The First Man in My Life

Hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend. Wimbledon closes tomorrow. Love the Slams but it’s always nice to get my life back in between.

That’s only one of the reasons I’m always behind, lol. Part of it is perceptual impairment to time. Part of it is avoidance behavior, I’m sure.

This post should have gone live on Father’s Day. (Having had it written might have helped; please forgive me for running long.) Here’s to a very belated Happy Father’s Day to all the wonderful gentlemen out there honoring their call in life. Hubby is working and striving every day to be the best husband and father he can be. Kudos too, to my brother who I often feel is a better dad than I am a mom. Each of you is awesome. Never underestimate the worth of a dad.

On Father’s Day I made a trip to the cemetery. I visit several times per season, but never enough, I suppose (at least by my off-the-boat-mom’s Italian standards). Today my dad is gone eighteen years. He was a few months shy of a measly near-sixty-four when God called him, but he’d been hospitalized at least sixty percent of the last year he lived. I remember accompanying him to a dance on October 3 and taking him to the emergency room as soon as we got home. He wasn’t discharged until January 22nd and was more in than out after that until the day he passed away.

My dad with two of his (four) sisters–those closer to him on his right. The little girl next to him is one of his favorite nieces: my cousin Rosina (?) who now resides in Australia. Dad was about (?) 18 years old in this one, so this was taken circa 1948. Love vintage photos! 

I won’t get into his health issues. (He certainly had enough of them and was a lousy patient anyway.) I’d rather focus on the little things that made our relationship special.

He immigrated from Italy around 1961. I’ve always been in awe of folks who pick and take off to a country where they don’t know the language. Sure, there was some support from those who came before him, but in many ways, he and my mom were on their own. (They’d married end of 1959 but for details I don’t remember–or know(?)–she came ahead of him.) We traveled as a family to Italy ten years later. He took off to Australia from there. Italy held no fascination for him after that. My dad LOVED The Land Down Under and would have moved there if he could.)

When my mom was pregnant with me, he wound up convinced—via family and friends—that I was a boy. Back then dads didn’t enter the delivery room. He is said to have gone home and to sleep. The story goes he was awakened by my uncle calling home, and telling my dad his wife had given birth to a girl. Not only did my dad not believe my uncle, rumor had it my dad was upset.

Mom tells me once I came home though, all that changed. The man glued himself cradle-side. Guess I’ve been Daddy’s Little Girl since.

Was it always perfect? Oh no. I was lucky enough that, being an off-the-boat-man, he wasn’t the stereotypically strict type. Not that I had free rein but he gave me way more freedom than my mom would have (sorry Mom!). He also had this way of letting me know he wasn’t thrilled when I thought of doing anything of which he didn’t approve. I’d get a story about him when he was younger. From what I remember, it didn’t seem relevant to the situation at hand. (Or maybe I didn’t want to hear it?) He tended to wrap up the same way each time. “I’m not like my father. I give you liberty to do whatever you want. But I don’t like it!” That closer did its job until I hit my twenties, and guilt at not ‘listening to Daddy’ was less of a factor. Then at twenty-eight, I did the unthinkable: I moved out. First-generation American-Italian girls don’t do that, you know.

Think my move out was rough on him, but I visited often. (I lived one town over). Given his health issues we spent a lot of time together anyway. You see, that (only) daughter usually takes care of her parents—it’s a cultural thing. We’ll toss in that my parents had this weird type of commitment and I got thrown into the mix of their stuff. (I wasn’t old or wise enough to know this either, so grumping and griping, I often went off to do the expected. I wasn’t always gracious about it.)

We played cards together. He taught me the Italian games, Brisk and Sweep (a.k.a. Briscola and Scopa, respectively) before the age of eight. What always got me, was how he kept track of every major card played and always knew what was in my hand. When he could no longer drive and got weaker, I took him places. The mall. LibertyScienceCenter. Parks in our area, where we dragged along my brother’s Great Danes. (Those guys are topics for another post.)

He was a tailor by trade and taught me a few good tips to altering clothing. Guess I inherited my love of sewing and my ability to read and reread (and now revise) a beloved book too many times to count from him. I can still see my dad sitting at his spot at our kitchen table, legs resting on my seat and crossed at the ankles, that same book in his hand. He was also big on the news, and followed politics via the Italian newspaper he bought daily. Because his command of English wasn’t great and he had a hearing impairment, TV was only so entertaining for him. (He did like staged wrestling. Never did a Monday night pass without the predecessors to the WWE and RAW gracing our set. I even took him to see Hulk Hogan’s first movie, and translated as much as I could without disturbing the other patrons.)

I still remember snippets of his last hospitalization. After a nine-hour marathon surgery to save his leg, the vascular specialist had to amputate below the knee. Have a feeling my dad kind of gave up after that. He just seemed to get more and more tired during our visits at the hospital. (He was also on renal dialysis, which I’m sure didn’t help with the fatigue factor.) The night before he died, we left and he seemed to be talking to himself. I got word the next morning that he’d passed away.

Interestingly enough, Hubby is a lot like my dad. The crazy thing is he’s a lousy patient too and has similar health issues—go figure.  We started dating about a week after my dad was hospitalized that October 3rd. The two of them chatted twice. According to my husband, my dad told my hunny I was ‘special.’ I truly believe God took my dad when he did because He knew I couldn’t take care of both of them.

My dad never got to see his little girl get married (or engaged). He never got to meet his grandchildren, who I know he would have adored. It’s all okay though. I believe a spirit never dies; it lives on in all of us who came from and after him. Case in point: One of my dad’s first cousins shared his first name. They were fairly close in age and even looked a bit alike. The detail that I always noted was how his cousin walked like my dad, holding his left hand down at his side with his pinky up a bit. Guess what I’m trying to say is, if I look hard enough, I’ll still see his spirit here among us. (He shows up in my younger son too, who, as a baby, looked a bit like my dad. He’s stubborn in the same way, asking me my opinion on something then doing it his way anyway.)

I will close on that note, and thanks to all of you for indulging me. See you next week!

Joanna

 

Still Riding with Rachel!

Welcome back, Rachel! As both our readers now know, I was fascinated by your memoir, Riding the Bus with My Sister, a work that helped you come to terms with your own lack of acceptance of your sister’s lifestyle.

  Building a Home with My Husband (Home from here on) your most recent release, was also inspired and impacted by your personal journey. The memoir is based on the renovation of your current home, a choice you felt constrained to make at the time. Are you glad you stayed? Our home is very lovely now, designed to fit my lifestyle and my husband’s.  But the journey I went on as a result of the renovation ended up being about more than the house.  It became a metaphor for repairing relationships, which I’ve done with most of the key people in my life, including my husband, my sister, my parents, and myself.  (As an example, my husband and I lived together, without being married, for thirteen years, and then broke up.  We were apart for six, then reconnected, repaired our bond, and got married.)  So really it’s a book about love, though it uses the storyline of the repair of a house.

I understand Home is soon to be re-released in paperback but under a new title. Due to the recession and a decline in reader sales, 2009 was a very difficult year for pretty much everyone who was publishing a book.  This is why you’ve heard of many layoffs in publishing, and why the competition for selling a new book has gotten even more extreme.  In the case of Home, there was also the problem of the poor construction/renovation environment, and even though the book is more about the heart than about remodeling, the original title came to be viewed as a liability. The publisher decided to repackage it under a new title and new cover.   

And you were okay with that?  I used to think “choose your battles.”  But I’ve come to feel that it’s really important to be agreeable.  That is, “have no battles.” I can still tell my editor, very tactfully, that I don’t understand why they want this or that, but once I do understand their rationale for whatever they want – and in this case, I did, immediately – I cooperate quickly and fully.  After all, if the editor is annoyed with me, she’s less likely to push my book at sales meetings, or acquire my next title.  Besides, I’d rather have the book released with a new title in paperback than not be released at all, a fate that has befallen several writer friends of mine. 

And the title is…? The House on Teacher’s Lane: A Memoir of Love, Healing and Love’s Hardest Questions     

   This is actually a more accurate title, since the book has prompted many readers to ask themselves those very hard questions about love, like how and when one can forgive, keep one’s heart open, learn to define love less and myth and more as reality, etc.  I made a book trailer that clarifies the book’s true focus.  Right now the trailer has the original title and cover, since the hardback is still available.  But I’ll change the trailer accordingly in June 2010, when the paperback is released.

Home seems like quite a different mindset than the premise for your most recently contracted work, The Story of Beautiful Girl.  For one thing, it’s a novel.  Can you tell us the premise? Girl begins in the mid-1960’s and is about Lynnie, a beautiful white woman with an intellectual disability and selective mutism, and her sweetheart Homan, an African American deaf man.  Both are institutionalized.  One night they escape, and find refuge at the home of a retired schoolteacher, Martha. The couple, however, is not alone; Lynnie has just borne a child.  The authorities catch up to them; Homan escapes, Lynnie is caught, and just before she is forcibly returned to The School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, she manages to whisper to Martha: “Hide her.”  And so begins the tale of three lives desperate to reconnect.

Sounds like a captivating read! I can’t wait! Did anyone in particular inspire the characters of Lynnie, Homan and Martha? Homan was inspired by a real person who I read about in an obscure book some years ago.  The authorities found him wandering in an alley in 1945, when he was probably fifteen, and even though they realized he was deaf, they didn’t send him to a deaf school.  Instead they put him in an institution for people with developmental disabilities.  He remained stuck in the system – where he was given a number because no one knew his name – for the rest of his very long life.  It’s an absolutely tragic story, and after I read it, I thought, I wonder what kind of life he would have had if he’d fallen in love and escaped?  As for the other two characters, they just came to me, though I suspect Lynnie was informed by the many people I’ve met on my travels as a speaker, and Martha by my having been a teacher myself. 

Tell us about more about Rachel Simon, the writer and maybe a little about your routine. I’m fifty years old and live in Delware with my husband.  I decided to be a writer when I was seven, which was kind of an odd decision since I didn’t know any writers.  But my mother was a librarian and my father a teacher, so I guess that’s where it came from.  I also moved a lot as a child, which led to daily letter-writing, and that paved the way for plays, novels, and personal essays.  Interestingly, though, I chose not to major in English when I was in college; I found that Anthropology was better suited to my writerly needs, since it taught me how to view the world through the eyes of people unlike myself.  Although my first love was fiction, I eventually branched out into memoir, and now feel equally comfortable in both realms.

                                                 

 But please don’t get the idea that the writing always flowed smoothly, or that I published my work without struggle.  I’ve had periods of writer’s block, and have written many more books than I’ve sold.  Yet I press on, year after year, since I much prefer the writer’s lifestyle to all others, and enjoy being my own boss.  The creative process is also of primary importance to me; life just wouldn’t feel all that meaningful if I weren’t writing stories.  I should add that it helps that I’m also not all that interested in the material world.  Once I realized that the financial rewards would be unpredictable and erratic, I learned to live very modestly, so what money I did earn could last as long as possible. 

 All that said, I’ve been very lucky.  I sold my first book at age twenty-nine without an agent (though have been agented since), I’ve received several grants that have allowed me to cut back on or even quit day jobs, I’ve watched a number of my ideas get adapted for stage, radio, and television, I’ve had a bestseller, I’ve developed a side career as a public speaker, and I’ve spent most of my adult years with a loving, supportive partner who values the artist’s life as much as I do.  I’ve also had the very good fortune of being able to write without a day job for the last three years, and at the moment it looks like I’ll be able to sustain that for at least three more.

As for my routine, it depends whether I’m in a first draft or revisions.  For first drafts I tend to write about four hours a day, trying to get 6-10 pages out at a time.  (I write by hand, in a notebook, sitting in a rocking chair by my window.  Then I type the draft into the computer.  It’s the same way I used to write by hand and then use a typewriter, only now I can skip the White-Out.)  For revisions, I write 8-12 hours a day, on a laptop that can’t be hooked up to the internet.  That way I resist all the interruptions that keep people from getting their work done. 

When do you write? It really varies, depending on the phase and project I’m in.  But I always begin during the day, usually in the morning, though sometimes right after lunch.

What do you like best about it? Everything. The lifestyle, the privacy with my thoughts, the opportunity to create something where there was nothing, the sense that I can find meaning and purpose in my life.  I feel as if I never left school because I can keep having new experiences, learning about new subjects, developing new writing skills, and coming to new insights.  Writing keeps me excited about life.  It makes me curious and open-minded, and inspires me to be compassionate.  It is, I truly feel, the fountain of youth.

Anything you don’t? The financial uncertainty is really rough, and not well-suited to my personality, because I’m a natural worrier.  I realized in my thirties that if I wanted to stick with it, I just had to accept that I wasn’t naturally meant for such a feast-or-famine existence, but that I had to find ways to make my peace with it.  Mostly I do that by saving every penny I make and living very frugally.  It’s also helped to have gotten married, which I did at age 41.  Having two incomes, modest though they are, allows us to put my income toward retirement while living on his.  He gets medical insurance too, and that’s a great help.

Do you still teach? I taught as a creative writing adjunct at various colleges until 2007, but then was able to write full-time.  On occasion, I do teach writing privately.

How does one impact the other, assuming they do? I loved teaching college, but now that I’m not, I find that I feel freer as a writer.  I guess I felt, on some unconscious level, that I needed to write a certain way so colleges would like me, and therefore rehire me every year.  Now I can make my choices about my subject matter and style according to my own standards.  This has helped me become more productive because I feel less self-conscious. However, I really miss mentoring young people.  That has been a real loss.  But I suppose it’s helped my writing in that I feel very in touch with loss, and that has helped me write about characters who have also lost something they loved.

Anything in particular you’d like readers to know about you that we haven’t covered? Actually, I think what I’d like to say in ending is more about you and your readers.  It’s very easy to get discouraged about writing.  It’s hard to find the time to put in your hours; your friends and family don’t often understand the number of years it takes to acquire the skills of a professional; you might struggle with your own impatience, ego, awkwardness with words, addiction to cliché, or any other writerly impediment; you’ll find there’s no guidebook to navigating the vast and mysterious terrain of of publishing; and the sad truth is that the sale of your first book, while launching your career, might well not lead to financial gain or even recognition.  But if you love to write, then it’s worth it to keep going.  The rewards are great and encompass all sides of yourself: the personal, intellectual, spiritual, social, and psychological.  I often say that writing is a test of your character, and what I really mean is that, if you stick with it, pushing yourself to keep growing, both on the page and in your heart, you will become a better person.  Aside from all this, it’s fun. 

Thank you, Rachel, for being here. Having you has been an absolute honor.

Now, it’s your turn, readers! Rachel will be happy to answer questions! Leave them in the form of a comment or send them to me at joanna@joannaaislinn.com. I will forward questions to Rachel, then post her responses in a blog the following week (day/date to be determined). Thanks so much for joining us and don’t forget to come back!

For more information on Rachel, or to purchase any/all of her books, visit her website: www.rachelsimon.com. While you’re there, check out her brand new blog! (Love the way she sees things!)

Reminder: If you love this blog–one could hope :)–but prefer fewer e-mails: make sure to subscribe! (You’ll get auto-notice on every post.) Eventually, I’ll be making all announcements from here and will create a separate e-mail list of those who do subscribe (remember to let me know so that you don’t get double notification).

Until next time,

Joanna

Riding the Blog with Rachel Simon

   This one is extra-special, folks, and I’ll be presenting it in three segments. (Drumroll, please!)

Today, Rachel Simon, author of memoir and women’s/ literary fiction, online friend and mentor joins me. I started e-mailing Rachel during my earliest writing days (almost ten years ago). She always responded, never failing in her gracious way to answer question after question after question about craft. Though advised against giving tips away gratis, she very generously provides a free on-line book of writing tips that is perfect for writers of all levels. As a beginner, it benefited me tremendously, and I continue to recommend it frequently. (It’s still at her website, www.rachelsimon.com.) Finally, Rachel never failed to cheer with every triumph I made in my own writing journey.  Today I am honored, humbled, grateful and proud to know she is a reader of my blog.

Recently, I had the pleasure of engaging in a phone-to-phone, cozy chat while snowed in during what will probably become known as “Snowmaggedon” or ‘The Blizzard of February 2010.’  (Yes, it’s taken me a while to get caught up, lol!)

Welcome Rachel. So excited to have you! We’ve come quite a long way, since those days I first started sending you e-mails. Before you, I’d never considered contacting a published author; having you respond regularly was a thrill for me who was just starting out. I was reading Riding the Bus with My Sister (Bus from here on) at that time, and knew first-hand several of the places you referred to in the book—I even worked at one of them. In a way, that made me feel, on some level, as if I knew you personally. Thanks!  This is so nice to hear.  I think the relationships writers build with their readers/fans are quite unique—very different from those typical of other workplaces.  For example, many of author Arthur C. Clark’s fans became his dearest and longest-term friends, and I’ve already seen that happening to me.  People enter your book and enter your mind, and, chances are, if they like your book, they like you.  And that means a lot to me, as it does to most writers.

Not every author responds (and I doubt very strongly I’m the only with whom you correspond ;). Why do you find it so important to do so—every time, without fail? I’m sure your public speaking engagements, day jobs and other writing endeavors keep you very busy.  When someone reaches out, Joanna, it’s human decency to respond in addition to being good business. It is extremely important, too, to be genuine with those who read your work and interact with you. As a writer, I am the brand and the relationship with my readers, fans and supporters is key.  But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t genuinely want to.  I like people, and I understand the struggle of aspiring writers.

This brings me to a point I find very important to make to those who reach out to the author. When you first started contacting me, you stood out for several reasons. First, you knew my writing. A lot of people who get in touch don’t take the step of reading me first, which baffles me.  What would make them think that my work would be in sync with theirs if they don’t know it?  Second—and probably more important—you showed respect by writing back to thank me every time I responded.

That’s simple common courtesy. I can’t believe how many people don’t do that.  It sometimes makes me wonder if I should be taking the time. Your politeness was greatly appreciated. 

Now you went and made me blush, but you’re very welcome.

 My first contact with Rachel came differently than with other authors. She gave the keynote address at my state’s annual occupational therapy conference and spoke about her then recently released memoir, Riding the Bus with My Sister, which tied in seamlessly with her talk about developmental disabilities to the population she addressed. I arrived late, just in time to hear her ask the audience: “Did you ever wonder who would play the characters in your book?” I had just started writing fiction at that time and found myself very intrigued by this question.

Tell our readers how did material about developmental disabilities work its way into your writing? My first book, Little Nightmares, Little Dreams (Houghton Miffling, 1990), was a collection of short stories. Among them was the account of an employee in a sheltered workshop, a woman with developmental disabilities, who was baffled when a pair of conjoined twins joined the workshop. It was based on an experience my sister (the same sister who became the subject of Bus) had at her workshop, so it was set in a world I knew.  I couldn’t, however, place the story in a magazine. This was the first of many times when I was “writing what I knew” about the world of disabilities, but found that editors backed away from the material.  After this happened a few times, I was forced to become aware of publishing’s bias against stories about people with developmental disabilities.  The situation has improved since 1990 but it could be better. 

                                                                                         

How did Bus come about? In the late 1990’s I started writing freelance and commentary for the Philadelphia Inquirer. One day, when it was time to pitch a new piece to my editor, I was out of ideas. At the time I had three part-time jobs, and when I called my editor, I said they were the reason why I couldn’t concentrate on finding a new subject.  I added that I was also preoccupied with trying to find a way to visit my sister, which meant working around her “bus schedule.”  (My sister, who calls herself Cool Beth, spends all her time – twelve hours a day – riding city buses.)  The editor was intrigued and suggested I ride the buses with her for the day then write a piece about it. The article was a huge hit and went national. Soon friends started suggesting I write a book about being on the bus with my sister.  I actually didn’t see how this could happen, but slowly I started to find a way to structure it, and that led to a book proposal.

So how did one article grow into a full-length memoir? I’d just gotten a new agent—the wonderful Anne Edelstein—who I’m still with.  She helped me review the proposal until it would work for editors.  She then sold it at an auction.  For the next two years, my editor worked with me to take the proposal to a book.  It was a lot of effort, but we were all very happy with the result. 

Can you tell us anything about your agent? She represents literary fiction and literary nonfiction.  I asked her once what she liked in a manuscript, and she said, “A great story, well-told.”  This led to a discussion about how a lot of writers who craft beautiful sentences don’t tend to focus on strong plots, and vice versa.  She takes on very few clients, and when she does, she wants them to do both. 

Bus hit the bookshelves in 2002 and took off with a life of its own. Would you elaborate on that? Bus was the fourth book I’d sold, and I knew from my past experiences – as well as several years working in bookstores – that I needed to be very active in promoting my work.  So right when the book came out, I sent out letters to 2000 people in the disability community and public transit industry.  Some responded by asking me to give talks to their groups, and I said yes to every invitation.  Eventually word of mouth took over.  Among other things, this led to the book getting onto school reading lists, becoming very prominent among family members of people with disabilities, as well as those who work with them, and opening doors for other memoirs about characters with developmental disabilities.  Soon I had so many speaking invitations that I had to start charging a fee, and ultimately I got a speaking agent.  All of this happened even before there was a movie, which was really gratifying.  That said, the success of the book was a big surprise, since I hadn’t realized it had such a universal appeal. 

Bus became a Hallmark Hall-of-Fame movie. In Building a Home with My Husband (Home from here on), you alluded to how much money the movie version of Bus made, nowhere near the kind of numbers one would  expect from an undertaking like that. Could you have held out for a feature film instead? After Rosie O’Donnell got hold of the book (still in manuscript form) and expressed her interest for making it into a movie, I learned that books that appeal to women mostly end up being made into television movies; the big screen is much more man-oriented. When a movie is optioned for TV, the chances of it being made are much better than for a feature film.  Even though the money you can make from a TV movie is about a quarter of what you can make from a feature film, these facts made me open myself up to preferring that course of action.  In addition, TV can translate into much more exposure; fifteen million people watched it the night it aired, and millions more in the reruns since.  On top of all this, TV is more accessible than a movie theater.  Getting to a movie theater requires transportation, which can be—and often is—an issue for people with developmental disabilities.

Did you spend a lot of time on the set during the making of the movie? I was on the set for several days.  They arranged for me to come when all the actors were present, so I got to meet and hang out with everyone.  The filming was in Canada, and I remember flying there on July 4th.  It was so strange to leave the U.S. on that day, but even stranger to enter the parallel universe of a movie set.  It’s very much its own world.

What was that like? What did you like best? What was the hardest thing to take? It was a fascinating and fun experience.  I was allowed to go anywhere I wanted, from the director’s tent to the wardrobe trailor to the food van.  Everyone, from the stars to the stand-ins to the sound engineers, was open to talking to me about what they did, how they got to where they got, and what they liked – and didn’t like – about the movie-making lifestyle.  It was like learning about another culture, but with no language barrier, and way too much delicious food.  The thing that was hardest was watching the scenes about my sister and me.  Rosie O’Donnell was dressed like my sister, and Andie MacDowell was dressed like me, so it really felt like I was watching my own life.  It was so surreal, that as soon as the cameras would start rolling – especially during really emotional scenes – I would burst into tears.  It was an out-of-body experience.  The screening in LA the following year was less overwhelming, at least in that particular way.

Bus helped you come to terms with your own lack of acceptance of your sister’s lifestyle. Safe to say, through this experience you lived a character arc of your own. Please comment on that. I hadn’t understood, when I wrote the initial article, that I was judging my sister for her unconventional bus-riding life.  Nor, when I sold the book on proposal, did I realize that my coming to accept her would provide the narrative arc.  This was partially because I was still living the experience and didn’t know what it would reveal to me, and partially because I was clueless and needed to be enlightened.  Fortunately, while I was riding with my sister – and writing the book – I met her case manager, beloved bus drivers, and boyfriend, and they all gently nudged me in the direction of accepting her on her own terms, as they had.  The editor was also quite helpful here; she realized what my character was learning before I actually did, and in our many discussions about the text, I came to see how I was actually changing.  I’m not sure if I would have come to accept my sister without writing the book, and of course if I hadn’t come to accept my sister, the book would have been less interesting.  So this is one of those lovely moments in a writer’s career where the production of a book truly changes her personal life.  The financial success of the book is certainly a wonderful thing, but it’s even more wonderful to know that it made me a better sister.

Beautifully expressed, Rachel. I would hope that we, as writers, hope to move people–sometimes even ourselves– through our works.

We are so not done, but we’ll stop here for today. Join us again tomorrow for more on Rachel, her books and how she truly shows us her heart through her unique and special way with the written word. Please feel free to comment and leave questions but note that I’ll be collecting questions too. You can e-mail me directly (joanna@joannaaislinn.com). I will forward questions to Rachel, then post her responses in a blog the following week (day/date to be determined). Thanks so much for joining us and don’t forget to come back tomorrow!

For more information on Rachel, or to purchase any/all of her books, visit her website: www.rachelsimon.com. While you’re there, check out her brand new blog! (Love the way she sees things!)

An aside for those who love this blog–one could hope :)–but prefer fewer e-mails: make sure to subscribe! (You’ll get auto-notice on every post.) Eventually, I’ll be making all announcements from here and will create a separate e-mail list of those who do subscribe (remember to let me know so that you don’t get double notification).

Until tomorrow,

Joanna (and Rachel, too)