Category Archives: Writing

Is It Really a Choice Between Twitter and Poetry?

In April, for Poetry Month, the LA Times ran an OP-ED by Lori Anne Ferrell, who is the director of Claremont Graduate University’s Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and Kate Tufts Discovery Award. These are giants in the world of poetry awards. Ferrell’s piece argues that poetry is complex and cannot be reduced. She argues that we should all find a poem that startles us with its “lasting truths.” She wants us to put our favorite poems in our pockets. She speaks very well for poetry and for the month of poetry.

You can read the article here: A Book of Poetry That’s Worth $100,000, And So Much More

Near the end of the short piece, Ferrell suggests something she calls revolutionary: that we quit Twitter and send a poem to someone we disagree with. She thinks poetry will span the divide between us. What she seems to hope for is akin to what I felt Tony Walsh did in his poem “This is The Place” about Manchester.

At first, I took her quite literally. Yeah, I should stop wasting so much time on the internet. On Twitter, yes, but also Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even WordPress. Maybe not Goodreads ;). After all, it makes sense, right? Every minute spent online is a minute that could be spent reading a poem or sending someone else a poem.

But then I wondered who I would send a poem to and it led me to think about the difference between Ferrell’s life and mine. She is a humanities professor on campus at a graduate university. I work at home and live a split personality existence, helping run our business and writing creatively.

Maybe you, like me, work from home. Maybe you don’t and you have a vast network of coworkers. If you work from home, you don’t see too many people on a regular basis. But you might correspond and communicate regularly using the internet and even social media.  If you have coworkers, but unlike Ferrell, don’t work in a field that automatically values poetry or novels or painting or photography (whatever your art, there are commonalities between them all), you still might find the need to communicate online with others who do.

So why would you quit your “Twitter feed”? Or WordPress or Facebook or whatever forum you most value? I sure don’t want to be that isolated. I want to talk to people about what I care about.

And as for sending a poem to someone: Since the postal service is a declining service, most people will choose email to send a poem. Last time I checked, emails were part of our online world.

NEVERTHELESS,

It is true that reading well-written poetry and prose adds a richness to our lives that we can’t get from Twitter. And it doesn’t provoke anxiety in the same way either. (Don’t tell me social media doesn’t give you anxiety, at least some of the time).

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Perry took his first dose of deworming medicine a week ago. He takes the 2nd dose in another week. In the meantime, he’s shut up in a bedroom with a view of birds, lizards, snakes, and bunnies. Although I still don’t pet him, if I reach out my “paw” to him, he reciprocates by touching it with his own paw. Then he gets excited and stretches and rolls on his back.

Look at how his paw pads have changed in the past two months!

 It’s been so hot in Arizona (up to 120.8 one day) that he must be so relieved to be inside in the air conditioning and with a clean water bowl.

Writing was set aside for the past week so that I could focus on all the work I needed to do for Perry on top of my regular work. But I hope to be #amwriting this week! What do you plan to do for yourself this week?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, Essay, National Poetry Month, Poetry, Reading, social media, Writing

The Real Story of Tiny and Catharina

 

baby Tiny

Teeny Tiny: last summer

 

Remember Tiny the magpie? And the love of his life, Tina? And remember Catharina who patiently observed the pair and reported on their goings-on? Check out the story here if you missed that post.

After writing about Catharina and Tiny, I wondered what was going on with Tiny and Tina and would periodically email Catharina to find out.  You might have wondered yourself how they were faring.

Now you can read the whole story of Tiny and Tina and of Catharina, too, in Fly Wings, Fly High!.What you might not realize is that Catharina had a stroke (at quite a young age) and began her recovery around the time that young Tiny was trying to learn how to deal with his screwed-up wing.

MY REVIEW

Catherine Lind’s narrative about her recovery from a stroke is threaded with the story of a wild magpie Lind observes struggling to fly with a deformed wing. Tiny, as Lind names the bird that lives in her yard, works very hard at learning to fly. Lind is inspired as she watches Tiny for months as he keeps trying to fly–first a few feet, then from a little “jungle gym” Lind creates for him, and then to the apple tree to eat the fruit.

Lind finds that Tiny is ever hopeful and persistent. When he tries to land, he isn’t graceful and crashes over and over. Each time, he picks himself up and tries again. He is never downhearted, and he never gives up. But it’s not so easy for Lind who has always prided herself on her skill with words. They are her livelihood and her portal to the world. When the stroke knocks out half her vocabulary in both English and Swedish, she can only communicate by speaking a combination of both languages. Sometimes it seems as if she will never recover.

Watching Tiny’s determination and good spirits, Lind decides to follow his lead and work intensely on her skills by singing, hand exercises, and eventually, telling elaborate stories aloud about Tiny and his life. Reading Fly Wings, Fly High! taught me a great deal about what it is like to experience a stroke, and I was comforted and intrigued by the extraordinary tale of Tiny, whose influence on Lind’s life has been enormous. My life has been enriched by reading this charming story told by a very talented storyteller.

MORE INFO

Catharina’s book is short, like a novella—either a very short novel or a long short story. It’s available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

I so enjoyed the loving detail of the natural world and the animals found within. When I was a kid I loved books that paid attention to this world (Gene Stratton Porter and Louisa May Alcott both managed this accomplishment at times), but I’ve moved away from it as an adult. What a wonderful experience to inhabit that world again.

Additionally, learning about the effects of a stroke from the inside out was fascinating; I’ve never read anything quite like Catharina’s experience.

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Yesterday I washed sweet Perry’s bedding and a hairball fell onto the floor. It had WORMS coming out of it. Right after we began fostering him I took his poo to the vet and paid $ to have it tested at the lab. Must have been at a certain point in the life cycle where it doesn’t show up because this hairball is just jammed with worms. I am being so nice to you not to show it to you. Heh. My stomach is still heaving a little. But imagine how bad his tummy has hurt all this time!

I did work on the galleys for Kin Types. That was fun, but a little difficult with my cataracts. Sigh.

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Filed under Book Review, Cats and Other Animals, Family history, Inspiration, Kin Types, Memoir, Nonfiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Reading, Writing, Writing Talk

Goodreads No Social Media Time Suck

Are you a reader? I suspect if you’re a blog reader then you do consider yourself to be a reader.

And if you’re a reader, are you on Goodreads? If you are, great. If you haven’t done so already, FRIEND me here:

Then read the list below and tell me what else I missed that Goodreads offers to readers.

If you’re not yet on Goodreads, let me tell you what I like about it. It can be a very social media. You can choose to join lots of groups and chat about all kinds of books and book issues.  If you don’t find the group you want, you can create and moderate one.

But if you don’t want to be that social, you can choose your comfort level—anywhere from social butterfly to recluse.

What else can you do on Goodreads

  • When you hear about a book you want to read in the future, you can add it to your to-read list.
  • Your own personal reading lists will keep you organized. At any time, you can look up what you have already read and see which books you are “currently reading,” but have forgotten about (I’ve misplaced the book or forgotten I was in the middle of one on Kindle—don’t ask). Organization can be by genre.
  • Book reviews by other Goodreads readers will give you an idea if you want to read a book or not.
  • Your own book reviews will remind you later of what you liked or didn’t like—and allow you to interact with others about any book you choose. They will also reward a writer whose book you really appreciated. If you already leave book reviews on Amazon, you can post the exact same review both places.
  • Friends will send you book recommendations.
  • Take a reading challenge.
  • Follow your favorite blogs through Goodreads.
  • When you’re busy, you can just ignore Goodreads; it won’t mind.
  • Book giveaways are super easy to enter, and you have a good chance of winning. How do I know? I have won!
  • You can follow or friend writers and correspond with them through public questions or personal messages.
  • Occasionally there are book-related gigs available.
  • Need a quote? Find them here.
  • Quizzes, author pages, and creative writing opportunities are on Goodreads.

Those of you already on the site, what do you like best about Goodreads?

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Kin Types had an original release date of June 23, 2017, but I got an email from the publisher. They are running five weeks behind. So don’t look for your copy until the end of July or first week of August! I’m so sorry for the delay. !@#$%^&*()

In the better news category, Doll God was reviewed by an academic critic in a print journal Pleiades Book Review 14:2.

Christine Butterworth-McDermott:  “Dolls, Freaks, Art: American Poets Creating a New Mythology.”

Butterworth-McDermott’s article is a feminist reading of Doll God. I love how she connected with the doll and fairy tale poems in the book. She also reviews two other books, by Susan Swartwout and Denise Alvarez, in the same piece. At the end, she says, “Readers should read and reread the works of Castle, Swartwout, and Alvarez, finding new ways of looking at the world each time.”

Since I haven’t been writing lately I started Diane Lockward’s poetry craft book, The Crafty Poet III am writing a few very rough drafts based on exercises in the book. It’s a good way to get started again.

I like my books and flowers in large quantity!

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Review, Books, Kin Types, Publishing, Reading, Writing

Introducing Rebecca Faye Smith Galli, Author of Rethinking Possible: A Memoir of Resilience

Meet Rebecca Faye Smith Galli, the author of Rethinking Possible (She Writes Press, June 2017), a memoir that is Galli’s response to living in the wake of extraordinary losses.

Becky (I need to call her by the name I know her by) and I met a few years ago in writing workshops in the Stanford University online writing certificate program where we were cohorts in the creative nonfiction track. In class and in her column and blog, Becky inspires. Although I have read parts of Becky’s story, I am eager to read Rethinking Possible and to learn more about Becky’s unique life and her strength and determination.

Here is a brief bio from Rethinking Possible‘s press kit that sums up why Becky is perfectly positioned to write a story about extraordinary loss, grief, and resilience.

Rebecca Faye Smith Galli was born into a family
that valued the power of having a plan. Her 1960s
southern upbringing was idyllic—even enviable. But
life does not always go according to plan, and when
her 17-year-old brother died in a waterskiing accident,
the slow unraveling of her perfect family began.
There was her son’s degenerative, undiagnosed
disease and subsequent death; her daughter’s autism
diagnosis; her separation; and then, nine days after
the divorce was final, the onset of the transverse
myelitis that would leave Galli paralyzed from the
waist down. Despite such devastating tragedy, Galli
maintained her belief in family, in faith, in loving
unconditionally, and in learning to not only accept,
but also embrace a life that had veered down a path
far different from the one she had envisioned.

Look at that sunny smile on Becky’s face. And those gold boots! Wowza!

I pre-ordered Becky’s book a couple of months ago, but Friday Amazon wrote and asked me if I still wanted it. UM, YES!!!! So I hope it will be arriving soon! In the meantime, I asked Becky some questions that had been on my mind while she’s been working on the book.

*Writing a memoir means that the writer has to put herself back into the events she is writing about. Many writers find this very challenging emotionally. As you wrote about so many losses that you have experienced, did you consciously protect yourself in some way during the writing process? How did you cope with reliving the losses?

You are so right. The pain was intense, often relived more than once through the edits. Two things helped me:

 Structure: When I wrote about deep loss in the early stages, I would block off two to three days on my calendar and binge write. I prepared healthy meals ahead (tuna salad, grilled chicken, and tons of boiled eggs), stocked up on my favorite not-so-healthy snacks (Lance cheese crackers, Reese’s® peanut butter cups, and peanut M&M’s), and made sure I had plenty of water, coffee, and green tea. I took breaks, often setting alarms to make sure I got out of the house to walk the dog, grab the mail, or sit on the deck for a change of scenery.

Support: My sister was my anchor. She knew my writing schedule and exactly what I was writing about each day. I would check in with her in the morning and then ask her to call me at the end of the day. She would often help me remember details or give me her point of view about the same scene. Counting on her call and hearing her voice helped me time-block the intensity. It’s amazing what we can endure when we know it is for a finite period of time.

***

*You and I met in the writing program at Stanford. We learned that memoir is both the retelling of the experience and the reflection upon that experience: “What does it mean to me? What did I learn from it? How did it shape who I am today?” So how does reflection figure into Rethinking Possible? What form does it take and how much a part of the book is it?

Reflection is key to the book; in fact, it is baked in its message of “rethinking possible.” Through the years, I’d found comfort and inspiration from many sources so I decided to begin each chapter with a quote, inviting reflection relevant to the chapter’s topic.

Then, the reader witnesses the transformation of “character Becky” through her own self-reflection. After each loss, she reacts, revolts, and is unwilling to accept the unwanted realities about herself or the circumstances that she is facing. She was raised to be a winner, a competitor. She did not like to lose. Through each challenge, the reader sees her stubbornness, her self-absorption, even her arrogant self-righteousness. They also see her pain, her bold questioning, and unvarnished self-doubts:

Why me?

Why my brother?

Why my child?

Why my divorce?

Have I become unlovable?

Yet, she does not give up.

Her stubbornness becomes a steadfast determination as she pursues the closely-knit family life she experienced before her brother’s death. Through this honest self-reflection she discovers how to rethink what’s possible, accepting not only the circumstance, but what she has learned about herself.

Without reflection, an assessment of “what is” based on “what was,” we limit our perspective, our capacity to grow, and our ability to fully engage in “rethinking” what is possible.

***

*Did you do any research for writing your book? Since it’s your own story you are telling, did it all come “from your head,” or was it necessary to read and look up information?

I relied heavily on my father’s book, Sit Down, God. . . I’m Angry for the details about my brother’s death. His vivid descriptions time-warped me back to the scene, but my memory had to kick in to recall my twenty-year-old mindset. After Matthew’s seizures, I began keeping a journal. It was the only way I could capture my spinning thoughts and put them to rest. Then in 1997, six months after my paralysis, a friend introduced me to the latest craze—the internet. Shortly after that, I reconnected with a high school friend through email who wanted an update on my life and my adjustments to paralysis. Our exchanges created an email journal that documented nearly twenty years of experiences and reflections and were the basis for my newspaper column career. Still, I googled for details like the make/model of car we loaded up and packed for vacation when I was six years old, song lyrics, and the exact kind of workout gear I sported in 1981.

***

*Through reading your thought-provoking columns and blog, I see you as a woman of strong Christian faith who was very influenced by her pastor father. Do you think your book speaks to others who have experienced losses who are not themselves religious or who come from other religious traditions?

Great question! I do! The philosophy that, “Life can be good, no matter what,” is based on a commitment to find the good in our circumstance. Again, that takes tremendous and sustained effort. For me, my faith is my fuel. My belief system sustains me, grounds me, and gives me a confidence that there will always be something to hope for. However, no matter what your belief system, we must first accept our circumstance before we can “rethink” what is possible in it. Resilient living depends on it.

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*Do you have hopes or goals for what readers will take away from reading Rethinking Possible? 

I hope Rethinking Possible will offer encouragement and hope to those who have loved deeply and lost dearly. At its core, I think resilience translates into a foundation of hope. Yet hope is a tricky emotion. It can be wonderfully sustaining, but it can also be exhausting.

In my book, I talk about the benefit of pursuing parallel paths after loss, especially when the future is uncertain. Sometimes it’s helpful to pursue hope and reality at the same time. Often what we hope for just isn’t possible. The key to resilience, at least for me, is to temper hope with reality. In essence, resilience is a process of constantly rethinking what is possible after we have accepted a new reality.

I truly believe that life can be good, no matter what. However, “can” is the most important word. After significant losses, it often takes tremendous and sustained effort to find hope within a newly-defined reality. After reading Rethinking Possible, I’d love for the reader to feel like it’s worth the effort.

***

From what I have read of Becky’s writing, the reader will definitely feel that it’s worth the effort to read Rethinking Possible.

You can join Becky for her Thoughtful Thursdays where she shares what’s inspired her to stay positive that week.

She’s on social media as @chairwriter.

Rethinking Possible can be ordered on Kindle right now and the paperback will ship starting on June 9.

 

 

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Filed under Book promotion, Books, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing Talk

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

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

Creating a Media Kit

Are you planning to publish a book soon or in the distant future? (If you’re looking for a Perry update, you’ll find it at the end ;)). Also, pre-orders for Kin Types must be in by Thursday. Pre-order HERE.

Finishing Line Press has been very good about providing sample materials for promotional purposes. Because of their help, I felt that I had the tools to put together a media kit, as they suggested.

I thought I would share a list of the component parts that go into a media kit.

The first page is a cover image of Kin Types with “Press Contact” information. This info consists of:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Website address

You might want to include a telephone number, but it is also suggested that the media kit be available through your website. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my phone number that available.

Look at what I’ve listed. Address. Do you want your address on there? I found the same question came up when I was listed with Poets & Writers. But we have a post office box that we use for business, so I use that for writing business. If you don’t have a post office box, you might want to consider getting one now.

You probably already have more than one email address, but if you don’t, you might want one that is expressly for writing or at least doesn’t have too much spam going into it.

Do you have a website-website or is it your blog? Either is fine–just make sure that the address you use is going to remain the same for the next couple of years at least.

After the front page of the media kit, you will have a TABLE OF CONTENTS, and the table of contents will include these items

  • Biography
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Press Release
  • Reviews
  • Blurbs
  • Interviews

Your biography should be a few short paragraphs long and just cover the main points, especially as relates to your writing and perhaps your specialization in something related to your topic of writing. On my biography page I first put my new headshot taken by Renee Rivers and then my three paragraph bio. Sometimes people use funny bios that show the writer’s sense of humor, but not much else. I think these are meant to show that the writer doesn’t have a big head. Personally, I don’t much like those. That sort of thing is for a Twitter description, not a bio that is meant to encapsulate your experience as a writer.

The bio takes time to craft. If you haven’t written one for yourself yet, there is no time like the present. Write it in 3rd person, not first. You can keep revising it as you get publications or something major changes in your life, but it helps to have one ready-to-go. And you need it to submit to magazines and journals, agents, etc. So I think writing your bio is your first assignment ;). The best way to begin is to look at other writers’ bios as models.

Next up is the Curriculum Vitae–or CV as it’s usually called. Are you Googling it yet? hahahaha Kind of like chapbook or feral cat, really. Most of the world uses the word RESUME. But in academics and the literary world, CV is what it’s called.

The format for a CV is slightly different than a resume, and the biggest difference IMO is that a resume is supposed to be pretty short so you don’t wear out somebody who is considering hiring you. But in a CV long is where it’s at. Because long shows that you’ve done a lot of stuff. And for writers that means publishing a lot. On a CV, you list alllllll your publications, except for maybe that fairy tale you wrote when you were seven. Since most writers making a media kit for the first time won’t  have a long list of publications, what are they to do? I just wouldn’t put in the thing. Who cares? The media kit is what the writer chooses to make it, after all.  If your CV isn’t your strength, don’t use it.

!But I have a question for genre writers: do you use a CV for agents or for media kits?

Next is the Press Release. But I haven’t done that yet, so I have no advice!

Then there are reviews. I only have one advance review, written by Carla McGill. Thank you, Carla! After Kin Types is published I hope to get more reviews and can then add some to the media kit.

I have two blurbs for Kin Types, from Justin Hamm and Carol Bachofner. I’ve included them both on the same page. Doll God has three blurbs, but that seemed fitting because it was a full-length book.

Until two weeks ago, I didn’t have an interview for the media kit, but then Marie from 1WriteWay interviewed me, so now I do. Thank you, Marie!

Now you see the things you have to start to think about ahead of time: lining up reviews, interviews, writing a biography, and so on. And I originally thought all I had to do was write and tweet about it!

If you are experienced at creating a media kit, I would love to hear your thoughts.

###

Perry update: he loves tuna juice, which is the water from the can of tuna. It’s just a once in a blue moon treat as I don’t believe in giving cats too much fish. Fish is a secret ingredient in far too many cat foods, and fish can cause serious health problems if it’s too big a part of the diet.

Also, I am starting to train him with little pieces of turkey. When he actually takes it out of my hand I will open his cage door so he can go in and out in the room. At least that is my plan at this point.

Perry lets me come fairly near to him. He seems more and more calm and less frightened, but I don’t feel he is ready for me to try to touch him.

Here he is on the upper level of his 3 story cage house

From the gardener: peppers are ripening so he figured out a way to dry them outside. He didn’t want to dry them inside because they could makes the cats sick.

There are 3 or so more days left to pre-order Kin Types at this  link.

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Filed under Book promotion, Kin Types, National Poetry Month, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – Doll God by Luanne Castle

A big thank you to Sally Cronin for putting DOLL GOD on the shelf at Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore! It’s in great company, and I’m thrilled to be one of Sally’s authors!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to the first of the New on the Shelves posts this week and today it is poet Luanne Castle and her debut collection, award winning Doll God that explores the emotion that we invest in inanimate objects, some of which have been created in our own image.

About Doll God

Winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Doll God, studies traces of the spirit world in human-made and natural objects–a Japanese doll, a Palo Verde tree, a hummingbird. Her exploration leads the reader between the twin poles of nature and creations of the imagination in dolls, myth, and art.

“Every day the world subtracts from itself,” Luanne Castle observes. Her wonderfully titled collection, Doll God, with its rich and varied mix of poems part memoir, part myth and tale, shimmers as it swims as poetry is meant to, upstream against the loss.
Stuart Dybek, MacArthur Fellow and author…

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book promotion, Books, Doll God, National Poetry Month, poems about dolls, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing