Archive for the ‘Wales & Welsh’ Category

November 9, 2018

Today marks 65 years since the death of Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. The mystery of the cause of his death remains unsolved but the consensus is that alcohol played the major part.

Dylan Thomas had celebrated his 39thbirthday 13 days before, on October 27th, 1953.

Although exceedingly short, his professional career brought him the fame (but little fortune) that only a few poets achieve after their deaths and even more rarely during their lifetimes.

Some of his success as a poet can be attributed to his flamboyant personality and some to his appeal to literary bright lights — especially women. But, the bulk of his popularity is a result of the stunning command of his medium — the English language flavored by the lyricism of his Welsh background — and his unmistakable knowledge of human experience.

Poet, playwright and storyteller, Dylan found the way to touch our hearts.

NOVA Center for the Performing Arts will host a reading of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” on December 9th.

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Medieval Romance 

JUSTICE: Book 1, Pendyffryn: The Inheritors

Book Cover Image - Justice by Lily DewaruileJustice. Hard won. Easily lost.

To prepare his daughter, Tanglwys, for a future without his protection, Meinor Hedydd contracts with Gwennan Pendyffryn to take her as an apprentice in the Invader’s Gaer household to learn skills that will be of use to others and a source of income for her. The presence of another dependent fostered child affects Gwennan’s stepson, Marshal deFreveille, in a way that is not entirely unwelcome as he begins his own training to become a soldier in his father’s army.

After the death of her father, Tanglwys is forced to leave the Gaer to help her mother but continues her work with the apothecary to cultivate medicinal herbs that will save other soldiers’ lives.

From the beginning of their acquaintance, Tanglwys and Marshal face hatred and intolerance. A fateful encounter at the river sparks more than his protective inclination toward her, but when Marshal disciplines her brother and his friends for tormenting Tanglwys, their budding friendship falters.  Punishes

Her brother’s resentment and loathing for the Invader’s son are fierce. His violence toward his sister for causing the incident leads to his demotion to the lowest ranks of soldiery. In fear of her brother and her mother’s continuing hatred for the Invader, Tanglwys denies her growing admiration for Marshal but he has another future in mind for them.

Justice is available on Kindle, Nook, and on the iBookstore as well as in paperback.


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The Very, Very Basics of Writing Anything

There are three fundamental elements of every piece of written work—including film, non-fiction and grocery lists.

These three elements must be present or there is no point in proceeding.

In non-fiction, the three elements forming the basics of a book are:

  1. Idea – the Topic
  2. Reason – Information or Add Information
  3. Goal – to Educate or Refute Previous Thinking

9781870206129_bachBefore my publisher, Honno, agreed to consider Parachutes & Petticoats, which I edited with the renown feminist historian, Deirdre Beddoe, we had to convince the board of directors that 1) the Topic, Welsh women’s experiences during World War II, was worth the effort; 2) we could find enough material to make a full volume of women’s autobiographical memoirs; 3) the information we gathered, written by the women themselves, was of sufficient interest and relevance to warrant the expenditure, effort, and examination required to bring a collection of essays by unknown women to fruition.

9781906784119_bachThe resulting request for autobiographical essays brought in hundreds of submissions from women in Wales whose experiences had never been heard. The book was published in 1992, reprinted in 1994 and 2003, with a fourth reprint in a smaller format with minor editorial additions appeared in 2010. The essays that we couldn’t include in the volume were submitted to the National Library of Wales (Llyfrgell Genedleithol Cymru) to become a part of the national archive. Next year, 2017, will mark Parachutes & Petticoats’ 25th anniversary. Though neither edition is still in print, the book is still available at bookstores and online book retailers.

For fiction (of any kind, in any genre, in any medium) they are:

  1. Protagonist – the Hero
  2. Antagonist – the Villain
  3. Purpose – the Goal

For example, in my most recent published novel, Nights Before: The Novel (originally published as a novel in six installments), the above structure works like this:

  1. Protagonist – Jocelyn Tavers
  2. Antagonist – Jason, her ex-boyfriend
  3. Jocelyn’s Goal – to find a replacement boyfriend before the end of the year

Nights-Before-Final200_thumb.jpgThose three elements will not, in themselves, make a full sized story, let alone a full length novel but without them, there’s no beginning, middle or end. Jason also needs a goal to combat Jocelyn’s efforts to reach her goal. And Jocelyn needs a lot more than a boyfriend to make the essentially girl-meets-boy, girl-loses-boy, girl-finds-new-boy story something more than just that.

Though Nights Before is a romantic comedy, there had to be some depth to the story and that called for a secondary goal. This is usually something hidden, even from the protagonist—a long buried pain that has left a wound that will not heal without more pain. Enter an absent parent or two, conflicting potential new boyfriends, torn stockings and a lobster feast, a demanding employer, a car accident and abandonment issues.

With my upcoming American historical novel, Pavane for Miss Marcher, the three elements are shared between the Hero and Heroine, both of whom have Goals and Antagonists out to get them:

  1. Protagonists: Cathryn Marcher / Rupert Smith
  2. Antagonists: Susan Miller / Jericho Colson
  3. Goals: Staying in Maine / Moving to Wyoming

ggncMay2012Both Cathryn and Rupert have Deuteragonist supporters who get in the way for the best reasons and enemies who get in the way for the worst reasons.

The story is set in Maine five years after the end of the American Civil War and I am currently researching and reading on both sides of this terrible conflict in our history. Keeping faith with our nation’s past has complicated the process, especially with such an emotive background that plays an enormous part in our lives 151 years after the conflict came to an end.

With family members from the southern states and a strong New England heritage complicates the story on a personal level as well but I believe a writer’s duty is to write the story that comes from their own heart, regardless of possible consequences. As my mother always said, “Be true to yourself.”

Pavane for Miss Marcher is scheduled for publication in 2017.

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During my tenure as director and editor for Honno: Welsh Women’s Press, I encouraged my mother to write her World War II memoirs. I presented my siblings and my sons with a privately published copy on her 90th birthday. These memoirs were subsequently published as an ebook, Following the Troops: Life for an Army Wife, 1941-1945. 

July 23, 2012

I read Andrew Galasetti’s guest blog at selfpublishingteam.com on Saturday morning (July 21, 2012) that resonated with me. Near the end of this post, Galasetti writes about his grandfather’s writing dreams and how they had nearly died with him. This was particularly moving to me because I spent many years as an editor for a women’s cooperative press in Wales, selecting material for three volumes of autobiographical writing by women that, had it not been for Honno, would not have been published or recorded for history.

One of my proudest publishing moments was working with historian, Dierdre Beddoe, on Parachutes and Petticoats and Iancs, Conshis a Spam, two volumes of women’s writing about their experiences in World War II. Many of these accounts were harrowing, tragic or triumphant. All were about the indomitable human spirit and our willingness to sacrifice our lives for strangers.

The stimulus for both of these volumes was the stories my mother told me about her experiences during World War II and her childhood. Twenty years before her death, I asked her to write these stories down, intending to include them in one of the volumes. In the end, I edited and published them independently for my family and her grandchildren.

Several of my friends have created similar publications, so that their own personal journeys aren’t lost and forgotten. During the latter part of the 20thC, there were hundreds of volumes of diaries and oral history projects undertaken to capture these stories for posterity. Until they were written, recorded or published, these experiences were stories passed on from one generation to another but often not. Now they are history, available to us all.

That is, as long as our smartphones, laptops, ereaders and tablets keep working. Galasetti’s book, To Breathe Free, incorporates his grandfather’s poetry and will be published in Fall 2012.

If you want a really good yarn, talk to your elders.

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This article listed some of my favorite films and stories at Christmas.

In it I’ve mentioned Dylan Thomas’s story, A Child Christmas in Wales. This year, if you’re in San Francisco, on December 10th 2014 or Livermore, CA on December 14th, you can hear this delightful story read at Merced Public Library (near Stonestown, SF) or Civic Center Library (Livermore)

December 23, 2011

One of the best things about this holiday season is the chance to indulge in some of the sentimental memories and events of childhood. If you have small children, you have an excuse – a duty – to pass these along to them.

A Christmas Carol is the quintessential story of distance, misunderstanding, alienation and reconciliation. Each time it is retold in film, the special effects strive to awe but they can’t outshine or obliterate the underlying story of the human need to connect.

One of my favorite stories of holiday gathering is A Child’s Christmas in Wales. First recorded for the BBC in 1952, this short piece has been transformed into a prose gift volume as well as a stage play with songs. Dylan Thomas sets a nostalgic scene of warmth and familial love, quirky relations and deep friendships.

Thomas’s short story is as much a part of modern Christmas tradition in Wales as Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas is for American children. This is arguably the best remembered and most frequently recited poem in American literature (first published anonymously in 1823), yet its creator wanted nothing to do with it. ‘Twas the night before Christmas…’ began all my childhood Christmas Eves when this poem was read while my sister and I sat in front of the tree, eyeing the gingerbread cookies we had left for Santa.

WonderfulLifePosterChristmas always included a televised showing of It’s a Wonderful Life – I cannot watch this film without feeling a deep sense of appreciation for the underlying message of our individual importance in the lives of those we encounter, however briefly. There have been recent, scantily disguised plagiarisms of this film, but not one of them can compare with the 1946 version based on the self-published, 4,100 word story, “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.

NationalLampoonsChristmasVacationPosterOne other Christmas film must for my family holiday is Christmas Vacation. This National Lampoon classic also began as a short story, written by John Hughes for National Lampoon Magazine Christmas ‘59. This film was released in 1989 and was the third in the NL’s Vacation series.

The 1947 novel, Miracle on 34th Street, by Valentine Davies, adapted for Hollywood in that year and winning him two Academy Awards for Best Writing and Best Screenplay is another popular film at this Miracle34thStreettime of year. Re-made in 1959, 1973 and 1994, this heartstring-tugging tale was re-written by Davies as a novella published by Harcourt-Brace to coincide with the 1947 release of the film.

Most of these stories are now familiar to people around the world through their Hollywood film version(s). Is it any wonder that film has been the endgame for writers for over 70 years? Of all the Christmas-based stories you’ve written or read, which one will set the benchmark for the next global, blockbuster tradition?

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc’d in their heads,

And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter….

The following year, December 2012, I began my ‘novel-by-installation’, Nights Before, with the story, ‘Twas the Night Before New Year and concluded the novel in December 2013, with the final story, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Eve.


May all your efforts for the coming year bring you joy and glad tidings.

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Cover art for Wait a Lonely Lifetime“Have no expectations. Have no disappointments.” – Often heard advice.

“Do you mind if I do?” – Right response.

Expectation is a powerful tool in a writer’s career. Without expectation of finishing the book,  of finding readers, of publishing, of putting words on the page even if no one reads them and a host of other treats in store, writers have few rewards.

Here are some vital statistics presented at a writers’ workshop a few years ago (this was prior to the entrepreneurial digital explosion):

  • only 3% of writers are ever published
  • only 3% of writers who are published ever have their name on the cover of a book

When I heard these statistics at the beginning of this millennium, I was among the first 3% and the second 3%, a rarefied group but, for me, less than my ambition. I didn’t consider myself a published writer in the sense I wanted to be.

Through all the years I wrote and edited, I was also writing book-length fiction. This was my ultimate ambition, to be a novelist. I wrote for hours everyday but, as a product of an academic creative writing program, I wasn’t writing anything I felt worthy of publishing. I self-censored. As much as I wanted to write literary fiction, I wasn’t driven to write literary fiction.

In my search for meaningful work, I attended many business seminars but one in particular, in England, given by a dynamic wizard of inspiration who talked about the wonder and power of expectation. The fun in expectation is: it lasts for as long as you are expecting something good to happen.

Once I accepted that I wrote fairy tales, loved writing fairy tales, was driven to write fairy tales, my writing life was transformed. I happily ever after embraced writing happily ever after triumph of the human spirit novels in 2007. That was the result of expectation – the understanding thereof.

When I sent my first completed novel to an agent, I hardly dared expect any positive result but I worked at it. As long as the agent had the book, there was a possibility she would like it. After several months of anticipation and expectation, she requested the full manuscript with the line, “My reader quite liked it.” For the next few months, I enjoyed the possibility of gaining representation, floating around on the expectation of success, months and months of feeling the warm glow of attaining this first goal.

My full manuscript came back. Flat. She loved the story. She loved my characters. She wouldn’t be able to sell it. Was I devastated? No. Disappointed, but that lasted only a few days.

What followed was one life-changing decision after another until I ended up in front of an editor in Orland, Florida talking about three of my novels. She chose the third and I knew immediately that this was the one. From the moment I hit send – after perfecting my partial submission to the best of my ability – I prepared for the possibility this editor might say “Yes.”

Through September and October, I was on the anticipation cloud of great expectations. In those months, I prepared the full manuscript, just in case… She requested the full manuscript at the end of October. In December, the editor sent the manuscript back to me, asking  that I make a few changes. I could live with the suggestions and sent the requested changes at the end of January.

Here was yet more opportunity for months of expectation while I carried on with my day job in rental real estate. At the same time, I lurched between expectation and disappointment with frequent rejections from agents.

February passed. March was coming to an end. No word. I flirted with the idea of contacting the editor but held off – because I didn’t want the expectation to end.

While you’re waiting, there is possibility.

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Desperately seeking a lost manuscript (remember those, handwritten in ink, possibly on lined paper?), I came across a stack of my journals from years in college, traveling, first years of courtship and marriage.

These journals – the diaries of old – have been replaced by digital explosions of shared communication in forms of blogs, tweets, posts, many of which have the same abandon that a private, locked diary once had for the diarist. I now tweet and blog and post, less frequently than some of my contemporaries, and with much less openness than I wrote in my journals.

My circumspection, even in private papers, has always been the result of my mother’s stern warning: “Never put in writing anything you don’t want someone else to read.”

As it happens, that is also the advice of my current employer, an attorney at law. Similar advice has come to me from priests and academics. This same circumspection has afflicted women throughout history. Do you remember the saying: “A lady’s name appears only thrice in publications: her birth, her marriage and her death.” The same constraints kept me from even the thought of publishing my longer fiction until six years ago.

But here I am a writer, inviting people to read my words, willingly lashing myself to the mast of subjective taste. I want people to read – not my journals or random thoughts or insecurities – but my peculiar interpretation of what I see, hear and feel about this experience of living. Writers will put their best friends in their books, mothers, brothers, husbands. We can’t help using the material living casts before us.

We are also dependent on the experience of others to inform our narrow view and that is why, in the last century, women’s diaries, private pages, memoirs and autobiographical writing became the focus of academic study. When I edited three volumes of women’s autobiographies, I was hopeful of the contribution their publication was making to the knowledge of 20th Century historians.

Where else will you find the eyewitness experience of a young Welsh nurse as she enters the gates of Belsen Concentration Camp? Who can tell you better about a little girl’s journey from London on an evacuee train? Who knows better about a young mother’s distress at the failure of her newborn to thrive during the Blitz? What cakes made without eggs or butter tasted like?

In this century, there is no dearth of such information. We are the most recorded, exposed and examined society of all time…so far. But I wonder what all this information has to offer our imaginations and our creativity.

If all is known, what is left to discover?

–Addendum to Above Post:

I recently tweeted this paraphased quotation from Joseph Campbell:

If we think we know, we don’t.  If we think we don’t know, we do.

My interpretation of this philosophical conundrum is this:

Those who are certain have built their walls around what they believe to be the truth and are closed to wonder. Those who are still perplexed have attached themselves to wonder, flounder and seek, and are therefore closer to truth.

There is more to discover than there can ever be known.

A happy, floundering seeker am I.

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I’m proud to announce that my mother’s long awaited memoir of her experiences and journeys during World  War II is available at Smashwords, Amazon and Kobo. Soon on Barnes & Noble.

My mother entrusted the stories in Following the Troops to me in 1991 while I was working on Parachutes and Petticoats. Although I was one of the editors, including my mother’s autobiographical writing wasn’t going to happen. Parachutes and Petticoats was about Welsh women’s experiences.

When I began editing Iancs, Conshis a Spam, the same argument stood with my publishers, Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press.

My mother wrote these stories to be published and, although twenty years have passed since I promised I would, I did give her, and my siblings, the privately published volume in 2003, for her 90th birthday.

Virginia Verge Verrill died in August, 2005.

This book is her story.

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Parachutes & Petticoats, my second book with Honno, is cited in Alex McAulay’s Shelter Me.  Pretty thrilling to be research material. McAulay used the collection of autobiographical writings by Welsh women and makes a reference to me and my co-editor, Deidre Beddoe.

I stumbled across this when searching for my own titles. Nice feature this look inside business!

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Congratulations to Solveig Frykman-Lloyd on her top award for her work with CDIC (Cwmni Dawns Ieuenctid Caerfyrddin / Carmarthen Youth Dance Company). Solveig’s work with young dancers is outstanding, innovative and challenging. She returned from a tour in China to this great news.

I worked with Solveig for many years at Dawns Dyfed and her work was always exceptional – striking out in new directions that invigorated and inspired her dancers as well as her audience.

When she phoned me last night to tell me of her success before driving home, I felt her pride and the sense of vindication for all the years she had striven to be heard above the clamor of lesser voices. I am proud to be and to have been among her cheerleaders.

Ardderchog, Solveig. You deserve all the glittering prizes.

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