Now: 2015 Final WordPress Photo Challenge

The Daily Post WordPress Photo Challenge is coming a wee bit early, as Christmas is in two days!

The final WordPress Photo Challenge for 2015 is NOW. As the prompt explains:

  • Sometimes, we get caught up in nostalgia, future fantasy, or both, and we don’t embrace the “now.” For this week’s challenge, take a moment to notice your present, and share a photo of it.

Here are three photos celebrating NOW:

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Chelsea Market, New York City: Hanging from the Rafters Near the Exits: December 2015

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New York City, a Place That Is All About NOW: Edge of Soho, November 2015

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Readings are such fleeting pleasures! InsideStorytime, El Amigo Bar on Mission St., San Francisco: November 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

OOPS! Part 3: East Village Reading

It is so warm in the city! Unbelievable! Self doesn’t even know why she bothers putting on a sweater. There are people walking around in shirtsleeves!

Anyhoo, it is Saturday night. Today, self was invited to a reading in an Avenue A bar called Sidewalk. The reading is part of a series organized by the Italian American Writers Association. Self heard about it because a member of her on-line writing group, Edvige Giunta, teaches at New Jersey City University and three of her students were reading.

Oh, what a fun evening! Edvige’s students truly are a talented group!

Plus it was so nice to finally meet Edvige in person!

Self took many bad (OOPS!) pictures:

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The Line-Up: Three Jersey Girls and Their Teacher, Edvige Giunta, after the Reading at Sidewalk Café, Avenue A at 6th St.

More OOPS! At least this one’s sharp! Why is that girl giving self the side-eye?

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Sidewalk Café, Avenue A, East Village. Self used to live at 8th and 1st. The whole area is much changed.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Irish Women Playwrights/ American Film Actors

In late September, self was in Cork, Ireland. The Cork International Short Story Festival was happening. One of the featured readers was American writer Kelly Link.

Self attended Link’s reading, held in the Triskel Art Centre, a converted church.

There were many, many wonderful things that happened that night, not the least of which was meeting Kelly Link and getting a signed copy of her new collection of stories, Get In Trouble.

Self struck up a conversation with another woman who happened to be seated directly in front of her. Turned out the woman was a Dublin playwright who had come to Cork simply to attend the short story festival.

The woman and self exchanged e-mails. She made self promise never to blog/tweet about her, or reveal her name. Self gave her solemn promise.

And then she roamed the internet, looking for the woman’s plays.

She found an article by Eileen Kearney, in Colby Quarterly, Vol. 27, Issue 4. It spans the Twentieth Century up to 1991. Many new Irish women playwrights have emerged since 1991, of course, but here was a start.

And, just to show you how playwriting is very deep in Ireland’s bones, a national women’s playwright competition sponsored by The Irish Times drew 188 plays in the first year alone.

Here are the playwrights mentioned in the article (Self will never reveal which of these belongs to the woman she met in Cork last month):

Geraldine Aron * Mary Elizabeth Burke-Kennedy * Marina Carr * Anne Devlin * Mary Halpin * Anne Le Marquand Hartigan * Jennifer Johnston * Marie Jones * Harriet O’Carroll * Christina Reid * Carolyn Swift * Dolores Walshe

Dear blog readers know very well how much self loves plays. She went to Galway simply to catch Star of the Sea there. In April, she went to Minneapolis for the AWP Conference and caught a performance of Joe Dowling’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Just last week, self caught Cal Shakes’ King Lear, with Anthony Heald.

When she was a college student, at the Ateneo de Manila, she wrote plays, and acted in them, too.

Her love of movies is deeply connected to her love of plays, her love of theatre.

Perhaps, if self finds time, she will post about the three movies she has seen this month: The Martian, Pawn Sacrifice, and The Walk. Each of those movies features these American actors at the very top of their game: Matt Damon, Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Usually, come the end of the year, the Oscar contenders get trotted out by the movie studios. And usually, a number of Oscar contenders will feature British actors like Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch. Or Australian actors like Russell Crowe.

Self thinks it is wonderful that the American actors are so dominant in this fall’s movies.

But, she digresses. She has to get going. Perhaps more, later?

Stay tuned.

“Summer People” : Story # 1 of Kelly Link’s GET IN TROUBLE: STORIES

Daddy in story wakes up his daughter (Sick in bed with the flu, she has self-medicated by taking four NyQuil the night before) by spraying her in the face with a plant mister. The girl notices her father’s packed a suitcase. By way of explanation, he says:

“I’ll be gone some time. A week or three.”

“Where you off to?” the daughter asks.

“Prayer meeting in Miami. Found it on the Internet.”

The daughter tells her Daddy, “I know you need to stay here and look after me. You’re my Daddy.”

SPOILER * SPOILER * SPOILER

The Daddy leaves, the daughter gets herself breakfast (“a spoon of peanut butter and dry cereal”), goes to school, where she dozes “through three classes, including calculus” and experiences a moment of high anxiety when a teacher sends her to the infirmary. Luckily, she is saved by running into an acquaintance named Ophelia Merck, who drives a Lexus.

Ophelia is “pretty, shy, spoiled, and easy to boss around.”

Naturally, painful hilarity ensues.

Dear blog readers, can you believe self heard Kelly Link read this story in a former church? Just last week in Cork, Ireland?

And when self went up to get Ms. Link’s autograph, the ensuing conversation included what it’s like to eat kosher?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Change 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is CHANGE.

The Daily Post includes a quote from Lao Tzu:

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.

Here’s a picture of the Triskel Art Centre in Cork, which was the venue for the Kelly Link/ Heather O’Neill reading last Thursday, during the Cork International Short Story Festival. It used to be a church, and they kept the wooden pews:

Triskel Christchurch, Cork

Triskel Christchurch, Cork

Another event self attended was the launch of a new literary journal, Banshee, edited by three intrepid young women: Laura Jane Cassidy, Claire Hennessy, and Eimear Ryan:

Below, Issue # 1:

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Finally, a sign on the wall of the Galway Train Station. NIIICE! Trains represent movement, movement represents change:

Galway Train Station

Galway Train Station

Funny, in the States, self has grown used to associating the color red with STOP signs.

Here in the UK, she’s seen red phone booths, red sofas, red walls, red sneakers, red sweaters, and now this sign in a train station.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of The Day: Kelly Link’s Story “The Summer People” (Which Link Read at the Cork International Short Story Festival)

Self’s idol! Ever since self read her story “Stone Animals” in Best American Short Stories (2005?)

When self found out that Kelly Link was reading at the Cork International Short Story Festival, she became immensely excited and determined. So off she went to the Triskel Art Centre, and did she ever make the right choice or what? Never mind that it was cold, that she’d just had a humongous dinner, and she just wanted to veg out in her room. No, self! Get your shit together!

Even though self swore, swore she would not buy a single book (Her arms are so sore from lifting: she’s taken at least 4 trains in eight days), she did buy Kelly’s just-published Get In Trouble: Stories (blurbed by none other than Sarah Waters, who calls it, quote unquote, A brilliant, giddying read.). Kelly wrote this on self’s copy:

For Marianne: Here are some terrible ideas. Love, K D Link.

BWAH. HA. HA. HA!!!

When, after the reading, self went up with the book of Kelly’s short stories encased within her trembling hands (The use of hyperbole would not be completely unwarranted in this situation), Kelly was speaking to a very enthusiastic Irish lad. Self waited patiently.

Then, before signing self’s book, Kelly asked for self’s name.

Self demurred, saying, Oh you’ve never heard of me.

(Self! YOU IDIOT! QUIT MUMBLING!)

Finally, Kelly managed to worm it out of self. Whereupon Kelly said, with great sincerity, “I think I’ve heard of you.”

In response to which self said, “No you’ve never heard of me. I’m so small press, I’m not even.”

(GAAAA!!!!)

Anyhoo, here’s an excerpt from “The Summer People,” the first story in Kelly Link’s collection:

  • Fran had the flu, except it was more like the flu had Fran. In consequence of this, she’d laid out of school for three days in a row. The previous night, she’d taken four NyQuil caplets and gone to sleep on the couch while a man on the TV threw knives.

Unf. Self just loves the unexpectedness of the last sentence.

Plan for tonight: meeting up with playwright Barbara Guilfoyle. Going to hear Jaime Nanci Barron sing.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cork International Short Story Festival, September 2015

Self is presently in the beautiful city of Cork.

The Cork International Short Story Festival began yesterday. She was pretty inert yesterday when she arrived in Cork and holed up in her room, eating. Alas, she missed some great readings (And put on at least five pounds. After that dinner last night! The people sitting next to self couldn’t resist remarking that self had ordered A LOT OF FOOD)

Today, self made it to the launch of the Banshee Literary Journal and got to meet one of the editors, Claire Hennessy:

Claire Hennessy, Editor, with the Inaugural Issue of Literary Journal BANSHEE, today at the Cork City Library

Claire Hennessy, Editor, with the Inaugural Issue of Literary Journal BANSHEE, today at the Cork City Library

Self was soooo relaxed. In spite of not knowing anybody, she chatted with a young woman who kept self company while she drank (free) wine.

Wine is so wonderful. Why don’t they serve wine at library readings in America?

Also, self has never been to an afternoon reading in an American library where there is wine. It just has never been done. At least, not to self’s provincial American knowledge.

Then she chatted up two of the three authors who read. One of the readers, Eleanor Hooker, told self that she pilots a lifeboat in her “real life.” How cool is that? Self has never, ever met an American author who can pilot a lifeboat. And write sentences like this:

She lived with us for three days after she drowned.

That is a swoon-worthy sentence if self ever heard one.

Tonight, an American author, Kelly Link, is reading at 9:15. Self is torn. It is pretty cold at night, and there’s a strong wind. The River Lee surrounds Cork on two sides. You can never escape the river wind. And she just wants to be cozy.

But then, she pinched herself. NO! SELF, you did not travel all this way to Cork to nest in your room GETTING FAT! And INERT!

So she told Ger (Chef and all-around Factotum of B & B that self refuses to name because they have very little room and she doesn’t want to have to fight for a reservation next year. Or the year after next) to book her a taxi and Ger said, That is a 10-minute walk from here you will not need a taxi.

But self said Oh indeed I will need a taxi because the wind! And I have a very low tolerance for cold! I was born in the Philippines and lived most of my life in California!

(Self did not actually say all that, but she did impress on Ger that she was serious about the taxi.)

Here’s another picture from the Banshee Literary Journal launch:

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Issue # 1, Banshee Literary Journal, Autumn 2015

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Enveloped 5: New Leaves and Smiles at The Banff Centre, Alberta

There’s a huge tree just outside self’s window that was just a skeleton of twiggy branches. Until three days ago, when leaves started to appear. Now, just look at it:

Spring arrives in Banff!

Spring arrives in Banff!

There’s a Writing Studio reading every Wednesday night. Last night’s reading was held at Wild Flour Artisan Bakery in downtown Banff. Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Writing Studio, was one of the readers.

A little about Greg: His collection, The Roaring Girl, won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His novel Bedlam was a Globe and Mail 100 Best Books of the Year and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice.

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night's Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

Greg Hollingshead, Director of the Banff Writing Studio, at Last Night’s Reading in Wild Flour Artisan Bakery, Banff

It is truly amazing that everyone read so well, even though self calculated about a third of the readers, and probably half of the audience, were sick. Sick like self: stuffy nose, cough, no appetite, etc.

Self actually saw an in-house doctor at Lloyd Hall on Tuesday, who told self that she was suffering from a run-of-the-mill cold virus and didn’t need any prescription medication. The only good thing about having this cold is that everyone around her at the reading (including Greg Hollingshead) seemed to be suffering from the same thing. She could hear people trying to quell coughs all over the place. Dear blog readers, there is nothing worse than knowing you’re going to have to hawk a big one, something so explosive it will be heard all over the room, and despite your best efforts, it still comes. I kept chewing zinc lozenges but what can you do.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Freelance writer and editor Julia Phillips, who read excerpts from two of her short stories last night.

Anyhoo, the reading last night went on as planned. All the readers were fantastic. Julia Phillips (pictured above) has had work in the Crab Orchard Review (Woot Hoot! So has self!), Drunken Boat, The Rumpus, The Week, and The Moscow Times. She was a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Glimmer Train Short Story Award for New Writers.

Self also began chatting with a woman sitting near her, who turned out to be author J. Jill Robinson. Here’s a link to a review of one of her books, More in Anger, in The Globe and Mail.

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Canadian Fiction Writer J. Jill Robinson, at the Banff Writing Studio reading last night

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Banff Centre, Last Night

Last night, during the Writing Studio readings in Bentley Hall, poet and novelist John Burnside quoted Shakespeare:

The world must be peopled.

The quote is from Much Ado About Nothing.

Self did a little internet exploration and found an article by John D. Cox in Shakespeare Quarterly (Volume 55.1, 2004) that lists Much Ado About Nothing as one of four “Comedies of Forgiveness,” the other three being Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure.

It was another stellar night. Bentley Hall was packed. Self wanted to link the “peopled” quote to this week’s WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge, FORCE OF NATURE. Stretching things a little bit, because self has just not been on that many hikes. Mostly, she’s been holed up in her room, writing.

Monday was switchover time: our mentors for the first two weeks of the Writing Studio went home, and new mentors came in. Burnside flew in from Berlin, late Sunday night.

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night's Writing Studio reading

Bentley Chamber Music Studio, Just Before Last Night’s Writing Studio Reading. Self reads on May 27.

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio,

Jeff Millar, Writing Studio Program Coordinator, at the Book Table at the Back of Bentley Chamber Music Studio.

One of the readers last night was Benjamin C. Dugdale, whose bio describes him as “oral storyteller, poet, and experimental filmmaker . . . He is interested in freckles, tea, silent film, and growing his hair out long.” Canadians have such dry humor. Honestly, it takes self at least five seconds before she realizes the person she is speaking to has actually made a joke. What? She’s thick, what else can she say?

She really liked Ben’s T-shirt:

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Benjamin C. Dugdale After his Reading Last Night at the Bentley Chamber Music Studio

Ben’s work is recently published or forthcoming in Free Fall, The Steel Chisel, Sulphur, and Numero Cinq.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WIP: Fan Fiction and a Novel

Self has two fan fiction WIPs at the moment, and thankfully she now has a beta (Pseud: Cielo).

But she is seriously behind with her updates. Ever since she got to Canada, she’s had very little time.

Nevertheless, she refuses to abandon her fan fiction writing. She decides to consult her beta Cielo, who tells self: “Katniss must avoid small talk because that may ignite emotions she simply cannot handle.” Moreover: “Katniss must refuse all offers of help from Peeta and his wife.” (Yes, Peeta is married to someone else. Angst is self’s particular specialty) WOW! You see how brilliant self’s beta is???

She’s also working on a novel-in-progress, a historical novel set in 18th century Spain (From dystopian worlds of the future to 18th century Spain is not really such a big leap. Self finds she can write/switch easily from one to the other. Because, let’s face it, nothing is more speculative to a modern reader than the 18th century. Or the 17th century. Or the 16th century. Or, or . . .  well, you get the picture, dear blog reader.)

Because she wants her historical novel to have tons of verisimilitude, she’s reading up on fantastic historical voyages. Luckily, The Banff Centre has a very helpful library only a five-minute walk from her room.

Finally, she’s reading Mark Twain, which is helping her keep her sense of humor well oiled.

One thing she’s observed about Twain in Explorations to the Equator is that he is an indefatigable people person. He never holes up in his cabin during his cruise. Never. Self so admires Twain’s energy and gregariousness.

Because he is always up and about, Twain collects a number of interesting tidbits about his fellow passengers. Yes indeed, he is as addicted to gossip as the next person.

One night, Twain and his fellow cruise-mates play a game. Someone will relate a story, but leave out the ending. The other players devise possible endings, the best one is chosen by vote, and then the person whose story is being told reveals what the real ending is.

One particular story trumps all because, it turns out, the story was never finished. Before he could get to the end of the tale, the story-teller was interrupted.

Everyone tries to come up with a plausible ending, but no one succeeds. Twain decides that it’s because “the story’s strength is in its middle, and . . . there is apparently no way to transfer it to the close, where of course it ought to be.”

Twain ends up re-telling the story for the reader, and it is so, so long that self cannot figure out the point. Plus the anecdote is told in text that is half the size of the main narrative, and self can hardly read it. Honestly, she doesn’t know how Twain remembered so much of this particular story. As far as she can tell, it’s about a man named John Brown, who is 31 and “good, gentle, bashful, etc.” He is “made entirely out of good impulses and bashfulness” (Digression: Two nights ago, self and the other writers were sitting in a circle in the Writers Lounge. One writer was late, and self pulled a chair out for her so she could join the circle. And the woman said: “Oh, thank you! Thank you for being so kind and thoughtful! Not that it’s going to do you any good.” At which statement self nearly bust a gut from laughing) Anyhoo, Brown is on his way to visit his lady love, when his hat gets blown off his head and lands in the river. And he determines he simply cannot show up at his sweetheart’s without his hat. So he decides to doff all his clothes and jump into the river to retrieve the hat. In the meantime, his horse runs off with his clothes, so the man is stranded naked on a riverbank. And —

Darn! How much of this small print can she decipher! It’s madness! Sheer madness!

Stay tuned.

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