Category Archives: Worcester

Passport to Adventure: WSU Writers Workshop

On Friday, April 26th, I had the pleasure of joining Lisa Lieberman in presenting the writing workshop “Passport to Adventure” at Worcester State University.  Like me, Lisa writes historical mysteries.  Hers follow the adventures and intrigues of Cara Walden from 1950s Hollywood to England and Italy (special guest appearance by Cary Grant!) to Hungary during the Revolution and soon to Indochina.  Lisa is also Vice President of Sisters in Crime New England.  In that role she’s been working to bring new blood, so to speak, into our organization.  This fun work shop is one means she is rolling out to do so.  I was happy that she asked me to join her.
To give you an idea of how fun and inspirational this work shop is, here’s Lisa’s description: “The Surrealists used to pool their money and buy a one-way ticket to the furthest destination they could afford. They’d send one person off on an adventure and they’d have to make their way back somehow, and tell the others all about it when they returned.  Along they way, they’d collect talismans that helped them navigate the dark places they encountered. In this workshop, we’ll be sending each of you off on an adventure and when  you get back, you’ll have the outline of a short story.”
Of course, we didn’t literally send anyone off ‑ that would be a really long workshop.  More pragmatically, we had a display of all kinds of intriguing objects from which participants could choose for the “talismans” or souvenirs. For a destination for their journey into the mysterious, we had them select one sealed envelope from an array, each with a different noir image to inspire their journey into creativity.  They had time allotted to get started on who one character in the image was and what his/her concern was.  Then, to spice things even more, I got to do individual tarot reading of past, present, and future of their characters ‑ which would aid them in thinking through where their characters had been, what conflict they were in now, and how that conflict might be resolved.  It was fun for me to give vague interpretations of the cards and then watch our writers run with them, already inspired by their images and selected souvenirs.  Wonderfully, the writers all seemed pretty well pleased with what they had come up with and planned to continue their tales.  One fellow even told me he had finished his short story and had submitted it to the Al Blanchard Short Fiction Contest.  Since he’s one of my students, of course, I’m pulling for him to win!
Our faculty liaison, Cleve Wiese was so excited by our endeavors, that he not only now has a story he wants to finish, but asked us to come back next fall to do the session with the WSU writers’ club INK.  Another faculty member wants us to do the workshop with his course The Writers Life in the spring!  And here’s the good news for everyone else out there!  Lisa and I would be delighted to come to schools or writers’ groups to do the workshop as well!  So let me or Lisa know if you would like us to work with you.  Once again, Sisters in Crime is out there making a difference for writers, published and unpublished!  Joining was one of the best decisions I ever made!

            

Fall Preveiw

People have been a bit sad over the ending of summer, but we’re forgetting the glorious colors of autumn.  Already some of the trees, vines, and bushes are shifting into hues of scarlet, maroon, gold, orange, brilliant yellow.  And don’t forget the breathtaking contrast with the pellucid blue skies of the season.  So, I thought you might like a little preview of the beauties in store for us, courtesy of the reservoir in West Boylston and the hills around my home.

 

 

Right across the street from the stone church in West Boylston are some wonderful trails through the woods and around the reservoir.  You can enjoy the calming umbers of fallen leaves in this flowing brook, with just a highlight of pine and hemlock green.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or maybe you’re looking for something to make your eyes pop!  Like the scarlet magnificence of this beauty, exquisitely contrasting with the greens shading into yellow, blending with the fiery oranges bursting from yellow – all against the compliment of that pure October sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 Here is a more individualized look at one of those green-morphing-yellow tress. A maple, maybe?  First the long shot.

 

 

 

 

Now, she’s ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille!

 

 

Perhaps most beautiful of all is this panorama of the brilliant hues on the opposite shore, across an arm of the reservoir.  Breathtaking, right?
And of course it’s no fun to take a walk through all this gorgeous scenery without someone to share it!  Here’s my special companion.  I’ll bet you can guess who.And look at that warm coat!  Do you still remember how it feels to have a little nip in the air?
I don’t even have to go far from home to enjoy the fall finery.  Look at some of the trees surrounding where I live.

 

 

Finally, there’s that wonderful October sky, pure blue with the graceful swirl of silver, grey, and white clouds.  So, the coming autumn isn’t that bad, after all, is it?

 

Birds, Beasts, and Flora

 

 We’ve been enjoying nature quite a bit this summer, between our own yard and our peregrinations about the Northeast.  Several of my friends have been posting images of their luscious vegetable gardens, so I thought I’d show how well our plants are doing this season.  We’ve planted one patch with  tomatoes, yellow beans, egg plants, and peppers.  As you can see they are growing beautifully!

 

 

 

 

We have tomatoes growing apace and even eggplants developing. The plants are so much taller than in years past, probably because we have had so much rain and sunshine this year. I’m looking forward to harvesting the tomatoes and making salads and sandwiches with them – or just slicing them up and snacking on them with either a little salt or some of my homegrown basil – which also is doing nicely!  Some evil insect has been gnawing on my dill, but I have still grown enough to season my cucumber sandwiches and a mackerel pie (It’s like salmon pie, except you accidentally grab a can of mackerel rather than salmon – tastes almost the same.).  Fortunately, we also have lots of sprouts of dill that have reseeded themselves from last year.

The soy beans are also coming along splendidly.  We actually have two patches.  Homegrown ones are  a little crunchier that what you get from the store.  Yum.  The pumpkins are also going great guns now, as well. When the embryos become visible, or even get fertilized, I’ll take some more photos of them.  The plants have actually grown thicker and are starting to travel now, since I’ve taken this photo.  I have all different sorts:  little orange pumpkins (Jack Be Little), little white ones, big orange ones, large white ones, and various types of gourds.  Some are commercial seeds and some are saved from the pumpkins that I bought last year.  So far, the older home-collected seeds aren’t doing so well, but the newer ones are growing.  The commercial ones are doing pretty well for the most part.  What’s really interesting is that seeds that didn’t germinate from last year seem to be taking off this year.  Odd, isn’t it?

It’s a good thing that we have fencing up around our vegetable garden, because we are not alone.!  This is one of the rabbits that we’ve seen in our yard.  He’s the smaller one.  One night, Natasha saw him and chased him, though Yang’s hold on her leash prevented a disaster.  I think he might have come back armed (the rabbit, not Yang), because the next evening, ‘Tasha saw him and went skulking back to the house, whimpering.  Of course, I probably shouldn’t embarrass  her this way.  She might have just seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail.  Scary looking bunny, isn’t he?  He was also quite the little stinker.  Seconds after we took this picture, he sat up, snipped off the stem of the purple flower in the picture and then spit the whole thing out!  Here he is, giving us a Nyah-Nyah look right before he strikes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herr Hare isn’t the only visitor to our yard.  One afternoon, when I went out to feed the fish in our little pond, I was startled as I came around the house to see this enormous visitor!  We’ve had lots of turkey sightings all over the Worcester area (and Boston, Rhode Island,  the Cape, New York state), even on our street.  However, this is the first guy I found in our yard.  I was surprised he wasn’t in a flock, even a small one, as most of the turkeys I’ve sighted have been.  He returned for several days, coming out of the woods behind our house at around 8:00 in the morning or 6:00 in the evening, but I haven’t seen him in awhile. We started calling him Raymond Burrd – I’ve been watching reruns of Ironside; what can I say?

 

Another neighbor’s cat tried to stalk the turkey a couple of times and was ignored at first.  Then he made a charge and that bird just did one arched extension of the wings – Clover took off.  My cats enjoyed watching that, since Clover was on their turf.  Anyway, I haven’t seen him in some days.  I guess he found some more fruitful scratching grounds.  The birds on my feeders apparently weren’t dropping enough seed for him.  We did see three adults and several chicks the other day about a mile or so from our house.  Unfortunately, by the time we turned our car around to go back and take a picture, the birds were deep into someone’s yard, and we didn’t want to trespass – even if the turkeys weren’t so particular.

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t seen my friend the Fox, whom I call Mulder, around lately.  Maybe it’s fortunate for the rabbit.  I think the turkey might be a little much for him.  However, on a bicycle trail in Fairhaven, MA.  Yang and I got a good look at a beautiful black fox kit!  He came out of the woods next to the road, looked us over, ran to the middle of the road, gave a little hopping prance, then ran back the way he’d come and disappeared into the woods.  From his size and leanness, he looked much like pictures of black fox kits that I found on line.  Apparently, though black foxes are rare in England (see this cool article), they are not so uncommon here in North America.  Darn it all!  he was gone before I could get out my camera!  But here are some shots from the web that perfectly match the neat little guy that we saw.  Here’s a Youtube video of a Fox hunting mice, for your edification.

 

 

 

 

Black Fox photo #1 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/85779567874103887/

Balck Fox Photo #2 Source no longer available

2017 Undergraduate Shakespeare Conference

This year, the Undergraduate Shakespeare Conference was held at UMass-Boston, with Dr. Scott Maisano as site coordinator.  The theme was “Recreating Shakespeare:  New Contexts, New Interpretations, New Performances.”  The conference is highly competitive in its selection of presenters, with invitees this year coming from Harvard University, Smith College, Clark University, College of the Holy Cross, Wellesley College, Northeastern University, SUNY-New Paltz, Worcester State University, and UMass-Boston.
English major Wyatt Rogers represented Worcester State University this year.  In the session “Shakes-fear,” he presented his paper “Hamlet and Donnie Darko” as part of a panel that included students from Clark University and UMass Boston. I’m happy to say that Wyatt developed the paper in my Shakespeare course this semester.  I enjoyed moderating his session. I also joined Dr. Christine Coch from College of the Holy Cross as a judge for  all the A session panels.
We were also fortunate  to enjoy Dr. Linda McJannet as plenary speaker with her address : “Shakespeare in Motion: Physical Theatre in the New Millennium.” Dr. McJannet’s talk revealed to us the wonderful – and actually amazing – work done in experimental theatre where actors use their bodies in acrobatics and dance to create setting and mood, as well as to convey the words, even interpret the meaning of dialogue.

Worcester Gargoyles

Being a Gothic kind of a gal, I’ve been fascinated by the gargoyles I’ve found on churches in Worcester.  There may be more than these three examples, but these churches caught my eye.

stmatthews4The first example is a single, friendly gargoyle that curves along a corner of the St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on Southbridge Street.  He gracefully curls his undercarriage toward you, his wings unfurl smoothly, and he seems to offer a friendly smile. stmatthews3 Unlike traditional gargoyles, designed to scare away demons or to embody the sin and monstrosity lurking in the human soul, he almost seems to embody the thought that what we may  judge monstrous, out of our own fears and prejudices, may actually be good and loving.  An interesting thought, right?

 

allsaints1All Saints’ Church has two gargoyle guardians allsaints2on its tower.  These fierce protectors are poised and ready take flight and dive bomb whatever demonic threats to the parish’s spiritual stability may lurk in the environs of  Irving Street, Worcester, Ma. The church has played allsaints3host to the Worcester State Chorale performances, and the acoustics for their exquisite singing  was breath taking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final church has a veritable feast of gargoyles, although some have disappeared mysteriously since first I sighted them.  Did they fly away?  Don’t blink, then, Dr.  Who fans!  Originally, the Union Congregational Church but now the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, this building is magnificent. The church has been likened to a scaled down version of Notre Dame de Paris.  Not as many gargoyles, but a respectable showing nonetheless. gargoyle4Apparently, the missing gargoyle did not fly off (no Mr. Norell around), but was removed and sold to clear debts (see WT&G story.)  The gargoyles that remain are, indeed, something else.  My husband and I took these photos early in January, when streams of frozen ice lent the creatures a special beauty.    We see that this poor chap seems to be feeling the cold intensely.  gargoyle1Perhaps he’s existing multi-dimensionally:  here and on Dante’s ninth level of hell.  Looks as if he has the satanic wings with which to create the freezing air.  He’s clearly not enjoying himself.

Or maybe he’s just guarding the front entrance to the church against the incursion of demons with his pal here.

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These are the only churches with gargoyles that I know of in Worcester.  If you know of more, please let me know;  I’d love to find them.  I find it interesting that though the Protestant Reformation slammed the Catholic Church for superstitious, distracting, and gaudy decorations, none of these gargoyle-inhabited churches are Catholic.  They’re all Protestant.  Go figure – just don’t blink.

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