Monday, May 15, 2017

Familial Fabric~ A Feature for Mother's Day Week!

Tatiana McLane and Venice Wong; credit Christine Flower Photography



As a literary mother-daughter duo on the East Coast, we are pleased to get the opportunity to spend time talking with a fashion mother-daughter duo from the West Coast in honor of Mother's Day. There are a number of metaphoric parallels between how words and fabrics are woven together to portray story and character. With our upcoming spring-summer anniversary issue celebrating nine years, we are choosing to focus on empowerment and the individual stories we continually weave adding to the rich tapestries of our lives and heritages. Stitching together the influences of generations, we see the interconnectedness of the past, present, and future in the continuity of tradition as well as in inspiration for change and growth. In that vein, this week we explore personal and professional spheres involving the fabric of family, the threads that bind, and the heirloom quilt legacy of living the fairy tale by following the heart.


Interview with Tatiana McLane and Venice Wong by Nicole M. Bouchard


1) Both UCLA grads with a personal passion for expression through fashion, you each bring shared and unique complimentary backgrounds to the table of the Queenie4ever business. Tatiana—designer, costumer, fashion historian, model, and actress—embodies the essence of the whimsical fashion fantasy epitomized in her image and innovative imagination. Venice—partner in the entertainment law firm McLane and Wong, as well as professional stylist, and co-creator of Queenie4ever—brings an intimate knowledge of brand, entertainment industry expertise, and sense of the Hollywood aesthetic from experiences and encounters with celebrities who broke through fashion barriers. Together, you driven ladies reign over the Queenie empire.


What are the best facets of working together as a mother-daughter team, brainstorming, and fostering a fashion realm where one can embrace fun, glamour, and the ultra-feminine while being implored toward being the hero/heroine of their own fairy tales?


Tatiana McLane: Sometimes we have very different opinions and tastes so it is great that my mom can be so supportive of my dreams and provide adequate assistance, unlike many other parents. 


Venice Wong: That is true. Tatiana and I do come to the Queenie4ever creative designing table with different ideas of how a particular project we are working on should appear. But, this is a good thing. Because it reminds us that we are designing not for ourselves, but for a market. Thus, my job is to help Tatiana focus on her market's tastes based on her past successes and keeping up or at least being aware of current trends. My forte in the business/legal world is the best way that I can help Tatiana run a profitable business. With her as the creative mind behind the fashion designs, this forging of the creative daughter with the business marketing mom makes for a perfect mother-daughter business team!


2) What do you each enjoy most individually about creative expression through apparel that you feel adds to your partnership (whether through your personal experiences or outlooks that add a complimentary contrast)? For instance, how Tatiana's work as a costumer and actress for Disney's web series Descendants PopTalk as noted on her site informs her perspective on conveying character through clothing, or how Venice's work with famed performance artists influences her outlook on the formation of a signature identity through style.


TM: A favorite hobby of mine is going to concerts & dressing up as a female version of the artist. I enjoy my ability to dress for the occasion, whatever that may be, and being able to work on a constrained budget to make something look more expensive than it actually is, while my mom would rather get the most pricey items to ensure a fancy feel. 


VW: I truly take delight in playing dress up. It was always my favorite activity as a child with my mom who sewed the sweetest outfits for me from patterns and fabrics we shopped for together. I passed that mother-daughter tradition down to Tatiana. By the time she was 8 years old, she was a pro at creating marketable fashion styles using different types of fabrics based on our many hours spent scouring antique and fabric stores. She even wore antique children's clothing. Therefore, she understood how to restructure her fashion design versions to be more suitable to what a modern day customer would like.


Tatiana is used to working within a constrained budget both as a fashion designer and a costume designer. I tend to get a little overzealous on the pricing constraints as I am very attracted to what Tatiana refers to as a "fancy feel" because I am concerned about losing the quality by using cheap fabrics, etc. However, Tatiana is a genius at finding good quality for bargain basement prices. Thank goodness! Our customers can rest assured knowing they are getting great quality at budget-friendly prices. 


3) When in-between work and looking to become rejuvenated or simply bond, what are some of your favorite mother-daughter activities?


TM: My favorite memories with my mom are of us going to Disneyland. She seems to have a good time on It's a Small World the most. We spend a lot of our free time watching the latest movie releases, visiting special exhibits at museums, and of course shopping for clothes.


VW: Well it looks like Tatiana pretty much sums up how we spend our mom and daughter bonding time. In addition, we do enjoy a day at the spa. That is my favorite way to rejuvenate after a long work week.  I also really enjoy a lovely high tea party with Tatiana. It's something we have been doing since she was a little girl. We enjoy creating the menu and make all the treats ourselves! Of course, in true Queenie4ever fashion, we have a theme and dress up!


4) On the idea of the fabric of life, we had mentioned in an interview with NYT best-selling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier, the presence of fabric in a number of her novels (family quilts, tapestries, expression) and a feature from the Daily Mail where she shared items of personal significance that included fabric-covered notebooks for the research of her novels, a handmade quilt, and a cherished scarf that belonged to her mother. The question went on to tie the symbol of fabric to storytelling.


Within our own family, two of us being writers, fabric has also held significance. I taught myself to sew not many years after realizing at a young age that I wanted to write. My memories of buying yards of fabric with my mother and grandmother, immersing myself in my grandmother's rose-scented drawer of silk scarves that she would later give to me, or discussing the connotations or design elements of fabric in rooms or clothing with my mother, are amongst my precious recollections.


As a mother and daughter in the world of fashion, are there any further familial ties, such as the traditions of sewing outfits and searching antique stores mentioned earlier, concerning fabrics that have bearing on your personal and professional lives and your mother-daughter stories?


TM: Professionally, my mom has taught me a lot about fabrics. I would have never known that you can make clothing out of fabric meant for a couch. Personally, I think she influenced me to love British-style clothing and I think that both my mom and I enjoy wearing a lot of floral patterns.


VW: Fabric speaks to me, begging me to give it life. I envision fabric as adornment whether it was meant to be used for clothing or furniture. That is why it's interesting that Tatiana mentioned that I taught her to use couch fabric to make clothing because my philosophy is to "think outside of the box" when creating your masterpiece. It is a lesson Tatiana took to heart. In fact, she taught me to re-imagine the world through the eyes of a young child, who lives life as if it is a magical fashion fairy tale.


5) There is a quote on motherhood from Oregon mom Angela Schwindt that says: "While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about." In that vein, how do you each feel you've been influenced by the other in personal and/or professional spheres? What are some of the most meaningful ways in which you've changed and grown by virtue of your mother-daughter relationship?


TM: I've grown to know that most things require teamwork to ensure something is done right.


VW: When Tatiana entered my life, I began to see the world through her eyes. All of a sudden my life was filled with childlike wonderment and I realized just how many amazing things that the world had to offer. Since I am an avid reader, I began reading aloud all my favorite childhood stories to Tatiana. Her favorite stories were the fairy tales. She began to ask many questions that made it obvious she was studying details most kids I knew ignored. Soon she began making up her own stories. Not only did she ask me to write them down, but she asked me to help her draw and eventually create paper dolls of the characters in fully dressed outfits.


It was at this point that Tatiana took me by the literary hand, and I stepped through the looking glass so to speak following my young daughter, the dress up princess with a vivid imagination, down an enchanted rabbit hole that led to Queenieland. Like Tatiana taught me, most things require teamwork. Hence, we had to work as a team in order to bring to life this magical place that she created in her mind.


Tatiana is the visionary, and I helped her bring it to life to share the beauty of her fashion fairy tale as a positive role model to help empower girls to be the Queens of their own dreams. Thus, a little girl named after Shakespeare's Titania, Queen of the fairies, was able to follow her dreams into her young adulthood standing strong at the helm of her Queenie4ever fashion empire surviving the rise and fall of the fashion industry.


Queenie4ever grew as Tatiana did, as she became more scholarly about the world around her whilst fueling her mind at Stanford and UCLA to better understand the market that she was designing for. It was during this time that Tatiana discovered her talent for costume design through her involvement in TV and film as an actress. I was thrilled that Queenie4ever would have another facet to offer. Therefore, Tatiana and I are so excited to announce our newest business endeavor, the grand opening of the Queenie4ever Wardrobe and Costume Design Studio.


Please check out our Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/Queeniegirls/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
and visit us at www.queenie4ever.com
Follow Tatiana and I on Twitter for the latest Hollywood Happenings in Fashion and Entertainment @Queenie4ever and @veniceawong




Hoping all mothers out there enjoyed a wonderful Mother's Day and that the celebrations of dynamic mother-daughter bonds continue throughout the week~ WPWT Editor-in-Chief, Nicole M. Bouchard, and Assistant Editor, Denise Bouchard

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Image Prompt from All Hallows Eve Contest (see previous post for results)



Inviting Shadows of October: All Hallows' Eve Contest Results

On Halloween night, we held an All Hallows' Eve Contest with a visual prompt. We saw a digital collage art set on the Polyvore website by Polyvore community member, Xandra Black and felt that it had fascinating layers of interpretive possibilities. We've seen an incredible synergy of art and words previously with Polyvore during our Twitter Tales social media experiment. This time, rather than have members of the Polyvore community inspired by the words of our writers to make digital art, we let our writers be inspired by the art of one of the members to craft written responses. We've dealt with the rich archetypes, symbolism and metaphor present in fairy tale literature in the past and felt this novel artistic representation of "Little Red Riding Hood" would serve as a great contest prompt.

The contest was open to fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. We received incredibly innovative takes on this art prompt. The creative efforts of the participants made judging nearly impossible. Amongst the entries, there wasn't a single piece that didn't knock our socks off in one way or another. Though we were grateful for how hard it made our job, we knew we needed to call for backup. Once we narrowed down the finalists, we decided that the creator of the digital art collage ought to have a say, feeling ultimately that her input was essential. She found it near impossible as well, being struck by aspects of each piece. Xandra gave careful, thoughtful contemplation to those entries, providing detailed feedback and personal analysis so that we could know her thought process.


For its unique content, interpretation of the collage, imagery, form, and research of fact and dialect, the following entry by Neal Whitman was chosen as the winner.

Mr. Whitman, upon being notified of his win from a strong pool of finalists, chose graciously to accept publication as his prize, thus letting the three finalists have the opportunity to design the new Writers' Challenge for the upcoming winter-spring issue of the magazine. 

Those finalists, also receiving honorable mention here for their striking entries, are Janine Lehane, Ginger Peters, and Cheryl Sommese.

A special thank you to all participants, including our winner and finalists. We also extend our gratitude to Xandra Black both for her artistic involvement and guest judge duties. We will be posting the digital collage that served as the contest prompt in a separate blog post above. Below, we invite you to enjoy the winning entry!

WINNING ENTRY OF ALL HALLOWS' EVE CONTEST BY NEAL WHITMAN (apart from formatting for the blog, entry left to its original form)

To:      litredrh@gmail.com.uk
From:  ecameron@yahoo.scotland

Subject:  Pibroch Melody

Dyrling, my Little Red Cap. Hwaet! I write to you from The Old Minister’s Guest House at the foot of the Cairngorm on the banks of River Druie. It is stone built by the local Church of Scotland in 1895. The walls of my room hold the cold. I nurse a glass of mead as I am under the weather after a wet walk in the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest. Before the drenching, a white sphere faded in the sky—a  daytime moon or perhaps a disembodied ghost. With the first clap of thunder, I sprinted to find shelter and tripped on a rotten log. Does fear lend wings to a wounded deer? My ankle aches. The left one. The promised “exceptional local larder” discourages appetite. The parlour fireplace smokes and my asthma is unforgiving.

Please forgive my parting words and welcome me home. In the blink of an eye I return to you. Hard to fathom, but there is a report of a lone wolf in The Pass of Killecrankie Gorge not far from where your cottage is perched. I know this sounds howlin’ mad, but I shall pull myself up by handfuls of heather—I fear for this wolf’s safety. You are one sharp-shooter.

Faren wel
Ewen*
___

*Official records shows that Ewan’s great-whatever, Sir Ewan Cameron, killed the last Scottish wulf in 1680 in Killcrankie (Perthshire). But right up to the end of the 19th century, reports persisted of wolves seen in Scotland, though never confirmed by a “kill.” There is a movement afoot for a “rewilding” process with Eurasian wolves. Would that be howlin’ mad? Perhaps, not. The evil wulf redeemed.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Perspectives on New for New Year's~ Guest Post

New

By Lois Greene Stone

A coiled wire remained. It looked so frail yet at one time, had held 12 large pages. December had just been discarded and the spiral had no more use. Unlike the outdoor trees that had exposed limbs and their trunk bottoms sunk into snow but would form green leaves in the spring, this wire had completed its cycle.

I thought about the parallels with the human cycle. As I affixed another calendar to the wall, it was also another sort of beginning. My birth year was getting farther and farther away and those rejected/used pages from decades of numbers was plumping its passage of time. Less ahead than what had passed... I knew I could look at the rest of my life that way or see each January with unused and crisp paper as a new beginning. The choice was mine. 

Touching the coil, it seemed to feel as though its juxtaposition of strength and flexibility was me. The kindness and attention I’ve shown and the philosophy I’ve passed down, will remain with those who have shared these things, grown from my listening to them and not merely hearing their phrases, grown from not just witnessing or hearing my life's lessons, but internalizing them. That’s my "spiral"—my body is just the used paper that gets recycled in the blue box.

The phone rang. No longer tethered to a wall, as during my girlhood, nor heavy; I slid my finger to "open" an icon, set it on my desk, and said “hello.” Penny postcards peeked into a part of my memory when I heard, “Grandma, I got your e-mail, and...” My e-mail. When a postal card was about to rise to two cents, I was so proud that I’d bought 50 and could use those that I showed my mother how grown I was to think about that in advance. I had no idea that I’d have to buy 50 additional stamps to use for mailing. I assumed anything already in my possession was okay. She didn’t laugh as she explained life to me.  Her kindness spirals inside my head although she and my father share a granite headstone. Few use postal cards today; fewer buy picture cards as camera phones click and transmit our own time and place and not what someone else once deemed was important to record on a mailing rectangle.

My heavy shellac 78rpm music that woke as a diamond needle touched a groove was obsolete when my children were born. Their little players were 45rpm with a fat hole in the center and the breakage was not an issue. Discarding piles of years, now a tiny device holds thousands of songs; cassette tapes have vanished, and CD’s will soon be a memory. Ah, memory. That’s the coiled wire that withstands tugging papers from it monthly, and firmly holds page 12 as tightly as it did page 1.

I affixed 2017 to the wall. Its blank squares will have scribbles of appointments, events, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, marriages, and so forth. I’d like to keep the reminders as a diary but they’re more like a log, and logs are just what and where; my diaries were details of thoughts and feelings. And when I have no more allotted calendars to display, the memories built with loved ones will continue, and their cell phones will become as strange as my tethered one, their means of communication unique to those upcoming generations. They’ll have their own "penny postcard" stories tucked inside them as they give their own offspring and partners reason to write on calendar pages—although I doubt it’ll be paper.

Bio- Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Her poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/photos/memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian.

Monday, October 31, 2016

An Autumn Afternoon at the Athenaeum

"Haunted House 3D" by Karen Burene (see artist bio below article);
https://www.flickr.com/photos/chaoticartworks
 
An Autumn Afternoon at the Athenaeum

By Nicole M. Bouchard

Once upon a gray New England day dreary, I wandered bewitched, quite cold and weary, over many a quaint and curious volume of beloved lore in the Athenaeum…

The labyrinthine streets of the east side make up a living, harried maze of movement, traveling up and down steep hills, and around tight, sharp corners, heavily populated with college students, professors, natives and tourists. These streets are as precarious as they are pretty; there is often little regard for traffic laws, including a peculiar preference of pedestrians to walk out in front of cars quite suddenly as though oblivious to their existence, trying to be fashionably dissident, or in perpetual search of an adrenaline rush.

Buildings over a century old frame the area, their paternal, seasoned presence bestowing caring and censorious gazes, sometimes both at once. From earlier ages, they may not quite grasp green hair and ear buds tuning out the world and running through traffic, but home to some of the finest schools in the country, they simply aim to educate, understanding that children will go their own way. Their structural constancy assures a measure of order in ever-changing seasons and eras. As did their human forebears, they reign in a growing, bustling new world with precise lines, strict paths, and cloistered proximity. There always exists an attractive juxtaposition of historic and modern-day in Providence.

On a Saturday, there is an elevated kind of momentum in the city—an elixir of excitement evaporated into the air and rained back down on the masses to cure all manner of doldrums. It’s one that I’ve drunk many a time over the years, and recently having learned the legend of the fountain at the Athenaeum, I quite agree that there is something, once tasted, that brings one back to Rhode Island.

The Saturday I wish to share with you, was no different in this, spare for the fact that the effect seemed somehow magnified. The winds seemed to recall something wild and their exuberant dance through the streets—sending up blizzards of golden leaves—seemed to defy the sober structures with their subtle palettes against a dark lead gray sky. Young and old, on every sidewalk, were fighting their way forward through the turbulent unseen. As I ascended the Athenaeum steps, the wind seemed to switch allegiances, no longer a force of resistance, but a powerful shove to usher myself and my trusty assistant editor up and into the building. 

We looked at one another and smiled; two mirrors, one mother-daughter reflection with the matching thought of how perfect it was to have strange, cold, blustery weather while exploring a temple of books known to have been frequented by Poe. She reached for her camera, I reached for my notebook, and intent on discovery, we stepped inside.

Standing at the front, looking around and tilting my head back to see the exposed upper level, I was flooded with all my expectations and initial assessments. It seemed, however, that the weight of these and more, were inflicted back upon me. My observing eyes were being observed by the sculpted visages of the early officers of the Athenaeum, and famed greats of the past. In that moment, I stood as a stranger “whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.” Shakespeare couldn’t help me then. They took stock of me as I took stock of their home. The observations weren’t as if to say, So, what do you think of our place? but rather, So, what do we think of you?

I imagine that there is a test upon entering. A kind of invisible barrier to pass through. At first, I’d thought it a function of my having been a first-timer. Yet I saw no one rushing in. Everyone seemed to linger near the entry—excited, tentative, reverent. Even those who were familiar visitors. I believe it is because it is a sacred space—it has been described as such in different centuries by a number of its prominent guests—and would-be parishioners respect this aspect with their pause.

I can only say that I must have met with some measure of approval, due to the richness of my experiences there. It unfolded to me in a way that was marked by meaning and wonder. How to describe a place like this?

I think it must mold to the individual visitor, becoming an extension of one’s own mind with hopes, dreams, memories, and passions, shelved and alphabetized accordingly. The way one walks through it, what they see, what they notice, follows a map only they can read. And I? I can only humbly describe what it was for me. For you, I’d wager that it would be another adventure altogether.

One wonders what it was like for the Dark Romantic master himself, Edgar Allan Poe, who, with poet Sarah Helen Whitman, saw the cultivation and ending of a courtship within its walls. How did it speak to H. P. Lovecraft, Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman? Is the building itself a story, or a collection of many that grows with every new footfall through its doors?

Given the diverse history and mysterious lore the Athenaeum is known for, the front glass case with its vintage costume ideas from the pages of decades past, struck me as a comparatively minor nod to Halloween. Charming to be sure, yet the building’s claim on associations with the holiday would seemingly be more extensive. I wasn’t yet aware of all the stories (these I’d discover later in researching for this piece), but there was a feeling that there was more. I found it in keeping with the way the entry told one to leave their preconceived notions at the door; the building would reveal its secrets in its own time in the subtle way truer “magic” does. A purposeful red herring? Perhaps. I didn’t know what I’d be in for, nor what I’d learn after the fact.

I was making my way around the front case to the side shelves displaying a myriad of topics to entice the passerby. The older volumes call to me; you know the look of them, the worn covers, the smell of the pages, the tea-stain tint around the margins. Gorgeous things. So many beautifully preserved that I hardly knew where to start. Luckily, the library told me. What else for a French woman who loves history to find first but a book from 1902 on Napoleon? Whatever the opinions of this controversial figure, never have I seen such human engravings that appeared to stare out of the page, past the skin, into the very spirit. Another instance where I the observer, felt as though I’d become the observed. These images were of the intensity and vulnerability of the man, not the legend, viscerally portrayed. If historic figures were given voice, only if for a moment, I could imagine it happening there in that space.

Agreeing to meet my mother, who would be joined by my father on yet another level of the Athenaeum, I heeded the strong call to the upper tier. Tiny, narrow passageways threaded themselves between what I liked thinking of as open stalls of books with small wooden writing desks that faced outward across the way, visible to the main floor. Mainly thin, dim, nearly dark in some corners, the passageways require deliberate, paced steps and along the way, one might fancy that they could encounter anyone or anything from any time period at any given moment. Scanning the shelves felt like reading names of old friends. I was greeted at the top of the steps by the Bronte sisters. I found my way to the affecting sculptress, Camille Claudel. I took the biography of Claudel with me and walked until I found an unoccupied alcove. I treaded lightly so as not to disturb others as I passed.

I sat at my writing desk, removed my coat and scarf, and placing the book down, took a good look around me. The beauty of it all, the cozy lighting, the endless books, engaging sculptures, all the old world charm would make any book lover feel at home. I turned to study the titles that framed my alcove and found what I’d been thinking about the week prior. I have it as a life goal to visit the UK. I’d been hearing about one area in particular, running it over in my mind. Now, dear readers, I can swear to you that I did not choose to sit in a spot devoted to books on Scotland, but then, that’s hardly the most curious thing I may ask you to believe about my time in that desk.

I laid out my small notebook and pen, choosing to jot down some notes for this piece after reading the book on Claudel for awhile. I was looking across at others in their desks on the other side of the Athenaeum, all of us under the same tender spell that comes of a romance with words. The intoxicating quiet was not to last. I heard heavy footsteps and imagined other impassioned readers tramping through the narrow passageways along the map lines of their own odysseys. The passageways run behind each alcove, so I wasn’t facing the sound. Again, the sound came, yet this time, into my alcove. I admit I was selfish about my embracing space, and, though errant readers had every right to the books on the shelves surrounding me, I was a bit cross about my meditative space being encroached upon. I waited. The footsteps came up behind my chair. Ha! I grinned because I then knew it had to be one of my party sneaking up on me to give me a pre-Halloween jolt. I’d get the better of them. I whipped around about to say something and saw no one.

Considering the layout and the nearness of everything, I knew my ears could be misleading me. There were people going back and forth time to time along the floors behind me and this was a case of oversensitive senses. Back to writing. Again, loud steps over my shoulder. I thought it was like a game to turn fast enough to see who was walking past and catch myself in this silliness. I’d not only turn around this time, I’d listen for the footsteps leaving and going onto another alcove. I used to love reading mysteries when I was little and using reason to foster explanations. Faster this time. No one. Nothing. No retreating steps. I thought it strange, but not overly so. I stayed and wrote a bit more, then gathered up my things. I’d felt comfortable in the alcove. Content. It wouldn’t be until about a week later when I would Google the building and read three articles discussing it supposedly being haunted with one of the trademarks being heavy footsteps in the alcoves on the second floor. At least I didn’t see the moving books that were mentioned.

I did, however, get to see early architectural plans for the building laid out in another alcove before going down to the main level and taking the stairs to the lower level to rejoin my group. I was enchanted not in spite of, but perhaps because of the peculiarities. There’s a streak of gray sky in the blood of any born New Englander. We like things a little interesting.

Descending from the upper tier to the main level, down the wooden staircase to the floor below, I was met with a portrait of Washington. He presides over the reading room. His open, outstretched hand appears to gesture toward a quill, books, and a scroll in the painting. It reminded me of the power of words to forge a nation and influence the future. Timely, no? Thank you, George, I thought as I stopped to note my impressions. We writers must always be cognizant of the privilege and responsibility of our vocation. Words are wonderful and formidable things. So too, should public speakers/figures remain aware of this privilege and responsibility to use words well. Come November, “the people” will have spoken, but whatever the outcome, as it always has around the world, it falls to the writers and artists of every age to help shape the times, represent the human condition, and give voice to the unheard.

Scanning the shelves, I looked for a volume to take with me to the table where I’d rejoin my family and swap experiences. White letters on a black spine sparked recognition. Poe. Ah. There you are. I’d hoped to see his signature on display, yet was informed that due to the condition of the documents, it had to be retired a few years ago. I was promised a look at photographs and copies before leaving, but I was intent on finding something particular to him during my visit. Finding a place at the table, following some conversation, I opened what was a book of his critical essays. The page I opened to had a quote that made me think he’d been watching the recent political campaigns and televised debates. It read as an eloquent admonishment, but reinforced the heart of liberty. I doubt if there’s anyone, living or deceased, that doesn’t have something to say about all this, but the sheer chance of opening to that page made it feel as though there was a discussion going on.

The discussion must have continued itself in my thoughts as I drifted off on my own again to explore. There was an open door leading to an elegant space empty spare for the books on the shelves, some stacked chairs toward the back, a few low tables toward the front, and my solitary presence. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be in there; there had been an event earlier and it was now emptied, significantly cooler than the other rooms. A few fellow bibliophiles peaked in the doorway, but seeing no one but the pacing young woman madly scribbling in her notebook, they left.

There was what I recall to have been early literature from countries and cultures across the globe, those at peace, those in conflict, all neatly standing together. It caused me to reflect on how our forms of expression, our universal experiences, emotions, qualities, unite us, and how these similarities and shared influences are easily seen in ancient texts. There is a oneness we are quick to forget, but walk into a library and it’s all there on display within a room, upon a shelf. There is a peaceful simplicity in this; would that it could extend outward into the overtended fields of belief where complexity is sown. Yet that is what these sacred places are for; we can find the sunlight inside a library on a dark day.

With internal inquires of a more personal nature, I was drawn to the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke; a bilingual edition translated by Edward Snow. I transcribed what I opened to by hand, relishing the experience of pen to paper vs. the highly efficient yet less stimulating typing or copy/paste of computer notes. The hand-eye movement of such a task involves the cerebral cortex that includes sensory associations and, as recent studies suggest, long-term memory. A reason why a number of writers still write by hand. What I found was this:

Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape
and the little churchyard with its lamenting names
and the terrible reticent gorge in which the others
end: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lay ourselves down again and again
among the flowers, and look up into the sky. —“Again and again, even though we know love’s landscape” from Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Translation copyright © 1996 by Edward Snow.

Yes, toward it we venture “again and again, even though we know love’s landscape.” This would be all the more meaningful when I later read about the Athenaeum’s own love story.

Not getting ahead of myself, however, I want to include what I felt before leaving the reading room at closing time. I exited the side room, asked questions of staff about exhibits, and returned to the table where I and my family started to gather up our things as it was announced that the library would be closing shortly. There, in the silver light coming through the large, stately windows, was a hypnotic pull that told me not to head upstairs just yet. I followed no more than a feeling to a corner, quite sure that somewhere behind the chair and lamp, there would be something of significance. I put out my hand, closed my eyes, and touched the nearest book I could reach. Frost.

Suddenly I was eleven years old in my elementary school library. I remember the dark wood, the exact place on which shelf from which I first drew forth the work of Robert Frost. The book was yellow ochre in hue and its title poem, “The Road Not Taken” would be a kind of life guide in later years or a hint of paths I’d make and “that has made all the difference.” I was an avid reader from an early age, but it was that day that I fell deeply in love with poetry, understanding just how it could understand me.

My day was ending by bringing me back to a beginning. I felt as though I’d visited with near and dear friends, words restoring and rejuvenating me down to my core.

Only one thing further I desired before I left the Athenaeum.

I went to the front desk and asked to see Poe’s signature. A binder was brought out with photographs and copies of what Poe had signed, what he had read, and a poem of significance to his relationship with Ms. Whitman. I lingered over it all for a time and reluctantly relinquished it as the building had very nearly emptied. I joined my family outside and spare for the warm memory of the visit, thought my adventure of the day to be through.

It was later as I read more about the building, the courtship between Poe and Whitman, and re-read the text of the poem I’d glimpsed in the binder, that the significance settled in.

Edgar Allan Poe first glimpsed Sarah Helen Whitman at home in her rose garden while he was out walking with a friend. Their path to love was sure but not steady. On Valentine’s Day, Whitman recited a poem she’d written in tribute to Poe at a gathering she expected him to attend, unaware that he had not been invited. He learned of the poem and responded in kind, yet did so anonymously, referencing the day he saw her in her garden. They would officially meet some time later and these meetings culminated in a graveyard marriage proposal. The engagement was discouraged, particularly by those close to Whitman. She wrote to express said doubts, but love letters and visitations cemented the bond. They spent time in the Athenaeum where Whitman frequently was found in a literary capacity. She mentioned a poem entitled “Ulalume” to Poe and he revealed himself as the author, signing it for her.

Still bearing past grief, there was a supposed suicide attempt on the part of Poe and some sources indicate that Whitman was by his side in recovery. Two days prior to their planned Christmas day wedding, the pair was nestled in an alcove of the Athenaeum. A messenger arrived with a letter that so disturbed Whitman, that she fled the building, calling off the wedding. The letter informed her that Poe had broken significant promises concerning sobriety and detailed his infractions. According to the Athenaeum history, she induced herself into a faint at her home, despite Poe’s efforts at consolation, and whispered the words “I love you,” before losing consciousness. They would not meet again. Less than ten months later, Poe died in Baltimore. Whitman remained true, continuing to defend Poe and his work for the remaining decades of her life.

Within the haunting legends, some say it is Poe himself that returns to the Athenaeum and walks the upstairs floors in the alcoves. Though I am at a loss as to explain my curious experience of footsteps heard without a clear owner, I would not dare to presume the honor of such a visit, but instead acknowledge the romantic in me that aches over their broken union. In re-reading “Ulalume” in “lonesome October,” I had a thought that the piece might have had another unintentional meaning.

It was published in December of 1847 and their discord occurred in December of 1848. The poem speaks about the significance of a year later, the same month (in the poem, as referenced above, October is the month). This is by no means any kind of complete or even slightly formal analysis, but just a notion of it being a kind of eerie foreshadowing. The meaning of the piece has been extensively debated. Though I know about what literal grief it could refer to given the loss of his wife, Virginia, I wonder if it is not so much about death, as it is about his relationship to love—a relationship marked by loss, but one, as with Rilke’s poem, that “again and again” is revisited with hope though we know “love’s landscape.”

The speaker talks of “beauty,” “hope,” “love in her luminous eyes,” and tries to comfort the misgivings of the soul, personified as Psyche. It would read as though trying for love again, yet his soul knowing it would not end well and that there would be loss as there was before, a pattern in his life, but of a different nature this time; this time, meeting his own end. The allusions to the “sinfully scintillant planet” Venus speak of trouble. It is interesting that Psyche is involved to represent his soul, because in certain versions of the myth, Venus, feeling provoked, sought to throw obstacles in the way of the union of her son, Cupid and Psyche, and it was said that Poe felt Whitman’s mother largely to blame for the downturn of their relationship. The poem speaks of what was “written” as the realization of tragedy occurs and it was with a letter that the engagement was dissolved.

Perhaps an unlikely theory, but it has to do with Poe after all, and the poem remains a mystery.

What I can say for certain is that my visit to the Athenaeum reflects the very nature of my love for literature and my native New England roots. It fitted itself to me, snug and warm, a black velvet embrace. It is a place that has a capacity to fill all the unnamed hollow spaces that get worn through in the wear and tear of everyday life. I understand why it fed the souls of the literary and why it is ageless. I know why it was called “holy” and as an ardent pilgrim, I will return there to pray, book placed between open palms.


Link for further info: https://providenceathenaeum.org/     


Artist Bio (for image above article):

Karen Burene is a self-taught artist living in southeast
Michigan. Her favorite genres are mixed media and
"altered" art but she also works with polymer clay,
digital art, and has recently taken an interest in making
jewelry. She drew from her early experiences in art class
at school, working with paper, cardboard, markers, and
glue.


Burene likes to incorporate items that would normally
be thrown away into her artwork—small pieces of lace,
ribbon, string, wire, cardboard from boxes, and any
other kind of found object might work. Her piece "Alice
in Wonderland" appeared in Somerset Studio Gallery
magazine Winter 2012.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

For the Glory of the Game

We received these poems from one of our regular contributors about a beloved pastime of our nation, and thought to do a summer feature about this game that inspires, that unifies—and in its essence, captured by imaginative minds in poetry, literature, and film, reflects the very heart of those who love it most.
 
Before we direct you to this tribute, placing you in the poetic hands of long-time WPWT contributor, Michael Ceraolo, we celebrate another unifying, shared love on this dynamic Fourth of July weekend as we report the "stats" of our magazine (debuted July 3rd, 2008). We've published 29 issues, over 338 contributing writers, 47+ interviews, 40+ artists/photographers, and have built countless incredible friendships along the way. We are a product of every person, every culture, and nation that has brought their profound literary and artistic meaning to our community. We celebrate our freedom to have created a publication that brings people together, moves readers, and cares deeply. We are a happy, harmonious melting pot, like our native land, yet honor all that makes our various facets and voices distinct. You've made a simple idea a home run and continue to do so just by joining us in the seasons of our growth. For this, we extend our deepest gratitude and want you to know we are very much your fans, too.
 
Baseball's origins are thought to stem from a mix of European influences and 18th and 19th century evolutions in New England and New York. It was a game that broke barriers, fostered devotion and connection across generations. The country, many of her families, grew alongside this game. When the Red Sox broke the "curse" in 2004, my family brought pennants and newspaper clippings to put on the graves of loved ones who didn't get to see the legacy they believed, rightly, would come to pass for their favorite team. There are lessons about love enduring, unconditional devotion, faith and more to be garnered from this game—according to some, it teaches philosophy, to others, aspects of theology, but beyond the sheer enjoyment it gives to many, it is about the exhilarating feel for the glory of the game and who you share the experience with.       

Poet Commentary: "Baseball has been important to me for a long time and in many ways. Figuring out batting averages, slugging percentages, and earned-run averages were great training in multiplication and division that has served me well. "Casey at the Bat" was probably the first adult poem I enjoyed. Baseball fandom has been an area of common ground with others, including family, when there was precious little common ground. I have always preferred to listen to games on the radio, and the broadcasts have served as the soundtrack of summer for me. I have always tried to picture past scenes and seasons as I've read about them, and naturally have imagined what baseball might be like in the future, including the far future long after I've ceased to be around. These three poems are part of a longer work where I've imagined how baseball might be in the future. Some of the things I've imagined are changes I approve of, while others are things I imagine could happen that I don't approve of. But don't expect me to say which changes fall into which category!"

Poetry by Michael Ceraolo


Retro Rule #1

It was never a part of baseball proper,
                                                      though
it had been a part of one of
the game's many ancestors:
the practice of soaking or plugging,
                                                   where
the batter or other baserunner could be retired
by being hit by a thrown ball
before reaching base

The Lords of the Realm,
seeing the increasing popularity
of football and other blood/combat sports
during the twenty-first century (Common Era),
made the bold reactionary move
and decided to bring back the practice
as a way to increase attendance,
                                                 forbidding
only the hitting of the runner in the head
And in a nice turnabout given
all the idioms borrowed from baseball,
they took a term from football
                                            (and
one that was a penalty to boot):
targeting
                Henceforth,
                                  a player
who successfully put out a baserunner this way
would be credited with a target
instead of a putout or assist


Retro Rule #2

The most eternal thing about the game
was the delicate balance between offense and defense,
especially as how that affected spectatorship
(it also affected how they promoted the game
as well as how much they paid the players,
but those were tied to spectatorship
in whatever medium)
                                Too little scoring,
and the fans stayed away,
                                       perceiving
the game to be boring;
                                 too much scoring,
and the fans stayed away because
of the game's interminable length
As the Second Deadball Era extended
to several decades in the third millennium
the Lords returned to the roots of the game
and banned gloves for the fielders
(players were allowed to wear gloves
for the protection of their hands,
                                               but
no pockets in which to catch a ball were allowed
First basemen and catchers who received
speedy throws were exceptions to the rule,
                                                               and
because of their proximity to batted balls,
pitchers were allowed the option of wearing
a glove with their mask and pads,
though nothing was mandated either way for them


Retro Rule #3

A third reversion, or retro rule change,
also had to do with bringing in more offense,
                                                                but
it was much more esoteric
than the first two reversions:
the return of the fair/foul basehit,
                                                where
a ball that hit in fair territory
but went into foul territory
before passing first of third base
was again considered a fair ball
                                                Because
the bunt had become almost a lost art,
at first the rule change had little effect,
                                                         rewarding
mostly fluky cue shots off the end of the bat
Soon enough though,
                                some proficient bunters
brought a modicum of offense back to the game
and were able to make a good living
and please the ghost of Ross Barnes

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Talking Through the Trees with Tracy Chevalier



Tracy Chevalier Interview
Cover image of At the Edge of the Orchard; http://www.tchevalier.com/
 
 
At the Edge of the Orchard (release date March 15th, 2016) is the latest novel from Tracy Chevalier, the NYT best-selling author of Girl with a Pearl Earring. Within this settler saga set amidst the juxtaposition of opportunity and struggle in the mid-nineteenth century, the quests for survival, growth, and flourishing in unforgiving and foreign landscapes, belong as much to the varieties of trees as they do to the individuals that foster them. 
 
Like the inner rings of the trees increasing over time, there is an internal ripple effect stemming from the dire discord of James and Sadie Goodenough, coming to bear as their youngest, Robert, must finally choose a course for his own destiny.
 
Rich with cultural and mythical symbolism as an “origin fruit,” the apple beats as the heart of the story with its timeless dichotomy of sweet and sour connotations—redemption, health, eternal youth, love, knowledge, sin, death, temptation and destruction. Apple trees were one of the first specimens of trees to be actively cultivated, and over millennia, have journeyed around the world.
 
As we in our native MA interview Chevalier who resides in England but is  returning to her country of origin on a visit  for her US book tour, it seems fitting to note that the earliest apple orchard in North America was planted by British settler, Reverend William Blackstone (Blaxton) right here in Boston, MA. At the Edge of the Orchard travels across the Atlantic to take root in our hearts and minds just in time for spring.
 
Coinciding with the book’s release, we are featuring this excerpt from our interview here on Inscribing Industry, our magazine’s associated blog. Our full interview will appear in the magazine website’s spring-summer anniversary issue due out on May 22nd which celebrates eight years and eighty countries. (See magazine link following interview excerpt)
 
In the exchange below, we ponder the formative uses of adversity in nature and man, gain perspective about the power of our roots as we place ourselves along the continuum of the past, and sift truth from myth through the textual history of the unsaid. 


Interview with Tracy Chevalier by Nicole M. Bouchard


             On parallel catalysts for growth applied to nature and mankind
 
In your soon-to-be-released novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, apple trees and sequoias flourish in environments far from their native lands. There is a dedication at the beginning of the book—“For Claire and Pascale, finding their way in the world”—that could easily also speak to a number of the protagonists in your novels who come into themselves once they cross oceans, city lines or thresholds, reminiscent of your own journey toward destiny from America to England. Plants and trees require space and light to grow. People require the kind of space that delineates their identity, be it a literal distance traveled or an interior journey precipitated by change,  inviting 'light' or 'illumination' of insight. Yet, another key component of growth, is metaphorically reflected in the findings of your research for the novel that revealed how sequoias require fire to not only release their seeds but to gain access to nutrients that help them sprout and develop. Further seemingly destructive forces that benefit plant life include lightning and lava. It begs a question about the seemingly destructive agents of change that benefit us. Given the dynamic forms of change that your memorable characters encounter, the internal and societal obstacles they overcome that shape them, do you feel that in likeness to trees and plant life, that the greatest growth of an individual is achieved by “space,” “light,” and  trial by fire?

Wow, that’s a good way of putting it! I admit, when I write a book, I do it by instinct, and analysis comes after. But that makes a lot of sense. One of the fascinating things I learned about redwoods and giant sequoias, for example, is that they actually NEED forest fires—the heat makes the cones burst and the seeds disperse. Plus fires clear the undergrowth and create nutrients (such as carbon) in the soil that helps the seeds to germinate. Now that we are controlling forest fires so much more, there are fewer seedlings growing in sequoia and redwood groves. That means further down the line there may be fewer trees to replace the old ones that die off. Interesting, eh?
 
In the same way, I suppose you could say that people grow through adversity—the old adage that “Suffering builds character.” I could never write a novel about characters that just are as they are—that would be boring. At least one character has to change, to grow—usually through suffering in some way. Robert Goodenough, the protagonist of Orchard, certainly does suffer. But that is how he grows.

             Pertaining to roots
 
Whereas the question above addresses change, travel and formative growth, roots are what anchor us; roots are a constant we carry and if the rest of life is a journey, roots that we set down are ultimately a destination we choose. The next to last few sentences of At the Edge of the Orchard seem to connote the idea of patience in the quest to find one’s place in the world: "Seeds could keep for a long time. All they needed was the right place to take root." Ella Turner of The Virgin Blue discovers the right place to take root when she returns to and embraces her original French roots. The story was inspired by your own family’s reunion and familial lore about fleeing religious persecution in the 16th century. You discuss on your website the concept of the stories, the “hopes and tragedies and obsessions” that are carried as emotional baggage along with the literal in moving place to place over the centuries. In terms of emotional inheritances, how do you believe one should go about embracing and learning from their roots while not being held by the heaviness of them so there is choice in where new roots are set down (as with Robert Goodenough in Orchard)?

I think our relationship to the past is always tricky. As you say, you want to know about it, learn from it, but not be weighed down by it. I do think that gaining an understanding of the past is crucial to becoming a more rounded person. It makes you place yourself along a continuum, and you become less self-centered once you realize you are just a speck along that line. It’s humbling, but it’s also freeing, because it’s not all about you! Once you step away from being the main actor in the play, you naturally lighten and can enjoy everything around you so much more.

•             Human truths in historical fiction
 
You’ve discussed wanting to include a more realistic, true-to-life portrayal of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) in Orchard after learning what lay beyond the commonly accepted myths of him. Michael Hirst (writer/producer of the Tudors series and writer for the film Elizabeth) shared in our 2010 interview his process of expressing the multi-dimensional humanity of historical figures, and how he ultimately found his Queen Elizabeth when he discovered the part of her that had not been portrayed, the unknown image of a young, vulnerable girl before the iconic queen all in white was painted with every previous portrait destroyed. He said, “I don’t choose subjects—they choose me.” A life-size portrait of Henry VIII taken from the set of Elizabeth resided in his office before he knew he would do The Tudors. In a similarly serendipitous vein, you came upon Nicholas Tournier’s work while writing Virgin Blue, his work fitting your story prior to your discovery of him. In your TED talk “Finding the Story Inside the Painting” you discuss the framework of what’s said in fact and what remains unsaid, our quest to fill in the answers/gap. Do you find that it is the historical fiction writer’s task to share their human interpretations of historical figures, attempting to use fiction to get closer to the unsaid, unspoken emotional/psychological truths—and, in the words of French New Wave cinematographer Robert Bresson,  to “make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen”?

Yes, exactly that—I couldn’t have said it better myself! I love using historical figures to “anchor” my books, but I always look for the gaps and silences or the curiosities in a biography, and see if I can fill those gaps or tease out those curiosities. I probably never would have written Girl with a Pearl Earring if we had known loads about Vermeer. But the very sparsity of biographical detail (including who any of the people in his paintings were) made him much more tempting.
 
As for Johnny Appleseed: well, his story of spreading the healthy joy of growing and eating apples always seemed a little too good to be true to me, even as a child. Though I was pleased to hear that he did indeed go barefoot and wear a tin pot for a hat, I also loved the fact that he was quite a shrewd businessman, anticipating where settlers would go next and being there to sell them apple trees. He was also a Swedenborgian, one of life’s strange religious sects, and he plowed his profits back into spreading the word. Best of all, the trees he sold usually produced sour apples only good for making alcohol. He wasn’t spreading healthy eating, he was giving people the means to get drunk so they could get through their hard-scrabble lives. The truth is always more interesting than the myth!
 
Join us at The Write Place at the Write Time (www.thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org) for our spring-summer anniversary issue due out May 22nd to read the full interview!