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Picturing a World

Bridesmaid’s dress

Website alert: In an account of a 1908 wedding I've just read, the bridesmaid was said to have worn a "white lingerie gown." Whoa. Not her underwear or nightgown, but what? Short, short answer is a lightweight dress made of cotton or linen characterized by pleats, tucks, and lace, as I learned in a beautifully illustrated post, Terminology: what is a lingerie dress or lingerie frock? (and blouse, and skirt) at The Dreamstress website.  The same website has a splendid glossary of textile terms with links to longer posts like this one.

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Kitchen garden

Uh-oh, a couple of weeks ago, I dreamed I was inside a crossword puzzle. The dream is hard to remember clearly, much less describe (more surreal that an Alice-in-Wonderland card game); but the upshot was that the next morning I quit doing puzzles, cold. Now, as I finish my breakfast cup of tea, I'm reading Helen Gammack's Kitchen Garden Estate (2012) instead. It's perfect. Paper that's a delight to feel, many illustrations, and short, information-packed discussions of a wide array of gardening practices for raising edible and medicinal plants.

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Naughty, naughty

Website alert: I hope this link to a copy of Poetical Sketches of Scarborough for sale will be viable for a while. It's a source for a set of twenty-one lightly satiric illustrations of life at the English sea resort of Scarborough in 1812. For anyone researching public baths in the early 19th C, voilà! The picture also fits my running theme of using imagery as prompts for original fiction. Obviously, there's a story here. 

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Biscuit tin

A poor student in my current fantasy story occupies a sparsely furnished attic room and makes do with a storage chest for a desk. It was enchanting, therefore, to come across this 10th C illumination of St. John: William's desk leapt right out. I've been debating whether to give the young man a writing board or portable desk (I think I will), but what really caught my attention was that box the good saint is sitting on. It looks like a biscuit tin! I collect images of medieval scribes at work and room interiors, and I've never seen anything like it.

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Alcott story

Under the headline Unfinished story by Little Women author Louisa May Alcott published for first time, the Guardian reports on publication of "Aunt Nellie's Diary" in the Strand magazine along with a call for authors to complete it. So here are three possible writing exercises: (1) Complete the story in Alcott's style. (2) Update the story to a different period and see where it leads you. (3) Imagine a writers' group that tackles such a challenge, then write a story about their doing so. Even if you just chuckle over the idea, have some summer fun!

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Eeyore huts in Epping Forest

Blog post alert: Escape to Epping Forest! Admire the Eeyore huts built by local inhabitants. No point except it's lovely (and, of course, just might inspire a story). Via Spitalfields Life (and thank you).

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Plus ça change …

… plus c'est la même chose. Via the Indiana History Blog.

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Tan wins the Greenaway

Yea! Shaun Tan, the wonderful, original, astonishing artist who is also a wonderful, original, astonishing writer, has won the Kate Greenaway medal. It's hard for me to say which of his books is my favorite—maybe Tales from Outer Suburbia, maybe Rules of Summer, two picture books that capture the wackiness of childhood and modern life. I also love The Singing Bones, retellings of Grimms' fairy tales with Tan's odd sculptures to illustrate them. And now Tales from the Inner City, deeply strange and incisive. I pre-ordered it and read it slowly when it came out, a story at a time. Each leaves you saying, "Oh," softly, sadly, a little ashamed to be human, but grateful to the more-than-human world for being and to Tan for expanding your perception of it. For more about the award, click here.

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Hokusai hand puppets

My mother was a marionettist who made her own puppets, which means I've been aware of the things since childhood. Nevertheless, I have to confess that despite years of editing books on East Asia, I was taken utterly by surprise—and delighted!—by Hokusai's depiction of hand puppets. I know a little about Kabuki  and Noh theater but nothing whatsoever about Japanese puppets. It's a topic to explore, that's for sure.

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Writing Manual

Main Street Rag Publishing has just brought out a new chapbook of poems, How to Prepare Escargots, by my old friend, Elaine Fowler Palencia. No one is better than Elaine at turning quietly homely images into startling, sometimes explosive, insights. To illustrate the point, here is a poem that brilliantly fits the theme of this blog in ways I would never have come up with myself.

 

Writing Manual
 
1. Writing Fiction
 
Lay out your tools:
a plastic spatula, a dinner fork.
It doesn't matter.
Throw away your watch.
Start building your house
from the roof down.

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