Tuesday, December 11, 2007

At the Eugene Library's Author and Art Fair last weekend, the artist sitting next to me introduced me to a local literary magazine I hadn't discovered on my own, Groundwaters. The description provided in the introduction includes, "Groundwaters is a grassroots, community-oriented literary quarterly which serves the West Lane area and all it's connections."

I read the copy handed me by editor Judy Hays-Eberts from cover to cover. Every contribution was exceptional. What a gift to contributing writers and artists in all genres and of all ages and what a monumental treasure for the communities in West Lane County.
www.Jo-Brew.com www.something-brewing.com http://Groundwaters.org

Monday, November 12, 2007

An abolute treat and potent inspiraion, I've just enjoyed a video interview with Velda Brotherton, fellow member of Women Writing The West. Velda reminds us of the importance of our past in understanding our own lives as she interviews older residents of the Ozark communities that were the center of life and are now disappearing.
Velda's ability to make us feel like we're sitting next to her in a porch chair to visit makes the presentation spellbinding. Her newest book of essays and the basis for the interview is "Wandering In The Shadows of Time: An Ozarks Odyssey." To see the video interview, go to http://vimeo.com/354804 or to learn more about Velda and her other work, visit www.veldabrotherton.com/ http://veldabrotherton.blogspot.com womenwritingthewest.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Living With Football Fever
On a sunshiny fall Saturday, I'm free to choose any activity I'd like. It's football season and I've passed my ticket to a grandson as passionate about the game as his grandfather. Those two will spend most of the day on crowded and noisy bleachers while I'm open to the world.
My choices, or at least the ones I consider, aren't earthshaking options but unobligated time doesn't often present itself. This beautiful day, I chose to spend time in the yard, removing spent plants and raking leaves. The neighborhood was quieter than usual. I imagine the few neighbors who were home were inside, watching the game or relaxing in some fashion. A few bicyclists rode by and several couples walking toward the nearby coffee shop. A weekend break that let me find a peaceful place in myself.
When the chill began, I moved in to read awhile, then work on the novel I have underway with a freshened viewpoint. I don't mind the frenzy of football season at all.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

After a cold, rainy week of paperwork and business, I needed rejuvenation and found a willing co- escapee in my husband.

On a three day trip that began on my birthday, we spent one day in the central, southern part of our state. We rode our bikes on the banks of the Rogue River and listened to it's song. We lounged in warm sunshine and watched the tiny birds flit in and through the trees. The drive down had been through tan grasses with hay already cut and green pastures with sheep or cattle grazing. We could see snow capped Mt. Mc Loughlin in the distance but only blue skies above us. A breath of summer still.

The second day, a drive through the farm country and through the fir forests, past Crater Lake and into the pine forests of central Oregon took us into another world. The ground covered with pine needles and cones gave a brown floor to this world. Even the shrubs were leafless. A different kind of beauty. We hiked along the Deschutes River and through a burned forest barely coming back to life with young trees not yet knee high. The scampering chipmunks ignored us as we passed.

A third day in Sisters, an old mountain town turned tourist attraction, a collection of fascinating shops and galleries kept us wandering the streets. The song of the town was the birds bringing fruited apple trees to life. The cold moved in, brought by wind and sent us to shelter by late afternoon. That was a wind that huffed and puffed most of the night, making sure we knew it's force.

In the still quiet of morning, we headed down the mountain to a home that would be welcoming even after so short a time away. This drive was through a wonderland of pink, red, and wine vine maple nestled among the pine trees. Above the trees the snow capped trio of mountains, the Three Sisters, drew our eyes and we caught glimpses of lakes through the trees. As we crossed the summit of the pass, the trees became the dark green of fir, the bright yellow of birches splattered here and there and the tan of the spent ferns covering the forest floor. The laughing river we followed down the mountain was the Mc Kenzie, the prettiest we'd seen on our brief escape. The rain began, shining the orange and russet of the roadside shrubbery at the lower altitude.

With last weeks worries and pressures erased by all I'd seen, heard, and experienced, I came back to my life dazed by love for this incredibly beautiful place I live.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Something Brewing and "Marge, Back On Track"

This week I'm launching the new website for my monthly Something Brewing newsletter and announcing the release of my newest novel, "Marge, Back On Track."
Marge is the second of the series about contemporary women at retirement as they find their own paths to move forward. For more information, visit my website at www.Jo-Brew.com
Until now the full Something Brewing newsletter has only been available in print so this is a big leap forward. Drop by and take a look. http://www.something-brewing.com/


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Shortcuts Aren't The Whole Answer-- Reality Check
One of those little fill in articles in a national newspaper caught my attention on an afternoon away from the computer. The subject of the piece was text messaging between teen age and tween age students and how it is carrying over into classroom work. The point of discussion was that the simple sentences and phrases of the shortcut text don't let the message sender express the deeper thoughts they will need on the job or in college.

My interest didn't focus on agreement or disagreement. I zeroed in on the list of meanings for the texts I seem to get in e mail messages, even from fellow authors.

What a wake up call. The simple LOL I thought meant Lots of Love, that left me feeling warm and fuzzy, really means Laugh Out Loud. I guess I have a few messages I'll review and maybe take off my good friends list.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two special project I'm supposed to be working on have me stumped. It's as close as I've come to the mysterious "writers block" I've heard so much about. I have no idea what I want to write.

I'm into the third day of trying to fix the problem and I've tried all the usual tricks to clear my thoughts, spent hours in the garden and read half the books in my summer stack. The first was Child of Light by Diane Bentley Baker, a fascinating journed of a time traveler on the ancient silk road. I loved the two novels by Jennie Shortridge: Riding With The Queen and Eating Heaven. I sat on pins and needles while I read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and now I'm involved in non fiction, The Wicked West--Boozers, Cruisers, Gamblers, and More by Sherry Monahan.

Only the barest twinkling of light on my writing dilemma but I'm having a lot of pleasure getting there.
www.Jo-Brew.com www.womenwritingthewest www.thecreswellchronicle womenwritingthewest.blogspot.com

Saturday, August 11, 2007

From the belief that family stories can help us understand who we are and that the understanding improves our writing, I decided to try writng the few family stories that were passed down to me.

One grandma, on my mother's side of the family, was of Danish descent. A woman who carried herself with pride, wore well ironed dresses and aprons with a ruffle trimmed in rick rack. She smelled good, seldom gave hugs and rarely smiled. I'm sure she believed in the adage, children should be seen and not heard, because she seldom actually talked to us.

Still we knew she was fond of us. She was available for baby sitting when we were young and always sent a Christmas box filled with all sorts of small treats and treasures wrapped in tissue paper. Sometimes she sewed for me so I might also have a new dress, or one remade from a cousin's contribution.

I never saw her in an emotional outburst myself. About the time I was in first grade, my brother and myself went to Colorado on the train to spend the summer with her and grandpa since my mother, in California,was working. During the visit, I slipped her good sewing scissors outside without her knowledge. Before long I experimented by trying to peel one of the potatoes I found stored in the separate garage. One slip and a blade went through my thumb. When I went in the back door for help with the bleeding, she turned and saw me, "Stay right there. Don't get blood all over the floor." I stopped and she came to help but her calm was the biggest help of all.

Once, when I was older and riding across town with my parents after a Sunday visit, I overheard my mother tell my father that grandma had gotten so angry at grandpa and his fascination with their new television, she'd gone in the bedroom, shut the door and thrown her shoes at the door. I was surprised and shocked. I hadn't known adults could get that angry.

I was particularly fond of my grandfather. He seemed to like us and would take us for walks or sit on the porch and sing for us. "Hello Central, Give me Heaven,"Two Little Girls in Blue," and "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More," were favorites. Once in awhile he could be persuaded to play his harmonica. A man full of music he seldom got to express.

As I grew older and began to think romantic thoughts, I asked Grandma about their meeting. She told me she had been raised on a farm where she had to help with the heavy labor as there weren't any boys to do it. She was determined not to marry a farmer so she went into the city, Pueblo, and found a job working as a household helper for a well-to- do family. That family was fond of her and taught her about manners and ladylike behavior.

When an acquaintance introduced her to a handsome young railroad man, she was interested and welcomed his courtship. Later, he was sent across the border into New Mexico as foreman on a crew, the contact continued by mail. The time came when she had to choose between making the journey to visit Europe with the family she worked for or her beau. They decided to marry.

Her father took her to the train station in Pueblo to make the trip south to join her future husband. The train was late. When she arrived in Raton, it was too late for a wedding. Grandpa had to pay for a hotel room for her and find a place to bunk for himself. They married the next day and set up housekeeping in Railroad housing on the outskirts of town.

Although they moved frequently, their life seemed fairly stable until the railroad workers went on strike. Grandpa wouldn't have needed to go out but he sympathized
with the strikers and went anyhow. That choice went against grandma's wishes since she had two daughters to care for and would lose the railroad housing in addition to the income from the job. They did find a place in Pueblo but eventually had to put groceries on the book, a credit account.

When Grandpa did get work in a lesser position at a different railroad, Grandma skrimped and saved until the grocery bill was paid off. Later, even that job was lost as the country moved into the depression. Grandma baby sat for me until my parents moved to California and Grandpa got on with the WPA.

When the project he was working on, a beautiful brick school, was finished, they too moved to California. He and my father combined all their resources and bought a truck, begining a furniture delivery business that serviced both the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Wards stores. The start of World War Two finished that effort but the railroads were in desperate need of workers. Even though Grandpa was older than they usually hired, he was able to get a job and finished the requirments to earn his retirement.

The next part of the story is from grandma and undoubtably true. She claimed that she thought he was a gum chewer until they were married and was shocked and furious to find he chewed tobacco.

When she told me, the dislike of the coffee can spitoons hidden under the couch, disgust at the smell, and anger that he'd never quit were still there. She'd warned him not to hug his daughters or us, never to get close. His habit made him repulsive.

It wasn't until years later, when she'd passed away and he'd been alone and lonely for more than ten years, that I really thought a lot about their story and all it implied. They had been married more than fifty years, been through strikes and the depression, raised two children, cared about three grandchildren, and met three of their great grandchildren all while she was still furious with him for chewing and he'd never quit. It's hard for me to imagine; her, living with all that cold anger, and him, a man starved for affection and joy who didn't give up the tobacco. A waste for both.
www.Jo-Brew.com www.thecreswellchronicle.com www.womenwriting the west.com

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Place

With rationed time, I limit the blog spots I visit but several comments by other authors drew my attention to the Love of Place blog. As I read the essays and notes about the influence of place on our lives and writing, I knew I needed to give more attention to the place I call home.

For all the years I can remember, I've been a restless sort, pacing up and down the west coast of our country, never straying too far from the middle.

Time has fine tuned my comfort level to the point where my center of gravity is limited to an area about a hundred miles in diameter, right in the middle of Oregon. To the north are the business centers and cities, to the south, the farms, forests, mountains, lakes and mountain towns of southern Oregon and northern California. With the Pacific Ocean an hour to the west of my home and the Cascade Mountains an hour to the east, I live in a valley with a moderated climate. Perfect for an active life style and outdoor activities. Life here doesn't stop for the winter and we don't need to leave in search of a comfortable summer temperature. The morning exercise walk and bike rides happen all year, only the wraps change.

Calls of the crows, blue jays and the scolding chatter of a squirrel wake me in the morning but the low voiced gossiping of the junkos hidden in the shrubs goes on all day. Any time I drive to the mall, or in any direction but to the city center, I count the day as lost if I don't spot a great blue heron, or two.

In my soul, the truly special feature of my place is the rushing river that passes through the town. I drive over it to go anywhere east of my home, again if I visit grandchildren to the north of us. I park where I can see the river when I go in or out of the mall to shop and I walk or ride my bike on the path beside the river as often as I can. If I'm upset or angry, a visit to the river bank calms me enough to let me function.

From a place lacking violent storms, deep freezes or baking heat, it's clear to me why my written thoughts are not based on fantasy or high drama. They are not experiences of the hero or the villian. Extremes of human behavior seldom happen in an environment of calm. My writings are the stuff of life in the middle, where most of us live, work, grow, love, and die.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

A week ago, on a cloudy and chilly day that was one of a long series, we headed south in search of sunshine and an interesting break in our routine. We planned to head toward San Francisco in a circle including the wine country of northern California and the smaller towns along the coast.

This visit to the fabled city turned out to be one of our most interesting in spite of fog and a cool breeze. We took a lengthy tour with a knowledgeable guide, a brave and confident driver, and saw parts of San Francisco we'd only read about as well as sampling the usual tourist treats. Between the visit to Nob Hill and Golden Gate Park for tea at the Japanese Garden, we drove through the Presedio to admire the renovations,visited the Lincoln Park Municipal Golf Course (formerly the Chinese Cemetary), the Cliff House, the remains of the Sutro Gardens and took a walking tour through the alleys of China Town. The step into a different world at the Fortune Cookie Factory gave me the only San Francisco souvenir I brought home.

We located our favorite sourdough bakery for lunch with dessert at Ghirardelli but skipped the Sea Lion viewing, we have our own share of problems with those robber barons. This was our first time to walk on the Golden Gate Bridge and feel the vibration. I didn't go very far, that's not a sensation I like a lot, even on our local overpass.

We came home with a lot of new memories to absorb, reassured that the Oregon Coast is more user friendly than the northern California coast, and a list of things to see and do the next time we drive over the Golden Gate.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Last Night, as a member of Willamette Writers, I had an opportunity to be one of many in a short workshop on Marketing Your Creative Work with Melissa Reardon, author and artist. The presentation appealed because Ms. Reardon covered the nitty gritty elements of planning and marketing in a gentile way. No circus performance required. I came home with several new ideas I can put to use and a copy of her workbook, Marketing Your Creative Work. The workbook is available on her website www.earthdharma.com.


Friday, April 27, 2007

My reading of my latest novel, What Next, Ms Elliott?, this week went wonderfully well. The listeners were involved in the snippet of the story I presented and eager to go on. The turn out filled the small room, some attendees had read my books and made complementary remarks. My hostess was pleased and I was thrilled at the response. A project well worth doing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

At noon on Tuesday, April 24, I will be reading from What Next, Ms. Elliott?, at the Solvang Retirement Center, 1202 Jacobs Dr., just off Hwy 99 in North Eugene.
I will be the first speaker in their Brown Bag Lunch Series. The event is free and includes lunch. To register, call Elizabeth at 541 641 0490

Friday, March 30, 2007

Finding Clarice by Jo-Brew exerpt
Chapter 4

The bright sunlight woke Clarice early but she closed her eyes and snuggled into the warmth of the bed. She lay half awake and realized she felt wonderful, full of anticipation. She stretched and discovered the longish soak in the hot bath last night had done a lot to avoid stiffness. In spite of the coziness of the bed, she had no desire to linger once she'd reached awareness. She wanted to be up and active. She threw the covers back and felt for her slippers with her bare feet. She located them, stood and stretched again, as tall as she could.

She marveled at the change from her usual morning blues. The fear of a seriously damaged career wasn't her first waking thought. The boredom of the recovery routine hadn't kept her weighted down in the bed. It was a promising morning.

She began her regular recovery routine with her stretching exercises and then poured her juice. While she swallowed pills and drank, she stood at the east facing window and soaked up sunshine. She admitted to herself, the excitement she was feeling was because Ray would call, probably soon.

Before she'd had time to savor the anticipation, the phone rang. Her "Hello?" was followed by a short silence.

"I'd forgotten your voice could sound so husky. Good morning. I hope you were up." Ray explained, "I didn't want to wait."


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

With the return of rain to bring me out of the garden, I went to my stack of unread books to choose one for an evening's entertainment. The treasure I picked was Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas. Set during the civil war, it is a dramatic story of relationships between women, survival and strength while the men were gone. Quilts and the importance of quilting as artistic expression, entry into a community of women and as a source of warmth for the men fighting the war provided the framework for the story. The history of many classic patterns and quilting itself was provided separately so as not to distract from the story. A skillfull writer
developed an engrossing story. www.Jo-Brew.com

Thursday, March 01, 2007

After hearing Anne Lamott's book, Bird by Bird, recommended everywhere writers meet to talk, I picked up a copy. Not fiction but a revelation of the writer's life. The last chapter, in particular, reminded me of just why I keep writing. Good inspiration.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Knowing that March is women in History month, I decided it was the perfect time to read FOUNDING MOTHERS by Cokie Roberts. The excerpts from the letters of Deborah Franklin, Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Martha Washington and others I'd never known of caused me to think deeply about the difficulties those women faced. Not only did they raise families, bury children who didn't live, run businesses and maintain households alone while their husbands built a country, they did it when they had no right to own anything of their own nor have a voice in major decisions.
Reading the stories of the remarkable women of that time and place, my respect grew with my knowledge. They made major contributions to the formation of this country, to their families and to our future. They grew and thrived in spite of restricted lives and what was dished up on their plates.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My walk this morning was cold with crunchy frost on the path, I hurried. On my way back in the house, I closed the garage door and locked it from the inside before I took a minute to walk across the almost empty space. I lifted the corner of the old bedspread for a quick look at my secret The thrill surged through me again. The shiny bicycle is there...waiting.
For the most part, I'm not a big fan of things mechanical With a sense of resentment, I use the technology to make my life easier but I walk away from the more complicated. I prefer my manual can opener to an electric, but I depend on the microwave, computer and car.
The bicycle is different. My first gave me freedom, almost freedom to fly as I explored the city, the orange groves, the near desert on the outskirts and the parks where I honed and tested my riding skills.
My new Sun Cruiser is almost the same bike-built a lifetime later. It has fat tires, wide handlebars, three speeds and brakes that work when you push the pedal backward. Even the bell is the standard ringer that sounds ting-a-ling when you press the handle. This bike spends more time parked under cover than the first.
Commitments I've taken on as an adult keep us both more grounded. I'm not as brave either. It takes more effort to get on the bike now, more space to make a turn and I'm sure I'd break easier if I happened to fall. Those thoughts aren't enough to squelch my interest in an adventure nor the desire to fly again but they do limit the places and time I bring the beautiful cruiser out for a spin. Spring is on the way.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

In keeping with beginning a new year, I've taken down the trappings of Christmas and packed it all away, or tried to. The memories aren't packed and there will be a few unnoticed shiny reminders that show up unexpectedly over the next few weeks to bring back flashes of good times.
Christmas week, we drove north on the old Hwy 99 from Eugene to to Corvallis for an afternoon concert and to deliver grandchildren gifts. We've made the winter trip often and have occasionally seen the wild swans visiting from the north settled in the fields. never as many or as near to the road as on this trip. South of Junction City, I was thrilled to be able to see the large flock close enough to watch as they moved around. I could even see some were muddy. Impressive, beautiful birds and a very special sighting for me.
That drive north, the middle school performance, a visit with excited young people, and the drive back, after dark, through a countryside brought to life by the lighted farmhouses scattered along the road, was the real beginning of our season. We added cheerful family gatherings, time and greetings from good friends, lots of music and immense love. A wonderful way to end a year and take the beginning steps into a new one.
Now my web page has been updated with a new essay and a partial listing of upcoming events. A couple are readings of What Next, Ms. Elliott? Another pair are workshops, Wade into Writing, greared toward beginning writers of any age. That's a new project I'd like to go farther with. I've written new columns for the Creswell Chronicle, easy to read from the link on my web page, the newspaper itself or on the Chronicle web site. Between the other writing projects and normal family life, I've been working on the next novel, Marge, Back on Track and find myself almost satisfied.
Now I'm beginning to think toward other goals. Inspiration is high on my list and not terribly difficult to search out. Next weekend, I'll be attending the Writers By the Sea workshop in Yachats where I'm hoping John Reed, novelist and instructor, will help me turn the inspiration into improved story telling skills. Possibly a new direction.
One of my important goals is to keep in touch with readers during the long spell between book publications. This blog is an experiment to see if it is on interest and if it is something I can keep up. Jo- Brew www.Jo-Brew.com