Ordinary Mysteries

This is one of my favorite passages in Lighthouse. As a human, this has always been my goal, to pay attention to the ordinary moments of beauty and to elevate them.

At the funeral for my husband’s grandmother a few years ago, the minister came around beforehand and asked for memories to share. I was surprised at how many of them were mine that he mentioned during the service and how teary the family got as each was brought up. I was glad I spoke up.

What had I noticed?

Strawberry pie…the scent of apples stored in their breezeway…fresh apple cider…country magazines stacked neatly on the coffee table…ribbon salad…heaping bowls of mashed potatoes…rabbit show trophies…that and so much more signaled we were at the Drudges’.

My aim as a writer is to recall those average, everyday moments and hold them.

Recently I shared a photo with my daughter of a bottle of wine on our dining room table. “I can’t believe you still have that table,” she said. We’ve thought of replacing it, but there are paint and marker blotches on it from her and her brother. We studied and read there together. We played cards and ate how many meals at it?

The table is just a table, but it’s also a miracle, a memory.

I didn’t mean for this to turn into a Thanksgiving post, especially not so early, but then again, it’s fitting. I’m thankful for miracles of all sizes.

Do you have a favorite passage from this book? Almost finished reading it? I’m rounding the corner. For some reason I don’t remember the last bit being quite so long. Not that I want to leave Lily’s side any time soon.

An Autumn of Woolf Schedule

I’m so excited to be committing to an autumn of Virginia Woolf! I can’t wait to share this time with all who care to join in.

We will study a book a month for four months. Read and chime in any time throughout the month. Your comments, observations, photos, article links, and the like are welcome.

Remember: join me here or on Facebook in the Painted Word Salon.

September 20 Mrs Dalloway

October 18 To the Lighthouse

November 22 Orlando

December 20 A Room of One’s Own

True, these on the schedule are her better-known works, but what’s to stop us from talking about her other books in the future?

Do you have a favorite not listed here?

The End of My Second Novel as I Know It…and I Feel…#BetaTime

What do you do after the draft of your current work in progress is done, when you’ve handed it over to a beta reader for what you hope will be the last time before you send it out? From nowhere, suddenly there are free hours, days, to fill. What to do??

Here are some things writers do with that silence, that tearing of the topic from your mind because if you think on it any more you’re going to want to add things to your novel, and you can’t. Not yet, maybe not ever, if it’s as finished as you suspect it is. Stopping is as important as starting.

If you had a book just come out in March 2020 (What’s that, you haven’t bought my book yet? Let’s fix that: http://amzn.to/2QoEqXM, or contact me for other ways to buy), you have plenty of outreach you’d still like to do. So you do some of that, which takes courage. It’s also fun, though, connecting with folks who enjoy the arts as much as I do.

Beyond that, there are the usual suspects:

  1. Catching up with relationships. While face-to-face interaction isn’t really viable for the most part just now, I’m trying to say hey on social media or by text to those I’ve neglected. (What’s that, I could call them? What’s a phone call?)
  2. Binge watching all the things. Well, to be honest, I never stopped doing that. The muse refuses to work 24-7 even though I ask him to.
  3. Reading. There’s another area I have been doing all along, yet I’ve been able to step it up on reading friends’ projects and reviewing books, something I enjoy doing.
  4. Household projects we bought supplies for months ago now. Okay, well, we haven’t started yet, but I’ve been thinking about getting started.
  5. Fretting about which novel I will write next. I have a stack of ideas, but I know what a commitment it is to say yes to an idea, how much research it takes (years), not to mention the topic that is uppermost in my mind is going to be challenging in multiple ways. That, after I promised that my next novel would be anything but, just to give myself a break. Nope, no break here.
  6. Tweak those things that could use it: website (on the list), household organization
  7. Get on even one of those writerly projects all writers are “supposed” to do: apply for grants, write short fiction and submit, submit stuff for (possible) awards, stay in touch with writer friends (I do a decent job of that), enrich the writing community, be innovative, on and on…
  8. Personal goals – my lists have lists on that front.

I know I’m not alone in this simultaneous feeling of loss and freedom when finishing up a project.

What do you do when you get to the end of a project, writing or otherwise? Let me know!  

My Autumn of Woolf

Many of you know that I am borderline obsessed with Virginia Woolf’s writing. To me, nobody, and I mean nobody, writes like her.

A sampling of my Woolf books

Before COVID-19 hit, author Gretchen Rubin had announced that she was going to have a summer of Woolf, which she subsequently postponed until fall.

Having just (I think) finished a tight draft of my second novel, I’m already feeling lost. Since Woolf plays a part in my book, what better way to feel I am still doing something constructive than to read all of her works this autumn? Thanks for the idea, Gretchen!

And Gretchen Rubin isn’t the only one contemplating a fall of Woolf. Literature Cambridge is also offering a series on Woolf’s major works: https://bloggingwoolf.wordpress.com/2020/08/17/virginia-woolf-season-with-litcamb-covers-her-12-major-works/

I have 2 1/2 bookshelves dedicated to not only Woolf’s novels and essays but also her letters and diaries. My intention is to eventually revisit all of her available writings. I have no idea where I will start; I think I will start with her first novel and the first volume of her letters and her journal for the corresponding time period.

And of course I will keep up with the Literature Cambridge schedule. I’m so excited! I love learning.

The hubby is also getting in on the Woolf action. He is currently reading Orlando. And he’s been reading volume one of her letters to me a bit at a time, which I find downright precious.

What are you planning to read this fall?

Next Stop? Excerptville!

Many kind thanks to Elizabeth Keysian for hosting an excerpt of Victorine over on her excellent blog Seduction, Scandals, and Spies. Please pop over and leave a comment while you’re there. Bloggers are authors’ best friends right now, in a time when in-person events are well nigh impossible. Show them some love!

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Painting of Victorine by Alfred Stevens

How are you holding up? Are you making time for self-care?

No, I don’t mean just doing your work, although do that. But are you drinking water? (Not enough over here.) Moving? (Ditto.) Are you making time to not just veg in front of the TV but choosing material that moves and inspires you, rather than whiling away the hours as if you are in a jail cell? Because these, these days and hours are also part of the weft and warp of our lives. Don’t discount them. Use them to their full advantage. Let me qualify that.

Today I have put “read for an hour” and “write for an hour” on my list. Sure, being this nigh the other side of publication means I am still doing plenty of PR. This week alone I am recording three interviews with podcasts, which I am appreciative for, but they take time and courage.

Pair that with mailing out books to friends, teaching and related activities, reaching out to friends and family to be sure they’re all doing okay emotionally (some aren’t, which is totally natural during these uncertain times), aspiring to launch a whole new outreach journey which will require trial and error, and more, and I am not just bored at home. (I’m never bored anyway, but I’m particularly not now.)

But is it well with my soul?

In ways I’m very content, but I tell you, though I am grateful for those guest blog posts I will be polishing and handing in this week, the lack of creating is beginning to show. I need to make something all mine, with no expectations on it.

I’m finishing up a novel, except I haven’t written on it in weeks. I have two new novel ideas, except I’m not sure which one to go with, and if I choose one of those, what about that other, simpler, idea? Do I let it go or pursue it as the fast burn I suspect it will be?

Is it well with my soul?

I had a cathartic hour’s call with a friend yesterday. We both needed to vent about life. Today I have scheduled a phone call to someone in quarantine; she isn’t allowed any physical contact for a few more days. My life is so much better than that right now, and yet I haven’t let my creativity out of quarantine.

My to-do list is no shorter than it ever is, showing I am not taking the time to embrace what’s going on in our world. That I am itching to do a thorough cleaning of the bedroom tells me that my priorities are out of whack.

And yet, for me, I know what I need. I need to pull up my WIP and write, for God’s sake. I need to sit down with that new book on Vonnegut and writing (Pity the Reader) that I’m speeding through when I do allow myself reading time.

I need to adjust my expectations. Maybe I can’t achieve twenty things on a list in a day. Maybe I shouldn’t try. I mean sure, I want the upstairs bath to be cleaned, but we aren’t exactly going to have company over. I’d like to get that overdue birthday card out to my sister, but I did call her on her birthday, so if it waits one more day, that’s fine.

What does your soul need today? What goes beyond self-care and into soul care for you today? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s both pledge to do better about that. If our bodies and careers are preserved and not that which makes us who we are, what is the point? Nourish the best in you today.

If we were in church, here is where I would end my “sermon.” I would ask for a few seconds of silence before adding on my words of thanks to Elizabeth for featuring Victorine on her blog. After all, Victorine is a prime example of allowing a creative impulse to fully engulf my life for a time. And Elizabeth is doing me the favor of calling it worthy of a share. Thanks to her, to art, and to and for you.

 

 

My First Victorine Reading!

Hubby Barry and I recently visited Louisville, where we participated in the Spalding at 21C: Voice and Vision reading at the 21C Museum Hotel, along with four other talented writers. Besides me and Barry, the lineup included Misha Feigin, Ellyn Lichvar, Alan J. Naslund, and Vickie Weaver. Celebrated author Sena Jeter Naslund emceed.

When the award-winning poet Misha was introduced at the reading, I remember thinking, “Why was I invited? I don’t have nearly his credentials.” Since I was the last to read, I was pretty nervous, but the crowd was so welcoming I quickly felt comfortable, even though such wonderful writing came before me.

Because of copyrighted artwork in the reading area, Barry and I didn’t take photos of our actual reading, but we did catch some shots beforehand.

Barry read from his novel-in-progress, and I was delighted as always at his lyrical language. Filigrees of cigarette smoke? Yes, please!

During the event, I did my first public reading from Victorine, my novel which is forthcoming from Fleur-de-Lis Press this year. I felt almost possessed by Victorine during my reading, she who is remembered by history as Manet’s favorite model, although she went on to painting success herself. I have no illusions about who’s in charge of her story (she is!), and I’m honored to be a part of the process.

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I’m beaming, because I’ve been visiting with some of my favorite peoples! Note my nearly ever-present pearls, although I wear the white set more often.
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We enjoyed this colorful display, only one of many intriguing exhibits. And yes, that’s Mr. Barry D. humoring me by standing before this.

The next day we drove on to Nashville, where we visited the renamed Frist, now the Frist Art Museum. We went specifically to see the Frida and Diego exhibit. Please try to get there, if you haven’t already!

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am drawn to strong female figures. Victorine is certainly one, as is Frida. It seemed natural to me to go from reading about Victorine to viewing Frida’s dynamic paintings.

May 24–September 2, 2019

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

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This is a Diego painting. Barry and I are teaming up with these fun finger puppets here just because I have a collection of them.
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Doesn’t Frida look like a lioness as she has Diego on her “mind?”
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Said to be the most detailed of Frida’s paintings, I find the imagery of this to be evocative. It seems to me that she is protecting Diego’s talents, as she is protected by the earth, which is in nature’s embrace.
While this photo is playful, I had to sit and stare at this painting silently for a few minutes. It made me dizzy, but in a good way. (Art sometimes does that to me.) I’d like to think Frida would have appreciated the fun finger puppets. She strikes me as both uber serious and playful all at once.

Frida’s strokes are measured, while her colors are freely sprinkled. I like her restrained style, because her subject matter and her use of tones are so extreme that if she had used thick paint or wild brushing, it would be too much. Her manner of painting also tells me something I suspected: she comes across as passionate beyond compare, and she is, but she also controls her image. Nicely done, Frida. Nicely done.

Barry and I also made a stop by the Speed Museum with a dear friend while we were in Louisville, and The Frist had a surrealism exhibit as well as the Mexican Modernism, but those are both topics for another post.

Have you seen any of Frida’s paintings in person? If so, what did you think of them? Do you agree or disagree with my take on her work?

Manet’s Mania for Chokers

In Victorine, my historical novel coming out in the next few months, I write about the black choker Edouard Manet paints Victorine wearing. I imagine it as his bootlace, called into service on the spot.

Later, I give Victorine adoring fans who purchase and sport chokers with her as Olympia in lockets. It hardly offsets the cruelty she experiences in the streets after the “scandalous” nude painting was exhibited.

But Victorine is not the only one of Manet’s models to wear chokers. While I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand someone psychoanalyzing the painter and his predilection for encircling his model’s necks, I prefer to chalk it up to his respect and regard for fashion. Few paint fabric and fashion of the day the way he did.

When I stumbled upon this collage on Instagram, I knew I had to share it with you. Thanks, guzelonlu, for this lineup.

Four of the images pictured are Victorine. Can you tell which?

Bonus points if you can tell me the titles of those paintings. First one to comment gets a shoutout from me on Twitter.

#Manet #ArtHistory #Art #Impressionism