Sunday, March 22, 2015

Magical Thinking

Spring is here, but we seem to be buried in endless winter up in Vermont. We got a little excited last week when the thermometer shot up to forty degrees for a nanosecond, but tonight we are once again looking at subzero. Yesterday I decided to try a little practical magic, sometimes referred to by the less whimsical as positive thinking.
     I banished my embarrassingly  large collection of heavy sweaters to the off-season closet. I did hold out a couple of older ones for snow-shoeing, but anything with a reindeer or a snowflake was packed away. Instead I pulled out a cotton sweater; a favorite with a French sailor vibe. I wrapped a lovely floral scarf around my neck and assured myself that I looked rather wonderful. I swanned around the house for about fifteen minutes before I had to pull on a faux fur vest so that I wasn't freezing. Now the vibe was French sailor being attacked by multiple groundhogs, but at least I was finally warm. (Not one to let reality get in the way, today's sweater is the same one I've been known to wear on chilly summer days. Once I've written this, I'm going to grab that vest and warm up a bit.)
     In my novel Glory Days, Glory is something of a master at magical thinking, as are many children. She's yearned for a father her whole life and her hope has never flagged. After all, didn't the fancy red shoes show up when she wanted them?

Glory ran around to the front of her house, but Elmo Robinson's car wasn't there. She ran towards the library, all the time hoping and praying that he'd be inside. Halfway there she stopped and tore the red shoes off of her feet. They'd been too tight for over a month now, but she hated not to wear them. It had seemed ungrateful somehow, like tossing away a gift or the ability of to saw a woman in half. But now they were just slowing her down and she couldn't let that happen because the rest of her felt as fast as lightening.
     As she turned the last corner she saw the two of  them coming out of the library with their arms around each other. Elmo, even though it was the middle of the day and he didn't even know who might be watching, kissed her mama right on the mouth and ran his hands up inside her hair, which for some reason was no longer in a braid. Something about that hair being down made her one-hundred-percent, 'A'-plus-with-a-star certain that she finally was getting a daddy.
     She squinted up at the sun. She wasn't sure, but she thought she saw it dancing.

Glory Days, A Twist of Light and Careful Mistakes are published by Little, Brown UK and available as e-books internationally. 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Common Currency

I grew up in a medium-sized city and for as long as I can recall, I yearned for life in a small village where I could really get to know my neighbors. It wasn't until we moved to East Hardwick, Vermont that I realized how much I could learn about our neighbors with very little effort on my part. Within a three month period I had been told the biographies and genealogies of at least two dozen of our fellow residents. In turn, I found myself sharing my story with anyone who asked, even if my story is enough to make make almost anyone's eyes glaze over. Gossip is an unpleasant word, but information is still the common currency here and one of the great pleasures of village life.

In my novel Glory Days, Dr. Gorman has been dead over thirty years, but there is still talk about how he first came to town.

Whatever his reason for leaving the house to his children, he'd left them the biggest, finest house in the whole town. It was the only house with two stories and it was set back on a lot that was big enough to hold three or four houses. Grandpa Gorman's own daddy had won the house in a poker game. He'd never lived in it because he'd been shot on the way home from that same poker game.
     His young wife had moved herself and her son into the house a few hours after she'd buried her husband. There had been some grumbling about it at the time because she'd cut short the funeral lunch as she was so anxious to move into the grand house with its ten rooms, wraparound porch, and indoor privy.
     The grumbling didn't stop when the young widow started putting on what were thought to be airs. Most of the people in town remembered when she'd come to town with her late husband. Neither one of them had been too ready to talk about where they were from. When asked about who their people were, the young couple would come up with one or two names that didn't mean anything to anyone who heard them. Some people in the town suspected they were no-accounts and hadn't been afraid to say just that.
     For a while the grumbling got pretty loud. The Widow Gorman issued invitations, but they were politely, if firmly, refused. She joined the Presbyterian Church and even started singing in the choir. This was a cause concern until Easter morning when she sang 'The Old Rugged Cross' and there was hardly a dry eye in the pews. Most people realized that a woman who could sing like that must be a good Christian and a fine mother. People began to notice what a fine job she was doing with her young son and how nice the yard looked at the big house. The townspeople cane to see that what had appeared to be putting on airs was merely a reflection of the young widow's true nature.
     She was a hard worker and her boy was the best-dressed child in school. She saw to that by sitting up late into the night, carefully sewing his smart yet sturdy clothes. Within a few month, what with the late-night sewing, which she did in front of the window that looked onto the street where people would see her doing it, and singing in the choir, which she did better than anyone could ever remember, she became a respected member of the community.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je Suis Charlie? Hell yes.

I read this morning that je suis Charlie was already being printed on the tea towels and aprons.  The inevitable backlash has started with no doubt valid concerns about insincerity and commercialization, but I can't help but feel that I have a dog in this fight and quite frankly, je suis Charlie.
      The writers, the artists, the thinkers and innovators are the Charlies.  Yes, Charlie Hebdo often crossed the lines of propriety, political correctness and good taste, but art and creativity have never been about propriety, political correctness and good taste.  In my personal life I'm frightfully polite, thoughtful in my words and actions, known for my good taste in clothes and interiors, but those are my conscious choices.  In my writing life, my characters are often people who wouldn't know good taste or thoughtfulness if it hit them across their fucking heads.  (Yes, I wrote fucking.  I thought about it for a few beats, but since this is about expression, I shall write any fucking thing I want.)
      Life is messy, chaotic, fraught, sometimes obscene and it is the function of art to reflect that life.  Writers and artists not only have a right to examine life as we see it, we have a duty to do so. 
      I am je suis Charlie and honored to be so.