Tuesday, May 23, 2017

aiken garden tour

What I’m Doing Instead of Writing

The Aiken Garden Tour last weekend put my yard into perspective, i.e. underdeveloped. There were gardens on the tour that could easily cost into five figures. Really, a hot tub, pool, grill, and outdoor television! Though there were many varieties of palms, I’m still skeptical about whether they’ll survive a Carolina winter. What I liked most were the hideaways, secluded areas of the yard, and there were many of those, the concept being to divide a yard into numerous “rooms” with thematic greenery. So nice! 
A secluded corner where I stopped to rest.
As for writing, this year so far has been one of distraction. Thank goodness for my writers workshop, which gives me a deadline to produce six pages of prose. Typically, I’ll squander my time until several days beforehand and at the last minute work feverishly to get something presentable.

Do I have what it takes to complete the 17th Century French story I’ve started? From the experience of having written six novels, I know the discipline and daily grind it takes. As important, if not more so, is devotion to the story. There are times when my devotion flags. 
My sister Nila with outdoor furniture that looks indoor.

Friday, May 12, 2017


I’ve just run into Amazon’s heavy hand:
"Your review could not be posted.
Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:

This is not the first time Amazon has refused to publish a review of an item I bought online. I can’t figure out what is offensive, especially given Amazon’s criteria. (see review below). I scanned the other reviews, and there's not one that mentions that the item is not refundable.

This is a reminder that Amazon puts its interests before that of the individual customer. I’ve said individual customer with purpose. Amazon is adept at figuring out how to please the generic customer. Outliers are another story.

I’m gratified that the European Union has tried to rein in Amazon’s aggression. Recently it put an end to Amazon’s insistence that e-book publishers give no other company better terms. And the EU is investigating Amazon’s 2003 tax deal with Luxembourg which unfairly allows it to pay lower taxes.

My Review as submitted to Amazon:
Buyers should be aware that this dress is shipped from an address in China and is not returnable. I am 5'5", weigh 130 lbs. and size 6 was too large. I requested a return with refund, but obviously I wasn't going to pay shipping costs to China. The vendor was responsive, but I had to settle for a percentage refund and a dress I gave to the Salvation Army.

Previously I also ordered a swimsuit not knowing that the vendor was shipping the item from China. It only seems fair that the product description contain a notation to alert customers when an item is not returnable.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lake City SC artFields

Even in the barbershop

My visit to ArtFields last week was an eye-opening couple of days. For starters, I found out you can’t see all the art exhibits in two days. Secondly, I experienced art-fatigue (common in museums like the Louvre or MOMA).

Lake City, South Carolina, is proving that we look to more than football, hamburgers, and television for gratification. It took grunt work and dollars to showcase more than 400 pieces of art, including paintings, installation art, photographs, mixed media, sculpture and digital media. Every work or art was skillfully displayed.  

At the Welcome Center, I registered to vote on the art and cast 15 votes. Here’s a painting I consider a winner. It's huge, covered an entire wall/corner of the ROB (formerly a tobacco manufacturing building):

Robert Keith's Clifton & Drake
Illustrators don't get the respect they deserve. Some of the most endearing images are appearing in children's books. This is a shot of one window in an Alice Ratterree's composition that appeared at the Lake City Library.
Alice Ratterree's 24 Hours
A Crunch Lunch program on Thursday allowed artists about five minutes to introduce themselves and talk about the work they had on display—a great addition to the program. It was also a welcome opportunity to sit and rest for a spell.
Emily Clanton explains the unusual mushroom paint she used
Some artists (writers included) produce shocking, if not repulsive, work to get noticed and, given our media circus today, this ruse often propels them into the spotlight and can make a career. Vera Tracy's combination of sex and violence is an example.
Vera Tracy's Just One Gun (shown at the ROB)
I voted for several installation art pieces, despite my resistance to this type of art. Unlike most paintings and sculpture, installation art isn't usually possible in a home environment but requires the space of a museum. This is a photo of a free standing wall made of postcards by George Blakely. The art entry consisted of several walls making rooms of postcards.
George Blakely's Re-inventing the Landscape

I also voted for Sarah Mosteller's Hello, Society, It's Contrived To Meet You, which was a dress made of woven steel strings. Mark Woodward turned bicycle parts into a scene titled It's a Dog Eat Dinosaur World. This was displayed in a former livery stable now a spacious area for art. Yelitza Diaz took a literary icon and turned it into installation art titled The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Displayed outdoors on the lawn of the The Citizens Bank was a piece I wish I could have shared with my grandchildren. Vivianne Lee Carey's Cinderella: The Sequel is a dark concept with an ominous figure and a deathly looking carriage. 
My sister Nila stands between Cinderella and carriage
ArtFields was a great find for me. I can't wait to go next year!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Amer Library Association & censorship


On the American Libraray Association's website is a list of children’s and young adult books that have been challenged in the media and reported to the ALA as containing explicit sexuality, drug use, profanity and LGBT characters. One, described as being “disgusting and all around offensive,” received positive reviews in Newsweek and the NYT.

Most of these books have won prestigious awards, such as the Caldecott Honor Award and National Book Award or been named Stonewall Honor Books and Printz Honor recipients. 

In an introduction to the list, the American Library Association (ALA) notes that “each book was threatened with removal from spaces where diverse ideas and perspectives should be welcomed.” 

The word “should” is the monster that haunts all of us. Who should decide what children should read? The ALA? The government? The media? Parents? 

Will I ever be smart enough to overcome my confusion about should?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Open Book

Colm Tóibín  
The author Colm Tóibín appeared at the University of South Carolina Thursday night as part of the OpenBook series.

He reminisced about being nominated for a Booker Prize and not getting it, all with deprecating humor—how he attended the awards ceremony convinced he’d take the prize, only to hear another name announced as the winner.

He discussed writing his book, The Master, a creative nonfiction account of the life of Henry James. To get beyond “James was born, he wrote, he died,” Tóibín brought his own reality to the carefully researched details of James’ life. Tóibín’s lecture ranged over literature with the assurance of a college professor, from Shakespeare to Robert Louis Stevenson to James Joyce. 

Irish author Colm Tóibín
It was exciting to see Tóibín, who wrote one of my favorite novels, Brooklyn. The book was made into a movie which is the antithesis of Hollywood’s ubiquitous hysterical adventure movies. Brooklyn has no car chases, no explosions, no gratuitous sex, no guns or murders, no gays, transsexuals or deprived blacks. You might call it a miracle.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

word list, Cola II


“Sham Words” is the title of the Columbia II Writers’ Workshop blog this week. I wrote this article about words I dislike. If words had smells, these would be on my stinky list. You’ll find many of them in this sentence:
It took forever, but then many very beautiful words suddenly began to empower me with a really good vocabulary.
Check out the Columbia II blog to see if you’ve identified the stinkies.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Upcoming Publication



Three of my poems have been accepted for publication in an anthology, “The Human Touch,” produced by the University of Colorado. It is due to be released in late April. This anthology focuses on health concerns and how we deal with them.

No matter how many people have died before us and die during our lifetime, our personal experience is unique. The sheer magnitude of unique-ness is daunting. And yet there is much that is common. This is like saying everything is opposite and everything is the same. Are we to understand that it's not a matter of "To be or not to be," but rather, "To be and not to be"?

Whenever a member of my family was believed to be dying, somebody always sat with that person. My father died in our house while my mother was at the laundromat, and she was dismayed that he had died alone. For years I had dreams of being with him when he had his fatal heart attack. I tried to call for help, but my fingers couldn't get the phone to work. I believe those dreams were messages, something of an accusation because I hadn't been with him more when I should have known he was nearing death.

The anthology is published by the Anschutz Medical Campus community at the University of Colorado.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Richland County Library

Yesterday, the Author Showcase at the Richland County Library drew a steady but thin crowd. I shared a table with Bill Looney who writes mystery novels. We commiserated about the challenges of marketing our books. 

Meeting authors such as Bill Looney makes any book festival worthwhile.

A highlight of the afternoon was visits from writer friends who dropped by to say “hello.” I found out Len Lawson, poet and teacher, will become a student himself this summer. Len was one of the presenters at the Deckle Edge Literary Festival taking place throughout the weekend. Len and fellow poet Al Black have published an anthology, Hand in Hand: Poets Respond to Race.
What a happy surprise! Seeing Len Lawson!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

book festival

amelia island BOOK FESTIVAL

The Amelia Island Book Festival brought in traffic but it was a crowd of lookers and not buyers. Only one writer in my vicinity sold any books, and she was a local author. My neighboring author summed it up this way: “Time to scratch this one off my list.” The festival lasted until 5:00 PM but writers were leaving as early as 3:00 PM.
The auditorium was full of writers and books.
I’m coming to the view that book festivals without events that allow participation by visiting authors are a waste of time. By events, I mean panel discussions, interviews, debates, and author presentations. These have the potential to raise interest not only in authors but in books and publishing in general. Too many festivals are limited to a lecture by a well-known author, in which case, it's not a book festival but a lecture. What I'd like to see are events that spotlight talented writers who haven’t been recognized by New York publishing houses.

No, she didn't buy the book...
Without author events/performances how do visitors draw distinctions among the writers? As it was at this festival, visitors strolled along the aisles without a clue to the nature or character of the writers or books. It had to be a confusing experience. 

However, Amelia Island is a lovely beach town with a thriving historic downtown. My sister Nila and I had dinner at two local restaurants (Marina Seafood Restaurant and Barbara Jean's Restaurant & Bar) and we enjoyed both of them. 
I loved being with my sister. And she took the photos!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Feb. 11, 2017


The sun was shining. It was 70 degrees...a perfect day to spend outdoors. Despite that, book lovers came to the Pee Dee Author’s Expo inside the library at Florence. Perhaps not as many visitors as I’d like to have seen, but I sold some books, met some interesting people. My thanks to Aubrey Carroll and the staff at the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation Library for providing this opportunity for SC writers.

I was at my table and ready at 2:00 PM.
She bought a copy of Kedzie.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Pee Dee Authors Expo


Tomorrow 2-4:00 PM I’ll be sitting at a table inside this building with other authors invited to the Pee Dee Author Expo. Aubrey Carroll of the library has organized this event. 
Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library

The Doctors Bruce and Lee Foundation Library is an imposing building. Once you get your foot in the door, you feel like you have to talk quietly and behave yourself. However the Pee Dee Expo isn’t restrained by the venue. It’s a relaxed event where book lovers and local authors talk about books and writing (of course!).

If you’re in the area, drop by. I’d love to see you. Admission is free.

Location: Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation Library, 509 S. Dargan St., Florence, SC29306

Sunday, January 29, 2017

February festivals


I have three author appearances in February. Writers and readers make great company. I hope you’ll visit me at any one of these. Admission to all of them is free.

Sat., February 11
2-4:00 PM
Location: Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation Library, 509 S. Dargan St., Florence, SC29306

Sat., Feb. 18
10 AM – 5 PM
Location: Fernandina Beach Middle School, 315 Citrona Dr., Fernandina Beach, FL

Richland Library Local Author Showcase
Sun., Feb. 26
3-5:00 PM
Location: Richland County Main Library, 1431 Assembly St., Columbia, SC 29201

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cat's Fur Coming

A Children’s Book, A First For Me

Cat’s Fur begins...
Once a witch with a thick nose and thin lips
lived in an old house on a hill near the wind.
Vagrant cats cause a problem, and Sagmarilla helps the witch figure it out. Cat’s Fur, illustrated by Marleana Shannon, is in production at Stanard Design Partners. I’ll let you know when it’s published.

She's a witch, and she has cat troubles.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

guest blog - Columbia II Writers


In “Now That My Book Is Published,” (featured this week on the Columbia II Writers Workshop blog), I write about the time I’ve put in marketing my books. I’ve had book signings, attended festivals, bought ads, and joined Facebook. Has this effort paid off? That depends on whether the pay-off is only counted in number of sales. I’ve met other writers, become more professional, and kept myself in the marketplace. There’s no certainty that I’ll increase sales by continuing to promote my books, but there is a certainty that I won’t if I don’t.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 beginnings


At the end of every year I try to be more invested in saying “hello” to a new year rather than “goodbye” to the old one. But it’s hard. On December 31, as I was walking with my granddaughters to Glissold park, I said, “This is the last day you’ll know of the year 2016.” Few things are permanent (e.g., death and taxes) but the end of a year as we count it, is the END.

To avoid gloomy thoughts about time passing, I conjure up New Years’ Resolutions. I’m not good at keeping them, but that doesn’t deter me. So here goes.

2017 Resolutions

1. Get off the dessert diet I got on during the holidays.

2. Buy fewer frozen dinners (resist the mouthwatering packaging). Let somebody else buy them and be disappointed.

3. Visit historic sites in SC, in particular Hampton Plantation (home of Archibald Rutledge); Boykin Mill near Camden; Fort Hill (John C. Calhoun’s home); and Brattonsville (a return visit, I love the heirloom animals, esp. the hogs).

4. Get rid of books I’ve had for years and think I’m going to read but haven’t.

5. Read works by John Donne and John Henry Newman (I’ve been inspired by Helene Hanff’s book 84 Charing Cross Road.).

6. Get back to writing. Finish a long short-story about a traveling theater troupe in 1670s France. Publish another children’s book about a witch (Cat’s Fur is finished except for the design and lay-out).

7. Shop Amazon as a last resort. I spent too much time in December trying to figure out my Amazon charges. I paid them even though I couldn’t account for several of them. Amazon’s “help” (when you finally find it) isn’t much help.

It’s snowing outside my window. The green magnolia leaves are growing white. What a beautiful morning.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

post Christmas


I spent much of this morning reading Christmas cards that arrived and were held by the post office while I was gone. Opening the cards is like opening small presents. Most of them have beautiful pictures. I especially like snow scenes. 

Then there are the typed letters from friends that tell of their year and what they did in 2016. I love those...except for one from an acquaintance who travels the world every year and makes me feel like a homebody. I’m talking about a couple who in a single year might tour Greek ruins, visit Machu Picchu, raft the Colorado River, shop in Hong Kong, and take a road trip in Spain. (I’m not exaggerating...)

Many of my friends are good writers as well. That makes the letters even more enjoyable. They tell of what they’ve been doing without me (which makes me a bit sad). Most of them engage in intellectual pursuits, overcome health problems without a sniffle, and volunteer in their communities/churches. If you’re one of them, thanks for the letter and for remembering me at Christmas.

I left on December 21 for London and returned Monday night about 8:30 PM. I’ll spare you the horrors of travel but must mention that the computers at the Charlotte customs counters went down, which added about an hour to the time from Heathrow Airport.

IN LONDON Our son planned a holiday of not only visiting but festive outings to see a puppet show (not just for kids), a pantomime (not what you’re thinking, it’s music and comedy), symphony, and a rugby match (I took a pass on this one). Must add that I loved pub lunches and suppers as well, though Jason and Ellen are great cooks. My Ohio son and his family joined us, which was an extra special Christmas gift.

I’m back in Lexington and not a day too soon. Time to get back to a quiet house and fewer French fries...though I did have fruitcake and coffee while I read Christmas cards. 

With the family at the Jolly Pig Pub

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Xmas lights


The white lights everywhere at night give me a feeling of snow without the freezing cold. It’s days like this that I’m glad I live in South Carolina instead of Chicago (brrrrrr!) where I used to live.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Time travel


Amy Adams plays Louise in “Arrival,” the movie I saw tonight. Alien airships appear at 12 locations on earth causing chaos the world over. The movie veers further into scientific fantasy with a plot in which Time deviates from a linear progression. If we’re given a story in which Time is not linear, the question becomes, “then what is it?” Is it swerving? Intermittent? In this movie, there’s no telling what progression Time takes.

If, according to “Arrival,” Time is not linear, the concept of yesterday, today, and tomorrow changes, though Louise is transported to scenes in her life that can be identified as taking place in the “past” (with respect to what is presented as “present”). This rattling around in time has no rhyme or reason, except as it satisfies the needs of the movie’s plot.
This Seth Thomas clock is on my mantel.
There are calculated revelations which save Louise’s life and the world from war. These revelations are timed at moments that are strategic to the plot but are obscure with respect to their origin in Time. Louise discovers a universal language at a critical moment, but why at that particular time? In like manner, she is acquainted with a Chinese diplomat, a relationship she uses to save the world from war. This information is interjected at a timely moment in the movie, but where in the sequence of Time did this become a fact? More fundamentally, if Time is not linear in “Arrival,” what does Louise know at any given moment in the movie?

If Time deviates from linear, what will happen to plot elements such as cause and effect? How will we develop motivation? The spaceship in “Arrival” isn’t as hard to believe as the movie’s portrayal of Time.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Candlelight Concert


From the program of last night's candlelight concert at St. Stephen's Evangelical Lutheran Church (Lexington, SC), I discovered that of the five talented performers, two are employed as musicians—one is Director of Music at St. Stephen’s and the other is Orchestra Director at a local high school.

On the other hand, flutist Lisa Catalanotto, with numerous musical awards and credits, works as a budget analyst. I use her as an example, for there are accomplished artists—among them painters, sculptors, illustrators, filmmakers, and writers—who look to local organizations for support. By support I mean some appreciation for their talent.

I admire the church for providing a local venue for these artists to perform. And good luck to the musicians: Ruthie Brannen, Bailey Parker, Jennifer Rosinski, Ken Howell, and Lisa Catalanotto. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thankful at Thanksgiving


This previous weekend many of us took a moment to consider what we have to be thankful for. One of the things I’m thankful for is imagination.

We think imagination sets us apart from other living beings on earth, though we can make no speculation about what may exist apart from the earth. Our discoveries in space may one day reveal an imagination we can’t now envision.

Much of our work as writers is dependent on this human quality. By that, I mean work not based on rote. Not just authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, or George Orwell, but writers who imbue everyday life with insights that reveal the human spirit.

Imagination is a double-sided wonder. The worlds we create in art, movies, and literature span the extremes from wonderful to terrible. We have created utopia and perdition.

It’s been said that as long as we can imagine a thing, we can create it. Or otherwise stated — we’re only constrained by our imaginations. We’ve seen elements of science fiction come true. As an example, the writings of Ray Bradbury foresaw earbuds and headsets, flat-screen television, electronic surveillance, ATMs, and artificial intelligence.

On the other hand, on our bookshelves and in movie theaters is an abundance of dystopian stories. We’re imagining the end of humanity and the destruction of the earth. However, in these dire scenarios, we humans always manage to save ourselves.

Without imagination, what would we be? A tree, maybe, though some of us are reluctant to suggest a tree has no imagination. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

xmas show


Went to the Christmas Arts & Crafts show at the Columbia Fairgrounds today with my sister and her husband. There were times when I could hardly move in the crowded aisles. Lots to see—wood craft, jewelry, pottery, specialty foods (honey, peanuts, soup mix), clothes, baskets, garden art (I guess you’d call it art...). Though there were lots of people, I didn’t see lots of sales. It's a labor of love for most of the vendors. And when I like something that seems special, I try to reward the vendor with a purchase.

Some of the sights.

Now we have cinnamon as well as gingerbread houses.
So if you make pottery, where do you sell it if not at a craft show?
When's the last time you bought a wood carved toy?
I would have bought one of these pins if I didn't already have more than I wear.
This was a first for me -- Lights in decorated bottles.