Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day After

On the day after Thanksgiving, I'm grateful for the Thanksgiving I celebrated yesterday. It was small--just my husband, our son, and me--quiet and low-key. Restful. We ate well but moderately, did the dishes and then, enjoying the effects of tryptophan, watched couple Doctor Who retrospectives. After all the upheavals of the last year, it was good to have a day like that.

I've been caught up in the fiftieth anniversary hoopla this month. How could I not be? I lived through those terrible days of November, 1963. Days that destroyed forever any hope I secretly harbored that life might ever return to normal.

It's funny how we keep returning to the traumas of our youth. I was thirteen in 1963, already hit with the double whammy of unprepared-for puberty and my family's move from New Jersey to Pennsylvania. I feel great empathy for immigrants, because I know how hard such moves are. Everything about my new home felt alien. In fact, I never called it home. I didn't feel at home again until I created my own years later.

The assassination was the final installment of a searing trilogy that year. I remember watching the sky as I walked home from school, expecting Russian bombers any minute. I remember my father's almighty cursing, for once unrestrained, at the killing of Oswald, and my dim understanding of his sense of helplessness was perhaps the most terrifying aspect of that long weekend.

As the nation struggled to piece itself back together on the day before Thanksgiving, my mother timed her labor pains while basting the turkey she knew she wouldn't be home to serve. That night I put my four siblings to bed and slept uneasily on the couch until my dad came home sometime before dawn. When my mother called to tell me I had a new brother--who now lives in Dallas--my only response was to ask how to cook sweet potatoes. At thirteen, in a bewildering new body, in a house I hated and a world gone mad, I made Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.

So a Thanksgiving like yesterday was a blessing. Sure, there were forty-nine others in between, some memorable, most blending into a haze of faces, voices, laughter, changes, traditions. But I think yesterday will stand out in my memory for its sheer sense of ordinariness. No dramas, no alarms. I even had time to relax with a new knitting pattern.

I wish I could borrow a Tardis and reassure the young girl I was. But what would I tell her? That she would be all right? She wasn't, not for a long time. That the world would settle down? It never has and it never will. Maybe just this: There will be ordinary days. Good days. Savor them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jessie Salisbury: Orchard Hill

Please welcome my friend and guest, Jessie Salisbury. Jessie is a member of Talespinners, a women's writing group that meets bi-monthly in a tiny but charming New Hampshire library. She is a long-time reporter for several local newspapers, a gifted poet, a font of local historical information, and a lover of great coffee. She lives in an antique farm house complete with a well, lovely gardens, and a ghostly visitor or two.

Give us a glimpse into Orchard Hill. What genre, time period?

It’s a romance, told as a flashback, set in New Hampshire in 1969. The heroine has gone back to the family orchard to recover from a nasty divorce and falls for one of the migrant apple pickers.

Deserted by her husband, Jocelyn fled home to the family orchard to recover and wait for her divorce to be settled. It is harvest time, and among the Nova Scotian apple pickers is Yvon, handsome, virile, devil-may-care, and more than willing to help Jocelyn forget her unfaithful spouse. 

There is also Adrian, her caring long-time friend and attorney. He could not speak of his love for her while she was married, but now she is free and he is ready to bring her back where she belongs. And willing to combat Yvon for her affections.

New England is full of derelict orchards, from a time when cider was a necessity of life. Our region is blessed with several large and beautiful ones that have survived the changes in product and demand. How did your story come about? Did you base it on any life experiences? What research did you do?

I worked in a similar place in the 1960's, packing apples for a commercial grower. The pickers at that time were French Canadian, as the hero is. I did the same sort of work as described in the book.

Wow, that's hard physical labor. It must have worn you out every day. Talk about your writing process. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you work on a novel every day?

I generally start with a situation or a problem and usually  know how the story ends. I work toward that end, sometimes with a vague outline, sometimes not. I tend to write for a few hours every morning, doing my newspaper work first.

I should be so disciplined. I always seem to get caught up in the deadline of the moment. How do you revise? How long did it take to write your book? Do you have any rituals, such as selecting music, when you write?

I revise as I go along then do a general rewrite when I have finished the first draft. I wrote Orchard Hill originally about 1970 and redid it a couple of times. I tried once to move it the present but it was impossible because methods of apple packing have totally changed and are now mainly mechanized. And today’s migrant pickers are Jamaican.

Who are your favorite authors, and why? How do they influence your work?

I read a wide variety of stories, from science fiction (Ann McCafferty and, of course, Tolkien) and a lot of historical fiction  (Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael, Dudley Pope’s Ramage series) and Tony Hillerman’s Navajo stories. I follow several cozy murder series. I like good writing whatever the genre.

I often see you at  local town meetings, and you have a great reputation as a reporter. Tell us a little about your day job.

            I’m a correspondent for a couple of newspapers, writing both news and features and have been               a journalist since 1968. I also write a regular history column for the Nashua Telegraph.

Many authors work for years to find someone interested their work, and I know how frustrating it can be to receive rejections. How did you find your publisher?

            In an on-line newsletter. Soul Mate Publishing was the second place I sent Orchard Hill.

What inspires you? How do you keep the writing fresh?

I guess my stories just come out of the blue, so to speak. I rarely have a particular theme in mind. With poetry I wait to be inspired.

And you find inspiration in the most wonderful places, like bird feeders, pear trees, and columbines. Does where you live influence your work? If you could set a novel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Most of my contemporary stories are set here in my neighborhood. That’s what I know best. My science fiction is another time and place entirely.

I've read some of your sci-fi and dearly hope you find a home for it soon. In the meantime, where can readers find Orchard Hill?

It is available here as a e-book from Amazon.

Jessie, thank you so much for visiting today. I've had fun asking you questions instead of the other way around. I wish you the best of luck with Orchard Hill.