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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Christmas Story

     I've decided to post an excerpt from the novel that I just started this week. Primarly because of this passage's similarity with the Christmas story. It has nothing at all to do with the that story, but you'll see the similarity. Of course, I would love to hear what you think of this very rough first draft. Do you get a good sense of time and place and who the character is?

      She had always loved being in the barn. It was a safe and happy place where she had enjoyed many of the best moments of her childhood, while the little cape house that stood nearby was more marked by hard memories and drudgery. So when nature called her to seek a squatting spot she went to the barn.
      Choosing the northwest corner because it was the farthest from the house, she hiked and tucked her heavy linen skirt up and under her armpits so as to save it from soiling. Then lowered herself down onto the hay she had just minutes ago kicked into a fresh fluff in the dark corner of her father's enormous barn. Reaching down around her still small but full belly she deftly slid her long cotton stockings down to her ankles and then extended her legs in front of her where nature told her to put them. Her head was the last part of her body to make contact with the straw, but she couldn't leave it long at rest, and would turn her whole head left to right and back again in rhythm with her pains while the moon rose. Though still young she had seen life of various sorts enter this world many times and knew that the time it took a mother to deliver a babe varied widely, especially with her first attempt. Already she regretted not going to or sending for the village midwife, though that wish was more for companionship than any real assistance. But fear had prevented that, and since her impending arrival had remained undiscovered by anyone, she simply could not bring herself to declare it to be. It had been hard enough to accept it for herself, to the limited degree that she had. She had been able to ignore her blossoming belly and breasts until she saw with her own eyes the movements of a strong little body lying therein. A little body that would not be denied.
      Fear was the fuel on which she had been forging forward for so long it didn't really seem like an unusual way of life. Though the problems that developed for her seemed to grow more serious and frightening with each passing year. She saw herself as just an instrument of what was to be, with little ability to influence the outcome of her own life. The negative prospect of her travail, that she or the babe or both would not survive, was no less frightening than the prospect of their hearty survival. Perhaps much less so.
     The rapid progression of the pains overtaking her body was of no surprise and in fact, felt fitting, and she did not fight their powerful possession of her. She knew that she was just an instrument. A bodily vessel of providence. Now a vessel for a babe. A sudden need to grunt from deep inside escaped her throat unbidden and surprised the silence she had committed herself to. Instinctively, she slid herself up the wall a bit, and drew her booted feet close to her body. With her right hand she grabbed a piece of her dirty skirt hem and placed it in her mouth, closing her teeth around it. Then she slid her hand down to her womanhood and felt the crowning of a child. She registered no surprise when her hand felt the warm, wet but wiry little pate. Rising up on her hands she bore down with a silent strength that she didn't know she possessed, and that made her feel as if she were indeed possessed. Pushing with all her might,  … praying with a last bit of residual energy,  … squeezing and pressing with all of the muscles that held her young bones together.     
     At the moment that it felt as if death had arrived to rip her in half, she wanted to scream. Instead she rolled her head back against the old oak timbers, and looked up for salvation. She saw only an exquisite spider's web stretched out in the corner, canopying her in the semidarkness, the mother spider still but watching in her new midwifery role. Beady little bug eyes met big green girl eyes as Prudence bit down, bore down, and with the last of what she had, spilled forth the babe. Mother and child lay where they were for several minutes, breathing in chilly silence. When she re-gathered her vigor, rose up on her hands again and could look down between her legs Prudence saw a wee baby girl who wriggled and grimaced as if protesting the prickly underlayment that served as her cradle and the cold Maine morning air that served as her blanket. An almost invisible steam rose off her oddly colored purplish-brown body which shimmered in the bleak rays of early morning light that penetrated the cracks between the barn boards.
     After the briefest respite she delivered the afterlife and Prudence pushed herself back up against the wall and surveyed the situation before her. Kicking the bloodied hay away, she reached to her right for the bundle she had brought with her. Slowly she unrolled the small blanket that she had tied shut yesterday with a string. She used the string to tie a strong knot in the life cord, and then she used the blanket to pick up the infant whom she wiped and warmed and then swaddled with the cloth. She unbuttoned her blouse to her waist and tucked the swaddling into and against her chest as she lay back down upon the hay backrest. Pulling her heavy cloak over both of their bodies she lay down to rest and await what was to be. Milking time was not far off.

copyright protected: Tammi J Truax

Thursday, December 15, 2011

These kinds of stories...

absolutely make my head spin. How does one know where to turn or what to do next? I concede I am clueless. I am going to stick with the old-fashioned submission process for now, but am not sure for how long. I call this part of the process pimping out my book. It is utterly unenjoyable.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Opening paragraph

       As promised I will post a bit now about reworking the introductory paragraph of my novel which I have done with the generous cajoling of author Hallie Ephron. She had offered to read one paragraph of emailed work to everyone in attendance at a talk she gave to writers during NaNoWriMo. I immediately knew I would be sending her my first paragraph. I knew it wasn't good enough and yet I was stuck on and attached to the clunky first draft design of it. They were my big purple babies that I just couldn't bring myself to chop. At least not until I had the encouragement of someone wiser, who has toughened to the task of killing her darlings.
      Here's what blogger Sue Rich says about the opening paragraph;
Grab the editor by the throat.  No, I don't mean for you to run to an editor's office, wrap your hands around his neck and shake him until he agrees to read your manuscript.  But if the opening paragraph of your story doesn't accomplish that, you're finished before you begin.
If you want your work to explode out of the slush pile and fire an editor's interest, then you must achieve that with the first line, or at the very least, the first paragraph.
Here's an interesting tidbit:  One editor told me (I won't mention names) that when she opens an envelope containing a submission, she pulls the first page only half-way out and reads a few lines.  If her interest isn't piqued by then, she slides the page back in and puts the envelope on the rejection pile.
Don't let that happen to you.
All of us are tempted to start with background--the reasons and motives for our character's behavior--but those of us who have made the hurdle into the ranks of published know a secret.
Background can wait.
First and foremost, you must get the reader's attention, and make them want to know what happens next--and that's no easy feat in just a few sentences.

     I'm not going to share my original draft. I'm actually rather embarrassed by it now. Here is the revised edition and I am most willing to hear any thoughts that come to mind when you read it. Thanks!

     She stood in silence, smiling slightly. Sarah Marie Kelley, now Ms. Kelley, Grade One teacher at Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School was reporting for duty on the first day in her own classroom. No more professors peering over her shoulder to critique her every move. No more well-meaning mentors telling her what to do. Her very own first grade classroom. She would finally get to do things her way, and she had such big plans for the year! She knew how each month, even each week, would unfold for the next 186 days.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

     I actually miss the challenge of brainstorming a picture book idea every morning, but it is time to get on with doing something with all of those ideas now. Many of my ideas were about sharing Native American philosophy with children, and now I hope to do a series of children's books on that subject to follow the one I have already finished. Since I have yet to send the finished one out to potential publishers, I will now be able to add the idea of a forthcoming series to my queries, which hopefully will be viewed positively.
      My novel is also getting ready to hit the road. I have two people (OK, friends) reading it right now to offer me feedback, and have finished a complete edit of it myself. I submitted it the The Big Moose new novel competition last week, but unfortunately I did that while it still had a bad first paragraph. Already I think it was bad enough to get it tossed out immediately. I have been reworking the first paragraph this week, with the kind-hearted mentorship of Hallie Ephron. That slaughter of some of my ugliest babies will be the subject of my next post.
     I wrote one new poem this week which I will probably post after it is work-shopped in class tomorrow. I do like it though and was glad to get it down on paper. It had been percolating in my mind for a long time. Funny, there was a little Native American influence there too. Right now I am tweaking on older poem to read at the PPLP hoot this evening. It is one of my poems that I actually like and have read in December before; Mary's Travail.
     Finally, sent out one proposal this morning for The Prickly Pear Poetry Project (my non-profit foundation) to present our workshop at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in April. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


     Well, I guess I put the looza in pitchapalooza. Although it was a big step for me as it was the first time I ever pitched a book, and to do it publicly in front of about one hundred strangers was not the easiest thing to do. I did get some positive feedback. Two of the judges used the word "fascinating" after I gave my one minute pitch for my novel at a local book store. .. But I did not come in the top three. The fishing guys won first place and their book about fishing in New Hampshire has a pretty limited market.
     I also got some negative feedback. Two of the four judges said my title, Holy Buckets, sucks and needs to be changed. Of course, I'm rather partial to it, and still resistant about that. What do you think?
     Here I am mid-pitch...

Friday, November 18, 2011


     I'm sure it appears by my lack of blog posts lately that I've been slacking, but as tends to be true, things are not really what they seem to be. It feels like I have been working harder than ever. Not earning more than ever, just working harder. There certainly have been distractions; the usual home and family mini-emergencies which are tolling in on a very regular basis of late. Time and dollar consuming disturbances to my writing. I have been forced by fiscal necessity to look for additional employment and selfish potential employers have been making me jump through all sorts of hoops for them. More time and dollar consuming disturbances to my writing.
      But I have been writing. Some. I am still tweaking the novel, and still enjoying the revision phase. I wish I had more hours to devote to it. A dear friend read and edited it for me and I am using all of that feedback. I started a monthly poetry class that has me revisiting poetry writing which I had been neglecting while focused on my book. I have also been participating pretty faithfully in PiBoIdMo, and have found the process to be far more fun and worthwhile than I ever anticipated. I have come up with some ideas that I am excited about and fully intend to pursue later. Additionally I have been participating in as many NaNoWriMo events at my public library as I can. They have been such wonderful supporters of writers this month.
     One of those events was the opportunity to attend a talk given by Hallie Ephron. She gave a humorous and warmly inspiring talk to a few writers, and I wished I had had the money to buy her book written just for writers (see below). She was kind enough to offer to critique a paragraph of our work if we chose to send her one which I'm going to do tonight.
     I haven't covered everything I have been up to the last couple of weeks, but I'm going to write to Hallie now, and will continue with the update tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy PiBoIdMo!

    Each year I cringe at NaNoWriMo being held in November. I have always liked the idea of the challenge, but November is a daunting month for me. I am a single working mom. I have Thanksgiving and one child's birthday to get through. That is one week of the month shot right there for me! (I spend much of November in the kitchen, and I like it that way.) So when I learned a couple of weeks ago about an alternative choice called PiBoIdMo I was thrilled. This challenge, created and organized by blogger Tara Lazar, encourages participants to come up with one new picture book idea every day for the month of November. I can handle that challenge and see it as quite worthwhile.
     Today was day one of PiBoIdMo and it was easy and enjoyable. And the idea would not have come to me if not for the challenge. There is no question about that. And that is the very purpose of these types of creative challenges, to push you where you would not have gone on your own. They serve this purpose beautifully. There is still time to jump in...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ok kids,

you didn't do very well with the first round of the game. The correct answer was Catch-22.
Let's try another ....
The following is the first line in what novel?

A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

name the novel

that opens with this sentence;

     It was love at first sight.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Coming Soon! - WAE Network

I am intrigued... Coming Soon! - WAE Network

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Decade of Magical Thinking

     I put off reading Joan Didion's book for years. Not, I think, due to everyday ordinary old procrastination, but a bit more due to fear. When I was first widowed I read as much as I could about widows, fiction and not. I think I was searching for role models not having any idea how to be what sudden life circumstances had forced me to become. But for some reason that I am still unsure of I couldn't bring myself to read The Year of Magical Thinking.
     Recently I came across a copy in a used book pile and thought that the time had come for me to read it. And I tried. I tried really hard. But I have not succeeded. Not yet anyway. It brings up so many emotions. Basic author envy, that I wish I had written it or something like it. And lots of bad memories about the mistakes that I made during my year (or two) of magical thinking. And the paralyzing fear that a bigger, badder loss could be on the way. So I seem to have abandoned it. It is lying on the vacant side of the bed, splayed open in the middle, and seems best left at that, for now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Degas and the Nude

      I was surprised yesterday, albeit pleasantly, at how inspired I was by my visit to the Degas and the Nude exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Not surprised at being inspired, per se. In fact, I am almost always inspired when I study art, but usually I am inspired to create visual art, or perhaps more precisely I am usually inspired to be a frustrated wannabe. But today while studying Degas I was deeply inspired to write. I thought of two completely disparate writing projects that I want to tackle. Both ekphrastic, inspired by and dependent on his art. The first I'll share with you because I invite you to participate. The second, which will be really fun, I'll keep to myself for now.
     I want to curate an anthology of short stories all written in response to a Degas painting titled The Interior, though sometimes called The Rape. I thought it was interesting that many experts have speculated that this painting was itself inspired by a novel (though denied by Degas), and thought it would be a serendipitous full-circle turn to bring it back to the written word again. I was immediately attracted to the idea that everyone who looks upon the dramatic scene he painted will have a different idea of what happened or is happening there, and really believe that it would make an excellent collection of stories.
     So ~ if you want to join in the fun, feel free to send me what you come up with. I promise to give it every consideration for the final cut. I'll attach an image of the painting here, but you might want to duck into the MFAB by 2/5/12 to see the real thing and get inspired yourself.


Monday, October 10, 2011


     My novel is done. 40,350 words. Hope that isn't too short?
     The revision stage was really enjoyable. Now on to the marketing stage which I don't think is going to be very much fun at all...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Does Early Shoplifting Lead to the Writing Life?

      When I read this piece in the current New Yorker I was transported back to sometime around the tumultuous year of 1968, to a department store most likely in Manchester, New Hampshire. I remember that I was wearing a brightly decorated but mostly yellow big kind of hippie shirt we called "a smock" that had two big pockets right about where your hands hang. Big pockets are handy for your hands and for impulsive shoplifting.
     I remember that I was out of eyesight of my mother, which wasn't unusual or particularly terrifying in those days, and I was browsing through a big counter of odds and ends heaped there, typical merchandising in the old five and dimes. I wasn't much taller than the bin and was leaning in to get a better look. I was touching things, and looking at them, I'm not sure why. And that's when I came upon it...
     I picked up a little palm sized Spanish / English dictionary. My heart started beating faster. Touching it felt life changing. I thought about the fact that I was starting school, and only spoke one lousy language, which suddenly seemed pathetic. A serious scholar should speak several languages I thought, and I knew I'd better bone up real quick. I also noticed my handy hippie pockets and how perfectly the little book slid in there. I started working on my vocabulary as soon as I got home, and my mother who didn't seem to notice most things I did, noticed. "Where did you get that?" she asked.
       I replied then much as I still do now when overwrought with guilt, by bursting into a weeping heap while choking out a snotty confession. She said I had to tell my father which was about the worst punishment conceivable and I had to wait hours til he got home to do it. He put me in the car and made me give it back to the befuddled store manager, though Dad did help me with the confession there, probably to bypass the aforementioned histrionics.
     That was it. I was not presented with my own dictionary like Patti Smith. And I never learned to speak more than Sesame Street Spanish, even when I took it in high school. I still speak only one lousy language, and it still seems pathetic to me. It sure would've come in handy when I was in Spain a few years ago. Instead I got to bumble my way through the country with the patient help of the bilingual Spaniards. They had to help me, I didn't have a dictionary with me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Children’s book at top of latest banned book list

   I wish I could buy a copy of this picture book for every little kid in the country. Wrap it up with a big beautiful bow. Read it to each and every one of them in an old rocking chair. Take a look at the link. I promise no harm will come to you...

Friday, September 23, 2011


    Here's a little something that I wrote this week when given the challenge to complete 500 words on the subject of widdendream. Immediately attracted to the word itself I did some research on it, and it brought to mind a bum I had seen walking a New Hampshire city sidewalk recently. A warm summer day, I remember noticing him wearing many heavy items of clothing, but was most struck by how he held a book up to his face. Not in front of his face, but right on and shielding his face, from what only he knew. This is what I imagined it might be...

Jim’s Daily Widdendream

By Tammi j Truax

     James was walking up the sidewalk at a considerable clip, though he was heavily weighed down by his multiple layers of clothing and his back pack filled to the brim and with quite a few tied on attachments. Tied on in the style of an old time hobo. But he wasn't old and he wasn't a hobo. He was a scientist, in search of answers. An anthropologist to be specific. He studied people and places. Sometimes he did. When he had a chance to stake out an observation area. Right now though, it was travel time. Travel time was determined by the sun and the relative heat it gave off. It was unwise (and unpleasant) to travel when you were wearing every item of clothing that you own and it becomes hot outside. He would walk awhile (actually 1759 additional steps) once he became overheated to benefit from the detoxifying sweat bath that resulted and its medicinal properties. But then encampment must take place. Taking 1760 steps or more would tragically disrupt the ratio of travel to camp time and disturb all scientific findings for the entire day and night. This was an indisputable scientific fact well documented in his journals. His journals were his most prized and valuable possession and most of his day and most of his energy went into safeguarding them. They were his life's work, and many people, corporations and governments alike, were out to get them and take credit for his discoveries. They were sealed in a plastic bag which he kept in the left side pocket of his cargo pants where they were closest to his heart. He kept one journal, which he called The Placebo, out most of the time. It was a dummy journal though occasionally when pressed for time and / or in a place where the real journals could not be revealed, he would make a quick first draft note of a discovery in it which he would transfer later when he got to do so safely at camp. Usually, though strictly for security purposes, he would only record the new finding in the form of a diagram which he would transcribe later. The other function (Jim, liked all of his possessions to multitask) of the placebo book was that it served as his mask. It was important to be fully covered while traveling and he wore a hat and a hoodie pulled well around his head. But he had to travel with the book held up right under his chin and covering all of his face except his eyes, much like an Afghani woman’s burqua. He knew people assumed he was a farsighted reading-walker which was fine with him. He didn't want to hurt their feelings and divulge that he saw them all as dirty specimens of a dying pathological city. Mostly though, the placebo was needed to conceal his identity because people were looking for him. He imagined he looked just like the lone ranger, handsome and debonair, and rode on.

All rights reserved. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blogging about a Blog

    I wanted to share this wonderful blog post I ran across this morning. It is called Writers Houses and is devoted to "the art of literary pilgrimage". An indulgence I try to engage in regularly and would like to write about too. This entry, just posted today, is about the Sarah Orne Jewett house in South Berwick, Maine, which I have visited many times and lived near for over a decade, in my previous life, when I was a young married woman. It is well worth reading.

Monday, September 12, 2011


      Three poems accepted for publication last month! That's a record. They are all due to appear in an anthology called The Widows' Handbook to be published in 2012.  
     Also found this article interesting;

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


      Another of my favorite New Hampshire writers, with further testimony that grief greatly influences writing.
I'm looking forward to reading this;
Maurice Sendak on ‘Bumble-Ardy’

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Books With Soundtracks: The Future of Reading? - The Atlantic

I hadn't given this idea any thought before now. While I have always enjoyed the silence of reading, the truth is most of the time I don have some type of background noise going on while I read. I will probably check one out on my iphone just to be fair. I'm leaning toward the Salmon Rushdie sort story mentioned in the article. It's fascinating to think about soundtracks to your favorite works as well as your own once you start considering the possibilities.
Books With Soundtracks: The Future of Reading? - The Atlantic

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pretty Big Week

and I'm not talking hurricanes.
      I finished the first draft of my novel yesterday! It does still need plenty of work but it is a huge milestone for me to have gotten to this point. I had started two others before that I haven't finished yet. (I do hope to finish them at some point.) It's very exciting, and starting on the revising process feels like a blast. I wish that I could hole up somewhere alone for a week or two and get it done without interruption.
   Also, got word last week that two of my poems will be published in an anthology next year called The Widows Handbook chosen from "nearly 500 submissions from all over the world".
     And last but not at all least I was asked to be the poetry curator for this years Jazzmouth Festival. I was thrilled to say yes to that!
      Come to think of it I don't want to leave out that I received an email from Joyce Maynard today. That was pretty exciting too.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

".... an oddly pleasant sense of anticipation."

     I have just discovered the writer Joyce Maynard. Not at all sure how I missed her. I have always been partial to reading native New Hampshire writers, but I was just introduced to her work by a mutual friend last week. A used copy of the good daughters (HarperCollins, 2010) arrived while I was out last night. A novel set in NH about women growing up I was anxious to delve in and did so this morning.
     On just page four I was struck so much by the closing paragraph I just had to share it;

"One thing about a hurricane: it turns everything upside down. You never know how things will be once the wind dies down. All you know for sure: the world will look different tomorrow. And perhaps it is  a sign of some restlessness in his nature, or more that that even, a hunger for something not yet found, that Edwin Plank heads out into the wild night with his heart beating fast. Life on this patch of earth could be totally different in the morning."

     I hope to spend the day tomorrow curled up with this book, maybe with my first fire of the season to light the room, while Angry Irene batters my doors and windows. I trust it will be a worthy diversion as I am already enthralled. Stay safe everybody.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Published last week in Seacoast Scene with photos;

Community Radio

By Tammi J Truax

     Did you know that you have your own radio station? Yes, it is yours. Portsmouth Community Radio, called WSCA 106.1, on the FM dial.
     Chances are you didn’t know it and haven’t been listening. Most radio listeners still choose commercial radio most of the time, and WSCA is a low power (LP) station that can’t be heard in some places, though anyone can stream it live on the computer by visiting the station’s web site.
     Portsmouth Community Radio got its start in 2000 when signs were posted around town announcing a meeting to discuss applying for a low power FM license due largely to the vision and efforts of Tim Stone who is still involved, and Jay Gardner, who sadly passed away before the station went on air, but to whom the station has been dedicated. WSCA 106.1 FM Portsmouth went on the air on September 12, 2004, after much work and a major “barn-raising”, and has since been broadcasting an eclectic mix of music, public affairs, arts, and cultural programming around the clock. It continues to grow and change, sometimes struggling, sometimes flourishing. Everyone is welcome to participate in whatever way best suits them.
     So what is a community radio station? Yours is a completely volunteer operated, non-profit and listener supported radio station offering diverse programming that is largely locally produced. (In the interest of full disclosure: I am co-producer of a show called Seacoast Journal.) Because the shows are created and carried out by locals who step up to offer them they reflect a wide variety of interests and orientations as does our general population thus it is a mixed format radio station. One listen will not be indicative of what you will always hear. The only thing you can be sure of is that you will not hear what you will always hear on mainstream commercial radio. Sometimes the surprises are amazing. I have heard some fantastic programming coming out of the little studio in an old factory building on Islington Street. Some of the volunteer DJ’s offer music programming of course. There has been everything offered from opera to heavy metal, as well as a nice emphasis on promoting local music. But in an unexpected evolution, many of the shows that have been offered is public affairs programming. That would include all sorts of talk radio from food to politics as well as local news. Station founder Tim Stone says that the locally produced public affairs programming found on WSCA is “the real richness” of the station, and he is proud that the station offers more of it than even NHPR.
     That type of home-grown journalism is not the only benefit to community radio stations. Said Policy Director of the Prometheus Radio Project of Philadelphia, PA, “Low-power stations save lives during emergencies, like WQRZ(LP) in Bay St. Louis, Miss., did in Hurricane Katrina, or KYGT(LP) did during a 2003 snowstorm in Idaho Springs, Colo. They give voice to underserved groups, like the Hmong community programs on KRBS(LP) in Oroville, Calif., or the disability community show on WSCA(LP) in Portsmouth, N.H. And they bring young people to the art of radio, like the “at-risk” youth on KKDS(LP) in Eureka, Calif., or the Radio Palante teen programmers on WCOM(LP) in Carrboro, N.C.”
     A specific example of that would be the recent broadcast on the aforementioned WSCA show called “Don’t Dis my Abilities” created and co-produced by Ronnie Tomanio who reported;
     “I had sent out a request through my network of friends that our show was looking for a poet who could express what it was like living with a disability. On a Tuesday in March 13-year-old Cheyenne Gemma, of Raymond, came to the radio station with her entourage of grandparents and a speech pathologist. We were told ahead of time that she did not like people talking for her, over her and about her. She made it known that she had a voice, even though it came through an electronic communicator, and she knew how to use it — thank you very much!
      Here is Cheyenne in her own words:
Question: How do you feel not being able to speak?
Cheyenne: Who knows what it feels like not to talk? Shut out of the world, and all alone. Not being able to share your thoughts, only listening to others talk about you. I want to cry and tell them how they hurt me. Words are wonderful; they should make me feel alive. I want to tell everyone how they make me feel.”
     That is the heart of a community radio station and yours is one of only about eight hundred in the country. It is participatory, and it gives a voice to the community. As in the above case, literally hours of work goes into producing the few minutes of words (or music) that make it on the air, but are carried out because every voice deserves to be heard. It really is your station. Give it a listen, or better yet get involved.


Monday, August 15, 2011

The second time I have had to write an obituary;

Dr. Hugh A. Harter, Retired Professor Emeritus, Author and Translator
     Hugh A. Harter, of Portsmouth, NH, died Saturday afternoon August 13, 2011 at his home with the peaceful pull of the Piscataqua River outside his window to lull his passing.
     Professor Harter was born in Columbus Ohio in December of 1922, and raised there by his parents, Anthony and Georgiana (Hayes) Harter.  He received his BA cum laude in 1947 and PhD in 1959 from Ohio State University, an MA cum laude from Mexico City College, the University of the Americas in 1951 and a Doctor of Letters degree from Alma College. The latter honoring his innovations in international education. He began his teaching career while still a student himself.  He was the Andrew Mellon postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pittsburgh in 1960 and 1961. He also taught at Wesleyan University, Elmira College, Chatham College and Loyola University before becoming a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware where he taught from 1966 until 1984. For many of those years he served as chairman of the department of romance languages. He was also the Robert Hayward professor of modern foreign languages from 1976 to 1984. He found time to teach abroad including at the University Catolica de Santa Maria, Arequipa, Peru in 1969 and as director of academy program in Segovia, Spain from 1969-1998, serving as the director of the International Institute of Spain, where he was named professor emeritus. He lived in Segovia for years and in 1976 was made an Honorary Citizen of the city. He also taught and conducted research in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
     Professor Harter was an author in several genres and several languages and became known internationally as a scholar of Spanish and French literature. He was particularly renowned for his translations of Nobel Prize winning Spanish poets. His bilingual editions of major poetical works, Shadow of Paradise and The Diary of a Newlywed Poet by Nobel Laureate Vicete Aleixandre and Juan Ramon Jimenez are widely recognized as masterful. He translated seven novels from the French. The books he authored include Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda, Tangier and All That, and more recently, Return to Patton's France, 1944's Odyssey Retraced, The Countess, which he called “a satirical novel in verse.” His most recent, a book of poetry called Flying With Nightingales was published in 2009. He co-authored and edited many other books.
     His distinguished career in education and literature was disrupted only once, for his service in World War II with the Military Intelligence 3d Army at Normandy and then the Air Transport Command. He was the recipient of medals of St. Calais, Vendome, Blois, Dombasle, Utah Beach, Avranches, and Ouzouer, as well as the medaille d'Honneur of Confedn. Europeene des Anciens Combattants, and many other awards. Hugh wrote extensively about his war experiences which affected him deeply, and returned to France for the dedication of Avenue Hugh Harter. He was also a business man, a visual artist, and an art collector. He created an original holiday card every year that he sent out to all of his loved ones, and his watercolors illustrated his favorite book, The Countess.

     Hugh would say his greatest achievement was winning the heart of his beloved wife Frances who predeceased him in 2006. Fran and Hugh traveled extensively but lived many years in New York City before retiring in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 2003, where he will be missed by many. He was predeceased by a sister. He is survived by his step-children and their families, and his many dear friends.

     Services will be held Wednesday at 1 PM at Finnerty and Stevens Funeral Home at Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where Hugh will be buried next to Fran. A memorial service will be held in Portsmouth, NH at a later date.

Here when the wind dies,
The silence grows,
Ponderous and bold,
Like growing old,
As the sunset dims
And the sea turns gold
And the silence drifts
Towards us,
Thunderous and bold,
And the waves come lapping,
Lapping, lapping at the shore.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Writer’s Life

A Writer’s Life

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Published recently in Seacoast Scene

Remembering President George Washington on the Fourth of July
By Tammi J Truax
     Ogling old houses is a Portsmouth pastime. It is our way of remembering and respecting our history. Locals love to do it, and visitors come from far and wide to join us. Most folks know of Strawbery Banke, our living history museum, with its many restored houses. Nearby are two that are sometimes mistaken as being part of Strawbery Banke, or overlooked altogether. I had never been inside either one until last week, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
     They are the Wentworth-Gardner and Tobias Lear houses, adjacent properties on Mechanic and Hunking Streets in Portsmouth’s historic south end. They are among the most important houses to the region both architecturally and historically, and both are in the National Register of Historic Places. Both just happen to have links to our first president, General George Washington. Though quite different from each other both are examples of classic Georgian architecture from the mid-1700’s. Both are well known for hand carved (from local pine) woodwork and other original building features. Local woodworker and board member Allen Breed describes just one of the special features, “It’s hard for a visitor to miss the spectacular spiral openwork newel post at the base of the ornate stairway that fills the front hallway of the Wentworth-Gardner house. This post is one of the jewels in the outstanding interior ornamentation of the house, and considerable time was invested in its construction as an ostentatious statement of the owner’s wealth.”
      Built first, in 1740 (when Washington was an eight year old boy), is the Tobias Lear house on Hunking Street. It is a hip-roofed colonial and appears much more modest than the stately Wentworth-Gardner though it is considered a mansion due to its size. There are eight original fireplaces. It was in the front parlor of this house that President George Washington visited his secretary’s mother, Madame Mary Lear, in 1789, where he was served tea while the colonial version of paparazzi gathered in the lane outside.
     The Wentworth-Gardner house, built in 1760, gets a great deal more attention, presiding majestically over the back channel as she always has. Originally built as a wedding gift for Thomas Wentworth and his wife Ann Tasker from Marblehead, no expense was spared in its creation, and in fact the house was meant to exhibit the wealth of the well-known Wentworth family. Its two massive chimneys have ten fireplaces, most decorated with hand-painted tiles. The kitchen has a cooking chimney with a beehive oven and built in fan and roasting spit. The third owner of the house was William Gardner, who had been a major in the revolution and worked in Washington’s administration.
     When the surrounding neighborhood known as Puddledock went into its lengthy period of decline both houses did too, but escaped serious damage even when rented out as tenant homes. Almost one hundred years ago both were owned for a time by the well known photographer Wallace Nutting, who was instrumental in their restoration. He sold the Wentworth-Gardner house to the NY Metropolitan Museum who owned it for decades with the intention of moving it to Central Park. In time both houses were purchased by the Wentworth-Gardner and Tobias Lear Houses Association, a non-profit organization formed in 1940 that still manages the homes, as well as the sail loft, an eighteenth century warehouse, that is one of the few remaining buildings of its type in the area. For a long time it operated as a sail maker’s shop.
     The association seeks new members, as well as volunteers to serve on the board or in helping to maintain and preserve the homes.
     Both houses are open to the public for tours until October, Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 4 PM. Drop in for a tour or attend any of the following special events open to all;
Photography Show 6/15-10/16: featuring works by Wallace Nutting, Geneve Hoffman, and Philip Case Cohen.

Inspired Creations Show 6/26-8/8: Annual art show opens with a fresh selection of artwork created by talented artists and craftspeople and inspired by the Wentworth-Gardner House.

Member & Neighbor Picnic 7/17: Bring a picnic lunch and your family, sit by the river, and enjoy yourselves.

Twilight Tour 8/10: Visit seven historic houses in Portsmouth and enjoy seeing them in a new light. Houses on the tour include the Gov. John Langdon House, Rundlet-May House, John Paul Jones House, Warner House, Moffatt-Ladd House and Wentworth-Gardner and Tobias Lear Houses.

Fairy House Weekend 9/18 & 19: Favored annual event in the south end, see fairy creations around the houses, warehouse, and yards. Bring your own fairy house to add to the gardens!

For more info visit


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Half done?

Passed the 25,000 word count on my book this morning!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

In Seacoast Scene this week;

“Now … bring me that horizon.” ~  Captain Jack Sparrow
By Tammi J Truax
   I’ve been hesitant to write this article. Part of me does not want to turn anyone else on to kayaking on the Seacoast. Selfishly I would like to keep the waterways to myself. The peacefulness of kayaking, what some call the yoga of kayaking, is what drew me to it in the first place. The sensation of becoming one with the water you are riding is a joy, and the quiet one can find on the water to observe wildlife undisturbed always feels healing to me.
      Here on the Seacoast we are most fortunate to be able to try just about every kind of kayaking there is; ocean and river, fast or slow, and from an easy calm water paddle all the way through death defying ocean treks. There is a little something for every one of all ages within the sport of kayaking. While a hot trend the last few years, the kayak is actually an ancient vessel first developed by the natives of the arctic regions of Asia, North America, and Greenland, who perfected the design of the boat as well as “the Eskimo roll”. I read that the husband in each family built the kayak specifically to fit his body using drift wood and bones, while the wife sewed the hides and coated them with animal fat that finished it off. The early boats used seal bladders filled with air to make them buoyant and almost unsinkable. These speedy little boats were well suited for hunting seals and walruses in the frigid arctic waters. In fact, the word kayak means "hunter's boat."
     Eventually, tales of their efficiency reached Europe. Before long Europeans began riding down rivers in kayaks for sport. These countries have many mountain ranges, and the rivers that plunge out of the rocky slopes offer challenging rapids. In 1924 kayaking became an Olympic sport. Kayaking has been a rapidly growing recreational sport in the USA for more than a decade.
     A kayak is a light and narrow one or two person boat one rides facing forward and maneuvers using a double paddle. This is really quite different from canoeing in a number of ways. The shape makes them fast. It also allows the adventurous to do some pretty neat tricks. The kayaker is often sealed into their seat using a skirt which allows wave riding. One can fish from a kayak though storage is limited. Sails can also be attached to them. The competitive can race.
     Among the most popular destinations for kayaking in our region are; Chauncey Creek, the Exeter River, the Lamprey River, Odiorne Point and Great Bay.
     But before you acquire a kayak and venture out on your own you should take the time to learn a few things. Read a good book of introduction, and take a lesson from an experienced kayaker. Lessons are not hard to find around here. Two noteworthy outfits offer lessons for all levels, as well as children’s summer camps. They are Portsmouth Kayak on Wentworth Road in Portsmouth and Plum Island Kayak in Newburyport. Both group and private lessons are available. The YMCA in Portsmouth sometimes offers affordable clinics in the pool which teach all of the basic safety skills needed. EMS offers an excellent array of classes, but seldom in our area.
     Once you understand the basics of kayaking, try out a few different types in several different conditions and places. That is the best way to learn what your personal style of paddling is and what your physical endurance is. One of the best ways to try a few things out is to take a group tour with a rented kayak. Both of the aforementioned businesses offer some wonderful tour options from full moon paddles to seal spotting tours, all the way up to fishing expeditions and Isles of Shoals excursions. The Discovery Center in Stratham offers some very popular educational tours on Great Bay including family paddles. For adults there is a Meet-up group of 850 members called NE Seacoast Paddlers who plan regular group outings that are outlined on their website. Again there are tours suitable for everyone, and having an experienced guide is invaluable.
     Once you have found your style and preferences and have committed to the sport only then is it a good time to buy your own boat. I made the mistake of buying my kayak too soon, and now I need to replace it with something more suitable to my needs. Remember that end-of-season sales can be big money savers. Kayaks are now available in every price range from a simple inflatable version to a hand-crafted wooden masterpiece.
     A few final points to remember; never go out alone, always tell someone where you are going, and always wear a PFD. Couldn’t hurt to remember a local joke too – What do fishermen call kayakers? … Speed bumps. Always boat responsibly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Gift Writers Give

It has been much too long since I read some Pam Houston.
Here are some inspiring words about inspiration;

Friday, July 8, 2011

Networking or Prostituting?

      Sandwiched around a delightful but much too brief trip to Cape Cod, I have been surging ahead in the not totally shameless self-promotion that is required of a writer today. I tend to make these changes slowly. Sometimes I have to be drugged and dragged into the present. I joined Twitter. I really didn't want to, finding that Face Book met my needs nicely, but I had been getting a fair amount of pressure from the larger writing community that I needed to. I don't like it much, and still have a bit to learn about it, but I am on there now.
     I also listed myself with a service called Inkubate. ( which seems like it could be very worthwhile for the undiscovered. Here in their own words is what they do;

What is Inkubate?
"Inkubate is your portfolio, online. It’s also a marketplace where publishers and agents find new work quickly, organized according to the categories they care about. More importantly, it’s the place where publishers and agents vie for the rights to negotiate with writers like you. You are paid whenever a publisher or agent views one of your excerpts, and when an auction—the object of which is to win the right to negotiate with you—is concluded."
     Lastly, and this was more a result of my old cell receiving a final death blow than a well thought out plan, I bought an iphone 4. I've owned it less than 24 hours and I am already happily utilizing features that will contribute to my work. I love the note taking feature for example, and the simple-to-use calendar. The free kindle app was a big selling point for me too. I'm looking forward to discovering other apps for writers and would love to hear any recommendations....

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Getting High Every Morning

     So I want to apologize. I know I have been terribly remiss in my blogging. And I am sorry for that. I do feel bad. But not very. The thing is I have been immersed in a very prolific period. I have been writing like crazy. Can't stop. Most mornings I  am at it by 5 AM. And it's been wonderful. I am having a great time. I've been on a roll, on a tear. I can't stop writing. It might be that I'm mulling over choosing the one right word for an hour, or writing a whole scene in ten minutes. I just can't stop! Even when I'm not at the computer I'm writing. It might look like I'm walking the dog, but I'm writing. It might look like I'm taking a shower, but I'm writing. This morning I had to go pick up my son from his college apartment  in another state and I was writing most of the way. I can be passing a long stretch of Winnebago's on their way to Maine for the Fourth while rocking out to the Allman Brothers and I'm still writing. In fact, if I ran into writer's block right now, I'd just run right over it with big mean monster wheels. Not even stopping to pat it on it's rough little head, even though we have been intimate so many times before.
     So I haven't been stopping to do too many other things. I just want to ride this out as long as it lasts. I do hope it will see me all the way to the end of the novel. I adore the high it gives me. It just might be addictive. I call it a creative buzz, and it's better even than an organic pomegranate cosmopolitan. So if you'll forgive me and excuse me, I've got to go get high again.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This just ...

answered a question I was after, so I thought I'd share it;

Monday, June 20, 2011

Something I wrote recently that didn't make it to print;

Cup ‘a Chowdah?
By Tammi J Truax
   “… when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. Our appetites being sharpened by the frosty voyage, and in particular, Queequeg seeing his favourite fishing food before him, and the chowder being surpassingly excellent, we despatched it with great expedition...”
     There has been a lot of chat around here lately about chowder. Former-for-a-little-while-governor Sarah Palin tried a bowl at a Seabrook clambake recently. Four thousand less well known people turned out at the 27th Annual Chowder Festival in Prescott Park on June fourth to sample tastes of thirteen different chowders presented by area restaurants who contributed 500 gallons of their very best in a competition that brings tourists from far and wide to eat what we can have every day.
     The festival culminates in six awards; first through third place chosen by judges, and the paying people, who never agree on the same three. This seems to be the one truth when it comes to chowder. There is no agreement. Never has been. Never will be.
     There is no agreement on the origin of the word chowder. Maybe French. Maybe not.        
     There is no agreement on the origins of the recipe. Often it is said to have migrated south from Newfoundland, but is also attributed to area Native Americans, sometimes the Micmac. Most likely both are somewhat true as there has probably been a chowder of some sort brewing in the pots of seafaring people all over the world throughout history.
     And there is definitely no agreement on what is the best or correct way to prepare chowder. Sometimes there is vehement disagreement. In 1939 a bill was introduced in Maine to outlaw the addition of tomatoes to chowder. Each region of New England, and points beyond, have their own versions, influenced by the ethnicity of the people who settled those regions. The chowder pot is an excellent metaphor for the melting pot.
     They did all start out in the same basic way. A pot of water stewed into as a tasty a broth as providence would allow with salty gifts from the sea. To that was added, in layers, hardtack (or sea biscuit), a flour and water cracker that could be stored somewhat safely for months. If possible onion fried in or with pork fat was added.  Onion was the only acceptable vegetable until rather recently.
     In New Hampshire the availability of dairy products allowed the addition of milk, cream and butter, and eventually hardtack was replaced with potato. For a century or two no one messed with that basic recipe, but culinary adventurousness and global influence have changed all of that and today’s chowders vary widely from your basic baby clam to saffron scallop chowder. There is not even agreement about if clams or quahogs are best.
     Another change is that the fancier the recipe has become the less often we eat it. Chowder used to be a staple of the local diet, both on land and sea. Now it is more likely to be a treat, and with the addition of bacon, butter and cream in copious quantities that is probably just as well. Some of you will remember establishments like Clarence’s Chowder House on Market Street as being favorites for a hearty supper. You can still get a cup of chowder at most local eateries, but it is likely to be an appetizer, and not what you accept as a meal in itself. We are more likely to do so when we make our own, and that isn’t hard to do. Any local fish monger will advise what’s best for chowder today, and may have a pot simmering in the shop. If you are away you can order The Old Salt’s award winning chowder online.
   The overall winner this year was The River House Restaurant on Bow Street, a chowder I have enjoyed. The manager attributes their three year reign to the talent of Chef Gerry Walsh, explaining it takes years of perfecting the right blend of herbs and seafood constructed in a particular order for the proper blend of flavors.                                      
     When making your own chowder ignore any claims that say it is alright to use clams from a can. Whatever seafood is your preference it should be fresh. Clams should be steamed a bit, maybe potatoes too. Onions should be sautéed with garlic, celery and bacon. Milk or cream should be scalded but not boiled so it is always the last addition. I love to add as many fresh herbs as I can lay my hands on and use sherry or wine. Broth should be very thick, but never lumpy like you would get from a can. Chowder should be served warm, not hot, with an artisan bread and a chardonnay or pale ale. I like to make chowder the day after a back yard clam bake using all of the leftovers in the pot which seems to simplify things while being practical and delicious. Those are my rules. What are yours?
     “Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes. The area before the house was paved with clam-shells.”
      ~ Both quotes from Herman Melville’s 1851 Moby Dick.

2011 Chowder Festival Winners
Judges choice             Peoples choice
1st        The Kitchen                The River House
2nd        The River House         Captain Hutch’s
3rd        Jumpin’ Jay’s              Bob’s Clam Hut

     This is superb in its simplicity. Called stew instead of chowder because you mustn’t add vegetables, it really is a chowder. The important distinction regarding chowder is quick cooking time. Soups and stews can be left to simmer for a long time which will ruin any seafood.

Old Fashioned Oyster Stew
2 pints raw shucked local oysters with their liquor
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups milk or half and half
1 shake
Tabasco sauce
salt, pepper, and paprika , handful of minced shallots
minced parsley, sliced chives, or sliced green onions
     Be careful to avoid overcooking oysters, which causes them to become tough. Drain the oysters, reserving their liquor. In a large heavy pan over medium heat, melt butter. Sauté shallots. Add oysters and simmer very gently for about 2 to 4 minutes. While the oysters are simmering, in a separate saucepan over low heat, slowly heat the milk/cream, and oyster liquor (do not boil). When the oysters are cooked, slowly add the hot milk mixture to the oysters, stirring gently. Season to taste. Remove from heat. Serve in warm bowls and garnish with greens and herbed oyster crackers.
Herbed Oyster Crackers
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups oyster crackers
     Toss together and toast on a cookie sheet at 350 for ten minutes.