Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tuesday's Meme Express: Bibliophiles

What are you reading this summer?
So far I have read:
Cheaper By the Dozen
The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt
The Distinguished Guest by Sue Miller
Lost in the Forest by Sue Miller
I am currently reading Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forester

What is the best book you have ever read? How many times have you read it?
Oh, there are so many on my shelves that I read and reread again and again always finding something new in them. One of my favorites is Joanna's Husband and David's Wife by Elizabeth Forsyth Hailey and I've read it at least half a dozen times.

What was your favorite book as a child? Why?

I loved so many, but three come to mind:
The Poky Little Puppy - It's a classic. I think I always connected with the puppy's independent spirit.
No, No, Joan - The book is shaped like a cat. Joan is a cat and is pictured doing naughty things, such as clawing the curtains and knocking over plants, throughout the book. Really, the illustrations tell the story as the only words in the book are "No, No, Joan!" until the last page when Joan does something (I can't remember what) "right" and the words beneath the picture say "Yes, Yes, Joan!" I think I liked using my imagination and I love cats.
Miss Rumphius - This is such a beautiful story for young and old alike. Miss Rumphius is an unconventional woman who travels the world, lives her dream, eventually settles by the sea, and is trying to find a way to make the world a more beautiful place. She stumbles upon a way to make the world more beautiful when the lupine in her garden begin spreading all over her yard. She resolves to spread lupine seeds everywhere she goes thereby making the world more beautiful. Just a great, great story.

If you could write your own book, what would you call it?

I have written two books, one for my niece and one for my nephew. "Laughing Lily" and "Jumping Jackson" are the titles.
For seven years, off and on, I have been working on a memoir tentatively titled "Just Boyfriends."

What would it be about?

If I ever finish my memoir, it will be about the four boys I dated before I met my husband, how my life has been shaped by those relationships, and how the lessons I learned from those relationships led me to my husband. The boys sort of fall into categories: "The First Boyfriend", "The Long Distance Relationship", "The Cheater", and "The Bad Boy" (so bad in fact he had been in juvenile hall before we met, went to jail a month or so after we broke up, and is in jail (according to the internet) as I type this).

There is a link to the Meme Express blog in the Notable Blogs section to the right of this post.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday Scribblings #119: My Oldest Friend

Though I always read others Sunday Scribblings, I have never written a Sunday Scribbling of my own. This week, though it is now Monday, I will give it a try.
I am my oldest friend, my mother is my oldest friend, but I choose to write about my oldest friend outside my family.

Born in March 1981, she was just a squirmy, three month old infant when we met in June 1981, shortly after I was born. Her mom, Ida, and my mom, Mary-Lynn, met in college in the early 1970's and became fast friends. There was no question that Alison and I mostly likely would be too. They gave us the gift of knowing each other from infancy and, for a long time, growing up together. I always felt this somehow made us sisters, somehow linked us for life.

Maybe part of why we delighted so much in each other was the joy of looking at another person and seeing one's self. As little girls, many people mistook us for twins. Round faces; wide-set brown eyes like bottomless puddles thick with mud; and impossibly curly, impressively dark, brown hair that shown bits of red in summer. One day when we were about 4, we were out with my mother doing errands. As we walked hand in hand across the parking lot, a woman stopped my mother to ask if Ali and I were twins. Before my mother could speak our two lilliputian voices giggled, in unison, "No, best friends."

My memories of our childhood are vast, innumerable. Days on the playground, feeding the ducks at Jenny Gristmill, playing in the dirt when my dad was building her new house, visiting her on the Cape to bring her coloring books and a Snow White doll when she had her tonsils out, playing dress up, riding in the go-cart while she drove, tea-parties at the bottom of her paternal grandmother's swimming pool, swimming lessons at TiTi's, the first time my mom left us alone in the house and we ended up huddled together hiding in the bathtub, days on Duxbury Beach, birthday parties, staying over her house the night before my brother was born and when my parents went to Bermuda, a week in Maine with her paternal grandparents, just everything that makes up childhood, that is a part of growing up.

When I was 10 and a 1/2 my parents went bankrupt and we had to move forty-five minutes away from our old life and in with my paternal grandparents. During that time, my parents cut us off from everybody we had known. As a result, Ali and I were separated, seeing each other only sporadically. The gap widened as we got older. Still we were always there for each other when it counted, for the big life events. I lived in her bedroom for a few months when I transferred colleges and she was in California. It was she who called me when she found out I had abruptly moved out of my parents house, at the age of 19, leaving only notes behind. She who met me in Boston for lunch and sat across from me listening, understanding, interjecting her own thoughts and ideas only when I had finished speaking, sensitively and respectfully asking what information was o.k. to pass on and what I would rather keep between us. I guess we have an innate understanding of each other born from knowing each other since infancy.

Waiting for her in bustling Davis Square two weeks ago, having not seen her for over a year, I was filled with girlish excitement and an inexplicable inner calm, a sense of coming home or of home coming to me. Leaning against the brick facade of the restaurant, looking up from time to time into the sea of faces milling around me, I spotted her in the old Jeep, evidence of the four years she spent in Malibu at Pepperdine University, a self-imposed exile during her parents divorce. It is not the Jeep that I recognize first, but her profile. The plane of her face, her wild curls made wilder by the summertime heat, the spattering of freckles across her shoulder, the almost imperceptible parting of her lips as she pauses before turning into the parking lot, and the movement of her hands on the wheel. I would know her anywhere.

Hearing the beep of her car alarm activating across the street, I close the book I have been reading and look up. As she exits the parking lot, fumbling to put her keys into her quilted purse, she glances up and spots me. Instantly her eyes change and she smiles revealing a perfectly straight and perfectly white expanse of teeth. Her father was a dentist. At the whir of an engine coming toward her, Ali's stride quickens and she opens her arms to embrace me as her feet clear the curb.

Inside the restaurant our conversation is easy. Over gnocci and pizza, we talk of jobs, family, travels, Italy, friends, love, adoption and real estate. She is looking for an apartment closer to Boston, to work, and tonight, after dinner, we will go to look at one together. I love how we are still so non-judgmental of each other, how there is no hint of one-up-man-ship in what we reveal of our lives. If it is possible, we are still as open to each other now as we were when we were children.

Outside J.P. Licks we giggle over ice cream and sorbet, our conversation turns lighter, except for the bit about her cousin leaving for Iraq this week. I make a mental note to add him and Ali to my nightly prayer list. After looking at the apartment, she drops me at the t-station and even then it is difficult to say goodbye. I hop out of the Jeep and we are still talking. We've missed each other. We promise to make this a monthly occasion and I am grateful. She blows me a kiss from the driver's seat. I catch it, blow one back, and descend into the cool dark of the subway system.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Drunk with Literary Love

Again I have missed Fess Up Friday. This is entirely due to being drunk on and physically unable to put down either of the two Sue Miller books I borrowed from the library. A long while ago I read The Good Mother because it is one of my mother's favorite books and, a few years ago I read Family Pictures. My interest in Sue Miller was rekindled when I applied to the writer's conference as she is going to be there. So, on Wednesday, I picked up a few of her books at the library. Friday I began reading The Distinguished Guest. Yesterday I finished hungrily devouring it and began reading Lost in the Forest and, just a few moments ago as the clock struck midnight, I finished it. I would have finished sooner if not for love of my husband above all. It seems that in my literary drunkenness the dirty laundry, mail, and other household responsibilities piled up. This afternoon he told me he would like some help and intermittently I, somewhat begrudgingly I must admit, put down the book and answered his pleas. We went to bed at 10:20 and at 10:40 I found myself laying in bed wide awake unable to sleep having not finished the book. Suddenly I found myself shimmying out from under the arm my husband had protectively placed across me and creeping into the living room where my book waited. So elicit!

There is something about Sue Miller's work. The way it flows nearly seamlessly. The way she manages to let each of her characters have their say without making the transitions feel bumpy or abrupt. The way she writes sex so honestly and unflinchingly. The humanity she brings to all of her characters in all of their dealings, pleasant, unpleasant, or anywhere in between. Reading her work inspires me to keep working on mine, to keep seeking perfection in my own writing.

Inspiration to keep moving forward in my own work is something I really need these days. I received an email last week informing me that I had not been selected for the Lesley University Writers Conference, but encouraging me to "continue pursuing (my) passion." After much self-doubt and some mild disappointment, I have come to the conclusion that this is a good thing, this being rejected. It is part of being a writer. You work, you submit your work, you frequently get rejected, but you keep working, keep striving, keep writing for the love of it. Maybe you aren't really a writer until you submit and get rejected. In any case, this was a milestone. I will keep writing in order to get better at it, improve my craft, and apply again next year.

I have also been exploring other conferences coming up this summer and beyond and found The Green Mountain Writers Conference in Vermont, the Patchwork Farm Writing and Yoga Retreat in the Berkshires, Kentucky Women Writers Conference, the Sanibel Island Writers Conference (Florida in November sounds delightful), the A Room of her Own Foundation Retreat, Robert Vaughn's Write on the Beach... There is just so much out there to explore and apply for! It is encouraging.

As far as fessing up about my writing this week, aside from blog entries and to-do lists and one thank you note, I have been stalled. As result, I allowed myself to indulge in literary drunkenness, but it has brought me inspiration and tomorrow is another day.

Monday, July 7, 2008


My husband was on vacation last week and I was at my nanny job on Wednesday and Thursday which left me little time for writing. It was wonderful to spend time with my husband though and awfully difficult to say good-bye when he went off to work this morning.

My husband is a "car guy." He loves driving them, changing his own brakes, cleaning his wheels, racing them, and watching other people race them. This brings me to this past week during which we spent three days at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and one evening watching demolition derby at Brockton Fair. Being a writer, no matter where I am, I am always looking for stories and inspiration for stories. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy motorsports, but four days of car activities in one week... a lot. So, I observed people and let my mind wander. At Nascar in New Hampshire there were so many 'characters': a man in a bathingsuit, the Indian couple with their young son all decked out in Dale Jr. merchandise, the two Asian couples, the man with a long red ponytail and a bottle full of a vodka/redbull mix, the ladies with their tanktop and bra straps folded into their tanks so they didn't get tanlines on their shoulders, and all of this within three rows of me! If I can't come up with any material from all of that, how can I call myself a writer? The Brockton Fair was interesting because it is like stepping into a time warp and it brings out all of the kooky people. I was also fascinated by the animals in the petting zoo, for sale, putting on a show (elephants, camels, ponies), to ride (ponies), and racing (pigs). I wanted to set them all free. I think I could write a childrens book with the premise of a little girl or boy wanting to free the animals at the fair and imagining what would happen if she/he did OR write a short story from the perspective of the animals OR write a story where the animals are in charge and the people are racing, in a zoo, for sale, and putting on shows. Inspiration is everywhere.

I officially applied to the Lesley University Writers Conference. It starts on July 27th, so I should be hearing back soon. Waiting is the pits, but I am trying to think positively in the meantime. I appreciate any positive energy you might send my way.

I have been noticing more traffic and returning traffic to my blog the past few weeks. Thank you for reading!