Sunday, May 30, 2010


Memorial Weekend 2010, we fly our flag proudly on most sunny days and fortunately this weekend is proving perfect for the Stars and Stripes. Ray's sons - Chris and Kevin - are Marine veterans. They fortunately served and survived their five years of commitment to the Armed Services. Sadly, many do not and for that we remember and honor service, duty, and all soldiers who serve(d).

Oh, Ray and I grill burgers and float in the pool, and yeah, we take in a Memorial Day sale. However, we do truly salute all of our fighting men - living, dead, past, and present. My Uncle Bill fought in WWII and lost a leg and a year of his life in service to the United States. He turned ninety this month - a humble, great man, I'm proud to know. Ray's Uncle James served in Vietnam. He came back from that war a different person, and ultimately succumbed from post-war trauma - he was a delightful man and a hero our family remembers.
So many enlist for the United States of America and all it stands for. I shall mention freedom of speech, because obviously that is dear to my heart. I'm grateful I can post this blog. I'm grateful I can publish without fear of reprisal. Thinking about patriots cranking out words on printing presses, I'm in awe.
And in today's world, the publishing industry is in flux and yet survives with banter. Here's a quote from Garrison Keillor (Chicago Tribune/New York Times), " I think the publishing industry is about to slide into the sea. "
In turn, Jon Stewart said at the New York Book Expo, "I think the most surprising thing about the Keillor op-ed is that I thought he was dead." Ba-zinga (as Sheldon would say on Big Bang Theory)
Publishing shall flourish and the Internet is a potential friend and not enemy. Printed books versus e-books is still up for debate and perhaps both can live in harmony. And that's the joy of America. Choices. Freedom.
Memorial Day - I bow my head in remembrance

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hidden Talent

Wandered the historic neighborhoods of Arlington Heights, Fort Worth on Sunday on the Hidden Garden Tour. It's fun to "sneak" into backyards (albeit with paid admission) and judge others' hard work. This process made me think about how agents must approach a slush pile - no doubt with hope of finding hidden talent, and with trepidation - i.e. incurring poison ivy or tangled in weedy words.
This bungalow had an outdoor chandelier - rather kitschy cute. Not my taste and probably back into the slush pile for me. Otherwise, the backyard had a lot of interesting corners with various plants, lawn ornaments, statues, and hidden treasures. If I dismissed the yard based on my first viewing, I would have missed a lot.

Sunday was swampy. No other way to describe a humid 92 degree day. We glistened as we strolled, eager for a breeze. This wall dragonfly caught my eye, and like a great opening sentence kept me yearning for more delights. I came away with a favorable impression of the owner's viewpoint.

Xeriscape, when done right, offers another avenue in gardening world. The outer perimeter of this garden was a bit grassy and messy, but inside the fenced area this turtle reminded me to trod slowly and enjoy the small details. Again, agents wading through the grass don't have time to encounter turtles. Back to the dragonfly opener - flap the wings of wild words to grab attention. Plenty of time to plod along with backstory and character sketches.
My friend, Ann, and I were far more critical of the garden tour this year. Were we delirious from the heat? Or did we have more garden tours under our belt to use as comparison? It was a mixture. That's true for agents, I'm sure. There are days of delirium when nothing written suits, and there are plenty of books - really well-written material in their library that shine.
As a writer, I must pull weeds and let the flowers garner aclaim.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random Words

These pictures are random selections, and what I'm writing about today could be considered bizarre. Throughout the week, I collect various news clippings that attract my eye. Sometimes words or pictures trigger a full paragraph. Other times, a line will amuse me. Consider this statement from the WSJ on Sat/Sun 5/15 &5/16 - "Long-term portfolios are going to have short-term volatility." That covers all bases. At this juncture, I plan on setting my portfolio on fire.

Unless you are living in a cave (like Carlsbad Caverns, above), you are aware that President Obama has selected Elena Kagan as his choice for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Stevenson. Now we get to read the daily blah blah, but this sentence in a column by Peggy Noonan (excellent writer) caught my eye, "Kagan seems to get along with everyone and not to be insane." I laughed out loud. She continues, " This is actually a major plus in all nominees now, as is collegiality." 'Nuff said.

Finally, David Mamet has a new book published called Theater, and it is a collection of essays on that subject. As a revered artist himself, his top ten list of great 20th century American plays is thought-provoking. He writes, "These plays treat American issues and are written in an American idiom closer to real poetry than to prose."
Here you go:
1. Our Town/ Thornton Wilder
2. The Front Page/ Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur
3. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?/ Edward Albee
4. A Streetcar Named Desire/ Tennessee William
5. All My Sons/ Arthur Miller
6. Doubt/ John Patrick Shanley
7. The Time of Your Life/ William Saroyan
8. The Boys in the Band/ Mart Crowley
9. The Best Man/ Gore Vidal
10. The Women/ Clare Boothe Luce
Live theater - the intensity of the moment. Movie versions (I've seen #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10) don't do the plays justice.
What's on your list?
Now, off to gather more clippings, and wipe off my hands - smeary newsprint. Ah, nothing like it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bad Books

Quick short post today and I'm stealing the idea from the Wall Street Journal's Book Lover (Cynthia Crossen) (5/14/10). Anyway, someone wrote in to discuss how a favorite author can seriously disappoint a reader on a follow-up book. The Book Lover agreed that authors can write lousy books, and then make a come-back with brilliance. It happens.

The Book Lover used John Irving as her example. She loved World According to Garp and The Cider House Rules. Subsequent works, not so much. She writes, "Either he changed, or I did, or both, and now I don't even try to read his work."

Who's your disappointing author? Two came to mind immediately. Donna Tartt wrote The Secret History, and I loved that book. Then ten years (ten years later!) The Little Friend was published and ugh!, an absolute beating to read. I don't know that I even finished it. Same with Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. Wow! I was enthralled with that book and recommended it to everyone. Then she came out with Almost Moon. Blecch!

Aldous Huxley said, "A bad book is as much of a labor to write as a good one, it comes as sincerely from the author's soul."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sanctioned Voyeurism

Paid admission to wander about the Fairmount Historic Home Tour on Sunday - Mother's Day is sanctioned voyeurism. You can enjoy six historic, restored bungalow homes, built predominately from 1905 to 1920, and comment on design, decor, and overall atmosphere.
It's amusing to peer into corners, absorb others' taste in art, and imagine life in this corner of Fort Worth. As a friend said, as we walked about one of the bigger homes, "That's what's missing at my home - staff." Indeed, I could imagine sitting on the front porch and enjoying fresh squeezed lemonade as staff scurried inside to dust my magnificent hallway chandelier

Here's an example of a home being renovated. At one time it had been turned into apartments. Now it's gutted and returning to its original state. The home itself has character with lots of windows, hardwood floors, and a pleasant front porch. The neighborhood lends itself to friendliness and no doubt nosiness and plenty of stories. Check out Ann Summerville's book Secrets and Storms. She brought the Fairmount area to life in a mystery.
Now it's time for me to renovate a few stories, add some details and inspiration I took from the tour. And I have to find a place in a chapter for the four foot tall circus panda (standing on a drum and playing cymbals) that stood in a guest room. Perhaps it comes to life - hmmm, fantasy or horror?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Salute

From Balloon Fest 2010 - Best Mom Ever
I'm writing a shout out to Juanita Crowther - my mother - she's been gone for 18 years, but still in my heart. Shout out to Julia Crowther and Clarissa Shutters -grandmothers - gone, but in my heart and would have been proud of my writing and publications.

Cleo Ivy - Ray's grandmother - truly a wonderful lady and I have yet to write a tale worthy of her spirit.

Joyce Ivy - Ray's mom - my mother-in-law - alive and kicking and awesome. Green thumb extraordinare, amazing cook, and she'll read my crap and be supportive. Hey, she's awesome

The longer I live, the more I realize how spot-on my mother was with life. I admit - I'm a total daddy's girl. He could and can do no wrong. With my mother - eh, it took more time to appreciate her fabulousness. I totally wish I could say, "You were right," to her face. But, instead, I like to think she'd be proud of us all - me, David and family, and Lori.

She'd get a total kick out of her grandchildren (via David) - Lisa in college - gorgeous, smart, and has her act together.
Jeff - high school and clueless - driving David nuts - that would make Mom laugh.

She'd love Ray's grown sons - Chris and Kevin and their kids - Abby and Makyla. She'd spoil 'em and buy them books.

Legacy, history. I'm lucky. I have great memories and can say Happy Mother's Day to the past, present, and future.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Not so Imperfect

When I first opened this picture of Longwood Gardens (from my sister), inwardly I gasped. Greens so luscious. I appreciated the intensity of spring and how sometimes we look but don't see. That's true of reading. I read a lot and enjoy a variety of styles and authors. However, sometimes you read a book and gasp. The words on the page, the imagery, the sheer "Wow, I wish I'd written this" factor is all imbued in Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott.
The novel is a story of a family that's not so perfect. Rosie seems like a great teenage. She makes good grades, has friends, is super with little kids, and she's a total stoner alcoholic. Her life is a facade of cheating time to get high. Her mother, Elizabeth, and stepfather, James, are parents who try, but are frustrated, at times clueless, and must confront the lies and deceptions. It's an enthralling read.
Here are some writing samples that captured me:
p. 7 "You are the sun," he told Elizabeth over the phone. "The child is merely a moon. She has no light of her own, no income, no car. She is a satellite. Her judgement is frequently poor, and she is mean. She is South Africa before the revolution, cruel and crazy. Divest!"
p.96 In regards to the devil inside and whether we're wired for it: "I think it's tiny and insidious. Like hairline cracks that let in the water that shatters rocks."
p.144 In regards to writing: "It's like Gertrude Stein said, that she could always write good sentences, but she never quite understood paragraphs."
p.157 Rosie's vowing to change: "She got to the scrap of paper ... Thelonious Monk ...'Make the drummer sound good'. She was going to do just that, make both her parents sound good by doing well."
Teensy gems build and build into a wonderful book. I'm going to return it to the library. Go check it out now.