Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What About Tense?

Yesterday, one of my critique group members subbed a scene from the novel she's writing. It's a flashback highlighting the protagonist's mother. The author wanted to show the reader what kind of environment her protagonist grew up in, what her parents were like. And she also wanted to try an experiment.

The book itself is written in past tense, which is the most-used in short stories and novels. The scene mentioned above was written in present tense. The author wanted reaction to it being done that way from those who critiqued her submission.

Some people like present tense, feeling that it brings the reader right into the scene, the action, that you live it with the person. Personally, I find it distracting. I'm alright with it for a short time, but then it begins to annoy me. I prefer being a reader who watches from a distance, I guess.

Occasionally, a writer will mix past and present tense in one story or one chapter. That irritates me more than present tense. It's definitely a big no-no, so please select one or the other and be consistent. Child-rearing books all recommend being consistent when you discipline a child. Writing is the same. Discipline yourself to use one tense or the other per story or chapter.

Mixing the tenses from one chapter to another might be a unique approach, and maybe well-seasoned writers can pull it off. Most of us could not.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Random Words

Writers need exercise every bit as much as athletes, but ours is mental exercise. We need to do some of those body exercises, too. Think of what is happening as we sit hour after hour at the computer. It's not a pretty picture.

But back to writing exercises. One that my writersandcritters group offers on a weekly basis is called Random Word. We each take one month to be responsible for sending the exercise word to the group. There are various ways to select the words. Some people open a dictionary, close their eyes and point. Wherever the finger lands, that's the word for the week. Or they might use a novel. Any kind of book. Others choose a theme for the month. They might use words related to a season, a color, an emotion.

There is usually a single word, but occasionally two which go together quite naturally, such as soda fountain.
The writer looks at the word, sets a timer or notes the time, and free writes for a full ten minutes. It can be
pure gibberish, it can be a piece of fiction, it can be a memory. Whatever the word triggers in your mind. Some people start out with a memory and end up with a paragraph of pure fiction. The rule is that the word chosen must be used at least once. Most often, it gets repeated several times.

It's fun to read the various approaches writers take, all using the very same word. Most of us don't read the others until our own is completed. The biggest benefit is that quite often a writer will end up with something that can be the beginning of a story or essay. More than one full submission in our group started out as a Random Word offering.

We've had some pretty interesting words and some extremely ingenious responses. Freewriting is a terrific emotional outlet as has been evidenced in the offerings of our group members.

Try it yourself. Open a book, close your eyes and point. See where your finger lands, then write for a full ten minutes without stopping to think. Let it flow, even if some of what you write makes no sense at all. Do this on a regular basis and you're training your mind in yet another way, and it's also an emotional outlet. Have fun with this exercise. Do it with another writer or by yourself

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spiff Up Those Descriptive Words

One of the women in my critique group gave a critique on the revised version of a poem I've been working on. Sarah noted that I used some colors of the flowers in Monet's garden, which is the subject of the poem. I used purple, tawny gold and deep pink. She scolded me saying she knew I could come up with better than that. She agreed that the tawny gold was alright, but she thought the other two needed some work.

I had to agree with her. I hesitated over it when I wrote it but didn't know what else to use. When I wrote the first draft, I only used the colors, nothing to describe it. In the revision I added tawny to gold and deep to pink. I have to admit there is nothing very graceful and poetic about the adjective deep. So what will I do?

The first place I'll turn to for help is my trusty Thesaurus. Time and again, it's helped me find a better word than an ordinary one I may have used. How about blush-rose or roseate? I like the first, hate the second. How many people would even know what roseate is? I could change purple  to shades of lavender or violet or perhaps royal purple.

Maybe I could use something like rich purple and pleasing pink. And maybe using something like that smacks of either cliche or sickeningly sweet writing.

It all comes down to finding a trouble spot and attempting to find a solution. Believe me, it's not always easy. These are only a few little words in a fairly lengthy poem, but having it done right can make the difference in whether it's ever published or not. It's the same with an essay or short story. Picking the right descriptive words can make a difference. Forget the mundane. Forget the cliche. Go for something richer and memorable.

I'm going to sort out descriptive words for those colors all day and hope by this evening that I've found ones that are better. Whether prose or poetry, it seems the writing goes on and on. It shouldn't stop until the writer feels satisfied. My next job today is to send a thank you to Sarah for pointing out the trouble spot in my poem.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Out of the Forest

Jennie Helderman, author of As The Sycamore Grows

My friend, Jennie Helderman, is deep in the forest of self-publishing. You may remember Jennie as one of the writers I admire posts of several months ago. A few yearsa go, she took a writing class and wrote an article for an assignment, one that the instructor liked so much that he encouraged her to consider expanding the topic and making it a full book.

And so Jennie's trip into the forest began with these first steps. She spent many hours interviewing the once-husband-and-wife couple to learn the details of the horrific story they lived. She asked for and received permission from them to write the story of a woman caught in an abusive marriage who finally flees to an emergency shelter. Jennie wrote and wrote and wrote, and as the story grew, chapter by chapter, she began submitting them individually to our writers critique group. We gave her fair and honest critiques and she used our comments and suggestions in her rewrites. Sometimes, she rejected the suggestions, having strong feelings that it should be the way she wrote it in the first place. That's the nice part about critique groups--the writer always has the final say.

As the book neared conclusion, Jennie began looking for an agent to represent her. So many who had read the chapters she'd completed urged her to start working on getting the book published. She walked even deeper into the forest, feeling blindly as she went. At one of our wac conferences, she pitched her non-fiction book to an agent in front of the entire conference attendees. That cannot have been easy to do, and I can say that she did an admirable job. When she finished her near-perfect speech, all of the conference attendees let out a collective sigh of relief. We were with her on every word she spoke. The agent asked Jennie to send a few chapters and said she'd get back to her later. This particular agent did not accept the book nor did other pursuits for agents and publishers work out.

But giving up is not in Jennie's character, so she kept going. She looked into self-publishing, but she didn't want just anyone to help her do it that way. She researched carefully and approached a self-publishing group that she found to be one she could respect and trust to do a good job. Suddenly a glimmer of light showed up in that too-dark forest. She was exhilarated and determined to carry on.

That happened last April, once again at one of our wac conferences. At least, that is when she received word that the publisher was willing to work with her. She was so energized that she left the conference a day early to start the working process with the publisher. She contacted her attorney, a book cover designer and who knows what else? She's worked tirelessly for months with a number of people, but the road has not been smooth. She's run into several bumps along the way. And she's given great consideration to the marketing of her book.

As The Sycamore Grows by Jennie Helderman will be released early this fall. Book signing parties have been scheduled and friends have made requests for autographed copies. Soon, Jennie will be out of the forest and into the light. I'll let you know when the book is available. I'm looking forward to reading my autographed copy. You can read more about Jennie's baby--er, make that book, at http://www.asthesycamoregrows.com/

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On A Poetry Kick Again

Every now and then, I get an urge to write poetry. Over the years, I've learned to listen to urges like that. My muse speaks loud and clear at times, while other times she's off taking a nap in some corner of my house. I can call and call to her, and she sleeps blissfully on. But when she wakes and begins to whisper sweet things to me, we're a formidable team.

When we were in France a few weeks ago, we visited Monet's House and Garden in Giverny, an hour and a half north of Paris. It's located in the heart of France's dairy country. The garden proved to be one of the most enchanting places I've been. I almost resented having to share it with other tourists. I wanted to be there all alone to savor the countless colorful blooms and green plants, shrubs and trees, as well as the famed lily pond Monet created.

The visit has been on my mind ever since we returned, so I knew I wanted/needed to write about it. But what? Would it be a travel essay? An article for a garden publication? Or a poem? Poem kept coming back to me while I emptied the dishwasher, folded laundry or watered the patio pots. It seems writers minds are never far away from writing.

The poem turned out to be a prose/poem that has several verses. I subbed it to my critique group to get a reaction and see what suggestions for improvement they might offer. The response proved to be helpful as I had a good number of critiques. Every one had good things to say and they also had suggestions where a word here and there bothered them. They suggested adding a bit more sensory detail.

Last night, I worked on the poem incorporating many of the suggestions given. I'm going to read it again this morning and see how it strikes me. Most likely, I'll change a few more words or lines before I'm satisfied and can call it finished. Once it's done, I may start working on a travel essay about Monet's Garden. I'm having a hard time letting go of this highlight of our visit to France. If you'd like to know more about Monet's Garden, go to http://giverny.org/gardens/

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Do You Know About Book Page?

I feel most fortunate in frequenting a public library that provides Book Page free to all patrons. The library is able to offer it at no charge because of a generous donation for the subscription made by the library's Friends group. I look forward to each new monthly edition which highlights books either just released or about to be. The 32 page newspaper format is made up of departments and features, as well as ads from publishers promoting new releases.

I can go directly to the pages that interest me most or check out each and every one. I'm not a fan of the horror or science fiction genres, but I must admit that I do scan those areas in Book Page. Why? Maybe so that I can keep up with the newest trend and authors or so that I can look semi-intelligent when a comment about these books comes up at a dinner party or cocktail affair. Or maybe, it's only that I'm a curious person and want to know what's happening.

One section I read carefully is the Book Club section which highlights three or four paperback selections that would be good reads for book clubs. I also like to read the Romance section and the Historical Fiction, as well as the Non-Fiction. Oh, let's face it--I read every single thing in this paper. What can be better than reading about reading?

If your library doesn't offer Book Page, you can read it online at www.bookpage.com  I prefer holding the paper in my hands, but the online version is well worth reading on a regular basis for those who don't have access to the print copy. You can also encourage your library to subscribe. Included in their subscription fee is the use of the back cover page for information pertaining to their library. Look for subscription info on the website or call 800-726-4242 Ext. 34

Monday, August 23, 2010

On the Education Road

This is our grandson, Cole, who turned four last Friday, had a Pirate Birthday Party on Saturday, and today is taking his first step on the Education Road.

What an important step it is. It's the beginning of a long journey to graduation (hopefully) from college. It's made me think about the importance of our first school experience. Maybe pre-school teachers aren't given enough credit. They're the ones who set the tone for what is yet to come.

Cole went to an Open House at the school with his family one evening last week. He saw his classroom and met his teacher, who has the same first name as his mom. Now, that's got to be a positive. He said he liked Miss Karen, and he told  me he's going to go to school on the bus with his friends.

Cole has been with his friends, Macy and Roy, at the same babysitter for a long time. They are kind of like a second family to him, and his sitter, Chris, is most definitely a second mom to him. All three will be in the same class and ride the same bus. That has to be a comfort zone for all of them.

All three of these children are taking that first big step
today. They'll learn many things in pre-school, not the least of which is social interaction. They'll learn about following rules, and they'll do some kindergarten readiness work, too. Next year, it's on to the kindergarten and then first grade. The Education Road is long, filled with milestones, maybe a few bumps, and one of the most important roads we encounter in our lives.

May Cole and his friends, Macy and Roy, have a smooth journey.

Friday, August 20, 2010

All On The Same Page

Yesterday, I drove an hour east and south of my home to attend a writer's meeting with a group by the name of Cat Tales. A writer friend is the coordinator of the group, and she's invited me to attend many times, but they met on an afternoon when I have another commitment. This summer, the meeting time was changed to morning, so off I went after breakfast to visit the group.

I enjoyed my drive through the rolling Flint Hills along the interstate on a summer morning bathed in sunlight. I reached my exit and followed the mapquest directions. Found myself on a two-lane, no-shoulder country road for about seven miles. I didn't meet a car coming or going the entire way but did see farmhouses here and there, so I didn't feel like I'd left civilization. But almost! Finding the cafe where the group meets was no problem as the town is very, very small.

The first thing I noticed as I approached the entrance of the cafe was a bench with a large International Harvester logo on it. I had to smile when I noticed it, as my dad worked for that company his entire adult life. The first thing I heard as the door opened for me magically (I didn't see the man standing behind it who had graciously opened it for me) was noise. Lots of it!

This had to be the town meeting spot, and a joyous place it was. The cafe was one very large room, and I found the Cat Tales group seated around a large round table in a corner. My friend greeted me and said to bring up a chair. Everyone around the table scooted closer to one another, as I joined them. Eleven women and one man all introduced themselves to me. Those who had brought something to read did so, moving around the table with comments from the group when finished.

The group was made up of mostly senior citizens. I gathered that a few have been published, but probably more have not. Many write for their own pleasure. One woman told about pursuing writing as a way of healing after a long, abusive marriage. But one thing stood out amongst the people who sat around the table.

They share a bond in that they are people who write. They are people who like to write and who have done what many others have not--they've pursued their desire to write. And they have come together as a group to share their writing, to talk about writing experiences, and to encourage one another. I don't think their intent is  to become another Danielle Steele or Stephen King but to put their thoughts on paper for self-satisfaction, to leave for family members and sometimes in hopes of publication. They are hobbyists, not freelancers working to put food on the table. They call writing fun, not work.

 They won't spend their senior years rocking on the porch, hands in lap. No, they will be using hands and mind to write myriad stories, poems and memoirs. They're all on the same page in this writing world.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

She Loves Books

Our granddaughter, Jordan, started first grade yesterday. She’s pictured above at home on the first day of school. Toward the end of kindergarten last year, she unlocked the puzzle—she learned to read. This year she’ll build on what she started last spring.

A large basket in her bedroom holds dozens of books. Her parents have read to her since she was an infant, and when I’m there, or her other grandmother visits, we have read to her, too. Reading and books have been a part of this child’s life right from the very beginning. Because of that, I feel fairly certain that books will always be important to Jordan.

I hope she’ll learn that a book can be informative, comforting, and entertaining, and through a book she can travel all over the world, meet children of other cultures, learn history, science, and more.

Her mother introduced her to the public library at an early age, and Jordan enjoys her trips to pick out new books to borrow. When she attended the Open House at her school before kindergarten started last year, it was the library that drew her interest. She stood outside in the hallway and peered through the windows at the hundreds of books. This was the place she wanted to be as soon as possible.

Makes me wonder if loving books is genetic! What would a scientist say--heredity or environment? Like most things, it’s probably a bit of both. And it doesn’t hurt if a child’s family promotes reading and books from the time they are infants.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Falling For A Title

I've written before about the importance of a title for a book, even a short story or essay. A title either leaves a reader ready to pass on by, pulls her in, or feeling absolutely nothing.

My book club is reading a book for September titled No! I Don't Want To Join A Book Club. That's definitely a title that would appeal to someone who is in such a group. I immediately wanted to learn why the protagonist in this fiction story would state this so emphatically.

One night, I settled in to begin reading. The story is told in journal form by a British woman about to turn sixty. She writes of her daily happenings and her thoughts on reaching a new stage in her life. As might be expected from the title, it's a bit quirky and humorous. It's also a lot of repetition as this fifty-nine year old divorced woman states and restates her strong denial of feeling bad about turning sixty.

We do receive a picture of her life and the people in it as each entry is made. I must admit that I'm beginning to feel something for a couple of the characters. But this is not a book that I cannot put down. It's not an action story, has little or no suspense, no mystery. Instead, it's a study of people, and I usually like that type of book. The only problem I have with it is that there is so much repetition. Maybe an entire book on the topic is stretching things a bit. A long personal essay may have worked better.

I'm not going to make a final judgement  yet since I'm only about a third of the way through the book, which is not a long one. I think that our book club members will find some things to discuss, mostly about being sixty and beyond, which is where all our members fall. So, this is something we can relate to. A book club of young women would probably have little to say about it.

I'll reserve final judgement as to whether to recommend this book to others until I finish it. But I definitely love the title!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What Are The Odds?

I have a story in the finals at an anthology group I've not been published in before. Thin Threads is the name of the series--a la Chicken Soup. My story "College Isn't For Girls" made it to the final cut stage, and when I received the letter telling me so, it also said that three of the selected stories would be in line for a special prize and recognition.

Yesterday, the three top winners were announced. First prize went to a woman who wrote about the crossing guard at her elementary school. She painted a picture of a kind, thoughtful woman who helped children across a busy street as they went to and from school. The writer used enough sensory details to make the reader a part of the scene; she wrote with the ability to warm the reader's heart. So yes, she deserved the prize, I think.

But as I read, I became more and more amazed. The woman lived in Oak Park and attended Hatch Elementary School. She had to cross Ridgeland Ave to get to school and then back home again. I know the town, the school and the street she wrote about because I also grew up in Oak Park only a few blocks away from Ridgeland Ave. I didn't attend Hatch School, but I knew kids who did. What are the odds that two women who grew up in the same town, even close to the same area of town, would be submitting stories to the same anthology? It's definitely one of those small world things.

The funny thing is that I had a wonderful crossing guard who helped me across Oak Park Ave. every day, too. He was a retired policeman and wore his uniform proudly. I often showed him some treasure that I'd made in school and looked forward to his big smile and the pat on the head he often gave. I've pondered writing a memory type of story about Mr. Rawl, but I hadn't gotten around to it. Too bad--I might have won a prize!

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to hear about the final list of stories that will be in the Thin Threads book.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Meet Alexis Nikki--An American In Paris

Meet Alexis Niki, an American who has lived in European countries a good share of her life, an American in Paris for many years. Alexis is screen writer and recently added film producer to her resume. I met her in my former online writers critique group--WriteCraft. When it came to an end, I moved on to the writersandcritters group, and Alexis chose to spread her wings and fly on her own.

We dropped the occasional e-mail and then came Facebook where I was able to connect with her on a more regular basis and have watched the progress of her current film project with great interest.

When we planned our trip to France, I wrote and asked if we might be able to have a real live face-to-face meeting. She responded that she'd love to do that, and so one evening Alexis met us at our hotel. Ken snapped the picture you see here, and then the three of us walked down the street to a small cafe where we had a very nice visit over a few glasses of red wine.

In addition to her writing and producing, Alexis is a teacher of the Alexander Technique. Read about this method of treating back pain, poor posture and more at http://www.alexandertechnique.com/  She is married to a Brazilian man, who she says, is now a real European after twenty years on that continent.

The project she is working on now is a web film series titled "My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation" which is a story about an American mother and her two grown-up daughters.View the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYYCWxfbPig  The film will be shown in six installments on the web beginning in October. In addition, Alexis is planning to publish an e-book anthology of stories about mothers, daughters, and sisters to be released about the same time.

Is it any wonder that I have great admiration for my friend, Alexis Nikki?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Travel By River Cruiser

Ken and I took our first European river cruise quite a few years ago. We liked it so well that we have done three more, the latest being just recently. So what's so unique about traveling this way? There are small groups of passengers, not like the huge ocean liners that offer cruises, which we don't enjoy.. The first three ships we were on held around 120 and  the Provence in France accommodated only 46. We like the small groups. This last one was great. There were only 42 in the group, and so we had an opportunity to get to know everyone. No little cliques were formed, everyone interacted just like the kindergarten teacher wanted us to do way back when.

We boarded the ship after spending a day and a half in Nice. Our cabin was larger than on the other river ships we'd taken. We had twin beds with nightstand, a desk, two small easy chairs with small coffeetable, a nice sized walk-in shower and vanity in the bathroom with a separate room for a toilet and basin. Also a wardrobe that held all our clothes, which we unpacked immediately. Wrinkles hang out quite well! All decorated in the style of Provence, lovely colors and patterns in the fabrics and tiles.

The crew on this ship proved to be international. They hailed from France, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania and England. All spoke English very well, and in a short time, we came to know each one. The Captain was French, Co-Captain English. The chef was Czech, but he prepared food in the French way with spectacular flavor and presentation at every meal. The maitre'd and the waiter served us well and catered to whims of some passengers with a smile. The Ship Hotel Manager, a French woman, was Miss Sunshine in person. She did everything in her power to make sure our stay on the Provence was comfortable and satisfying. The housekeeping staff kept our cabins spotless, and the bartender learned quickly who wanted what to drink and exactly the right proportions. We ended up feeling pampered by all.Our program director hailed from India orignially but had come to France many years before. She was outstanding in her field.

The meals were so good--a buffet breakfast each morning that offered juices, platters of fresh fruit, cheeses, cold meats, scrambled eggs, bacon and/or sausages, and trays of croissants, breads, and pastries plus good coffee. Each morning, there was a special breakfast, as well. One day it was crepes, another an omelet, and then Eggs Benedict which people added to the other buffet items. No need for a mid-morning snack!

Lunch began with a soup and then usually a choice of a salad or a hot entree or special sandwich. Dessert followed. Dinner had several courses and a choice between two entrees with red or white wine to accompany the meal. The one thing they do is give small portions, so that you feel satisfied, not stuffed, when finished.

The ship had a sundeck where we often sat and watched the scenery on both sides of the Rhone River. If it was cool or too warm, we sat in the air-conditioned lounge that had floor to ceiling windows for viewing. The river ship even offered a small gift shop on-board with the merchandise changing as we moved from one district to another. Yes, I did make a few purchases.

Ken and I both highly recommend traveling by river ship--unpack once and still be in a different place every day. We find it totally relaxing and rather enjoyed being treated like royalty.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Arles, France--Bull Fights and Vincent Van Gogh

Arles was one of our first stops after we left Nice. A city guide met our group and walked the town with us, explaining the buildings and telling stories along the way. Arles is in the Provence area and is built on steep and winding streets, so narrow only only one car can drive on it, and yet, no one-way street signs like we're use to.

Many people make a living as a city guide. Their job is to help tourists discover a town and its history, what it has to offer. They appear to be a chamber of commerce on foot. We've never had a poor city guide in the trips we've taken. They must weed out the ones who leave tourists yawning.

In Arles, the Roman influence is evident, stemming from the Roman invasion of France long, long ago. A large ampitheater that the Romans built still stands and is home to regularly scheduled bull fights. It surprised me, as I think of Spain and maybe Portugal as bull fighting countries, not France. As we looked into the interior of the ampitheater on this pleasant warm morning, a light breeze now and then, it was difficult to imagine the crowds cheering the bull fighter on, and maybe some people cheering for the bull to win.

We folllowed our guide to a series of buildings built around a courtyard. It was here that Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted for a short time. Another painter, Paul Gaugin, lived there in the same period. The two were friends who often fought over various things. The legend of Van Gogh's ear being cut off has two different versions. One is that Van Gogh did it himself, wrapped it in a scarf and presented it to his mistress asking her to keep it. The other story says that Van Gogh and Gaugin had a big fight with swords slashing through the air as these two master painters came at one another. With a final swipe, Gaugin neatly sliced off the ear of his friend.

As much as I enjoyed hearing the story about the two painters, I relished the way the guide told the tales.
Her enjoyment in telling the story showed in the many hand gestures she used the expressions on her face, and the inflection in her voice. She had her audience (us) in her hand. I wondered if she had ever tried writing. If she did, I think she would be successful if she could transfer the emotion in her storytelling onto paper.

We finished our visit to Arles with time to visit the shops which were filled with products of Provence. Lavendar, herbs and olive oil reigned supreme, but the lovely fabrics with the sunny colors of the Mediterranean caught the eye of many a shopper.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Dreaming of France

We're home from our two weeks in France, but a part of me still seems to be across the Atlantic in la belle France. I felt so at home there, and who can say whether that is because of my French heritage on my father's side of the family or if it is only because it's a country that has much to offer--scenery, culture, history, food and wine at the top of the chart.

Americans have long told stories of the rude things French people do to tourists and perhaps to one another, but we never encountered that. In fact, we found the people to be incredibly polite. Our program director made a point of teaching those in our group the proper way to act in France. One must always say "Bon jour, Madame" or "Bon jour, Monsieur" upon entering a shop, when approaching someone to ask a question, even to the bus driver when entering the bus. We all picked up the greeting quickly and began to use it everywhere we went. You might think it would become a bit tedious after awhile, but it didn't. Instead, it set the tone for a pleasant encounter. And  it became an automatic thing to say  thank you when leaving a shop. "Merci" is a short little word that will bring smiles. I'd like to see more of the polite way in France used here in our country on a regular basis. .

There were many highlights, with two special ones that I hope will end up as essays or travel articles one day. A visit to the American military cemetery in Arles touched me deeply, and I wrote a rough draft about the visit that evening. I didn't want to forget any of it. The other was was a visit to Monet's house and gardens in Giverny. I could have spent hours in the gardens as master painter, Monet, must have done. What inspiration, what peace the gardens offered. On the long overseas flight, I closed my eyes and pictured the many colors and textures, the groupings of flowers, the water lily pond with little bridges scattered over it in several spots. I pictured myself sitting in the garden with a cup of tea beside me, a book in hand with the soft sounds of summer surrounding me. I think that mental image may become my new stress reliever.

More tomorrow on the river ship, food and wine.