Repost: Sharp Edges

We woke up early this morning – 6:30 or 7 – only to discover that our dog had chewed up my husband’s glasses. We found the lenses in many pieces, the earpieces twisted and chewed and we never located the nosepiece. Ray loves this dog more than most humans he knows, so after the shock had worn off that she had trotted over at some point during the night or early morning and stolen his glasses away from his side of the bed, Ray was over his anger. “I can’t believe she did that,” he said. “I got up early and let her out and didn’t feed her, maybe that was the problem.”

For her part, Cordelia knew she was in trouble. She skulked around the house with her ears close to her head, which is what she does when she’s done something she knows is wrong. Luckily, Ray has some contacts he can wear instead of the glasses. Thank goodness, Cordie didn’t get my glasses since I only have one pair and my sight makes Helen Keller look like the bionic woman. So, there were a few good things from the “chewing.” Not many, but a few upsides.

I am struck with how different my husband handled this event versus in years past. Before, he would have gotten upset, yelled at the dog and me, too, just for good measure, and spent half the day half mad before he came to a place of acceptance. Today he looked slightly peeved, complained about the unexpected expense of replacement glasses, scolded Cordelia with the remnants of the glasses in his hand, then looked at me and said, “At least she didn’t get your glasses.” That was it. Nothing more. Wow.

When I was in Salt Lake City attending the University of Utah, my landlord was a bishop in the LDS church. He was a nice man, married over forty years, with a slew of children and grandchildren. I asked him one day when he was over repairing my kitchen sink what his thoughts were on marriage. He was silent for a moment then said, “Marriage wears down the sharp edges we all have. At its best, it makes us better people.”

Ray’s sharp edges are definitely softening. He would say mine are, too. One day he looked at me and said, “You are so much more relaxed than when we first married. I can say something to you today that just makes you laugh. If I had said that same thing when we were first together, you’d have been mad at me for a week.” And it’s true. I have let my hair down over the years.

I am happy we are going that direction in our marriage and in our personal growth. I have witnessed couples who have gone the other direction – more reactionary, more tense – and it is not a pretty sight. It’s hard to know how relationships will turn out. I’ve met perfectly nice people who just couldn’t make it together, and perfectly ill-suited people who have carved out a life that works for them. Go figure.

Alas, Ray will be getting new glasses and I’ll be guarding mine with even more care. And as we move on through these years, my hope is that even more of our sharp edges will soften. We both have quite a few left to whittle down. But we’re getting there. One day at a time. Or maybe better said, one pair of glasses at a time…

SAMSUNG

Congratulations to Western Regional Scholastic Award Winners

I am proud to announce that two of my students have received Western regional awards from the Scholastic Artists and Writers contest in personal essay, critical essay and Senior Portfolio. The contest sponsored by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers is the oldest and most prestigious writing contest for youth in grades 7 – 12 in the United States and had 300,000 entries nationwide in 2015. The Western Region is composed of California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Kate Eplboim received a Silver Key for her personal essay, “Glass Half Empty,” and Honorable Mentions for her critical essay, “An Inaction Problem” and her senior portfolio, “Cross Section.”

Lona Tehrani received a Silver Key for her personal essay, “In Transition.”

Alumni of the Scholastic Artists and Writers contest include artists Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, Cy Twombly, Robert Indiana, Kay WalkingStick, and John Baldessari; writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Bernard Malamud, Myla Goldberg, and Joyce Carol Oates; photographer Richard Avedon; actors Frances Farmer, Robert Redford, Alan Arkin, Lena Dunham, and John Lithgow; fashion designer Zac Posen; and filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Ken Burns, and Richard Linklater.

Congratulations, Kate and Lona. Your hard work has paid off! I am very pleased for you and proud of you. Hooray!

                                             Kate Eplboim                                                        IMG_5481 (1)

Lona Tehrani

IMG_0024

Interview with Susan Albert, Author of Loving Eleanor

I have had the pleasure of recently reading Susan Albert’s new book, Loving Eleanor, which is a historical novel about the relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist, Lorena Hickok. This is a wonderful book that explores the many levels of friendship as well as the difficulty national figures face when trying to maintain a sense of privacy when living such a public life. The book also provides a fascinating look at history spanning from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, which helped me to realize how profoundly difficult those years were for our country and the world. I highly recommend this book. Not only is it beautifully written but also impeccably researched. I came away with a deeper understanding of these two women and the world in which they lived. This is a definite must-read!

Below is an interview with Susan Albert, who is not only a New York Times best-selling author, but also the founder of Story Circle Network. SCN is dedicated to women telling their stories and I am privileged to teach online classes for them as well as serve as an active member. I am deeply grateful to Susan for taking the time to answer my questions on the book.

1) What theme(s) can be found in the book?

Friendship, in all its many and changing forms; living with political realities in a difficult (the Great Depression, World War 2); the hidden lives of well-known people

2) How do you work as a writer? Every day? More sporadically? Word count, page count, or timed writing? On a computer or longhand? Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

When I’m working on a project, I write every day (I need the continuity). When I’m writing genre fiction, I aim for 1200-1500 words a day (“good words,” as I like to think of them, keepers, not “junk words” that will get thrown out the next day). When I’m writing historical fiction, I’m much slower, around 800-1000 words a day—because I work from many original and secondary sources and need to do a great deal of fact-checking. I work on my computer, in Word. I’m a “trust-the-story” writer. When I’m writing genre fiction (mostly mysteries) I do a bit of outlining and then let the story take me where it wants me to go. In historical/biographical fiction, the story is already there: it’s a matter of discovering it and exploring all its nuances.

3) What was a particular challenge you faced writing this book?

The story is deeply personal to Lorena Hickok, the point-of-view character and a real person—a groundbreaking journalist. When she’s been written about, she’s portrayed as fat, awkward, aggressive, dislikeable. She was none of these things. De-mythologizing her was important to me. It was a challenge to do justice to all of her achievements.

4) What do you hope people will take away after reading this book?

I’d like people to understand that the people (especially the women!) who have been presented to us by “history” and historians are not always what they seem. Every woman has a secret story.

5) How are you publishing this book and why?
(*e.g. Indie, traditional or both)

I’m publishing this book originally under my own imprint, Persevero Press. Several editors were interested in it, but they wanted significant changes in the story, and I was unwilling to make those changes. Author-publication may limit the book’s distribution, but it has expanded the range of my freedom as an author, to tell the story the way I felt it had to be told.

6) Please give us a favorite snippet of your book.

You can read an excerpt (and much more about the book) here: http://www.lovingeleanor.com/index.php

7) How can readers discover more about you and you work? My website: http://www.susanalbert.com

loving-eleanor

Happy Afternoon

This was a Sarah afternoon with Nico and Luna. I got a chance to hold the new baby boy for several hours, to bathe Luna and to chat with Sarah. Sarah had the rare opportunity to go take a 30 minute shower.

My phone is not nearby so I can’t share the pictures I took, but I will include photos that my son-in-law, Gregorio, has taken recently of the kids. We saw him this evening, too, when he returned from work.

Happiness is a few hours with grandchildren. This is a known fact, as many of my friends can attest.

Of course, a few hours with a daughter and a good visit with her husband are happiness-producers as well.

I am feeling exceedingly grateful this evening. Warm snuggles, soft skin, pure innocence. Hard to beat. Pure and simple.

I hope you’ve had a good day, my friends.

I’ll check back with you tomorrow.

Luna and Nico

12644817_10207654464257180_4915884047061480124_n

Nico

12631302_10207681162244613_563719756354700241_n

 

Online Essay Class: Why You Should Take It

Hello to my women friends,

I am offering an online essay class that begins tomorrow through Story Circle Network, an organization that celebrates women’s writing. The price is right: $160 if you are a Story Circle Network member; $200 if you are not. This is for 5 weeks of lessons, with a chance to learn about and write a different type of essay every week. You get personal editing from yours truly and constructive feedback from your fellow students.

We will be using Dinty W. Moore’s book, Crafting the Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction. Dinty is a professor of Creative Nonfiction at Ohio University and his book is easy to read and gives great examples of different types of personal essays, such as memoir, contemplative, travel, food, nature, spiritual and humorous.

But why should you take this class? The primary reason is that it will give you a chance to write short pieces (nothing over 1200 words) about your life. It will give you a opportunity to put on paper experiences that you’ve always wanted to share, but just didn’t know how to communicate in a way that felt “right.” Dinty’s book helps take the fear out of writing and instead puts in the fun. Also, I am dedicated to helping my students feel safe in my classes so you will know that the atmosphere is encouraging and the feedback constructive. I have no desire to extinguish anyone’s creative flame.

So, if you’ve been leaning towards writing your thoughts down and need some guidance on how to do that in a coherent way, then this is your chance. No time like the present to jump in and get started.

Here’s the link to Story Circle Network. Tomorrow we begin. Come join us!

http://www.storycircleonlineclasses.org/classes/leatherwood.winter2016.php

Here is the link to become a member of Story Circle Network:

http://www.storycircle.org/frmjoinscn.php

SCN LOGO

 

Near Perfect Evening in Downtown LA

We had the one of the loveliest evening tonight that I can remember.

We sneaked into The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, thanks to Ray Beaty’s quick thinking to ask the guard if we could JUST go to the gift shop. (The museum is free; it’s just there was a line at the front door.) Anyway, with some coaxing, our friend Jared and I were cajoled by Ray into the main museum. We agreed once we saw the guard didn’t seem remotely interested in where we were. Alas, the museum is fabulous – beautiful interior spaces and thought-provoking art – and I took lots of pictures. Unfortunately, my computer is messing up tonight and won’t let me download my photos so that will have to wait for another day.

The second part of this amazing evening was a superlative night at Disney Hall with the LA Phil. The pianist, Yefim Bronfman, was the soloist for the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major Op 15 and he had such a gentle touch on the keys that there were times when the entire audience was bending a collective ear to listen to the soft tones. He received four standing ovations and hence played another piece. I didn’t recognize it, but it was lovely.

At intermission, we ran into a former volunteer from The Breakfast Club; Charles and I have washed and rinsed many a dish together. It was great to see him and he said he hoped to return to volunteer again soon. That would be a treat. Also, we met two friends of his. We were all Episcopalians, just from three different churches. You can’t keep those Episcopalians out of Disney Hall!

The best part of the evening was the Mahler Symphony No 1 in D Major, which may have just become my favorite Mahler symphony. It was so absolutely gorgeous that at the end, everyone in the audience leapt to their feet and cheered. This was conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, who received his own four standing ovations since we all simply kept cheering. Everyone was still energized as we filed out of the hall, abuzz with how emotional and touching the music had been.

I sat next to a fourteen year old boy who told me that he is a timpano player. He said that he would be attending Interlachen Center for the Arts in Michigan in the fall and that he was very excited about it. “Are you nervous or scared?” I asked. “Both,” he said. When I asked him what his aspirations were, he said, “To play right down there on that stage.” I told him I thought that could be a wonderful life. He was tapping his fingers all the way through the Mahler and was one of the first to jump up at the end. To have such focus at fourteen. Amazing.

Ray and I agreed this was a near perfect evening. Modern art and classical music. That’s a combo hard to beat, especially when it involves the incomparable LA Phil!

The Broad

Broad-Museum-Kevork-Djansezian-Getty

Third Floor of The Broad

Third-Floor-of-the-Broad-Museum

Disney Hall

Walt_Disney_Concert_Hall_LA

Esa-Pekka Salonen

salonen071001_198