Jan 032016
 

For years now, my friends have asked why I don’t keep my address book on my phone. Or in my g-mail account.

2016-01-03 15.18.57

My little black book is showing it’s age.  The cover bulges with envelopes and scraps of paper with addresses–updates for old friends and entries for new friends.  The manufacturer no longer makes a companion address insert for the weekly calendar. Every year, at New Year’s, I’d buy a new address section and transfer all the addresses. I’d linger over the names as I brought them into the new year with me. And then there were the people I’d lost. My older relatives, friends who had died too young, friends who had died after a long good life. I mourned them again as I set my pen aside and thought of them.

I think my attachment to address books began years ago when my mother delegated to me the annual addressing of the Christmas cards. She had a battered brown address book. New entries were rare at a time when no one moved from their original homes. But there were the strike-throughs.  When great Aunt Molly left her lifetime apartment on upper Broadway in New York, that famous address disappeared from my mother’s book as Aunt Molly moved in with us. Great Aunt Rose died from Alzheimer’s and that entry only listed her husband Stanley. When my mother’s sister, Mary, died, it was heart-breaking to see her name, with a line carefully bisecting it.

My handwriting was better then. Still neat from penmanship cursive classes. My mother trusted that the envelopes would be legible. Eventually, she had me sign the cards as well…Betty, Joe and family.

Now, my handwriting can only be deciphered by those who have learned the code. Even when I consciously shape each letter for enhanced legibility, sometimes I find myself puzzling over the marks.  I am, however, an excellent typist. Thanks again to schooling. Typing I and II at Somers High School. My fallback business classes, along with Steno I.  Why not smart phone book, g-mail or even a handy spreadsheet on my laptop?

I don’t want anything to come between me and the names I hold dear. There is already distance. Geography. Complicated lives. For this time, not only do I write cards, I record names. Each letter shaped. Each person carried into the new year. It’s the simplest of stories I tell. The information changes more frequently. Overseea locations are common.  Zip codes are no longer clustered in New England.

Moleskine, that purveyor of wonderful toys for writers (especially us Luddites), now offers a small black address book.  No more tattered pages; I’ll have a fresh book for each year. Starting today.

 

 

 

Apr 262015
 

My friendship with Ken Jolly goes back to my high school days. He was in a local rock band. I was a fan. I’d met him and the band, the Moderns of Rockville, Connecticut, at a battle of the bands that I helped organize in my hometown. They did not take the top prize that night but we found ourselves all at an after party event. That was the beginning of a fun couple of years becoming friends, dancing the nights away.

I went to school at UCONN; Ken went to Vietnam. We lost track of each other.

Fast forward through decades. On my ramblings through Facebook I occasionally try to find old friends but never had any luck with Ken. Entering his name yielded a wild-looking guy with long white hair and beard — in Tennessee. I gave up  until one of my friends from those days said she’d connected with him on Facebook. Back I go. I look again. Look at his eyes. Damn it was him.

We exchanged brief life synopses. His wife, my husband. Our rescued dogs. Our work. He was still making music, though now it was blues and country leaning, in Tennessee. I’d been a journalist and PR person and migrated to Massachusetts. We tended to “like” each other’s posts. I also became friends with his wife–when NEELIE’S TRUTH came out, she invited me to do a book club discussion. And to my surprise, he offered a song.

Then I waited. It’s been just about a year. There were two rounds of lyrics, very different from each other. A mention earlier this year that he was booking studio time. Then, last week, a head’s up that he was in the studio recording.

An MP3 arrived by e-mail. “Neelie’s Theme.” I had been enjoying my meditative morning coffee with my dogs doing their yoga stretches on the carpeting in front of me. I had no idea what to expect when I clicked on the file. It had been a long, long time since I heard his voice. I remembered his covers of Mustang Sally and When a Man Loves a Woman.

I held my phone up, the better to hear. Guitar, sweet and thoughtful, played out around me. Then Ken singing about Neelie’s secret, her story, her loss.   I listened with tears.

I’ve been grateful for so much: the art for Neelie’s Truth designed by a good friend; the enthusiastic reviews by other authors and readers; the love and support of my husband, daughters and extended family. But as the song sighed to a close, I was also grateful for the sharing of this fictional person who is real to me. And real in Ken’s singing.

Somewhere, I’d saved his cell number. He’d given it to me when we were talking about the lyrics. I’d never called because I decided that the lyrics were his, not mine. No editing. I dialed the number now.

“Thank you thank you thank you,” I said. Give a listen. NEELIE’S THEME

Betsy

Photo credit: Ken Jolly 2015, John Nicolosi, Niko Records Studio

Jan 312015
 

For many of us, writers especially, rejection can come like a stab through the heart and descent into despair. What if we rewrite that script?

I just heard–yes NPR, of course–about Jason Comely, a Canadian IT guy, who has come up with Rejection Therapy as an antidote to his stifling fear of getting the thumbs down. He’d been left by his wife and the fear of rejection made a virtual recluse of him. NPR’s Invisibilia does a great job with his story, and here is the take-away. Commit to being rejected at least once a day. Eventually, the fear takes a back seat and life gets more interesting.

Jason inspired a following. Jia Jiang launched his own fear-buster of 100 days of rejection. He video-taped and posted the asks. He’s been rejected when he asked a stranger for $100, but in a happy turn of events a Krispy Kreme employee agreed to produce an Olympic symbol made of donuts. He asked to make the in-flight announcement and if he could play soccer in a stranger’s backyard (Yes to both!). His 100th ask was to President Obama (still waiting on that).

I’m feeling inspired by Jason and Jia and their followers. No matter where you are in your writing life–starting, in the middle, or one of the lucky ones at the top of the game, there is possible rejection for you. It’s what you do with it. BTW, you don’t need to be a writer to give rejection therapy a try.

no

There’s the easy (not really) way. Send out a manuscript every day and watch the form letter  e-mails roll back in. We all know how to do that. Get creative, have fun with it. I’m thinking more of things like:

 

 

 

  1. Ask your fire department if you can do a ride-along for research.
  2. Write your favorite author and ask if they will blurb your book.
  3. Ask someone in line if they would “like” you on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter.
  4. Ask for a feature story in your local paper.
  5. Ask a Chipotle employee if you can write something for their  Cultivating Thought series.
  6. Ask a stranger if they’d like your autograph.
  7. Ask a Starbucks  barista if you can name a character after her.
  8. Will your supermarket add an “author” reserved parking spot?
  9. Recite a favorite poem to the “I’ll be your server” person.
  10. And yes, ask an agent, editor, publisher to consider your work …

Like Jia Jiang and Jason Comely, you may get a yes somewhere in the mix–but not until you start asking. The theory is that you can take away the sting of rejection by repetition; our hearts will be open to the idea of asking. The possibility of being surprised.

Betsy

P.s. If Mother Nature can get her plans rejected by a Groundhog, heck we can all do this! Happy GHD to you.

Aug 042014
 
Summer Romance

I’m having a love affair with #summer. It’s always a slow dance through June and July, but come August, I’m smitten by the sun. The miracle of food appearing on vines, stalks, and branches makes me giddy.  I love a great market as much as the next foodie. But I grew up with a huge backyard garden and orchard. We would feast on the best of the crop, sometimes extravagantly so. When the green beans were at their peak, my mother would serve a platter of beans, sometimes with a bit of bacon, sometimes just naked. That was it. Beans. […]

Jul 032014
 
Rolling Thunder Review

Lightning strikes again and again and again. In my life, anyway. In the midst of a three-day run of thunderstorms, I can’t help think of the close calls. The house where I grew up was set on a pocket of cornfield next to my grandparents’ small farm. Connecticut River Valley rich soil, gentle rolling landscape, it was beautiful. It was apparently also some ind of geo-hot spot. I’ve got no scientific backup, just the facts. In my relatively short time living there, I left when I was 18, here’s a rundown of strikes that I remember: Dog — typically my […]

Jun 212014
 
Sun of the Solstice

The Summer Solstice arrived at 6:51 this morning. Unlike Christmas when children wake before dark to rush out to their stocking treats or Easter when those same children scamper to find their chocolate bunnies, many of us were still asleep. What a shame. Mother Nature threw us a big party and we lazed. Maybe we need a place to properly mark the day, as the Brits have their stone circles. A while back I visited Avebury in Wiltshire, England. On that same day I also visited Stonehenge. Stonehenge, if you’ve not visited lately, requires tickets and reservations. Those who arrive without planning are left to gaze […]

Jun 172014
 
Getting Comfortable With Creative

You wrote the book. That may seem like the easy part as you begin to face scores of decisions. Front matter and back matter. Author photo. Editors, overall and copy. Proofreader. Promo team. Perhaps the biggest…book cover design. My decision for NEELIE’S TRUTH cover design was made early.  A graphic designer I’ve known for many years said he’d like to work on the cover. For me it was a non-decision. I trusted him. I knew I could work with him. I also knew I wanted a cover that honored the story with a clean, strong design. For many indie authors, […]

Jun 142014
 
Chipmunk Walks Into a Room

Country life means that sometimes the country comes inside. We’ve been visited by field mice (no big surprise), voles, birds, frogs, chipmunks, neighbors’ dogs who discover the dog door, likewise cats, and of course creepy crawlies. Chipmunk #1 – discovered when I stumbled out of the bedroom at 5:30, with our dogs, Waffles and Chickie. Eyes barely open, I caught a tiny brown blur racing ahead of us. In a nanosecond, the dogs pursued.  Through the family room, kitchen and into what we call the music room (really our library with overstuffed chairs, books, and the complex-beyond-words music system my husband has […]

Jun 092014
 
The Truth is Out

The best writing comes from that place deep inside, unknown until it is set free. So it is with my new novel, NEELIE’S TRUTH. I did not plan to write a book that was controversial. I met Neelie James sitting on the back step of her family home. I stood behind her and followed her gaze. Her father, who trapped to earn extra money, was skinning muskrats. He’d sell the dried pelts. There was nothing new for Neelie–she lived in rural Connecticut at the cusp of change, the late 1950s.  And so the story began. I wrote around 270 pages. […]