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Wending through Winter, Writing (and Whining)

I am a terrible blogger. I admit it.


I write only about every three months, and I know successful bloggers are much more prolific. My excuse (this time): this winter has been hard. By hard, I mean too damn cold.


I hear you: “Aren’t you the one who moved to Colorado Springs from Palm Springs? What did you expect?” To which I retort, lamely, “It’s cold down there, too!”


The HVAC system in our (brand-new) house is partly to blame. Some rooms stay nice and warm, but the office where we work sits above an insulated, but unheated, garage and the forced air never gets this far over the expanse. Right now, I am typing in Norwegian wool socks, heavy winter running pants, a heavy sweatshirt over a silk underlayer, and a Peruvian alpaca scarf over my head. I’m still freezing. You should feel my nose.


So we stumble and wend our way through winter here on the foothills of Pikes Peak trying to not succumb to (most or all) dark, cold thoughts. Ben is ducking cabin fever by running as many days as ice and snow allow. I've taken on some more publishing consultant work (at right, see the latest: a second poetry book for Zene Gurley, whom I know from a Palm Springs connection). But I spend most of my time trying to write, read and study Spanish in preparation for the winter-to-spring Spanish course I’m starting next week at UCCS. I hope they have heat in those classrooms.


I have been trying to learn Spanish now for some 30 years, starting with a Berlitz course I took before my first trip to Bolivia. Although I surely know more than 2,000 words, it’s still a struggle to drag them up from my soggy memory and put them in the right order with all the dribs and drabs that come with any language, in this case la, lo, de, del, un, una, a, he, has, si, se, te, me, ti, mi, pues, que, etc., and the two billion verb conjugations that have somehow, over the millenia, coalesced into a grammar. When I read about the migrants slogging through the Darien Gap to the U.S. border, and I think of how much harder it is to learn English than Spanish, I can’t imagine surviving that physically dangerous journey rife with gangs, robbers, insects, snakes and thieving so-called “guides,” and then on arrival, facing the mental and emotional challenge of trying to master English pronunciation. Their journey requires a great deal more courage and motivation than I will ever have or need in my cushy, English-speaking, Colorado life.


The curse of the short-term memory:

Speaking of soggy memories, here’s an example of the trivia that Ben and I often play, and not because we intend to:


Me: Who is that actress who played in that Christmas movie and starred with that guy whose name sounds like it came out of “Jabberwocky” in that WWII movie that came out about the same time as the movie about the guy who had a sex change operation, and I think she also starred in that pirate movie and may have been in that soccer movie, too? I know her first name ends in a vowel, but I can’t remember it.

Ben: Kiera Knightley?

Me: Yeah, that’s it.

Ben: Why do you want to know?

Me: I can’t remember.


And then, recently, there was this:

Me: (driving into the garage one evening) Next week when you have a review car to drive, I’ll have to pull over farther to give you room to park in here.

Ben: Yeah, and we should put some stuff away, too.

Me: (looking around, puzzled) Like what? It looks pretty clean to me.

Ben: The Christmas decorations. I have to climb up the ladder and put them up on the storage shelves.

Me: You did that two days ago.

Ben: (pause) Oh.


I can imagine the GenXers and Zers out there groaning over another Boomer lament. To which I respond, just as my grandmother used to: “Your day will come. If you should be lucky enough to live so long.”


More novels, more writing:

My writing friends and I had a fairly busy Christmas-fair season, and it reminded me of the cliché: You never know. I set up my books at fairs where I anticipated lively sales and robust literary discussions, and I participated in some where I didn’t expect much of either. In nearly every case, the experience turned out to be the opposite of what I expected. But I worked hard at trying to be the gregarious person I am not, and overall, I sold more books than I expected. (Above, me at the Book Bash in Colorado Springs, Dec. 1.)


I’m heading the first of February to the fishing-village-cum-ex-pat-haven of Todos Santos on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico for an eight-day writers’ workshop – as much to make connections as to learn more about writing a novel and getting feedback. Perhaps I can reel in some referrals to agents who are interested in schlepping historical novels to publishers – and by “historical,” I don’t mean “set in the 19980s.” The 1980s aren’t historical, even though I guess they were the setting of my personal Middle Ages.


The novel I’ll be working on in Mexico is based on the true story of a French-Swiss-Belgium socialist colony founded near Dallas, Texas, in the mid-1800s, told from the point of view of a woman who joins her passionately socialist husband in the experiment in communal living. My inspiration was the story of my great-grandparents on my father’s side who immigrated to Iowa from Switzerland in the 1870s. Family lore had it that after great-grandmother died shortly after childbirth, great-grandfather carried my grandfather across the field to the neighbors, and then left for a socialist commune in Texas. While the timing isn’t right—the colony disintegrated before 1860—great-grandfather did go to Texas, perhaps drawn there by Swiss families he knew from back home, and is buried in a cemetery there.


You may wonder why, when I already have four completed manuscripts in my drawer, unable to find an agent and a publisher for them, I keep writing? Well, as the song goes, “that’s what scorpions do.”


Happy 2024 reading and writing, friends!

 

 

 

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