Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Curses: Real, or Not??

Today, I have the great pleasure of sharing in a blog tour for Caught Between Two Curses a new book by my fellow writer, Margo Dill.  Margo is sharing some thoughts about the reality (or not) of curses.



 
In 2003, it looked like the Chicago Cubs might actually make it to the World Series and have a chance to break the Curse of the Billy Goat—put on them by William Sianis, when he was forced to remove his goat from Wrigley Field in 1945. He said the Cubs would win no more. (Of course, they hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, but baseball legends are much more fun than just bad teams.) Then at a 2003 playoff game, Cubs vs Marlins, Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan, interfered with a foul ball, and the Cubs wound up losing the game and the series. The Marlins went to the World Series, and Bartman’s name because a dirty word in Chicago. 
 
But what made Bartman react the way he did? Was it the Curse of the Billy Goat? Were the Cubs getting too close to success? That’s what I decided, and that’s one of the things that led me to write a young adult novel, titled Caught Between Two Curses. My main character, 17-year-old Julie Nigelson, is cursed, and the curse on her family, which is purely fiction and created in my brain, is strangely connected to the Curse of the Billy Goat. I only have Mr. Bartman to thank for the idea for my novel. 

I had to create my own curse. And I decided to do a little research on curses, as I wrote my novel. It turns out that besides baseball teams, cars, tombs, Broadway musicals, countries, and more are cursed. You can Google famous curses, and you’ll find sites listing the 10 most famous, and the Billy Goat Curse is usually somewhere up there toward the top. If you look up the meaning of the word curse, it includes in the definition supernatural powers and bringing harm or punishment to someone. 

Creating the curse for my book was interesting, but I had to do a lot of brainstorming. I had to make it serious enough that Julie would feel compelled to try to break it, and I had to give the curse a time limit, so that she had to do it quickly. I thought death was a reason that someone might react quickly, and so the curse on Julie’s family centers on death. 

But my book is fiction. So, are curses real? Is this the real reason the Cubs aren’t winning or James Dean died in his cursed car? Who’s to say for sure? A lot of curses continue because people give them energy—belief is a powerful thing for both positive and negative life events. 

In fiction, though, curses are fun to write and fun to explore, and in Caught Between Two Curses, readers from 14 and up, can decide whether they believe the curses are real or not. My novel is more than a baseball book. I’m exploring destiny, curses, fate, loyalty, love, and more. To check it out for yourself, visit Amazon.com where it’s available as a print or e-book OR Indiebound.org and Barnes and Noble, where it’s a print copy. 

What do you think about curses? 

AUTHOR'S BIO: Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, freelance editor, and workshop leader, living in St. Louis, MO. She is also the author of the historical fiction, middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals’ fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line. Find out more: http://margodill.com/blog/

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Visit to Helene's



Old books in a Charing Cross bookstore
Photo credit: By Elliott Brown from Birmingham, United Kingdom 

Way back in 1971, I wrote to an author in New York whose book I had devoured.  The author, Helene Hanff wrote back, to my surprise, telling me that she had just gotten back from a "dream trip," and would be "writing about it soon."

At the tender age of almost 18, I was thrilled to get a reply from a "real" author.  My dream was to be published someday like Helene. When her second book was published, I bought a first edition copy, not really understanding at the time how special that would be.

As years went by, I carried my two copies and the letter Helene sent with me from home to home. Occasionally, I would re-read the books, laughing and crying just as I had when I was a 17 year old doing summer reading.  When I moved to the Enchanted Cottage, I placed them together on a shelf where I could easily find them...then, as happens...I forgot about them.

Last week, Roger got a documentary on Mel Brooks.  As we sat there watching the story of this amazing and talented man's life, I saw that he had directed the movie, 84 Charing Cross Road.

"Wait, go back," I said. "I know that story...I think I have a book by that name."

Roger backed the DVD up as I went over to the bookshelf to find the book.  Sure enough, there was my copy of Helene's story along with her second book and her note.

Roger surprised me with the movie today.  He found it at our local library.  As we sat watching the brilliant performances of Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, I felt as if I was visiting a very dear and old friend after too many years apart.  The movie was very true to the book, which made me happy. (I don't like when directors change books to the point that they are no longer the same story the author had written.) When the movie ended, I re-read Helene's note to me once more.  

As some may remember, 1971 was a year of upheaval in this country.  Protests were happening everywhere.  As a nation, we had suffered the horrific deaths of President John Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.  Vietnam, civil rights and women's liberation were the hot topics of the day.  With so much hate and violence in the media, reading Helene's book of her twenty-year correspondence with Frank Doel, an unassuming bookseller, was like being out in the country on a glorious summer day.  Their story gave me hope...something many young people of that time found in short commodity.

In her letter to me, Helene says that she is filled with hope by young people.  She tells me that she is "grateful for the good letter."  Holding it in my hands, the thought came to me that I had a treasure beyond price.  This note was rare evidence of a time when we, humans on planet Earth, actually communicated with each other using pen and paper.  The communication was, to use a legal term, in our own hand, not type written, not an email that can easily be deleted...but a real handwritten work of art.

A great sadness overcame me when I suddenly realized that technology was eliminating what I feel as I hold and read Helene's letter from September 6, 1971.  This realization has re-fueled my drive to teach writing to people.  Real writing...not technical babble...but words put on lines that bring the reader to a time a place that will resonate with them for years.  

As the summer months slip into reality, let us take the time to pull out a fine piece of stationery, our favorite pen and write a letter to someone we have missed.  Your note will allow them to come visit year after year without ever leaving home.

Namasté!

For more about Helene Hanff go to: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/04/11/arts/helene-hanff-wry-epistler-of-84-charing-dies-at-80.html

and  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/58918.Helene_Hanff

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mothers Day Thoughts

As the mother of four daughters, grandmother of seven wee ones and auntie, grandaunt and great-grandaunt to more wee ones, I have been surrounded by mothering this year.  Is it any wonder that on this special day, I find myself reflecting...

 

From a young age, I loved mothering.  I rocked my dolls, spend endless hours changing clothes, washing them, styling their hair and reading them stories.  As I grew older, I adored babysitting. In fact, I would rather baby sit than go on a date!  Then, I had four amazing little girls who have grown into equally amazing young women, three of whom have blessed me with grandbabies.

 Being Silly and Creating memories
The Girls and grandchildren

This year, I became a grand aunt and a great grand aunt!  What a joy it is to watch these "babies" I once held on my lap, having babes of their own.



Me, daughter, Courtney and clan at Castle Island 

Just last week, I had a very bittersweet trip to Castle Island in South Boston with one of my daughters and my grandchildren.  The last time I had been there was with my mother, shortly before she got too sick to go out.  On more than one occasion during our time on the island, I found tears running down my cheeks.  I kept expecting to see my Mom and Dad sitting on a bench waiting for us to finish our walk around the fort.  Perhaps that is why I have been thinking so much about being a mother.

Four Generations

Mothering is one of the most difficult jobs anyone can do.  Whether the child you mother comes from your womb or captures a place in your heart, from the first moment you hold them your work for them never ends.  Mothers are multifaceted Jills of all trades.  They cook, clean, nurse, add figures, balance accounts, buy, sell, remake, create, invent, and discover.  They mend clothes, patch holes and repair broken hearts.  They dry tears, kiss bruises and simply provide a presence when we need it most.  When our mothers are gone, nothing fills the empty place their presence leaves in our lives. 

Me with all seven grandchildren - Can't think of a happier time in my life!
The only thing better than being a Mom for me is being a Grandmother!
Blessing to Mothers everywhere!
Namasté!