Time to Dance

I love to dance! Yes, I do. I dance at home to show tunes, Irish folk music, the Oldies, and then some.

Maybe it’s in my blood. Being of mixed descent including Irish, Spanish, and Italian ancestry. In one of the older home movies my grandparents took, I am a child dressed as an Indian princess dancing on a rooftop in New York City. Back in the day, rooftops became the place to socialize, take pictures, and take the sun. The name “tar beach” referred to sitting on the roof and sunning oneself. I have vague memories of that.

Having grown up in the time of the Sixties and Seventies, I enjoyed such dances as the Twist, the Monkey, the Hustle, line dancing, and other types of dances. More recently I took up Swing and ballroom dancing thanks to classes I took in Nutley, New Jersey.  I also enjoy ethnic dancing at weddings provided there’s a DJ or someone who teaches beforehand.

Dancing is freeing, helps let off stress, and good exercise. I prefer dancing when other people are on the dance floor, since I’m a little shy about it.

What does dancing have to do with being a writer? I’m not exactly sure, but I think it involves moving, music, and listening to oneself. As a writer, I have to move, listen to the music of the words I use, and listen to my inner voice as I compose a story, a poem, or something else. It’s also great fun to move to music, and it’s great fun to create with words. I even used dancing in my writing. Most recently it appears as the title, A Time to Dance, and some of the most romantic moments in my stories.

So, whenever and wherever you can, take time to dance. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Reading: The Early Years

As a writer, I have been inspired by many books over the years. Some are classic novels, a few are non-fiction works, and many are books considered popular fiction in their time. Looking back it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint which books held the most influence. So, here is a partial list.

I lived in Greenwich Village, New York City up to the age of nine. While there one of my favorite places was the public library. It held so many books, had special sections for reading, and felt like a home away from home for a little girl who learned to love to read. I went often, took too many books out, but somehow managed to return them in time. One of my favorite early read books were those written by Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat was the first book which I read all by myself in the first grade. My parents tape recorded me reading the book. I loved the use of rhyme and the wonderful illustrations. It interested me in poetry, writing stories, and writing poems.

Later I became a fan of the Nancy Drew’s mystery stories by Carolyn Keene after reading such books as The Hidden Staircase. As a fourth grader, I loved mystery stories, and the idea of a girl solving the mysteries was an exciting one to me.

My family moved to Staten Island, New York. While in the sixth grade a classmate introduced me to the then popular book Born Free by Joy Adamson. It’s probably the first biography I remember reading. I was thrilled by the story of how Elsa, an abandoned lioness cub in northern Kenya, had been adopted by Joy Adamson and her husband George, a game warden. The couple raised Elsa as part of their family, protected her from poachers, and later reintegrated her back into the wild instead of placing her into a zoo.  I cried at the ending and loved the movie adaptation too.

By junior high school, I became more sophisticated in my choices and enjoyed fantasy, dystopian novels, and science fiction including those by Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. However, Animal Farm by George Orwell became my choice for a book report.  I still remember how my eighth grade English teacher, Miss Maniscalco, who had suggested the book, encouraged me in my oral presentation.

Love Story by Erich Segal was probably the first romance novel I read in high school. It was very popular when I was in the ninth grade and reminded me of Romeo and Juliet. Not only are the couple a pair of star-crossed lovers because of socioeconomic differences, but they are later separated by death. My friends and I saw the movie three times on the same day at the Lane Theater in New Dorp, Staten Island.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee left a much stronger impression upon me a year later. It was interesting to see life through the eyes of the six-year-old narrator, a motherless girl named Scout, as she talks about Maycomb, Alabama with its problems of racism, an unsolved crime, and how the lawyer Atticus Finch, her father, boldly defends an unjustly accused man.

There are more books, but these stand out the most from my early years. Romance, adventure, mystery, dystopian society, social injustice, realism, and animal rights appeared to inspire my love of reading, interest in writing, and desire to learn more about the world around us.

 

To Write, Observe

 

Pay attention to your surroundings. It’s not always easy these days especially with the distractions of mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices. As a writer, I often need to find those quiet moments and special places for writing, such as a library, a park, or my home office, but sometimes I need to write on the fly wherever I can. That’s why I began to bring along a small journal or notepad for jotting down ideas. It also helps to be aware of your surroundings because they can inspire ideas too.

Recently while enjoying a morning walk in a park in my hometown of Nutley, New Jersey, I forgot to notice those wonderful sounds like birds singing, the gurgle of the brooks, and the topple of the water over the falls in Kingsland Park. Shaking me out of my daydream was the sounds in a nearby treetop. I thought either squirrels on a mad chase or a raccoon shimmering down the trunk caused the sound, but to my astonishment a few feet ahead of me came a loud crash and a huge branch fell. My heart raced at the sight and the realization that I could have been struck by the branch. A fellow traveler in the wooded area noticed this too, and we both thanked the heavens that we’d been spared. It also woke me up to the necessity to pay more attention to my surrounding. Indeed it could be a matter of life or death!

The sights, the sounds, and the feelings of my surroundings have inspired me in my writing of settings for my books. Ocean Grove and Asbury Park, New Jersey are the settings for my two young adult books, A Dance Out of Time and A Kiss Out of Time. Although I haven’t been on the pioneer trail to Oregon, the setting for my western historical romance, Wildflowers, I have visited several western and mid-western states including Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Taking photographs, enjoying visits to local museums and art galleries, and writing in journals has helped me to capture my ideas about those surroundings.

I heard long ago that to be a writer means to be an observer. I believe that it’s true. It can also save your life!