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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Conquering the List

My sister-in-law made me a hand-made book journal for Christmas last year and I set a goal at the beginning of 2013 to see if I could read fifty-two books in fifty-two weeks.  This year offered up a fair share of struggles. Burying my head in a book has always provided an escape. Fifty-three books later, Happy New Year, (and happy reading) to you all!  (I still have twenty-six books on my TBR list.  Hello, 2014!)

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
The Doctor’s Lady, Jody Hedlund
Emma, Jane Austen
The Book of Ruth, Jane Hamilton
The Saint of Lost Things, Christopher Castellani
A Kiss from Maddelana, Christopher Castelani
Drowning Ruth, Christina Schwartz
Low Country Summer, Dorothea Beton Frank
The Forresters, Emily Perkins
Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead
The House on Fortune Street, Margot Livesy
The Witch of Little Italy, Suzanne Palmieri
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D, Nichole Bernier
All This Talk of Love, Christopher Castellani
Nowhere but Home, Liza Palmer
Coronado, Denis Lehane
More Like Her, Liza Palmer
Peaches for Father Frances, Joanne Harris
The Midwife of Hope River, Patricia Harmor
Looking for Me, Beth Hoffman
Free to a Good Home, Eve Mont
I’ll be Seeing You, Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
Before I go to Sleep, S.J. Watson
The Beacon Trees, Karen White
The Bright Forever, Lee Martin
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
With No one as Witness, Elizabeth George
All that I am, Anna Funder
Minding Frankie, Maever Binchy
All New People, Anne Lamott
Happy All the Time, Laurie Colwin
The Lucky One, Nicholas Sparks
Porch Lights, Dorothea Beton Frank
Let the Great World Spin, Column McCann
When she was Gone, Gwendolyn Gross
Where or When, Anita Shreve
Defending Jacob, William Landay
The Other Mother, Gwendolyn Gross
Some Assembly Required, Lynn Kiele Bonasia
Coffin Ship, the Wreck of the Brig St. John, William Henry
Death Comes to Pemberly, TD James
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O’Farrell
Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
Between the Lines, Mastering the Subtle art of Novel Writing, Jessie Page Morrell
The flight of Gemma Hardy, Margot Livesey
Season to Taste, Molly Birnbaum
The Lemon Orchard, Luanne Rice
The book of Someday, Diane Dixon
Three Women, Marge Piercy
Letters from Skye, Elspeth Dunn
While I was Gone, Sue Miller
Object Lessons, Anna Quindelin

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Timed Writing Exercise

I’m at a breather-place with the current project and struggling to find blog topics, but aware I need to keep writing.  At the suggestion of Writer’s Digest, I did a thirty minute timed writing using the following words:  lighthouse, rabbits, rosebush and ice skates. 

Yes, afterwards I edited. 

Try it.  It was fun.

Lara looked forward to sketching the first patterns on the surface.  Virgin ice, six inches deep, untouched but for three-toed prints.  Bird chains tiptoeing down the snow-covered ice in front of the lighthouse replica, the whimsy of some long ago Tauberta focal piece to the topiary gardens terracing down to the water.  High above, the gabled mansion peered over the edge of the hill like a conscience, Tory-black chimney-tops poking above cypress and pine.   She looped a figure eight, picturing the paint on the house now blistered and peeling, prize winning rose bushes riddled with black spot.

Her mother used to go on about what it took to maintain the home, chefs and housekeepers, a trove of gardeners.  But there hadn’t been a Taubert living there in twenty years.  For the last fifteen, Len Michaels had been the only permanent gardener, appearing two days a week to clip the towering rabbits, the green elephant, the Dr. Seuss trees with marshmallow shapes. 

Way back when, she inquired why he didn’t ask for more hours.  He’d shrugged.  “Get paid by the bank.  Get what I get.”  A lawn service mowed in the summer.  In the winter, plows kept the driveway clear.  But she’d given up worrying about the footprints she left when she tramped down to the lake carrying her ice skates.  No one shoveled the walks, because no one came.  Ever.  In the middle of January, snow lay untouched, a sea of white. 

For the last fifteen years, she’d imagined the day she would cut across the woods to find a car parked in the driveway, hear glasses tinkling on the patio, the thwack of croquet mallets. Remembered the eyes of the boy she’d met fishing from the deck of the old lighthouse twenty years ago.  The nephew of one of the Tauberts, who’d appeared one brilliant summer and then so soon had been gone. 

She caught something out of the corner of her eye.  Sticking her toe pick into the ice half-way through a turn, Lara jolted to a stop.  Something wasn’t right.   She squinted toward the house.  A puff of grey smoke coiled from one of the chimneys. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

T'is the Season

I drove the long way home after an appointment last week.  Since Thanksgiving was so late this year folks, including us, seem to have jumped right into Christmas.  I figured I’d see a few light displays.  It was foggy, even drizzling a bit, and yet, for me the stars were aligned.  Number one I had the camera.  Number two, there was no wind.  I arrived at the harbor to low tide but a still reflection.  A half a mile away, Meeting Pond mirrored the lights on the town common. Last year my husband gave me a mini-tripod I keep in my car and I set it up on the cement.  It’s a good thing it was dark, because I looked like a contortionist, squatting down to [squirrel] level, squinting at the viewfinder.  

I read something recently.  Celebrating each day leading up to the holiday puts less pressure on the day itself.  Oh yeah.  Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a season. . 

I’m in for that.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Karma vs. the Check Book

 This is December's post of Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  For links to other posts on writing related, anxiety-type topics, click here.

Last spring, Grub Street offered a novel writing course locally, and I jumped at the chance to take it, though not without guilt.  When I got down to it, I could afford to pay for the class, but was it right to spend that kind of money on myself?  What would I have to show for it?   Nothing I could touch or store on a shelf.  But then I remembered something that helped me rationalize.  I’d written an article several months earlier and payment wasn’t scheduled until publication, the month the class started.  My fee would cover the Grub Street cost.  Bazinga.  I ran to the computer to pay.
When that class ended, the teacher asked if we would be interested in taking another session.  As much as I wanted to, dollar-sign guilt fluttered up again.  But get this.  The same week, a local editor asked me to write another article, this time with a much closer publication date. Yeehaa!  Sign me up.

So now, I'm finished with session two.  Grub Street is offering another class after the beginning of the year.  They switch things up and focus on different aspects of novel writing so it will cover new material.  I know how much this effort is helping me improve, so this time when the teacher asked who’d be interested, I raised my hand.  I didn’t even consider that the bill would come due at holiday time.

So here’s the synchronicity.  When life happened last winter and I had to take on more hours at work, I scaled way back on pitching articles, or shopping myself as a freelancer.  Anything that comes my way is gravy right now.  So here I am, all, “Damn the guilt, I’m paying for the third class anyway” when I get an email from the same editor asking for another article. 

Serve me up some mashed potatoes. We start back January 13.