All the poems in this book were written in the past thirty years. I grew up in rural Indiana, went to college in New York City, and then came out to California after I had graduated from college. I started writing poetry after I settled in California. Many of the poems in Hoosier Fossils reflect nostalgic feelings about my Indiana childhood, as well as my love for the California landscape and my life here with my husband, our cats and the creatures that populate our yard and the places where we like to hike. Some of the poems deal with grief and the loss of my parents and other friends or family members. Some are about music. Others deal with issues that accompany being middle aged. Since they’re autobiographical, I often add years to the titles of the poems. I tend to enjoy reading other poets who are very direct and accessible—ones who address the reader as if they were old friends chatting over a cup of coffee. I hope readers will find something in all of these poems to relate to and to value—something that makes them feel a little less alone and a little more connected to the world.
Jitterbug Waltz is a collection of four short stories. In “Jitterbug Waltz,” an elderly accountant accompanies his son-in-law to dance lessons at the Arthur Murray dance studio—and gets a few lessons of his own in the art of romance. “Eucalyptus Hill” introduces a middle-aged, unemployed man attempting to achieve a fitness goal while fending off the real and remembered verbal attacks of his older sister. In “Filling the Cavities,” a recently-widowed dentist contemplates his upcoming retirement with a mixture of hope and despair. “The Art of Reading Charts” deals with an eye doctor who takes up the saxophone in his fifties, and suddenly sees the world through different eyes. These stories deal with the familiar themes of middle age—love, loss, dysfunctional families, music and dancing.
Things are going well for Violet Bloomquist. She’s spending the summer housesitting in the wealthy suburb of Bellavista with her husband and teaching a literature class at Knowlton College. The eccentric inhabitants of Bellavista provide a dramatic contrast to those in the grittier community of Knowlton, where Violet has lived and taught for the past five years. She develops a friendship with philanthropist Rita Kensington, who runs a public garden in Bellavista. She also becomes close to one of her students—Nick Wainwright, a young man who works for Rita and displays a great talent for writing. In July, however, things start to fall apart. Violet’s husband is sent away on a business trip for three weeks, and Violet’s best friend Zach, the loveable curmudgeon who makes teaching at Knowlton bearable, suddenly disappears. Violet is worried and confused as she wrestles with some big decisions. As the summer draws to a close, many of the Bellavista residents convene at Rita’s party held during the “blackberry moon,” a time of peak ripeness, when decisions must no longer be postponed, and the present moment must be savored before the opportunity fades.
Close Enough For Jazz
After her boyfriend dumps her for the singer in his jazz band, teacher and trumpet player Jill Sarton leaves San Francisco and moves back home to take care of her dying mother. She finds herself surrounded by the familiar world of Lemon Springs, the sleepy suburb where she grew up and fantasized about moving to New York City to pursue her dream of being a professional musician. When her mother dies, Jill packs up the contents of the house, hires her childhood friend Martin to do some repairs, and plays her last few remaining jazz gigs. After all, there is nothing keeping her in California now. Or is there?
Hannah Kirkwood, a frustrated painter and writer, has been teaching at Keefer Community College in California for ten years. On her fortieth birthday, and the anniversary of her father’s death, she is visited by his disapproving ghost during a class discussion of Hamlet. She then experiences a panic attack which causes her to walk out in the middle of class. As her father continues to visit her, Hannah seeks mental health advice from a slew of odd characters, including Crazy Larry, a jaded old veteran of the community college system, Elvira, a clerk at the Health Forever store, Rainbow, an off-balance yoga instructor, and Dr. Whitehouse, a lackluster therapist with problems of her own.
Playing Hooky is about the anxiety we experience in middle age as we see our options dwindle and our dreams crescendo from a soft murmur to a deafening roar. It’s about the promises we make to ourselves and the bargains we strike with others.