June 2014: Sue’s News, the Finale

Sleeping Dog

 

 

 

What’s new?

Sue at Georgie's* May slipped by so quickly I feel as if I just flipped to the May calendars and now it’s June. It was a month of delightful weather here on the Oregon Coast, a month of books, music, dogs, long walks, good food, and good friends. Also plumbing problems, endless yard work, and too many bills, but that’s okay. Five months into my low-cholesterol diet, I seem to have lost 12 pounds, and I don’t plan to go looking for them. One can live without cheese. Sigh.

* I have found a new addiction: jigsawplanet.com. Lord help me, I love doing those puzzles. As an added bonus, you can use your own photos to make new puzzles, choosing how many pieces and what shape they will be. My fingers are itching to do it right now. And I thought Spider Solitaire was bad. If I’m late to something, I was probably doing a puzzle.

* Last week, I received the welcome news that an essay I wrote about losing a close friend when she became obsessed with her babies will be published in an upcoming anthology about women and lost friendships. They’re calling it My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends. The book is coming out in September. For information, visit http://www.herstoriesproject.com.

* My essay “Father-Daughter Dance” has been published in the latest edition of Dogwood. Read about it at http://www.dogwoodliterary.com.

* I’ll be playing music again this year at the Samaritan House Secret Garden Tour. This year it’s happening on June 22 in Neskowin, up north of Lincoln City. When you buy your ticket, you get a map to all the gorgeous gardens, most of them with live music.

In the Blogs

Unleashed in Oregon:

Childless by Marriage:

Writer Aid:

 Writer News

Writers on the Edge presents poet/essayist Joe Wilkins as guest author at the Nye Beach Writers Series on June 21 at the Newport Visual Arts Center. The program starts at 7 p.m. and includes an open mic. Admission is $6. We had a great time last month with our special show and workshop with Marv and Rindy Ross at the senior center. If you haven’t heard these veteran quarterflash musicians lately, check them out at http://www.rossproductions.com. They are writing, singing and playing better than ever.

Willamette Writers Coast Branch welcomes Patrick Alexander, editor of Oregon Coast Today to its monthly workshop on Sunday, June 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Newport Library. Admission is free. Apparently I will be one of the presenters at WW’s July meeting. Stay tuned for details. The annual Willamette Writers conference takes place the first weekend of August. Details at willamettewriters.com/wwcon.

Book Report

Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass, Copper Canyon Press, 2014. Oh, how I love Ellen Bass’ poetry. In her latest volume, she tackles the usual little subjects: life, death, love, but she does so in a way that gives the reader a new perspective, so fresh and bright with images, insights and honesty that it’s almost too much to take in. So much is implied in the ordinary details of daily life. In the opening to “The Morning After,” for example, she writes, “You stand at the counter, pouring boiling water/over the French roast, oily perfume rising in smoke./And when I enter, you don’t look up.” Or consider the way she offers the glories of eating a ripe strawberry in the midst of a world full of bad things happening. These poems are so rich each one is a feast in itself. I bought this book at a workshop Bass taught in in San Rafael. If you ever get a chance to study with her, do it.

An Unstill Life by Kate Larkindale, Musa Publishing, 2014. Livvie, a 15-year-old high school student, is having a tough year. Her sister Julie is sick, her mother seems to hate her, her best friends are suddenly too busy with their boyfriends to spend time with her, and the only person she feels romantically attracted to is . . . a girl. Also, she has synesthesia, a condition that causes her to taste colors and see sounds. This is a young adult story that’s plenty gripping for grownup readers, too. I dumped everything to finish this book. In addition to an engaging story, An Unstill Life explores some serious issues, including homosexuality, bullying, and euthanasia. Larkindale, who lives in New Zealand, has written several other young adult books. She blogs at katelarkindale.blogspot.com.

The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels, Bloomsbury, 2012. Here’s another book that makes me doubt my writing ability. So good. This is the story of a man, Cole, and a community living in the shadow of a coal mining operation that is destroying the land around them. Cole grew up with his Pentecostal grandparents, having seen his mother only once at age ten. Now 27, he is working as a nursing home aide and earning money on the side by buying old people’s unused prescription drugs and selling them to junkies. The death of his grandfather, an unexpected arrival, and a tragedy that affects the whole community catapult him into reconsidering everything he has ever believed. Sickels tells this story in glorious language and beautiful detail, giving us not only a hero we love despite his imperfections but a whole community we fully believe in and care about. He also gives a frightening picture of what coal mining can do to the land and people where it takes place. This is the first published novel for Sickels, a multi-awarded MFA grad who has lived in New York and North Carolina and now resides in Portland, Oregon. I look forward to reading more of his work.

Via Lactea: A Woman of a Certain Age Walks the Camino by Ellen Waterston, Atelier 6000, 2013. This book follows Waterston’s journey on Spain’s Camino de Santiago. It’s told in poetry, with beautiful black and white engravings by Ron Schultz. A narrative ala The Odyssey, it tells the tale of her decision to walk the Camino and her journey along the way. The poems take many different forms—free verse, prose poems, lists, quotations, anagrams—and many speak in the voices of people she met on the Camino. Each is rich and multi-layered, a gem. But somehow I expected more of the nitty gritty of her trip, more details about where she went and what she saw. I love what’s there, and maybe I’m just expecting poetry to do the work of a full-length nonfiction book, but I just want more.

End Notes

Hello, June! Happy birthday this month to my niece Susie and my friends Nila and Josh. Happy anniversary to all those June brides and grooms. Congratulations to my cousin Jenny Avina on graduating from law school, to Kaitlin on her graduation from Waldport High–and to everybody else finishing school this spring. Well done!

Dear friends, this is the last edition of this newsletter, at least for now. I have been doing it on paper since 1998 and online since 2003, and it feels like time to stop. With three weekly blogs, a website, Twitter and several Facebook pages, the newsletter mostly duplicates what is already out there, and it’s a lot of work. All of my book reviews can be found at goodreads.com. My blogs are listed above. You can find me at www.facebook.com/suelick and twitter.com/suelick. So come see me.Thanks for reading me all these years.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2014

Photo of Sue by Patricia Stern. Thanks, Pat.

I belong to the Amazon affiliate program. I receive a small fee when people buy my books through the links to Amazon.com posted here. I received Carter Sickel’s book to preview in my role as president of Writers on the Edge. All other books were obtained at my own expense.

 

 

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What comes after Z?

Last month, I participated in my first A to Z blog challenge, publishing one post for every letter of the alphabet, blogging every day except Sundays. I limped to the finish line with an illness that is doing a good imitation of bronchitis, and now . . . I got nothin’. That’s not really true. I always have more words. But I’m thinking about making some drastic changes for this newsletter, which seems redundant with three other blogs, a website and a busy life on Facebook. Meanwhile, enjoy this abridged version of the newsletter while I figure things out and work on getting well.

Here’s how the A to Z challenged turned out. Click on the links to read the posts.

A Newsletter–A is for Annie
B Childless by Marriage–B is for Baby
C Unleashed in Oregon–C is for Crate
D Writer Aid–D is for Deadline
E Unleashed in Oregon–E is for Ear
F Unleashed in Oregon–F is for Fur
G Unleashed in Oregon–G is for Gunk
H Childless by Marriage–H is for Harley
I Unleashed in Oregon–I is for I-5
J Writer Aid–J is for Job
K Unleashed in Oregon–Key is for Keys
L Unleashed in Oregon–L is for Lick
M Unleashed in Oregon–M is for Milk-Bone
N Childless by Marriage–No is for No, I Don’t Know Children’s Songs
O Unleashed in Oregon–O is for Oregon
P Writer Aid–P is for Prompts
Q Unleashed in Oregon–Q is for Question
R Unleashed in Oregon–R is for Rhodies
S Unleashed in Oregon–S is for Shoes Full of Sand
T Childless by Marriage–T is for Talk About Childlessness
U Unleashed in Oregon–U is for Unleashed in Oregon
V Writer Aid–V is for Virus
W Unleashed in Oregon–W is for Weed-Whacker
X Unleashed in Oregon–X is for Xerox
Y Unleashed in Oregon–Y is for Yellow
Z Childless by Marriage–Z is for Zero

Sue’s News

My essay “Father-Daughter Dance,” was published last month in Dogwood Journal. Click here and scroll down to Nonfiction for a chance to read the beginning and/or buy a copy of the magazine.

I participated in a poem-a-day challenge last month, too. I missed a few days, but I did write a lot of new poems just in time for the Northwest Poets’ Concord, which happens May 2-4 in Newport. I’ll be teaching a workshop on using smell and touch to enhance our poems and introducing a great bunch of Northwest poets reading from their new books. For info, see the website at http://www.poetsconcord.org.

Otherwise, life has been a matter of doing lots of music at church, taking longs walks with Annie, coping with plumbing problems, practicing my new lawn-mowing skills, and being sick.

Writers on the Edge presents . . .

Nye Beach Writers welcomes Marv and Rindy Ross of Quarterflash fame as our guests this month. We will be meeting at the Newport Senior Center instead of our usual place so we can have more space to stretch out and enjoy the music. They will perform their songs and talk about songwriting on Saturday night at 7 p.m. and then return to the senior center from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday for a free workshop. Admission for the Saturday night performance is $10 this time. We’ll have our world famous open mic, too.

Book Report

A Wild Surmise: New and Selected Poems & Recordings by Eloise Klein Healy, Red Hen Press: 2013. This collection includes excerpts from Healy’s past books of poetry as well as new poems. These poems are rich and real, quirky and specific. They’re also very gay, which just adds spice to the mixture. As an added attraction, many of the poems include QR codes that one can scan with a smart phone to hear Healy reading her poems. Love this book by the director emeritus of my MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Walking in Rain by Matt Love, Nestucca Spit Press, 2013. It’s ironic that my library copy of local crazyman/publisher Matt Love’s latest book shows signs that it got wet. Did a previous reader read it in the rain? Love’s gone a little off the rails in this one, but in a good way. It’s a 180-page psalm to rain, something western Oregon has in abundance. It includes stories, poems, journal entries, and innumerable references to books, songs, movies and art about rain. We read about love in the rain and field trips with Love’s Newport High School students to get soaked and experience the essence of rain. It’s funny, sexy, a little insane and not at all scientific. Is this the quintessential rain book that Love set out to write? Maybe yes, maybe no, but it’s fun. 

Chocolate for Breakfast by Martha Reynolds, Kindle, 2012. As she heads to Switzerland with her college friends for a year of study abroad, Bernadette Maguire is determined to change her status as a 20-year-old virgin. She succeeds with a handsome banker. Unfortunately, she also gets pregnant with his child. Turns out he’s married, with no interest in Bernie except for a weekend of fun, but now she has a big problem. This is the story of her year in Switzerland, her travels, her friends, and her fears as she tries to hide her condition and do what is best for the baby. In the last part of the book, she is 23 years older, still dealing with the repercussions of that year. The book is so simplistic and predictable that I thought at first I had accidentally downloaded a book written for teenagers, and I wish Reynolds had skipped the whole last part, but I was hooked from early on and downed it like Bernie’s favorite Swiss chocolates.

End Notes

 That’s all, folks. I have never done a newsletter this quickly, but that’s all the time and energy I have. Happy 92nd birthday today (May 1) to my amazing father, Ed Fagalde. Happy birthday also to Ted, Shelly, Dave, Steve, John, and everybody else advancing a digit this month. Happy spring, everyone.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2014: A is for Annie

A is for Annie. Of course. I have joined the A-to-Z blogging challeDSCN3604nge this year. It starts today. We will blog on a different  letter of the alphabet every day but Sunday through the month of April. I already blog three days a week, so this is only . . . wait, six? A also stands for Ay, ay, ay. This is also poem-a-day month. I must be crazy.

Annie is my therapy dog, my guardian angel, and my companion in life. She’s also the reason my big easy chair no longer has a cushion and is now tilted up on its back A2Z-BADGE [2014] - Support - smallwaiting to go to the dump. A little piddle problem in her early years, followed by a love of chewing. But I’m happy to report that at 6 years old, she is totally self-contained and no longer eats furniture.

She does eat a lot of other things, however. She chews on grass like a cow or a goat and loves to gnaw on wood. When we go on our woodsy walks, she grabs at anything that might possibly be food, things like banana peels, Starbuck’s cups, plastic toys, poop, fish heads, and bones. Last week, she hit the jackpot with a dead squirrel that had been car- smashed and dried into a giant squirrel chip. We had quite an argument as I hollered, “Drop it!” and she looked at me with eyes that said, “Are you kidding me?” I pried it out of her massive jaws and frisbeed it out of reach.

One thing she didn’t try to eat was a severed foot we found the same day. Brown fur, white claws. I don’t know what it came from, but Annie didn’t want anything to do with it and thinking about it gives me the shivers.

With all that eating, Annie needs a little something to wash it down. She will sip leftover coffee out of a Starbuck’s cup if I don’t stop her, and she likes to lap warm beer from discarded bottles, but her favorite is muddy water. She stands in the middle of a puddle, lapping the brown liquid, and then, when she’s had enough, she will lie flat in the puddle, coating her fur from toes to shoulders in mud while I scream, “Annie, no! I do not want to give you a bath!” Then, dripping and happy, she proceeds down the trail, tasting the weeds and leaving her mark wherever it strikes her as necessary.

A is for Annie, best snuggler in the world. I sit on the loveseat, she jumps into my lap, all 80 pounds of her, and all is right with our world.

***

Tomorrow, I will take my A-to-Z blog challenge to Childless by Marriage. Guess what B stands for.

Because I have several blogs, I’m going to make this like a progressive dinner or a scavenger hunt. The alphabet blogs will proceed from A to Z but will dance around among this newsletter (today only) and Unleashed in Oregon, Childless by Marriage, and Writer Aid. Here’s the schedule:

A Newsletter
B Childless by Marriage
C Unleashed in Oregon
D Writer Aid
E Unleashed in Oregon
F Unleashed in Oregon
G Unleashed in Oregon
H Childless by Marriage
I Unleashed in Oregon
J Writer Aid
K Unleashed in Oregon
L Unleashed in Oregon
M Unleashed in Oregon
N Childless by Marriage
O Unleashed in Oregon
P Writer Aid
Q Unleashed in Oregon
R Unleashed in Oregon
S Unleashed in Oregon
T Childless by Marriage
U Unleashed in Oregon
W Writer Aid
X Unleashed in Oregon
Y Unleashed in Oregon
Z Unleashed in Oregon

Over 1300 other bloggers have signed up for the challenge. Check out the list at kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/p/under-construction.html. You might find some great new blogs to follow. I know I will.

Writer Aid

Here’s what’s been happening at Writer Aid this month:

Those Writing Contest Fees Add Up
It’s almost April, which means . . . taxes. If you haven’t done yours yet, you’re not alone. I gave up a day of writing to do mine yesterday, and the results were not good. I owe big-time, mostly due to money from sources other than my writing. But we’re all about writing here, so let’s talk about that.
In adding up my writing expenses, I was shocked to discovered that I had spent $610 on contest fees. Couldn’t be. I checked my numbers again. Yes, $610. . .

Sometimes It Pays to Volunteer
I seem to have spent the last week working for free. I was teaching at the Catholic Writers Conference online, something I have done several times before. Every time the organizers put out a call for people to teach workshops and lead chats, I think, sure, that will be fun. As the date approaches, I suddenly wake up and think, oh my God, why did I say I’d do this. It’s going to take so much time, and I’m not getting paid. (sound familiar to anyone?) . . .

Take your muse for a ride on Amtrak
The writing world is all a-twitter this week about Amtrak offering residencies for writers on its trains. It seems a writer named Alexander Chee commented in an interview that he loved to write on trains and wished Amtrak had residencies for writers. Other writers started tweeting about it on Twitter, and voila, Amtrak is now offering residencies for writers. Application information went online this week. Read about it at http://www.blog.amtrak.com/amtrakresidency. The first writers have already boarded and blogged about it, and thousands of other writers have applied . . .

Sue’s News

People ask what’s new and I always say “nothing” because it’s too complicated. Last month I made a trip to California, where I took a poetry workshop, spent some quality time with Dad and celebrated a birthday. That was immediately followed by teaching for a week at the Catholic Writers Conference online. By then, my work schedule was totally trashed, but I’m starting to catch up.

We celebrated the completion of my novel Being PD at our writer’s group with pastries. Since then, I have rewritten the last page four times. I’m marketing the heck out of that book now, looking for a publisher. If anyone wants to read it and tell me what you think, I can send you a PDF.

I have been on a low-cholesterol diet since I got my test results in January. I miss my cheese sandwiches! And eggs, oh, eggs. Butter, too. And ice cream. Next time you get near a carton of ice cream, check out the cholesterol in the nutrition listings. Holy cow. Now my big snack is dill pickles. Not one gram of fat. I have lost a few pounds. Turns out I was right; my belly was made of cheese.

I finally got my bathroom sink to drain, but now it’s leaking underneath. I am not a plumber.

Spring came in with sunshine, blossoms and gentle breezes, but it’s raining now. We’re up to 21 inches so far this year.

Like I said, “Nothing.”

Writer News

It’s National Poetry Month, and Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer is hosting his poem a day competition again. Check it out at http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2014-april-pad-challenge-faqs-and-tips. WordPress, which hosts my blog, is offering NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month. For details, click on NaPoWriMo.net.

Also, as mentioned above, this month is the A-to-Z blogging challenge. Busy month.

Writers on the Edge is keeping the poetry theme going with this month’s Nye Beach Writers Series. Poet Dan Raphael will be our guest reader on Saturday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Newport Visual Arts Center. The next day, Sunday, he will present a free poetry workshop at the Newport Library from 2 to 4 p.m.

Willamette Writers Coast Branch isn’t doing poetry, but it should be good. Novelist Elizabeth Eslami is offering a workshop on putting more emotion into our fiction on Sunday, April 20 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Newport Library. Yes, that is Easter Sunday, but if, like me, you’ll be done with church and Easter eggs by 2 o’clock, drop on by.

Book Report

The Stud Book by Monica Drake, Hogarth, 2013. This is the kind of book that makes me think my own novels are pure garbage. The title is misleading. This is not porn. Well, maybe the part about the gorillas. It actually refers to the records zookeepers keep to track animals mating and giving birth. But the whole book revolves around the question of babies, both animal and human. We start with Sarah, whose job at the Portland Zoo is taking notes on the activities of the animal babies. Her own efforts to procreate have all ended in miscarriages. Then we meet Georgie, a new mother who is finding the experience more challenging than she expected. We round out the story with Nyla, ecology maniac and mother of two, and Dulcet, who does not have children, just a dog named Bitchy Bitch. Their stories intertwine until they come out together in an event that completely blew my mind. Powerful stuff. I loved Drake’s first novel, Clown Girl, and I love this one, too.

Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness by Melanie Notkin, Seal Press, 2013. Melanie Notkin is the author of the Savvy Auntie book, blog and brand. She champions the role of childless women as fabulous aunts to their biological nieces and nephews, godchildren and any children that they love. I loved the whole Savvy Auntie bit and assumed I would love this book, too. Otherhood is about women who are not mothers because they never found the right men to father their children. As they move toward menopause, they are still single. They face the same griefs and misunderstandings as the rest of us childless women, with the added stress of never having been married. This is a subject that was dying to be explored and I couldn’t wait to read the book. Notkin is a good writer, and it’s not a bad book, but I was disappointed because the whole thing centered around her and her friends in New York. They all seem to be age 35 to 45. They’re gorgeous and have great careers. They hobnob with celebrities and go out for drinks a lot. It’s very Sex-and-The City. They anguish over not being able to find a good man who is willing to commit to marriage and children. They talk about IVF and egg-freezing. They rage about the stupid comments of ignorant people who don’t understand why they don’t just have a baby on their own. They grieve their empty wombs, and they wonder if they should have paid less attention to their careers and tried harder to find husbands. These women’s stories are important, but what about the rest of us who are older or younger, fat or ugly, poor, uneducated, or come from another country? What about the unmarried woman who sits at home watching TV every night in some rural town where the only nightlife is a high school football game? What about the 80-year-old man who has never married or had kids and now finds himself alone as all his friends are dying? This book is well-written, but I wish Notkin had expanded the picture to include more than herself and her fabulous friends.

Newport (Images of America Series) by Diane M. Disse, Jodi A. Weeber, Loretta Harrison, and the Lincoln County Historical Society, Arcadia Publishing, 2010. This is one of those picture books I don’t usually pay much attention to, but this pictorial history of Newport is delightful because I know the places they’re talking about. This is my home, and I love getting a glimpse of what was here before I arrived. Of course, the historical association ladies had access to all these photos and there isn’t much writing here, but it’s like bringing the museum to my house so I can study the pictures as long as I want and look at them again anytime I choose. It’s a good collection, taking us from Native American days to the 1950s. Highly recommended for locals and others who love the central Oregon coast.

End Notes

I don’t enjoy April Fools’ jokes. Everything in this newsletter is true. So it’s really April, even if it looks more like January outside my window. I wish everyone a blessed Easter, even if you aren’t religious. Happy birthday to Tracey and everyone else celebrating a birthday this month. Follow my A-to-Z blog tour to find out what I come up with for Q and X. First readers to come up with the correct answers will receive copies of one of my books for free.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick

Please do not republish anything from this newsletter without my permission.

Sue Fagalde Lick is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author obtained all books mentioned here at her own expense.

March 2014: Around the Bend

2014-02-26 15.08.42 2014-02-26 15.11.19 Annie and I walk every day. Usually we do about a mile in the neighborhood and turn around. Sometimes we go to the beach. But some days you just have to go around the bend to see what’s there.

We are blessed to live in the forest along the Oregon coast. Our back yard looks like a park, surrounded by pines, alders, ferns, and all sorts of berries, but about 3:00 every afternoon Annie gets anxious to go beyond the fence. As in most of South Beach, so-called civilization only extends for two or three blocks east of Highway 101 before we’re truly in the wilderness. Two narrow roads wind along a nearby creek. We took one of those roads earlier this week.

After weeks of snow, wind and rain, we had a warm, dry day when the thunderclouds held on to whatever they were packing. I had no plan beyond the usual quick walk and the hope that I could keep me and the dog out of the mud. We had barely left home before my cell phone beeped with a text message, reminding me that I had to go to work in a couple hours and I had work stacked so deep I couldn‘t see the end of it. But the road lured us on. We took the lower road that wound down and around along the trickling creek. At the first bend, we paused at the bright teal house where Annie and her siblings were born. Nobody lives there right now, but we stopped to remember.

We went on. Bright yellow skunk cabbage and one yellow daffodil poked out of the weeds at the side of the road. Nearby, I picked up a McDonald’s cup, a little farther a Coor’s can. Another bend, and I saw the creek, dotted with clusters of skunk cabbage. A few more steps, and the landscape opened into a big meadow.

We paused. Took deep cool breaths. Listened. It was quiet but for the trickle of water in the creek around mossy trees wrapping their fat branches around each other.

We walked on, coming to a steel gate plastered with no-trespassing signs. Beyond it, a road spooled south as far as I could see. My dog poked her head through the rungs, insisting we could get past this gate. I knew I could climb over it or walk around. I was dying to set my feet on that road and see what it led to. But unlike Annie, I know how to read. Plus I knew that for every step we had taken down 2014-02-26 15.25.27this hill we’d have to take a step back up the hill, and my aging knees were already complaining. A tug-of-war ensued. Annie did not want to go home, but I won.

We breathed deep of the fresh air, the mossy trees, the skunky scent of the yellow flowers, and the delicious silence before turning back toward home, well-nourished by nature, comforted by the knowledge that all this is just around the bend.

Writer Aid: The Magic of QR Codes

qr code

I opened the new poetry book that came in the mail last month and saw something strange on its pages. In the upper right-hand corners, above the poems, were those fancy two-dimensional bar code thingamajigs that I had seen in advertising, on packages and recently in the Saturday Evening Post. I knew it had something to do with smartphones, but what was it doing in my book?

The introduction explained that if one placed one’s smart phone over the squiggle, one could hear the poet, in this case Eloise Klein Healy, reading her poems. Having a brand new smartphone, I found and downloaded the “app,” followed directions and there was Eloise’s voice coming over my phone. It was especially precious because an illness last year damaged her ability to speak. Eloise was the founding director of my MFA program at Antioch and I love her dearly. Her poems are wonderful, so to hear her read them touched my heart.

I started “reading” every one of these boxes of squiggles that I could find. I learned that they’re called Quick Response Codes, QR for short. You can buy them online and insert them into just about anything to deliver links to enhanced content. It could be audio files, videos, slide shows, advertising, surveys, forms, or more information. In many ways, the QR code acts the same way as providing a link, except the user doesn’t have to type or copy the link into a browser, just hold the phone over the code until it beeps and watch the content appear on the phone. To me, this is magic.

Of course, magic has its limits. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can’t read the QR code. If the technology changes, which it will, you won’t be able to read it unless you change along with it. QR codes have mostly been used in advertising and sales. But they offer exciting possibilities in publishing.

An example cited in a Publishers’ Weekly article, “Publishers Find More Uses for QR Codes” by Gabe Habash, tells about The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens, published by Cool Springs Press, which includes QR codes that send readers to each featured garden’s web site.

Think about the possibilities of bonus features for books. Scan the QR code for an interview with the author, recipes for the meals the characters ate, a slide show or songs to accompany the text. If you can put it online, you can hook it to a QR code.

What will this do to publishing? It’s too soon to tell. Maybe it’s just a blip, a passing fancy, but it is a sign that writing isn’t just words on a page anymore. It’s a multimedia experience, and the more we can embrace all forms of communication, the more readers we will attract.

You can get free QR Codes at several sites online, including www.goQR.me, qrcode.kaywa.com, or www.qrstuff.com. Do a search for “Free QR Codes” to find lots more. If you have a smartphone, look for a free QR or Barcode scanner app, download it and follow the instructions. Just for fun, I have included a QR code of my own here. See where it takes you.

For an excellent discussion of QR codes, visit http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/06/using-qr-codes-to-expand-the-reading-experience.

This is fun stuff, but as always, if you haven’t written anything, it’s not going to do you much good.

Now go write.

Sue’s news

Mostly I’ve been battling the weather, some physical challenges and the desire to play spider solitaire rather than work. Check my Unleashed in Oregon blog for a good idea of what February was like. But I didn’t sleep through the whole month. My newest novel, Being PD, is making the rounds of agents and editors. I’ve been compiling past Unleashed blog posts into a Best of Unleashed e-book, which I may or may not publish. Biggest news is that due to the resignation of former president Sandra Ellston, I have been appointed acting president of Writers on the Edge, which produces the Nye Beach Writers Series and other writing events. Sandy set the bar pretty high, but I’m looking forward to this new challenge. If you have ideas or suggestions about the writers series or other local writing concerns, visit our Facebook page and tell us what’s on your mind. If you want to get more involved, we could use more bodies on the board of directors.

Oregon Coast Writer News

Cynthia Whitcomb, master screenwriter, playwright and longtime president of Willamette Writers, will be the guest this month at both the Nye Beach Writers Series and the coast branch meeting of Willamette Writers. Lucky us!

The fun begins on Saturday, March 15 with Nye Beach Writers, where she will read and discuss her work, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Admission is $6 at the door.

On Sunday, March 16, Whitcomb will lead a workshop for Willamette Writers at the Newport Library from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Although Whitcomb specializes in scripts, her writing lessons apply to all kinds of writing, including fiction and creative nonfiction.

The Northwest Poets’ Concord is taking reservations now for its May 2-4 conference in Newport. Sign up for three days of workshops, readings, and open mics by some of the best poets from Oregon and beyond. I’ll be offering a workshop on writing inspired by smells and sensations. Cost is $75, which includes two breakfasts and yummy snacks. Visit the website at www.poetsconcord.org.

I will be teaching at the Catholic Writers Conference online this month. Unfortunately, registration has already closed (snuck up on me, too), but keep it in mind for next year. We’ve got lots of free classes, and you don’t have to be writing about religion to participate.

Book Report

The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors Of My Home by Andrea Cumbo-Floyd,  self-pub, 2013. Although some may call it history, I’d label this book a meditation inspired by the land on which Cumbo-Floyd lives. Formerly a plantation worked by slaves, her home at Bremo in Virginia includes remnants of those days, some buildings, a stone wall, a slave cemetery. These led her to seek the stories of the people who lived here before. In her extensive research, she found that Information is scarce, often only a first name and an occupation–spinner, field hand, driver, etc.–on a census or inventory list. From these, the author has spun tales of what might have been, imaginations of what the people looked like, who they loved, what they did, and what happened to them. The stories are touching, if a bit over-romanticized. They make the reader think about these people and their lives as slaves and the difficulty of being a white person trying to understand the black culture. And they make these invisible people real. They give them names. That makes the book a valuable contribution to our American literature.

Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury, Howard Books, 2013. What is it really like to be on a singing competition TV show like American Idol? That is the question Kingsbury tackles in this Christian novel. Zack Dylan, who lives with his family on a horse farm in Kentucky and has a girlfriend named Reese, auditions for a talent show called Fifteen Minutes, thinking he can use his music to give glory to God and raise money to help his parents save their financially troubled farm. But he quickly gets caught up in the constant glare of the cameras and the loving attentions of a contestant named Zoey. Soon he’s in danger of losing everything, including his faith and the girl he loves. The show is clearly an American Idol knockoff. The names are changed, but you know exactly who Kingsbury is talking about. The writing is a tad clunky, the religion laid on heavy, but I got caught up in the story and ended up enjoying it. Kingsbury has published a long list of novels in the Christian genre, and she clearly knows how to spin a yarn.

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, Harper Collins, orig. 1945, this edition 1987. The library was offering a “Blind date with a book” for Valentine’s Day, and this is what I got in my brown paper bag. I’m so glad. I love this book. It’s a memoir telling about how as newlyweds Betty and her husband went to live on a chicken ranch in the middle of rural Washington state. She details the challenges of rustic life, nature, animals, and neighbors with humor and heart. Some reviewers hate this book. I can see why they might be put off by MacDonald’s non-PC remarks about Native Americans and others, as well as the surprisingly salty language. I wish I hadn’t read the Wikipedia facts behind the story, but taking the book for what it is and when it was written, I think it’s a masterful work and tons of fun.

Cascade Summer: My Adventure on Oregon’s Pacific Crest Trail by Bob Welch, AOCreative, 2012. It’s unfortunate that Welch’s book on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail came out the same year as Cheryl Strayed’s blockbuster Wild, also about the PCT. Our library’s Newport Reads program has selected Welch’s book as its next discussion topic, with plans to compare it to Strayed’s book at its April 8 meeting. Well, it’s apples and oranges. Strayed walked the trail from the California/Mexico border to the Oregon/Washington border alone. Welch walked only the Oregon portion in a couple of two-week stints with his brother-in-law Glenn. They had cell phone and satellite connections with their families and the rest of the world nearly all of the way and a GPS to guide them. Strayed’s story is more emotional and more dramatic. Her problems are bigger, with more suspense for the reader. To be honest, I got a little bored with Welch’s book. Another mountain, another creek, another pig-out at a resort along the way. I’m sorry they had blisters on their feet, but it could be worse. Welch folded into his book the writings of Judge John Waldo, who wrote about his travels in the same Cascade Mountains more than a hundred years earlier. I understood the value of this, but didn’t enjoy it. Cascade Summer got more interesting toward the end when trouble threatened to ruin their trip. All that said, this is a good book. Welch, a longtime columnist for the Eugene Register-Guard, writes well and has an engaging voice. He writes from the point of view of a lifelong Oregonian who loves this state and has spent lots of time in its wilderness. Cascade Summer has gotten good reviews. As with Wild, this book makes me want to explore some of the areas they visited—by car. If you have the choice, read both. A series of events, including several appearances by Welch, are planned for April. Check the library website, www.newportlibrary.org, for details.

End Notes

They say March is going to come in like a lamb, but I think there might be a lion crouching just beyond the trees. Weather everywhere has been nuts this year, and I pray it goes back to normal soon. Lent starts this week, March 5, so you might see some Catholics with ashes on their foreheads and sad faces because they’re not eating chocolate or whatever else they have decided to give up until Easter. Meanwhile, happy birthday to me, Mary Lee, Roy, Hannah, Arlene and everybody else getting a little older this month. Stay safe, be happy, and stop to listen to the trees.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick. Please do not publish anything from this newsletter without permission. Contact me at sufalick@gmail.com.

Sue Fagalde Lick is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author obtained all books mentioned here at her own expense.

February 2014: Blueberries!

DSCN3732What kind of Oregonian doesn’t like blueberries? That’s like complaining about the rain or carrying an umbrella on the beach. But up until last month, I thought I didn’t like blueberries. My friends would go crazy picking them and baking them into pies, muffins or cobblers. They’d make jam or spin them into smoothies or just eat them by the handful. Me, I preferred strawberries, usually the ones imported from Watsonville, California, home of many of my Fagalde relatives.

When we bought our house here in South Beach, the previous owners left us a strawberry patch from which we gleaned the smallest, sweetest, reddest strawberries I’d ever seen. Over the years, they fell prey to birds, bugs, moles and  raccoons, but mostly they were overpowered by the native salmonberries growing in that area. Never heard of salmonberries? I hadn’t either. Picture a yellow-orange blackberry. They taste similar, too.

Western Oregon is a land of berries. In addition to blueberries and salmonberries, we have wild blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, and more. On our summer walks, Annie and I eat them off the vines. In nearly every restaurant, you can order cobblers made with marionberries, a hybrid of Chehalem and Ollalie blackberries. Top the hot cobbler with cold vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

Berries on a plate and berries on the vine are two different things. Blackberries and their cousins grow everywhere, swallowing up yards and gardens if you don’t stop them. At home, I battle the vines that thread through the wires of the chain link fence and poke up through the boards of the deck. These vines are strong, stubborn and loaded with thorns. They survive through rain, wind, snow and drought. Brown sticks right now, they will soon sprout pink and white blossoms, with berries to follow in the summer.

Oregon has berries galore, but blueberries are the stars. In July, fans mob the u-pick farms and clean them out in a couple of days. They offer up countless ways to eat them: muffins, pies, pancakes, smoothies, on top of your cereal, or by the handful like candy. And why not? Only 80 calories per cup, they have no fat, gluten, or carbs and are high in disease-fighting anti-oxidants. They also keep longer than most other berries, 10 to 14 days as opposed to about a minute and a half.

So what got me to buy a basket of blueberries? Bad news from the doctor about my cholesterol. Apparently I can’t keep living on grilled Tillamook cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. I needed to eat more fruit, and the market had blueberries. These blueberries were actually imported from Chile, also home of many Fagaldes, but they work just as well as the Oregon ones for me.

The first thing I did was make blueberry pancakes. I know, not good for the diet. But the hot berries popped in my mouth, spreading bright red delight, and I suddenly realized, “I like blueberries!” I put them into a green salad, then a fruit salad, then baked them into muffins. I finished them off by eating them out of a bowl with a little bit of nonfat mayonnaise.

Blueberries still taste like blueberries. It’s a darker, more bitter taste than that of my beloved strawberries. It tastes of rain and moss and determination while strawberries are little valley girls, loud, flashy, and easily spoiled. This week I have purchased both and plan to eat them together as an Oregon-California blend, just like me.

For more info about Oregon berries, visit http://www.oregonblueberry.com or http://www.oregon-berries.com. Feel free to share your own berry experiences in the comments below.

Writer aid

How can I make my words last?

When we moved from typewriters to computers, it seemed we could finally store what we write in this machine forever. Any time we wanted to read, revise or print out that story or poem or that rough draft of a brilliant idea, it would be here waiting for us. Whatever changes we needed to make could be done with a few keystrokes. No more retyping, no more carbon paper, no more worrying about the house burning down with all those pages of our work inside. If we were smart and backed up our files, they would last forever.

That was a fantasy.

A long, long time ago, about 10 years, I used to back up my files on floppy disks. I carefully made multiple copies that I stored in my car, my storage locker, my day job desk, or, in a few cases, in the safe deposit box at the bank. I remember finishing a novel and handing my parents an envelope bearing the precious files on a floppy. Hang on to this, I said.

Well, you know what? Today’s computers can’t read a single one of these floppies. If the computer actually has a slot to insert a floppy disk—kids, they were rigid squares of plastic with a circle thing in the middle that somehow stored information—it has no idea what’s stored there. The program that produced them is ancient history.

I just plugged in a dozen floppies, hoping to read the contents and store them on my hard drive. One disk offered a tantalizing list of articles, notes, queries and ideas from 2006 and 2007, but I could not open the files. Most of these were articles I wrote for Northwest Senior News. Do I still need them? Have I copied them anywhere else? Do I have all of this in my paper files? I don’t know. In a year, I produce so many text files I can’t possibly keep track of them.

Knowing this could happen, about seven years ago I started storing files on CDs. Luckily my computer still has a CD drive, but it can only read some of the files stored on my CDs. Others do not compute. All the computer is willing to do is reformat the CD, which would erase everything on it.

Knowing that many new computers, including my laptop, do not have CD drives, I triple back up my files these days to an auxiliary hard drive, a tiny flash drive I carry in my purse, and the Dropbox “cloud.” Do I trust any of these systems completely? No. I just pray that if my house gets burglarized or burns down or my computer dies without notice, I will still be able to locate and use the files I need the most.

I have hundreds of paperback books in boxes ready to sell (Buy a few, okay?). They could all disappear in a fire or flood. At least we’d still have the e-books, I think, but what happens when the format changes or Amazon decides to purge its Kindle files?

It’s all temporary, my friends.

I have this picture in my mind of words fading away, like old-fashioned film-based photos exposed to the light before they’ve spent enough time in the fixer tray. The image slowly disappears, leaving a white sheet of paper on which you can’t tell anything was ever there.

Three lessons come to mind:

1) Paper is the only medium I truly trust to last long enough to retrieve a story 10 years later. I have two typewritten collections of poetry that I wrote over 40 years ago that are still just as legible as they were in the 1970s. The newer poems are in binders here on my desk, as is the latest novel. Yes, they’re on the computer, too.

2) Our computerized writing has an expiration date. If we don’t use our files or copy them onto the latest backup medium, they will disappear. Anyone who doesn’t back up their files at all is tempting fate.

3) Life is short, and computer files are temporary. Publishing is the ultimate backup plan; somewhere, in some form, a reader will have a copy, and our words will not die.

So if you’re not doing backups, start today. And if you have a good piece of writing, polish it and send it out.

For some good advice about backups, check out this article from PC World: “Your Backup Drive Needs a Backup Plan.”

Meanwhile, I’m going to print this post, just in case. 🙂

writing news

Local writing groups have been busy lately. We had tributes to former poet laureate William Stafford in Lincoln City, Newport, and Waldport. They’ve been happening all over the state in honor of Oregon’s favorite poet. But we won’t be slacking in February either.

Writers on the Edge welcomes Monica Drake, author of Clown Girl and her new novel The Stud Book, to the Nye Beach Writers Series on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. Admission is $6. An open mic hosted by yours truly follows Monica’s presentation.

Monica Drake will also present a free workshop at the February Willamette Writers coast branch meeting, which happens the next day, Sunday, Feb. 16 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Newport Library.

We’ve got our workshop schedule set up for the Northwest Poets’ Concord, coming up at the Hallmark Inn in Newport the first weekend in May. Information about the speakers and reservation information will be coming soon at the website.

Book Report

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult, Washington Square Press, 2009. Picoult’s books aren’t just stories; they’re experiences. By the end of the nearly 500 pages, you have gone through something extraordinary. I read this one in four days. I was hooked from page one. In Handle with Care, Charlotte O’Keefe gives birth to a daughter, Willow, with osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition in which the bones break very easily. In fact the baby had several broken bones in the womb, and more are broken as she’s being delivered. The slightest move can break a bone. Charlotte, her husband Sean and their older daughter Amelia’s lives are forever changed as they cope with this fragile child who is forever breaking bones and being rushed to the hospital. An especially traumatic incident causes Charlotte to file a malpractice suit against her obstetrician, claiming that if she had been informed about the baby’s condition earlier she could have aborted it. A victory would mean help paying for all the many things her disabled child needs. But there are problems with this. The obstetrician is her best friend, her husband doesn’t want to sue, and the lawsuit gives the message to her daughter that her mother wishes she’d never been born. Meanwhile their attorney has problems of her own. It’s a wild rollercoaster ride, all the way to the surprise ending, and this many-layered story will stay in your mind for a long, long time.

Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited by Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein, Random House, 2007. When I heard Schein and Bernstein interviewed on the radio, their story was so fascinating I had to get their book. I was not disappointed. The authors are twin sisters, but neither knew the other existed until they were in their 30s. They had been adopted by different families and were part of a study on how twins develop when raised separately. It was only when Schein started looking for her birth mother that she learned she had a twin. This book is the story of their meeting and their search for information about their early days, why they were separated, what happened to the study, and what happened to their birth mother. Throughout, each twin is also adjusting to fact that there’s a carbon copy of herself walking around New York. The sisters are both writers, with a special interest in film, and they use their skills well in this book, alternating voices. It’s as intriguing as any mystery story as they search together for their mother and for answers to the big questions about their lives.

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, Henriette Mantel, editor, Seal Press, 2013. When I started working on my Childless by Marriage book, nobody was writing about being without child. It was almost a taboo subject, but now the shelves are filling up with books about not having kids. Most of them, like this one, are about the joys of being childless by choice. In this case, it’s 37 women writers in the entertainment business. Although a few did try to have children and learned that they couldn’t, most never wanted them in the first place. They were too busy with their careers and not interested in the pain, expense or responsibility for a little human being. The writing here is good. Many of these women are comedians, and they know how to put together an amusing essay. But after a while, all the stories blend together in my mind because they are so similar. Some of the names are familiar. Most are not. It is an entertaining read, and readers in the childfree-by-choice crowd are sure to enjoy it. Perhaps those who are childless-not-by-choice will find some encouragement and see that life can be wonderful without children.

End Notes

I really don’t have any news to report, aside from quirky summer-like weather in Oregon when it’s supposed to be raining. California is parched to the point of drought. Meanwhile, it’s snowing where it isn’t supposed to snow. Crazy. Lots of words, lots of music, lots of dog walks, figuring out how to cut the cholesterol in my diet–that’s what’s happening around here. It’s February already. So happy birthday to Evelyn, Jessie, and everyone else advancing a digit this month. Happy anniversary to Mike and Sharon. Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Day. Enjoy “Ordinary Time,” as the Catholic Church calls it. Lent starts March 5. I’m giving up cheese.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick. Please do not republish any of the stories or photos here without permission.

I belong to the Amazon Affiliate program which offers a small payment for books purchased at Amazon.com through links here. All books reviewed in this newsletter were obtained at my own expense.

January 2014: Adios, 2013!

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Downtown Corvallis, Oregon on Dec. 8. Second Street is usually loaded with cars, but not that day.

2013 was a real “13,” and December was no exception. I’m hoping that 2014 with its nice even numbers will be much better for all of us.

Over the months, I have written about my flooded den, my eye and elbow problems, torn-up streets, leaky roofs, and the piano that died in the middle of Mass. I have also written about my trips to California, to eastern Oregon and to Missoula. Life is always a blend of good times and bad. Overdue bills and beautiful sunsets. Flat tires and unexpected kindnesses. Acceptances and rejections. As my father says, it is what it is

My father had heart surgery in early December and seems healthier than ever now. At 91, he is stronger than most younger people. Doctors in San Francisco performed his cutting-edge procedure, in which they replaced his aortic valve without cutting his chest open. Miraculous. My brother, aunt and I spent several days sitting around the hospital with Dad, but he was his old self by the second day. My hotel sat in the middle of Japantown, a fascinating place, and I renewed my love for San Francisco, walking the mile or so to the hospital every day, trying its little restaurants and corner markets along the way.

Meanwhile in Oregon, the weather was turning. The temperature went down, down, down. Snow fell all over the state on Dec. 6 and froze into a deep layer of ice, with temperatures in the single digits or below 0 in many places. After my plane landed in Portland on Dec. 7, I only made it to Corvallis before I surrendered to impossible driving conditions and got a room at the Super 8. I wouldn’t get home for two more days, but it wasn’t all bad. The restaurants and stores were open, so I walked through the snow to eat wonderful meals and start my Christmas shopping. My room overlooked the Willamette River, surrounded by snow and trees. It was just gorgeous. There were only a few people staying at the motel, our cars packed in snow. I had time to bond with the desk clerk and relax in my cozy room.

Back in South Beach, my dog-sitter, Jo, let the dog sleep in the house and struggled to make the pellet stove stay on long enough to keep the dog from freezing. A Midwesterner, she knew how to turn on all the faucets so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, and she didn’t panic about driving in the snow. That week, just about everything was cancelled in our area. Schools and government offices were closed and Christmas programs didn’t happen. It was just too cold. It’s not supposed to snow at the beach, but it did.

How cold was it? Dec. 8 and 9, it was 12 degrees in Corvallis, 9 in Eugene. I’m told it got down to 14 a couple nights here at the beach. It took a full week after the big snowfall for things to defrost. My house survived. However, a ceramic bird house I had outside cracked into many pieces, and my bandurria, a lute-like instrument that I left out in the living room, must have shrunk. The screws holding the metal piece at the end that holds strings in place fell out and all 12 strings sprang loose. At first I accused the dog of attacking it, but there were no toothmarks. It was the extreme temperatures.

By Christmas, the ice was gone, the snow melted. We did have frost at night, but when we came out of church on Dec. 25, the sky was blue and the sun so bright we needed our sunglasses.

Now we embark on a new year, 2014. Who ever thought we’d live to see such a date? May this year be filled with blessings for all of us. Try not to waste a minute. Look up from your computers, tablets and smart phones and just enjoy being alive. I thank you all for reading what I write. You are a blessing for me.

Writer Aid

I looked up after Christmas and realized it was almost THE END OF THE YEAR. Oh no! Suddenly my newsletter was due in a couple days, I had to pull my financial records together for my business, and if I didn’t use my free lunch at Georgie’s by Tuesday, I would lose it. Plus I had all my regular work to do and bills to pay when all I wanted to do was take a vacation, preferably someplace warm. My teacher friends had another week to relax, but I’m a writer and a musician. That means I’m self-employed and needed to get my act together for a new year.

If you’re a writer or any kind of artist, you’ve got some work to do, too. It falls into two categories: closing out the old year and planning for the new year.

Closing out the Old Year:

Finances: If you make any money with your writing, you need to report it on your income tax. You can offset that income with your writing-related expenses, but only if you’ve kept track of them throughout the year. I hope you have. It doesn’t matter whether you do it by hand in a notebook, put the numbers in a spreadsheet, or use a program such as Quickbooks, but you need to keep records and keep your receipts. That way, if the IRS questions your return, you have the paperwork to back it up. While you’re at it, take a look at what you earned and what you spent. Is it out of balance? What can you do better next year?

For more on writers and taxes, see “Last Minute Tax Tips,” “Tax Relief,” and The Writer’s Pocket Tax Guide[.

Files: If you’re like me, the paper piles up and so do the computer files. Now is a good time to sort through it all. Put current projects close at hand, file or toss the rest. Clear the desk for a fresh start.

Year-end report: Unlike big companies with stockholders and boards of directors, writers are not required to report to anyone about our year’s accomplishments, but it’s still a good idea to look back and see how you did. What did you write? What did you publish? How did you progress in your writing career? Even if you didn’t publish anything, if you kept writing, consider 2013 a success.

Planning for the New Year

Finances: Now is the time to buy a new ledger, start a new spreadsheet, or open a new file in your computer program to record your income and expenses for the new year. You might want to set a budget and income goals. Think about what you can do to spend less and earn more.

Setting writing goals: As you start the new year, what do you hope to accomplish in your writing in 2014? Will you finish that novel? Submit more articles? Start a blog? Take a class? Write it down and give yourself deadlines, then post your goals where you will see them every day.

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I have updated my resources page with more books and more links. Click on “Resources” above. If you find any errors or have additions to suggest, please let me know in the comments or at sufalick@gmail.com.

Jan. 2 is the deadline to sign up for my online classes, listed under “Classes” above. I’m offering courses on blogging, columns, opinionated writing, and writing and selling freelance articles. If I don’t have enough signups by Thursday, the classes will not be offered this term.

Writer News

Our local writers’ groups will be back in business in January.

The Northwest Poets’ Concord board is busy planning for our May conference. Workshop proposals are in, and they sound fabulous.Stay tuned for details or visit the Concord Facebook page.

Coming up this month:

The Nye Beach Writers Series welcomes Gregory Nokes, author of Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, on Saturday Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Admission is $6 at the door.

Willamette Writers Coast Branch will host its annual William Stafford celebration on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. Hosts Cynthia Jacobi and Gary Lahman will show the film “Every War has Two Losers,” followed by readings of Stafford poems. Bring your favorite poem by the former poet laureate to share. Admission is free.

Book Report

Rooms by James L. Rubart, B&H Publishing Group, 2010. Micah Taylor, a Seattle software tycoon, receives a letter informing him that his great-uncle Archie has bequeathed him a house in Cannon Beach, Oregon. What? He didn’t even known Uncle Archie, and of all the places in the world, Cannon Beach is the one he never wants to see again. But he goes and quickly discovers this is no ordinary house. Has he stepped into the Twilight Zone? Perhaps he has, but Northwest author Rubart gives it a Christian twist. Serling meets The Shack meets Touched by an Angel. Whether or not you accept the religious side of it, this book will grab your attention and trash your schedule because you can’t stop reading it. Rubart is also the author of Memory’s Door, Soul’s Gate (A Well Spring Novel),The Chair, and Book of Days, all with a Christian supernatural flavor.

What Poets Are Like: Up and Down with the Writing Life by Gary Soto, Sasquatch Books. 2013. What a delight this book is. The fun starts with the look of it, a smaller than average 4 1/2 by 7 1/4 hardback with a picture of a penguin on the front. It feels good in the hand. That good feeling extends to the inside. I’m not sure if non-writers will identify with Soto the way I do, but this collection of moments from Soto’s life as a writer delight me in their truth. This is what it’s really like. You schedule a reading and nobody comes. Your fans adore you, but most of the world has no idea who you are, and your work is still getting rejected. These pieces are prose, but they read like poetry, especially the title essay, “What Poets are Like,” which begins, “They are fun, then not fun. They are tall within themselves, but very short when applying for food stamps…They are made of air and words…” Then there’s the one where Soto dresses in a suit to attend a 49ers game and sits there talking about Hemingway while the fans around him throw peanuts at him. Love this book.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting: A Top Expert Reveals the Secrets Hidden in Your Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold with James Kwalwasser, Free Press, 2006. It took me a long time to get through this book about handwriting analysis, mostly because once you get past the initial section that offers the basics on handwriting quirks, it reads like the same thing over and over. Dresbold, a handwriting expert who writes a newspaper column and often works with the courts and law enforcement to help solve crimes via handwriting, spends most of the book going through famous murders and other crimes. She offers samples of the suspects’ handwriting and explains what characteristics of their penmanship show they did or did not do the deed. For example, an extra-large loop at the bottom of one’s g’s and y’s indicates an oversized sex drive. If the loop is shaped more like a dagger, well then, the writer likely stabs his victims. If you’re into true crime stories, you might find this fascinating. But I found it hard to accept Dresbold’s analyses. Looking at my own handwriting, she would probably conclude that I’m a mentally ill sex addict when I’m just aging, arthritic and always in a hurry.

Light from Heaven (The Mitford Years) by Jan Karon, Penguin, 2005. Sigh. This is the last book in the Mitford series. Father Tim and Cynthia are spending a year watching over their friends’ farm not too far from Mitford. Just when the good father is getting restless, he is called to revive Holy Trinity, a mountain church that has been closed for 40 years. We meet a marvelous cast of colorful mountain characters: Agnes the deaconess and her deaf wood-carving son Clarence; Jubal, who greets Father Tim with a shotgun; Dovey, who is laid up with a mysterious illness; Rooter, Granny, Sissie, and many more. Plus we still get to hang out with Dooley and his siblings and all the great folk from Mitford. Like all of the Mitford books, this one is as comfortable as an old favorite sweater and keeps you reading to the last page, anxious to find out what happens but sorry to see it end. Luckily, Karon has followed the Mitford series with a new series, the Father Tim books.

End Notes

It’s a new year. A fresh start. Of course we’ll be paying for what we spent in the old year and fixing the things that we didn’t get fixed in 2013, but that’s how it goes. Here’s hoping your problems are few and your blessings are many in 2014. Stay warm, stay dry, be well.

Hugs,

Sue

All contents copyright 2013 Sue Fagalde Lick

Sue Fagalde Lick is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author obtained all books mentioned here at her own expense.

November-December 2013: Opening the Fagalde Treasure Chest

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Paulina Riffe

The old chest had sat in the garage between the water heater and the dryer for years, a torn shawl spread over it, the white plastic laundry basket on top. But now, as my father was looking death in the face, he was determined to show me everything, just in case.

He hadn’t looked inside that trunk in years. We lifted the lid together. “Oh my gosh,” I gasped. It was not filled with money or jewels but something more precious. That chest, which we think came from my Fagalde great-grandparents’ house, was loaded with photographs and documents from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some were loose, some were in books or bound with dried-out rubber bands or piled into plastic bags. We grabbed it all up, took it to the sunny middle bedroom-turned den and went through them one by one.

The trunk contained pictures of both sets of my paternal great-grandparents, Joe and Louisa Gilroy Fagalde and Edward and Paulina Riffe. I had seen pictures of the Fagaldes before, but not like this, casual scenes on the ranch where they lived when my grandfather and his brothers were little boys, and I had never seen pictures of the Riffes. Paulina died in a car accident when my father was only a year old, so he didn’t know her either. What a beautiful woman she was, clearly full of life and love. For the first time, I feel a connection.

DSCN3662There were many more pictures of family and friends whose names I had heard but whose faces I had never seen. The trunk also contained fascinating documents: deeds to property on Branham Lane where the Fagaldes ran a gas station and store in the Model A days; a letter from my grandfather when he was serving in France in World War I, Grandpa Fagalde’s legers from his days as foreman of the Dorrance Ranch.

I have always yearned to experience the times just before I was born, and that trunk full of treasures opened the door so much more than I have been able to do on Ancestry.com, through library research, or on Google. I took notes and pictures and got high on history. It was even better because I could share it with my father, who has lots of stories to tell.

I was in San Jose for almost a month. Dad has been suffering from congestive heart failure and severe aortic stenosis. At this writing, he is scheduled for surgery in early December. At 91, he is unusually strong, and he wants to keep living to see what happens next. God willing, he will. We welcome your prayers and good thoughts. Meanwhile, I’m grateful we got to open the treasure chest together. The people in the pictures are gone, but their stories live on.

Sue’s News

While I was in California, I was mostly offline. I wrote a lot but didn’t publish much. However, my blogs go on, and I’m still selling my books. There should be a new one next year. Details to come.

I didn’t have WiFi, but I did have trick or treaters for the first time in ages. Nobody comes walking around out here in the spooky old woods, but in Dad’s neighborhood, kids still put on their costumes and go door to door. Trick or treat. Thank you. You’re welcome. We still had enough little Hershey bars left over to eat lots of them ourselves. Now I’m already seeing Christmas decorations in the stores, and some folks have already put their lights up. Slow down, people. Enjoy Thanksgiving first. And don’t just eat turkey and watch football; give thanks for your many blessings. I will give thanks for all of you.

Oregon Coast Writer News

Writers on the Edge is trading its usual Nye Beach Writers Series event in December for a Christmas party and open mic on Friday, Dec. 6, at the Newport Visual Arts Center. All are welcome. The festivities start at 7 p.m. and include food, live music and an open mic. We’ll be back to our regular schedule on Jan. 18 with Gregory Nokes, author of a book on slavery in Oregon.

Willamette Writers Coast Branch is taking a break in December, but will be back with its monthly workshops in January, switching to a Sunday afternoon schedule for those don’t like driving in the rain at night. Visit willamettewriters.com for details.

Writer Aid

Due to Dad’s illness and my abbreviated work schedule, there is no Writer Aid column for this issue. Watch the blog at http://writeraid.net for new posts. Meanwhile, we have an expanded Book Report. Enjoy.

Book Report

Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir by Nick Flynn, WW. Norton, 2004. This memoir is a challenging read. Often brilliant, it moves around in time and weaves Nick’s own story with that of his drunken street-living father Jonathan in ways that make it hard to keep track. But it is a gripping story that digs deep into the truth of a life plagued by the demons of drugs, alcohol and mental illness. Jonathan claims to be a writer, although Nick has never seen the novel he’s supposed to be writing. Wherever he goes, he gets in trouble. Nick has his own troubles, but he’s working on them. When he goes to work at the Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter, their lives intersect when Jonathan checks in. It’s a complicated story but well done. The movie made from this book, called “Being Flynn”—the other title might have been a problem—is more straightforward, dark but worth seeing.

The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World by Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes, Skinner House Books, 2012. Written by two women whose workshops I have enjoyed, this book is a blend of writing instruction and spirituality. The idea is to learn to slow down and really look, really feel, really open up the mind. The authors alternate personal reflections, offer a wonderful selection of poetry and prose as examples and provide exercises in contemplation and in writing for each chapter. It’s a beautiful little book. New writers seeking instruction on how to write or how to sell their writing won’t find it here, but all writers can find ways to add depth and power to their words.

Rain on Your Wedding Day by Curtis Edmonds, Scary Hippopotamus Books, 2013. This e-novel is a story of sorrow, guilt and forgiveness. Will Morse, retired NFL player, has retreated to a cabin in the Blue Ridge Mountains after the deaths of three of his four children and the end of his marriage. He is racked with guilt and anxiety and can’t face the outside world. Too many people think he killed his youngest daughter. How she died and why is slowly revealed as the book progresses to a scene I won’t forget anytime soon. Slowly, with the help of a new woman friend named Dot, he emerges from his solitude, but then Dot betrays him. As in all good novels, the plot unfolds with enough suspense to keep the reader reading. The title doesn’t work for me, I’m not sure I accept all that happened in the end, and my critique group would thrash this book for having such a sad-sack protagonist, but overall, I enjoyed this well-written first novel by Edmonds, who is an attorney by day.

The Slum Resort by Janelle Meraz Hooper, e-book, 2012. A group of old people just this side of homeless live in beat-up campers and trailers by a lake in Washington State. All are broke, and some are hiding from the law or from greedy relatives. One of them, Henry, seems different somehow. He doesn’t seem to be hurting for money, but he’s nice and brings fresh fish to his neighbors, so they don’t ask questions. Then a notice arrives that they are being evicted and the campground turned into a luxury resort. How is Henry involved? Where are these old people going to go now? It’s a decent yarn with fun characters, although I find the writing a bit clunky, and the whole book needs a good copyediting. (I’m available for a reasonable fee!). I’m not sure I believe the ending, but I still had a good time reading the book and would read more by Hooper, who has several other books out.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, Atria Books, 2013. When I first read the description about a woman who befriends an elderly patron of the bakery where she works, I thought: That sounds nice. I love reading about baked goods and troubled women making friends and overcoming their troubles. Boy, was I surprised. You do get baked goods, but the sweet old man is not what he seems. This is a book about the holocaust. I generally avoid books about the mass killings of Jews in WWII; I have heard the story too many times already and reading it again won’t change what happened. But of course Picoult, author of 20 other novels, is a masterful writer, and I got hooked. I don’t like everything about this book. The author trades viewpoints, delineated by the editors with different typefaces, and she intersperses pieces of a fictional story one of her characters is writing without explaining what it is or who’s telling it. I’m not happy with some of the protagonist’s actions. Not heroic, as my critique group would say, and we want our viewpoint characters in novels to be heroes. It’s awfully long. And, as stated, I hate reading about the holocaust. Picoult does not pull any punches here, so if you’re squeamish or if you’re not up for juggling multiple storylines simultaneously, move on to one of her other books.  Otherwise, if you’re got some time, you might want to pull The Storyteller off the shelf and give it a read. And no, the “storyteller” is not the old man.

End Notes

Well, fa la la, it’s almost Christmas. Have I done anything about gifts or cards? Nothing. But Aunt Sue will come through in the end. Whatever or however you celebrate this season, try to enjoy every minute. Don’t get all stressed out. In the end it doesn’t matter whether you buy the perfect gift or set the perfect table. Just enjoy each other and remember why we’re celebrating.

Happy birthday, Tim and Sandy and everybody else advancing a digit on their personal odometer in November and December.

Hugs to all. See you next year.

Sue

All contents copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2013. Do not republish anything here without my permission.