Doors in Morocco

Doors inspire my imagination. Who lives inside?  What’s their life like?

Poet Carl Sandburg* said “Shadows and ghosts go through doors.”  None are more mysterious or elaborate than the doors in Morocco.   Here are a few.

Morocco Doors
Morocco Doors

*Doors
An open door says, “Come in.”
A shut door says, “Who are you?”
Shadows and ghosts go through shut doors.
If a door is shut and you want it shut,
why open it?
If a door is open and you want it open,
why shut it?
Doors forget but only doors know what it is
doors forget.

–Carl Sandburg

This post is in response to the weekly photo challenge:  Doors

New Book Ideas from the Deep Valley Book Festival

One of my favorite authors, Faith Sullivan, and her husband Dan.
One of my favorite authors, Faith Sullivan, and her husband Dan (notice the book she just purchased).  Keep an eye out for her new book Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, coming out in fall.

Book festivals make great entertainment for readers.  You get to talk to authors, check out new books and strike up conversations with fellow book lovers.  I’ve found that there are little book festivals going on all the time, in addition to the big fests, such as the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. or the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.

I spent much of yesterday at the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato, Minnesota which is part of the Betsy-Tacy Deep Valley Homecoming. I sold a truckload of books—-okay about ten and I swapped one of those with another author for her book.  However, I met a lot of local authors working on fascinating topics (fiction and non-fiction), swapped book promotion ideas, and gained lots of inspiration.  Best of all, I met one of my favorite local writers, Faith Sullivan, a generous, delightful person and great writer who enthusiastically purchased a copy of my book, Off The Beaten Page.  Keep an eye out for her new book, Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse, coming out this fall from Milkweed Press.

I met a few other authors whose books I have to share with you.  Odds are, if you’re not too far away, they’d be happy to stop by your book group to talk about their book.  First on my list to read is Nancy Koester’s Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life.

Nancy Koester's book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award.
Nancy Koester’s book, Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life won the 2015 Minnesota Book Award.

Allen Eskens‘s debut novel, The Life We Bury, is a story of suspense involving a University of Minnesota student, set against the harsh winter of Minnesota.  I’ll be settling in for that one this winter.

Allen Eskens's  and his debut novel, The Things We Bury
Allen Eskens’s and his debut novel, The Life We Bury

I also met the bubbly Anne B. Kerr, author of Fujiyama Trays and Oshibori Towels, a memoir of her experiences as a Northwest Orient Airlines stewardess in the 1950s.  I pickup of a copy to give to my mother-in-law who was also a flight attendant in that era.

IMG_1002
Anne B. Kerr (right) tells the tales of her days as a Northwest Airlines flight attendant in the 1950s.

And finally, if you’re a fan of young adult paranormal romance, a very specific category,  check out Unclaimed by Laurie Wentzel.  Laurie shared book promotion tips and also explained that my college dating life didn’t qualify as paranormal.

Laurie Wetzel
Laurie Wetzel is the author of the Unclaimed series of young adult novels.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rainbow Colors at St. Peter’s Fiesta, Gloucester

St. Peter's Fiesta Carnival in Gloucester, Massachusetts
St. Peter’s Fiesta Carnival in Gloucester, Massachusetts

You can’t beat a carnival for color. Each June, on the weekend closest to the Feast Day of St. Peter, the Italian-American fishing community of Gloucester, Massachusetts, comes together to celebrate the patron saint of fishermen, St. Peter. These photos are from last year’s fiesta, which opened with a carnival, music, art, and plenty of nasty-greasy-good food.

The Fiesta opens this year in St. Peter’s Square on the Gloucester waterfront on Wednesday, June 24 and ends on Sunday, June 28.

weekly photo challenge 

Travel Before TSA: Were the Skies Really Friendlier?

3022215-slide-8267210465670e3d76e5oOne of the best things about blogging is interaction with readers who share their stories, comments and their own travel experiences with me. Of course, I especially love hearing stories of their literature-inspired travel. Sometimes authors send books they’ve written that fit into that category for a review or a mention.

I recently received a couple of volumes from a former TV journalist Unknown-1and travel writer, Walt Christophersen. In A Temporary European and By Ship, Train, Bus, Plane and Sometimes Hitchhiking he recounts his adventures as a journalist in the 1960s and 70s and includes some of his articles from that period.

What I enjoyed most about Walt’s books is the look back they provide to a time when traveling seemed much simpler. Remember what traveling was like before 9/11, TSA screening and all the other hassles we now endure? The books made me think back to the days when flying was actually glamorous. I remember traveling as a child with my parents to visit my grandparents in Florida. I wore a spiffy little knit suit, my dad wore a suit and tie, and mom was glamorous in her mink stole, which was much more useful on the return trip to Michigan than trotting around Florida’s east coast. We had actual meals served to us—with cloth napkins and silverware! We had leg room! We checked our luggage—for free!

Walt’s books are a refresher on the days when adventurous travelers could go to places such as Afghanistan and Syria without too much danger, though as he reports, not without discomfort. (If you’re a freelance writer, the really depressing part is that from his account it appears that the wages for writers, particularly freelance travel writers, haven’t changed much since the 70s.) Still, his stories remind us of the lure and fascination of travel to exotic places.

In a lot of ways, those days of air travel weren’t as idyllic as they seem in my memory. People travel all over the world now, much more than in the 60s and 70s, despite the hassle. I ran across a fun article in Fast Company that compares travel in the 50s and 60s with the present. As it turns out, the skies weren’t quite as friendly as I remember.

For example, airfares were 40 percent higher, adjusted for inflation, with the average person in the 1950s paying up to five percent of his or her yearly salary for a chance to fly. There were no movies on long flights, but plenty of smoking, drinking and, ultimately quite a bit more vomiting en route. Stewardesses looked great but had to retire when they got married. I never saw a female pilot.

Despite the ups and downs of air travel, Walt certainly enjoyed the adventure and his readers do, too.

He says, “To borrow a modern cliche, it was a great ride.”

Visiting the Mankato Minnesota Houses Where Betsy and Tacy Lived

Fiction Meets Reality in Maude Hart Lovelace’s “Deep Valley”

Betsy's House, the real-life home of Maud Hart Lovelace in Mankato, Minnesota
Betsy’s House, the real-life home of Maud Hart Lovelace in Mankato, Minnesota

It’s hard to believe that a series of novels can still be popular with a heroine who neither Tweets nor Snapchats, a girl who lacks magical powers, a vampire boyfriend, or a fabulous assortment of weaponry. Yet, the beloved Betsy-Tacy series by Mankato, Minnesota, author Maud Hart Lovelace have been in continuous publication since the 1940s and inspire an almost fanatical devotion, even among readers who are used to consuming racier fare such as “Gossip Girl” or “The Vampire Diaries.”

Docent Kathryn Hansen shows a Lois Lenski illustration of the Betsy-Tacy books and compares it to the neighborhood today.
Docent Kathryn Hansen shows a Lois Lenski illustration of the Betsy-Tacy books and compares it to the neighborhood today.

If you need proof, you need only show up in Mankato on a Friday or Saturday afternoon in summer. You’ll find Betsy-Tacy fans who’ve come from around the world to visit the trim little Victorian houses on Center Street, “Betsy’s House” and “Tacy’s House,” where Hart Lovelace and her real best friend, Frances Kenney, grew up right across the street from each other. Little girls and their grandmothers, mother and daughters, and adult “gals on getaways” line up for a tour of the real-life houses that are the setting of the beloved book series. The houses have been lovingly restored and designated as national literary landmarks.

A Calming Oasis
A step into Betsy-Tacy world is a step back into a slower, more peaceful era.The first of the series’ 10 books, Betsy-Tacy, begins in 1897, when Betsy is about to turn five, and the series continues through Betsy’s Wedding during World War I, all based on Hart Lovelace’s own girlhood.  The lack of technology, fighting and fast-paced action may be the secret for the books’ enduring appeal. Linda Lee, an adult Betsy-Tacy fan visiting from Claremont, California, says of the books, “I re-read them even now. They’re about family, friendship and fun in doing simple things.  Reading them brings a sense of calm to my frenzied life.”

The houses are open on weekends year-round but Betsy-Tacy fans DVHborder2015_0show up en masse each June for the Deep Valley Homecoming—this year from June 26-30— like a children’s book Coachella. (Deep Valley is the name Hart Lovelace gave her hometown in the books.) Activities include Betsy & Tacy home and neighborhood tours, narrated horse-drawn trolley rides, a Victorian Tea, Deep Valley Book Festival*, fashion show, living history actors, speakers and re-enactments, a vintage car show and more.

The old fashioned kitchen at Betsy's house offers a view of life in the early 1900s.
The old fashioned kitchen at Betsy’s house offers a view of life in the early 1900s, straight from the Betsy-Tacy books.

Inspiration for Modern Girls
Enthusiastic docents regularly lead tours of the houses and point out how the homes and the neighborhood compare to the books’ illustrations by Lois Lenski. From the old-fashioned kitchen, to the lace curtains and fine china, to the books and Maude Hart Lovelace memorabilia, tours furnish a cultural snapshot of the era, a chance to experience what it was like to live in a Midwestern town when the first automobile arrived and homes got their first telephones.

But beyond a nostalgic connection to a fictional world or a look at old houses with creaky floors and Victorian furniture, a visit to the Betsy-Tacy houses offers a look at the lives and friendships children, the aspirations of women at the turn of the last century, and celebrates girls who are, while old-fashioned, strikingly independent and adventurous.

While old telephones may be the highest tech you’ll experience on the tour, Betsy and Tacy aren’t totally off the grid. You’ll find constant discussion about them on Twitter and Pinterest.

*I’ll be at the Deep Valley Book Festival this year, signing copies of Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs and Girls on Getaways.

If you go:
Mankato is about an hour and a half south of the Twin Cities via I-169. The houses are open this summer on Friday and Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children (under 5 free).

Download the Discover Deep Valley brochure for a walking tour of the area.

We picked up bagels at Tandem Bagels, 200 E Walnut St., for a picnic in Lincoln Park, which figures in the books and is set amidst a gorgeous grouping of Victorian homes.

“They’re Off”: A Vivid Horse Racing Experience

“They’re off!” Horse racing at Keeneland in Lexington, KY.

In light of the Belmont Stakes tomorrow and the possibility of American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown, it seems like a horse racing picture is appropriate for this weeks’ photo challenge: “Vivid.”  At the start, a horse race is a thrilling swirl of color, sound and speed. The jockeys’ silks and the horses’ blankets are always in vivid colors and the thunder of the horses running by provides a thrilling experience, though it only lasts a few seconds.

This photo was from Keeneland, the beautiful race course in Lexington, Kentucky, which this year will host the Breeders’ Cup, the Superbowl of horse racing, in October.

Bainbridge Island, The Island That Inspired Snow Falling on Cedars

From Seattle’s busy waterfront along Alaskan Way, it’s only a forty-minute ferry ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island but it’s a voyage to another world and a slower time.

The island was the inspiration for David Guterson’s bestseller, Snow UnknownFalling on Cedars, called San Piedro Island in the book. Guterson makes his home on the island and used to teach school here. We hop off the boat in Winslow, a cozy seaside town located on Eagle Harbor. It’s a great place to explore on foot. For those who want to go further afield, bikes are available to rent between June 1st and the end of September right by the ferry terminal at Bike Barn rentals.

Winslow began as a timber and shipbuilding center and was, for a time, larger than Seattle. Today it’s a bedroom community for Seattle and the picturesque harbor, the trees, the greenery, and the misty hills give it just the right rich ambiance for romance and drama, like that in Snow Falling on Cedars, but it certainly isn’t “downtrodden and mildewed,” like Amity Harbor in in the book.

Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, Washington
Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, Washington

We wandered the charming shops on Winslow Way including Eagle Harbor Book Co. (where they’re happy to tell you about local authors), The Traveler and Bainbridge Arts and Crafts.  We ate a tasty lunch at Cafe Nola.

Yet, fans of Snow Falling on Cedars or anyone who wants to understand the history of the island will find the most satisfaction in exploring the island’s history so head to The Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.  Housed in a red 1908 schoolhouse, the museum tells the story of the island’s history, particularly the Japanese internment as it really played out on the island, the true story at the heart of Guterson’s book. BI-MUSEUM-Tjossem-1024x685After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans became the focus of suspicion, even though many were second-generation citizens. They were rounded up and sent into exile in military-style camps such as Heart Mountain  in Wyoming and Manzanar  in California.

It’s a half-hour bike ride or a ten-minute cab ride to the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, around the bay from the ferry landing. This is the site from which Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and sent to Seattle and then to internment camps on March 30, 1942.

For more on Seattle, see my previous post, All Is Not Grey in Seattle.

Read more: Seattle and Bainbridge Island are featured destinations in Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs,and Girls on Getaways.

And, In Defense of Our Neighbors: The Walt and Milly Woodward Story, about how the publishers of Bainbridge Island’s community newspaper fought the internment of their Japanese neighbors.

Travel to the places you read about. Read about the places you travel.

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