Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Witch

The White Witch of Foxhunting Country:  J.P Richardson (2015)
     On any random weekday in the early 1970’s, in the bucolic village of Unionville, Pennsylvania (outside the rolling hills of America’s prestigious foxhunting country), children could be stopped in their tracks by the random appearance of a woman known among them as the witch. This realistic apparition would pull her dented blue sedan haphazardly into Prangs, the local general store and vehemently march in to acquire her groceries. The witch had a shock of white, unkempt hair, layers of coats, a trash bag on one foot with a boot on the other, and socks which were used as mittens. Sometimes a trash bag would serve as a makeshift skirt. In the most mundane communities, there is that one enigma that mirrors our witch.
Fastidiousness and cynicism prevailed and most of children and inhabitants of the village would witness these encounters from afar.  Later, the store came to be owned by the Sestrich family and  local lore has it that Mr. Sestrich discovered a deceased dog in the lady’s trunk with a stench which had been emanating from the vehicle for weeks.  Most communities possess at least one eccentric individual and the witch was that for Unionville.  Perhaps, the story would have ended there.  In hindsight, there were many more layers to the existence of the notorious white witch of this small town.
 In all mysteries, there lies a solution and this one was exceptional.
The woman’s name was Diana Patience Reeve (1917-2006) and she was a blue blooded descendant of President Theodore Roosevelt, Abbot Lawrence Lowell - a twenty four year president of Harvard University, and Amy Lowell, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet.  Her parents, J. Stanley Reeve and Katherine Lowell Roosevelt were socialites and foxhunting royalty of the Radnor Foxhunt and Cheshire Foxhunt.  Ms. Reeve lived at Runnymede Farm; the most eminent farm in all of Chester County, PA.  Diana Reeve was herself a notable poet who published five books of poetry and traveled extensively throughout Europe. The question to ponder is how a member of such esteemed branches of American society and intellectual circles came to be notoriously known as the crazy lady of her small, charming Pennsylvania town.
Foxhunting is historically, a glamorous pastime of the wealthy in America.  Three notable hubs of this elegant ritual are Lexington, Kentucky, Middleburg, Virginia, and Unionville, Pennsylvania.  Jockeys from around the world come to these venues to participate in steeplechase races and vie for purses of great wealth. First lady, Jacqueline Kennedy frequented these pastoral settings for her horse riding expeditions.  The family of Diana Reeve were pioneers of this movement.  Where in life did Diana veer off the path of wealth and how were mental health issues dealt with in her lifetime?
To be continued:


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dan Llywelyn Hall: Beyond the Red Carpet





Amongst the throng of cameras and jostling reporters will be a SIGHT SELDOM SEEN in the 68 years of the  Cannes Film Festival:  an artist working with a pencil, sketchbook, possibly some watercolours and definitely no camera. 

A visual artist will be 'Artiste en Residence' for the duration of the festival from 13 - 24th May 2015, with accreditation for the Palais des Festivals.

The painter is 34 year old Dan Llywelyn Hall, who’s based in London.  Dan will draw and paint the 'sights and curiosities' in and around the Palais and the town of Cannes.  He will be attempting to catch the spirit and character of the most glamorous festival on earth which attracts upwards of a quarter million visitors each year.

The project entitled 'Beyond the Red Carpet' will be updated daily to thewww.dancannes.com website and will be used by magazines and newsagencies to provide a different take on the spectacle of the red carpet and beyond. The collection will then form an exhibition to tour London and Paris this time next year.


Introductory interview with artist



For advance interview requests and proposals for publishing the images during the festival please contact info@danllywelynhall.co.uk








Friday, January 16, 2015

Boyhood (film)









Time and the ambiguities of life can be exemplary subjects in modern film.  In the fictional movie, Boyhood, director Richard Linklater (Before Sunset) has filmed his actors over a twelve year period beginning in 2002. Boyhood follows the life of a young boy, Mason, beautifully portrayed by Ellar Coltrane from six years old to college age. There is an almost documentary feel to the film and audiences may note the simple realism of other notable works (About Schmidt, Election, Garden State). Mason endures changes in the home life of his single mother, Patricia Arquette, as she strives to achieve an education and maintain various love interests. Ethan Hawke vividly portrays his father who also grows monumentally throughout the movie. There is a huge sense of authenticity to the narrative which helps Linklater connect to his audience. The movie is getting exceptional accolades from critics and the Hollywood awards system and I hope everyone will watch this important piece of work. As a mother of a teenage son, the subject matter regarding a boy’s coming of age and the overall changes in life made for an exceptional viewing. In essence, we are all on a beautiful and sometimes messy journey called life.

On another note, the final song in the film, “Hero,” by the Los Angeles band, Family of the Year is one of the most eloquent and lyrical songs that I have heard in years. The guitar themes in Boyhood and this beautifully lyrical song have inspired me to pick up my rusty guitar. Enjoy both of these gifts in an age of international strife and reality television.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Far as the Eye Can See: Robert Bausch




Esteemed author Robert Bausch has published his eighth novel and it can be ordered via Amazon.com. I am honored to work with this exceptionally talented writer and gifted professor at Northern Virginia Community College in Woodbridge, Virginia.

Author Summary:

Bobby Hale is a Union veteran several times over. After the war, he sets his sights on California, but only makes it to Montana. As he stumbles around the West, from the Wyoming Territory to the Black Hills of the Dakotas, he finds meaning in the people he meets-settlers and native people-and the violent history he both participates in and witnesses. Far as the Eye Can See is the story of life in a place where every minute is an engagement in a kind of war of survival, and how two people-a white man and a mixed-race woman-in the midst of such majesty and violence can manage to find a pathway to their own humanity.


Since 1975, Robert Bausch has been a college professor, teaching creative writing, American literature, world literature, humanities, philosophy, and expository writing. He has taught at the University of Virginia, American University, George Mason University, and Johns Hopkins University. For the balance of his career he has been teaching at Northern Virginia Community College. He has also been a director on the board of the Pen-Faulkner Foundation. In 2009 he was awarded the John Dos Passos Prize in Literature. ( James Gilford)

Works:
On the Way Home, 1982
The Lives of Riley Chance, 1984
Almighty Me!, 1991 
The White Rooster and other stories, Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995
A Hole in the Earth, 2000 
The Gypsy Man, 2002, Harcourt, 
Out of Season, 2005, In the Fall They Come Back, 2011
The Legend of Jesse Smoke, 2012
Far As the Eye Can See, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2014


Author Website: http://www.robertbausch.org/

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Usha Shukla Art




Title: Preternatural
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 11x14

My name is Usha Shukla. I am an artist and live in the San Francisco Bay area with my husband and two boys. Originally born and brought up in the Northern part of India, I moved to the United States 18 years ago. My early education included a graduate degree in Literature and a Diploma in Fashion design.  Though always inspired by art from my early childhood, my formal art education started a few years ago at Las Positas College in Livermore, CA where I started taking art classes. Currently, I am enrolled at The Academy of Art University In San Francisco pursuing my Master’s degree in Fine Art with a concentration on painting.

I primarily work in oils but also like to experiment with non-conventional mediums and techniques. My abstract paintings are analogous to my nature hikes and are full of colors and textures found in nature.  I always start with a goal in my mind but the best part is that I never know what I will find on the way. I may stumble upon a pleasant surprise of a beautiful bloom or be frustrated by an unpleasant cloud burst or bad weather. I keep working at it and at the end, the emotional roller coaster and the turmoil is all worth it when I see the final painting.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Caroline Leavitt - Is This Tomorrow







 Is This Tomorrow is a New York Times bestselling novel about being different, being an outsider, being an outcast. Set in the Cold-War 1950s, it follows the mysterious vanishing of a young boy in a closed neighborhood, and the fate of the Jewish divorced mother who's somehow suspect.





1. You have successfully written your tenth novel, what keeps your writing fruitful?
I wish I knew the answer to that. I think it is that I'm an obsessive personality. I'm always haunted by one thing or another and I worry about it, and can't let it go unless I somehow figure it out by writing about it.  I always think that I am writing about something that has nothing to do with me whatsoever, and then, around the 9th rewrite, I realize it's an issue that has been totally haunting me. Is This Tomorrow was a lot about how I felt growing up as an outcast in a working class town. The book I'm just finishing up now is about a girl I knew casually in high school who was murdered by her older boyfriend.

2. In Is This Tomorrow, why did you choose 1950's Boston as a setting?
I grew up in Waltham, which is right outside of Boston, and like Ava Lark and her son Lewis, my family was the only Jewish family in a working class Christian block. (It was the 60s, not the 50s, but I set it back a decade because the whole Cold War "us against them" mentality was so much more pervasive.) I learned early on that kids were not allowed to play with me because "I killed Christ." In grade school, I was given a test where the questions were things like, "What did Jesus say to Mary at the well? I had no idea, so I wrote, "Do you want a glass of water?" The teacher failed me! But I remember out much I yearned to be a part of something, and how painful that time was for me. I was mocked, ignored, and threatened to be beaten up in high school all the time! 

I thought I could make so much more of this by setting Is This Tomorrow in the 50s, because there was such paranoia around anyone who might be different. If you read too much? You were a Communist.  Did you use multi-syllabic words? Communist! The suburbs in the 50s were supposed to be safe, so why better place to have a child suddenly vanish? 


3. Ava and her son are powerful characters, how much of you is evident in their personalities?
I love Ava. LOVE Ava. I wish she was my neighbor--but the only thing we share is that we both wanted to belong and were both shut out. I am more like Lewis in that I worry about everything; I make lists of things to worry about (really! Isn't that pathetic?)  and in school, like Lewis, my teacher yelled at my mother for teaching me to read before everyone else knew how to read. Unlike Lewis, I was not directionless.  I knew early on that I was going to fight my way out of that neighborhood and be a writer, no matter what anyone said.

4. Why is it important that Ava is Jewish?
I wanted Ava to be a triple threat. Not only is she divorced at a time when no one got divorced, not even celebrities, but she works. No woman worked unless she was looking for a husband at a job, and to actually like your job or want to try to be something more was suspect. Being Jewish in a Christian neighborhood was even worse. I used a lot of my own upbringing for that! 


5. Was the plot inspired by real events?
Only as far as how I felt like an outsider growing up. The rest I totally made up!


6. How did you conduct your research and how long did you do it?
Research was the most fun. I hired two high school research assistants and I had a wonderful librarian I hired, but some of the most interesting things I found were when I just went on FB and asked, "Are there any male nurses from the 1950s? Any cops? Any pie bakers?" I got a huge response and I got to talk on the phone with these fascinating people. The cop was brilliant--he told me that in the 1950s, kids didn't vanish. They ran around to abandoned buildings and into the woods and no one worried. No one locked their doors. When a kid didn't come home, the cops treated it the way they would an adult vanishing--you wait. But with a kid, that's too late! I talked to a male nurse who was fascinating. He told me that not only did doctors smoke in the 50s while they were examining patients, but they also encouraged their patients to smoke, because it would relax them!

I found vintage pamphlets about Communism (How you can tell if your neighbor is a Commie! Does he laugh at jokes you don't quite get? That's because it's in code! He's a Communist!) and about how to survive the nuclear war that they knew was coming. (Wipe your feet before you go inside the house to get off the pesky radiation!) 

I also found fabulous vintage cookbooks. In the 50s, you were supposed to boil vegetables for about 45 minutes! And the most popular dish was a meat loaf train!  You shaped the meatloaf to look like a train and made windows out of celery and passengers out of peas!

7. Why did you choose this voice to tell your story?
When I write, I like to get inside everyone's head, everyone's point of view. I just want the experience to be raw, intimate and real.


8. What is your writing protocol and process?
I try to write every day, usually about 4-5 hours and then I'm exhausted. Plus I have a son and a husband, and I also teach writing online at Stanford, UCLA, the University of Toronto, and I have private clients (CarolineLeavittConsults.com). And I review for People and the San Francisco Chronicle. I am a big believer in structure, so I always map out my novels before I start to write, which takes me about six months, and then I have a 30 page synopsis,  which I continually rewrite and throw out right up to the 9th revision. (And yes, there are always 9 to 20 revisions!) 


9. Explain this quote by unknown: "Everyone has a story; telling it well is the key."
I think part of telling a story well has to do with making it alive and intimate, and making the reader feel as if he or she is living that particular story. To do that well, I think you need to know where to start, how to build tension, how to up the stakes, and how to end with what I call the never-ending story--which means that you don't want to tie things up neatly at the end. You want the reader to close the book and still be wondering about the lives of your characters!


10. What are you future projects and current muses?
My new novel, Cruel Beautiful World is due to Algonquin this March, so I am really working to finish. I don't believe in the muse. But I do believe in inspiration and craft. I always mention John Irving because he writes what I consider moral fiction--he isn't just telling a wonderful story about wonderful characters, he's making points about how to live better or differently in the world, or simply, how to deal with a crazy world.

Next up, I'm starting a new novel. It's too new to say anything about it without it sounding silly and ridiculous. I have to clasp it to my heart and hope for the best!


Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, plus ten other novels. Pictures of You was on the Best of 2011 Lists from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and was one of the Top Five Books on the Family and Love from Kirkus Reviews. She is a book critic for People Magazine and the Boston Globe. She teaches novel writing at UCLA Writer's Program online and mentors writers privately. She lives with her husband, the writer Jeff Tamarkin, and their son Max, in Hoboken, NJ. She can be reached at www.carolineleavitt.com.



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Art & Poetry






                             
                                 Image: "The Ghosts of Under Milk Wood"  
Dan Llywelyn Hall, Artist

Dancing With Sylvia
Your words sink to the asphalt,
evaporate.
And would they ever,
the things you say,
Harden and congeal?
 In promises?
In secret pacts?
Surely, such abstract signs and sounds
Leave your tongue bereft of meaning
puddled lamplit
hush of your intention—shadows, shadows.
I could tell you,
Their flesh bears no substance.
Dark curves of letter, the lengthening vowel
haunting constant,
dark shadow on canvas.
The stars
Have such a gap to fill.
Such emptiness, blackness.
Would that your meanings erupt
Wet and molten
dorsal bone
Jutting, broken
Breaking through the scaly skin of language—
Fire-crested.
Woe to me,
who am instead
witness to
These dead, these sacrificed
Rising up like bile, like black tidewater.

Elizabeth Johnston

 About the Poet:  
Elizabeth Johnston teaches writing, literature, and gender studies at Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. Her scholarly work centers on representations of female sexuality in literature, television, and film and has been published in a number of academic journals and edited collections, most recently in Disjointed Perspectives on Motherhood (Lexington Books, 2013). Slated for publication are three additional essays in Mythology and Modern Women Poets: Analysis, Reflection & Teaching (MacFarland, 2014), The Eternal Internal Gender Wars of Our Sisters (KH Publishing, 2014), and SLI: Studies in the Literary Imagination 47.2 (Spring 2015). Likewise, her fascination with representations of gender infuses her creative work; since 2011, her poetry has appeared in a variety of print and online journals and edited collections, most recently New Verse News (April 2014) and Mom Egg Review (April 2014). New poems written by Elizabeth will be featured in forthcoming issues of NonBinary Review, The Luminary, and Rose Red Review, and in the print anthology, Veils, Halos, and Shackles: An Anthology of International Poetry (Eds. Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay). She is a founding member of the Rochester-based writer’s group, Straw Mat and facilitates writing workshops at the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. She lives in North Chili, on the west side of Rochester, with her partner, Brian, two daughters, Ava and Christina, and a menagerie of animals.

About the Artist: 
'Deaths and Entrances' An exhibition of paintings and prints by Dan Llywelyn Hall

6th - 13th September 2014
Coningsby Gallery
30 Tottenham Street
London, W1T 4RJ
Open 9am - 6.00pm daily
Free entry
The Dylan Thomas centenary exhibition of paintings and prints inspired by the writer's poetry and short stories.   

Website: http://deathandentrances.com/shop.htm