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Archive for the ‘Wales & Welsh’ Category

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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The weed choking my pomegranate is a wild flower, Geranium robertianum, also known as Llys y Llwynog or Dail Robin in Welsh – Foxcourt or Robin’s Leaf in English, and grows throughout northwestern Europe in woodlands. Mine has taken over the ground beneath my apple trees since I’ve banished it from the pomegranate.

Persistant. At some stage, it will blossom and I will be more reluctant to rip at its roots. I am reluctant now: it’s a wild flower in any other habitat. In my potted pomegranate, it’s a weed. Under the apple tree, it’s ground cover – lush, verdant and about to produce dark pink, five petal blossoms and its fruit is a long spike containing one seed.

Fertile. I have discovered Geranium robertianum in the Flowering Jasmine, Gypsophilia, Pyrocanthus, Trailing Carnations, every area in the garden and pots that offers soil, light and rain. Rain is plentiful but the Hebe lurking behind the apple tree and the Iris among the weedy tendrils struggle to get their share.

On the brighter side, with the help of a Welsh summer, my pomegranate has withstood the neglect of summer trips and tight deadlines. It’s amputated stem has produced a new, robust shoot, catching up with the survivor, branching into new territories, absorbing energy and producing red-tipped leaves in every direction. Still fruitless, but showing more promise as each careful snip encourages deeper, thoughtful growth, my pomegranate thrives.

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The accumulations of my recent past are ending their days in the recycling center (which is indeed a landfill site – I have been corrected) five miles east. Years ago, I sold my past to strangers in sidewalk sales to put together a future in a small country a continent and an ocean to the east.

I emigrated to Wales because my future was here. Not until after I arrived, did I realize that my future was, in fact,  my ancestral past – at least a quarter of it. New Worlders have so many ancestral pasts, we have a wealth of cultural choices at our fingertips. I chose to seek the wealth of my paternal grandmother – a woman of mystery whose ancestry was a misguided assumption based on her place of birth: Pennsylvania.

I do not write about Wales because my mysterious grandmother was Welsh and not Amish, although this misrepresentation provides a significant impetuous for my choice. But, the fact that I am 1/4 Welsh gives me some cultural permission to poke around in this country’s history and language.

My grandmother’s parents/grandparents left Wales to seek a future in the New World, leaving behind the chains and shackles of a society that gave them little hope. My reverse journey had the same foundation. This process of discarding what we no longer value seems only possible when we perceive Paradise is not where we are, but over there: Gwynfyd. That place of greener grass.

And yet, what we have left behind never releases its hold. My grandmother gave many of her children Welsh names. My children have Welsh names and dual citizenship – in case they want the choice of retracing my path and following in their great-grandparents footsteps.

I can say they will have no difficulty discarding the chains, shackles and accumulations of their pasts – everything of value in their world is electronic. DR and I, on the other hand, cannot part with their drawings or school projects.

We are of the physical world, they of the digital. The iPad poses only one dilemma for them — its immediate availability.

For me, I must consider that, when it too is no longer of value, I will have to consider taking it to the dump to be shipped to India or China to poison the futures of children whose chains and shackles are too real.

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Sunday afternoons at the dump are one of those spring activities that feel righteous. Our local dump is not a landfill – it’s a recycling center, everything from scrap metal to styrofoam. I learned last month that styrofoam is compressed to make decking material. Okay. This can be good but what happens to the material when the deck is surplus to need?

DR and I are recycling material at an enormous rate, even though the house still presents an appearance of being over-stuffed. We are on seven levels and that means a lot of room for storing memorabilia. I am finding boxes and folders of my mother’s letters – she too was a prolific writer. Her stories of her experiences in World War II inspired Parachutes & Petticoats, the collection of women’s autobiographical writing that I edited with Deirdre Beddoe. My mother’s stories were not included because although I was the editor, she had no connection with Wales.

I edited and published her WWII stories privately for the family in honor of her 90th birthday. When writing for one’s family, there is always a danger that how you tell the story will cause deep offense. I was fortunate that my mother had herself written the stories – my part was to research some of the background and occasionally correct her dyslexic spelling. I can show the siblings the manuscript at any time but they seemed to have been happy.

This brings me back to the dump, curiously! If you watch NCIS, you may have seen the episode of the shredder – Thom Geocity? Or is it Thim? Anyway, he shreds page after page of one word or two lines and drives his neighbor mad – excessively wasteful of paper and therefore a precious resource – can’t he just x it all out or strike through? However, I had a delightful few hours – once I had finished the final draft of my third novel – shredding every scrap of the original manuscript.

This had hung around me like a shroud for years. I couldn’t part with it but I also couldn’t bear to keep it. Shredding that was a bolt for freedom. I need to do the same with Salvation, eventually. But as you may have seen from earlier entries, I am having procrastination issues with finishing this book.

Today was the dump and clearing the gentleman’s wardrobe of my journals and notebooks so that DR can shift it out of his way to strip the wallpaper in my office.  The difficulty of writing in this atmosphere of home redecoration is only a convenient excuse. The other, more honest, reasons concern finding the completion of a fourth novel demands a soul-searching exercise when you have yet to publish one.

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One of my professors, way back when, once gave this advice to the young writers & poets in his class:  (I paraphase) ‘take courses in biology, not writing.’ If we had all taken his advice, he would have been out of a job. I wonder sometimes if teaching writing isn’t a good way to avoid writing itself.

Full-time teaching of any sort is exhausting – you are onstage for six hours, giving the performance of a lifetime, five days a week. When I talk to writers’ groups, I am energy personafied during and coma personafied after – however, I have been a writer in the eyes of other writers for that time. A sense of fulfillment in itself.

When I am writing – which, from the title of this blog, you may gather is a constant enterprise – I read very little that is not research material. My current research concerns early Welsh music. Music also happens to be a favorite pastime, along with photography, dance, gardening, astronomy, cultural history of the early middle ages as well as virtually any information about Wales, its culture and history, the Welsh language. Anthropology, sociology, psychology – all essential areas of study for the writer. Life as we know it.

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