Archives for category: LitRicher

When they started talking about the US Postal Service stopping Saturday delivery a while ago, my first thought was how medieval, the US is supposed to be a developed country and this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. I was kind of embarrassed for America, actually. It’s like you can see the holes in her socks. Poor thing.

And then I felt slightly guilty too because most of my communications are electronic now, like everybody else’s, and maybe that’s why the PO is in a bind. Not that I was ever a huge letter writer, but you know.

I abandoned Christmas cards years ago, though I held out longer than most I think. I did have a real-mail correspondence with my high school French teacher that lasted about 30 years. We sent each other Christmas cards and letters every year, and sometimes we exchanged notes in between. Maggie. An extraordinary woman. She saved my life, I loved her, and I wanted to keep thanking her forever.

In the year or two after I got to Paris I sent my nephew in California things like castles made of card stock that he could put together and knights on horses and a foam Eiffel Tower to build, but then the novelty of Paris wore off and he was getting too old for that kind of thing anyway.

I’ve been trying to send my 92 year-old grandmother more mail. I’ve sent her notes and printouts of my Instagram pictures, a couple clippings from glossy European fashion and decorating magazines that showed a scarf and a rug made of granny squares so my grandmother, the crochet queen, who can no longer crochet because of arthritis, would know they’d made a comeback in sophisticated circles, which of course meant she was very hip.

I will mail her something today. (Thanks for reminding me.) I’ll send my mom something too. I mail her a postcard every time I go to a museum or exhibit because she gets sole credit for teaching me to appreciate culture from a young age. I’ll send my mother-in-law something too. She very recently lost her husband and is having a rough go of it.

Reach out and touch someone, right?

So the post office is dying and we should mail people more things in order to save Saturday delivery and jobs and because sending people notes and things is a nice thing to do. Of course, mail isn’t very environmentally correct. But some things, like letters to Grandma, are important. So cancel a few of your catalogs and magazines and offset your carbon. Question of priorities.

I’m writing this because this week, a literary magazine I follow on Twitter launched this great project, Letters for Kids, in which well-known authors of children’s fiction mail a monthly letter to kids. I thought I might sign my nephew up.

And then I got to thinking, because of Maggie and my grandmother, and my mom and my mother-in-law, that there should be something like this for seniors. I thought for 15 seconds about organizing it myself. Then I thought others would be in a better position to do it. It should be done in any case. I will give it some more thought.

And that brought me to HOOT, the “mini” literary magazine I went bonkers for this year and wrote about in a HuffPo article in which I recount the sad story of my first chain letter experience. I subscribed immediately and also chided the editors for not having a better order form that would let me buy gift subscriptions for multiple people at once.

And that made me think of Postagram, which I mentioned in my HuffPo article, but had never used. I just downloaded the iPhone app and in a matter of minutes sent postcards of some of my Instagram pics to a bunch of people (including myself, to see the product). First five were free. Bonus! Not terribly personal, you might say, but more so than many of the tools we use to reach out today. What’s really cool is that the pictures pop out of the postcards. Anyway, I’m sold.

In early 2010, I got a fat envelope in the mail, the kind of thing that usually comes as a pleasant surprise. But it was from Maggie’s daughter, Gina, whom I didn’t know, and it contained a letter letting me know Maggie had passed away. With it were copies of the eulogy and a poem Gina and her brother and sister had written and read at the memorial, the program, some pictures… And a puka shell necklace that had belonged to Maggie in Hawaii in the 70s, when she was my teacher, when she saved me, when puka shells were all the rage.

In the letter, Gina told me that Maggie had kept all the letters and cards I’d ever sent to her in a folder labeled “Sunshine.”

So go ahead and grab those pretty cards and envelopes next time.

I wrote my first poem, about a kitten, when I was nine. I still have that piece of very wide-ruled paper in the basement somewhere. It was a school assignment, and I lost points for spelling “cream” “creme.” I knew how to spell “cream,” but this was a conscious choice. I just thought “creme” was a fancy way to spell the word. (OREO did it, why couldn’t I? That’s what I said to the teacher.) I couldn’t have articulated it at that age, but I felt the exotic spelling added texture. I have always loved to play with language.

Two or three years later, I wrote my next poem. I was watching an episode of The Addams Family (a show that played no small part in my franco-erotic awakening and also influenced my fashion sense), in which Morticia was planning to write an opera called Afternoon in a Swamp.

I tried to imagine what such an opera would possibly be like and, when the show ended, I got up and wrote a poem called Afternoon in a Swamp. This is how it starts:

Isn’t it lovely to sit in the bubbly
mushy gushy swamp?
A thunder and lightning
most of all frightening
wonderful place for a romp.

It’s in the basement too. I travel light, but there are a few scraps of paper I’m still dragging around.

I kept writing poems, heavily in the teenage years, of course (my what crap), and on into my twenties and thirties (mostly sonnets for a man I ended up being with for 16 years). I came out of that relationship with a nice sonnet sequence spanning that significant chapter of my life. And the cherry on top of the sonnets, when it all came crashing down, was a villanelle I’m pretty proud of. Too much pain for 14 lines to hold, and the kind of challenge that keeps you so focused you forget to kill yourself that day.

For the last 10 or so of those 16 years, I drank a lot. We drank a lot. My daily buzz wrapped me in a sort of silence, was a buffer that kept me floating on the surface, which is not where poems come from. And so none came. But when I got divorced I took a dive, a deep, deep dive, and I haven’t come up. I like it down here. And I found a buddy.

All of this is to say that my priorities are changing. I’m planning a gradual and graceful exit from the rat race. I’m just too bored and disgusted watching the rats spinning frantically in their wheels to nowhere, and busting my ass for people who don’t appreciate it. I will be switching to the tortoise and hare race, in which I will be the tortoise, pausing to sit in the shade at the foot of a tree and ponder and write a thing or two before I continue along the path.

Life’s just too short.

In case you didn’t know it, I’m working on a novel. It’s about learning to dive (metaphorically speaking). And I’ll never finish it if my time and energy are squandered on pointless pursuits (though some may think writing a novel is just that). I also have a blog of prose poetry and photography. And then there are the Instagram photos. My miraculous husband makes things too: music as well as art.

My advice to you: take up diving.

I plugged a chunk of my novel-in-progress into this web app that analyzes your sentence structure and word choices, and I got this:

I write like
Margaret Atwood

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Loved Handmaid’s Tale, but Cat’s Eye left me cold. Tried to read Good Bones and Simple Murders, but I don’t generally like short stories (it was a gift from someone who does like them). Can’t remember what others I’ve read, but I know I’ve at least started one or two more. I’ve always wondered why she’s so popular. My general impression of her is that she’s kind of a “John Irving lite.” But maybe I’ll have to revisit her stuff now that I’m older and wiser and see what the fuss is about. Any recommendations?

Then I plugged in an everyday splendor post and got this:

I write like
Oscar Wilde

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Now that felt good. If only! Even though he could be a bit pompous and verbose. (Wait a minute… This app is good!)

Then I plugged in a frogblog post and got this:

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Oh well. But who doesn’t love some good pulp from time to time?

Let me know who you write like!

I had coffee with an artist named Matthew Rose on Sunday (actually I had an Orangina—it was really hot). It was the first time we’d met, and it came about because I tweeted a link to an exhibit poster that Matthew had made available for free download. Which I discovered because I’ve subscribed to one of his blogs for a few years. Which I found googling business card designers in Paris.

I love the Internet. Have I mentioned that?

Anyway, I figured the francophiles who follow Francophilia on Twitter would like it. And I liked it and wanted to share. The poster shows a number of his collages from the exhibit, many of which have a decidedly French flavor.

So one of the things we talked about was how it benefits all concerned when artists give the masses, who can’t necessarily afford original works, access to their art. Matthew is a big champion of this approach, one that appeals to my SoCal hippie – Civilization 2.0 – share the love mentality (and one shared by Vincent, who makes his music available to stream on his blog and to download all over the Web, not to mention his Geeks In Love).

Our discussion covered a lot of ground, and one thing Matthew mentioned really intrigued me: the One Page Book concept (les petits papiers in French). He said it’s something kids do in school, but I never did… I don’t know who started it, but it seems to have caught on, and artists from all over have participated, creating free artwork that can be downloaded and turned into little books.

roseverybadyear.jpgAnd you can do the same. All you need is one piece of paper and some inspiration.

Click the image to get to Matthew’s It Was a Very Bad Year, the shortest—and sexiest—user manual I’ve ever seen. And it also happens to be a work of art.

So of course the next day, I decided to create my own One Page Book, with one of my favorite poems of those I’ve written in recent years.

<RANT> I got an e-mail from Lulu today congratulating me because my poetry book was “selected” to be sold on Amazon Marketplace. Which is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. It’s just a business move on the part of Lulu, and my book will be as much of a needle in a haystack there as it is on Lulu, more probably, even though they tell me now I’ll have more search engine visibility. But it doesn’t matter anyway. The only reason I made it in the first place was to give it to my mom for Christmas. Plus Amazon will be charging 30% more for the book than Lulu, and I don’t get a penny of that. What a racket. Boo. Hiss. So if, by chance, you want a copy, get it from Lulu. It’s selected poems and photos from the turbulent year or so after my divorce, full of despair, flowers, sex and, finally, love. The usual. </RANT>

[Lulu changed their mind. Got this mass e-mail on June 5th: "Based on your feedback and after reading the policies of several marketplaces, we've decided to match your titles listing price on Lulu with the listing price on Amazon by removing the 30% markup. ]

So here, ladies and gentlemen, is my first attempt at a One Page Book using a poem from the Love section of the aforementioned book:


Click the image for the full size PDF (without the lines). It’s in A4 format, so it won’t exactly work on 8.5 x 11. Folding and cutting tutorial here. You can see what a number of artists have done with their One Page Books here and here.

Use it as an art medium. Make a party invitation or a get well card. A great rainy day project with the kids. Use crayons or Photoshop. Print it on inkjet fabric, quilt it, sew the edges together with embroidery thread or ribbon, and make a cloth keepsake gift for baby or grandma. I was thinking of maybe making some shabby chic Francophilia brochures. Unlimited potential for fun, creativity, and therapy.

If you make a One Page Book, upload the PDF and send me the link and I’ll link to it from this post!


Alice and her looking glass keep cropping up in some form or another in my life these days… Today Vincent found an appealing personality test on The Presurfer. You find out what book you are after answering only six questions. Despite that, the personality descriptions are eerily accurate…

This is my book:


You’re Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!
by Lewis Carroll

After stumbling down the wrong turn in life, you’ve had your mind opened to a number of strange and curious things. As life grows curiouser and curiouser, you have to ask yourself what’s real and what’s the picture of illusion. Little is coming to your aid in discerning fantasy from fact, but the line between them is so blurry that it’s starting not to matter. Be careful around rabbit holes and those who smile too much, and just avoid hat shops altogether.

This is Vincent’s:


You’re Watership Down!
by Richard Adams

Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you’re actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where they build their houses. You might be one of the greatest people of all time. You’d be recognized as such if you weren’t always talking about talking rabbits.

Take The Book Quiz on The Blue Pyramid (and let me know if you do).


Oooh, those naughty French. You gotta love ‘em.

This is just to let you know that the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (like the US National Archives) has opened a very special reserved collection to the public for the first time in history.

It’s their 17th- to 20th-century porn collection, which till now, they’ve selfishly kept hidden away in a vault the curators call l’Enfer (Hell).

Not only are they exhibiting these treasures, but they’re also turning an entire unused métro station into a…teaser. From December 17th through the 15th of January, the Croix Rouge station (between Sèvres-Babylone and Mabillon on the 10) will be festooned with giant reproductions of classic erotica tucked discreetly behind billowing curtains. Spicing up that commute with a little métro-boudoir-dildo

L’Enfer de la Bibliothèque, Eros au secret opened yesterday at the Bibliothèque Francois Mitterrand. Hours are 10 am to 7 pm Tuesday – Saturday and 1 pm to 7 pm on Sunday. 7 Euros to get in. No one under 16 allowed.

It runs until March 2nd, 2008. You have plenty of time to go, so don’t get your panties in a twist.

Unless, of course that’s what you’re into…


When I was 20, I read Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins. I re-read it and several of his other novels over the next few years. Looking back, I realize that it was the perfect book to help me make the transition from the sci-fi and fantasy into which I constantly escaped during the turbulent teen years that followed my parents’ divorce to the real, grown-up world. Robbins’ “crazy wisdom” was just what I needed at the time, and I’d even go so far as to say that it probably has something to do with the way I approach life.

A few years ago, after my own divorce, I somehow came across this Tom Robbins quote:

When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on–series polygamy–until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimensions to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.

I agree with him completely that people tend to seek completeness in pairing. (Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.) But what I find more interesting about this quote is his assumption that completeness is even possible.

“When we’re incomplete” is always. We are incomplete from the moment we’re born and we never lose that sense of incompleteness. Ever. Think about it. Everything we do—get married, get a degree, buy some material thing—we do because we believe it will complete us in some way. But after we do those countless things towards that end, we inevitably still feel like there’s something missing, and so we keep looking. We buy more, go to school more, marry somebody else. The closest we ever get to being complete is having kids. But that still only completes a part of us.

People (in Western culture? or is it just Americans?) seem to assume that incompleteness is a bad thing. This is where they make their biggest mistake, and one that, if you ask me, prevents them from ever being truly happy. But I think this permanent sense of incompleteness is not just good, but essential. It drives us to love somebody, to create, to have kids, to strive. So if we were ever completed, we would lose our reason for living…

If you can accept that we must live our lives feeling incomplete, understand that it’s a good thing, and embrace it, you can get more pleasure out of the loving, learning, creating, and even material things because you won’t have the expectation that they will do more for you than they will. All these things do is make a moment better; they add a sweet dimension.

I’m sure lots of other people realize this. Well, some people. Mostly Buddhists, probably.