Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Voice of My Own

Last night Theatre in the Pines, one of our local theater companies, performed Elinor Jones’ A Voice of My Own at the North Shore Arts Association. Nan Webber, the artistic director of the company, and six other actresses did an impressive job with this piece that has grown in popularity over the years. Speaking in the voices of women writers throughout history - culled from their memoirs, letters and essays - they spoke about the journey of women writers, from Sappho on into the 20th century, to be recognized for their work.

One of the first voices we heard was that of Lady Murasaki, a 10th century Japanese novelist, who wrote that, even after her books were well known, when people met her they expressed astonishment that she was so small and gentle and soft-spoken. They anticipated a monster.

This seems to be a theme with women artists throughout history - that people envision them as horrible, abrasive, and thoroughly (gasp) unfeminine beasts who dare to “Make something of themselves.” There are still people who think like that today.

One of the things I have experienced both in my life and have heard other women writers talk about, is the viciousness with which they have been attacked by people who do not know them (and very, very often by other women!) Not for what they write, but for having the audacity to think they can do that! I’ve had more than a little experience with it myself in recent years. As I’ve said, I live on an island of 30,000 people and stuff secrets are hard to keep.

What amazes me more than anything is the savaging of other women - mostly conservative wife-n-mother types - who want me to know, in no uncertain terms, what an abomination I am for leading my own life (instead of theirs, presumably). Granted there are not a lot of these but they are both shrill and persistent. Recently I was publically taunted in a local venue by a woman who called me “barren”, a “spinster” (actually I really love that word), who said it was obvious I “had no other option” than to lead a “lonely life” and described my work as “amateurish”. Consequently I was deeply gratified last night when the Bronte sisters - Anne, Charlotte and Emily - spoke of similar situations! I am in very good company!

And then there were the two utterly scandalous Georges - Eliot and Sand. George Eliot shocked London by openly living with a man who was married to another woman and George Sand was notorious for her escapades with men. Society loved to hate them.

Perhaps most touching of all the voices heard last night was little Mary Shelley who at the age of 18 wrote the horror classic Frankenstein. She had just given birth to and then lost her first baby - she was to birth and lose three more children as well as her poet husband within the next few years. She wrote that she could not stop thinking about the little creature that she had carried in her body and then held so very briefly before he died. She wondered how such a brief and wonderful little spark of life could go out so quickly and this was much on her mind as she penned her horrifying novel.

Mary Shelley said, “Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.”

Words to remember when the bitter soul killers begin their nastiness. Throughout history women have defied the opinions of lesser beings to make their art. That is a good thing for us to be ever reminded of.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 29, 2005

It’s All About Touch...

My friend Trudi from Colorado called me yesterday. I had sent her six of the eight stories I am working on for the collection I am trying to pull together by October. Trudi is my most long-standing supporter of my fiction writing. Back when I thought I had very little to say and not much skill at saying it Trudi was the one who would read my work and say, “No, this is good - write more.”

While we were talking yesterday she said, “You know what it is about your writing? It’s lush. It makes you feel like you are at a banquet.”

That’s an awfully nice thing to hear. I know that when I write I am very aware of the surroundings of my characters. I want them to breathe and revel in their environment.

Which brings me to two of the other things I think about a lot - knitting and sewing. I started sewing when I was 10 thanks to a neighbor lady, Mary Seeley, who formed a 4H Sewing Club for a bunch of girls. 4H is a wonderful organization and Mary was a wonderful warm and kind teacher. She taught us to love the process of sewing as much as the results. Later my brother Wayne taught me to knit. He had learned from one of the nuns in school. I loved it.

Knitting and sewing have been a part of my life since then - it is my relaxation and - more than that - it is how I let my brain quiet down and my hands be in charge for awhile. I work out a lot of issues with my writing while knitting and sewing (also swimming and driving but that’s another entry).

For most of my adult life I couldn’t really afford to work with very luxurious fabrics and fibers. I still made things but it wasn’t until recent years that I’ve had the resources and the access to silks and cashmere and alpaca and angora. Sewing with good silk or knitting with cashmere is a whole new dimension in sensuousness.

Since I no longer work in the corporate world and can dress to suit myself I have discovered that sewing a few simple patterns - drawstring trousers, simple tee-shirts, kimono-style jackets, and long, floaty dresses - makes me perfectly happy. I have a handful of tried and true patterns that I make again and again and again but always in the most luscious fabrics I can afford.

Last summer I made several pairs of drawstring waist trousers with big patch pockets out of a lovely silk noil and a sumptuous sand-washed rayon. I wore them every day and they got more beautiful each time they were washed. I never want to wear anything else. Since then I’ve bought up lots of silks, fine cottons and linens and some scrumptious linen-rayon blends - all in plain, beautiful colors - that I make into the most simple, unfussy clothes that I can. I love the way I feel both when I work on them and when I wear them. It is a private pleasure that is difficult to describe.

The same is true with knitting. I prowl eBay looking for great deals on silk and cashmere and have acquired quite a stash. Last winter I knitted a cocoon-style sweater in a simple lace pattern out of the most luscious deep black cashmere. At the moment I am working on a lavish lace shawl based on one in Meg Swansen’s A Gathering of Lace out of a very fine wool and angora blend yarn. I am finally at the edging (the endless edging) and I cannot describe how soft and scrumptious this shawl is going to be.

So if I wear my silk trousers and my cashmere sweaters while I write I guess it is only natural that some of their luscious touch would seep into my writing. I’m a big fan of my senses - they’ve given me a lot of happiness. I hope my characters get the benefit of that.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Ego and Envy

There is a wonderful book called Writing Past Dark which I have started reading. It is about the dark side of the writer’s mind - dealing with envy, discouragement, frustration, impatience - all the things those of us who write face. How much is justifiable and how much is just a block to doing our own work while we obsess about someone else’s?

Two years ago I was faced with a situation that taught me a lot about envy. A friend and fellow writer whose work I had not read sold her book to a name publisher for tidy sum. I won’t tell the name of the book or the publisher because I am about to be very ungracious so bear with me.

When her book sold I was envious. It wasn’t the money so much though that would have been nice - it was the acknowledgment of her work. I’d been writing longer than she had and certainly had produced more work, why had her book sold? In typical fashion I seethed and sulked for awhile all the while telling her how happy I was for her. Well, I was - sort of.

Then the book was released. At first I sullenly refused to buy it but eventually succumbed. It was awful. I couldn’t even read it. And, unfortunately, neither could anyone else including a lot of reviewers. The book garnered mild reviews at best and never sold enough to justify her advance. She was absolutely mortified and has written very little since.

I felt awful for her. And I felt more awful about my own envious reaction. But it taught me a painful truth about publishing - just because you are ready to publish doesn’t mean you are going to find a buyer and just because you are not ready to publish doesn’t mean you will not be published and end up feeling foolish. It’s a difficult thing to digest.

What was wrong with her book? She has a genuine gift for language and tells her story well. The book was a non-fiction memoir about a period of her life spent in Africa. The problem was there was too much of her in the book. That sounds like a strange thing to say but even reviewers said that it sounded more like a journal kept for a therapy group than literature. As I read it I was uncomfortably aware of the author’s need to be seen in a certain way - as a certain kind of person - by her readers. It didn’t work.

Learning to deal with one’s ego has always been a struggle for writers - particularly non-fiction writers. It is such a natural human thing to want to say “hey, look what I did!” but when your ego gets ahead of your heart or even your brain you are on shaky ground.

This is especially true when writing about sex and intimate relationships. Back in the 1920s and 1930s there was that amazing group of writers, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Frank Harris, who wrote blazingly, flamboyantly, and explicitly about their sexual experiences. Today we read them and there is something slightly painful in reading some of their revelations. A sense that they didn’t realize how screwed up they were as people. There’s a fine line in there - total honesty vs. excessive self-revelation.

Now when I re-read some of my early work I thank God no one wanted to publish it. Some of it is too raw, too revealing, and some is just plain embarrassing. It is a good thing to reveal one’s guts but better to do it with literary elegance than with self-indulgent ego massaging. I’ve still got a lot to work on there.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Cooking Up Home Made Pie & Sausage

The cover is here! The cover is here!

Yesterday I received a copy of the cover of Windchill: Crime Stories by New England Writers from Level Best Books and the galley for my short story Homemade Pie & Sausage. What fun!

I think the cover is absolutely beautiful but then it is in my favorite colors - periwinkle, violet and soft blues. Reading my short story in galley format was exciting. Somehow, when you see the galley, the fact that your baby - this creation that you have birthed out of your own head - seems terrifyingly real. What if it goes out there in the world and nobody likes it???

What makes Homemade Pie & Sausage different from almost everything I’ve ever written is that I wrote it specifically for this collection and I had a long, frustrating process trying to come up with a story. Usually the stories are all inside my head cracking the whip and vying for my time and attention.

Last year when Riptide was being prepared, Skye Alexander who is one of the principals in Level Best and also a friend, suggested I submit something. I had written Asa some years previous and, since there was definitely a crime involved, I polished it up and sent it off. It was accepted. But this year when Skye said to be sure and enter again I was baffled. What could I submit?

I had recently read an article by Stephen King. Stephen King is a writer whom I admire and appreciate even though I don’t always like what he actually writes. He said that the most horrifying things are the everyday kinds of things turned horrible - a dog, the family car, etc. I was thinking about that and somehow the notion of pie came into my head (well, pie is never really very far from my thoughts). How do you make pie horrifying? That’s where I began.

I grew up in the Allegheny Highlands of Pennsylvania and my father and brothers hunted and fished all the time. Every fall when they brought home a few deer, my Dad would get a pig to butcher and we would all help with the sausage making. I always loved the whole process. Now I think about the actual butchering of deer and pigs and I get a little queasy but back then it was as natural as baking bread or canning tomatoes.

As the story began to unfold in my head I was somewhat astonished at how naturally I could write such a thing. What was the big deal? When I asked a few people to read it and they responded with total horror and amazement I was a little surprised at how truly horrible it seemed to them and how un-horrified I felt about having written it. Within the parameters of the story it seemed quite natural to me.

That bothered me a little.

The other galley in the package I received was for Mark S. Williams’ short story Imprisoned In Maine which is also included in the anthology. Mark is the lobsterman whose non-fiction book F/V Black Sheep I have been editing. This is his first published story. I’ve been working with Mark for over a year now. He is a big, tough-looking, muscular Gloucester fisherman with a soft voice and a quiet low key manner. It will be interesting to me to see how he handles making public appearances with this book. That’s something that a lot of writers find difficult. I know Mark well and he can seem very full of bravado and swagger but I’ve seen the shy uncertain side of him, too. This is a man who wrote a 120,000 word book while sitting in the cab of his truck on various wharfs and piers around Gloucester.

Anyway, the book will be out in October.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Early Summer Mornings

June was a cold month here this year - wet and foggy. I turned the heat on, much to my chagrin, more often than I care to admit. But July is redeeming it with warm, breezy days and temperatures conveniently in the 80s - not too hot and not too cold. I am the first to admit that I am not a morning person. I can stay up half the night but have difficulty forcing myself out of bed before eight. All those years of corporate life when I got up at 5:30 have made me very self-righteous about sleeping as long as I like.

But when the mornings are warm and breezy I find them irresistible. When the salt-water infused sea-breezes blow up from the harbor lifting the curtains and sending the wind chimes singing, I am restless to rise and go outside.

I woke at 5:30 this morning. The air in my room was hot and sticky and my head ached. The weather is predicted to be hot for the next few days and I was already in a cranky mood. I thought I might go get coffee and go down to the beach but, having worked late last night, I was still tired. I re-arranged the bed, turned on a fan, got a glass of cold water, changed into a fresh cotton tee and then lay back down.

Dorothy L. Sayer admitted in her later years that for much of her life she was very much in love with her wonderful character Lord Peter Whimsey. While Lord Peter is about as far from my idea of a delicious man as one could get, I very much admired her for having the courage to say that. I don’t know how a writer can create a marvelous character of the opposite sex without having a something of a passionate, albeit peculiar, relationship with them. I always do.

A few years ago when I was re-writing The Old Mermaid’s Tale I came to feel that first Pio and then Baptiste were genuine presences in my life. I live alone and it was deep winter and who was to know if I spent hours in the company of a glorious man of my own creation?

Right now I am much enchanted by Stash, the wise and very sexy older mariner in The Haven. This morning, when I went back to bed, I lay thinking of him and how I wanted him to develop in a scene I am working on when I fell asleep. I dreamed about him and it was delicious. He showed me the way to proceed.

That’s one of the astonishing parts of being a fiction writer - your characters have the potential to become real presences in your life. Only you can’t talk about them because people will decide you are nuts - those that haven’t decided that already.

When I woke it was still early and Stash was very much with me. I pulled on a pair of shorts, tied my hair back and put on sandals and went out to the beach. That’s one of the joys of my life - that there is no reason NOT to get up in the morning and go out to the beach. It is a sparkling morning. The sunlight on the waves was glittering silver and pale blue. A fine mist was rolling out slowly revealing the two stone towers of the Thacher Island lighthouses. There is Queen Anne’s Lace and Beach Roses everywhere. The air smells of salt and honeysuckle and the flowery, slightly astringent, fragrance of the beach roses that are as big as teacups this year. And I took Stash with me. He had a wonderful morning, too.

Artists have always enjoyed a reputation for being kind of crazy. Whether you write or paint or sculpt or act or dance or .... whatever form your art takes, you have to give yourself permission to just be okay with your own weirdness. If phantom companions want to go to the beach on a warm summer morning, you have to think that is just fine and, better than fine, quite delightful. Stash is content and waiting for me to get back to work on him and I am happy and smiling and ready to oblige.

I wonder where Lord Peter took Ms Sayer of a lovely summer morning.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Writing the Day

Back when I had the notion I might be a plein-air painter I studied with Betty Lou Schlemm, A.W.S. for a few years. Betty Lou, or BL as we often call her, is an outstanding plein-air painter and has a marvelous ability to articulate her thought process as she paints.

“Okay,” she will say as she mixes her colors, “now, I’m outside and the sun is shining and the clouds are high and wispy and I am going to paint the day.”

She uses that phrase a lot when she teaches - paint the day. Be there in the day and put it into your mind and down through your arm and onto the paper before you. Nobody does it better.

I don’t paint much these days - too many Muses - but I often think of BL’s dictum when I am writing and I try to “write the day” - be present in it and put it down on the page.

Today is what I think of as a Gloucester Day - mild and breezy with air moving in from the North Atlantic rich with the fragrance of salt water and fish and maybe whales breaching out on Stellwagen Bank. Clouds are big and high and scud across the sun sending shadows across the earth. Days like this often end in the brilliant rose colored sunsets that edge the clouds in wine and gold and show up in paintings like those of Maxfield Parrish who vacationed here as a boy and never stopped painting our clouds.

I am working on a collection of short stories these days and the one I am focused on now, The Haven, is set in a harsh bitter winter in the town of New Bedford - another town I love. The story is about a woman who married a wealthy, charming man from a prominent family but then, a few years into her marriage, becomes infatuated with his older cousin - a hard-living seaman ostracized by the rest of the family.

It is a wonderful story to write because I was once in love with a such a man who lived in New Bedford. I have delicious memories of waking up to the smell of the sea and the man I loved and walking with him through the early morning streets to a little coffee shop that was next to the Seaman’s Bethel where Herman Melville often sat to think while writing Moby Dick. (at right, New Bedford harbor from the window of the New Bedford Whaling Museum on a snowy winter day in 1994)

Moby Dick has been described as the perfect American novel. I have read it several times and still can be enchanted by the opening chapters where the narrator (“call me Ishmael”) describes the rugged seafaring districts of New Bedford in the 1840s. Inside the Bethel there are cenotaphs that line the walls including the one erected to the memory of a sea captain who was drowned by being tangled in the lines of a whale he had harpooned. It is said it is from that cenotaph that Melville imagined Ahab’s fate.

As I work on my story I have to leave the salt-rich sea-breezes of Gloucester today and enter into the icy, raw, stinging cold of New Bedford in the middle of a hard winter - but a winter in which the protagonist of my story is passionately in love. What a pleasure.

I don’t know how other writers work but for me having the luxury of slipping out of the place I am in and spending time deeply entrenched in another world - another place and time and environment - is a seductive undertaking. I love being in that place and having the task to write that place. If I do that well, if I get into that day and put it on the page in all its sensuousness and richness and detail, then I have done my job as a writer. At least in my opinion.

Writers write for different reasons but BL taught me how to be fully present in a place and a time and capture it. She does it with pigments, I try to do it with words. If people like my stories as much as they like her paintings I will do well in the literary world. But whether or not that happens I have this remarkable pleasure of slipping into a day and trying to capture its many nuances. That’s enough of a reward for me.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Across the Bridge

Gloucester is, technically speaking, only an island in the most minimal sense. The Annisquam River flows from Ipswich Bay out into out own harbor cutting this part of Cape Ann off completely from the rest. We have two bridges connecting us. The A. Piatt Andrew Bridge arches up over the Annisquam on Route 128 and is notable for some nasty car crashes and periodic suicide jumpers. The Blynman Bridge is raised and lowered throughout the day to let boaters through. Their schedule coincides exactly with when you are in a really big rush to get somewhere.

Fortunately I am rarely in a rush to get anywhere these days.

When I first moved here people talked about going “across the bridge”. I thought it hilarious when an old-time Goucesterite would say “I haven’t been across the bridge in six months”. At that time I commuted 80 miles round trip every day to a corporate job. One of the things locals often say, when they want to let you know someone is very limited in their thinking, is “what do you expect, he’s never been across the bridge”.

There is a theory I have heard that far points of land tend to become gathering places for eccentric individuals. Places such as Provincetown on Cape Cod and Key West have developed reputations as the kinds of places one can go to and not be faulted for personal eccentricities of behavior, lifestyle, and/or dress. There is a sense that people who are motivated by strange internal music are often driven by unknowable forces to the furthest points of land they can get to without beginning to swim. If that is true it would go a long way toward explaining a lot of Gloucester’s unique character.

When I moved to Massachusetts in 1987 I had no idea where I wanted to live. I lived in Salem, The Witch City, for awhile and loved the quirky, metaphysical community that has overtaken that city in recent years. I visited the hill where the actual hangings took place on several occasions and, whether it was a product of my vivid imagination or vibrations left from a nefarious past, I have to say it always felt creepy and sad up there.

Later I had the opportunity to move to Marblehead and that was really a wonderful time. It is easy to ignore which century you happen to be in there because parts of the town are so ancient and quaint, with sweet little houses crowded along narrow, winding lanes, that it is possible to imagine you have slipped through time. There was many an occasion in Marblehead when I wandered through the oldest parts of the town during an autumns twilight that I found myself completely oblivious to the ordering abilities of time.

But the first time I drove the 20 miles up the coast to Gloucester, I knew it was where I wanted to live. There is something here that you can’t quite explain. Maybe it is the earthy roughness of the commercial fishing industry - not as prosperous as it was in times past but still a vital part of town life. The arts are very much alive in Gloucester - we have two live theaters, Gloucester Stage Company and West End Theater, the oldest art colony in America - Rocky Neck, and my much loved North Shore Arts Association. But even more than all of that is just the salty, fishy way the air smells, the sounds of fishing boats headed out for a week or two on George’s Banks, the piles of lobster traps everywhere you look, the fishermen piling crates of the days catch onto the back of their pickups while the guys at The Crow’s Nest stand on the sidewalk in front of it having a smoke. It’s gritty here. Gritty and wonderful. (above left, sunset behind Gloucester City Hall, where the famous "names wall" is, shot from the upstairs balcony of the North Shore Arts Association, June 22, 2005)

I left the corporate world three years ago. Now I work in a back room of my second floor apartment in a house that was built in 1726. There are still iron hooks in the fireplaces to hang a kettle of water to boil. From the window beside my desk I can see an ancient cemetery, the oldest Unitarian cemetery in America. Not fifty feet from where I sit is an old granite tombstone bearing the words “Erected to the memory of Moses Morse who was drowned at sea in his 25th year, 1826".

So far I keep drumming up enough business to earn a living from this desk. I can buy everything I need here on the island or over the internet. What I can’t get anywhere but here in my beloved Gloucester is the smell of the air, the play of the light, the familiarity of faces I have lived among for ten years now, the smiles and waves of people who live here for the same reason. I think about what’s over the bridge sometimes but rarely find a desire to go there.

I haven’t been across the bridge in six months.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Why Parlez-Moi?

So I decided to call my on-line press “Parlez-Moi” and I’m glad that I did. It has proven to be a good name - “talk to me” - communicate. Communication is vital. Now that I am undertaking this blog it seems particularly apt.

I chose the words from a scene in my first novel, The Old Mermaid’s Tale. In it, the central character, Clair, has a nearly obsessive fascination with a tavern called The Old Mermaid Inn in a waterfront neighborhood in a city on the Great Lakes. One night as she and her boyfriend are walking past the Inn she hears a man singing inside. The song is the old Edith Piaf standard "Parlez-Moi d’Amour". Her boyfriend translates the words for her as they stand outside listening. The song, and the voice of the singer, haunt her and, months later she meets and falls in love with him. His name is Baptiste and he is a Breton mariner who lost a leg in a shipwreck and now earns a living singing in taverns. He becomes the great love of her life.

Hearing his voice for the first time is a turning point in her life and so I chose the words “Parlez-Moi” to be the name of my press and blog. Simple as that. You never know when a brief moment will change the course of your life.

When I was a girl in the 50s and 60s, I used to spend vacations with my godparents who lived in Erie, Pennsylvania. My godfather, my wonderful Uncle Buddy (left), used to take me down to the docks to watch the big ships come in and I became mesmerized by the neighborhoods that we drove through on our way down State Street to the public pier. My uncle told me that those places were dangerous and it was not safe to be there alone but, to a romantically inclined kid like me, that was just an added incentive.

Later, as a college student in Erie in the late 60s, I used to do exactly what the novel describes Clair doing - riding the bus through those neighborhoods just to peer out the window on the off-chance I might see something “dangerous”. During one of those rides I noticed a bar called the “Mermaid Tavern” and my imagination went wild. Much of what Clair describes in the novel comes from that moment.

Years went by. I went on to another college and then moved to another state but in the back of my mind that fascination lingered. Finally, somewhere around 1985, I was in Pennsylvania and drove to Erie to visit my grandmother who was living with my godmother by then. My godfather had died some years earlier. By this time I was living on my own in Houston and was quite experienced at going into bars (ahem). I decided that I was going to visit my grandmother and aunt and then take a drive down State Street and stop at the Mermaid Tavern for a beer. I was really excited at the idea.

That drive down State Street proved to be a pivotal moment in my life. When I crossed Sixth Street and entered the rough and tumble neighborhood that had once fed my wild imagination I was shocked to discover how it had changed. All the old bars and flophouses were gone and in its place were smart little shops and restaurants. Where the Mermaid Tavern had been there was now a chain family restaurant. I was devastated.

For a year the disappointment I felt festered and then one day I decided to write about it and, thus, The Old Mermaid’s Tale was born. You never know where inspiration can come from. You never know when your life might change.

So, I decided to name my press and my blog after the fateful moment when Clair’s life changed and the title of the song seemed the best place to do that. Thus Parlez-Moi Press was born.

You never know when the world will take an extra turn.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Look, ma, I'm blogging!

It might seem that it takes a lot of audacity, or arrogance, to be a committed blogger - but then it takes a lot of audacity and arrogance to be a writer of any sort. You have to be of the opinion that you have something to say that someone, somewhere might want to read. But then that’s what being a writer is about. Is it audacity, arrogance, self-indulgence, or the belief that each of us comes to the world with something to accomplish and having one’s say is a part of that?

I am told to be taken seriously as a blogger one must blog every day. That seems an onerous task and yet there is rarely a day when I am not thinking about something that I imagine someone else might relate to. So, I’ll blog. We’ll see how it goes.

First a few words about the things I will most likely spend my time blogging about - writing, art, design, knitting and textiles/sewing. Other things will come up, too, of course but those seem to be the things I spend a lot of time thinking about.

I earn my living as a graphic artist/web designer so art and design are every day parts of my life. I learned to knit and sew as a kid and have never stopped. More about those at another time. Today, I’ll talk about writing.

I don’t remember NOT writing. As a kid I wrote plays which were performed by the neighborhood kids in our garage. I was on my high school newspaper and editor of my college literary magazine yet resisted the urge to major in anything having to do with writing. I always wanted it to be a pleasure - something I did because I loved doing it, not because I had to.

My publication credits are, until recently, all non-fiction. Articles about art have appeared in national magazines, columns about the aesthetics of living were regular features in the local newspaper for several years. I always wrote fiction - I just never had the courage to do anything with it. Last year, I published my first short story, “Asa” in Level Best BooksRiptide: An Anthology of Crime Stories by New England Writers. It was fun but I wasn’t quite prepared for the variety of feedback it would generate.

This October Level Best’s second anthology, Wind Chill, will feature my short story “Home-made Pie and Sausage” which I wrote specifically for that anthology. It was the first time I ever purposefully set out to write a crime story and that is a story unto itself. My first novel, The Old Mermaid’s Tale, has been making the rounds of literary agents and publishing houses. My second novel, tentatively titled Triad, is languishing in a purple file folder under my desk awaiting revision. Currently I am at work on a collection of short stories titled My Last Romance and Other Passions which I hope to finish by the end of summer.

Supporting other writers in their efforts is a natural outgrowth of my own love of writing. Last November I served as publisher for a book of poetry, Split-Image Focus by Gloucester poet Lila Swift Monell. That was an exciting undertaking! Currently I am editing several books for writer including one I’m very enthusiastic about, F/V Black Sheep, written by Gloucester lobsterman Mark S. Williams.

All of these will serve as topics for blog entries in the weeks ahead. It remains to be seen how daunting a task it is to put my thoughts out there every day and take whatever comes as a result. My fisherman, Mark, tells me that if you aren’t willing to risk your very essence you have no business being a writer.

Thanks for reading.