I mentioned in my 2018 Year in Review post that I would like to resume doing monthly updates as I had been doing with my old site. But here it is April, and I have yet to do so. I guess this, them, is a quarterly update which may, I hope, kickstart monthly updates.
This winter had not been nearly as bad as last winter, but it was still winter which may account, partially, for a lack of posts. I have not adjusted to winter since moving back to Philadelphia after four years in sunny Las Vegas. I cannot tolerate the cold as I once had, and the lack of sunlight undermines my ambitions more so than ever. I have taken to “joking” that I’m just biding my time until we can retire to whatever is left of California.
Of course, the winter wasn’t all bad. We had a nice trip to Seattle where we got to see some of Holly’s family and eat some good food. And, as has been our recent habit, we stretched out our celebrations for my birthday over a week.
But a winter funk took a toll on my hobbies. I didn’t get out much at all to take pictures (see above comment about not being able to tolerate the cold). I did take a lot of pictures in Seattle and the Philadelphia Flower Show but otherwise most of my photos were of food and of the view out our window. I did play around with the macro setting of my Olympus TG-5 and was pleased with the results. I also wrapped up getting the last of my 2018 film developed.
I did get a little thrill when someone from a local news site, Billy Penn, contacted me about using one of my photos for a story. It’s a picture I really like so it was satisfying to hear someone else liked it enough to want to use it. It’s a picture of the ghost bike in memory of Emily Fredricks. Ghost bikes are memorials for cyclists who died because of an accident with a motor vehicle.
Now that the weather has taken a turn for the better, I have already been out a few times on photos walks but more about that later since I still need to get some of those rolls developed.
I’ve been chipping away at four new stories, two of which might be close to being done. One keeps growing so I still have a lot of work to do on that. I had also taken a break from submitting any of my existing stories anywhere. I get frustrated with the process since it’s slow and usually ends with a rejection. Although I need to remind myself that sometimes it doesn’t. I still have a few stories out that I’m waiting to hear back on, and I think it may be time to resume.
I also looked into hiring an editor for a collection of stories, but, again, more on that later when I have more to say.
I also have been sporadically drawing. Mostly, I’ve been working from Alphonso Dunn’s Pen and Ink Drawing. I found a lot of the instruction and exercises helpful, but I found myself struggling a bit with later parts of the book. This is not necessarily a book for beginners, and I think I needed to come to it with better drawing skills before tackling some of the more complex suggestions, but I still found it highly worthwhile. I also started dabbling in Marc Taro Holme’s The Urban Sketcher: Techniques for Seeing and Drawing on Location. Most of my focus is on writing and photography so I’m at peace with the sporadic effort I’ve been putting in with my drawing practice.
One thing I had been able to do over the winter was read. This was partly fueled by the sudden availability of three Kindle books that I had holds on through the Free Library of Philadelphia. Nothing like due dates to spur a reading binge. Most of the books I’ve read so far have been on my Kindle which is a little unusual for me. I certainly enjoy reading on it and appreciate the convenience, but I do still prefer print books.
My favorite book so far is Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women. Although it was heavily researched, I never found it dry or academic. All the main personalities (Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler) really came to life. At times, it read more like a novel than a work of non-fiction.
I also really enjoyed Jeff Tweedy’s Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry. Amazon Published put out a series of stories about climate change. All were interesting, but Lauren Groff’s Boca Raton was the standout. That was the second of her stories I’ve read, the other being Under the Wave from the New Yorker. I loved both of them and need to get to some of her books.
At the end of last year, I read Thomas Pynchon’s V. I have some inclination to do a complete Pynchon re-read so I broke out The Crying of Lot 49. It was probably my fourth or fifth time reading it, and it still amuses me. And I still catch things I hadn’t before. Next up will be Gravity’s Rainbow, although I’m not sure when I’ll get to it since there are plenty of new things to read as well.
For the first time, I read a cookbook from beginning to end. Well, not a cookbook exactly, but Brad Thomas Parson’s Amaro: The Spirited World of Bittersweet, Herbal Liqueurs with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas. I have long been an amari fan and ventured into making my own amaro. I figured since I was getting to that point, I should learn more and Parson’s book did the trick. The recipe I’m currently working on (it still needs to sit another week) is a fairly simple one. Parson’s has four recipes that are more involved so I think I’ll try to tackle one of those next.
Books Read in 2019
- The Way the World Ends, Jess Walter
- There’s No Place Like Home, Edan Lepucki
- Controller, Jesse Kellerman
- At the Bottom of New Lake, Sonya Larson
- Falls the Shadow, Skip Horack
- The Only Harmless Great Thing, Brooke Bolander
- Sabrina, Nick Drnaso
- Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
- Asymmetry, Lisa Halliday
- Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), Jeff Tweedy
- Washington Black, Esi Edugyan
- Boca Raton, Lauren Groff
- The Hillside, Jane Smiley
- Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
- Amaro, Brad Thomas Parsons
- The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon
The year got off to a slow-ish start but now that it’s spring, I’m starting to feel like doing things again.
Blog Posts in 2019
This Creative Midlife
- 2018 Year in Review
- Being Open to New Experiences
- Seattle Trip
- Some Lingering 2018 Photos
- Success with the Olympus TG-5