Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Walk in the Park

Enjoyed a walk in the park yesterday for a good cause. Actually I didn't walk - I volunteered and helped at registration. But Fort Worth's Trinity Park was THE place to be. Gorgeous day. Energy and enthusiasm abounded, and hopefully funds were raised for research, wellness programs, and other ways to help folks living with MS.

I have two friends whose husbands have MS. One developed it after college back in the 1980s. The other learned a year or so ago he had it and he's in his 50s. Both were healthy and athletic. That's what is weird about multiple sclerosis, a disease that attacks the nervous system. No official reason for the cause and no official cure.

But huge progress is made each year in medicines, and scientists keep announcing breakthroughs.
I hope so - it would be nice to have a world free of MS.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Movie Review Madness: Divergent

Look out Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games – you have a serious rival in this age of heroines. Beatrix in Divergent looks mild and meek in her Abnegation gray drab outfit. But her conversion to Dauntless, name change to Tris, and new workout regime has her in full fight mode.  I gave a review of the Divergent trilogy in a previous post, and I do recommend reading the books. However, the first movie is worthy and you’ll be caught up in this futuristic world.  

Chicago survived a world war and is now split into factions – Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor, and Dauntless. At eighteen, the youth take a test which shows them their place in this world. Generally they fit in their family history, so no change. Some do show a different tendency and leave their family to join a new faction. And then there are the few like Tris who show a split – no true path. They are shockingly divergent and are considered dangerous. Tris is told to keep her mouth shut, and in further tests she needs to hide her divergent qualities and play along in Dauntless world. Here she learns to fight, jump, and calculate Dauntless power. The good looking leader, Four (Theo James), pushes her to extremes and also falls for her. 

Together they worry about the growing powers of Erudite’s Jeanine (a very icy Kate Winslet). There are rumors about Abnegation, and Dauntless warriors are given a drink which turns them into fighting robots. Tris and a few others are immune and able to help thwart this worrisome takeover. However, lives are lost and factions are split. Tris, Four, and Four’s father Marcus are last seen leading a new team for survival.  

Shailene Woodley is excellent as Tris. She’s a tiny thing with a lot of vulnerability. But she’s determined, smart, and demonstrates maturity on screen.  Divergent builds slowly and steadily, and all along you will root for Tris. At the end of the movie, you’ll be eager for the sequel Insurgent, and questioning which faction you would join.  Or are you … divergent?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Seasons of writing

Here's the grand finale from my talk.  Play the song and think about it............enjoy!

12. Seasons of Love from Rent

Henry David Thoreau wrote “The author’s character is read from title page to the end.”

Whether it’s a memoir, flash fiction, poetry, or a movie review – I know there’s a piece of me in the pages. Each of us is unique and as writers we share bits of ourselves through our words. As we journeyed today through soundtracks of a writer, I hope a piece caught your attention, inspired you to explore new writing paths or dig deeper into your current track. Or just bang on the drum all day.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Happy is he who writes from the love of imparting certain thoughts and not from the necessity of sale – who writes always to the unknown friend.”

525,600 minutes – how many are you using as a writer?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Abilene Writers Guild Workshop

Well, Dr. Gupta (from previous blog post) would be proud of me. I did something scary. I was the speaker at the Abilene Writers Guild Workshop, thanks to Sheryl Nelm's invitation.

 I titled my talk "Soundtrack of a Writer" and my little snippets of tunes brought some chuckles. Best laugh from Three Dog Night's "One"  i.e. "one is the loneliest number.....NO is the saddest experience..."  Writers with rejections understand. Here I'm chatting with Ginny Green - hadn't seen her in forever and it was great to catch up.
 Assorted paper - the workshop program and my handouts. I gave a source listing, my library of writing books, and also a format cheat sheet - my book dimensions and fonts for Createspace book production. I've learned through trial and error what works and what looks like crap.
I'm wearing my Unleased Poetry Society T-shirt. It seems to bring me luck at writer events. All in all - thirty people attended. Super nice group. They participated in writing exercises, asked good questions, laughed where I hoped for a chuckle, purchased some books, and applauded at the end. Whew! Yummy pulled pork sandwiches for lunch along with tasty brownies added to the hospitality.  
Abilene is a small city/town with a fabulous history museum called Frontier Texas. This is one of several buffalo wind sculptures outside the building. Inside were interactive displays and plenty of history - from Comanche Indian raids to buffalo stampedes and cattle drives. The pioneers who settled in Abilene and west Texas were rugged tough souls.

I'm very glad to be living in 2014 and only facing an indoor audience of friendly faces eager for some writing advice.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Maverick Speaker Series: Dr.Sanjay Gupta

Tuesday, March 18, Ray and I enjoyed another UTA Maverick Speaker - Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Talking about Medicine and Media, Dr. Gupta is certainly qualified. He entered medical school at age sixteen. He's a neurosurgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, and CNN's medical journalist. He also appears on 60 Minutes, and other news special shows.

Dr.Gupta discussed the importance of explaining medical issues in laymen's terms, and getting the word out about health benefits. He chose to work with CNN because, "I'm often in the midst of disaster, drawing on my years of training as a neurosurgeon. I hope my work gives people a context in which they can view medicine and health on a broader scale."

His mantra is do something each day that scares (i.e. challenges) you. He said speaking into a camera is far easier than chatting with an arena audience. However, it's rewarding to think you've helped people to think, broaden horizons, and consider new things. He challenged students to think outside the box.

One student asked a question about studies concerning the brain and art. Indeed, that's often the first mode of therapy - people respond to a song, or art after major neurosurgery. Dr.Gupta emphasized there's a lot of research to be done and encouraged the student to pursue any avenue.

UTA Maverick Speaker Series is free and open to the public. Dr.Sanjay Gupta was an interesting speaker, with a pleasant sense of humor. He engaged with the audience, and seemed to put a lot of thought into the Q/A. It was an entertaining and enlightening evening.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Random Writing Process

CJ Schwartz was kind enough to ask me to join a blog hop. I shall do more, but I really needed to post something fresh this week so I'm jumping, not hopping, into it with both feet.

I met CJ through the Bedford Library writer's group. Her eagerness to learn, her modesty (she'd do a pre-critique of herself before reading a really excellent chapter), and her laughter added a spark to the group. I'm happy to continue our writer friendship, and I'm glad she's meeting her blog and word count goals.

I'm truly not the best example as a writer, and seemed to lose momentum in 2013. I did publish three poetry books, but that lends itself to more of a joke than an accomplishment. I'm proud of my books, but it's a tough sell. Though a marketing major in college, I'm terrible at promotions.

I will be talking about my writing process this Saturday - March 22nd - at the Abilene Writer's Guild workshop.    My talk is entitled "Soundtrack of a Writer" and against the backdrop of tunes - Paperback Writer by the Beatles, Words by Bee Gees, What Kills You Makes You Stronger by Kelly Clarkson, et al, I shall discuss my ascent, plateau, and pitfalls as a writer. I do not meet daily word count goals, nor weekly. I tend to wing it. Words flow and I write a poem, or a flash fiction, or a memoir, or a movie review ( I like them the best). It might be better to focus on one genre, but that's not me. I'm glad I have a day job for "real" money. I'm proud to be on Amazon, but I am not going to be a million dollar author. I'll buy you a taco every quarter if you are nice to me.

It's important to find your voice - one person who's done that is Ann Summerville. Her cozy mystery series are a joy to read and she's done well with promotion. Check out her blog

If you want to learn about writing process and see a huge success in erotic literature, check out Roni Loren. I met this shy unassuming writer at a DFW Writer's Conference a few years ago. She's grown leaps and bounds and made a NY Times listing.

Finally, I did an April A - Z challenge one year, and met Annalisa Crawford. She's across the pond in Cornwall, UK and her writing and goals are inspirational. Her short story collection That Sadie Thing is a winner. Her blog is varied and you'll learn about writing growth from her.

For me, writing is fun. I've met a lot of great people. I've published a memoir - My Zoo World, a story collection - Wordsplash Flash, and poetry - Wordsplash: Nature,  Tread Water, and Hazy Memory.  Next up is another humorous memoir - Athletic Antics. Until that is completed in the fall, I keep sending out poems, writing flash fiction for Doorknobs & Bodypaint, and I write reviews for The Little Paper of San Saba.

Keep tapping out words. They do turn into something.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Art & Appetite at the Amon Carter Museum

The Amon Carter museum, invites you to a feast. “Art and Appetite” go together. From lush oil paintings of fruit to Norman Rockwell’s famous Freedom From Want picture of Thanksgiving turkey to Andy Warhol’s Campbells soup can, you can stroll through America’s changing approach to food. From times of depression to overindulgence, food has brought people together. Paintings of picnics and a half empty diner (Edward Hopper's Nighthawks) adorn the Amon Carter walls.  

One picture and poem stood out. Marsden Hartley’s “Fisherman’s Last Supper” shows a gathering after a funeral. Several members of a family drowned at sea. His poem for the painting begins

“For wine, they drank the ocean/

For bread, they ate their own despairs”

Quite heartbreaking. 

In contrast, best to grab lunch prior to your visit. Or after seeing Wayne Thibaud’s slices of pie painting, you’ll hanker for dessert.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Movie Madness: Philomena

I now see why Judi Dench was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Philomena. Dench’s face is so expressive and she acts effortlessly. Her performance is gritty and touching. As an Irish teen, Philomena met and fell in love with a terrific boy. Unfortunately back in the 1950s, an unwanted pregnancy brought shame to a family and she was shipped off to the Magdelene nuns. There she worked in the laundry, and her baby – a boy named Anthony was born. This story is told in flashback, as an elderly Philomena keeps thinking about the son she gave up and she enlists her daughter to help find him.  

Meanwhile, a journalist played by Stephen Coogan, loses his job with the BBC in disgrace. Now he needs a project and circumstances bring him and Philomena together. He’s rather snobby and even annoyed that he’s stuck with this needle in a haystack search. But slowly he comes around and sees that the nuns were essentially selling babies to Americans. With his research and connections, they travel to America to follow a trail from the convent to an adoptive home. When Judi Dench says, “Oh Martin…” you just know she’s going to put him in his place. Indeed, this hardened journalist grows immensely in Philomena’s company. For her, she learns the fate of her son and you will appreciate her years of love, anguish, and resolution.
Philomena is a small film with a big heart. At the center is Judi Dench, a woman in her twilight years filled with wisdom and determination.  She gives a quiet acting master class, and you will seek to answer a key question, “ Could I forgive?”

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Samurai and More in Fort Worth

The Kimbell Art Museum has more space now that the Renzo Piano Pavillion has opened. This is glorious because they have rearranged their art work and brought out more goodies to share. More statues and bronzes. A new Dutch acquisition adorns a wall. The museum feels fresh, and the building itself is an iconic design by architect Louis Kahn. The double height vault allows natural light which enhances the art viewing experience. Concrete walls, travertine marble, stainless steel handrails all keep the building sleek.  Here’s a quote from Mr.Kahn. “What’s neat about the porticos is that they are absolutely unnecessary.”  And yet, they are key to the flow of the building. The Kimbell is a Fort Worth treasure.  

The new addition, Renzo Piano Pavillion, makes a nice companion. It’s modern and modest with complimentary materials. Check out the building and the current exhibit of Samurai armor.  “Fearsome warriors clad head to toe in highly decorated armor symbolized power, honor, and valor of military elite from the 12th to 19th century.” (brochure)  The exhibition has more than 140 pieces from elaborate helmets to fierce masks, and embellished chest covers. Arrows and swords complete the fighting machine, along with armor for horses. The pageantry of samurai is presented well with 18 full suits plus 4 mounted horses. You will be transported to another time and culture.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Book Review: Death Wore White

Death Wore White by Jim Kelly is not new, but it’s a 2008 goodie. From the cover blurb – On a frigid winter night, Harvey Ellis is trapped on a coastal road – stranded by a blizzard in a line of eight cars. Within a few hours, he is dead, viciously stabbed at the wheel of his truck.  Nobody saw this happen and there are no footprints in the snow. Peter Shaw, young Detective Inspector and his partner, old grizzled veteran George Valentine, have to work fast. The crime scene is melting, and the body count is rising as suspects are targeted one by one.  

This whodunit will keep you turning pages and gasping in surprise. For such a small target location, a lot happens and what seems like coincidence at first turns into a highly detailed plan of deception. And to add to the mix Peter Shaw’s father had worked with Valentine. Both went into disgrace after a botched case. Now George is trying to climb up the ladder, and Peter reluctantly seeks to redeem his father’s name.  

The author keeps up the pace and ties up the whole package neatly, without giving away too much too soon. The writing and dialogue are tight, and the characters are well drawn. Death Wore White is a worthy addition to crime fiction.  P. 19 The line of eight vehicles stood as if fashioned in icing sugar, an exquisite model on an untouched wedding cake.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Poem: Mexican Petunias

Mexican Petunias
by Joanne Faries

crumpled brown stalks

faltered after freeze

ice smothered, they collapsed

no memory of purple posies

withered bleak garden

 wind rustled

hunkered  slumber

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Movie Madness: Pompeii

Sunday - it's Oscar night and we celebrate the best of 2013.
Here in contrast is a movie I saw last Sunday with a friend. This one deserves a Razzie in 2014.
Pompeii should have been a majestic film with Mount Vesuvius spurting lava and wiping out a tremendous city. Instead, this is a cheesy gladiator movie with Mt. Vesuvius rumbling its warnings and people saying, “Oh the Gods must be angry.”  This film critic is seriously considering a foray into screenwriting. Surely, I could have written better dialogue.  

It’s AD 79 and we meet our slave fighter (a very ab-o-licious Kit Harrington). He is splendid, but you can only appreciate his beauty for so long. Then we need some plot. Well, of course the young heiress has eyes for him and he saves her when her horse breaks away. He’s the Celtic slave horse whisperer. But the evil Roman Senator played by a very mismatched Kieffer Sutherland has plans to marry her and is blackmailing her weenie parents for her hand. Meanwhile, it’s a grand festival for gladiator fighting. Somehow Kit and Atticus, a huge black man, can kill every fighter possible.  

The walls start tumbling down as Mt. Vesuvius blows. It’s far too late to run to the harbor. It’s far too late to even think about fleeing by horse. It’s pretty much too late to redeem this movie. But….. huge plot giveaway, our fearless lovers give it a decent try. It’s laughable and rather sadly futile.  

I was obviously not the target audience. Not sure who this film was aimed toward. The special effects are decent. I will throw out that crumb. Otherwise – DO NOT BLOW your money on this bomb. Not now, not on Netflix. Truly the Gods must be angry to allow this flimsy material into our lives.