Sunday, March 30, 2008
I took 1/2 day off from work on Thursday to attend two master classes at the Tennessee Williams Festival.
The first class was led by Rosemary Daniell, novelist and poet. She still writes novels but has also found that she has a gift for teaching others how to write.
She started a writing group and method, called Zona Rosa.
She is a wonderful speaker. She gave a lot of useful hints to start writing, but the ones that resonate with me are writing down your dreams, because "it's like cotton candy, that goes away quickly," focus, and find time to write. Make writing your priority.
She suggests that you do self talk to see how the writing sounds and to write down (by hand, not word processor) your favorite quotations by authors to get a feel of the writing process. I have been doing the latter for years, and it's true.
I couldn't buy the latest copy of her book, Secrets of the Zona Rosa - How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women's Lives after her class, because the copies sold out. The library doesn't have a copy, so I broke down and ordered it on-line.
I write in this blog and my haiku, but I want to do personal writing. So, this is the push that I need.
After the meeting, a list was passed around to start a Zona Rosa group in New Orleans; I'll keep you posted on this!
The second master classes that I attend was led by Bev Marshall, novelist and creative writing professor. She gave ideas on how to start and maintain book groups and writing groups.
She mentioned that the one of the best things that you get out of a book group is being able to read books that you wouldn't have selected at all. She is so right about that. Through the book groups that I joined and the blogs that I read, I have been introduced to novelists that I would have missed on my own.
If you can't find a book guide, she has a general list of questions to start the discussion. She also suggested that members bring one or two questions of their own. Also, to give a little variety to the group, she suggests having an Award's Night - pretend you are the author and explain why you are honored to receive a literary award. I might try that for nomination night in November.
The setting of the master classes was Historic New Orleans Collection, Royal Street building in the French Quarter.
The next two pictures are of the meeting room. The ceilings are very high and look out to a courtyard.
See the drain at the floor of the patio. I hope that it drained only rainwater two centuries ago.
These are other views of the patio. It was cool and quiet. You couldn't hear the traffic outside.
(I almost didn't get into the production. There were so many interesting things going on in the city, that I thought that no one would be attending the play. I had to get on the wait list, and luckily, people who had reserved seats didn't show up.)
The three witches toiled and troubled for Macbeth are now who living in Denmark, away from all bounty hunters and such people in Denmark.
Linn, Torrence, and Harper are young and pretty, but two live in fear of being found out. All of them are tired of running away and going further in the wilderness.
One stormy day, a young man named Douglas knocks on the door. He doesn't realize who the young ladies are and falls in love with one of them.
This play, written by B. T. Ryback, 2007 winner of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
The props and scenes were minimalist but great! The actors didn't use Scottish accents, but I felt that I was in a remote place.
Here's the review by the Times-Picayune, with more details on the production.
If you want to write a play for next year's festival, keep this page bookmarked.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The main branch of the New Orleans Public Library gives away Advance Reader's Copies, so I grabbed this novel! It will be published in April 2008.
The novel's construction is interesting. The first section is the story of an American lady marrying an English guy. There are all sorts of issues that come up during the engagement and the wedding. The bride's sister stays at a hotel and has trouble with being with the bride.
The second section is about the groom's mother, when she was a young lady in the 1960s. The last part is about the bride's mother, when she was a teen.
The common thread in all the sections is Lion's Park Hotel in the Knightsbridge section of London and alcoholic Teddy Healy.
The characters run into each but don't recognize each other at later times. For example, the bride's mother (as a teen) had a nice conversation at a park with the groom's honorary grandmother (who was a young lady). When they met at the wedding about 40 years later, it was as though they met for the first time.
You can read any section in any order. Each section is self-contained but the past does reveal a lot about the present situation.
The language of the book is enjoyable, even for dark topics. The groom's mother is the daughter of a country doctor.
After making a house call, they have discussions in the car. "The doctor believed there were three angels. The Angel of Life, who rode along with them most nights. The Angel of Death, who appeared wearing his funeral clothes on those visits when there was no hope. And then there was the Third Angel. The one who walked among us, who sometimes lay sick in bed, begging for human compassion."
The bride's mother was a bookworm. She was not excited about going to London, but then the city attracted her. "There were probably thousands - no millions - of books she hadn't yet read in this city. There were bookshops and libraries and bookstalls and publishers and guided tours of places where writers had made up whole other worlds out of nothing, but words. Every person who passed by was most likely a writer, or at the very least, a story waiting to be told."
Despite living in 1950s New York City, Lucy felt more alive in London than back home.
This book presents London in three different time periods and shows how regular people live. Not everyone is rich and not everyone is a writer.
The first one is a current irritation - too many people talking on their cell phones. I really don't need to know about your horrible child, or your errant spouse.
I painted two layers of water colors and scraped off the second layer before it dried to reveal the first layer. I stamped the numbers of the cell phone and had to improvise for the pound and star keys.
I cut out words from an old book to represent converations. The black thing is supposed to be the cord that attaches to the earpiece. When a person is walking on the street with that setup, they look like lunatics talking to themselves.
The second peeve is from my past. When I was a child, I hated hearing the sound of chalk screeching down a blackboard. Some children knew that the sound bothered others, so they would do it on purpose to vex us sensitive kiddies.
The person was trying to write Today is Friday, but didn't finish.
I used black water color and let it run. Not all blackboards were completely black. Lots of chalk dust was left behind, so that explains the uneven color. I found an illustration from an old book and cut it out for the hand. I didn't have time to wrap the fingers around the chalk.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The main problem was Snack Daddy, the protagonist of the novel. He was rather disgusting. As the son of a rich (but not the richest) Russian Mafia boss, women threw themselves on him. But, he was gross; fatter and more explicit about his sexual prowess than even Ignatius Reilly of Confederacy of Dunces (as people who are natives or really care about New Orleans, we didn't appreciate this author trying to make Snack Daddy the 21st Century Ignatius.)
All of us had to stop reading the book and then start again, because of a general feeling of ickiness. We agreed it was a man's book; we know that guys talk like that about their conquests.
One of the members was looking forward to reading this novel, because she enjoyed The Russian Debutante's Handbook. But, then she noticed that the plot was too similar; the only difference was the weight of the protagonists.
She also noticed that the professor that is involved with Rowena is actually the author. (Look at the photo on the flap and read the description.)
So, we regret that we learned just a little bit about the new Russia and didn't enjoy this selection at all.
We did enjoy our new meeting place, Mockingbird Cafe' and Blue Cypress Books. The lemonade was to die for. The new bookstore is cute and compact.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Before the Katrina-Kane, I used to go to the altar at a convent. I would take the day off from work to view the altar and have a nice pasta lunch with lots of goodies.
But, alas, that convent washed away, and the nuns have moved to Wisconsin.
So, now I am visiting new locations. All these pictures are from Saturday, 3/15/2008.
I first heard Mass at Holy Rosary Church. It has two domes, and it makes the acoustics bad.
An American Legion band played some music during Mass. It reminded me of the music in Michael Corleone first wedding in Sicily from the Godfather movie.
We left the church, went through a breezeway to the next street, that faces Bayou St. John
This parish has a small, wooden home in which the altar was decorated.
This is the first thing that you see.
All the food is made by volunteers. Many families pass down special recipies. There is no charge to view the altar, but if you wish, you can make a donation, which goes to St. Michael's School, a school for mentally disadvantaged children.
After viewing the altar, everyone receives a bag full of Italian sweets.
The food is later donated to a charity that feeds needy people.
The table is wrought with symbolism.
You see the representations of Jesus via the grapes (The Miracle at Cannan) and the Lamb of God.
The sandals represent how the people dressed in the past. The filling is fig.
These baby shoes are filled with fig paste also.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus in a fig-filled cake.
This cake has a card with Baby Jesus and St. Joseph.
The saw represents the work of St. Joseph.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The main altar is impressive.
I love the high ceilings and the stained glass. It feels heavenly.
This is a close-up of the previous picture. Where arches usually meet, there is a picture of saints, and usually men. This is a Sister of Charity nun. They were instrumental in the early days of New Orleans in helping the poor. They started Charity Hospital, for the poor, which later became a state facility. The hospital drowned and is currently closed.
New uses for confessionals! It holds a part of the AC vents (see the top) and holds a statue of saints (he is Saint Martin of Porres; he lived in Peru when it was ruled by the Spaniards. He was very holy and wanted to become a priest but he wasn't allow because he had African blood.)
This is another former confessional, and you can see the vents better here.
This column has the Sacred Heart of Jesus drawn on the stucco. Click for higher resolution.
The St. Joseph's Altar was built on one of the side altars. It's smaller than the other one.
Again, any donations went to St. Michael's School and we got a small bag of Italian treats. Yum
After Mass, they also served a pasta lunch. Since we had eaten the previous one, we decided to do takeout.
The back part of the church has facility to help homeless people. There are laundry facilities, showers, computers, classes, etc.
Not too long ago, the facility was broken into at night, and all the computers were gone. There is a special Hell for the thieves that did this. Pox on them. May they come back as a garbage truck in their next life.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The Illustration Friday theme is heavy.
Since I didn't do Garden last week and felt an IF withdrawl, I decided to incorporate it with today's theme.
What could be heavier to a flower petal than a raindrop?
I used an Italian map for the bloom, crocheted the stem, and cut up some marbling paper from an old book from work for the grass. I found a decomposing leave in the driveway and used it as a watercolor template for the right leave. I used the actual leaf and enhanced the stem with watercolors.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The last few issues of the World Literature Today were not appealing to me. Depressing topics like: languages that are going extinct, war and the effects on women (I still have enough to deal with in post-K New Orleans) or topics that I don't care about: performance poetry and graphic novels (I like to know something about GN but too much).
However this issue is more interesting: Globalization!
And, for a limited time (don't know for how long, so hurry, hurry) , you can read parts of the latest issue online, before deciding whether you need to get a subscription.
One section that you can't see on-line is the book reviews.
Other bloggers have covered these books, but it's always good to read more.
Maggie Reads gave a wonderful synopsis of How to Talk about Books that You Haven't Read. The Asylum also wrote about of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Pesthouse
and I have been tempted me to read these two previous books.
However, after reading the WLT interview with Junot Diaz, I don't think that I will read Oscar Wao. Mr. Diaz is angry about a lot of things that can't be erased or controlled (like the past).
As a Hispanic, I don't care too much for what Spain did, but I don't rail against that country, because it all happened 500 YEARS ago. I just refuse to visit Spain, (except maybe for the Alhambra section) and that's that.
Plus, I don't like the fact that he uses the F word too much. Can't he express his ideas more eloquently?
When he's not so angry, I might consider his works. I deal with too much to spend my time reading about angry people.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I am in the midst of reading three books: Aburdistan (for book group - Snack Daddy is annoying), Tournament of Shadows (for Chunkster Challenge), and Three Angels (an Advanced Reader's Copy).
I am not reading as much as I should. I just finished watching Bravo's Project Runway but I am still reading catty comments from Project Rungay Blog. I am also hooked on a historical soap opera on Univision called Pasion. The main actress annoys me. She plays a dumb woman and she is being typecast; she always is the silly girl in other soap operas, but soon she will be too old to play that part.
Yesterday, I attended the second meeting for One Book, One New Orleans. It's going to be a big project. They want to start some work for 2009. I'll keep you updated on this event. Some decisions need to be made this week before proceeding with the plans.
A new used bookstore opened on Oak Street, near S. Carrollton, called Blue Cypress Books. It's in a cute alcove above a cafe'. I am looking forward to spending some time browsing.
And, DeVille's Books, which provides a discount for the International Fiction Book Group, has finally moved to its new location, a few steps from the St. Charles streetcar stop. There is more foot traffic now, and it's more spacious! There might be exciting events there.
The main branch of the New Orleans Public Library is giving away the Advanced Reader's Copy. I will let all my friends know about it; books are now a luxury item, due to the high rents, high insurance and gasoline costs.
This past weekend, with the time change, I didn't do an Illustrated Friday and I missed not doing it! So, it's a good habit that I acquired.
I love to look and comment on entries in the collage category. Patricia O'Rourke, one of the participants, and I have started to email each other. She teaches a collage and poetry class. How cool is that? She is interested in coming to New Orleans. If anyone knows a rich uncle or a grant that I could apply for, let me know!
I am also making advances in my sweater. The back part is almost ready; I am looking forward to starting the front part.
I need to sew a custom bag to take my knitting when I go to knitting group. I haven't sewn in years but watching Project Runway has inspired me.
Whole Foods and other grocery stores may not be giving plastic bags, so I need to get a reusable bag. Maybe I should buy one of Brad Pitt's? I wonder whether he touched it? Pink is not my fav color, but I might make an exception for a good cause.
A group wants to start a co-op grocery but needs a few $100.00 investors. What's your experience with this concept? It would be closer to my home than Whole Foods.
My new resolution is start an exercise program. My foot is better but not 100%. So, I found a gym with a pool. I am starting with a one-month membership. My swim time would be 6:00 a.m. or 4:45 p.m. I found my swimming suit. I need to find my alumnae card to get the $45 rate. My ETA is before the end of March. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Well, Lisa See is fabulous. She has just gotten off the airplane, had been home in CA only for the weekend, and continues her book tour for a bit more, after being on it for about two weeks, but she was so gracious.
Her latest book in paperback is Peony in Love, but she also weaved in influences of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, because the books (and her previous others) represent a journey to try to understand the Chinese culture. When she goes to research one book, she stumbles onto information that piques her curiosity and then the new information leads to new research which leads to a new book.
Lisa See's writes about stories that have been lost, forgotten, or deliberately covered up. During the Q&A, she told us that journalists in China didn't know about the writings of women in earlier centuries, so she is also opening up the past of this ancient land.
During the change from the Ming dynasty to the Ching dynasty in the mid-1600s, more than 1000 women authors existed and published their works. They traveled to various parts of China, reading their stories.
Peony in Love tells two stories: Mother love interesting with the story of the three sister wives and writings that take place within the two main plots.
Foot binding is covered again. Lisa See recognizes that it is cruel, but for a Chinese mother, it was really love to do this. Foot binding would give a daughter a chance to marry and move up into a different class of society. Otherwise, the daughter would be in danger of being sold in some sort of slavery and bondage.
With her last two books, she has covered only two of the 40 ethnic minorities in China, so she has more to write about.
Her next book is in the process of being published.
Lisa See would love to join book groups via speaker phone to discuss any of her books. You will need to write to her at her website and give her enough advance notice.
For people who don't have a book group, maybe you can get a couple of friends to take part in this one-time opportunity.
Friday, March 07, 2008
He isn't sure what his father does for a living, but he knows that he wears a nice uniform and soldiers fear him.
One night, the Fury comes over for dinner with his blond companion, and Bruno's father learns of his new assignment at Out-With. Bruno later finds out that this place is in Poland. (Bruno has trouble pronouncing some German words.)
Bored out his mind, hating their new home far from Berlin, Bruno looks out his window and sees, "..hundreds of people going about their business, and that was the fact all of them - the small boys, the big boys, the fathers, and grandfathers, the uncles, the people who lived on their own on everybody's road but didnt' seem to have any relatives at all - were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pyjmas with a grey striped cap on their heads. "
Bruno later meets Shmuel when he decides to go exploring, one day after his lessons. It's described as "The Dot that Became a Speck That Became a Blob That Became a Figure That Became a Boy."
The boys find out that they were born on the same date and that they enjoy talking to each other. Bruno comes out as often as he can and brings food to Shmuel.
Shmuel had seen Bruno's father and couldn't believe that the son was the complete opposite, kind and friendly, as opposite to cruel and heartless.
The story continues in this pace, telling the story of Bruno and Shmuel from children's perspective.
This novel is written for young adults who understand WWII and the Holocaust. However, adults will find it chilling and charming at the same time.
Bruno reveals fears and other issues that are important to children and that we adults sometimes forget.
It's a similar book in terms of theme to the Book Thief, but Bruno is younger and an officer's child.
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Cherokee Salamanca, named for the American Indian tribe and not the car, is the daughter of an artist and writer and granddaughter of a hippie lady. She lives in
She wants to take a school trip Europe, but her parents can’t afford it, so the mom calls up an old art school friend and makes arrangements for Cherokee to go to
Cherokee is happy to escape, if only for a few weeks. She lives with two younger siblings, a rooster that escape something horrible, a pig that destroys everything in sight, and a snobby cat.
She wasn’t too excited at first to go, but she thinks, “Lesson for Today: Take what you can get, or you may not get anything.” (A girl after my heart: my motto is, “Don’t ask, don’t get. Ask and you may get.”)
Once she arrived at Caroline’s home, she was shocked at how orderly the home was. “Our kitchen in
Then she sees, “The garden looked like it was melting in the rain, but you could still tell it wasn’t the kind of garden where you throw a few seeds down and hope for the best. It looked as planned as the kitchen.”
Cherokee has a very quiet first few weeks, but when she gets out to
This is a young adult novel, but I had fun reading it. This teen and her friends are fun and not troublesome. (They must be done with all the hormonal changes!)
A lot of
If you want to encourage a young relative to read, I would recommend this book.7/28/2008
P.S. I was redoing my list for the What's in a Name Reading Challenge and decided to replace this book with my previous choice for the Place name.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
The winner receives a publishing contract with Penguin and promotion of the book by Amazon.
Click here to read excerpts.
You must post a review if your vote is to count!
Monday, March 03, 2008
This week's theme is Leap.
I decided to do the Leap of Faith to all faiths.
The background is two different layeres of watercolors. I didn't let the first layer dry, so some paper came up to give the background an unexpected layer.
Some of the items were hard to glue, so they are not straight.
Last week, I mentioned that I can't draw faces to save my life. Ditto for people, so let the little blue blobby thing represent my leaper.
These are the materials that I used for the different faiths:
- Judaism - cut triangles from a paint sample card
- Christianity - brown paper to wrap delicate items
- Buddhism - an illustration from a Japanese tour book
- Islam - a paper tissue representation of the Black Rock that is kissed during the Mecca pilgrimage. (It looks better on an angle.)
- Nature/animism - the moutain from a postcard, the flower from a fabric, and stamped wing.