It’s time to take another peek at the items on my bookshelf! I’m having so much fun with this series, and I hope you are enjoying it. Has it encouraged you to go to your bookshelves and rediscover the books you own?
My husband purchased this hardback copy of Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, edited by Madeleine Stern with stories by Louisa May Alcott. This beautiful Christmas gift thrilled me, as I had never heard of the four stories.
Some of the stories in the book were published anonymously or under the name A.M. Barnard. The stories included are: “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment,” “The Mysterious Key,” “The Abbot’s Ghost,” and “Behind a Mask.”
Six years before she wrote Little Women, Louisa May Alcott was in financial straits. She entered “Pauline’s Passion and Punishment,” a novelette, in a newspaper contest. She published it anonymously, and it won the $100 prize. The subsequent “blood and thunder” tales she published would provide her livelihood for years.
I’ve been enamored with Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Less Masters since high school. A teacher read parts of the book to my class, and I found it to be a unique method of telling a story. The stories unfold in a series of epitaphs.
I’ve since purchased the audiobook, and I love to play it in the car for friends who’ve never read it. They are instantly drawn into the tragic and scandalous tales of the people buried in little Spoon River.
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong is a new addition to my bookshelf. If you haven’t done it yet, you should scoot over and give a listen to my podcast. I review this book and share news about the second book in the new trilogy.
Whenever my eyes fall upon Joint Mission by D. Gary Berube, I smile and instantly remember the author. He was my high school janitor. I was a reporter for the high school newspaper, and a teacher thought Mr. Berube’s story would make an interesting article.
Mr. Berube didn’t look like other janitors. His long hair fell just below his shirt collar, and he wore jeans and short-sleeved plaid shirts. I always thought he looked as though he were headed out to a concert. He was easy-going and kind. I remember how tickled he was when I interviewed him for the paper.
He autographed this copy he gave me, and I’ve always cherished it. The cover and internal illustrations are his work, too.
I’ve started a new Instagram project for the books I own. I’m taking a photo a day of my books, hoping to both inventory them and inspire others to pick up a book that they may never have considered reading.
I own a lot of books, and this becomes painfully apparent every time I move. I lived in one house for thirteen years, and in the past three years, I’ve moved three times. The first move was cross country. The second move was two hours away, and the last one was across town. My books have taken up the majority of the boxes involved in those moves. Some girls hoard shoes and clothes, but I simply love my books.
I confess that I haven’t read all of the books I own. I own duplicates of certain titles because I have either fooled myself into thinking that I don’t own the title, or I just fell in the love with the cover of the book. It really is an affliction, but considering the variety of issues I could have, I’m content to be the woman with a constant back pain due to the moving of her book collection.
I started my project with A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. This is my college copy. It is highlighted, underlined, and well-loved. Every time I look at this book, I’m reminded of Woolf’s suicide and the great literary loss the world suffered with her passing.
I stumbled across this reading of her suicide note, and I’m haunted by the imagery and sense of desperation her words evoke. I know some people feel her letter should not be available for public consumption, but I disagree. The last words penned by this great author deserve to be remembered. This rare glimpse into the true composition of a writer is breathtakingly beautiful and harrowing.
from A Room of One’s Own:
“All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point–a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.”
I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have three stand-alone copies of The House of Seven Gables, and two are the same paperback edition. I’m sure I have other copies of his work in my anthologies.
“Half-way down a by-street of one of our New England towns, stands a rusty wooden house, with seven acutely-peaked gables, facing towards various points of the compass, and a huge, clustered chimney in the midst.”
I love this paperback edition of Carrie by Stephen King. I haven’t watched the movie since I was a small child, but I’m adding it to my Halloween cue this year. Whenever I think of Carrie, I think of Sissy Spacek’s portrayal of the character. She did a wonderful job bringing this tortured soul to the screen.
“Then the laughter, disgusted, contemptuous, horrified, seemed to rise and bloom into something jagged and ugly, and the girls were bombarding her with tampons and sanitary napkins, some from purses, some from the broken dispenser on the wall. They flew like snow and the chant became: ‘Plug it up, plug it up, plug it up, plug it—‘”
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling was a featured book at my local library. At the time that I read it, there wasn’t much buzz in the United States about the series, and I felt as though I’d found a great little gem of a book. I told my husband that I really liked the book, and he read it and liked it, too.
Our local Borders bookstore (how can they be gone?) held parties for those who had pre-ordered the new titles in the series. It was great fun to stand in line with other readers who had fallen in love with Harry Potter. That excitement started with this book.
“‘Hagrid,’ he said quietly, ‘I think you must have made a mistake. I don’t think I can be a wizard.'”
Immortal Poems of the English Language: 447 British and American Masterpieces by 150 Poets an anthology edited by Oscar Williams.
This little beauty of a book was published in 1960 and was available for purchase at sixty cents! There are so many beautiful poems in this book. Below is one of my favorites.
“How Do I Love Thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight.
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints–I love with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”] The Old Writer: Working on the Ending[/typography]
The first program I attended was with authors Gail Godwin and Rob Neufeld. I haven’t read either of their works, but once they said they were from Asheville, North Carolina, I felt right at home. I have an innate ability to be drawn to anyone or anything that speaks of Asheville.
I loved hearing Ms. Godwin speak and read from her work. Further, any writer who takes a photo with her cats rolling around and commanding attention from the camera is someone I’d want to know. I anticipate I’ll learn more about Ms. Godwin, as I have her Making of a Writer: Journals 1961-1963 in my summer reading cue.
Rob Neufeld is a writer and editor. He edited both volumes of Ms. Godwin’s The Making of a a Writer: The Journals of Gail Godwin. He provided insight into the works of Ms. Godwin, explaining that her journals were never written to be published, that they were indeed true journals filled with private thoughts, dreams, and personal interactions throughout her life. He revealed that Ms. Godwin is dedicated to writing in her journal; she fills 800 pages a year.
As I entered the room for the next program, I overheard two teenage boys talking about Ms. Godwin. They enjoyed listening to her, but once she was introduced as having studied with Kurt Vonnegut, they had hoped she would elaborate on the time spent with Vonnegut. I silently nodded in agreement. I would have loved to hear a few of those stories myself.
[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]”Women of Action: Strong Female Characters” [/typography]
The trio on the next panel spoke about the need for fictional female characters to possess both strength and intelligence. Each author spoke about how they tackled the idea in their own books.
Jeremy Whitley, author of the Princeless comic series, created a self-empowered princess who’s tired of waiting to be rescued by others. As a father, Mr. Whitley wants his daughter to be inspired by the characters that she reads about, and for him, that means creating a strong female character that isn’t waiting for a prince to arrive and set her world straight.
Suzanne Kamata, author of Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible, spoke of the way in which a female character can possess strength while having her vulnerabilities and weaknesses displayed to the reader. Ms. Kamata’s own daughter, who has cerebral palsy and is deaf, was the inspiration for Gadget Girl. The female protagonist, Aiko Cassidy, also has cerebral palsy, and through her story, Ms. Kamata presents the honest journey of a character who is liberated by her art.
The audience for this panel was very interesting, as the ages of the audience members ranged from teenagers to seniors. One senior lady spoke up and said that she loved to read about strong female characters because in her day, “girls weren’t allowed to even sweat.”
[typography font=”Covered By Your Grace” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]A Conroy Family Roundtable[/typography]
I was fortunate to grab a seat in the crowded room that housed the roundtable discussion with Pat Conroy and his siblings. Moderator Aida Rogers asked the family questions about their youth, their parents, and of course, what is like to have Pat Conroy as a brother. I felt as though I were sitting with old friends, as Jim, Mike, Pat, Tim, and sister Kathy Harvey entertained the crowd with their stories. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw the program on the schedule, but I loved it.
It is a rare event where fans get to experience a beloved author in such an unguarded and familial setting. The intimacy of the hour felt surreal, and I’m certain I’ll never experience such an event like this at any future festival. Watching the five of them reminisce over their shared past and joke with one another as their authentic personalities bloomed before us was a moment I’ll always treasure.
After the program, the family was available to sign Mr. Conroy’s books. I didn’t initially get in line, as it was quite long, and I had a long drive ahead of me. I paused before leaving the building and returned to find the line had shortened and reprimanded myself for thinking I should leave without meeting Mr. Conroy. I shook off my shyness and got in line to have my well-loved copy of The Prince of Tides signed.
It was a great honor to meet and shake hands with Pat Conroy. He and his brothers and sister Kathy were so personable and friendly, and they can’t help but make everyone they encounter feel like an instant friend. I’ve met a number of celebrities, and I’m never impressed by pretentious personalities. The genuineness of the family was endearing, and it only served to solidify my admiration for Mr. Conroy.
I will confess that I didn’t participate in my usual routine of cleaning my hands with antibacterial hand soap. I came home and rubbed my “Pat Conroy hand” all over my computer, pens, notebooks, and cat. Yes, even the cat. I’m hoping I absorbed a tiny inkling of Mr. Conroy’s greatness. Don’t judge me; writers must do whatever is necessary to help keep the inspiration train returning to the station, and if believing in the power of a few mixed skin cells achieves that goal, I’m all for it.
The book festival was great fun. I loved the people I met, especially the fellow readers and festival attendees. Seriously, everyone was greeted with a smile and a warm hello. The volunteers did an excellent job, and I look forward to future festivals.
The convention center is beautiful and easily accessible. Every meeting room was marked for easy navigation. The snack bar was a hit, and I was happy to see they offered a few vegan items, too!
Maybe I’ll see you next year at the Nineteenth Annual South Carolina Book Festival! Mark your calendars for May 15-17, 2015!
Columbia, known by its inhabitants as The City of Dreams, is the state capital and largest city in the State of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. The 2013 United States Census estimates put the city at 133,358. Source: Wikipedia
Tristan was our beloved and challenging middle dog. He was an intelligent Siberian Husky who believed he was the leader of our pack, and his dominance issues with our older dog always kept us on our toes.
In the last year of his life, he suffered from Canine Cognitive Disorder and had Degenerative Myelopathy. Essentially, he had a canine version of dementia, and he experienced weakness and instability in his hind quarters. We purchased a mobility cart for him, and he took off with a renewed spirit and vigor.
I was fortunate enough to be with him around the clock. Most days and nights passed with little sleep, as he was driven to pace and walk. I stayed right by his side as he rolled around the house. He was always the active dog, even in his senior years.
I learned so much from him in the fifteen years I was blessed to share with him. Among so many things, he taught me about forgiveness, patience, and of course, unconditional love. It is hard to imagine that it has been four years since I’ve buried my face in his furry neck. Time is a funny thing. It feels as though it were yesterday when I last held him, and yet in the same heartbeat, it feels like he’s been gone fifteen years.
If you read her words and walk away feeling smug or ambivalent, you have thoroughly missed the point. I don’t know Sarah personally, but she was one of the first online book launch parties I attended, and I found her to be funny and kind.
I hate that another person has found the lack of support from the rest of humanity to be the undercurrent that forces her to close the door on her creative efforts. I’ve written on this topic before, and as someone who knows what it is like to go it alone, it is a topic dear to my heart.
Some have read Sarah’s post and callously commented that she is just upset that she hasn’t become a bestselling author, and the detractors declared her “hide” not thick enough. These comments only validate her claims.
The words I read paint the picture of a woman who has worked diligently to follow her dreams, but she has realized that following that path doesn’t guarantee you success, happiness, fame, fortune, or friends. The meager pay and isolation that most experience just isn’t enough to keep working night and day to please an audience that may never be reached.
Independent artists are working harder than ever before, and it is physically and emotionally draining. The endless pull on our time and wallet can be overwhelming. If artists do not have that energy and expense replenished, they are forced to choose between the demands of the everyday and the creative forces that beckon. The mortgage and an empty stomach will always win out.
In this high-tech world we live in, it is a sad statement of fact that people are more disconnected from one another than ever before. While many algorithms of social media work against the creative who strives to get their art in front of the world audience, it isn’t the primary reason so many voices go unheard. If you like something, share it! Spread the word by hitting a simple button. Support the creative endeavors of others, whether they have written a book, composed a song, or opened a small business. Purchase the works of independent artists before all of their voices have gone silent.
If you cannot purchase something, at least embrace the impact you have on the life of another. It takes nothing from you to be kind—absolutely nothing. The kindness you show may be the very act that gives another the very nod of support they were seeking. That nod may compel the artist to return to their work, or it may just keep them from harming themselves. Each of us has that power. Own the power, and be a force of good in someone’s life. If you live long enough, you too will one day seek a light in the darkness.
We are all in this together. Isn’t it time we started acting like it?
Today marks the two year anniversary of the death of my beloved dog, Grandbury. He was just eight weeks shy of turning eighteen! He was a German Shepherd mix, and he was an amazing dog.
I always told him that I loved him “to the moon and back” and promised that I would be with him until the end. Two years ago he entered into a seizure that would not stop. Holding him as he took his last breath, I whispered those five words over and over into his ear, hoping my voice comforted him.
My sweet grand boy, I miss you. I’m thankful for every minute I shared with you.
We were married in March because that is the month in which we met. We married on the 14th because that was one of the few dates that the Little Chapel was available. The 15th was available, but this English major could not agree to marry on the “Ides of March.”
It was storming and pouring down rain the morning of our wedding. The rain stopped just prior to my bridesmaids leading me to the front of the Chapel. As I walked around the side of the Chapel, the sun pushed the clouds aside and shone brightly for the rest of the day.
We footed the bill for our wedding, and the budget was so tight we served only our wedding cake and a groom’s cake at the reception. The only bites we had of our own cakes were memorialized in the traditional “feeding each other” photographs. Hours later, our first meal of the day would be a few packages of peanuts on the plane to our honeymoon.
People let us know exactly how they felt. “You are too young.” “You are throwing away your future.” “You’ll never accomplish your dreams.” “It won’t last.” “Are you pregnant?” “You will regret it.” “Are you sure?” “He isn’t really your type.” “She is awfully young.”
I was told by everyone, including strangers in elevators, not to marry at so young of an age. Everyone told me that the person you are at nineteen is not the person you’ll be at twenty-five or thirty-five. I listened to what they said, but I didn’t let their words destroy what I felt.
We wanted to marry because we were in love with one another. We didn’t want to wait another minute to begin our life together as a family.
Those concerned people were right; we aren’t the same people we were when we married. What they didn’t count on was our recognizing that marriage is hard work, and we vowed to always show up to our marriage the way an employee shows up to work. We show up every day and put the required effort in to keep the passion and love alive. We’ve grown together as a couple, never leaving the other behind. This is what works for us, and it is the reason we’ve lasted this long.
I can’t imagine what the road ahead has in store for us, as I never could have anticipated a moment of the time we’ve shared. I hope to live the rest of my days happily married to my best friend. The realist in me knows this may not be the case. Life is full of surprises, and the road we travel on this journey is bumpy and full of potholes. Anything can throw your world out of alignment. As the woman who has successfully weathered many a storm while holding her best friend’s hand, I believe that the two of us can make it through just about anything.
There isn’t anything we cannot achieve together. We are a team. A unit. A family. Fur and feathers included.
Happy Anniversary, Loren. I love you. I’m happy to partner up with you for another nineteen years.
March 15, 2014 – A new starting point in my life, as I’ve been with this one person longer than I existed without him. No one is more surprised than I am.
Read the previous posts in the Lucky in Love series:
Part Three of my Lucky In Love Series – My True Romance
I had a written plan for my future. I never intended to marry until I was at least twenty-seven. I met Loren, and the plan went out the window. Yes, he regrets the eyeglass frames and the mustache. I had big glasses, but I was too smart to wear them in the photograph.
Loren is a little older than I am. For example, in November 1987, he was entering the U.S. Navy,
and I was in the seventh grade. That is a six year age difference for all you fellow non-math people.
I loved my ring! Loren designed my engagement ring and commissioned an artist to make it.
No, not everyone believed in our love story, but that didn’t matter to us. I spent holiday break with him in Illinois, and he returned with me to Texas in January. We planned our wedding for March, a year after having met online.
Read the previous parts of the Lucky in Love Series:
My husband and I met on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). I initially used the system to communicate with my boyfriend who had moved to another city, but I loved talking to people all over the world. I met Loren online when I was bored and sick with both mono and strep throat.
I didn’t have a computer in my dorm room. In order to get online, I either had to go across campus to a computer lab or reserve a computer in the lab on the bottom floor of my dorm. There wasn’t a simple button to click and connect to the internet, either. I learned how to create a virtual terminal connection with other computers and use IRC. It was a complicated process that I shared with my friends. The once empty computer stations were now constantly in use; my friends were all reserving computers to talk to people across the globe.
Once I started using the computer to chat on IRC, I was hooked.
After three months of having only talked online and on the phone, Loren drove from Illinois to Texas to meet me. He’d sent me a photo of himself, but I wouldn’t send him a photo of me. He decided to stop waiting on me to send a photograph, and he came to see me in person. The first time I laid eyes on him, I felt as if I’d known him my entire life. There were no awkward moments, as we truly had become very good friends.
Five minutes after he’d left on his return trip to Illinois, I told my roommate that I knew I’d just spent three days with the man I would one day marry. Just before he reached the interstate entrance ramp, he stopped at a payphone to call and tell me he didn’t want to leave.