Happy Holidays!

Christmas, in the house in which I grew up in Memphis’s Morningside Park, was a festive season. My mother, whose name was Shirley Crossan Francis, was a member of the tribe my contemporaries and I now consider the last of the true Southern belles. Were my mother alive, she’d be ninety. She didn’t believe in half-measures, and was a champion of tradition and perfect form. When I think of her now, I think of her many graceful gestures.

Lately, I’ve been going through what seems like endless mounds of scrapbooks my mother kept. They are huge volumes, all dated, and the space these forty-some-odd books take up is staggering. Organizing the scrapbooks has been one of the tasks I’ve put by the wayside “for another day,” but I’ve run out of excuses during the pandemic. Because we’re approaching Christmas Day, I’m sharing some of the photographs I’ve come across. It’s my way of saying happy holidays. May you all make the most of the holidays and create wonderful, new memories. Don’t forget to hold your memories of the past in your heart, and to build that foundation with joy!

The alcove at the end of the dining room.

Another angle of the dining room that goes into the parlor.

The Christmas Tree in the Parlor
The House in which I grew up

In speaking of my mother, above is a portrait Memphis artist, Charles Inzer, drew of her. She was never partial to this portrait, and I do have others, but I took the liberty of using it for a graphic for my novel, 12-time award winner, Mourning Dove. In seeing these photographs, it may be clear to you from where I drew inspiration for Mourning Dove, which I set “on the genteel side of 1970’s Memphis, where all that glitters isn’t gold.” When one writes a novel with a particular point in mind, one draws from what one knows!

Happy Holidays!

https://linktr.ee/cffullerton

Musing

Here on the west end of Malibu, I spend most of my days writing. I’ve been at a particular pitch for twelve years or so, and what I’ve come to realize is, if a writer stays with it consistently, they’ll realize they’ve created a lifestyle that feels like a spinning wheel whose spokes include the writing of a book, the book’s pre-release promotion,  post-release promotion, oftentimes travel to book events, and all the while, a work-in-progress that perpetuates the cycle.

I discovered long ago that balance is key to being a writer. I don’t think it’s healthy to spend too much time at my desk. I’m in the habit of stringing three or four hours in front of my computer then going outside to walk around, see if the sun is shining, put Groove Music on my headphones, and walk to the beach to watch the surfers. A little air and movement always does me good.

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But it’s amazing what can happen from the simple act of walking outside while taking a break from my desk. Last week, it was this: WP_20200524_10_12_55_Pro

An egret walked around our backyard. It’s been seven days since this majestic bird appeared, and it shows no enthusiasm toward leaving. The Malibu terrain this time of year is hot and dry, and that means the prevalence of lizards, which, I suspect, is the egret’s draw.

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Egret Front Door

As you can see from the above photograph, the egret has made itself quite at home. Even our female, German shepherd, Ceili has grown used to it, though this isn’t always the case, especially when our other two shepherds are involved.

Here are Ceili, Ronin, and our 9-month-old puppy, Sorcha: three German shepherds with Irish names.

February

When it comes to seeking balance in my writing life, the environment I live in, and those that populate it give me a sense of balance.

I’m like may writers. I live on a wheel that constantly spins. It suits me, this combination of creativity, dedication, and purpose. Being a novelist is a fulltime job with no “there” to get to, only the commitment and perseverance it takes to stay on the path. As for the outcome of each book, beyond doing the very best I can do, it’s not my business. My business is to enjoy the process. I am grateful beyond measure when anything comes from one of my books, but it’s enough to enjoy the quality of my days; that I am spending time the way I like to, building something that matters to me, then walking outside to see what’s happening.

 

https://clairefullerton.com

 

Out Walking

It took me a while to evolve from a feeling of anxious, pandemic shell-shock to resume what has long been a habit of mine. I like to walk. I don’t need a destination. More often than not, I walk down my driveway in Malibu, California and the biggest decision is whether to turn right or left. I typically listen to Groove Music, where I’ve downloaded my favorite albums. It’s not so much about where I walk as it is the rhythm I strike while moving through space. There’s something centering about it, balancing, and it tends to clarify my perspective regardless of what’s on my mind. And these days, I have a lot on my mind, though most of it has to do with uncertainty.

What got me out of the walking habit during the first few weeks of the pandemic’s strange state of affairs was that it rained sporadically, the sky remained overcast, and it added to the unbalancing sense of gloom and doom similar to how I felt after the Malibu fires when life came down to the daily question of how to get my bearing. I’ve always known walking helps me get my bearings. It’s therapeutic to me, a dreaming meditation, part-and-parcel to my well-being, and the one thing I know about coping in crisis is it’s best to arrive at a schedule as close to business as usual. Since the sun’s been shining in Malibu these past few days, walking is at the center of what little I’ve managed to cobble of a schedule.

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We’re currently not allowed on the beaches in Malibu, California, but on a rise of the Pacific Coast Highway, I spied this path. It goes through an indigenous, breathtaking field straight to the cliffs overlooking Nicholas Beach, which flows to the left.WP_20200419_11_23_07_Pro

Looking right, Nicholas Beach flows into Leo Carrillo State Beach and makes up western Malibu’s coastline.

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The foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains are in Western Malibu, and they run into Ventura County.

There are beautiful wildflowers everywhere, now that we’re in spring: This is Pride of Medeira, and it’s plentiful everywhere.

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Along the side of the Pacific Coast Highway is wild mustard seed and bougainvillea

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This is ice plant, and currently, it’s blooming

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And blooming Rosemary

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It wouldn’t be a walk outside in Malibu, California, without spying something emblematic to give one a sense of place. Since we can’t go to the beaches, this brilliant man did the next best thing: parked his VW van for an ocean view and strummed on his guitar.

 

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It took weeks of feeling uncomfortable during this pandemic before I realized what was really bothering me. It went beyond a feeling of lack of control and wrestling with the uncertainty of what I can and cannot count on in my future schedule. My book, Little Tea, releases on May 1st, and as things stand, I have no idea what will be called off in my mid-June book tour of the South. Reports say the US will aim for normalcy in stages; that individual states will move forward according to how its governer sees fit. Conditions differ in varying regions. I think it will be an unfolding. And be that as it may, even if the coast were totally clear, I’m shying from the thought of getting on a plane in June to travel down South. We’ve all been through so much. Even if things were to get back to normal, it’s probably going to take a while to feel normal. But back to what’s been bothering me, because this just dawned on me. I’ve been my own worst enemy through most of this because I haven’t been practicing acceptance, at least not in a way where I wasn’t still trying to fit my square plans into a round hole.

I took this photograph from my front yard a couple of weeks ago, and I believe it’s exemplary of a ray of hope in the midst of a storm.

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One day this pandemic will be behind us. For now, I’m working on acceptance.

And the best way I know to work on acceptance?

Go outside and start walking.

 

https://clairefullerton.com

 

 

 

 

 

Balance in A Writer’s Life

I exchanged messages this morning with Michelle James, whom I had the pleasure of meeting online years ago, when Dancing to an Irish Reel came out. This shows me the beauty of WordPress—there are wonderful friends here, and I’ve found the community to be extraordinarily engaging and supportive. And it’s not just about books that we talk about. Books may be the reason why we’re drawn to the page in the first place, but typically exchanges lead into other places, and this morning Michelle and I talked about Pilates.
Michelle and I both incorporate Pilates into our weekly schedule, and it caused me to think about why I do it. It’s because I spend so much time at this computer, and it occurred to me that a writer needs balance. In order to find balance, it takes the realization that balance is a requirement of a writer’s life.
I have a wheeled chair on a hardwood floor that fits up tightly under my desk. I am a little-bitty ol’ thing, and I’m in the habit of sitting Indian style (can I say this in this PC world? Apologies for any offense) for hours at a time. I go through phases when a project is pressing, even if the immediacy is of my own making. Looking back at the past five and a half years, it’s staggering to realize that I produced four novels, but part of the explanation is I got myself into it because one door opened then things happened at once, in a flurry that felt like putting out fires.
Which brings me back to the subject of Pilates. I’ll add ballet because I still go to class. I’m a believer in the adage that the mind and the body are one, and I’ve found that without finding a balance, I suffer. Without reading and writing, I am aimless, and without tempering the way I sit at my desk, there are particular areas in my lower back that tighten to the point where my whole body locks up. Basically, I have to undo what I create, after I spend so much times sitting in the form of a pretzel. But it’s more than that, really. It has something to do with needing to get out of my head and into my body, and I think it matters, with respect to grounding myself on God’s green earth.
I’m going to take this subject further and talk about a decision I made once I came up for air after completing the edits for my next book, which I wrote after Mourning Dove (This book is another Southern novel in the capable hands of my agent, and hopefully it will be signed somewhere!) Because I spent so much time during the week and then some in self-enforced isolation, save for the occasional social outing or doing whatever it takes to tend to home and hearth, I decided to switch priorities. I know a group of wonderful women who live near me in this seaside community, and every morning they meet to walk the beach. I had to wrestle with the hour of joining this group. 8:00 in the morning is a questionable hour to be up and out of the house, and I have a bad habit of getting coffee then going to my computer the second my feet hit the floor. Once at my computer, away I go.
My commitment to leaving the house was made in favor of physical and psychological balance. Once the decision was made, the effort was easy because I knew the stakes, otherwise. If I start the day by getting outside and walking by the ocean, it gives me a certain perspective. The enormity of the ocean; the people out walking their dogs; the surfers sizing up the waves; the conversation of friends; and the simple act of movement reminds me there’s a big world outside of my office, before it’s time to close myself off when I return to my desk.
I think balance is imperative in a writer’s life, and writer’s need to aim for it. It takes commitment to write, especially when one writes novels, but it also takes commitment to lead a well-balanced life.

With Deepest Sympathy On the News of Kate Spade

I am deeply disturbed by the current media reports of Kate Spade’s death. I didn’t know her, but one doesn’t have to, to be rocked by the news. I’ve been thinking of a short-sighted, general indictment I’ve heard throughout my life concerning feminine rivalry. Apparently, it’s widely assumed that this is the norm among women, but I beg to differ– and it’s not as though I’m a member of any sisterhood for the sake of itself. The fact is much to the contrary; I’m a bit of a loner by nature and temperament. But when a woman of my generation rises to stratospheric heights of international success by contributing to the masses with an art of her making, something within me cheers and thinks she succeeded on behalf of us all. My pride swells as if to say, “Look at what one of us did!” When one woman shines so brightly, she serves as inspiration for the rest of us. Such a woman is a representative of the best in us all. I believe this is why we identify with women that achieve great abundance. There’s a part within all of us that believes if one of us succeeds, I can, too. For this very reason, it’s disillusioning when one of us leaves by her own hand. We don’t talk about it among ourselves, but when one of us gives up, it’s sobering. An internal voice questions, “What? This is an option?” For some of us, it may go deeper than this. For some of us, it may come to the thought, “There by the grace of God go I.” That’s the side of this that’s scary. It touches on a consideration by which most of us are horrified. We couldn’t commit suicide; would never think of it, and we congratulate ourselves for our stout mettle, even as we discount we’ve known one of those days, or perhaps a spiraling bout where it seemed all was lost. But we reel ourselves out of the momentary lapse of reason. And though we’re exhausted, we find the fortitude to soldier on. But what of those women who suffer from debilitating mental anguish? What of those unreachable from the comforting arm of fortifying connections? Because women look to each other for guidance in this business of living. We are role models to each other for how to comport ourselves in the face of great adversity.
With the breaking news of Kate Spade’s suicide, I am counting my blessings. I am thinking of my close friendships and not taking them for granted. I am sending a prayer heaven’s way for Kate Spade and her family. At the center of all this is a resonant prayer for all those suffering from the heartbreak of despair, be it mental, spiritual or emotional. I extend deepest sympathy to Kate Spade’s family.