Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Generosity

Tomorrow I'm headed East for the NETWO conference, and for those in the area, it's not too late to sign up. Editors, agents, and authors, oh my! For more information, click here.

Today I'm doing laundry and packing, and catching up on note-taking for my class. Re-reading through Shirley Hazzard's The Great Fire, I came across this sentence (which will be my Two Sentences Read for Two by Two):

"After childhood, we become prepared for coldness. It's generosity that disarms us."

This stopped me short, and I wonder if it's true. Are we, as adults, disarmed by generosity? I think back on some of the most generous moments I've experienced, and they were, in fact, unsettling. In the best of ways. Back when we were newly married with two young babies, and I was stay-at-home mom living on my husband's barely-above-minimum-wage teacher's salary, we struggled just to get by. Charging groceries, living in a house without central heat and air. Selling my old work clothes and CDs (so painful!) to buy diapers.

One winter night just before Christmas, we came home and a card was on our front porch. Unsigned, other than a simple line that read Jesus Loves You. (I know, this teeters dangerously into a very special Lifetime moment, but it's true.) The envelope contained, along with the card, one hundred dollars cash. It's one of my clearest memories of unconditional generosity, probably made sharper because we needed it so desperately. It's humbling to accept a gift like that, with no way to return it.

Speaking of giving (check me out, with the segues!), it's not too late to join my contest for a box of signed books by Texas authors. All I ask is that you check out the Nothing but Nets Website (we're on an honor system here, folks) and read about how a $10 donation can save a life. Whether you give or not is up to you. Come back to this blog and leave a comment, any comment, and I'll put you in the drawing. Contest closes at the end of May.

For my two "sentences" written from a poem I'm working on:

My grandmother died of Alzheimer's
in a special home in Wisconsin
where they clipped her nails
and rolled her hair and bathed
her when she forgot the closet
is not a toilet.

I remember her: tall and lovely,
long limbs draped in linen
the clink of her jewelry and ice
in vodka; how she'd ask the same questions
over and over, then laugh along with us
when we teased her
about forgetfulness.

I know I'm no poet, but it is two sentences. And, if you look close, a semi-colon.

For other two by two participants, check out the Women of Mystery blog, which started the trend.

Ever been disarmed by generosity? Have sentences to share? Wanna win books? Get your post on...

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My Town Monday: Tornadoes, Tunes and Margaritas

Sorry for the late My Town Monday post. I had a meeting in downtown Fort Worth yesterday in the 35-story Bank One building, famous for being hit by a tornado in the spring storms of 2000. Here's a photo of the damage:

The building has since been rebuilt, with swanky condos on the upper floors. Our financial advisor has offices on the third floor of the building, and when I asked him if that makes him nervous, with the whole tornado thing, he said no. Which is the kind of bravery I like in a CPA.

The Fort Worth Arts Festival was last weekend, and we trundled downtown to see what was shaking in all that is artsy fartsy. Heavy rains and hail ruined the Thursday events, but Friday was gorgeous so the crowds showed up in baby-strolling, flip-flop wearing throngs. Our main purpose was to see the phenomenal Ruthie Foster, a blues/folk singer with some serious pipes. She's from Texas and is in my top three of the Texas trinity: Lyle, Willie and Ruthie. She's incredible live, and in an explosive one-hour set on the main Sundance Square stage, she did not disappoint.Neither did the stage-side revellers who'd apparently been day long. Our favorite was a little woman in a red sweater whose toe-tapping and hip shaking made Elaine Benes look Ginger Rogers. In honor of her enthusiastic response to the tunes, we called her Tiny Dancer.

The only downside to the evening? A margarita. Live music, balmy spring night, an outdoor setting--what could be better, right? Wrong. They do that coupon thing so you can't keep track of how much things costs--which totally works--and this supposedly happy concoction was purchased for a whopping 14 coupons, which equals, I think, about fifteen hundred dollars. Salted rim, on the rocks, just like I like it. But it was undrinkable. I mean, total swill. Like the bottom of a melted lemon-lime snowcone bad. The booth was called "Margaritas on the Rocks" (no I'm not kidding), so heads up for any future festival-goers. I'm sure my experience was an anomaly to other booths serving up tasty treats, and I won't let it taint an otherwise great evening on the town. In fact, Kern had some sort of chicken skewer that elevated festival food to an entirely new level.

Next year I'll remember to save my adult-beverage moolah for trusted establishments: like Joe T Garcia's which serves up the best margaritas anywhere.

Frozen concoctions or on the rocks? What's your favorite festival food?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

NETWO Conference and Two by Two

A Where in the World is Britta update:

Well, right now I'm in front of my computer, but next weekend (April 25-26) I'm headed to East Texas to join NETWO, the Northeast Texas Writers Organization for their 2008 Writers Roundup conference. I'll be joined by a slew of authors, including Texas comic crime novelist Ben Rehder whose first novel, Buck Fever, was nominated for an Edgar award. If my husband's late night laughter is any judge, Ben knows what he's doing. For those looking to land their first book deal, the conference will have agents and editors on hand as well. Another draw for the weekend: it's on the shores of Lake Bob Ray Sandlin.

Here are this week's Two by Two sentences, inspired by the Women of Mystery who started Two Sentence Tuesday. If you want to join in, you can post on your own blog and let me know, or leave your sentences in the comments. And because I believe in free will, it doesn't have to be Tuesday. Or Thursday.

Two Sentences Read:

"He recognizes his old Monopoly game being played, the board in two pieces, the racecar missing ever since Sonia dropped it into the baseboard heater when she was little. Gogol does not know to whom these children belong--half the guests are people his mother has befriended in recent years, people who were at his wedding but whom he does not recognize." -- from Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.

I love the detail here...that bit about the racecar in the heater is so specific it has to be true. After finishing this novel for the second time (even better on the re-read), I watched the film. Gorgeous colors in costume and cinematography, but overall it doesn't hold up to the book. Hard to take the lead character seriously when he's played by Kumar of Whitecastle.

For my two sentences written:

"Hoosits was Gus's shorthand for Hoosiers, a cheap knockoff of the Hooters bars, that featured a scrawny basketball-playing owl, and scrawnier girls to go with it. He'd heard the wings weren't bad though." -- from my WIP.

I'm still working through this round of revisions, on page 180 out of 285. I think I can, I think I can...

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Monday, April 14, 2008

My Town Monday: Fort Worth Gives Back

When we moved to this area five and a half years ago, one of the first things we noticed was this cute little church around the corner from our house. To me the white steeple and red brick looks like something from olden days, only with newer landscaping that speaks of suburbia.

You know that old child's play with hands: this is the church, this is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people? When we walked in these doors, it was the people we met that made the place seem like family. I can actually walk there, much like Father Tim in Mitford, in less than five minutes. Makes me feel all small-towny.

Here are some pics from our prayer garden, a quiet place tucked in a corner off the sanctuary.

Our congregation reaches out to our community in many ways: stocking food pantries, donating school supplies and Christmas gifts for kids in need, and sending work teams to reinforce aging homes or build wheelchair ramps for the elderly. A recent, more global venture was initiated by a friend in our Sunday School: we're joining the Nothing But Nets Campaign to help fight malaria. Millions of people die each year from malaria - but there's a simple, life-saving solution, and all it takes is $10 to buy a bed net, distribute it to a family, and explain its use.

And I thought I'd take this opportunity to ask my friends in the blogosphere to help out.

So here's the skinny: please check out the Nothing but Nets website and see if you can donate ten bucks to save a life. That's ten dollars. To. Save. A. Life.

Even if you don't have the funds, it's worth a quick click to see what's going on. If you want to donate, you can join my Fort Worth team in our friendly competition, to see if we can blow the top off our goal.

Whether you're able to give now or not, check out the site, leave a comment on this blog and I'll put you in a drawing to win a box of signed books from Texas authors, including a copy of Potter Springs by yours truly.

Nothing but Nets. We can fight, and we can win. Game on.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Author Signing: Jodi Thomas in Fort Worth Today

A quick note to let you know my friend Jodi Thomas will be in Fort Worth today, signing her newest novel, Twisted Creek, from 12-2 at Sam's Club on 4400 Bryant Irvin Road. There's also the inaugural meeting of the Jodi Thomas DFW fan club at 2:30 at MiMi's restaurant across the street (which I hear has a killer bread pudding.) I'll be at Sam's this afternoon, and I'm hoping that, along with my signed copies, I don't come home with a forty gallon jar of mustard.

To see a YouTube trailer for Jodi's novel, click here. Which begs the question: we use trailers, or commercials, to sell everything from life insurance to movie tickets, so why not books? There's the adage that print sells print--as in reviews and ads in newspapers, magazines--but can film sell print?

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tyranny and Two X Two

On my heart and in the news today are those poor women and children from the religious sect housed Eldorado, about five hours drive from my home town of Fort Worth. You've seen the pictures on the news: those girls dressed like Laura from Little House in the Prairie, bewildered and clutching the hands of their own children.
I can't imagine what they're feeling, having suddenly been released from tyranny and thrust into the crazy lights of "outside world" with the media's unblinking eye catching every detail. Still no reports that they've found the courageous 16-year old who made the initial contact, in an act of bravery that may have broken the cycle of abuse for hundreds. Lord, I hope they find her.

What I can't get over are the arguments from the sect's attorney, from today's paper (and my Two Sentences Read for this Two X Two post):

"Goldstein contended in his motion that the temple was a 'religious sanctuary' and that the authorities violated the First Amendment rights of church members. But 51st District Judge Barbara Walther let the search warrants stand."

Here's a shout out to Babs for having not only backbone, but a genuine sense of right and wrong. In my opinion, once you start sexually abusing children the whole "religious sanctuary" thing doesn't really fly.

I just wonder what they'll do with all those kids...where will those girls go to be resocialized? It has to be terrifying.

On a much lighter note, for my Two Sentences Written, a missive also involving women and children: "We did receive our daughter's report card and have signed it, as requested. Unfortunately, we must have put it in a 'very special place' as we can't seem to find it this morning."

Ever been part of a religious sect? The raid: a violation of rights or a smart move?


Monday, April 07, 2008

My Town Monday: Serenity NOW

One of my favorite places in my town is the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens, touted as the oldest botanical garden in Texas. It's over 109 acres with 2500 species of plants in 23 speciality gardens.

The extensive rose garden is my second favorite part--the first is the Japanese Garden. While the rest of the gardens are free, the Japanese Garden has a minimal charge (three bucks, I think?) and is well worth it. It's like walking on the set of Memoirs of a Geisha. Minus the heavy makeup and mincing walk. With winding paths, bridges, waterfalls, koi ponds and lazy turtles, all in a lush green setting, it's instant serenity and a fantastic place to spend an afternoon. I've taken myself there on "Writer Dates," with a journal and a pen.

Here are some pics my son took on one of our visits. Isn't he talented?

Where do you go for serenity NOW? For inspiration?

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Celebrity Reading Week

Today I'm headed back to Junior High. Thank goodness it's only for thirty minutes or so, as I'm part of Celebrity Reading Week for a local school. Not that I don't love visiting schools (I do), I'm just thankful I don't have to get a smelly locker and navigate hormones and cafeteria mystery food while trying to understand sixth grade algebra. Okay, that's not all true. I rocked sixth grade algebra.

Anyway, not sure what I'll read to them this afternoon. Last year I read Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are which is one of my favorite children's books ever. I also read a short (kid appropriate) section from Potter Springs, which they seemed to enjoy. It's the bit about Mr. Chesters at the gas station, if you've read the book.

One of my favorite things about events like today is letting kids know that pursuing writing and staying in school pays off, and that if they're really lucky/blessed/struck by lightning, they'll walk into a bookstore one day and see their story on the shelf. Or better yet, on one of those front tables in a big ole stack at Barnes & Noble with a sign that says, "Great Reads." There's nothing like it. If you want a glimpse of what it feels like, check out my photo album here. There's a pic where I'm all shiny faced and excited, standing with cool salesguy Dan at BookPeople in Austin. First book I saw on the shelf, ever. Thus the delirious expression.
It still makes me laugh.

Have a favorite kids' book? A painful/funny sixth grade memory?

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fool's and Two Sentence Tuesday

Happy April Fool's Day, and sorry for the recent lag on the blog. I'm in high gear with my rewrites and only have 120 pages left to go on this round for my WIP. I did find a scary thing today--that the draft in my computer for a particular chapter was a step behind a copy of my hard edits. I'm hoping it's an anomaly, that I took this chapter out of sequence for my critique group, polished it, and forgot to put it back in. Which would be way me of me. The idea that I've saved a lesser draft over a more polished one--for the whole book--is more horrifying than I can entertain. And it's not an April Fool's either.

On to Two by Two, since I missed them last week (where I share two sentences read, two sentence written, and y'all are invited to join me.) Today, according to The Writer's Almanac, is the birthday of Francine Prose, born in Brooklyn, New York in1947. Along with writing novels, she's authored the nonfiction book, Reading Like a Writer (2006), which is subtitled "A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them." It's one of my new favorite books on writing, and here's a sample two sentences from a terrific chapter on gestures:

"First of all, it's important, as with every word we write, to be careful and sparing. If a gesture is not illuminating, simply leave it out, or try cutting it and see if you later miss it or even remember it's gone."

For my two written, from my WIP: "He missed the actual accident, but heard the kid scream, a high animal sound. Sagging between two men as they drug him off the lift, his face turned purple from crying."

Other Two Sentence Tuesday Posters:

Women of Mystery (who started the trend)

Question: are how-to writing books worth a writer's time? Do you have a favorite?

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