Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

As Others See Us

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Seattle Times Photo by Erika Schultz

They keep coming!  Copies of Nina Shapiro’s Seattle Times article “A Washington county that went for Trump is shaken as immigrant neighbors start disappearing” have arrived by email and on FaceBook from friends throughout Western Washington.  (Thank you, all!)  I’m not clear whether the article appeared only as a digital report (there are videos imbedded in the copies I received) or if it also appeared in the hard copy of yesterday’s Times.  My friend on Bainbridge Island had not seen it in yesterday’s paper but he is having another look.

Overall, I think it was a good article.  The photographs by Erika Schulz were spectacular and the story, itself, brought the plight of our Hispanic neighbors into the spotlight on a bigger stage than our local paper can manage.  That’s a good thing, I think.

Seattle Times Photo by Erika Schultz

I was disappointed, though, that Ms. Shapiro did not interview any of the ICE ‘victims’ beyond those who were featured in my “Stories from the Heart.”  Though their stories had probably not been available to most of her audience, I felt that she was piggy-backing on work that had already been done – probably sour grapes on my part.  But there you have it.

Too, I was surprised at the political spin that the article took.  For starters, I didn’t know what Nan Malin’s comments about Obamacare had to do with the ICE arrests; if the reporter tied that together, I missed it.  But most bothersome, was the part that Ms. Shapiro missed.  While Pacific County voted for Trump (as she stated), the Peninsula did not.  This was the one pocket of the County that voted Democratic in the November 2016 presidential election and it’s where ICE began its deluge of arrests – for months before it began to focus elsewhere in the County.

Seattle Times Photo by Erica Schultz

Perhaps Ms. Shapiro will do a follow-up article and take a closer look at the political situation on the Peninsula.  It would also be great if she got our ‘rural character’ right.  Her comment about the photographs in Flint Wright’s Long Beach office, (father and grandfather on horses — capturing the rural lifestyle of Pacific County) didn’t quite reflect what our rural character is like – at least not to me.  Boats, piles of oyster shells, old wooden buoys, maybe, but horseback riding, not so much for most of us. I think in the great scheme of surf and turf, we’re more about the sea.  But, maybe that’s not how the outside world sees us.

To read Nina Shapiro’s article for yourself:
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/northwest/fear-regrets-as-pacific-county-residents-go-missing-amid-immigration-crackdown-police-chief-neighbors-kind-of-in-shock-after-immigration-arrests-in-pacific-county-immigration-crack/

It needed a comma. Period!

Friday, September 15th, 2017

I just love it that the serial comma has finally received the recognition it deserves.  At a cost of $10,000,000 mind you!  After fifty or sixty years of copy readers and editors removing those last-in-a-line commas of mine, all I can say is “nyaa nyaa, nyaa, nyaa, nyaa nyaa!”

In case you haven’t kept up – since time immemorial (at least by my standards) the Oxford Dictionary has said “yes” to the final comma in a series.  So… “The colors of the flag are red, white, and blue.”  Wrong says the Associated Press.  “The colors of the flag are red, white and blue.”  Most editors of U.S. publications follow the A.P. rule – no comma at the end of a series.  Even in the State of Maine, drafters of legal statutes are specifically instructed not to use the serial comma!

Some editors say “no” to the final comma unless it is needed for clarity.  The classic example goes something like “This book is dedicated to my parents, Dorothy Parker and God” which gives the author an unusual set of parents, indeed.  Add a comma after Parker for clarity.

Which brings us to The case of the Maine milk-truck drivers who, for want of a comma, won an appeal against their employer, Oakhurst Dairy, regarding overtime pay (O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy) has warmed the hearts of punctuation enthusiasts everywhere, from the great dairy state of Wisconsin to the cheese haven of Holland, according to the March 17, 2017 issue of The New Yorker magazine.

The magazine goes on to say: According to Maine state law, workers are not entitled to overtime pay for the following activities: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”

The issue is that, without a comma after “shipment,” the “packing for shipment or distribution” is a single activity. Truck drivers do not pack food, either for shipment or for distribution; they drive trucks and deliver it. Therefore, these exemptions do not apply to drivers, and Oakhurst Dairy owes them some ten million dollars.

There were some other subtleties that the drivers had going for them such as the use of gerunds in conjunction with nouns causing difficulties with the rule of ‘parallel usage’.   Got that?  Bottom line: the truck drivers won!  And editors everywhere are on notice that the final comma in a series is not only proper… it may be worth ten million bucks!

Journal, Diary, Daybook, Blog

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017

My First Blog, March 30, 2010

Every once in a while, I am made aware that my readers don’t know how to characterize what I write – especially when it comes to my daily “Oysterville Daybook” which appears on my website and, also, on Facebook. Usually it is ‘published’ (as in communicated to a third party) first thing each morning in time for people to read it online with their morning coffee.  But, readers may run across it anytime – sometimes months or even years after its original posting date.  My understanding is that each posting will be in “the cloud” (whatever that is) forever, available a finger-tap away.

“Oysterville Daybook” is a blog – defined by Merriam Webster as a website containing a writer’s experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other websites – and you are reading it right now.  I think of it as an online journal or diary.  In my “Oysterville Daybook” I try to convey my experiences and observations accurately, but at the end of the day, they are my opinions only – biased, to be sure, to the extent that it’s my world view that my blogs reflect.

Yesterday’s Blog, September 1, 2017

The term ‘weblog’ was coined in 1997 to describe a log written online, and  the term was soon shortened to “blog.” Numbers of blogs began to emerge in the late nineties coinciding with the advent of web publishing tools which made posting web content easy for non-techies like me. I began my “Oysterville Daybook” in March 2010.  I don’t know how many blogs were being posted then, but by 2011, there were 173 million blogs worldwide!

There are all sorts of blogs – political, business, military, school, sports, how-to and on and on.  I would characterize “Oysterville Daybook” as a ‘personal’ blog that deals with a variety of topics of interest to me.  It is named for the place from which it emanates (i.e. where I live) and from the name of one of my all-time favorite ‘memoirs’, The Daybooks of Edward Weston. I think some blog writers are paid for their work.  I am not paid – except in the kind and enthusiastic comments by my readers.

Today’s Blog in Progress – September 2, 2017

Of course, my blog is not the only thing I write.  I began it to draw attention to those other things – specifically to build readership for my books which are mostly about the history of Southwest Washington.  Little did I know that the “Oysterville Daybook” would take on a life of its own.  And little did I know that people would confuse my blog writing with the journalistic writing I occasionally do for our local paper.  Just yesterday, I was asked in angry tones why I hadn’t given “both sides of the story” in one of my blogs.  The short answer: “because it’s a blog.”  If you are confused by that answer, begin reading this particular blog again.  From the top!

Convoluted Connections

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Willard and Dale, 1914

I’ve been thinking of Willard lately.  Willard Richardson Espy, my mother’s “twin” – well, they were 11 months apart but for all of his 89 years, Willard would write mom on her November 13th birthday and remind her that they were now identical in age until December 10th when he would become a year older than she.

Willard was not only my uncle, but was also my Godfather.  When I once challenged him about having fulfilled his duties in that regard, he archly asked, “Are you not a moral, upstanding woman of good character?’  When I answered in the affirmative, he said firmly, “Then I have done my job.”  I never questioned him on the matter again, though I did occasionally wonder how he thought he had accomplished that triumph of my development, especially considering that we lived on opposite sides of the continent for all of my formative years.

Willard and Sydney – 1938 in Oysterville

As I approached middle age, though, and Willard edged closer to his golden years, we had opportunities to spend more time together.  I had moved to Oysterville and Willard was spending about half of each year in his little red cottage here.  He had always been my role model with regard to his career.  I, too, had visions of working for a newspaper and of spending my life writing and hobnobbing with the literati and the sophisticates of the world. And, once we began spending more time together, he also became my mentor, encouraging me to complete my book about his oldest sister, Medora, and offering to write the foreword, though he would not live to see its publication.

Red Cottage 1984

So, fast forward to my here and now at Emanuel Hospital, eighteen and a half years after Willard’s death.  I think of him almost daily here – not for reasons you might think.  I think of his all-consuming interest in words – in their derivations, their meanings their misinterpretations, in the way they look and all the weird and wonderful things about language – ours and others.  He was called “The Wordsmith” and, though those of us who are aficionados of Oysterville, love his book, Oysterville, Roads to Grandpa’s Village, out in the greater world he is known far better for his fifteen books on words.

Willard, 1981

Yesterday, the discussion between patient, cardiologist and surgeon concerned a blood clot that has formed in the left ventricle appendage.  That’s a new situation and before surgery to correct his mitral valve can take place, they are trying to dissolve that clot.  It isn’t yet “organized” we were told.  Which means, it seems, that the blood has gathered and has coagulated to a gelatinous-like consistency but has not yet clotted – not fully organized.  That’s a good thing, apparently.  Willard would have been so intrigued…

“The Mighty Franks”

Friday, June 9th, 2017

With Author Michael Frank

By the time we arrived, the room was a-buzz – probably thirty-five or forty people, glasses of Perrier or wine in hand, milling around with one eye on author Michael Frank, the star of the evening.  Michael moved easily from group to group, dispensing handshakes and hugs and looking for all the world like the sophisticated host of a cosmopolitan cocktail party.  We’ve seen Michael in that role many times before — whether or not he is hosting and whether or not there’s a party.

No, wait!  Not a ‘role’ at all.  It’s just Michael! To the manner born, you might say.  It doesn’t even seem surprising that his first book, a memoir, is taking the world by storm.  Yes, the world!  “The Mighty Franks” was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, just two or three weeks ago – published simultaneously in five (count ‘em five) languages!  It has received high marks from the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and on and on!

“The Mighty Franks”

Already Michael has done book talks and signings in Los Angeles and San Francisco to say nothing of a fabulous ‘book launch’ at the home of a friend in New York City.  If all the attention has turned his head, it doesn’t show a bit.  As we entered the room and he spied us across the way he gave a wonderfully surprised greeting – more hugs and exclamations (You came all the way from the beach?!!) and made sure we had something to drink and connected with his brother, Dan.  The best host ever — as always!

Then it was “show time.”  Michael was introduced, took center stage, eschewed the mic, and told us about the book.  It centers on members of his extraordinary family – some of whom Nyel and I have known almost as long as we’ve known each other.  Michael and his two brothers and his parents were all at -ceremonythe 3rd Annual Oysterville Croquet and Champagne Gala (a fund-raiser we put on in our garden for 19 consecutive years) in 1987.  At that particular event, two important things happened – Nyel and I were married in an unannounced-until-then-ceremony, and we first met the Franks. “The Mighty Franks” as it turns out — or part of them!

Elliott Bay Book Company

During the Q&A portion of the evening, someone asked Michael how he was feeling about all the attention he and his book are getting.  Michael’s response was along the lines of loving it but it’s only been two weeks so it’s too early to tell.  I made a mental note to ask him a similar question in August after some of the dust settles.  He and his immediate family (who live in NYC) will be in Seaview then for their annual family get-together.  “I’ll call you,” he said.  “I want you to come to the house for dinner.”  I didn’t say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. By then you’ll be too famous for the likes of us.”  Actually, I didn’t even think it.  I’m pretty sure Michael will always be Michael – a mighty Frank, to the manner born!

“With Morning Gusto!”

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Early Morning Memory

Sometimes, when you least expect it, someone claps and cheers for you.  It’s the best kind of medicine of all, laughter notwithstanding.  This very morning I woke up to a wonderfully long letter from my friend Ruth that was overflowing with all sorts of bolstering thoughts.  She wrote it in response to a recent email of my own – that my days seemed to be one long string of frittering and non-accomplishment.  You know, one of those whiny, woe-is-me thoughts that you are later ashamed of.

Ruth’s Sequel

Ruth has a way with words.  Plus she has the biggest heart I know.  It’s a fabulous combination as those who take the Chinook Observer know.  For the last half year or so, “By Ruth Chamberlin” appears monthly over her column on the Editorial and Opinion page.  Its focus is on her family – one of the most unusual you may ever come across in real life!

Ruth has written two novels based – as much as novels can be – on her family.  Her columns, though, aren’t fiction.  They might come under the heading ‘more fabulous than fiction’ and are full of the adventures, accomplishments, joys and angst that she and husband Burt and their many adopted, ethnically diverse children have experienced.  And I’d like to add to that sentence (but it’s already too long) ‘while the rest of us were just leading our rather ordinary or at least somewhat normal lives.’

A Posy from Ruth

Of course, Ruth would never see it that way.  That’s the thing about Ruth.  She sees the unusual and the special and the terrific everywhere she looks.  And when her gaze is fastened upon you and she writes you about it, your own heart is uplifted beyond measure.  “Good Morning, Sydney.  It’s 4 a.m. and I’m thinking of you…” she begins.  Imagine!  I didn’t need to read any further to feel all puffed up!

Ruth, you are a wonder!  If only we could all follow your example, our cranky old world would surely be a better place.  I’m so glad that my corner of it includes you!

You just can’t get there from here…

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Headed north for the bridge???

Some of the local wags probably still direct tourists to Leadbetter Point when asked about the bridge over to North Cove and Tokeland.  I must say, it is tempting advice to give.  I wish I had a nickel for all the drivers who have stopped me as I walk toward the post office to ask if this is the right road for the bridge.  Often, they have a map in hand and, usually, they argue with you when you tell them there is no bridge.  It’s hard to be polite when you know they are thinking “Dumb Yokel!” and you are thinking… well, never mind what you are thinking.

I can empathize just a tad with those insistent visitors — but in a twenty-first century way – when I get that eternal runaround by email or telephone.  It’s another one of those ‘you can’t get there from here’ deals.  It’s the game I’ve been playing the last few weeks with my publisher whose March 31st royalty check has not yet shown up. (Perhaps I should mention here that said royalty payment will cover four books with this publisher for all sales from July 20th to December 20th of last year.)

Robo Responder

After waiting a suitable time (two weeks) for my payment to show up, I emailed a polite query that got this response:   Due to the high volume of inquiries we receive on a daily basis regarding Royalties, please allow 5 business days for a response to your email sent to the Royalties Department.  So, I waited some more.  After eight business days without a peep, I called the phone number that was included in the email.

“Dial one if your inquiry concerns sales; Dial two if your inquiry concerns submissions; dial three if…”  I think my magic number might have been four.  And, guess what!  A robo-voice said to leave my call-back number but “Due to the high volume of inquiries we receive on a daily basis regarding Royalties, please allow 5 business days for a response…”           

Sydney’s Books with Arcadia Publishing/History Press

On Business Day Nine after my first email inquiry I received a snippy email response saying they had notified me on March 31st (no, they hadn’t) and on April 17th my royalty payment (which I think will come to about $272) had been directly deposited to my bank account.  So, yesterday, April 21st, I stopped at the bank and inquired.  “Sorry, Sydney.  Nothing has come in.”

I can’t decide whether to continue looking for the bridge on this road or just to write it off as a bad trip all the way around…

Sheltering in Oysterville

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Rainy Day Vista

“Oh, good.  You’re home!” came Cate’s voice over the wire.  “Aida and I are on a walk in Oysterville and it just started to pour.  Can we come by?”

Over cups of tea we spent an hour talking, talking, talking – mostly, of course about Aida’s Willapa Bay AiR residency.  Much to her delight, it has given her the opportunity to complete the second draft of her second novel.  The manuscript is ready for translation from Farsi to English, the first step on the road to publication.  It’s a love story – an immigrant and a U.S. citizen and their struggle to overcome ‘the cultural divide.’ A topical subject, for sure.

Aida told us, too, of the difficulties Iranian citizens have in getting a U.S. visa.  Since we have no embassy in Tehran, it is necessary to take the expensive flight to Dubai to be interviewed by U.S. immigration authorities. The wait for an appointment is incredibly long.  Had it not been for intervention by Willapa Bay AiR’s founder, Cyndy Hayward, Aida’s March residency would not have occurred.  As it turned out, she arrived two weeks early after quickly making her travel arrangements as soon as Trump’s first immigration/travel ban was blocked by court order.

Storm Shelter

I was a bit taken aback to learn that yesterday was the final day of her Residency.  Where did the time go?  She leaves today for a month of travel – seeing friends across the United States and revisiting New York where she spent time several years ago.  While there, she hopes to make some useful contacts that will ultimately lead to the perfect translation of her book.

Our hour went too quickly.  Aida was delightful – warm, enthusiastic, incredibly chatty.  I thought back to my first knowledge of her – back in the fall of 2016 when she had been accepted to the Residency.  I think it was my February 1st blog that ‘broke’ the news that she might not be able to come because of Trump’s travel ban — the first of the headlines that caused a stir far beyond Oysterville.

Aida and Sydney

It was heartening to learn that Aida had “met so many wonderful people” while she was here and I greatly regret that it never worked out for us to get to know her earlier — despite the possibilities of  Friday Night Gatherings or dinner or even a House Concert.  Who’d a thunk it would be the blankety-blank rain that would bring a visitor from clear across the world into our house?  Thanks, Cate, for knowing that there’s always shelter here!

Searching for Origins

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Captain Richard and Rachael Medora (Pryor) Taylor, my great-great grandparents

It seems to me that hunting down our roots has become a national pastime.  Not a day goes by but what I don’t have a conversation with someone who has recently spit in a vial or swabbed their inner cheek and is now waiting for news about their origins.  Me too.  Nyel’s Christmas gift to all of us (Marta, Charlie, himself, and me) was one of those Ancestry DNA kits. We should all hear any day now.

Of the four of us, I am probably the least curious about the results of my own test.  Thanks to family members on both sides, genealogical data has been accumulating for many generations – in some cases going back to the fourteenth century!  On my mother’s side, it was her brother, Willard, who spent more than sixty years in the avid pursuit of our roots.  And that was in the low-tech days of visiting county seats and city halls and searching through dusty military archives up close and personal.

Willard Espy, circa 1940

In my most-likely-never-to-be-published biography of Willard, I call the chapter I’ve devoted to his genealogical endeavors, “Chasing the Begats.”  It begins like this:

That Willard had read the Bible three times by the time he was eight without once skipping so much as a word – especially not in Genesis – was an oft told family story.  When asked about his diligence in his study of that particular book, he explained that the begats were the foundation of all that came afterwards.  He never changed his mind on that score, but on the matter of which begats were included and which were not, he had this to say:

“The Bible is very clear about when and how the Lord created Adam, but I cannot find anything about the creation of Espys.  We tend to explain away the omission as a bad translation.”

Besides looking for family roots, Willard was interested in word origins.  Of his dozen and a half published books, all but two or three had to do with word derivations, meanings, and usage.  Had he been born a generation later, he would have reveled in the possibilities of searching the World Wide Web.  Maybe.

“Almanac of Words at Play” ©1980

I have to admit that there is something about getting instant answers that’s just a wee bit disappointing.  Like this morning when I looked up “must have gone down my Sunday throat” – an expression used in my childhood when someone choked while eating. Sure enough, there was the etymology right on a site called “World Wide Words:  Investigating the English Language Across the Globe.”  Damn!

Though I probably knew better in my heart of hearts, I liked to think that it was an expression used only in our family – especially since I’ve never heard anyone else use it.  On the other hand, I’ve always been told that none of us ever has an original thought.  It’s probably a DNA thing…

That same old tune… again!

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

I was somewhat distraught yesterday that my column in the local paper was a bit garbled.  Hopefully, readers figured it out but, for those who were confused, I reprint it here as originally intended:

Still Dancing ‘The Merry Minuet’

They’re rioting in Africa.
They’re starving in Spain.     

The earworm has been with me for weeks.  Actually, more like months.

There’s hurricanes in Florida
And Texas needs rain.

I can hear Bob Shane’s whistle as clear as clear after each line in that chorus. And I can almost smell the cigarette smoke and taste the whiskey sours that we always ordered at the Purple Onion or the Hungry i in San Francisco.  We’d go early, get a table down front and stay through two shows before having to get back to the dorm for curfew. The Kingston Trio… sharing the bill with comedian Jonathan Winters or Mort Sahl or maybe Professor Irwin Corey.  But always the Kingston Trio.

Usually, we were a party of four – my roommate Sandy, my fiancé Morgan, his brother Jim, and me.  For the record, the two of us women married those brothers eventually, and our children are first cousins.  Besides the ‘kids,’ only we two erstwhile roommates are left and both of us remember…

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.

We went as often as we could, mostly because my future brother-in-law was a friend of the group’s.  He had jammed with them, even rehearsed with them before they became The Kingston Trio.  He and Dave Guard were friends at Stanford; they were in the same fraternity together.  (Or was it an eating club?)  But when the rehearsing got more serious and time-consuming, Jim decided he needed to pay more heed to his studies.  He was out; Nick Reynolds was in.  And we became groupies of a sort.

Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

In those days, we were amused by those lyrics to “The Merry Minuet.”  Perhaps they were a bit shocking and they were definitely true.  But, like Mort Sahl’s commentary on the daily news (with his signature prop – that day’s San Francisco Chronical tucked under his arm), nothing seemed quite as dire as today.  Maybe because it was folk music.  Maybe because it was stand-up comedy.

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.

However, the fact is that though the names have changed, the content… not so much.  Hence, the earworm.  Who’d have thought that all these years later we’d still be dancing to that same old tune?

And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

And, of course, here comes another overlay to the singing earworm: “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”  I think it was Edmund Burke or one of those other philosophers who made that remark.  I was introduced to them in a fabulous course called Western Civilization, or ‘Western Civ’ in Stanford speak.  But, I don’t think any of us paid enough attention.

Or if we did, it was only some of us, and we started way too late.  And maybe we focused on the wrong things.  Not long ago, I was criticized on FaceBook (or was it in this very paper?) for my interest in “assorted, (mostly) long-dead relatives, and not-so-epic (big yawn) tales of yore.”   Well… there you go!

They’re rioting in Africa.  There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.