"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Long Answer to a Brief Question

Before I get to the answer, a brief review of my morning.

I wrenched myself away from the Lodge and headed to the Capitol this morning for what I'll described as my first real session in the House. We actually legislated! We voted consent to several bills. But one bill sparked a lot of debate, resulting in our first floor fight, managed with great decorum (mostly), and our first roll call vote. It was a hard choice for me, because I felt the committee's majority and minority opinions had merit. A lot of people I respect hold the minority view. I was very conflicted, but eventually voted with the majority. The session wasn't very lengthy: we started at 10 and finished by noon.

On the way home, to celebrate having legislated, I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a White Hot Chocolate. It must be new. Last night I saw my first television ad for it and couldn't resist. It was as decadent as I feared. Really tasty, until I was about 2/3 finished, at which point it tasted too sweet.

In my comments section, Janice recently asked, I often wondered how people write novels. Is your method something you learned from someone else, or did you create it?

For me, it's partly instinct and partly learned behaviour. I suspect that's true for most writers. My method is somewhat different for each book I've written...while at the same time being a lot the same. I try to plot and plan as much as I can in advance--if I'm going to contract on a proposal (full synopsis and 3 to 5 chapters) that's essential. But even so, when writing each scene and chapter, I leave plenty of room for my subconscious to work freely.

I can be very methodical and nerdy (my outline is my best friend). But I'm totally dependent on fun, funky, touchy-feely stuff. Treading the ground where my characters walked. Getting out of my chair or sofa to physically block a scene. I employ various aids to visualisation--drawing a floor plan of a house, mapping a location, sticking characters' faces on a relationship chart. In the past I've given my characters things that are my own--dogs, clothes, a piece of jewellery, a favourite flower or colour, my birthday.

I play games with myself. In one book, the female protagonist had a name from a Shakespeare play. I took lines from that play, ever so slightly paraphrased so they didn't sound Elizabethan and out of period but were recognisable (to actors or Shakespeare scholars), and placed one quote in each chapter, in dialogue. I'm the only person in the world that knows about it. (Ooops, not any longer!) When my editor suggested a minimal change to one of those very lines, I resisted. And I won.

Back when I wrote my first novel, I'd never taken a creative writing class in my life (unless screenwriting counts). But I was a literature major as an undergrad, which taught me how to analyse--which really helps in the revision phase. Planning a novel is fun and thrilling. Crafting a novel can be a long, hard slog with enough sublime moments of inspiration and joy to keep me going. Revising a novel is my strength, and I'm lucky to have professional experience as an editor. I'm not always as objective about my work as I probably should be, but I can be very tough. I'd rather edit myself ruthlessly than have the editor do it to me.

During my career, having heard many lectures on writing techniques, and having taught fiction writing myself, and from working as a free-lance editor, I've gained a some sophistication about what it is I'm doing, and why, but honestly, it's still mostly instinctive. On some level, I'm basically always flying into the mist--even if I'm clutching a map.

I'm not married to my method. We writers L-O-V-E hearing about other writers' processes. We believe--we hope--somebody has a magic formula or easy shortcut...because the work of really good authors seems so effortless. Such is not the case! And what works for other people doesn't necessarily work for me. Sometimes trying out a new approach is mind-expanding. Other times it's frustrating.

Within the past 24 hours a colleague who has published many more books than I, and has probably hit every bestseller list there is (multiple times), was asking me about my character chart--seeking that magic formula. Like I said, we are intensely curious about each other!

I'm hoping for a productive afternoon, despite feeling a bit weary--not from legislating. Very early this morning, between 3 and 4 a.m., Ruth needed to go outside. Once we were all comfortably settled back in bed, inspiration struck. My brain got stuck on a new scene I need to write. The good news is that while lying there in the dark, I composed a huge chunk of it. The other good news is that I have perfect recall of all that dialogue and narrative.

The bad news is that my thoughts were flying so fast, I didn't get back to sleep until a little while before it was time to get up.

That's the other reason I stopped for that shot of liquid sugar from Dunkin Donuts.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Memories and Mug Shots

Like anyone else who was raised with horses--and lots of people who weren't--I'm mourning brave Barbaro. As much as I want to remember him in the moment of his Derby victory, and as determined as I am to erase the image of him when he pulled up in the Preakness, the image of "Bobby" nobly bearing his casts and slings is well worth cherishing. All these months his owners confronted the possibility--even the probability of the decision they made yesterday morning.

My heart goes out to Dr. Dean Richardson, who worked so tirelessly and devotedly. He has connections to this state--his mother is a resident, he spent the summers of his youth on the same Big Lake where our cottage is located, and he's a Dartmouth graduate.

So far this week I've had a break from the State House, which is why I'm focussed on the novel. My legislative committee has received just one more bill, but we haven't yet scheduled our next public hearing.

I added some embellishments to my chart--the characters' real faces in place of those blue and pink circles.

This group of eight people contains two queens, two kings, four soldiers, a duchess, a duke, an earl, a countess, a couple of trollops.

Time to stop playing with pictures, and play around with words!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Charting Relationships

Today I'm sharing an aspect of my writing process, because I've actually illustrated it! And I'm very pleased with the way it turned out.

Over the weekend, I finalised a chart showing character relationships and interactions. It's an ongoing exercise, and over time things get ever clearer. I'm very visual, so I'm always excited when I can work with coloured crayons or my sketching pencils.

Here's the relationship chart:

And here's the key to the colours and shapes:

D1, C, A1 and M are the four primary characters, and the only viewpoint characters. D2 is a very significant secondary character. A1, N, W, and J pop in either in the beginning, middle or throughout the novel and are in some way connected to the others--by blood or by marriage or by inclination--and have important functions in their own right.

My four categories are really stripped down, simplified to the max. Obviously all these relationships have complexities that aren't so easily illustrated!

Positive: Friendship of some sort exists between A1 and W, and C and W. All are male. M and W are a compatible married couple.

Mentoring: M (female) mentors D1 (female). A1 (male) mentors C (male). N (female) nurtures C (male).

Antagonistic: I've got female-female, female-male, and male-male combinations. D2 (f) dislikes D1 (f). D2 (f) dislikes C (m). J (m) antagonises C (m), M (f) dislikes A2 (f), and A2 (f) dislikes D1 (f), who dislikes her back.

Volatility: There is great tension, change and growth in the relationship between D1 (female protagonist) and C (male protagonist). It is a passionate one, in the emotional as well as the physical meaning of the world. A1 and D2 (parents of D1) have an extremely volatile relationship, resulting in strife, but their volatility has rewarding aspects as well.

By the way, all of these characters were real people. I know what they looked like, in some cases I've read their diaries or their letters or seen their handwriting or know what kind of clothes and jewels they wore. My depictions of them are based upon the historical record combined with some imaginative speculation to fill the gaps and create conflict (although some of the conflict existed in real life!)

I create a variety of character charts and biographies and timelines, far more complicated and informative than the little diagram above.

Illustrating the plot is much harder to do. The action of this novel developed out of personal histories (i.e. the characters themselves), political and social history of the 20-year span I'm following, dramatic events that actually happened (with eyewitness accounts), and plenty of scenes I've made up.

In general when developing a novel, I write from an outline that covers the full scope and action of my story. I definitely know where I'm going, and have a fairly good idea how I'll get there. When writing a specific scene, I'm usually guided by a few sentences describing the people involved, the location, the action, the basic conflict and the outcome. Sometimes, in the course of writing a particular scene, or chapter, any or maybe all of those things might change.

Now I must return to my laptop. I'm in composition mode at the moment, and have put the crayons aside for the time being!

And in case you're wondering, today's section includes M, W, and if I'm really on a roll, A1 and D1.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Keeping Warm on a Cold Day

The good news: it's 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Why is that good?

Because it was only -6 when we woke this morning.

The bad news: it's blustery, meaning the wind chill is something I don't even want to think about. Probably -10. In places farther north, they expected wind chills of -25 or -30.

Yesterday I popped into the city for a couple of hours. It was freezing, but not like today!

At the State House I had coffee with the Governor of our fair and frigid state--not on my own but as part of a group of freshmen legislators. I didn't count heads, but I guestimate there were 15 of us, perhaps more, seated around the long table in the Executive Council chambers. I'm fairly sure I was one of the youngest in the room. The group included one person I've got to know rather well, but the rest were only known to me by sight, from orientations and other gatherings.

We had a good conversation--the Governor shared his goals and priorities, we shared ours. He expressed a desire to make this a positive and productive session for all of us. At the moment he's wrestling with the budget, which he'll present in a few weeks. And we're all mulling over the school funding issue.

On the way home I stopped at the Division of Motor Vehicles to renew my driving licence. It doesn't expire till my birthday in early March, but I received the notification and renewal form this week. When the bills start coming in for consent--or debate--things will get really crazy in the Legislature and I wanted to get it out of the way. The process was quick and painless, and my new photo turned out okay.

Back to the sofa, where my laptop and a napping Ruth await me. I'm editing a chunk of my novel, all the day long!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Flower Power

It's fiercely cold outside and will become much, much colder soon. With a decent frosting of snow on the ground, the snowshoe hare isn't so easy to pick out as he used to be. But when he scampers away from edge of the fencing into the forest, I can follow his movement until he's out of sight.

Indoors we're enjoying the sights of springtime, thanks to my blooming narcissus, hyacinth, and cyclamens. I chilled and potted the narcissus myself and forced the hyacinth. For the 7th? 8th? year running, my red cyclamen is blooming right on schedule--it was a long ago Valentine's gift from the Chap. The white cyclamen, a Christmas present, is a recent addition.

Our bedroom is flowery as well, with the addition of wee Ruth's new bed. When I saw it at the store, covered with one of my favourite floral motifs, reasonably priced, and amply-stuffed, I recognised it as a must-buy.

She seems to like it as much as we do!

I'm relieved I've got several days of hibernation ahead of me, and not only because of the writing tasks I must accomplish, or my desire to admire my blooming flowers. As I mentioned before, it's going to be dreadfully cold....

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who was John Legat?

This question was asked yesterday at a non-partisan think tank's school funding policy forum presented to state legislators. I already knew the answer because the Chap had attended the same presentation at some point and told me it began with that question.

He was the first teacher employed by a town (in this case, Hampton) in our state, in the 1640's.

As a historian, I was delighted by the inclusion of historical fact in the Power Point. I was also very much aware of a personal connection to this piece of history--because in 1639 (most likely) one of my ancestors, Thomas Chase, arrived in Hampton.

More on him in a moment.

Such a busy week, so far! I spent Monday afternoon at the County Corrections Department (the Jail) reviewing the 2007 budget. Yesterday I attended hearings on two bills--one in my committee and one in another committee for which I was a co-sponsor.

With an empty hour between my last committee meeting and the "social time" at the Barley House, popular watering hole across the street from the Capitol, I visited the Historical Society Library (also across from the Capitol) for more of my ongoing exploration of Hampton's early (and very well-documented) history.

The comprehensive source is History of Hampton. John Legat's name pops up in several contexts.

I made a new discovery, a map showing the exact location of my ancestor's dwelling.

I've marked the house of Thomas Chase with a big red dot. It was located on the northward side of the road "To the Sea".

Information about Thomas Chase of Hampton abounds on the web. In 1642 he married Elizabeth Philbrick, daughter of another Hampton settler, whose family geneology can be seen here at Janice's Cow Hampshire. Thomas Philbrick lived across the road from Thomas and Elizabeth Chase. One can even study family probate records and there's a wonderful book which I've accessed in the Historical Society Library.

Members of the family migrated to Martha's Vineyard, and are buried there...however, today I won't digress to that location.

My ancestor knew the very first teacher in New Hampshire. Now his legislator descendant is caught up in the court-ordered mandate to define, fund, and deliver education to the students in this state. I'm not sure how that's going to turn out...

I do know that back in 1640, it was a far easier, less complex undertaking!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New Library Dedication

Yesterday our town dedicated its new library. A large and enthusiastic crowd attended the opening ceremony. Those who hadn't yet seen it were impressed with our magnificent building, with over seven thousand square feet of space. It's the culmination of more than twenty years of dreaming. Our participation in the long campaign for a new facility dates from shortly after our arrival in town...almost fourteen years!

The entire Capital Campaign Committee, on which the Chap and I served for the past four years, had the honour of cutting the ribbon. It was a long ribbon, and we needed a lot of scissors!

I'm ready to cut!

A shot of the stacks in the adult area.

The Reading Area for the adults' fiction and nonfiction section--for which our donation was designated.

One happy donor seated beneath our commemorative plaque.

As much of the Children's Room as I could fit into the frame.

The Children's Crafts Room.

There is also a Reference/Local History Room, a Young Adult Room, a Community Meeting Room, a nifty Reading Nook with Tiffany-style lamp at the end of one corridor, a private Study/Tutorial room, and a Periodicals Reading Room--with fireplace. The staff offices and staff workroom are immense.

The book-shaped cake baked by one of my fellow legislators. She's a non-resident, but she wanted to help us celebrate.

In conjunction with our opening there was an exhibit featuring works by local artists--we included gallery space in our building plan. Photos to come!

Friday, January 19, 2007

And Now for Something Completely Different

We got an inch of snow overnight, which instead of providing minimal traction on the slippery surface of the glacier, merely covers the glare. Despite extreme caution in the driveway to collect the morning paper, I very nearly lost my footing. On a more positive note, the temperature soared to 37 degrees and the sun was out most of the day.

Last night's reception (yes, there seems to be one every night) was sponsored by the state's Council on the Arts, in conjunction with an exhibition featuring four artists, three of whom were present. The event promoted the "Adopt an Artwork" program--each artist has a work up for "adoption," meaning that a person or agency can fill out an application to have that artwork on display in one of the state buildings (which must be accessible to the public.) Very cool.

Even more cool, my favourite artist is included. And extra-super-cool, he was there with his wife--also an artist.

Fangirl that I am, I wasted no time accosting them. It wasn't our first meeting. More like the third time I'd met him, and the second time I'd met her. (Not that they would remember...but I certainly do.) At an art museum I once got him to sign a repro of one of his works. And the Chap and I had the great pleasure of touring their garden in June '05.

James Aponovich is most famous for his exquisite still life paintings of flowers and fruit. The flowers--tulips, daylilies, poppies, peonies, roses--all come from their extensive gardens. In a very real sense, we were gazing at future paintings "on the stem".

We've attended at least three exhibition of Aponovich works, a sampling of which can be seen here and here.

The web pictures merely give an impression of the vividness of his pictures, which should be seen in person to be fully appreciated. He also paints landscapes and portraits--he was commissioned to do the portrait of one of our recent governors.

The focus of our conversation was gardens, not painting. We discussed the dire plunge in temperatures, the lack of insulating snow cover, the hope that oak-leaf mulch will save our cherished roses. Because basically, we grow the same things. The difference is, he has the skill to paint his flowers.

I, however must rely on photos to preserve my garden's glory--and his garden, too.

Below are some shots I took among his flower beds--a pretty and summery display to brighten the January gloom!

Blue delphiniums




Necessary reminders that winter is only a temporary condition!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dispatches from Ice World

I've been messing about with my sidebar links again. Added some new stuff from my secret stash of fave blogs, mostly in the food and garden category.

BBC Radio is my soundtrack today, so I'm fully informed on severe and catastrophic weather, the rise in the television licence fee, the Big Brother brouhaha (with Tony Blair trying to have the last word), and the anniversary of the whale turning up in the River Thames.

On this side of the Puddle...we freeze. Last night I braved single-digit conditions for a reception hosted by the Business & Industry Association. Big crowd. A very chilly walk to and from my car.

Today, the mercury has soared to a balmy twenty-five degrees. We're still living in Ice World. This morning I watched little Ruth slide down the glacier (our yard slopes slightly in places). To her credit, she remained upright and kept her balance. Lola hasn't fallen down, either. Nor I.

I'm staring down a massive edit of an important 70-page clump of the novel, and there's at least one new scene to incorporate. I ought to set myself a deadline, but why bother when I won't make it anyway?

I'm mourning Art Buchwald. What a way to go out--he was an inspiration.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cold and Colder

Yesterday was cold, the temperature was in the teens. We feel fortunate to have our electricity after the ice storm. Plenty of people don't, and must rely on shelters.

I survived my most shivery walk yet from the Legislators' parking lot to the State House. We had a "Working with the Media" continuing ed session. I met up with the Chap after lunch and we sat through a committee orientation together.

Back at the parking lot, I noticed this curious spectacle directly in front of my car. Some creative young vandal had pitched a shopping cart off the top level of the garage, and it was hanging in a tree.

With this deep, deep freeze, our little lake is iced over.

This morning was colder--zero degrees when I first woke up. That was enough to keep me under the covers for a good long while.

In order to feed the birds, I stepped nervously onto the deck. It's covered with sleet, frozen solid and frosted with a film of glare ice.

Here's the rail of the deck.

My bird feeders were completely encased in ice, so I had to bash them against the rail so I could get them open. Or run hot water over them to melt the ice.

The morning sunshine made the trees and shrubs glisten. These twisted, icy vines are remnants of a scarlet runner bean.

The entire fenced area of the dog yard is an ice rink. Occasionally I need to take Lola and Ruth outside long enough to do their business. Not only can't they walk across the slippery surface, when they squat they lose their balance completely. I've delayed clipping their toenails so they'll have cleats, but it hasn't made any difference.

Although at first I thought Dogs on Ice would make an interesting film, I decided I can't abuse their dignity like that. Their lack of skating skills stopped being funny when Lola slipped and fell--hard. She was up again in an instant, but I worry about her old bones. Ruth manages to trot up and down the outside stair without too much trouble...but as soon as gets to the bottom and confronts that vast white glacier, she looks back up at me as if to say, "How long must I deal with this nonsense?"

Wish I knew.

Monday, January 15, 2007


It's an icy, icy world out there. Noisy, too. When I stepped out onto the deck this morning to fling food for the birds, the sleet was hissing loudly as it struck the hemlocks. We're receiving the dreaded "wintry mix"--icy rain, sleet, and very tiny snowflakes. The temperature is in the mid-20's.

I hope it's snowing a lot up-state.

Here are the Queen Anne's Lace heads from my office window.

The Chap's workplace was not scheduled to be closed for Martin Luther King Day. However, it never even opened, due to the treacherous driving conditions. Luckily there's a hotline he can call for circumstances like this. Only the cancellation voicemail notice was posted after he got up, showered, and put on his tie and jacket.

This morning's newspaper reported that yours truly is the winner in the current "guess the photo" contest! It's a regular feature. One of the photographers takes a very close up image of an architectural detail from a building somewhere downtown. Last week's image was the stone ornamentation on the pillars of the Legislative Office Building, where I've been spending so much of my time lately. I've now proved myself one of the more observant State Representatives lurking about the place. My prize: a $15 gift certificate at one of the businesses downtown.

Last night's premiere of 24 was incredible. Looking forward to tonight's installment. (I'll be videotaping the first two hours of the Golden Globes.)

Here's one more view from my window, the ice-coated branches of the winterberry bushes and the rugosa roses.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Our Family of Friends

Over this weekend, I've had opportunities to experience and cherish the familial qualities of friendships.

On Friday night, the Chap and I attended a dinner party in the new home of a friend--who, a mere three weeks after his moving day welcomed nineteen people to his abode. The group consisted of bishop's canons (one of whom is a former monk), a priest, a future priest, diocesan staffers with spouse or partner, a pre-teen, two little girls, and a mom-to-be with a lovely round belly. The food, frivolity, fondness, and fellowship was definitely that of a family group. We shared jokes and histories as we indulged in delicious dishes. The woodstove kept us warm, candles burned everywhere, and the house was blessed with laughter.

Included in this gathering was a pair of young Border collies, visiting from Massachusetts--only seven months old yet extremely mature and well-behaved. On entering the house, we were greeted by Basil, the black one with white markings.

Here's his litter-mate, Willow, the white one with black markings.

They were the calmest young Border collies I've ever seen, comfortable with adults and children of all ages, as patient and sweet as they could be.

Yesterday everyone at the Lodge slept late. It was a quiet, catching-up sort of day. In the afternoon, when I put the girls outside they--and I--spotted our friend the snowshoe hare. Our "big brown bunny" is now completely white! But it's a dangerous colour to be at the moment, because he stands out a little too well against the present brownness of the surrounding landscape. I worry about how vulnerable he is to predators.

Last evening, the Chap and I drove to the city to see a performance by The Capitol Steps. It was the annual fundraiser for an affordable housing nonprofit. And because I happen to be married to the Chairman of its Board of Directors, I was privileged (and required!) to attend the pre-show reception.

There I encountered more than a few members of my new political "family". The notables included several current and former State Representatives, at least one State Senator, a former U.S. Ambassador, the daughter and grandchildren of a U.S. Congressman, and various local luminaries. The sell-out crowd departed with sides aching from constant laughter. The performers were in excellent voice, their sketches as fresh as the week's headlines.

This morning we joined our parish family in our little church in the neighbouring village. Our priest's sermon, coincidentally, touched upon exactly the sort of relationships that enhanced our weekend activities. With our blood relatives so scattered and distant, we truly have built a family from our circle of friends.

Right now Ruth and Lola are waiting for me to step away from the desktop computer and curl up on the sofa with Sunday papers and my portable keyboard.

The world outside is grey and cold, and a storm is closing in. Time to light a fire and snuggle with warm beasties and plan a "comfort food" menu for tonight's dinner.

For the safety of our snowshoe hare, the pleasure of the ski enthusiasts, and our state's weather-dependent economy, we welcome the snowfall predicted for the next 24 hours. Monday will be a wonderful day to hibernate, and if I don't get lots of writing done, then something is very, very wrong with me!

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Private Day for a Public Servant

At last, a day to catch my breath.

Here's a rundown of activities since last I blogged:

--Lunch and info forum by a group opposing casino gambling
--Public hearing at the Selectmen's meeting for one of the towns in my district, to hear plans for a state highway fleet fueling facility which would be located close to wellhead protection zones and the town water supply. The residents stated their opposition in no uncertain terms, and I think their feelings have already been persuasive. The Commissioner showed up and admitted that they are already re-thinking this proposal and considering other locations. Seven State Reps and one State Senator were present.

--Freshman Legislator Orientation (info and introductions)
--Public Policy presentation in Representatives Hall on Liveable Wage
--Lunch hour: I didn't actually eat any, I checked my email in the Cyber Room of the Legislative Office Building and trotted across the street to the diocesan office to photocopy a meeting agenda
--Party Caucus: Agenda setting
--Planning Meeting for Diocesan Spring Event
--Diocesan Council Meeting (I'm the Moderator)

I had five, count 'em, five different meetings yesterday. I could've crammed in a sixth had I not used the noon hour for other purposes.

When I got home last night, the Chap made dinner for me--very sweet, considering he'd had a long and busy day as well. Then we watched My Name is Earl, The Office, and 30 Rock. After a day of being a policy wonk and high-level diocesan operative, it felt good to sit back and be entertained. (And to cuddle with Ruth and Lola.)

Earlier in the week I purchased copies of the magazine with my article about The Lodge (my comps still aren't here....) The accompanying illustration of our abode is fantastic and faithful, so I negotiated with the artist to acquire a print as well as a digital image (so I can create my own Lodge-y notecards or mailing labels or Christmas cards or whatever).

Here's a scan of the essay as it appears in print:

This morning I was busy with RSVP's to entities inviting me to receptions and breakfasts and forums and things--the interest groups never fail to bait the trap with food. In my case, that isn't necessarily an incentive. There has to be some other reason for showing up. Even our Governor lured me to meet with him by promising coffee! (But I would've accepted his invitation regardless).

I'm looking forward to a weekend of social activities and entertainment. One involves diocesan chums, the other has political overtones, but both will be fun, fun, fun--and funny.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Committee Overload?

My quiet Monday was followed by incessant activity on Tuesday. Orientation meeting of my Legislative committee (Fish & Game--2 women and 18 men.) Lunch with some of the committee members at Olive Garden. (I had calamari--not a fish, exactly.) Afternoon visit to the Fish & Game Department to meet the staff and be briefed by them.

Left early to attend a diocesan committee meeting. Got back to the Lodge in time for a light supper, cooked up by my man.

There's more in that vein going on the rest of the week.

What's really fun is that yesterday the Chap was attending a committee orientation in the room next to the one I was in at the Legislative Office Building. We were able to connect briefly before and after my meeting. He said it was funny, peeking through the window of the door, and seeing my little curly girly head among all those fellows round the table!

Recently received in the mail a few nifty research books related to my novel. I'll have a few fun tidbits to share on my return. Yes--despite appearances to the contrary, I am still a novelist.

And if I need a reminder of my writing career, my article in ACCENT magazine has garnered some very nice comments. Haven't seen it yet myself, my comp issues haven't arrived. I'll try and buy a copy somewhere.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Big, Big, Big Weekend

It was a weekend of Three B's: a Building, a Ball, and a Bishop.

Early yesterday morning, I attended a public hearing at the local school, a required informational gathering prior to an upcoming town vote on a warrant article. We will vote on whether the town should accept the gift/donation of a historic meetinghouse/church building. Two committees made presentations. The first recommended that the town accept the meetinghouse, that it might be moved to a site beside the new library and behind the historic Town Hall, eventually to be incorporated into a future Town Hall complex. The other committee explained the rationale for saving this building--if we don't, it will be demolished to make way for a convenience store--and offered up a slate of representatives from state and national preservation organisations. They unanimously and wholeheartedly endorsed the plan for re-use as presented, and further stated that the building is in excellent condition and is already one of the buildings included on the Preservation Alliance's "Seven to Save" list.

I'm a longtime supporter any and every plan to safeguard this building. I hope the voters feel the same when they go to the polls on February 13th.

Last night, the Chap and I attended the Governor's Inaugural Ball. A pair of fairy godmothers made this possible--each of their first names begins with S, and I am immensely grateful to both for providing our two tickets!

The entire time I was primping and dressing, the tune from Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella was running through my mind: "The Prince is giving a ball! The Prince is giving a ball!" Only in my version, The Prince was The Gov.

Here I am, ready to hop into my pumpkin carriage--

--actually, a black and slightly mud-spattered European manufactured automobile. We were feeling exacly like Cinderella and Charming by the time we set out in our chariot, adorned with the official House of Representatives licence plate that enabled us to sail through the tollbooths.

First there was a reception with open bar and snacks. We wandered up to the area where the musicians were to admire the life-sized ice sculpture of reindeer and a huge scaled-down representation of our state.

There was a bit of a mix-up on the meet-up spot with one of my S-Fairies. Soon after we connected, she sprinkled some of her fairy dust, and a pair of extra seats magically materialised at our preferred table. Here's its lovely fresh-flower centrepiece.

It was a three-course meal: shrimp and salad, followed by salmon and beef and vegetables, and last a raspberry mousse sort of thing in a saucer made of chocolate.

The Governor made some remarks, inviting us all to the dance floor. He introduced the band--Jerry Lewis and the Playboys--and the festive atmosphere spiked. When not chatting with our friends (hard to do over the music), or spotting political celebs, the Chap and I enjoyed slow dancing.

And a bit of fast dancing, too, to the Hit Tunes of the 50's (before I was ever born!) and 60's (no comment, other than I was way, way too young to appreciate the Top Forty of that decade.)

We moved from the dance floor to a private reception room where there was a receiving line for a grip and grin with the Gov and his wife. Stationed right there was an official event photog who captured the moment (which can later be purchased for a substantial fee!)

You'd think that would be enough to satisfy us. But no, we were up bright and early and off to church to welcome the Bishop, who was making his visitation to our parish.

It was a most festive occasion, he gave a super sermon and afterwards we had a delicious meal in the Undercroft. He then met for a little while with our Vestry.

Are we finished yet? Oh, my no. In half an hour, we're off again, to help our former Rector celebrate his new ministry with his new congregation. (The Chap will be one of his presenters.) The Bishop will be there also, to preside and preach, and I expect to see many of my favourite people in our diocesan family, along with some of our own parishioners and our new priest.

If we get a repeat of this morning's sermon, I won't mind at all. It was that good!

I'm planning a Very Quiet Day tomorrow.

Friday, January 05, 2007

As seen in the newspaper

Much to my amazement, I'm included in that newspaper's Inauguration Gallery. (See yesterday's post, 2nd paragraph.)

Larger view with Caption

Smaller view in Gallery of Images

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Inauguration Day

Today was the Inauguration for the Governor and the Executive Council. Numerous dignitaries attended, including at least three former governors and many, many others, and musicians and singers--a class schoolchildren, a band with bagpipers, a quartet, and a female clergywoman.

My seat being located at some distance from the television cameras, or immediately in front, there was little danger of being captured. But a photographer of one of the big dailies caught me as I was looking up at the gallery and applauding the trumpet players at the very end. He asked me to write down my name and town and district...but I'm guessing he got plenty of better shots that will please his editor more than the one of me!

We were called into a joint session with the Senate. The Chief Justice of the State's Supreme Court administered the Oath. After the Governor's address, there was a receiving line in the Executive Council chamber, the enormous meeting room adjoining the famous "Corner Office" belonging to our Governor, pictured below.

Here's the receiving line. In order: the Governor, the Chief Justice, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House.

After shaking hands and chatting with everyone in the line, from the Governor on down, and complimented the young girls playing chamber music, my chums and I returned to Representatives' Hall for a private photo op. Here I am in the seat where I'll spend plenty of time for the next couple of years.

There was some time to kill before the next event, a public reception. So my friends and I went shopping on Main Street. I just went along, and of coursed ended up being the only one who bought anything--a pair of shoes.

We returned to the Executive Council Chamber, where the Governor and his wife were receiving members of the public and state employees. The food was lovely, the hot cider delicious and warming (not that it was so cold outside).

Some jazzmen were playing in the background. After the Governor made some welcoming remarks, the world-famous Tommy Makem and his son Rory played for us. And they led us in a lively sing-along.

It was a really fun day, very festive.

More of that to come...Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

If only they could all go this quickly....

Sessions of the Legislature, that is.

It was just like getting ready for the first day of school. Deciding what to wear, what time to leave, looking forward to seeing familiar faces and making some new friends.

I departed from the Lodge on time, only to discover the "Refuel" light was blazing on my dashboard. Luckily the reserve tank is generous enough that I didn't have to stop at a gas station on my way to town.

We had a party Caucus, during which all two-hundred and something party members stood up and introduced themselves by name and district and committee assignment. Then everybody else showed up and the Speaker called us to order. The Governor came in, waving and smiling. We then went into a joint session of the Senate for one purpose: the swearing in of our new State Treasurer. After announcements, we recessed.

I filled out my ethics form (stating any conflicts of interest) and received my security pin. I then wandered across the street to the Legislative Office Building to pick up my special House Rep number plates for my car and to have my photo ID made. Staff from the Department of Motor Vehicles were in charge of these operations--it was just like registering an auto. And renewing a driving licence. (Which I'll be doing in a couple of months.)

DMV typically manages a fairly flattering mug shot for me. Wish I could use the same photo from today for my licence renewal. Two birds, one stone.

But nothing in life is that simple, or practical.

I darted into the after-party for a ginger ale, three big sugar cookies with pink icing and rainbow sprinkles. Enjoyed a very brief and friendly chat with the Speaker and the House Chief of Staff.

On my way back to the forest I stopped by the Chap's place of employment for show-and-tell with nametag, id, licence plates.

I fully intended to install those plates myself, until I discovered it requires expertise with a socket wrench, an implement I have never heretofore encountered--or even touched. So much for self-sufficiency. I had to be satisfied with affixing my parking garage sticker on the car window.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Welcome 2007!

Happy New Year!

We enjoyed a white New Year's Eve. Here's our lake, as we passed it on the way home from church.

We had a wild, wild night of celebration. The Chap made a fire. We poured some champagne....

...then we watched a DVD of The Fabulous Baker Boys and When Harry Met Sally on television (both have crucial New Year's Eve scenes), while Ruth slept on my lap.

Today I made the traditional custard from the recipe that has been in my family for longer than anybody can remember. We assume it crossed over with somebody from England, and so far as we know the most recent immigrant from that country swam ashore sometime in the 18th century. Since then, they've been Welsh or Irish.

But wherever it came from, it's definitely delicious and a treasured holiday treat.

Here's to a glorious, joyous, prosperous year for all!