Wednesday, May 25, 2016

One Last Thing about Julia

paris, Eiffel Tower

Embarking on a Brief Tour of France (via biography)

At some point in the near future, I'll have to talk about the Agent-hosted Query Webinar I attended. But right now I'm in the midst of revising the query and a leetle over-queried in the brain.

And so I am way more interested in talking about Julia Child, peeking into others' lives, and taking a trip back through time.

french bread
Photo by Richard Allaway

Heartbreaking Moments

Obviously Julia Child is known for her cooking show and, apparently, cookbooks. Despite being a very loud and outgoing woman (as she described herself), she does seem to have a bit of that emotional reticence we associate with older people (sometimes rightly, sometimes not). Or maybe she just doesn't want to complain about a good and successful life.

At one point in the autobiography, she mentions that she had a stomach bug from India and that at first she thought she was finally pregnant. She doesn't say much more. I thought, "Oh, that's too bad."

Later came the few sentences that made me think there might be more to this story. When Julia's sister gets pregnant, she says:
I was so happy for her now that she was a full-fledged woman...
And maybe I'm reading way too much into her statement. Or perhaps she's reflecting more on society's expectations than her own desires, but I found that to be a very sad statement coming from a woman who was unable to have children. It made me wonder exactly how this upbeat, outgoing lady really felt about her inability to conceive and made me think it might have been a bit heartbreaking for her. Or maybe that was all just in my head.

red wine, paris
Photo by Vassil Tzvetanov

Time Travel and Guided Tours

Anyway, books are pretty amazing. They can give you glimpses into others' lives in other time periods, and that's sort of crazy.

With Julia Child, I toured through the slightly bleak, but mostly exuberant post-WWII France that was just starting to get back on it's feet. I visited kitchens and markets and experimental recipe-making (and got very hungry). I stepped into the Cordon Bleu and stopped by a few very well-to-do dinners.

I experience the suddenness with which McCarthy sprang into power and a tiny burst of Julia's panic and fear for her husband. And I also almost understood, for just one moment, the American fear of a Communist-held Europe.

The odd set of circumstances (and hard work) that led to Julia Child on Boston's first public access television station and eventually led to her famous television show.

Peoples' lives are just so darn interesting sometimes.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Reading Can Make You Hungry

lake at sunrise
A small painting I did this weekend.

I spent forever trying to come up with a clever, or at least mildly entertaining title for this post. (And by forever, I mean at least a whole minute.) I'm not convinced I succeeded.

You see, I've been reading Julia Child's autobiography (she wrote it with her nephew). She was a very fascinating lady. It helps that she lived through very interest times (there's a saying about interesting times ...)


The Life of Julia Child: Fun Facts

  • She was over 6 feet tall.
  • She worked for the OSS in India, China, and Sri Lanka. That was where she met her husband, Paul Child.
  • She was in her early thirties by the time she started OSS work.
  • Her husband worked for the US Embassies in Paris, Marseille, Bonne, and Oslo. (She made fun of the Americans for drinking their light beers while the dark beers of Germany were on offer.)
  • She took classes at the Cordon Bleu during their time in Paris.
  • Her husband was investigated by McCarthy's goons who accused him of being a homosexual (apparently that was a big thing - which I had no idea about). They asked him to drop his pants, and he laughed at him.
  • She was in her forties by the time her cookbook was published, and she'd been working on it for about ten years.

Book Publishing For Julia Child

The most weirdly encouraging bit for me was just what she went through to get her cookbook (which she co-authored with a French woman named Simca) published.

She went through three publishers until she could get one who felt The Book (as she called it) was publishable. They did not see it as appropriate for an American audience.

She spent years perfecting the recipes and revising without ever knowing if The Book would be see an audience.

And then it came out, and, my gosh, reading about it makes it seem all too easy. She got television interviews and great reviews and important gourmands gushing over the book. So it's easy to forget just what she went through to get there.

In summary, it's a pretty fascinating book, and if you don't mind a smidgeon of Republican-bashing, it is a great read. Oh, you also have to deal with her describing mouth-watering food as you sit and read, sad and foodless.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Query Life

National Cathedral, lantern
I took this week's photos at DC's National Cathedral.
It's quite impressive.
And has a little plaque for Lincoln inside.

Yep. I'm obsessed with querying these days. The thing is, it's consuming a lot of my writer-like time and thought and frustrations.

Stained Glass, DC National Cathedral


Which is why I broke down and signed up for Kristin Nelson's query webinar which will be happening later this week. I'm hoping I'll gain a bit of insight into what I'm doing wrong and how to make my query better.

Washington National Cathedral

I did get my first response back on my new query letter. It was a rejection, which is what spurred me on to sign up for the webinar. Plus Kristin Nelson is an amazing agent, and exactly the sort of person I'd love to get advice from.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Greetings, Month of May

moon over Badlands
Badlands National Park

I made my goal for April! At 11pm on April 30th, I reached 50,073 words, shut my computer, and went to sleep.

Badlands National Park sunset
Sunset over the Badlands

I haven't heard back from any of the queries I have out as yet, but since that's better than having all them them rejected already, I'll take it. Actually, it's nice having them still out because that means I get to just forget about them and work on my current book.

exploring Badlands National Park
Explorer Nigel, Ahoy!

I've no idea whether I used any of these photos on my blog yet, but I like them, so they're worth a revisit if I did. On our road trip to Yellowstone a few years ago, Nigel & I stopped off at Badlands National Park. In other news, we're thinking of visiting The Grand Canyon this year! I've never been, and I'm pretty excited.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fall Flowers for Spring, Plus a Writing Update

bee on flower
Bee!

In cleaning up my photos, I re-found some photos I took on a visit to Longwood Gardens (in the fall). So - more flower photos for you.

dessert theft
Nigel steals my delicious dessert!

This isn't actually much of a writing update because my news is that I put six queries out into the world. I'd been holding off on queries until I got some help from a critique partner in sprucing mine up. So, they're out there. We shall see.

water lilies
So many cool water lily ponds.

In writing my new YA sci fi, I'd set a goal for myself to get to the 50k point by the end of April, but with the query-storming session in the middle of the month, I'm currently at the 40k point. (I started at 20k.) I still have a little hope that I can crash through the last bit on Saturday, but I'll admit it's not likely.

But Longwood Gardens sure was pretty:

And one more:
conspiring orchids
These two look like they're conspiring together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Magnificent Mane

To be honest, I forgot all about this post, but I actually have the perfect photo to post this week:

Sarah and Nigel: the Wink

This weekend I was cleaning out my photo files and found some scans of a few old and wonderful photos.

There are many things I enjoy about this picture.

Firstly, I, obviously, look adorable.

Secondly, Nigel has utterly magnificent hair.

Thirdly, Nigel is an idiot, and it's hilarious.

Really, that's everything I could ask for.

Well, I guess to show off the true magnificence of Nigel's hair, I will tack on one more photo:

Sarah and Nigel of the Magnificent Hair

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Spring Was Here

So it was gorgeous outside. Things were blooming. The sky was blue and brilliant . . . and then it decided to snow.

daffodils and snow
This is my favorite photo from the day after, when most of the snow was gone.
It was a crisp, clear morning, and my hands got very cold down in this snow.

I was all excited that Spring had finally arrived, and then Old Man Winter decided he'd show me. I'm pretty sure it was the teenage equivalent of shouting, "You don't know me!"

spring snow
The day of the snow.
I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I'm a little obsessed with photos of flowers.

On the writing front, I'm processing a query critique that a friend of mine gave me, re-polishing my first few chapters, and working on my new project, but nothing all that new or exciting. And you know what's super pretty? Daffodils. I love daffodils. These poor daffodils were even knocked to the ground by snow, and they still manage to shine.

ivy, snow, daffodil, moody
The ivy leaf and snow are really the centerpiece here.
Doesn't it look all moody and fraught?
See, Mr. Winter? I've got my moments too.