Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Read a Book This Week, Oh, Boy....

It's "Olive Kitteridge," the Pulitzer Prize winning "novel," by Elizabeth Strout, a collection of thirteen haunting short stories centering on the eponymous heroine. I'm not the first to be reminded of Sherwood Anderson's hypnotic "Winesburg, Ohio." So now I'm thinking about fiction, and if it's not impossible for me to tackle, after all.

Through a lifetime of writing features and anthology slices-of-life, I've grown accustomed to telling a story in a thousand to two thousand words. Until I read "Olive Kitteridge", writing a novel seemed an impossible task. It would require me to learn a whole new literary form, and I'm not certain that's where I want to invest my remaining days and weeks.

In the past three years I've written around fifty inspirational non-fiction stories. About half have been published in anthologies. Now I'm consumed with a major WHAT IF.

What if I devoted an equal amount of energy in telling not-so-true stories that involved a place, a person, an idea or philosophy? Wouldn't this be fiction? Couldn't I do it?

What if tonight, after I finish another chapter of Jerome Charyn's "The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson," I drowse off to dream about a theme for this possible work? What if one appears? What if tomorrow I begin my Once Upon a Time, at long last?

Today I wrote a review of an historical novel written by an acquaintance in my community. How I envied her perseverance in researching, plotting and actually writing this book. I know I wouldn't have the patience. But, still....what if??

This afternoon I washed the mud off the floors in the hallway and in the process I may also have cleaned up my muddled mind. Hmmmmm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keeping My Drumsticks Crossed

Sometimes I despair of ever getting another story published. It's so cyclical. Last year I hit two periods where I seemed to get acceptances nearly weekly. Now the stretches between seem longer. Nonetheless, it's the composing of a piece that I really enjoy most. The anticipation of seeing my byline in print is secondary.

Today I wrote about why, unlike my father and my first husband, I don't hate preparing my tax returns. It's a yearly ritual that I embrace, as bizarre as that might seem.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting My Irish Up

I wish I were in Seal Beach, CA, today. It's not that I don't love seeing the crocus emerge this sumptious early country spring. But today's St. Paddy's Day, and I'm far from a Celtic bar where I could hear Chieftains wannabes and hoist a mug of green beer. It's been a long time since I visited The Irisher on March 17, then strolled out on the Seal Beach pier. But that's where I'd be today if I could just teleport myself somehow.

Since I lack that magical power, I'm making do with a corned beef in the crockpot and a new recipe for fried cabbage.

I'm finished with a grant review that's taken up much of the past week, and will drive to town to Fed Ex the forms back to D.C. Then for the next couple of days I'll get some personal writing done, with Chicken Soup for the Soul in Mind.

Grandmothers (Kendra's Christening)
Young at Heart (preparing for Cambridge summer school)
Positive Thinking (believe it or not...a tale about income tax preparation)

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Though I've not yet seen the new Burton take on Alice in Wonderland, I've been changing hats more frequently than any Mad Hatter, Johnny Depp or otherwise. In the past two weeks I've:
  • edited a book, The Recipe, on a team approach to running a business.
  • participated in a Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission meeting.
  • critiqued an upcoming Search Institute book by Peter Benson, emphasizing mentoring.
  • written part of a story on my stepgranddaughter's christening, with deadline looming.
  • reread sections of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, for a book group discussion.
  • began a federal grant review for SAMHSA.
What I really want to do is finish the christening story and write some queries for a a story on a locally famous artist, and for a book on my upcoming adventure in Victoriana at the University of Cambridge.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Print Press

The topic for discussion today on one of my listservs for writers and editors involved the New York Times decision to begin charging for online subscriptions and whether any of us would pony up to have it delivered to our inbox. Here's my response:

Today's topic is one that I'm impassioned about, so please forgive my soapbox speech here.

As a high school journalism teacher back in the early '60s in Long Beach, CA, I subscribed to two dailies, the Los Angeles Times in the a.m. and the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram in the evening. I toted the Times to school each day to use with my beginning journalism classes. In the evening I would come home from work, curl up with a glass of wine and read the local news.

Now I live in NE Washington, about 70 miles north of Spokane. Our Spokane daily has shrunk, but I still support it. And I subscribe to both the Chewelah and Colville weeklies to keep up with local news, since I live between the two communities. I also get the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Seattle Newsline on line, and have the New York Times and Reuters news on My Yahoo page.

Having lived and worked all over the world with Peace Corps, international news is very important to me. It informs my voting decisions, and the causes and charities I want to support. I also alternate between subscriptions to Time and Newsweek magazines.

During the decade that I lived overseas in four developing countries, when folks asked about what I missed, I'd list big city Sunday papers, the Lakers on television, frozen yogurt and bubble baths. When I worked at Peace Corps HQ in Washington DC, I could hardly wait to open my three-pound Washington Post each Sunday.

But I know that younger people do not access much objective journalism or favor print. They tend to get their news and commentary from websites such as The Huffington Post, Salon, and hardly impartial television stations such as Fox News and MSNBC. I'm wondering if they are able anymore to distinguish between objective reporting and opinion.

Dinosaur that I may be, at least I am semi-retired. My son, who followed in my journalistic footsteps, has spent over thirty years with four Los Angeles area papers. He was with the Press Telegram, the Valley Daily News, the Orange County Register, and for the past six years has been chief copy editor for the Times Sunday Calendar entertainment section.

During the past year and a half he has survived four rounds of layoffs there, but is grateful that the Times has not yet reduced anybody's salary or forced them to take unpaid furloughs. His former college colleagues with papers in Detroit, western Washington and smaller California cities, have lost jobs or have had their working hours and compensation drastically reduced. He is about thirteen years shy of retirement age, and really has no other kind of work experience.

I still treasure my moments with the daily paper. I like the rattle of the pages, perusing the sports statistics, pouring over the letters to the editors, and when I have a moment, especially during television commercial breaks, working the crossword puzzles.

I'm hoping that the fourth estate outlives me, but sometimes I'm afraid it won't.

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787.

I'd only add, and every woman, too.

On a lighter note, today was a glorious start of March in these parts...56 degrees, more like late April!

Warm regards, Terri Elders