Monday, December 9, 2019

A Holiday Story

With a ‘Y’

I want that!” Lynda’s eyes popped as the crystal heart brooch twinkled attached with a post card dated 1952.
“I collect antique postcards and antique brooches.” The sales lady nodded. 
Lynda read the post card, “How I miss you! When I go to sleep, I never count sheep, I count all the charms about L.nda. …With one luck break I’ll make L…a mine.” The letters between’ L’ and ‘a’  got washed off as did much of the letter. Blurry.  Wiping her glasses, Lynda held the letter to her bosom, “Aww!”  Indeed it was written to a Lynda she had no doubt. “This brooch is meant for me.” She murmured. ”I’ll treasure it in my box, oh unknown sender!” She kissed the faded post card. 
When Lynda was a little girl her teacher used to call on her and point to all the spelling mistakes in front of the whole class warning that she’d never make anything in life. There were five Lindas in her class. No one made such mistakes. ‘Thank God, it’s not me’ they’d cover their mouths, hiding their giggles.   How embarrassing - Lynda felt and broke down one day, “Why did you name me Lynda, Mom?” 
Mom replied,” Because of the song darling. ‘Linda, Linda 
morning noon an’ night, Linda’s always on my mind.” She twirled playing the record. Perry Como’s voice ‘…miracles still happen…’ filled the air.
“But you’re special, sweetie,   you are Lynda with a ‘y’.”
Fifty years later, those memories stirred. Lynda flipped the postcard to see the price tag and dropped it immediately. Twenty seven dollars!
Hubby needed bridgework, the car needed new brakes. Lynda realized she was not a little girl anymore. There was no room for ‘wants’.
She went back to her own booth where she was selling handmade holiday ornaments. Her husband, Harry was minding her booth giving her a short break. 
“You sold three blind mice, honey.” Harry grinned with missing front teeth. “ I gave a discount of three dollars. Twenty seven for three. Here.” He held her the money. 
Lynda gaped. She ran to the brooch lady like a little girl, money in hand. “Oh Lord, you listened to me. Exactly $27!” She murmured, palm on her chest. 
But the brooch was gone. SOLD.
Next morning as Lynda opened the door of the Craft Fair the  first lady standing in line was wearing that brooch.
“My brooch!” Exclaimed Lynda.
“What?” The lady knitted brows. “I bought it yesterday.”
“Of course. Of course you did, Ma’am. I know. Did you read the letter?” Lynda swallowed, “written to some Linda?” 
“No! I didn’t care. Threw it.” She rolled her eyes. Then turned, “ letter to some Linda, you said? That’s interesting, ‘cause my name is Linda too.”
Lynda nodded and moved away.
“Oh Lord, I see you listened to my wish. But you goofed. You made a mistake with the spelling. It was from a Linda with a ‘y’. My Lord, you make  mistakes too.“

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Book Review The World We knew by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman's new book The World We Knew is just released. 

The World We Knew is not the real world — that is what I learned today in the book reading by Alice Hoffman at the Rakestraw Bookstore. The author believes in magic and that is what she brings in her writing. 

“Can you fathom why certain things happen in life magically, to save you or not happen?" She questioned. “Why did the car to Auswictz stop in the middle and turn around that day saving lives?  One of those holocausts  survivors was a doctor who lives in Palo Alto, I  had interviewed him.” 

Ms. Hoffman, a breast cancer survivor is drawn to themes of love, loss, and survivors, she said. That intrigues her to write this book, The World We knew

She told us a story that one day after a book reading an elderly lady approached her in the parking lot urging her to write her story —  how her parents had sent her away to save her from the Nazis.  Ms. Koffman didn’t bother to take her name or contact information as she knew that moment that she wouldn’t be able to write the life story of everyone who requests so. But this particular elderly lady’s voice, her words ‘Otherwise it’d be lost, such stories of hidden girls.’ kept haunting her, and the book was written finally.

Ms. Hoffman mentioned the power of grandmas. She talked about her Russian grandmother - whom she called Bobeshi — her love and impact on her career as a writer. 

“So that money may not be an issue my grandmother used to give me half her Social Security check, and I took it.” She confessed. "A short story about grandma later won me the Stanford Fellowship for Creative Writing." 

“There is a saying — write what you know. But I liked what my professor in my writing class used to say — Write what you imagine.” She shared.

Fairy tales, mythical characters, magical realism are places where she finds her answers, and that comes out in her style. 

“I like to question. That’s how I start my writing. What if…?”

She often writes about settings where she had never been, never visited except in her imagination. But she likes to do thorough research before writing.  She had interviewed many Holocaust survivors to write this particular piece. She visited France and went to every prison she could to write about the story of a hidden girl. 

She also likes to create the ambiance with images, quotes, colors and immerse herself in it in order to create that world, she shared with us. 

“When do you usually write?” One of us asked. 

“Usually from 4:45 to sunrise. That’s when the rest of the world is quiet and sleeping.“ She nodded. 

Margie, my writer friend and I exchanged glances. 

“Readers and writers have one thing in common. Both want to get lost in that other world.  But when you don’t find that on your bookshelf that is when you write. The book that is not written yet.” She smiled.

I am so excited. Now I’d get a blanket, a cup of hot tea, yes the temperature has dropped suddenly and find a cozy spot to open my new book, the signed copy of The World We Knew.  

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Book Review on Educated by Tara Westover

 A Book Review on

I watched her interview on television one day while I was on vacation. The author of this memoir was a  Mormon girl who never went to a school or to a doctor. But then she taught herself to take an ACT test, got into BYU college, then to Cambridge and later earned a Ph. D from Harvard.  The book is a best seller. I ordered the book from  Amazon as in the library my waiting position was thirty-fifth.  I couldn’t wait that long. 

After reading I felt like talking about it, sharing it with the whole world.  It touched me. I absolutely loved it. Once started I couldn’t put it down and gobbled the whole 350 pages or so in two and a half days. 

There are several levels to this piece. White supremacy, control of power, bullying, feminism, religion, psychology, all these things are interwoven. But what was striking to me was the lucid language, the frankness in the storytelling. 

The vulnerability of the protagonist girl in this memoir, her desire to go back to her old life,  to that dysfunctional family where she was beaten, traumatized and brainwashed, broke my heart. I would whisper, ‘Please don’t go back, Tara,’ turning the pages to see what happens next. 

Education opens eyes. It educates her to review history with a different lens.

It’s a beautiful memoir where as a reader I could understand how our family builds our core, the foundation of our values, no matter how wrong and warped they be, and how education reshapes that. Transforms even transcends us. What a price to pay!

Favorite excerpts:

“I could tolerate any form of cruelty better than kindness. Praise was poison to me; I choked on it. I wanted the professor to shout at me.I felt dizzy from the deprivation.”  Pg 241

“ The most powerful detriment of who you are is inside you. …Remember Pygmalion…Until she believed in herself …it didn’t matter what dress she wore.” Pg 242

“When the stillness shattered and his fury rushed at me, I would know that something I had done was the catalyst, the cause…There was hope in such superstition: there is illusion of control. Pg 283. 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Writing in the Library

Did you ever consider writing in the library? You may ask — why the heck would I do that? Why not in my home, or at a cafe? 
Well, a cafe is too noisy and though I get some juicy eavesdropping dialogues, it is too distracting for me.
Home? It has another set of problems. The sink is full of dishes, a basketful of laundry, cluttered coffee table, the constant ringing of junk calls and the long to-do list hanging on the refrigerator door intimidate me.

So My writer friend Francie and I gave our favorite Lafayette library a try. The tall trees, vine wrapped deck across the large windows, the wonderful smell of books, whispering voices and page-turning shuffles of quiet readers proved just the right ambiance.

We decided on a forty-five-minute session first. As I was doodling on my journal, the old-fashioned way I could hear Francie clicking away on her keyboard. We got immersed in our own worlds and individual projects sitting across from each other sharing the same table, same light. It was like a parallel play with a dear friend we did when we were kids.
“How’s it going?” Francie asked when the timer dinged. 
“Good flow,” I replied.
We decided to give another forty-five-minute try.  

I thought of my childhood days when I used to go to the Calcutta National library with my father. The same smell of books and wood shelves, the same tranquil atmosphere I felt, only twelve thousand miles away and many decades later. It is the feeling that the library is such a sacred place resonated again. 

Calcutta National Library.

“My temple” -admitted Barbara Kingsolver. “The first library I knew was an upstairs room over a storefront in my little town, with a librarian who didn’t approve of children handling books”. At the end of this article, Ms. Kingsolver shares that there was a special book at the University of Arizona library’s special collection. ‘It wasn’t supposed to leave the room, but I am persuasive. I said, “Something good could happen if you let me borrow this book.” I took it home; The Poison Wood Bible happened.’

Ramona Ausubel shares how the Newport Beach Public Library “Made Me a Novelist. Each morning I packed up my laptop and some snacks and left the distraction of home and nestled myself near the library’s big window….After six weeks I had a draft. It was a mess, but it was alive. When I left my carrel, that last day I gave the window a high five. The library and I had done it together.“

Thinking of all these inspirational stories I felt enthused to incorporate this new routine in my life. 

As I reached my parked car, I found a tiny note stuck on my windshield. A parking ticket. 

$45 for two hours of writing!

Well, this must be a test. The more the obstacles the stronger gets your will power, whispered my obstinate alter ego. There must be a way out. 

Mind you even when you are writing a grocery list or a text message to your friend, you are writing. You are a writer.

 So...What's your favorite place to write. 


Sunday, May 19, 2019

To Ava - the Young Writer

To Ava

It was wonderful yesterday honoring the young writers at the Young Authors’ Prize ceremony. I met Ava, the girl who wrote a story about an autistic brother and a sister. I told her while handing her the name tag, 

“You are Ava! I read your story. We, all  six judges knew  that your story deserved the First Prize.” 

The girl, with a headful of braided Afro hair, wanted to crawl somewhere, hide under something, her eyes downcast, face touching her chest. Mom beamed and her teacher Mr. Somebody came and sat beside her with a proud smile. 

“Ava, look at her. Say ‘Thank you’!” Her mom nudged and apologized, “So shy!” 

“Shy people write best,” I said and left. 

There is so much to this writing life. The writer self differs from the real one that the rest of the world sees. Ava is so shy in person but not on paper. 

Her mom confessed later while she was not around, “God knows where she gets those ideas!” she rolled her eyes, “People who read her stories may think ‘Is the family okay, does her mom really abuse her like that and so...”. Mom giggled.

I know exactly what she means and to some extent how Ava feels. While she needs to let those imaginary characters free of her rib cage, she will also have to think how it may impact her close relatives or friends especially if she writes in the first person. Or in memoir form. Many things would be vividly true while much just made up, lies. She’d have to weave lies to tell the truth. That’s her obligation as a writer. 

For that, she’d risk losing friends and loved ones. They would misunderstand  her when her muse would take her by the hand to a mesmerizing world that doesn't exist for the others. She’d forget her known world, abandon her close ones,  lose herself to that  imaginary world.. She might  try to create that world she'd experienced for them later but no one would understand.

And when she gets to the top,  become the best author or so, many of her friends would curl their lips “I could write that too, only if I had given a chance!” 

Ava, you’re on the right track not letting yourself blown away with  prizes and awards, compliments and kudos. You don’t want to spoil your writer’s soul with rewards and praises or crush it with neglect, silence and harsh criticisms. Your writer- soul is much pure and delicate. Protect it, my young friend. Polish it alone. It’s a solitary thing. 

Write away, my dear girl. Young writer, tell us the stories of those who are suffering and we are not hearing. Bring hope to the world with your words for you have the softness in your heart to feel, the strength in your voice to speak up  and the gift in your pen. 

Crawl inside your shell if that be a better shelter for you to thrive. I am waiting!     

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Where did my day go?

Open Book Blog Hop 

If you didn't have to sleep what would you do with the extra time?
I'm late, I'm late

 With that extra time? Oh, so many things. So many things, my friend, only if I had that extra time. 

But I hear the rabbit in me scurrying ‘I’m late, I’m late!” 
Late for what?  you say?  

For everything. Starting from this blog hop Richard so kindly arranged to all the other things I meant to do today. Like… like planting the lily bulbs I had bought last month. Yesterday I noticed lilies were blooming in my neighbor’s garden already. And shame on me, my bulbs are still in the packet. 

Then I remembered that I should have submitted that article I wrote, hope the deadline has not passed and before that, it needed some editing.  

Before all that I must exercise. That is what I had promised myself. Health comes first. And I better not forget to defrost the chicken for tonight’s dinner.  

Shucks! is it past five already? I should have returned those phone calls. What would they think of me?

And what did Richard mean by ‘Parkinson Law’? I must google that term. Oh my, how did a whole hour pass just looking into one little word that tells that no matter how much time you have there will never be enough, more work will eat up that time? Duh! Didn’t I know that? 

When my friends, those who are still in the nine-to-five rut ask me what do I do with my time now that I am retired, I can’t convince them how the hours slip by. Now I have a concrete theory,  a solid term to explain- the Parkinson Law. 

I wake up in the morning with a bunch of plans and find myself with droopy eyes ready to crawl under the blanket- the day’s over. I refresh my to-do list the next day and soon it’s time to change the calendar month! Today rolls onto tomorrows. C.N. Parkinson smiles, “I told you so !”

I remember someone took a poll on Mother’s Day asking a group of mothers- ‘What would you like best?’ choices were - a bouquet, a dinner, a jewelry piece, card and fine perfume and some extra sleep. 

Sleep was the winner. 

May 13, 2019

If you didn't have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?

1. Link your blog to this hop.
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