Jilly: A True Story, Brilliantly Told

Have you ever watched a great musician play? Wondered at the way they seem to be one with their instrument, physically and emotionally?

If you wanted to express the intensity of that connection through the medium of dance, wouldn’t it be inspired to use two dancers, one for the musician and one for the instrument? That’s what choreographer Cathy Marston did in her recent one-hour modern ballet The Cello, based on the life of renowned cellist Jacqueline du Pré.

The role of the cellist was created for British ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson; the role of her cello was created for Portuguese dancer Marcelino Sambé, and the way they move together, almost becoming the music, is breathtaking.

The storytelling is inspired. Everything centers around the cello. The instrument is the emotional link between the cellist and her husband, the celebrated conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim. Then it becomes the means to express the loss and heartbreak they suffer as du Pré develops the multiple sclerosis that cut short her career, and then her life. She died twelve years ago, aged 42.

Even if you’re not a dance fan, you might enjoy this four-minute discussion between the choreographer, the cellist who accompanies the piece, and the dancers who play du Pré, the cello, and Barenboim. They discuss the process of creating the story, including working from a selection of word prompts. Click here to watch on YouTube.

If that whetted your appetite for more, click here for a New York Times review of the ballet.

Best of all, if you’d like to watch The Cello, you can. It’s free to watch on the Royal Ballet’s Youtube channel for another 12 days. Have tissues to hand. Click here.

Sigh. Have a lovely weekend.

Take care, stay safe, and see you next week.

Michaeline: Too much world on my mind this week.

The muse Melpomene is standing on a tilted pedestal in this fresco. She holds a frowning mask in one hand, and a big stick resting on the ground with her other hand.

The muse Melpomene found in Pompeii. Her world was on fire, too. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A Song for 2020

The fucking world is on fucking fire, tra-la-la-la-la.
Between the plague and the fucking pyre, tra-la-la-la-la,
So many coffins on the bier, tra-la-la-la-la.
We’re paralyzed with doubt and fear, tra-la-la-la-la.

Someone else is saving the world, tra-la-la-la-la.
Filmed on an iPhone, click on this URL, tra-la-la-la-la.
Listen, be silent, speak up, support, tra-la-la-la-la.
Can’t trust the government, police or the court, tra-la-la-la-la.

What can be done, what can be done?
Wring our hands and stare at the sun?
Wash the dishes until day be done?
Ignore it all for escapist fun?

The poets would sing our troubles away, tra-la-la-la-la.
Pack up, for an hour, our cares away, tra-la-la-la-la.
See something, say something, do what we can, tra-la-la-la-la.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a plan. Tra-la-la-la-la.

Tra-la-la-la-la.
Tra-la-la-la-la.
Tra.
La-la.
La-la.
Lah.

— Michaeline Duskova

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

Hope today’s post finds you happy and well.

I’m currently watching the news and listening to the plans for the gradual re-opening of my local area.  Though I’m not particularly eager to be in close contact with other individuals, I do have a longing to aimlessly brows the aisles of the local bookstore or the fabric store.  For now, the online library app will have to do.

Regardless of what happens next week, I’ll be doing Ye Olde Day Jobbe from my house for months to come (since office buildings are some of the last places to re-open) and dutifully wearing my mask whenever I leave the house.  I’m surprised how quickly it has become second nature to slip on a mask as I pick up my keys and purse.

Since heading out to paint the town is not on the agenda any time soon, I think I’ll pour myself and refreshing adult beverage and give today’s writing prompt and random words a try after work today.

Care to join me?

For those of you working away on a story (whether a first draft or a polished version on its way to publication), if you’re not feeling random, we’d love to hear a bit – whether it’s a scene, a paragraph, or even a phrase that you are especially pleased with and would like to share.

If you don’t have a story in progress, or just want to work on something new, I hope either today’s random words or writing prompt will catch your creative fancy.

Ready?

What if: “Your is your character ruled the world for a day?

Feel free to interpret the “What” any way you choose (or ignore it completely) and include any (or all) of the following random words:

feelings              parade            blossom        clock

parcel                  wonder          crown             canvas

fashionable       ocean             arrows            hinge

country               beginning     disputed        bonus

I look forward to seeing your stories in the comments.  If you’re not feeling in the writing mood today, or don’t have time, feel free to post suggestions you might have for future “what-if” prompts.  Ideas are always welcome.

Happy writing to all!

Michille: Beach Reads 2020 (and before)

His Lady to ProtectI’m a week late to post for the start of the summer season with the holiday weekend behind us wherein lots of folks (idiots) in my area and around the country headed to the beach. For our non-US friends, Memorial Day in the US is a federal holiday for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is currently observed on the last Monday of May, which means a lot of Americans have the day off (and head out of town or have a cookout).

With beaches on the mind (or currently in my imagination), I was thinking about beach reads for this summer. I’m not heading out anytime soon because having 100,000 Americans die of COVID-19 (that we know of) scares the crap out of me, especially since I was dog sick in January just after returning from a 2-week trip to China. Pneumonia makes me one of those ‘vulnerable population’ folks. But I will probably have some time to put my nose in a book despite the new crazy workload created by this pandemic (and I’m just so incredibly thankful that I have a job that I can still do [albeit 12 hrs a day]). Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Break-Even Point

I’ve recently been reading my way through my TBR pile.  I seem to have landed somewhere in the 1950s (give or take a few years) and have been alternating between English mysteries and “strong independent woman” set-pieces.  Portable typewriters have featured prominently in many of the stories and fledgling writers have abounded.  There was at least one family saved from penury by an enterprising heroine who knocked out a novel in no time at all and received a nice advance check just in the nick of time.

Even my non-fiction reading has included authors and references to advances, though in one case it was an author who had missed a deadline and had to return an advance check- ouch!

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about advances and book sales and led me eventually to the question:  Just how many books do you need to sell to earn out an advance?  Continue reading

Jeanne: What a Tangled Web

Back in 2017, I hired a local web developer, who also happened to be a romance author, to build a website for me. It wound up taking longer than I anticipated (around five months) and consuming a lot of energy, but in the end I was happy with my site.

It was themed with my brand, matched my very fun covers, and had this very cool animated snake.

Then I learned, much to my chagrin, that ophidiophobia, fear of snakes, is one of the most common fears and that the presence of that snake on my covers and my website would discourage potential readers.

Once I had time to absorb this, I hired a new cover firm, who created the “hot guy” covers that sell so much better and created a website header to match my covers.

toucheddemon-estridge-TW

About the same time, my developer encountered a series of life-altering events and decided to get out of the website business. She sold my site maintenance contract to another firm. Continue reading

Jilly: Hay Festival Digital–Free Brain Candy

Another Sunday, another silver lining. I wrote a few weeks ago about free lockdown streaming from London’s National Theatre. Now summer’s approaching in the UK and we’re heading into festival season. For the great and the good of the arts scene that means the Hay Festival of Literature & Arts, usually just called the Hay Festival. I’d say it’s our most famous literature festival. Apparently in 2001 Bill Clinton described it as “The Woodstock of the Mind.”

Normally the festival would take over the beautiful town of Hay-on-Wye, Wales. This year the event is virtual, and it’s all free. Hay Festival Digital runs until next Sunday, 31 May. The tagline is free live broadcasts and interactive Q&As from the world’s greatest writers and thinkers.

You can register to watch any of the sessions, and if you join live you can chat with fellow audience members and send questions to the presenter, just as you could if you attended the festival in person. If you’re in another time zone and the live stream isn’t convenient for you, the recorded sessions will be available for a further 24 hours.

I watched an interview yesterday morning called Dead Famous: An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen, by author and historian Greg Jenner, who also has a fabulous, quirky history podcast called You’re Dead To Me. The discussion was great fun and the technology worked well. I saw people from the US, Nigeria, and a number of European countries as well as the UK, chatting away and having a great time.

I’m definitely planning to catch another session or two. Continue reading