Best gifts for writers and booklovers

Everyone’s doing it. Producing lists of things to give people for the holidays. I myself have been plugging Tangerine Tango, the cute little book of writing by women in which some of my deathless prose (and a poem) appears. But I keep running across other great things a book-lover or writer might enjoy receiving. So here goes:

Every writer needs a notebook. This one is designed for the insomniac writer and includes lots of creative writing prompts (Write the shortest story ever written. Describe the taste of regret.) and quotes about the power of nighttime. Only $15.

My Ideal Bookshelf is both a book and a series of art prints that can be hung on your wall. Edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount the illustrations show the bookshelves of cultural figures, including writers Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Jennifer Egan and Junot Diaz. The cover of the book gives you some idea, but check out the website for close up views of the illustrations. Book $25, prints on archival paper $28.

Protect your favorite writer/reader’s iPhone with a gelaskin from Colin Thompson. $15.

There have been several films about writers this year, including The Words, Writers, and Being Flynn. My favorite, and one I’d give to a non-writing friend too, is Ruby Sparks. a 2012 romantic comedy-drama about a struggling novelist whose fictional character, Ruby Sparks, comes to life. It scored 79% on RT (Rotten Tomatoes) and has a great cast. I loved it. From $18.

For your favorite book snob, to broaden his horizons, or for a young person you want to entice into the classics, Seymour Chwast’s graphic novel of The Odyssey.  It’s not exactly the same old thing.  Odysseus travels by space ship, for a start. Chwast brought out Dante’s Divine Comedy in 2010 and the Canterbury Tales last year. List price $20.

I’m not sure I can explain this one, but it sounds fascinating. Here’s the Amazon description: Everything you need to read the new graphic novel Building Stories in a box: 14 distinctively discrete Books, Booklets, Magazines, Newspapers, and Pamphlets by Chris Ware. If you read the rest of the description. you’ll see it’s something completely original, though don’t give it to someone who has no patience and /or  no intellectual curiosity. (But you don’t have friends like that, do you?)
 
With the increasing electronic incorporeality of existence, sometimes it’s reassuring—perhaps even necessary—to have something to hold on to. Thus within this colorful keepsake box the purchaser will find a fully-apportioned variety of reading material ready to address virtually any imaginable artistic or poetic taste, from the corrosive sarcasm of youth to the sickening earnestness of maturity—while discovering a protagonist wondering if she’ll ever move from the rented close quarters of lonely young adulthood to the mortgaged expanse of love and marriage. Whether you’re feeling alone by yourself or alone with someone else, this book is sure to sympathize with the crushing sense of life wasted, opportunities missed and creative dreams dashed which afflict the middle and upper-class literary public (and which can return to them in somewhat damaged form during REM sleep).
A pictographic listing of all 14 items (260 pages total) appears on the back, with suggestions made as to appropriate places to set down, forget or completely lose any number of its contents within the walls of an average well-appointed home. As seen in the pages of The New Yorker, The New York Times and McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Building Stories collects a decade’s worth of work, with dozens of “never-before published” pages (i.e., those deemed too obtuse, filthy or just plain incoherent to offer to a respectable periodical). List price $50. $27 at Amazon.

Or, of course, you could just buy books…

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A Tangerine tangle of subjects for you

I promise this is the last of the promos for Tangerine Tango, the bright orange little book that all your friends are hoping to get for Christmas. (They may not know that they want it, yet, but the minute they see that you’ve bought it for them…) All the proceeds from sales (not just a measly 10%) are going to help fund research into Huntington’s Disease, so you can feel virtuous about each copy you buy.

This last set of extracts is pretty much a catch-all. Hope you enjoy them. You know where to find the rest of each article!

Stacey Caron is an antiques dealer and appraiser in New Jersey. She happens to love cooking and has her own blog devoted to food. She writes about traveling abroad via recipes and gives a wonderful recipe for a tart from Seville, Spain.

I love to travel.  Every night I travel to Italy, Spain and France – via my computer.  I guess you can call me an “armchair traveler”. I could tell you every good hotel in Piedmont and fabulous château in Bordeaux. What airline flies direct from New York to Milan and how many miles between Paris and Provence via the high-speed train.

I am always planning my next vacation, years in advance. Though we only take 1 trip a year, I make it worthwhile. I do as much research as possible, using  Google maps, best places to eat, neighborhoods, Tripadvisor, Yelp reviews, word of mouth, blogs, etc. In the end, it makes for a memorable vacation.

Try it. French, Italian or Spanish.  Open a good bottle of wine from the region, a cheese from the same region and make a simple recipe from that same place, and for an evening you are transported to somewhere special. 

I have just saved you a lot of money on airfare.

Judy Ackerly Brown works at a retreat center in North Carolina, and writes about nature:

There’s a new type of therapy called Green therapy or Eco-therapy. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. Even the name sounds soothing.

Green therapy is said to help children with ADHD, reduce stress and pain, increase immunity and even help nursing home patients who suffer from dementia-type anxiety.

I find this concept ironic but affirming. It is so basic. Our ancestral hunter-gatherer relatives are probably shaking their heads in disbelief, Fresh air and absorbing nature is now a therapy!

Barbara Chapman is one of life’s survivors, having beaten cancer and lived with MS for years. She works at a hospice in Connecticut, and thinks it’s the best job ever.

I have the dream job. I work for Hospice.

I immerse myself into the life of someone who is in the process of making that final surrender and immerse myself in the lives of the loved ones gathered bedside; haggard, sleep deprived, and in tremendous emotional pain.

I am often asked how I could do this kind of work because it is so sad.  I tell them. Yes, it’s sad but also  a time of great honesty and vulnerability. I am invited into the tight circle of a family when they are spent. No one cares what they look like; no one remembers when they last ate. I plunge into the midst of it. It is an honor.

Take Merrill. He is listening to his favorite country western singer, Johnny Cash. In the final stages of Huntington’s Chorea,  Merrill’s body flails around in his bed uncontrollably. I sit beside him and initiate the same conversation I have had with him for several weeks. He doesn’t recognize me, so the conversation is always new. “Merrill”, I say, “Is it true that you were a paratrooper in the Korean War?”

 Leah Singer is a writer and blogger. You can read her other work on her blog, Leah’s Thoughts, but here’s something from the pieces she wrote for Tangerine Tango:

It has been a year since my husband , Bryan, and I said “I do.” It was a beautiful wedding. We stood under a chuppah adorned with flowers and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the July evening from becoming too warm.

While the wedding was certainly lovely, getting to the chuppah was not an easy task. Especially because Bryan and I were an interfaith couple looking to plan a wedding that was welcoming to our families and held to our own religious beliefs.

I was raised in what I would call a culturally Jewish family, but certainly not religious. We celebrated the Jewish holidays at home but never went to synagogue. As I grew older and went to college, Judaism became much more important to me and I began to seek out ways to bring it into my life. Bryan’s family was Catholic, and like me acknowledged holidays and little else.

 

Give someone a tangerine (and some fudge) for the holidays: 2

As my regular readers know, some of my personal essays and a poem were published recently, along with those of 11 other writers, in a great little book called Tangerine Tango. Great, because it’s the perfect size holiday gift for a hostess, mother, stocking stuffer or just because. So I thought I’d share some of the pieces with you between now and Christmas. The book’s available at Amazon in either paper or digital form.

The writers represented in Tangerine Tango come from different parts of the country and have different outlooks on life, which is what makes this book so much fun. Since the holidays are approaching, I thought I could do worse than to give you a taste (Ho. Ho.) And today’s topic is fudge. At least three of the items in the book mention fudge.

Along with writing her blog, Friend for the Ride: Encouraging Words for the Menopause Roller Coaster, Barbara Younger is the author of 21 books for adults and children. She lives in a 180-year-old house in Hillsborough, North Carolina with her husband Cliff and collections of everything from old toys to hat boxes. Here’s one of her contributions to the book.

Fudge Prayer

Dear God,

I can’t decide if fudge,

Is good or evil.

Cocoa beans, sugar, rich butter,

Confection of good delight

Or calories of evil to the body temple.

The fudge is gone,

Swallowed,

Not unlike the cat and canary.

And now I offer this

Grateful Prayer of Thanksgiving

Or this humble Prayer of Repentance.

Amen and Amen.

You can follow Barbara on Twitter and Facebook.

Patti Winker , author of an online cookbook  Memory Lane Meals tells the story of how she came to own a fudge store, and what happened once she started making fudge:

I learned how to make beautiful pans of fudge.   I made sheets of pecan turtles, lovingly constructing each one with my own hands, decorating each with a little “S” swirl on the chocolate top for “Sweetie’s.”  Chocolate-covered cherries and fudge-filled chocolate cups.  I mixed batch after batch, late at night, and lined them up attractively in the display cases.

Then came the morning,  time to open the shop. And in came the customers.

I couldn’t deal with sending my creations, even if I was paid, away, to be eaten and destroyed.

My husband, in contrast, loved seeing the boxes and bags going out the door every day. He became puzzled at my increasingly sullen mood as business improved.  The more fudge and turtles I sold…(buy the book to read the rest!)

And our editor, Lisa Winkler, included her favorite fudge recipe. (Buy the book etc…)

Bon appetit!

The internet yields pumpkin bread and a face-to-face friend

One of the great things about the internet is the people you meet there. One of the downsides is that one almost never gets to meet them face-to-face.  I follow several blogs, and certain of them have produced people of like mind, with whom I share values, comments and all-around goodwill. It was through one of my internet friends that I was asked to contribute to Tangerine Tango, an anthology of women writers. Lisa Winkler, otherwise known as the Cycling Grandma and author of On the Trail of the Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America asked me to contribute some of my writing.

The book was published last Monday, and we still hadn’t met, even though Lisa edited the writing, and produced the book. So imagine my delight when I had an unexpected email from her saying that she’d be passing through my part of Connecticut and would like to get together for coffee.

Lisa Winkler and I – having fun!

She came yesterday, bearing a scrumptious loaf of pumpkin bread, and turned out to be even prettier than she looks on her blog, and just as much fun. We talked about the book, and how the promotion was going. (Please buy one!)  She told me about the Scandinavian woman in India who’d designed it, and we mulled over the question of what we might call Volume 2. My son, who happened to be around, came up with a few suggestions, including Pomegranate Papers, Mandarin Memoirs and Kiwi Chronicles, in line with the idea of fruit whose name has become synonymous with a color.  While trying to do this, it struck me how many of the fruit-whose-name-is a-color are in the orange range. See what I mean? Orange, pumpkin, pomegranate, mandarin, persimmon, and papaya, for starters. Lisa fancies the Kiwi Chronicles because she has a yen to produce a green book next time. This is probably because she’s a redhead, and green would suit her perfectly. Even so, any other suggestions are most welcome.

You can tell that we covered a lot of ground over a cup of Turkish apple tea (one of the things I brought back from a recent trip to Istanbul) and I was sorry when Lisa had to leave to get back to New Jersey. But the fact that we managed to meet at all has given me the hope that someday I’ll meet my other internet friends – just let me know if you’re passing through…

They Like Me, (sob), They Really Like Me!

I woke up this morning feeling pretty good. Then I opened up my computer and found that I’d been given a Sunshine Award for this blog! Can today get any better? I don’t care – this is great. Thank you so much Limebird Writers  for giving this blog the Sunshine Award! Limebird Writers are a (largely) UK based group of writers whose daily posts are always interesting, sometimes intriguing, and usually useful. Their voices, and their sense of humor, shine through everything they write. Check them out for some great writing ideas.

The guidelines for receiving this award:

1) Thank the person who gave you the award – Thanks again, Limebirds one and all

2) Write a post about it – This is it, folks

3) Answer the questions below – Check.

4) Pass it on to 10 bloggers who you think really deserve it and send them a message to let them know – See below

Answer 10 questions:

Favorite colour: Periwinkle blue
Favorite animal:
Favorite number:  7
Favorite non-alcoholic drink: Water
Facebook or Twitter? On FB you can say more, but with Twitter you can reach more people
My passion:  Being creative: writing, performing, supporting other writer

Giving or receiving presents? Giving
Favorite pattern:  Rainbow
Favorite day of the week: Saturday
Favorite flower: Ones that smell good!

Here are the bloggers I’m nominating for a Sunshine Award, in no particular order, and all for different reasons:

Ten picks for the Sunshine Award:

Sandi Kahn Shelton: Author, wife, mother and all round ray of sunshine. If that sounds as though she’s too good to be true, she’s not. She’s fun.

Madame Bovary’s Daughter Linda Urbach writes wittily about her creation, throwing in a few trenchant comments on the current social scene for good measure. In franglais, naturellement.

The Perils of Divorced Pauline: No self-pity here. Just great writing, thought-provoking posts and a sense of humor, of course.

Cycling Grandma She really does cycle, among other things

That Artist Woman A Canadian art teacher who’s never at a loss for great craft projects that even I can do. Great for those with children around.

Tricia Tierney:Usually contemplative, sometimes poetic, even. But a sense of humor is always within reach.

SchmeightSchmatchers Ivy Eisenberg chronicles her hilarious, and sometimes frustrating, efforts to follow the Weight Watchers program while eating latkes.

GourGanics Sarah Galluzzo not only makes this fabulous salsa but tells you how to use it a million different ways – Yum!

The Garret A.J. O’Connell keeps us updated about her writing efforts and successes.

Not Quite Old: Nancy makes me laugh. Her wry commentary about her life as an age-resistant woman in Connecticut really resonates with me.

In case any of my readers are writers, I also like my own writing blog: The Write Connexion. Not that I’m giving it an award or anything…..

I’m back….

You may have been wondering where I’ve been for the last month. I was writing. I wrote a perfectly horrible first draft of a novel. 50, 000 words in 30 days. And you know what? I don’t even care that it’s horrible. Because a horrible first draft can become an OK second draft and then a pretty good third draft…you can see where I’m going with this.

I could only do it because I had no time to criticize myself as I went along. No time to ask anyone else what they thought. No time to put quotation marks round the dialogue, even. But I have it. It exists. And I have some people to thank who helped me to write it.

First my writing friends who come to our monthly Writers’ Café in Westport, CT. If it hadn’t been for me sitting there and urging them all to write a novel in November, I probably wouldn’t have done it myself. There were pointed looks, as much as to say, ‘So you’ll be doing it, right?’ They shamed me into it.

Next there’s a great blog by Larry Brooks, at www.Storyfix.com. Larry has a great way of helping you plot a novel, and he should know. He’s published several, to great acclaim. So before November 1, I followed his plan for structuring a novel. And it worked.

The next person is a Brit called Keith Blount who invented a software program called Scrivener  (http://www.literatureandlatte.com). I’ll write more about it on my writers’ blog (www.writeconnexion.wordpress.com). Suffice it to say that the man is a genius. I could never have counted all the words I’d written without it. (I did that every 15 minutes towards the end.)

And last, but certainly not least, I have to thank my husband. I started this novel on vacation in Indochina. This meant that instead of looking out of the bus window at the beautiful scenery flashing by, I sat in the back with my laptop on my knees and wrote. He didn’t complain. And he didn’t complain when we returned and there was a noticeable lack of interest in laundry, cooking and even going to the grocery store. Oh, I did do some of that, when the situation became desperate, but not as often as I used to. (I kind of like that, actually.) And Jay was unfailingly supportive in spite of being relegated to my second main interest for thirty days. He bragged about me to anyone who would listen. He didn’t ask me to watch movies with him. He even cooked. Yes, darling. Of course I will dedicate this first novel to you. You deserve it.

Where I write

My internet friend Pauline asked me to tell her where I do my writing. Since I live in my car as I travel between my two houses, one in Connecticut and one in New Hampshire, it was a tough question. But I took a stab at it. Here’s the link:

http://perilsofdivorcedpauline.com/2011/09/25/gabi-coatsworths-blogger-space/

And when you’ve finished reading my brilliant essay, check out some of Pauline’s terrific writing about her son and the one-foot-in front-of-the-other way that she deals with a mother’s worst fears. And keeps her sense of humor, too.