Friday, July 25, 2014


     Before there was digital social networking––YouTube, Skype, Facebook, or Instagram there was vintage social networking––Brownie Kodak moments, letters, and postcards. I arrive at this as I finished the scrapbook of treasured memories from our Colorado River Rafting trip through the Cataract Canyon last year about this time. In the bag of ticket stubs, photos, clipped local headlines, and other talismans of that stupendous experience (please see Pot o'Gold), I included a small bag of postcards gathered up from a lunch experience. The out-of-the-way food spot sold delicious food, but also an array of local vintage "stuff." After riffling through a collection of utilitarian finds, I found two deep (length) boxes with postcards. Postcards rubber-banded to distinguish one cache from another. Postcards from separate families, all written upon and stamped. All addressed to various Moab, UT, addresses. Postcards containing familial, and not-familial news. Postcards that measured the passage of lives and time (from the 1960s through the 1970s). 
     I scooped up four collections, glad for the richness that had fallen like golden apples into my lap. I would have to dissect the cards after the afternoon hike, and stuffed them into my backpack.
     Later that night in the hotel room after a shower. I retrieved and pored over them. The postcards gave me a window into someone else's life––or lives. Their postage rates  ranged from 4c to an astronomical 13c. All cards were written in cursive penmanship. Several held a continued story.
Y. P. Renfro
     I remembered a short story, "Splendid, Silent Sun," by Yelizaveta P. Renfro published in Glimmer Train Stories, the summer of 2010. The story is told through a slew of postcards––tight, offbeat, compelling, and as written the story is told through the medium of a series of postcards, a tad longer than would have fit on a standard postcard. But it works nicely––nicely enough that I haven't been able to dislodge this featured story from my reading memory.
     Around the same time that I read the above, I also read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It's a novel and not a short story, and as such uses the medium of letters to propel the tale of the island of Guernsey during the German Occupation, and of a society on the island that copes in a decidedly different way with its predicament.
     While moving through my days, I'm thinking what I can do with a collection of postcards from Utah from various people who have longed passed, but who have left snippets of their lives in my hands. I'm working on it. I'm working on it. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fountain Pen Show

Miami Pen Show
     I was once asked by a blind date, "If your house was on fire, what would you save from it?" I wasn't sure where he intended to go with this, and after a few more Rorschach-type questions, I decided an early evening was in order.
     At times, that date's question surfaced in my mind. As you can imagine, my "go-in-and-get" list varied over the years. It's a mark of maturity (some would say values!) how this list has evolved, which brings me to a constant on that list––fountain pens.

     Fountain pens were the de rigueur instruments for writing in my elementary-school years, and considered vital for mastering the loops and slants of the Palmer Handwriting Method. In penmanship class, I was taught to copy and perfect a slanted style of cursive writing with rhythmic motions focusing on shoulder and arm movement.
     Ballpoint pens soon became the rage, and fountain pens were passé. They were perceived as old-fashioned, inconvenient, and non-disposable.
     Unlike a ballpoint, however, a fountain pen can have a life of more than one hundred years (you read that right!), adapting itself to one's personal writing style. In fact, they should never be given to another person to write with because a high-quality nib (the pen point that releases contained ink)
can be compromised. This is even more important if the person borrowing the pen writes with the opposite hand.

     Memory and sentiment were pinched one afternoon while shopping in a stationery store. I stood in front of a glass case containing more than a dozen fountain pens from Sheaffer, Parker, Waterman, and Pelikan––makers of the pens I used in elementary school. I was transfixed as the newsreel of former cursive-writing days flashed before me. Clips of the expressive penmanship of older relatives accompanied this as did the the feeling of comfort from the barrel resting between my fingers, the effortless writing (a fountain pen trains one to write with a light pressure, and is much less tiring than a ballpoint, rollerball, or pencil). There is a personalness that enters your life with owning a fountain pen that cannot be found in any other pen type.
     Loose lips might sink ships, but for me it was a bonanza. I spoke to friends of my find and we shared our fascination with this writing instrument. Lo and behold––that Christmas I received a Parker 75. I was ecstatic. I began to carry and use it everywhere. I loved its weight, the fluid movement caused by the flow of ink across paper, and was convinced that's all I needed for my life's happiness. That is until fountain-pen collecting took hold of my senses.
     Different pens began to capture my imagination. I married and soon converted my husband into a fountain-pen user. We began to attend pen shows, or seek out pen stores in cities we visited. Fountain pen barrels have become an art form, objects of human-crafted beauty (although I await the day when, like mana from heaven, one will fall into fingers formed to receive it.
     However, along life's highway, I found different uses for my pens––some were better for card or note writing, others for journaling, or for calendar entries. I own fountain pens in a range of colors––some solid, others multi-hued or marbled. I own pens of various weights and textures. Some new. Some vintage.

     Last weekend (July 11-13) the Miami Pen Showwas held at the Marriott Dadeland Hotel, minutes away from South Miami Beach. Last year we missed this annual event because we were busy navigating the Colorado River through the Cataract Canyon (please see Pot o' Gold). This year left the weekend open, and we scurried there for one full day. One full day of swelling our coffers.
     We returned home to fill our new additions, to exchange them between each other for prolonged ooh's and aah's, and comment on their weight, nib, and feel––and, not the least of it, increase the size of our "go-in-and-get"list.
    It's always a pleasure, this annual ritual. May we have many more.
Thank you for reading these words today, alas, not penned in a fountain pen. Do you write with a fountain pen? Have you ever?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sylvia Plath and Her Bees

   I've been catching up on reading poetry for the last few months. Birthday, Christmas, and a few personal splurges brought good books to my shelves.  Shopping at my favorite used-book store in the Palm Beach County area, Book Exchange, landed me a copy of Collected Poems: Sylvia Plath.  Edited by Ted Hughes, the collection spans the years 1956 to 1963, including a selection of Plath's early poems.
     I confess here, I was compelled to read poems found in this volume because several focused on beekeeping. For those of you who follow Flying Pages, you know I am a back-garden beekeeper and fascinated by honeybees. Her poems resonated with me.
     Sylvia's father, Otto Plath, had been an authority on bumble bees. His book, Bumblebees and Their Ways, (1934) is still highly regarded today. As a boy in Gerany, he had been nicknamed Beinen-Konig (king of the bees) and when he emigrated to the United States, he became a professor of entomology at Boston University. Eventually, Plath's husband, Ted Hughes, took up the avocation.
     The County Dublin Beekeeper's Association offers an account of Plath's immersion into beekeeping. Mary Montaut writes on this site: "For beekeepers . . . the poems are a treasure trove. They are full of fresh, unexpected imagery about the familiar things we take too much for granted in our craft."
     This, as written by Karen Ford while affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Plath wrote the five Bee poems, which she initially titled "Bees" and conceived of as a sequence, in less than a week in October 1962 as her marriage was breaking up. They are unified by their subject matter, bees and beekeeping, and by their five-line stanza pattern, though each poem works its own unique variation of the general theme and form. They reveal a concern with self-assessment and redefinition, both personally and poetically, and proceed by scrutinizing relationships between the speaker and her world. The sequence moves from community, in "The Bee Meeting," to solitude, in "Wintering," as the speaker settles her relations with others and with her own former selves. This trajectory from an external preoccupation with others to an inward concern for the self has formal reverberations. Plath’s characteristic stylistic excess eases during the course of the sequence as the speaker retreats from the pressures of the external world, especially the world of gender conflicts, to the inner rhythms of her own exigencies. As the influence of the exterior world diminishes, the stylistic agitation seems to abate as well.
     Other Plath poems in this collection offer projections, irony, fate, and several are "Confessional" in tone as was found in America poetry of the '50s and '60s.
     What is your familiarity on the poetry of Sylvia Plath? Have you read her Bee poems?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cowboy Poetry

     "Here," my writing-group compadre, Don, said as he pushed across the table a small book of cowboy poetry. "I thought you might really enjoy this."
     Settled in for the evening that night, I read the front and back blurbs. I read the Introduction, then let the little book fall open to my first cowboy poem. Before the lamp was cut, I'd read a baker's dozen. Two nights later, I had finished Cowboy Poetry: A Gathering.
     I found most poems to be matter-of-fact, some more honest than others, while a few carried a celebratory tone. Some were grateful. None were woe or pity confessionals.
     Hal Cannon, editor of the collected works, commented in his Introduction:
The poems collected here are both old and new, but they all express an honest spirit which is lean and hard; and their form––the printed words, their rhythm and rhyme as transliterated from the oral––is broken, like a fresh horse, into a manageable gait.
     Cannon continued:
At the heart of cowboy poetry is the memorized performance of traditional poems . . . [and] are based in an oral tradition of performance in both the old and new West. Each poem in this book was written to reflect a real voice, and meant to be heard aloud.
While folk poetry and formal poetry are often judged by different standards, they share the same essential literary aim; the poet is always in search of the best language, the most perfect language, for his subject matter and for his personal poetic intent.
     For the last three summers, we have spent vacation in some of the Western states. The last two, we river-rafted the Colorado. The cumulative time spent there brought me up close and personal to that nature-hewn landscape and the people who carved out a living on it––and still do. Reading the collection of these poems refreshed memories and my appreciation of this.
      I grew up with television and Hollywood images of cowboys and their lifestyles. I knew the good guys; I knew the bad guys. Cooks were often drunk, cattle bellowed. And who knew the cowboy? Who knew what took him on his life's journey? Were cowboys hooligans? Toothless civil cast-asides? Were they misfits? Cowboy poetry will dispel all these stereotypes. Cowboy poetry reveals the real thing. No fluff. Generalizations are blown away. These were/are men from ranching families who took pride in their life's job. It continues in some measure to today.
     After a satisfying read spread over a few days, I Googled various cowboy poetry sites. I discovered many. Where have I been all these poem-reading years, I asked myself. What a plethora of wonder and delight awaited me. I provide two links below, plus a brief video. I encourage you to expand your horizons as I did, and enjoy.
 Western and Cowboy Poetry                     Western Folklife

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Poem Before A Break

     With today's Post, I take leave from Flying Pages for the next two weeks. Writing deadlines loom, large house projects begin, and yours truly needs a reprieve to assure these happen without a glitch.
     For the last few weeks, I set aside books of fiction or essays, and concentrated my reading time on  poetry. The first week I gathered some of my favorites, which tend to reflect on real things and real people. Of course, there are many that fill this niche, but to read them all would be like trying to hold water in a sieve––I'd not be able to move onto works written by poets I know well, or those I am not yet familiar.
     Here is one favorite I want to share with you. I hope you will enjoy reading it.

A Blessing

James Wright1927 - 1980
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Typewriting Again


     As always, I read the last issue of Poets & Writers from cover to cover––stopping at some articles longer than others before dawdling over the Classifieds.
     In this May/June 2014 issue, Maria Mutch wrote an essay that especially caught my eye. Titled "Ghost in the Machine," the piece relates how she came to own a 1941 Remington 'Streamliner' typewriter, which carried much personal significance. Her remembrance of that particular model, and typewriters in general, resurfaced later in her life. The deep appreciation of it all resonates with me even as I write this.
     I COLLECT. I collect books, friends, fountain pens, plants, bees, wristwatches, Pinterest pins, and––drumroll, please!––manual typewriters. Now, truth be told, I'm early into the gathering of typewriters, and my collection doesn't measure one iota to what others have in their possession. I have to be careful here. There is not enough space in my home for one more bookcase (see Book Care), much less an inventory of manual typewriters (sigh!)––but to be in possession of a few, well now.
     I've been on a mission to find a manual typewriter for the last few years. I put word out on Facebook. Voila!––a writing group friend called to say she had one her father had bought for her when she studied typing/shorthand in school. She said, "I want for you to have it."
Royal 'Arrow' c. 1942
     I brought the Royal 'Arrow' home, and counted its fingers and toes as if it were a newborn. As I did this, I remembered Gloria's story about the meaning this typewriter held for her. Memories surfaced about the typewriters that wove the fabric of my past, and the desire to add a manual to my repertoire of writing instruments. In short order, I began to experience "...the kind of energy that is sometimes contained in things like boats or trees or grand pianos," as Mutch wrote about in her essay.
     I found Alan Business Machines in West Palm Beach. They told me they would be able to bring the 'Arrow' around to clean, oil, and install a new ribbon for me. I'm so pleased. Stay tuned.
Smith-Corona 'Sterling' c. 1935
     I wiled away time between other customer demands on a visit to their store. By chance, I found a treasure trove of vintage manual typewriters tucked away in cases or displayed on counters. I spotted a 1935 Smith-Corona 'Sterling'––rather, ahem! it spotted me. Musty odored nicked and bruised, dust balls rolling with breathing over its innards, letters twisted helter-skelter––but it still had wonderful action. It called to me, from its Art Deco design, for a second life, a forever home. Gotcha, honey! I'll retrieve you in another week or two.
Smith-Corona 'Classic 12' c. 1968

     Then, as if that might be too much for me (or you) to absorb, the universes totally aligned when three days later, in a Goodwill Resale store, I found a Smith-Corona 'Classic 12' in good condition. Guess what? Whoa––pay dirt! And do I need to tell you it was put to use pronto when I got home?
     Maria Mutch seemed content with her find of the typewriter she pursued. Perhaps she'll stay with just that one. As for me, what can I say. So far I've space for these three beauties. I pray addiction doesn't overcome me.
     I've written in the past on writers and the typewriters they've used but, of course, their choices were narrow––pen or typewriter? Please feel free to visit the Posts listed below. And do let me know if you are connected to a typewriter of memory.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Here's Where I'm At

     Easter has passed. Mothers' Day is upon us. Here's where I'm at.
     A beloved pooch and family member, JoJo, passed away on March 26th––thirteen years of age, having persevered multiple Schnauzer disorders.
     I'm thinking resurrection. Not the Biblical or proverbial type, but resurrection from having to think about him. From missing him. Period.
     Today, returning from an appointment, I passed the vet facility that made the first pronouncement on JoJo who had been attacked by a neighbor's German Shepherd two weeks earlier. This hospital told us to get him immediately to an emergency/critical-care vet hospital––a thirty-minute drive away. Fluid, they said, was building in his chest cavity. Something was amiss.
     Seventeen days of visitation rights, tests, aspirations, biopsies, ultrasounds, middle-of -the-night phone calls from vet radiologists, cardiologists, and the "whats and whys" from the Shepherd's owners––in the end we had to kiss JoJo goodbye.
     Nearing the bend in the road this afternoon that led to the first facility, I felt the heat and memory of that day hammer at my spirit. I miss JoJo. Time needs time. And that's where I'm at right now.
     Grieving the loss of a pet who has reached his maximum life is difficult enough. Have you had a pet pass at an unexpected moment, at the hands of something you never envisioned in a million years? Is the loss any different?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Week #3 & #4, National Poetry Month

     For the uninitiated, there exists many poetic forms in the reading world: To name a few––Haiku, Triolet, Concrete, Acrostic, Ballad, Sonnet, Prose, Sestina, Villanelle, Confessional, Free Verse––and the list continues as you walk the courses of time and country. I enjoy discovering new forms, and yes, new forms appear with frequency.
     Within this National Poetry Month, I found this new form: Book Spine Poetry.
     It started in 1993 with Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books Project. Katchadourian began collecting interesting titles and arranging them in clusters so the spines could be read like a sentence. Maria Popova of Brain Picking adapted the spine sentences into poetry, and the idea quickly spread. Googling the topic will bring you pages of entries to consider. View Forbes Library, which conducts annual Book Spine Poetry Contests for a myriad of results.
     I challenged my writing group to come up with some of their own. They found it wasn't as easy as it first appeared, but did find it an interesting and fun concept. Here are two from my hand.

Below is the Forbes Library 2013 winner in the Adult Category by Linda Eve Diamond.

     The last few weeks have been personal busy/busy––all in good ways. However, it meant I would have to compress two Blog weeks into one. Book Spine Poetry addresses the third week of National Poetry Month, and for this last week of a wonderful poetry-reading month, I inform you that from the purchase of poetry books I recently bought from The Book Exchange (see Week #2, NPM)––I delved into Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath.
     I am an Apiarist. Imagine my surprise when I found that beekeeping was the subject of many of her poems. (Plath's father and her husband (Ted Hughes) kept bees.)
     What about you trying your hand at Book Spine Poetry? I've provided means of finding what's it's all about––so go ahead, try it. As the saying goes, you might like it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Week #2/National Poetry Month

     Today I visited one of my favorite haunts in Palm Beach Gardens––The Book Exchange & Comic Book Store––on Northlake Boulevard in North Palm Beach, Florida.
     It's been a few months since I pushed through their single-entry door, and now as always I take care my entrance because immediately I face book stands, shelves, and glass-fronted cases––some with first-edition or antique books. I set my iPhone's timer to one hour for browsing, realizing that's not nearly enough time for walking up and down, around and behind their plethora of used books. Genres and subjects are marked on shelf edges, and children's and young adults' literature have their respective nooks. From wall hooks, straw baskets hang for the customer's convenience of stashing finds from among the narrow alleys. I search for a deep and wide basket because I favor hardbacks, which take up more space and have more heft than paperbacks.
     Today I headed for the poetry section, to continue tipping my hat to April's designation as National Poetry Month. Whoa! What a motherlode I found. What a motherlode I bought. To wit:

  • Haiku: This Other World by Richard Wright
  • The Mail from Anywhere by Brad Leithauser
  • Essays and Poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Selected Poems of May Sarton, ed. SSHilsinger/LBrynes
  • Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath, ed. Ted Hughes
  • Karol Wojtyla: Collected Poems, translated by JPeterkiewicz
  • The Oxford Book of Garden Verse, and 
  • Vignettes in Violet by Marion Perham Gale, dated 1928.
     I'll be busy for awhile, doing you-know-what. I promise I'll not be tempted to stray from my New Year's promise of reading catch-up from last year. Believe that, and it's a belated April Fool's on you, my dear readers.  Smile.

Friday, April 4, 2014

National Poetry Month

    April is National Poetry Month as designated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. During April's thirty days, schools, poets, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and festivals are encouraged to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.
     I read what the Academy had to say about this month's event, and was pleased to find a suggested list of thirty things we can do to celebrate poetry. A really good list, I might add, so check out from the Academy of American Poets to find one or more areas you can incorporate into your salute of this wonderful genre.
     For myself, I was drawn to postage stamps featuring the image of an American poet. On further reading, I found the idea of petitioning the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee something good, sustaining, and rooted. To be eligible, the notice reads, suggested poets must have been deceased for at least ten years, and must be American or of American descent. It's definitely worth checking into, and I'll keep you posted (no pun intended).
     It's worth checking out (linked above) for your take on what you might find as a creative way to enjoy and promote April as National Poetry Month.

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Poetry Day

Each year on March 21st is World Poetry Day. Today I offer a Baker's Dozen of Poetry Wisdom to celebrate this Day. I hope you enjoy them. I pray you make note of each word by each  author.

1. Poetry is music written for the human voice.  Maya Angelou
2. I have nothing to say / and I am saying it and that is / poetry.  John Cage
3. Poets paint with words, painters speak with works.  Annibale Carracci
4. Good poems are the best teachers.  Mary Oliver
5. Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down. Robert Frost
6. We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.  John Fowles
7. Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement.  Christopher Fry
8. A poem should be wordless / As the flight of birds.  Archibald MacLeish
9. Poetry is an expression, through human language restored to its essential rhythm, of the mysteriousness of existence.  Stéphane Mallarmé
10. Poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.  John Wain
11. Poetry is idealized grammar.  Oscar Wilde
12. Stanzas are rooms, and a poem of them, a house.  Robert Wallace
13. Poems are not language but the content of the language.  Mary Oliver

How about that! Thank you for reading. Thank you for taking some of these wise words under your belt.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


     From time to time, the writing group I belong to will select a topic intended for the "humor bones." Its purpose is to edge out taking ourselves tooo seriously by a topic designed for wit, which can be done in any genre. Recently, such a straw was drawn. Here's to shaking up my stream of consciousness on Gibberish.

Dr. Seuss wrote some books and created a golden goose on an equally golden nest with straw gathered by sympathetic fish from a canal made by troubled souls––and then some––behind Elk Lodge #219. But I digress.
This goose, in a land of moose near the waters of Who Knows Where, took flight one bright autumn morn to seek her next of kin only to discover she was a figment of Seuss's imagination and his bank account. She returned to the golden nest in a land of moose knowing there were no next of kin or bank account to be found. Ever.
Seuss and goose watched from the house around the bend of jagged rocks near the waters of Who Knows Where, which goose wanted mightily to know so as to set its coordinates on her pitifully small brain, but Seuss would not comply. Why? Because goose and the sympathetic fish who built her nest did not comprehend Lithuanian––simple as that.
This gibberish was written (with a donated plume from goose) for you, dear enlightened reader, and you need to understand there might not be a logical ending to this balderdash––hereinafter referred to as epistle––quilled under circumstances beyond my or your control. Another mumbo-jumbo tale will unfold (goose prefers "hatch"), of that you can be sure, but thankfully not today.
     What fun I had with this. It was meant to be fun, and it was. It reminded me of college art classes when the professor would assign a series of timed thumb-nail sketches. My right brain and I, like the little engine(s) that could, churned out sketch after sketch. Good, bad, or mediocre––it didn't matter. What mattered was the ability to take in something, and to render it for later reworking into a more substantive form or style.
     The same thing happened with this exercise. It took a few minutes to pen this. It felt good. I laughed aloud as I wrote it, and my engines were turned on for hours after. The spontaneity and stream of consciousness worked for longer and better other outcomes by day's end. Thank you, writing group. I'm going to do this more often.
     I'll toss into the ring a few one-word topics: ROWDY, FRINGES, FESTER, or you could try your hand at GIBBERISH. Remember, you can do them in any genre. 
     I invite you to take one or all and run with it/them as an exercise. Send one or all to me. I'd love to read what you did, and––who knows––one might merit a prize!!!!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Writing Alongside Music

     Do you write alongside music? Do you write with music streaming from another room? How does it work for you––or doesn't it?
     Music carries me through the day––from early morning coffee (New Age) to winding down for sleep with violin and piano melodies. Dione, John, Lang, jazz, and a mix of classic '60's and '70's  help while I prepare dinner. When I need an energy boost, there's something contemporary to be found on Sirius Radio.
     I take my iPhone out to the Cathedral of my garden where it serves up background music for the myriad birds, rustling leaves, and buzzing bees (two hives). Nothing gyrating or pulsing, just favorites off my Playlist to encourage enjoyment of and reverence for the natural world.
     This year marks my fifth year of piano instruction. I've come to the ivory and ebony late in life. The learning, the listening, the act of two hands training to act in disciplined independence is immensely rewarding. I listen to Mozart, Beethoven, and contemporary pianists with a new ear. Music, especially piano music, uplifts me, and I wonder why the nuances, the subtleties of music listening had escaped me for so long.
Illustration by Izar Cohen
     Sitting at my computer a few weeks back, in what felt like the zillionth draft of a story, I became aware of gliding as a feather through the tedium of it. GlidingFeatherInconceivable!
     There was a difference from previous rewrite times, and the difference was I was proofing/editing with background music. Nothing emotional, loud, or grating. No. The music was soft and harmonious. An invitation to my creative muse.
     I leaned back in my chair. I was not performing a mindless task. Yet, I was productive in the task at hand. The music didn't distract me. Rather, it inspired my focus. Revelation, chance, or fact?
     I bring to your attention an article published in The Wall Street Journal (2/18/2013) titled "Music Ability Helps Reading." Check it out. I've also found other studies in the same vein prove the same outcome.
     Since the opportune discovery of writing alongside music, I've begun to do more of the same. I've decided discordant notes do NOT work, nor do arias or high-pitched lyrics––too heart pounding, too distracting. But when I chose to have backdrop music in my fiction and poetry writing, and reading––and by that I mean harmonious music, music in the tempo of my story and/or characters––it reveals itself to be a part-to-part relationship. And what I think is a good partnership.
     I'll end as I began: Do you write or read alongside music? Do you write or read with music streaming from another room? How does it work for you––or doesn't it? Do let me know, please.

Friday, February 28, 2014


     Last night I launched my older sister by thirteen years into the Pinterest world via long-distance telephone.  "Baby steps," I repeated like a mantra every time she tripped and felt frustrated.
     "Right," she said, "baby steps. I'm baffled, but okay. I can do this."
     Patience persevered on both ends of instruction. She is launched and excited, while knowing she's only begun her learning curve. She'll get there in small steps for two reasons: 1) she feels left out of this dynamic social media site all her friends preen about, and 2) because she's fascinated with the possibility that hand-selected, colorful images will tell the world what she is about.

     I declare unabashedly––I love Pinterest!
     My venture into this wonderland of pictures was prompted by spilling-over files of pictorial ideas for home-improvement projects. It took techie skills that left me dry-eyed *..* mostly because I don't own them, but I got the venture up and running. Magazine and newspaper clips, how-to's, notes, cut pictures were trashed, manila folders recycled, and file cabinet space freed up. Jubilation! Pinterest founders should be given one royal pat on the back.
     In the beginning, my philosophy was "100 of 100"--100 boards of no more than 100 pins.  That lasted until I reached 100 boards, and then I looked at what I had wrought. The number of Boards had swelled along with their content. They were all good, mind you, but it hadn't occurred to me that they had become as self-revealing as they did. The growth spurt resulted from a personal mix of serious pursuits, wit, and insight. They represented deep abiding interests. I began to tweak them, and continue to do so.
     But Pinterest is more than an online scrapbook of pictures, or more than a mirror of its creator. Pinterest offers broad learning opportunities about topics, ideas, and interests. All that is required of the Pinner is to open an image to find reams of information. Much like peeling an onion, the Pinner keeps penetrating down to a source, and often that source will offer much more than the zillion pixels found in the online photo.
     If you browse my Pinterest Boards, you'll find headings related to beekeeping (we've two double-stacked hives), piano (proving it's never too late), and pools, porches, and water features––all for the garden.
    For writing purposes, I created insightful boards on how to write something right, where to find a reference, tools to write with, or what my dream library would look like, and even a chuckle or two. A recent post, Hotels for Bibliophiles, sprung from the Board "Booking"a Stay. For more Boards related to literary matters, please feel free to visit book fairs,  home libraryquotes about writing typewritersgrammar and punctuationindie book shops, and more. An introduction to my blog, Flying Pages, can also be found, because blogging along with Pinterest and Facebook are my social media/writing platforms.

Do you use Pinterest? Is it fun for you? If you can, tell me what you like about it? Do you use it to serve your personal interests only, or do you have a professional part of your life involved with it?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ponderings in mid-February

     The Olympic Games of 2014 will finish Sunday. I hum an Alleluia. Every now and then it's good to take a break, and the last two weeks were that. My family awaits the Olympics with great anticipation knowing dust bunnies will collect, sleep-deprived puffy eyes will arrive, and many pizzas will substitute for family dinners.
     But it's time to stop rationalizing why writing goals slipped this month. It's time to re-enter reality, and repower the creative engine. But, oh my, over these last two weeks there was so much to admire, so much talent, and wonderfully-crafted commercials. There were many athletes to root for, plenty to be grateful for, twinges of compassion for Bob Costas, and opportunities for reflection.
     Monday I will pick up fountain pen and notebook to re-ignite the engines. Most likely, I'll begin by jotting down tidbits of this and that––observations, snippets of news pieces, or a new-found word. It's inevitable I'll stall, go to check on the honeybees (now there's a model work ethic!), and Monday is laundry day. Indeed, I predict I will suspend my creative re-entry until an inner voice bellows NOW!
     I write. I am easily distracted. I putter. I lollygag. It all goes together like close siblings––this desire to write, the ability to procrastinate. In a compare/contrast, I wonder if it could it be any different for the Olympic athletes? I don't think so. Pushing through each day of creative writing or athletic practice is a major accomplishment. It takes perseverance, and perseverance incites awe because we all understand what it takes. Discipline, time, sacrifice, self-doubt, loneliness, worry, fear, grinding work, and grueling disappointments. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and chant over and over "I mustn't stop trying." It's a learned process.
     Tomorrow, Sunday, is the day I will suck up as through an intravenous tube what it takes to be a winner, and to push through the days and weeks in front of me with athletic perseverance. I will borrow a page from the Olympic athletes––those who won medals, those who didn't––and hope I can match them. And I will tell you what I have long-ago learned: No one can do it for me.

I leave you with this: We're all in this together––by ourselves.  Lily Tomlin

Friday, February 14, 2014

What's In a Name

     Recently, I sat in my dentist's waiting room biding time until summoned for my checkup. Side tables were topped by magazines and newspapers for complimentary reading. One table had the White Pages telephone book. I picked it up and let it fall open. Then I read the roll of names.
     I read telephone books for fun, but it's also an occupational hazard. I read these books when I dry up on names to christen new characters, or to re-christen others. I log them into my iPad for future reference. The possibilities and combinations are endless; their histories more so if I do some digging.
     Some surnames are just that––the last name of a family carried for generations differentiating one family or neighbor from another. Time, distance, and generations of marriages have lost the attachment of meaning or symbolism to names. Time changes much, and that reflects the bulk of family names. The richness of generation after generation carrying a family name has been diluted.
     Many surnames convey a legacy of trades or crafts, and many of those names stuck like logs. Historical or genealogical records are sometimes needed to deduce those occupations, but not always. I once knew a family in Georgia whose neighbor came from a long line of crop farmers. The elder's name was Sam Cabbagehead. In the online version of History Today, I found an interesting article by C. M. Matthews titled Surnames of Occupation. Check it out.
     Then there are family names that hint of a future, but time and hindsight are needed here. To wit, I personally know a librarian named Connie Brain and an arborist named Ken Roundtree. A recent newspaper article discussed breakthroughs in fusion power involving high-speed physics. The name of the lead author in the study is Omar Hurricane. Today's issue of The Wall Street Journal, featured a piece about a Miami landscape architect who "dreams up dense, thickly forested canopies ... for high rises and million-dollar residences." His name––Raymond Jungles.
     Combining first and last names for the sake of a laugh, however, smacks of what-were-they-thinking––fodder for the comics or humor writers. Legalized name changes would be in order for some of them. Names like Vinny Smooz, Bea Bee, or Chan See. I'm not sure how real these people are, and many names defy reality, but you can judge for yourself by looking into The Anomalous List of Unusual Names. You will chuckle for sure.
     However, if you want to give meat and bones to newly-found characters' surnames, to the stuff of your daydreams, seek out reference dictionaries of surnames. All cover origins and meanings with several giving detailed information on name-forms and how they have changed over time. I list a few for starters: A Dictionary of SurnamesPenguin Dictionary of Surnames, and American Family Names.

So what's in a name? As you can see, a lot. 
If you haven't done so, pick up the White Pages and skim the names, even addresses. You might find inspiration at best. At the least, you'll be fascinated by the variety of names or their derivatives. You might also want to know more of their histories for the building of your own characters.

Friday, January 31, 2014


     My astigmatism hasn't improved, and I wonder if I might be listing toward being cross-eyed. My husband doesn't think my eyes are crossed, but then I reminded him of the actress, Anne Bancroft, who dazzled Mel Brooks with her circus-performing eyes.
     "She didn't look like she was x-eyed," I said.
     "No. But she was trained by the method acting school," he retorted.
     "What?!" I sputtered.

     I possess more than one creative streak. Therefore I daydream. Tossed into the mix is that I am a writer.  Here too, I daydream a lot––a heck of a lot. When I was found daydreaming as a youngster, I would be snapped out of it by one of two admonitions: 1) you're going to grow up to be lazy; or, 2) you're going to ruin your eyes and become cross-eyed. What's a  young, creative, believe-in-everything-adults-say-daydreamer to do?
     Here's what I did: I set out to test the boundaries of those threats for the rest of my life. I was not going to let saber-rattling trap or restrict my creative pulses. I daydreamed with wide-open, unblinking, dry eyes. I explored associations in my mind. I invented possibilities on the fly. I witnessed fictitious scenes, characters, and dialogue––and all while daydreaming with wide-open eyes. Gore Vidal said, "Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head." I'm sure Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford could add their own take on the matter. Humans are a daydreaming species. Humans should not waste their daydreaming time.
     Eventually, I take my daydreams to paper giving them guidance and hoping to stitch the varied "takes" together into a whole as they ought to be.

Today, my glasses are thick, the astigmatism isn't good, but I trust my husband when he tells me I'm not (yet) cross-eyed. It can't get any better than that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hotels for Bibliophiles

     My husband and I are beginning to think vacation in this January month. For years, we have enjoyed the personal quality that B&Bs have to offer, especially if we just need to recharge our batteries. This year we're thinking of booking time in one of the growing number of hotels and Bed & Breakfasts that value the reader and the writer among travelers. New and older hotels recognize that some people like to escape with books. Some like to escape through books. Now some hotels are providing the books. And I'm referring to books with old-fashioned pages that you turn.
     Wading my way through Google, I found a number of places worldwide that allow time to relax with books nearby, and food and drinks an elevator away. These hotels, I'm discovering, provide eclectic book collections, author events, poetry readings, and author-inspired decor. Some provide #2 pencils with small journals in the rooms, others have Mac Computers, a few provide dictionaries, and several display works of local artists and artisans.

     In Oregon is Sylvia Beach, located outside Newport.
Its website states:
This is truly a hotel for book lovers. There are no tv's, radios, or telephones in the rooms and no wi-fi.  It is a quiet place on most days.  Except for the glorious storms. Then the wind howls, the building shakes, and the rain pounds down. Some days it's warm and sunny and the sky is bright blue. Some days there's morning fog. Some days the wind makes you stay inside and read! Some days are rainbow days, the weather just can't decide. The ocean is always present. (The hotel is on a 45 foot bluff right above the surf.) You move into the rhythm of the sea. Perhaps that's why time seems to slow way down, almost to a standstill.
     Register for rooms named for authors such as Virginia Woolf, Colette, Tolkien, Emily Dickinson––to name a few. The owners assert, however, that you'll not spend much time in those lovely rooms because you're going to want to be in the third floor Reading Room filled with overstuffed chairs, a fireplace, many books, puzzles, board games, and wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean. It's a room where coffee and tea are always available and at 10:00 at night you'll be served hot spiced wine.

     "Come down in time to a place that celebrates books and authors," announces Alexander House, a B&B located in the historic district of Princess Anne on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Portraits of famous authors like Pablo Neruda and Isabel Allende hang on hallway walls, and other literary details can be found throughout the inn. Their Booklovers' Shop has items to buy that will later remind you of your rewarding and literary stay with them.
     Their website offers the following:
Each room offers a creative interpretation of a famous author’s own room in his or her time. Immerse yourself in the jazzy Harlem Renaissance of the Langston Hughes Room; or a 19th-century high seas adventure in the Robert Louis Stevenson Room. Relax with a book from our eclectic library in the Mark Twain Library and Parlor. Partake of a gourmet breakfast, afternoon tea or evening liqueur in the charmingly French Cafe Colette.

In a warmer part of the country is The Betsy Hotel located in Florida, specifically South Beach. Two years ago, The Betsy started a writers-in-residence program that offers guest rooms to writers for stays of up to seven days. In exchange, the writer conducts lectures or gives readings that are open to the public. The Betsy prides itself on an active Arts & Culture Events Calendar, which can be viewed and subscribed to on its website. And when you need a break from reading, writing, or listening you must visit its expansive rooftop that gives a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean.

     New York City is home to the Library Hotel––a luxury boutique hotel located in Manhattan that boasts a collection of over 6,000 books. Each of the ten guest room floors honors one of the ten categories of the Dewey Decimal System. Further, each room contains books and art based on one of those categories. Their website adds this fabulous nugget:
The Hotel's Fourteenth floor rooftop features the Writer's Den and Poetry Garden and terrace which by day serves as a relaxing oasis with views of iconic New York architecture. Get cozy by the fireplace or read a book in the greenhouse. By night the floor becomes Bookmarks Lounge, a trendy local hot spot serving literary inspired cocktails.

     I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this piece of discovered news: lending libraries flourish in more than 500 Country Inns & Suites. The chain offers a Read It and Return It Library at each location, allowing guests to borrow one of seventy-five to 100 titles and, if they are not finished, take it at checkout to be returned at their next stay. 
     Read this 2013 Press Release excerpt about their latest development:
Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM, a leader in the upper midscale hotel category, today announced a partnership with Random House, Inc. to enhance one of the hotel's most popular signature programs, the Read It & Return Lending LibrarySM.
Random House will supply 30,000 books to Country Inns & Suites hotels twice a year in the U. S. and Canada through the partnership. The Read It & Return Lending Library is located in the lobby of each hotel, and includes children's, fiction, mystery/suspense, non-fiction and teen titles.
     If you want to discover a few more hotels for booklovers, visit my Pinterest board, "Book" a Stay for the growing list of places to lay your head, or bury it in a book. What a grand idea. Whether you're a reader or a writer, you'll be happy. What a nice thought. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

If You Give...

      At the beginning of the recently passed Christmas season, I managed to mail roughly three dozen cards––down from last year when I had a tad more time to splurge. The criterion of who received this year's cards with a brief note was that the recipient had to live out-of-state.
    Yesterday, the Post Office set in my mailbox one of those cards stamped "Address Unknown." I verified the address in my address book: Hmmm. Same address I'd been using for several years.
     I called Vicky long distance, and after an exchange of pleasantries and catch-up, I told her about the returned card. "Nothing had changed," she said, "the address was good." Near the end of swapping ideas back and forth on the matter, Vicky cleared her throat and ventured: "Did you use printed mailing labels or did you write the addresses in cursive?"
     I think, dear readers, you can guess what we surmised: someone, somewhere in the labyrinths of the postal service could not decipher my penmanship. Will future generations not be able to recognize cursive longhand in the future? Could a future rubber stamp be in the works to label longhand-addressed envelopes with "Addressee/Address Illegible?"
     This brought to mind two notes sent to us in early Fall. Both notes thanked us for recent wedding gifts. Both notes were printed. Fine. Both notes were tucked into envelopes that were––how to word this––oh well, sloppily, and improperly addressed. Incompetence on behalf of two college-educated people. And one envelope was addressed to our first names only! Who is to blame for this?  Or is this a skill––addressing an envelope complete with correct placement of return address, stamp, first name/last name preceded by a title if only a Mr. or Mrs. or Ms.––young people believe they don't need?
     I'm reminded of Laura Numeroff 's best-selling children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The book is written in a rhythmic, circular pattern with the idea that one thing leads to another, which leads to another and another and back again. A delightful book, if you haven't already read it. But here's my take on it (and I confess, it's not nearly as playful as Ms. Numeroff's):

  If you give a child Velcro closures,
     A child will not know buttons, zippers or shoelaces.
  If you give a child a hand-held calculator
     A child will not be able to do mental arithmetic.
  If you give a child only letters to print
     A child will not recognize cursive writing.
  If you give a child a laptop, smartphone, or tablet
     A child will not know how to address an envelope!

But there are ways around not knowing: either pick up a book, or easier, GOOGLE. For me, Google graciously shared a mind-boggling 6,410,000 results in 0.47 seconds. Even a step-by-step YouTube was in the mix. The coup de grace, though, was finding apps for how to address an envelope, to wit: Howcast app for iPhones or iPads, and I'm sure there are others.

There you have it, dear readers. Thank you for your forbearance on a matter that will one day find a resolution.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Rainy Morning

     Christmas is behind me, and it was a lovely one filled with days of food, cheer, friends coming, and friends going. Ushering in a new year provided more of the same, and for most of the days, a soft rain fell. A gentle, soaking rain that knew when to enter our world and when to let up, only to return later.
     Rains in South Florida aren't always of the gentle sort, as anyone who has felt and heard our summer storms can attest. So when the atmospheric deities gifted us with gentle rains in this gentle season, I reveled in it. Charcoal-gray clouds transported and released the steady stream of droplets. Palm fronds and leaf tips dipped and danced under the weight of wet crystalline pendants. Grass blades, pine needles, and large-leaved Elephant Ears sparkled.
      My energy level reflected the rhythmic fall against the windows, roof, and patio floor. The steady sound invited peace and contentment for several days. Moreso, when holiday music hummed in the background.
     The gentle spilling rain also awakened a gratitude for belonging to a place––my place. My home felt like a cocoon: the kitchen––an olfactory heaven of herbs and spices, blended, stirred, and sampled before being served; cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon simmering on a back burner; and the voices of friends and neighbors stopping by with good wishes.
     Simultaneously, I felt blessed to have a square of green both front and back of the house. Space that I watch, and have come to know intimately over the years. Space, that in gentle, soaking rains, flourish. This year, our back square of green sports two honeybee hives, and in between spilling clouds I sat and observed "the girls," as we refer to them. I chatted with them, their buzz being their chat back to me. One particular day, I told them how the grand ending of one year leading into another had suspended my creative flow. They commiserated telling how they had been hampered with gray and rainy skies, not having been able to forage for nectar and pollen, and how they had to huddle inside their hives. I enumerated to them my resolutions for the new year. They buzzed they would hold me to it. A buzzing push, yes, that's what I needed to hear.
     So here it is, ten days into the year 2014. I should be flexing my creative muscles for a productive twelve months after a three-week hiatus. Instead, I indulge one of my addictions: watching the rain on another rainy morning.
     It's been a wild and woolly last few weeks covering a large swath of the country. With unending snow and low temperatures, I hope you were able to hunker down safely and warmly, and indulge yourself with a writing project or reading a book.