Thursday, November 24, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes

One of my favorite cake recipes, slightly tweaked

2.5 cups cake flour

1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 brick cream cheese
2/3 cup coffee
1/4 c cocoa
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
red food coloring, if desired

Cream eggs, sugar and cream cheese together.  Add cocoa alt, flour, baking soda and baking powder, then coffee a bit at a time.  Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

The pleasure of your company... cordially requested at a Launch Party for How David Met Sarah on Friday, December 9, 2011, at 7:00 PM at the Phoenix Rising Arts Collective in Thomaston, CT, at 135 South Main Street in the old Seth Thomas factory building.

We hope you will come and celebrate with us! Meet the "real" David, have your book signed, see amazing exhibits by local artists, and nibble on delicious holiday treats supplied by Passiflora Tea Shop.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thoughts from the Stone Age

I spent a decade one week in the Stone Age.  For those of you not aware of the conniptions in Connecticut, the area in which I live was walloped by one of those once-in-a-century storms that came barreling up the East Coast with such unexpected intensity it propelled us right back into the Stone Age. 

Without a generator, without power, my husband and I and our puppies were completely without running water, flushing toilets, light, heat, cable, internet or telephone.  Even our cell-phone service was spotty, due to damaged towers.  We had candles, wood, a battery-powered radio, flashlights and candles.  And water, lots of unpotable water, because of the 18 inches of snow on the ground and in the trees and on the wires. 

It was like being on a camping trip with everyone, observed a neighbor.  Traffic lights didn't function, gas pumps didn't was astonishing to me at the rate at which civilization deteriorated.  One day pinnacle, next day dust. 

I'm not one for camping.  My idea of roughing it is Howard Johnson's.  I'm not a fussy girlie-girl like the lady in Barnes and Noble who fretted she couldn't get a hair dresser appointment, but I like to be comfortable and I am not into expending any more energy than absolutely necessary to accomplish anything. 

We talked to a lot of people who seemed to believe that what we experienced was just a harbinger of something that's coming that from their expressions leads me to believe they think it will be worse.  These were the folks who shrugged and shook their heads and said things like, "I don't know, but....well, I just don't know, but this feels to me like just the start." 

Which got me to thinking.  What do we know?  One thing I was surprised to learn is that apparently we can be polite on the road if we have to be .... I didn't hear about any deaths due to driving accidents, which given how agressive some drivers can be, myself included, I found astonishing.  So if we can scale back our emotions when we have to even in a situation like driving, where our responses can be almost habitual, it struck me as undeniable evidence for at least some optimism should the lights ever fail to come back on. 

In the midst of all the doom and gloomsayers, who seem to be sure that the glow of the human heart is measured in the same kilowatts that flow through the power lines, I think there is great reason to hope.  So what if it all comes crashing down?  That means we have a chance to build it better. 

What would you do, asked one grizzled gentleman of me one afternoon, as we were huddled around a bar, in the late afternoon gloom, gathered in the company of grim survivalists. 

I know my answer wasn't what he was expecting.  "I'd march myself over to Town Hall," I said, "And find the plans for that hydroelectric dam.  And then I'd go door to door if I had to until I could find all the people I needed to get it working again, and I'd make them keep at until we had our own kind of power." 

Wow, he said.  And he bought me a drink.

So for all you survivalists out there, the ones who are sure the end of it all is coming soon, stop panicking. The light that illuminates the human spirit isn't dependent on any power company.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A learning curve for writers?

A writing friend's blog recently generated the following question in the comments section and she invited answers.  It was such an interesting question and my sojourn in the stone age as a result of Winter Storm Alfred gave me time to contemplate a response.

What should a burgeoning writer’s learning curve look like?

I started writing without KNOWING how to write i.e. creating a scene, plot development, arc, transformation.
I’ve been to writers conferences for memoir over the past couple of years, and no one addressed these subjects! So I just kept writing. I wasted a lot of time.
I’ve been writing full time for 2 ½ years, and now just beginning to incorporate these practices. If I had known this from the beginning, I wouldn’t be feeling so burnt out and frustrated.
I understand the first book is the hardest, but I sure wish I knew the elements of writing a long time ago.....Lisa Mae on Soul of A Writer

Dear Lisa Mae:
When it comes to writing, I'm not sure there is a "learning curve," or at least not one readily identifiable. A learning curve suggests that there is some trackable, documentable, progression that a writer might follow. Alas, I doubt there's any such thing.

According to recent studies, true mastery of any skill is generally achieved after approximately ten thousand hours of practice. If you've really been writing for all of those two and a half years, you have not wasted your time.

Two and a half years is a drop in the bucket for most of the writers I know. And while I sold my first novel within two and half years of beginning to write it, my learning curve began when I began to write as soon as I learned to read – little two and three sentence stories. I wrote my first novel in high school as a senior project. I was blessed with parents who not only valued education enough to provide me with one of the best available in late 20th century America, but also generally supported my first literary attempts. Writing fiction is something I've been practicing since I was five.

According to Somerset Maughan, there are three rules for great writing, but no one can agree on what they are. No one can tell you what they are for you, anyway, and that for me is the number one difficulty when it comes to discussing measures by which a writer might gauge his or her progress.

In terms of progress, I believe much depends on where it is you want your writing to go. For me, as a novelist, the progression might be described as finishing a publishable manuscript, submitting that manuscript, getting an agent, selling that manuscript, and then going on to write and publish more.

But what exactly a publishable manuscript is, and how you go about producing one, are subjective matters all their own. Until relatively recently, memoir wasn't a topic you saw much of at writers' conferences.

The effective practice of writing involves craft, skill and art. In terms of skill and craft, certainly there are things one can learn and whether one learns those things in grammar school, high school, college or absorbs them on one's own doesn't really matter. I think one might identify a goal for yourself (I want to write a memoir as affecting as Angela's Ashes, or, I want to write a novel as great as Ulysses, for examples) and then plot a trajectory backwards. Just understanding that there are things you need to learn is a step in the right direction..or write direction if you will pardon my very dreadful pun.  Writing coaches, mentors, critique groups, community colleges, online courses and writing conferences can all be very helpful in determining specific steps to take.

But the real reason there is no definable or readily perceivable learning curve for any individual writer is that beyond acquisition of the skills required, beyond the practice of the craft, is the art of writing itself. I practice the art of writing every day not because I write well or badly or anywhere in between but because I must. And even after years of practice and a list of published work, the learning curve I perceive ahead of me is still a straight arc up.

Enhanced by Zemanta