Charles Bush has managed to once again write lines that are so good I can remember them a day later, but won't repeat them here because I dont' want to ruin them for you. Charles Bush, brilliant writer, actor, and poignantly beautiful drag queen, isn't playing the malcontent older woman this time, but I bet he could do a slam dunk job at it. Bush is the midwife to audiences' belly-rocking laughs.

Question 1:
I was so interested in how you handled backstory for your main character, Clementine. It's so easy to lose the readers with backstory, but you didn't. How did you choose the way you finally wrote it: present chapter, backstory chapter, etc.

I struggled, in the first draft, with a strong desire to minimize backstory for Clementine. I felt as though I wanted a lot to happen in the present without so much slowdown from the past--so at first, I wrote out the simple past (present--the what's happening immediately) story, but I kept finding I needed to write a parallel story--past perfect--to inform the forestory. Ultimately, I decided to alternate, but not without several juggling acts (no dropped eggs, thankfully) between.One thing I've decided, as writer, reader, and teacher, is that people do want immediacy as readers--and one way to achieve that is not to go too long without something happening. And dialogue is the ultimate in something happening, because we hear it in our head as the direct words of the characters, without all the distance of extra words in a sentence.

Question 2:
Every gripping novel, from Jane Eyre to your Orphan Girl is built on a family secret. Did you know the secret in Orphan Girl before you began to write it?

Gwendolen's answer:
First of all, bless you, Jane Eye and Orphan Sister in the same sentence?! You are so kind!Yes. I knew. And I didn't know. I did experiment with some worse possibilities, but ultimately wanted a forgivable secret, a forgivable mistake. I tend toward the hopeful, and don't like bad behavior ONLY for the sake of titillation, in books or in life.


The Deadline Looms...There's just a little over a month left to enter Gulf Coast's 2011 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose.No matter what you call it--flash fiction, prose poems, micro-essays--send us your work of 500 words or fewer. The winner will receive $1,000 and will be published in the issue of Gulf Coast due out in Spring 2012, along with the two runners-up.This year's judge will be poet, essayist, and story writer Sarah Manguso.Entries are due August 31, 2011. The entry fee is $17 and each entrant will receive a one-year subscription to Gulf Coast. We're asking that all entries this year come to us via our easy-to-use online submission manager. Each entry may be comprised of up to three individual pieces. Just put all individual pieces into one Word, rtf, or pdf document and upload. Last year we were happy to publish three excellent pieces of short prose by Lillian-Yvonne Bertram (2010's winner), Benjamin Glass, and Robert Thomas. These three pieces, along with an introduction by last year's judge, Joe Bonomo, are available on our website.

Just a few more days...As if that isn't enough, our summer subscription special is almost a thing of the past. Until this Sunday, July 31, though, you can still get a deeply discounted year of Gulf Coast. Just head on over to our subscription page and when you enter the coupon code "JUL" you'll get six dollars off the regular subscription price. That's two big, beautiful issues of Gulf Coast for ten bucks (the regular newsstand price for just one issue).The support of Gulf Coast not only gets you some of the best new stories, essays, and poetry to be found on the literary scene, it also helps us to support our writers (fresh new voices alongside venerable favorites) and to remain a venue where those writers can submit their work free of charge.
What's coming up...The upcoming issue of Gulf Coast, due out this October, is almost done and already looking like one of our most compelling issues yet. The issue will feature a section of translated work, with pieces originally written in Danish, French, Spanish and Uyghur, and a special report on organizations that offer asylum to politically persecuted writers.It will also feature poetry from Sherman Alexie, Lily Brown, Graham Foust, Alex Lemon, Sharon Olds, Stanley Plumly, and many others. There are stories from Michael Czyzniejewski, Rav Grewal-Kök, Teresa Milbrodt, Ann Tashi Slater, and new voices Danny Thahn Nguyen and Mario Rosado. And the nonfiction line-up includes Joe Bonomo, Lorraine Doran, Katherine Dykstra, Chidelia Edochie, Stephanie Harrison, and Kristen Radtke.The issue will also feature the winners of the 2011 Gulf Coast Prizes in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry, and, as always, intriguing and thought-provoking interviews and reviews.Finally, we'll have visual art from photographer Duncan Ganley and a special feature on the work of the late, great Cy Twombly.It'll be an issue you won't want to miss.

Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine ArtsDepartment of EnglishUniversity of HoustonHouston, Texas 77204-3013US
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On a Canadian theme

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"But you can't get much more Canadian than me!"
This week, I have decided to start a painting on a Canadian theme.  This isn’t it, by the way.  I'm afraid it has somehow got smudged at the top before I could get it scanned in at home.  I also slightly altered my swirly abstract triptych from some time ago, as I'd had to show it before it had quite dried, and again, it got smudged.  I am letting it dry completely before photographing it.

At art group, Kevin told me when his next exhibition will be, which is as part of the Chesterfield Art group, which he is also a member of, as well as Clowne (and also, I believe, one at Bolsover – he’s a busy man).   This is from 6-8th August, at Bakewell Town Hall, Derbyshire, from 10 am – 5 pm.  John continued to work on his ape picture “some people say you can use pure black for shadows, some say you can’t” as he shaded under the chins of all three gorillas.

Another Lovely Blog award goes to “Bargains with Barb”  This is an American blog, and all offers and adverts relate to that country.  Barb is a mum of two who works at home “in the medical field” and loves to find new and creative ways to save money (don’t we all?)  Worth a look if you are a US resident who might be interested in some money saving offers.

Lovely Blog Award 5

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For any new readers, I have recently been awarded a Lovely Blog award, and a condition of acceptance is that I have to pass it on to fifteen others.
Here’s my latest contender, bringing us up to five awardees now. “Me, You and Creamed Corn”  As I am from the UK, I had to look up what “creamed corn” is.  It sounds delicious, and I wonder what inspired them to use this as a name for their blog.  Written by Marisa and Brittany, a mother and daughter, this blog has an underlying Christian ethos running through its touching true life tales.  It also has some delightful recipes.  The links are also interesting – the blog “Adventures of a Maui Mompreneur” is the story of a brave and determined woman and her family.   “Creamed Corn” is another worthy winner and congratulations to its authors – also welcome to them as I believe they are now following my blog.

A doozy of a family secret is unspooled in this quirky and masterful novel about three sisters: Olivia and Odette who came from the same egg that was split after fertilization, while Clementine (what a darling!) was born at the same time, but from a single fertilized egg. Clementine is genetically more of a sibling to her sisters than a twin. The story loops back in time, enlarging each time another piece of the story is written. For a book that has a light touch, it whips up emotionally as the story goes on.

In the class I teach, Emotions into Art, I ask writers to collect off-the-beat expressions of emotion by other writers, not to copy them, but to inspire them. There's quite enough "He swallowed hard" and "his heart thumped", thank you very much. Here's some examples from Gwendolen of stretching for new ways to express emotion:
Instead of "My mouth was dry with anxiety" she writes, "My mouth was suddenly post-dentist fuzzy, half-hot, half-numb.
How about this for creativity in showing bodily sensations? "She was stroking my hair now; it felt so lovely, but tender at the same time, as if my hair had nerve endings and was too sensitive to be touched.
And this for showing someone overwhelmed? "Neither one of us spoke, and I didn't know what she was thinking or feeling, but I could tell it was a big suck-you-under, wavelike feeling."
When you read this novel, besides seeing just how much a family can be torn apart and what they will do to stay together, notice the "egg" motifs that run through the book, emphasicing the theme. The sun spreading across Clementine's living room is described is "like an egg in a pan."
There's a wide cast of characters in this book to enjoy, including a ferret and a boa constrictor.
Read The Orphan Sister like a reader. Read it like a writer. Read it!

One more Lovely Blog award to ...

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Lovefeast Table!

This blog is about welcoming people into your world and meeting them in theirs (on line as much as in reality).   The two authors, Chris Ann and Kristin, have nine children between them, and their blog is a bit of philosophy, a bit of cookery (Holiday Cookie Exchange) and a bit of this and that.  I can't wait to try out some of their cookie recipes.

A worthy winner of a Lovely Blog Award

I also understand they have just redesigned their blog, and asked me to hold off awarding them the LBA until it was done.  I have to say I like the new look of their blog.  Congratulations to you both.

Droid, droid, droid

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My husband took a picture of me on my new Droid. Like Kermit the Frog, all I can say is, "It's not easy being green." Gosh, this Droid is so hard to use. Too many features. And all day it calls out in a robotic voice, "Droid, Droid, Droid." Sigh. I wanted to be techno-hip, cool. And now I'm just green.

Change for the better

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An early update this week. I am grabbing what might be the only opportunity I get as we are busy on some quite major projects at home.  We are trying to complete it all before the little ‘un breaks up on Thursday (a day early because the Royal Wedding bank holiday fell during the Easter Break). He is just coming to the end of his first year at school brought some of his paintings home this week – my favourite is this lepoard.
I’ve been revisiting some of my old paintings to try and improve them.  Starting with this butterflies painting, the dark background at the bottom right was too much of a contrast with the other parts of it.  I was proud of it whenever I displayed it in the frame I’d bought “off the shelf” that just happened to fit it exactly.  But, several exhibitions on, it hadn’t quite sold, and I decided to change that part of the picture.
To begin with, I tried making the background pink and green, as if to show a soft focus buddleia behind the one in the picture.  This proved too difficult – trying to get the pink and green, so I decided to create a sunlight effect. First of all, I tried it a yellow background – unfortunately, this looked too bright and stood out more than the butterfly itself. 
I tried playing around with it on the computer, and found that introducing peach/orange toned it down, so tried this on the actual painting itself, and it seemed to be the best solution.

This painting of our old cat, Copper, originally had an air brick built into the wall behind her, so I’ve taken that out, and again substituted the new version on the website.  The painting has sold as a greetings card but the original ain’t shiftin’ – perhaps this will help.
Every time I looked at this Clumber Park Church painting, I thought the grass was perhaps a little too bright, and needed toning down (who needs lime green?)  So that was my third mission this week.

The art group’s general consensus was that my Hunstanton lighthouse painting (see earlier blog posts) needed a darker sky, so that gave me something to do at this week’s meeting. 
Here she is!
I also finally managed to photograph some of Gill’s work for the exhibition brochure, and was pleased with the result. I was able to photograph Gill herself several weeks ago, as she also wanted a better photo of herself in the brochure.
The first of the two Heligan paintings
I have changed each of the paintings above on my selling website, (see top) and have also added two new paintings, both of trees at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, in Cornwall.  Originally, these were featured in my blog as “pen and ink trees”, but as they are at Heligan, it made sense to include that in the name.

Why would a writer audit a workshop for actors who want to land roles in musicals? Curiosity, a desire to see how performing relates to writing, and to meet Raul Esparza

Here are the things I took away that would be useful to writers:
1. Pay attention to punctuation. Raul made the people who used Sondheim music to audition go over the piece, speaking it, sticking an extraneous word such as “pins” to indicate a comma or period. Sunday in the Park with George might sound like this: “Stop worrying where you’re going. PINS If you can know where you’re going PINS you’ve gone. PINS Just keep moving on. How could this help a writer? If you’re a poet, you can really get a sense of line breaks, etc. by sticking in pins to help you read the line as the reader will.
2. Don’t close your eyes. It shuts people off from you because eyes are the windows to the soul. When I think about all the poetry readings I’ve gone to where the poet has his eyes open, but is fixed on a point above the audience, he might want to make eye contact to see where folks are yawning. Might be a good place to edit.
3. Don’t give yourself away right off. In writing, you have to constantly be a slight-of-hand artist, leading the reader one way, and then purposely misdirecting them. It’s how you keep tension going, how you keep attention going as well.
4. Raul pointed out how Chekov uses gestures to convey intentions or psychological needs. Writers, don’t forget that in your own characters. Setting gestures on the page is a real art form. If you read Eugene O’Neill’s descriptions of how the drunks in The Iceman Cometh slump over their tables in the bar, each one distinct.
5. “Who are you singing to?” was a question Raul frequently asked. Even in a soliloquy, the character is thinking of someone as he speaks, even if it’s to describe himself.
6. Every line has a subtext.
7. To deliver a song (or a piece of writing) you have to think of an actable moment. If you say a writer wants to get his feelings across, you would do better to sit on a whoopee cushion. At least then you’d get a laugh. Think of what you want to make the other person do that is actually doable, for example: to confess, to beseech, to argue, etc. Think verb!
8. Separate yourself from what you’re selling. If you don’t get a part, if you don’t publish, you’re still a worthwhile person on a worthwhile pursuit.
9. Don’t worry about style. Just think about the human being, the character. If you do this, great writing always takes care of itself. (I HOPE.)
10. Here’s something I wrote down in caps. KEEP A WIDE DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ARTIST. In other words, if my new novel that’s in my agent’s hands at this moment doesn’t sell, I’m still publishing essays, poetry, and short stories. I’m still blogging. I’m still breathing. (For now.)

To inquire about taking a master class with a master, write to

Another awardee!

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Just a quick post to say that the fourth Lovely Blog award goes to Catherine S Photography and Design, for her photography blog.

From Pen and Ink to Papaver

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This week, I have been making final alterations to some of my paintings before adding them to my sales site (link above).  To complete this pen and ink trees painting, I have already added more black to the bottom, and may also add a bit more at the right, so that it goes all the way to the right hand side.  I will be re-uploading my site in the next few days and you can see the new paintings and links then.

I also have two new links from that site. One is to Ceriboo, (also known as Ceri) who makes beautiful and unique bags Based at Banks Mill Studios, Derby, she sells ready-made bags and can carry out commissions. She has an online shop and, for those of you who like to read blogs, she has one attached to her site.

A worthy winner of the “One Lovely Blog” award, Papaver Jewelry is an interesting and colourful blog

I have also been helping my son assemble and paint his earth and moon kit. He loves all things to do with the galaxies, and immediately homed in this on a recent trip to the National Space Centre at Leicester.   What better way to spend his pocket money?

A quick mention for Tracey Stoddart, and husband and daughter Danielle, who have recently set up “Fairytale Bridal” on Mill Street, Clowne, a wedding and prom dress shop.  They change the window display most days, and the windowsills look beautiful lined with satin with wedding accessories scattered on them.

They are featured on the Derbyshire Times website at:

Their Face Book page is at – a feast for the eyes.

Passager's Anthology--I'm in it.

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You can order it here:

My poem, At the Candy Store, is published in it:

At the Candy Store, 1933

Flies sit on the covered jars
of jujubes, chocolate babies,
bulls eyes that turn colors
when you suck them.
“The Way You Look Tonight”
is playing on the bakelite radio.

“A hot one,” says the man behind the counter,
flicking his tongue over his thick lips.
Even at seventeen, my mother knows
he doesn’t mean the weather.
For a nickel, she punches
through five holes of the punch board,
unscrolls the rolled up papers.
Three say “You Lose,” one says “Try Again,”
the last “You win a free ice cream.”

He hands her a Dixie cup with a wooden spoon.
She doesn’t say “Thank You,”
doesn’t want him to feel he’s given her a gift.
She’d like to eat the ice cream
beneath the breeze of the ceiling fan,
but this man’s eyes are boring through her.

Outside she opens the lid.
Joan Crawford’s picture is under it.
There’s something fierce about her mouth.
That’s the way a pretty woman needs to look.
Joan Crawford can eat ice cream anywhere.



Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

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After celebrating Marriage Equality at the Gay Rights parade, I wondered if Priscilla, Queen of the Desert would be dated. But who can resist fabulous dancing, strong characters, and wow stagesets? And who among us can't connect with the basic theme of being different, going through the hard knocks of it, and coming hopefullyto self-acceptance? You'll be up out of your seat, dancing, clapping, yelling, "Bravo!"and "Brava!"



New award!

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I have just been given a new blogging award, so thank you to Heart, author of “The Fire in My Eyes” blog at: my latest award, One Lovely Blog award.   A condition of acceptance is that I pass it onto 15 other recipients.  The first two are:

Firstly:  Patricia, of Digital Scrapbooking Lessons:  I always like blogs that tell me how to do something.  Posts include photoshop tutorials, fonts, scrapbook titles and many others.  Her latest post includes a link to instructions on photographing fireworks.
Secondly, Nicole, of “I’m staying home with my mom”  An inspiring blog by a mother of four who has opted to home school the middle two of her children (the youngest is still a baby and the oldest has opted to stay at school).  As she says, “We can’t lose our children to the world”  Congratulations to both these recipients.

I will be featuring more winning blogs in future weeks.

Lighthouse week 3

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Here’s a slightly early update this week, as I try to catch up after the teachers’ strike and INSET days.
I completed my Hunstanton Lighthouse picture at the weekend, and I invited the other art group members to comment on it. One of them thought that it would look better if I put water onto it to make it a painting (the crayons are water soluble), but I can’t as the picture is done on cartridge paper and might buckle if I tried. In any case, I like it as a drawing. For this upload, I have slightly enhanced the colours so you can see it better. 

Just a quick mention for Psykopaint – I have finally managed to get into the site and create a Monet-style painting of the lighthouse – here it is (still looking a bit too much like a photo for my liking - I think I would need to spend longer on it).  You can choose from either creating your own painting or adapting a photograph that you upload.  There is a choice of brushes and famous artist styles to choose from.  The site address is: and it is quite good fun.  I am hoping to make use of it to help me decide on the right sort of medium when I am planning a painting. 
Another fun art site is Jackson Pollock (Miltos Minitos) site:  You can create your own Jackson Pollock-style painting - every time you click your mouse it changes the colour of the paint.  My son used to love it when he was a toddler, and I’m sure lots of adults would enjoy it too - a very pleasant way to spend a few free minutes.

I was moved by Laurel Nakadate's retrospective at P.S. 1. I thought of how much her white-framed photos hanging closely together on the white walls, were old-masterish in their chairoscuro lighting. I was pulled in. And then I got to the videos of Laurel in her underwear, sometimes topless, humping on a bed, and there went the old masters. I couldn't wrap my mind around what she was trying to accomplish when she videod herself wowing unattractive older men. Yet I was drawn into her acting, the sadness she portrayed. Carol Deihl, in her blog, Art Vent, thought that that instead of chronicling her 365 Days of sadness (after all, is she entitled to it, a young Yalie with a retrospective?) Laurel Nakadate should get a job at a convenience store.

In another blog post, Carol Diehl wrote about how art-goers are spending more time at the walls, reading text about the art than they are viewing the art. Maybe that's just what happened to me.

My Place of Perfect Peace

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In any season I can find serentiy at the Planting Fields Arboretum on Long Island. All I need to do is think of myself there and waves of peace float through me. What's your place of perfect peace?

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