Tag Archives: Edith Wharton

I won, I won, I won!!!

Let me paraphrase:

THE BOOK GUYS LETTERHEAD HERE (use your imagination)

Dear Stephanie,

Congratulations on your winning response to the “Caulfield” quiz. You have a choice of nine prizes. . .

Ok, I won’t detail the nine, I’ll just tell you the prize I picked for winning the quiz on The Book Guys, my favorite radio show on NPR: A Book Guys Watch with the logo and slogan, “Reading Is a Family Affair,” along with the Center for the Books’ slogan, “Building a Nation of Readers.”

It was even signed by Kim Stypeck, who I’m assuming must be related to Allan Stypeck who co-hosts the show along with Mike Cuthbert, and runs Second Story Books in Washington DC, a fantastic secondhand bookstore I used to frequent in my grad school salad days.

I am so PSYCHED. Talk about luck; there must have been a lot of correct entries; the question just wasn’t that hard. In fact, if you go to the website, you can see them. I think mine was the May 8th quiz.

I was actually on the show once about eight years ago, when I learned that the Edith Wharton first novel, first edition I have was worth significantly more than the 50 cents I paid for it at a yard sale (but not enough to consider breaking into my house-FYI).

Speaking of Edith Wharton, I just got another letter from the Edith Wharton Restoration Fund. They have opened for summer business (and if you are anywhere near the Berkshires this summer, believe me, it’s worth a stop) and have another 6 month extension on the loan during which they hope they can raise the other roughly 2 million. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

In other news, I am still reading The Artful Edit and can confidently report it’s one of the best books on writing (well, actually, editing, of course) I’ve read in a long time. I’m heavy into the part where she discusses Max Perkins’ and F.Scott Fitzgerald’s co-editing of The Great Gatsby, from which we could all learn a great deal. The book is littered with my post-it notes, since it’s a library book and I can’t write in it; but I’ll be getting my own copy as soon as I can and hope to report more on it. It’s definitely going to have to nudge something else out of my top five books for writers category.

My niece and nephew are visiting, which means lots of fun kids stuff AND I’m not the only girl in the house for once. Last night was coloring and bracelet making. Now, we’re off to do our nails–and we’ve even got the sparkly polish!

Bye y’all,


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Want to know where I’ve been?

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I’m back, from a hiatus of sorts during which I went in for outpatient surgery for a benign ovarian cyst that turned into inpatient surgery for endometriosis (not serious, just invasive) and a partial Oophectomy. This means removal of one ovary but I just like to say it and write the official way because it sounds like something from Dr. Seuss. Oophectomy, toofectomy, roofectomy–see I can make up words just like him! Anyway, I’m recovering well but it took a lot out of me.

A few updates. The Mount, Edith Wharton’s house, has raised close to a million dollars but not without the controversy that is detailed in a recent New Yorker article. You can read an abstract of it here. They’ve also received another extension until May 31 and plan to open for the season in hopes of bringing in more money. I’ll keep you posted.

Time laid up means time to read, namely, Leonard S. Marcus’ magnum opus, Minders of Make Believe, the first ever history of children’s publishing in America from colonial times to the present. Absolutely fascinating stuff, IMHO. Children’s publishing has some entertaining personalities he lavishes attention on, especially in the twentieth century, such as the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, May Masee, Margaret K. McElderry, Maurice Sendak, Bennet Cerf, Dr. Seuss, Goldenbooks (a personality in themselves) and my personal fav, Louise Seaman Bechtel. It’s a monumental work and a fun dishy read at the same time. Bravo LSM, who is also coming to our university next spring as part of the Artist Residency Series. Can’t wait to meet him.
Other good laid up reads: Kaye Gibbons’ A Cure For Dreams, read in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down, and Aranzi Aronzo’s The Cute Book, a wonderful, easy craft about making felt mascots that even I could do.

Visited Heifer International in Perryville yesterday on a class field trip. Despite it being a bit too much physically (my incision, which frequently holds conversations with me, was virtually shouting yesterday afternoon, ) it was truly inspiring. We toured the global village and saw how the other 75% of the world’s population lives and learned all about their programs to feed, clothe and school the poor by providing them with livestock. We also learned the 7 M’s of livestock that help lift people out of poverty: Milk, Money, Muscle, Meat, Motivation, Manure, and Materials. I am thinking of starting a Read to Feed program with my own kids this summer wherein you can get a free starter packet to encourage your kids to read to raise money to send an animal to a family to help lift them out of poverty. Check it out:

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Learn more about Heifer International's Read to Feed Program.
Children Reading to Fight World Hunger


Classes are over and I have several writing projects, well, right now the novel and the book on creative writing in higher ed, that I need to devote serious attention to but it’s been a slow start.
I’ll keep you posted. The next post, in fact, will be another short one on writing in keeping with the thread I started a while back asking about people’s revision habits. Stay tuned.

Bye y’all,


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Twisters, Tomes and Giveaways

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Wow. One minute you go to sleep and the next minute you wake up in the bathtub”

                                        Will Vanderslice, age 7, musing on last night’s events


It all happened rather suddenly. At eleven last night, I was upstairs glued to the tv keeping storm vigil, as I usualy do during severe weather.  Everyone else was asleep.  I was tracking the tornados that kept raking over Hot Springs and then following them through Little Rock and beyond.  KARK’s trusted meterologist Brett Cummins (he’s so serious, so earnest) had just explained how these tornadoes had formed out ahead of the squall line and those were therefore the most dangerous.  As opposed to the line of storms in the squall line heading toward Conway.  These were strong, but not as much to worry about.

Hmmm, I wondered.  Then what’s that little spinning arrow showing rotation just west of Conway? 

I kept on wondering but no one on any of the local stations said anything about it, focused as they were on the pummeling of Hot Springs and Little Rock.

Then the tv went out out. 

Ok, no cause for alarm yet, this can happen in a hard rain.

Then the sirens went off.  Time to “put your tornado plans in place,” as Brett says. I sprang into action, dragging the boys out of bed and downstairs and John out of bed, and all of us into the downstairs bathroom.  Even though it only happens once every couple of years (Thank God), we know the drill.  Boys in the tub, John and me on the floor outside tub, squeezed between the commode and the wall, all of us with the twin guest mattress over our heads, waiting.

Jackson, bless his heart and his God given ability to sleep through anything, just curled up with the sleeping bag and went right back to dreamland.  Will sat up with us and shared the countdown until 11:45, which, as you might imagine, went like this:

“How many more minutes?”

“About twenty.”

“How many more minutes?


And so on. You get the picture.  Thankfully, the warning expired at the predicted time, the boys all went back to bed and I stayed up to make sure that the excitement was, indeed, over for the evening.  The sirens were for a funnel cloud north of us, but on the whole, Conway was spared, though poor Little Rock and Hot Springs are in serious recovery mode.

I haven’t forgotten the giveaway, I’m going to do the drawing this weekend and announce the winner of The Observation Deck in my next post.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading and writing and rounding out the semester.  Visiting classes to observe the finalists as part of my job as committee member for the Teaching Excellence Award Committee.  I really like visiting the different classes and feeling like a student again.  Except, No Tests!  So far, I’ve enjoyed learning about Neurological disorders in a nursing class and am looking forward to an honors class, a biology class and a speech pathology class next week. 

Reading.  The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls, for a lively new monthly women’s book club I’ve joined.  A rollicking, crazy retelling of her childhood with a wild, nomadic family.   

Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir</a> by Natalie Goldberg.  I used up almost a whole post-it note pad marking up all the great writing exercises I want to use in this.  As good or better than Writing Down the Bones, the most accessible, sensible book on memoir I’ve read.  However, Goldberg’s tendency to tell you, in one way or another, to write for just ten minutes, got old really fast.  There was the old standby, “write for ten minutes,” my favorite.  Simple.  Unassuming.  Never goes out of style.  Then there was:

Go.  Ten Minutes. 


Ten Minutes.  Go.


Give me ten minutes on. . . or, Go ahead, Give me ten minutes.

I completely understand the purpose of these short assignments, you write with a concentrated burst of energy and if the piece demands it, you go back later.  Presto, subjects for longer essays. 

I just didn’t like feeling like I was in boot camp.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s novel The Boy Who Dared, based on the true story of sixteen year old Helmuth Hubener, who defied Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany and hung for it.  I read it for more novel research (one of my characters is a Nazi Youth member about Hubener’s age).  It could be quite compelling at times but at others, felt more like summary than scenes.  This may be because Bartoletti knows the subject so well; she won a Newbery Honor medal for a nonfiction book about Hitler Youth. 

A fun book called Garage Sale America, by Bruce Littlefield (a must click link!).  Ah, he captures the spirit of the sport perfectly.  And the beauty of it: I got this relatively new book for 2.50 at a flea market where everything in the booth was half off. Bruce would be so proud!

It’s that time of year again, folks.  Spring is in the air and bargains lie in wait at on sawhorse tables all over Central Arkansas.  I went early today for an hour and a half and let me tell you, if I was in the market for antique furniture, I would have hit the jackpot.  As it was I scored: a great vintage apron ($1), a vintage toleware tray($1) and a funky wood sixtie’s lounge-style painting ($1). Not much, but not bad for a rainy day either and I’m only getting started. . .

That’s all for now–look for the winner in the next post–

Bye y’all,

PS $563,000 has been donated to far to Save the Mount. George Soros, are you reading this?




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And where have YOU been?



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,



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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,


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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,

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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,



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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


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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