Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Grows in the Garden

The peak of summer. My garden is lush with foliage, flowers, and the buds of many edibles: blueberries and service berries, hazelnuts fat for the squirrel to pick off, sugar snap peas late this year from the chilling spring rains. The asparagus have sprouted into high feathery fronds that hide my children and the rabbits, and the raspberries sport small white flowers that buzz with bees.

This year, for the first time, the kiwi trees droop with fruit, although the white peach is sparse after last season's bountiful crop.

We spend a lot of time in our garden. My husband is the primary caretaker; the garden is his genius genesis. I play supporting actor by weeding and dead-heading his prize daylilies, harvesting the bounty and making it part of our dinner staple. Caring for our outside living room, preparing the peas and berries, slows me down, puts me in a meditative frame.

Like my garden, my words slow, become more lazy yet purposive at the same time, unlike the manic rush of writing in the early dark hours of winter.

How does your garden grow?


The Writing... PURE trucking along at a steady pace. I am preparing work for the Harbinger*33 anthology, which has me confounded - what to submit? Something new? Something old and tweaked? I'm running out of time, and my head is full...

My short story DEFECTION placed well in the popular vote in the Editor Unleashed Flash Fiction 40, and snagged a spot in the anthology. I'm grateful for the feedback from readers, and especially thrilled that so many of the stories penned by my writing peeps (especially my Nudgers) will snuggle between the covers with mine.

The Reading... Finished Middlemarch and starting in on The Corrections (Franzen) and Lady Chatterly's Lover, among others. Also grooving on Best American Short Stories 2006, picked up at a yard sale for a dime. Short stories are one of those writing groups I don't eat enough of.

My dad... Thanks all who have shared your concerns and sent good thoughts and prayers. He starts a Phase II clinical trial that may help slow tumor growth. We leave this week to spend some vacation time with him and my mom...

My kids... turn 10 and 7 this week! My little sprouts, my joys, they grow with abundance like our garden.

Peace, Linda

(Garden by Henry, pictures by me)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Last of Lasts...

Father's Day swept in this year on a bittersweet wind. I couldn't be with my father this year to honor him in what may likely be his last such celebration. But in my garden three hundred miles away, the currants hung, red fleshy globules. I spent the afternoon picking the lip-puckering berries, cleaning them, boiling them into juice. When I visit in two weeks, I will have jars of glistening ruby jelly for him to enjoy. His favorite.

Father's Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July... the flowering dogwoods, beach trip, my childrens' birthdays... the hummingbird, the taste of roast turkey, solid food, a day without morphine...

The last of lasts.

I am not sure next summer I'll be able to harvest currants without crying.


The Writing... HABITS DIE HARD up at Boston Literary Magazine. Kudos to writing friends Stephen Book, Greta Igl, Doug Mathewson, and Jane Banning, whose drabbles grace the same page.

DEFECTION continues to hang tough in the EDITOR UNLEASHED/SMASHWORDS Flash Fiction 40 Contest. I'm pretty flabbergasted - the popular vote ranks me in the Top 5 out of 280 entries, but the Pit Boss (Maria Schneider) decides the grand prize winner - as she should. Take a peek - tons of talent, and a fabulous lesson on writing concise fiction. Most gratifying? Every one of my Nudger writing buddies ranks in the Top 40!

HARBINGER*33 sets sail! Quite an honor to be a member of this amazing crew. More later, but the journey promises excitement - and fun.

Of course, still plugging away at PURE, prepping my submission to the summer workshop at Lesley University. Waiting to hear on several poems and flashes out for submission. Fingers crossed.

The Reading... Thirty pages from Middlemarch's grand conclusion. What fun sharing the epic reading with my Filling In the Gaps 100 Project reading buddies. Also made more fun by finishing the last two books on my sleek and sexy Kindle Dx. Next up... The Corrections (Franzen) and the July Debut Indie Pick.

Read hard, write hard... live and love hard. The days and the people who fill them pass too quickly...

Peace, Linda

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Repeat After Me - June Indie Debut Pick

I MET DA GE ON A TUESDAY AFTERNOON IN THE FALL OF 1989. New York was orange and confident then, leaves breezing the curb and towers poking above the skyline. I was teaching English as a second language at a school called Embassy when he arrived two weeks and fifteen minutes late. He stood in the doorway watching the class with an expression it was hard to identify -- some combination of grin, smirk, and sneer. I thought he might be shy.

Thus begins the relationship of Aysha Silverman, ESL teacher rebounding after a college breakdown, and Da Ge, an engimatic, troubled dissident who fled China in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Despite language and cultural differences, the two develop a sensitivity to the other's harbored secrets. Aysha falls in love with Da Ge long before he asks her to marry him as a step toward attaining US citizenship. Aysha becomes pregnant, but before she can share the news with Da Ge, he commits suicide.

The story spans two decades and continents, and Rachel DeWoskin bridges these spans with rich detail and evocative prose. Beijing comes alive, it's own character, as does the less foreign but equally exotic New York City. Besides the settings and cultures, the strong ensemble of secondary characters are not easily forgettable: Aysha's best friend Julia One, Embassy Student Xiao Wang, De Ga's father Old Chen, and Julia Two, the perky tween-age daughter. Most believable is well-drawn relationship of Aysha with her mother.

Da Ge haunted me days after I finished the book. Tough, vulnerable, secretive, I turned pages to find out what made him tick. His character and blunt insights on life Chinese and American are revealed best in the essays, submitted to his 'Teacher', that preface each section. Rereading these excerpts a secnd and third time reveal layers of Da Ge unnoticed the first time through.

This is a quiet novel, complex in it's rendering of love in all its forms. The story meanders from time period and country, at times without sufficient guideposts to orient the reader. But the prose itself is straightforward and honest, and interesting enough to give pause for appreciation. For me, the story comes alive when Aysha relates the breakdown leading to her hospitalization and withdrawal from Columbia.

She asks: How do people know what to filter out and what to leave in? maybe we're permeable, and insanity is the loss of that membrane; everything floods in and out, uncontrolled.

In truth, the mental illness angle surprised -- and delighted -- me; from the front flap cover, the only inkling is of Aysha's "nervous breakdown". But both protagonists suffer psychiatric maladies, and it is in this suffering that their relationship is idealized and consummated. As someone who purposively seeks out books that explore the intersection of the unquiet mind and the restive heart, the central theme of mental unwellness was a bonus.

THE AUTHOR... RACHEL DEWOSKIN certainly has "platform" - educated at Columbia University, she moved to beijing where she worked in public relations before taking a starring role in a Chinese soap opera likened to "Sex and the City." Repeat After Me is her first novel; her memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing was published in 2005.

THE PRESS... Small but mighty, OVERLOOK PRESS has one of the most eclectic portfolios of fiction and non-fiction among all the independent presses. Sympathetic to emerging writers, I troll here frequently, and suggest you pay a visit as well.

Repeat after me - this is a gem of a novel. Read it.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ant you are...

Though once you seemed
to me mighty,
a mastodon,
lifting me through
throngs, across mine
strewn lands stronger
than anyone
or anything.
Rendered wizened
small from weeks of
still standing but
weaving stubborn;
brave ant you are.

Father's Day approaches. Mine survived 7 weeks of aggressive cancer treatment last year. But the pain is back and 4 biopsies and a CAT scan later we are waiting. Again.

Hold your father close.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Job for Life

Promoted to Full Professor. With Tenure.

A good day.

I am so grateful for all I have: my students, my colleagues, my work, the freedom to think and express what moves me without fear of retribution - or worse.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Rejected by a literary agent lately? Watch this, then get even... REJECTION

Via The Boy Who Could But Didn't - Ben Leto

Peace, Linda