This photo has nothing directly to do with the link I am posting to The Stonecoast Review, but it does reflect my state of mind. I’ve got a big smile on my face because I’ve made it through a demanding month of packets for my Masters Program, three to be exact, as I ramp up for the Stonecoast July residency. Currently I am reading Mary Kean’s Liar’sClub for annotation and listening to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for a workshop on Historic Fiction and writing several hours a day.
What is it like in a low residency MFA program? Click on the link below to find out and while you are at it, you can read my little piece of flash fiction. I’d also like to give a little shout out to the editors of Stonecoast Review who have worked so hard to make certain that all blind submissions (unmarked so that the reader is not prejudiced by information about the writers’ past credits, geographic location, or educational background) are read multiple times and pieces are thoughtfully selected and edited. Hard work and all done on a volunteer basis.
Several writer friends have inquired how I came to choose Stonecoast over some of the other low-residency MFA programs.
The holidays and start of the New Year is a time when my writer friends and fellow bookies start exchanging lists of favorite books we recommend to put on our reading lists for the upcoming year. This year I am excited to begin my MFA graduate program in Creative Writing. Yes, I’m trading in my journalist’s perspective for a slightly more free-ranging take on the world— to include fiction in all its many shapes and forms.
At the Stonecoast Writing Program through the auspices of the University of Southern Maine, my declared genre is “fiction” but I’ll have the option to participate in seminars on poetry, creative nonfiction, and popular fiction. As to what is the difference between what is literary versus what is popular, that’s open to interpretation. An excellent piece of sci-fi, fantasy, or a mystery can still be a fine piece of literary writing. Think about the speculative fiction of Margaret Atwood or the thought provoking yarns by Ray Bradbury. I’m not a purist and I doubt I’ll be penning a “best seller” any time soon, but I’d certainly like to write stories that are accessible and entertaining while also being well constructed and memorable, a tall order for sure, which is why I’m back in school.
Several writer friends have inquired how I came to choose Stonecoast over some of the other low-residency MFA programs. One reason was the format of a split of two writing workshops per residency as well as their policy to encourage student participation in helping to select the focus and theme of upcoming workshops offered each semester. They also have some fine writers,, committed to mentoring others, serving on the faculty.
In order to prepare for my first residency, (this is what is called a low-residency program where 10 days per semester are spent on campus and the remainder of the work is done long distance) I’ve read some wonderful books in the past two months.. These, I’d like to share, so here they are: Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury, Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft & Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon, Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, Little Children by Tom Perrota, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Transformations (poetry) by Anne Sexton as well as selected chapters from Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, The Half-Known World on Writing Fiction by Robert Boswell, The Classic Fairy Tales edited by Maria Tatar, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley ( the 1831 edition) along with several John Cheever stories available in The Stories of John Cheever, an old favorite short story by JD Salinger “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and poetry by James Wright.
Although it is over 500 pages in length, I highly recommend Romantic Outlaws. It is available as an audio book and makes for delightful listening while preparing dinner or doing those mundane tasks of folding laundry and filing bills. Before and After you’ll have to read the old fashioned way, but it is a thought provoking and well crafted novel that I highly recommend. Rosellen Brown is an excellent author, who deserves more recognition for her work.
I never saw the movie, but the novel, Little Children, is fast paced and by the author of The Leftovers, the tale that inspired the HBO series by the same name. It’s a fun read.
In a few weeks I will have completed by first residency and will have a whole new list of readings to complete in the upcoming months. And yes, I’ll be doing plenty of writing. Ray Bradbury consistently wrote 1000 words per day throughout his life. I’m going to try to do the same when not in class. So here is to a literary writing 2018 with a little home renovation thrown in for good measure! (More about old houses in another blog post) Happy reading.
Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at student’s work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they would have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.
Father’s Day is approaching, and thus I thought it fitting to reprise an essay I wrote about my dad, Herman Maril the artist. For Herman Maril fans, you can learn more about his career and work at HermanMaril.com.
My father, Herman Maril, used to take me to work with him once a year. On this one day, I’d wake with him at five in the morning, when the sky was still dark, and put on the clothes I’’d laid out the night before. We’d sit by the window waiting for the taxi driver to arrive.
My father would be drinking a cup of coffee and eating a package of orange cheese flavored crackers, spread inside with peanut butter.
“Here take one,” he’d say offering a cracker sandwich.
“Too early in the morning to eat,” I’d say .
More of these crackers could be found inside his desk at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught painting twice a week. A full professor and head of the studio department for many years, my father arranged his class schedule so that he only needed to make the trip from Baltimore to College Park twice a week, while he fielded phone calls regarding administrative matters seven days a week. His “at home” days gave him time in his studio to sketch and paint.
Dad didn’t drive, although he retained his driver’s license for identification. That’s why we were waiting for a taxi. Years earlier when I was about two years old, he’d forgotten to put on the emergency brake after getting out of the maroon Studebaker sedan, my parent’s first car,, while I was still in the backseat. The Studebaker started rolling backwards down a hill and while he was able to jump out and stop the car, he took it as a sign to stop driving. My dad was not interested in the mechanics of driving, he wanted to look out at the scenery; people, colors, shapes, and landscape. So my mother took on the role of family driver, leaving my father’s mind free for other things.
Frank, the taxi driver, drove my father to the downtown Baltimore bus station where Dad would take a bus to College Park . Dad was one of his regular customers, and in the morning there’d be banter between the two I could barely follow. Frank’s Baltimore accent was thick and I was too fascinated studying the pattern of criss-cross marks on the back of his neck to listen closely and decipher the words. The wrinkles signified to me that Frank was old. How did those marks get so deep, I’d ponder. A scrawny man, he wore a baseball cap and his nose was shaped like a beak. My father seemed to enjoy talking to Frank, but then he enjoyed talking to just about everyone.
Unlike my mother, who was somewhat aloof with people she didn’t know, my father would engage in conversation with just about everyone we encountered. I admired this trait because I was always afraid to talk to anyone I’d just met, fearful I’d say the wrong thing. I longed to feel comfortable enough to speak to strangers.
The bus ride to College Park was a blur. Sometimes I dozed off while my father looked out the window, perhaps studying the scenery, formulating a future canvas he might paint.
The walk up the hill to the building that housed the art department, in one of the many red brick buildings, was a long one. I struggled to keep up with my father’s confident steps. I was excited. Which students would I meet? What would those college students, almost adults, be talking about and what would their pictures look like?
I remember once spending the day in another professor’s class, a printmaker, where I created an entire etching on copper plate from start to finish. Excited to learn a new skill, I proudly showed my father the prints I’d created when I returned to his classroom but also recall saying, “What a relief to smell canvas and paint. The smell of ink and acid is awful.” The smells of my father’s studio were familiar and comforting.
Another year, I remember I was the model, for a drawing class. One of the students had neglected to bring paper, and when everyone was directed to sketch me sitting perched on a desk, the student had to use a roll of brown paper towel from above the sink.
“No money for art supplies?” My father chided. The student kept working
I peeked at the various sketches. The only ones I remember were the ones in blue pen on the. brown paper toweling. Despite the lack of materials, those sketches looked the best.
“Is he one of your best students?’ I asked. My father tried not to show any preference for particular students, believing everyone had potential. He ignored my question.
Dad enjoyed the interaction of looking at their work and discussing with them what they thought they saw. He’d ask them questions and they’re have to rethink how they’d put their perceptions down on paper, analyzing ways to make their work better. I sensed their respect and enjoyment of the class as soon as they entered the room and it made me feel proud.
Adjacent to his teaching studio was a small office with a battered oak desk. He’d retreat there to smoke his cigarettes. When the sergeant general started cautioning the public on the dangers of smoking, Dad changed from Kents to Larks for their lower nicotine levels, but he couldn’t totally give up cigarettes. “Daddy smoking is bad for you,: I’d tell him. “Don’t worry I don’t inhale.” He’d say.
Smoking was one of the small pleasures important to my father’s enjoyment of life. The other small pleasure was a good cup of coffee. The coffee needed to be real perked coffee, not instant, full-bodied and hot. Find a place that served a good cup of coffee and he was highly appreciative.
Food was also something my father enjoyed, but the food did not need to be fancy. To economize, he brought sandwiches with him for his lunch which he washed down with coffee. In later years, he’d tell us about lunches he enjoyed with his colleagues at a Chinese restaurant near the school. He’d extol the virtues of lots of vegetables and rice with very little meat, before stir fried cooking and Asian diets were popular in the US. He’d describe the sauces in great detail and I would salivate thinking about the exotic food he was describing. Perhaps, that’s why to this day, I enjoy cooking variations of stir-fried Asian dishes.
For many years, in my office desk drawer I used to stash a few packages of peanut butter crackers, preferring the ones that were golden brown. They’d take the edge off my hunger when I wanted to continue working and I needed a small snack. I’d wash the crackers down with a strong cup of coffee. The habits of our parents are hard to break.
I’ve been away from the computer for several weeks. Just back from China with my husband Peter celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. This photo shows me standing by the Yangtze River. Catching up on publishing news after my return, I can share that my short story “Keep Me Posted” is now online in the April issue of the Scarlet Leaf Review. Here is the link. If you have comments, please share them on the magazine website. Thank you!
I’m switching this blog up a bit. Several years ago when I started blogging, my objective as an editor of a local Annapolis area magazine was to promote events around Anne Arundel County. Thus I named my blog “Write On Annapolis”. While I’m still doing some marketing and freelance magazine work, part of my day is devoted to writing fiction.
I’ve also been writing a poetry, which I’ve also been posting here, as well as still writing memoir.. What I find difficult to do is to promote my own writing. I’m very good at promoting causes, organizations and businesses, but when it comes to promoting my creative work I often run out of steam. So I’m going to try to use this blog to share my writing accomplishments and pursuits with the world and I will start by posting a link to my short story published in Scarlet Leaf Review (a work of fiction) entitled “Trying to Be Normal”. I’d also like to share that another short piece of mine was recently published in the first issue of Fire Pit a literary magazine published by Eight-Stone Press. It is entitled “The Real Thing.” If you’ve followed my previous career as an antiques dealer, you’ll find it enlightening.
I hope to share more publishing successes as I continue to write short stories and will be embarking on another National Novel Writing Month adventure starting November lst. Thank you for reading. Without readers, where would writers be?
The sun was in my eyes, so there is a bit of a squint but I am wearing a Nano T-shirt in honor of the upcoming National Novel Writing Month. This photo was taken by my husband Peter on the Corn Hill Beach in Truro, Cape Cod, my most favorite place to write.
“The Essential Herman Maril” is the title of the art show currently featured at Acme Fine Art in Boston. The exhibit of works selected by Gallery owners James Bennette and David Cowan provides the viewer with an opportunity to become acquainted with some of the subject themes important in my father’s life. . His career spanned from the 1930s until his death in 1986. There is the boat, the sea, construction in the city, a garden with clothes line, looking out through a kitchen window, and one of my favorites–a black rotary wall telephone . My father painted what he knew and what he saw; selectively reducing and refining figures and shapes to depict on the paper or canvas what he felt to be important.
My dad, who divided his time between Maryland and Cape Cod, did some traveling and he sketched when he traveled. Writers put their notes in a journal. Herman’s notes took the shapes of trees, coastlines, people, and buildings. He visited the Southwest, California, Mexico, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, but he never made it to Africa although he had a modest collection of African Art that he prized. In addition to several masks and locks from a Chief’s hut, there was a sculpture fetish that was said to have been caked in mud and containing a lion’s ear when Herman purchased it.. He admired the simple carved shapes of these treasures, which he displayed in the front hallway and living room of our home at a time when such objects were not particularly fashionable.
As a child in the days when there were only three or four television stations, I’d watch wildlife nature shows with my dad, mesmerized by the images on the black and white TV. Expansive plains, tall grasses waving in the wind and the close-up of a hungry lion in pursuit of dinner, chasing a fast moving gazelle had us on the edge of our chairs. It was a shared time, just me an my father, and during my recent visit to East Africa I thought of him often, wishing he was with me to see the expansive plains, baoba trees, lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests in person.
When I told my brother David Maril I was going to Africa, he sent me a photograph of the bird sculpture Dad had painted in the oil painting below, “Artist Contemplating African Bird” now in the collection of Adirondack Community College, originally acquired by his close friend the poet William Bronk, known to our family as Bill.
“Artist Contemplating African Bird” oil on canvas by Herman Maril, Collection of Adirondack Community College
David was hoping I might be able to identify the origin of the sculpture, if I saw something similar.While I saw many large handsome birds during our travels on the Wami river and on our safari excursions overland by jeep inside Ngoronguru Crater and Masai Mara National Reserve, I saw no original pieces of bird sculpture during my visit. Walking in and out of all the tourist shops that line the narrow streets of the Stone Town portion of Zanzibar I mostly encountered the usual wood carvings I suspect are probably mass produced in China. My husband Peter and I found one quality merchant who was selling the older tribal pieces along with fine Middle Eastern jewelry and artifacts– but no bird sculptures.
Our favorite memories from the trip are those moments seeing the animals on the move in their natural environment. Watching hundreds of zebras, wildebeests, and gazelle making their way across the Serengeti Plain in search of fresh grass and sitting in a boat yards away from massive Hippos, hearing their deep sonorous groans as they submerge themselves underwater and reappear, is an experience of a lifetime. It reminded me that wildlife, and the variety of animals we grew up visiting at the zoo, is not something we can take for granted. It’s important we try to preserve the earth and protect our endangered species that include the Black Rhinoceros and Leopard, both of which I had the privilege to see, albeit from a far distance. (This is when field binoculars come in handy).
Nature and the images we see, whether they are exotic animals or the shape of flowers that bloom on the tree outside our window, can inspire the artist in all of us. You don’t have to travel half way around the world to see something worthy of inspiration, but some times taking a journey can give us perspective to appreciate what we have when we return home.