Saturday, September 20, 2008

Writing, rugs and romance

Hi, Y'all. I can't believe it has been over three weeks since I posted. No, I am not dead.

So. the last post was all about revising my thesis novel. OY! Such a LOT of work. However--- Cue drum roll-- I FINISHED my revision. I am so proud of myself. I cut 4000 words, split a chapter in two and changed tenses all over the place. I can honestly say I am happy with how things came out. Hey, I have to LOVE it before any one else does, and I LOVE it. I only wish I had been able to do it back in June before I turned it in as my thesis. SIGH.

Now to sell the story to someone who loves 16th Century Florence. (Is anyone out there?)

I have also started re-editing my second novel and when that is done, I will probably send THAT out too. Then I finish the book I started and put aside for school.So many novels, so little time.

Back in March, my husband and I bought wall-to-wall carpet for the house. The old stuff came with the house and we have been here for 15 years, so you can do the math. It needed to be replaced. So it came in in April, and has been residing in the carpet warehouse somewhere here on Long Island.

At the same time we have been working on our kitchen. I did minimal work but my husband has been killing himself on this. However, it is not finished. We still must do trim, some wainscoting, etc. But it looks nice and will be done SOON.

Of course, TODAY we had to pull up the carpet. It is being delivered next week. So we started working at 7:30am. I left for my LIRW meeting at 11:10am ( see below) and when I got home at 5:30pm, poor Paul (darling husband) was still pulling carpet off the stairs. I felt so guilty. :-(

Did you know the padding for wall-to-wall is held by staples? HUNDREDS of Staples? The Industrial-size staples that you get in Home Depot? Yup. And when you replace your carpet you have to pull them all up? What fun.

On the other hand, I know now why people go postal. They live in homes that are all torn up with construction and nothing is in the correct place.

We will work on it tomorrow. It will be better. It has to be better.

Today I went to a LIRW meeting in East Northport, NY. Nice Library, but who set up the parking lot? There is only a side-street entrance. If you are not familar with the town or the library, you have to ask a resident to drop a trail of breadcrumbs for you to find the library parking lot.

The guest speakers were members of LIPI (Long Island Paranormal Investigators) They gave a great program and frankly some great fodder for stories. Some of the stuff was really creepy. But what do you expect?

I also volunteered to be the Member-at-Large for the next year. I hope that does not mean I have to gain back the 15 pounds I just lost. Maybe I will ask them to change the title to "Member-at-Not-As-Large-as-Before".

I hope to get back to this blogging thing on a more regular basis. Not that anyone reads it but me. :-)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thesis Redux

I have been going over my thesis novel, The General's Son. Again. For the elevendyhundreth time.

Now, mind you, as a thesis, it did its job. I am now the proud recepient of a Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, my long ago undergraduate alma mater.

I have just printed the entire thing out and I am going over the entire story page-by-page.
You see, I have been away from the story for two months and it is giving me a whole new perspective. Phrases have been changed, typos found, etc. I was so close to it after looking at it for three years, that I could not see the tree OR the forest. All I saw was the need to get the thing done on time with the recommended corrections.

So now I am doing this for ME.

The next project will be Book Two of the series . I want to have all the changed to the first two books done before I go to Europe in November. If there are corrections after that it will vecause I found new information while visiting Florence.

I am writing a third book, only marginally related to the first two. I want to have that done by the spring.

Wish me luck.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Batman!

That is the color of my kitchen walls. Actually it is a pretty color-- a shade of yellow chosen by the National Trust for their Historic homes. However, I am not sure it is right for my new kitchen. Hmmm... will Paul want to murder me if I ask him to change it? I would not blame him if he did.

He finished the floor in the pantry this weekend. And primed and painted the kitchen, spackled, and cut some wood for trim. My husband is awesome.

Me? I repainted the mesh lid for our outdoor fireplace and weeded the front yard. I have been so bad this year about yard work. Well you don't get a Master's Degree every year either!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Writing Contests--OR-- I paid for this?

Conventional wisdom for writers says a new writer should enter contests in order to get unprejudiced feedback for your manuscript. That is, an opinion of someone who is not a friend relative or your regular critique partner who might have an emotional investment in your work. In other words, someone who does not want to hurt your feelings. Or better yet, someone who doesn't know you and doesn't CARE if they hurt your feelings.

OK, so conventional wisdom can be wrong. Maybe it is a mistake to send a section of your ms. to a contest. After all, it is just part of the fabulous great American novel that you have been slaving over for the last 3 or 5 or 15 years. Who can make a judgement based on a sliver of your masterful tome?

Contest judges, that is who.

I have entered five contests in the past few months. Some are sponsored by RWA chapters, some are not. The ms. I have been submitting is a "Historical Fiction with Romantic Elements" aka: "Mainstream".

Now, you don't have to be a historian (a "history geek" as one of my student's recently called me) to enjoy a historical novel. Think The Other Boleyn Girl, Outlander, Emilie's Voice, or any of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. They are all popular books, most, if not all, have graced the NYT or USA Today bestseller lists.

I have received responses from three of the five contests. The critiques are amazingly varied. The problem I am seeing is that sometimes the judges just do not "get" your story.

Here is a comment that really sent me into a tailspin of despair-- not over the critique on my ms., but over the lack of background the woman had in history.

She wrote: My biggest problem is the main characters ages. I don’t think that any girl at age thirteen should be worrying about being married to an old wrinkled man. I would like it better if they were older. Even if this is for young adults, I think an older girl would be better suited. Other that that, it was well written. But I’m afraid I would see our heroine was 13 and I would read any further.

Gotta love it! Obviously she has never read her history-- or even Shakespeare. Juliet was 13 and was being betrothed to a Count who was much older than her. OY! And I am writing abour a REAL person using real ages, dates and settings.

Anyway the comments from the various judges from the various contests range from the fabulous (obviously discerning readers) and to a few others who have no clue about anything having to do with the past.


Well, I did get some great comments. I choose to ignore the ones who did not understand the premise or the period.

Hazard yet forward.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Submission -- in every sense

Being a writer is an interesting job, even if you only do it part time. It allows you to spill your guts on a page and then offer it up to the pantheon of writing gods and goddesses (editors and agents) and hope they respond, granting your fondest wish-- that is, to be a published writer.

For the last year I have been studying the publishing industry-- aka: Mount Olympus-- where the aforementioned deities reside. I have been submitting my work, in hopes they feel it is good enough to 1) read, 2) represent and 3) publish. So far, I have some people to read my work, but no luck with the later two. I keep hoping. And revising. And writing more.

Having two completed manuscripts and part of a third, plus a MA in creative writing gives me a legitimacy that might not be possessed by others. However, all the degrees and manuscripts in the universe are no guarantee. This is a business. Like any other business it comes down to the bottom line. The bottom line is the bottom line.

In my vast experience as a writer (* insert smiley face here *) I have noticed one thing in particular. When I realized this, I figured I had made a mistake, but last night my crit partner, Rich, made the same observation. So, there are two of us now. Be forewarned.

The observation is:
No matter what an agent's website or profile says, they are not necessarily looking for all the genres they list.

A HA! Eureka! A major discovery. I have actually made an Excel spreadsheet of agents and editors looking for historical fiction and romance. Guess what? A lot of people may SAY they are looking for these on Agent Query or Publishers Marketplace, but they are not. Which is not to say these agents are evil or bad, they just don't feel comfortable with these genres, or don't have contacts or whatever. Or maybe they are "full up" in the genre. Or their boss is changing the agency's focus. How do I know this? I have a number of rejection letters saying so.

It would be nice if the information would be updated periodically, but who can say it is not. Maybe they don't want to miss the next Harry Potter or The Other Boleyn Girl. It would make it easier on us writers to be able to send it to exactly the right person, but perhaps someone who would not usually take your genre LOVES your manuscript and signs you on the spot.
It works both ways.

And so now I return to my altar to sacrifice to the publishing deities once again... and hope someone will look kindly upon my submissive stance and my offering, er, manuscript.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thelma and Louise do the Pennsic War

I am finally home from the Pennsic War. For those of you not involved in the SCA (Society for Creative anachronism) this is the annual event where you are given the opportunity to live in a field in Pennsylvania in the middle of August, dress up in funny clothes, and live with 12,000 of your closest friends. No A/C, with no electricity, a long walk to the porta castles (porta johns) and then freeze in the solar showers, meet bugs in your bedding and eat in the "foodcourt" rather than cook.

This is called fun. Really.

I have been doing this for the last 20 years. OK-- I missed 2 years. Some people never learn.

So this year, because my darling husband could not get off from his job, I went to Pennsic with my friend Sheila. Think: "Thelma and Louise do the Pennsic War."

We drove from my house on Long Island to the site in Slippery Rock, PA. on Saturday. It takes 8 hours. She kept me awake and we got there in one piece. The best part of this Pennsic was staying at a local Comfort Inn. We had A/C, hot showers, electric lights and no bugs. Best time I have had at Pennsic in 20 years. Ah, comfort.

The down side of being a "daytripper" at Pennsic (aka: not camping) is the parking. It gives new meaning to the word hike. From the center of the camp it has to be a mile and a half to the parking lot. From there it is anyone's guess where you can find a parking space.

On the first day, Sunday, we left the car in our traditional campsite, and walked to our meetings. We left site for a while and came back, but it was no big deal. They would start towing cars the next day.

On the second day, Monday, we parked in our Row 2 of the parking lot only to spot the sign declaring we were in the handicapped parking. So we moved the car. To Row 21 and parked. People looked like ants from where we were sitting and the car was perched at a 45 degree angle. I set the parking break and we headed out. Or down, since we were parked almost at the crest of the hill.

We visited friends, I gave my class on Cosimo and Eleonora and generally had a nice time. I even picked up my new Coronet. (WOW-- gorgeous!) It was a comedy of errors getting the equipment for my class (projector, screen and laptop-- lets hear it for PowerPoint) to the site and safe but we did it. The class was successful and I think people enjoyed it.

So there we were, after the class, with the equipment locked in a safe place so we wouldn't have to lug the stuff up the hill. In the dark. Trying to find the road UP the hill. Two idiots-- with 40 years (combined) of going to Pennsic-- not able to get up the hill to find the car. The big light in the parking lot showed us the direction, but not the way. (Walk toward the light.) Finally we asked for directions, found the road and we trudged up the hill.

Remember the car was at a 45 degree angle? It still was. But in the daylight it is easier to navigate . Backing up, in the pitch dark, and trying to avoid big trucks parked right behind the car was more of a challenge. So Shelia got out and directed. I would still be there if not for her. I thought I would hit the car in back of me, but more to the point I was afraid I would hit the car in front of me, thereby setting off a chain reaction and landing on top or a pile of twisted metal and glass which would be every car parked in front of me.

The next day we parked in Row 28, but it was it the crest of the hill and flat. We did not care about walking the extra distance. I made a vow: daytripping= leaving site in the daylight.

The following day, Tuesday, was the Arts and Sciences Display. I started that 11 years ago at the behest of the Pennsic autocrat (person in charge of the event) Duchess Sedalia MacNair. It grew from 35 exhibits to about 200. It is an opportunity for SCA artisans to show their work without the competition that goes into a contest with prizes or points. It is amazing what people do-- everything from painting to calligraphy to beadwork. There was even a medieval lathe working away in the corner. Amazing work!

On Wednesday we finally left Pennsic behind until next year. We will probably camp for 2 weeks with our husbands.

Some people never learn.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Friday, the 4th of July swa us 00 and a gazillion more people in NYC. After what seems to be years of waiting, we saw Spamalot. I cannot remember ever laughing so hard. Of course, it helps that Paul (Beloved Husband) and I are both Monty Python fans. But that maters not, since it was a GREAT show.

There was not a bad moment in the show. Someone in the audience thought the actors were lip- sinking, but the couple of seconds that the mic system failed showed the actors were doing their own singing. (From the time I trod the board-- as a mere infant-- I knew microphones are your friends.)

The costumes, the set-- hell, even the LIGHTing-- were perfect. Steven Collins ( I've had a crush on him since he went into the ether with that bald Indian woman in Star Trek: the Motion Picture ) made a fab King Arthur. All the other actors were just as good. The chorus consisted of star-caliber work-- people played so many parts, that everyone had a chance to shine.

I still can't figure how they did the Black Knight, the lead in Knights who say Ni and the quick change for the Lady of the Lake into her white gown.

Advice from a cynical old theatre person... run, do not walk, to see Spamalot. It makes you wish the show never ends.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Email Hell

Just for starters, I have run an Norton live update and a virus scan before sending this out. This is a follow-up post from my post this morning.

SIGH. Remember how I was so proud that I used used all of yesterday to get in my requested submissions?

Well, I got a note from an agent first thing this morning that she had gotten my email submission-- 175 times.
I sent her a note that I was sorry and would look into it.

Then I called Cablevision, my provider, and talked to them. They were not much help. But then what can they do?

THEN I got another email from the agent saying "Please stop sending the email." (Is she serious? As if I would shoot myself in the foot that way!) So, the upshot of the story is that I now get the bouncebacks from her mailbox. She blocked me from more emails.

Do you think this means I've been rejected? {:-P

Submission hell

I seem to have a penchant for having odd things happen with agents. Point of fact-- see my June 14th blog about my drive with FinePrint agent Janet Reid.

I spent all day yesterday catching up with requested submissions.

This morning I got an email from one of the agents saying my submission had been received--
175 times.

Nothing like having a submission noticed right away by an agent. (SIGH.)

I wonder if this is karma-- like I burned books in a past life and this is my payback.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A writer's life

I love to write. Yup. You heard it here first. But it seems that much of my time is spent trying to be a writer.

What does that mean? Crafting the perfect query letter-- I have a basic format, but each is a bit different. Kind of like doing alterations on a garment. (Ever notice how most of my writing ties into sewing in some way? Weird.) After the query comes the submission. Getting it into the correct format. Again there is a basic format, but every agent and every editor has her/his own specs. The printing-- for those who want hard copies-- formatted as specified, etc. Yowza.

You all know what I mean.

I have spent all day today doing requested submissions. (That makes me a professional.)

When that is done, you have to do "real" writing. Hey, that is the reason I got the Masters from Seton Hill--note the shameless plug for the Writing Popular Fiction program-- I want to be a real writer.

Tomorrow is the first day of my "real" writing career. I will get back to my third novel about 16th Century Italy. (Well, it is my 4th novel if you count the Star Trek novel I completed in 1978.) It is a story that needs to be told.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I am a Graduate!

Today I graduated from Seton Hill College/ University for the second time. This time I received an MA in Writing Popular Fiction.

Thanks once again to Lee McClain and Al Wendland, Barbara Miller and Leslie Davis Guccione, Tim Esaias and Mike Arnzen, Rich Snyder, Emilie Bishop, Jennifer Hoffman, Aubrey Curry and Stephanie Splater for all the help, input and love as teachers, mentors and crit partners. And to all my friends, grads and fellow students, my gratitude.

Special thanks to my wonderful husband Paul for hauling himself to Greensburg PA for this big event in my life.

Tomorrow we will return to life as we know it.

The next day I begin to write for real.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Almost a graduate

Today I had my next- to -the-last-module in the SHU-WPF MA program. Great work from
Tracy Wilson-Burnes, Jen Stuttle and Aubrey Curry! How coolis it to watch one another develop as writers. Thanks for a great class Barb Miller. You are a mentor and teacher par-excellence.

We heard Walter Sorrell speak-- once in class, once in a public lecture. Informative.

Had dinner with my lovely-and-wonderful husband Paul and my lovely-and -wonderful crit partner Rich Snyder.

Dinner tomorrow with the Tuesday girls- Meg, Sharon and Diane.

More later-- too tired to think.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Teaching for Writers

There is an awful lot of things to learn at the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction residencies. Not only do you learn from the mentors at the core and elective modules, but underclassmen/ women/ people learn from the graduating seniors.

It was my turn to teach this morning.

I had the pleasure to follow fellow seniors Rich Snyder (my current and forever critique partner) and Aubrey Curry ( my first critique partner) in their teaching modules. The class was overseen by Dr. Al Wendland, who will be taking over the program in the coming term.

I Rich Snyder is a physician as well as a writer. His "Anatomy of an Injury" (Trauma) lecture was brilliant. This man is so self-effacing, you would never know he is an excellent public speaker. What a great class!

Aubrey taught about getting inspiration from the photos on I-Stock was very informative. i had never heard of the site and wow, you can get really great photos.

My lecture was about Research for Writers (Backstory). I had fun tying the concepts in with my thesis novel THE GENERAL'S SON. I can talk for hours on the subject of Cosimo de Medici and his wife Eleonora de Toledo. It was a lucky thing that we were alotted only 50 minutes.

I also took a module on the different types of romance novels (series vs. single title) from SHU? WPF grad Shelley Bates. Her color handouts alone are worth the price of the class! Organized, informative and fun. Have I mentioned in color? And that is just the handout. Great class, Shelley!

I checked my email while in the library. Wendy Lynn, The Goddess of the WPF program kept joking about me just waiting around for a meeting with my mentor. (Graduating seniors don't have them.) However, I DID turn in my thesis. I am doing the happy dance. THE GENERAL'S SON will see print -- at least in the library.

I should run through it one more time for typos. Then again, maybe not.

Hung out with the Tuesday Girls. They are lovely, funny and smart. Of course they are paying me big bucks for me to write this! Love you guys!

More tomorrow after Maria V. Snyder's class. I have a boatload of things to bring to her class. More about that tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Thesis reading

Tonight I gave my thesis reading/ defense at Seton Hill University as one of the requirements for obtaining my Master of Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. My thesis novel, THE GENERAL'S SON, about the 16th Century Medici family seemed well received. I passed.

The music from the wedding of Cosimo de Medici and Eleonora de Toledo played as a Powerpoint slide show flashed on the screen. I displayed one of my 16th Century gowns-- a recreation of Eleonora's gown from the Bronzino portrait of Eleonora with her son Giovanni.

Leslie Davis Guccione, my first reader and thesis mentor -- how does this woman look flawless after a drive from Boston?-- introduced me. My original mentor, Barbara Miller, wore the Cosimo de Medici tee shirt that I gave her for Christmas. I was thrilled when Lee McClain, the director of our WPF program, stayed for my whole thesis presentation. She is a very busy lady and she could have been anywhere else.

Very cool. Of course I did not relax until started talking. Then it was all down hill. You couldn't shut me up. It was wonderful that my critique partners Rich Snyder, Jennifer Hoffmann and Emilie Bishop were there. And the Tuesday girls and Annie Madison.. And Shelley Bates and Karen Williams. Who have I missed?

I raffled off two small wooden boxes-- very Renaissance-ish-- as prizes. Also gave away glittery necklaces to every audience member. Hey, the Medici were all about jewels.

It was a great, but draining experience.

Tomorrow I do a teaching module on Researching for Novelists/ how to create a back story.

Graduation is on Sunday afternoon. I will be receiving my second diploma from Seton Hill. It has been a wonderful experience. I wish I could do it again!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

School's out for summer!

I am doin' the happy dance. I just had my final faculty meeting for the term and I am out for almost a month. This has been a trying Quarter and I am SO done. Toasted lightly on both sides.

Of course, during that month, I am driving to Pittsburgh (actually Greensburg) for the final Residency for my MA in Writing Popular Fiction at Seton Hill University. Of course I have tons of prep work to do before I depart, but I am a happy woman.

Now on to my next big challenge.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The kitchen-- Or: Why Nothing is Ever Simple

April 27, 2008: Welcome to my little corner of the Universe. I have decided blogging is an idea who's time has come.
We began kitchen renovations on Wednesday of this week. I need to vent. Hey, why not? Our house was built in 1931. Well before we bought it, there was a fire. Did we know there was a fire? No. But it was a cute house in our price range and we bought it. We discovered a lot of smoke damage after we bought it-- when I was cleaning. Knowing there was a fire probably would not have changed our opinion of the house, but since we have been there for 15 years, the point is moot. So-- on to the story of the kitchen. On Wednesday, April 23rd, a couple of guys showed up with a truck to gut the kitchen. I KNEW it would be a mess because I have been through a kitchen demolition before when I was a lot younger. We also did the bathroom here a few years ago. I have discovered through this process that patience does not increase with a person's age.So "Juan One-Thumb" and his pal show up to do the kitchen. I ask Juan what happened to his thumb. He says he lost it in Mexico. I take this as a bad sign. Anyway, I have never seen-- or actually heard -- two guys work as hard as they did. They pulled down the walls of our kitchen (my husband had traken down the cabinets and moved the appliances) and then the two kitchens beneath it. Steel beams, fake walls, plaster with chicken-wire support, the worst of the worst. And the fake 1970s brick facing on the walls. Oh yes, did I mention there was a fire in the house ? Everything had the most interesting pattern from the smoke damage. Then my husband (the long-suffering and ever-loving Paul) looked at what I thought was some lathe from the crawl space above the kitchen. NOPE. It was the underside of the old ROOF. Not the outside roof, but a roof the was COVERED OVER after the fire. So, we have been living with 5 layers of asbsetos shingles within the kitchen ceiling. Lucky that neither of us have asthma.Needless to say, Paul took it all down. He looked like an alien covered with dirt and grit when he was done. All this time I have been trying to clean up. I have been semi-successful, but most of the time I spend typing to avoid dealing with the unpleasentness.

Have I mentioned that I am a writer? No? More about that another time. I'll keep you all posted.We are off to dine with friends who did cabinet refacing for their renovation. We can commiserate over dinner. I hear a bowl of pasta calling my name.
9:23 PM

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Death Race 5000-- or a funny thing happened on the way to the LIRW luncheon

I attended the Long Island Romance Writer's Luncheon on Friday, June 13. The date should have tipped me off, though I do not have triskadecaphobia. Since I am a member of the LIRW, I volunteered to pick up agents and editors at the Long Island Rail Road station in my minivan.

Confession time. I used to travel up and down Route 106/ 107 past the Hicksville station quite a bit in my younger days-- oh, about 20 years ago. However, things change. Roads get busier. And when the police and 20 buses are parked in front of said station, it make it hard to drive into a place. So, I took a tour of Hicksville and tried to find a legal way in to the parking lot. I was thinking of riding over the curb at one point, but opted not to do so. It would have wrecked the paint job of my undercarriage-- and lord knows I need a nice undercarriage at my age.

Arriving in the parking lot, and saw my fellow LIRW members standing around their cars (Why else would a bunch of romance writers be standing in a station parking lot, if not to pick up agents and editors from the train?) The train arrived late-- this is after all the LIRR-- and we started off to the Milleridge Inn. (Have I mentioned the luncheon was being held in the Carriage House-- the same place my husband and I had our wedding reception? )

Have I mantioned the traffic?

So, I have Janet Reid and Joanna Stampfel from Fineprint Literary Agency in my car. We are chattering and laughing. Suddenly, the light changes and Janet makes a strange strangling noise-- the kind of noise that a person makes when she sees her life flash before her eyes.

The light changes to red, and we stop dead in the midst of oncoming traffic.

Oh good. I have almost killed two literary agents. Nice job!

Luckily, the average driver in Long Island has a pretty good handle on dealing with stupidity and they gave us a wide berth, opting neither for vehicular homicide nor vehicular damage.

We got passed the intersection with no bloodshed and almost got to the Milleridge Inn-- except I almost killed them again, when the lane turned in to an exit ramp. Now, I am batting a thousand and know my manuscript will never grace the desks at Fineprint in my lifetime, or any other. Sigh. Just get out of the car and get inside the restaurant, I thought.

We laughed about the experience and chatted about the historical clothing I make. Whew! Maybe Janet and Joanna will forget about my driving ability.

The luncheon was a great experience-- the food was good and the company excellent. For some reason Joanna sat next to me-- probably she figured she was safe because we were not in a car.

So during the remarks from the agents and editors, Janet "outed" me and my driving skill. Luckily she was laughing. She also asked to see my manuscript, as did Joanna.

Now my LIRW luncheon experience all this was a real lesson for me-- especially when both Janet and Joanna were willing to offer me advice, even after I almost killed them twice.

I now have an active blog with pictures of historical costumes I have made. (Thanks, Janet!) Who knew this legitimized me as a writer? I found out my interest in the Sixteenth Century and all the research I have done on the Medici family go hand-in- hand with my costuming skills. (But then again, how many writers can say they have Renaissance clothing in their closets?)

All this works together to make me a better writer. Just like building a garment, writing needs structure, support and "underpinnings" to make the story come together. Doing the costuming makes me understand the everyday experiences of a person in the period-- how the clothes felt, how people walked, moved and even ate (or didn't, as the case may be).

So the LIRW luncheon was an experience I will remember for a long time. I even won a doorprize and I rarely win anything.

Driving Janet and Joanna was one of the luckiest things I have ever done. And I am sure they will remember our Death Race 5000 experience for quite a while! Thanks, Ladies.

How does a Costume Designer become a Writer?

After training as a theatrical costume designer at Seton Hill College, and spending six years fun-filled and exhausting years in professional theater I decided I needed a steady paycheck. Eating was never much of an option for me and the landlord got cranky if I failed to come up with the rent on a monthly basis.

I decided to head back to school for Interior Design. Even though I had a BA and an MA in Costume Design and History, with professional credits in opera and various other theatre productions, I had never had a full-time "real" job. I had absolutely no confidence in myself. I knew I needed to face the "real world." I enjoyed ID, and had "done" a couple of houses.

I spotted an ad in a day-old issue of Newsday, our local newspaper. "Swimwear Designer Wanted. Experience Desired but Not Necessary." I knew less than nothing about swimsuits, but I took a chance. After all, I had nothing to lose but my pride.

The interview was arranged, and after digging myself out of a snowdrift-filled driveway, I made it to the interview. I felt like my life was on the line. The man who interviewed me was very nice and we shook hands and parted company.

I did not get the job. Oh, well, I thought. So what. I am still going to school.

About two months later, I got a phone call. Would you like the swimwear job? The person who had been hired did not work out and the job was mine if I wanted it.

Oh, boy! What do I do NOW? I was getting great grades in school, and really liked ID. If I quit, I'd be in debt up to my eyebrows and the student loans would come due before I could blink. Plus, there was no guarantee I would succeed as a swimwear designer.

I opted to take the job.

In the next 24 years I designing every type and variation of swimwear known to man-- and woman. I received awards as well as kudos from my industry peers and associates. I also started and ran the swimwear department for a major US manufacturer.

However, all good things come to an end. In December 2003, after almost 25 years as a swimwear designer, my job went off-shore.

It was a bad year for the US textile and garment industry. Many owners sought to make a financial killing
for themselves by sending their manufacturing to the cheap-labor plants in Asia. Unfortunately, that arrogance was rewarded with a failure. The company for which I'd worked went out of business in 2007.

When I lost my job, I thought panic would set in. Or tears. It was odd because I did neither. Maybe because I had faced being jobless already, I just made an effort to find something new.

I landed a one-day-a-week teaching job in the brand new Fashion Design Department of the Art Institute of New York City. I LOVED teaching. I felt as if I was giving back to the next generation of designers.

Through a good friend I made connections and I was offered a job as a patternmaker a couple of weeks later. I thought it might be a good fit. They were even willing to let me teach one day and work the balance of the week for them. It seemed like a wonderful opportunity.

But I kept thinking: What happens if the new company goes off-shore in five years? Then what? Do I look for another design or patternmaking position?

I hesitated about committing to the patternmaking job. The day I was to give my answer, an offer to be a full-time instructor at AI-NYC was presented.

I said "yes" to the teaching position and have not looked back.

I miss the excitement of the garment center with its action and creativity, but I have turned my life toward a different goal. The Art Institute of New York City has been a home for me, giving me the opportunity to teach, to learn, to grow and to share with my collegues and my students.

With free time available because I was not required to be at a job five days a week, I began to write historical fiction. The Writer's Voice Workshops at our local YMCA gave me (and later my husband, as well) the opportunity to get feedback on what I'd written.

I loved the workshops and bought everything I could on writing instruction. I wanted more. I wanted classes. So I started to hunt for a graduate program.

What is ironic is, while surfing the Web ond day for writing programs, I stumbled upon a familiar name. Seton Hill.
My alma mater had become a University, and had a graduate program called Writing Popular Fiction.

After submitting my application, I was accepted. In June 2008 I will be graduating with my MA in Writing Popular Fiction. My Thesis novel is The General's Son. The second novel of The Medici Prince duology, The Emperor of Florence, was also written during my tenure at Seton Hill. A third novel, The Illustrious Woman, about artist Sofonisba Anguissola, is in work.

I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I am living my dream of teaching and writing.

And THAT is how a Costume designer transforms into a writer.

Comments on my Historical Clothing Collection

The pictures here are from my collection of recreation of historical clothing, as exhibited in January 2008 at the Gallery at the Art Institute of New York City, where I teach college-level courses in Fashion History as well as other classes on the fashion industry.

Members of the Society for Creative Anachronism are required to wear an "attempt" at period clothing to events. I am a twenty-year member of the Society. Some of us do a lot of research in this area. Since I have been sewing since I was 12, and have a deep love for the history and technical aspects of clothing, the SCA has been a wonderful outlet for my creativity.

Here are some of the garments I have made. Most of them are based on portraits from the Sixteenth Century. I especially love the garments of Florence and England. My favorite fashion icons of the period are Eleonora de Toledo, Duchess of Florence and Queen Elizabeth I of England.

More about this in a later post.

Historical clothing redux

Recreations of Historical Clothing

More Historical Clothing