Monthly Archives: May 2017

Book Trailer Decisions

Although I never had a book trailer for Doll God, I’ve since read that they are important because readers, like most people today, are used to videos and to receiving information in that format. So I am trying one for Kin Types.

I hope you enjoy it. It’s only 53 seconds long and you can either listen to the music or keep your volume off.

Do you regularly watch book trailers? If you’re a writer with a published book or books, have you used book trailers?

Unless you are experienced at making videos, it takes a lot of time to make a short little video about your book. Rather than waste time learning step by step, I asked my daughter who already makes memory video albums for people to make the video for me. I sent her links to book trailers and book trailer articles, old family photos, and the manuscript itself. After the video was completed, I learned a few things from her.

There are a lot of decisions that go into making a book trailer. The length is one thing. Sometimes short is best: if you keep it under 60 seconds you can share it on Instagram.  It’s also more likely to be watched. But you can’t put too much into 60 seconds.

A mistake some authors make is to try to give a complete synopsis of the book in the trailer, so she opted to give a flavor of Kin Types instead.

You have to make sure the music fits the book.

Do you want a narrator or just written text or do you want to showcase your own reading from the book? My daughter thought that for a short video, simplicity was best and used written text. That way, people don’t have to listen to the video if they are at work or otherwise unable to listen to audio without disturbing others.

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In case you are wondering how Perry, our unsocialized foster cat, is doing, I can tell you that he loves to play with Hot Pursuit, a game that spins a furry mouse on a stick. He’s also interested in the robot fish in a bowl of water, but Hot Pursuit is his passion. He eats Wellness chicken pate out of a bowl I hold in my hand and his nose and whispers nuzzle my hand. He sniffs and licks my fingers. But he still doesn’t want me to reach out and touch him. One day I touched his haunch, and he flinched and jumped back. Then he lay back down and tentatively touched my hand with his paw. Sometimes he lies in a cat bed on a bench in the sun and sometimes he sleeps underneath the bench or under the footstool. He’s only done two naughty things, which is pretty good considering that he is quite young. He chewed the tag off the lamp’s electrical cord. I hope he knows cords are bad to touch. He also peed on a pile of clean laundry I left lying in his territory. Oops.

Hope your week is a beauty!

 

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Filed under Book promotion, Books, Doll God, Family history, Flash Nonfiction, History, Kin Types, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing

The Place of Poetry: Tony Walsh Understands

Can we think about the place of poetry in our world? After listening to (watching, also) Tony Walsh share his stunning occasional poem “This is The Place,” I do wonder what people think about the importance of poetry (an occasional poem is written for an occasion). Not that many hours after the tragic bombing outside the Manchester Arena, poet Walsh recited a poem that gripped me with its significance and intensity.  Listen here if you have not yet had the opportunity.

Notice how his rhythm and, yes, rhymes, work to fire up the pride and hometown love of the people of Manchester. The poem takes the power away from the terrorist, away from those who want to harm our civilization, and gives it to the people of Manchester (and in a way to all of us for our hometowns). This is one of the powers of poetry: that it can allow us to assert our own power.

Poetry is power. Poetry is political. Poetry is today, this minute, right now.

But do people understand that? Maybe I’m imagining it. Because I looked at a different youtube clip of the same event and look at the comments from people! They are a mean, small-minded crowd, waiting to be thrown more and more red meat. Wait for it: the coliseums will be built.

Most of the comments on that clip are hideous. They completely miss it all.

But all is not lost. These commenters seem to understand.

What IS the place of poetry in our world?

 

* If the tone of commenting changes on any of these that will change the story, of course.

My prayers are with Manchester and, in fact, with us all.

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Filed under Poetry, Poetry reading, Writing Talk

One Wacky Western Landmark

For years, whenever I traveled on the 202 freeway loop and saw a strange wedding cake shaped structure in the distance I wondered about it. Then the gardener saw a program on TV where the place was identified as Tovrea Castle at Carraro Heights. I googled the castle and discovered that there were tours of the property. When we decided we wanted to go check it out, I found that I needed to book the tour many months in advance. So about nine months ago I bought the $15 tickets for two. In the amount of time it takes to develop a full human baby, the gardener and I finally were allowed to visit and learn about Tovrea Castle.

Our tour group traveled across the property and up to the castle in two golf carts driven by our two orange-attired docents, each named Nancy. I’m not sure if the tour guides have to be called Nancy or if it was a coincidence they were both named Nancy. (OK, I’m kidding).

The castle and acreage are now in the middle of the city with industrial and commercial zoning all around. It’s not far from Sky Harbor Airport either, and I saw several planes overhead. Other people on my tour saw roadrunners, squirrels, and a jackrabbit with big ears, but I didn’t catch a glimpse of anything with a heartbeat outside of our tour.

What looked like a castle from afar actually wasn’t that large up close. The entire building is about 5,000 square feet, and that includes the basement, which is the largest floor. The second and third floors have small hotel rooms. We were not allowed to go up there, but were told that there is only one bathroom per floor. On a 360 degree iPad tour, the rooms looked quite nice and ready for move in. I might call the architectural style cheesy, but maybe I just don’t appreciate it properly. The light fixtures and other accessories were all in the art deco style, which is definitely a style I like very much.

The castle is painted in its original colors. The front door was remarkable for its plainness. From every floor of the building it is possible to get a 360 degree view of Phoenix.

The bannister is made of terrazo and the columns marble. Terrazo is a compound of granite and concrete.

Before the castle was ever built, F.L. and Lizzie Warner established a homestead on 160 acres in 1907. They built their house (no longer in existence) on a rocky knoll, overlooking . . . desert. Scrub is what I call it. Eventually they added to their property and when Lizzie (after F.L. died) sold the property to Alessio Carraro in 1928 there was a total of 277 acres.

Carraro was an Italian immigrant who made a fortune in the sheet metal business in San Francisco. In 1928 he moved to Arizona, wanting to develop a desert resort and luxury housing subdivision. The “castle” was built as a hotel and completed in 1930. Because of the Great Depression, Carraro had to sell the property in 1931 at a great loss to get cash. Maybe he also sold because his wife refused to move to the desert. Or maybe it was another reason . . . .

While Carraro owned the property, a lot of construction was completed. He hired a Russian gardener, called Mokta, who built an enormous cactus garden. The garden still exists, in a way, but some of the sahuaros (the sentinels of the Sonoran Desert) are dead or dying, and it does not look as rich and thickly planted as shown in the old photographs. What my gardener noticed (that was not mentioned by the tour guides) was that in the old days the property was completely irrigated, whereas today it is not. Even sahuaros need some water, I guess.

Mokta, Carraro, and Carraro’s son Leo planted over 500 species of cactus and lined the property with white river rock from the Salt River. They also created two concrete-lined pools, a horseshoe area, and a game court (for a game that was a combination of bocce and pool).

At this point, the history of Carraro and the “castle” meets the history of the Tovrea family.

Edward Ambrose (“E.A.”) Tovrea was born in Illinois in 1861 and moved to Kansas at the age of 10 where he worked on a cattle ranch. He started a freight company that transported goods between western states and eventually settled in Arizona where he built and owned butcher shops throughout the state, founding the Arizona Packing Company, later known as the Tovrea Packing Company.

In 1931, E.A. and his second wife, Della, purchased the castle with 44 acres from Alessio Carraro. Now this is not part of the official story, but I found it online and maybe it’s the real reason Carrara had to sell the property:

Carraro’s dream of a resort hotel and a subdivision of fine homes ended a few months later. For some time, Carraro had tried unsuccessfully to buy 40 acres adjacent to his land that would serve as an important buffer between his property and a stockyard and meat packing plant. When the acreage finally was sold, it went not to Carraro, but to the owner of the nearby packing company E. A. Tovrea.

Tovrea promptly put up sheep pens on the land. That was it for Carraro, who figured few people would be interested in buying a nice home next to a flock of sheep. In June, 1931, Carraro accepted an offer from a real estate agent for the hotel and much of the property. Unknown to him was that the buyer was Della Tovrea.

What rotten luck. I’ve seen photos of the descendents of Carrara and Tovrea together in a friendly manner, but this must have been such a blow to Carrara.

That stockyard came to be part of the Tovrea Stockyards. Can you imagine the smell in the heat of the summer?

E.A. passed away within a year, leaving behind a son who took over the family businesses. Della Tovrea resided in the castle until her death in 1969. During the time the property was owned by the Tovreas, features added to the gardens include a large concrete patio just east of the castle, a rose garden, an aviary, and a reflecting pool. The pool reflected an enormous sahuaro. The sahuaro is now a skeleton only 1/3 its original height.

There are a lot of small outbuildings on the property, but most are completely falling apart.  The well house is one of the few that still stands. You can see it below.

Near the well house is the dovecote which is completely fallen apart. The dovecote was to keep pigeons to feed the many workers.

Another outbuilding was a little kennel for the dogs. It was just a large free-standing cage. The guide explained that this was built for the protection of the dogs because of the dangerous predators in the area. Hello! So the dogs are inside this cage the size of a small bathroom and the bobcats, mountain lions, javelina, coyotes, and God knows what else, are LUNGING at them from the outside. How many dogs ended up with heart attacks?!

Della Tovrea was a very important person in the Arizona Democratic Party and the only woman representative for Arizona at the 1936 convention.  In her later years, she began sleeping in the kitchen. I have no idea why she slept in the kitchen. She had developed a fear of being locked in her huge bank-type vault in the basement by burglars and had had the lock disabled. One night while she slept just feet away from her beautiful blue kitchen sink two burglars did break in and force her to take them around the house pointing out the valuables. There are two different stories about how a bullet hole was made in the kitchen ceiling that night. In one version, a burglar shot his gun. In another version, it was Della herself and her old Colt. When the men left in their pink Cadillac (no relation to Mary Kay or Elvis, to my knowledge), she had no way (in 1969!) to contact the police or the caretakers who lived in a cottage on the grounds and had to make her way to their house in the pouring rain. She died two months later, possibly of pneumonia.

The cast of characters in the story of Tovrea Castle would make for a picaresque novel, to be sure, and I think Della was the greatest piece of work of all. I have a soft spot, though, for Carrara who was a dreamer who repurposed creatively (the blue sink might have come from elsewhere, as did the maple floors and other features of the building and grounds). He took risks and couldn’t withstand the machinations of “bottom line Tovrea,” as I like to think of him.

Today the basement is a tiny museum of Carraro Heights. The ceiling is the bird’s nest style (with hidden eggs throughout). And there are tunnels leading outside.

The Boy Scouts made and installed green ladder stairs around the property. These are views far away and up close.

In 1993, the Castle and the 44 acre Cactus Gardens were purchased from the Tovrea Family Estate by the City of Phoenix which now maintains the National Register of Historic Places property and runs the tours. But at some point somebody else must have run tours here because in the basement there is an old sign.

When I asked why it’s necessary to buy tickets so many months in advance, the tour guides explained to me that they don’t have enough docents. I’d almost swear the one lady looked at me pointedly and hopefully at that moment.

The thing is that while the combination of history and garden and architecture was great fun for both the gardener and me, the desert leaves me cold (you know what I mean). I can’t blame Carrara’s wife for not budging from San Francisco. Are you KIDDING me? What was he thinking? We probably lucked out and got the last beautiful weather for the next three months or so. From now on it will be HOT.

On the other hand, plenty of people love the desert. Identify yourself right now!

And, like Tevye (I like musical theatre references), I can always repeat on the other hand: have you ever seen a bluer sky than ours?

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Filed under Essay, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, History, Lifestyle, Liminality, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

RIP Dreamland

When I was born in Kalamazoo, my paternal grandmother was the head fitter of the 28 Shop at Marshall Field and Company department store in Chicago. This was the big building at the corner of State and Washington; it filled the entire city block. The first floor, where jewelry and cosmetics were housed, looked as elegant as a palace and at Christmastime, the decor helped create the dream of the holiday for children and adults alike.

Marshall Field and Company
Christmas decor
image by Senor Codo

Grandma was a wiz with a needle and fitted the designer apparel and better fashion lines to wealthy women and to celebrities. Her favorite was Imogene Coca who she felt was a very gracious lady. One of her stories I regret remembering imperfectly was that a very famous movie star had deeply pocked skin and her makeup hid her skin condition from the public. If only I could recall who that was.

When Grandma retired, one of the gifts she received was perhaps incidental to her, but to me meant so much. It was the history of Marshall Field and the department store, called Give the Lady What She Wants.  I grew up among retailers. My dad the luggage store, my grandpa the gas station, and my great-grandfather a fish market and, later, a soda shop. One branch of relatives, the Mulders in Goes, Netherlands, owned a shop selling “paint and colonial goods” for years. A few years ago (not sure if it’s still the case) you could still make out the name Mulder on the building.

When the gardener and I were 23 we opened a small retail store in a mall and stayed in the business until I graduated with my MFA in writing and we moved away for further schooling for both of us.

Although neither of us has worked in retail for years, we have fond memories. In fact, I feel as if retail is in my blood. Maybe it’s the Mulders (and others) in my DNA, maybe it’s from when I “played store” as a kid.

So watching the decline of retail over the years has been devastating to me. It’s a phenomenon rarely talked about by people. But it’s like watching a slow suffering death of a beloved family member. And yet, of course, it’s not. They are no longer beloved because these stores have (for the most part) been long ago taken over by companies called equity firms that are all about the bottom line and not the ART and CREATIVITY and PASSION that goes into building good businesses.

Because these businesses no longer care about their customers, their customers (ex, current, or no-longer-potential) don’t care about them. But I care about them as ghosts of what once existed.

Every city had its landmark department store. Even Kalamazoo had Gilmore Brothers. Think of the department store or stores where you grew up. If you’re old enough, you probably have some fond memories. They could be wonderlands to visit, even if all you did was window shop. Or whisper your wants into Santa Claus’s ear or watch the parade around the time of Thanksgiving. They were a sort of Dreamland for many of us.

When I was in grad school, I loved reading literature about young women who worked at these stores. Carrie in Dreiser’s Sister Carrie and the real life Maimie Pinzer of The Maimie Papers were two of these books.

Is it a coincidence that Amazon and other internet vendors have increased and taken over much of the business from department stores at the same time that these stores have been taken over by equity firms? Or are the two events symbiotic, as in they have both helped each other to their end goals, which (to my mind) is the death of the department store?

The other day I read an article that declared that Macy’s was closing all its department stores and reopening as a discount company. Macy’s has been a cannibal, gobbling up one department store and department store chain after another–even including my beautiful Marshall Field store on State Street.  You can read the article here and weep.

I am getting weary mourning the loss of something so vital to our sense of community and a place of beauty. Weary because this suffering has been going on for a long time now and every time I hear a sputter or gasp it breaks my heart a little more.

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Filed under Essay, Family history, History, Nonfiction, Writing

Threads and Threading

Not sure the title will make sense even after you read the post. Nothing in here about sewing.

The wedding was lovely. Although the wind was strong at the time of the wedding, we were blessed with sun and a brilliant blue sky and the perfect temperature air.

It’s taken me some time to recover from the wedding, the travel, and all the hubbub leading up to the wedding. Mom was with us for a couple of weeks, but has now returned home.

The honeymooners return from the Bahamas tonight. Their restful “tourist time” was enhanced by the hospitality of a Bahamian family who invited them to their home for dinner.

In the meantime, the requisite number of pre-orders was made for Kin Types, so the book ought to go to press soon. You can still pre-order, though, by following the link in the title.

I have been such a stick-in-the-mud with so much going on this winter that I haven’t had any readings and haven’t written for some time. I started to feel far away from Doll God, so I read it again and all the emotions and memories of events that are lodged in nooks and crannies of the poems came flooding back.

Perry is now out of his cage, loose in the room, but he is not used to the freedom yet. I had to make a couple little tents for him with sheets over a footstool and over a bench. He didn’t have a tent for one night, and I found that he had threaded his little blankie through the center of the footstool to make a wall for protection. The photo shows you what I mean.

This started me on the tent-making idea. I threw a sheet over this ottoman. Later, Perry showed that likes it if I lie on the floor and read and sing up close to the sheet. Then he lies on the other side of the sheet with his face pretty close to mine.

Gorgeous Moe and Maverick are still looking for a home. They love to play and are desperate for a rescue, if you know anybody in Arizona!

Moe

On another note, why do people think my choice of music is so odd? My new daughter’s mom and I were getting our hair and makeup done by the professionals in the bride’s hotel room for the wedding. Old Billy Currington music was on the CD player. I said, “This is one of my absolutely favorite songs!” Every person in the room said, “No! It isn’t!”

 

Oh YES, it is! I can listen to this song 30 times, and it still isn’t enough.

On the way home from California, the gardener, Mom, and I were listening to the radio and “Good Direction” came on again. I said, “I LOVE this song! It’s one of my favorites.”

Mom said, “NO, it isn’t! This is not one of your favorite songs.”

WHAT???????!!!!

So, the post title. Threads and Threading. All these threads I tried to tie up here for you: the wedding, Perry, my new chapbook, etc. And threading: what Perry did with his baby blanket. Heh. Well, at least I left you with a great song!

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Filed under Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Doll God, Kin Types, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing

Memories Made and Kept

I’ve been a lot of things in my life: daughter, sister, girlfriend, wife, mother, student, and teacher, just to name a few. Add poet, writer, and crazy cat lady. Now I can add mother-in-law! I hope I won’t be like that one in the old Herman’s Hermits song (“the worst person I know”).

My son and his fiancée got hitched over the weekend, thus giving me a beautiful new daughter. The ceremony was in Laguna Beach, California, with most of the wedding-goers digging their toes in the beach sand.

As you can imagine, I #amnotwriting, but have been #traveling and #celebrating.

I try to be stoic or to keep it light when I can, so I was unprepared for the tears and the joy I felt at my son’s transformation into a married man and at gaining such a lovely and thoughtful daughter.

My new daughter and my son had asked me to write a poem for the “memorial table” she had planned for the celebration. They framed photographs of the grandparents who have passed away, including my father and both my in-laws. I asked for information about her grandparents so I could incorporate them into the poem.

Before Us

 

Those who have come and gone

before us

leave their imprint

in the details. Oil paint

and canvas, camera

always at hand

to memorize those they care for,

the stacks of photo albums,

offerings left behind.

Daily steak dinners for

beloved pets. Advice

offered with grace. Wartime

service, a sense

of humor and a sense

of duty born of justice.

Born of freedom.

Born of love.

All this, and so much more,

from those who have come

And gone before us.

I was thrilled when my new daughter gave me a necklace and a card with a poem for me that she had written.

How my father would have loved to be at the wedding!

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Filed under Lifestyle, Sightseeing & Travel