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books, friends

Books I’ve Kept All These Years

I moved around a lot —more so when we were younger and restless. Six months or a year or two in one place and we were ready to find somewhere else to live.

That changed when our children maxed out at six. We were settled in Worthington, a hilltown in Western Massachusetts, and stayed put for 25 years although we thankfully did move from a cheap, funky rental to finally our very own home we built. Then it was Taos, New Mexico for 11 years, and two years ago we returned to Western Mass., first in a rental and then the home we bought in Shelburne Falls and renovated while living in that apartment.

Nothing like moving, especially 2,400 miles — twice — to keep your belongings pared down. But in all those years, I have held onto certain books. I thought about this today when I was surveying my bookcases, which contain mostly first editions of authors I love and for the most part got super cheap. It’s a hobby of mine.

But here are the ones I’ve kept for oh-so-many years.

FUNDAMENTALS OF POETRY: I bought this slim book, almost a pamphlet really, in fifth grade through my grammar school for a buck and it has every part of speech a wanna be poet would want to know. This is the oldest.

THE YALE SHAKESPEARE/MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: The book, dated 1923, actually belonged to my seventh-grade English teacher, Mrs. Lima. She held the book while she recited the play from memory, a remarkable performance. I gained possession of the book when my mother found it in a yard sale and mailed it to me, unaware of its significance. Susan Lima’s name is written in perfect cursive inside.

ROOTS AND WINGS/CONCEIT: These were the literary magazines from my college, now called Bridgewater State University. They contain my poetry, from when I was a fledgling poet, and later when I was the editor. My sister, Christine, mailed them to me. I had long ago passed them on, and am grateful she held onto them for me. One of them even has a clipping from the college’s newspaper that has my column: Hot Schmaltz by Ethel Schwartz. I did a sarcastic review of Rod McKuen’s poetry — in poetic form. Funny story there. A bunch of my hippie guy friends were hanging around outside the administration building. They decided the next woman who turned the corner would be named Ethel Schwartz. Yes, it turned out to be me.

KORA IN HELL: I ran into a dear college friend years later in Boston. He gave me this as a gift, one of The Pocket Poets Series. The story of Persephone has always resonated with me.

SOME STAY HOME: Poems published in 1977 by a poet/singer Jim Palana. My favorite is about a woman, Miss Ann Gately and her bike.

ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKE OR A JEST IN SOBER EARNEST (ORIGINALLY PLUBLISHED 1883): Another gift from a writing friend, Fred, supposedly one of the funniest books about the English language. Here’s a sample.

Of the Man.

The brain

The brains

The fat of the leg

The ham

The inferior lip

The superior lip

The marrow

The reins.

ARROYO: A slim collection of poetry by three friends I knew in college, Bob Sullivan, Jim Palana, James G.H. Moore and myself (when I had a different last name), plus art by Julie Conway. I see a lot of poetry in these books. I stopped writing that way and eventually found prose. But for my last mystery, Checking the Traps, the victim and one of the suspects wrote poetry, which meant I had to do it, too. To tell you the truth it was fun.

TROPIC OF CANCER/TROPIC OF CAPRICORN/BLACK SPRING: I bought these hard-cover books in Seattle and have brought them along on each move since, a bit of a miracle really.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS: Here’s the link to the ones I wrote … on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Joan-Livingston/e/B01E1HKIDG

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Sue
author, friends

A Good Friend I Never Met

A few days ago I learned that author Sue Roebuck died. Sue and I never met although we got to know each other through our shared publisher, Crooked Cat Books. She was originally from the UK but lived in Portugal after marrying a man from that country.

I considered Sue a friend. She offered a great deal of support to her fellow authors, including myself. I smile when I reread what Sue posted on social media and in the messages we exchanged. I bought and read her books. She did the same for me.

I wrote twice for her blog. When I suggested I give her a post about how I write about sex, she responded: “Perfect – that should get the blog readers sitting up!” I also wrote one called Portuguese Forever, about my ancestry.

Here is one Sue wrote for me last year prior to the launch of Forest Dancer that will let you know a bit about her. It was part of my 6Ws series.

Who is author Susan Roebuck?

If you happen to be in the Lisbon area of Portugal and you take the road to Cascais, you might see me at the window of my office which overlooks the mighty Tagus River. I’ll be watching the cruise ships and tankers coming in and out of Lisbon. You might think I’m Portuguese but I’m not – I’m British born and bred. I was just exported to Portugal by my husband many moons ago.

I taught for the British Council for many years and then the Portuguese civil service, creating e-learning courses. I think the creativity that was needed for that started me writing fiction.

What does she write?

I have four books published:

1. Perfect Score, an LGBT romance suspense (hardly any sex involved) set in the USA in the 1960s and dealing with subjects such as being gay, having dyslexia, corruption in the pharmaceutical industry, and how a phoenix can indeed arise from the ashes.

2. Hewhay Hall. Dark fiction, set in contemporary UK about unsung heroes – in this case a fireman caught up in a terrorist bomb. This won the EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) award for Horror in 2013.

3. Rising Tide. The first in the Portuguese series. This is set in a tiny fishing village on the Alentejo coast – somewhere the world and most of the world has forgotten. The place brings together the two main characters: Piper from Norfolk, UK and Leo from Alaska, USA. Both are seeking answers that only the village can answer.

4. Forest Dancer. The second in the Portuguese series. Published by Crooked Cat Books in February 2018 and set in the magical fairytale forests just twenty miles to the west of Lisbon. A classical ballerina from London is seeking her self-worth in these forests. But does she find it?

5. Joseph Barnaby. The third in the Portuguese series. Again, published by Crooked Cat Books, this one is set on the island of Madeira. Joseph is running – but from what? And will he ever be able to join society again? This will be published in late 2018.

When did she begin writing?

A few years ago I got ill with a serious illness and had a few years when I was disabled. During that time I couldn’t work. So I found I had time to indulge much more in my favorite pastime – writing. (I’m OK now by the way, but I keep on writing!)

How does she write?

I think if I had to rely on pen and paper like Jane Austen, I wouldn’t. I do too much deleting and changing. I write quite fast but that does mean I miss, on first draft, details such as names – but not only. Characters have been known to change names, change hair colour, know things they couldn’t possibly know, make startling quick moves to a new house… It’s a good job I do four or five edits and often get a professional edit before sending my manuscripts off to publishers.

Where does she write?

(See number 1) in a spare bedroom which my husband and I use as an office. He sits at one end of the table and I the other. The TV is in here too which doesn’t help my concentration. I really envy those who can have a writing hidey-hole where they’re alone, cut off from the world. Does anyone know of a garret going cheaply?

Why does she write?

Like any other writer, I think. To give an outlet to creativity, to let that jumble of words and ideas out. I certainly don’t do it for the money! I also like to paint but, unlike writing, I’m very slow at that and can take days dabbing on paint and days taking it off again (I work in acrylics). Come to think of it, I also take days writing something and days deleting it, so maybe the two arts are closely related.

 

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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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sangres
family, friends

One of the Good Guys

Our family friend, Ernie Nugent, died Jan. 11 at age 73. He was one of the good guys.

We knew Ernie and his large, extended family when we lived in Worthington, a hilltown in Western Massachusetts. He worked on the town’s three-man highway crew for over three decades, including as its road boss. (He also has a brother named Bert, which has always been a source of amusement.)

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Nate and his buddy, Ernie

Our son, Nate, knew him best. Ernie hayed the farm across the road in the Ringville section where we lived first in that town. He also raised pigs there. They were good buddies.

Through Ernie, Nate got to know the part of country living that was close to the earth — and all about machinery. I know long before he was a teenager, Nate was Ernie’s extra hand, driving a tractor or farm truck. I recall looking out the kitchen window when I was washing dishes to see Ernie take down a hog with one shot, and then Nate helping him get it ready for butchering.

Nate and Ernie had a special bond. He often joined Ernie when he plowed the roads, riding for hours in the cab of the truck. Ernie would stop the truck at the end of our driveway for Nate to join him.

One year, Ernie rigged up a plow to an old rider mower so Nate could clear our driveway. (I guess it stuck. Nate works as a union heavy equipment operator.)

I knew Ernie from when I was a reporter, covering the hilltowns. I’d call the highway departments for an update whenever we had a bad winter storm, or in the midst of mud season or a road project.

Ernie wasn’t a talkative guy. I recall covering one Worthington Town Meeting, where residents were voting on the budget and other items. On the agenda was the purchase of a new dump truck for the highway department.

A smart-alecky newcomer got up and wanted a justification for the purchase. So the moderator asked Ernie whether the town needed to buy a new highway truck. Ernie stood, said “yup” and sat down. And, after a good laugh, the voters passed it.

I moved away from Worthington going on ten years ago. But Deen, Ernie’s wife, kept us informed at Christmas with long letters about the family, their winters in Florida — and Ernie’s health problems. I’m sure they were tough on a man who liked to be so active.

Here’s to Ernie Nugent who lived and worked well. He was the salt of the earth.

There is much more to learn about Ernie. Here’s a link to his obit: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/gazettenet/obituary.aspx?n=ernest-w-nugent-ernie&pid=177411205

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: It was a lucky moment when I caught this photo of the light playing on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. I was leaving the newsroom when I got out my phone to take the shot.

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zack at millicent rogers
family, friends, Taos, Travel, Writing

New Year’s Revolution

2015 was a very good year. It was a creative year — and that is important to me.

Was it a happy year? Yes, except for the passing of my father in September. He will be missed by so many, especially his family. By my measure, Dad, who was almost 93, had a life richer than most. I am grateful we were there to be there with him at the end. Here is the eulogy I wrote: https://www.joanlivingston.net/family/my-dad/

During 2015 I kept writing and rewriting. New projects include the Los Primos bilingual series for young readers written with my collaborator Teresa Dovalpage, the fourth in the Twin Jinn series and a YA novel. I spent time with the novels I finished a while ago — I suppose they’re not done until they are published — to make them better with what I know now.

In a post I wrote a year ago, I noted I wanted to connect readers to my books. Ah, but as I’ve discovered, there is writing and the business of writing. I let my agent go after four years and am in the midst of other publishing opportunities. (More about that in the near future.)

I launched this website, an improved one for my Twin Jinn series http://twinjinn.com/ and a Facebook author page https://www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

I found new authors to love. And I got to do more public interviews with authors, including Anne Hillerman and the fellows for the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

As for travel, we saw family — including the debut performance in Boston of our son Nate’s band — and friends around the country. We camped and hiked this fall in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the elk were bugling. (I’ve already made reservations to camp at Yellowstone in August.)

Other blessings: Hank’s companionship, a meaningful job, caring friends, and good health. A productive garden — we just finished the last of the carrots, kale and chard stored in the fridge. We still have beets.

So what’s ahead? I will keep writing and rewriting. I aim to move more and sit less. I will visit family and friends. I will grow our food and flowers.

And, I will embrace the change 2016 will bring me.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s our son, Zack, at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, one of three we visited with his friend Suzie during their Christmas visit.

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