ve spent time here before and enjoyed the sights, friends and culture of this sparkling village. This time, I had more urgent business calling me east.

 The farther I went, the hotter it got. My first destination was Yuma, home of the Arizona Territorial Prison. After two weeks of intense palaver with friends, most of whom write, and strangers of the same ilk, I entered into a period of virtual isolation. Well, not “virtual” for I Skyped with my son and granddaughter regularly, as in “When are you coming home, Grandma?” followed by either giggles or tears. Calls to others and from my dirt-digging daughter (the archaeologist) broke my silences as I tried to figure out if I could go to the Huachucas. Reason prevailed, helped by heat edging toward 115 degrees and  the Monument Fire in the Huachucas that started after I left home. Well, so a fire broke out near Yuma, crossing both state lines AND the Colorado River on my second night. I soon turned north and west to seek out the welcome chill of the Pacific where a sweater is a summer must-have.

 I’m writing to the music of Enya on Pandora Radio.  I hope you enjoy my fragments.

            YUMA                                                      READING JEFFERS

Blistering heat beats down                       His poetry sings of the land

To meet fire’s great flames                       Finding the graveyard of

In pungent gusts of                                       Deer bones old and newer  

Severe black smoke,                                      He brings us into the

Skyscraper high.                                              Scene and the life now gone

                                                                                 His words create images of emotion.

Ash flittered about

Raining all around                                        MONTEREY BAY

A small maelstrom                                   Storm clouds gather

Imitating its elders.                                   to the North and West

                                                                            Sun huddles in

Homes evaporate at                                   cumulus blanket

Monument and Wallow                             While kayakers stream      

Hero firefighters  sleep                                around and through

Wherever they can flop,                              Kelp beds brown as

Dreamless, to revive.                                    burnt toast on a gray table.

                                                                                              The otter rests.

Trees succumb

Shaving mountains and desert

Shear to the stony base,

Rage devours all.

I cannot go farther………..

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Conferencing and This Writer

What did the ancient poet say to the historical novelist?

 “Fancy meeting you here!”

 

            I have written about the importance of writer conferences in my life and that of others, here and elsewhere (Redwood Writers June  newsletter.) Today, I am just barely off the boat from the seaside San Diego fourth bi-annual conference of the Historical Novel Society in the United States. The Society began in Great Britain some fourteen years ago and has spread its wings to varied parts of the world as historical novels have flourished. This was my third conference, having missed the 2007 in Albany, NY.  Like Topsy, the sessions have grown in number and relevance.

Invariably, HNS attracts the likes of Susan Vreeland, Diane Gabaldon, Cecilia Holland, and Harry Turtledove. With sessions devoted to a multitude of topics, some may be thought to favor male writers (who attended hugely!) but were found to be attractive to both sexes: World War II and Naval History. Sessions included: Historical Fiction Goes Digital with Women Writing the West’s Michelle Black, Ann Parker(also of WWW) and others spoke of Keeping a Series Fresh, and Persia Woolley (of WWW and Redwood Writers) spoke of Second Harvest: New Life for Your Earlier Works…a smattering of the 25 meetings available to 300 participants in thee days.

Famously published, debut writers, the “pre-published” met, dined and socialized with agents and editors looking for new clients. Then, there were the Friday Night Fight Scenes readings after the dinner and Turtledove’s keynote. Saturday evening’s comments by Cecilia Holland with gorgeous display of period costumes from ancient Rome to 19th century Americana found me ” too tired, dear,” to stay for the Saturday Night Sex Scene Readings.

What purpose did the conference serve me?  Persia as a charming friend and roommate; meeting the incoming president of WWW, Pam Tartaglio; chats with Ann Parker, Brigitte Goldstein,  and new acquaintances; immersion in the gifts and energy of other writers; free books(10?) and those I purchased.

I also gained the interest in my work by one agent and two editors. Not a bad ratio out of three pitches, hmm?

Readers: sorry I haven’t mastered the use of photos or this page wouldn’t be so gray. I will keep writing until I build that skill.   Next up: travel tales and book reviews. Watch out world, Arlettawrites is back!

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