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.”  

An Anniversary Remembrance

My husband and I celebrated our fifty-nineth anniversary a couple of days ago. Wow, it sounds like a lifetime. Well, it almost is. We met in high school and that was that. Going through old journals and blogs (something I do at the end/beginning of a year) I found this piece I wrote ten years ago. I think it is worth revisiting.

August 2012. Steady Eddie and I recently took in a movie called Hope Springs.  At times it was like watching someone suffer with an aching tooth remembering that your toothaches too.  Ouch!  It was also a reminder of why we are married.  Not that there is any good reason as reason goes, just that there are emotional connections and shared memories that cannot be compared or duplicated by any other couple.  They make our marriage, ours.  They make the humdrum every day and annoying things bearable.  They make us laugh together, sigh together, sometimes cry together and smile at each other when no one else can understand.  Those private moments and memories are the superglue that holds our ship together in stormy seas.

I don’t think this movie appeals to a wide audience but considering the number of baby boomers, it has a fairly deep pool from which to pull.  A good friend of our daughter, Calliope, set her criteria for movie-going to a high standard.  “No old people sex”, Lisa once said.  At the time she defined “old people sex” as any hanky panky on screen by anyone over 30.  This movie would definitely not meet her criteria.  Even though overtly it is about the sex follies of the senior set, it is ultimately about the strong link forged through fire and ice by people over years of married life.

So many times – sometimes daily – I get annoyed with Steady Eddie, like a gnat at a picnic that dives at your eyes, ears, and nose.  All I want to do is pinch his head off.  For instance, when he buys the largest container of mayonnaise at Costco that does not fit in our refrigerator without rearranging ALL the shelves and it is so big we don’t have a spoon or spreader long enough to reach the bottom of the container.  Is that not annoying?  Especially when he defends his choice and says he’ll do it again if left on his own at Costco.  To top it off whenever he goes to the frig to make a sandwich he says, “Where did YOU put the mayonnaise?”  and it is the largest thing in the front on the second shelf.  He says, “It is below my eye level so I couldn’t see it”.  Now how can you NOT want to pinch his head off? Eddie, on the other hand, has no reason to be annoyed with me.   Well, maybe I forget to take the safety brake off when I drive his truck.  But that is it.

I do admit Eddie has many endearing qualities.  For one he cooks eggs benedict for me every Saturday morning. Then there are the times when he brings home flowers just to make me smile, or he touches me gently as we pass in the hall, or remembers an obscure special occasion, or lets me know he is thinking about me when I am most vulnerable, that makes all that other stuff go away.  I could make long lists of those good moments, but they wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else but me.

Anyway, most of the time marriage is great and the rest of the time it teaches patience, tolerance, and restraint – all of which are good skills to have so you don’t go to prison for capital murder and leave the children as orphans.

January 2023. More than ten years have passed since I wrote this, and it still holds up. I laugh at the names I assigned people on the premise they can’t sue me if they are not recognized. We’ve shared so many adventures and weathered many more storms in the meantime and our ship is still upright, maybe even stronger as we age together. Thank you, Steady Eddie, you know who you are. I love you.

A SIMPLE DESK

Just a short note: Rusty, in his usual chair, is my co-author while I’m writing at my desk. 

In my mid-fifties, I decided I wanted a desk built by my father. He was skilled at wood working and he made beautiful pieces—bookshelves, afghan racks for quilt displays, chairs, and small doll benches for his grandchildren. For years, I had wanted him to make a writing desk for me. Finally, he agreed. “Really simple Dad,” I said as I roughly sketched my idea at their kitchen table. I didn’t want anything more than four legs, one drawer, and an average-sized top. I dreamed of placing it in front of a window, gazing outside as I wrote.

It was a few months before the desk was complete. My mother told me over the phone it was finished. “It’s beautiful,” she said.  Living in Arizona with them in Nebraska, I couldn’t wait until my visit the next month to see it. My parents and sister, who was also visiting them, were sitting at the kitchen table when I entered. My mother excitedly said, “It’s in the sunroom,” as if there had been a new baby in the family. We three went into the sunroom, my father following. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was incredible. Made of oak, it had scalloped lines, four small drawers on top, one on both sides and a large one in the middle. A curved foot rest was added. It had been repeatedly varnished and shone like a newly waxed kitchen floor. 

And then, my chest tightened, and tears started, soon to become sobbing. My sister and mother had tears, also. “Thank you, Dad,” I repeated over and over. He never directly looked at me and I knew not to hug him, he didn’t like it. I also knew it was his hindered way of attempting to mend the painful, long-lasting relationship we’d had since I was a child; that he could not, nor would he, do anymore to address it. 

It was all I could expect of him and it somehow healed a deep wound inside. Once in a great while, I find myself disappointed he didn’t listen to what I wanted, not a fancy one, just a simple desk. He overrode me, but that’s how our relationship was. He had final say. He didn’t know me at all. Still, I am grateful for the desk. It’s a reminder he tried and I was able to forgive. Isn’t that what we all want? To forgive and be forgiven.

The Writing Desk

Watercolors, paintbrushes, easels, canvas, and oils—a desk was not necessary. That’s all I needed from grade school into my late twenties. In the early 80s, as I applied to elementary schools for employment, I went late at night to my husbands’ office to practice on a typewriter, then eventually bought my electric one. Thank goodness it had a backspace that auto-deleted. This Marmaduke sat wherever I could find a spot.

Later on, during a short break between jobs, I decided to take two-semester classes, Writing 101 and Beginning French, and a six-week non-credit course in Creative Writing. I used the bar area in our kitchen, perched on a tall stool to do homework and write while my son was at school, and my husband was at work. By the late 1990s, I had acquired a simple smaller used office desk, with two drawers on each side that my husband and I shared. I began to write and paint less.

When I got a ‘room of my own’ as Virginia Wolf cried out that every writer should have,  I wanted my desk with privacy. Shortly after my husband and I drove back to Illinois to visit family. While there, I found this little treasure in the cellar of my grandparents’ farmhouse. It wasn’t exactly a writing desk, but it had history, a story. I toted the desk with four water-soaked legs up the stairs to a local wood restorer. I planned to pick it up on a future trip back to Illinois from Tucson. This piece was probably a hall table or a small kitchen side table. The restorer did wonders in reviving its pale wood to a walnut luster and its surface smooth as a worn stone. I used an old table chair (found in a barn) and this became my writing space. The desk was just long enough to house my small laptop, a notebook, pens, disks, and one cat, which much of the time sat on my notebooks. We both wrote happily in my studio with no phones, no TV, and no visitors unless invited.

In time, a piece of property became available two houses down the street from where we currently lived. We bought, remodeled, and added a studio off the master bedroom as before, but a bit larger. I seriously wanted to replicate my ‘room of my own’ and I now wanted a true writing desk. The little farm table could fit in the entryway. I shopped in person locally and in other states as I traveled. Online, mail order catalogs until one day, two years later, I found it from a pop-up advertisement on my computer. The depth of the desk was narrow which I liked. Everything looked as if it could be within arm’s reach with space in between. It had three file drawers, two smaller ones, and a long middle drawer with built-in wood dividers. I called Pottery Barn and indeed they had a floor model. I threw on my shoes and went to see. I chose the white wood and the desk was delivered within two weeks. I lingered in glorious hours and days arranging files of to-be-written novels, blank and filled notebooks, cards, pens, sticky notes, an antique magnifying glass, submissions accepted and rejected, past and present short-shorts, scribbles, notes and our writers group history and so much more. One of my favorites about the ‘look’ of this desk is three of the six drawers are louvered which match the master bath and closet doors. Such perfect planning, or a happy accident?

The second feature was the extra length of this desk. At first, I hesitated because this was uncommon for an office or writing desk. It turned out to be ideal because it lent itself to my new paper cutter, a few reference books, more cups full of colored pens and pencils, and most importantly, company at each end to muse and amuse as I write. 

Ethan Allen Secretary

I began in a rock maple forest of Vermont. I was taken to an enormous mill and fashioned into my current shape at a company called Ethan Allen Furniture. I am what is known as a drop-front secretary. You can open my front panel to reveal the writing desk. When the writing surface is exposed you see six small cubbies, three on one side and three on the other with a drawer beneath each side. The center cubbie is wider and has a shelf beneath it. When the writing surface is closed you see a lock to secure it. Below the writing surface is a shallow drawer the width of the desk, and beneath that are three drawers. One deep file drawer on the right and three smaller drawers on the left. The large file drawer has a lock on the side. I sit on delicate square feet.  

In 1955 I was ordered and shipped to Seattle for Mrs. Louvee. I resided on the west wall near the entry across the living room from the fireplace and big bay window. Next to me was placed a curved spindle back maple chair. On my top rested a hobnob milk glass lamp with two stacking globes connected by brass fittings, and a clear white chimney coming from the top. We were Mrs. Louvee’s delight and the first thing visitors saw when they came into the room.

Mrs. Louvee was meticulous. I was dusted and polished each week. She placed bills to be paid in one of my cubbies, letters to be answered in another, business envelopes in a third, and letter-sized envelopes in a fourth. The other side cubbies were used for office necessities like a stapler, an electric pencil sharpener, a small hole punch, tape, stamps, a clear plastic box of paper clips, and the necessary box of eighteen milk chocolate Ferrero truffles. The two short drawers under the cubbies held pens, pencils, erasers, staples, and lip gloss. The long drawer under the writing surface held important papers and paid bills that would be filed in the large file drawer at some point. The other three smaller drawers held an engagement calendar along with three past year calendars, photographs, and address books – she had several. That was my life until Mrs. moved to Tucson in 1999.

She insisted on bringing me with her to her new, much smaller, home and I had a place in her bedroom. Still dusted and polished, I was no longer on display and seldom used. When she passed, I went to live with her daughter Miss Diana.

What a difference! Now I reside in Miss Diana’s writing room. My inside cubbies are cluttered with a hodge-podge of sticky notes, a flashlight, hand cream, 3 x 5 cards, stickers, stamps, hard drives, bookmarks, photos, candles, DVDs, CDs, and of course a box of chocolates – not Ferrero truffles but dark chocolate cherries and coffee nips. The drawers are crammed with tarot cards, writing prompt cards, outdated manuals for electronics, a whole drawer of old electronics like recorders, headsets, more hard drives. The big file drawer is stuffed with writing notebooks, files of stories, poems, chapters of partially written books, and miscellaneous notes. Neatness doesn’t count. I have not seen a dusting rag or polish in at least six years. My top is littered with old photos, a Kleenex box, a glass keepsake box full of who-knows-what, a stack of coasters, and a stack of books. A lamp that looks like a stack of kittywampus books took the place of the lovely milk glass lamp. Around me is a plethora of books and papers Miss Diana uses as she creates word pictures. An old office chair sits before me. Sigh. But I am used daily. I am no longer an occasional piece of gleaming furniture. I have a very important job.  Even if I don’t look so good – I’m happy.