Tuesday, November 26, 2013
As a writer, I have sinned. This is my confession.
I am working on a deadline and for the past forty-eight hours I have been consumed with something other than writing. Lord, I have met my Waterloo, and Ancestry.com be its name. I'm uncertain how I was led astray. I just know that once I was sucked into the black hole of nothing-else-will-get-done-ness that is Ancestry.com, I was held there by a powerful force field and unable to return to my Work-In-Progress. This was way worse than my Daily Mail addiction. Personal hygiene was ignored. I didn't leave the house. No meals were prepared. At one point my husband came into my office and asked if he needed to get a second job to support my Ancestry.com habit. Yes, it was getting ugly, and yet, I was not deterred.
My father died when I was 24. I don't know much about his family, and now, unfortunately, there really is no one around to ask. (Let this be a lesson to you. Ask!) I do have a hand-written family tree that his older brother prepared in 1990s. Armed with that information, some of which was unclear and incomplete, on a crumpled sheet of paper, I logged onto Ancestry.com and entered a whole new world.
That's where I met Dorcas. She is my great-great-great-great-great grandmother. In the summer of 1761, her parents bought passage for themselves and their four children on the good ship "Hopewell." They ventured into the unknown from Londonderry, Ireland to Halifax, Nova Scotia. (It should be noted here that I don't like driving from Santa Clarita to Santa Monica without my GPS – I can't imagine the bravery of this little family.)
Dorcas was four years old at the time. She was the only one of her siblings to survive the transatlantic crossing.
She and her parents settled in Glenholme, Nova Scotia. It's a mark on the map so small that it isn't there any more, and so remote that Google maps doesn't provide any street views of the area. In my mind's eye it's cold, isolated, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful. It was there in Glenholme that Dorcas grew up, fell in love and married the son of a local farmer. A tall drink of water, I'm guessing, by the name of Alexander Vance.
And the rest, so they say, is my history.
I'm back to the grindstone today. I know that's what Dorcas would've wanted it that way. Becoming an author isn't easy. I feel like I'm sailing in uncharted waters every day. But now that I know that I've got a bit of Dorcas the Explorer in my blood, I will persevere. I will survive. And I won't be afraid.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
There's been a lot of talk about reviews in my writing group recently. As an aspiring author, my focus is usually on finishing the damn project that I'm working on. The idea that someone might hate all over what I have toiled for weeks, month and years to create hasn't even crossed my mind.
Now that I have submitted my first manuscript to my first agency, I'm starting to think about what other people might think about what I write.
I am a great reader, but I have never been a great writer. I am a good writer, but a convoluted storyteller and I often have to unwind the story that's in my head before I can find the beginning and start to tell it.
I am surprised by how easily people criticize the works of others. This week it was Stephen King who earned my ire. When I was in middle school, his books were considered pop fiction and had the same reputation as junk food. When did he become the 21st century's answer to William Shakespeare? Everyone is a critic. How soon we forget…
I read constantly and I seldom say "I hated that book." I don't always finish books. I skim some books. I know which genre of books I've tried before and failed to enjoy. I have my guilty pleasures that I return to over and over. And I do enjoy some books more than others, but that can depend on my mood, the weather, the news I just watched on the television –that's why there are so many different kinds of book genres.
What do you do when you get a bad review? I hope that I take the same approach as this restaurant owner who not only acknowledged a bad review, but he used it as an advertisement to entice more customers. Bravo!
Everyone who a computer and access to the internet has become a professional critic. You might as well keep your sense of humor about what others think about you and move on with your life. Life's too short and filled with too many obstacles. I want to die laughing.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
I am no fashionista. I really like fashion. I'm intrigued by clothes and style. I watch "Project Runway" like it is appointment television, but I don't have a personal style and I don't know how to dress myself to look good. I don't like to shop. I don't like to try things on in a fitting room. Puh-leze! I can point out someone who knows how to dress with their own personal style and wear clothes that suit their body type. I'm pretty sure that makes my lack of style more even frustrating.
I have been a slave to fashion over my lifetime. I've worn painful shoes and clothes that weren't comfortable just to look like I knew what was in vogue at the time. I once wore a logo tee on a first date. I wore a tea length prom dress to a dance that has since only been worn for a Halloween costume. I frequently wear long sleeves on hot days just to cover up my arms.
I can't say that I'm always drawn to styles that suit me. I love Audrey Hepburn's style. I was a huge fan of Princess Diana and Princess Kate. I should be drawn to the style of Sofia Vergara (who's too bombshell for me) and Christina Hendricks (who often looks too dowdy) but I'm not. I wish I was.
Now and then, I've found some clothes that really work for me. They are wardrobe changers. Sometimes they are shoes (mostly boots), and sometimes they are a sweater or jacket that makes me feel like I've gotten close to pulling my look together. I have an entire drawer full of scarves that I've been using for this purpose, but I've grown to realize that scarves don't look good on women with full figures.
Earlier this year, I decided to cut my hair into a shoulder length bob. I had to beg my hair stylist – but I really thought it was time. She did a beautiful job. I think it is adorable and age appropriate. I have a photo of me with longer hair on my desk and I often pine for my longer locks, but I know I did the right thing.
It wasn't until NYFW (Fashion Week) started this week and I saw photos of Anna Wintour flitting from fashion show to fashion show that I realized that I may finally be on trend. Anna and I have the same hair-do. Now if I can only do something about my style (or lack there of) below the neck.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Helene Hanff is one of my three favorite authors. Jane Austen, Agatha Christie and Helene Hanff are all on my short list. Other authors float on and off my top list now and again, but these three remain at the top of the pile.
I love Jane's wit. I love Agatha's cunning and as for Helene, I love her style. And her joie de vivre. She loved her life. Even when she was being challenged while trying to crash Broadway during the 1930s and 1940s. In the 1950s she started working as a reader for a movie studio in New York City. One weekend, they gave her the epic JRR Tolkein three-book series to read in 48 hours. She charged them extra for cruelty. It's no wonder that the movies weren't brought to the screen until recently. The movie studio probably kept pulling out her coverage and saying -- I don't think so.
Her best friend and partner in crime in crashing the theatre was an actress named Maxine Stuart. Maxine had all kinds of unorthodox acting and beauty methods. She used to practice her speech by screaming in her parent's bathroom. And she baked her hair in the over. She matched Helene's character step by delicate step.They went to opening night of hit Broadway shows using the "Just Go" method. Everyone should try that method at least once.
Maxine died recently. Her death marks the end of an era. A wonderful era. You should read all about it in "Underfoot in Show Business." I promise, you'll thank me later.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
I'm feeling a bit more stressed out than usual this week. I lost my watch. And then I found it. I went for a walk and was back at the starting line before I even knew I had left. And then this morning, I got in my car to walk to work and I got rocked by Peggy Lee doing this little number. Some people rock out to Rush. Some people like to giddy up to the boot scootin' boogie. I like a classic.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
As if you needed another reason to love and adore Mel Brooks. In this interview, he reveals his love and adoration for his wife. He says he "liked her so much, I couldn't get enough of her." And there's a little bit of Judd Apatow. It's all good.