books, hippies, Writing

A Whole Lot Going On

First, to those who anticipate buying a paperback of Peace, Love, and You Know What, the only holdup is the arrival of the hard copy proof. That is imminent. The biggest concern for Michelle, the designer, and me is the layout. This is a first for us.

I will let everyone know as soon as I pull the trigger — and as loudly as I can.

PeaceLove_Cover smallOn related topics, the electronic equipment I ordered to record Peace, Love, and You Know What is on its way. The prequel, Professor Groovy and Other Stories is in the batter’s circle. I scheduled a solo reading at SOMOS of Taos for July 8, a week after I am in a marathon reading as part of the open house at its new location.

Meanwhile, I am copyediting the next book to be launched — The Sweet Spot. This is one of my hilltown books. Here is a teaser: A big scandal in a small town — love and mislove, secrets and discovery, rich and poor, old families and newcomers, deep roots and fresh starts, violence and peace.

The Sweet Spot takes place in 1978. It didn’t happen in the small town of Worthington, where I once lived, but it could have. This book is not a comedy, but a couple of the characters are, well, characters, who may generate a chuckle from the reader.

Speaking of copyediting, I got inspired while reading a friend’s non-fiction book to do it as a sideline business. When I was given a sample copy, I found the book to be interesting and well-written, but, alas, it contained so many typos. Hundreds of typos. My friend had just sent it to the publisher, and I advised him to take it back. I volunteered my services to copyedit the book. The book had been edited — for pay no less — but still I found spelling errors, lack of hyphens, improper punctuation, and so many inconsistencies. I did four go-throughs and was happy to do it.

The experience got me thinking about doing editing for pay. I have been editing and copyediting other people’s writing, never mind my own, for decades. I know how not to get in the way of a writer’s voice. If I have questions, I ask them.

My aim would be not to let errors be a distraction to a piece of writing. And with the self-publishing opportunities now available, would-be authors need that kind of help.

Right now, I am figuring out rates, how to get the word out — you know, the business end of writing.

One final note, which I am adding after the original post, is about a rattle snake. I was getting water from the back spigot when a young rattler ambled about six inches from my foot. I am pleased at myself for not freaking out. Instead, I watched it curl beneath one of the currant bushes. I am going to pay attention to where I walk from now on.

My neighbor just found one on her back door. She called a friend, who chopped off its head, skinned it and took the rest back with him. He will use the fat as medicine and eat the meat. So the rattler didn’t die in vain.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: This trio, playing lively Hispanic music, was part of the entertainment when Hank and I were at the Taos Farmers Market on Saturday.

 

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bobby and me 1970 copy
books, hippies, Travel

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Well, I suppose it is if you consider smoking pot, dropping acid, and protesting a senseless war as crimes. Throw in skipping class for no good reason. But on a recent road trip Back East I visited my alma mater Bridgewater State University, the inspired setting for my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What.

auditorium

Front of the auditorium at Boyden Hall. The lit mag was located in the mezzanine, where the window is open.

I hadn’t been back since I graduated in 1972. Then, Bridgewater State College was a cluster of traditional brick buildings, except for a newly opened dorm. The college, now officially a university, has grown immensely with new buildings. The old ones have been repurposed. Its academic offerings likewise have expanded. A commuter rail, which I took, links the school to Boston.

But that’s not why I went. I was on a research mission in that I wanted to see the buildings and places I used in my novel.

A caveat: Peace, Love, and You Know What is a piece of fiction. It is not a memoir. Like other authors, I used what I experienced and had my way with it. That included the college, which I call Westbridge State in the novel.

221 summer street copy

This is 221 Summer Street, aka 221 Winter Street in the book.

On a fine May day, I walked to 221 Summer Street, the inspiration for the crash pad, 221 Winter Street, in the novel. From the amount of mailboxes I suspect it is still rented to students, but the building is far better maintained, at least from the exterior. So is the apartment house on Broad Street, the infamous Brown House where I once partied and later lived. Like a lot of buildings, it had new siding. Alas, the cinder block apartment complex AKA the Roach Motel was torn down long ago, I was told.

I visited Carver’s Pond, used in the book for the softball game between the rival Winter Street and Roach Motel hippie tribes. As a student, I sought refuge here even in the winter. Now it’s a park with walking trails.

newspaper office

The former newspaper office now used as a closet.

The campus was empty since graduation was held earlier that month. As I wrote, many of the older buildings, including the dorm where I lived two years, have new lives. I managed to sneak into the auditorium. The closet of an office, once a ticket-box, used for the student newspaper is indeed now a closet. I couldn’t get access to the mezzanine where the lit magazine was located. (I was once the editor.) The commuter lounge, a frequent gathering place, was long gone. I smile thinking about the times my group hung around that building, up to no good, according to the school’s administration.

restaurant

The restaurant was called Buddy’s when I went to school. It was inspiration for Ray’s in the book.

I headed downtown, which surprisingly hasn’t fared as well as campus, with empty storefronts and funky businesses. The coffee shop — Buddy’s when I was there, Ray’s in the book — still exists. It’s now called My Sister and I. The interior has been changed to give more seating. My friends and I spent countless hours there drinking bad coffee and talking. I ate lunch for old times sake.

I did stop at the alum office. The friendly women working there showed me the yearbooks from the time I was in school. I started with the one from 1970. The first page I opened had the photo you see above.

I remember the moment. I was walking with my boyfriend Bobby when someone yelled from a moving car and took our photo. I thought it was true love, but it ended months later, his choice. Like Lenora, one of the main characters in Peace, Love, and You Know What, I fell hard in love and suffered when things didn’t work out.

Here is a scene from the book. Mack and Tim are talking about a three-day graduation bash they are going to hold at their crummy apartment.

“Make sure Lenora hears about it,” Tim said.

Mack’s lips curled beneath his red mustache.

“A party without Lenora? Our queen? No way. Hey, Tim, maybe you should do the asking.” His grin got bigger. “She should be over that last guy by now. What’s his name? Tadd?”

“No, it was Brad,” Tim said.

“Brad. What kind of a name is Brad? Sometimes I wonder about Lenora’s choice in guys. At least he’s gone.” Mack’s brow pinched. “Doesn’t it take Lenora six weeks to get over a guy? I believe it’s time to finally make your move, Tim. She’s outta here next week.”

Tim sighed. Lenora’s last relationship was a close one. Things were getting heavy with the guy, a friend of Joey’s hiding out from some trouble in California. But Lenora’s romances lasted three months tops, the guys drawn by her open heart, soaking in her love as if it were sunlight, until it drove them away. Tim held her while she cried enough times to know the story. Her ex-boyfriends said they were living in the here and now. They reminded her about the war in Vietnam. Her response? War was all the more reason to be in love. They didn’t see it her way. She took the breakups hard, sobbing in her room, playing dreary folk songs like Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and snarling at the lines. She stopped eating, got real skinny, drank, and smoked too much pot, embarrassing herself a little in public. She wrote sad or hateful poetry until she came to her senses or lost interest.

Yup, that about sums it up. By the way, the alum office wants a hard copy of the book when it comes out. I did warn them it’s a bit raunchy.

UPDATE: Oh, so close on the paperback edition. Until then, here is the link to the Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/Peace-Love-You-Know-What-ebook/dp/B01E03WMQC?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

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books, reviews, Writing

The Write Stuff

In my new life, I am a book author and a book reviewer. I will be writing a twice-monthly column called The Write Stuff in Tempo, the arts and entertainment section of The Taos News.

For those just catching up, my last day as The Taos News’ managing editor was May 5. After nearly an eight-year run in that position, I felt it was time for a change. Now I will concentrate on writing fiction, promoting it — such as my newly published novel Peace, Love, and You Know What now on Kindle — and doing freelance gigs, including this column.

I presume most of the books I review will be ones that arrive at Tempo Editor Rick Romancito’s desk. From the pile he’s already given me, I envision books, non-fiction and fiction, published by university and museum presses. There will be books by writers lucky enough to get a contract with a publishing house and those who have taken that on themselves. Many will be local writers, which given Taos’ creative energy won’t surprise me.

I’ve already sent Rick the first column with reviews of two books. I reviewed an album of black and white photos taken during the early ’80s. A newcomer to New Mexico, the photographer turned his camera’s lens on a few of the state’s Hispanic communities.

An academic wrote the second book about author Jean Toomer and his unfinished play about Taos. Toomer, part of the Harlem Renaissance, came to Taos in the ’20s at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan, the grand dame of the arts.

I have always been a big reader. As a kid, I was holed up in my bedroom with a pile of books from the library. My favorites are the ones that make me forget that I am reading. My bookcases at home are filled with them.

I don’t anticipate every book Rick hands me will have the same effect. But my goal is to read them through to the end before I give a thoughtful but fair review. If the book has faults, I will point them out. I won’t gush.

Of course, reviews are subjective. Someone might love what I don’t and visa versa.

I’ve already read the next two books. I’ve taken notes and used pieces of paper to mark the pages that contain something significant I might want to note or quote.

Writing about writing: I like the idea.

This is a link to my farewell column in The Taos Newshttp://www.taosnews.com/news/article_b94efa7c-1245-11e6-a0c2-fbf2f6e1f94e.html

And here is the link to Peace, Love, and You Know What (soon to be out on paperback) on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Peace-Love-You-Know-What-ebook/dp/B01E03WMQC

PHOTO ABOVE: This is the first year since I planted our lilac bushes eight years ago that they’ve bloomed. (Maybe there is something symbolic.) Each spring I would cheer on the buds but then a cold snap would take them. This year we had cold but also snow, which might have insulated the buds. The bushes are outside the door we use the most. I plan to clip a few buds to bring inside because they smell so damn sweet.

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I am sitting in somebody's car while wearing big, pink sunglasses.
books, friends, hippies

From One Who Was There

At first, my friend Fred Fullerton was going to hold off reading my novel Peace, Love, and You Know What until it came out in paperback. But then he couldn’t resist. After all, he makes a cameo appearance.

Fred is one of the party-goers at the three-day graduation bash held at a slummy, college apartment. Joey, a brainy but nervous guy who loves poetry, is one of the roommates. It’s the first night of the bash. Here is the excerpt:

Joey sat several feet away, talking it up with another heavy thinker, a guy who returned to Westbridge on the GI Bill after being stationed in Europe. He was into that expat thing, wearing a beret and smoking a pipe. The two were deep into William Carlos William’s Kora in Hell Improvisations. Joey rushed to the attic to get his copy, dog-eared and filled with his notes. The two passed a joint and read the best passages aloud while the expat’s foxy German wife chain-smoked unfiltered Gauloises.

“Read that line again. I think I heard something new there,” Joey told the expat.

Fred attended Bridgewater State College, now a university, in the sixties. He went into the service and was stationed in Germany before returning to finish his degree. He moved back to Germany after he graduated, but now lives in the U.S.

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Fred shortly after he moved back to German in 1974.

I met Fred during his second go-round at the college. We have remained very good friends since, keeping in contact via letters, emails, and visits when I am back East. Yeah, he’s a heavy thinker with a great sense of humor. He’s also a reader and writer. And, he’s also one of the few people I used directly as inspiration for this comedy from the seventies.

So, although Fred read earlier drafts of the novel, he downloaded the Kindle app to his computer April 18. Then, the emails began.  I am going to quote from the less personal messages.

Here’s the first: I downloaded the Kindle edition of Love, Peace & You Know What and want to read the final version since the last time I read it was while you were still editing it. I chuckled at the party scene where Joey and the expat are discussing and read William Carlos Williams Kora in Hell: Improvisations. I guess I’ll have to read it so I can discuss it with “Joey.”

Yup, Joey is another of my characters inspired by a real person. But this is fiction, not a memoir.

Then, I asked Fred to check the acknowledgements at the end of the novel. He’s in there.

The back and forth began. Fred would read a little. I would find a question in my email, several times a day.

Curious …who was the gay prof at the 3-day party at 221 Winter St.?

He asks about other characters. He recalls dear friends from our tribe who died. I let him know which characters are total fabrications, which are most of them.

I’m having a ball reading this book. Even though I read earlier drafts, this is much improved and really funny! It’s also bringing back lots of memories … the coffee shop (I lived in the boarding house above it my freshman year), and other places. I spent many, many evenings at Westbridge Apartments, which you accurately rename the Roach Motel!

Yes, it was an apt description of the row of apartments that resembled more of a motel than student housing. It’s no longer there. Also, 221 Winter Street is a variation of an actual address. The layouts of the campus and town were as I remember it then. (I haven’t been back since I graduated but I am planning a field trip soon.)

I’m reading your book as if I were drinking a fine wine or whiskey in small sips. At this rate, I might have a review for you by this weekend.

The emails sped up.

I also like how the music at Ned’s [Professor Ned Burke AKA Professor Groovy] memorial service is Edith Piaff’s “Non, je ne regrette rien.” It’s as apropos as his dying “in the saddle,” so to speak.

I listened to her sing that song a few times while I wrote the scene.

On April 22: I love the part where Joey teaches Beowulf to Mack’s class. Yes, Beowulf is a terrific tale. I can’t remember when I first read it, perhaps in high school, but I’ve read it a few times since.

I tell Fred I had to teach Beowulf to high school freshmen when I was a student teacher. I don’t think I was very successful. I only got a B.

You rascal! You put your dad in there as Coach Tony Madrid! 😀

Yes, I used my father for the character of the man who was retiring after coaching generations of high school students. Tim, one of the main characters, is covering his retirement sendoff for a newspaper.

I’m almost done. Your book is laugh-out-loud funny. I especially cracked up when Manny said, “I feel like I’m in somebody’s acid trip.” You’ve got so much going on in the book. It’s not only a roman à clef but also a Bildungsroman with a good dose of Sturm und Drang!

I tell Fred I still find the book funny after reading it a zillion times.

And on April 23: The review is “alive” on Amazon. It was fun to do!

Yes, you can go to Amazon and see it for yourself. Fred gave the novel five stars. Thank you dear friend.

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Peace-Love-You-Know-What-ebook/dp/B01E03WMQC/ref=la_B01E1HKIDG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461508808&sr=1-1

Peace, Love, and You Know What will be out in paperback hopefully soon. I am going to attempt audio, even with my New England accent.

PHOTO ABOVE: I used this photo once before for my piece about my obsession with Bob Dylan’s music. My sister sent me this photo. I am sitting in somebody’s car while I am wearing big, pink sunglasses. I don’t remember who took it or the occasion. But I like the stray curl.

 

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Joan NH
books, hippies, Writing

Reinventing Myself

Last week I reinvented myself as a published author with the release of my novel, Peace, Love, and You Know What as a Kindle eBook. For over thirty years, I have worked as a journalist, but that’s about to change. For half that time, I was a fiction writer who kept at it despite countless rejections. Ditto.

Change is inevitable. But I prefer to seek change rather than it seek me. So I have to say reinvention is nothing new for me.

PeaceLovecoverLong ago, I went from being a shy, smart, good Catholic girl to a little-bit wild, hippie girl. (I held onto the smart part.) Much of that you will find in my novel, Peace, Love, and You Know What.

I kept it going. Poet. Traveler. Macrobiotic. City girl. Country girl. Earth mother of six kids. Seamstress. Bartender. Teacher.

A big change came when I was hired as a correspondent to cover the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. I was writing again, but also reporting on the news where I lived. It was a good schooling, listening to the way people talk and watching how they behave. I became a full-time reporter, then moved up the ranks.

I started writing fiction after I became an editor. One day it became part of my every day. My first novel was The Sacred Dog, which a New York agent loved but was unable to sell. I didn’t let that stop me. I became the persistent writer.

(By the way, I burned or deleted my rejections without a formal tally, but I believable it’s sizable.)

I have completed five adult novels — I am also the persistent rewriter — plus a series for middle-grade readers, and in collaboration with my friend, Teresa, a bilingual series.

I began writing Peace, Love, and You Know What, when we moved to Taos nearly ten years ago. I tried to find a home for it, as they say, but was unsuccessful. Earlier this year, I picked it up again, and saw the book’s potential. I can’t count how many times I went over the manuscript to get it right.

Now, Peace, Love, and You Know What, with its remarkable cover by Michelle Guiterrez, is out there for readers to try (you get to sample the opening for free) and buy. If it’s to your liking, I’d love a review on Amazon.

Soon it will be in paperback and I will give it a go doing the audio.

Early in May I am leaving my job as the managing editor of a newspaper, a job I’ve held for nearly eight years. It’s no secret: the job was advertised and as of last week, my successor found. I will write more about this in a future post.

Those who know have asked what I will do instead. My answer: I am reinventing myself as an author. And I mean it.

PHOTO ABOVE: Yes, that’s me in an early incarnation of Country Girl.

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