Outside My Window Is a Wedding…

Posted March 30th, 2010 by Candice

Or so it appears.  When I open my eyes in the morning, I see the pear trees just outside in full bloom.  Every spring I’m glad my husband planted the three Bradford pears in our front yard.  They are fast growers–in 13 years we now have full-sized, beautifully shaped trees.  Not only do they put on a cotton-candy display in the spring, but they shade the front of our house from the hot Virginia summer sun (I once put a thermometer on the front porch in full sun–it read 140 degrees!).  In the fall they turn a gorgeous shade of dark red.

The sight of our pear trees reminds me of one of Margaret Wise Brown’s poems:

Apples trees as pink as pie
Like strawberry ice cream
In the sky
Burst on my
Delighted eye.

Margaret loved flowers and spring.  With the advance from her first book, When the Wind Blew, she bought all the flowers on a flower-cart and filled her New York City apartment with fragrant blooms.

Another time she splurged on a honey-colored roadster convertible which she drove with the top down in winter, swaddled in fur coats, her Kerry blue terrier lolling beside her on the front seat.  Of all the seasons, Margaret needed spring.  At winter’s end, she drove south to savor the sight of crocuses and magnolias and birds glad to be back.  She followed robins and daffodils, tasting spring’s delights again and again as she slowly drove north to New York.  Listening to silvery-throated peepers, she wished she could express herself in another language, without words.

 Like Margaret, I need spring, too.  Pear blossoms burst on my delighted eye, robins laugh, and, at night, peepers jingle from hidden creeks.  Even Winchester needs spring.  He thinks the silk tulips on my Happy Basket are real! 

Four O’Clock Phone Call: Memories of a My First Editor

Posted March 28th, 2010 by Candice

I am sometimes asked at what point during my career did I get an agent.  People are surprised to learn I didn’t have an agent the first 18 years.  Children’s book publishing was fairly stable during the 80s and into the 90s and it wasn’t necessary to have an agent to break in.  But in large part, my first editor acted as my agent.  She was also my mentor and a wonderful friend.

In 1981, Ann Reit, who later became Executive Editor at Scholastic, plucked my little manuscript from the slush pile.  She saw something in my work that prompted her to call me late one afternoon.  She told me she couldn’t use the book I had sent her, but she was starting a new imprint called Windswept, romantic suspense fiction for teens, and asked if I would send her a proposal.  I did.  A few weeks later she called again.  I checked the clock.  It was a little after four in the afternoon.  She told me she was buying my book.

After I screamed and told her that if I hadn’t sold a book by the time I was 30 I was planning to slit my wrists (I was 29 at the time), she told me this was her favorite part of her job–calling new writers to tell them the news.  Ann loved being a writer’s first editor.  She asked me if I was married.  I said I was.  She told me she had a nephew, who was single and lived in D.C.  I wondered briefly if divorcing my husband and marrying her nephew sight-unseen was part of the deal.  But that was just Ann.  She cared about people–her family, and her extended family of writers and co-workers at Scholastic.

I was a very young 29 when Ann Reit took me under her wing.  She taught me how to develop characters and how to plot.  If I had a new idea, she would say, "Now, Candice, dear.  Tell me the plot in one sentence."  I would stammer out a story with a lot of "and thens" and she would interrupt, "One sentence."  We worked on a number of different projects.  She often called and asked my input on a new line of books.  I did the launch titles of the Sunfire series and early titles in series such as Crystal Falls, Dear Diary, and Junior High.  I loved working on new series ideas with her.  The photo shows some of the books Ann Reit and I did together.

I learned to revise on the phone.  Ann would call around four in the afternoon, ask me how I was, then get down to business.  She never sent me a revision letter.  I scribbled notes on the phone book, the backs of envelopes, inside cookbooks, all the while swatting our cat Alaric, who intuitively knew these calls were important and got into something just beyond phone-cord reach. 

Because this was pre-email days, I often delivered my manuscripts in person.  My husband and I took the Metroliner to New York.  Ann treated us to lunch.  Sometimes we stayed overnight.  Ann would take us to dinner and once we all went to a show.  We did panels together at trade shows and she invited me to Scholastic trade show parties.  Our relationship deepened year after year, book after book. 

Ann took personal interest in her writers.  She reviewed our royalty statements and called to let us know what we were earning.  She fought for higher advances and better deals.  Once, when Scholastic was in some way affiliated with the ABC Afterschool Specials, she walked across the street to those offices with my book, The Day the Eighth Grade Ran the School, which she felt should be optioned for a TV show.

Her four o’clock calls weren’t just about royalties or revisions or acquiring a new book.  She called me when my mother was sick.  And when my mother died, Ann told me she had been at her mother’s bedside too, and let me extend a contract a few months.  She invariably asked about my husband.  We shared fun times–wild cab rides to and from restaurants, a visit to her upper West Side apartment, the time she asked me if I was through with my water then proceeded to wash her fingers in my glass . . . she was so funny!

Ann retired from Scholastic in the late 90s though she continued to act as a consulting editor.  By this time I had moved on to other publishers to work on picture books, novels, nonfiction, and biographies.  But when I was in New York, I had dinner with Ann and we’d catch up.   Over the years, I was amazed at how she stayed so beautiful.  She had fabulous cheekbones and large brown eyes.  She wore her brown hair in a classic pageboy that accented her elegant jawline.  Her smile was quick and warm.  

We lost contact a few years ago.  In January 2009, I learned that Ann Reit had died the previous August.  I was at a luncheon and tried not to show my devastation.  But the news hit me hard and even today I still cry over losing Ann. 

I have different editors now.  They don’t call me or even email except to say revisions are on the way.  They tell my agent who they’ve assigned as an illustrator to my book.  They tell my agent if a project has been re-scheduled.  

Craving some connection, I finally went on Facebook.  I can see photos of my editors.  I can read snippets of their interests.  But Facebook feels distant and artificial.  Do I really want to know that an editor plays games on Facebook?  That they are having spaghetti for dinner?  When I get the message that a professional in publishing has "confirmed we are friends," I know it’s not true.  This is a sad way to connect with people.  

The days of the four o’clock calls are over.  What I wouldn’t give to have the phone ring and pick it up to hear, "Hi, dearie, it’s Ann."  She was a class act.

 

Friday Five, with Cupcakes!

Posted March 26th, 2010 by Candice

This hasn’t been the best week:  flattening allergies, critically-ill computers, ailing washing machine, an unexpected revision.  But it’s Friday and time to salvage the good parts of the past week.

1.  I was contacted by the National Building Museum with regard to the scrapbook I bought kept by a woman who traveled to the Century of Progress world’s fair in 1933.  The museum is mounting a show of world’s fairs in the 1930s (five world’s fairs in the U.S., during the Depression yet!) that will run October 2010 to July 10, 2011.  The exhibit will be in the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., then will travel to three cities.  The curator has asked if I would loan my scrapbook for the exhibit.  After years of collecting vintage stuff, it has finally paid off! 

2.  It is raining.  Normally I would hate the rain, but it washes the pollen away.  The Pear-Tree-O-Meter is ready to burst into blossom and redbud is brightening woods with its pink blooms, but the spring show can wait another day.  I am enjoying breathing!

3.  I finished that unexpected revision and delivered it yesterday.  I delivered a book last Thursday.  Delivered a book this Thursday.  Hope this isn’t becoming a pattern.  I’ll never keep up!

4.  My sister had her final post-cancer treatment this week.  She is doing fine.

5.  I packed myself a Happy Basket and ate those two cupcakes in the photo.  Feeling the need for treats, I bought a chocolate grasshopper mint cupcake and a chocolate peanut butter cupcake from Wegman’s.  They helped during those long revision.  Inspired by Jama’s ongoing cupcake tribute, I bought a cupcake journal, cupcake recipe notecards, and a tiny cupcake-shaped lipgloss, chocolate flavored, natch.

Down? Discombobulated? Pack a Happy Basket!

Posted March 24th, 2010 by Candice

I’m not really down–it’s spring after all.  But my allergies keep me from going outside and I am currently slammed with work–the third revision of the world’s thorniest book on top of a deliverable I haven’t started and is due April 15.  My house is a wreck.  Boxes from my soon-(but not soon enough)-to-be-renovated home office are in the dining room, library, and our bedroom.  My desktop and small laptop computers are infected with viruses (thank you, Facebook!) and will be out of commission for two weeks.  My washing machine is leaking during the rinse cycle and "throwing oil", which means a new appliance purchase looming in our future.  I like control of my home, my work, and my life. 

I want to be free from contract books and go out and plant flowers and wander around downtown Fredericksburg with my notebook.  Fill up my creative fount.

Well, I can’t do that now.  So rather than whine, I made myself a Happy Basket.  I went to Michael’s yesterday and got this sweet eyelet-lined basket and the bunch of tulips, both 40% off.  Plus some $1 fun things, like the journal inside the basket.  I tied the bunch of tulips to the handle with a wide pink satin ribbon. 

Then I filled the basket with treasures:  a new issue of Romantic Homes magazine, the bird journal, a pretty pen, a packet of vintage-y Paris-artist notes, and two books:  A Writer’s Paris: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul by Eric Maisel, and Thoreau on Birds.  The Paris book I’ve had a while.  It has Paris-themed writing exercises that you can apply to your hometown.  Though I will be pressed to find a charming footbridge over the Rappahannock River (crossed by throngs of traffic on Route 1), I still want to try the exercises.  Not now, but the book is waiting in my Happy Basket.

The Thoreau book is a new treasure, shipped two days ago from Advanced Book Exchange.  I admire Thoreau more than anyone else, even Thomas Jefferson.  My favorite childhood book is The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton, a treasure-hunt-mystery laced with philosophy from the Alcotts, Emerson, and Thoreau.  This was heady stuff for an eleven-year-old and prompted me to declare I was a Transcendentalist, renouncing my Lutheran upbringing (my parents took it in stride–I was famous for being dramatic). 

As a kid I was also a birdwatcher and I still am.  Not a serious birdwatcher–I’m happy watching the doings of our backyard birds.  So to find a book that combined my love of birds and Thoreau . . . !  The bird passages are culled from his numerous journals and Walden.  This is what I read before I go to sleep, my Happy Basket perched on my nightstand.  Here, Thoreau recorded a walk in a storm:

"To see the larger and wilder birds, you must go forth in the great storms . . . A life of fair-weather walks might never show you the goose sailing on our waters, or the great heron feeding here.  When the storm increases, then the great birds that carry the mail of the seasons lay to.  To see wild life you must go forth at a wild season."  Don’t you love that phrase, "the great birds that carry the mail of the seasons"?

Because it’s spring, I’m reading Thoreau’s spring entries.  This is how he described the wood thrush’s song:  "Some birds are poets and sing all summer.  They are the true singers.  Any man can write verses during the love season . . . We are most interested in those birds who sing for the love of music and not of their mates . . . He deepens the significance of all things seen in the light of his strain.  He sings to make men take higher and truer views of things.  He sings to amend their institutions; to relieve the slave on the plantation and the prisoner in his dungeon; the slave in the house of luxury and the prisoner of his own low thoughts."

I want to write fiction the way Thoreau (and I) watches birds:  to touch ordinary events with the extraordinary.  If I come within a pinky’s length of Thoreau’s magnificence, I’ll be happy.

I’ll close with his musings on my favorite bird, the Eastern bluebird:

"A mild spring day . . . The air is full of bluebirds."
"The bluebird carries the sky on his back."
"The plaintive spring-restoring peep of the bluebird is occasionally heard."
"The bluebird comes and with his warble drills the ice and sets free the rivers and ponds and frozen ground."
"Throughout the town you may hear them–the blue curls of their warblings–harbingers of serene and warm weather, little azure rills of melody trickling here and there from out of the air . . ."

Pack yourself a Happy Basket with books and notebooks and your camera and a cookie or two.  Carry it with you.  Go forth into nature and listen for the blue curl of the bluebird’s song, guaranteed to lift low thoughts. 

$100,000, One Year, Your Dream

Posted March 22nd, 2010 by Candice

I spent this weekend so sick from allergies, I am now dehydrated.  My husband has gone to the store for some Sprite, cranberry juice, a small container of Hagan Daaz vanilla bean ice cream, and a neti pot.  I’m not looking forward to using the neti pot but I’m tired of the side effects of Benadryl and other allergy pills that don’t work.  My sister once got knocked over by a wave at Rehoboth Beach and sucked in half the Atlantic.  She claimed her sinuses were clear as a dinner bell for six months.  So I’m hoping the neti pot will have the same effect.

One thing I enjoyed this weekend was finishing Adriana Trigiani’s Rococo, a novel about a New Jersey interior decorator who wants more than anything in his life to renovate his parish church.  Trigiani’s descriptions of food and interior design are reason enough to read the book, but her offbeat characters make the story come alive. 

Bartolomeo discovers a small Modigliani statue hidden in a resin statue of one of the Fatima children (from the miracle).  Suddenly he has more money than he’s ever dreamed.  He considers spending "a year in Hong Kong watching the local artisans make silk.  Or design school in London, where I would learn how to design wall treatments to the trade."

When I read this I thought, Here’s a man who would dedicate his windfall to his craft, not run out and buy a Porche with a Rolex dangling from the gearshift.  I read the part about spending a year in Hong Kong watching artisans make silk over and over.  It Later in the story, Bartolomeo argues with the parish benefactor, a woman rich as cream who has pulled the renovation funding for personal reasons.

He tells her, "If you do your work, money follows.  It shows up.  But it doesn’t have anything do with the magnificence of a person . . . What matters is what you make.  Whether it’s a cake for bingo night or a costume for a saintn or a wall of water–whatever you pour yourself into int his life is what makes you rich."

What you make.

Last night while I lay awake, too sick to sleep, I pretended I had been given $100,000 and one year of time do to as I please.  Where would I go? What would I do?  I considered a year in Paris, sitting at cafes, writing in my notebook like one of the Lost Generation.  But Paris seemed a bit gray and I don’t know the language.  Then I considered Italy–take one of Linda Lappin’s workshops on Soul of Place, soak up the special light that inspired so many artists and artisans.

But I’m an Anglophile.  I’d go to England.  But not London.  I chose Cherwell, because it’s close to Oxford, a magical place, the city of "dreaming spires."  I’d bicycle around the village, picnic on the banks of the River Cherwell, take day trips to Oxford, take longer trips to the Lake District, Cornwall, Wales . . . I’d take notes and write and study and read.  What would I make?  I’d make myself smarter, broaden my often-narrow Virginia horizons.  I would come home with a sketchbook filled with inept drawings and my not-very-good photographs.  And I would come home with a new novel, about something I never knew was inside me until I spent the time there.

What would you do with $100,000 and one free year?  Where would you go?  What would you make?

Springtime, Facebook, and Other Things

Posted March 21st, 2010 by Candice


It only took two warm sunny days.  Spring was waiting, coiled, ready to . . .  well, spring.  At first I noticed a hazy redness in the woods–maples and redbud.  Then I noticed that gorgeous new-green of willow trees along the streams.  Then . . . bam!  Forsythia, daffodils, crocuses, worms, birds and–pollen. 

Yesterday morning I looked out my bedroom window to check the Pear Tree-o-meter.  What a difference a week makes!  Jealous of my neighbor’s daffodils–I am alway too weary of summer to plant bulbs in the fall–I rushed out and bought flats of yellow pansies.  I planted sunny faces around our mailbox and put the leftovers in a new spring-green planter on the porch. 

Then I hauled out the porch rabbits, my vintage porch stuff (yellow Pepsi crate, watering can, roller skates with yellow wheels, milk bottle rack with old soda bottles), painted the bucket bench apple green this year, perched a bird cage filled with fake ivy in it, and frowned at the chair cushions.  Someone who shall remain nameless (Persnickety) slept her grubby self in the chairs all fall.  Not even X-14 run through a fire hose could get these cushions clean.  So, like I do about every two years, I ordered new ones from Lowe’s (I’m particular about my cushion fabric, none of that dark, Tuscany look for me). 

In Home Depot, I was tempted to buy a huge flowering pot of beautiful purple aster-like flowers, but reigned myself in.  It’s still mid-March.  Cold weather will be back.   I noticed my daylilies are up about 8 inches.   I also noticed the weeds.  See the chickweed in our flower bed?  I couldn’t believe I had to pull weeds to plant those pansies!  Didn’t matter if it was dark and wet and dreary outside for weeks and days on end.  Spring was just waiting . . .

. . . to make me miserable!  I have the worst allergies in the history of the world.  I’m either dripping like a faucet or doped up on Benadryl.  My Claritin is like an M&M–I’ve had to resort to the serious stuff to bring my histimines under control.

And yes, I’m on Facebook.  I have resisted this with all my fiber, but more editors and agents "want" writers to be on Facebook.  I am not a big fan.  First, it’s ugly and is offensive to my finer sensibilities.  FB reminds me of the old newsreels in movie theaters–"News of the World" blaring at you.  Second, the more friends you have, which makes you feel good (you really like me!), the more twaddling information you have to scroll through.  Do I care that someone went to Wal-Mart?  Does anyone care that I went to Home Depot?  And what is up with that stupid aged-brick-farm thing?  And third–well, I don’t have a third so I’ll just say again the format is fiddly and makes me twitch.

I like my blogs.  I won’t give up blogging for FB in a million years (okay, I said I wouldn’t go on FB in a million years, too).  My blogs are chosen carefully.  They are inspirational, friendly, informative, often with gorgeous photos.  I can relax with my blogs.  FB makes me feel like I’m sitting in a busted recliner.

Thank heavens for my blog buddies!  I know you’re on FB, too.  But I bet you secretly enjoy blogging better, just like me.  Oh, and another thing, I will never, ever Twitter.  Not in a million years.  You heard it here first!

 

The Honeysuckle Cafe Presents Linda Lappin

Posted March 19th, 2010 by Candice


Candice:  Good morning!  I’m pleased and delighted to introduce Linda Lappin, an American writer living in Italy, author of four novels:  The Etruscan (Wynkin deWord, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (about the life of Katherine Mansfield, Wordcraft of Oregon, 2008), Prisoner of Palmary, and Signatures in Stone, and a writing book The Genius Loci: A Writer’s Guide to Capturing the Soul of Place (all forthcoming).  She teaches American language and culture at the University of Rome and divides her time between Rome and a medieval Italian village where she organizes writing workshops dedicated to spirit of place. 

Grab a cup of tea or your latte, a biscotti, and take a seat.  Linda, the floor is all yours!

Linda:  I want to thank Candice for inviting me to contribute a guest post to her writing blog.  I am a writer living in Italy–a place which has provided endless inspiration for my work.  These long years I have had time to research and absorb the local spirits of place and to investigate the ways in which certain places and atmospheres feed my imagination.  I have been working this material into fiction, memoir, and poetry, and have recently completed a book of writing exercises called The Genius Loci: A Writer’s Guide to Capturing the Soul of Place, a section of which was published in The Writer magazine in November, and was mentioned here in Under the Honeysuckle Vine.  Candice has invited me to share a couple of exercises with you and ask for your feedback.  If you feel so inspired, try the exercise and post your comments or questions here.  Feel free to pass this material on to friends in your writings groups–but please cite where you got it from.

The topic I’d like to suggest is maps.

Maps, like novels or poems, are replicas of the physical work, models of the human mind, and in some traditions–diagrams of the soul.  For me they have always been a source of inspiration:  one of the earliest toys I remember is a jigsaw puzzle map of Europe.  My favorite piece was the yellow boot of Italy–prophetic perhaps, since that country was to become my home.

Maps to buried treasure, star charts, city plans, architectural blue prints are forms familiar enough to us.  But maps may appear in other guises: in the Buddhist tradition, mandalas are maps of states of consciousness; in Persia the patterns of carpet designs sometimes charted the unfolding of the cosmos or the pathways of paradisiacal gardens.  Maps need not take a visual form and may consist of words or music.  In Australia, the songlines of the aboriginal tradition investigated by Bruce Chatwin are actually word maps of territory, transmitting both topographical knowledge necessary for human survival:  the whereabouts of springs, trees, vital resources, and sacred knowledge concerning the mythic origins of human beings and the cosmos.  Maps may also be imprinted in the circuits of our neurons.  French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has noted that we carry the map of our first environment within us as a bundle of buried reflexes developed through our earliest movements within our first home.

Some of the 20th century’s greatest novels are actually structured maps.  Critics claim that to get the full enjoyment out of Joyce’s Ulysses, one should read the book with a map of Dublin and a clock in hand.  Similarly, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway is, in a way, a map of London, while Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye of New York City.  In more recent times, Thomas E. Kennedy’s masterpiece The Copenhagen Quartet, incorporates a map of and even a guidebook to that magnificent European capital.  In my own novels, maps have played a significant part–I included a sketch of one in The Etruscan–the map followed by Harriet, the protagonist of the novel, on her photographic explorations of Etruscan country.  (That map is viewable here.)

Mary Butts, who has been hailed as the "last great undiscovered novelist of the twentieth century" had this to say about maps in her celebrated short story, "From Altar to Chimney Piece":

"As it happens to people who become imaginatively conscious of a great city, he came to have a private map of it in his head.  A map in which streets and groups of buildings and even the houses of friends were not finally relevant, or only for pointers towards another thing, the atmosphere or quality of certain spots . . . These maps are individual to each lover of a city, charts of his translation of its final significance, of the secret working of men’s spirits which through the centuries have saturated certain quarters, giving them not only character and physical exterior, but quality, like a thing breathed.  Paris is propitious for the making of such magic maps."

We might substitute the term "soul of place" for "quality," as Butts is using it here.  Since time immemorial all over our planet, people have believed that the accumulation of human presence in a given spot together with the influences emanating from the land itself saturate that place and influence human activity there. 

We all have our private maps of the neighborhoods, houses, rooms and other places where we have lived.  Butts suggests that in the creating of those "mental maps" the physical features of the place are less important than the atmosphere, which is created partly by the secret workings of the spirit–that is of imagination and creative processes.  Such maps are uniquely individual to each lover of a place.  No two will be alike.  Our private maps attempt to localize and identify the "quality" or spirit of place as it has interacted with us on an indivdual basis and influenced our lives.

EXERCISE:  Your Secret Map

Choose an environment OR a time space continuum.  It may be a city, town, neighborhood, landscape, house or a period of consecutive time, such as: "The winter I lived in Florence" — or cyclic: "The many summers I spent at my grandmother’s house on the lake when I was a child."  Quickly write down a list of five to ten significant spaces/places in the continuum.  Interpret "space" freely–it can be as small as the space in a box or as large as the Grand Canyon.  You may also list dates if you wish for each space.

Next, circle three to five "spaces" from your list and for each one make a "sub" list using the ideas below.  Your list may be as long or as short (even a single item) as you wish, and may include:

  • Objects or people related to the spaces (landscape features, furnishings, food, clothing, etc.)
  • Sensations connected with specific places and objects
  • Feelings and emotions connected to specific places and objects
  • Events that happened there to you
  • Seasonal indications if applicable

Now draw the map as detailed or sketchily as you wish:

  • Give each place a personalized name
  • Connect the places with lines, showing some progression as you experienced it.  Interpret this freely; it need not be chronological or logical.
  • For each line, make a notation which includes a verb.

This is your secret map–now use this to structure a narrative or lyric prose piece of memoir or fiction.

I welcome questions, comments, and feedback.
Copyright Linda Lappin

Candice again:  Well, Linda has certainly made the Honeysuckle Cafe an enchanted place today.  My mind is reeling!  I plan to work on my exercise this weekend and post it right here on Monday.  I’m working on a memoir (third version, twenty years) and I need this exercise to get me started.  Thank you so much, Linda.  No wonder your workshops are in such demand.  Now if I could just get to Italy . . .

 


Tomorrow at the Honeysuckle Cafe

Posted March 18th, 2010 by Candice

Tomorrow novelist Linda Lappin is coming to the Honeysuckle Cafe to give us an exercise from her forthcoming book, "Genius Loci: A Writer’s Guide to Capturing the Soul of Place."

I’ve received Linda’s guest blog entry and let me tell you–we are getting a portion of her workshop, not just an exercise!  Not only that, Linda has kindly offered to give us another exercise later.  Woo-hoo!

Linda has asked if you would do the exercise and give her feedback.  I plan to post my exercise here. 

For years, I have struggled with plot.  I come up with characters and situtions pretty quickly but plot . . . I’ve discovered the hard way that if I begin with place and add character, plot will come.  Josip Novakovich, who wrote Fiction Writer’s Workshop, has boiled it down to a formula:  Setting + Character = Plot.  So simple!

Theodore Roethke once said, "We have failed to live up to our geography."  I try very hard not to let my characters fail their geography.  I want them to understand how they fit in their families, communities, and the natural world.

 

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Blog Guest: Novelist Linda Lappin

Posted March 17th, 2010 by Candice

The Honeysuckle Cafe is delighted to announce its first-ever guest author!  Linda Lappin will appear here on Friday, March 19.  Linda is the author of many short stories, travel essays, and novels, notably the award-winning Katherine’s Wish and The Estrucan.  Linda is also the co-director of Centro Pokkoli in Vitorchiano, Italy

You know how I love to write about place, setting, and landscape?  Well, Linda has my dream job:  she teaches workshops on "Tapping into the Spirit of Place."  In June she’ll lead her workshop in Vitorchiano, where writers will listen and write and eat and learn and make lifelong friends in a setting backdropped by castles and labyrinths.   Later this summer Linda will lead the workshop in Crete, Greece, where "our myths were born." 

In 2009, Linda taught an online course on the soul of place.  Oh, how I wish she’d teach it again.  I’d be the first to sign up.

Linda has written a book (making the rounds) called "The Genius Loci: A Writer’s Guide to Capturing the Soul of Place."  An article based on the book appeared in the November 2009 issue of The Writer.  I blogged about that article here, at the opening of the Honeysuckle Cafe.


On Friday, Linda will appear here at our very own Honeysuckle Cafe and give us a new writing exercise from that book!  I’m very excited!  Mark your calendars and stop by for breakfast! 

Blue Monday

Posted March 15th, 2010 by Candice


There actually is such a day.  According to UK mathmetician Cliff Arnall, Blue Monday falls on the third Monday in January.  The date is factored by the weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing New Year’s Resolutions, low motivational levels, and feeling of need to take action.  Yes, they pay somebody to do this.

I can’t remember what I was doing on the third Monday of January 2010, but today feels like that Blue Monday.  It’s dark and gray outside because someone felt the need to switch the time forward an hour and mess up my delicate melatonin levels.  Now we get up in the dark with only the faintest peeping of birds. 

It’s also going to rain today.  Just like yesterday and Saturday and Friday and Thursday.  The snow is all gone but now we have standing water everywhere and flattened gray grass and thousands of drowned worms in our driveway.  Enough!  The only thing we want falling from the sky is sunshine!

Over the weekend I painted some pieces that will go in my new office.  Blue (Ralph Lauren Light Sky).  I’m working with a color scheme taken from a magazine cover.  The furniture is the exact color of the magazine, only a shade darker.  The walls will be a golden honey (also in the cover) and there’ll be touches of scarlet (from the title) in decorative accents.  I was a paintin’ fool.  In addition to these pieces, I also painted the toy box my grandfather made me 46 years ago.  I use it to store comp copies.

All of these pieces have stories.  My stepfather made me the wall desk in 1972.  I was just starting to write and didn’t have a desk or a dedicated room to work in.  I found a pattern in a Family Circle magazine for this desk and my stepfather made it for me.  I painted it mustard and bought bright red plastic ladybug desk accessories (this was 1972, after all).  Since then, the desk has always been in my office, painted different colors, displaying photographs or stuffed animals.  This go-round, I’ll display my collection of vintage Trixie Belden books on the shelf and use the bottom part for my laptop and cameras.

After I was married, I saw a pattern for a spice rack in Family Circle.  My stepfather made me that too.  It’s the boxy piece with the dowels.  I use it as a shelf for small books.  He also made me the plant stand which doubles as our Christmas tree table.  I’m moving the piece upstairs to my office as a lamp table.  The little round table from my husband’s family has been badly mistreated–relegated to a far corner of our garage the last 14 years.  The dampness hasn’t been kind.  I slapped a coat of paint on it anyway.  It’ll sit in the sun (if we every get any)on our front porch and hold a pot of purple pansies.

As for the Monday blues, there are several cures:  smile, laugh, dance.  Wear something cheerful.  Buy something new.  The last I can get on board with!  I’m going to put on a pink sweater and take myself to my favorite vintage place, Through the Garden Gate.  My husband is off today and we’ll eat lunch in funny litte cafe nearby.  The blues are leaving already . . .

By the way, the happiest day of the year is near midsummer’s day in June.  Can’t wait.