Posted by: MaraPurl | February 21, 2020

Gift Books Across the Sea

Box of books for blog upside downIt was a day off from teaching on the Publishing at Sea Cruise, and my husband and I were looking forward to our first visit to St. Maarten—Sint Maarten, as the Dutch side of this Caribbean island is called. Rain visited the island that day, the only time the skies were clouded during our voyage. So, clad in our rain jackets, we disembarked and walked into a charming village that looked like a European enclave rain-slicked for the tourists.

High-end jewelry shops lined the walkways, and we stepped inside first, to get away from the increasingly heavy downpour, and then to marvel at the sparklers on display. Clearly, one could do serious damage to a budget in these parts, and we turned that first foray into a museum stop rather than considering it as part of a shopping spree.

At a different store, we did fall in love with Larimar—the only gem mined in the Caribbean and, though not classified as a precious stone, it will forever be precious to me, because my husband did buy me something I’ll always treasure. Feeling blessed, happy, and definitely done with purchases, we were en route back to our ship, when we stopped into Pandora. Not only am I a third-generation charm braceleter, I’ve even designed some Pandora-style charms to coordinate with my novels, so I always take a look to see what this company may have added to their designs.

On this day, however, I found something more interesting than charms. I began chatting with a lovely young woman who worked there. When she asked about my visit to the island and I explained I was an author teaching on board, her eyes lit up. “Books,” she said. “I love books!”

Having found a kindred spirit, I inquired further. Did she enjoy reading ebooks or print books? Did she have a favorite genre? She answered, and then shared an astonishing fact. “I collected one thousand and one books,” she declared.

Thrilled and impressed, I asked more about her impressive personal library. “Well, I had my 1,001 books until the hurricane, that is.”

Stunned, I asked disbelievingly, “They’re all gone? Every single one?”

“Yes,” she said, the note of resignation unmistakable.

I paused for a moment and then said, “Could you give me your mailing address?”

She frowned in confusion.

“I can’t send you a thousand books,” I said. “But I can send you some.”

Though she probably didn’t believe what I’d said, she politely wrote down an address to which I could send a package. We left the store with her information tucked safely into my pocket. When we arrived home from the cruise and unpacked, I gathered a copy each of my own books. Then my husband and I went through our own library and chose about 30 more titles we could part with, a wide selection of genres, including some from my mentor Louis L’Amour. Then a neighbor, inspired by our tale, added a few from her collection.

The box was heavy, carefully packed to maximize every square inch. It cost a hefty chunk of change to ship. But with absolutely glee, I signed the paperwork, and included a note in the box, sending my best, and requesting that she get in touch when she received the package so I knew it’d arrived safely.

A few days later, I received an international call from an unrecognized number. No, it wasn’t my new friend. It was a FedEx employee saying there was a problem with the address, and asking whether I had another. I don’t, I said, but I know where she works. Before I let the FedEx woman ring off, I asked whether I could tell her about the package. I relayed the story briefly and there was a moment of silence. “I’ll follow this up,” she said, her beautiful lilting accent as melodious as a song.

It was the following day when I received an email from my friend. She gushed with gratitude over receiving the bountiful box of books. I felt such gratitude myself, along with relief that the gift had arrived, and a certainty that the FedEx employee had gone out of her way to ensure its safe delivery.

Books have always been special to me, and they’re an important part of my life. I love sharing them, helping others to write them, and writing them myself. But rarely have I had an opportunity like this to simply pay it forward.

There’s a person, now, whose love of books inspired me, and who I’ve been able to encourage in turn with a simple gesture. She had collected books to enjoy and to share. Who knows, now, how far and wide her own sharing will reach? I know I touched her heart, and she touched mine.

Posted by: MaraPurl | December 31, 2019

Untangling Our Strings

00001_p_r15ambjl6720203_r“Strings attached” usually has a negative connotation. The good news is, yes, you’re receiving a gift. The bad news is, no, it’s not exactly free, because it comes with “strings”, or conditions. You can borrow the car is you don’t drive over 55 miles per hour; you can stay rent free if you do all the yard work; you get the idea.

Sometimes, though, strings are the very things that make the magic happen. Such is the case with marionettes. Unless they had strings, they’d just be immobile dolls. With strings, they seem to move as if by magic.

I was introduced to this concept at a very young age. We all believed in Santa at our house, and he appeared without fail after my sister and I reluctantly went to bed on Christmas Eve. Of course, we bounded out of bed at the crack of dawn Christmas morning, raced down the hall in our feet pajamas, and discovered a glowing tree festooned with favorite ornaments and replete with presents crowding its skirts.

But one Christmas, there was more. That morning we couldn’t seem to get our bedroom door open, and through it, the voice of our dad was heard to say that he and Mom had been given a couple of extra jobs by Santa and that we’d be let out soon. I don’t think we totally destroyed the springs on our twin mattresses as we bounced on them for the next hour. Finally, we exploded out the finally-opened door and when we arrived at the living room, beside the tree stood a full-fledged puppet theatre.

Oh, the squeals of delight and discovery, as we thundered up the hidden steps to find our beloved marionettes each had a special place to “hang out” backstage! Oh the scripts I wrote every day to be performed every evening. Oh the musicals I wrote and performed, with my sister’s able assistance, every weekend. Our theatre was an endless source of joy, and no doubt helped two little siblings to grow into professional performers, producers, and writers.

Eventually, these lovely puppets were packed away and journeyed (as did My Box of Dollies) back to America. Years later, when my nephew was a tot, Mom and I dragged out the puppet box from her storage room. Always eager for a theatre project, Mom and Dad decided to resurrect a simpler version of the astonishing and amazing puppet theatre they had built for my sister and me when we were tots. This time, the theatre would be far more modest, but it would serve as the centerpiece of a Christmas puppet show and party for their grandson and the grandkids and children of neighbors and friends.

Mom and I organized a puppet spa where our clients got their faces washed and their clothes pressed. Pere (a real engineer) reopened the doll hospital where he and my husband (a real doctor) performed surgeries and repairs, as needed. The rejuvenated and restored puppets then took their places backstage, awaiting such time as the curtain would rise on their upcoming performance.

Our puppet cast members, who reminded me they are actually marionettes, were having their own backstage dramas, not least the butterflies in their wooden tummies at having to memorize lines again after such a long hiatus in their tea box. Mom (a real actress and costumer) reassured our cast who, when they looked in the backstage mirrors, were greatly reassured by her deft techniques.

The playwright (myself, a real writer) prepared the scripts and Pere (a real director) did the blocking and gave our stringed actors just the coaching they needed. My sister and I (real actors) lent our voices offstage as needed. (Did I mention I come from a theatre family?)

When guests arrived, beautifully dressed children with parentals and grand-parentals in tow, they giggled and wiggled their way to their seats, then sat quietly, mouths agape, the moment the curtain opened. Entranced by the onstage dolls that seemed to have come to life, they shouted out their worries when the princess was in danger from the witch, or hurrahed the prince when he rode in to save her. They clapped along when Minnie and Mickey danced a jig, and they laughed when the princess impatiently tapped her foot and cocked her head.

That holiday season, we brought the magic back out of those boxes. But it occurred to me as I reflected on these sweet memories, that we couldn’t have gotten anywhere with the whole project if we hadn’t been able to untangle the marionettes’ strings. Of course, they’d been carefully wrapped when Mom had packed them in the first place. That was an expertise of hers. Yet somehow, jostling their way across the wide Pacific, then traveling overland from the coast to the mountains, those strings had managed to twist and tangle into almost unrecognizable masses of delicate colored lines.

Doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t that what happens, say, to memories? We think we recall something perfectly, yet someone else who was there remembers it differently. And isn’t that what happens, say, to interpretations? We saw it one way, they saw it another?

Maybe there’s a knot of resentment that we could untangle with a bit of patience and forgiveness. Perhaps there’s an interlocking loop of mistaken communications that could be smoothed with a phone call or a note. Or it could be that a few moments of stillness—a walk in the woods, down a street, or along a beach—would allow us to relax the tension on those strings and let them disentangle and unfurl like strands of kelp in a gentle tide.

Once we’re untangled, we can feel our connections better. Are we uncomfortably tied to unwelcome manipulations? Or are our only real ties to the beneficent requirements of the Universe, which has a unique place for us and demands only that we perform as our best selves? Maybe I’ll let the Universe yank my strings in the new decade. After all, when our marionettes’ strings were smooth, they could do almost anything: walk, run, bow, curtsey, shake hands, high-kick, and even fly.

Posted by: MaraPurl | December 21, 2019

The Dolls’ Christmas

The Dolls Christmas coverThe house is decorated, the tree sparkles in the living room, the dining table is set festively for upcoming gatherings, and the playlist is poised. Balsam scents the rooms and angels preside from their perches. But this year we have special visitors who seem to have taken over the den and the guest room. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve been tiptoeing around while I’m not looking, arraying themselves throughout the house. This just might be the dolls’ Christmas.

It started when I opened that Box of Dollies my mother had kept for me. Once I opened that box, things began to shift. First, the dolls brought with them more memories than I could have fit into a decade of journals. They all wanted to spill their tales at once, so I had to remind them to take turns. The international group also had to be reminded to speak English or French or Japanese so I could understand them. My, what wonderful accents they have: Jamaican and German, India-Indian and Russian, Swiss and Brazilian. Many of this group are dancers, and their joints are a little stiff, so I’m sure they’ve been remedying this by leaping from the box and running exercise classes. In fact, that explains the faint music I’ve overheard coming from downstairs.

The baby-doll and tiny-tot group behave all together differently, as one might expect. Bilo Baby with the smooth china head and long Christening gown just wants to be held: if over the shoulder, her eyes stay open; reclined in the crook of my arm, she closes her eyes and drifts off to sleep. She’s been behaving this way ever since her original owner, my mother, held her and demonstrated her proper care.

Brenda, though, is another dancing fool. She’s the same height that I was when we first met, and once her feet were strapped to mine, we’d dance eye-to-eye, her yellow yarn hair mingling with my long auburn tresses. She wore a dress in those days, but somehow, while living in the box, she managed to wiggle into one of my old outfits: my family tartan kilt, paired with a Tyrolean sweater and knitted cap. The outfit doesn’t match, but it sure looks festive in an international way.

When all these visitors from my past showed up so suddenly, I wasn’t sure at first what to do about their accommodations. Our grand daughters pronounced them “weird” during a recent visit, so evidently their charms don’t translate to a generation already too cool for dolls (unless they happen to be dragons.) To be fully appreciated, dolls require the supple hearts and minds of the youngest citizens available, which is why several of the youngest looking dolls are packing for a trip to Virginia where they’ll take up residence with two tiny cousins.

Meanwhile the international group are being vetted for membership in a professional group that may involve shows, travel, and a certain amount of fame, as befits their status and legacy.

During final preparations for the holidays, I took from our storage shelves a red basket filled with favorite seasonal books: A Christmas Carol, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and other treasures. It was when I came across the last book in the collection that I knew I’d been right about this year’s theme.

It’s a small, cloth-bound volume whose red linen has faded slightly. It’s filled with watercolor illustrations of two young girls who carefully dress their dolls and bring them to a Christmas feast. The girls in the picture book resemble my sister and me back in the day. They also look so much like our pair of sibling granddaughters just a few years ago. And they look a lot like how my little cousins will look in the next few years. I’d forgotten all about this little book, which brought back another flood of memories.

I had to place it in the front of the red basket this year, for it announces our theme. The title is The Doll’s Christmas.

Posted by: MaraPurl | December 6, 2019

My Box of Dollies

WP_20191220_17_22_03_ProIn Japan, where I grew up, tea boxes are used for storage. Though you may be imagining small, decorated containers—which do exist in abundance there—these boxes are generally two feet long, a foot high, made of sturdy wood, and lined with tin. The metal lining keeps the contents moisture free, making it ideal for storage

Over our many years in Tokyo, my mother collected several of these and put them to good use. And when my parents eventually moved back to the U.S., they came along. In their large, lovely home in Colorado they had a well-organized storage room, and behind the more accessible and recognizable items like Christmas wreaths and Easter baskets, the tea boxes stood silently, stacked against the past, waiting for the future.

My parents passed on a few years ago, and my sister and I spent months sorting through multitudes of their various collections. But a couple of unopened boxes had made their way to my house and had been waiting in our own storage room. I didn’t know exactly what was in them. I did know I should go through them, but kept putting it off. Finally my husband carried one heavy container and placed it on the floor in front of the television. Though it wasn’t tall enough to obscure our viewing, it was an obstruction demanding attention. So at last, reluctantly, I asked him to help me lift the lid.

The moment I did, I burst into tears. I was startled at my own reaction, which happened utterly without warning. My husband turned off the TV and sat near me on the floor. When I calmed down he asked quietly, “What was that about?”

In the top of the box was a small plastic bag with baby clothes. The clothing had, of course, been mine—things I wore at ages one and two. They were lovingly laundered and folded in the ways only mothers and grandmothers do. I could feel my mother’s hands, the last to have touched these garments. And for just a few moments, I could feel her presence and sense her feelings at the joy of dressing her very own baby girl. The sensation passed, but I felt the privilege of having been one of the humans born to parents who wanted and welcomed their children, then spent their lifetimes as devoted parents. Given the heart-breaking and desperate situations many parents face, this was a sobering as well as an inspiring experience.

As I began lifting other treasures out of the box, it turned out these were the dolls of my childhood. Here were baby-dolls and little-girl dolls, once as real to me as my human friends. How patiently they’d waited in their dark enclosure, and how eagerly they seemed to enjoy being resurrected.

The next layer down in this archeological dig brought me to the international community of dolls who inhabited my childhood room. This makes sense, since I attended a school with more than 40 nationalities represented among the students, a cherished experience I wish more children could have.

As these beauties came to light, I marveled at their costumes and poses: the dancer from India with her silken sari holding aloft her finger cymbals; the Flamenco dancer from Spain with her castanets; the Jamaican with her colorful beads and head wrap, her shining dark skin and flashing dark eyes (yes, her lids close when you tilt her back.) Then there were the farm girls: the Russian with her head scarf, the milk-pail toting daughter from the Swiss Alps, the Japanese rice-paddy girl holding on her head a curved basket of flowers.

Finally, in the bottom of the box, were the carefully wrapped music boxes. The tiny brass bejeweled one that plays a classical tune; the wooden water-wheel one that plays a classic Japanese tune, the stuffed doggie one that holds a heart and plays the song “You Are Always In My Heart”. I remember falling asleep to each of these melodies, deriving such comfort from the peace and harmony of their music.

There were several other treasures: elegant shuttlecock paddles with embroidered Kabuki faces on one side; a memo notebook from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; a papier-mâché Japanese cow with a swinging head; a tiny turtle made of shells; the coverlet and pillow from a dolly bed. There are still some tots in my extended family, and they will likely be the surprised recipients of some unusual international gifts from Santa this year. But many of the dollies will likely be headed to their final resting places, so they can begin their journey to doll heaven.

I hope, when I get there, they’ll be waiting for me once again. They were, and always will be, among my most trusted and trustworthy companions.

Posted by: MaraPurl | November 27, 2019

Polishing the Silver

WP_20191126_15_29_35_ProIt’s that time again, when certain things need to be cleaned in preparation for upcoming gatherings. These “things” have special significance as beautiful objects. But for me, they’re really metaphors. What is it, exactly, that needs to be polished?

Both my grandmothers had beautiful silver. The tea pots and creamers, sugar bowls and serving platters were mostly legacy pieces, even then. That means that both families somehow managed to hold onto these treasures through the Great Depression, though whether any pieces spent time hidden in basements or lurking in pawnshops, I’ll never know.

Mamaw, as we called my mother’s mother, was one of several sisters, so I have no doubt she and Granddaddy added to their store, probably beginning with gifts they received on their wedding day in 1913. She kept a spotless home on the farm in Harrisville, West Virginia, a town high atop a winding highway through the mountains. When I stayed with her at ages 3, 4, and 5, I was awakened each morning by the aroma of freshly baking biscuits, and by the time I bounded down the stairs, Mamaw was fully dressed, diamond studs at her ears, starched apron covering her skirt, breakfast well under way. Laundry was done by hand in the cool basement, then pressed through a ringer before being hung to dry on backyard lines. Shelves were filled with jars of her homemade applesauce, which my cousin and I used to raid. The silver was on display in the dining room, and never showed even the tineist spot of tarnish. I remember thinking the giant silver teapot was much too large for my dolls’ teacups.

Grandma Dorothy, my father’s step-mother, became a beloved member of the family after my dad was married and had two small daughters. It wasn’t until I was attending boarding school in the town where she and Daddy Bob (my dad’s step-father) resided, that I really got to know her. Her tray of silver treasures gleamed from the magagony sideboard in her small but elegantly appointed living room. By now, I was curious how she kept it so shiny, and she took me right to the special under-sink cupboard where she kept her polish, showing me the pink paste with the sweet smell, and the special soft cloths used to apply the goop, then rub it off, and how miraculously it left behind the perfect shine.

Mother inherited some pieces from each of these grand women, who knew their daughter/ daughter-in-law would care for them well. Not only did Mom care for the pieces just as carefully as her elders had; she used them regularly. Not a believer in “saving the good stuff,” Mom used her sterling flatware, her best china, and her silver for special parties, but also for every day use. “No one is more important than your own husband,” she would say, while scooping something delicious onto a plate for our dad. “Remember that, girls.”

These days, I have special cupboards where the silver pieces I inherited stay. Honestly, I don’t get them out every evening to pour my husband’s coffee. But I do get them out for many special occasions. I’ve created special storage in every available nook and cranny for precious inheritances. The holidays are almost upon us now, and the cupboard doors are flung wide to reveal the treasures, clad in their cloth and plastic. As the wraps come off and the silver gets lined up by the sink, the rubber gloves go one and the polishing ritual begins.

I enjoy the work as a meditation of gratitude—which often begins around Thanksgiving week. It’s a reminder that our gifts—and talents—need to be polished so they shine brightly enough to be shared.

We’ll have a gleaming table through the holidays this year. And every moment spent preparing is worth every moment spent sharing these treasures with friends and family who admire the craftsmanship and the legacy. For the little ones, the table just looks “fancy” and they’re not sure why. But years from now they’ll remember the shine. And someday, they’ll be polishing the silver.

Posted by: MaraPurl | October 23, 2019

The Sound of Her Voice

Linda Ronstadt singingMany events from the last few decades seem to have their own musical themes, as though life itself were a film with an accompanying score. Specific personal memories seem to embed themselves into whatever the prevailing musical tracks that were playing at the time. Maybe at age 12, you held hands with your first boyfriend and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” was playing on the radio that day. Or maybe you suddenly understood that your destiny was to become a runway model and Prince’s “You’ve Got the Look” was hitting the charts at the time.

For me, music is a determining factor in the pace, the mood, the progress of any given day in the life. Sometimes a song can yank me back to a memory I no longer knew I had. Sometimes a phrase will open a door into a realm I’d been searching for, suggesting a storyline I should write, or a project I should undertake. It can be deliberate, as when my husband chooses a romantic piece that centers us on the love we share. Or it can be synchronistic, as though the perfect tonalities were sent to me from a distant star, timed to arrive just when I need them.

All these thoughts swirled and enveloped me—and most of the audience—as we watched the new documentary about Linda Ronstadt. It became obvious immediately that the divine Linda R had been walking beside me during the last several decades, whether or not I was always aware of her. She was out there, on the road, in the concert venues, in the news, and in the studio, doing what she loved, and what she was born to do.

She was the force of nature that was so often used to describe her, not so much because she had drive or ambition of talent, though she had all three in abundance, but because she opened her heart to the universe and said, “Use me, I’m yours.” She had a glorious instrument that, instead of harnessing, she let loose upon the worlds of music that inhabited her soul.

Born into a musical family, she was lullabied to sleep by a father who crooned the love songs of his native Mexico, she sang along to her mother’s cherished Gilbert and Sullivan, and then she found her opening through her rock-and-roll heart. She made good songs great, and she made them her own.

“Blue Bayou” was a wonderful song and a big hit for one of its songwriters, Roy Orbison. When he sings it, you can hear that authentic longing for home, enjoy the details of the coastal setting, feel the sultry hot breezes and catch the edges of local accents and flavors. But when you hear Linda sing it, the novella becomes a full opera, telling the story of a longing deep in the soul so poignant it brings tears and reignites lost hope.

Linda and I haven’t met so far, but in the realm of six degrees of separation, our paths crossed many times. While I was writing songs and singing with members of the Doobie Brothers, she collaborated with their friends, and hers, the Eagles. She was interviewed several times for Rolling Stone during the time I wrote two cover stories for the magazine. Annie Liebowitz did her photo sessions, and mine with Jon Voight when I wrote his interview piece. Far earlier, I was playing modest college venues while she was packing the stadiums with audiences of 17,000. Both of us loved our male musical colleagues but had to compete with them, while we collaborated with our female peers.

She has an inkling of how her artistry inspired so many others, though she’s too modest to say so. And she will likely never know how much her courage and great spirit encouraged other young women to stand up for their beliefs and pursue their dreams. These days, the greater the accolades that come her way, the more dismissive she is of the praise and the more humbled by all the universe gave her. To me she appears to be someone who used each aspect of her own heritage as best she could, polishing each element of her talents to a high sheen the better to reflect upon others. That generosity of spirit seems to sparkle through the tales of those who knew her then, and know her now.

The documentary focused mostly on all the good things about her career, and there are no doubt some negatives lurking in the shadows, as there are in every life. But as I rode wave after wave of emotion, carried along by her music, the film presented as a special gift, and I’m forever grateful for the sound of her voice.

Posted by: MaraPurl | September 21, 2019

Authors & Legacies

Awards - AlbrightAs the sun set over Denver on a beautiful September Saturday evening, long golden rays lanced over the Front Range and danced across an array of sparkling tables and animated faces. The inaugural induction ceremony of the new Colorado Authors Hall of Fame would start in minutes, and excited inductees, family members, friends, fellow authors, and supporters gathered in their finery, greeting one another with joy and just a frisson of nerves.

We were the core team — founder Judith Briles, board members, our colleague and EmCee Dom Testa — reviewing our notes between introductions and welcomes, catch-ups and networking. Inductees were swept off for red-carpet photos and brief press interviews, candid shots snapped throughout the ball room, and somehow we managed bites of the delicious plated dinner.

Then Dom introduced me and I welcomed our guests, and thanked our sponsors, reading a special message from a CEO named Karl Pearson. He had sent gifts from his company for all our inductees: each of them received a Cross pen—gorgeous writing instruments for these noteworthy authors, individually gift wrapped, labeled with personal notes, and placed on the tables. We couldn’t have known in advance that the glossy black Cross wrapping paper would match our black satin tablecloths, as though we’d planned even that detail of our decor.

And this synchronicity underscored the theme of the evening, which zinged as magically as electricity, while the inductees began to share stories. For this was not a room of tongue-tied armatures trying to remember whom to thank. This was room full of story-tellers whose very craft was to grasp the significance of events; an event filled with authors who carry virtual lenses in their mental backpacks, which they use to magnify the meanings of life’s moments.

John Fielder has photographed Colorado’s most breathtaking views, and had endured many adventures to get the right camera angle. In a story shared by his book designer Rebecca Finkel, there to accept on his behalf, we learned he had tried unsuccessfully to find a map to Eagle’s Nest. Deciding to “wing it” he stopped at a Cortez, Colorado store for provisions, and glimpsed a rack of Louis L’Amour books. Grabbing and buying one, he riffled at random through pages. To his amazement, it contained the map he hadn’t been able to find anywhere else.

Louis, my friend and mentor, left a vast legacy of Western tales that his family have continued to publish. His beautiful, accomplished daughter Angelique, an author in her own right, joined us to accept Louis’ award—-and loved extending that Eagles Nest story.

The golden thread of synchronicity wove itself through the evening’s tapestry, and we found ourselves nodding our heads: yes, of course. Because these authors’ works criss-cross the country as they’re shared from bookstore to friend to library to book club to airplane seat to truck stop. And because these authors are also readers who find treasures in the written word. And because these authors are also mentors who share their secrets with those coming up the path behind them. Inductee WC Jameson is the foremost authority on treasure hunting in the U.S. with more than 100 books to his name. But what he shared was his discovery of treasured fellow Colorado authors, one of whom he married—the accomplished author Laurie Wagner Buyer Jameson, who sat smiling beside him.

Another theme that rose from the stories shared in the brief, meaningful acceptance speeches was Colorado history. Those who came before us were remembered here, the details of their successes and failures adding twists and knots, as well as rich colors and textures to the tapestry. Inductee Ann Parker shared the stunning discovery of detailed correspondence written in the 1800s. The family had found these postcards, disappointed at the boring accounts of daily life. But for Ann, this was the gold mine that helped her to right her historic Leadville series.

We won’t be holding our next induction ceremony until 2021, but already the names of nominees are being submitted. We’ve received more press locally and nationally than we expected for this first event. And we’re all still aglow from our special evening. What we know is this: until now, there has never been a Hall of Fame for Authors. (There are some for writers, a much broader category.) We found a gap that’d remained invisible for years, decades, and the early centuries of our state and country. These authors, and their works, shall not be forgotten. The written and published word is being burnished anew, illuminated with a fresh light from the powerful Colorado sun.

Posted by: MaraPurl | July 6, 2019

Doobies Next Gen

Grandpa-Mamaw-Kamden-KensingtonThe Doobie Brothers are my favorite rock band. Several members of this iconic band have been friends of mine for decades, and I never let a year go by without attending a concert, or a rehearsal. In 1987, the late Keith Knudsen—one of the original drummers and a friend we all miss tremendously—organized a reunion concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I spent the day backstage with families and friends and the fellowship, good will, generosity, and great music that unfolded through the day and into the night inspired me write an episode of my BBC radio drama Milford-Haven U.S.A. (“The Rock Concert” episode of Milford-Haven podcast.) In the novels based on the radio drama, the Doobs again appear “as themselves” in book two, Where the Heart Lives. In 2020, they will do their 50th Anniversary Tour. Not to be missed! Check DoobieBrothers for their dates.

This July, my husband joined me in taking our next-gen to their first Doobie Brothers concert. As always, we had great seats, and had a few minutes with good friend John McFee backstage after the show. The exuberance, hugs, stories, catching-up is always a joy. But to share this with our grandkids was a personal thrill, and also a social experiment, in that we’d be taking two young teens to their first major rock-and-roll concert. What would they think? Would they enjoy it? Find it weird? Would the music sound dated to them? Would they spend their time looking at their phones, instead of at the stage?

They loved it. They soaked up every detail on stage and off, and at one point I caught my grandson mimicking the motions of the seasoned guitarists. Kensington, at 16, is extremely music-savvy, and very articulate. We did a Q&A after the show. Here’s what she shared.

Q-What struck you first?
A-The fact they could actually play instruments, and the talent they actually possess was amazing. A lot of musicians today are using auto-tune, synthesizers. Not a lot of them make their own true sounds, unaltered by technology. That’s why I listen to a lot of music from the 80s, the 70s, even the 50s, because the sound was authentic, and to me that’s so much better.

Q-Was there a certain aspect of the music you liked most?
A-The solos—those were some of the best things. I thought it was amazing they had an actual saxophone player. I had never seen someone play sax in rock-and-roll, instead of jazz. He was rocking out. I personally believe the drums make the band, because that’s the beat. People on other instruments stay with the beat, then they go off on their own rhythms, then they come back to the main beat. The fact that the Doobies have two drummers made the music more powerful and you could always hear the beat.

Q-Any other instruments capture your attention?
A-It was impressive that John McFee played guitar but also violin. And the piano solo was amazing. And I loved that they incorporated piano and saxophone into rock music.

Q-Did you like the instrumentals or the vocal better?
A-The vocals were like . . . perfect! I mean, they hit every note, no mistakes, high notes, low notes, harmonies. They are just really good.

Q-This band has been together for a long time. Did you find it hard to relate to them?
A-I thought the age range in the band was interesting. There were older musicians and younger ones too, and they connected in the music. And even though the founding members are older now, they’ve never lost that “young” energy and spirit.

Q-Was it fun going back stage?
A-Going back stage was amazing! Having that access to these incredible musicians was really great. Personally meeting someone like John McFee, who was so nice . . . and funny! Realizing that this same person was also this amazing performer made the whole thing more real for me.

Q-So would you rather listen to their music through your earbuds, or at a concert?
A- I felt like I was at a concert that my friends would go to. The audience was full of people wearing much cooler clothes than what most people wear. Hair . . . makeup . . . and people started standing up and swaying or dancing at their seats or in the aisles. On stage, I thought the lighting was amazing, because they went all out. I mean, the strobe lights, the colored lights everywhere, it was elaborate and amazing.

The thing is being with people at a concert . . . That’s a really important part of the experience. Like, you’re sharing something, experiencing something you can’t experience on your own. There’s an energy that comes off the stage and then it goes into everybody’s heads and hearts, and suddenly we’re all sharing it. When they sing “Listen To the Music” it’s a nice song but it’s so much more when we all listen to it together.

Everybody is there for one reason, a joy we share. Everything else goes out the window, like that we might all have these other differences. It’s an overwhelming feeling of being accepted and included. That’s one of the best reasons to go to a concert and listen to live music.

Posted by: MaraPurl | July 2, 2019

What’s In Your Library?

MaraPurl-Signs-TatteredCover-cropOriginally posted by interviewer Patrice Samara at Wordeee.com.

Mara Purl is a true Renaissance woman. She’s the co-author, with Erin Gray, of Act Right: a Manual for the On-Camera Actor and the author of Milford-Haven Novels & Novellas, which have won more than 30 book awards. As a journalist, her writing credits include cover stories for Rolling Stone, staff writing with the Financial Times of London, and an Associated Press assignment to cover the Apollo Soyuz mission, as the youngest reporter ever to win the NASA pool position in Mission Control. As an actress, Mara’s regular role on the TV soap opera Days Of Our Lives opened the door for her to create her own soap. She co-starred in Sea Marks by Gardner McKay and stars as Julia in Becoming Julia Morgan and is a narrator for audio book on Audible.com.

A frequent speaker at writing and author conferences, she was named Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women and a 2019 Top Female Author by the Author Show. We caught up with Mara on a recent book tour to ask about her beloved library.

What’s special about your library?
I believe a person’s library can be seen as a portrait — of interests, of history, of development. That’s what makes my library so special to me. It contains, for example, the course work notebooks and texts I read and studied to earn my literature degree in English, American, and Japanese lit. It also includes books that became landmarks — some for personal, some for professional reasons. It has a rotating selection of fiction and non-fiction books that I donate after enjoying. And it holds earlier editions of my books, as well as published works by friends, colleagues, and consulting clients.

How many books in your library?
Roughly 3,000.

What is your favorite genre?
I have several. First is Women’s Fiction, because it’s the primary genre for which I write. I love my readers and want to know what else they enjoy reading. And I have a community of fellow authors in my genre. The second genre I enjoy is mystery and a few of its sub-categories, like Cozy, Police Procedural (Michael Connolly, Linda Fairstein), and Historical (Anne Perry, Ann Parker). In non-fiction, I enjoy Memoire, Sociology (Malcolm Gladwell), and Spiritual/Psychological (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Caroline Myss).

When did you receive your first book?
In infancy. My parents surrounded me and my sister with books and had an expansive library themselves that they always encouraged us to explore. I was the youngest person in our town to be granted a library card at age 3, by which time I was already an avid reader.

What was your favorite book as a child?
The Secret Garden.

Do you have an all-time favorite book?
The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki. This is thought to be the first novel written, and it was written by a woman. It’s a detailed picture of the multi-layered life in the ancient Japanese court, but it takes us into the interior of the characters’ lives. My second favorite is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, the first novelist to write not just the behavior but the consciousness and internal dialogue of her characters.

Posted by: MaraPurl | March 27, 2019

Why Do Words Count?

CO Authors Hall of Fame-squareRecently I was invited to join the founding Board for a new organization, The Colorado Authors’ Hall of Fame! Of course, I’m honored and excited, as are all the members. Authors are all about words, so I decided to weigh in on the question: why do words count? For me, the short answer is in three words: realizing; forming; sharing. The long answer goes something like this.

1. Realizing
Realization comes as we notice something making sense in a new way. It might come as a metaphor: that swooping butterfly is a Blue Angel jet streaking across the sky. Or it might come as a fresh perspective: I didn’t know I really love to cook. Whatever the realization is, it comes in words.

Some people aren’t great with words, some are. If you’re not, there are writers whose words can make sense of whatever you’re trying to understand. If you are, you’ll get confirmation from fellow word-smiths that you’re onto something valuable.
Words are the connective tissue between idea and expression. We tell ourselves about our ideas with words, using them to move from vague conjecture to clear concept.

2. Forming
Formation of ideas happens as we wrestle with our concepts. This formation process occurs as we try to put our ideas into . . . you guessed it, words.

This means words might be the most important tool in the universe: the Manifestation Tool. Once we have something expressed in words, our concept becomes actionable. We can list goals, enlist colleagues, plan deadlines, and make it all happen. Let’s say we want to build a house. How would we do it without words? How would be label the drawings, look for property, explain our concept? We couldn’t. And that brings us to:

3. Sharing
Now that we have realizations and ideas that have taken form, we get to share them. I can tell you about my new project, or my recent conversation—which also took place through words.

Some sharing we do in real time. But some of what we have to offer gets shared later. A memo can be read a week later. A letter can be read years letter. A book can be read centuries later.

Louis L’Amour, my friend and mentor, may still be writing in heaven, and I sure hope he is. But meanwhile, he left behind collections of his words in his hundred-plus books. He left a legacy of insight and detail about the American West that we just couldn’t understand nearly as well without his work.

Long afer we are gone, our words remain. The words we use stay in the memories of those who have heard us. And the words we write last forever encapsulating moments in time, creating gems in amber—like a Authors’ Hall of Fame.

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