Category Archives: Publishers

A RARE AND VALUABLE COMMODITY

FranCat

FranCat


While watching a rerun of The Antiques Roadshow broadcasting from Tulsa, I got a message from my friend, Frances Walker Phipps. It was sent to me from infinity and beyond, but arrived just fine. No dropped call.
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     Frances was a reporter for several Connecticut newspapers, the antiques columnist for The New York Times Connecticut Weekly, the author of several definitive reference books on American antiques and colonial kitchens, and the founder of The Connecticut Antiques Show (1973), touted as one of the five most prestigious such events in the nation. Renown as a barracuda among a tribe of elite dealers who vied for the chance to earn a space in her much envied function, Frances determined what could, or could not be displayed on the show floor; what was, or was not an authentic antique. Her strict vetting of merchandise on preview night was surreptitiously referred to as the Phipps ‘reign of terror’.
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     The Tulsa Roadshow featured a woman who presented a folk art doll for discovery. I don’t own a folk art doll, but I do have a folk art cat that Frances gave me from her private collection of antiques dating from the 17th and 18th century, like most of the chairs, tables, cupboards, beds, books and decorations in her Haddam, Connecticut home. Hand stitched from swatches of forget-me-not floral broadcloth and twisted black yarn to form it’s Queen Anne stylized eyes, nose, mouth, whiskers, and outline of front legs with four toes, the coveted cat is in remarkable condition, even with the two small tears near it’s right eye, and drops of dried blood near it’s heart. I suspect the cat is older and rarer than the Roadshow doll appraised at fifteen hundred dollars.
     The assessment made me smile — not for the price it garnered, but for what Frances said in my head: 
     “Bull.”
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     Frances was once an attractive woman with thick, wavy hair, a bright smile, a great mind, and a fervor for the preservation of Colonial Americana. 
     But by the time we first met she’d matured into an unpretentious, stout woman with a big bust, a fierce wit, an untamed tongue, rumpled clothes, a bad wig pulled down like a wool cap onto her head, and a folded over Kleenex stuffed behind the right lens of her black horn-rimmed classes to hide a socket ravaged by a malignant tumor.
     We were introduced by her ex, Midgie Donaldson, on opening night of the Connecticut Antiques Show in 1975 when I was the editor of a fledgling magazine, The Antiquarian, and she was the highly respected authority wielding power and influence over dealers selling to the rich and famous. 
     “So, you came here thinking I’d teach you all about antiques. Is that it?” she proposed.
     “No-o,” I counterpointed. “But I heard you have an eye for it.” 
     We bonded instantaneously.
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     Back then, those of us in love with another woman conducted our lives without a need for labels, or social acceptance. One simply knew by the level of trust demonstrated and access allowed who was, or wasn’t ‘in the life’ — and knowing was enough to make you relax your behavior to match the trust and respect given, or strengthen your guard wherever zealots loomed. The antiques trade has always had its share of both, but nothing interferes with doing business.
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     One summer morning a year later my Elizabeth accepted a lunch invitation to Frances’ beach house in Westport, about 90 minutes from our Huntington, NY home. After we’d driven the 29 miles of the Long Island Expressway, crossed over the Throgs Neck Bridge, exited onto I-95 and traveled another 30 miles towards Stamford, I glanced at the telephone number to call in case we got lost in Westport.
     “This isn’t a Connecticut number,” I noted while pulling an Esso map out of the glove box to search the index.
     “Whadaya mean?”
     “This area code is for Westport, Massachusetts.”
     “So?”
     “So? So? It’s another 150 miles down the road.”
     “Oh, like I was supposed to know that?”
     “You could have asked.”
     “I didn’t want to appear stupid.”
     “Oh, sure. I get it. As if accepting a lunch date in the morning from someone 250 miles from Huntington registered as smart. Uh-huh.”
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     It was after four when we finally dragged ourselves through the door of the beach house, but before I could offer an explanation, or apology, Frances hurled a cotton stuffed calico cat at me and smirked, “That’s for making the crack about my ‘eye’ for antiques!” 
     “Oh yeah?” I sputtered. “Well, then I’m keeping this ratty old rag cat!”
     “As intended, my dear. As intended.”
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     In April of 1986, on the morning of the Connecticut Spring Antiques Show evening opening, we didn’t find Frances in her Manager Only curtained cubbyhole at the back of the Hartford Armory auditorium.
     “She might still be at the hospital,” offered Midgie. “She’s not due here until noon.” 
     But a feeling inside me forewarned otherwise, so we drove down to the New Britain hospital and requested her room number. 
     “You can’t see her right now,” a nurse told us, visibly shaken. “She was accidentally given a double dose of chemo and the doctors are with her now.”
     “Will you tell her we’re here?”
     “Who shall I say . . .”
     “Marge and Liz. Tell her we’re right here waiting for her.”
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     Hours later, after the 3 p.m. shift change, a different nurse asked, “You’re here to see someone?” 
     “Frances Phipps.”
     “Are you family?”
     “No. Friends.”
     “I’m sorry, but only family members are allowed to see, or inquire about Miss Phipps. Hospital rules.”
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     By the time we left Hartford that night there was still no word from Frances. The gala went off without a hitch. It was well past midnight when we finally got home, and nearly noon before we heard the news that Frances had passed away. The obituary said she died of a heart attack at 62.
     Bull.
francatback
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     Here’s the thing: Our existence evolves through exchanges, most of it involving how we choose to spend our time in pursuit of whom, or on what we place the greatest value. 
     Just as the woman at The Antiques Roadshow planned to sell her ancestor’s rag doll in order to ensure her present, so did Frances Phipps plan on preserving her 200 year old calico cat in order to ensure her memory.
     Ultimately, life is calculated, not by what we let go of from our wallets, but by what we hang onto in our hearts.

     Rag doll: $1,500.00
     Rag Cat: Priceless.

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Copyright Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available on AMAZON, in paperback and Kindle. Please choose LOOK INSIDE
For a free read of several chapters before buying.
SheMagRev
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THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ENCOURAGED

"Who needs your old opinion anyway!"

“Who needs your old opinion anyway!”

My mother encouraged me to become an actress because it’s what she first wanted to be. She encouraged me to marry and have children because she wanted more of them. She encouraged me to be an artist because I worked as a specialist in black-and-white 19th century illustration adaptation application and she delighted in coloring the pictures. 

But she never encouraged me to be a writer. 

Perhaps that’s why becoming a novelist came later to me than most. 

Even though I was steadily employed as an editor, columnist, and essayist for newspapers and trade journals most of my life, I never ventured beyond being a designer and freelancer until after my mother passed away in 2006. 

Only then did I begin writing, Imogene’s Eloise;. 

Wanting approval from unwilling parents might be the first obstacle every writer endures. 

It quiets confidence.

But if you’re blessed with the talent, or possessed by the desire, or are willing to perfect the skill, you’ll  eventually begin writing to an audience of strangers and delight in their kernels of encouragement. 

I publish this piece in the wake of my previous blog, When Bad Reviews Hurt Good Authors, and in light of learning that Amazon, with it’s 11 million titles, doesn’t begin pushing a book until 50 reviews have been posted by verified buyers. 

That’s a lot to ask of readers and expect for any book, especially when most of us abide by the standard ‘if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all’ rule of etiquette.

The primary flaw in such protocol occurs when an author knows, or even suspects you’re reading her book. By censoring yourself out of kindness, you inadvertently, (1) contribute to author-angst and, (2) prevent a genre you enjoy from being recognized by the mainstream media.

Trust me when I say, if we’re ever to secure safe haven in all societies and attain the respect we deserve without sacrificing the virtues inherent to our culture, we need the attention and support of the mainstream media. 

And, we need it — not just for the token gay spotlight of celebrities who can afford armed guard protection in public, walled estates in private, and a select circle of friends mirroring themselves — but for the vast majority of us who join in exalting those privileged few, while being baffled by continued anti-sentiment towards homosexuals.

Could it be that acclaimed lesbians and gays are elevated as the untouchable ideal, while we who are uncelebrated are seen as the ignobly real? 

And, if so, isn’t it time we cease living in their illusory shadows by working to better define our own?

Before he died in 1882, the English author, Anthony Trollolope, insisted a novelist must —  through a framework of personal ethics — inspire readers to identify with a book’s characters and, in doing so, act in a manner that benefits humankind.

I might have failed in doing that. 

While vigorously welcoming and greatly appreciating enthusiasm shown for my novel, Imogene’s Eloise, I fear the reviewer who settles on simply saying, “It’s entertaining.”

Yes, novels need to please, first and foremost. 

I dare not hope for more.

And, yet.

I do. 

I hope for a reader who will ponder both the obvious and the subtext in my writings and feel emboldened, or is healed of hurt, or resolves the past, or embraces the present, or is enlightened to the levity that life seeks as nourishment in order to survive, well.

Not that I won’t rejoice in whatever reviews I get!

And, not that I’m ungrateful for my 1.3 million ranking on a list placing 9.7 million books behind mine.

And, not that I don’t know in my heart, if my mom were alive today, she’d forego the content of Imogene’s Eloise in favor of the cover.   

Indeed, it’s all encouraging.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


Were you encouraged to be a reader, or writer, or not? 
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I’m all eyes and heart.


http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O6BOB2M/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story traces the unpredictable journey of a young woman living alone amid the political unrest and social taboos of Manhattan during the 1960s and early 70s, oblivious to her own feelings and those of others until being smitten by the sight of a stranger in town for the weekend whose name and number she’s prevented from getting. In trying to appear calm, she downs a glass of gin she’s mistaken for ice water, awakening the next morning in a fog — but determined to find that one person in a city of millions before time runs out. On a fast paced track towards an ending you can’t possibly imagine, Imogene’s Eloise challenges any doubt you might harbor in the existence of love at first sight and will fortify your faith in the promise of happily ever after. 

Now in paperback & always at the KINDLE nearest you. 
I urge you to take advantage of the 7 chapter free read to determine the caliber of my writing and worthiness of content before buying.

WHEN BAD REVIEWS HURT GOOD AUTHORS and what can be done to change that

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Imagine you are Meryl Streep sitting in the audience, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes and Mia Farrow’s name is called instead of yours.

It doesn’t matter that a vast majority of the general public and international acting community think — make that know — Meryl Streep is the finest actress to grace a screen since the talkies. And, it doesn’t matter that her performance far outshines that of any other actress on the planet.

She must sit and smile and be grateful just to know that she’s the superior actress, even when saddled with being lesser so, by those who are not as talented, or as accomplished as she.

(And by ‘she’ I mean those of ‘you’ still up there in my opening line, imagining yourself as Meryl Streep.)

The point is, being the best at what you do is never enough to win the acclaim of those around you.

Indeed, the chances are good it will elicit exactly the opposite results, regardless of your profession. Because that’s the nature of awards and winning and — especially for the craft of writing — book reviews.

I say ‘especially’ because book reviews and letters to the editor are the two areas of the media where everyone, regardless of their intent, intelligence, or lack thereof, can participate as an authority.

And, because of this, both (along with the installation of the five star system) have become the weapon of choice for malcontents.

The question we all need to ask ourselves is simple: Am I complicit?

The answer is YES if you:
(1) Write a good review for your friend or relative, simply because she is your friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as the review you’ve given.
(2) Award a five star rating to a book because it was authored by a friend or relative, not because her/his book is as good as you’ve rated it.
(3) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read.
(4) Issue a bad review for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(5) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read.
(6) Award a low star rating for a book you haven’t read because you carry a grudge against the author, or you have a friend who carries a grudge.
(7) Sabotage an author whose publisher is in competition with your publisher.
(8) Sabotage an author for revenge.
(9) Sabotage an author out of jealousy.
(10) Sabotage an author because you can, and that ability gives you power.

About now you’re wondering how this essay became about you instead of those so-in-sos who gave you a bad review.

That’s the thing.

When it comes to writing — just as when it comes to all other areas of life — it is never about what is done to you.

Rather, it is always about what you did to help create an atmosphere where such injustices flourish.

And, by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, and ‘us’, and ‘we’.

Like every journey, this one takes one step by one person at a time.

It takes resolve.

It takes a decision by each of us to (1) refrain from giving credit where credit isn’t due, and (2) refrain from sabotaging those we don’t like, and (3) choose to learn from those whom we consider to be more talented, more creative, or more accomplished, and (4) mentor all who are receptive, in an effort to improve our craft and our writing community.

It isn’t necessary to like every writer. But we must try to respect every person who makes the effort, takes the time, and risks the rejection that results from writing a book, regardless of its caliber

And, if we can do that, we will know
our own worth.

And, if we can do that, we will rejoice
in the success of others.

And, if we can do that, we will accept, as a burden,
that there will always be those whose low self-esteem,
jealousy, envy, ego, or anger won’t allow them
any other recourse
but to lash out.

And if we can do that, we’ll realize, as a blessing,
that the next essay, article, story, or book we write
will be better because of it.

And if we can do that, we will each,
we will all, know what it’s like to be
Meryl Streep.

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by Marguerite Quantaine © 2015

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PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BY SELECTING
REPLY. I’m all eyes and heart.
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Please share on Facebook and Twitter.

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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
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SheMagRev
DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK without reading the first 7 chapters for FREE on Amazon to determine the caliber of writing and quality of the story.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00O6BOB2M/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb