Come Travel With Me

A Book Reading, a Review, and Some Teasers

I recently had a book reading of my latest mystery, set in Portugal, Deadly Vintage, released two months ago.

The reading was great fun, despite a small turn out. (I picked the Sunday of Super Bowl play-offs and Dr. King programs!) But the people who came were interested and had good questions, and the interaction felt warm and cozy.

The Book:         51mJJaDNiyL

The book itself got a nice write-up this week-end in an online California magazine called Kings River Life Magazine, a cornucopia of information for readers and writers, book lovers and travelers. You can read the review here, and then click around the various departments to have an enjoyable exploration of the magazine.

There’s also a nice giveaway that goes with it, so check it out for more details. For those who don’t win thepurchase link is here.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures of where scenes take place in the book to tease your imagination. If you click on each picture, you’ll learn about how they figure into the story. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Poet, Gary Kruse

2016-05-03 Gary Kruse--croppedI have attended two weekly poetry workshops this the past year, learning and being exposed to new poetry I like very much. The poetry of one member, Gary Kruse, caught my attention for the mixture of visual imagery combined with deep philosophical thought. He has  been involved in poetry programs, readings, and has been published in online poetry vehicles, and has kindly consented to an interview about his process.

Before the interview begins, you can read some of his poetry at Lit Break Journal  HERE .  

And you can contact him at his Facebook Author Page HERE if you want to respond to his poetry or ask him any questions


                                                               THE INTERVIEW:

When did you first write poetry? Have you written fiction or non-fiction as well?

I wrote half a dozen poems during my last two years of high school. After that it was fifty years before I wrote a poem again.  When I started college, I wanted to write plays more than anything else I could imagine doing in life. But since there weren’t many undergraduate playwriting classes, most of the writing classes I took were for short fiction.

I eventually had to accept that the short stories and plays I wrote were, frankly, incompetent. But they had just enough glimmers of talent to keep me trying for a few years and enough talent to keep my instructors from writing me off. When I put my creative energy into art and design classes I got a positive reception and a lot of encouragement.  I did make a few more attempts to write plays during my late twenties but after that I stopped doing creative writing altogether.

What inspired you to start writing poetry again—fifty years later? 

I went through some emotionally difficult circumstances starting in 2012.  Poetry started creeping into some letters I was writing a year later and I found that writing poetry was a good way to process some of the emotional overload of those days.  I had no idea that I might actually have a talent for it—meaning the poetry.

2016 was when I started attending a weekly poetry workshop. After a few weeks at the workshop, all my other interests became what I did when I wasn’t writing. I’ve been at it ten to thirty hours a week since then and I try to have a poem for the workshop most of the time.

Where do you find your inspiration for poetry? What sparks your interest?

During the years that I made a living as a designer, doing mostly retail store design, I spent about half of my free time studying and reading on my own—subjects like psychology, world religions, mythology, and medieval culture—that was my idea of having fun.

I suspect a lot of what I write now pulls from that—although I’m not remembering a book or author. Instead, I’m prompted, in some way, to remember what I’ve learned about different ways to look at the world, different postures one can take. A memory of something that I studied years ago may be triggered by a line I’ve written and then my memory of the subject might return along with the joy of the initial discovery.

I’m inspired a great deal by the very process of writing poems—looking at significant experiences in my own past and our culture’s past—then the trial and error of trying to remember what it was I understood the first time around—the initial hunch, the initial shots in the dark, the ones that echoed without the usual ridicule—trying to retrofit various meanings onto an experience from the past in the present time in a way that opens up the experience without suffocating it, subjecting it as well to metaphors, irony, various meters and forms, listening for multiple voices that I can put in tension, then stirring and shaking and editing for several days.

And sometimes, the whole mess starts to sound like a poem. Or it doesn’t. And the resulting poem, if one arrives, is rarely anything like what I imagined writing. Where did it come from? The surprise of it all, when it happens, has me wanting to try it again as soon as I can. There’s nothing else like it. And when the process is working, there’s the matter of feeling connected to something larger than myself—when I can trust in the alchemy of it all. And at other times the trust thing is lost and the alchemy stuff sounds silly, immature, and superstitious. And when I feel that way I don’t write well or I don’t write at all.

Occasionally I write something just to have fun.  But I can have a great deal of fun writing about an otherwise depressing subject if I can bring imagination to it.

What is your writing process? Do you first start with an image? A recurring line? A theme or idea?

I usually start with three or four words that become part of the first line of the poem. That’s what usually gets something sputtering about on the page. And I can get awfully impatient waiting for those to show up. If I’m hoping to get a new poem started, I’m usually throwing words and phrases around in the back of my head, somewhat unconsciously, at various idle moments and hoping to hear something unexpected, intriguing, or phonetically delicious.

For me, if I catch a little phrase that’s clever but doesn’t have any emotional meat on it, I’ve learned that I have to throw it back. I’ve also tried to start a poem from an image but it seems my visual art background gets in the way. Most of my poems have a story line and so far, when I find an exciting image I want to work with I haven’t been able to find a story inside it. I find that my poems are not inclined to “be here now;” they’re not inclined to expand the present moment.

How often do you write? Do you write full time or part time?

I have a simple part time job but other than that I can put about as much time as I want into writing which is currently about fifteen hours each week. If I’m really immersed in a poetry project, it’s wonderful to spend six hours every day of the week writing. That’s my idea of luxury. Once or twice a year I find that I need to stop writing for a few months and build something with my hands. That seems necessary.

Do you read a lot of poetry? Who are some of your favorite poets and why?

I try to. The poets I enjoy tend to be pretty philosophical. That really limits the range of poets that I read. I’d like to be able to read more broadly but I think I’m just not wired that way. With that in mind, my two favorite poetry books on the nightstand now are one by Louise Glück and one by Tomas Tranströmer. I’m also enjoying the work of Chris Wiman currently and some of Jane Hirschfield, James Richardson, Mahmoud Darwish, Rilke and Neruda. Those are a few of the names that come to mind. The names keep changing.

How important do you think poetry is to society?

Regarding the culture at large, I think it’s currently of marginal value given the way that film, television, popular songs, and novels have taken over much of the role of poetry in the culture. I think that’s just the nature of a technological culture. But there’s an economy or density that’s unique to poetry. Some poets have coupled this aspect of poetry with the capabilities of Instagram, Twitter, and audio files and their poems are being read by a previously unimagined number of readers. While it’s safe to say these poems are not ones appearing in The New Yorker or Poetry, perhaps the internet offers a potential for a poetry renaissance?

For myself and many of my poet friends, regardless of the culture at large, I think we’d defend our right to read and write poetry with our lives or at least with some very sharp words.

Your bio lists an MFA in Stage Design and theater work.  Does your experience in theater affect your poetry? 

While the theater work was short lived, I do like to include a little dialogue in some of my poems. Also, I keep trying to think up ways I could do readings that would be richer and more impactful for listeners, more theatrical in the best sense of that word. I often wonder if public readings could be done in a way that would attract a greater number of non-poets.

You’ve been published in online magazines, been a featured poet in a poetry program in Placerville and at the Sacramento Poetry Center. What’s next?

I think I should set up a web site. I’ve just now set up a Facebook “writer page” so I’ll see how that works first. I’m getting ready to send out more poems. And I want to see if there’s a way to pull together a chapbook. I’ve been trying out a number of different styles and themes including a number of prose poems. I’m not sure if I can find a common theme or style that will allow a selection of my poems to cohere.

What is your advice for someone just getting into poetry, either as a reader or a writer?

As a writer, participating in a regular poetry workshop has been the most helpful step for me.

One might consider these services to discover poets to learn from and be inspired by:

https//poets.org/poem-a-day

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/newsletter (check “Poem of the Day”)

https://poems.com/

Meeting modern poems for the first time: If you want to read or write poetry in the modern vein but you haven’t had much exposure previously, I’d suggest that newcomers anticipate that some poems are hard to read. I presume if one knows this up front it will be less frustrating if comprehension ever feels like an issue. I’ve found lots of modern poetry very easy to read. Maybe read more challenging poems as you have time and interest? I wish someone had told me how much easier it gets with experience.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts for this interview. It was a pleasure to learn more about your history and process. 

Reminder: You can read some of Gary’s poetry at Lit Break Journal . And you can contact Gary at his Facebook Author’s Page .

How many of you like to read or write poetry? Which do you like best, and what kind of poetry? Have any of you submitted your poetry to websites or magazines? Any follow-up questions for Gary?

“Estranha forma de vida” – Strange Form of Life

Varadan_Elizabeth_COV_em

A little follow up regarding my chapbook: Yesterday I received the exciting news from the publisher that Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was the featured Book of the Day.

FINISHING LINE PRESS BOOK OF THE DAY:

Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing by Elizabeth Varadan

With my bio:

Elizabeth Varadan was born in Reno, Nevada, and was raised in California. She graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a major in history and a minor in English. A former elementary teacher, she and her husband live in Sacramento, California, but travel to Spain and Portugal. Her children’s books include Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls (2015), Dragonella, (English Edition, 2016; Spanish Edition, 2017), and Carnival of the Animals (2018). Her stories, flash fiction, and poetry for adults have appeared innumerous online and print magazines.

and blurbs:

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing by Elizabeth Varadan

Elizabeth Varadan‘s first book of poetry, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, is aptly named. The first saudade speaks eloquently of longing as “a yearning for what was, what could have been but was stillborn” and later in another poem she relates that in saudade there are no returns nor arrivals. In this book, Portugal, a country she loves becomes a place we know as she brings us poems of fado—like the blues. She speaks eloquently of our troubled land and of loss echoing my sadness for America. The four saudades in this book frame a lovely unity. Phantoms of promise in the third bring us to a place of keeping the heart dormant so that in the fourth we learn to trust again. This first book is a beautiful read, not to be missed.

–Allegra Jostad Silberstein, Poet Laureate for the city of Davis 2010-2012

In Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, Elizabeth Varadan reckons with an untranslatable Portuguese word, the title of this exquisite chapbook, in order to evoke a universal emotion: longing for what was lost, missing, never fully known, never truly experienced. Music, poetry, and travel offer her poignant glimpses of this evanescent but irrepressible condition, which comes close to love but escapes, sometimes into the thin air of memory. Yet once saudade has been evoked, other emotions emerge in Varadan’s poems: nostalgia, terror, sorrow, dread, and hope all appear and fade into a muted acceptance of fate. What lingers is the haunting echo of the fado, the quintessentially Portuguese blues that Varadan too sings, quietly, and with perfect phrasing.

–Bradley W. Buchanan, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, California State University, Sacramento

In this short, cohesive collection, Elizabeth Varadan steeps us in saudade, that peculiarly Portuguese feeling of regretful longing, and we emerge, ironically and gratefully, more hopeful for the immersion.

–Naomi J. Williams, Author of Landfalls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2015)

RESERVE YOUR COPY TODAY, PREORDER SHIPS FEBRUARY 14, 2020

https://www.finishinglinepress.com/…/saudade-thirty-poems-…/

#poetrylovers #now #reading #FLP

But today I want to share two poems from the collection. 

One is a tribute to Amalia Rodrigues, known during her lifetime as “The Queen of Fado.” I was moved to write this poem because, once I knew I wanted to write about Saudade, I recalled the newsreel I had seen of her funeral procession on YouTube. She was such a beloved icon in Portugal! When she died, the government declared three days of national mourning. If you watch HERE, wait until the procession leaves the church: As the crowd response is shown, this eerily beautiful song — one of her signature songs — plays.  You can get an idea of her fabulous, emotional voice. If you want to know the complete translation of the song, you can go HERE . And here is a public domain picture of her when she was mid-career: 

Amalia, Public Domain


And now, here is my poem for Amalia:

AMALIA

“Estranha forma de vida . . ..”

(“Strange form of life . . ..”)

Her voice conveyed

the sad arias and

bright moments from the

opera that was

her life.

Vibrato of pain,

soaring cry of despair,

rise and fall of story,

sweetness, humor—

and always the

longing.

“Strange form of life . . ..”

In an old, flickering

newsreel they carried the

casket out, while musicians

wept, crowds wept,

I wept.

The second poem reflects my hopes for our country despite the troubled times we are going through. I think it is pretty self-explanatory:

NIGHT

Night falls, drawing a curtain

across another day of longing

for a kinder vision.

The moon travels its lonely

path, lost among stars.

The stars keep their distance

in the dark, silent night.

Constellations wheel round in

the abyss of space.

And I, at the window,

yearn for signs of promise in

the new break of day.  

Most of the poetry  in my chapbook is on the philosophical side. If you are a poetry lover, what kind of poetry do you like?

#poetry

 

Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing

Varadan_Elizabeth_COV_em                                          That’s the name of my poetry chapbook that was accepted by Finishing Line Press. The poems were inspired by our trips my husband and I took to Portugal and our introduction to the song form, Fado, which has been compared to the Blues in America.

I’m really so pleased. I’ve had children’s novels published, and individual poems, but this is my first poetry collection. Finishing line Press is taking pre-orders now, and the book will be mailed out on February 14th. If you are interested, you can go to Finishing Line Press’s website and scroll through the books. (They only publish books of poetry and art.) And here are some kind blurbs I’ve been given:

Elizabeth Varadan‘s first book of poetry, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, is aptly named.  The first saudade speaks eloquently of longing as “a yearning for what was, what could have been but was stillborn” and later in another poem she relates that in saudade there are no returns nor arrivals.  In this book, Portugal, a country she loves becomes a place we know as she brings us poems of fado—like the blues.  She speaks eloquently of our troubled land and of loss echoing my sadness for America.  The four saudades in this book frame a lovely unity.  Phantoms of promise in the third bring us to a place of keeping the heart dormant so that in the fourth we learn to trust again.  This first book is a beautiful read, not to be missed.

–Allegra Jostad Silberstein, Poet Laureate for the city of Davis 2010-2012

In Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, Elizabeth Varadan reckons with an untranslatable Portuguese word, the title of this exquisite chapbook, in order to evoke a universal emotion: longing for what was lost, missing, never fully known, never truly experienced. Music, poetry, and travel offer her poignant glimpses of this evanescent but irrepressible condition, which comes close to love but escapes, sometimes into the thin air of memory. Yet once saudade has been evoked, other emotions emerge in Varadan’s poems: nostalgia, terror, sorrow, dread, and hope all appear and fade into a muted acceptance of fate. What lingers is the haunting echo of the fado, the quintessentially Portuguese blues that Varadan too sings, quietly, and with perfect phrasing.

–Bradley W. Buchanan, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, California State University, Sacramento

In this short, cohesive collection, Elizabeth Varadan steeps us in saudade, that peculiarly Portuguese feeling of regretful longing, and we emerge, ironically and gratefully, more hopeful for the immersion.

–Naomi J. Williams, Author of Landfalls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2015)

 

I hope to post soon about our travels to Spain. I took lots of pictures, but haven’t had time to download them yet. Stay tuned.

Do you like to read poetry? If so, do you like anthologies or collections by one author? Do you write poetry? If so, have you put together any collections yet? And do you belong to any poetry groups? I’ve joined two and have found them so helpful. It’s wonderful to be in the company of poets!

 

 

 

 

Braga, Beautiful Braga

My apologies for having vanished from my blog for so long. When I said good things were happening, they really were, and I had to scramble to keep up. Every time I thought I would post, there was new work to do.

On return last June from our trip to Spain and Portugal, I learned my poetry collection, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was accepted by Finishing Line Press. (Saudade is a very Portuguese -and Galician- state of mind, mixing nostalgia, longing, fate, in a complex combination.) Then I learned my cozy mystery, Deadly Vintage, was accepted by Belanger Books, LLC . Deadly Vintage  should be out by the end of November. Then I had the opportunity to write a short story, “What the Raven Knew,” for a forthcoming anthology by Belanger Books, Sherlock Holmes: In the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. (When I know the release date, I’ll  post the info.) 

So, WHEW! Here we are back in Galicia, and I’m actually vacationing and not working for the first time in YEARS. This could grow on me . . . except that I have to finish Book 2 of my Portugal mystery series.

The beautiful scenery of Galicia

always takes my breath away. It

is so serene.

This is a charming restaurant up the

hill of the Parador which I will talk

about in a later post.

But it’s wonderful to get back to blogging. I’ve really missed it. And, since Portugal is on my mind, I’ll post about Braga for now, and return to blogging about Galicia in a later post.  

Okay, Braga is a two-hour drive from where we are in Galicia, which is why I chose it for my setting. Galicia is an autonomous region in Spain, and its culture is similar to  Portugal’s. Even the languages are similar, going back in time, although Spanish has influenced Galegan quite a bit. The countries are divided in the north by the River Minho, but close to the border, people on both sides can speak with and understand each other. I read somewhere that they share 85% vocabulary.  

Portugal is also the birthplace of Fado, a haunting form of song that we love: It’s entertwined with the concept of Fate — although there are happy songs as well. The happy ones are humorous; the sad are full of “saudade,” that bittersweet sense of loss combined with hope. Two famous fadistas (fado singers) are Amalia Rodrigues and Mariza, our favorites, although we also like Ana Moura. Men can be fadistas, too: one is Camané. You can listen to any of them on You Tube. By tradition, the only accompaniment is an acoustic guitar and a Portuguese guitar. We’ve been fortunate to make friends with a wonderful fadista in Braga, Marisa da Luz. Rajan and I have heard her sing many times. It’s always memorable. She’s a fabulous person, and we feel lucky to know her.

Meeting one of my favorite poets

Portugal also is a land of poets. Two of the most famous are Fernando Pessoa, considered one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and the 16th century poet, Luis Vaz de Camões, considered one of the greatest poets of all time. Pessoa was quite unique, in that he wrote from four different literary personas he created. He also wrote in English as well as Portuguese. Camões was a sonneteer and wrote the great epic of Vasco da Gaza’s journey to India, The Lusíads. I like to joke that I got my picture taken with Pessoa below. (Unfortunately, Camões was not available for a similar photo op. 😊) 

Inside, at one of the cute tables.
Exterior for  Centésima Página which means 100th Page. you

can see the big “100” in the windows.

The Pessoa cut-out was in the lobby of the building that houses Centésima Página, our favorite book store, and one of our favorite eateries. Housed in an 18th-century mansion called Casa Rolão, they offer a great selection of books in Portuguese and English, a wonderful children’s section, and a food bar that serves terrific quiche, sandwiches, and salads, among other things, and the most wonderful oatmeal cookies! (I’m a cookie freak. Forget chocolate.) They have tables in back, too, in an attractive garden. And they offer cultural events, evening programs, lectures, guest authors, etc. is also my MC’s favorite eatery and bookstore  in Deadly Vintage.

Centésima Página ispart of the historic center that is on Avenida Central and leads up to Praça República. 

 








Praça República is a landmark that ends in an arcade (above) with restaurants, including the Café Vianna, which has been another landmark since the 1800s and used to be frequented by writers like  Eça de Queirós and Camilo Castelo Branco. Outside tables are near the enormous fountain that has water jets, lit at night. And Café Vianna, for us, has become a meeting place of sorts for connecting with many of the nice friends we’ve made in Braga.

This is walking along the avenida, which is

perpendicular to Avenida Central

This looks back at the Praça República 

There are garden spots everywhere  This is Avenida de Liberdade, a main avenue with the Teatro Circo & upscale clothing stores. It leads to the East River and a view of mountains beyond the city. I don’t have pics of the theater or the mountains, but you can see how beautifully plants are gardened. 

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The Jardim de Santa Barbara is another beautifully gardened spot near the old Archbishops’s Palace (which has become a library for the University of Minho’s Archives). The flowers change from season to season, except for the hedges and roses, which  are year round.

This garden is in some important scenes in my book.

Two other locales that are in important scenes are the Arco da Porta Nova (the arch that marks one entrance to the historic center) and the Museu da Imagem (a photography museum that offers changing exhibits and also is involved in an annual Photography Show with dozens of participants from all over the world.) Their exhibits are placed around in other galleries as well. When Rajan  and I first went to Braga in spring five years ago, we met then director, Rui Prata, who showed us around both the museum and the town after hours and then invited us to the coming exhibit in the fall, which was fabulous. Since then, both he and his daughter have become valued friends.

The museum is on the other side of the

arch to the right, where you can’t see it

at this angle.

The red building is the Image Museum, fascinating inside

with stone walls and arches at one level, and changing

exhibits. Rajan’s hobby is black and white photography,

so this was quite a discovery.

For my coming Book Two, I needed to talk to someone who could tell me more about the annual Book Fair, so we went to Camara Municipal de Braga (which is basically City Hall with its various departments.) Lovely building, as you can see — and example of the Baroque architecture made famous in Braga by Soares. Inside, as you can see, the stairs had wainscoting of the beautiful azulejo tiles that you find in all these old buildings.

The doorway really impressed me.
I wish the picture were better.

I want to close with the little story of how Rajan and I met our “Portuguese family.” These are wonderful friends we feel privileged to know. On our first trip, we lost our way, looking for the police department for that area. Commander Jose Barbosa had said we could stop by and he would be happy to answer questions. We stopped by this little shop called Casa Stop, and the woman there (Carla) gave us directions. Even though there is little crime in Braga, she was worried that we’d had some kind of mishap. When she found out I was writing a mystery, it turned out that she loves to read mysteries, and we became instant friends. Since then, we have enjoyed many get togethers with her and her husband (Armando) and daughter (Beatriz)—lovely additions to our lives.

Rajan, Carla, me
Rajan, Carla, Armando, Beatriz
Me, Carla, Armando, Beatriz

I hope you enjoyed this little taste of Braga. There are so many more things to share. The churches deserve a post of their own, there are so many, and Braga has a religious history that reaches into Galicia! (More about the in the future.) But also other historic buildings.

When it comes to travel to other cities, what grabs you the most? The buildings? Their history? Events that take place? The people?

Sad News about a Good Friend and Neighbor in Spain

 

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I’m going to take time out from book and publishing concerns to pay tribute to a friend whom my husband and I will deeply miss. We received the sad news Friday from our village neighbors in Trasulfe (Galicia, Spain) that our mutual neighbor, Manolo, had passed away, and that the funeral would be Saturday. That has come and gone. If we were there, we would have gone. As it is, we can only send a card to his family, and then, on our next trip in August, go immediately to visit Manolo’s widow, Eva, who has become like family. That is how we have always known them: Eva and Manolo. We have never even found out their last names. We first met them 14 years ago in spring of 2005, right after we bought the house. By our fall visit of 2005, we were friends enough to have them over to our house for snacks before leaving. Manolo looking devilish; Eva looking sweet and shy.

And they’ve always had a touch of elegance about them. This picture was in fall of 2006, when they returned from the bank in Monforte, taking care of some business. They kept a small garden and did some farming, kept vines, and, when we first met them, had a horse, a pig, and some rabbits. But they always dressed smartly for town.

Meanwhile, it became a regular thing to have them over for meriendas a couple of days we left to come home, and during our visits, we spent many a fine evening enjoying bread, cheese, and Eva’s superlative home made wine in their galleria or in their dining room, where we sometimes watched comedy shows in Galegan on TV.

At the end of the day, we would often take a walk down the road with them, and then sit on the bench at the end of the lane, listening to all the village gossip in a mixture of Spanish and Galegan.

What happy days these were! In the first picture, Antonio (down the road) is on the right, laughing, and his wife, Maria-Elena, is holding their grandson, Daniel, in front of her. This was in fall of 2007. Daniel is college age now. In the second picture, The woman on the left is Raquel, Eva’s sister.

Here is a picture of Raquel in spring of 2007 and one each of Manolo and Eva in fall of 2008.

This is how I like to think of them — so full of gentle humor and genuine good will for other people. Always full of laughter.

We used to go to fiestas with Eva and Manolo, too, and also to a couple of the ferias for pulpo (octopus), a great favorite in that area.

One of my sweetest memories of them is at a fiesta when their teen-age granddaughter, Lucia, danced with her grandfather. She doted on him. Above, next to the picture of Eva,  is a picture of Lucia a few years later (2013), after she finished beauty school and was a hair stylist.  (She had just finished trimming and styling my hair.) She was a beautiful teen-ager, but you can see she has grown into a beautiful young woman. In this picture she is in her 20s. (How time does fly.)

Then ill health set in, first for Manolo, who gradually had a combination of heart problems, diabetes, partial deafness, partial glaucoma. Before things got to such dire straights, he had difficulty walking uphill, and then later, walking very much at all. He was still able to make it to our house for meriendas in fall of 2008. But gradually, he stayed inside all the time, and by 2014 he only came to the window.

Meanwhile, Raquel contracted a lung disease that incapacitated her, and she moved in with them. So, Eva became the caretaker for a sick husband and a sick sister, which pretty much confined her to the house, as well. They had help come in, provided for by national health, but Eva was still his primary care-taker. I stopped taking picture of them. They all looked tired and worn out, and in recent weeks, Raquel was mainly bedridden.

Instead, we would go over and spend our free time with Eva and Manolo late in the afternoons, sitting in their galleria, discussing weather, the view, little things about life, just to keep them company. Sometimes I would take cakes, because — ever the gracious host, no matter how ill — Manolo would want us to sample Eva’s wine.  On our last visits, four and five weeks ago, he could only whisper, asking Eva to get us some wine. We would head her off and tell her no, we didn’t need wine, and she needed to sit down and rest. By then, he would be asleep again in his chair by the window and we would be mainly there for Eva.

We will miss him. Eva is devastated from what our mutual neighbors tell us. They were married over 60 years, and she had been taking care of him for nearly ten. RIP, Manolo. It was truly wonderful to know you. And it still is wonderful to know Eva, whom we will visit as soon as we return.

Sorry to be Behind in Posting, but Great News!

Wonderful news that I came home to from our recent trip to Spain and Portugal: My chapbook, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was accepted by a publisher!

I have tons of pictures from our trip still not yet downloaded, along with brochures for a wonderful day we spent in Madrid. But I haven’t had time for any of that, because there is lots to do to get ready for the publication of my chapbook.

So everything is on hold for a few more days. Thank you for your patience! Please hang in there and don’t go way. Eventually, I will be back to regular posting.

Our Trip to Greece — Sort Of

 

 

         Yesterday evening we had dinner at Greek Food Imports on Fulton Avenue near Fair Oaks Blvd. in Sacramento. We went primarily to hear one of our favorite musicians, Orestis Koletsos, a bouzouki player we first heard at the Greek Festival a few years ago. Since then, we’ve been fortunate to hear him play in an earlier concert at Greek Food Imports, and we hope to hear more in the future. An added bonus is that the food is simply delicious, and well-priced. We are vegetarians, and we had a sumptuous meal last evening.

     To hear a sample of the evening’s music, please go HERE

     Things that open a culture to the traveler (whether traveling vicariously or in reality) are music, food, and language. We are not Greek, but we love the music and food, and many people coming into the restaurant were Greek Americans — the beautiful language flowed around us between songs. This might even have given us a truer sense of Greece, in that there were no tourists! And the imports available in the store were mostly grocery items.

       It certainly was an evening to remember. To prolong the experience, tonight we are going to watch one of our favorite movies of all time: Zorba the Greek.

       How about you? Do you like to travel vicariously through music and food when you can’t go to the actually go to a particular place? What is your favorite form of travel? And where is your favorite place?

An Interview with Author Rachna Chhabria

My last post was about a terrific book sharing Indian Festivals in different parts of India — Festival Stories: Through the Year.  Now let’s meet the author, Rachna Chhabria. Afterwards, please do leave a comment. I love to hear from you.

But first,  a bit of back-ground:

I first met Rachna online when I had just begun blogging and was looking for online writing friends. I especially was pleased to meet her, because my husband is from India, and Rachna lives in Bangalore, where one of our nephews lives with his family and another niece and her husband live. I was new to technology, and from the beginning, Rachna was helpful and guided me through the ins and outs not only of blogging, but of using Facebook and Twitter. After about a year of interacting online, on a trip with my husband to visit his relatives in Chennai, Rachna and I mailed each other our books of the time. A couple of years later, while visiting the nephew in Bangalore, she and I met in person, and she was as gracious as ever.

And now, the interview:

Q: You’ve been a journalist for a newspaper, a writing teacher at university level. And you’ve written stories for children. Which of these aspects of writing do you enjoy the most?

A: Though I love all three aspects of my writing, I enjoy writing for children the most. Children’s writing gives me a lot of satisfaction, it gives free rein to my imagination, encourages the child in me to explore the world again. Infact, I would say it keeps the eternal child in me alive.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? Have you always been interested in writing? What are other books you’ve written? How did you find your agent and publisher? How did you come to write this book? 

A: I have always been interested in writing and reading. My English teacher in school praised my essays and urged me to write more. My interest in writing led me to pursue Literature and Journalism in college. During my college days I wrote for the college magazine. My Journalism teacher encouraged me to write for newspapers which I did. I wrote lots of articles and stories in newspapers at the start of my writing career. I still write for newspapers. My short stories have appeared in many anthologies. My other books are Lazy Worm Goes on a Journey (Scholastic), this is an early science for young readers, it’s a picture book with snippets of science about the human body. The Lion Who Wanted to Sing and Bunny in Search of a Name (Unisun Publishers) are illustrated collections of jungle stories. The editor of HarperCollins Children’s Books emailed me in the second week of July 2018 as they were looking to commission an author to write festival stories. I worked on two sample chapters which were approved immediately and the entire deal fell in place.

Q: Fiction and Non-fiction combination is a wonderful idea, how did this come about?

A: When my editor at Harper pitched the festival idea to me, in the course of our conversation I told her a non-fiction book on festivals may become boring, I thought that children will enjoy festivals through the eyes of protagonists. My editor liked the idea and asked me to create a bunch of characters. Nikhil and Natasha my two eleven-year-old protagonists were born from that idea. The book is about Nikhil and Natasha and how they celebrate a year of festivals in their unique way. I have explained the festival bits, that is the non-fiction part, through Natasha’s journal and Nikhil’s blog.

Q: How did you research for this book? And what were some of the difficulties?

A: Most of my research happened online. I saw videos on YouTube, waded through scores of pictures on Pinterest, read newspaper articles about festivals and their celebrations. I also spoke to many people. Though it was fun researching for this book, it was also difficult, as there were so many dissimilarities in what came up in my research. To corroborate this, my editor at Harper Collins – Tina Narang, got 2 copy-editors on board who verified all the non-fiction bits. And this was a huge relief for me. I was assured that whatever I had written was verified by the two editors and whatever I had missed was pointed out to me. Tina was a God send. She ensured that everything went smoothly and per schedule.

Q: Will there be a sequel? If so, will the twins be learning about other festivals through the year, or will they learn of other Indian traditions?

A: As of now no plans for a sequel. But one never knows. I’m sure I would like to feature the twins in other books, perhaps they can learn more about other Indian traditions.

Q: Have you thought of writing a version of the Bhagavad Gita for children or some of the other Hindu stories from scriptures?

A: Yes, this has been on my mind from quite some time. A couple of Indian editors have asked me for retelling of some epics and stories from the scriptures. As of now we haven’t zeroed in on any theme.

Q: What are you working on now?

A:Right now I’m focusing on a chapter book. I’m developing one of my short stories for children into a chapter book.

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: I like to have a basic plot structure in mind and on paper. After I roughly plot the story, I start writing. I do a lot of pantsing between two plot points. My first drafts are super fast, but I like to take my time with the revisions, its during multiple rounds of revisions that the actual story starts taking shape. I have an amazing critique partner who gives me wonderful feedback. After his thorough feedback I do another round of revisions.

Author Bio:

rachna chhabria picture

Rachna Chhabria has a fascination for words. She is at her happiest when she is writing her stories and creating fantasy worlds for her books. Animal stories are her favourite. She is the author of Lazy Worm Goes on a Journey published by Scholastic, The Lion Who Wanted to Sing and Bunny in Search of a Name both published by Unisun PublicationsHer short story Ganesha’s Blanket of Stars won the Special Prize in the Unisun- Reliance Time Out Writing competition 2010- 2011. Her stories have been published in several anthologies and her articles have been featured in course books for schools. She is a regular contributor for many papers and a columnist with Deccan Chronicle and The Asian Age. Her children’s stories appear regularly in Young World. She taught creative writing in a college in Bangalore for many years.

You can learn more about Rachna and connect with her at the following links:

Rachna’s Scriptoriumhttp://rachnachhabria.blogspot.com/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Author/Rachna-Chhabria-367609189996800/

Twitter https://twitter.com/RachnaChhabria1

To purchase her book go to Festival Stories Through The Year on Amazon.in – https://www.amazon.in/Festival-Stories-Through-Rachna-Chhabria/dp/9353023521/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1538238353&sr=1-1       – or – 

Festival Stories Through The Year on Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/9353023521/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

How about you? How would you describe your writing process? Have you met any of your online author friends in person? Does your own writing call for research? If so, how do you approach research?

Book Review About Indian Festivals: Festival Stories Through the Year

I mentioned in an earlier post about my story collection that books are one way to travel.  51rl3hctual._sx310_bo1,204,203,200_Festival Stories: Through the Year is just such a book. It’s a wonderful introduction to religious festivals of India for children of all ages – including adults. My husband is from India, and while I know of some of the festivals, (Pongol and Divali — or Diwali, as it is sometimes spelled), I learned so much more in this book. I’m a retired teacher, and I wish I had had this book in my 6th grade classroom as supplemental reading when we studied India.

The writing isn’t pedantic, because the author has used an engaging story frame: Eleven-year-old twins, Natasha and her brother Nikhil, are staying with their paternal grandparents, Dadu and Dadi, in Bangaluru (the local name for Bangalore). Their parents are still in the U. S., winding down jobs, arranging for transfers in a year, while sending the twins ahead, feeling it’s time for them to learn about their culture first hand. Homesick but intrigued, Natasha begins a journal. Nikhil starts a blog.

There are 32 festivals covered in the book, beginning with Lohri, a Punjabi folk festival falling on January 13th and ending with Christmas. The author has lovingly researched and described all these festivals through the eyes of Natasha and Nikhil. They learn about the customs, clothing, and food associated with each festival as they participate. (The sweets and snacks served had my mouth watering each time.)Each chapter begins with an anecdote, followed by one of Natasha’s journal entries or Nikhil blog’s posts. Their new world unfolds for the reader as they make friends with other kids, study for exams, play Indian games, go shopping, or stuff themselves with delicious snacks at each festival.

Chhabria has researched her subject well. She includes the varied names for some of the festivals and the gods and goddesses who figure in them. She makes references to the Gregorian calendar months to keep a reader from the west grounded in the time frame when these festivals occur. The majority of the population in India practices Hinduism, but Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism also have their devotees, and the twins get invited to their festivals and learn the traditional stories associated with each. Many holidays are shared alike (with different names) by Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus. Some are regional, and the twins attend them because they or their grandparents have made friends with characters from these regions who practice their faiths.

The author paints unforgettable characters with deft brushstrokes that don’t belabor descriptions but capture personality. Natasha and Nikhil are endearing eleven-year-olds, and Dadu and Dadi are the grandfather and grandmother everyone would want. The scenes are set so vividly, a reader is plunged into the colors and tastes and excitement of India. This was a lovely book, and I was really sorry to reach the end.

You can learn more about Festival Stories: Through the Year HERE. While you are there, click around to her author page and learn about her other books for children. Visit her fine blog, Rachna’s Scriptorium, HERE or her Facebook page HERE.

In my next post I will be interviewing Rachna about her writing, so please come back to learn even more about her.

 

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How about you? Do you enjoy learning about other cultures and other faiths? Have you been to some religious festivals? What are some of your favorite holiday snacks?