For FALL 2010's delicious offerings of books, art, food, film, and unique travel--check out the NEW ISSUE of our online magazine FEAST--you will not go away hungry-- http://www.feastofbooks.com/

Between issues, read our blog posts as we and our special guests share thoughts, ideas, and recommendations about books, art, food, film, and travel. We love to hear from our readers, so please post a comment! Thanks-- Rosemary Carstens, editor

SNAX ONLINE is moving during the first quarter of 2011 -- stay tuned!

Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boulder Media Women's 2007 and 2008 Titles

There’s a great group of creative media women in my area. All year long I find the group to be a fountain of collaboration, advice, experiences, and encouragement. There are graphic/website designers, technical advisers, copyeditors, authors, journalists, publishers, public relations and marketing professionals, producers, and film makers, to mention just a few of the talents in Boulder Media Women. Here’s a list of the latest and forthcoming titles produced by them. To find out more, go to their website at www.BoulderMediaWomen.com -- Rosemary

COLORADO'S CLASSIC MOUNTAIN TOWNS, Evelyn Spence. Countryman Press 2007. A guide to seven ski towns with history, lodging, dining, summer and winter recreation, festivals, kids' activities, and more. www.countrymanpress.com/titles/GDCOMtnTowns.html.

DARK HARVEST, Lynda Hilburn. Medallion Press 2008. As a guest on a radio show, Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight, PhD, answers a question from a mysterious, preternatural caller who turns her world upside down—again. http://www.lyndahilburnauthor.com/

HEALING FROM TRAUMA: A Survivor's Guide To Understanding Your Symptoms and Reclaiming Your Life, Jasmin Lee Cori, MS, LPC. Marlowe & Co., January 2008. A holistic self-help guide for survivors of various kinds of trauma written by a therapist and trauma survivor. Complete with exercises, healing stories, points to remember, and resources. http://www.jasmincori.com/

MIRANDA, QUEEN OF ARGYLL: Unlikely Saints, Julia Phillips. One Level Higher Publishing 2007. The anxiously awaited conclusion of Past Sins finds Miranda losing her faith as time runs out to stop Kadar from claiming the child. Hope is in short supply as a traitor wreaks havoc on the inner circle, but it is the unexpected players that will tip the scale. http://www.queenofargyll.com/

NORDIC WALKING: A Complete Guide, Claire Walter. Hatherleigh Press, early 2008. http://nordic-walking-usa.blogspot.com/

ONE GAY, ONE STRAIGHT: Complicated Marriages, Carol Grever, writer/producer; Roslyn Dauber, producer/director. Dauber Film Services 2008. Straight spouses tell their own stories in this unique documentary on marriages mired in the secrecy of a homosexual closet. Watch how some reconfigured their broken lives, moving from bewilderment toward healing. http://www.carolgrever.com/

POWER IN THE BLOOD: A Family Narrative, Linda Tate. Ohio University Press 2008. A family and cultural history brings to life several generations of the author’s Cherokee-Appalachian family. Three interrelated, first-person narrators tell the tale: the author’s great-great-grandmother Louisiana in 1902; her grandmother Fannie in 1963; and the author in her own story from childhood through the present. http://portfolio.du.edu/ltate3

PRACTICALLY SHAMELESS, Alyce Barry. Practically Shameless Press 2008. An uplifting personal story that illustrates how to find the gold in your shadow and how good it feels when you do. An inspirational and heart-healing book for viewing your most troubling personal issues with compassion and loving yourself more. http://www.practicallyshameless.com/

RV TOURIST: Tips, Tools, and Stories, Elsi Dodge. iUniverse 2007. How to plan and implement an RV vacation, from choosing an RV and a campground, to writing an itinerary, to what to do if you're lost. RV TOURIST is full of stories about the author’s adventures while driving a 30-foot Winnebago across the US, accompanied only by an elderly beagle and an odd little cat who thinks he's a saber-toothed tiger. http://www.rvtourist.com/

SUSTAINING THOUGHT: Thirty Years of Cookery at the School for Advanced Research, Rosemary Carstens and Leslie Shipman. School of Advanced Research Press 2007. Unfolding around the seasons of the academic year, this cookbook contains recipes for meals tested by generations of SAR’s guests and fine tuned by distinguished cooks and chefs. The recipes are perfect for medium-sized gatherings and designed to take advantage of the best fresh foods of each season. http://www.sarpress.sarweb.org/

THE BACKROADS AND BYWAYS OF COLORADO, Drea Knufken (with John Daters). Countryman Press, 2008. A comprehensive, mile-by-mile guide to Colorado's 12 best scenic and historic byways. Just in time for summer road trip season! http://dreaknufken.com/

THE HEROICS OF FALLING APART: One Couple's Breast Cancer Journey, Judy Gordon and Dan Gordon. 2007. A candid memoir told through the voices of both the patient and the caregiver; the only breast cancer memoir written by a couple. http://www.theheroicsoffallingapart.com/

THE SCIENCE OF DUNE: An Unauthorized Exploration into the Real Science Behind Frank Herbert’s Fictional Universe, includes an essay by Sibylle Hechtel. Smartpopbooks, January 2008. http://www.smartpopbooks.com/

THE VAMPIRE SHRINK, Lynda Hilburn. Medallion Press 2007. Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight, PhD, finds herself up to her neck in vampires when a new client pulls her into the paranormal underworld. http://www.lyndahilburnauthor.com/

WHAT KIDS REALLY WANT TO ASK: Using Movies to Start Meaningful Conversations (A Guidebook for Parents and Children aged 10–14), Rhonda A. Richardson, PhD, and Margaret Pevec, MA. VanderWyk and Burnham 2007. Real questions asked by 10–14 year olds led to the topics covered in this book. Each topic comes with a suggested movie and talking points for both parent and child to keep lines of communication open during the transformative middle school years. http://margaretpevec.com/

WHEN YOUR SPOUSE COMES OUT: A Straight Mate’s Recovery Manual, Carol Grever, MA, and Deborah Bowman, PhD. Haworth Press 2007. A lively guide to long-term emotional recovery for heterosexual men and women whose intimate partners are gay. Solid therapeutic techniques for self-help in a framework of riveting case studies of mixed orientation couples. http://www.carolgrever.com/

Monday, December 10, 2007

Great Reads for the Holidays! FEAST's Fabulous Finds

2007 has been a year of wonderful stories, new ideas, food for thought and palate. FEAST selects books that might not have made the best sellers’ lists because they didn’t have that high profile promotional budget, but each is a gem, a discovery, and should not be allowed to fade away. If you are looking for a special gift for yourself or someone else, here’s the best of the year’s offerings:


A THREAD OF GRACE, Mary Doria Russell. Random House 2005. A superbly written story about a young Jewish girl who, with her father and thousands of other Jewish refugees, attempts to escape the Germans by climbing over the Alps into Italy in 1943. There have been many books through the years about the Jewish refugee experience, but we seldom read about those who hid in Italy, the Italians who sheltered them at risk of their own lives, and what it was like for those who fought there in the resistance movement. The result of five years of meticulous research, Russell brings us in intimate detail the almost unimaginable hardship of those years before the Allies came in and WWII ended. If you love to learn your history through fictional characters who “live” it, this book about the Italian front will not disappoint.

DIGGING TO AMERICA, Anne Tyler. Knopf 2006. Tyler excels at stories about families. This one touches on some important contemporary issues: marriage between people from very different cultures, immigration, adoption by a multicultural family of children of yet other cultures, issues of adoption in general, death, loss, love, and relationships. In other words, just the stuff of ordinary, everyday lives told with deceiving simplicity. In Digging to America, two couples each adopt a little girl from Korea—both the people in one couple were born and raised in the United States, the other is a marriage between an American and an Iranian immigrant. Tyler thoroughly researched Iranian culture and delved deeply to discover immigrants’ feelings when confronted with certain US attitudes, their sense of loss of their own culture as it is watered down through the years, and their inability to reconnect with a childhood era that no longer exists. This is a tender, revealing story of changing times and mores—a window onto other ways of living and thinking skillfully portrayed by a fine writer.

A SPOT OF BOTHER, Mark Haddon. Doubleday 2006. The latest from the author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (a remarkable read). Haddon has an exceptional ability to access the absurdity of being human. That we are all flawed is nowhere clearer than in this story of a family’s dysfunction. It is strongly written, and hilarious, with the action and fun building like a snowball rolling down hill. As it picked up speed and I connected with each character’s nutty self-involvement and self-doubt, I chuckled and snorted aloud as they headed for certain collision, embarrassment, and disaster. Haddon proves once again that there is nothing funnier or more pathetic than family relationships—they are irreplaceable and essential, filled with conflict, all about them and never, often enough, about us. And family communications are often the most difficult of all—these people who know us the best and yet the least, who can always be counted on to misinterpret our grunts, hints, and unique qualities. Highly entertaining!

CONSUMPTION, Kevin Patterson. Doubleday 2007. Enter the lost world of the Inuit (Eskimo) in the far north near the Arctic Ocean as recreated by this talented literary writer. Victoria’s people have been brought in off the land where they have survived under the harshest conditions on earth for untold years. They now live in stark, prefab houses, shacks, and trailers and try to learn to live in one spot year-round, no longer existing on their traditional foods, but adding beer, cheez whiz, and the less nutritious diet of the “south.” With these changes comes civilization’s diseases: tuberculosis, diabetes, and others. This is the story of a young doctor who decides to practice in this difficult climate and the people he comes to know well over a period of twenty years. It’s fascinating—

THE SAFFRON KITCHEN, Yasmin Crowther. Viking 2006. I so often find that debut novels burst forth like a piñata, filled with color and delight. This one is no exception. Saffron Kitchen is set in England and is the story of a mixed marriage between an Englishman and an Iranian woman, and their daughter Sara. The story moves back and forth between past and present, London and a small remote village in Iran. The writing is beautiful and elegant, filled with captivating description so real that all your sense are ignited—underlying all is a discussion of what it is to be in exile from a place or person you love. To be rootless and unable to return, then, when finally you DO return, is the past waiting to exhale? Or has it moved on so that what you remember can no longer be visited? This is a story without a villain, only human beings whose actions have been so rash that the direction and tenor of their lives have been altered forever. It is about love, forgiveness, anger—and a lifetime of haunting memory.

JASMINE, Bharati Mukherjee. Grove 1999. A beautifully written story of a Hindu illegal immigrant from India: her flight to Florida, New York, and Iowa, and her journey to becoming a US citizen. This book is especially revealing of the barrier between Americans and illegals—the border that cannot be crossed. This author is known for her lyrical poetry—and her prose echoes that strength.

RETURNING TO EARTH, Jim Harrison. Grove Press 2007. Donald is a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. In his days of fading verbal ability, he struggles to pass along his family history before he goes. As his family and friends wrestle with their upcoming loss and how to deal with his wish to die on his own terms and be laid to rest in accordance with his own deeply held beliefs that are in conflict with contemporary laws, Donald dictates stories of three generations of his ancestors and his relationship with his personal spiritual heritage. Harrison frames the question of how we return “to earth” upon our passing, how we retain dignity and choice, through chapters by each of the characters. Through their personal journeys as they deal with their loss, a finely written discussion of life, death, and redemption is revealed.


CLAPTON'S GUITAR: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument, Allen St. John. Free Press 2006. I could not put this down! I’ve often thought certain, well-used inanimate objects, like musical instruments, could tell us some amazing stories if they only had a voice: Van Cliburn’s or Ray Charles’s piano, Miles Davis’s trumpet, Eric Clapton’s guitar. Imagine the tales! Musicians form intimate relationships with their instruments; they pour their souls into them and, with the best, their souls are reincarnated and rise into the air as music that makes our hearts soar. Bestselling author Allen St. John takes us on a personal journey to watch retired rural mail carrier Wayne Henderson, one of the world’s greatest guitar builders, make such an instrument. Henderson employs experience, creativity, and more than a little down-home ingenuity—and there’s a 10-year waiting list for his heirloom acoustic guitars. St. John writes with poetry and passion, but also with a clear eye about the process—part magic, part music, and a huge helping of craftsmanship in a world where friendship, laughter, old-time music, and homemade lemon pies and barbeque count for more than who has the big bucks. This book is special if you care about music and craftsmanship.

SHADOW OF THE BEAR, Brian Payton. Bloomsbury 2006. Over a five-year period, journalist Brian Payton travels the world to see the eight remaining bear species. It’s an astounding adventure as he goes from the jungles of Cambodia, to China, to Canada, to Peru, India, Italy, and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. This is a phenomenal story, but, unfortunately, it is also a tragedy as we learn the state of these rapidly vanishing species and the lives they are forced to live. Everyone who loves wildlife and/or is concerned about our changing environment should, as they say at the card table, “read ‘em and weep.”

TRUCK: A LOVE STORY, Michael Perry. HarperCollins 2006. If “Truck” were a candy bar, you could say it contains humor and homespun wisdom in every bite. Perry’s latest memoir weaves three stories together—restoring a 1950s International Harvester truck, attempting to cultivate his own garden, and discovering romance after a lifetime of failed relationships. Truck is a book that both men and women will love, but perhaps it will be most enjoyed by the man who understands the attraction of working on something mechanical, the nature of relationships between men, and the desire to be self-sustaining through growing food and hunting. It gets a bit literary in its references at times, but otherwise is the clear-eyed view of someone who grew up in farming country in northern Wisconsin.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE LEADERS GONE? Lee Iacocca. Scribner 2007. Legendary auto executive Lee Iacocca poses this pertinent question as the 2008 presidential election campaign hits its stride. Every point he makes hits the bull’s eye of where the United States is today and what we’d better know about the capabilities of our next president. It’s a no-nonsense look at how “Rome” is burning while the present administration, including Congress, fiddles around with non-priority projects, rhetoric instead of analysis, and, in some notable cases, filling their own pockets with OUR money. This is an easily read, fact-based view by a man who knows first hand about organization and leadership and who speaks plainly. You’ll smile wryly if it doesn’t move you to tears. We need to get cracking!

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A Year of Food Life, Barbara Kingsolver. HarperCollins 2007. Kingsolver shares her family’s experiences upon moving to southern Appalachia to live on a farm. They pledge to “eat local” for one whole year, raising as much as possible of their own food. Kingsolver mixes personal details and challenges of their lives with deeply researched material about what is happening to the US food supply due to corporate farming and global trade. It’s pretty scary stuff and makes you want to do more to support your local farmers and farmers’ markets, to encourage your supermarket chains to carry local meat and produce. Well done on an important topic for us all.

THE RIVER OF LOST FOOTSTEPS: Histories of Burma, Thant Myint-U. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2006. Pure history about the past, present, and future possibilities for Burma/Myanmar. Most of us know little about this country except for a few exotic literary or musical mentions of the road to Mandalay or Rangoon. Born in 1966, educated at Harvard and Cambridge, in 1988 the author was living in a Burmese rebel base camp, “a sometimes dusty and sometimes muddy sprawl of bamboo and thatch huts, the misty malarial rain forests of the Tennasserim hills in the near distance and young, determined-looking men and women in emerald-green uniforms milling all around.” With the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991, more of us had an inkling that there was a country out there—next to the old kingdom of “Siam”—that was poor and embroiled in a bitter struggle for democracy against a repressive military regime. If you’ve ever been curious to know more, this is an excellent presentation of the history with some small amount of analysis and a proposal for the country’s future prospects in a global environment.

KEEP ON COOKIN’ – my favorite cookbook for the year!

ARABESQUE: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, & Lebanon, Claudia Roden. Knopf 2006. Not only is this cookbook beautiful to look at or display in your kitchen, with its turquoise and gold, middle eastern design cover and the stunning photo layouts of foods and dishes inside, but it is filled with stories and bits of history from each of these three countries, plus recipes that are not “Greek” for the average cook to create. They are manageable, use ingredients that most can find (some have been reworked with contemporary ingredients), yet have retained the alluring touches of spices and complex flavor combinations that are new to many US palates. This is food for real people, not gourmands or food elitists. It gets my vote for the best of its kind!

IF YOU HAVE ENJOYED THESE SELECTIONS and are not on the subscription list for FEAST, the award-winning quarterly eZine about books, art, food, film, and travel, go to http://www.carstenscommunications.com/feast.html and check out a recent issue.

Happy holidays to all – and may 2008 be filled with great reads!

-- Rosemary Carstens, Editor

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Very Special Hometown Book Shop in VT

Our next guest blogger is GREG DENNIS. Greg and I go way back. Probably 20 years ago, when we both lived in a kick-back beach community in Southern California, Greg was the editor of a local newspaper and published one of my very first travel articles about a trip to Egypt. He and his wife are now living happily in Vermont, enjoying the change of seasons. But you can’t keep an old newspaper guy down and he recently was kind enough to agree to post here for FEAST. Welcome Greg!

Page Turns at Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop

For lovers of books and music, the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, VT, has always been a kind of temple. Entering it was like going to church—a high tin ceiling, walls lined with books straight down to the floor, bursting record bins, bleary northern light leaking through windows in the back.

And, most of all, the creaking wooden floor. A single step inside the big front door and the old floor gave a reassuring squeak. God was in his heaven and, inside the four walls of this old emporium, were treasures to be discovered: a new book by a favorite author, a long-out-of-print jazz album.

It was with great trepidation this year that many of us contemplated new owner Becky Dayton's announcement that she would be remodeling the temple. Wasn't it enough that the long gauntlet of nonfiction had been moved? Why some of the world’s most turgid tomes by Herbert Marcuse, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky had sat collecting dust on those shelves for years. Wasn't that worth something?

You could spend 10 minutes there and catch up on all that was wrong with America, just by reading the dust jackets. And then you could wend your way to the back for a novel or an album and be reminded of all that was right with the world. One shelf always held the New York Review of Each Other’s Books.

The music bins were full of LP's by obscure bluesmen. But the Stones’s original “Sticky Fingers” LP—the one with the pulldown zipper on the front cover that many stores refused to carry—was also on especially prominent display.

One inevitably encountered the bullpen island where the sales staff resided. The cast of staff characters changed a bit over the years, but very slowly. As the days approached before the VBS would temporarily close for renovation, I was prepared for the worst.

And, it’s true, in the “new” store the creaky old floor has disappeared. Too worn to refinish, it's been replaced by an attractive carpet. But there's still a spot where you can step and hear the gratifying squeak of the old floor underneath.

The VBS now feels like a small, homey version of Barnes & Noble. There are now actual chairs where one can contemplate a next purchase, or just read a favorite Robert Frost poem pulled from the Vermont section. During the renovation, there emerged forgotten walls of brick and A&P green tile. The windows at the back were opened to the sky, and multiple layers of paint were scraped off the old oaken moldings. The crew even discovered a long forgotten fourth window on the west wall, which had been buried for decades behind a bookshelf.

So why would Becky Dayton commit so many of her waking hours to reviving a bookstore that has yet to generate its first dollar in profit since she bought it? Along with the other small-town heroes who keep America’s downtowns alive, she's on a bit of a mission.

“It's very important that a good small town have a bookstore,” she says. “It's the Third Place, after home and work."

Gregory Dennis is a writer and marketing consultant who lives in Middlebury, Vermont. In addition to advising healthcare technology companies, he's a columnist for the Addison Independent and contributing editor of Vermont Ski & Ride. His travel writing has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, among others. He's been a Vermont Book Shop customer for more than 37 years. Dennis blogs at http://middlburyvt.blogspot.com/.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Book Review by Claire Walter - Beserk in the Antarctic

Berserk in the Antarctic
By David Mercy

Lyons Press 2004

David Mercy and I keep crossing paths—figuratively, not literally. Our most recent encounter was in the pages of Berserk in the Antarctic. I bought the book about crossing the stormy Drake Passage in a 27-foot sailboat at London’s Heathrow Airport for transatlantic reading. I knew about the hair-raising experience that David wrote about because Telluride Mountain Film had presented a primitive Norwegian documentary about it a few years ago. (The film won the People’s Choice Award at the 2001 Banff Mountain Film Festival and, if I could have voted at Telluride, I would have selected it too.) In any event, that film particularly resonated because when the Berserk made it to Antarctica, the trio encountered a red-hulled ship called the Disko. My husband and I had traveled to Antarctica across the Drake Passage on the Disko a few years earlier.

David is the kind of traveler I kind of wish I were (or at least wish I had been when I was younger). In truth, I never have had the courage to backpack to places just because I have never been there. David is. He seizes any cheap opportunity to achieve his travel desires, like climbing aboard the Berserk. His opportunity came in Ushuaia, Argentina, where he met Jarle Andhøy, the 19-year-old Norwegian owner of the boat, who had already single-handedly sailed across the Atlantic, and an Argentinean named Manuel, who turned out to be prone to seasickness.

After Berserk’s near-death crossing of the Drake Passage, Manuel sought asylum on the Disko, willing to do anything to avoid setting out again on the 27-footer. Even after Manuel bailed, so to speak, Jarle and David kept sailing through Antarctic waters, dodging icebergs and getting up close and personal with whales, seals, and penguins. Eventually, the Berserk limped back to South America. Jarle kept on going. His boat finally sank off the Chilean coast, with Jarle escaping in a rowboat. Ironically, the Disko later ran aground off the coast of Greenland, 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle, also with no loss of life.

David Mercy’s telling of this whale of a tale is funny, colorful, and occasionally poignant, and his book is a quick, easy, and compelling read. There might be another book in his future. It seems that he, Jarle and a couple of other Norwegians are now on a round-the-world adventure. They are sailing on Jarle’s new steel-hulled boat, the Berserk II, with a comically menacing shark face painted on the bow. Videos and the Captain’s log are available at
www.wildvikings.com, for this is a considerably higher-tech voyage.

– Claire Walter
CLAIRE WALTER is an award-winning Colorado-based journalist and author, specializing in travel, snowsports and food. Her website is http://www.claire-walter.com/ and her highly regarded travel blog is at http://travel-babel.blogspot.com/.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Guest Bloggers' Series Begins

FEAST is beginning a new program today featuring a series of special guests who will post about one of our five topics: books, art, food, film, or travel. Each will bring a unique perspective to the topics and I think you will enjoy reading them and seeing where their links lead. Be sure to sign up for the Atom or RSS feeds so you don’t miss a thing!

OUR FIRST GUEST OF THE SERIES is DONNA DRUCHUNAS, author, editor, and freelance writer, who is passionate about following her dreams and combines writing and traveling as a large part of her personal journey. Welcome, Donna!

Lace Knitting in Alaskan Villages Showcases Unique Styles

Thanks, ROSEMARY, for hosting the ultimate (as in last) stop on my blog book tour for Ethnic Knitting Discovery!

Today I'd like to talk about following your passions, even when they take you half way around the world. I've never believed in moderation. When I love something, I want to give myself over to it completely and enjoy the sensation of immersion. Although my interests change over time, I don't hold back when I fall in love with something new.

During my book tour, several people asked me if I traveled much to do my research. Although I do travel a lot, I admit that the research for Ethnic Knitting Discovery was done in my living room and at the public library. I just didn't have the money to go to Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Peru in the time necessary to get this book written. But I do travel to pursue my passions and to do research for my books. I went to Alaska while working on Arctic Lace, and I'll be making several trips to Lithuania to work on a future book. Because I had more time to work on Arctic Lace, and because my book about Lithuania doesn't have a due date yet, the luxury of travel can be part of the process.

And yet it's not luxury. To write more than a page or two about the cultural motifs expressed through knitting in a region requires a personal experience with the land, the people, and the society. For me the challenge is twofold. How do I fund my dreams? How do I tie my interests, travels, and work into one life? Those are two questions I ask myself all the time. I've tried different approaches, and not all of them work for me.

To be honest, I have trouble with work. With mercenary work, that is. The things that I do just for money often irritate me because they take up too much time. I have to remind myself that the day job is a “dream funder.” It makes it possible for me to do the things I love. If I forget why I’m working, then I get in a funk.

For the past four years, I've been making a living doing freelance work as an editor of knitting books. I met all of my financial goals, and I felt a rush of success every time I looked at my writing plan and realized I was paying my bills by writing and editing. But eventually it wore me down, and I felt I was spending too much of my energy editing other peoples’ books, to the point where I wasn't able to write much at all this year. So next month, I'm going back to a day job working for a small software company. I still get to work at home, but my work hours will be limited. That's the key to finding a dream funder! It has to give you the most money for the least work. That way your energy remains at a high level for following that elusive dream!

**Donna Druchunas learned to knit before she could read. She combines her interest in knitting with her skill at writing easy-to-follow instructions. She is the author of The Knitted Rug: 21 Fantastic Designs (Lark Books, 2004) and Arctic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters (Nomad Press, 2006). Her designs and articles have been featured in Family Circle Easy Knitting, Knitters, Interweave Knits, Creative Knitting, and INKnitters magazines. Visit her website at www.sheeptoshawl.com

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mapping our Imaginations through Books, Art, Food, Film, and Travel

September already. It doesn’t seem possible. Summer flew by in a blur of sharp blue morning skies and, from the plains where I live, beckoning jagged-edged mountain ranges. Riding my motorcycle into cooler elevations this month, the dry scent of pine swirls around me as I twist ever higher up the road. The sun warms my arms and I feel the exhilarating pull of gravity as I power in and out of turns. Each second brings a quick snapshot: a flash of blue and a squawk of jay; a whiff of skunk; a glimpse of elk huddled tight in a meadow. I leave behind the everydayness of work and words and enter a world of the senses, of intense focus on each moment. Each turn of the calendar the landscape changes and evokes renewed dreams of discovery, exotic sights, memorable images to recombine with the old. I lean into the uniqueness of each season and experience strong correlations between them and our human life spans—they express a comforting continuity and renewal.

As autumn arrives we gird ourselves for the holiday season, gear up for a last push to reach our year’s goals. Because for so many years September signaled a new school term, I often still feel a spark of energy that causes me to take on new challenges in the fall; it becomes not only a time of retrospection, of wrapping up, but also a time of renewed commitment to the passions of my life. Fall, then, is a time when the angle of light changes and casts revelation upon our personal landscapes, allowing us to see freshly our own geography.

Thinking about personal geography reminds me of a book I read some years ago titled A Mapmaker’s Dream: The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice, a journal translated by James Cowan (Shambhala Books 1996). In the late 1980s, Cowan made a visit to the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni in the Venetian lagoon in search of unpublished materials of Lord Byron. Going through archives left undisturbed for centuries, Cowan came upon a copy of a journal written by a Venetian of the sixteenth century, a man named Fra Mauro, who lived in the monastery of San Michele di Murano. He became fascinated with the work and decided to translate it. It is a jewel! This simple journal proposes new concepts of “mapping”—not only geographic, but spiritual and intellectual territory—that is particularly applicable in the fall of the year. To quote:

The map we draw becomes a representation of these impressions, each one contributing to that sublime image we believe exists but so far have not yet discovered . . . I now realize that the world is not real save in the way each of us impresses upon it his own sensibility. More importantly, this sensibility results from a belief in the world being a measurable whole, rather than something that extends beyond time and place. . . . Such a world emerges not from the sea as an island appears to do after a long voyage, but from a state of enchantment inspired by the mind taking leave of itself. . . namely the elusive power of the imagination . . . (emphasis mine)

If we accept that the world is more than a collection of geographic or topographic features, of longitudes and latitudes, parallels and meridians, but is also a complex composition of human imaginings of destinations, lives, and perspectives, then our personal geography becomes a unique individual map. As we take in new combinations of images and ideas, and as they shape and mold our thinking, morphing into even more personal influences, our landscape, our map of the world, is altered. In the fall issue of our award-winning webZINE FEAST at www.CarstensCommunications.com/FEAST.html, which will be out in the next few days, I hope you will find some startling, satisfying, reinforcing, and revitalizing images and concepts that will change your landscape, your view of the world in small or even large ways.
Enjoy the Fall!
-- Rosemary Carstens
Editor, FEAST: Books, art, food, film, and travel

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

FEAST: Books, art, food, film, and travel . . .

Summer 2007

Welcome to an eZINE that will satisfy your appetite for books, art, food, film, and travel. It's a FEAST of suggestions for reading, viewing, dining, and getting on down the road to some less usual destinations. Issues come out quarterly and generally focus on a single topic. Click on the link below or on the right hand menu to access the full magazine. While all material is copyrighted, please feel free to pass the link along to anyone you feel might have an interest in these topics. We want to see how far FEAST can travel! Now to the summer issue:

These days, the topics of war and immigration generate a great deal of conversation about cultural differences and how to tolerate, absorb, and welcome that diversity into our lives in the interest of general human enrichment and, perhaps, peace. Since spring and summer are seasons we associate with warmth, new beginnings, and long days plumped out like juicy peaches, I thought it might also be a good time to consider a wider range of books, art, food, film, and travel options.

Some studies have shown that when we encounter something new or different, our brains attempt to “recognize” it by relating it to memories of similar events. How often, when exposed to foods, writings, and artistic creation from other cultures, do feelings and expectations derived or absorbed from our past prevent us from a direct, fresh experience? Can we learn to set aside those inclinations, to form new, positive memories, and approach cultural differences with curiosity and an expectation of pleasant discovery?

In the spirit of giving it a try, in this issue you’ll find a selection of novels by writers of diverse ethnic and national backgrounds. Each flavors the soup of English-language literature with a touch of saffron here, a bit of bitterroot, a pinch of salt, a touch of irony, a stir of laughter. There are also suggestions for films and art that explore an assortment of cultures. By stepping out of our usual Anglocentric choices, we honor the diversity of our country, we open the door to fresh views of universal topics, and we enrich our lives and stimulate our imaginations with previously unrevealed images. I hope you’ll pick one or two and open your heart to change.

-- Rosemary Carstens

NOTE: We've expanded this issue and have some new separate sections for food and art!