All those books...and more

Writing a book doesn't mean you stop reading, but rather you might find yourself, or oneself, reading more.  In fact, many writers recommend that the best way to learn how to write is to "read."  I echo that recommendation, but also one need know which books to read and when.  Of great import is  whether you already own the book before rushing off to the bookstore to buy another.

With that in mind, I rediscovered Library Thing, when I was in Pittsburgh for the holidays and yesterday I started logging in my own stacks of books. 

After listening to Diane Rehm's hour long show on "Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant" by Anne Tyler, I went home nearly certain but in some doubt whether (a) I read it, and (b) I had it.  Thus far, I can't confirm either as I have only gotten to the third shelf of numerous bookcases with multiple bookshelves. 

When I lived in New York and Providence, all my books were alphabetized by subject, mostly fiction, but here at Little Wagner I have books in three rooms, all cradled into smaller footage and hence not so methodically housed.  The only area of clarity is poetry with a bookcase of its own in the living room. 

But even among that lot of poetry books, I have books on or about writing and nearly repurchased "Writers and their Notebooks," Margaret Atwood's "Negotiating with the Dead," and "Reading Like a Writer" which Kelly McMasters had recommended and which I had bought at her now extinct bookshop Moody Road Studios.  I then neglected the books and the shop.  I suppose I am partially responsible for not having a proper bookseller in the county as I didn't buy more than half a dozen books at Moody Road.  Sigh!

Then in the middle of cataloging the books, one shelf tumbled down on another, and now I am surrounded by books, all out of order, and screaming to be eaten as Ray Bradbury declared in Fahreheit 451:

I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name ’em, I ate ’em.
And on this last day of 2014, with resolutions in the air and snow on the ground, I'd much rather write or eat a book in this celestial garden

Patrick Leigh Fermor summer home

then think about writing in long janes, a heavy sweater, and a vest, fluffy socks on my feet and lined Merrills.

Happy New Year to all, and to all a good day!


Save the Books: James Patterson

A petition, letters, fanfare, James Patterson's campaign to save the books, and the shops that sell them.

Check out his website


What I did in November: start a novel Nanowrimo way!

What prompted me?  Not certain.

How I did!  I qualified on November 22 with about 65,000 words.

Where is it going and how did I do it?

Taking a page from Nanowrimo winner, Pete Denison, who shared his tools at the beginning of the challenge,

I used these analog tools:

Analog tools

I was out and about when I first thought to do Nanowrimo and had an Exaclair sketchbook with me. It  is too precious for just plain scribbling so I pulled out a red Moleskine.  I've always thought "red" was energy and to complete 50,000 words in 30 days needs energy.   I also had a Fabriano A5 Misto spiral notebook that I used for scheduling and a small Midori Diamond Memo reporter which I carried around, even from room to room, as thoughts went through my head.

Books were a huge part of my creative process as those wonderful friends are characters in the novel.

And these digital tools:

I would normally have just written in Microsoft Word but at the outset it seemed to be corrupted and I started to panic.   I didn't want to buy another package, and called my not very local Mac distributor in New York City, Tekserve, to see if they could help me.   The Tech Rep mentioned in passing a downloadable program called, Open Office.  I downloaded it straight away and discovered it was easy to master.

I started to write in Open Office and quickly did import and export with Scrivener.

Winners got a discount yesterday, December 1, for this fabulous program.  I was able to cut and paste without really moving around as one would other programs and simply created a new document;  one can merge two documents with the flick of the wrist, and it keeps a count of your individual document words, and then project statistics, making it easy to see where you are in reaching your goals.

Back two years ago one of the Women's Festival in Hobart (New York) workshop presenters mentioned Scrivener, but I wasn't writing a novel then and didn't buy it.

Yesterday I got my registered copy of the program and feel I was given a gift.

I intend to edit and finish the novel before the Spring hits the Valley.

Midori bought at Jet Pens
Fabriano bought a Brushstrokes
Moleskine Red Sketchbook, options nationally
Exaclair, gifted
Scrivener at Literature & Latte


Bears in the Apple Tree

Mike sent me this photo and a few others after our visit the other night.  This was taken by Joel, a cousin, in 2011.

But is seems that we have one Harmon cow missing and a bear somewhere out in the far field, and only one will come out after chasing them around for days.   The cow has now been missing too long. 


Fountain Pen Day

I've taken out some of the neglected fountain pens and they whined from neglect.

And I've inked up others.

And here is one of those fountain pens that doesn't get a great deal of use.

1930 Gold Bond Triumph, ringtop

This pen appears to have quite a pedigree, but until recently I only knew that she is as sweet as any pen can be and lovely to use.   A Gold Bond, with a 14k nib, small in the hand, and perfect for my hands.

The pens I inked include a Conklin, also vintage, a Safari Al-Star in ruby, three Esterbrooks and using my new dailies, two Pilots, a Black Metropolitan and an Apple Green fun Kakuno.

I don't generally have so many pens inked, but did because I am editing a book and wanted to test out all the reds in my stable.

Hope all the fountain pen folks are enjoying reading blogs and signing up for some fabulous giveaways.


Compare & Contrast: Sennelier & Schmincke watercolour

I am preparing my travel bag and had one of the two watercolor palettes in the bag.

I did a comparison last night, and think I'll take both.

Sennelier & Schmincke 12 pan metal palattes ©

The Sennelier is a nice palette but like Graham has a wee bit more honey in it for my personal taste and dries slowly.   I don't have a complete Winsor Newton in a 12 pan set, and have a much larger Daniel Smith paint Schmincke palette.

In the end I prefer Winsor Newton & Schmincke paints more than Sennelier, Graham and Daniel Smith watercolor which I use for botanicals.

We all have our preferences.


Do you know: Marc Taro Holmes

If you don't know or follow Marc Taro Holmes blog, Citizen Sketcher, you might consider it because he not only draws and paints like a Master, he often explains how he accomplishes it.

Now he's published a book, "The Urban Sketcher."

It is not like any of the other urban sketching books I have or have seen.  Why?

Marc Taro Holmes

It is all Marc.

It is all teaching, learning, seeing, exploring.

It is all clear, and friendly.

It is Marc on paper and not just at Citizen Sketcher.

I just got it and already love it!

See some of Marc's work in this interview


Old Work 2, Abstracts

Gifted to Red Dog Scott in exchange for a tarot book

Knife in the Water

Experiment with walnut ink

If my eyes don't deceive me these were made in 2002;  the first two small abstracts in a Jonathan Talbot workshop (Warwick, New York).

I am closing down a very old website that has languished for many years and for which I have a quarterly fee.   Rather than try to find these images which are probably lost in computer moves and losses, I copied and pasted them here.

Old Work, Exquisite Corpses 2003


How Global is too global: Waldorf Astoria, New York

Park Avenue, facing South

So how Global should we be? 

The Waldorf Astoria, built in 1931 and a New York City landmark has been sold to a Chinese insurance company.

In my lifetime the changes in the City have been enormous.  If you live in the Apple you may not notice those changes, but when you leave as I have and return, you realize the extent of those changes, many radical.

Who owns a property is not often the subject of news and property does change hands with some frequency.

Neighbourhoods have face lifts.   Some become popular, others become passe.

But Park Avenue has been rather emblematic of chic, and often even too elite to traverse. 

However, Park Avenue is a wonderful thru way for traffic Uptown & Down with a wider expanse, similar to a boulevard, and yellow taxi cabs are often the predominant vehicle on the Avenue.  It also takes you directly to Grand Central Station.

Exterior Grand Central Station

Sometimes change is good; sometimes change is too abrupt, too radical, too swift for my tastes.


Is the Amazon that long?

According to this piece,  Amazon, the mega on line retailer, will open a bricks & mortar store on 34th Street, New York City.

A great name for the retailer as the Amazon River is perhaps the largest to discharge in the world.

And the retailer sure knows how to race across a Continent.


The Hacket on Hachette

The authors uniting. 

Prize winning author Ursula Le Guin, three of her books in my re-read pile, including The Left Hand of Darkness, says:

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author. Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

Other notable writers engaged include Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera,

Book Stores: Lamenting, at a distance, another closure

Twin Cities, MN 1963-2014 RIP


Synchronicity, Time Management & Writing

I don't suppose Jung invented the word, but he certainly explained synchronicity in his writing, often, and so when it happens to me, as it does with relative frequency, I ponder why I don't go back to the Institute.

Quo Vadis blogger Leah Hoffman wrote about Time Management recently, and in my to read file I finally got to "The Psychology of Writing and the Cognitive Science of the Perfect Daily Routine" at BrainPickings.

Routine is one of the key words in the title because it seems, for me at least, without a routine, I don't write enough or on the subject(s) I want to explore.

Distraction is another factor to seriously explore in my non-routine.

And here James Elroy, with 19 hand written novels under his belt, talks about how he doesn't permit distraction.

When I wrote each morning, not leaving my seat until one thousand words were manufactured, I had few distractions--no internet, no email, no phone calls permitted, no garden to attend, a large wonderful writing surface and the ease of an adjacent carafe of coffee.

Writing Hat, gift Shirley Valentine (alias) ~ 1990

And my hat.

With my hat in view, and a major change in plans because of the abrupt change of season cold, I also explored discardia, the art of not saving stuff you don't use, and decided it was time to let go of my dancing shoes.   They were not aiding my energy level, I wasn't dancing around the studio and they wouldn't help me write.

Leather skin dancing shoes, gift RS 1994

They, like the writing hat, were a gift from a friend.    I don't recall the circumstances surrounding the gift.  But RS, an artist, lived in a terrific loft near the Italian District on Atwells and permitted her friends to use the space.   During my sabbatical year, and before I went off to see the US in the Spring of '92, I went over to the loft once or twice a week, used her big screen Mac and spread out work I was working on.   It was this friend with whom I did Morning Pages where I fleshed out some tough stuff. 

I won't miss the shoes.  I do miss RS.  Sometimes I miss Shirley Valentine, now in Birmingham (England) but I still have my hat.


Changes at the Apple Farm

The weather has been strange, occasionally cold, then often in the 60s or even the low 80s.   One night and early morning it was nearly freezing.  All the plants, with the exception of a very heavy indoor-outdoor tree, are now in the house.  Many lost their glow, several their leaves.

Today Autumn, Fall hit hard as I drove out to town.

View from Little Wagner's driveway ©

It is fascinating that Pantone colours can closely approximate nature.

Pantone colours ©

What colours would these be in paint?


The fabulous Gs: Goulet & Gazebo

I like small shops, personal and personable.

Today the two Gs: Gazebo & Goulet proves why it still pays to buy local or as local as you can, and by that I mean the small business, not the mega-stores.

I haven't lived in the Pioneer Valley since 1996, yet when I phoned Gazebo today they had all my previous sales on record, walked me through some purchases, and will send my order by regular mail, not for a fortune, but at cost. 

If you are ever near Northampton, take yourself off the Main Street and walk down Center Street, visit the shop & get excited about women's undergarments.  Always pleasant, always helpful, never overpriced and in business for as long as I visited or lived nearby over twenty years now.  In fact, for quite awhile my office was above the shop when I worked for FP.

Then there is Goulet, pens that is.

The married couple, young, energetic, learning and now experienced, who run a small business that is accessible also offers choices in merchandise & shipping.  You don't suffer the pangs of buying an ink sample and paying more for the postage than that itty bitty vial.   I placed an order for a bottle of the De Atramentis Document Black & three samples around 2pm, and received notice at around 3pm DST that it had shipped USPS 1st Class.

I also talked to Askew & Taylor today, and as always received the best service although I ultimately did not place an order.

I don't want to live in a mall, go paperless and stop using a pen.


Shall I take a sojourn with Woolf?

The National Portrait Gallery (UK) is exhibiting a rather extensive look at Virginia Woolf's life.

Some audio is available here.

Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision runs through October 26.

Would I have time to prepare an overseas journey? 

Would I stretch it out and visit friends in Scotland & Ireland.

Or will I stay at Little Wagner and write in a room of my own?


The Hat

Two dozen years ago, Shirley Valentine and I went Christmas shopping.

At one of several local sales, she bought me a writing hat.  No, the hat didn't write, but rather this was to be the hat I wore to write.

It was all part of our authentic voice discussions.   We hadn't seen each other for a couple of years as she went off to Edinburgh in 1988, and I moved to Providence a year later.  When we both lived in the City, we'd meet once a week, often eating Indian food on 6th Street, or around the corner on 2nd Avenue.

Our friendship was bonded by the tossing of after dinner fennel seeds at each other and a Masters in Psychology she earned while I learned. But before that we both worked on separate projects in the same medical school.

It was her then and now former husband, DA, that brought us together.  He and I were the best of adversarial friends in science and literature.   He'd come to my office, put his feet up and we'd fuss so badly, on occasion, that folks would be afeared outside the closed, but not locked door that we were killing each other.   He came down from Harvard to do molecular biology in '82.   He married my weekly dinner friend about a year later.

DA and I never gave up our fussing or friendship, but somewhere or sometime it was the wife and not the husband that I met each week.

Today I brought down that Shirley Valentine hat and put it close to my desk.

Not tomorrow when I have an early appointment, or even Thursday when I have three meetings already scheduled, but Friday, the hat is going to write.


Warbler Burial ... no ritual!

I was clearing one patch of ground near the house bit by bit.   And when finished I would lay down a nice layer of mulch and hope to plant on it next season.

While raking I noticed an unusual colour.

Not a weed, but a bird.   Dead.

I don't know when the bird died,  but on the day I discovered it, ebird was describing two similar Warblers--the Blackpoll & the the Bay Breasted.

Bay-breasted Warbler (Wiki)

Blackpoll Warbler (Wiki)

I thought I'd read the article, see if I could determine whether this bird was one or the other, but I found myself bereft. 

The discovery brought back very unpleasant childhood memories.

Today I dug a grave, put a marker at the spot and hoped the images would diminish.


Banned in Vermont

I found this article intriguing: Banning the use of electronics in the cafe in Burlington (Vermont).

When I lived in Guilford (a tiny town outside of Brattleboro) I had no Internet or land line phone service on the farm;  hence, I would go to the most comfortable cafe, have coffee, often lunch of a scrumptious soup, and do my Internet business.

Blue Moose on High Street

Calls, then, were made on my cell.

Will other cafes follow suit?


Sullivan County (NY)

More on this at the end of the month.


Zuihitsu in Hobart

It didn't matter one iota what it was called.  I only knew that Cheryl Boyce Taylor would be doing a workshop on the topic, and that of all the poetry workshop facilitators I've encountered Cheryl inspired me the most.

She didn't disappoint. 

Two and one half hours later, I was loaded with new inspiration, the names of several poets I was either unfamiliar with or with whom I needed a new introduction.

The workshop, "Zuihitsu," was liberating and the women in the workshop filled the small back room of the Blenheim Hill Bookshop with incredible energy, beauty and amazing talent.

It happened at the 2nd (now annual) Festival of Women Writers, and this year several male figures appeared, envious of the excitement about the number of writers who would be presenting, reading or offering workshops.

In addition to Cheryl's workshop, I attended Ginnah Howard's workshop entitled, "Making the Leap from Real Life into Fiction" and Esther Cohen's workshop "Good Stories."  

Ginnah shared how she made her real life a publishable fiction, more than once, while Esther really made writing a good story seem easy.

Hobart is not your average town.  It is not big, no bigger than one long narrow street, and a few shops off the Main Street, but what it has that few other towns possesses is "bookstores"--six or eight depending on how you count.

I was able to pick up a second hand copy of a compendium of Flannery O'Connor's work in excellent condition at Barbara's (Blenheim).

I ended my adventure in Bloomville at Table on Ten with a great Irving Farm iced cup of coffee and a baguette of prosciutto, mozzarella and pesto (just yummy).


Buzz: James Gurney's DVD release: "Watercolor in the Wild."

See James' blog, Gurney Journey and read Marc Taro Holmes update here.

Short videos are available for peeks into Jim's process, and I know I am going to get the DVD soon.


V8 Juice at the Plaza

It's all about memory.   I plucked out a neglected bottle of V-8 from the refrigerator, checked its expiration date and had a cool glass.

It brought back memories of sitting on the Taos (NM) Plaza, a couple of times a week at one of the stands and instead of drinking coffee, had an iced V-8.  I drank it so slowly I could amuse myself, and write in my journal for at least an hour.

V-8 Juice

This is what I saw, if I looked up and out.

Taos (NM) Plaza

Moby Dickens Bookstore,  Bent Street (Taos Plaza)

When I wasn't sipping cold V-8, I was at Caffe Tazza at 122 Kit Carson Road drinking a cup of coffee, chatting with friends, new acquaintances and even visiting family members.

Coffee cup, great shape

Reminiscing about New Mexico is not something I commonly do as it was a year in my life that while not wasted was a mistake.

Aerial view of the Rio Grande River (via Wiki)

After roaming the United States, and abroad, I thought New Mexico would be an ideal place for retirement. Little did I know that I would hate adobe, the lack of water, the absence so striking of the Rio Grande's starvation and the strange notion of activities among some friends.

I promised my friend D, my regular Friday night date,  I would stay until we'd eaten in every restaurant in town, and its environment.

I promised a very close and dear friend in Santa Fe that I would look into moving closer to her.

I told myself I could stay, but then one year and perhaps a few days later,  warm and sunny, my friends said goodbye, Kathy helped me pack my car and I drove, slowly, with purpose, across the country, stopping along the way to see other friends, taking in the sights, and landing in Pittsburgh  one month later for the birth of my second grand-daughter.

Although I lived in Ranchos de Taos, a village immediately to the South of town, in a small, private cul de sac, I hadn't taken anything with me when I took that aeroplace except a large suitcase.  I had pipe dreams that places and people stay the same.  Neither does.  Taos had become the new Santa Fe, and Arroyo Seco, North of Taos, was now the place to live.

What I do miss are those friends, one of whom has been in my life for more than 25 years.  I also miss the cafe culture, the excellent food co-op, and V8 on the Plaza.   And I must admit I miss the local bookstore, something so sadly lacking in this county.