I have planned to post this for a couple of months. With all the uncertainty of where and when it’s safe to travel, and what places are open, this seems a good time to compile my posts of some opportunities for enrichment and inspiration.
Please note: I have not revisited most of the links, and some things have undoubtedly changed. Also, I hope people are able to find ways to get outside that are safe and healthy for themselves and those around them.
Click here for virtual travel to:
Fantastic worlds and their soundscapes
Click here for ways to experience:
Old Time Radio
Audiobooks and storytelling
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Sessions of world music
More arts and music
Click here for mostly off-screen adventures, like:
Coloring pages for adults and kids
VT was an excellent host, and asked some very good and thought-provoking questions, some of which actually took days of thought for me to put answers into words. I hope you’ll have a look. And while you’re there, have a look around the blog; VT writes very good and candid reviews of books (especially Westerns) and movies (not just Westerns), not to mention recommendations of Old Time Radio shows to listen to.
When I saw Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give in my local bookstore, I admit the title made me wary. But when my husband brought it home to read for himself, I glanced inside, and read. And read. And read. I could hardly put it down, and finished it in record time.
I’m pretty new to reviewing books, but the turmoil of our recent times moves me to try to do my best by this remarkable novel. I’m working from memory of when I read this perhaps a year ago. The details may be fuzzy, but the story has stuck with me.
16-year-old Starr is dragged to a party that she doesn’t want to go to. The one good thing is she reconnects with her childhood best friend, Khalil. When Khalil is driving Starr home, they’re pulled over by a policeman for no visible reason – and Khalil, unarmed, is shot and killed.
Starr is grief-stricken, her life and world turned upside down. Her friendships are stretched to breaking. Over time, everyone she cares most about is in danger. And Starr is faced with the dangerous decision of to speak out, or not.
Starr’s story is told with power, with surprising humor, and with love. The people in it are all so very real, flesh and blood human beings. I felt like I got to know Starr and her family, and that was a privilege. I cared deeply about them, and got swept up in what was happening to them, the harrowing choices they had to make.
My husband reads more nonfiction than fiction, but he, too, could barely put this book down. We saw the movie together. It differs from the book in a few significant ways, but author Angie Thomas was an executive producer, and that gives me some assurance that the changes had her permission. The ending may even be more powerful than the book’s.
Both the book and the movie have my highest recommendation. They are excellent in their own rights, and so very important, especially now. I really haven’t begun to do them justice; to do that, read and see them for yourselves.
Black lives matter. Black voices need to be heard. Black stories need to be told.
But as black author Shanna Miles said on twitter, “By all means pick up books about how to talk about racism but then you must pick up books about black kids being kids. If you don’t you teach your children that the natural state of being for black folks is suffering.” She links to some books on that twitter comment, and has made a Goodreads list as well.
Her feelings on this matter are echoed by Christine Taylor-Butler, a black kid lit author who said on twitter, “I’m a parent, author, and a former college interviewer. Please hear me – in this time of stress people want to ‘flood’ their kids with books about racism. Please provide 20 joyful books for every one book on racism. They also need to know POC kids are like every other kid.” She has written a blog about why diversity matters in science fiction and fantasy.
These authors opened my eyes to a new perspective. I’ve added their books to my reading list. I welcome more recommendations on these subjects in the comments.
I’m very pleased to continue my interviews of Running Wild Anthology of Stories 3 colleagues, this time with author and poet Ed Burke. His story, “Maia’s Call,” truly moved me.
Welcome, Ed! Please give us a taste of what your story is about.
Ed: “Maia’s Call” begins with a phone call to the protagonist, Tom from his former lover, Maia, who asks him to come see her because she is dying. Tom travels from San Francisco to Maia’s home in a remote corner of Vermont. There they spend a night sharing the story of their lives over the intervening years and what has brought them to this point.
Gemma: Do you remember when and why you started writing?
Ed: I’ve been creating stories since forever but didn’t start writing until high school as best as I can remember. I’ve always had movies running in my head and I put some of those fictions down on paper. Poetry is a different matter; channeling lyric reality is a gorgeous passion that I am compelled to express.
Gemma: That’s a wonderful description of poetry. And I love the image of movies running in your head! What’s the first piece you wrote that you’re still proud of/happy with?
Ed: It’s hard to say. There is a lot of poetry that I am very proud of that date back a ways. Written fiction was a latecomer. I got a kick out of my school days pieces but barely remember them. When I began the novel Christine, Released I knew immediately I was writing something excellent. That is the first piece of fiction I was and am truly proud of.
Gemma: Tell us a bit of what that novel is about.
Ed: Here’s a short synopsis. Sixteen year old Christine Bancroft is desperate to escape her depressed Vermont hometown. She runs off with a small-time cocaine dealer and quickly descends into a harsh world with punishing consequences. Taken into state custody, Christine is placed at a foster home in a remote corner of Vermont where she searches for answers that may explain her suffering and her need to return to her imperfect mother. Opposing her return to her mother are the state child protection services and her estranged father who is determined to “save” his daughter. It is during the climactic custody hearing that Christine grasps her past which enables her to seize control of her fate.
Gemma: That really sounds like a gripping novel, especially knowing your skill and your voice in “Maia’s Call.” Do you remember what the seed for Christine, Released was?
Ed: I do. I had a case where the state had taken a 16 year old girl into custody because she was “unmanageable”. Her mother was a single, working mother. The girl’s estranged father hired me. In his mind the whole case was about him. I wondered how difficult it must have been for the mother to deal with a narcissist jerk like my client. The novel came into creation with the sound of a cigarette butt being dropped into a near-empty beer can, the resulting hiss. The camera in my mind’s eye drew back, and there was Christine huddled against the cold in a dank living room in a winter morning’s first light.
Gemma: Wow, that’s is an amazing story behind the story.
Gemma: I’d like to hear more about your writing history.
Ed: I’ve written a lot of poetry over the years. Some has been published in journals, most recently Ginosko Literary Journal in 2018. By the way, Ginosko is an amazing publication that I encourage folks to submit to.
Ed: I’ve written a fair number of decent short stories over the past fifteen years. Running Wild Press published my first short story, “Maia’s Call,” in Anthology #3 in September, 2019; my first novel, Christine, Released, in October, 2019, and will be publishing my first novella, Allure, in the novella anthology coming out in the fall of 2020.
Gemma: That’s a very nice run of publications! What are you working on now?
Ed: I am in the throes of writing a novel that is blowing me away, about a remarkable young woman, a nurse, during World War I. And I’m always writing poetry.
Gemma: I must ask you about that photo. Where is that street?
Ed: ee cummings Blvd. is in Old Orchard Beach, ME. I’ve been going there nearly every year for the past 20 years. It makes me smile. I love his poetry!
Gemma: I love ee cummings’ poetry, too! My older sister introduced me to him.
Gemm: I’d like to hear a bit about how your writing has changed over time.
Ed: My fiction now rolls out along a clearer narrative arc now, almost effortlessly. That’s how it happens with anything that is good. My poetry is constantly shifting in theme, temperament, form, lyricism.
Gemma: I admire your ease with narrative arc – mine always seem to have some potholes and blind turns in the first draft. And I admire the poetry of yours that I’ve read, too. What’s the biggest challenge for you to write?
Ed: I have a hard time with memoir, with the demand to get the details properly remembered. When I have allowed details to come forward of their own accord, bearing their own significance, I have written much better memoir.
Gemma: What do you like best to write?
Ed: I love poetry, fiction, memoir for its own reasons. Each is rewarding in very different ways.
Gemma: When you get an idea for a story, what comes to mind first, the plot or the characters? Or does it vary from story to story?
Ed: It always starts with an image, then my minds-eye camera pulls back to reveal a scene, a character, and I follow the camera as the character is depicted in more detail, through his or her actions and the reactions of those s/he encounters, and the set of interactions and reflections coalesce into a plot, subplots and divergences.
Gemma: Just like the movie running in your mind that you described. What authors did you love most growing up? What authors have influenced your writing most?
Ed: Growing up? Fiction, I have madly loved James Joyce (Dubliners! Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man!), Louise Erdrich, Annie Proulx, Edna O’Brien, Ken Kesey, Alice Munro, Arundhati Roy, Baron Wormser (Tom O’Vietnam!), Robin MacArthur. They must have influenced my writing without my intending them to, as I deeply cherish them all (and plenty others).
Gemma: Is there a place that you’ve lived that most influences your writing?
Ed: Vermont, where I have lived, studied, raised a family and practiced law the past forty years.
Gemma: Tell me more about what you’re working on now.
Ed: I am writing the first draft of a novel featuring a nurse during World War I with astounding healing power (a saint?) amidst the carnage. It’s been wild writing this, the reveals.
Gemma: It sounds amazing. What do you plan to work on next?
Ed: Either a crime thriller set in the collapsing world of 2037. Or return to a novel that I broke from to write Christine, about three lives that intersect through one event during the Vietnam War, changing the remainder of each of their lives.
Gemma: Those are very intriguing projects! How can readers connect with you and keep up with your news?
Ed: I have a facebook page Ea/ Ed Burke, focused on literary posts.
Gemma: Thank you so much for joining me on my blog, Ed! I look forward to your future novels.
Several areas are loosening stay-at-home restrictions, but for many of us, staying home is still the safest thing to do. And traveling far away for fun and adventure may seem a long way off. So how about some virtual journeys? This is just a sampling of sites I’ve encountered which caught my eye. Some feature videos, some still photos, some simply ambient sounds.
For some armchair traveling to unusual and little-known places, try Atlas Obscura.
There are a tremendous number of museums and historical sites generously offering virtual tours.
Many of these sites I found through my local library’s amazing efforts to keep our community connected, informed, and inspired during this time. Don’t forget to check what your local library offers online.