Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

Every little once in a while…

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

I’m sure it happens to other people, but maybe not in quite the same way as it happens to writers.  Every once in a while, I run across something that I wish I had said or, more to the point, written.  Not often, and usually nothing of great moment.  In fact, frequently it’s something a bit off-beat or humorous.  Take today, for instance…

I was sorting through boxes (and boxes!) of newspaper clippings, getting rid of duplicates and trying to categorize them by broad subject matter — a mind-numbing sort of task that in no way lends itself to more than cursory skimming.  But when I ran across something about oysters that my uncle had saved from the University Week, a University of Washington publication, I took a better look.  The article, “Oh those oysters!” by Sandra Hines was a review of a book called Heaven On The Half Shell by David G. Gordon, Nancy Blanton, and Terry Y. Nosho.  Both article and book were written in 2001.  As I skimmed, this bulleted paragraph jumped out at me:

The Sorting Game

Oyster biology:  By some standards, an oyster leads a dream life.  It doesn’t have to hunt for food, but simply waits for the tide to bring the next serving.  Breakfast in bed never ends.  Snug in a subtidal channel or secure on a soggy mudflat, an oyster can feed at its leisure, filtering up eight gallons of food-rich salt water per hour.”

“Breakfast in bed never ends.”  I LOVE that!  I immediately flashed on my own book, O is for Oysters written in 1998 and had a momentary flash of writer’s envy.  The entire paragraph, but most especially that one sentence, would have fit right in with the bits of humor I used to intersperse the sometimes rather dry (go figure!) oyster facts.

And if I couldn’t have come up with such a gem on my own, I’d have given full credit as I did with several of the following:

OLD TIME DITTY
Said one oyster to another
In tones of pure delight,
“I will meet you in the kitchen,
And we’ll both get stewed tonight.”
C.J. Espy (Uncle Cecil)

Q.  What do you get when you X-ray an oyster?
A.  Basic black and pearls.

THE BEWILDERED OYSTER
Oh me, Oh my, What shall I do”
Asked the oyster of its mother.
Yesterday I was just a girl but
Since I slept, I am her brother.

There’s no sense in your complaining
I haven’t the time to bother;
You’re not the only changeling here
Since I have just become your father.
Florence M. Pratt

And my all-time favorite:
I do not roister with an oyster
I like my bed dry.
An oyster moister.
Willard R. Espy (Wede)

 

 

 

One of the most gratifying things…

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

Medora, 1914

On May 17, 1914, my fifteen-year-old aunt Medora Espy wrote to her parents in Oysterville from her boarding school in Portland, Oregon: Thursday the girls and I went to see “Tess  O’ the Storm Country” at the Peoples.  It was very good – a five reel film with Mary Pickford starring.  She is adorable.  I wept through the whole performance but it can’t be helped. 

The letter, along with many others to family and friends, as well as her diary entries until the very eve of her death on Tuesday, January 18, 1916, were the basis for my book, Dear Medora, Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years, published in 2007 by WSU Press.  Yesterday, more than one hundred years after her short life ended, I received an email from an Assistant Professor in Film & Media History at the School of Film, Media and Theater at Georgia State University — a woman with the intriguing name, Doana Anselmo Sequeira.  She is embarked on a most interesting project —  a book on moviegoing girls in the 1910s.

Washington State University Press, 2007

She is interested in Medora — especially in Medora’s interest in films.   The original materials upon which I based the book . are located in Tacoma at the Washington State Historical Society’s Research Facility.  Ms. Sequeira writes that she has been perusing those documents and says:  [I] would like to include a photo of Medora in my forthcoming book and another article, both using her diaries and correspondence to illustrate how girls growing up in the US at that time engaged with the pictures. Would you allow me to include one Medora’s photos you’ve published in your website? 

Yes!  Of course!  I can’t say how pleased I am that someone “out there” has found Medora and values the implications her experiences and thoughts might have for the here and now!  Once again, I’m so glad my grandmother was a saver and that the family encouraged me in writing the book! Perhaps the years Medora lived in Oysterville will not be completely forgotten after all.

Having the last word… an overrated luxury?

Friday, September 10th, 2021
I sometimes think of these first and last words when I, myself, write about something I know to be true and my words are called into question.  Mostly that happens in the Letters to the Editor section of the Chinook Observer with reference to something I’ve written in my monthly column, Elementary My Dear.  On the one hand, I’m always gratified to know that I have followers.  On the other hand, there is the temptation to justify or explain what I have said — maybe say it another way so the offended reader will better understand me.

Charles Nelson, Sr. House – Oysterville, 1994

And then I think… “in the beginning” and “amen” in relationship to the words I wrote and blow off the nay-sayer’s comments.  Especially do I bear in mind those other wise words that I grew up hearing when my feelings were hurt… “consider the source.”  And sometimes I wonder if it would be better to draw my column rather than write it — you know, with the thought that a picture is worth a thousand words.  I wonder if political cartoonists, for instance, get less flack than do the writers of political editorials.

And I also wonder why folks with strong opinions often save them up to take potshots at others.  Why don’t they find their own  way to celebrate their memories and ideas rather than by being critical of others? As my mother used to say about such imponderables… “Why’s a hen?”

 

 

He didn’t suffer fools gladly.

Wednesday, September 1st, 2021

Willard 1914

My Uncle Willard was thoughtful, kind, and unfailingly understanding.  But he did not suffer fools gladly, no matter what Paul had to say in his letters to the Church at Corinth (The Holy Bible, King James Version: 2nd Corinthians 11:1-21).  When a reporter at Newsweek erroneously located the Long Beach Peninsula (placing it on the Olympic Peninsula) in late November 1982, Willard wrote a “straightening out” letter.  He received this response dated March 8, 1983:

Dear Mr. Espy:
Thank you for your response to “Glorious Food” (Nov. 29).  We’re sorry that you found our “Olympic Peninsula, Wash.” subtitle for the section in this piece that mentioned the Ark and Shelburne restaurants misleading.  While we were not unaware that the southernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula is called the Long Beach Peninsula, we decided to go with the broader geographical designation that can be applied to this area.  We do appreciate the concern with accuracy, and the interest in
Newsweek, however, that prompted you to write.  We hope you will continue to follow our coverage.
Sincerely, Jannica Hurwitt for the Editors

Willard 1940

Willard’s response, written March 1983:

I have your kind response of March 8 to a letter I wrote last year about a factual error in your otherwise excellent November article “Glorious Food.”  But I did not find the title in question “misleading.”  It was simply wrong.
Even more appalling is your extraordinary statement that “we were not unaware that the southernmost end of the Olympic Peninsula is called the Long Beach peninsula.”  If there is any authority in existence that says the entire west coast of the state of Washington is known as the Olympic peninsula, do cite it to me.  The Long Beach peninsula is no more part of  the Olympic peninsula than it is part of Baja California.

Willard 1981

To make a bad matter worse, you say you deliberately “decided to go with the broader geographical designation that can be applied (my underlining) to this area.”  Of course it can be; you can apply the term “Olympic peninsula” to the moon.  But on what authority?  By stretching matters, you could justify calling the entire northwestern part of Washington, with Aberdeen at the southern extremity and Olympia at the southeastern, the Olympic peninsula, but that is the limit.  The Long Beach peninsula, as you will see clearly from the enclosed map, is a discrete entity.  To make a mistake is much more forgivable than to pretend it was no mistake, or at worst just a difference of opinion.
If you can cite an accepted authority that says the Long Beach peninsula is part of the Olympic peninsula, I’ll buy you lunch.  And if you can’t, I think you should buy me one.
Sincerely, Willard R. Espy

I doubt very much if any lunch was forthcoming.  I also doubt if there was an apology, but I could be wrong.  The two letters quoted above are all that I have found regarding the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 11:1-21

I was wrong! And I’m so glad I was! (i think)

Tuesday, August 31st, 2021

WHO Award, 1978: Sydney M. LaRue

For years I’ve harbored a teeny tiny bit of jealousy for a number of disparate people — my mother, Isaac Asimov, Virginia Williams Jones, and every single one of Willard’s grandchildren among others.   And the reason?  My venerable uncle Willard (who we mostly called “Wede”), at one time or another, wrote  a poem specifically for each of them.  In my mother’s case — more than one.  And although he always told me I was his favorite niece (never mind that I was his ONLY niece), he never wrote a poem for me.

Or so I’ve thought for a very long time.  And then… in this cursed and blessed cleaning out project, I ran into this note from the man himself.  Dated 2 May, 1978, it said:

Dear Sydney:
I understand that certain ceremonies in your honor have recently occurred  Having tried, but failed to make myself part of them, I send you this wistful tribute:

 

Willard Espy, 1975

You try hard to reach her;
No matter, she’ll scorn ya —

The most famous teacher
In North California!

You beg, you beseech her;
She’ll widdle upon ya —
The most famous teacher
In North California!

Oh… and the “ceremonies” he mentions?   I was awarded the 1978  WHO (We Honor our Own) Award by the California Teachers’ Association, Alcosta Service Center and Hayward Unified Teacher’s Association.  I can’t be sure after all these these years exactly what it was for but I know it was NOT for widdling.

All I can say is, be careful what you wish for.

Walking That Old Memory Lane… Again.

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

1976 Letter from Jose Flores

The packet was full to bursting and was labeled “Student Work/Notes.”  The first one out of the envelope was a letter to me dated 10-1-76.  It was signed “your friend José Flores” and had been mailed from Mexico City:
Dear Mrs. LaRue,
I’m José and me and my family wish for you that be fine and too a happy new year.  I’m sorry because you didn’t been the day that we went to Hayward and I wish that you have readed the message that me and my sisters did put in the board.  I like to give you the thanks for your attentions for me in the school, for last I like that you come to Mexico and to my house to meet my family… your friend José Flores, good by.

José included his address, even the apartment number, so I could visit.  Even after all these years the tears did come.  I wish I could remember him more clearly — a second grader, in my class for only a month or two as I recall.  How I hope I wrote him!

1991 Letter from First Grader Tom Holgate

Another letter — this one from 1991 — begins Circle one:  Messy or Good Job
Dear Teacher, I am happy after Christmas the first graders get to be editors.  I practice at home.  Me and Carson made a bet that I would or wouldn’t make a mistake on my first try.  We bet $1.00.  Your friend, Tom Holgate, Grade 1.

Red-headed Tom Holgate — as bright as a new penny!  I think he was in my multigrade class for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Carson (Kemmer), too.  I wonder who won the bet.  It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Tom had won.  I wonder if either one of them remembers now…

There were also a number of pictures from of  Nyel and me.  Several of them had us smiling broadly giving one another a fist-bump.  Go figure.

And, in case you’re wondering.  I haven’t made a dent in that packet.  Nor have I managed to do any “downsizing” of the contents…  I’m too busy being tangled up in a web of emotions.  How glad I am that I kept these treasures!

1992 Picture of Mr. & Mrs. S. by Katie Downer

 

The Very Best Part of A Book Talk

Sunday, July 18th, 2021

Sydney talks about Madam X at the Senior Center

Yesterday I gave a Book Talk about Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula at the Senior Center in Klipsan.  It was the third event in as many weekends and I didn’t have high expectations for attendance or sales.  However, what I didn’t factor in was how much fun I would have talking with the people who were there!

I met several women who read my blog every single day!  They asked after the chickens, were pleased to meet Farmer Nyel (who was helping Vicki sell books for me) and one expressed a desire to meet Tucker.  “I want to find out if he is related to the Glass family.  They were best friends to my husband and me.”  I know that Tucker is related to the Glass family but I don’t know if it’s the right Glass family.  Even so, I found myself saying, “Why don’t you come by the house sometime and we’ll walk over and I’ll introduce you.”  I hope she does.  She and I were “of an age” as they say, and had it not been for people waiting in line for my autograph, we probably could have spent the rest of the afternoon becoming best friends!

A Small but Mighty Interesting Audience

Actually, there were several encounters like that and I did think to myself, “Well, after all… it’s the Senior Center and I’m bound to meet a few soulmates here.  I should come more often…”  But, it wasn’t just ‘Senior Serendipity’.  Along came a good looking “young” (50s?) man named Paul who said that we are “sort of related.”  And, indeed we are!  My first cousins were brought up by his mother’s inlaws (got that?) in Minnesota in the 1930s.  Paul was visiting the Peninsula and had just happened upon the book signing and… here he was!

Sydney with Wallace and Charles, Ft. Canby, WA, 1938

As it turned out,  when  Nyel and I returned home a half hour or so later,  we saw Paul taking pictures up the street.  I hailed him, invited him in, and we spent a pleasant half hour looking at family pictures and sharing information about my cousins Wallace and Charles Pearson whose mother Suzita was my mother’s older sister.  As Sue was dying of pneumonia on December 27, 1932, she asked her mother (my grandmother) to send the boys to Lake City, Minnesota to the Pearsons, her husband’s people.  At that time her father (my grandfather)  was in a sanitorium recovering from a horrendous automobile accident and my grandmother, always frail and losing her sight, could not have coped with two young boys.  Even by pooling our information, there is much that Paul and I don’t know.  Time to get Cuzzin Ralph looking on ancestry.com once again!

And… even so, I sold a fair number of books.  But the best part of all (as usual) was meeting and talking with everyone!  Even my Facebook friend, Terry Eager. came all the way from Chinook to meet me in person and say “hello.”  Wow!  What a fun afternoon!

 

“Me? At an art gallery?” I asked BOLDly!

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

Mrs. Crouch and I will see you here — Sunday, July 11, 2:00-4:00

I don’t think I’m a groupie exactly.  Certainly not in the musical sense.  Not really.  I cheer and clap for musician friends and, of course, we host House Concerts.  I used to hang out at the Purple Onion and the hungry i  in the City and the Blind Lemon in Berkeley — but only when friends or friends of friends were playing.  And, would you believe I’ve never been to a “concert”  — not a real one with thousands of people in attendance.  Not ever.

On the other hand, maybe I am a groupie when it comes to the visual arts.   Not only have I always had friends among “those arty fellas” as old Bob Meadows called the artists who occasionally set up their easels in front of the church or up near the Monterey Cypress trees here in town.   I usually remember cities I’ve visited by their art museums or galleries or special exhibitions.  I’m not sure why.

Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula

So, when I was contacted by BOLD in July of 2020 and asked if I’d be willing to have them sell my books, I was thrilled.  Not that my books are “art,” mind you, but there they are, rubbing elbows with the best of the best visual art on the Peninsula!  Wow!  And, they seem to be holding their own.

So when my second ghost book came out — Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula — and we decided on a Book Talk and Signing for Sunday, July 11th, from 2:00 to 4:00 — I knew for sure that I had arrived!  I felt exactly like I was having a one-woman show at a gallery (and, in a way, I am.)

I hope you come!  It’s not every day that an art gallery hosts a book writer!!!  Come and enjoy this stellar occasion with me.  Have a cup of coffee.  Ooooh and aaaah over the artwork.  And hold hands with a ghost or two!

My One Track Mind

Saturday, July 3rd, 2021

Sydney After Adelaide’s Signing Event, 7-3-21

From noon-thirty until two-thirty today I was scheduled to give a book talk at Adelaides — my first for this second ghost book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.  So, I scurried around with my morning chores — feed and water the chickens, refurbish the hummingbird feeder, spray Deer Fence on roses, hydrangeas, primroses, and camellias.  (Oh… and on nasturtiums!  Who knew?  But someone has been eating them and it doesn’t look like slug work.)

We ate an early lunch (read mid-morning snack) and I was on my way, hoping against hope that Adelaide’s still had enough books!  Every book seller on the Peninsula has replenished once and has called again…  More books on their way but North Carolina’s a far piece and there’s a holiday and will they get here in time for the next signing and and and?  Me worry?  YES!

It was crowded at Adelaide’s.  SRO!  Some people I knew — even from afar! — and many others whose faces were familiar and still others who were completely unknown.  I talked for a while.  I answered questions.  And then I signed.  And signed!  50 books in all — 41 of the new ones and 9 old ones.  Plus, a few that had been purchased elsewhere…

Adelaide’s at the
Taylor Hotel, by Jean Stamper

I finished about 2:45 and then PJ (husband of Jill, both of whom volunteered to “take care of my every need” — and they did!) asked to take my picture.  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that, despite my best intentions, I had forgotten pictures entirely!  I had intended to photograph the crowd.  And the line of folks waiting for my signature.  And maybe even the parking lot.  Damn!

Thanks, PJ, for sending me a copy of the one you took!  It’s a great one, doncha think???

My Current Parallel Universe

Thursday, April 8th, 2021

Mind-boggling Possibilities

When I went out to the coop with the girls’ breakfast this morning, I found myself talking to them about Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.  I was asking them if they’ve ever had occasion to speak with her.  They clucked and chirped a bit, but I think they were mostly telling me to get on with their morning treats.  I’m not sure they are into paranormal stuff.

Nor am I.  But, I’ve been in the  midst of going over the copyreader’s edits and stewing about the cover image for my upcoming book, Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, so I’m traveling along some ghostly parallel plane just now.  Come to think of it, the chickens probably are, too.  Just not the same one as mine.

Which makes me wonder just how many parallel universes there might be.  According to an article titled “Parallel Universes: Theories & Evidence” written by Elizabeth Howell in 2018, the concept of a parallel universe “is a facet of the astronomical theory of the multiverse.” (And never mind that the multiverse term immediately puts my puny thought processes in a musical mode.)  Ms. Howell goes on to say, “There actually is quite a bit of evidence out there for a multiverse.”

She briefly expains five different multiverse theories — all of which are totally beyond me and none of which mentions Mrs. Crouch or any of the other ghosts in Historic Haunts…   On the other hand, Ms. Howell does point out that physicist Stephen Hawking questioned the multiverse theory shortly before his death. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse to a much smaller range of possible universes.”

I wish I’d had a chance to talk with Dr. Hawking about where Mrs. Crouch might be in the great scheme of things.  Unfortunately, the closest I ever got to meeting him was when he visited this house via his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory.”  Perhaps he noticed Mrs. C. in passing.  But whether he did or not, it all begs the question: Whatever will I tell the chickens now?