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When a weary Egeon laments in the first scene of The Comedy of Errors that in quest of his lost son he has spent five years "Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia," Shakespeare is characteristically using the word only in its classical sense, to indicate the Roman province of Asia Minor, a territory roughly equivalent to that of modern Turkey. Shakespeare’s sense of the geography of the rather larger area we now call Asia, like that of many fellow-Elizabethans, is more vague.
As shared in this blog many times before, this started out as a short story, which touched something deep in my writer's soul for lack of a better way to describe it. Over the years...many years and many re-writes, it evolved into a radio play that was entered and subsequently didn't win or even place, in the BBC International Playwriting competition and then back to a play. In spite of many attempts at 'putting it to bed' permanently, somehow, it always calls me back. Maybe there's a message there or perhaps merely wishful thinking on my part. It's still a work in progress.
Be that as it may...here is the latest edit . Changed the venue of the story to one place and gave Joe McKenna a dog. Characters are basically the same but adding a few more as the story develops. Note that there is more spacing than normal to make reading easier.
In the way of background information, Joe McKenna is a crusty, old curmudgeon who lives with and for his dog, Daisy. A few times per week, he and his army buddies drop by the local bar to talk about old times, re-live past glories and complain about their aches and pains.
THE PRESENT. AUTUMN. EARLY MORNING.
VETERAN JOE MCKENNA, DRESSED IN FULL SERVICE UNIFORM, SITS AT A TABLE READING A NEWSPAPER, WHILE WAITING FOR HIS BUDDIES TO ARRIVE. A WHITE DOG LAYS ON THE FLOOR BY HIS FEET. BACKGROUND MUSIC SUPPLIED BY AN OLD JUKE BOX
Yup…yup…yup… The way things are goin’, won’t be long before we’re all gone. Poor old, Perce. Died alone without anyone there to see him on his way to the big battlefield in the sky. ‘Here’s to you, Perce! You’ll be missed for sure!’
Lifts glass in the air and lowers it
JOE’S FRIEND, MIKE, DRESSED IN UNIFORM
COMPLETE WITH STRIPES AND MEDAL, JOINS HIM
AT THE TABLE
Freezing out there. Wind cuts like a knife. See you got a head start. Buying a round?
You just got here and already trying to mooch a free drink?
When it comes to mooching, bud, you got that covered and then some. When’s the last time you paid?
(pretends to take out imaginary book)
Let me check my diary here…last Wednesday, three in the afternoon. You buying or not?
You are a cheap bastard! I’m stuck with the bill, again. ‘Vince – two whiskeys’
- Joe here is paying by the way -
Whatever. See you’re in full regalia.
If not today, when? Take it out once a year. Pee-ew! What’s that stink coming from your direction
Throw in a dozen or so moth balls when I store the uniform
At least put it out to air a couple days before you wear it. Really reeks
VINCE, the bartender, brings over drinks
One of you guys forget to wash?
Joe here uses moth balls for his uniform
So what. Why should I share it with moths
No insult intended but you’re smelling up my bar. Wouldn’t hurt to go out and air yourself out a bit. You paying, Joe?
Put it on my tab. The man’s as cheap as they come. You’d think for a special occasion he’d spring for a round but that would be asking too much for his old friend
Nice if one of you would pay cash for a change. Your tab, Joe, goes back a year. Let’s see…you owe me $1500.34. I’m feeling generous today so drop the thirty-four cents and make an even $1500
You’re all heart. Where d’ya expect me to find that kind of money on my service pension?
At least give me something. Anything! I have bills to pay, too, y’know
Next check. I’ll give you a couple of bucks towards it. May have to give up some food items and my dog here will have to get used to eating just a few days a week…
Why don’t you lay on the guilt a bit more. Listen…about your Daisy…You know I’ve never objected to you bringing her here. I like her a lot but like I told you, dogs aren’t allowed in bars. I’ve closed my eyes up until now but there’s a new inspector and word has it that he goes by the letter of the law
She’s a service dog. Aren’t you girl?
Daisy picks up her head responding to hearing her name
She goes where I go. Calms my nerves and watches out for me
How old is she, anyway? Getting’ on in years
What’s the difference? She’s there when I need her
She better be legally registered when or if the inspector comes ‘round
Don’t worry ‘bout my Daisy. I’ll just explain there’s extenuating circumstances
Don’t say I didn’t warn you
Mac’s supposed to meet us here
Seriously? The man doesn’t drive and uses a walker. How’s he getting here?
He wants to join us for Percy’s funeral
Amazing. Never lets his condition stop him from doing anything. Sometimes I wonder how he gets around but he does. Mind over matter I guess. It’s either that or give up and die. Mind you, sometimes when pain takes over, it don’t seem like such a bad idea
He just walked in. Poor guy can hardly move. ‘Over here, Mac!’
None of us are peppy anymore, in case you hadn’t noticed. My glass is empty by the way
Yeah and? I bought last time
So what. You owed me from all the rounds I bought before
It’s your turn, el cheapo!
(gasping to catch his breath)
Really…windy… out… there – and cold. Hope the wind… dies…down… for later. Hard to get around in this kind of weather, ‘specially with a walker. What times the funeral, anyway?
You really planning to attend, Mac? Not trying to discourage you or anything but it’ll be hard pushing your walker on grass and that wind…
I’ll manage. Old Percy was one of the last few members of our group. He deserves our respect and he’d do the same for any of us. Can’t believe he’s gone… Really cold out
You look like an ice cube and your hands turned blue. Why didn’t you wear gloves? How’d you get here, anyway?
By bus. Took me forty-five minutes if you don’t count standing at the bus stop waiting for twenty minutes. Damn busses never stick to their schedule
What’s in the package?
Got a treat for Daisy
MAC takes a bone out of a bag
(cont’d. MAC) Found it in the trash in back of the supermarket on the way here. Look at it – a perfectly good bone with lots of meat. Probably even good enough for us to eat. You should see all the food they toss out there. Fruit and veggies with a couple of bruises and piles of bread. Cakes too!
DAISY struggles to get up as MAC gives her the bone
The dog eats better than we do. You…you don’t take things from the trash…do you?
I personally don’t but what if I did? There are people in third world countries that wouldn’t think twice about eating it. ‘There you go Daisy. A perfectly good bone for you. Enjoy. ’Ouch…trouble standing up…back is out again. Stupid bus trip didn’t help none
Why didn’t you take a cab?
You hav’ta be kidding. Like I can afford a taxi? I’m here now so stop jabbering and order me something warm. No – make that hot. Gonna be freezing at the cemetery for sure. Not too many people will show up ‘specially at our age
There ain’t that many at our age, left. We don’t get to choose the kind of weather t’get buried. Funeral’s called for noon
What’s your pleasure, Mac? I’m paying
You’re buying hima drink? What about me?
He just arrived. The man needs to warm up and besides, he brought Daisy a bone. Anyone who thinks about my Daisy’s needs deserves a drink on the house
Remember I’m your old army pal who stayed with you in thick and thin?
I paid you back a long time ago. What’s your poison, Mac? Whiskey like always?
Neh. Hot coffee will do me fine
With a shot of whiskey t’give it flavor, right?
Plain, old hot coffee with milk and sugar
Straight coffee? That’s it?
0 Comments on OLD SOLDIERS - an excerpt of updated version as of 1/13/2016 10:55:00 AM
Hideo Kojima, the visionary behind the Metal Gear video game franchise, has had a rough year. Despite the newest entry in the Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, debuting to rave reviews, Kojima has rarely been seen in the spotlight promoting the game or accepting awards for its performance. Yesterday, at Sony’s annual Playstation […]
Stanley Wells’ latest book, Great Shakespeare Actors, offers a series of beautifully written, illuminating, and entertaining accounts of many of the most famous stage performers of Shakespeare from his time to ours. In a video interview, Wells revealed some of the ‘lesser’ remembered actors of the past he would have loved to have seen perform live on stage. The edited transcript below offers an insight into three of these great Shakespeare actors.
Written in the Stars is an emotionally compelling story, and man, did it make me angry! To think that there are still cultures that value the lives and dreams of girls so little that they would sell them into marriage when they are still basically children makes me so frustrated for the future of all of us. The protagonist Naila is a hard-working honor student with one goal in life – going to med school and becoming a doctor. When she lies to her parents and sneaks off to prom, she’s punished in the most demeaning way. She’s taken to Pakistan, lied to by her parents, and married off against her will. Good-bye, intelligent, science-minded young woman. You are going to be a cloistered housewife for the rest of your life, and all of those endless possibilities that were once open to you? Gone. All of those people your medical skills could have saved? Nope, your parents thought being barefoot and pregnant at seventeen was a more worthy pursuit for your keen mind. Sigh.
Naila’s always been an obedient child, but when she enters her senior year in high school, she and Saif, also of Pakistani descent, can no longer deny their feelings for each other. Saif’s sister, however, brought shame on their family by marrying an American, and Naila’s parents and their friends won’t have anything to do with the family anymore. They gossip mercilessly about them, and no longer invite them for parties or gatherings. Saif’s parents, they whisper to each other, did a terrible job raising them, and both Saif and his sister are disgraceful. Naila must keep her feelings for Saif a secret. She knows her parents would never understand or approve of her feelings for him, so their relationship is confined within the school walls. Naila is just waiting to graduate, so that she can get out of her parents house, move into the dorm on campus, and have a little bit of freedom with she studies to be a doctor.
Her world shatters when she’s caught with Saif at senior prom. Her parents promptly book the next plane to Pakistan, not even allowing her to attend her graduation. Once at her uncle’s home, she starts to think that things will be okay. Her parents are happy being back home with their families, and Naila is enjoying getting to know her cousins and her aunts and uncles. She’s annoyed with all of the gatherings her mother keeps dragging her to, expecting her to dress up and answer bewildering questions about herself. After a month, it all gets very tiring, and she just wants to get back to Florida so she can attend orientation.
Then she learns, to her horror, that her parents are searching for a husband for her. She’s basically trapped, and has no one to turn to. Her parents have taken her visa, her passport, and her spending money. She’s in a rural village, and has no way to get to the airport. Her parents are suddenly strangers to her, and she despairs at ever going back home to Florida.
Written in the Stars is hard to put down. Naila’s narrative is so engaging that you don’t want to leave her world, as hopeless as it is at times. She’s an intelligent young woman, though, and she doesn’t give up hope of getting the future she dreams of. Just when she thinks she’s out of options, a new door opens, if only she has the courage to step through it.
The details of life in rural Pakistan are colorful and vivid. The reader explores Naila’s fascinating new world with her, and her daily activities come to life. Most compelling, I think, is how powerless and how inconsequential she was to her family. Her parents really thought they were doing what was best for her, but I had a very hard time understanding them, especially her father, who had to give up his own dreams of becoming a doctor to run the family dry cleaning business. Family honor is of utmost importance, but being an American, the concept of doing everything your parents tell you, even into adulthood, is incomprehensible to me. Though Written in the Stars ends on an upbeat note, it’s sobering to think of all of the girls in situations where there is no happily ever after.
Review copy borrowed from my local library
This heart-wrenching novel explores what it is like to be thrust into an unwanted marriage. Has Naila’s fate been written in the stars? Or can she still make her own destiny?
Naila’s conservative immigrant parents have always said the same thing: She may choose what to study, how to wear her hair, and what to be when she grows up—but they will choose her husband. Following their cultural tradition, they will plan an arranged marriage for her. And until then, dating—even friendship with a boy—is forbidden. When Naila breaks their rule by falling in love with Saif, her parents are livid. Convinced she has forgotten who she truly is, they travel to Pakistan to visit relatives and explore their roots. But Naila’s vacation turns into a nightmare when she learns that plans have changed—her parents have found her a husband and they want her to marry him, now! Despite her greatest efforts, Naila is aghast to find herself cut off from everything and everyone she once knew. Her only hope of escape is Saif . . . if he can find her before it’s too late.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s comic masterpiece 'The School for Scandal' premiered at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in May 1777. The play was an immediate success earning Drury Lane, which Sheridan owned and managed an enormous amount of money. 'The School for Scandal' explores a fashionable society at once addicted to gossip and yet fearful of exposure. Jokes are had at the expense of aging husbands, the socially inexpert, and, most of all, the falsely sentimental.
Over the past couple months I’ve looked at both of Satoshi Mizukami’s works that are available in English, Spirit Circle and Hoshi no Samidare: The Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, and my feelings on Biscuit Hammer were rather lukewarm. I felt like Spirit Circle improved on all of the problems I had with the story but that was expected, ... Read more
Some reviewers of the first episodes of the current BBC1 adaptation have dismissed it is over-blown fantasy, even childish, yet Clarke’s characters are only once removed from the very real magical world of early nineteenth-century England. What few readers or viewers realise is that there were magicians similar to Strange and Norrell at the time: there really were 'Friends of English Magic', to whom the novel’s Mr Segundus appealed in a letter to The Times.
On November 11th, Remembrance Day, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them.
"Old Soldiers" which started out as a short story, came about as a result of an interview with some old soldiers/veterans for a newspaper column that I was writing at the time. Was drawn back to the story over time and as is my habit, tweaked it over the years and somehow the main focus of the story, Joe McKenna, seemed to take on a life of his own, along with his service buddies. One of my many (big on this aspect) re-writes resulted in an attempt to turn it as a radio play that was entered in the BBC International Playwriting Competition. Needless to say it didn't win but thought I'd share the second scene in this blog. It's still in the editing process (so what else is new). Formatting went askew in places during cut-and-paste.
To set the stage so to speak, JOE MCKENNA is a disillusioned old veteran who saw action and is angry with the world. He and his buddies are relics from another era who are afflicted with a variety of debilitating conditions, and the death of one of them hits Joe particularly hard. He decides to make a personal statement to make his views known at a remembrance day service in a park and along the way fate steps in when he meets up with a young boy (TIM) and his mother.
SCENE: A PARK.
AT RISE: Joe McKenna is slowly making his way to where the Remembrance Day service is taking place in a park. His body racked with pain, he stops to sit down on a bench. A military band can be heard in the distance playing band music and the voice speaking through a loud speaker system.
JOE:Look at ‘em all! Sheep – a bunch of bloody sheep!
YOUNG BOY: Mister – where are the sheep?
JOE:Huh? What you talking about, son?
TIM:You said something about seeing sheep. Where are they?
JOE:I meant… No sheep. Just talking to myself, is all
TIM:I like marching bands. Last Christmas I marched in the Santa Claus parade with one of the elves
JOE:That’s nice. Now you go find your mom…
TIM:See her over there? Reading a book? My mom told me that it's important we come here every year. She didn’t tell me why, though…
JOE:You better go or she’ll come looking for you, besides, you shouldn’t talk to strangers
TIM:She said I could go play if I stayed where she could see me. If I can see see her then she can see me. Are you a soldier?
JOE:I was, a long, long time ago. Guess I’ll always be a soldier in my heart.
TIM:How come you’re dressed different than the others?
JOE:Look sonny boy – I don’t think your mom would like you talking to strange, old men so you better go stay with her
TIM:I’ll just wave at her so she’ll know everything is okay. ‘Hi mom! This man is a soldier too! Is it okay if I talk to him?’
JOE:Oh G-d. That’s all I need now. Talking to strange kiddies… I’m out’ta here…
TIM:My mom is coming over to say hi so you can talk to her
JOE:I don’t think so, kid. Shoot! I’m behind in my schedule!
BOY’S MOM(BETH) You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers! We’ve discussed this a million times…
TIM:I know mom but he was a soldier, too. Look – he’s wearing a uniform
BETH:Why don’t you go play on the swings over there, Tim
TIM:But I why can’t I talk to him? What are those ribbons for, mister?
BETH:Well…because… Oh look! There are some kids throwing a a ballaround. Why don’t you go join them?
BETH:Go play, Timmy. Now!
JOEDon’t blame you for telling him that. Heaven knows I tried! Look…if you don’t want him talking to me, that’s fine. I got places to go – things to do, anyway
BETH:Tim is such a trusting boy. Loves the world. These days that can bea fatal fault. Takes after his great grand-dad, G-d rest his soul
JOE:Trust me lady that I didn’t initiate the conversation. I was just sitting here on this bench resting a bit. Your boy was just being a kid
BETH:I’m assuming by your uniform that you were in the army. Which war?
JOE:Does it make a difference? War is war. Shoot! I’m way behind now…
BETH:Didn’t mean any disrespect. It just came out. My grandfather wore the same uniform. Such a strong man but he was never the same when he returned. A fraction of his former self
JOE:Weren’t we all. Nice talking to you but…
BETH:Have we met before?
JOE:Doubt it given the big difference in our age. Do you work in the Vet Hospital, he asked, hoping to get an “in” there…
BETH:Maybe we don’t know each other but I’ve seen your face…but where…
JOE:I used to play checkers here in the park but that ain’t gonna happen anymore…
BETH:Sorry. Don’t wanna keep you. I gotta be somewhere else, myself
JOENice meeting you…
JOEYou don’t look like you’re dressed nearly warm enough to be in a park this time of the year. Maybe you and the kid should go home and put on some warmer clothes. Well – it’s been interesting…you’ve got a sweet and trusting little boy
BOY’S MOMTakes after his great-grandfather. Sweetest man in the world, he was. That’s why I’m here – and dressed like this. I’m burying him after the memorial ceremonies. He was a soldier so he’s getting full military honors. In fact if I don’t get a move on, I’m gonna be late ‘Tim – come on. We have to go!’
JOE:Would you mind sharing the name of your grandfather with a stranger you just met? Could be we knew each other
BETH:Percy… Percy Albertson
JOE:Can’t be…not possible… This is too much. Percy was my best friend in war and in peace. In fact, me and the last of our platoon buddies are gonna be at his funeral. You’re – Percy’s granddaughter? Never even knew he had a daughter ‘til I read his obit in the paper. Is your mother here? Would be great to meet Percy's old lady and I’m sure the others would, too
BETH:She passed a year ago of a heart attack. Lived in a small apartment and kept it like a shrine devoted to gramps. Funny thing is they rarely spoke to each other. Some kind of stupid fued or the other and then they separated. Sad. I never had the chance to meet him.
JOE:Old Perce was a stubborn and proud man. He should’a gone t’live in the VA hospital years ago but he always refused them. Instead he existed from hand-to-mouth and never enough money to pay for medication. I mean, what are the odds that you and me should meet?
BETH:Now I remember where we met. At the pub a long time ago, when I was a little girl! I visited the place a couple of times with my grand-dad. Listen – if you’re alone here, why don’t we attend the funeral together? I know my son would be happy and so would my grand-dad for sure
JOE:Thanks for the invite but I…got plans…hav’ta do something…for Percy…
BETH:Please – it would make me so happy and my grandparents would have wanted this. I’d like that we get to know each other and maybe you have some photos you could share of him and you during the war. It would be nice if my son got to know his great-grandfather through you
JOE:Perhaps we could meet there, after … You’ll have to excuse me. Got an important appointment
TIM:What do you have to do?
BOY’S MOM:Stop asking him so many questions, Timmy. The man has to go and. that’s that. Maybe we’ll see him later
TIM:Can I thank you
JOE:Thank me - for?
TIM:My mom says we should thank old soldiers for fighting to help us stay free. Didn’t you tell me that, mom?
BETH:I did say that – and I meant it. Not only old soldiers – all soldiers. Thank you from me and my son…you never told me your name
JOE:Joe. Joe McKenna
BETH:You’re “the” Joe? My grandfather spoke fondly of you, all the time! Fate must have arranged for our meeting
JOE:Wouldn’t put it past Old Percy to arrange this. I reallygotta leave now.
TIM:Look – I can salute! I practiced at home.
JOE:You do that well. You take good care of your son
BETH:Listen – if you have nothing planned after the funeral, perhaps you’d at least join us for a bite to eat?
JOE:Maybe another time…
BETH:Of course. I’m just being selfish. Here – let me give you my phone and cell numbers. Give me a call if you’d like to join us
JOE:I’m really running late now…Nice meeting you both…
TIM:Have a good day! I’m going to salute all the soldiers at the ceramo…cerrro…
great weather for MEDIA (New York) seeks poetry, flash fiction, short stories, dramatic monologues, and creative nonfiction for their annual print anthology. Focus on the fearless, the unpredictable, and experimental. Welcomes submissions from international writers. Deadline: January 15, 2016. Guidelines.
To celebrate the new BBC Radio Four adaptation of the French writer Émile Zola's, 'Rougon-Macquart' cycle, we have looked at the extraordinary life and work of one of the great nineteenth century novelists.
What would I do if I did not tell my stories? I might be “asleep” in life. But even in sleep my stories dance in my mind. They wait. They hear my “voice.” That “voice” is a part of them. Where soul and chance meet, in their midst are cinematic images. They must be given an account in […]
As a bioethics teaching method, narrative genomics highlights the breadth of individuals affected by next-gen technologies — the conversations among professionals and families — bringing to life the spectrum of emotions and challenges that envelope genomics. Recent controversies over genomic sequencing in children and consentissues have brought fundamental ethical theses to the stage to be re-examined, further fueling our belief in drama as an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach to explore how society evaluates, processes, and shares genomic information that may implicate future generations. With a mutual interest in enhancing dialogue and understanding about the multi-faceted implications raised by generating and sharing vast amounts of genomic information, and with diverse backgrounds in bioethics, policy, psychology, genetics, law, health humanities, and neuroscience, we have been collaboratively weaving dramatic narratives to enhance the bioethics educational experience within varied professional contexts and a wide range of academic levels to foster interprofessionalism.
Dramatizations of fictionalized individual, familial, and professional relationships that surround the ethical landscape of genomics create the potential to stimulate bioethical reflection and new perceptions amongst “actors” and the audience, sparking the moral imagination through the lens of others. By casting light on all “the storytellers” and the complexity of implications inherent with this powerful technology, dramatic narratives create vivid scenarios through which to imagine the challenges faced on the genomic path ahead, critique the application of bioethical traditions in context, and re-imagine alternative paradigms.
Because narrative genomics is a pedagogical approach intended to facilitate discourse, as well as provide reflection on the interrelatedness of the cross-disciplinary issues posed, we ground our genomic plays in current scholarship and ensure that it is accurate scientifically as well as provide extensive references and pose focused bioethics questions which can complement and enhance the classroom experience.
In a similar vein, bioethical controversies can also be brought to life with this approach where bioethics reaching incorporates dramatizations and excerpts from existing theatrical narratives, whether to highlight bioethics issues thematically, or to illuminate the historical path to the genomics revolution and other medical innovations from an ethical perspective.
Varying iterations of these dramatic narratives have been experienced (read, enacted, witnessed) by bioethicists, policy makers, geneticists, genetic counselors, other healthcare professionals, basic scientists, bioethicists, lawyers, patient advocates, and students to enhance insight and facilitate interdisciplinary and interprofessional dialogue.
Dramatizations embedded in genomic narratives illuminate the human dimensions and complexity of interactions among family members, medical professionals, and others in the scientific community. By facilitating discourse and raising more questions than answers on difficult issues, narrative genomics links the promise and concerns of next-gen technologies with a creative bioethics pedagogical approach for learning from one another.
Heading image: Andrzej Joachimiak and colleagues at Argonne’s Midwest Center for Structural Genomics deposited the consortium’s 1,000th protein structure into the Protein Data Bank. CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
This morning, Jenny Colgan shares Issy’s must haves for the kitchen. Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a digital copy of Christmas at the Cupcake Café!
Issy’s Top 5 must haves:
*A good mixer. Kenwood, the British brand is the best: they also come in gorgeous colours!
*a cooling rack. You need to get air under your cakes to finish baking them properly when they’re out the oven!
*a measuring jug. Sometimes you don’t even need to get the scales out if you can approximate from the jug and it’s an easy cake!
* a skewer to poke in and see if your cake is done
* springform cake tins. These are the ones with the bottoms that come out. If you’re clumsy like me, they’re a godsend!
Christmas at the Cupcake Café
Cupcake Café # 2
By: Jenny Colgan
Releasing October 14th, 2014
Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn’t be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don’t seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe – with its increased demand for her delectable creations – begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.
This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another. . .
Indulge yourself and your sweet-toothed friends with Jenny Colgan’s new novel, simply bursting with Christmas cupcake recipes and seasonal sugar-fuelled fun.
Jenny Colgan is the author of numerous bestselling novels, including Christmas at the Cupcake Café and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, which are also published by Sphere. Meet Me at the Cupcake Café won the 2012 Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance and was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, as was Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams, which won the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2013. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and France.
Robin Talley hijacked the virtual dashboard this morning to chat about her research for Lies We Tell Ourselves.
Top 5 most surprising facts I learned while conducting research for Lies We Tell Ourselves:
I had to do a lot of research to write Lies We Tell Ourselves.
Since the story follows the relationship between a black girl and a white girl during the Virginia school integration crisis in 1959, I read memoirs, oral histories, and news articles about the desegregation process, trying to learn everything I could about what life was like for the students on the front lines of the battle.
But I also needed to know more run-of-the-mill facts about life for high school students in the late 1950s. So I spent a lot of time pouring over vintage yearbooks and reading up on day-to-day life at the time.
Here are a few eyebrow-raising tidbits about life in the 1950s:
1. You didn’t wash your hair every day.
Today’s routine of showering and shampooing daily would’ve sounded crazy in 1959. How often teenage girls actually washed their hair varied, but this vintage hair-care video suggests washing “with a mild soap” every two weeks:
By the way, in 1959, you basically had one hairstyle option if you were a teenage girl. Long hair and straight hair were both unthinkable. Your hair didn’t fall past your chin, and it was curly, and that was that. If your hair wasn’t naturally curly, you got a perm or you set it up in rollers every night. Presumably using the time you saved by only washing it every two weeks.
2. School dress codes were no joke.
No one ever wore jeans to school. Boys would wear khakis with belts and solid-colored Oxford shirts with socks to match. Girls, meanwhile, would never think of wearing pants to school at all. Everyone wore loafers, saddle shoes, or flats, since high heels were forbidden, except for dances. Skirts were long ? well below the knee ? and tights hadn’t been invented yet, so to stay warm in the winter, you either wore knee socks or you just shivered. This yearbook photo shows girls wearing thick coats over bare legs ? and somehow smiling in spite of it.
3. Relationships were no joke, either.
The rules for dating and romance were formal for high school students in the fifties. Boys asked girls on dates ? never the other way around, except for Sadie Hawkins dances ? and, after a sufficient number of outings to movies or football games, a boy might ask a girl to go steady. To do this, he’d give her something of his to wear ? an identity bracelet, a class ring, a football pin, a letter sweater ? and whatever it was, she’d wear that thing every day of her life until they broke up. Going-steady couples walked down the school hallways together with the boys carrying the girls’ books. My mother told me about a trend she remembered where girls would wear blouses that had loops of fabric at the back of the collar. She remembered one going-steady couple at her school who walked down the hall together with the boy’s finger looped through the fabric at the back of her blouse collar. It sounds like nothing short of a leash.
4. Double standards for girls were the norm.
As I mentioned up in #3, the decision of who dated whom and who went steady with whom was almost entirely up to boys ? they were the only ones who could suggest a date or a relationship. After that, though, it was up to girls to keep the boys in check. It was considered normal for boys to want to hook up, but girls were supposed to stop them, or else. Even if you were going steady, girls were still supposed to rein their boyfriends in when they got “carried away.” A girl who kissed on a first date was “easy.” So was a girl who wore a skirt that was deemed too tight. My aunt told me about one classmate she remembered who was known for routinely too far with boys ? meaning she and the boys she dated would engage in extended kissing sessions. The other girls at their school referred to this girl in whispered voices as a “make out.”
5. Air raid drills were part of life.
The 1950s were near the height of the Cold War. During classes, it was routine for a practice air-raid siren to go off. Students were expected to duck down under their desks or go out into the hallway and kneel against the wall with their arms over their heads. These tactics wouldn’t have helped in the slightest if there had been an actual nuclear attack, of course ? nuclear weapons do far too much damage for it to make a difference what position you’re in ? but they did a great job of freaking out the students who went through the drills, and of reminding them of the Communist threat that loomed over everyone’s heads.
About the book:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.
Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”
Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.
Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
December 1. The year is winding down. While to some December means end-of-the-year holidays and cold weather, to me it means the arrival of "Best of the Year" booklists. I pore over them the way I used to study the old Sears Christmas catalogs, agreeing with some selections, shaking my head over others and marking those still to be read. The Teaching Authors don't think the reviewers at Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal should have all the fun. In the next couple of weeks we will be discussing our own favorites reads of 2014, whether they were published this year or not.
In fact, my favorite read of the year, the graphic novel Drama by Raina Telgemeier, was published in 2012. Telgemeier also published this year, Sisters, which is every bit as good as Drama. However, Drama first caught my eye because it is about a subject close to my heart...a middle school drama club. Having been a middle school (and high school) drama club director for many years, I wanted to see how close the book came to my own experience.
Telegemeier not only nailed the excitement of producing drama on stage, but all the little "dramas" that go on every day in middle school. Callie, the main character, can't sing or act well enough to perform on stage in the school musical, but she loves theater so much she is thrilled to design and build the sets. The characters are not the school "cool" kids but the "stage rats," kids besotted by the world of theater. One detail that the author captured perfectly is the ability of these junior actors to accept each other unconditionally. Nothing really mattered except whether or not a person could perform their assigned task, onstage or off.
Telgemeier is also the author of Smile, a graphic novel of living though orthodontia. Smile is geared for an elementary audience getting their first braces. Drama is most definitely for an older reader, sixth grade and up. My review for Drama? Standing ovation, all the way!
Submissions are now being accepted for the twelfth annual issue, The Ochre Issue, of Fairy Tale Review. The Ochre Issue has no particular theme—simply send your best fairy-tale work along the spectrum of mainstream to experimental, fabulist to realist.
We accept fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry, in English or in translation to English, along with scholarly, hybrid, and illustrated works (comics, black-line drawings, etc.).
The reading period will remain open until the issue is full—we predict closing it sometime in late spring or early summer.
riverSedge is a journal of art and literature with an understanding of its place in the nation in south Texas on the border . Its name reflects our specific river edge with an openness to publish writers who use English, Tex-Mex, and Spanish and also the edges shared by all the best contemporary writing and art.
Submit here. General Submissions/Contest Guidelines
Deadline to Submit is 3/1/15
$5 submission fee in all genres (except book reviews)
3 prizes of $300 will be awarded in poetry, prose, and art. All entries are eligible for contest prizes. Dramatic scripts and graphic literature will be judged as prose. Multiple submissions are welcome in all genres. Each submission should be submitted as a separate entry. In other words, do not send two or more entries as one document. Previously unpublished work only. Self-published work (in print and/or on the web) is not eligible. Simultaneous submissions are welcome, but please notify us of acceptance elsewhere as soon as possible. Submissions in English, Spanish and anything in between are welcome. Current staff, faculty, and students affiliated with UT-Pan American, UT-Brownsville, or South Texas College are not eligible to submit original work to riverSedge.
January saw the critically acclaimed and award winning Broadchurch return to our TV screens for a second series. There was a publicity blackout in an attempt to prevent spoilers or leaks; TV critics were not sent the usual preview DVDs. The opening episode sees Joe Miller plead not guilty to the murder of Danny Latimer, a shock as the previous season’s finale ended with his admission of guilt. The change of plea means that the programme shifts from police procedural to courtroom drama – both staples of the TV schedules. Witnesses have to give evidence, new information is revealed through cross-examination, and old scores settled by witnesses and barristers.
Historians should be banned from watching movies or TV set in their area of expertise. We usually bore and irritate friends and family with pedantic interjections about minor factual errors and chronological mix-ups. With Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and the sumptuous BBC series based on them, this pleasure is denied us. The series is as ferociously well researched as it is superbly acted and directed. Cranmer probably didn’t have a beard in 1533, but, honestly, that’s about the best I can do.
Title: Spring Awakening (Original German title: Frühlings Erwache)
Author: Frank Wedekind, translated by Francis J. Ziegler
Published: Feb 2012 by Methuen Drama. Written 1890-1. First performed 1906.
Length: 192 pages
Warnings: rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion
Source: Project Gutenberg
Summary from Student edition: Wedekind's notorious play Spring Awakening influenced a whole trend of modern drama and remains relevant to today's society, exploring the oppression and rebellion of adolescents among draconian parents and morals. This seminal work looks at the conflict between repressive adulthood and teenage sexual longings in a provincial German town. Highly controversial and with themes of sexuality, social attitudes and adolescence, the play is a popular and provocative text for study, especially at undergraduate level.
Review: Late 1800s Germany. Schoolboys and girls discover sexuality. It really does not go well. Among other things, Wedla Bergmann does not understand how babies are made, Moritz Stiefl is tormented by erotic dreams, and Melchior Gabor, having read about sex, now believes in nothing. In a series of scenes, we follow the teens as they try to navigate growing up.
You may have heard of the rock musical that got adapted from this play. It’s the controversial one that deals with rape, suicide, child abuse, and abortion. When the play first came out in 1906, it was criticised for sexuality, puberty, and homosexuality as well, but to be honest, that’s the least of everyone’s problems. As someone who quite enjoyed the musical and enjoys reading/seeing source material, I knew I’d have to read it someday.
I felt that some characters were quite underdeveloped. Martha’s story is only mentioned in passing, most girls don’t get any characterisation beyond fancying Melchior, and I didn’t really care for what happened to the boys other than Melchior and Moritz. We do get good characterisation for the three main characters, and we did get to know what some people were thinking in detail (see next paragraph). It could have been better though.
Giant monologues. Ugh. I know monologues are a standard part of drama, and I don’t mind a couple. But they seem to drag on and on and on, Hanschen’s “have you prayed tonight, Desdemona” one in particular, and if I were seeing this live, I would probably want the actors to just be quiet.
The plot is mostly driven by subtle indications of what’s happening. There are not that many stage directions, and if I didn’t know the story from the musical, I’d have had to reread quite a few scenes to make sure I understood what was going on.
What I really like about this play is that while it was written to criticise the repression of the 1800s, despite 120 years passing, it’s still relevant today: the young people are unprepared for life due to the inadequacy of adults. There’s a scene after Moritz dies in which the teachers are going to start discussing what to do about his death, but then they spend ages arguing over what window should be opened, which is the clearest example of adults failing to care for young people, a theme also seen when Wedla’s mother does not tell her about conception until it’s too late. The young people are victims of the society that forces academic knowledge on them (if they’re boys), does not tell them about life (for almost everyone) and leaves them to discover it on their own, which leads to tragedy.
Overall: Strength 3 tea to a tragedy that showcases perfectly what happens when sex-ed fails.
Title: Spirit Circle Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Publisher: Shonen Gahosha (JP), Viz Media (US) Story/Artist: Satoshi Mizukami Serialized in: Young King Comics (33 out of 33 chapters reviewed) Fuuta Okeya lives a normal life and has gotten to his second year of middle school without incident, although he can see some spirits including the one following his new classmate, ... Read more