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....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

December Doldrums

Christmas sunrise from Natty and Nami's playground

Each year I vow I'll get a lot of writing done between Christmas and New Year. It seems the perfect time...the shopping, baking, gift wrapping, card writing are all finished. Lots of time to settle down at the keyboard. But somehow I don't seem to do it.

Now it's nearly New Year's Eve, and just like the past two Decembers, I've failed to get much written at all. I blame the cold weather, but I doubt that's the real reason for this odd end-of-the-year inertia. It's not as if I don't have ideas, or that there's no looming deadlines. It's more like a seasonal affective disorder with a touch of attention deficit peppered in for good measure.

I did get the story written about body image and sent it off. But since then, I've been stalled. I've written a dozen openings for my story about my first trip to London and discarded them all. I've rewritten a few orphan stories and submitted them to new venues. I've not been entirely idle. Oh, no. I've cleaned out some writing files, discarded some old call outs for submissions, and even dusted my desk.

Tomorrow's my last chance for the year...I'm going to finish the England story. If I get that done, I'll be ready to greet the new year with renewed vigor. Cheers!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Taste of Dickens for Christmas and 2012

I'm planning to start my Dickens Bicentennial celebration on Christmas Eve, even though the official onset isn't until New Year's Day. Charles Dickens, born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 2012, long has been a favorite of mine, and, of course, millions of others.

So next weekend I plan to settle down with some of the movies I've been taping from the Turner Classic Movies wondrous "Dickens in December" series, showing each Monday night. Here's my lineup so far for Christmas weekend:
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) with Claude Rains.
  • Oliver Twist (1948) with Alec Guinness.
  • Nicholas Nickleby (1947) with Cedric Hardwicke.
  • A Christmas Carol (1938) with Reginald Owen.
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1958) with Dirk Bogarde.
  • Little Dorrit (1984) with Alec Guinness.
Maybe I'll accompany this film fest with a little Dickensian punch:
  • "Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man ... His recent despondency, not to say despair, was gone in a moment. I never saw a man so thoroughly enjoy himself amid the fragrance of lemon-peel and sugar, the odour of burning spirit, and the steam of boiling water, as Mr Micawber did that afternoon. It was wonderful to see his face shining at us out of a thin cloud of these delicate fumes, as he stirred, and mixed, and tasted, and looked as if he were making, instead of a punch, a fortune for his family down to the latest posterity."--David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
In February I'm going to Philadelphia for the Dickens Fellowship and The Friends of Clark Park celebrations, and will be singing "Happy Birthday" to The Inimitable, as he dubbed himself, at his statue...the only one in the Clark Park.
Then in June I'll be celebrating in London with Road Scholar's "The Best of Times." Kevin Flude, a Dickensian expert, will be leading this tour. Highlights include:
  • A private viewing and reception at The Charles Dickens Museum, Doughty House.
  • A pub crawl to Dickens' favorite haunts: The George Inn and the Prospect of Whitby.
  • An outing to marshy Kent to see Bleak House, Dickens' occasional holiday retreat.
  • A visit to Little Dorrit's church, St. George the Martyr.
  • A coach trip to the historic waterfront city of Portsmouth, to the site of Dickens' birth, where now is located the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum.
I'm not a recent convert to Dickens. I've been a follower since I was 17, when I first read David Copperfield. Back in the early '80s I attended one of the University of California Santa Cruz's "Dickens Universe" celebrations, where we discussed Martin Chuzzlewit, the American novel. In August 2010 at the University of Cambridge International Summer School I took a course on "Criminals and Gentlemen in Dickens' Oliver Twist and Great Expectations." I followed up by seeing a staging of Oliver at one of Dickens' favorite theatres, the Drury Lane.
As 2012 progresses, I'll read some of the lesser-known Dickens' works, already downloaded to my Kindle:
  • The Seven Poor Travellers
  • Somebody's Luggage
  • Going into Society
  • Mugby Junction
  • The Haunted House
  • Doctor Marigold
But for this next week, I'm rereading one of the Christmas stories, The Cricket on the Hearth.
And finally in January I'll at long last undertake the legal novel, Bleak House, that I've put off for so long. It's waiting for me on my Kindle, as well.

I'll also be ordering Charles Dickens: A Life, by Claire Tomalin, who wrote the wonderful book on Dickens' mistress, Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens.

I'm anticipating that 2012 for me indeed will prove to be "the best of times." It's not only Dicken's will be my diamond jubilee!

Monday, December 5, 2011

All's Well that Ends Well?

I haven't decided whether I've been afflicted with writer's block or if I'm just a lazy bones. For five days I've been trying to work up energy to write a story about body acceptance for an anthology that's focused on positive attitudes towards weight. Yes, it's a weighty issue, and one that's plagued me since girlhood. I have some strong beliefs, some mixed feelings and, apparently, some weak-willed hesitance about actually getting the piece written.

Every time I sit down at the laptop something else seems to shout out, "Attend to me, first!" Either Natty, my newly diabetic and nearly blind dog, or Harpo, the world's most narcissistic cat, want to go outside. Or come inside.

Or I decide I'd better look at my notes just one more time for facilitating this next Thursday's book group discussion of Shakespeare's "All's Well that Ends Well." Should I bake oatmeal cookies or take the apple gingercake out of the freezer to thaw for our refreshments? Can I buy marzipan in Colville or should I drive to Spokane? After all, everybody in the Elizabethan court gorged on marzipan. Would the group settle for fudge? Weighty and time-consuming decisions.

I glance around the house. Oh, dear. The tiled entryway certainly could stand mopping. Nobody's scrawled "dust me" on the coffee table yet, but anybody could and probably should. Is it time to change my bedding? What about cleaning out those closets? Or can that wait until spring?

Should I take the afternoon off and watch a few more episodes of the BBC mystery series, "Pie in the Sky"? Oh, wait...don't I owe Jim or Annie or Honey an email? Should I write my annual Christmas letter and get it reproduced at the printers? What about addressing the Christmas cards?

Why don't I just park myself at the laptop and write that story? I think I have a title. "Elephants Never Forget."

And while I'm at's a few more stories still waiting to be born:
  • Black Friday madness in Arizona, for NYMB, "The First Time."
  • Samuel Johnson's ghost for NYMB, "The First Time."
  • Auntie Dorothy and the clergyman, for NYMB, "Sharing Secrets."
  • My search for assistance from St. Teresa on Seychelle's La Digue island, for an anthology about sacred or secular pilgrimages.
  • A senior high school year, joining my mom with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • Staying at the YWCA in Chicago, 1957, for Midwest Stories anthology which tentatively is titled, "Sowing Wild Oats."

I'm heading for the laptop...I'm going to get the introductory paragraphs written on that fierce fatty tale this afternoon...and finish it and send it off tomorrow. I'm already a week late, so I owe the publisher!

Maybe it's neither laziness nor a block of any kind...maybe it's ambivalence about the topic. Do I really feel it's all right to be flabulously fat? I'll know when I write the piece. It may not make it into the book, but at least I get to express myself on a topic that's still weighing on my mind. So to speak.

Hmmmm. Shakespeare. I wonder if the good Bard of Avon ever found himself struggling with writer's block...and then I remembered his "lost years," those seven years between the birth of his twins and his emergence in the London theater scene. He may have been employed as a teacher or tutor, and lost himself in reading the Decameron...or he may have been simply stargazing. He might even have been a lazy bones, and made up for it in later years. Nobody knows.

I'm heading for the laptop...just as soon as I let Natty back in.