Sunday, May 12, 2019

Letters from Marilyn - Update 28

Happy May, readers!

It has been a couple of months since my last entry, which means it is time for a new post! With it comes a life update, a writing update, and a Letters from Marilyn update.

To be honest: I'm exhausted. I love education, but these past few months especially have worn me out. I've spent the past thirteen straight weeks implementing brand-new units. As a surprise to no one, I took on too much, put in a lot of evening and weekend hours, and thus upset my work/life balance. The end result: yes, I'm tired.

But onward and upward, loves. I promise I'm taking some time to slow down. While my extroverted self enjoys all the busy-ness, my introvert heart needs time to rest. Come find me at the end of June, whether you're family, friend, or acquaintance. With the school year done in 13 days and a few roadtrips planned for the start of summer, I know I'll be much more relaxed.

I'll admit I haven't been writing as much as I should be: I've been trying to soak in as much of spring as my time allows. I love spring. I get very nostalgic this time of year and find myself missing the country more than usual. The flowering trees are blossoming, and I can't help but think of the apple trees we had in our spacious country yard. Soon the lilacs will be blooming. When I see them as I'm driving around town, it always brings a wistfulness to my heart. My twelve-year-old self remembers the long drive down the gravel road to the farm. The huge cottonwood tree at the front of the house, framed by three varieties of lilacs - deep purple, pale lavender, and the purest white.

I've been outside as much as possible and have been on a few country drives south. It is always hard to return to my small apartment, because I've always hated being cooped up. I'm not home often as a result, especially when the weather gets nicer.

All this springtime joy is reflected in today's writing excerpt. Marilyn wrote home often about how beautiful spring was in the Cities. I've kept today's excerpt small on purpose - I am slowly but surely getting closer to a complete manuscript, and what fun would it be if I share everything with you? Should this ever be published, I'd like you to read the full story!

But before you read the linked pages, you need to know a few things. This excerpt is a combination of events from February to April of 1952, Marilyn's sophomore year. The mention of the lilacs, peonies, and Rose of China trees are Marilyn's words in her letters. The Tea Leaves is a restaurant she wrote about. Guests would visit the establishment, have a cup of tea with dinner, and a fortune teller would read their fortunes from the tea leaves (hence the name). I was not able to find any research on The Tea Leaves at the time I wrote these chapters, so I had to use my imagination. Marilyn's letter details more about her fortune, but as I mentioned: you'll have to read the rest of this chapter upon publication someday!

Here are the pages. Have some tea, read, and enjoy the spring sunshine, dear readers. Love always.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Letters from Marilyn - Update 27

Hello readers!

It has been a while and yes, I have missed you all dearly. You have asked, so I will certainly give a life update since last June's post.

July was hard. One of my dear friends died unexpectedly. When someone you have known for 24 years of your 29 years of life is suddenly no longer here, it really hurts

August and September brought the return of a new school year. I have new curriculum, even more students, and have encountered many changes as this academic year has progressed.

In October and November I was taking two online courses to gain credits for educator license renewal in my state. They were sleep-deprived months, as I was also deep in preparation for musical auditions and rehearsals.

December and January were wonderful months. It was an equal balance of life and work, something I deeply appreciate. February, however, was a bittersweet month. You know how the saying goes: when it rains, it pours. But onward and upward, readers. There are always silver linings.

Which brings us to now: March. There is no school today, as we have been hit with another storm and my district called a snow day. Yes, the cancellations and storms are getting old. Today's weather canceled my weekend roadtrip plans, which majorly bummed me out. We don't have school tomorrow due to it being a district-level teacher compensation date, so I was looking forward to getting out of town. 

On top of it all, I got a cold and cough on Monday, which I am desperately trying to kick. But snow days and sick days are definitely good for writing! I can snuggle up under all my blankets, drink lots of tea, and type busily away about Marilyn. 

Shifting gears, I'm still in phase 2 of this project: updates on the writing process. If you recall, when I started Letters from Marilyn almost three years ago, I painstakingly copied then scanned every. single. letter. I have these scans backed up in various modes, including several cloud locations. That, my friends, has been a lifesaver. I can read and reread M's letters from my phone whenever inspiration strikes. Goals. Those initial hundreds of hours have really proven their worth recently.

Today I am linking eight manuscript draft pages. I wrote these just for fun as a silly chapter - I do not necessarily intend to include them in the final manuscript. But before you read them, you need a bit of backstory.

We are in Marilyn's freshman year at Augsburg. Marilyn wrote a brief, one page letter to her family on December 4, 1950 that was accompanied by a letter from her friend, Audrey Fraasch. Marilyn writes:
Dear folks - Just to add a little to Audrey "Z." Fraasch's note - isn't it cute? She asked if there was anything she could do for me and I said write home - so she did. [ . . . ] We have scads of new snow. A little wind and we would really have a storm.
First of all, I found this fitting for a snow day. Second, Marilyn's mention of it being "cute" is that it is literally written in pink and blue ink on a paper-thin napkin. The original letter is very delicate due to 1) it being a napkin, and 2) it is 69 years old, after all! It made it a challenge to decipher, as you can see below. The blue ink on the back bled through the front:

Part of the fun (and challenge!) of writing a manuscript from letters is how to use their original words in the letters and put them in a social context. As you read the pages I've written, you will notice I used Audrey's words verbatim as she is writing her letter - including "Got tired of pink, so we'll try blue." But the social context is my imagination filling in the gaps. I found Audrey's letter snarky and teasing, which implied the setting should be light-hearted and upbeat. Indeed, Audrey begins her letter this way, seen in the pink above (if you can read it!): “Dear Solbergs - Tonight Marilyn is in two moods, 'fancy' and 'cheap:' too fancy to write herself and too cheap to give me any more than a napkin, salvaged from an ice cream bar, to write for her to you.”

Milla P. Thompson, if you recall from my earliest updates, was the dorm headmistress.

As you read this "just for fun" excerpt, I encourage you to look at these original letter images in this post. Here are the pages. I hope today's longer post and manuscript pages make up for a quiet eight months. You can understand, dear readers, why Letters from Marilyn was gently set aside, but know that it is always on my mind.

Love always.
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