Passages


Alan_Rickman

When I read of David Bowie’s death recently, I felt sorry that he had been sick. And admiration that he kept his illness private. And then, I watched “Lazarus” and was speechless.

A talent that spanned decades, took on so many forms. Isn’t it wonderful that artists’ creations live on long after the artist has passed?

And then this morning. Alan Rickman. He holds a place in my heart, a place smaller than the one I hold for my husband, who jokingly refers to Mr. Rickman as my ‘boyfriend.’ Also 69 years old, which seems alarmingly young to this 57-year-old. Also ill, and we didn’t know. So, in tribute to this immensely talented actor, I offer a few of my favorite Alan Rickman moments. Thank you, sir.

The 5 Best Books I Read This Year


Only five? I read so many good books this year! I’m sometimes late to the party, so not all of these were new releases. In no particular order:
  
The Goldfinch. No wonder Donna Tartt was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; this is a masterpiece. 

  
Orphan Train – heartbreaking and hopeful, funny and desperate. Christina Baker Kline is brilliant. P.S. Looking forward to the movie!
  

Hausfrau. I love a well-written, dark novel. And this one, set in Switzerland, hooked me from the beginning. Essbaum writes beautifully.
  
The Girl on the Train. Lots of girls and trains, it seems! This book was compared to Gone Girl, which I also read (I liked this one more).

  
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. I had bought this book in 2014, but didn’t begin reading it until this past summer. Then I couldn’t put it down! Absolutely delightful.

MORE GREAT BOOKS:

Still Life with Bread Crumbs, by Anna Quindlen

Let’s Be Real, by Brea Brown 

The Man I Love, by Suanne Laqueur

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

The Other Wife, by Kathleen Irene Paterka

What books did you absolutely love this past year?

Happy 2016!

Days of Auld Lang Syne


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I wanted to write one more post, in this busy, blurry time between holidays. What words will sum up 2015 for you? In spite of the precarious state of our world (climate, terror, finances, politics), I will offer these:

  • Hope. Without hope, we live in a world full of despair. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all. ” (Emily Dickinson)
  • Remembrance. Many of my friends lost loved ones this year, and whether death was expected or not, there is a loss. Fill it with fond memories. “There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” (Aeschylus)
  • Words. Written or spoken, read or heard, words are powerful. Choose them carefully. “Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” (Yehuda Berg)
  • Challenge. Life is hard! Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, it’s simply right. “My greatest challenge has been to change the mindset of people. Mindsets play strange tricks on us. We see things the way our minds have instructed our eyes to see.” (Muhammad Yunus)
  • Warmth. Yes, our planet is heating up. Ice is melting, winter is warm. Do your little part. “Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” (John Muir)

And, as I do each year, here is my favorite performer singing a beautiful song for year’s end. Peace.

The Memory of Sense


A scent can be so evocative as to bring back memories of a time long past. Your mother’s perfume, freshly-mowed grass, roasted turkey.

Revlon

When I was in college, I used a certain shampoo (whatever was cheap at the time). Revlon’s Aquamarine was in my plastic bucket during my sophomore year at Providence College, and the scent of it will take me back. Back to December of 1977, back to a snowy night when students eager to unwind from the rigors of studying for finals let loose in the quad with an impromptu snowball fight.

I’ve written about that evening here and also here. There was a fire that night in one of the women’s dorms, and ten girls died. Those of us who were students at PC remember, because how could we ever forget? I write this post annually, to remember Laura Ryan, Cathy Repucci, Barbara Feeney, Gretchen Ludwig, Jackie Botelho, Sallyann Garvey, Donna Galligan, Dotty Widman, Debbie Smith, and, of course, Katie Andresakes. I write it also to honor the survivors, young women and men who lived with pain and remembrance and even guilt.

In the weeks following the fire, I consoled myself with music. And so the memory is not only scent, but sound.

Nov 30 – Meet RI Author Mark Perry


Perry MarkAaron

Last week, an eight-year-old girl from San Diego put a spell on herself in the shower, to turn herself into a mermaid.  Why hasn’t it worked yet, and how much longer will it take, she asks?  Where does such a child turn when they are contemplating their life’s most compelling questions?  Well, that would be good old St. Nick, or course, because the allure of Santa Claus to a child makes them think and feel that he is all-knowing.

When I became ‘Post’ Mark, the North Pole Postman, the elf who works in Santa’s mail room, I guess I hadn’t thought I’d be confronted with such far-fetched questions.  I more or less expected kids to share some interesting stories, because we all know kids say the funniest things.

For example, Oliver from Australia has a dog named Shelby who he believes is friends with Santa’s reindeer because she doesn’t bark at them.  Timmy, in the state of Washington, isn’t sure if Santa will come to his house this year because he tripped and fell down.  When he fell, he knocked over the Christmas tree, and broke a few of the ornaments, and thinks Santa is mad at him now.

Working for a boss who is a metaphor means I am the one who has to address these issues all while keeping a straight face when a child or parent visits me at one of my live book-signing events, or logs on to my website to share them.

A message in Santa’s inbox the other day is from a nine-year-old girl in the U.K. who has a crush on a boy, and wants Santa to let the boy know, so he will notice her, but if he can’t do that, she understands.  She would just be fine with an iPad underneath the Christmas tree, instead.

While I truly enjoy having the world come to my door with these messages, and feel they are a gift to me, you can imagine this is challenging at times since a child doesn’t know or understand that I might be going into the fourteenth hour of my work day, and there were dozens, if not hundreds of kids that came before them.

Working for Santa is a very rewarding experience, but as kids are taught, and one might expect with being an elf, it requires long hours.  I often ask myself, “How much longer can I go on doing this job,” and then, Santa receives a message from Angela in Virginia stating that she will be leaving cookies for him when he comes to her house on Christmas eve, along with carrots for the reindeer, and something for ‘Post’ Mark too because she loved reading his book.  Wow!  What an honor.  I wonder what she’s going to leave me!

It’s almost December! Visit Post Mark and find out how to send a letter to Santa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov. 29 – Meet RI Author Claremary Sweeney


Sweeney Claremary

I’m a late bloomer. Very late! At age 65, I wrote a story featuring a tabby kitten named ZuZu, born in a barn at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I liked it so much I wrote more stories set in the Berkshires and added in lots of farm animals and an extended family. ZuZu’s further adventures bring readers to many interesting and historic places. The Hancock Shaker Village, the Red Lion Inn, Chesterwood, the Berkshire Botanical Garden are some of those places that my husband Charley and I have visited many times and I wanted to share them with others.

A Berkshire Tale is comprised of ten tales following ZuZu and her friend Nick through the seasons of a year. It’s appropriate for children of all ages, even adult children like me. I wrote it so that adults could share the stories with a child. This motivated me to create a blog, Around ZuZu’s Barn, about the book and about  the importance of reading, storytelling and imagination in the life of a child. The blog evolved into a conversation with kindred spirits on many topics, with some of my photography interspersed. (I used my photographs to illustrate A Berkshire Tale.) 

IMG_7698I had been a teacher and administrator for over thirty years. I’m now retired, living with my husband Charley and our two cats, Roxie and ZuZu, in the woods of South County. People who read this invariably ask, “You have two cats? Well, what about the other cat? Why doesn’t she have a book about her?”  To appease my blog followers, I began to write posts of life seen through the eyes of Roxie, “The Other Cat.” People really love these vignettes and it appears there may actually be another book within these posts.

Another question I’m asked is, “Do you have a book set in RI?” I now can answer that I have one in the process of being published. It’s a small book in rhymed verse set in the Botanical Center at Roger Williams Park. The main character is a baby pitcher plant, Adonis,  who one morning decides to stop eating meat. This causes much consternation for his mother, Dee, her friends, and the other plants and creatures living around the carnivorous plant section of the gardens. And I’m currently working on a mystery set in South Kingstown, complete with black and white photos of settings in the book.

Although I’m a late bloomer, I am trying to catch up, so that by the time I’m 67, I’ll have more books under my belt. Please visit my blog and check out the photos and “The Other Cat” stories. You’ll also get to know a bit more about me and Charley and the ZuZu stories which I’m continuing in the future.

Claremary Sweeney is also on Facebook.

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Nov 28 – Meet RI Author Joshua Blum


Blum Joshua

 

When I was twelve, I wanted nothing more than a Swiss Army knife. My father had one, and I used to marvel at all the tools that fit in the compact package. Years later, I still marvel at its attempt to “do it all.” But sometimes, a stand-alone knife or can opener just does the job better.
So when I told colleagues that, over the next year, I wouldn’t be working much, instead devoting the majority of my time to caring for our newborn daughter, deep down,
I wondered if I’d end “Swiss Army knifing” it. People had mostly supportive words. Of course, there were some puzzled looks and occasional sarcastic or condescending comments, but what I didn’t expect were the rare, wistful silences (generally left by men), followed by, “I wish I’d taken more time to do that.”
Time, that ephemeral commodity. Before the baby came along, I joked with my wife about what I’d do if I were a stay-at-home husband. I’d water the plants. I’d do aerobics in front of the TV like it were 1982. And I’d finally have time to write.
It wasn’t all jest. Even after the baby came and all evidence suggested otherwise, I still maintained the delusion that when the baby slept, I’d really, truly have time to write. And so it was – except those stretches of quiet lasted a total of forty to sixty minutes a day if I were lucky. Amid all the baby and home related tasks, writing was the last on the list. On the days I worked, I’d go in after my wife and I had done the baby handoff and finish in the wee hours of the morning, so zero writing got done those days. And when the baby woke up in the middle of the night, or at least by at five or six the next morning, I was reminded why my mother was always tired.
Single parents have now assumed epic status in my mind. I’m lucky that my wife takes over in the evening. But despite everything, I look forward to each new day. Seeing my daughter’s smile, her waddling, ataxic steps, and the first gleams of mischief in her eyes make up for the times poo plopped out of the diaper and landed on the floor instead of in the toilet. I understand why those men said they wished they could’ve had more time to watch their children grow. Because I wish for the same. No time is ever enough.
Those naps did eventually add up over a year. I coalesced some of these thoughts into a poem and reworked pictures from one of my novels to create a little book for my daughter, which I’ll give to her this Christmas. I’m sure one of the first things she’ll do is take a bite out of the pages. And I’d like nothing more than to be right there to see her do it.

Joshua Blum is the author of  The Thirteenth Hour, a fairy tale/fantasy novel. The book referenced above, Your Star Will Glow Forever, is a picture book about stars, hope, and the love parents have for their children. It will be officially available in the spring of 2016, though it will likely make a debut at the RI Expo this December. More information can be found here.

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Nov 27 – Meet RI Author Heather Rigney


Rigney Heather

Thanks for inviting me, Martha! It’s delightful to be on your blog during Black Friday! Hopefully, your readers are enjoying their turkey hangovers while shopping online in their warm jammies. Welcome, readers! Give Target a break and spend some time with me for a moment. If you were just out shopping for someone special, perhaps an individual who enjoys a good book, let me introduce myself and present my work. Maybe, together, we can help one another other, and make someone’s holiday extra special!
My name is Heather Rigney and I am native Rhode Islander, former graphic designer, former public school teacher, and a mother to one amazing child. Over the last few years, I have written two books in my series, THE MERROW TRILOGY. These books are based in Pawtuxet Village, Narragansett Bay, Ireland, Cape Cod, as well as continental Europe. Labeled as a dark historical fantasy novels, both Book 1: Waking the Merrow and Book 2: Hunting the Merrow take my readers on a journey through pre-Revolutionary War Rhode Island, then jump to present day, where my narrator, Evie McFagan, the local, drunk funeral director, has just encountered a centuries-old mermaid posing as a playground mom.
In Book 1, I explore mermaid-ish beings found in Irish folklore, known as merrow, a Gaelic term. One of these creatures, Nomia, is not pleasant at all, and has made it her mission to turn Evie’s life upside down. As Evie struggles to keep her family safe from Nomia, Evie learns that her husband’s Irish roots might have some aquatic history of their own.
The second novel, Hunting the Merrow, will be available December 1, 2015. Picking up where Book 1 ends, Hunting further explores the strange history of both Evie, the unlikely hero, and Nomia, the evil mermaid who might have a good reason for being so nasty. Hunting explores a variety of mermaid legends found in historic folklore throughout Europe, as both Evie and Nomia race to find their missing siblings.
Sounds interesting? Don’t just take my word for it. Waking the Merrow was featured as Rhode Island’s Motif Magazine’s 2015 Summer Reading Guide to Classics and Local Soon-To-Be-Classics. To quote the article: Rigney’s Waking the Merrow … was the best book that I read last year. It’s a fantastic tale of anti-hero Evie McFagan who learns that there is a somewhat dark family history that she married into, all while being chased and harassed by mermaids. This work is funny and terrifying, with picturesque descriptions of Pawtuxet Village. I’m eagerly awaiting the next two books in the trilogy.

Or, perhaps this Barnes & Noble blog article will help: “You know what’s great about Rigney’s horror-ific (that’s horror-filled and terrific), hysterical debut novel? Besides the bloodthirsty merfolk, our antihero protagonist is an overweight, drunk, sub-par mother who also happens to be a funeral director. I can’t even describe the premise of this book without getting giddy, because how many times does a plot involve both vicious mermaids and Rhode Island colonists?” —Nicole Hill

Heather Rigney’s books can be found online and at the following local bookstores: Twice Told TalesSymposium BooksWakefield Books, and Curiosities & Mischief.

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Nov. 26 – Meet RI Author JL Metcalf


Metcalf JL

Becoming A Writer

Write what you know. Don’t write what you know. Write about things that scare you. Don’t write about anything that you don’t fully understand, do lots of research. Don’t do research, be inventive, be creative. Writing’s not that hard. Anybody can do it. That’s not a real profession.

I’ve heard all of these various opinions and pieces of advice over my 30+ years on the planet. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I kept my dream to be a writer silent for so long. The idea of hearing one more person tell me that “writing isn’t hard” made me want to scream and I’m a nice person, I don’t want to scream in someone’s face but I will if provoked.

I’ll turn 37 this year and for the past year I have finally allowed myself to call myself a writer. It took me years to realize that yep, I love writing. I love it so much that sometimes I get lost in my head thinking about what I want to write about next. That is how I am now. How I used to be a little over a year ago was much different.

What changed? I lost my lousy office job. I was upset and scared and then my boyfriend, a freelance artist and illustrator for over 20 years, looked at me and said, “Now’s your time to finally do what you love, you need to take this chance. Everything else will fall into place.”

He was right. I finished the book I had started seven years earlier and researched options for self-publishing. I created a website for myself. I began to do all the things I needed to do to create the business that was going to be me.

It was everything you imagine it would be. It was terrifying. It was also the best thing I’d ever done for myself. All those years of doubting my ability, my talent, all those years of tamping down my creativity because I was told it would never make any money, it all began to disappear from my mind. I began to see that yes, I can write, yes I can make money from it and most importantly, it is the most fun I’ve ever had working. A year later and I am happy and doing what I love every single day.

Are there scary days where I’m afraid the rent won’t be paid? Sure. Of course there are. I’m not making Stephen King kind of money, but it all works out in the end. I have support from my family, my friends and most of all my partner. Together we do the work we were meant to do.

I have now self-published three books, The Last Daughter of Lilith, Coming Undone: Musings on Life, Love & Hobbits, and Menagerie of the Weird. All are available on Amazon and all are my precious babies. I hope to publish at least two more books in 2016 and you know what the future holds? For me, it holds a lot of writing and a lot happiness.

Find out everything you want to know about author JL Metcalf  at her  website
email: jessicaleemet@gmail.com

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Nov 25 – Meet RI Author Laura Crisafulli Kennedy


Kennedy Laura

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write a children’s book. As a child, among many other things, I was an avid reader. My choices of books were and still are varied, covering many genres and writing styles. I love the mystery, the adventure, the joy of flipping to the next page. I admired those who could take seemingly random words and string them together to elicit such feeling and response. I still do.

When I arrived at the University of Vermont, I found a card from my parents tucked away in a suitcase. “I can’t wait to read your children’s book” were words that inspired and encouraged me forward, reminding me often of my very important dream. A few years later, I took a course at New York University on children’s literature and how to write and publish children’s books. After that course, the task seemed daunting and overwhelming. But, all things in due time.

Moving forward a few (well, more than a few) years to motherhood and another dream achieved. What better time to write for children?! Crazed by the thought of what to write about and how, and possibly even my timing, I asked myself, “What is it I want to teach my children so they can best face challenges and difficulties and believe in themselves?” It is amazing how an idea grows, develops, and takes a journey, so far different from how it started. What a fascinating challenge to envision and write a sentence that says exactly what you want it to say, expressing the sentiment you feel, while touching the hearts and imagination of others.

Moving forward yet again, ten-plus years, when the timing and a series of circumstances were just right for achieving a dream. What a wave of excitement, sense of accomplishment, and a sigh of relief when I held that proof in my hands the very first time!

I strongly believe in the power of “positivity.” I believe positive words can spark positive thoughts, helping create a positive attitude and positive actions, and the circle perpetuates. I strive for this cycle and for balance. To help inspire and empower another individual is an awesome and gratifying feeling. Equally gratifying is the feeling of being inspired and empowered. To teach a child to be strong and brave, confident and independent, is well worth the challenge, hard work, and effort. My children constantly amaze and inspire me, reminding me of what is important and good.

As I get older, the importance of finding and maintaining a sense of humor as life’s challenges and adventures occur has not escaped me. My book is a reminder for me to embrace the important moments, knowing that this amazing journey is evolving and continuing…

Laura Crisafulli Kennedy is the author of Lolly’s Picnic and is currently working on two other children’s books. For more information, please visit Laura’s website or contact Laura at info@LauraKennedy.info

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