Sunday, April 30, 2017

Every Day, It's A-Getting Closer . . .

Despite looking as if Josie's arrival was imminent, last night Claui prepared  an amazing feast for the grandparents-to-be.

It was inspired by a dish at an Asheville Middle Eastern restaurant -- grilled chicken, zucchini,  onions and peppers, atop a salad with tomatoes and avocados, accompanied by a potato pancake and lentils and garnished with pomegranate seeds, sumac, and a yogurt based sauce

                                       Oh, my, it was good!

We are all so looking forward to Josie's arrival!

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Irony of Dear Old Ladies

In the book I just finished, a forty-something man says of young people in their twenties:

"They treat me as I would treat a dear old lady, well past seventy and long buried in the country. And, of course, they don't understand irony. (Perhaps I don't understand the irony of dear old ladies -- it's a chastening thought.)" 

Reading this paragraph caused me a bit of mental whiplash - first, the realization that I'd been guilty of such behavior to my elders; second, the  recognition of having all too often been on the receiving end of said behavior; and third (with something of a shock) the absolute fact that I am an old lady, not especially dear but well past seventy and long buried in the country. And does anyone understand my irony?

(Exit humming "I've looked at life from three sides now . . .") 

(I encountered the quoted paragraph in Hugh Walpole and J. B. Priestly's Farthing Hall -- a bit of a period piece that belonged to John's paternal grandmother.)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stumbling Through a Dark Wood

As some of you may remember, for a while now I've been trying my hand at short stories  -- feeling my way to what sounds right to me. So many modern stories are dark and brooding and angst-filled and that doesn't come naturally to me. But I write what I like and have submitted a few here and there  -- with no takers so far. Probably due to a lack of angst.

About a year ago I blogged (HERE ) about a story I was working on. I loved the main character and am happy to say that "Vondalee Puts On Her Cat Eye Glasses" was named a finalist in the NC Literary Review's Doris Betts competition. 

Alas, that doesn't mean they'll publish it -- but it's part of a linked series of stories that I'm working on and hope to find a home for eventually.

(No, no news as yet about the Civil War novel  . . . again, alas. But this was a bit of bright news.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I recently received a batch of anonymous evaluations from a class I taught a year ago – a 15 week work shop wherein each student submits almost 60 pages of prose which the class and I then discuss with a view to pinpointing what is and what isn't working.

Generally I get good reviews – and these were no exception. A few grumbles about odds and ends – you can’t please everyone—and a suggestion which I shall take to heart – more writing prompts to break up what can be the drudgery of fifteen week of critique.

But there was one puzzler. A student complained that he (I suspect it was a guy from the handwriting) would have liked more focus on ideation.


The student repeated this criticism in his summary – he would have liked more discussion of ideation.

I have a pretty big vocabulary but this word ideation isn't part of it. Obviously it has to do with ideas . . . 

So I Googled ideation creative writing and found THIS LINK
'Boost your creativity -- ideation techniques for writers. '

Aha! It's the old "Where do you get your ideas?" question that always gets asked in interviews and at book readings.

My answer, after I've fought back the impulse to say 'Walmart, Aisle 4', is generally that I get ideas from life -- living, observing, reading, paying attention.

I'm not sure one can cold-bloodedly generate an idea, as suggested in the link above, that will sustain a writer through a novel. Writing prompts are great for short pieces -- and sometimes in a writing prompt one may meet a character that demands more attention or a situation that could be a part of a longer piece.

What was it this student expected, I wonder -- especially since the class dealt with work (presumably) already written?

I'm also wondering if this is a kind of creative writing buzzword -- it's happened before that I get a student who's taken lots of writing classes and is fixated on certain words or techniques -- in another class one student kept talking about filtering which was a term new to me, as applied to writing anyway. 

I looked that one up too -- and found much very useful information. It's basically the same advice that Strunk and White give in Elements of Style (avoid unnecessary words) but HERE is an excellent explanation.

Always learning . . .

Sunday, April 23, 2017

World Book Day

Every day is book day here . . . the books pictured are from a post I did several years ago about 25 books that had influenced me and my writing . . .

What am I reading now? Just finished My Thomas: A Novel of Martha Jefferson's Life by Roberta Grimes - an interesting look at the early days of our country. Currently reading Pillars of the Sky by Cecelia Holland -- a novel imagining the building of Stonehenge. Also dipping into a period piece -- Girls and I by Mrs. Molesworth. 

And you? What are you reading?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017

I remember the first Earth Day back in 1970. Things seemed so hopeful then -- we could change our ways: recycle! live mindfully! alternative energy!

So, how have things changed? The American Museum of Natural History has put together an interesting little presentation HERE.

 Some bad news -- the global population has doubled -- doubled!  Seas are rising, animal populations are shrinking . . . 

But there's good news too. A lot of the changes have been implemented that have improved air quality, banning DDT has brought the Bald Eagle back from the brink of extinction, banning lead in gas has improved health . . . changing our ways can make a difference. 

Now, alas, our government is in the hands of Big Business, of climate change deniers, of those who wield alternative facts so that their corporate masters can increase their profits. 

What can we expect from a POTUS whose experience of Nature is through the windows of his air-conditioned penthouse high above Central Park,  . . . or on the chemically manicured and water-guzzling greens of his golf courses. . . or vicariously through  his sons as they go on yet another big game hunt?  

So far, his record is pretty dismal. His Cabinet choices . . . his proposed budget . . . as The Guardian puts it, the Trump presidency is a disaster for the planet.

I've long maintained that humankind is the greatest natural disaster of all. The difference is that we have the power to control such disastrous behavior . . .but will we?