So Far Behind

Who’d ever think that being retired could be so stressful? I took a few days off to enjoy a girls’ weekend in Nashville only to come home to find a couple hundred unread blog posts from people I follow.

I tried to play catch up on Monday evening, but I only got halfway through. And I apologize for not giving my full attention to every post. You’re all wonderful bloggers; otherwise, I wouldn’t be following you. I’ll comment meaningfully at some point. Just not today.

I’m also behind on writing for my own blog. For the first time since I began this adventure in writing I took four whole days off, and the world went on without me. Unbelievable. Here I thought that if I didn’t post something every single day the earth would cease to revolve around the sun.

Laundry piled up in my absence. Email accumulated in my inbox. Text messages went unanswered. Even worse, Studly Doright went unkissed. Well, I hope he did. At least I’ve taken care of that issue.

Tomorrow I’ll make another attempt to catch up. And I might kiss Studly again just for good measure.

Peace, people.

Writing is Hard

Stop laughing! Seriously. I’ve been working on a little novel for a long time now, but I’d run into a roadblock and I didn’t know whether to go over it, around it, tunnel under it, or trash it.

Yesterday morning while the technician was fumfering around with our sick air conditioning unit I had a nudge of inspiration and opened up the dormant manuscript on the computer. Since the story had been abandoned for such a long time I settled in and read it from the beginning. And I have to say I really like it. The characters feel like old friends and the part that once seemed like a major roadblock now feels more right.

You know how when you put on makeup in the morning and at first you aren’t crazy about the way it looks, but if you step away from the mirror for a few minutes and come back to your reflection you look great? No? Well, that happens to me all the time. And that’s exactly how I felt about the perceived roadblock. It now sounded appropriate.

When I got to the place where I’d left off in March I had to figure out how to nudge my characters forward. Now, this might come as a surprise to you, but my characters really like to talk. Several times I’ve had to call a halt to their conversations for the sake of action. I remind them that this isn’t Waiting for Godot. Lazy bums.

I think I’ve accomplished that now. Stuff is happening. People are moving. Jugglers are juggling. Seriously. Now I just need to tie all my loose ends together and complete this thing. For the first time I can actually see a finish line.

Okay, characters, break’s over. Quit talking and follow my lead. The checkered flag is in sight. Maybe I’ve got this. Maybe not. We’ll keep chugging along and hope for the best.

Peace, people.

More on Louise Penny’s Visit to Tallahassee

Yesterday’s post about my dashed hopes of getting to meet visiting author Louise Penny went on longer than I’d planned, but there were some fun details surrounding her time in Tallahassee that I thought were worth a mention.

Ms. Penny, author of the acclaimed Inspector Gamache series, chose to launch her newest book to a Tallahassee audience when she could’ve gone to any number of much more populous cities to do so. I’d wondered why and before she spoke to a standing room only crowd at Faith Presbyterian on Tuesday night the reason was revealed via the introduction.

It seems a group of women from the church had read and discussed a number of her books and decided to write Ms. Penny a letter telling her what devoted fans they were and offering to take her to dinner. In Canada. That’s where the author lives. They sent the letter off never expecting to hear back, but were elated when she responded telling them she’d love to meet them. The book club members made the pilgrimage to Canada and treated Ms. Penny to lunch where friendships were formed.

Earlier this year one of the group’s members contacted Midtown Reader, a wonderful locally owned bookstore in Tallahassee, asking the owner if she’d read any of Ms. Penny’s books. Indeed, the owner was a big fan herself and had already planned to ask the author to visit here. Connections were made, one thing led to another, and Ms. Penny decided to launch the book from our town.

Again, I cannot stress enough how beautifully written her books are. Yes, they’re murder mysteries, but they’ll renew your hopes for humanity. You’ll also want to dwell in the fictional town of Three Pines. I’m planning to build a small house there myself, and maybe open a little shop down the street from the bistro. I’ll sell artsy t-shirts with witty quotes and hats adorned tastefully with antlers. Maybe.

Peace, people.

Great Expectations, Dashed yet Fulfilled

On Monday afternoon I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and read a post that caused me to do a double take. A post from a local bookstore announced that author Louise Penny was appearing in Tallahassee on Tuesday evening to launch her newest book in the Inspector Gamache series.

Quickly I read the details and called the bookstore to purchase a ticket. I freaked out a little when my call went to the store’s voicemail, but I left a message and then immediately dialed the number again. Bingo!! I was so excited! I just knew that I was going to meet Ms. Penny and she’d be smitten by my wit and intelligence and we’d become best friends forever (BFFs, don’t you know) while she composed a thoughtful note to write in my book.

The event didn’t start until 6 p.m. on Tuesday, so I was sure to arrive 45 minutes early, feeling certain I’d get a front row seat. Ha! When I arrived, the parking lot of Faith Presbyterian Church where the event was being held was completely full. I drove around for ten minutes just trying to locate a parking spot.

Then, when I walked in the door my hopes of getting anywhere near the front were dashed. The place was almost completely full already. That was okay, I reasoned, the ticket price included a copy of Ms. Penny’s newest book, so I didn’t really need to be up front, since surely she’d be signing copies.

Well, when I checked in to get my book I learned that only the first 150 folks to purchase tickets would get to meet the author. Apparently that information had been included in the FB post, but in my extreme excitement to see Louise Penny I hadn’t read all of the details. I was bummed out. Seriously bummed out. But I found a seat near the back of the sanctuary and settled in for an ordinary evening in which Louse Penny and I do not become BFFs.

The crowd was huge and excited. I began visiting with folks near me and reveled in their stories of connecting with the characters in Ms. Penny’s books. My own story included my daughter insisting that I read Still Life, the first offering in the Inspector Gamache series. I complied even though murder mysteries aren’t really my cup of tea, unless they’re set in the future and/or include zombies, elves, and/or aliens. But once I’d read the first novel I was hooked, and quickly read the rest of the books in the series. These books are so well crafted that they almost transcend genre.

When Louise Penny stepped up to the pulpit (we were in a church after all) she instantly charmed everyone present. She spoke of her life and early writing influences, how she’d overcome alcoholism and how she’s handling the loss of her husband to dementia in 2016. She spoke of writing to satisfy her own needs, not those of an audience, and of needing to write characters she personally cares for. She was entrancing. Maybe I didn’t get to meet her up close and personal, but I feel like I know her now, at least that bit of her she shared with all of us.

And I have her brand new book that she launched right here in Tallahassee, Florida!

If you haven’t read her books, I urge you to do so. Start from the beginning with “Still Life,” though. They’re better when read in sequence.

I’m still floating from Tuesday night’s experience. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t actually get to meet her. I’d have been comatose with joy, if that’s possible.

Peace, and good reading, people.

Forgetful

Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve forgotten to do something, but you can’t remember what it is you’ve forgotten, so you stumble through your morning with that little nagging thought tugging at the back of your mind?

Now, if you made it through that mess of a sentence/paragraph above you might be thinking, “Hell, I know what she forgot. It’s the punctuation mark known as a period. That woman forgot how to use a period to end a sentence.”

You could be right. That sentence definitely could’ve used a period, but what I remembered as I was writing it was that I had forgotten to write anything at all for the blog today, and while this blog post was meant for tomorrow it now has to be pressed into duty for today, and yes, I still need to remember to use a period every now and then. Kind of like breathing.

Now I just need to remember that I haven’t already written something for tomorrow. Oh! Will it never end?

Peace, people!

Take Heart

Hand-written notes are a rarity these days. People text or tweet, hit the send button, and voila! Instant delivery. I’m guilty of choosing the path of least resistance myself even while I value the art of a beautifully executed note.

One day last week I was walking between shops in northeast Tallahassee when I spotted a folded slip of paper on the sidewalk. (I marked it up to protect the recipient’s privacy.)

Intrigued I picked the paper up and looked around. No one was near me, so I opened the note. You’d have done the same, right?

Ignore the questionable spelling and the substitutions of “U” for “you” and “2” for “to”. This is an encouraging note. I’d have been pleased to have received such a missive.

My friend Flo in Tennessee writes great notes. She finds humorous cards and sends along her thoughts in lovely cursive.

My friend, Lila, also has a knack for notes:

While writing this post I realized that I have saved two huge files filled solely with hand written notes! Some are silly, some sweet, some outrageous. As I went through them I realized they’d fill up a binder. I think I just found a project for this year. I might need to stock up on tissues, though. Tears might be shed.

Peace, people.

But I Don’t WANT To Write

I write something for this blog and post daily. I’ve done so for several years now, but last night the toddler in me was balking. Toddler Nana didn’t WANT to write anything, and nobody could make her.

When I crawled into bed I said to myself, “Self, you don’t have to write anything tomorrow if you don’t feel like it.”

I congratulated myself profusely. Then my brain spent the next hour and 20 minutes churning out one forgettable blog post idea after another.

“Okay!” I snarled at myself. “I’ll write SOMETHING, but I won’t enjoy it.”

Good news: I purchased some new eye liner and will most likely be able to find humor in the application process for a future post. Grasping for straws, folks. Ooh! There’s a title.

Peace, people.

The Assignment

Once upon a time I was a teacher. I wasn’t a great teacher, nor was I an awful one. I loved being with young people all day long, but I am a woman of little patience, and that is not a good thing when working with active children.

While I taught students in grades three through seven at various times in my career, by far my favorite years were those I spent teaching English to middle schoolers. I know what you’re thinking, “How’d someone with Leslie’s blatant disregard for the rules of grammar ever teach English?”

Shucks, y’all. I had a teaching manual. Duh. Seriously, though, before I began blogging I was much more cognizant of, and adherent to, those pesky rules. Now it’s “Rules, Shmules” most days. But this post really isn’t about me. Gasp!

One of the first assignments I gave as a seventh grade English teacher was for students to write about something important that had happened in their lives. It could be something funny or frightening, happy, or sad. I’m not even sure I placed a word count requirement on this paper, I just wanted to get to know the students better and to get a feel for their individual writing abilities.

I was shocked and pleased that those seventh graders went immediately to work, and after I’d read their rough drafts I knew that the students who wanted to share their stories with their classmates should have the opportunity to do so. Much of what they’d handed in was so honest that it had to be worth more than just a grade.

After making some editing and proofreading suggestions on each of the ninety or so papers (I taught four sections of English), I handed back the papers and told my students how proud I was to have them in my class, and that once they’d written their final copy I’d open up the floor for anyone who chose to share.

Now seventh graders are an interesting lot. I figured I’d have perhaps twenty percent of each class volunteer to read their papers. Instead, every single student shared their stories. And what an experience that became! I’m sure we spent way too much time on this activity, but my students and I bonded over these stories.

One athletic young man had us all in stitches as he told of the time he and his buddies got into his older sister’s closet and put on various pieces of her clothing, including tutus and swimsuits. and wore them to dinner, much to the horror of his sister and the amusement of his parents.

A shy young woman told of being chased by a vicious dog while riding her bike and being rescued by another dog at the last minute! By the end of the story her classmates were on the edges of their seats, cheering her on.

The story I remember having the most impact, though, was the story a quiet young man told about his mother’s illness. He and his father and sister were at the hospital visiting his mom who had been diagnosed with cancer. As the boy walked down the hospital hallway, he turned to his sister and asked, “Is Mom going to die?”

His sister became angry and told him that he just killed their mom because it’s bad luck to mention dying in the hospital. Their mother did die later that week, and the child blamed himself. The class sat silently when he finished, many were in tears. I was in tears, and I’d read the story.

The love that then surrounded that young man was amazing. Other students made a point to tell him he wasn’t to blame for his mom’s death. He knew that deep down, but hearing those words from his peers seemed to turn a light on in this child. I watched him blossom that year.

When we finished sharing, more than one child thanked me for allowing them to write about themselves. While I’d just been trying to help myself get a feel for their abilities, I got a good deal more. Extras like that are what make the profession unlike any other.

Peace, people.