Yesterday morning while having coffee with my husband our conversation rounded the corner to the last time it snowed in Tucson at our house. Currently we are experiencing a ‘cold snap’ and much snow sits prettily on the Catalina and Rincon mountain ranges. Why wouldn’t snow conversation float over the steaming cups of coffee? At that very moment, I noticed one of our cats sitting on the screen porch, her back to me. Her dark silhouette alluded she was keenly aware of something I could not see. I finally leveled my eyes in one spot and noticed something like ash in the air. Rising from my chair and moving closer, it was snow flurries! We all stepped outside.

Snow four years ago from our front yard.

If you are following our blog, you will see that our book has been accepted and included in the upcoming Festival of Books! This is a great pleasure and privilege. Attending this event will create numerous lists for presentation, coordination, what to wear and what jewelry to match. I say that because Jackie loves her jewelry of all sorts and chooses all in great taste. When we traveled to Steamboat Springs to a writing conference, in June 2003 (story can be read in Chapter 3), her biggest piece of luggage was her jewelry case. Her laptop was second. I relentlessly ribbed her of this treasure chest. While on breaks in the afternoons to work on stories, I would stand up to stretch and find myself aimlessly staring at this collection jumbled into her case and think she must have packed in a flurry.

Flurries come in many shapes, sizes, movement, and thought. Mine now is of course the Festival, Jackie’s arrival, and plans for the three of us to buzz about and present ourselves to a very large audience. I am anal enough that I want my compartments to be in order, and ready to fly as planned. But if a flurry comes along, I will step out and enjoy…stayed tuned.

Tucson Festival of Books

We three, Sally, Jackie, and I, are so excited to announce we have been selected to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books. According to the Festival website, it is the third-largest book festival in the United States. It is held annually since 2009 on the University of Arizona campus during a weekend of spring break. This year the dates are March 4th and 5th. We will be in the Indie Author Pavilion, on Saturday, March 4th from 10am to 1pm with our book. Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets was one of the books selected out of over two hundred submissions. We look forward to meeting readers and writers.

We are doubly happy because being in the festival means Jackie will leave snowy Colorado to join us here in sunny Tucson. It’s been a long time since we’ve been together except for our weekly zooms. Another cause for celebration!!

I plan to attend panel discussions by other authors and get books signed by some of my favorites including J.A. Jance, T.C. Boyle, Cara Black, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Rosemary Simpson. I have to pinch myself to make sure it is not a dream when I think we are presenting our book at the same festival as they are. I’ve read many of J.A. Jance’s books and could not pick a favorite, I like them all. I love Tortilla Curtain and Terranaughts by T.C. Boyle. I gobble up the books by Cara Black who writes about Paris, my favorite city, in her Aimee Leduc thrillers, especially Murder in Saint-Germain. I was introduced to her writing in the anthology A Paris All Your Own. I met Rosemary Simpson at our Oro Valley Writers’ Forum and have enjoyed reading her series of historical mysteries set during the Gilded Age in New York. I was captivated by Luis Alberto Urrea’s book The Hummingbird’s Daughter, an epic story based on the life of his aunt who discovered her amazing healing powers during a time of revolution in Mexico. And on and on I could go.

We hope you can attend if you are in the area. We’d love to meet you and hear your opinion about our book and blog.

Tucson Festival of Books

Do You Hear the People Sing?

As mentioned before, the three of us zoom each week to not only discuss marketing, but to write on a prompt we take turns providing. I decided to share ours for yesterday. You just never know where it will take your writing.

Les Miserables

Sally’s Prompt: Pick one of your favorite stanzas, lyrics or chorus from a song, write it out and continue with a short story, poem, or why it means so much to you.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

—- Les Misérables Musical

I first heard Les Misérables years ago, when it was still new as a Broadway play. Cortney, Chad, and I were driving from Minnesota to Frisco, Colorado during that summer to stay at a condominium a friend had loaned us. Danny and Stacey had gone earlier for reasons I can’t remember. A result of age? Cortney put in a CD, Les Miserable. Though I’d never heard it before, I was instantly mesmerized. It was the writing, the meaning, the poetic style of Les Misérables that grabbed me. The words and music, beautiful.

I listen to the album often and I can’t help but think those words are a metaphor for the Ukrainians. They are in a battle they refuse to back down from, one at high cost for the people, for the country. It becomes so apparent when any of the people are interviewed. They love, truly love their country, their way of life, and most importantly, their freedom. I watch them in unbelievable awe. Ukraine’s citizens and soldiers have been tortured, deprived of food, heat, and water with their homes demolished to the ground—homes they built, schools where they sent their children. I cannot fathom their courage and have wondered more than once, Would I fight that hard, be that willing to die for my freedom? Would I stay in a country where I know there’s a strong possibility I would be tortured, brutally killed?

Still, Ukrainians stay and continue to fight for their freedom. I’ve never had to face having it taken away. I was born into freedom; I live in it. I know it is a basic human right and due to pure luck being born in America, I haven’t had to worry if I’ll have enough food, heat, water, and shelter. I haven’t had to worry if my children or grandchildren are safe from a war never asked for. I haven’t had to bury those I love in a shelled piece of ground full of craters, far from any cemetery, stripped of dignity.

This stanza reminds me that oppression of people, of countries, is never accepted by the human soul. One only hopes that all the death and devastation contributed to a war will free the Ukrainians. Until then, they keep on fighting.

Bubble and Squeak

To our delight we have followers from around the world. As a nod to our British followers, this week’s prompt is about something very British.

Create a story or poem about Bubble and Squeak, either the 18th-century English peasant food – still a favorite, the 1940’s British cartoon about Bubble, a taxi driver and Squeak, his taxi or use your imagination to discover new diversions, characters or culinary experiments on which to apply the names.

Let’s Dust

As I look out my studio window, the sky is downcast like a slight frown, a bit lost and gloomy. It is to be this way for a couple of days, then nights in the low 30s, enough to cover several of my plants. When winter showers sweep through, the charcoal cold skies cages our bright sunshine and I can feel myself wither. Not that I do not enjoy rainy skies, but when accustomed to daily sunshine, my body immediately reacts. The weather change then drives me toward the internal action versus the external. Therefore, I look for my duster and see what I can shine up during this indoor space of time.

On our Home Page, we have a new feature and in case you may have missed it, here is the link to the most recent article:

 Three Writing It Real Members Publish the Story of Their 24-Year Writer’s Group – Sheila Bender’s Writing It Real

We have never kept Sheila Bender a secret and she is a fabulous poet, essayist, and instructor and has been large in our writing lives. Please take time to read and peruse her newsletter. We thank her grandly and graciously for beginning the new year of 2023 with our book and journey to publication.

Us gals are working on bookmarks and ordering the right pencils for giveaways at upcoming book signings. Such good advice and tips can be found from the experiences of other authors on how to showcase and bring people to the table. We just want to dress up in feather boas and do a bit of dance along with it all. If allowed, we may just try that in the pavilion at The Festival of Books this March! Please note updates on our Home Page as we move closer to the Festival dates and for all those who are local, or wintering in Tucson, please make an effort to join this outstanding book event.

Our winter break gave us all a bit of respite, time to regroup and contemplate the new year. Diana, Jackie, and I have returned weekly on zoom, writing from prompts, laying out former and new plans for marketing, visiting the local bookstores that are selling our books, and keeping up with our contacts.

I want to mention along our blogging hike, we are meeting wonderful and supportive writers from Australia, Europe, our west to east coasts, and other beautiful areas in this global park of writing. Please take time to put on your backpack and trek along. We shall keep you notified of our sunsets and horizons and the wide range of vistas we see ourselves in.

Oh, and one more add-in, we want to thank each of you who have bought our book and for reading our blogs. Thank you for those taking the time to comment and click the ‘like’ box. And one last sweep of the dust cloth…we ‘welcome’ new ones!

Whose Ring Is It?

Prompts: Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, or memoir, story is the important element.  Conveying facts through story is the best way to engage your readers. Feeding facts one after another will put a reader to sleep quicker than snow melts at the equator. Creating a story within the boundaries of a prompt (facts) trains your brain to be creative (narrative). This is an example of a quick write making a one-page story from a given set of “facts”.

Jackie’s Prompt: Write one or two pages and include words: pliable, awkward, distance, imagine, sensible. Start the story with: “I picked it up to have a better look and …”

These were the things that first came to my mind.

… I discovered it was alive

…it bit me

….it appeared to be a diamond ring

          I picked it up to have a better look and I probably would not have noticed it except for a brief parting of clouds, a peek-a-boo moment of sun.  The day was covered in a thick gray blanket to keep out all but the faintest daylight at three o’clock. In that moment there was a brilliant flash in the pile of yesterday’s leaves. Is it real? Of course not was the answer that came instantly to mind. How would a diamond ring be in my backyard buried in a pile of leaves that we raked yesterday? I shoved it into my pocket, vowing to check with my housemate. I knew for sure it could not belong to Collin, but it might have belonged to Ellen, his sister. She has a collection of jewelry to rival Musk’s collection of Tweets. Possibly it fell from his pocket as we did yard work. Why would he have it?  Yesterday had been so much fun. We laughed and plunged into piles of leaves like little children as we cleaned up the last of fall’s debris beneath the oak, maple, and sycamore trees that bordered our property. My job today was to bag up all the piles while Collin was gone. The trashman comes tomorrow.

          When I finished pushing leaves into twenty-four black garbage bags I went into the house for a cup of tea. The warmth of the kitchen melted icy fingers that had clamped onto my neck and shoulders in the late afternoon chill. I wrapped my hands around the hot cup letting the steam drift up into my face. I sat at the kitchen counter and pulled the ring from my pocket, a simple wide white gold band with an emerald cut diamond of several carats. It was striking.  Could it be real?

          I reached for my cell phone. Collin left early this morning for a business trip to Hopewell, a distance of about two hundred miles, so I didn’t expect him to be home tonight. I wanted to let him know I’d found the ring in case he was worried. I could not imagine why he’d have it, but I knew he’d be concerned if he discovered it missing.  He answered on the second ring.

          “Busy?” I asked

          “No, the meetings are over and I’m on my way to a hotel. It seemed more sensible to stay over than trying to get home tonight.”

          “Yeah, I figured that. Guess what? I found the ring.”

          “What ring?” He sounded hesitant.

          “Did you lose a ring in the backyard yesterday while we were raking?”

          “I didn’t have a ring.” His voice was gruff, his answer felt abrupt.

          “That’s strange. How would a ring get into our leaf pile?”  There was an awkward pause.

          “What kind of ring?” he asked.

          “It looks like a diamond.”

          “Do you think it’s real?”

          “Don’t know, I’m not an expert. It’s pretty and I’d say if it is real, it’s impressive.  I’ll put it in my jewelry box and you can check it out when you get home. We’ll figure it out. Seems strange though to have a ring randomly show up in the backyard.”

          “Don’t tell anybody about it. Okay?”

          I am usually very pliable when it comes to Collin’s requests. We’ve been best friends for more than a decade and suffered through each other’s ups and downs; his boyfriends, my boyfriends, his business ventures, my writing. Something in his voice sent an alert. My skin prickled.

          “What’s up, Collin?”

          “What’d you mean?”

          “Is it or is it not your ring?”

          “No, I told you. But just don’t make a big deal of it. We’ll talk when I get home. I’m leaving now. See you in about four hours.” He hung up the phone.

What do you know differently from the story’s beginning to the end? This is an example of turning facts into narrative.

A Piece of Bread

I am not one to watch any kind of daily television, not because I’m on a soap box here, but because I just like doing other things. However, in the evening after the five o’clock news, my husband and I nightly become the television series experts of all time, watching one after the other. “Which one should we watch tonight?” he says. I grab a written list on the coffee table next to me, choose one, and away we go! Anyhow, two days ago, I decided I was going to watch CBS Sunday Morning my husband records for me since he doesn’t care to watch it. I have no idea why I decided to, but it caught my attention immediately.

The show opened with a segment on “happiness.” It showed four women potters from New York city who had taken classes together for years, the oldest and first member in 1971, the newest since 1995. They told of their connection and defined it as a “nearly intangible bond.” All four were clear on the benefit received being together…a sense of belonging, security, intimacy, creativity, and shared experience. I perked up and thought, That’s us, that’s our writing group! Ours are the same reasons. Then came the ache.

Yesterday, our writing group chef, Sally, texted me a picture of a garlic and herbal swirl bread she’d made to accompany her homemade southwest chicken soup. Yumm. She then wrote, “Wish it was for the ‘ol writing group…sure do miss each hosting, promoting and writing.” I texted back, “Such a loss. I didn’t realize it would evolve into that but guess that is just life.” 

It began with me. I moved to Colorado. That left the three in Tucson and the meetings weren’t as regular. Next, the pandemic stopped Linda, Diana and Sally from meeting at all. Finally, Linda decided her life was moving onto a different path when it came to the book. We tried to stay in touch regularly, but the book with all its zooms, took a great amount of time. The book is finished and published and yes, Sally, Diana and I zoom almost weekly, but as Sally implied, “Wish we were together.” I understand. It’s just not the same when you can’t sit around a table and write, eat and share your life together. Life constantly changes and this is a big one. Sal, can you send me a slice of that bread?  

Thursday Prompt 1. 11. 2023

I once read that even when a writer doesn’t have a pen in hand or a keyboard to use, he or she is creating sentences in their head, observing life around them, such as an argument in a grocery store, two young lovers kissing in the most unusual settings, or the recent and controversial interviews with Prince Harry. A story is being formed. The author says, “All is fodder.” Every situation you experience can begin in your mind, then released to become your next writing. What fodder grabs you—conversations, walking a country road, a Broadway play? Write about it. You might be surprised.

Beep – Beep

 Last week I read a heartwarming post at Writing Near the Lake (A Treasure That I Have Lost) that reminded me of a project my son, at the age of twelve, and I did for his grandfather. Vicki in her post shared an experience of making a quilt with her son for his grandfather. Her son was twelve at the time and picked out a fabric with airplanes since his grandfather owned a small private plane.

When my parents moved to the southwest in the early 70s, Dad immediately became enthralled with the Roadrunner. The only one he had ever seen was on Bugs Bunny and he laughed his head off at every cartoon. ‘Bobby’ as everyone called him, was always on the watch for a roadrunner and each time one was spotted he would shout, “Look, a roadrunner!” Often if conducive, he would stop the car to pull over, or if on a walk, follow as closely as the gangly smart bird would allow. Mom bought a beautiful set of coffee cups with a roadrunner on each and of course, one was Dad’s favorite coffee mug. He saw many over the next thirty-plus years. And his voice still rose several decibels at each sighting.

My son and I came up with the idea to paint a picture of this renowned bird as a gift. I laid out watercolors, heavy-duty paper, various brushes, and set to work sketching the bird. My son watched as this serious speedy bird in the taxonomic genus Geococcyx and a member of the cuckoo family took shape. Dad thought this family relationship to be hilarious (no doubt reminders of his own) and that is how he always referred to one as a ‘cuckoo’. My son drew out the landscape and we both added cacti. I showed him how to mix certain colors and the painting began.

We took turns painting together and found that in the quiet secret space of our work, stories of my dad surfaced. It was in those afternoons that I began to tell stories when I was small, Dad laughing because I wanted my own ‘hammo’ instead of a hammer, close calls of losing the ‘big one’ on fishing trips, squirting milk from a cow into kittens’ mouths as they sat on their haunches, and many things which made my dad chuckle. Things my son could not see unless through some ones vivid memory. I shared stories of before I was born, stories I was told. We also made lists of words about the roadrunner, its temperament, and remarks Dad said about it when he noticed one and wanted to work those into a poem that rhymed.

            By the time the last feather was painted and the last blossom on an ocotillo was brilliant orange, we had worked up the poem and painted it with the help of a ruler to keep the lines straight across the paper. Dad wanted that painting on a wall at all times and so it hung. Wherever they moved, the roadrunner found a spot to be noticed per Dad. When he passed at ninety, it was in his bedroom and remained until Mom passed two years later. At that time, I removed it from the bulky frame and brought the painting back to Arizona. I carefully slipped it into my portfolio until I read the blog from last week and pulled it out yesterday.

            I smelled the wet watercolors, heard the chuckles, the stirring of water with a paintbrush, stories that were heard for the first time shared with my son. That silly bird made my dad laugh every time.  

“Beep-beep Bobby, beep-beep.”