Newly Old

Welcome back , Dana Rodney, today’s guest blogger on the topic of aging.

Dana says, You gotta read my BLOG called ” Insider’s Trip to Publishing.”  I am currently on the long and winding road of trying to get a novel traditionally published, and I am sharing insider’s tips of what I’m learning along the way. Check out my Instagram and Facebook links  for photos of my fine art calligraphy and posts about my ongoing writing journey. And I would be tickled pink if you would subscribe to my monthly reader’s list called “Turning Into a Pumpkin” —tragic-comic observations on growing old. Join me at https://danarodney.com/

Newly Old

 

Getting old is like something that creeps up on you then jumps out from behind the couch and scares the hell out of you. It’s like this: You’re going along minding your young business; you’re twenty, you’re thirty, you’re forty, forty-five… you feel invincible. All your life you’ve been “young”; you look pretty damn good, your butt still looks fabulous in your skinny jeans. Your future seems like a realm of infinite possibility. Men your own age are attracted to you. People refer to you as “young lady” or “miss.”

Then suddenly, that creeping thing makes its move. You hit forty-nine, fifty, fifty-five, and in the span of five or ten years you are now officially “old.” AARP makes its move. All your life you’ve been young, but now, for the remainder of your life you will be old. There’s no turning back, you cannot file an appeal. Wow, that happened quickly! Your future is no longer infinite; your remaining years can now be tallied up quite accurately, according to the Social Security Administration. Now, the men who are attracted to you are twenty years older than you. People refer to you as “ma’am,” or even worse, the dreaded “old lady.”

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As a newly old person I’ve learned there that there are tiers of oldness. When I was young, if I perceived someone as old, they were just old. Old was old. Now, I realize that sixty-old is way different than eighty-old.

 

You see, no matter how old you get, it is vitally important to remember that you are still young compared to people who are even older than you.

Another thing I’ve learned is that being old lasts a really long time. You’re young for thirty, thirty-five years, but then you’re old for fifty, sixty.

Might as well settle in and get used to it.

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Keep up with what Dana is doing:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/danarodneyrealty

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dana_rodney/

Website: https://danarodney.com/

 

 

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Filed under Aging, Autobiographical Writing, Students

Unraveling

Fran Braga Meininger writes personal narrative about the years beyond youth, a time in a women’s life that can be vibrant, fulfilling and wonderful despite, or perhaps, because of all that comes with age. She lives in northern California where she hikes, bikes and lives life in big bites. Today she’s offering us some nostalgia over sweaters past, sweaters loved and some inspiration for our own “unraveling.”

 

Unraveling

I’m that old sweater. You know the one. We all have it, in the bottom of the bottom drawer or the very back of your closet. It’s been there forever. You’ve had it forever.. It was your favorite. You wore it with panache and loved how it hugged your beautiful, young, voluptuous and shapely breasts, back then, before they did what they’ve done now. But it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t look like it did and neither do you. You are fond of it for what it represents. It is a memento of who you were once and how you looked in it.

But now it’s unraveling at the cuffs and the collar. The seams are splitting and the shoulders are misshapen. It’s really done. It has lost what it once had and needs to go.

I’m like that too. I’ve lost what I once had. I don’t look the same. Things aren’t as perky, as tight and firm. I’m not as bright or witty. I think differently, my perspective and my opinions have shifted. My emotions still run deep but they are now tempered with a dose of patience. The candlelight doesn’t dance in my eyes as it once did. But I still have a flame.

I am unraveling in places. I’m starting to shed what I once wore so proudly. I’m taking off what I’ve outgrown and doesn’t fit any longer. I’m allowing what is underneath to show through. One strand at a time, slowly I’m unraveling.

I’m being freed from the shrunken and twisted seams that pull too tightly around my arms. They are tearing away and giving me room. I can finally breathe, stretch, allow my chest to rise with a full breath and exhale. I’m not tied up in knots anymore. The threads have loosened in all the right places and I am tugging at the ends, watching as slowly they come away and reveal below a whole other me.

 

I’m unraveling into something else, someone else. A new sweater that suits me, fits my curves as they are now, adorns this beautiful and womanly figure that I live within. I stand straight and strong. I know who I am now. I know what matters the most and where I want to end up. I may not be done unraveling yet, but I’m on my way, I just need to keep pulling the loose threads.

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https://www.theyearsbeyondyouth.com/

https://www.facebook.com/theyearsbeyondyouth/

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Filed under Aging, Essay, Students

How to be Old

Guest blogger, Dina Corcoran is back with her advice on old age for our series on aging.

Dina is a writer of poems, essays, and memoir.  She won the Jessamyn West award for her humorous description of the English teachers she’s encountered along the way. Her poignant story, “Adiós, Francisco,” won another.

The Napa Valley Writer’s Anthology includes a description of her hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

At eighty-two Dina now sees life through the lens of the stroke she experienced a year ago.  Please welcome Dina Corcoran with

HOW TO BE OLD

No one tells you how to be old.  There are no manuals.  But I learn from the old women who are in my life.

Old age has taken most of Dora’s eyesight and given her a walker.   To get around town, she takes the shuttle-bus, which is often behind schedule, and today causes her to be late to our Hat Chat Luncheon

At ninety-five she doesn’t waste time being cranky at the bus.   Dora waits for us to identify ourselves, one at a time, so she knows where we are sitting, and then launches into an animated discussion of the latest political news—both local and national.

She arrives armed with a lighted magnifying glass to read the menu, and gets a little help from those on either side of her.  Before she leaves, this sweet lady has something nice to say to each of us.  She is pleased to be here.

Virginia is another Hat Chat member. She has been enjoying life for 100 years.  But lately her teeth have been troubling her, so we help her select something from the menu that is soft and not tomatoey, because she and tomatoes don’t get along.  She used to be a schoolteacher and has a lively interest in everything and everybody.  Although her hearing is compromised, before lunch is over, she has asked each of us something about our lives.  Sometimes she has to get out of her chair, shuffle close to us, and lean down so she can hear the answers to her queries.

Then there is my old classmate, Noel, who has Macular Degeneration and who was burned out of her home in Paradise.  She has made a new life for herself in Grass Valley.  On the phone she talks incessantly about her houseplants and knick-knacks she’s installed in her new home. The beauty of their arrangement delights her.  All of life delights her.  Her last Email to me concerning the power outages was titled, “Ahh, Life!”

Melinda who lives down on the Big Sur Coast handles country living with aplomb.  We’ve known each other since the third grade and have mutual admiration for each other.   Her house is in the wilds, surrounded by steep mountains covered with redwood trees— which often threaten to burn.  It is worth it to her, because it overlooks the turbulent ocean.  It takes a strong woman to live there.

Her latest housekeeping adventure involved sweeping out the garage and finding a rattlesnake coiled at her feet.  She grabbed the shovel, and taking a deep breath, cut off its head—all in a day’s work.

These women teach me that even with the hardships of old age we can take delight in each other and the world, revel in beauty, and be brave.

 

 

Don’t waste time

being angry at a late bus,

Have something nice to say.

Arrive armed

with a magnifying glass;

keep a lively interest

in everything and everybody.

 

Notice the beauty

of your knick-knacks,

water your houseplants,

Delight in life.

When necessary,

cut off the serpents head;

Be brave, be alive.

 

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Filed under Aging, Essay, Students

Young Again

 

 

Please welcome talented artist and writer

Elizabeth Stokkebye

 

YOUNG AGAIN

Young again

with a past

that

 was my future

I daydream

and I do

as I please

I flirt

and I dance

and have sex

I dress

in layers

and in colors

I write

with seams

and stratum

I look back

by looking

forward

Time

Is

timeless

Elizabeth Stokkebye is a writer and a painter of Scandinavian descent. She lives north of San Francisco. She holds a BA from the University of California at Berkeley in Scandinavian Studies and an MA from the University of Washington in Scandinavian Languages and Literature.

Elizabeth likes to tell stories, whether in words or with paint. She draws from fairytales and literature when writing and painting her figures. Her family, ancestry, and history are the foundation from which Elizabeth’s creativity and imagination spring. She combines her love for art and words on her website.

www.elizabethstokkebye.blog

 

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Filed under Aging, Inspiration, Poetry, Students

The Child Garden

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In 1965 I read  a book about Summerhill School, a British boarding  school for boys and girls founded in 1921 by Alexander Sutherland Neill, while I boarded at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. Summerhill was everything I longed for in a school and everything my school was not. It had been founded on the  belief that the school should be made to fit the child, rather than the other way around. Happiness was foremost. Members of the school community were free to do as they pleased, so long as their actions did not cause any harm to others. This included  freedom for pupils to choose which lessons, if any, they attended. I thought it sounded like the perfect hippie school.

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It wasn’t that I didn’t like my studies, I did (except chemistry), but Castilleja’s buildings enclosed central gardens, sporting greens and pool, turning the site into a prison, complete with pleated skirt and white middy blouse uniforms. Students were controlled and scheduled at all times, and even the tiniest infraction would cause  loss of  weekend off-campus privileges. I hated it. I was too much a free spirit and nature lover to thrive there. An no boys. I yearned for Summerhill.

0005-1I just finished The Child Garden, and found myself reading about Summerhill School gone wrong. It’s called Eden School in the book. Maybe my parents had known what they were doing after all.

The dust cover flap reads: Eden was its name. “An alternative school for happy children.” But it closed in disgrace after a student’s suicide. Now it’s a care home, the grounds neglected and overgrown. Gloria Harkness is its only neighbor, staying close to her son who lives in the home, lighting up her life and breaking her heart each day.

When a childhood friend turns up at her door, Gloria doesn’t hesitate before asking him in. He claims a girl from Eden is stalking him and has goaded him into meeting near the site of the suicide. Only then, the dead begin to speak—it was murder, they say.

Gloria is in over her head before she can help it. Her loneliness, her loyalty, and her all-consuming love for her son lead her into the heart of a dark secret that threatens everything she lives for.

I was hooked by the Gothic looking cover and again by the prologue. Something had happened in 1985 and it was “time to think fast and get it right. Time to make sure only one life ended” that night.

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The story opens with a glimpse of Gloria Harkness in her job at the registry office then with her ancient blind friend, Miss Drumm, and severely disabled son, Nicky, at their care home, the former site of Eden School. Status Quo. Gloria’s days revolved around the job, caring for Nicky and maintaining Miss Drumm’s cottage, Rough House, and her old dog, Walter Scott. (One of her duties as caretaker of the property was to rock the Devil’s stone in the yard of Rough House.) By the end of the visit, a storm had kicked up, puddles deep and visibility was difficult on the deserted  road, twisting through the ten miles of countryside between the home and the cottage. Blinded by headlights, Gloria averts an accident and shakily continues toward home, but the car turns and follows her. Her cell phone has no bars. Locked into Rough House, she knows he’s out there with his lights turned off, but the comfort of Walter Scott and the cats calm her until Gloria hears a sound.

images.jpegIt turns out to be Steven “Stig” Tarrant, an old school chum Gloria had a crush on way back, and he’s in trouble. He’s being stalked by April Cowan, a classmate from Eden. Can Gloria help him?

Little by little Stig reveals the events of that Beltane night in 1985 at Eden School. Gloria is intrigued and feels loyal to an old friend, says she’ll help. They find April’s body and learn Stig is being set up  to take the blame. Gloria, in between registering the county births and deaths, marriages and divorces, caring for Nicky, Miss Drumm, the cottage and the pets, takes on the responsibility to  investigate April’s death and exonerate Stig.

The investigation leads her one-by-one to each of the 15 people who were present at Eden School the night “Mo-ped” died. Most of them are dead, allegedly by freak accident or suicide. Her investigation leads her to both Stig’s father, the founder of Eden School, and her own divorced husband Duggie. The twists, turns, reversals and reveals are brilliant, and the ending is not one that anyone would figure out early on, but makes perfect sick sense when Gloria figures it out.

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This mystery/cold case/thriller with a little horror suspense thrown in, contains a great setting, believable characters—the vignettes of the ex-Eden children are excellent sketches of their varying, mostly sad, lives—and, especially in the final few chapters, a rising tension that will keep you awake.

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Scottish by birth, McPherson has set the book in a small village near Galloway and it’s surrounding countryside. The care home property is a former grand home on an estate with a chapel, a devil’s bridge and a crypt. While the slightly archaic sounding and richly detailed descriptions are Scottish, the feel is decidedly Gothic. Gloria creeps around spooky places through dark and storm; I tensed up at   every twig snap, door slam, approach of creepy character. If you want atmosphere, this book’s got it!

shoppingMcPherson weaves a dark tapestry through vivid, authentic  detail and sharp,  emotionally complex characterization. The sprinkling of Scottishisms and language deepen the flavor to a malted blend of wood, fire, dirt, rubber, leather and the  devil. McPherson’s  inclusion of  ancient folklore:  Devil’s Bridges, hallowed places and rocking stones, lead us to believe it’s not the first time this place has been visited by evil. The death of the boy , the pattern of subsequent deaths, and the folk tales coalesce as Gloria gathers the fragments of truth to unmask the killer.

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I loved everything about this book. It’s cautious pace to start, the unique characters, the shadowed events, the heart quickening suspense, the surprise ending. If you’re looking for a good Halloween-time read, this shadowy, dark mystery will be perfect.

 

 

 

What people are saying about The Child Garden:

A tale that shivers with suspense.”—The New York Times

“A terrific stand-alone that is complex, haunting, and magical.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)

“A stunning combination of creepy thriller and classic mystery.”—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“One surprising plot twist after another leads to a shocking ending.”—Publishers Weekly

“Catriona McPherson spins webs of intrigue so beautiful and intricate she puts spiders to shame. With The Child Garden, she once again proves why she has rapidly become a star in the thriller genre…This is a book you will absolutely devour.”—William Kent Krueger, New York Timesbestselling and Edgar Award-Winning Author of Ordinary Grace

“An enchanting brew of mystery, poetry, legends, and dreams, Catriona McPherson’s The Child Garden is also an elaborate shell game that will keep readers guessing up until the very end.”—Hallie Ephron, New York TimesBestselling Author of Night Night, Sleep Tight

THE CHILD GARDEN is a scrumptious Scottish noir delight, jam packed with isolation, scenery, old secrets full of lust and greed, jealousy, bullying, and cruelty. The protagonist, Gloria, is an incredible heroine, an individual for whom the Universe seems to have been against from the beginning-yet she found her North Star and held to that anchor through the worst. A dedicated mother, friend, and in terms of animals and her task of care with the Rocking Stone, an earth mother–the kind of person once termed “salt of the earth.” The mystery–twenty-eight years old, but newly erupting in the present day–is cunningly revealed, a matter of smoke and mirrors, now you see it, now you don’t–and the revelation is incredible. Readers, we have here a true Best of 2015.   ~Reader on GoodReads

Contact Catriona:

https://www.facebook.com/Catriona-McPherson-171725286218342/

CatrionaMcPherson@gmail.com

 

Bio

I was born in Edinburgh and lived there, in Ayrshire, in Dumfriesshire and in Galloway before moving to California in 2010. I don’t know how they did it, those early emigrants who set off forever from Leith docks. I’m back home every year for a couple of months and I still can’t watch Burnistoun without sobbing.

A born swot, I finally left school at age thirty with a PhD in linguistics from Edinburgh University. Proper jobs have included banking (hopeless), library work in local studies and fine art (marvellous), and a short burst of academia (miserable). I’m now a full-time writer and hope never to have a proper job again.

When not writing, I’m reading, gardening, cooking and baking, cycling in Davis, running through walnut orchards, getting to grips with this outlandish and enormous country (43 states visited so far!) and practising an extreme form of Scotch thrift*, from eating home-grown food to dumpster-diving/skip-surfing for major appliances.

*when “making a living” as a writer, thrift helps a lot.

 

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Filed under Books, Mystery, Reviews

Reunions and Other Insults

Aging is top of mind for a huge segment of the population. Did you know there are an estimated 74.1 million Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), or 22.9% of the U.S. population wondering how we got so old so fast?

There are some great things and some not so great things about aging. In this series, several guest bloggers will share their thoughts and stories about getting older. Today, Donald Turner  shares his experience of attending a class Reunion.

Alumni Home Coming

April 20, 2019

 

With heads of white, greyed, dyed, thinned or absent hair topping a body, often more attracted to gravity—we, the PUC alumni of the 60’s, were hoping to recognize youth grown old—youth behind the wrinkles and sags.

Some of us were unrecognized until revealed by our name tags.  Once named, I saw some resemblance to the younger face in the old year book.

I felt a tinge of sadness, realizing the majority of our allotted years were used up.  Hoping for more years to come, I was grateful we alumni had survived years greater than three score and ten.

Goodbye to those who have passed.  Best wishes to us who have yet to pass.

Let us write our memoirs while we can.

 

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Psalms 90:10 (KJV)

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Donald Turner retired to Angwin, CA. after 29 years of aerospace computer programming for the Navy at China Lake/Ridgecrest, Northrop Grumman at El Segundo, and Boeing at Huntington Beach.

After graduating in 1966 from Pacific Union College, Donald taught high-school math, physics and earth science in Fletcher, North Carolina from 1966-69, then math at PUC prep in 1969-70.  He holds an  M.A. degree in Physics from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and a M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from University of California, Davis.

In retirement Donald keeps busy with writing, gardening, exploring the internet, attempting to profit from the stock market, mixing music with Bitwig, and making his two acres more fire resistant. He is divorced with two daughters and four grand-daughters.

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Blogger Recognition Award

I’m grateful and excited to have been nominated by the amazing blogger: Jan M Flynn!

Thank you so much Jan, at JanMFlynnAuthor, for thinking of Building a Better Story and nominating me for the Blogger Recognition Award. Jan passed on a quote from another blogger  I can’t top so here’s the quote from Reasons2Stay:

“The award is a way that we recognize and support each other as bloggers, and especially to show that we appreciate how much time, work, energy, and effort goes into producing and maintaining a high-quality blog. It is a humbling experience to be recognized from my fellow blogger.”

I agree with Jan when she says, “It’s lovely when those who share your zeal for a particular form of expression — be it writing, visual arts, dance, or whatever medium — take note of your efforts and extend their regard and support. I gotta say, it feels darn good.” Yes it does! I’m luxuriating in the warm fuzzies right now.

And because this nomination and award supports other bloggers and promotes their efforts, it has some rules  to follow if you want to participate:

Thank the blogger that nominated you.

Write a post to show your award.

Give a brief story of how your blog started.

Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

Select other bloggers to give this award to.

Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

How My Blog Started:

I teach creative writing at a local community college. My students, retirees, demanded I stop lecturing on craft and deliver the conventions of writing craft (all genre, mind you) in context of the work brought in to class to “workshop.” Yikes! I still had to bone up on craft and decided to write blog posts on craft commonly misused. Nobody read it, and I stopped lecturing anyway. My first post was on September 14, 2011 on tension in your writing. My readership picked up when I branched out and opened Building a Better Story to student work. Later I added reviews of books I’ve enjoyed. It’s a wonderful platform for writings, reviews and yes, craft.

New to the genre?

Do as I say, not as I do. I’m slothful at keeping to a posting schedule. I get a bright idea, run a little series of posts on a topic and run out of steam or get busy with something else (like revising the 3rd JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventure about to be late to the editor) and forget the blog for weeks. If you want people to read your blog, you need to give it time to build a following and offer regular posts. You can blog about most anything that interests you, but if you don’t post on a schedule, you won’t keep the people who FOLLOW. An expert in WordPress, Linda Lee, and I sat on a panel together recently and the good news is, really we only need to post once a month—AS LONG AS WE DO IT EVERY MONTH ON TIME!

Invite guest bloggers to participate in your blogosphere. It’s fun to share and it promotes others’ blogs AND your own. Anyway, you won’t have to blog as often if someone else does it for you!

My Nominations:

  1. ELIZABETH STOKKEBYE ART AND STORY TELLING
  2. LAURA MCHALE HOLLAND

Congratulations to tow of my most inspiring bloggers! And a million thanks to Jan M Flynn for nominating me!!

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Are You One in a Million?

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Do you have a book in you? I bet your, husband, aunt, boss, grandchild, best friend, Prime delivery person or. . . has said your life is so interesting you should write a book. Go on, I double dare you! Studies reveal over 200 million Americans, or more than 80% of us, think we have a book in our future. But how many of us actually write it?

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Penning a book, or even a 500-word article, is hard work. Much harder than those helpful, hopeful friends and relatives could know (unless they’ve taken up writing), and writing a book worth reading is harder yet. I’ve published two novels and am close to finishing a book length memoir. I can attest that the writing at times is more like mental slavery, full of doubt and frustration than the rapturous “writer’s trance” induced during flights of creativity. Most of the job is just plain hard work. Thomas Edison said “success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” and this about sums up writing a good book. It’s a flush of creativity and a slog of editing, revision, rewrites, more editing, more revision. (But the good news is, the more you do it, the more fun it gets!)

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I wonder how many “you have a book in you” authors actually give it a go? In America alone, up to a million books are published annually, between traditional publishing and independent publishing. Is yours the one in a million?

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Now that you’ve read the warning label, why exactly would you take the writing plunge?

5 Reasons Why:

  • Maybe because writing is a solitary pursuit, authors love to congregate and share knowledge. We’re a congenial community, with interesting vocabularies and great conversation. Joining with other authors is stimulating and informative, and you can’t beat the heady feeling of being in the limelight, all eyes and ears on you, as the talk turns to your book. But like all “clubs,” you must join to reap the benefits.
  • While few books sell more than 250 copies in a year, not enough to subsidize the time you spend writing, your completed book is a great accomplishment akin to what a college degree used to be before 70% of Americans started attending universities. Think of the expanded knowledge you’ll get from the research you’ll need to do. Think of the boost to your self-esteem!
  • Even if you don’t become famous (80% of famous authors are dead!), your book can help give you a leg-up to other opportunities. Want to give talks on a cruise ship? Want folks to learn about your expertise? Speak at book clubs, become a blogger, create podcasts? Speaking of podcasts, one of my students, an 86-year-young writer, now is the queen of podcasting with her own show: Kosher Style Stories. You might be “discovered” too!
  • It’s been argued that writing helps us thrive into old age. According to cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, “[fiction] can help us prepare for problems we might face and allows us to develop strategies for dealing with those problems, thus giving us survival techniques.” Neuroscience suggests that intellectual activity is important to keeping a healthy brain as we age. We ‘ve all experienced difficulty in retrieving words and names, but time spent writing is all about words and retrieving them, using multiple parts of the brain. There’s an added benefit if you write by hand. The combination of motor-skills, memory, and slower pace that handwriting brings to the experience activates more parts of the brain. It’s just good science: writing keeps your brain in tip-top shape.

Writing is a way to leave a record of your life, a legacy for your family. The greatest gift you can give!

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“Then how should I begin/ To spit out the butt-end of my days and ways?” (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Elliot)

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I have a suggestion, start by joining our writing workshops in Wine Country and see if you’re one in a million. You’ll make new friends, learn new things, broaden your horizons, keep the ole synapses firing and create a unique and enduring legacy—what an accomplishment!

#Wine Country Writing Workshops Fall 2019

New! Mondays in Sonoma
The Creative Writing Workshop
September 9-December 9
2:00-4:00 PM  Fee
Vintage House Senior Center
264 First Street East,  Sonoma 95476

Ongoing! Tuesdays in St. Helena
The Brunch Bunch Creative Writing Workshop
Upper Valley Campus Room 4 10:00-12:30
Fee. Class size limited to 12
Section 1:
September 3-October 15 (no class 9/24)
Section 2:
October 22-December 3 (no class 11/26)
Pre-register here

Free! Autobiographical Writing 
Section 1:
Memoir over Lunch 1:15-3:15 at Rianda House
Section 2:
Happy Hour Autobiographical Writing 4:00-6:00
at Upper Valley Campus Library
Pre-register here

Annual Writers Showcase at Rianda House December 10th 1:00-3:15

Upper Valley Campus 1088 College Ave. St Helena 94574  707-967-2900
Rianda House 1475 Main St. St. Helena 94574    707-963-8555

JOIN  ME IN CLASS

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Thanks People.com


Wine
Country

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Dead in the Water

 

 

 

I’ve lived across the Golden Gate from San Francisco for almost seven decades, and I’ve never ceased to be intrigued  by the sight of people swimming in the bay. As a child visiting The City, I always notice the chilly-looking old men in bathing trunks and swim caps headed down the beach toward the water then wriggle around on my seat in the car to watch them smash into the water as my family motored into the Marina or out along Ocean Beach. Even in the winter. Brrrrr!

Of course I learned early on about the San Francisco Dolphin Club founded in 1877 by two German brothers and limited to only a handful of members. Over the years, the club grew and the first Golden Gate open swim was organized in 1917, but it wasn’t until 1960 the first organized Alcatraz swim took place. It was big news for this ten-year-old, swimmer. Everyone remembers how Jack Lalanne towed a rowboat from Alcatraz to S.F., swimming with his hands shackled, in less than ninety minutes. But by 1974, when the club admitted women, I’d confined my swimming to tropical beaches and heated swimming pools.

Although I’d swum and waterskied in The Bay in my teens, five years in the Rockies thinned my skin. I never participated in a Big Swim or an open water competition, something I have in common with Trisha Carson, protagonist of Dead in the Water. Trisha is the sister of thirty eight year old Lena, a successful graphic designer, and an avid open water swimmer. That’s why Trisha is relaxing in the sun on the shore of Lake Joe when she observes a contestant die in the water. It must be an accident—wasn’t it? When another swimmer drives her car off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean after another swim, she starts to think maybe these weren’t so accidental and starts asking questions.

Trisha hasn’t much else to do. She’d been the happily married wife of a software engineer in Colorado until Brad disappeared. He left for work and never came home, a situation too similar to her father’s leaving the family when she was a child. Devastated, Trisha moves back to California and her sister, and soon takes a part-time, temporary job in the offices Nor Cal Swimming Association, which pulls her into the world of open water swimming and gives her access to people and businesses connected to the sport. And Trisha, naive and relentless, asks too many people too many questions. Soon she finds herself over her head.

Although her sister and friends dismiss her  suspicions, her curiosity leads her into grave danger. “I let go of the rail and plummeted toward the black water twenty-five feet below. The gun exploded behind me. . . . I tumbled into the water with a loud splash. Cold, so cold. I felt my lungs collapse. I couldn’t breath. I tried to grab bites of air, but nothing was coming in. No air. I sank below into the darkness. . . “

Even if it weren’t open season on open water swimmers in this fast-paced thriller set mostly in San Francisco, author Glenda  Carroll‘s deep knowledge of the open water swimming community would satisfy. Dead in the Water is reputed to be the first open water detective novel and captures what it’s like to race in open water. Carroll has a background in both sports journalism and Masters swimming. Her detail of the industry is a character in its own right, but the true brilliance of the book is in Carroll’s plotting and pacing. While Trisha’s motivations for pursuing the investigation are alluded to, I wasn’t always clear why she risked so much when everyone tried to stop her, including her boss, who fired her. I’m hoping we learn more about Trisha’s inner workings in future books. Despite not warming up to Trisha right away (and hence, not quite believing she would push herself on folks out of curiosity and suspicion), I could not put this book down and will read and review the next of the series, Drop Dead Red, soon.

These books will make perfect summer reading for any sports enthusiast, swimmer or poolside lounger.

Glenda Carroll

Excerpted from Women’s National Book Association

Written by Catharine Bramkamp 

Glenda Carroll is a writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her favorite pursuit is open water swimming. She talks with us about swimming in deep water and swimming in words.

GC: Open water swimming means coming home. My dad taught me to swim in a lake in Pennsylvania. I loved the water. About twenty-five years ago, I heard of a two mile swim at Lake Berryessa. I decided to train to swim it. When the day of the swim came and I stepped into the water, I knew why I was there. It felt, looked and tasted like the lake I learned to swim in.

Dead in the Water was inspired by an organized open water swim in Whiskeytown Lake in Redding. There were two swims that day: a one mile and a two mile. I had finished the one mile swim, was sitting on the beach, waiting for the start of the next swim when people ran by me to a swimmer who was being pulled out of the water at the side of the course. Watching the EMTs try and resuscitate him and seeing his wife helpless beside him never left me. I went over to the finish line and watched swimmers as they finished. One man came through the finish chute, bent over and said ‘I think I’m having a heart attack.’ He was. Both men died. They were the first deaths in the thirty years that Pacific Masters had been sponsoring open water swims. I turned the trauma of that day into my inspiration for Dead in the Water.

I have been a writer of one kind or another my whole life, beginning with writing a gossip column in my middle school newspaper. I learned to sail in my 30s, sailed to Hawaii from San Francisco and raced sailboats for about ten years on the SF Bay. I also headed up an organization called Yacht Racing Association of SF Bay for seven years. I didn’t join a masters swim team until I was in my 40s. I was in my 50s when I learned to surf. So I am a late blooming water woman, but the underpinnings were always there. And luckily, I am blessed with a certain amount of athletic ability (well, maybe more determination than ability). I never wrote about swimming. I didn’t want to. And I didn’t know I was going to write a mystery until one day I sat down and started. Dead in the Water was as big a surprise to me as it was to everyone else.

Writing the novel was not easy. Often I found myself wondering what the next sentence, paragraph, chapter, should be. I would get up from the computer go outside and cut the grass. I had, at that time, an old push lawnmower; I cut the grass a lot. In fact, I must have had the shortest grass in my neighborhood.

I attended the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference a few years back when I started Dead in the Water. It was extremely helpful. I met with an agent who took a look at the first twenty pages of my manuscript. I wondered if she would say, ‘don’t give up your day job.’ She didn’t. She was encouraging and I kept going.

CB: And speaking of outdoor sports – Glenda also works in Guest Services for the Giants.

GC: I do everything from scan tickets, to take care of a section of the ballpark, answer questions or run an elevator.  . . .during that first season, the team won the World Series and I got to be in the World Series parade. What a way to start a job!

CB: Her website is http://www.glendacarroll.com

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New Class Starting!

VINTAGE HOUSE PRESENTS:

The Creative Writing Workshop

Mondays, June 10 through July 29  

from 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Register:

Vintage House 264 1st Street East Sonoma CA 95476 707-996-0311

$80.00 Members / $100.00 Non-member

Ana Manwaring’s creative writing classes through Napa Valley College have served writers since 2006. For a decade, her editing business, JAM Manuscript Consulting, has helped many local writers realize publishing dreams. Her short stories, memoir, essays, and poetry have appeared in The Petaluma Post, The Press Democrat, the HLG Valentine, Women’s Voices, KRCB Morning Haiku, Ravenspatch and many anthologies.

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