Posts Tagged ‘the writing process’

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?

 

Books, covers, and what you can tell…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

The “Sequel” is Coming

So… the publisher has sent the book cover for my approval and, thus far, I’m having a love/hate reaction.  I love how it looks — the Oysterville Church, gorgeous as always, and with a rather ominous background that seems ghostly, indeed.  But I hate the implications with the picture situtated, as it is, right below the title: Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula.

Perhaps I’m being super-sensitive, but the insinuation (at least to me) is that the church, itself, is haunted. It is not. Never has been.  Nor has there ever been an idle rumor to that effect.  But, sure as shooting, if the book wears that cover, the “reports” will begin and before you know it the TV cameras and the ghost-busters will arrive…  Or, that is my fear.

I expressed my concerns to my editor who, I hasten to say, has been great!  She is in consultation with the cover designer to see what can be done.  I thought it might be easier to change the title than to find a different, more suitable photograph but she said that it’s too late.  It’s been “finalized and logged for their retailers” which I guess means the word about the book is being circulated as we speak.

Stay tuned for Book Launch information!

Maybe that old adage “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover” will hold true and people will realize that there are no stories in this one about the church being haunted.  On the other hand, perhaps the article by Corinne A. Kratz of Emory University in the May 1994 Cultural Anthropology journal is right.  In “Telling/Selling A Book By It’s Cover” she wrote:  “… a cover is a marketing device, an aesthetic prduction, and a representation that may relate to the book’s content. What picture can help sell a thousand books?”

Or maybe my concerns are for nothing.  Maybe I should just be content with the thought that the reading public has more sense than we credit them with.  Maybe…

Not quite a “sea” of blue… perhaps a pond?

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

I don’t know about other authors, but the day I dread most in the book-writing process has arrived — the first edits by the copy editor for my “approval” — or not. Perhaps it works differently with a mainstream publisher but with History Press I have had a new copy editor with each book I’ve done for them.  I believe this is the eighth book and eighth copy editor.  Which means starting from square one each time.

For instance — hearing that the History Press policy frowns on “sidebars” and having to explain that I am known for sidebars, that it’s an important part of how I deliever ancillary historic information etc. etc. gets my dander up from the get-go.  Always in the past the copy editor has capitualated but I still must engage them in the discussion and hope that my reasoning is accepted.  Otherwise… Actually, I can’t wrap my mind around the “otherwise.”  A complete re-write?

Then there are the terminology issues — copy editors never like it that I capitalize Peninsula when referring to the North Beach (or Long Beach) Peninsula.  I do it, as does our venerated local newspaper, to differentiate it from the many other peninsulas along our watery coast.  That issue always reminds me of an ongoing discussion that Willard had with a NYT editor about the Long Beach Peninsula NOT being part of the Olympic Peninsula.  It took almost a year, as I recall, for him to win that argument.  “East Coasters can be very parochial in their attitudes,” he said.

References to “the weatherbeach” or  “weather beach” are often difficult for copy editors, too.  Although it’s a term that is not heard much nowadays, it was certainly in common usage historically.  And, these are books about history to be published by the History Press.  Go figure.

Not that I don’t make my fair share of errors well beyond typos and spellcheck glitches.  But usually, my word choice and my manner of presentation has been carefully thought out and I get prickly when copy editors change my pearls of thought.  Fortunately for me, this copy editor has said in his note accompanying his changes:   I was very careful during my review of the text to maintain the original voice and wording as much as possible, and my efforts are simply to present the material in a readable and entertaining way for the reader.  We can but hope.

April 2021 Calendar

My comments/adjustments/explanations are due back to him by April 8th.  Turnaround time is always tight — especially if you have a life.  Or a doctor’s appointment.  A week seems short for the consideration of possible changes to a 45,000 word manuscript.  His concerns are noted in blue.  I took a quick look — maybe not a sea of blue, but definitely more than a puddle.  Oh my!

On the other hand, the publishing date for Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula has been moved up from June 23rd to June 21st — unless that’s a typo.  You never know…