Monthly Archives: March 2008

And where have YOU been?

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I had planned to write at least a couple of entries on this Ozarks getaway.  But life intervened.  First, I got sick.  In fact, the entire family got sick, to the extent that you would have thought that there was a competition to see which of us would cough up a lung first.  Mornings around here have been a veritable symphony of hacking that is only just finally winding down.

But it wasn’t the flu or anything serious.  Just a hard core cold making the rounds and a general malaise that made me feel like doing very little except lying around reading and looking forward to my next Sudafed.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to.  Do much, that is.

Next, our internet connection started getting weird, no doubt related to the fact that the condo’s connective wire was loosening.  You can only be tripped over by a seven-year-old a certain number of times before your connection starts to go.  So the knowledge that while I was writing a post, the internet connection might suddenly disappear, as it has been doing in the last few days, was a powerful disincentive to write.  Finally, I just decided to write a simple entry to get back in the game, and paste it in.  Ergo. . .

Reading.  I have done a lot of reading, which I was hoping for, and a lot of “not answering the phone,” because it doesn’t ring!  Whee!!!!

We have holed up in a nice condo with two story windows that look out on Table Rock lake.  We’ve read (more on that below), watched more tv than usual (Enchanted, the Parent Trap, Spiderman, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (sigh) and HGTV out the wazoo), and spent way too much time on the computer when the connection was good (me on Ebay and the kids on Yugioh Cardmaker).

I have gorged on shelter magazines and finished Love and Consequences and Finding Your Child’s Strengths.  Love and Consequences, a is gang “memoir” that managed to make it to the Faulkner County library in spite of the fact that Penguin pulled the hardcover from the shelves, a la James Frey, just days after it was published.  Turns out it is utterly fictional.  Not just a few “characters combined here and there, some names and places changed,” but entirely made up.  Check out the controversy here.

Conclusion:  It stinks in any genre, fiction or non.  I can’t believe it got published.  The writing is horrible.  Nuf said.

Finding Your Child’s Strengths.  Pretty good if you’re interested in the material.  Check out the strengths movement here.

Now I’m heavy into the Hermione Lee’s Edith Wharton biography which is living up to expectations—well done, Ms. Lee! (she’s British).  It is definitely the best bio yet.   But here’s the issue.  It’s 750 pages of dense stuff.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem if I hadn’t already read a bio of Wharton, during what could be called my “Edith Wharton period,” some years ago.  I must confess I am someone who is spurred ahead by suspense and new information.  Which is rather subtle when you’ve already got a pretty good idea of the author’s life.  But on page 50, I’m not giving up yet!

I’ll end with an update on the crusade to save Ms. Wharton’s historic house, The Mount.  They got a $30,000 grant which has meant a reprieve until April 24.  They have raised $550,000 ish on their way to 3 million dollars.  Spread the word, people.  This property desperately needs saving.

Till we’re back in Conway tomorrow,

Bye y’all,

SV

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Dispatch from Kalamazoo. . .and a new collection

Ok, I am very worried.  The piper comes calling on March 24 (one week from Monday) and The Mount has only raised about 544,000.  That means they have a long way to go.

They’ve been getting a lot of press but has any of it been national?  CBS Sunday Morning?  The Today Show?  Come on folks, we need some major exposure. 

Thanks to my typewriter collecting friend, Monda (any news on the Corsair?), I have taken the plunge and started collecting tin toy typewriters.  I got my first one before I left town and am watching another one ebay that Monda tipped me off to.  It ends Monday, when I’ll be on the train, but hey, if it’s meant to be, it will happen.  I’ll bid before I leave.  You can see my first one here.

I lean toward the more graphically interesting types that also happen to be cheap.  I’ve noticed that there’s precious little info about collecting toy typewriters on the net. Maybe if I get more into it, I’ll write some.

Kalamazoo has two antique malls/stores within walking distance of the hotel.  Before we started work on Friday, I purchased:

Three Little Pigs Golden Book from 50’s–it was cheap and I’m a haphazard LGB collector (is it less than 3 dollars, is it vintage? Sure, I’ll take it. What the heck.)

A Wade china sheep for one of my shabby chic printer’s tray collages. 

A $3 ziploc bag of various passementerie remnants, also for my collages.

A tiny 1953 book on Staffordshire animals that I may give to my friend Steve because, for some reason, it made me think of him.

One dozen dappled blue and gray robin’s eggs (also for the collages and whatever else I think of).

A tin box with an elf.  Not sure what I’m going to do with it but it called to me.

Worked all day today on the 2008 Rural Sites Resource Development Retreat this July,  then ate like a queen, in true Writing Project tradition at a local nouvelle cuisine restaurant called Sprout. In the last two days I have had butternut squash THREE TIMES.  Heaven! Tomorrow, we work from eight till twelve, when most people are leaving.  I have to leave Monday because that’s when I can make the Chicago train.  I have work to occupy me most of that time though. 

One week till spring break. The family and I lucked into a timeshare in Eureka Springs (thank you, Uncle John!) where we (I) plan to read, watch a lot of movies, and prowl around Eureka, maybe even Branson or Berryville for day trips. Basically the goal is to get away and do nothing (though if I could make it to a few antique malls, solo, that would be fine too). Appropos for this week are some big fat books I got for my birthday, the new translation of War and Peace and Hermione Lee’s recent biography of Edith Wharton.

I’ll keep you posted–

If you have any spare change or connections with national tv, consider using it to Save the Mount! 

Bye y’all,

SV

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More about the Mount. . .

And don’t forget the giveaway for comments between now and March 31.

Thrill of thrills, my “memory piece” about Edith Wharton’s the Mount made it to the
help save the mount blog, here. They edited it beautifully and even added an interior photo. The best treat are the pieces from other writers that follow.

I’m in Kalamazoo, Michigan today for a Rural Sites network meeting for the Natioinal Writing Project–not sure how much I’m going to be able to post if at all, but we’ll see.

Bye y’all,
SV

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And it’s off. . .and more about Edith Wharton’s Home

Finally finished my essay, “Once More to the Workshop: A Myth Caught in Time,” and emailed it to Dianne Donnelly, who’s editing a collection on the current state of the workshop for Multilingual Matters.  I had fun with it, weaving in relevant quotes from E.B. White’s oft-anthologized “Once More the Lake” (read it here) in order to make the point that the “traditional” workshop has been mythologized to the point that it is a frozen icon–much like White’s lake, and his essay.  In it, I also got to give my two cents about Dan Barden’s essay (he call’s it a rant, and rightly so) in the most recent issue of Poet’s and Writers, in which he demonstrates a complete lack of awareness of recent research and writing on creative writing pedagogy (recent meaning of the last say, ten years).   Honestly folks, how many essays do we have to have re-inventing the wheel (the traditional workshop is problematic?  really?  what a concept!) before we move on!

In other news, apparently, the fight of save Edith Wharton’s The Mount has garnered quite a bit of attention and now, an official blog at helpsavethemount.blogspotcom. All the important donation  info is there, new photos, and, soon, stories from readers about the influence the Mount or Edith Wharton has had on them.  I duly contributed.  As I mentioned in a previous post, this historic site has had quite an influence on me.

Also baked bread this weekend, in order to make sure my husband and kids have a good stock while I am in Kalamazoo later this week for the Writing Project, and spent a delightful half day with my favorite almost-three-year old sprite, Lillian.  We blew bubbles, built with duplo blocks, drew with crayons and cut with scissors–or rather, I assisted with the latter and was formally dubbed a “good helper!”

At some point I’ll post a recipe for the bread; very simple, my husband’s family recipe, but there’s nothing like it.

That’s all for now.  Don’t forget about the giveaway.

Bye y’all,

SV

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A Special Message: Save Edith Wharton’s Home!

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SOS! Edith Wharton’s Berkshires home, The
Mount,  which has been a museum for many years, is pending foreclosure! They
have put out an all-points-bulletin to save her house. They need
about 3 million dollars before the end of March.
I urge all of you who love her and her work to consider donating to
this cause–her home has recently gotten back her considerable
library and it would be a crime to see this national treasure fall
back into disrepair or worse.

If they get the 3 million, they have a pledge to match it, which should put them in the black again.  Every little bit counts.  They’ve done some wonderful things to the home in the past several years, turning it into a truly historic museum and monument all things literary and artistic.  It would be terrible to lose it.

You can donate and find out more information at

www.edithwharton.org

A few important points:  if you go to that link and make an online pledge, they are very clear that they won’t actually call in your pledge until they reach their goal.  So it will not be money wasted.  Also at that link are some before and after photos that show the amount of work they have put into the house in the past ten years.

If you’re an Edith Wharton fan , or even a fan of gardens and design, you can imagine why this mansion is special.  I’ve been fortunate to tour it twice, once at the very beginning of its rennaissance in 1993 and just this past summer.  Even before its current revival, touring the gardens and the majestic rooms and seeing Wharton’s design ideas put into practice, the symmetry everywhere and the Gatsby-esque wedding cake ceilings fifteen years ago, as a newlywed, was what got me interested in design in the first place.  And in Wharton’s work.  Before then, I’d just read Ethan Frome.  Soon after I devoured Age of Innocence and House of Mirth as well as her biographies. I just got the new one by Hermione Lee, for my birthday but haven’t had a chance to read it.  Reviewers say it’s the best yet.

Recently, they re-purchased her entire book collection from a collector in London and have reconstituted it in her library.  Imagine being able to visit a beloved writer’s home and see the very books that they read, that interested them.  I stood as close to them as they would let me and it took my breath away.  Readers, we have to make sure others can have this experience too. 

I am going to post some photos below that I took there this summer.  But to truly appreciate it, you should see the professional photo on the website.

Donate, donate, y’all.  Save Edith Wharton’s home! Save The Mount!

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Snowdays and Giveaways

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It was touch and go for awhile there–they didn’t announce it until 7:30, but we got our longed for snow day this morning. When I woke up at around 2:30 am it was still raining, so I was quite suprised to see everything blanketed in white when the sun came up.
So, for all of you who went to work today, here is my “What I did On My Snow Day List”

1. Stood outside in a blanket and a bathrobe taking pictures of the house (below).
2. Watched my kids throw snowballs at each other.
3. Witnessed the birth of a snow midget (also below).
4. Made snow ice cream.
5. Drank twice as much coffee as usual. Mmmmm!
6. Appeased the kids by watching two episodes of ICarly with them.
7. Had a nice game of Scrabble, the non-sedentary, testosterone-laced version that results when you play with two elementary aged boys and their father, which means that it is impossible to come up with a word unless you’re hanging upside down from the top of the sofa or discovering new projectile uses for the tiles.
8. Worked on an essay, “Once More to the Workshop,” that is due to the editor on Monday. I’ll be driving hard on it between now and then, but I made significant progress today.
9. Had soup for lunch. Campbell’s Butternut Squash. Mmm.
10. Walked 30 minutes on the treadmill.
11. Emailed back and forth about several writing project issues, including our upcoming inservice in Sheridan and talked with people who want to start a site in Jonesboro.
12. And, drumroll please, decided on another giveaway. My generous mother gave me Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck for my birthday not knowing I already had it (it was actually one of our summer institute books in the writing project several years ago). It’s a great kit for writers of all ages, with a journal, a notebook of inspirations and cards to extend them. I’ll give it away in a drawing from anyone who posts between now and March 31!

Unfortunately, it’s already started to melt.
Oh well.
Bye y’all
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The Beautiful Typewriter

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I have been made aware of quite a lot of debate these days about the usefulness of typewriters for drafting and to be honest, it keys (hee, hee, pun intended) right in with my discussion about recognizing the value of mistakes and risk taking as crucial to the writing process, something drafting on a computer cannot capture. My good friend and writer Monda Fason discusses this on her blog, which she has actually posted in typewritten form here.

The above Italian typewriter, photgraphed in the design exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art when the guard wasn’t looking (not supposed to take photos there, apparently) is also in homage to her.

 Her friend, the Kentucky Typewriterman also has some eloquent words to say about this on his ebay site, where he sells lovingly refurbished typewriters for much less than it actually costs him to refurbish them. He is also a writer and a writing teacher. Read what he has to say about typwriters and drafting here (keep scrolling once you get there the whole listing, though ended, is worth reading). You’ll also get a look at another lovely example of design.

I have a beautiful, meticulously maintained (not by me) old Underwood in my office. I may have to go see if I can find some ribbon for it now!

Go, search for typewriters at Church thrift stores and flea markets and yard sales or on ebay! Godspeed!

Bye y’all,
SV

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