Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Thursday, September 28th 1961

Thinking of Wendell on this rainy Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So what better way to remember him than by posting another journal entry? Topics from Sept 28th 1961 include post Hurricane Esther landscaping. Wendell learns about a past inhabitant of his new house on Rock Harbor Road from townie Roscoe J. Nickerson. More talk of trees. Also, we may never know what's in it for Elmer.

To enlarge each image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Thursday, Sept. 21 + Monday Sept. 25, 1961

The Saga of Hurricane Esther continues. (Read the first part, in case you tuned in late.) I've combined a couple of shorter entries. Also, I've transcribed my father's rather challenging handwriting and also included scans of his typed pages. [To enlarge each scanned image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller.]

Thursday, Sept. 21

The eye of the storm is 40 miles SW of Nantucket. I walk down the road to the harbor. (Editor’s note: They lived down the street from Rock Harbor.) The rain let up and the wind was fresh from the east in gusts probably up to 40mph.

Mrs. Lambert is not in her cottage. She must have gone to Mrs. Gibson’s house. Striding along the road the wind pushes me along. Small land birds fling them themselves suddenly into the air as though thrown and land downwind as quickly as they appeared. The pigeons pattern the lee side of a rooftop. When the wind does to a (?) they circle about in the air in scattered confusion. Only the gulls seem at home in the storm. Flying almost lazily against the wind, they swing windward in wide arcs that carry them far out across the meadow where others can be seen on the ground white against green.

The wind guests lash at small isolated trees when all around there seems a lull. These brief blasts of air lend the wind a temper, a personality given to outbursts of anger. Such moments call attention to the vulnerability of a tree. Rooted, it must always stand its ground against all elements and all forms of attack.

While I watched that single tree—a silver poplar—in the grip of a terrier wind, I thought of the photographer Edward Steichen who in his eighties is devoting himself to taking hundreds of pictures of the small tree, a shad bush, in all its phases, in all seasons and in all kinds of weather.

Monday, Sept. 25

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Wednesday, Sept 20 1961

Hurricane Watch! The Saga of Hurricane Esther. This is the epic journal entry wherein my father chronicles the family's experience riding out Hurricane Esther.

[To enlarge each image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller.]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Tuesday, Sept 19 1961

It's been a few months, but here you go: scans of the next entry in my father's journal. Topics include a visit from his parents, singing in the Methodist choir, and inspiration from an unusual source: distant cousin and writer, Humphrey B. Neill.

To enlarge each image below for a better reading experience, right click and select Open Link in new window. In the new window, click the image to make larger or smaller.

Stay tuned - the next entry is a doozy. Wendell chronicles the saga of Hurricane Esther.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Saturday, July 22 1961

The further adventures of the Smith family, seen through the eyes of patriarch Wendell. The summer of 1961 continues. In this entry, my father sets up his paintings at a local art show in Eastham and  discovers how hard it is to actually get the general public to buy artwork. He meets artist Larry Edwardson and learns about how he became a painter and his process. [Again, I'm transcribing my Dad's pages of longhand writing. Tune in next time for more scans.]

Yesterday I “hung” eight, nine of my paintings in the second outdoor showing of the Nauset Painters, a group of local amateurs, mostly women, who paint boats, beaches, and cottages about as most amateurs paint boats, beaches, and cottages. The exhibit was being held in Eastham on the Green by the old Grist Mill. I arrived with 7 oil wash sketches and one still-life in oil (entitled Still-Life). At the first show on the Orleans Green, check wire fencing had been erected and the Nauset Painters did the hanging for the hoped-for 20% of sale price if anyone bought.

I pulled into the Eastham Green and found painters were staking out claims for space along the split rail fence that boarded the Green. I was told that no other support would be provided. You can’t set matted paintings against a fence (but) you can a framed oil. Luckily, I had a length of rope in the VW and a little grocery store near the Green had clothes pins in stock.

So I rushed back to the Green and stretched my rope along a goodly length of fence beneath a skimpy locust that held some promise of shade later in the day. To my left along the fence I shared spectators with one old Grandma Moses whose husband helped her set up her three cottages. But they were fairly good cottages and drew more favorable comments than my paintings, with local viewers at least.

It was a game to guess whose cottages they were and where they were located. “That looks to the Mayo’s on Tonset Road.” “Looks’ more like that little three-quarter sitting back off Barley Neck just beyond Mabel’s house.” And so it went.

After securing my paintings I took the tour around the 30 yards or so of split rail fence then left the exhibit until after lunch. My paintings were just as I had them. None had sold. Perhaps if I had stayed with the pictures I might have pushed through a sale or two. But I spent most of the afternoon sitting in the heat and shade chatting with the one really serious artist on the field, a Larry Edwardson of New Britain, Conn. He was a man well into his fifties who had worked on newspapers, radio, and for some years had his own advertising agency in New Britain. A few years ago he set January as his target date for self-support by painting alone. Already a good artist, (he was) a member of (the) Salmagundi Club in New York but not too widely exhibited.

He severed his relations, accounts, and began to paint. Within a matter of days he was bedridden with infectious hepatitis and it was eight months before he was able to paint productively. For what I gathered, Edwardson is able to make expenses and keep painting. He has a trailer which allows him to live cheaply, north in the summer and south in the winter. The Cape, Gloucester, Maine, Connecticut, New Orleans, and Sarasota (places he mentioned). It’s his hope to get his paintings placed in a dozen galleries and then spend a month painting local scenes in each place.

Edwardson works almost entirely with palette knife and he has a special set made up from putty knives, filed down to various points and widths. He showed me his paint box. “It was handmade in Italy. A friend bought it for me. And I use a disposable palette. I always start clean each morning.” The artist opened the box with pride for unlike my own it showed signs of long and hard use. The wood was browned with age and weather and the tubes of oil paint spoke of having become part of many paintings.

“This turpentine,” he said, “is just to clean up with. I lay the paint on fresh, no turpentine or oil, with the knives. Why, I’ve gotten so I can make a circle with a knife, just like that.” He flicked his wrist. “I hold a towel in my left hand and wipe off the knives as I use them. So I’m always working clean. I had intended on finishing those two pictures.” He pointed to two Masonite boards with half-finished scenes on them. “But I don’t want to attract a big crowd, get people standing. This isn’t the kind of exhibit for that. If these were real artists, practicing painters, I might. It’s a tough business, boy. If it means selling a painting, most artists would step right in front of your paintings to show their own.”

That must have been my trouble at the Eastham show. I was too modest and nothing sold.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Thursday, July 20 1961

Today I bring you Thursday, July 20th, 1961. Where Wendell goes on an expedition to find The Outermost House, the house popularized by Henry Beston in his book The Outermost House, A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod. There are some beautiful nature passages. I know my father admired Beston, Thoreau, and other writers of nature. [No scans of his pages this time, just my transcriptions of his longhand.]

Last Friday, or was it Thursday, July 20th, I drove to Eastham and the Coast Guard Beach. I parked in the farthest lot behind the big dunes, slung my sketching bag over shoulder, and trudged along the tracks left by beach buggies through a notch in the dune wall.

A young boy about twelve fell in step with me. He looked bright and alert so I said to him, “I wonder if you can help me?”

“You want to know where the Outermost is,” he replied as a fact.


“You can’t see it from the ocean side but it’s the next to the last house on the dunes. It’s more over on the dune-side. The Audubon Society has it now. You can’t miss it. It’s white with blue shutters and they have put up a new stove chimney.”

“How far down is it?”

“You see down about the last dune that juts out. About there.”

We had come through the notch and down onto the shelf of the beach. And here surely was the Outermost Beach for it bowed out into the ocean and looked to be the most Easterly of shoals. Bathers and swimmers dotted the shimmering sand to our left but there were only a few people to the right toward Beston’s old home for a year. (Editor's note: Henry Beston is the author of The Outermost House, A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod.)

Once on the beach side, the one prominent, persistent part of the scene was the waves. Big and small. Up and down the beach there was always white water curling over and down and on this day with a stiff off-shore breeze, the waves approached the beach fighting the wind, each wave with its mane of white, making them the seas horses that “men call such waves on every coast of the world.” (The Bird in the Waterfall: A Natural History of Oceans, Rivers, and Lakes by Jerry Dennis.)

Henry Beston’s description of a blue wave rolling in toward the beach is a superb piece of writing. It’s found in his chapter “The Headlong Wave,” and carries from mid-ocean and the pulse of the earth that sent the wave coursing westward until it crashes on the beach at Eastham. (Editor's note: As far as I can find, this is a paraphrase of the quote, "Somewhere between this Spanish land and Cape Cod the pulse of the earth has engendered this wave and sent it coursing westward though the seas.”)

I left the boy then and trudged along the ridge of dry sand above the farthest reach of the surf. My sneakers that I wore only bogged me down so I took them off and carried them the rest of the way in my pack. But the hour was late—getting on towards 5:30 in the afternoon—so I never reached the Outermost House that day but turned back half way to the last dune the lad had pointed out.

Much as I seem to read slowly the books I enjoy, so I take my time in finding Beston’s house. It would be there. Like the book it had held fast to its place in the world for thirty years or more. It would be there next week, or the week after.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Wednesday, July 19 1961

Here's the latest, another scanned couple pages of the next, entry in my Dad's early '60s journal. Highlights include more adventures of an artist struggling to make a living. Also, we discover my mother's secret desire!!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The House on Rock Harbor Road -- Friday, July 14

It's been a few months, so let's get back to my father's journal. Here we pick it back up in the middle of July, 1961. His brother, Bob, and his family visit my family on the Cape. Meanwhile my father continues to make a go as an artist. Finally, my folks end up in Provincetown for dinner an eye-opening walk through the ever-present galleries.

Yep, it was the dawn of a new era - where my Dad was getting a firsthand look at Beats and the culture of artists. Remember, this was 1961, and while not exactly square, my father was unused to seeing, as he puts it, the "habitat of beats." [No scans of his pages this time, just my transcriptions of his longhand.]

July 14, Friday

The Bob Smiths arrived about eight Wednesday evening. Showed them the house, let the kids see each other and rub noses (our had already been tucked into bed, under protest, “Oh dear, now we’ll never get to see them.”) then showed them to their cottage in the woods. Moo and I returned after nine bearing ice bold beer, and we had a good time chatting.

On Thursday morning Moo and Ann took all the kids to Pleasant Bay where Robin, Laurie, and Cindy had to report for their swimming lessons. Bob and I drove off with the VW to sketch and take pictures. A friend of Aunt Moo’s said, oh if she could have a picture painted of the view from Fort Hill. So, obligingly I sketched the scene; that is, I made note-sketches of two or three parts of the panoramic 180 degree expanse of inlet, islands, salt marsh, outer beach, ocean, fields, and foothills. By late afternoon, after a time out for  a swim in Skaket, I had completed a 9x12 oil wash looking north across a cove beyond a cedar meadow, and a 14x17” painting of the inlet to the east, the largest oil wash I have done to date.

Priced them in the gallery. As yet, no comment from Moo’s friend. Though later that evening she looked at them and didn’t care enough for either to buy them. But she told Aunt Moo she might take one of the other small washes. Notwithstanding all this talk, she never mentioned the pictures again.

Saturday morning Aunt Moo drove home with them. Aunt Moo wanted one of the $7 pictures but being family and having stayed here for two weeks she thought she should be given a 20% discount and offered to give me $5 for it. We told her she could have the picture, especially since she had taken us to dinner and to the theater in Dennis.

Then followed much discussion – she said she wouldn’t take the picture unless I took the $5. But how would she carry the picture? Put it in her suitcase? Too big! Wrap it? It would bend. Lay in the car? Too crowded. It was decided that the pictures would stay here and mother would bring it when she drives home to Morristown.

Thursday evening Bob and Ann took us out to dinner. We left at 7 o’clock and drove to Provincetown. It was the first time there for any of us since Moo and I hadn’t gotten any further down on the Cape than Truro.

Provincetown is a rather startling experience. There were the dunes to be seen on the way into town and the long row of tiny cottages along the bay. Then suddenly the road narrowed into one crowded street where the station wagon had to crawl by a single row of parked cars, one sidewalk, and shops and houses fronting almost on the street. Add to this the shoppers and the strollers who step aside as you pass and the whole effect is one of edging your way through some thronging (foreign) street.

They are...a rather varied and motley crowd. Some of the throng comes across the bay from Boston by boat. Some arrives by Cadillac from Hyannis, others by motor scooter from Greenwich Village in Manhattan and the forefathers of many natives came by ships from Portugal and England. And they all make up the unique setting that is Provincetown.

There is much of the arty chic of New Hope here, and much of the grubbiness that has always characterized Bohemia and today marks the beats, but it’s all colorful, much of it talented, part of it great, still more of it without greatness or talent. Commercial Street finally runs its course and cheapens near the end.

We ate dinner in the Flagship and afterwards went gallery-hopping back along Commercial Street. We missed seeing the best art the town offers for at ten o’clock both the Chrysler Museum and the Provincetown Art Association were closed. Still, the people in the galleries proved almost more interesting than the paintings.

In the first gallery we came to, a one man show was being launched with punch bowl, paper cups and all. Having dressed for dinner and perhaps overdressed after wearing casuals for two weeks, Moo and I as well as Bob and I felt much overdressed. In fact, almost pleasingly so, for this was a habitat of beats. There were beards but mangy beards, and sandaled feet that vied for the honor of being the “dirtiest.” (I wondered if these people ever went on the beach but then if they did they might look as though they were square.) The women were variously dressed in a fashion that put them way out. Most with a spooky look (Editor's Note: I'm guessing they wore black eye-liner and maybe black clothes. Spooky indeed!).

Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Next Big Thing

YA author Kimberly Newton Fusco asked me to participate in an Internet happening called My Next Big Thing. My Next Big Thing is a self-interview where published and non-published writers answer 10 questions about their current work. Many national and international writers have participated. It gives readers a glimpse into the working life of a writer.

Big thanks to Kim for choosing me. So, here is my Next Big Thing. At the end of it, I tag three other writers to carry the torch further into the blogosphere. (By the way, check out Kim's third novel, Beholding Bee, out Feb 12.)

What is the working title of your book? The Last Good State.

Where did the idea come from for the book? My parents moved me and my three sisters around a lot as a kid. I loved seeing new places, but I always wondered what it would be like if our family had never left the house we all grew up in. Then, what would happen if our parents sold the house after we had all moved out but a lot of our childhood stuff was still in it.

From there I started thinking about the different personalities of these kids living in my alternative universe house. I grew up on Cape Cod, where the story takes place. I worked in a restaurant in high school and college. The restaurant was run by this couple and they had three kids who all worked there. I got a real inside view of the business and this family. I had been wanting to somehow incorporate that experience into my writing for a while, and combining these two story-lines into one novel seemed like a no brainer.

What genre does your book fall under? It's contemporary fiction. Family drama, if there is such a category. Or family dramady.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I have a hard time mapping my characters to actors. But here's what I came up with. There are four siblings and their parents:

Ellen Page
Kat Dennings
Allison Williams
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Val Kilmer
Holly Hunter/Lea Thompson

I had no idea the kids were that good looking. The father is a bit unhinged, so Val on a good day could pass. Holly Hunter is great, although I might have to bolster her part a little. If Holly passes, let's give Lea a job. Of course, the part might have to be rewritten. Totally different acting styles.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book? After their parents divorce and decide to sell the  family house, four siblings, aged 18 to 28, return home to claim their stuff and run an estate sale before the house is sold.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I'm still working on it. I'm at 73,000 words, around 70-75% through it. It's taken over 2 years to get to this point.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I've just discovered Jonathan Tropper. He writes a lot about kids going home again and families coming together in crazy ways. I'm not as funny as him, but I guess I'd love to hit both a comical and dramatic tone. I really loved The Corrections, the comic and tragic of one family. I'm not comparing per se, but if there is a family drama category, Jonathan Franzen blazed that trail, at least for me. I also really liked the brother and sister relationship in Dana Spiotta's Stone Arabia, and the thread of family that runs through Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, A.M. Homes' This Book Will Save Your Life and May We Be Forgiven, and any novels by Bruce Wagner.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Initially I was interested in a family that was unlike any other family I could think of. I thought, what if each family member was somehow notorious, either a criminal or a reality tv star or some kind of news sensation. I quickly realized that the tone of a story like that was hard to pull off, and I also couldn't come up with sympathetic characters to write about. That's when this other more realistic family came to mind.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest? If you're tired of vampires or zombies or post apocalyptic landscapes, then this book is for you!

When and how will it be published? You would have to ask that.

Enough about my Next Big Thing. Here are three amazing writers who will now tell you all about their Next Big Thing:

Robin Black is the author of the story collection, If I loved you I would tell you this, a finalist for the 2010 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. She is the 2012-13 Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bryn Mawr College and is currently at work on her first novel. You can read her blog posts at Beyond the Margins where she's a contributor

Cynthia Sherrick writes adult romantic suspense, although she has written YA along with some short stories and plays, as well. She began writing when she was just six years old. Growing up in a family of writers she knew creating stories was the path she would follow. Cynthia is nearly finished with her third novel and continues to pursue acquiring a literary agent and getting published. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America, New England Chapter of Romance Writers, and Tampa Area Romance Authors. 

Juliette Fay’s latest novel, The Shortest Way Home, was chosen as one of Library Journal‘s Top 5 “Best Books of 2012: Women’s Fiction.” Juliette’s first novel, Shelter Me, was a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award “Must-Read Book.” Her second, Deep Down True, was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction award by the American Library Association. Juliette received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. When she’s not trying to keep track of her kids or daydreaming about her next story, Juliette can be reached on her website, Facebook and Twitter.