Friday, November 27, 2009

An Inkpot Poll

In a couple of weeks, I'll be hosting a discussion at The Enchanted Inkpot about maps in fantasy novels. To help get the discussion started, I'd love it if you'd take the poll below...and then check in at the Inkpot on Monday, December 14, to contribute your two cents!

And speaking of The Enchanted Inkpot, you can win a nice pile of books in the First Annual Inkies Giveaway Extravaganza. Head over here to find out how.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Sometimes, keeping a little town going seems like an awful lot of work. I'm not even a town official, so I don't know the half of it. But this is fundraising season, when we all begin to feel that the fate of Our Little Town rests on our shoulders.

We could be pardoned for feeling that we're running around in a big circle asking each other for money. I picture the same dollar bills changing hands over and over and over, and never leaving town.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Brooklin Youth Corps went through probably the most star-crossed annual fund mailing we've seen in 14 years (screwed-up labels, weird addresses, thisses and thats and the other thing). The steering committee got together three times--THREE TIMES--to sort it all out, and individuals were doing stuff at home in between meetings. Then we all took letters home to write notes to our friends across the top, making sure they feel good and guilty if they ignore us.

Last week I got a phone call suggesting that I spend $15 on an apple pie to support the Parents, Teachers, Friends group, which of course I did. (Great pie. It's almost gone.) It took the PTF all day in the school kitchen to bake all the pies. They have little crust decorations on top. (The pies. Not the PTF members.)

Today I finished writing the fire department annual fund letter, with contributions by Rob, the fire chief and another firefighter, who will now go on to do their own star-crossed mailing with the same bloody labels the BYC was graced with.

I've received annual fund letters so far from the library and the historical society, who also contended with the same addresses. Oh, and there's an emergency heating fund looking for contributions, too. I think I've got a local ambulance corps fundraising letter sitting there somewhere.

Next week, we start meeting to organize publicity for the library's Valentine's Day auction. The school board is working on its budget and the selectmen just finished the town audit, preparing for their own budget horrors before Town Meeting in April.

All for one little town of 900.

And all volunteer--well, I guess the selectmen get paid something, but it's fractions of pennies per hour. Firefighters get a "gas and clothing allowance" at the end of the year, which they pretty much spend on Christmas presents. (I know that's where mine come from.) The BYC steering committee's pay consists of the moment when a grumpy teenager dressed in black with a nose-ring thanks us for having a program.

We all agree that's ample

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Procedural Note for the Weather Gods

I just came in from cleaning up the perennial garden for winter. I'm not anal about this--my goal is simply to flatten out the flowerbed so the first snow isn't marred by brown and flaky protuberances. (I feel the same way about my face.)

The dahlia tubers are safely inside now, so here's the plan. First, we need a hard frost so I can put the brush on the garden without feeling that I'm providing a haven for rodents and other itinerants. This is particularly important because my car glove compartment now is enhanced by a cake of Irish Spring deodorant soap, deterring (I hope) those rodents who had planned to spend the winter in my heating system.

Also, we need a hard frost because it's a pain shoveling snow when the ground is soft underneath.

Once the ground is firmly frozen, the gods have my permission to send snow. Lots of it, because this year I can ski.

Got that?

In other news: Rob and I went to New Surry Theatre in Blue Hill last night to see a workshop production of "Too Good To Be True," a one-act about a Maine family dealing with a mill closing, written by Rick Doyle of Bucksport. (That's Michael Reichgott, Shari Wick John, and Kittery Shy-Hermit hashing things out at right.) We were impressed, both by the play and by the acting. I sat in front of one of the women from the play-writing workshop I attended earlier this month, and we agreed that our perspective had been sharpened by our new-found (and fledgling) expertise. We both saw things that needed work...but not much.

Tomorrow on The Enchanted Inkpot, I'll be leading a book club discussion of The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Join us!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mickeycide: The Final Chapter

Nearly a year ago, I complained that Mickey, Minnie, and possibly several Mickey-and-Minnie-ettes had taken up residence in my car's heater box.

After many failed attempts, today--finally--is eviction day. As I write, my car is up in Ellsworth at Out-O-Town Auto, having its heating system removed, cleaned out, and reinstalled. I am praying, as I'm sure O-O-T Pete is, that no one is currently in residence.

It's been quite a siege. As far as I can tell, nest construction began last fall--I noticed when my heater fan started to sound like its stomach was rumbling. Pete vaccuumed out the fan, and got lots and lots of nest material, including lovely soft gray fur. Then a few weeks later he vacuumed it out again. Then his mechanic vaccuumed it out. And did it again and again, can't remember how many times. Our hope was that eventually the fan would suck all of the nest out of there, but this turned out to be the Taj Mahal of mouse nests. Complete with en-suite toilet, I'm sorry to say.

During the summer, it didn't matter that the air was redolent with mouse poop, because I kept the fan off most of the time and could open the windows. This fall, however, the air quality in my car took a nose-dive with the outside temperature. Eventually, I had to choose: Keep the heat off and die of frost-bite, or turn the heat on and die of pulmonary poopitis.

These mice, by the way, are trendy and hip modern mice. They have peanut allergies, and therefore ignore mousetraps baited with peanut butter. They adore the smell of Bounce dryer sheets, which a friend's mechanic recommended to fend off her resident rodents and which I distributed under the floor mats and in the glove box. I'm pretty sure they keep abreast of my planned attacks via Blackberry.

Finally, I consulted my insurance company, and discovered that there is a function for that "damage other than collision" line. I have a $250 deductible, but Hanover will cover all the rest of the cost of the Mickey-ectomy. This is an expensive proposition, because Pete has to remove the dashboard to get at the heating system.

Once I get the car home, the next task will be to discourage the little buggers from coming back. Pete suggests leftover deoderant. I'm thinking Irish Spring deoderant soap, which supposedly keeps deer away from gardens. (And, for all I know, keeps deer from nesting in your heater box.) At least my lungs will smell daisy-fresh.

IN OTHER NEWS: Pneumonia be damned--I went ahead and took an intense five-day playwriting course at the Stonington Opera House, taught by John Cariani. It was amazing, far exceeding my expectations. I'd intended it only as a way to kick-start my brain, which was getting a bit sluggish. But it also taught me new things about storytelling, and offered a bunch of helpful exercises for prying the story out of your cerebellum. John and the nine students may attempt to develop ten ten-minute plays for production in some form at the Opera House next fall. Stay tuned.

I said I wanted to talk about the Maine referendum vote. I lied. I don't want to talk about it. Here's the nub: I was very disappointed by the vote on gay marriage, particularly since I went to bed Election Night convinced that we'd won. I wish we could install a Europeanish system in which everyone gets a civil ceremony and those who want a church wedding layer that on top. That way, churches could do what they wanted and if your church wouldn't marry you, you'd just find one that would. Very sensible, in my view. And therefore impossible, probably.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Book Review

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@Barrie Summy

The day after a massive referendum vote here in Maine (more on that later), it's a relief to distract myself with book stuff. Thanks as always to Barrie Summy for organizing The Book Review the text says, a list of other bloggy reviews is behind the icon above.

Fortune’s Folly
By Deva Fagan
Henry Holt & Co., 2009

Cinderella takes charge of her own fate in this marvelous tale by Deva Fagan.

Fagan lives in Maine and is one of my fellow bloggers on The Enchanted Inkpot. Those facts didn’t stack the deck for me, though—regardless of how much I like Fagan as a person I didn’t expect to be so enthralled by her book. High fantasy has to work pretty hard to get my attention. I demand my touch of reality…or at least I think I do.

FORTUNE’S FOLLY opened my mind, the first function of any good book. Stated baldly—poor girl gets snookered into helping a prince find the princess he’ll marry, falls in love with him in the process—Fagan’s plot is nothing unusual. But the characters are so marvelous, and the twists and turns so inventive, that I found myself galloping through this book in one sitting.

The story is set in a fantasy version of Renaissance Italy. Fortunata is the daughter of a celebrated shoemaker who lost his skills upon the death of his wife and believes he was deserted by the fairies who enchanted his tools. Fortunata doesn’t believe a word of that—she’s a realist, and she’s the one who’s out there on the street trying to inveigle the public into buying the monstrosities her despairing father now creates.

Fortunata and her father take to the road, looking for better luck. When they’re shanghaied by a mean-spirited traveling carnie, Fortunata becomes unwilling apprentice to a fortune-teller. She and we get our first hint of this book’s central question when she notices that even a fake fortune can inspire a customer to take charge of his or her fate. If the fortune then comes true, is that magic or simply skill?

Fortunata explores this question in all its richness when she is maneuvered into delivering a prophecy that will help a prince find the princess he will marry. Off the top of her head, Fortunata weaves the complicated saga of a weapon, a witch, an imprisoned royal beauty, and the magic shoes that will identify her. She then is horrified to learn that she must lead the prince on his quest for those things, her father’s life hanging in the balance.

How she deals with the quest and her relationship with the prince, working out the politics of two kingdoms in the process, is a beautifully engineered and compelling tale.

In the end, do we and Fortunata find out whether magic is real?

Maybe. That’s all I’m saying.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Wages of Smugness

These are the times that try one's agnosticism. The times, I mean, when there actually does seem to be Divine Justice.

In early October, when Rob succumbed to a nasty flu-like germ, I--veteran of many ear infections--tried to get him to breathe steam and take decongestants. He refused, loudly questioning the cosmos about why he had to be inflicted with this woman butting in when she should just leave him the frig alone to wallow in his misery.

He got an ear infection, which he still is fighting. He went to the doctor, who gave him an antibiotic and also decongestants just like the ones I'd been promoting. I was smug about this. Also about the fact that, ten days later, I still hadn't gotten sick. Thank heaven, I said, that One of Us knows something about healthy living, and isn't it too bad the Other One doesn't follow her advice and stellar example.

Heaven, unfortunately, was listening to this crap, and a week ago Friday I got sick. I was not disheartened, but saw this as a chance to demonstrate the truly virtuous approach to illness. I set up the humidifier and took decongestants. I stayed in bed until my fever went away. I maintained my sense of humor and did not growl at my beloved when he asked me if I wanted anything.

As a reward for my virtue, and an obvious invitation to further smugness, I did not get an ear infection.

I got pneumonia.

Apparently, Divine Justice has a sly sense of humor.