Sunday, September 12, 2010

Work and the electric chair

One story in Half Italian is the homemade electric chair. In the 1930s, my mother and her cousins had no modern recreational facilities on their farm; they had to entertain themselves. My mother was one of only two girls, and she preferred to hang around the boys. One day the boys found an old magneto from a tractor engine (a device that creates pulses of electric power). They wired one end of the magneto to a metal chair and the other to a cranking device. They covered the chair with a thin cloth, and then they found my mother and asked her if she'd be willing to play a new game they created; would she be their "queen," they asked.

Trusting, and perhaps naive, my mother was the perfect opportunity; she thought the game sounded just great. She marched up to the chair with her arms extended out to her sides and sat down. The cousin who'd come up with the whole idea stood somewhere behind the chair and began to crank like mad. Yes, my mother was the perfect candidate for their joke, jumping off the chair with confused expressions, trying to reconcile the laughing of her cousins with the electric shocks she felt directly attacking her seat.

Work is hell these days. I'm glad for the paycheck but I sometimes feel like I've been put into my department's electric chair. Today is Sunday and once again I went into the office for a few hours. I feel pressure when I have a dentist appointment. Unlike the teasing of my mother's cousins, that pressure isn't presented in good humor. In an attempt to encourage me, my former manager a few days ago said she's going to begin a countdown of days until my departure to France next month. That kind of caring matters; it's something you can't buy.

Those who appreciate unique humor and genuine caring will appreciate Half Italian.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Responses once again

Labor day weekend has passed. The mornings are suddenly cool and foggy. New season.

I finished Carol Drinkwater's "The Olive Farm," enjoying my daily transports to Provence via this book, particularly her writings on dear Pamela. During a recent heat wave here in Los Angeles I walked to the grocery store one afternoon, looking at spots of shade here and there, picturing Pamela moving from one to the next, seeking the coolest.

My recent queries for Half Italian were a multiple submission, 70% snail mail and 30% email. In the past I've received an SASE response for every hardcopy submission. Nine SASE responses remain. With summer vacation over, responses have started to arrive once again. One agent said he receives over 200 submissions each week. What is everyone writing about? Yikes. I'd love a breakdown by category from just one agent such as that one.

Why am I at peace over my submissions and agents' responses? I truly believe in my book. Here's a picture of the snail mail packages I sent. Make no mistake; many weeks are behind those packages, from researching agents to sealing the envelopes.

What will the next nine responses bring?

- PJ

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Countdown to France: 1 click

One more click, then I'm off to south France.* Little by little, the time is coming closer.

I've been to the Vaucluse but never the Luberon; to the Cote d'Azur and the Alpes Provencales but not to Menton. I've never been to St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume. On this return trip to Provence I'll visit the Luberon and stay in Ansouis. While this village seems a logical choice because of its location and charm, I have a particular interest in it from having read Yvone Lenard's "The Magic of Provence," a book I love and recommend.

After the Luberon we'll move on to Menton, stopping at St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume for a stay in the Couvent Royal and a hike up to the grotto where Mary Magdalene supposedly spent her final years. Our hotel in Menton is just across the street from the Mediterranean; we're promised a room with a sea view. I hope for a day trip into Italy while we're there. Return to Paris for a couple of days to visit family, and then back to LA. Returning home gets more difficult each year. One click still seems so long, but I have a feeling that when I reach that difficult moment to have to leave France I'll be asking where did the time go? Little by little.

- PJ

*See 8/1 and 7/11 posts.