Thursday, May 15, 2014

"True North"

I’ve said it here before. Now I say it again—I’m a book buyer. I see a book I want and the next thing I do without much thinking about it is hop in the car and head for the bookstore, or, likely as not, I don’t even head for the car but the computer.  Why not let them bring it to me?
                The budget demands that I taper off. Plus, I can walk to two libraries. Use your head, Trilla.
And, I’m getting better.
                Sometimes, though, I don’t have an option. That’s my book adventure of the week—well really the last couple of weeks.
                The Heights is a wonderful older neighborhood in Houston. It’s wonderful not only because of the carefully tended older homes, the fascinating shops, and—no surprise—the great restaurants. It’s the folks who live there. They love their neighborhood and do lots of things to make it a great place to visit as well as to live.
                I’m a Heights booster, you can tell, but not a resident. I don’t live too far away, and when I’m travelling around town, if there is a route through the Heights I take it. I know I’m likely to find a good surprise.   
                A couple of weeks ago, I certainly did. Right up the center of the neighborhood, runs shady Heights Boulevard, with, as you might expect, a well-used running trail right through the center of the esplanade. This day was different, an almost two-mile of the trail was marked with intriguing and large installations. What a great place for an outing with my teen grandson. But he’d want to know more than “aren’t these neat?’ Off to the computer. Here’s a sample of what I found:
A fine book

Dog in the book

Dog on the ground

The owner of one of those fascinating shops, Redbud Gallery, had spearheaded the efforts of many  artists, organizations, and the City of Houston to make "True North" Heights Boulevard Sculpture Project happen.
 Plus, Gus Kopiva, that visionary Redbud owner did more. He put together a book with photographs of the artworks and the artists. Imagine taking the tour with that in our hands. Of course I ordered it.
Then I began to fret. This is a print-to-order book. The publisher (bookemon) warned me that delivery took a few extra days. The outing was long set for yesterday. Would it make it? You know it did. Did we enjoy? Grandparents and grandson alike! Is this one book I’m glad I ordered? You betcha!


(A version of this post appears at

Friday, April 18, 2014

Listen, my children and you shall hear

            It’s Poetry Month! All the month of April—as if I don’t every month—I’m reveling (maybe even wallowing) in poetry. Here are some poetry resolutions.
1.      Read more poetry!
2.      Find poets I haven’t read before.
a.       John Koethe
b.      Harryette Mullen

c.       Larry Levis
d.      Rosemary Catacalos
3.      Read old friends
a.       Billy Collins
b.      Maxine Kumin
c.       Shakespeare (!)
d.      Sharon Olds
e.       Rita Dove
My little reading table is getting
overloaded! So many books. . .

Here I’ve got to stop to tell what happened yesterday as I thought about reading old friends. One of my oldest poet friends (I’ve written about this before) is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Now a poet friend of mine has told me Longfellow is “out” in these day. Not to this girl. I have lots of his lines tattooed into my brain during my grade school days. Never know when they’ll come in handy; like this morning. When I glanced at the morning paper the date sprang out—April 17. Hmmm. Then, tomorrow is April 18. And the words popped not just into my head but out of my mouth—
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteen of April in Seventy–five
Listen my children

Minutes later, the book was in my hands and I read the tale aloud right to the final words.
Through all our history, to the last,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

There I was, in the fifth grade wearing my new spring dress in the center of the stage at the Wolflin School spring program. I gave it all I had. Did everything but bring a horse on stage with me and wear a three cornered hat. Now that I think about it, maybe I did wear a hat. My whistling, stomping dad led the ovation that followed. Thank you, HWL for a great poem, a bit of history, and a fine memory.

Now back to my list:

4.      Write some poetry—I write lots of haiku (check me out on Facebook, occasionally I’ll post one.) This month I’m stretching. Maybe a longer poem about the cats, or the kids at the museum, or the big oak tree. Maybe, one about what’s going on in the news—does history repeat itself?
Poet Laureate of Texas
Rosemary Catacalos
5.      Hear some poets read in person. My wonderful indie bookstore Brazos Books has almost weekly readings. I’ve made one. Last night I met a new poet friend—in person. Off I hied to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to hear Rosemary Catacalos, the Poet Laureate of Texas, read her poems and to top it off to a party where I’ll met her. What a treat! You saw her name in my new-to-me poets list. Not anymore. I’ve read (more than once) her recently reissued 30-year-old book “Again for the First Time.” They ran out of her new one, “Begin Here” before I could buy one. Not to worry. I ordered it first thing this morning.
and her book.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Art Fun

 I love Wednesday. It’s my museum day. Yes, I go to look and appreciate, but I do more. I share.
            I’m a docent with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Once a week, sometimes more often I share the glory of art through the ages—with third and fourth graders. Always I assure them that they are going to have fun, fun, FUN. And they do—so do I.
A museum docent shares her joy in art
with Houston third graders and their

            For some, it’s a return visit. They do have fun, see new things they can share with their families on the next visit. But for many in this most diverse city in the nation, it’s a brand new experience. Now there’s the real fun! For them, and for their docents. I hear gasps, I see eyes open wide. Best is the laughter! The fun.
            Part of the fun is learning. Learning how art—and I’m talking all forms here—can help us learn in other subjects from math (Who sees the triangle?) to science to literature. That’s what makes this book lover have extra fun.
A fun way to learn for kids and for
the slightly older.

            I usually tote around at least one book, sometimes more, so that we can find how reading makes us appreciate learning about art. Maybe it’s a ferocious picture about the Hercules myth or a poem about “The Winding Road.” Most appropriate since books and art are, indeed, the road to learning.
            My scholars are not the only ones having fun and learning. I am. Anyone who took a look at my Amazon shipping records would know that, or think that I have a house full of third graders. I’m enjoying the art picture books so much I want them in my own library. These books are more than just for kids. It’s a great way to explore art for grownups. The fun book When Pigasso met Mootisse taught me more about the competition between this duo than many a learned lecture.  And speaking of Pigasso, I mean Picasso, Cave Paintings to Picasso: the Inside Scoop on 50 Art Masterpieces gave this art history novice enough knowledge that I could follow along in another learned lecture.
            If you want to learn lots about art—go volunteer at your art museum. Talk about having fun. Yes, let’s talk about having fun, fun with picture books. Fun with kids. Fun with art. Fun, fun, fun!

Tastes vary. Some students
adore the glorious Turrell
Tunnel of Light; other go for
the escalator!

( This entry also appears at )

Monday, March 31, 2014


 “You can’t read all day unless you start in the morning,” a friend recently advised. Many a day that’s advice I follow happily. I’m not a reader who takes a book and reads from start to finish before looking at another. No, what I’m reading depends on the time of day, my mood and even the weather.
            I read across the spectrum. I may escape in some light detective fiction just before bedtime, but daytime hours are likely to find me deep in biography, travel or serious fiction. Although I enjoy them all, I do have a favorite genre—memoir. That’s why I was more excited than usual a few weeks ago when a book package appeared by the front door. A new memoir to review for Story Circle Book Review! Saturday morning I braved the rain to head for the Black Hole Coffee House to sip a latte while I read The Secrets of the Notebook: A Woman’s Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family Secret by Eva Haas. Actually, it was three lattes. The book demanded to be read straight through.  Check at  and see what I think.
I read all sorts of memoirs, not just for reviewing but for pleasure and learning.   I’ve just finished taking a personal writing class; we are used a book of essays (Book of Days) by Emily Fox Gordon as a source for our writing prompts. I became intrigued by the author’s style and bought one of her earlier books, Are You Happy? It addresses memories of her early childhood. I stepped right into her Mary Janes. Or mine. For as I read about her life in Williamstown, Massachusetts, I remembered the little girl in Amarillo, Texas half a continent away.
            While reading, I started a list of those suddenly-surfacing memories, a patchwork of little Trilla’s life. And, no surprise, the earliest memory I have is about a book. My sister is in the brown chair reading from an orange story book. I’m tucked between her and the arm of the overstuffed chair. I look at the pictures and wish I could read too. She starts to read the story about a chicken to me, but she’s only in the second grade; she gets tired of stumbling on the big words. Mother promises she’ll read it to both of us as soon as the ironing is finished and supper started.  I know she’ll keep her word, but I want to be able to read it to myself right now.
It's ours for sure--Sarah Nan
and Patricia Louise Nordyke!
A wonderful book--still!
A few days after I enjoyed this memory, serendipity struck. When I’m not reading or writing, I often spend some time trying to simplify our lives. Part of this involves going through boxes unopened for, sometimes, many years deciding what we can live without. That day I opened yet another box marked “miscellaneous papers” to find not papers but old books.  Near the top was a bright orange, well-worn book, The All About Story Book. The book! What was it doing here? When I’d remembered it, I assumed it was long gone, now I held it in my hands. I turned crumbly pages until I got to 37 and found “All About Miss Fluffy Chick.” I sank down to the concrete floor and read it.
Later, I went to the computer and did some detective work and found an affordable copy. Guess what my sister can look forward to for her birthday? If I can wait that long. She knows she’ll likely be getting a book, she almost always does, but this one will be a real surprise.

Now we’ll see if she reads my blog. Nan, give me a call and you won’t have to wait ‘til your birthday to get your All About Story Book!
Think she'll be surprised?

 Happy Reading! 
(This entry also appears at )