Hello internet, my old friend

Edinburgh Expeditions, The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

My my my. I guess I have left She Thinks Too Much pretty silent. Nothing written since mid-2013! It doesn’t, however, mean that my life has been anything other than interesting.

The boyfriend I mentioned in my last post? Now my husband. The Englishman is happily settling in to life in the Northeast. Given that he’s lived through a couple of blizzards already, we can happily term him an almost-New Englander.

Far Off Places, the wonderful little magazine that I co-founded with a group of friends while still living in Scotland, continues to flourish. I actually made a trip to Edinburgh to speak at the Scottish Poetry Library. Annie (our fearless editor-in-chief) and I discussed how we started the magazine, how the hell we manage to keep it all afloat when none of us live full time in the same country, let alone continent or timezone, and what we look for in submissions. The evening included some great poetry readings by Niall Foley and Finola Scott.

Also on the Far Off Places front, we co-founders were interviewed for the University of Edinburgh alumni newsletter, Enlightened, in the early fall. It was my first time being interviewed about a project, which was very exciting. If you so desire, you can read the interview “Going places.” Tying in with this was our fantastic and shiny new website and look, designed by myself and our Q, Trevor Fountain. In addition, we’re also accepting submissions for our sixth issue, The Epistolary Edition.

On top of all this, I’ve worked for a Boston-area university, since July 2013. I’m still amazed that I’ve been there that long, it feels as though I’ve just started working.

Here’s to more adventures, and my remembering to blog about them!

The Boston Marathon Bombings and Social Media

General Geekiness

Shortly before 3 on Monday, 15 April, I looked on Twitter. The BBC reported that there were two explosions at the Boston Marathon’s finish line. A quick Google search revealed nothing.

45 minutes later, my dad sent me a text message letting me know the same thing. Friends in Scotland started sending me messages, ‘Are you okay? You weren’t in Boston today, were you?’ Friends in the Boston area used Facebook to let their friends and family know that they were safe. It was a relief, the ability to look at a specific friend’s page and see the word ‘Safe’ as a status update.

The outpouring of support to the victims, to the first responders. The video of fans singing the national anthem at the Bruins game. Tears, relief, all present in the days immediately following the Marathon bombing. Steven Colbert’s hilarious and touching tribute. The words Boston Proud, Boston Strong.

When the FBI released the images of Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev on Thursday afternoon, within minutes their faces were plastered across Facebook. A friend shared a photo that a citizen photographer had taken that captured both of thems, crisp, clearer than the ones released by the officials.

Friday morning. I woke up before seven, having tossed and turned a bit. I grabbed my phone, and jumped on Facebook. My alma mater (a Boston college) had a post saying that the college was closed for the day. I learned about the assassination, the shoot out, the ensuing man hunt. The car and license plates. That Dzhokar Tsarnaev was hiding in a boat, on land, in Watertown (and the ensuing ‘I’m on a boat’ jokes). Most importantly, that my friends were okay.

Social media is a powerful, powerful tool, spreading stories of heroism, images of national security, and messages of hope (rather than kids asking for a puppy). Sadly, it took a tragedy to see just how positive, powerful and effective it is.

This is what social media is good for, the rapid sharing of information. People watching out for each other. It was embraced, not only by the common man and journos, but by the police, the feds.

Facebook gets a bad rap. There’s the narcissism, the ill-thought drunken photos, that friend who posts memes left, right and center. The images of the bombers spread quicker than any meme I’ve seen. It’s a positive use, a ‘keep your eye out.’ You can’t run for long when the entire nation knows your face, and as it has been made clear (by, naturally, memes and viral videos) that you don’t mess with Bostonians.

Writer’s Challenge: Interview with a Character

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

First, this is a challenge put together by Ralfast! And it was good fun.

I walked down Huntington, past Symphony Hall. I took a left and continued down the street, passing a mess of restaurants before finding the one I was looking for. It was a discrete, small building identified only by the top hat/tea cup sign that hung over the door. “Hatter and Hare” it said. I recognized the name, one I had created for a project, but my characters had highjacked. I pushed the door open.

What greeted me was a small, pleasant tea room/cafe. It was elegant, tasteful. The Alice in Wonderland motif was understated, with a few small details scattered throughout. I spotted a few decks of cards, an Alice fireplace grate…I knew there were more.

I sat down at the counter, pen and paper in hand. I said a quick hello to the barista, a normal looking guy wearing a bow tie. My character, and the subject of today’s interview. He put a cappuccino in front of me, which I thanked him for greatly.

“Now, let’s get this over with,” said he with a cheeky grin.

“Right,” I said. “First, what’s your name?”

“Well, you came up with me, you should know. But for the sake of the interview. My name’s Daniel Bentham. I’m twenty-seven years old, own this tea shop, and I like long walks on the beach.”

“Do you really?”

“No. I hate the sand. But it just seemed like the right thing to say,” said Daniel. He laughed and poured brown sugar into his espresso. “Sugar?”

“Please,” I replied, and took the sugar from him. “So, Daniel, do you have any nicknames?”

“My sister calls me Danny or Danny-boy. I call her Charlie and she shuts up,” said Daniel. He raised the white espresso cup to his mouth, inhaling the coffee’s rich, warm scent. He exhaled, closing his eyes. I watched his strange ritual another time before he broke it, taking a sip. “Ah! That’s good coffee.”

“Coffee,” I repeated.

“Yeah. Coffee. It’s my passion. Well, one of them. I like tea a great deal, too. The ceremony that surrounds it. Speaking of ceremony, we had a Royal Wedding viewing party. Opened the shop up early, especially for the day. Served tea and scones with clotted cream and jam…but I’m getting off topic. You were conducting an interview, and I so rudely interrupted with my tangent. Please continue.”

“Do you mind describing yourself for the readers?” I asked, a little embarrassed.

“I thought you said this was a photographed interview!” said Daniel in mock horror. “I can’t do justice to myself! Words fail!”

I crossed my arms. “Try, please. I could write it myself, but I’m sure you would rather describe how you see yourself.”

Daniel cleared his throat. “I’m a handsome devil. I have blue eyes and brown hair and I’ve got plenty of freckles. Slightly taller than average, and a nice smile. No jewelery or tattoos. Happy?”

“Good enough. Hobbies?” I said.

“Coffee. And I like classic cars. And events like the Monaco Grand Prix. I want to go one day.”

“Thanks for giving me a straight answer.”

“You’re most welcome,” replied Daniel. He looked at my cappuccino cup and asked if I had finished. I hadn’t–the foam still remained. “Oh! I nearly forgot. Cooking. I love cooking. Especially eating what I cook.”

“Fantastic.” I wrote furiously. “So, can you tell me about  your family?”

“Well…” said Daniel with a sigh. “I have a mother and a father who are alive and well and currently on vacation somewhere. My sister Charlotte and I manage this tea shop. Dunno where she is…probably out getting ingredients.”

“Where are you from?” I sipped at my cappuccino. It was really good–one of the best I’d had Stateside.

“Depends. I usually just say Boston. Most people don’t know the town I’m from, so I don’t bother saying it.” He shrugged. “Plus, it’s boring.”

“Good enough for me. Now, excuse my prying, but do you have any secrets?” I asked.

Daniel stepped back. “Yeah, ‘course.”

“Mind sharing one or two?” I smiled politely, and put the pen down. I didn’t want to betray his confidence.

He looked at me warily, uncertainty writ on his face. “Yeah. They’re secrets. They stay that way.” He crossed his arms and seemed to be hoping I would leave.

“Fine, didn’t mean to pry. Last one’s tough. What do you believe in?”


“Classic, Daniel. Really classic,” I replied.

“I thought you’d appreciate it. Now scram. I need to clean this place up before the lunch rush.”

Daniel’s story takes place in present day Boston, at a whimsical tea shop located near Symphony Hall.

Books that Matter: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky

Books that Matter

Not my usual choice. Make Way for Ducklings is my favorite children’s book. It’s a cute story about a family of mallards who go to live in the Boston Public Garden.

I love this book for the illustrations, not so much for the story. The ducks are adorable, the city itself given such character. I grew up by a pond, so we always had ducks swimming in our backyard. Going into Boston as a child inevitably meant visiting the Public Garden, where there is a statue of Mrs Mallard with her ducklings.

But the illustrations! As a child, just as today, I would spend hours looking at the pictures, seeing how such character would come through in the illustrations. Understandably, it won a Caldecott award.

The Joy of the Small Things in Life

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

On October 25, I attended a lecture given by Alexander McCall Smith at the Boston Public Library.

McCall Smith is my favorite living writer, so the opportunity to hear him speak was an amazing opportunity. Apparently he was supposed to speak at the BPL last Spring, but the Volcano Incident kept him in Europe. All the better for me, as I was in Italy and would have been unable to attend the lecture.

His lecture was a funny, touching one, like his books. His main point was one quite close to me, a person on the brink of great wide world: find the joy in the little things in life. It isn’t the great, massive things that ultimately matter. It isn’t the grand adventures that we set out on, not the jobs we hold or how much we make (but I’m sure this helps), rather, it’s those moments of laughter, of friendship, of joy that create our lives. When I look back on my life, while I have had bright, brilliant memories, its those little moments of elation: I don’t remember why we laughing, only that we were, that we were having fun. That we enjoyed ourselves.

It isn’t the drama. It isn’t the news that defines our world, though it certainly impacts us. It’s the people we know and how we spend time with them. It’s that kind hello, that sweet smile. The invitation for a walk, the hug from a friend. That’s what our life is.

These ideas, the idea of friendship, of warmth, of love, are throughout his serial works, from The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series to 44 Scotland Street. That’s why I love them so much. You care for them, even the ones you didn’t like as much (Bertie’s mother the terrible Irene is one).

The highlights of the evening:

After the lecture, there was a brief question and answer session. I tentatively raised my hand, a thousand questions whirling about. I didn’t expect that I would be picked.

I blanked.

Somehow my mouth managed to say, “Do you laugh while writing your books?”

His response: “Yes. Sometimes my wife knocks on the door and asks me what’s so funny.”

He then recounted a scene in the forthcoming 44 Scotland Street book The Importance of Being Seven, where Bertie meets a boy who collects penknives.

That had me on cloud nine. Seeing my favorite author speak, his answering my question…and a book signing to follow.

Cue waiting in line. There, I chatted with those around me about Alexander McCall Smith’s books, travel and art.

Soon enough, it was my turn to speak briefly with Mr McCall Smith. We spoke no more than a minute or so, in which I thanked him for the speech and answering my question. I told him that his books made me happy and were an inspiration to me as a writer. He inquired about my work, and after I said I had written a novel that “wasn’t terribly good,” he said just to move on to the next one. Simple advice.

It was a pretty awesome night.

I’m still on cloud nine.

Potential Favorite Author Meeting Level: High

General Geekiness

So, I checked my email today at my internship to discover a wonderful message from my mom.

It was short, simple, little more than a copy-and-paste from a website.

This is generally what it said:

Subject: Alexander McCall Smith

October 25, 2010

6:00 pm, Boston Public Library (lecture),
700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA.

Being at work, my response was to simply grin widely. At school or at home, it would be more vocal, along the lines of “HURRAY!”

Alexander McCall Smith is my favorite living author. His stories make me so happy. I could be miserable, but to read a few pages of 44 Scotland Street and I’m instantly in a better mood.

I’m really, really excited. I’ve already marked it on my calendar. I’ve got my entire afternoon free. I’ll be camping out. Most camp out to meet rock stars. I camp out to meet my favorite writer.