I’m Back!

Well, here I am, back after an absence of many months.  For those of you who know me only through this website, the last you heard from me was when I was reeling from the death of my beloved partner and husband, Jim, last April.  I dropped out of sight over that summer and haven’t really given much thought to my life as a writer since.


The post below this one is something I wrote this week for another site, San Diego Writing Women, a group of which I am a proud member.  It will catch you up on my state of mind, so I will use this one to do the same for my professional life.  This one comes with a promise to pick up regular posting from now on!


I am happy to report that novel number four, which I finished before he died, sold last December to Sourcebooks, a Chicago-based publisher, and one of the most prestigious remaining indie houses.  I am very excited about being involved with this arm of the publishing industry, and working with my new editor, Shana Drehs. The novel is tentative called THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER (I had titled it something else, and hope the subject is still negotiable, but we shall see), and should come out in early 2014.


As a result, 2013 will be a momentous year for me as an author, even if I don’t write anything new.  Soon I will be hard at work on revisions and the other aspects of editing THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER for publication.  Perhaps that will whet my appetite for one of my many great ideas for future novels about forgotten women, and I will be writing here soon about my next project.  As I write this, I must admit, I feel a little stir of excitement about that possibility.


My other big news is that I have finally fulfilled a dream of many years to lecture on a cruise line.  Not only did I do that for the first time recently on Silversea Cruises (South America over last Christmas and New Year’s ), but I have gotten new contracts for other Silversea destinations over the next two holiday seasons, and another assignment this August on Seabourn in the eastern Mediterranean.


Those of you who have followed my blog here know that Jim and I were literally on the eve of leaving for Lisbon in September 2011 for what was to be my first lecturer gig on Silversea. As our plane took off without us, I was sitting instead at the hospital as doctors struggled to save Jim from imminent death from kidney failure.  Rather than luxuriating for the next few weeks on a cruise, we spent the time dealing with a serious health crisis and a diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer.


I will always remember that time as one of the most painful and saddest in my life, but as my friends all know, I am blessed with the “happy gene” and have recovered well.  I am so grateful for my nine years with Jim, and even if I knew the end when we set out to spend life together, I would do it all again.  Not many people are lucky to be as loved as I have been, and to have the great feeling of loving someone equally in return.


Enough for now. Very glad to be back. Thank you for all your support!  Laurel





Private Substance


And soon a branch, part of a hidden scene,
The leafy mind, that long was tightly furled,
Will turn its private substance into green,
And young shoots spread upon our inner world.



These lines, the end of the poem “A Light Comes Brighter,” by one of my favorite poets, Theodore Roethke, was on my mind as I walked home from the college this week. It’s about the first signs of the end of winter, and indeed they can be found in San Diego already–despite the limited drama of changing seasons around here.


The first time these lines etched themselves into my consciousness was almost thirty years ago, when my home on a canyon rim was scorched by wildfire, leaving the yard looking like a huge ashtray and the trees scorched to a russet brown..  “It’s a miracle how the fire went around this house,” the reporter from the local news chirped from my driveway. My heroic neighbors, who had spent the afternoon on my roof with garden hoses, greeted that comment in muttered disgust: “Yeah, some miracle.”


I thought the trees were dead, but within a month, I saw a hint of something and went out to investigate.  There, in clusters of perfect little emeralds, was life reasserting itself.


When I see the first leaf buds or early blossoms every year, my heart lifts at the sheer doggedness of the will to live that had quietly been doing its work all winter. I often think of Roethke’s poem then, particularly the beautiful last line, where he reminds us of our own internal winters, and the green shoots that come up, often by surprise, to signal that perhaps it is time to put behind whatever has been dreary and cold, and regrow ourselves.


My daily walk to and from the college where I teach takes me past the Rose Garden in Balboa Park, and there is something about the brutality with which rose bushes are cut back in late December that always wounds me. Today the nodes are swelling and the first leaves are breaking out, turning their private substance into green, just as the gardeners with their faith and pruning shears, knew they would.


Last February I lived not just in a different home in a different part of town, but in a different world.  My beloved partner, Jim, was declining noticeably from the cancer that would steal his life in April. When June came, I cried because he was not there to see the jacarandas whose purple blooms he had always appreciated with the glee of a child.  There was only winter for me last summer.  There was even less for him.


But sap does rise and the juices of this beautiful life do surge again.  Somewhere between then and now, the sad, furled leaves of my grief and sorrow opened to reveal something lush and green and full of promise. It’s called life. It’s called understanding that we are still here, and rejoicing in that single, beautiful fact.  It’s what our own internal green shoots are trying to tell us as every season, every stage of life beckons.


A number of months ago, I wrote here that, “I can’t write about writing or the writing life today, because I am not doing any of the former, and as to the latter, I don’t have one.”  I’d have to say that’s still true.  I have been dormant. I haven’t written one word of fiction, or edited anything I had finished before Jim got sick. I’m perfectly okay with that, and have no sense of urgency and no plan to do anything different for now.


In the poem, such a time is called winter, but for me, life is not cold and dreary, it’s simply not the season for the pen. In the last few months it’s been the right time for lecturing on a cruise line, seeing movies, taking up golf, making some new friends, palling around with old ones, and starting to think about loving again.


I don’t speculate about my writing future, although my friends seem certain I have one. Blessings on you for your confidence and support.  Maybe you are right, but unlike the roses in Balboa Park that shared their wisdom with me this week, I am not stuck with being able to produce only one kind of flower.