Dearest Genevra,

Real Conversation between an unnamed friend and myself:

Her: What did you do today?

Me: I worked on a letter to my sister.

Her, in a confused tone : Can’t you all just email?

Me: Uh, no. That’s not the same.

Doh! Of course we could email, but that is irrelevant here. My sister and I write letters to one another. That is what we do.  In  intimate communication the object is not always the shortest line between two points. The process of choosing and forming strings of words into thoughts and then putting those on paper is an intellectual as well as a tactile pleasure. In today’s world, receiving a hand written letter is as rare as seeing a horse and carriage driving down one’s street. We like to do our part to keep this all but forgotten art alive.

For my sister and me, if I may be so bold, one function of our letter writing practice  is to try to recreate being together. Our physical time together is a sort of stream of consciousness. We may be in her kitchen washing dishes, and one of us will say, ” And about that food coop,” and the other will know what she means though we haven’t actually spoken about the coop since yesterday. Later, we can be in the same room reading, and one of us will look up and say,”Huh. Listen to this. These people went to tea  and ate beans on toast!” The other will nod, and return to her own reading without missing a beat.

I know you’re marveling at our heady, rich, vibrant repartee. Well, words can’t convey everything. Suffice it to say that when we are together we are attuned, all of a piece. And when I receive a letter from my sister it too is all of a piece. It is a running narrative of however many days it may take her to write the letter. We intersperse our daily routines with reviews of what we are reading, what our families are doing and with our interior lives.

For several years we wrote our letters as though we were living in the times of whatever literary characters we were exploring. This could mean we would start a letter with:

Dearest Genevra ( We used names more appropriate to the fiction we were reading)

I take pen in hand, fervently begging your forgiveness for the fearful delay in responding to your last missive. I daresay I fairly tremble to recount, though upon my honor I must, as required by my obligations as  a God fearing woman, the travails we have endured  here at Pilgrimage House, brought upon us by who knows what inhuman scourge. Even now as I write my dear Genevra, grey winds cause the fallen leaves to dance in what appears to be an evil announcement that here, within these walls, lies the plague known as streptococcus.

Or, if reading Barbara  Pym, one of our favorites:

Dear Sister,

I hope this finds you in good health. Today was a day like most others. I lit the gas ring this morning to brew some tea  before leaving for the office. As I nibbled on my burnt toast, I noticed, too late, that I had a ladder in my stockings. Lacking bus fare I walked all the blocks to work, but as I had my umbrella scarcely got too wet. One of my office mates, Hiram,  was under the weather and blew his nose all morning into a large white handkerchief. I believe his mother launders them for him. At the lunch hour I stopped at a nearby cafeteria for a bowl of tomato soup before dropping a few letters in the post. After work I dropped in St Augustus of the Fields for evensong; there were only five of us present including the vicar.

And so on. When events render us unable to be quite so playful, we just launch into  the fascinating stuff of our lives. For my part, I just get out paper and begin to write whatever is in my mind. Sometimes I add a little illustration, maybe  a stick figure of myself getting myself into some sort of jam such as dumping a plate of food on a stranger at a restaurant.Once I begin to write I go on and on until I have said everything I know: where I’ve been, what I’ve cooked, what I’ve read, where I’m going. And she’s going to love every single word!

Neither of us uses fancy stationery.  I prefer a legal pad because  my writing is large. Ellen uses paper recycled from her husband’s job at a hospital so the backs of her pages are often printed with diagrams of a human body. But we work around that. Since we write letters we don’t talk much on the phone; we can’t give away what we may have already written. If I see something she posts on facebook, that’s fine, but it doesn’t count because it was not personally directed to me.

We wait weeks for our letters, sometimes patiently, some times not. We usually let one another know that “the eagle has flown” so we know to be on the lookout for a thick, fat letter. Oh, and the sublime pleasure of opening that envelope, of running my hands over the pages of her distinctive  scrawl handwriting I would know anywhere! Usually her letters are written in several colors of ink, according to what she had handy to use while waiting for her daughter at volleyball practice, or before her graduate class met. We number our pages, which are never fewer than twenty.

At the end I feel I have made the rounds of her life with her, which I suppose is the next best thing to being there. For a day or two after I receive her letter I ruminate over whatever subjects she has broached, so that I can respond to them thoughtfully. Then the next chance I get I find a legal pad or notebook paper and begin writing back; I know she’ll be expecting my reply. I guess I had best get started right now; it’s my turn!

Help! I’ve been NaNoWriMoed And I Can’t Get Up!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, and I can’t tell yet but it could be awesome. I’ve never written anything before, so I have nothing to which to compare my experience. I’m just one of those naive persons who believes that because they love to read that they would also love to write a book! Cue the maniacal laughter right about here.

This poor woman has been typing all night!

This poor woman has been typing all night!Source: ChristopherFountain@wordpress

I’ve wanted to do NaNoWriMo for some time, but never seemed to think about it ahead of time. I would then be jealous of those who were paying attention when it started and got to participate. This year, about October 25th, which is by the way my birthday, I experienced one of those electric moments of clarity that sometimes come my way, a moment in which the way forward was very clear. Perhaps the decision came more easily because I turned 57, but whatever the origin, the thought registered in my brain. I WILL do NaNoWriMo, I declared. And preparation be damned!

I am a whopping 9000 words in, and mired in deep philosophical and structural questions. First, what were the names I gave those characters a couple of pages back? Were they Craig and Cindy? Or did I change them to Louis and Fran? Second, do the names Louis and Fran even sound believable? Would someone named Fran, dressed in a tartan plaid skirt and knee socks,speed down Montezuma Highway with a stolen cocker spaniel named Guido in her car? Or does that sound stupid? Also, has anything I have written so far ever happened before in any other written work since the dawn of time? Because I want to be original here in this off the cuff work of genius I will create in only thirty days. Inbox me your answers!

The suspense rises for me as I struggle to write some some number of made up sentences each day. An addition to the creative milieu is that I absolutely cannot type. It is true. In the olden days when girls took typing in high school, I was too vain to cut my long nails as would have been required. I wasn’t going to be a secretary, so who cared? As a result of my foolish choices, I am hunched over a keyboard now, having to stare at the letters, which one is not supposed to do, and not the screen. I will feel a spark of inspiration, type like crazy while thinking, ” I’m typing more quickly than ever with two fingers. I’m finally getting the hang of it.” only to see that the cursor has gone cockeyed and set my words down two paragraphs up from where I wanted them. So I erase. So I redo. So I cry.

I was way ahead of the curve with nails like this in high school. Source:

I was way ahead of the curve with nails like this in high school.

Still, though, every time I go back to the computer and pull up my story, there it is waiting for me, like a loyal but not very bright Labrador Retriever: ungainly, wriggly, unkempt, but enthusiastic. And when I have written as much as I can manage at a sitting, I scroll back up, surveying the big mess I’ve made  with an inordinate sense of pride. To be sure, it is full of typos and errors much more egregious than that, but I’ll get to those in time. Writing itself can never be an error.

One helpful thought is that NaNoWriMo has its own set of “Life Alert” buttons: local groups, write ins, research and writing help forums, and pep talks. I haven’t taken much advantage of that because, um, I’m busy trying to invent a novel, but knowing the help is there is encouraging. Also there is L., a lovely lady at my gym is is NaNoing for the third time this year, and who appears sane, which speaks well for the experience of NaNoRiMo participation. Her advice is not to have unreasonably high expectations for myself. Since I have none at all, except to reach the 50,000 mark, I think I’m okay in that area.

I guess that’s all I have time to say about NaNoRiMo right now. If you don’t seem to hear as much from me this month, now you know why. Feel free to check on me if you want. I’ll be in the backseat of Fran’s car, hurtling down Montezuma Highway, holding on to a stolen cocker spaniel named Guido.

And Thank You For Coming!

We are big on manners in the South. Any child over the age of 18 months knows to pepper all their  adult interactions with, “Yes Ma’am” and “No Ma’am.” We greet each other in the street, very briefly if we are strangers, but still, we acknowledge one another’s presence. And if we are acquainted, woe betide you if a prompt thank you note for your graduation gift is not winging its way to my house. Centuries of these ingrained practices has resulted in a population that worries excessively over manners and social graces. Did your child remember to thank each guest at the end of his birthday party at Chuck E. Cheeses’s, where the noise level was above OSHA regulations, and two kids actually wound up joining someone else’s party?  No? Well, somebody’s noticed that little omission, for sure.



I know Southern etiquette pretty well. But now I must meld those mores with that of blogging and WordPress. And awards. I am thrilled to  be chosen for awards. If one accepts an award, one is to choose other worthy recipients, which seems pretty friendly and Southern to me.wordpressfamilyaward

So what’s her problem, you may wonder. The problem is, how do I know others want awards, in that they will be required to take action themselves in order to accept? Is that like asking someone to wrap their own birthday present? Is it like not having a butter knife at the table? On the other hand, if I assume someone has zillions of readers and followers, has moved on to the big leagues and is about to become the new Pioneer Woman,  and  I leave them out, will I be committing the absolute worst of the Southern No Nos, HURTING SOMEONE”S FEELINGS?

Dilemmas such as these, my friend, are what make Southerners move so slowly. We try to blame it on the heat, but that’s not it. Drawing each word out into several syllables actually gives us more time to scan the room and make sure little Stevie gave up his seat to Aunt Edith and that no one dares to try to wash their hands at the kitchen sink. It’s a hard life.

Today, friends, I am venturing outside my comfort zone, because I have been given an award and I am going to accept it. The real test of bravery will be passing the award on to ten bloggers WITHOUT KNOWING IF THEY WANT ONE. That’s right. That’s how I’m, gonna do it. Wish me luck!

First, the award, shown above, is the WordPress Family award, passed on to me by kidazzleink . Her travel memoirs make me feel I am taking her trip as well; you should check her out! Below is info about the award and the rules:

As you read this, you may be asking yourself where did the idea for this “Part of the WordPress Family Award” first originate. A fabulous man called Shaun created it and this was his rationale for doing so:

 ‘This is an award for everyone who is part of the “Word Press Family” I started this award on the basis that the WordPress family has taken me in, and showed me love and a caring side as only WordPress can. The way people take a second to be nice, to answer a question and not make things a competition amazes me here. I know I have been given many awards, but I wanted to leave my own legacy on here by creating my own award, as many have done before. This represents “Family” we never meet, but are there for us as family. It is my honour to start this award. Thank you,

Shaun @

What a warm and wonderful award to create and pass on to others we appreciate.

Well here are the award rules.

If you receive this award it means someone really values all the hard work you put into your blog and the kind and considerate thoughts and comments you share with others through the WordPress experience. It means you’ve been identified as someone who is part of the WordPress family.

In accepting the award you are asked to:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. Nominate 10 others you see as having a positive impact on your WordPress experience; people you feel are part of your own WordPress family.

4. Let your 10 new “Family” members know you have awarded them

5. That is it. Just please pick 10 people that have taken you as a friend, and spread the continue to spread the love.

My new Word Press Family Awards today go to:

krug the thinker, who is also my precious daughter. She is a born encourager; just have a look at her blog about her creative life. You’ll believe YOU can do all those things as well.

The Waiting. – This family, parenting, life and coolness bloggess  is in  the  big leagues now, but her encouragement made me believe I  too could start a blog.

 Tip of my Tongue – Honest, incisive posts about life issues, plus poetry.

City Jackdaw– Because it’s nice to follow a blog by an Englishman.

The Belmont Rooster- Down to earth adventures on the farm, plus tons of useful plant information.

Are You Finished Yet?  A little further along on the parenting journey than the waiting, with stories that tug at your heart and make you laugh.

A little Blog of Books and Other  Stuff – Helpful book reviews, and just what you’re wanting to know about this year’s Booker Prize winners.

The Accidental Cootchie Mama – Her blog has a friendly welcoming vibe somehow. Like all the others above, you know if you met her you’d like her.

Lynne Revette Butler– hasn’t written much lately, but her photos are to die for.

Harsh Reality – Harsh draws readers in with his provocative, thought provoking questions. Drop in if you like debate.

Thank you to all who have welcomed me at WordPress. I appreciate your hard work, creativity, and encouragement. I hope I didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, and thank you all for coming!