Tuesday, November 7, 2017

My protagonist comes to life

This painting, probably by Modigliani (according to NYT story) is the image I am using to "frame" my protagonist, Alicia Frame, on my first short story/novella/novel "The Bare Things".  I am writing almost every day, averaging 600 or more words as part of #NaNoWriMo2017, National Write a Novel in a Month.  Joining other writes around the globe, I even put up a fundraiser for this non-profit effort, and it was interesting to see which (a few) Facebook friends decided to contribute. 

My story is set in Paris, 1925, where American writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald hung out at cafes, bars, and partied in jazz clubs until dawn.  As I deal with a personal health issue, I am finding that writing this story helps me detach from my everyday life and escape.  It's good for my soul and I may even be crafting a story worth sharing!!


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Scene from my Office: Writing Prompt



I am in my office space/former bedroom that houses and has housed Community Renaissance, Do Happy Today, BuildUp^ Tucson and Beyond, and my (newly let go of) volunteer projects—TENWEST, Tucson Valley of the Moon, and TEDx Tucson.  I am looking out the only window which faces west and from it I can see doves swinging in the bird feeder.  I only have the tan shades up ½ way in the morning and pull them down a bit further when the afternoon sun comes in and makes the space a bit too warm for my liking. The room is white with the window edges painted yellow.

On my desk, besides the laptop and its accoutrements, I have old discs that I don’t use, some trinkets, various colored and sized post-its, pencils, pens, day planner, a photo of Aron, me and Jim Laue’s dog, Spicer, in northern Virgin, circa mid 1980s, Aron’s high school grad photo, circa 2000, and his Hacienda Chef serving brunch photo, probably around 2015. I have an Italian marble tile I “borrowed” from Lowe’s to hold my glass of fruited water. Also on my desk, is a vintage wooden drawer (similar to the old library cards drawers), with a porcelain knob and it holds a collage block plus electronic cords.  I have a stack of work papers on my left and right, three file cabinets with work files (and holding boxes on top with current mail, business cards, a candle that I don’t burn), seven standing files, two of which are for my writing magazines, three for current financial and health program info, and a portable table with art supplies I don’t use often enough.  I have a few hats and an antique wooden tall drawer that holds a few vintage books. I have wooden stool with dried flowers in a glass vase, a photo of our beloved Lia-dog, a framed Cezanne still life print, and red metal basket with lotion, lavender spray and personal business cards.

On my walls are art works: prints of Paris and Italy and one of Norman Rockwell’s famous LIFE magazine covers “Gossip”, watercolors, embroidered hanging, wooden wreath of hearts, NY Times Arts Section art work of Modigliani, Mary Cassatt, Van Gogh and Renoir. On the rug, I have two wicker baskets with notebooks and greeting cards, most of them from Trader Joe’s.  I have a large Ikea table with in/out files (writing works in progress) and two stacks of orange Container Store boxes (plus one flat box) full of office supplies and Do Happy Today materials.

Behind me, above the closet, is a shelf with a 1980s drawing of me, from the Kettering Foundation, a Navajo sand painting, and small bowl of faux flowers from my distant-past UA College of Ed. office. In the closet, on the shelf are UA/doctoral program books, a photo of Aron and me, a photo of me lifting my skirt with no smile on my face as a two-year-old, copies of my two self-published books, and a black and white Madonna and Child newspaper photo of the Della Robbia sculpture.  Underneath the shelf are three boxes of Do Happy Today files and materials.  On the other side of the closet (usually hidden by the sliding doors) are a couple of suit jackets belonging to Mark, a few pillows and blankets. 

By the door, I have a vintage dresser, painted yellow and white.  In the drawers are some mementos of my mom’s, dad’s and Aunt Mollie’s, along with quilted pillowcases and covers, and more blankets we rarely use.  In the corner, I have a maple rocking chair that my folks bought for me when I was about twelve and I have rocked Aron in it through many nights when he was a baby and toddler.  It has a pillow leaning against the back and a cushion on the seat, with yet another fleece blanket (purple) hanging on the back of the chair and a yellow crocheted (by me) square, draped over the blanket.  A similar crocheted square, colored turquoise, is on my black office chair with a small satin pillow (from Aunt Margaret) to ease my back position as I sit and write.  A few more pillows are scattered on the floor and an easel holds my storyboard that is mostly empty.  I have a bulletin board with various creative images and a one brightly colored sock from a favorite trip to San Francisco.  Above the door, from a family trip to San Diego, is Aron’s name painted by an Asian artist in Balboa Park and, over the door is Aron’s kush-ball basketball net and ball.  On the door are two drawings from Izy, our temporary grandchild from Aron’s now-ended relationship with Laura C.   On the door knobs (inside and out) hang several fabric bags holding more writing materials and used to carry magazines etc. back and forth to Starbucks, bookstores, and meetings.

It is mid-to-now late morning.  A day in early September, still “late summer” at 105 degrees projected for the afternoon high.  But the sun rises later, sets earlier, the shadows are lengthening and tonight, September 6, is the night of a full moon—that one source calls “The Corn Moon.” I am hitting beyond my new goal of 250 words with a word count tipping to 900, so it’s a good day in Tucson so far (a load of laundry is drying), an epic hurricane is threatening to hit the Florida Keys (hello to Hemingway’s six toed cats and hope you take cover and are safe; also protect those key lime pies, folks), and, no doubt, another day of drama will emerge from the crazy-like-a-rabid-fox Trump White House. 

But, hey, I won’t let this end of a negative:  let me include two black and white photos (thanks to Patsy W) of Notre Dame and our 2002 Paris trip and two more standing orange files with spiritual suggestions and the “legacy project” of Maverick Institute-Community Renaissance, The Walkabout Talkabout Book, out soon on my Community Renaissance website www.communityrenaissance.biz

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Betweens

This poem was written in response to a Poets & Writers 7/21/17 prompt to look at a photograph from a recent trip and write a poem that "explores the distance between your current self and the photograph, and between an image and a feeling or memory." I visited my birthplace town and home for twenty-one years, Elgin, Illinois in May of this year, taking photos of my first home and my dad's sister's home.  It is dedicated to Linda Sjurset Esposito, who lived across the street from me in Elgin, Illinois.  Her birthday is today 8/29/17.

My first Fonte-Dice home on Melrose, Ave., Elgin, Illnois.  It is a Sears & Roebuck Craftsman house.

Sjurset-Fonte home on Melrose Ave., Elgin, Illinois

My home on Melrose Avenue,
almost two thousand miles away
and sixty-two years ago--

I remember mom, 
standing over the porcelain kitchen sink, 
straining red berry juice through white cheesecloth.

She is to busy too play with me,
so I wander outside,
dragging my Buster Brown shoes
over the newly-mowed grass,
up to the border 
of the street-forbidden-to-cross.

I gaze longingly
at the black asphalt
and spy my cousin sitting on the steps 
in front of her house.
We wave at each other, 
our late summer smiles
bridging the boundaries
between us.




Sunday, August 20, 2017

Solitude

Sunset Crater, July, 2018, photo by Anita C. Fonte


At evening, the distant lowing of some cows on the horizon beyond the woods sounded sweet and melodious….  Walden, Henry David Thoreau, p. 87.

What is such solitude to me?  When and where do I experience it? How does solitude help or hurt me?—These are questions that a Poets & Writers prompt from March, 2017 poses and it has taken me four months to go back to this section and compose my responses to it.  Just lately, in honor of Thoreau’s 200th birthday, I pulled out my Signet Classic edition (probably from college 1967-71 since the cost of the book was fifty cents and there is no publishing date listed), and began reading it a few paragraphs at night before I go to bed.

His time is not my time.  He rallies against trains and not cell phones.  For me, the culprit of my “noise” is television where the daily dramas of Trumpland as reported on CNN or MSNBC becomes a Greek chorus as I do online tasks.  I do turn it off for “writing” and/or escape to my local Starbucks where, in the past, I could expect a decent degree of solitude.  But, as I write this, there is one heavy haired female who ignores my annoyed glances and talks on her cellphone as if this were her private office!  This kind of partial solitude is unhealthy for me and it’s becoming so common at cafés that I have been thinking of what else can I do to find/create solitude?

In the distant past, which I recall in the quote above, I experienced quietude and solitude at my Grandparents’ farm on Randall Road.  They didn’t raise cows, but their neighbor did, and the black and white Angus breed would linger by the wire fence, chewing their grass and plopping their cow pies on the picked ground.  Sometimes I would hang in the branch of an oak tree, or lie on the soft hill and chew on a blade of wild wheat.  I was content—a feeling I rarely have in my sixth decade.  I do not often experience contentment to that depth.  

Of course, my memory may be faulty.  Maybe, even then, I was anxious about school (probably) or fearful about what mood my dad would be in when he picked me up from my grandparents.  My dad might have been bipolar, and definitely had Italian son-of-an alcoholic behaviors plus WWII PTSD, so life was daily drama with him at home.  My maternal grandparents who had the farm, were Cherokee, Scots-Irish, German and stoical Methodists.  My mom was much like them.  And there was a part of her girlish charm that couldn’t cope with my dad’s complexities.  So that farm was my refuge and the symbol of my childhood contentment and happiness.

Sometimes, living in the desert, looking at the night sky, I experience moments of bliss, thinking about how the sky is bigger than I can see: a great “out there” that holds mystery and magic.  And the mountains are places where I can sometimes escape to feel similar moments.  But I am usually with someone, not alone, so solitude isn’t part of that kind of escape.  When I go to the Botanical Gardens, I am often alone and I feel safe.  

Aha! Now there’s a place where I can cultivate more healthful solitude. And when I read a good story I am into a transitory solitude; that kind of aloneness inspires me to write or convinces me it is futile to write at all. It depends on the mood I am in going into the story.  How can I encourage myself to be more “in the mood” of being inspired and not discouraged?  Maybe, before I read, I can pause and make the intention to be open to inspiration.


So what just happened as I write this?  Either the noise around me drowned out the annoying talker behind me (she still is gabbing), or, for just a few lines, I was lost in the flow.  So a small miracle can happen, even among the noise. 7.27.17e the intention to be iin more " Either the noise around me drowned out the annoyiomeone, not alone, so solitude isn'

Monday, August 7, 2017

Erasure Poem: Bottles, Twigs, Cans and a Piano


I try to (occasionally) practice the erasure poem genre as described and demonstrated by Austin Kleon in his book Steal like an Artist.   Here is my latest, prompted by an article in the New York Times, "Bottles, Twigs and Trash Cans (and Mozart)", by Anthony Tommasini, Music Review  8.5.17

It was an unusual sight, 
the Hall crammed with a motley assortment
of corked wine bottles, four gleaming trash cans
and small piles of twigs.

The members began to snap the twigs
and dump them on the floor.

Later, 
stretching of jumping rhythms
played by tapping
on a coffee table
as well as the outside
and inside
of a piano.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Storied Visit to Elgin, Illinois

May, 2017




Once upon a time on Randall Road in northern Illinois, there were farms.  Many farms.  Many farms with fields touching, boundaried by oak trees and creeks.  In one field, black and white cows strolled, dropping their faces to nudge the green grass.  In another field, children climbed trees, ran through a forest of wild mustard and white flowers.


In the nearby town, known for many decades as “the city of churches”, the river hills included a synagogue and Mason’s Hall.  In the downtown, two major department stores, locally owned banks and restaurants, two theaters, a YMCA and YWCA, and a public library formed the safe circles of friendship for the town’s adults and younger members.

For those growing up in the town, summer morning music or academic programs at the junior high and high school were followed by afternoons of swimming at a public park pool.  At the same park in the evenings, twice a week, music concerts beckoned families and romancing couples to lie on blankets and study the stars or gather fireflies in glass jars.  Also on summer nights, before air-conditioning would entice them to watch television inside, families ended the evenings with a visit to Dairy Queen or A&W, momentarily freezing their memories.  Winters brought dark days and storms with weekends of ice skating by the white pavilion in the second public park, hot cocoa and marsh mellows served by Methodist ladies in woolen coats and mufflers. On particular occasions, the white pavilion, its stained glass windows gleaming like colored silk, welcomed little girls who pointed their toes on the wooden floor and swirled in pink and blue tutus made of netting.


While the farms flourished, so did the town.  But in the rooms of commerce, engineers planned and later built a widened Randall Road that tore down the farmhouses, barns, and silos and buried the lives of the farmers and their families.  The children grew, partied, kissed and some lost their innocence in the back seat of their parents’ cars.  Others maintained an intricate balance of studiousness and shyness through adolescence to high school graduation.

Upon graduation, the children’s waters parted.  The built road became a commercial corridor dotted with chain stores, soulless centers of merchandise.  Perhaps as a counterbalance, windowless mega churches arose with concrete parking lots and thin borders of bushes.


Time passes....


Fifty years later, a few of those children--now carrying stories of retirement, grandchildren, and spouses’ deaths gather in a backyard that was once a farm field.  Here the ghosts of the Fox and Sauk Tribes linger with the ghosts of white settlers and farmers.  Now, the ghosts rise up in the late afternoon shadows and touch the shoulders of the grown children.  A windmill in the yard twirls in the breeze as a recognition of time turns down the smiles of those who were once entwined like leaves of morning glory vines.




  



SLim's story Part 3.

SLim’s story continues 6.17



In the few months after SLim reunited with George (the boy who partially tamed him), both had been in new adventures, sometimes together, sometimes on separate occasions.

Together, they roamed the desert, settling in on warm afternoons at the corner convenience store and sharing a Thrifty ice cream cone.  George licked the ice cream down to the cone and then SLim chomped on the remains.

“You like the bottom end, don’t you, fella.  Works good for both of us since I like the top.”  George brushed the dust from his over-the-ankles pants he inherited from his older brother, Tom.  “Looks like it’s time for us to head on home since I have homework to do before I can play baseball.”

SLim heard the word “ball” and his ears perked up.  He liked certain kinds of balls: cheese balls scattered across the park grass were his favorite.  He trotted after George, keeping his eyes open for rabbits and birds.  Not very hungry, the glances were mostly just for practice. 

“Life’s pretty cheery right now with George, but I know the happy days can’t be counted on,” SLim reflected as he spotted a young quail under a mesquite bush.  “Huh, that young ‘un ain’t goin’ to last long if he doesn’t know enough to scatter when I come by.”

So that’s how the days often passed as they two hung out together.  On their own was another story.
George tore his paints on barbed wire as he and his best friend, Charlie, chased bats from under the arroyo bridge.  For that he got a few hits on his bottom from his stepdad, Marty.  George didn’t like Marty much and the feeling was mutual.

SLim tore a toenail trying to scrape the dry skin of a tomato off a park bench.  He also was chased by a man on a golf cart and had to hide behind a bush near the zoo.  SLim heard a lion roar and his scrawny legs trembled.  Not much scared SLim, but the sound of a big cat did. Bobcats could be a mean adversary and mountain lions, well, SLim stayed scarce from their territory.


For now, sticking close to George’s regular meals worked pretty well.  As dusk settled in, George came out of the house and squeezed a couple of handfuls of dinner leftovers through the backyard fence.  SLim watched George sit down on the dirt and wait for SLim to come out of the high grasses.  Together, they enjoyed the moonlight and stars and imagined another day of adventures.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Two poems written at Rincon Market plus one

These are in the format of a "tricube": 3 syllables, 3 lines, 3 stanzas.  Thanks to Writer's Digest 9/2016.



Two Poems written 4.28.17 (while the Sawmill Fire burns SE of Tucson)
1.
The cookie
crumbles is
the saying.

It means life
falls into
parts, not whole.

So live it
in moments
not decades.

2.
The wind blows
ashes from
the valley

Where flames fly
grasses burn
horses run.

It is Spring:
white poppies
bend, break, burn.


Poem written 8.21.16 (late summer in Tucson)

The grey stone
rolled over
the mountain.

Silver clouds
trailing the
gentle winds

A monarch
flutters as
rain ripples.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reckoning

This poem was written in response to the March/April Writer's Digest Poetic Asides description by Robert Lee Brewer for the poetic form:  dizain.  The form requires 10 lines, with 8-10 syllables the rhyme scheme of ababbccdcd.  This was fun for me to do and I was surprised by the message that emerged, as indicated in the title of the poem.



It was Easter morning at my house
Neighbors bringing berries and wine,
Our gray cat sleeping like a mouse.
He is imagining the first time
He tries to catch one on a day so fine
As this--when the sun shines, church bells ring.
I put aside what tomorrow will bring:
More of the same or a fanfare of fear?
When will the rocks begin to sing?
When will the mad crowds begin to cheer?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Brandy Still Flows...

this is an "original" erasure story by Anita C. Fonte based on the original written by Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, 4/8/2017 "The Brandy Still Flows at His Fountain of Youth". The "erasure story" is a concept developed by Austin Kleon in his book, Steal Like An Artist.


photo by Anita C. Fonte at Ralph P. Fonte's birthday, Tucson, Arizona, February, 2013

******

"The problem with turning 107 is that you can't work no more."

Until a few years ago, he tended Mario's parking lot, while working as a waiter of sorts.  Besides Mario's on Wednesdays, he goes on Saturday nights to Pasquale's Rigoletto restaurant down the block, where he dances with his girlfriend and performs burlesque songs.

He is Jewish and was raised by Yiddish speaking parents in Brooklyn, but now is more conversant in Italian.  He jokes that he was born Jewish but will die Italian.  Regarding his health, he said that more or less, "everything works."

"People plan, God laughs," he said.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Early Spring in the Sonoran Desert




Creosote bushes frame the edges on Sunrise Drive.
Mulberry feathers open from 
bottom branches of trees in the plaza.
Pink flowers are dampened by fountain spray
where St. Philip stands,
cross in hand 
as Lenten Bells ring:
It’s time for penance.

I give up nothing.

Instead,
I open to the season 
teasing me to trust,
to wander a bit off the well-worn path
considering--
how it would feel to fly like the red-tailed hawk 
searching for prey, 
finding it--
outside the shadows.

(from Poets & Writers Prompt, March/April 2017)



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two more scenes from Vanessa's story


It was in Gallery 244, for European Painting and Sculpture: The Girl by the Window by the Window by Edvard MunchMama had not liked it, saying “Oh, Vivi, she looks so alone in the picture.  Let’s go see Monet with his yellows and orange haystacks”.
But I liked the colors of blues and grey and the girl…what was she seeing in the shadows, what was she feeling?
Now, as I gaze at it, I know she is me at twelve years old.  I am looking out my bedroom window in our neighborhood of Little Italy, seeing the man in the street.  He wears a dark suit and fedora and his watch and cigarette shine in the street light. I knew him then, and now, as Mr. E.  He is there to protect me from Papa’s enemies.  I didn’t understand what Papa did that makes men angry at him, but I do now.  Papa manages millions of accounts for businesses all over the world, especially in Chicago, New York, and these days, Russia.  


Back then, when I was twelve, I knew only this—Papa was downstairs as Mama lay in her bed they rolled in from the ambulance yesterday.  I could hear Papa weeping, but my tears were roped tight in my throat, my neck still bandaged. 
A few weeks before, I was in the car with Mama as it crashed into a wall, glass shattering into my neck.  They say the car brakes were not working, even though it was a new car Papa had bought for her in the late spring. Mama was driving me home from a symphony concert and she was happy; I was happy.  But all that changed with the crash.  Mama’s head slammed into the car door.  The doctors at the hospital said her brain was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  So she came home to die.

“Amazingly evocative, don’t you think?”
A voice startled me. I turned and saw a man with glasses, hands drawn across his back, revealing a blue and grey striped tie.  I noticed it was knotted European-style, like Papa’s with the skinny end of the tie hanging longer than the front-facing wider side.  For years, I would watch Papa make his tie before going to work, before going to Mass, and I often tie my scarves in a similar fashion.  I look at the man’s face: blue eyes, dark brown hair with reddish natural highlights, slightly tussled under a blue knit cap.  His face is still flushed from the outside cold.  It is a nice face with a smile that turns down a bit at the edges, as if he is practicing it. 
I nod, but remain silent.
“Yes.  I like this one by Munch very much,” he continues.
“Well, maybe ‘like’ is too strong a word for it.  But it’s one of my favorites in this wing.  I also like Monet,” I add, as if to bring Mama into the room.
“Sure.  Monet’s good.  But Munch goes deeper, finds a way to suggest a feeling, usually with shadows.  I get that.”
I am surprised he does.





Saturday, February 4, 2017

Paterson-inspired Poems

A few Lines
Butterflies settle on her stone ear.
They flutter against her cheek.
She sits against a cool wall
in the warm spring sun.

Yellow flowers border the wall.
Wind blows, flower stems bend.
Butterflies scatter.
NOTE:  The first line (with pronoun change) is attributed to "Paterson" by William Carlos Williams.

The Movie
In the theater,
dark lights
and the rustle 
of a tissue as
tears fall.

Friends and Lovers
The story shows
people at the neighborhood bar, 
playing pool or chess.
Two lovers argue
in the dim corner.
Outside, and English bulldog
puts his paws on the sidewalk
and sleeps.

In the End
He opens the blank book
to small possibilities
written in pen.

The water falls
on the other side
of a rusty chain link fence.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Vanessa's opening page

I rewrote my first draft which was in 3rd person/omniscient with past tense to first person and past tense.  Learning, as I go, how important POV (point of view) is to the voice of my story.

The ice storm was dripping into its third day. I wasn’t content to stay inside my apartment practicing the Vivaldi flute solo or reading Tolstoy, so I wrapped three woolen scarves around my ears and scarred neck, tucked the edges under my orange fleece jacket, and declared to Sam, my well-fed cat—
“I refuse to be held a captive any longer.”  Closed spaces brought back tremors in my hands and I had seen them tremble a few minutes earlier.
Out the door and into the cold.  But not for long.  My favorite café was just around the corner and I walked into the warm setting with a smile.
“Hi, Nate.  Busy day today for you, right?”
Pressing steamed coffee into a latte, Nate nodded, his brown eyes flashing a welcome to me.
After ordering my chai latte and warmed up from the inside, I made this a quick café visit and hailed a cab as I exited.
“Where to, miss?  Somewhere warm for you, I hope,” the cabbie asked as I slid into the back seat.
He switched on the meter and turned the heat fan up to high.
“Art Institute, please.  And thanks for that extra blast. It feels good.”
Driving down the slick roads took the usual ten minute ride a bit longer, but I was cozy in the cab and finishing my latte.  I began to anticipate my usual visit to the museum.  It was a favorite place to enjoy afternoons with Mama, and, since her passing three years ago, it had become a more important “artist’s date” to keep.
Mama had shown her own watercolors at small suburban galleries, but I hadn’t inherited the visual talent.  Instead, I’d watch her paint to classical music and felt soothed by flute sonatas even as a toddler.  So, when the time came to pursue my artistic training, I left my crayons in my desk and started elementary school Saturday lessons with Mr. Petri.  He was first flutist in the Chicago Symphony and, Mama had insisted to Papa, “We want the best for our little, Vivi.”
“The best for her at this age is to listen to her Papa and not fuss when we go to Mass,” was his reply.  But Mama had scoffed at the reminder of my rebellious shortcomings and so began my twenty year journey to first chair in the Symphony.
“Here we are, safe and sound,” repeated the cabbie.  He may have announced our arrival twice, but I was caught up in my memories.
“Oh, sorry.  Here you go.”  I paid the driver and scrambled out the cab, watching my steps on the slick steps.  The paired lions had frost on their manes and ice formed on their moustached mouths.  I gently patted one of the paws—a habit I’d learned from Mama and kept through the years. 
“Thanks for guarding the beauties inside,” I whispered as I passed the regal statues.

Inside the lobby, I sighed as I shook off the scarves, unbuttoned my coat and walked over to the coat checker.  My heart fluttered a bit as I anticipated my walk through the hallways to the painting that linked me to my past.