Thursday, June 28, 2012

What I learned from Nora Ephron

Last night when the news of Nora Ephron's death popped up on the news feed on my computer, I felt a sense of shock and then sorrow.  She had written about the deaths of friends and many of the unavoidable annoyances of getting older in several of the essays in her last two books.  Still, somehow, I couldn't believe that she was gone.  Cancer (leukemia) claimed her at the age of 71.  Seventy-one isn't considered old by most of us these days and this news did nothing positive for my ever-growing cancer phobia.  Reading the various tributes and news stories about Nora Ephron caused me to reflect on just what she had meant to me as a teen-age girl in the 1970's.

I first became acquainted with her writing via my dad's subscription to Esquire magazine in which  Nora wrote a column.  I was a voracious reader and I probably read more of Esquire than my father did but it was Nora's column that really drew me in.  Here was a woman who could write about the everyday things in life and make them funny.   When I was in my freshman year of college, my English professor assigned two of Nora's books, Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble.  I was familiar with a few of the essays already but I was really hooked after reading these books.  Once again, I was struck by how she could turn the mundane into something I wanted to read about -- usually while laughing.  Not just any writer can do that and something about the way she wrote spoke to me.  I wanted to be a writer but I was never interested in writing fiction.  When I came across Nora Ephron's essays, it was the first time I understood that it was possible to write nonfiction the way that, well, Nora did.  She laid the foundation for my later appreciation of writers like David Sedaris, Susan Orlean and Patricia Marx.  

When I began sending out manuscripts for articles (I had decided that I wanted to write for children), I went strictly with nonfiction.  I figured if I could make a topic interesting or funny that others might respond.  Although I didn't write about having small boobs, my love for my apartment, the Pillsbury Bake-off or the joys of food, my subjects were also not blockbuster material.  (Armadillos, the Annual Garlic Festival in California, the history of the handshake and why crying is good for you aren't considered scintillating subjects, either.)  But I found great satisfaction and success in seeing these articles in print.  

Reading Nora Ephron's work helped me find my voice when I began to write.  She's not the only person who did that but she was the first.  How an Air Force brat with a rootless childhood raised by parents from the south felt so connected with someone with celebrity parents (and their celebrity friends) who was also Jewish and a die-hard New Yorker is either one of life's little mysteries or simply brings me full-circle to those early Esquire articles that I devoured.  Although we did share being short, dark-haired, a bit neurotic, and the oldest of four daughters.  Nah, it was definitely the writing. 

Like so many of her readers, I will greatly miss Nora Ephron.  But I'm very glad she was there for me during my formative years when I began my own journey.

Nora Ephron.  1941-2012.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Update on recording and all things yarn

I've been recording a book of short stories called Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes by a variety of southern women writers and it's been a terrific read.  Colorful characters (some of these people could be my relatives) and great writing have made this job, well, not like a job.  Except for the editing -- then it's still a job.  I've also recorded a horror short story by Joel M. Andre.  I understand he has a pretty loyal following so I hope I don't disappoint his fans.

Work in progress

On the yarn front, I have another group of items almost ready to ship to The Humble Stitch.  Linda finished her very first piece of clothing -- a man's scarf -- and she did a wonderful job!  It's the light tan scarf on the far right in the photo.  We have 2 hats, 2 scarves, a pair of handwarmers and a bunch of squares (for Knit A Square) -- thanks to Linda and Kristen -- and I'll have a second set of handwarmers finished soon.  I think I'm going to work on another hat when I've finished this pair of gray handwarmers. 

My niece, Bailey, turns 5 later this month and, of course, I had to think of something 'Amigurumi' to make for her.  I made her younger sister, Taylor, an Amigurumi Elmo (see this post) for her birthday in May.  I decided to make a Hello Kitty using an Amigurumi pattern that I found here by Armina Parnagian.  I think Bailey will like it.  Mine is a little larger than the pattern I followed because I used a slightly heavier yarn.  She ended up at around 6 inches high. 

I've also been experimenting more with using finer yarns and thread to knit and crochet and I'll post here when I actually have something to show for my efforts.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

'A Band Called Death' at the Los Angeles Film Festival

Jeff, Zach Martin & Mark Covino
We're so proud of our nephew, Jeff Howlett, for having his documentary, A Band Called Death, accepted for it's world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival (June 14th-24th).  Jeff and his co-director and long-time friend, Mark Covino, have been working on this production for years and now they're seeing the fruit of their labors on the big screen.  Here's one review here and here's the official synopsis of the film:  "Before Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols or even the Ramones, there was Death. Formed in the early '70s by three teenage brothers from Detroit, Death is credited as being the first black punk band, and the Hackney brothers, David, Bobby, and Dannis, are now considered pioneers in their field. But it wasn’t until recently — when a dusty 1974 demo tape made its way out of Bobby’s attic nearly 30 years after Death’s heyday — that anyone outside a small group of punk enthusiasts had even heard of them."

I have to admit that I'd never heard of Death before Jeff started working on this doc but they really were pioneers when they began in the 1970's in their hometown of Detroit.  Here's the band's homepage.  They have a great sound that was ahead of it's time.  Luckily, the Hackney brothers didn't discourage easily and soldiered on through good times and bad -- including the death of brother David Hackney, their lead, rhythm guitarist and songwriter.   The band currently tours and has released new material.

Jeff started his own film production company Howlermano Productions and has produced some music videos.  He's now searching for his next documentary subject.   Here's the promo for A Band Called Death.

Good luck to Jeff, Mark and the members of Death - Bobby Hackney, Dannis Hackney and Bobbie Duncan!

Monday, June 11, 2012

My latest recording is available now on Audible!

The Distant Shore by Debora M. Coty, in audiobook form and recorded by yours truly, is now for sale on Audible, Amazon and should be available soon on iTunes.  I enjoyed reading this book very much even though it's aimed at children and young teens.  Here's the info from Amazon.  "Mysteriously banished to live with demanding Aunt Augusta on Florida's remote, untamed Merritt island of 1904, young Emma-Lee Palmer discovers a dark family secret. Befriended by a kindly sea captain, Emma-Lee and Aunt Augusta discover courage, renewed hope, and the importance of family in this transcendent story of healing and redemption through God's unconditional love. Inspired by a true story, The Distant Shore is a powerful blend of action, adventure, romance, and the quest within each of us to find our heart's home. Love, after all, is never too lost or too late."

I decided to use their description because I have a habit of giving away too much when I write a summary.  (I struggle with that each time I write one for the books I record for LibriVox.)  I hope everyone who purchases the book enjoys listening to it as much as I did reading and recording it.  A special shout-out to my wonderful proof-listener, Betsie Bush.  You're the greatest, Betsie!

Monday, June 4, 2012

June is Audiobook Month!

I've been meaning to post this for a few days now so I figured I'd better get it done!  Yes, it's that time of year again -- June is audiobook month or JIAM as it's often called.  If you're already a devotee of audiobooks, good for you!  If not, now is a great time to give them a try.   Iambik Audiobooks is currently offering 50% off on a package of five of their sci/fi/fantasy books.  Check out the current deal here.  

Many sites are offering discounts for the month of June but if you're still hesitant and are interested in older and classic books, I highly recommend LibriVox where all of the audiobooks are free.  Yes, the books are read mostly by amateurs but we have a lot of very talented amateurs recording for us.  You can search by author, title, keyword or genre.  I particularly like listening to Andy Minter, Mil Nicholson, Karen Savage, Mark Smith, Elizabeth Klett, Tadhg Hines, Ruth Golding, and too many others to mention.  As for my own recordings, if you want to 'dip your toe' in the audiobook world, I've had great feedback for my readings of  Dawn O'Hara, the Girl Who Laughed by Edna Ferber, In the Bishop's Carriage by Miriam Michelson, The Other Side of the Door by Lucia Chamberlain and (if you like them creepy) The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes.  There are links to these titles and others at the bottom of this page.  

If you're wondering when to listen, I'd suggest when you're doing something tedious or mindless so that you can concentrate on the book.  I listen while doing housework, exercising, flying, etc.  A great way to pass the time and enjoy yourself.  Give it a try!  You might even like it.