Best of Boston, Writers and Writing

Honoring Jack

Pumpkins, large and small, adorn nearly every window box and doorstep in my neighborhood.  Along with the usual ghosts and witches, we here in the Bay State have easy access to the ultimate Halloween spectacle.  Salem may be a quaint New England town steeped in history, mythology, and magic – but Salem in October is way too touristy for me.

Instead, I take a day trip to Lowell to visit the grave of one of my literary heroes – Jack Kerouac.

The first time I visited Kerouac’s grave, it was just before Halloween, and the anniversary of his death.  I arrived at Edson Cemetery with a crudely drawn map that a kindly gentleman at the Chamber of Commerce had given me and, as I made my way along the neat little rows of tombstones and markers, I marveled at the extraordinary shades of yellow, orange, and red leaves underfoot and overhead.  Kerouac’s grave was an unassuming flat slab that was flush to the ground.  This is what it said:

 

“TI JEAN”

JOHN L. KEROUAC

MAR. 12, 1922 – OCT. 21, 1969

– HE HONORED LIFE –

STELLA HIS WIFE

NOV. 11, 1918 – FEB. 10, 1990

There had been many recent visitors to the grave, fans, and writers perhaps, because they’d left unopened bottles of imported beer, packs of Camel cigarettes, flowers, and sheets of poetry, some handwritten and some typed, in several different languages.

I sat on the ground and took out a bottle of champagne and my worn paperback copy of On the Road.  I purposely shook the bottle so that when I popped the cork, the bubbly came gushing out just like it does in the winning team’s locker room.  I took a small drink before pouring the entire bottle onto the grass, letting it soak right into the ground so he could enjoy it.

Then I opened my book to a random page and started reading.  There in that graveyard was all the history, mythology, and magic I needed.

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Life Lessons, Writers and Writing

New Year, New Plan

writing_2017As I watched the ball drop in Times Square, I thought about New Year’s resolutions.  Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of absolutes.  Like giving up carbs.  Who cuts out a whole food group, cold turkey?  Or vowing to work out five days a week.  Does walking to the bus stop count?

Still, as confetti fell all over 44th and Broadway, I got the same start-over-fresh feeling I had every September when the new school year began.  New notebooks, new pencils… only now I use a keyboard.

It’s been one year since I started my blog, Dolce Zitella.  And as the New Year begins, it’s the perfect time to thank everyone who’s read the weekly blog posts, responded with comments, and recommended the blog to friends.  I truly appreciate your support.

For me, Dolce Zitella has been fun – like having a marathon conversation with the girls.  In contrast, the non-fiction book I’ve been working on for the past several years has been a solitary labor of love.  The subject matter is deeply personal to me, and I’m pretty damn passionate about it.

But here’s the rub – like many of you, my work life is demanding and working late has become the norm.  Every night I work late is a night I don’t get to write.  Between getting home late, keeping up with the blog, and attending to the myriad of things that make up the everyday, carving out enough time to work on the book has been challenging.

Finishing the book in 2017 is not a New Year’s resolution.  It’s my goal.  And with any goal, you need a plan.  So here goes: moving forward, I’ll be writing a new blog post every other week, rather than weekly, so I can devote more time to the book.  Dolce Zitella will still be posted on Thursdays.  I know I can count on all of you to stick with me on this.

And what’s the book about, you may wonder?  Well, that’s another story for another day.

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Life Lessons, Writers and Writing

A Room of One’s Own

The four of us met several years ago in a “Writing a Non-Fiction Book” class.  We shared a great respect for each other’s work and the tenacity to keep at the writing.  So when the class ended, it was a no-brainer that we should form a writing group.  We began meeting bi-monthly at a funky café in Harvard Square.

Our group is the literary equivalent of having a “gym buddy.”  When you don’t feel like going to the gym, you force yourself because she’s counting on you.  And so, the writing group keeps us all on track.

We are diverse women; the writing is our common thread.  We lead very different lives, with demanding work schedules, multiple family responsibilities, and community commitments.  Add to that the everyday tasks of cooking and laundry, and how much time is left for writing?  For me it always comes down to this: sleep or write.  Which would explain my consumption of caffeine and the circles under my eyes.

october-weekend-in-vermont

In the spirit of Virginia Woolfe’s essay “A Room of One’s Own,” we recently planned an intensive weekend of writing.  We drove to Vermont, holed up in a carriage house that overlooked the Green Mountains, and we wrote.  No household chores, no television, no distractions.  Each of us structured our time a bit differently, but the bottom line was writing and receiving feedback in real time.  Alright, I’ll admit it – there was a small side trip to the Eileen Fisher outlet store located a few miles away.  But I promise, it was a very productive weekend.

Living communally reminded me of my college days.  These amazing, supportive women have made a crucial impact on my life.  We left Vermont with a deep sense of accomplishment.  Next time – and there will be a next time – we’ll go to the ocean.

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