Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My girl is home

My girl arrived last night, bringing a friend from school. Oh, it was good to hug my girl. She has such a calming, bright energy. I marvel at it every time I experience it anew.

Her friend, a girl dear to my daughter since the very first day of freshman orientation (they are now seniors), has this cool hipster vibe that has everyone asking her if she's from Brooklyn. If fact, she's from Phoenix, Arizona, by way of Chicago, Kansas and California. She's as easy and chill as a houseguest can be.

Meanwhile my cousin and her two daughters are at this very moment on the road from Maryland, and they arrive this afternoon, while my niece and a friend of hers from Jamaica will get here tonight. We're hosting 23 people for Thanksgiving this year, though not all of them are staying over. There will be a mere 10 of us resting our heads here come evening. The whole swirl of people shoulder to shoulder and flurry of cooking makes this my husband and children's favorite holiday. Let the party begin!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Roughing Up Free Speech

I woke up to the news that white supremacists had gunned down five protestors at a Black Lives Matter rally in Minneapolis last night.

The three shooters had apparently done surveillance on the planned protest for days, then showed up at the event and fired into the crowd of peaceful demonstrators before fleeing.

This is terrorism, y'all. Call it what it is.

Christians in America mow down people, too. It's not just "those brown people" who practice "that other religion" who come from "over there."

The wounded are all in stable condition, thank God.

But this is what you get when you have Donald Trump, the leading GOP candidate, endorsing supporters who punched, beat, kicked and choked a black man at one of his events,. The man was shouting "Black Lives Matter" from the back of the hall when several white men surrounded him and punched and kicked him and continued punching and kicking him after he fell to the ground. Trump called from the podium, "Get that man out of here!" As hands closed around the demonstrator's neck a woman on the video could be heard screaming, "Don't choke him! Don't choke him!" When asked by news media afterward what he thought of the violent actions of his supporters toward the demonstrator, Trump said mildly, "Maybe he should have been roughed up."

This from the candidate for president who has proposed a national database to track all Muslims and the closing of mosques nationwide.

This from the candidate who claimed at a rally that thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheered when the towers came down on 9/11. That simply isn't true.

This from the candidate who tweeted a fake graphic that blacks are responsible for most killings of whites. Again, simply not true. The bogus graphic, it turns out, was originally put out as propaganda by Neo Nazis.

Has Trump read no history or does he just not care that America was founded on the principle of religious freedom?

Does he really intend to sound like he's advocating the policies of Nazi Germany?

He must, because he keeps doing it.

It's an unwritten rule in journalism to not compare anything to Nazism. Too inflammatory. But what do you do when no other comparison matches as exactly?

Trump is a dangerous dude.

This isn't a carnival sideshow anymore. This is a hate fest, conducted by the irresponsible posturing blowhard who is the leading Republican candidate for president

Photo from StreetArtGlobe (formerly Banksy)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happening now

Turned in the full draft of the book I ghostwrote for the 97 year old doctor, whose name is Ellamae.

Hired a copyeditor slash fact checker who is also going to format my endnotes.

Hired a cover designer. Got clear on a cover direction.

Wrote the jacket copy, front cover, back cover, inside flaps.

Rewrote the jacket copy based on my writer friend urging me to put on a marketing hat and use some over the top superlative adjectives, like "riveting" and "an extraordinary life."

Decided on a publisher.

Dreamed last night about Ellamae. She was holding the finished book in her hands.

Still much to do but it's happening.

In some other dimension, it's already happened.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Kenyan-born Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, who was recently named London's Young Poet Laureate, is writing verse about the state of the world that captures what I cannot find words to say. This poem of hers has been making the rounds on Facebook, shared and shared again, no doubt because it scalds us with its truth. Thank God for the artists like Warsan because most of the politicians "popping off" right now sound hateful and crazy and devoid of all sense and humanity.

what they did yesterday afternoon

They set my aunt's house on fire
I cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
I called the boy who used to love me
tried to 'okay' my voice
I said hello
he said Warsan, what's wrong, what's happened?

I've been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like:
dear god
I come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.

later that night
I held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A gentle corner

Last night, amid the terrible news coming out of Paris, I attended my friend's art showing. The artist is Janice Movson. Her ceramic sculptures are beautiful and haunting, the figures seeming to hold the ache of the world. Everyone was shelled shocked by what was happening overseas, but for a couple of hours we allowed ourselves to be enveloped in a communal art space, a gentle corner away from the horrors unfolding elsewhere.

The two young women are lifelong friends of my daughter, girls I love dearly, who went to school with my girl from childhood on. The artist whose work was being shown was our children's art teacher for 10 years. The young women were there taking coats and bags for Janice, because the bonds formed at that sweet little school have endured. I love that all these connections have lasted. I'm sentimental. I hold on.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Learning as we go

My friend, the artist Janice Movson, is having a show and sale of her work this week and next. Check out her Facebook page for more of her exquisite sculptures. She also makes wonderful bowls, plates and clay utensils. It's fascinating to see her living room being transformed into a breathtaking art space. She's building the display shelves herself and figuring it all out as she goes.

I've been swamped with meeting my own creative imperatives. It's always nice to have work. I also came back from California last weekend with a sense of urgency to get Dr. Simmons' manuscript edited, published and bound. Her health has slipped quite a bit since the summer, which I suppose can happen when you're high up in your nineties, but I want to make sure she can enjoy the culmination of her lifelong dream to write her story. The manuscript is now being copyedited and I have hired a wonderful designer to do the dust jacket for the hardcover. I have written the jacket copy and now need to wade through the good doctor's photographs to choose 20 that represent her life to be included in the book. I do wish we had time to shop the work to a mainstream publisher, who could write more scintillating cover copy, edit the work more deeply, the whole nine, but there is no time anymore to think like that. Dr. Simmons needs to hold her book in her hands, and I'm the one she asked to help her do it.

I'm dithering about which self-publishing outfit to use, as they all have both good and scathing reviews online. There is not a single self-publishing company I have come across that gets the gold star every time. I'm contemplating going with Bookbaby, as they have a very short turnaround time and a reputation for a handsome, professional looking product. And their intake person was excellent on the phone. I've seen reviews online that say their print books work out better than their e-books, which might be okay for me, as the doctor wants a printed book and couldn't care less about an e-book. Some reviewers also complained about their back end reporting of sales, so I need to investigate that more. They also only do the interior design and printing; I have to find my own editorial services but I do know lots of editors. Bookbaby will do covers, but I'm going with the tried and true designer who did the cover of my very first book project. He won a design award for that cover. Can't wait to see what he comes up with this time. 

Anyone out there have any experience with Bookbaby? Or perhaps you might have another self-publishing company to suggest?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A certain age

It is disconcerting to look in the hotel room mirror in the mornings, before eyeliner, and see my father's face, see my brother's face, and know that face is mine.

My dear Ellamae, the sweet warrior spirit I have been writing about, is not as robust as she was in the summer. Not nearly. Then we sat at her dining room table, next to the window, the sunlight pouring over her Shona sculptures on the terrace beside us. She was always smartly dressed, with large interesting pieces of jewelry at her neck, around her capable looking wrists. Now she stays in bed, propped on pillows, wearing lovely pinstriped pajamas with lace piping. Her body is giving out. She can no longer ride the exercise bike or do yoga in the afternoons. She is thinner. When she goes to the bathroom, she moves much as I remember my mother moving in the time before the end, her legs uncertain, the caregiver coaching her on. "Come on, Doctor, next foot now, next foot."

I sit at her beside and read her life story to her, and sometimes she catches my hand and brings it to her cheek, her way of saying thank you.

She will be 98 in March.

I have grown to love her so.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rhyme and Reason

I'm traveling again this week, to Oakland this time, to read the second half of her manuscript to the 97-year-old doyenne of medicine who hired me as her ghostwriter. I'm always full of happy anticipation when I know I'm going to see her. I also have two other editing projects to finish this week, so in between spending time with the good doctor at her retirement home I'm going to be working fiercely in my hotel room. I wish everything hadn't arrived on my plate at the same time, but that's just the way it worked out. How can I complain?

Here are photos of where we stayed last week, that too-cool-for-school bed and breakfast we love, Argos Inn, co-created by the son of the lovely Susan Landry, our blogger pal here. There's the chandelier in the blue air, and the King Slate room with its skylight, through which the full moon found us in the deep of night. Here also are photos from the gorge and waterfall we visited, the selfie we took, and some swipes of beloveds from Halloween weekend, too. No real rhyme or reason for any of it. Just pictures. Put here for the memories. For the love.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Saints

My dear brother-in-law sent me this photograph this morning. It's of his father, whose eighty-sixth birthday would have been today. The little boy in the photo is my husband, the little girl is his sister, and his brother was not yet born. Their father was the manliest of men, athletic, stoic, charismatic, all the more so because he was a devoted husband and father. His family was his life. Given the date on the photo, the picture-taker, his wife, was already carrying their youngest child. I will be forever grateful that this is the man who showed my husband how to be a man. And a husband. And a dad.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rainy day story

This week, driving back to the city in the rain, I was telling my husband that I might need to completely change my line of work, maybe even go back to school. That's how low I was feeling about what was ahead of me, the hoops to navigate to secure continuing work. I just didn't have the heart for it, and while I love the work itself, the writing and the editing, the helping someone else achieve a heartfelt dream, I just don't have the right constitution for the sales conversations. The story I have been telling myself is this: Most people don't really understand what I do; they think it's little more than placing commas. They have no idea how long it takes or how all consuming it can be. When I tell them the fee, I imagine they think I'm tripping. My super successful ghostwriter friend says I just need to get comfortable sitting with the gulp of silence that follows as they digest what's real. This is my livelihood, after all. She says I have to trust that people who know the value of my work will find me. But the thought of having this money conversation again and again just leaves me depleted. I know it's a necessary aspect of a freelancer's life, but I dreamed of escape. Then I arrived home and checked my email and a wonderful writer who has numerous YA books and a raft of awards and even a TV series made of one of her books, was asking me to edit her new book, and another writer wanted to hire me to edit a proposal she has to craft; "I need your eye," she said. I have another coaching project in the wings, and another prospect as well, so I thought, well maybe I'm supposed to stay where I am for a while longer, see how things go. I'm not on the other side yet, however. I'm still in my head, making up stories that stick pins in me, which might explain the slow leak, the brooding insecurity, which is not, but feels like despair. I need to tell myself a new story, one that corrals my free floating anxiety about the future and settles me peacefully in the present moment. Because, as I noted to my husband, in this moment we are actually okay.

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