Monday, December 4, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 21


I made my December 1 deadline. Barely.

Normally I would have followed up here as well on December 1, but surprise, surprise, I was busy. Weak excuse, I know, but that does not make it any less true. Let us take it one month at a time, starting with this one. December's goal is to work on Letters from Marilyn.

January's goal is the musical. I will be one step short of living at the theater (it's basically my second home. I love it there!). There are only 3 days in the entire month I am not scheduled to be at the theater, and let's face it: I will likely be there anyway. So, friends and family, if you need to see me, you will have to come find me! And please, if you bring me coffee I will love you forever. This director seriously needs her java during performance month.

As such, I will try to post a couple more updates during December, since it is improbable you will get any in January. Which brings us to today. Here are a few updates: 

  1. As per my contract with the literary agency, I cannot post the chapter samples I submitted to them, nor can I post any of the other chapters I am going to send to other agencies.
  2. I am choosing not to share the names of the agencies I am considering, for a variety of reasons. 
  3. I do not have a timeline of publication goals yet (I am working on some soft deadlines, but beyond that this has been very loosely structured because again, I am very busy).

I know what you are thinking: so what can Olivia post here

I will be honest: not much at this stage in the process. We all knew this day would come! See it as a good thing, dear readers! It means the end goal - a complete novel - is in sight. The purpose of today's update is a bit strange, I know: it is basically to tell you that I cannot tell you anything. So why even write anything then, you ask? Because you knew about my December 1 deadline, readers, and many of you have written to inquire how that went and what is next. 

For the rest of this post then (so you're not all fuming with disdain at my total inability to keep you in the loop), let us "talk of many things - of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings!" In other words, general life nonsense:

  1. Today was an early dismissal from school at 2PM (thanks, snow!). I was in dept. meetings for the day at the district office. Having had no prep time as a result, I had big plans to go home and be productive. I took a nap. That, my friends, is productivity at its finest.
  2. I finished a book - Traveling Light by Lynne Branard - in two days. The last time I did that was July. Yes, I am feeling very proud of myself. Small victory, considering how busy I have been. It was an excellent read too. If you need a book, I definitely recommend it.
  3. While I will not recount all the boring details, I have been a terrible klutz recently. That is what sleep deprivation does to me. I have many strengths, but grace is not one of them. And because my mind works in strange ways when I am sleep deprived, I have come to the conclusion that if I were a bird I'd be like that albatross from The Rescuers. Definitely not a swan. Start it at 2:43 - this is how I have felt all. week. long. 
  4. Fact: the above quotation is from Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter." It is a poem that occurs in his novel Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). You should read it. Better yet: read both of the books.
That's enough nonsense for today. Hopefully the next update will be from a well-rested writer and not that of a frazzled educator who needs 30 hours in a day. Love always this holiday season, readers. Despite my busy-ness, I am grateful to have had you all checking in on me. Much love.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 20


Hello world!

I know it has been almost a month since my last update, so let me take some time to fill you in on the whirlwind of these past few weeks. Conferences came and went. Auditions for the musical concluded and rehearsals have started. Quarter 1 term ended along with a final grading sprint for me, which resulted in lots of late nights as my preps had been booked with meetings.

Then on the side I have accompanied seven vocalists in four weeks on music ranging from French arias, to musical revues, to early Christmas tributes, to pop ballads, to crooners like Sinatra and Crosby. Note to self: never again take on seven vocalists at once, no matter how much I love playing the piano. Any moment not grading papers, planning a musical, or doing life things had been spent practicing all the music. It had gotten to a point where I was waking up at 3:00 in the morning with nightmares about chord progressions and being asked to transpose keys on sight (yes, you can laugh all you like, but the concept of transposing on sight is enough to give any pianist a heart attack). 

In between all of this, I have attended musicals, weddings, birthdays, and family gatherings. It's been a fabulously wonderful - and obviously busy! - past 4 weeks. But my mantra for 2017 has been "make time to live," so that is why I have kept all my plans, canceled nothing, and enjoyed the time with all of you. I am a much better educator, director, pianist, and friend when I make time for these important events, big or small. So keep it coming with the holiday visits ahead, the coffee gatherings with friends, etc. etc. etc!

You can see why, then, Letters from Marilyn had been placed momentarily on hold. It's okay, loves! I have not forgotten about Marilyn. She is always on my mind, as is my December 1st deadline on sample chapters to a potential literary agency. I always told myself when I started this project last year that I would be patient and take the time to do it right. All good things to those who wait. And for those who know me, patience is not always easy for me when I am exceptionally enthusiastic about something, someone, anything really. A former student once equated my energy level to that of a tornado when I am excited (thanks for the visual there, kid, that's not disturbing at all). 

I am planning to use the Thanksgiving break to really iron out the details in my drafts. Right now they are more loose outlines and notes, because my sleep-deprived, music-nightmares, can't-be-quiet brain has been too frazzled to write anything coherent. Indeed, this post itself is likely very scattered, for which I do apologize profusely. You all asked repeatedly for an update and you're getting one, whether it's any good or not.

But the good thing about Thanksgiving break is that I can solely focus on Letters from Marilyn if I so choose. The musical is in a good place, thanks to my borderline insane summer planning and a fantastic production team (and many more individuals offering their time and help). Grades have quieted down now that it is the start of a new quarter. I only have a few holiday accompaniment obligations ahead, all music I could easily sight-read on the spot. To my vocalists reading this: I do promise I'll practice! So without further ado, I present a very, very small snippet of a written draft below in bold. Consider it a teaser more than anything, as it's a bit dry right now. Love always, readers. I appreciate you. Have a wonderful holiday season ahead.
September 12, 1950 
Nearby lights gleamed, reflecting on the glossy locomotive that pulled in late to the station. College students bustled by on the busy street front as Minneapolis glowed brightly in the September evening. 
A young woman stepped briskly off the train steps, taking in her surroundings, unsure of what to do or where to go first. Her brunette curls bounced, skirt swishing rapidly, as she hurriedly approached a worker handling baggage.
"Excuse me, sir!" she exclaimed. "Can you direct me to the nearest phone booth? I'm arriving late, and I'm worried my dorm headmistress has locked up the hall for the evening."
"Certainly, miss. I'm Bernie Matherson. Let me show you where to go, I can help you with your trunks," he replied.
"I'm Marilyn. Marilyn Solberg."
"Well Miss Solberg, what brings you to Minneapolis?"
"I am starting my first year at Augsburg college," she replied. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 19


Happy Wednesday, loves!

I have been having a simply fabulous week. Why, you ask? Let's take a little life stroll before we get into the latest update on Letters from Marilyn. First, all of my 500+ student papers were graded in time for conferences. On the theatre front, I have written the blocking for my entire musical, audition and callbacks material is ready to go, the set is designed, and I have my first two weeks of rehearsals mapped out. And with life: I've had opportunities to see family, celebrate my sister's birthday, and time to catch up with people. Lots of love to all of you for the conversations and your good vibes. I enjoy hearing from everyone. Thank you world, things can only continue to go up from here. I'm excited to see what you have in store for me in the days, weeks, and months to come.

I also have some exciting news to share regarding Letters from Marilyn. I have a prospective literary agent, and am now in the stages of writing sample chapters to send to the agency (along with other agencies, of course!). One thing I love about writing is the flexibility it gives me, so I can continue to write remotely from wherever I like and still do all of the other things that I love: theatre, music, education, etc. It's hard to focus on just one thing when you have many things you are passionate about! It also gives me the flexibility to be both an introvert and an extrovert. I get the time to write, to reflect, and yet still get the time to talk with you, my close family and friends. So those of you I have had many conversations with recently these past few weeks or so (whether it be in person or via social media!) know that I appreciate and value you. Just hearing how you are doing makes my extrovert-heart happy. Now that things have settled down for me, I hope to spend more time focused on you.

Put in the words of one of my students, I have apparently been living on "cloud nine" this past week as a result of all this news. Education sidebar (since I promised this story for my family following on Facebook!): every time I have had a student use this phrase, they also must ask if I have a boyfriend. That's middle schoolers for you - very interested in all aspects of my personal life. "No, children, I do not have a boyfriend yet. Yes, I realize you find that information clearly more fascinating than our textbook, but we still have 10 pages of reading to cover in the next 45 minutes, so please don't make me go all Severus Snape with the 'TURN TO PAGE 394!' okay?" Now that I have had a chance to come down from my writer's "cloud nine" a bit, let's shift our focus to Marilyn and her life.

The reason for today's life and education tidbits is two-fold: first, many of you following my Facebook & Twitter page have asked how I've been and how teaching has been going. Here you are: it is going well, much better than last year. I am flattered you want to hear about my life and silly ramblings, and I am more than happy to supply those here and on my Facebook page. I hope you don't get sick of my crazy stories too quickly!

The second piece of this is in connection to my last update. After all, you know I feel a close kinship with Marilyn and the fact that she was going into vocal music education. She was a pianist, a musician, a vocalist - all things that I am too. In my previous post, I mentioned struggling with the style of this novel. I've decided for now - with the help of the lit agencies - to write this with my infused life stories too. After all, I've already been doing that on some level when I've shared snippets of her letters. Think a la Julie and Julia.

The downside of this style (but not enough of one to discourage me!) is that I have had to do a lot of restructuring to my current drafts. I've had to review and pour over letters, pulling details that were not included in my first set of drafts. I had hoped to share some of this drafting with you today, but I need more time to complete it. Now that all the life things are caught up, I hope to have more time to write in the evenings with a clear mind (and hopefully, clear sinuses - thanks a lot October for all the seasonal allergies, it is not distracting at all).

We do not have school the next two days, and I do not have any plans for the first time in a while (which is a remarkable feeling, because it means I'm not set into a fixed schedule and can make whatever plans I desire for the next 4 days!). So look for another update soon, dear readers. On Facebook alone, so many of you offered congratulations on this next big step. I appreciate you. Your well-wishes are so thoughtful and kind. Within the last 4 weeks, Certainly Candid has received 1,307 views. I am floored at how far we have come since I started this project, so thank you again. More to come soon. 

Love always.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 18


I'M WRITING A BOOK.

That sentence both excites and terrifies me. I'm. Writing. A. Book. The light at the end of this very long writer's tunnel is now visible to me, readers. I am so close, I can feel it.

Today I dragged out all of my college writing resources to brush up on how I want to approach writing Marilyn's story. Because readers, you have only seen a glimpse of her life and letters. I have shared here only what I feel is most important. Certainly Candid has included a snapshot of her life. Now the overarching goal is the full picture - including all of the historical components.

I struggle making monumental decisions like the style of this novel. Do I want to write it in 1st person, from Marilyn's point of view? Do I want to infuse my own life lessons and this journey into it, a la Julie and Julia? Do I want to switch perspectives and write from Jennie's (her mother's) point of view in alternating chapters? Or do I want it to purely be a story - written in the 3rd person, as a narrative of Marilyn's life at Augsburg?

Right now, the answer is all of these! Not permanently, of course. As a general outlook, I believe play has a powerful impact on how we approach tasks and goals in life. If you don't get a chance to play, to practice, to take risks, how will you know what works best? I remind myself of this daily: to play and have fun. We only get so many days on earth (as the condolence letters to M's family reflect). We must enjoy our days, our activities, our passions, our work. Because if we don't, are we really fulfilling our life purpose?

With that being said, I am approaching Letters from Marilyn in a similar manner. It's been 15 months since I started this project, and even on the days where I feel stressed and overwhelmed with the magnitude of it, I remind myself of this: I am doing this because I am passionate about it, because it is fun, and because it makes me (and others) happy

As a result, today's update is merely that: an update on how this is all going. I know it's short, but that doesn't mean I'm not writing. The picture of this post very accurately depicts where I am at. 543 pages of letters. 15 months of research. 3 potential literary agents. 2 notebooks filled. 1 trip to Augsburg. And now, the crafting of a story. The next update will include the final set of condolence letters and a snippet of the actual novel (since I'm not writing that here online).

I know I've said it many, many times, and yet each time it doesn't feel adequate. So once again, thank you, dear readers, from the bottom of my heart. Views are climbing higher into the thousands. You have shared these posts hundreds of times. I've had many emails, FB messages, Twitter responses, and comments with your support. I don't deserve such a dedicated following, and yet, you are all still here, as equally (or even more so) invested in Marilyn. You all have my unwavering gratitude.

Love always.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Art Inspiring Art - Update 17


Good evening readers,

I know it is late. I know it has been a while. I know many have asked about Marilyn, about my work here at Certainly Candid, about life. Thank you for waiting, for your patience, for your gentle inquiries. But now, wait no longer - today is update 17.

It is not, however, the kind of update you are used to. Today is a life update - about everything, not just Marilyn. When I started this writing project here at Certainly Candid in 2013, I was not sure about its future, or if it even had one.

Your support has shown me that this future exists.

I was at a crossroads in 2013. Writing gave me an outlet.

Fast forward to now, 2017. It has been almost five years since I created this website, researched how to code and set up a domain, how to gather an audience, and what stories to craft. During that time I completed writing projects for GenTwenty and a handful of other publications. I impacted my own story by leaving one teaching job and beginning another near home. The story creation shifted to another level by joining various regional and state organizations to advocate for writing (and the arts) in education.

With those brought the joy to return to a different form of storytelling - the theatre. After years away, the things you love have a way of tugging at your heartstrings. And with that joy, it ushered in the need to begin to tell another story - Marilyn's.

Almost five years of work, of one piece of art inspiring another. Of one story leading to the next, in more than one medium. The stories we live, the stories we tell, and the stories we create have impact. It sometimes takes a while to see that impact, but it is there just the same. I see here on Certainly Candid every week as stats rise in my analytics settings. I see it as more students submit works of art and writing for our state's programs. I see it every day on stage, in children whose confidence becomes stronger with each line and each note. 

Stories ask to be heard, to be seen, to be felt. All of this couldn't have been done without you, my fellow readers, writers, artists, musicians, poets, thespians, and advocates. Sometimes we need to take a step back in order to move forward, and that is what I have spent the last month doing since my previous update. It allowed me to see the bigger picture when I was fixated on the details.

What's more, taking a step back allowed me to adjust my focus. There are positive changes in store for these things, and I couldn't be more excited to continue this work - with help. These stories have become bigger than me now, and it brings me a lot of joy to be able to share them with more people who are equally passionate about them. 

And the first up is Letters from Marilyn. Exciting developments ahead, dear readers. Each new entry on Certainly Candid will have an update about Marilyn (and all of these other projects too). There are still many unknowns ahead, but rest assured that with more time and help, they'll all get where they need to be.

Update 18 will be here soon. Until then, as Marilyn writes: love always.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 16


Dear readers,

I have hit a writer's block with Letters from Marilyn this past month.

Even now, I'm struggling with the direction of today's update. I think the root of the problem is that I'm realizing how very close I am to being done reading all of the letters. The feeling equates to finishing the last book in your favorite series. Sure, you can reread them, but it's not quite the same when you know that there isn't going to be another book. And in this case, it means there is nothing more from Marilyn.

Between writing query letters and researching literary agents, I have been overwhelmed with the magnitude of how much I still need to accomplish if I want to see this in print someday. Once I finish reading the remaining 65 pages of condolence letters, I will need to focus on the next step: a complete draft. And with that comes a lot more research, another trip to Augsburg to hopefully meet with the archives department, and more query letters to write.

But all that being said, it is an exciting unknown ahead. I know I've said it before, but thank you readers. Your support, messages of encouragement, comments, and shares have meant the world to me. Because of your outreach, these posts have had thousands of views. And whether this project sees print someday or not, it is great to know that this story has touched many. After all, that is all we can ask for as writers: that our stories have reached you.

Moving forward, these posts will likely start to lack organization and a clear timeline (my editing process gets a little insane sometimes). I'll do my best to explain what's happening as I continue to draft and edit. But today, I have some more snippets for you from the condolence letters sent to Jennie and her family after M's passing. 
October 22, 1953 from Gladys Strommen: I think it's marvelous the way you folks have taken this great loss in Marilyn. Even still I have her and you folks on my mind a great deal. We still remember you in our prayers that you might be given strength and understanding. I know that in my life it has made a change. I realize now how close we are to eternity and that each day could be my last. I'm sure we all hate to think that this is our last day for we all feel that we have a duty to perform here on earth, but yet we must face the reality that that day must come to us all sooner or later. 
October 25, 1953 from Arlene Olson: On Friday nite was the choral banquet with the variety show afterwards. The choral banquet this year was very nice and naturally I couldn't help but think of Marilyn, because I know if she had been here she would have sat beside me. Sateren gave such a beautiful tribute to "Oppie" and Marilyn. I can't put down exactly what he said but some of his main things were that he held Marilyn to be one of the best choir members and how she was really like a flower just coming into full bloom. Then he said that he had talked with another fellow and this fellow had said that this was probably one way in which the power of God could be released in the choir. It has an effect on all the choir members and I know will be more so when we go on tour. Sateren stated it so beautifully.
October 26, 1953 from Joan Munson: Betty had all the girls and Tony, Harvey, etc. over for our regular Sunday night supper. It seemed so nice to be together again, and yet you don't realize how much we missed Marilyn. There always seemed to be so much unity in our interests and backgrounds. You might almost think of us as one big "home." And Marilyn was a big part of our home. We're all thankful that our parents raised us with such a wonderful appreciation of the simple and wonderful fun in life - which we had so much of. We have no memories to be afraid of - only many happy memories. You'll be glad to hear that Audrey has a recording of Marilyn's singing - and she is having her mother mail it to me. Let's all hope it is still ok!  
And that is all today. More to come soon!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 15

Now that my busy month of June has come to a close, I am back in full swing on all of my projects, including Letters from Marilyn. Where we left off last time, Marilyn had written her last letter home. She died suddenly on September 28, 1953 at the age of 21. While her cause of death is uncertain (my theory is a brain aneurysm), it is clear that she was loved by many.

Today's post focuses on the many condolence letters that were sent to her family after her death. As her death was 63 years ago now, many of these letters had been written by people who are also no longer living. I will try to share them the best I can, but for privacy, I am choosing to omit names and information where necessary.

Joan M. maintained a steady stream of letters to Jennie, perhaps trying to fill the void of Jennie no longer receiving them from Marilyn. Sadly, Joan passed away a few years ago, before I had an opportunity to reach out to her. But she too is remembered in the kind words she wrote to Jennie. Other letters include those from the Strommens, her roommate at the time Arlene, and many more.
October 6, 1953 from Lydia, a family friend: You are in my uppermost thoughts and prayers everyday - ever-mindful that only God can give you the strength you need in these difficult times. I think of the phrase - "when it's hardest to pray, pray the hardest." We can't understand how, but God is able to help. 
October 7, 1953, from Arlene, Marilyn's friend and roommate senior year: It seemed strange to come back to the dorm and live in a different room with a different roommate. But it is also wonderful to know that Marilyn is singing praises above, where there are no cares at all. We can't help but feel lonesome without her, but I'm glad we can trust in God's promise that He does what is best for those He loves. 
October 12, 1953 from Joan M: I have learned that lonesomeness grows. I was so used to telling Marilyn everything that I seems I find myself wondering who to go to. I hope it isn't selfish, but it's just something a person can't help. 
October 16, 1953 from Leland Sateren, the Augsburg choir director: We have, to a certain extent, gotten back to routine again. But, and I know I don't have to tell you, Marilyn's being away leaves a terrible gap here. I don't know whether Clair told you or not, but on her last Sunday, she attended church where I direct choirs. I was told that she had been deeply moved by the whole service. And by strange coincidence, one of the numbers the choir sang was a new number of mine - so new that the choir was singing it from manuscript. As soon as the number has been published, I want to send you a copy, partly because that number now will always be associated with her. So far as I know, it was the last choir music she heard. As a composer, I can tell you that a chain of events like this stands as a tremendous challenge. With kindest regards to you.
A note about this entry: Sateren had also written to return the dues Marilyn had paid to be in the choir. The check, for $1.50, was still enclosed and had never been deposited by Iver or Jennie. And Marilyn wrote about this choir church service in her last letter, which was in update 14.
October 13, 1953 from Gladys Strommen, Clair's wife. Clair was the general manager of the choir and Marilyn often babysat for the Strommen children. Joan called and it was another reminder of you folks. I've had you all on my mind a good deal today. It was only 2 weeks ago today that Marilyn passed away. In some ways it seems so long and other times it seems such a short time since she was here in our home. We certainly miss her telephone calls and her visits.
October 18, 1953 from Joan M: There are so many things I think of each day to tell and ask you. I don't see how I'll ever get used to life without Marilyn. We had done so many wonderful things together. You had a daughter to be proud of. She was one of the few students in college who was ready to meet her God. It seems that at first I was too stunned to realize, and now each day it becomes more vivid that my best friend is gone.
[the letter goes on to talk about some audio choir recordings done of Marilyn singing, and a few movie reels] Harvey has movies of Marilyn he had taken last spring. She had on the white dress she had gotten for Christmas two years ago. I just thought that I'd let you know these are available at your asking. I have heard so many comments that you would be proud to hear. Probably in time we can exchange our thoughts and questions, which gives us a wonderful memory. I have also thought of the convulsion last spring. At the time I was very concerned. But the nurse and doctor felt that it was related only to fatigue from exams. But it seems as if you're always concerned about someone sick when they're close. We can discuss it later. 
A note about this entry: I read this section about Joan saying Marilyn had been to a doctor for a "convulsion" and instantly went back to the spring letters looking for details. It seems Marilyn didn't mention it to her mother, only that she had been feeling "under the weather." I don't even understand what "convulsion" means and have went looking up answers in medical encyclopedias, etc. But medicine in the 1950s was very different to now, and I'm not sure I'll ever have an answer.
I am going to stop here for today. There are about 85 pages of condolence letters, but as previously mentioned, I have a hard time reading them. I made it through about 30 pages today, which is an improvement from last time. Tomorrow, July 5, would have marked Marilyn's 85th birthday if she were still here with us. She might not walk with us, but she certainly lives in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 14


IT'S SUMMER! That means I can write more on Letters from Marilyn. Hurrah! Today's post has a variety of things - my trip to Augsburg, M's final letters before her death, and "what's next" for this project. With the start of June in only a few days, we've come round-robin since June of last year. While today's post will be the last of Marilyn's letters, it certainly won't be the last post.

Let's start with my trip to Augsburg on May 5! After my last post in Pella, IA, I went to Mankato to visit family. From there, I went to Minneapolis to explore Augsburg for a few hours. Nestled right in the heart of the city, Augsburg is a small but beautiful campus. There's so much to see and do in the surrounding community and we were blessed with a beautiful day of weather.


Of course I needed a picture by the campus sign! Go Auggies! The next stop was the music hall:


This building was really unique. Outside the main doors, they had a variety of large musical instruments you could play! I will do my best to link a video of this later. The music hall, named after the eighth president of Augsburg, houses so many practice rooms, chapels, and more.


It's really not a trip if you don't stop in a library (or in my case, two or three). While the archives office was closed due to summer vacation, I did get the contact information of the professor in charge of the department. But the yearbooks are public access, and so we looked through all the yearbooks of when Marilyn attended: 1950-1954. We found her picture many times (and even more exciting to me, pictures of her friends and professors - we don't have pictures of them!). What's more, all the yearbooks have been digitally scanned along with other Augsburg publications. You can access them here.


In the main building, this beautiful stained glass (it literally takes up a full wall) is located in the Harbo Meditation Chapel. A place for community members to reflect quietly in prayer, this was a peaceful room. 


While I took many, many photos, I simply don't have room to share them all here! This is in front of the Augsburg seminary building. When we were in the library, I looked up this building in the yearbooks. 67 years later, it looks almost exactly the same as it did in 1950 (the main difference being the signage that says "Augsburg Seminary"). We have photos of M standing right on these steps and being there made this all seem so much more real to me!

It was a wonderful three hours. Because classes were out for summer, we had the full place to ourselves! Now that I've had some time to collect my thoughts and make notes, I know I will make another trip in the future. 

Shifting gears, let's now focus on the last of M's letters: fall of 1953. She only wrote 7 letters home before her sudden death, so I will include snippets of all of them here. This is the start of her senior year and it is certainly busy for her in September:
September 14, 1953: It seems like there's a constant rat race and then I'm really quite tired. Tomorrow classes begin and then I think there'll be choir try-outs. Certainly is nice to see Joan again. I think I'll go out to Clair and Gladys's tomorrow!
September 14, 1953: I had quite a hectic time getting registered. I have 18.5 credits and couldn't get voice lessons in. I'm taking piano. 
September 16, 1953: Today I had my first piano lesson. My teacher is just wonderful. Now I'm all excited about that. I hope I remain enthused! He told me I played very well and he seemed quite enthused about me so I was happy.
[from the same letter as the last]: You should see the beautiful pair of pajamas I got from Strommens. They're yellow rayon ones with lace trim. I hear you got something too! I was out there the other evening and cut Gladys's hair. I cut it real short. It looked so cute!
September 21, 1953: I heard unofficially today from Clair that I made choir and I'm singing 1st soprano! [M was a 2nd soprano the last 3 years] Was I ever surprised! I've only had one try-out and I only sang a hymn so I don't see how he can tell much by that, especially changing me to first. I really don't mind. The experience will be good. 
September 23, 1953: Hilde and I were out at Atwater today observing and the trip was really wonderful. Both of us have lost all our fears and are really looking forward to practice teaching. The teachers are all so wonderful and they made us feel so welcome and professional! I'll have mixed chorus, girls glee club, and one speech class. 
[from the same letter as the last]: We had choir yesterday and of course it was thrilling as ever. I'm going to like singing first soprano. Sateren came up to me and said he wanted me to sing first this year and that I wouldn't have any trouble and "of course," he said, "you have a wonderful voice." I felt extremely complimented. [at the end of this letter:] Guess I'll go to bed and sleep on all my experiences of the day. I really feel like a teacher tonite. 
September 27, 1953 [the last letter, as Marilyn died on September 28]: Arlene, Joan, Rachael, and I went out to the church this morning, where Sateren directs the choir. Wonderful place and choir. [this tidbit has significance later, in a condolence letter that Sateren sent to the Solberg family. Now, later in the letter:] Last week was rather busy! I've been practicing piano 2 or 3 hours a day plus choir and classes. Then on Thursday the Big-Little Sister tea was happening. Arlene, Hilde, and I had charge of food and I also had to model my suit for the style show. Friday evening was Club Carnival night and last night the football game.
[also from the last letter]: Both Dorvan and Curt have informed me that they are coming down. Wonderful! I can hardly wait. You'll maybe be coming in a couple weeks also. Good! Good! Not that I want to get rid of the car but guess I'd rather see you!
And that's it. I'll be honest, I had a really, really hard time reading these letters, especially the last one. Here was Marilyn leading a full, busy life and making plans down the road. She was looking forward to student teaching, being a first soprano in the choir, having visitors in October... and then, in a blink, she was gone. 

Reflecting on all of her letters and plans, it makes you think about our time here and our own mortality. I've put off reading the condolence letters for so long, mainly for the reason that I need a major supply of Kleenex to get me through them. It's not for a lack of trying - the first try, I made it through 3 (seriously, 3). The second try, 5, before I was sniffling all over them. I'm sure the people in the coffee shop I was in at the time thought I was having a mental breakdown or a relationship crisis. Maybe the third time's the charm.

We still have many more updates to go. Thanks for staying with me and M for a year. These updates have received the most comments, reads, views, and shares. I wouldn't be this far without you, devoted readers.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 13


Hello from Pella, Iowa! I am taking a much-needed vacation and visiting friends and family for the week. Later this week I will be in Minneapolis to see Augsburg college, so I will post some pictures along with a new update on M.

Because I have more writing time on my hands, today's post will be longer! Marilyn wrote a lot of letters home from March to May of 1953. This is the end of her junior year. As such, there will not be many more letter posts here on Certainly Candid. She wrote 6 letters home in September of 1953 before she died, but I will include snippets of the condolence letters that were sent to her family. In addition, you can expect what I'm calling "phase 2" of this project - the novel drafts! Until then, let's move on with Marilyn's posts from these three months.
March 6, 1953: For Palm Sunday I'm singing the soprano solos in an Easter Cantata given in some church downtown. Mr. T is the tenor soloist and in the cantata we even have a duet. It's really my first professional work so I'm quite thrilled about it. I got the part over a week ago so I've worked on it some. The cantata is "The Seven Last Words of Christ." I don't have to chase out there for many rehearsals as I'm working here with Mr. T and I guess we get paid!
March 8, 1953: It's just midnight [while she is writing this] and I know I should be in bed but Joan has so much studying to do and it seems so dreary to stay up alone so I decided to find something to do to keep her company. 
March 16, 1953: I've been working quite a bit on this cantata for Palm Sunday. Mr. T and I sand our duet together the first time Friday and I can't ever remember being so thrilled. It's times like that that I'd really like to be a professional singer. Mr. T claims I have what it takes if I keep on but I really doubt it at times. I'm afraid that would be one hard road to climb.
March 19, 1953: Last night Betty and I got a ride out to Cokato, Minnesota, which is about 60 miles out, for the Augsburg band tour. It was really fun! [At the end of this post, I've included a photo of one of her typewritten letters - it talks more about the band tour.]
[From the same letter as last]: We have to let the Education dept. know where we would like to practice teach next fall, in the near future. I'm going to see if I can get at Atwater or Pine Island. It would make it so much easier if we could be where we knew someone. Hilde and I are planning to go to the same place if we can. The very thought of it scares me but I know it will be fun. This last week we had to spend one afternoon observing at one of the city high schools. I didn't enjoy that much because it's so big but I'm sure a small school would be fun.
April 14, 1953: I can hardly wait to start digging my fingers in my flower bed. I've decided to have an old-fashioned garden effect. I'm going to plant painted daisies, zinnias, marigolds, moss roses, and possibly sweet peas I have some ideas as to arranging it and I wish I could get a few fairly large flat rocks. Just wait - I know it will be "purdy." [This entry sounded so spring-like and cheerful, I couldn't resist including it here.]
April 18, 1953: [In a post-script that Marilyn writes about an upcoming roller-skating party she and her roommates are attending] We just had an argument here. Joan thinks everyone should wear skirts roller-skating and none of us are going to. What do you think? I said I'd rather have jeans on since I'll probably be sprawled on the floor half the time!
May 12, 1953: By the way, I'm practice teaching [student teaching] at Atwater for sure. I'll have two high school choruses, grade school music, and one speech course and possibly learn a little about the band, etc. I get the "willies" even at the thought of it but I suppose it will be fun. HIlde is going to Atwater too!
May 20, 1953: Our lilac bushes are just gorgeous. I've never seen so many blossoms. How's the yard at home? I hear you've really had the rain! [I included this because of the lilacs. I love lilacs - our homes in the country had so many beautiful varieties.]
And as promised, here is the typewritten letter postmarked March 13, 1953. I enjoyed the section about the weather and getting snowed in again - ironic timing, as my town just received a bunch of snow and ice less than a week ago! 


Reflecting on today's selections, I liked reading her entries about teaching. I always feel a kinship with educators, and I'm so glad that M pursued vocal music education in college. I only wish she had gotten to use what she had learned. I'm sure she would have made an excellent teacher.

Anyway, that is all for today, friends! My next post will be about my adventures in Minneapolis and Augsburg, just like Marilyn!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 12


Hello world and happy St. Patrick's day! What better way to spend a rainy, cloudy day than reading and working on writing projects? Today's update on Letters from Marilyn spans January and February of 1953. I have to tell you - I have had so much fun reading these entries and have had such a hard time deciding what to share with you! 

So, what's so exciting about these months, you ask? M goes on choir tour! The Augsburg choir travels to Chicago, New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, and so many more places. Reading about M's travel adventures in the 1950s is an adventure in itself, and I think you will really enjoy today's excerpts. She often writes on postcards - I promise I will share some of these soon!

But because I'm busily typing away at a coffee shop today, I did not get a chance to include a postcard photo in today's post. Instead, this is the header on the Hotel Taft stationary Marilyn sent home while staying in New York City (plus, I think it gives my post here a nostalgic letter feel). This hotel sounded so swanky and cool to me (and having never been to New York myself - someday!) I had to do a bit of research. While the Hotel Taft had to close its doors in 1973, the building still exists as apartments. You can read about it here - it's really interesting to learn about its history and its impact on New York City.
January 28, 1953 from Kitchner, Ontario: We have a continual riot on the bus. The other nite on the way into Chicago I was sleeping and I was awakened by one of the "clowny" fellows. He had his arms around me and really gave me a smooch! Just as he did so they snapped a flash picture. Of course it was all a frame-up! I'd write a book if I were to tell all the crazy happenings! A and I have a great time, in fact I've never had so much fun on a tour!
February 1, 1953 from New York: Was it ever a thrill to sing there! [in Quincy] Last nite after the concert we walked around Times Square. We sing this morning and all day we go sight-seeing. 
February 3, 1953 from New York (a postcard to her brother): This is really quite the place. I hope you can see it someday. This picture [nightfall in lower Manhattan with the Brooklyn Bridge] is the scene we saw last nite. So far I've seen so much I'm nearly cross-eyed. The subway fascinates me!
February 3, 1953 from New York (her first "real" non-postcard letter while on tour): Some of the places we saw today were the Statue of Liberty, United Nations Building, Rockefeller center, RCA, Radio City, Wall Street, Chinatown, Harlem, and all the other places we always hear about. You can probably tell by the muddle this letter is in that I'm simply overwhelmed by it all! As for doing any shopping, it's nearly out of the question because we hardly have time. We've had many rides on the subway. I don't think I'd ever be able to find my way around! 
February 4, 1953 from Allentown, Pennsylvania: I don't believe I told you that the other nite coming from Hamilton to Boston that we stopped at Niagara Falls. We saw it at nite of course, but was it ever beautiful. It's everything you've ever imagined it to be.
February 8, 1953 from Pittsburgh: Guess there's a way for everything! We've stopped to eat here so while I'm gulping my meal I'll make use of time, pencil, and place mats! [yes, she literally wrote this letter on the back of a paper place mat from a diner] One of the guys is sitting here clowning off. He's telling us what he's writing to his girl!
What stands out to me most from these travel stories is M's sense of wonder and excitement in all that they do - from the bus travels, to the sights, to the navigating the cities. I can only hope to visit these places someday soon too! Until another weekend, dear readers. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Letters from Marilyn - Update 11


It is time for another Marilyn post, dear world. January was crazy busy for me and as it came to an end, I came down with a full-blown sinus infection. While I'm still recovering, I have had some time to draft my next Marilyn update. I am planning to keep today's update brief, as I have several things to prepare for the week ahead.

I am still on Marilyn's junior year of college. Today's entries span November and December of 1952. Marilyn did not write many pages home during these two months due to the strain of her college exams and singing for many events. But, I will include a few things that stood out to me while reading these months. 

In related news, I have typed a few chapters of the first draft of the actual novel. I am very excited to share it with you, but that won't be for a while yet! I'm also in the process of researching Augsburg College and am hoping to schedule a trip there if I can contact the appropriate people about their university archives. I feel that visiting the college and its surroundings would also help me better visualize the setting of the novel. More about that in a future post, as I also need time in my schedule to go (and that may have to wait until summer).
November 5, 1952 regarding the election results: Well, old "Ike" won out. Frankly, I think everyone really is surprised. It was a regular landslide. The Congress went Republican too, I guess. Three of the kids here stayed up all nite at another apartment to watch all the proceedings on TV. Joan, Dorothy, and I valued our sleep too much though. [I did a little research on this election - very interesting reading to say the least!]
November 19, 1952 regarding the upcoming spring choir tour: We'll maybe be spending four days in New York City on tour. I sure hope they take us on some tours so we can see something. I get so excited every time I think about that tour!
December 3, 1952: Today they took Glen Carlsen's, Betty Monger's, Don Lundeen's, and my picture for the newspapers all along the way for tour. We had our heads real close together and were blowing pitch-pipes. I'm certain it will be very lovely. Well, even if it isn't so good it will be fun to have! [As luck would have it, we actually have this picture but there's no notation on it. I included it at the top of this post. My grandma didn't know the names of the others in the photo - so here we go with names and a date. Neat, huh?] 
In the same letter as above (Dec. 3): On Monday nite the 15th of December the Drama Club at school is putting on a play and they've asked various groups to sing. Our madrigal group is singing two numbers and I'm singing "Lost In The Night."
That will be all for tonight, loves. My next update will be a new year for Marilyn: 1953. But this year is going to be hard for me to read, because it was also M's last. She died in September of 1953. There are only 6 more months of letters from Marilyn, readers. Thank you for continuing to read her story. By doing so, you help ensure her memory and that she still lives through her written word. Love always.
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