I LASTED FIFTEEN MINUTES (or the terrors of self-promotion at book fairs)

20 06 2017

Great blog about the experience of taking one’s books to a fair and trying to have an impact. It reminds me of my mother taking on my home ec teacher (when I couldn’t get my work done because there were only five sewing machines for a class of 30, and we couldn’t take out things home) – teacher said I was “too much of a lady”, and then she somehow got fired. Just saying…

My cousin-in-law, the author of this blog, is obviously a gentleman. Thank heavens there are some of them left.

Source: I LASTED FIFTEEN MINUTES





Statute of Limitations

10 06 2017

images-9I’ve just read Nuala O’Faolin’s “Almost There”, a book of the second half of her life, after the success of part one of her memoir. I love her writing and she makes me want to go live in Ireland forever, but in this book, I found myself irritated by her perspective.

She spent the book blaming her mother for being absent with depression and alcoholism, and her father for not being there. Really? REALLY? I mean, in this book she’s in her 60’s!! Can you honestly go through your entire adult life blaming your parents? Surely you must have contributed something to your general state of misery yourself by age 60 – heck, 40 even! Blaming your parents in late middle age is kind of ridiculous unless you’ve been living with them your entire life. parents-to-blame

I had differences with my parents, especially my mum, but I can’t hold things against her anymore. I certainly don’t blame her for me being single and a bit odd and perhaps a bit messed up. Nope, that’s all down to me. I figure at this stage I should take responsibility for myself, thanks. Hardly fair to blame a woman who is now gone for 25 years.

It’s a bit like chewing over marriage/relationship issues endlessly. Your marriage ends, you work out the hateful details, and then, by golly, you should let it go. Even if the guy/gal treated you horribly, holding onto anger just leaves you trapped. Sure, there are things to work out, like why you let them treat you that way, and how you can prevent it in the future, but there’s no point in blaming them for this work.

Everyone contributes to their own growth or lack of same, to some extent. I know women get trapped in abusive relationships, and I am sad for them. But when they pull themselves out of the toxic scene, they need to let go of it, move to making themselves whole again, instead of endlessly rehashing the situation.

 

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Still, she makes a good point…

I know I had to do this. When I left my lonely marriage, I wrote all of the reasons I was angry on a piece of paper and burned it. When my ex kept demanding to know why I was leaving, I couldn’t remember – I’d burned my memories. I didn’t want to live with them anymore. Fortunately, I had journals or I might have reconsidered – but my review of those at one point reminded me of the little cruelties we’d visited upon one another until the desire to live together was gone. For me, anyway. (Some of the love remains, and always will.)

There should be a statute of limitations on blaming people for unhappiness. Eventually, it isn’t fair. And there’s a need to get on with life, find the things that make your life better, ditch the sulkies over being treated badly. And go live a little! As for me, I’m letting go of the anger I feel over a child’s betrayal. He’s made his choice. Time for me to move on.

After all, as George Hebert said, “Living well is the best revenge.”

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Men

3 06 2017

Auf_zarten_SaitenI’ve been lucky in my life. I’ve had at least four angel men in my life. My dad, of course, who shared so much with me in my childhood, taught me the importance of art in a working life, showed me how to carve, draw, photograph, sculpt, paint, and cope with chronic illness with continual learning.

My unknown angel, who sat with me on the bus home the time my dad was in the ICU and not expected to live. He taught me the beauty of casual friendship, the gift of displacing and postponing emotion until you are not needed. He let me arrive at 6 AM in Haymarket after no sleep, and go to Mass General, see my dad on a ventilator, and be able to joke to make him smile. He needed that. He needed to be himself, while surrounded by machines. And my family needed to see he was still there, still his funny charming self, even while his life hung in the balance.

The first man I dated after I separated – a kind man with a fascinating mind that taught me there was still life in this old girl yet, that despite years of living alone in a marriage, I was still desirable and desired, still capable of having fun with men. Still sexually powerful, if you will. It wasn’t anything I had appreciated before. It gave me the strength to cope with a lot of challenges the first year. He allowed me to see that I could have a new relationship if I wanted one.

And my dear friend for the past many years who is always on the end of a phone line, always ready for a laugh or a voice of support, who shares books and the love of them with me. He understands me, perhaps too well. We get along best at a distance, but I don’t know what I would do without him. He’s saved me many a time and I cherish every moment we share. Even if he did refuse to let me go see the Frick. He’s taught me so much about the world and about the benefit of long term friendships. I haven’t had too many, given all my moving around when married. And he’s a fellow life-long learner…

I mustn’t forget my wilderness angel, who brings me pickles and wine and is universally kind to friends and strangers. He’s shown me that being kind is never too much effort, that giving and sharing should come naturally. I’ve never met anyone like him. Plus he can do anything, or he teaches himself how. More lifelong learning lessons.

images-6These men give me hope. But today, as I went on my rounds, I saw men shouting at other drivers and their partners, I saw guys being jerks everywhere I went. The US is led by a collaboration of jerky men, men who shout and bluster and have to crush others to make themselves big. Men who shout ignorance instead of speaking knowledge.

You may notice the abundance of the word shout in the above paragraph. I lived with shouting for years and I react like a beaten dog whenever I hear it. All it takes is a raised voice in my direction and I want to be out. I obviously have to figure around this but I am damaged after the time living with an angry person… A friend raised his voice at me recently and I was shattered for an entire day. The worst part is BEFORE the shouting, when men’s faces get closed and violent and you know there is going to be an unpleasant outcome, whether hitting things or yelling, or both.

It’s worth noting that my angel men all managed to be strong without shouting, charming without dominating, argumentative without being rude. It’s a rare commodity and seems to be becoming rarer. I don’t know about my angel man on the bus, but all of the others are intelligent and knowledgeable without being certain they are right. They allow doubt, they tryangry-man-shouting-towards-girlfriend-driving-car_haydjukfe_thumbnail-small14 to learn. They can and do change their opinions.

Where are these strong men? There must be more of them out there somewhere. I do hope they will step forward and bring sanity back to our world, to traffic, to relationships. All I know is I am tired of the bellow of revving motorcycles and of men shouting, “You fucking idiot!” at anyone who causes them the slightest inconvenience. And hitting when shouting isn’t enough. And killing.

Calm down, everyone. Take the time to be polite and charming and learn new things. And please stop taking everything out on the women around you. Please.

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Independent Writers’ Associations

20 05 2017

Pertinent article! Join your local IWA!

Looking Forward From the Past

When my father joined the ranks of indie-authors back in the early 1980s there were small and large publishing houses all over the place. On an earlier round a draft book of his, on the subject of children and play, had been picked up by one of those houses. He made no money from going what we now call the “traditional” route, but for the publishing house the money was available somewhere in the myriad of grants that the Secretary of State (a defunct federal department) made available.

My father’s indie-author project focused upon his experiences in World War Two. The topic did not fit into the funding criteria with which Canada’s large and small publishers were working.

Dad wrote his first draft by hand. My mother did the first round of typing. He then engaged a former secretary to re-type the manuscript from the beginning to the end. Photocopying…

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“If we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention.” Ben Marcus

13 05 2017

“So You Want To Be a Writer” – excellent article by the Guardian. I love the Guardian. A voice of sanity in a baffling world.

 





Roméo Irené Pierre Vachon

5 05 2017

Such an impossibly romantic name! Such an impossibly romantic background – his father a famous pilot back in the day when pilots rarely made it to the parenting age. My uncle Pierre’s father‘s plane is in the museum of Science and Technology…

But it’s about my equally romantic uncle I’m writing today. One of my very favourite uncles, one after whom I named my son, one who always made me smile, and one who was a role model for me in so many ways. A man who was handsome and dashing in looks, charming in manner – in every sense the romantic hero.

My uncle passed away this week, at the age of 85. I am sad to lose him, but I know that his faith will see him safely to see his peaceful place – and I know that he lived a life full of adventures and love and gusto and appreciation and joy.

Camino-de-Santiago-800Uncle Peter (or Pierre as I eventually was brave enough to call him, after my years of poorly learned French) was a man who lived large. He, his first wife, Dorothy Anne, and my cousins were such a huge part of my growing up they feel like my family. Uncle Pierre did things I always dreamed of doing – walking the Camino – twice! Hiking and staying in monasteries, gaining thoughtful peace. Coming home to a home filled of laughter and caring. Raising his children in a bilingual household when it was not the standard of the time. Being a member of the United Eclectics!

I loved him so, but I don’t think he really got to know me until I was a grownup, when I was fortunate to have some deep conversations with him. He made me yearn: for philosophy, for religion, for walking, for peace. There are so few people that you meet who make you want to be better than you are. He had that effect on me.

When I was a kid, and all of us, a multiplicity of cousins and associated parents were staying at our Second Cousin Cousin Grace’s cottage on Cape Cod. I couldn’t sleep. No lecture from depicB9bhzysignated babysitter Pierre. He talked to me, and made me a sandwich of bread, butter, and brown sugar. It knocked me right out. (The other parents simply told me to get back to bed. I remember his unexpected kindness).

I think that was what I loved most about Uncle Pierre – his ability to be kind in unexpected ways. As with many men of his generation, he held himself a little apart from the silliness that is little girls. But he adored my mother and father, and they adored him back. He adored all of his children, and their crazy pets – the Vachons always had a dog of enhanced personality – and his love for my aunt was bright and visible. Growing up in a cooler house, I liked to see the joy between them.

One morning Pierre and Dorothy Anne arrived just as we were heading out to church, and so we told them to help themselves to breakfast and left them in the kitchen. What Uncle Pierre couldn’t have guessed is that my dad had been experimenting with rum in maple syrup, and had a jug of it, a fair bit too rummy, in the back of the fridge, waiting for some titration with more maple syrup. We arrived home to find the two of them giggling helplessly over crumbs of pancakes. “Chris,” said Pierre to my father, “I think your maple syrup has gone off a bit.”

Uncle Pierre taught my dad how to sail, one calm day on Lake Washington. We were renting a place on the lake and it came with a small boat. Dad was eager to try, so out we went, testing how to turn about and manage the sails and the rudder and everything. It wasn’t very exciting due to lack of wind, but the motor brought us in nicely.

3180fbe356dc290e644f527d4efea652Uncle Pierre was a great teacher. So much so that my dad felt supremely confident, and the first chance he had, he took us all out in the boat on his own. Never mind there was a gale blowing up… We nearly drowned, except that my older brother conveniently let go of the sail line just as we were tipping over and we fluttered back into verticality, with only one head injury to report. I can still hear my dad laughing as he reported it all to Uncle Pierre on the phone the next day…

Pierre was at his wife’s side during her terminal cancer and supported her throughout. He also was stand-in family for many of the Warner (Dorothy Anne’s) clan, sharing his home with my lovely Uncle Cliff, rallying around to help where needed.

After Dorothy Anne died, he was also brave enough to love again, marrying the very sweet Margaret Graham. I haven’t met her in real life yet, and I love her already, just through the brief electronic chats we’ve had. I’m so glad they found each other after the loss of their first spouses – they had some time (not nearly enough) to travel and paint and laugh together.

200aa737d8ab4d7e90ecbcc1fc30eb7bI’ve been so blessed. I got to grow up in a life full of cousins and aunts and uncles that, barring the occasional one or two (there is always a worm in the apple!) made my world full of friends and people who supported me, who loved me unconditionally. We’ve lived all over the place, and we don’t see one another nearly often enough, but the lovelines are there and strong. I treasure them, and as with every family event, I vow to strengthen them even more…while knowing time, finances, illness, and life will keep us apart more than together.

Go with God, my dear “oncle Pierre”. I can’t walk the Camino, with my MS and general weakness in the heat. But I dedicate the next 500 miles of my walking to you. Once again, you are inspiring me to be better than I am. It might take me a year, or two. Or possibly more…how I will miss you. I will look for your kindness in the faces I see and seek quiet in myself as I walk.

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The post-conference slump

2 05 2017

lacking_focus_koteckiI am a terrible person. I go to these writing conferences  (Iceland…..) and come home, alight with the possibilities in writing, and then I find myself committing acts of extreme procrastination so I don’t have to actually get down to it.

And yet, the conference makes me feel like I NEED to be writing. Ergo: guilt – that floating misery underneath the skin of every properly-raised Roman Catholic gal. And grumpiness from feeling guilty. And restlessness.

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So I needle-felt some animals, do some embroidery, met up with friends I haven’t seen in ages, and even caught a horrible cold that has laid me low for the *(^^*)*^ 2nd time this winter and rendered me voiceless and dizzy. Hard to think with all that going on. I’ve even resorted to knitting socks. I don’t even know HOW to knit socks.

images-2And I volunteered for a facebook list on MS that is so incredibly busy I had to opt out again almost immediately, booked a cottage for June (ostensibly to write), plus volunteered for a festival where I have to camp and take tickets and such. It will be exhausting and fun and I’m looking forward to it – but it all isn’t writing.

Though, every experience gives me a character….And every character has a story…and I read things about strange little historical items like the hospital for the poor and ill nearby that saw so many deaths and has a tiny graveyard lost beside it. It calls for a story, a tale about the inhabitants, those with MS, MD, acquired illnesses…

But I have to finish what I have started, first. Like a magpie, my eye spins to sparkly new things, wants me to shift focus.

cough-till-lung-is-outOr maybe that’s just the ^#&$)Q^ coughing.

I’ve got to focus more, put my head in the game. Now that I’ve paid my taxes (a horrible weight on my soul since I owed), and organized my budget, got through the first days of the cold from hell, I should be able to push my head into writing. I can split my day, write half, felt half. Maybe I can even finish the socks. Need to stick my head into the bridle and pull forward.

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