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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

New Year

Looking Backward and Forward


January, as  most former Latin students remember, is named for the Roman god, Janus.  He had two facess, so that he could look backward and forward at the same time -- a good plan at the beginning of a new year. As many of you know, 2014 proved to be an interesting but challenging year for the Schriber household. It started with me still in a walker. I was recovering from a fractured pelvis and learning to walk again. It ended with my husband in the hospital with a failed aortic valve that is going to require surgical replacement in the next couple of weeks. I may be something of a slow learner, but I'm getting a message here. It's not wise to make lots of future plans while ignoring the present. Circumstances, we found, can change in the blink of an eye. The real trick is to make the most of "now" so that you are prepared for whatever tomorrow brings. So that will become one of my  resolutions (and I HATE resolutions!) for the coming year.

Looking at the year from the middle rather than the end, however, I realize that we had a mostly wonderful year. We went back to Hilton Head, Charleston, and Beaufort in May -- gave a couple of talks, sold tons of books, and renewed our love of all things South Carolina. Then in September, we took a 3-week road trip to Arizona. The goal was an inspiring writers' conference, but the rest of the time was devoted to re-visiting some places we hadn't been for 50 years, and exploring others that were entirely new to both of us. And in between all of that, I brought out four new publications, each one of which was a foray into a new format. What did I learn from all of that? Mostly, that I can't quit yet -- I still have a lot of learning and living to do. And therein, I suppose, lies another one of those pesky resolutions I once swore I would never make.

So where do I stand on this first business day of a New Year? Well, (#1) I count myself very lucky on two scores: I'm walking just fine, and my husband is feeling quite well again, even though he faces one more hurdle ahead.      (#2) I have a new book in the works. Yes, I'm still making plans, but I'm not committing myself to any deadlines. The book has a long way to go, and it will finish itself when it's ready, not on any artificially-declared publication date.   (#3) I spent last year experimenting with writing projects. Some things worked, and others were spectacular failures. I need to write down some of the  lessons I've learned this past year before I forget them.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be sorting out the flops from the "attagirls" and passing along some tips to save my writer friends from stumbling over the same problems that tripped me up along the way from 2014 to 2015.

The End of the Civil War



As we prepare to greet the year 2015, Civil War buffs like me are reminded that the coming year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. That in itself calls for some sort of special recognition, but the city of Charleston, South Carolina, is making special plans to celebrate the end of the war there in the city where that war started. Here are a few of the events they have planned.

If you're in town tomorrow,Thursday, January 1st, 2015, please consider coming out and joining in or watching the Emancipation Day Parade--starting at 11 am outside Burke High School and working its way down King and Calhoun Streets to end at Emanuel AME Church (see  http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20141231/PC16/141239933 ). This year's commemoration is especially significant in that exactly 150 years ago in 1865 the provisions of the proclamation that anyone formerly enslaved would be henceforward "forever free" came into force across the reunited nation on the cessation of the Civil War.

In regard to the latter point, please also keep a look out for a series of events coordinated by the Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World (CLAW) program in conjunction with colleagues at the Citadel, the Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie Trust, and the National Park Service. Governing all these events will be the spirit invoked by President Lincoln in his Second Inaugural Address of "malice toward none, charity for all."

On February 18th we will be commemorating the surrender of Charleston with a panel discussion involving the College of Charleston historians and former Avery Research Center director Marvin Dulaney.

On February 20th, Dr Joe Kelly will lead a seminar-style discussion based on the work in his book America's Longest Siege.

On March 11th, two noted Lincoln scholars, Dr Richard Carwardine (President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford) and Dr. Vernon Burton (Clemson University), will give a special Bully Pulpit presentation on Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.

On April 14th, the Fort Sumter/Fort Moultrie Trust in conjunction with the National Park Service will be running special boat-trips to Fort Sumter for ceremonial re-raising of the Union flag.

On April 18th, the Dock Street Theater will see two panel discussions on the end of the war and its legacy featuring some of the nation's most prominent Civil War historians, including David Blight, Eric Foner, Annette Gordon Reed, Tom Brown, Emory Thomas, Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts (this event supported by a major grant from the Humanities Council SC).

On April 19th at 1pm on Hampton Park, there will be a memorial service honoring all of the dead of the Civil War, led by Citadel chaplain Rev. Joel Harris and Rev. Joseph Darby.

On April 19th at 7pm, there will be a reenactment of a feast of reconciliation organized in 1865 by Nat Fuller, Charleston's most prominent African-American caterer (some of you may have seen the Post and Courier piece on this just before Christmas: http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20141223/PC1206/141229762).

As other events appear on the calendar, i will try to keep you posted. In the meantime, I'm holding my own small celebration of the end of the war by working on a new novel that will explore the years immediately after the war. More details on that to come in the new year.

Happy New Year!





Yes, I'm one of that weird bunch of people for whom September 1st means the start of a new year. We're mostly academics, i suppose, our lives tuned to the start of a school year. There are a few witches among us--those for whom harvest festivals and Halloween have special significance. And maybe some of us fall into both categories. (No one I know, of course!)

I have been known to argue that a September start is the only one that makes sense. Why would  we want to start a year in January? It's cold, nasty, and after the holidays there's nothing left except for those leftover pine needles that poke holes in  your socks. The Romans made a case for March. The weather is getting better, I admit, but their month of Martius had nothing to do with baby birds and daffodils and everything to do with time to worship Mars (God of War) by setting out on a march to conquer somebody.  Not my favorite pastime. So what's left? July and the start of summer? Nope, not in Memphis, where by July we're sweltering and sweating and swatting mosquitoes. Nothing attractive there, either. No. Give me September, when there's just a touch of crispness to the morning air, when trees start to put on their red and gold show, when gardens no longer need tending, and harvests load us up with delicious and healthy crops.

I can lollygag my way through summer. I certainly did this year. Looking back, now, I can't tell you much of anything i accomplished.  My lone tomato plant put out a grand total of one tomato, and a great green hornworm had part of that one. After May we did no real traveling. I didn't get a tan. I sold a bunch of books, but Amazon was much more responsible for that than I was. I created some Pinterest boards, but that involved nothing more than looking through some old travel pictures. I did serve my Jury Duty time -- and perhaps I helped keep a nice kid-- one who did something really stupid while trying to be helpful-- from paying for it by spending the rest of his life in prison. But if I wanted to make a case for calling myself a writer, this past summer offers no real evidence of any ability to put words on paper.

Then I turned the page on the calendar, and this first week of September has been a very different story. I've published a children's book, written four chapters (approximately 10% of my next novel,) put out feelers to find narrators for two more audio books, and come  up with ideas for a new publishing venture. Looking ahead, I have plans for at least four trips in the next six weeks. and those trips will involve a writer's conference, a couple of book award ceremonies in which I have a least a fighting chance to see something good come down for one of my books, and a visit to a new location that may one day be the setting for a new book.

I'll fill you on some of the details in the coming days as I get myself back into a blogging routine. Stay tuned!

Why Am I Already Juggling in January?

A day or so ago, I read one of those "know-it-all" blogs that advised me to get rid of all but three of my top priorities.  No one can handle more than three things at once, the writer advised.  You just end up dropping the ball on everything.  So life is easier if you just pick three and ignore the rest.  Finish a task and you can move something into its place, but never, ever,  work on more than three things at once.

OK, I thought.  It sounds logical. But what has to go?  I looked at the list I had already made in my Task File on my Yahoo page.  Oops! Four items! Which one of these do I throw out?

  1. Keep the half-price promotion on THE ROAD TO FROGMORE moving with regular related postings.
  2. Finish the last three chapters of DAMNED YANKEE. Proofread it and send it off to the editor while I work on the trailer.
  3. Handle the technicalities of re-claiming the electronic publishing rights to A SCRATCH WITH THE REBELS and deal with Kindle on how to manage replacing the old publisher item with a new file from Katzenhaus Books.
  4. Find the perfect narrator for BEYOND ALL PRICE, and work through the steps to issue it as an audio book.

I can't slight any one of those.  They are like my children.  Then there is another list -- the life tasks that face me every day. 

  1. Learn to walk again.  I'm navigating around he house pretty well by now, but I still move like a penguin.
  2. Force myself to wade through the stack of file folders on my desk that contain the accounting materials for our 2013 Income Tax filing. The accountant wants it by the end of the month.
  3. Get my secretarial duties for the Germantown Lions Club straightened out -- two months of minutes to be reconstructed, awards to be calculated, records filed, etc.
  4. Start work on my job as chair of the Nominating Committee for MidSouth Lions Sight and Hearing Service,so that the March meeting can run smoothly.
  5. Handle all registration details for the state-wide Lions Convention in April.

That's a group of five, you'll notice. Apparently there's just one answer: construct a new group of three. So here's my new juggling list:

  1. Work on publications
  2. Take care of all promised other duties.
  3. Eat chocolate.

There! Now wasn't that easy?