Tag Archives: herstory

LAST RIGHTS

The last three words my sweetheart and I speak to each other before hanging up the phone are “I love you.” We say the same in public places whenever going our separate ways, when exiting the house either alone or together, and before falling asleep each night. Sometimes I even say them when leaving her to tidy up the kitchen as I head upstairs to write. The words are always heartfelt. Never flung. Never forgotten.
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I learned to say “I love you” from my mom who thought we should say it to our siblings whenever one of us walked out the door. We didn’t, although the words were a given between me and her, and similarly exchanged between my kid sister, Kate, and I.
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Otherwise, I’m reluctant to express them.
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I don’t recall my father ever saying “I love you” to me or my sisters except in a tickle poem he mostly used to torture Kate. He was a misogynist when it came to his daughters and a misogamist due to our unwanted births. For certain, I neither felt, nor uttered the sentiment to him.
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It’s no secret that my father wanted six sons, having cast himself as too virile to spawn females, so I can’t speak for my brother’s relationships with him. Besides, the three boys were all older, during a period when practicing sexism thrived. They’ve remained distant for most my life. Not as antagonists, mind you. There’s no ill will. Indeed, our communications are always engaging. But we’re more like friends with certain secrets kept than family with skeletal closets closed.
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In fact, I doubt they know, immediately after returning home from a forced 48 hour stay in the mental ward of Foote Memorial Hospital (tethered to a bed by brown leather straps with gray metal buckles), I tried to kill my father with a salad fork. Where I found a salad fork is baffling, since salads were never part of any meal plan when we were young, save for the Waldorf variety when Michigan Macintoshes were plentiful. Admittedly, patricide by salad fork seems tame by today’s road rage comparison, but in 1962 small town, midwest America, even the hint of such news would knock the kid washing his duck in the kitchen sink off the front page (or at least lower it below the fold).
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I was sixteen, five-foot-one, and weighing in at 75 pounds to his five-foot-eight at twice the weight. He quickly overcame me with a grip from behind, but I chomped down on his left hand until I reached the bone of his index finger. Tossed off and aside, I spit blood when warning him to never touch me or Kate again. He never did. We steered clear of each other after that.
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I’ve never cried for my father, nor regretted my actions, remaining reticent about the motive behind my foiled intent of fifty-five years ago. I cannot talk about the details even now.
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And, really, what would be the point? My brothers, who saw no need, nor made an effort to protect their sisters from him in the past might doubt me now, as then. They have their own cemented memories of my father. My older sister grapples with hers, still.
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But no one talks, unless you count my father whose callous and cunning correspondence to my brothers bemoaned his life, made excuses for his failures, alluded to addictions, transferred infidelities, and emulated martyrdom while praising his sons before claiming his redemption. Letters that were copied and given to my Kate as — what? Proof of his greater goodness and professed regret?
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She left me the copies with a not-so-cryptic note attached, written in her own hand, confident I’d understand how it felt to be lost in a world where forgiveness is sometimes the fad, and forgetting is always the fallacy.
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No, no. It hasn’t made me bitter.
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Just weary.
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My mom said my father was watching the Detroit Lions trounce the Cleveland Browns on television when his eyeglasses fell off. While reaching down to retrieve them he suffered a massive heart attack. Before the thud, she heard him curse.
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“God damn it!” were my father’s final words.
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My mom’s final words were, “I know you do.”
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Kate’s final words were, “I love you.”

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by Marguerite Quantaine Copyright @ 2017
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Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her novel,
IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true story
is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.
Choose LOOK INSIDE for a free read prior to considering purchase.
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Marguerite Quantaine’s book of essays,
MY LITTLE BLACK DRESS IS PINK
is due for publication in paperback and Kindle on Amazon
October 3, 2017.

SEEING RED

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My mom hated to have her hair touched. It prompted her to enroll in beauty school for the sole purpose of learning the best way to style and care for her own thick, black, naturally curly locks. I still have the leather bound 1930s textbook from her beauty school days that she abandoned upon deciding to coil her hair and pin it atop her head like a crown of glory. It was very attractive, even enviable, and she never fashioned her hair differently from then on until the day she died, decades later, three weeks shy of age ninety-three

     I suppose that’s why it came as no surprise in the summer of 1958 — when I was still eleven with shades of natural auburn and blonde streaking throughout my wispy thin, straight as straw, mostly mousey brown hair — that mom suggested I choose one of the three colors and dye it.

     I chose auburn; Clairol’s Sparkling Sherry to be exact. It perfectly matched my auburn undertones and duplicated the color my older sister, Sue, chose to dye her hair a year earlier. It cost 85¢ for a glass bottle of the dye and another 25¢ for a bottle of peroxide. You mixed them before applying, waited 45 minutes, and then washed the residue out with Halo shampoo before rinsing with diluted Heinz red cider vinegar.

     “The dye coats each strand. It doubles the thickness of your hair,” Mom promised.

     “Do I still use vinegar?” I questioned, even though I already knew it untangled wet hair and kept it glossy.

     “It prevents the color from looking unnatural.”

     That fall I began the seventh grade as a redhead, just as Sue had the year before me. Whenever anyone asked us why our brother, Michael, had black hair we’d confess, “He dyes his.”

     The new school was larger with thousands of students. None of the kids I knew in elementary were in my classes, nor friends of mine in junior high. Consequently, everyone  I met from then and since has known me only as a redhead.

     That includes me.

     Because, even though Clariol has changed the names of their colors, I’ve remained true to those streaks of natural auburn chosen as a child and have never sought to discover the adult dominant color of my hair. Through junior and senior high and college, a stint as a kosher camp drama counselor, New York City careers, a Florida business,  and wherever I traveled or settled on living — once every month I’ve found a place to be alone for an hour for the solitary purpose of denial in dyeing.

     I’m 70 now. I have never let my hair grow out, but if I did, it would be an all-over silver — the same as it is at my temples — which I leave untouched so the age of my face won’t drastically contrast my crown, sporting a hairstyle I haven’t changed in decades.

     I am my mother’s daughter.

#   #   #

Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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Copyright by 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.

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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.

#     #     #

Copyright Marguerite Quantaine © 2016
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I’m all eyes and heart.

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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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Every Woman Should Run For Public Office Once Or Twice

I'll Get That Vote Yet!

I’ll Get That Vote Yet!


“There’s never been a colored, a Jew, a Democrat, a Yankee, a queer, or a woman as Mayor of this town and there never will be!”

I glanced up from my notes to study the odd little man in his Oshkosh overalls, Penny’s plaid shirt, knee-high Frye boots and Tom Mix hat.

His cohorts called him Red. I don’t know if he was christened that, or nicknamed for the color of his neck — but it certainly didn’t stem from embarrassment by him, or any of the men at that district Republican Committee meeting rewarding him with whistles and a rousing applause as I sat alone in the far, back corner of the small auditorium, recording the  forum as a favor to the (absent) president of our local Republican club.

And, all I could think was —  what luck!

No, not because I was a committee member and could object. I wasn’t.

But I was born in the small town that hosted the first Republican convention, “Here, under the oaks, July 6, 1854” where an obscure granite rock with a bruised bronze plague once sat on a tiny patch of treeless grass, three short blocks from where I spent my most misinformative years.

Back then, the rites of passage included adopting both the religion and political party affiliation of your parents. My parents were protestant and Republican. I’m neither, but during my juvenescence, I feigned being both.

The reality is, religion and politics have never been roadblocks for me. I tend to accept that we’re all going to believe what we need to believe in order to survive our slippery slope slide from here into hereafter.

However, the pretense of politics alarms me, and is the reason I encourage every woman to run for public office.

I have.

It’s easier than you think, and more satisfying than you dare imagine.

Votes for Women

Votes for Women

After filling out the simple forms with the Americanized spelling of my last name and paying a nominal filing fee, I learned you aren’t required to raise money, put up signs, hand out cards, take out ads, stand on street corners in inclement weather inhaling exhaust while  waving to commuters — or even to serve if elected.

Which I did not do.

Instead, I entered the citywide race for Mayor because I could.

And, because the Mayor of our town is in charge of the police force that was alleged to have created computer software profiling every resident according to age, gender, race, religion, political affiliation, marital status and coded lifestyle.

I ran because the Mayor had the power to veto city council legislation.

I ran because the personal voting records of all residents, their addresses, and phone numbers are made available to campaign camps via their candidate.

I ran because it’s possible for local elected officials to access sensitive census information about their neighbors.

I ran because I’d be invited to all candidate gatherings, lunches, forums, debates, and media interviews with equal time to speak, followed by unlimited time to answer questions. Places where I could tell the people about the alleged profiling, the veto capability, the reality of records, and the potential for both discrimination and profiteering to detriment of the electorate should the (professed private) census information be misused by unscrupulous officials with a personal agenda to advance.

Liberty+scales
But primarily, I ran because I was told:
“You cannot.”
“And yet, I can.”
“You can’t run as a Republican.”
“Unless I’m registered as a Republican. Then I can.”
“It’s a nonpartisan race, so no one will know.”
“Unless it’s leaked.”
“You won’t have the backing of the Republican Party.”

Aye, there’s the sub rosa.

Most of us like to think we’re supporting a candidate who shares our convictions and has our best interests in mind.

Go on.

Run for office.

That’s when you learn it’s the RNC (Republican National Committee), the DNC (Democratic National Committee), and corporate funding that dictates the conversation, feeds the media, and virtually runs this country in a Charlie-McCarthy-meet-Jerry-Mahoney-manner, where those connected contingents funnel all the money solicited from donors into the war chests of the candidates they’ve preselected to win.

I kid you not.

The nominees of both the RNC and DNC sign a Party platform pledge to toe the Party line, in order to receive the financial clout of the RNC, or DNC, because the chances of winning an election for those who don’t sign — even on a local level — are zip, zero, nada, and nil.

And, get this: Those war chests can be used to funnel funds for phone banks to robo-call citizens who have a voting record history of going to the polls on odd, even, and ‘off’ years.

They can funnel ‘independent’ surveys with contrived questions for the ostensible purpose of suggesting nonexistent improprieties practiced by the opposing party.

They can funnel for spamming newspapers with testimonial templates to praise one candidate, or deride the other, or push an agenda, or create confusion, or imply majority support, with each letter signed and sent by a party faithful — so it appears to the public as an original thought and legitimate concern rather than a parroted message.

They can funnel for business owners to be visited by party members offering recommendations on which candidates to support, along with a friendly suggestion of how valuable it is to have a customer base of political party members.

They can funnel for whisper campaigns, leaked to small presses, controlled by deep pocket party pleasers, linked to online sites willing to post the disinformation.

And, get this, too: The strategies for beating your opponent are all recorded (or was when I ran) in an instruction manual detailing how to sway an election to a preferred candidate with news stories clouded by opinion. Where inserting the words of ‘could, might, rumored, alleged, contend, claim, suppose, may’ and ‘if” in news coverage to replace ‘is, are’ and ‘will’ as indicators of truth. Where technical corrections to falsehoods are buried in places no one reads. Where editorials aren’t required to be factual.

FlagHat
This old maxim still holds true:
The most dangerous person in the world is the one who can’t be bought.

That’s where running for political office serves as the American dream. Because running to lose by telling the unmitigated truth assures that your voice will be heard.

And isn’t that what we all want? To be heard.

When I ran for office, my words were so well heard — by the time election day rolled around they’d been stolen and used to further the campaigns of others running for even higher offices.

So, ladies, that’s how you make change happen. Not by sitting behind a safe screen, typing out rhetoric about what’s wrong with the country and who’s to blame. And, not by writing a check, convinced your donation will contribute to making this nation better and stronger.

Instead, run for office.

Attend every avenue available for you to get up and speak. Recognize that freedom of speech for the priceless gift it is. Say what’s in your heart. Ignore naysayers. Concentrate on connecting with real people. And experience the exhilaration that comes from putting your mouth where your mind is.

In the final analysis, the financial reports required to be filed by all candidates indicated the incumbent spent around one hundred and twenty-five dollars per ballot cast in favor of him to wage his campaign against me.

I spent next to zero, zip, nada, and nil.

I lost by less than 75 votes.

No, not once.

Twice.

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Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine, October 8, 2015


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I’m all eyes and heart.

Marguerite Quantaine is an essayist and author.
Her book, Imogene’s Eloise : Inspired by a true-love story
is available AMAZON, in paperback , and on Kindle.

“… crisp…clever…unique…saucy humor…delicious writing…fabulous…funny…historically accurate…genius debut… This will be a classic; buy it now.”
SHE Magazine Reviews IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love

IT’S ALL ABOUT HOW WE LOVE

Love Post2

How we find and lose love. How we hide and expose love.
How we seek and defeat love. How we suffer and celebrate love.
How we record and remember love. How we inspire and discourage love.

How we resist and grant love. How we legalize and criminalize love.
How we categorize and codify love. How we respect and disdain love.
How we treat and mistreat love. How we fund and squander love.
How we laugh and cry over love. How we accept and reject love.

How we name and number love. How we facilitate and foil love.
How we sense and ignore love. How we affirm and deny love.

How we use and abuse love. How we buy and sell love.
How we settle for love. How we treasure love.
How we let love go.

From Chapter 1 to Chapter 72, 
that’s all this novel is about:
the phenomena of love,
with 67 memorable LGBT characters,
Including you.

Because you are in this book,
as the person you were, are, or wish you’d been,
with people you know, knew, or wish you’d known,
all in the pursuit — and each
touched by the joy of
love.

~

IMOGENE’S ELOISE: Inspired by a true-love story
by Marguerite Quantaine
383 Pages
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37 Spectacular reviews
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NOW ON AMAZON
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I’M EATING CROW HERE

#7 ad

I remember when the first articles were published by researchists revealing that hot dogs were dangerously bad for us (I stopped eating them), as was peanut butter (I cut back), and eggs (I wasn’t dissuaded), and donuts (get outta town!).

Much like telling those who bet on the horses that races are rigged, or lottery hopefuls that the odds are stacked against them, or fans that an event is sold out, or kids younger that seven that there is no Santa Claus — learning the dire details involving comfort foods did more harm than good, because (regardless of fact accuracy and well-intended truths) it robbed the partakers of the enjoyment of doing what wasn’t necessarily wise, or profitable.

And that’s about all my 15 hour post, And The Winner Is … Not Me, accomplished. It exposed something that everyone probably knew, but no one wanted to admit, because the happy habit was universally shared, and the group addiction did no harm.

I was wrong.

I apologize.

I took the long way down a wary road best navigated by denial, when only the end result was required reading.  That, in essence, is this:

The finest award a writer can be given is the feeling of joy that comes from writing a worthy book. It’s incomparable. It can’t be taken away. It’s what makes you a winner.

And, should your book receive a good review, or is given as a gift, or mentioned to friends, or ordered by a library, or suggested to a book club, or introduced at meetings, or touted at functions, or buzzed about on buses, or pondered by strangers, or discussed by family members, or serves as dining repartee  — well, that’s the mustard on the hot dog, the jelly on the Jif,  the sun in the sunny side up, and the icing on the donut.

Gobble, gobble.

#     #     #

Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine 2015


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SIGNING OFF

Me, Minus 33 Years

Me, Minus 33 Years

My face popped up in the right hand corner of the screen as guest anchor, Peter Jennings, introduced the closing story on ABC World News Tonight one Friday in 1981. I’d authored an oversized, limited edition reference book under the Americanized spelling of my last name and it somehow engendered enough interest to garner a mention on national television.

I look back at it as pure luck now because, as any author (past or present) will confirm, writing a book can be exhilarating — but marketing it is exhausting.

Back then, individualized press releases were expected to be composed and printed to accompany personally written letters, each snail-mailed at considerable expense to those listed in Editor & Publisher Yearbook nationwide. Even for a book as minor as mine, the effort required to sell it seemed mammoth compared to the time it took to write. That made getting featured during prime time on ABC with Peter Jennings equal to an eagle feather in a yarmulke.

The follow-up was a headline and shout-out in the Sunday New York Times — not by a book reviewer, but by the much respected and often feared antiques and arts columnist, Rita Reif. I’d caught a wave, did some appearances, signings, a few more interviews, and a stint on PM New York, all culminating in a monthly column syndicated in a dozen trade publications for a couple years. It was a flattering, generally enjoyable, often tiresome experience that I was grateful ended after it contributed to resurrecting a fad that others were tooth-and-claw dedicated to treating as a full time endeavor.

Because, regardless of how glamorous it may sound or look, that’s what even miniscule fame and fleeting fortune boils down to; an eagerness and need to become the product by foregoing (and oft times, forgetting) the person.

I was never willing to put anything before my personal life.

I’m still not.

Fast forward to the present when everyone can be an author, cyberspace has taken over the vast amount of book promotion, cable and YouTube have obliterated the allure of network news, and most the magazines and newspapers in which my name, or byline once appeared are history.

In a time when Amazon gives every author a one-time-only opportunity to write a description of one’s novel for access by book reviewers nationwide — and even after being reminded that the 25,000 word maximum description must entice those reviewers to choose my novel over all the other hundreds of cyberspace book releases bombarding them every week — I chose to submit just 35 words about Imogene’s Eloise in free verse form:

“This is a history you haven’t read elsewhere,
about people you don’t realize you know,
containing phenomena you’re unaware of,
within a love story you’ve never heard,
that has an ending you can’t possibly predict.”

Thank you, Peter Jennings.

And, rest in peace.

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This essay is copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2014.

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