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My copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing” arrived on Friday of last week. Wowee, it is even better than I expected, and my expectations were pretty high, since I’ve been a fan of his fictional work since middle school. I love his essential style of choosing words that are so descriptive that I can see the scenes. I can see the dilapidated cottage where Beverly has tea with the monster in “It”, I can see the moving topiary in “The Shining” (that book scared the shit out of me when I read it back in school and it still gives me the willies). He just paints word pictures so well that I get irritated when other writers faffle on instead of just getting to the point. I want to write like that. I don’t know how to, but I want to, but not about monsters.

He has a passage in this book in which he talks about informal writing, the classic “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” prose and how it’s mainly fluff. Well, isn’t that what blogging is, generally? I come onto my blogsite, write on more or less assigned topics during Bloganuary, and voilà, we have an informal essay, don’t we?

I may just be misunderstanding due to reading this book so late in the evening, almost half asleep. Then again, I may just be writing “how I spent my summer” drivel over and over again. Mr King, could you please tell me?

So, what was the point of all the informal essays in school? Was it like “filler” writing, just to exercise putting sentances and paragraphs together to comunicate an idea or a memory? Probably, I would have to go back over thirty years to ask Mrs Moore, who was my English teacher for at least three of the four years at Deming High. Was all that fluff writing actually like working out at the gym, using different machines for different muscle groups?

I think that I am overthinking this and should just get on with writing. Every day. Like brushing my teeth or washing my face. Doing my writing planks and squats. Building those muscles, layering my toolbox.



February, Something New

I still have quite a few of the Bloganuary prompts to work my way through, but the ones I haven’t done are those that I was struggling to write something about, so I’m not sure that I will be able to. I’ll try to finish the prompts that I have in draft form, there are only a few of those.

I do have a list of weekly prompts that I will be trying to go through, need to exercise those writing muscles! That will be something new for this year.

Another new thing that I am doing this year is polishing up my French language skills. I took French for two years in college, but then stopped because I came to Italy and started learning Italian. I couldn’t find a free online course, so I downloaded the Duo Lingo app and have been happily plowing through lessons and exercises. I’m also watching French films and mini series on Netflix with English or Italian subtitles so I can practice listening. So far I can catch one word every ten, but it’s fun.

I have hope of getting my knee back in working order, it gave out on me in late August and though much better in comparison, is still functioning at about 50%. I might be starting therapies that will at least restore enough function that I can walk normally and go up and down stairs again. I think that I will see if I’m able to do any planking, I haven’t been able to exercise since July, so I’m all wibble-wobble.

I’m sure that I’ll be adding things to my 2023 self-improvement list, there are so many things that I want to try this year.

Books – Bloganuary Prompt 10

I am a voracious reader, I have been since I first learnt how to read, with the old-fashioned “Dick and Jane” books. I, as little Sara Crewe’s father said in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, “…she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she wants grown-up books—great, big, fat ones…”. That was me, except I didn’t read in any other languages, unlike little Sara. I did read big, fat, thick books at a relatively young age, I read “Jaws” when I was about 9. That one I actually told my father, who was a voracious reader himself, that the paperback was at the local 5 and Dime (gosh that makes me feel old) for whatever price it was. I knew he would give me the money to go and buy it for him so I could read it after he did.

I read Gone With the Wind for the first time at 10, not really understanding all of it. I remember asking my mom why Rhett said “Thank you for the crumbs from your table, Mrs Dives” when Scarlett said that she was “fond” of Rhett. My mom said that it was probably an editing problem, which in hindsight is hilarious. I can imagine that explaining something like that to a ten-year-old would be difficult.

When my family moved to New Mexico, one of the very few shops in this small town was a Goodwill. We, or my mom, would buy previously owned clothes and books there, which incidentally started my thrifting obsession. I started reading Nancy Drew books, some of them prints from the 1920’s and ’30’s. Then my mom gave me a copy of The Secret Garden, which opened up an entirely new world to me. In the meantime I would haunt the school library and bring home any book that seemed even slightly interesting. I read the entire Little House series, the Raggedy Ann and Andy series (with the chocolate ice cream mud puddles and enough sugar to rot every tooth in your head), the Mrs Piggle-Wiggle series, The Boxcar Children series, Ivanhoe, Robin Hood, Dickens, Dickinson, Poe, Lewis Carroll, poetry, short stories, plays, historical liturature, Girl Scout handbooks, dance instruction books, books about ballerinas, about witches, about fairies, as well as any and all books assigned in class. I would read in class during lessons, late at night on a school night, in the car sitting backwards, slouched upside-down in the easy-chair, laying on the floor in front of the tv, on the front porch, on the school bus, during lunch time.

I would read any time I could get my hands on a book. Books were my escape hatch to other worlds, my only solice and also my addiction.

I can’t really pinpoint that one, single, book that changed my life, unless it was that first Dick and Jane book that helped teach me to read. My mom told me that, just before starting Grade 1, I was worried about just how the teacher would be able to teach me to read. I thought that I was too stupid to learn, I suppose.

I have Ikea bookshelves filled to bursting with all the orphaned books that I have been able to pick up through the years. I’ve moved six times over the last 35 years, and I’ve almost always managed to drag my books with me.

I have many old faithful books that I have read dozens of times, and I am always on the lookout for new books to devour.

Gifts – Bloganuary Prompt 9

I think that one of my most memorable gifts was the last one from my mother. My little family went to New Mexico to visit her for Christmas 2015, we were there for almost two weeks.

She gave me this silver necklace in a velvet box, I am wearing it in this photo from last year, a few months after she passed away. I am always afraid of breaking the clasp and losing it, so it generally stays in the box.

I have a Mother’s Day streamer card that my son made for me in Grade 1, it is still hanging on my bedroom wall, I don’t have a photo of it for this post.

I have bracelet charms given to me by my husband and son over the last several years that I will always treasure.

My most memorable gifts are those that remind me of my loved ones and those special moments with them.

Travel – Bloganuary Prompt 14

I prefer to travel by train, especially since here in Italy it is the easiest mode of travel. The experience has changed since I moved here though, years ago all trains would wind through the countryside, sometimes slowing near small towns, speeding past open fields and mountains. The modern trains mostly run through underground tunnels, mostly without the scenery. These modern trains have wi-fi, usb charging ports, clean seats and a/c, and are much faster than their predecessors from the 1980’s and ’90’s. Some of the old trains had the six-seat compartments, a bit like the Hogwarts Express, with a fold-down table under the window (and a built-in ashtray, one could smoke just about anywhere at the time) and seats that would slide forward slightly to allow the passengers to lay back a bit. They were probably from the 1950’s or ’60’s, considering the decorative artwork in them, and were charming for a young girl from the wilds of New Mexico.

I prefer trains because, once on board, I have less to worry about, I can read a book or listen to music or have a chat with whoever I’m travelling with. These days, you don’t even need to stamp your ticket because they’re all e-tickets with a bar code or a serial number that the train conductors check on their pads.

I can get on a train and be in Firenze in an hour, tour the city, have lunch and maybe an aperitivo and hop on a train and be home for dinner time. The newer stations are sleek and look a lot like airports too. The old trains used to have the café carriage, where you could get an espresso or a sandwich. Coming back from a day at the seaside, we would stand next to the open corridor windows to try to cool off, there were stickers warning passengers in four languages to not lean out the windows and to not throw anything out the windows.

There is a famous scene from an old Italian film called “Amici Miei” where the people on the platform leapt up to slap the faces of the passengers leaning out the windows of the departing train.

Joy – Bloganuary 5 “What Brings You Joy?”

Twinkly fairy or Christmas lights bring me joy. I would keep them up all year round, if I could. I remember when I visited Paris in the ’90’s, the trees on the Champs-Élysées were wound around with white lights, and I thought that it was the prettiest thing ever.

Here in Bologna, in Via dell’Indipendenza (or Via Indipendenza for the locals) the tree trunks outside the corner McDonald’s near the Garibaldi statue have white lights wound around them still, even though all the other decorations have been taken down.

Also, this guy. He’s now 20 years old and looks very different from this photo taken on Mother’s Day in 2009. He has brought me much joy, and continues to be a bright spot in my life.

Languages – Bloganuary Prompt 26 Jan 2023

I speak two languages, English mother-tongue and Italian. I can write fairly well in Italian, the grammar and syntax are a bit off though. I am a self-taught Italian speaker, which works only because I actually live in the country itself. I doubt that I would have learnt much more than the very Tarzan level of competence if I hadn’t.

I would like to learn to speak French, Spanish and possibly some Mandarin. It wouldn’t be too difficult for me to practice any of these languages with mother-tongue speakers where I live and at my job. The problem is making time to study, I am too lazy to do it properly.

This will be my new goal at the end of Bloganuary, trying to improve my knowledge of either French or Spanish. I think that setting myself specific weekly and monthly goals will help me, otherwise I get overwhelmed and will put it off until an unspecified date.

French it is! Oui!

What Is a Treasure That Has Been Lost? – Bloganuary 2023 prompt for January 4th

I think that we have lost time as in spare time, before cell phones and smart phones and internet, once you were out in the world, away from landlines, you were pretty much unreachable. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m as addicted to my smartphone and social media as the next Gen Xer, the technology has in many ways made our lives easier, and it’s what totally saved our asses in 2020 with telework and online school.


Before I bought my first cellphone, my boss at the time would send me out on errands. I could take some extra me time before returning to the office, since he had no way of contacting or checking up on me. When I took a train or plane or even a bus, yes, in some situations a cell phone would have been useful, but I was “off the grid” without really going anywhere. Weekends at the beach or in the park or cycling were uniterrupted by messages and calls and pinging of reminders.

The thing is, we had time to enjoy what we were actually doing instead of constantly checking emails. Or maybe that’s just me and my skewed perspective.

Bloganuary 6 – Why Do You Write?

I write to let out all the thoughts that are constantly running around in my head. I am a lazy writer, I write in my head but the words rarely make it to being written down. I have this almost constant flow of words and thoughts, most of them worries or just questions, that sometimes distract me from whatever here and now I am in.

Most of this internal monologue is what I would say if I were actually a vlogger, there are several that I regularly watch, so my head-voice sounds a lot like their content.

My mom used to say that I should have become an editor, with all the reading I did, but I would rather write. I go through bursts of activity, in middle and high school I wrote poetry mostly, but also short stories and once I started a script for a popular tv show. I used to journal as well, but I stopped doing that when I arrived in Italy because my friend sneak-read my journal and then had the chutzpah to chastise me for not sharing with her so she wouldn’t have to sneak! She actually wrote this IN the journal. I had never had anyone read my personal journals, it never even occured to me that anyone would really care. I wrote journals for Creative Writing in high school, so the teacher read those of course. Anyway, I stopped writing for a very long time.

I am trying to get back into writing, my grammar and spelling are all over the place and I am out of practice, but I am exercising those muscles and hopefully will produce something that I can read later on and not cringe too much.