Monday, February 18, 2013

Greetings from Treasure Beach

 We're back at the Calabash House on Treasure Beach where the breezes are balmy and the ocean is rolling and we are suffering for our art.  Writing, that is.  Here Liz conducts her workshop on Time with our largest International Around the Block Writers Workshop yet.  What fun we are having.  Wish you were here!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's a Wonder

Our first anthology of short stories came about through a series of wondrous events.  Our Around the Block in Dublin Workshop  was actually a last minute substitution once we learned Liz 's daughter was expecting her first child and would, of course, need her mother.  We cancelled our originally-scheduled workshop in Jamaica exactly at the time I was in Dublin, and although Ireland is about as opposite of Jamaica as you can imagine, our Dublin Workshop filled quickly.  Dublin in March?  Well, why not?

Our week in Dublin fell days after of the revelry of St. Patrick's Day, fell into that grim gray time that all north-lying countries face.  When the weather is fickle at best.  Except this March.  During our week in Ireland, the sun decided to come out and stay.  The trees burst into pastel blossoms and the flowers dazzled us in Dublin's green parks.  The streets filled with sun-seekers in shirt sleeves and less.  It was, quite simply, a glorious time.

We had no rain, and so we toured and strolled and hung out in pubs.  We drank buckets of tea and wine and Guinness.  We listened to music and literary recitations and looked for ghosts.  We heard Galway Girl more times than we can count.

And the writing?  Oh yes, we wrote.  We wrote quickly and vividly and cohesively by inventing characters to inhabit the place where we stayed.  The Charles Stewart Guesthouse, named for Charles Stewart Parnell and the birthplace of the poet Oliver St. John Gogarty, is a Georgian house on Parnell Square.  Close to everything, and around the corner from the Dublin Writers Museum, the Charles Stewart has exactly enough quirks to appeal to writers.  Along with full Irish breakfasts and WiFi!  And we are grateful to Helen and her staff for catering to our every whim.

Through Around the Block on Parnell Square, we invite you, too, to experience the wonder of Dublin.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Heat is Relative

(The view from Calabash House terrace, February 2011.)

Except for my collaborator Tracy, everyone I know has been suffering from this summer's heat.  Every night the weather map turns a deeper shade of red, and the humidity chokes the breath from our lungs.  It has been an ugly month.  So ugly, in fact, that it is difficult to comfortably conjure up the memory of our Around the Block Writers Workshop in Jamaica without wincing a bit.  It was hot there.  But as hot as here?  (Here being everywhere in the United States except California where Tracy lives.)  I can't remember.

What I do remember of our time in Calabash House on Treasure Beach comes back to me not from that week in February 2011, but from our recent week in Bemus Point, New York.  The heat was just beginning to rise in those June-green hills of Chautauqua County, so it was not the temperature that triggered my memory.  Rather it was the camaraderie of the writers who gathered there with us.

There is something about writers, some magical sense of wonder and joy in creating and sharing stories, that is positively infectious.   We find ourselves longing to write more, to stretch out our necks out and try a different style, a new approach.   We don't mind a challenge, because the act of stretching is a thrill in itself.  We are, I believe, a special group, and we carry our enthusiasm for our writing wherever we go -- from bucolic New York to energized Dublin to tropical Jamaica.  How could we not return to Calabash House again this winter?

Ah, yes, the heat.  Let me think about this: the heat of a Jamaican beach in the dead, cold, middle of February.  Once again I remind you that we are a special group, and we are happy to suffer for our art.

We hope you will join us.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dublin in March

Okay, I'm the one to blame for the coats.  It's Dublin in March, I told them, it will be cold for the love of God.  Not only cold, but wet, and when it's not actually raining, it will be so damp and drear that it will feel colder than it is.  So here we are at The Duke, holding our coats during one of the warmest weeks on record, and waiting to begin our Literary Pub Crawl.
In truth it was glorious.  All of it.  The bus rides and the cobblestone walks.  The scenery and the shopping and the sidetrips to Howth and Kilmainham Jail.  The readings at the Dublin Writers Centre.  The Evening Socials.  The music at the pubs.  Yep, here we are again at The Celt:
So really, maybe the weather didn't matter after all.  We had great craic, inside or out.  And writing?  Oh, yes, writing.  We wrote, by God.  In those wee few hours between socializing and sightseeing and trying to absorb as much as we could of the fair city that is Dublin, we wrote -- each of us, mind you -- a complete story of the characters we imagined to inhabit The Charles Stewart Guesthouse, our home for six nights.   Here's to creation!   And celebration of creation!  Cheers.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Well-Nourished: Another Lament on Aging

The year is 2012. I can remember when, in my 20’s, I used a calculator to figure how old I would be when the millennium ended and a new one began. The answer: 46. Both the new millennium and that age bracket seemed like science fiction to me then. Now I view them with nostalgia.

I have done all right at aging. My hair remains healthy—so healthy I need to have it thinned every six months—and has only just begun to grey. Through flurries of exercise (walking, yoga, and swimming, if I’m really serious), I’ve maintained what my primary physician deems a healthy body weight, though I’d like to be 15-20 pounds lighter. On behalf of honesty, I admit I took a peek at what another doctor, an orthopedic specialist treating a blown-out shoulder, wrote about me in his file: “Patient is a well-nourished, white female…” This read like a euphemistic personals ad, and tainted my attitude toward the otherwise gifted physician who cured the shoulder without surgery. I treat my healed shoulder with deference because I don’t want to go to his office anytime soon and revisit that file.

I’m vain, I can’t help it, and vanity keeps me from aging gracefully. As a young writer, I took an extension course from an LA Times journalist who, I thought, would teach the craft of human interest stories, but who rather used the class as a venue to perform, with guitar, her “Songs of Age and Rage.” Imagine the Lili Taylor of Say Anything only in her late 60’s, hair chopped off in a strangely-cowlicked pixie, shouting tuneless vitriol at age instead of her ex-boyfriend Joe. I thought the Times writer needed to get over herself. The presumption I’d care about her woes over the wreckage of time rankled me, and I quit the weekend seminar at lunch on Saturday without asking for my money back.

I invoke her memory whenever I look at my hands and see liver spots too numerous to bother counting, and when I’m soaping up in the shower and my hand passes over a raised, rough patch of skin the dermatologist calls a “barnacle.” Barnacle? What am I, an atoll? A humpback whale? I ask the doc to remove said barnacles, and he replies, “Why? They just come back again.” I hear furious guitar strumming when I ready myself for work and see jowls as I apply makeup, and am forced to gingerly zip my pants because of the dreaded belly fat. How did this happen to me? I never had a perfect body even at its optimal weight, but always a flat stomach. I’ve even given up a decades-long addiction to diet soda yet still sport my own personal adipose pouch, navel included, no extra charge.

I know I am supposed to love my aging body, that each wrinkle and scar and bulge and imperfection signifies a life fully lived. I know women of a certain, um, level of experience should be above taking inventory of superficial human flaws, their own and those belonging to others. I know these wise and worldly things, but vanity prevents me from accepting them.

And every time I think of that old raging broad with the bad haircut, I get my money’s worth of empathy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oh, Rocky

Jekyll Island is part small town and part wildlife reserve.  People here know each other, if not by name than at least by sight.  Even visitors to this Georgia State Park seem more familiar than not.  Here the deer and raccoon are so accustomed to sharing their island, they stroll through yards and flower beds unperturbed.  Alligators bask on the golf courses.  The most skittish creatures are likely the feral cats, which are fed and tended to by the locals.

Of course there are exceptions.

When I ask the waitress at the Sand Bar about her holidays, she says they were good.  "I had raccoon for the first time," she adds.


"My friend made it."  She pauses with her tray on her hip and nods.  "It wasn't bad, but I couldn't get past the fact it was raccoon."


"She boils it first and then bakes it in a sauce."

"Like spaghetti sauce?"

"Brown sauce.  It was real tender, but I kept thinking of furry animals and couldn't eat more than a bite."  She moves away to retrieve our order from the kitchen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Around the Block in Dublin!

Come join us March 25-31, 2012 
for a whirlwind of writing, touring, and sociability
 in Ireland's vibrant historic and literary capital!

We will stay in the heart of Dublin at The Charles Stewart Guesthouse on Parnell Square.  Named for Patriot Charles Stewart Parnell, this Georgian house was the birthplace of the poet Oliver St.John Gogarty, pal of James Joyce.
The Garden of Remembrance  is across the street.

The Dublin Writers Museum is around the Square.