Welcome to By the Book, Miss Demeanors’ style. In the tradition of the New York Times Sunday feature, the question of the week is: You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three authors, dead or alive, do you invite, in addition to your fellow Miss Demeanors, of course?
Yesterday, my fellow Miss Demeanor, Susan Breen, talked about buying each of the books recently nominated for the Edgar in the best novel category. She rationalized, quite reasonably in my view, that money not spent in restaurants during the pandemic could be redirected to purchasing books.
But with so many books, how do I choose which books? The reasons seem to fall into the categories of Smart, Savvy, Sentimental, and Seemingly Silly.
Writers have many choices. Shall I write fiction or nonfiction? If fiction, should my story be a romance, mystery, thriller, or shall I reach for literary fiction, whatever that is? Who will star in my story, where will it be set, and when? The choices go on and on, and for most writers are part of the pleasure of writing, unless they become agonizing.
But what happens when times call for writers to write outside their chosen areas of concentration?
Yesterday a writing colleague posted a question on social media about unpublished manuscripts she had sitting in a closet. Do you keep them or toss them out, she asked. Coincidentally, I have been working on a manuscript I wrote a number of years ago, which oddly I had made no effort to publish. It’s the story about a woman named Elise who kept whispering in my ears when I was cooking in my kitchen. I was busy working on a mystery series at the time, so I kept trying to shoo her away, but Elise would not let go of me until I wrote her story. It turned out to be a romantic comedy, a genre I hadn’t attempted before. I enjoyed Elise and the cast of characters supporting her, yet the book did not fit into my plan at the time. We all know what’s happened to plans. For me, the pandemic preceded by a couple of killer hurricanes turned my life into a chopped more than a tossed salad. So be it. You land where you’re planted and try to bloom. Elise has continued to gnaw at me since I placed her in a desk drawer. “Let me […]
Instead of staying indoors and watching Hamilton during the July fourth weekend, I practiced social distancing by heading for the hammock and a summer read. I chose The Guest List by Lucy Foley, which is set on an island off the west coast of Ireland. I’m very partial to islands, having written two books set on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I’m also a huge fan of the Wild Atlantic Way where I traveled last year and was eager to return, albeit by hammock. The Guest List takes place during an elaborate and exclusive weekend wedding when an unexpected coastal storm strikes. Weddings are notorious for high conflict, so naturally, a murder takes place. With so much to recommend it, you won’t be surprised to hear that I loved the book. Foley is a gifted writer, equally as talented at describing setting dripping with atmosphere as she is at creating complex characters, who simultaneously can be flawed yet likable and sympathetic. She manages to transport her readers deftly to the place she wants them to experience the story and in the shoes of the character she wants them to be standing in. Now I understand why it’s called […]
This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Nurses, Doctors, Lab Technicians, EMT’s, Hospital Workers, I’ve waited until the end of the week to write a thank you note to the medical heroes who have served us during the Pandemic, not because you are less deserving, but because I really can’t find the words to do it justice. I’ll confess that in my earlier professional life, I was a nurse for ten years. I always worked in the community, rather than on the front lines in a hospital. It takes a very special person to work with acutely ill persons. I am not made of that stuff and have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do even in the “old normal,” as opposed to the “new normal” we are looking to enter. Most of us witnessed the accounts of doctors and nurses describing the challenges of being thrown into the coronavirus crisis with little warning. How they managed to report for work day after day for shifts that are long even under normal circumstances is unimaginable to me. Leaving your own loved ones to give direct care to people […]
This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Grocery Store, Pharmacy Workers, and all Unseen Essential Workers, Before I thank you for your selfless service during the Pandemic, I need to offer a sincere and profound apology. I barely noticed you until recently. I’m sorry for my ignorance, which clearly reflects the privileged life I have led. Although I worked as a cashier in the quick checkout aisle in the now-defunct First National grocery chain when I was in high school, I apparently learned very little about what it is like to be invisible in a job. Forced to think back now, I can remember the occasional abuse and rudeness of customers and the disgusting feel of the liquid that would get on my hands from packages chicken I had to pack in bags. I admit I was terrified when I first went to the grocery store and my local CVS after fully comprehending how communicable the Coronavirus was. I wanted to dash into the store, grab my purchases, and checkout in minutes. I no longer sauntered up and down aisles exploring items I might incorporate into a recipe. I […]
This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired during the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Couriers everywhere, I want to thank you for your service to the people in our country during the pandemic crisis. When the realization that the Coronavirus sweeping the world had managed to penetrate the often impermeable borders of the United States, most Americans took heed. We donned masks and gloves, and against our grain, we stayed home. The implications were unimaginable. You, however, did not get to stay home and home school your children and experience the joys of baking sourdough bread. There was no binge-watching any of the series you’ve missed because you were working from dawn to dusk, reporting to warehouses to load trucks full of merchandise to deliver to people like me so I wouldn’t have to risk going to a store to buy toilet paper and be exposed to coronavirus. So thank you for the paper towels, peanut butter, puzzles, and books. But even more, thank you for allowing me the freedom to make decisions about my own personal safety that you do not get to enjoy. As a person of a certain age […]
This week I will be writing thank you notes inspired by the solitude a pandemic brings. Dear Soldier, Sailor, or Anyone Who Has Served Our Nation, Today we remember those who lost their lives serving our country and so I wanted to write you a thank you note. It’s a tiny gesture when compared to the sacrifice you made for me and the generations before me and those to come. No parade, no flag display, and no wall of inscribed names can ever acknowledge the loss of you and your loved ones. We commemorate you on a single day in May that most years gets lost in cookouts and parades. It takes a pandemic when we are at a minimum confined by social distancing, to force us to focus on what the day was intended to be. Hearing the staggering numbers of the lives lost to the Coronavirus makes us wonder how we ever became numb to legions lost to war and duty. A single day can never be enough to acknowledge the loss of so many human lives. Those fallen are denied the fullness of a life the rest of us often take for granted. Their loved ones are […]