Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Clubs Rock!

Many authors claim there's not much better than a good review. I certainly agree about the importance and pleasure of receiving juicy book reviews, but I'd also argue that an evening in the company of thoughtful readers eager to discuss my work beats all!
I enjoyed such an evening this week. Nine women, members of a long-standing book club, had read Running Secrets and invited me to join them. The conversation around issues of race and immigration I shared with these intelligent, well-informed women was deep. Their willingness to share their thoughts, experiences and values with a stranger touched me. And the food and drink were delicious, too!

I am grateful to Sue for inviting me into her lovely home and to the women of her book club for making me feel so welcome. Thank you for choosing Running Secrets and for you interest in my other books. Maybe we can do it again some time!

My apologies to the two members who'd left before I thought to ask for a photo and to the gal stuck behind the camera!

Monday, November 17, 2014


Many thanks to Lisa Stull for inviting me to participate in her blog series, The Struggling Artist. Lisa Stull? Lisa M. Gott? You'll have to ask her to clarify that one! But I can assure you, she's one and the same. In any case, check out her blog.
Piece of cake, I thought, when Lisa Stull offered the opportunity to write a guest post on the obstacles faced by writers for her “Struggling Artist” series. My obstacle is obvious to me … I never have enough time. Twenty four hours each day just doesn’t cut it. Not for a full-time job, a writing career, a family and a life that includes time for friends, exercise and reading.

But as I began to formulate my thoughts for this short piece, I had to admit I was often more productive on a daily basis during the academic year when I’m teaching a full load than come June when the long unstructured days of summer stretch before me. Read more ...

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Final Third

Many thanks to Meredith Schorr for including my guest post in her blog series "Age is Just a Number."

Dad 1979
“It’s time to start buying bananas one at a time.”

I can hear Dad’s voice in my ears. If he were here, he’d be teasing me now as I enter the sixth decade of life. But Dad passed a dozen years ago, and I’m giving myself at least another decade or two before following that particular piece of his advice.

“The older you get, the faster it goes.”

This too, Dad was apt to repeat in a voice filled with an odd mix of frustration, bewilderment and warning. Reluctantly, I’m beginning the see the truth in those words.

But mostly, as I enter this final third of life, I realize I’ve begun to count backwards. If I live to 90, that gives me 30 years. 85 gives me 25. So what am I going to do with those remaining years? Read more...
Dad's 80th Birthday 2001

Friday, November 7, 2014


"In purist terms, and according to the U.S. Customs Service, an antique is an item with at least 100 years of age under its belt."
I enjoy wandering antique shops, guessing at the age and purpose of objects, imagining the stories they could share if only they possessed the gift of speech. We have a few old things in our home, but I hesitate to call them antiques because the 100-year definition above seems to fluctuate depending on the source, and because I don't necessarily know the age of everything in my house.
My mother once told me when she and my father married in 1947 her telephone desk was one of their first purchases. At just under seventy years old, it is likely not an antique, but that is of no importance to me. I see my mother sitting at that desk each time I walk past it. I see the heavy rotary phone with its tangled cord and the tooled leather notepad holder she brought back from Mexico beside it. And I hear the shattering ring throughout the large house of my childhood. My mother's telephone desk with its sideways seat and deep slot for a fat phone book is useless in this age of mobile phones and the internet, but it has a permanent place in our home.
My husband and I bought our West Seattle "war box" almost a quarter of a century ago from the estate of the original owners. The basement was full of junk, most of which we carted to the dump. But a few items we held onto: the small bookcase I still use in my writing room, the old wall cabinet that now holds my jewelry and a small item I thought was a pipe holder. The "pipe holder" remained stashed in the basement for years. During one of many remodeling projects we've done on this "starter home" we never left, my artist husband pulled it out and set me straight.

"It's an inkwell," he told me and stuck it on a bookshelf in the basement.

Years passed and the so-called inkwell remained forgotten. Yesterday I was moving things around as I tend to do with each change of season. I came across the old inkwell, dusted it clean, and set it on the fireplace mantel.

"That belongs on your desk," my husband told me when he saw it.

"If it's really an inkwell, I wonder if I can find ink bottles for it," I said.

"Maybe I'm wrong," he said. "I mean, square ink bottles?"
I got curious and googled antique inkwells. To my surprise, I found two items very similar to the inkwell on our mantel. One on eBay was labeled "Antique Civil War Victorian Wood Portable Inkwell" and another on Pinterest was dated 1906. I also saw loads of little square ink bottles. So maybe this thing on our fireplace mantel is an inkwell. And maybe it is an antique. But what I find intriguing is this writer's inkwell was in our home when we bought it twenty-three years ago. It was stashed away somewhere a dozen years ago when I began writing. And now as I begin revisions on my fourth book, I understand its secrets.
When my daughter was a little girl, we read aloud every evening. The Secret Garden was one of our favorite books. On one afternoon of antique store explorations, we came across a wicker wheelchair.

"That's just like Colin's wheelchair!" my daughter exclaimed.
"It would make a fun chair for the living room," I said without thinking. 
To this day my husband enjoys telling the story of pushing our daughter home from the antique store in that wheelchair. As he hit the hill, he realized it had no brakes.

Banned from the living room, the wicker wheelchair has held court in every room of our small house through the years. It's too big and it just doesn't belong, but I can't seem to get rid it.
Whether an antique or not, whether worthless junk or hidden treasure, I really don't care. I cling to the stories the telephone desk and inkwell and wheelchair hold. My mother will be with me each time I pass her telephone desk or sit down to put on a pair of shoes. I will search for ink vessels and pens for the inkwell and wonder about the stories or letters prior owners may have written. And despite the space it occupies, I remain unable to part with my wicker wheelchair.