SINISTER SUGGESTIONS by Dr. Karen Stephen: The World As It Was in October 1961

Clips from the October 1961 issues of the Stanford Daily tell it all. This is the world that greeted this author as a freshman at Stanford University that fall. It is also the world inhabited by the fictional characters in Sinister Suggestions, the author’s first book in the Stanford Daily Mysteries series, centered on young journalists on the campus newspaper solving crimes on and off campus. View suspenseful book trailer.

The LOOK for the men on campus. Levi Jeans with rolled up cuffs, loafers, and an attitude for less than a latte now days.

The look for the women on campus. This author never was and never would be that thin!

Main character Mattie Thorne has her own dress style: Back in her room, [Mattie] threw on her teal and charcoal plaid, pleated wool skirt with its matching neck scarf—that she had laboriously sewn in a Singer sewing class back in her high school days—and trotted down to breakfast.

World politics at your fingertips if you weren’t busy trying to get a date (which would have been this author’s daily endeavor), trying out for Rally Club (my dormmates), or studying for your Chemistry exam (which should have been me!)

And the even scarier international news. The Russians STILL seem to be the problem!

Reaction on campus: By Monday morning, all staffers were being encouraged, no, ordered to return to covering other stories of the day. It wasn’t hard to find one worthy of attention. News had broken via an early morning television alert that Russia had exploded a 50-megaton bomb in the atmosphere. Joe was doing his bit to mobilize a massive protest—a 24-hour “lie-in” on the main library lawn. Similar protests were being organized at Cal Berkeley and San Francisco State. Petitions to ban atmospheric nuclear tests were being distributed across all three campuses as well as across the nation. Even Palo Alto was scheduled to have a peace march in the morning for elementary through college students.

Stanford students were introduced to the classics with luminaries like Dame Judith Anderson coming to campus at bargain prices.

At the same time, students were encouraged to smoke with huge advertisements on almost every page of every issue of the Daily, including this very sexist series sponsored by Pall Mall. And, yes, this author smoked at the time.

And last, but not least, we have the new Dean of Women, who appears center stage in the novel with her sexist lectures on the role of women at Stanford. The very one who, in real life, sent this author a letter at the end of the year requiring me to get counseling if I was to return to Stanford the next fall (which I didn’t do). A novel excerpt taken from a Daily article on character Mattie Thorne’s reaction to the Dean’s speech to freshman women:

As Mattie read through the account, she realized she had been there. She remembered being outraged by the first question the Dean posed—the same evil woman who, weeks later, would be sending her threatening letters about not attending class. The offending question was quoted verbatim in the article. Can an educated woman be a person of charm and integrity, a scholar, a helpful wife and mother, and a loveable woman? What had occurred to Mattie at the time was why the hell would any self-respecting woman want to be all those things? She hadn’t gotten a combined SAT score of 1490 and fought her way into Stanford to attend charm school, nor to find a husband and pump out babies, although perhaps some of the other girls had.

Mattie had come from a long line of educated women. Her mother, to her credit, had graduated from the prestigious University of Chicago in 1937 with a degree in Political Science—although the mores of the day never allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming a city manager. Instead, she had worked as a medical secretary all her life—until, that is, she married her well-to-do dimwit second husband when Mattie was sixteen. Even more significant, Mattie’s maternal grandmother had received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University in the early 1900s and taught Latin and German prior to her marriage. Following in the family tradition of educated females, Mattie had applied to Stanford with the intention of carrying through to medical school and finding a cure for cancer. Wow! She just remembered her goal in life. Now all she had to do was figure out how to undo the fact that she had screwed herself over on ever reaching it.

She read on, her animosity toward the Dean growing with each word. The Dean had described the stereotype of an educated woman as cantankerous, unreasonable, and an expert only in knowledge. Whereas 20th century men had the image of their fathers to look up to—fathers who were versatile people, good hosts, sportsmen, fathers, husbands, as well as competent executives. Mattie guessed that her own alcoholic father, who had abandoned the family shortly after her birth, broke the mold. When the Dean ended her presentation by suggesting the women could meet in small groups with her for further discussion, Mattie remember thinking at the time, the hell I will. Right now, however, she would give her right arm to meet her face to face and give her a piece of her mind for sending out threatening letters to young women who were in dire straits.

RESIST – We are all immigrants

Between recent infirmities and age, I’m not up to marching, so I created this video as my contribution to the efforts to resist policies that foster the inhumane treatment of immigrants.

The soundtrack is borrowed with much gratitude from my favorite French singer, France Gall, who recently passed away.

Here is a link to my video on YouTube.

Beware BAD THINKING AHEAD…

♥ ♥ ♥ BEFORE YOU LOOK UP THAT OLD COLLEGE FLAME ♥ ♥ ♥

bad thinkingPAY HEED TO THIS TRAILER for DEGREES OF OBSESSION 

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Longtime therapist Dr. Charlene “Charlie” Pederson admits that her fixation with college sweetheart Danny Shapiro has reached the unsettling stage of obsession.  Jolted by turning fifty and struggling with a condescending husband, Charlie crafts a harebrained scheme to find Danny and recapture his heart.  Her delight at reuniting  with her old flame soon turns to indignation when he accuses her of stalking him. Danny’s fears about being stalked are well-founded.

Degrees New Front CoverCharlie plays on her professional expertise about stalking to worm her way back into Danny’s life…all the while jeopardizing her marriage, tarnishing her reputation, and alienating her best friend.  After her darkest secret is revealed, Charlie plunges into unfamiliar depths of pain and mortal danger and must rely on every psychological trick in her book to survive. DEGREES OF OBSESSION will take you on a riveting journey from risky infatuation to personal fulfillment and forgiveness.

Keeping my fingers crossed…

Paperback cover finalTHE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS is pleased to confirm your nomination of MOTHER TONGUE for the 2015 Book Award.

We are in receipt of all requirements – nomination form, nomination fee, and 5 copies of your book. These have now been passed to the screening committee.

The longlist will be announced in mid-June 2015 and the shortlist in mid-July. The winner will be announced October 2015.The Book Award jury for 2015, drawn from the Writers Council of the American Library in Paris, is: Laura Furman (chair), novelist, professor at the University of Texas, and editor of the O. Henry Prize Stories series since 2002; Lily Tuck, novelist and biographer; and Fredrik Logevall, professor of international relations at Cornell University and the first winner of THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS BOOK AWARD for “Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America’s Vietnam”

Thank you for your submission,
The American Library in Paris

http://americanlibraryinparis.org/
10, rue du Général Camou
75007 Paris | France
t:   +33 01.53.59.12.67
www.americanlibraryinparis.org
@alpbookaward

A gloomy day in Paris is better than a sunny day anywhere else in the world

ParisEiffelTower

A December day, Nearly Christmas. I was traveling with a friend and her seniors group. The weather casters on the news said it was the coldest December in forty years. Two inches of snow had fallen in Marseille! We had done the Riviera wrapped in layers and with newly purchased hats and scarfs and gloves. The night before we had almost frozen our toes off walking in open toed heels back from the Metro to our hotel near La Defense after seeing the ballet at the Opera Garnier. In the morning, everyone else was still snuggled in bed, but I hadn’t had my Tour Eiffel fix. So I walked there by myself. I was surprised to find no one in the ticket line. Even more surprised to find no wait at the elevators and only a patron or two on the ride up. As I slowly circled the top, identifying each Paris landmark below, I suddenly discovered why I was almost alone. The iconic landmark shuddered under my feet and began to perceptibly sway in the winter gale. I reminded myself of all the years it had stood strong while chicken-heartedly beating a path back to the elevators. Sometimes the only thing you really need to bring back from France is a memory.

Just One? ~ My KQED Perspective on Dining Alone

To hone my craft and just have fun, I have taken many classes at The Writing Salon, founded in 1999 by Jane Underwood as a school of creative writing for adults (beginners to advanced). The Writing Salon offers small classes held in comfortable, cozy settings complete with fresh-brewed coffee, tea and snacks in both San Francisco and the East Bay (Berkeley). I have taken a variety of classes from their wide selection from fiction writing to screenwriting to poetry.  Each class is small enough to ensure intimacy and individual attention. They also offer classes in personal essays, memoir, play writing, travel writing, food writing (chocolate and erotica not to be missed!), publishing and much more!

solo-diningBut certainly the most fun I had was taking a class on how to write a KQED Perspective from Jesse Loesberg who is a regular contributor to the Perspectives series on KQED-FM in San Francisco. Upon completion of the class, I sent my Perspective entitled JUST ONE? to KQED and was invited to come to their radio studio in San Francisco to record it. After many takes, the recording engineer assured me that we had a winner. And within a few days, I turned on my radio in the car on the way to work and felt my heart go into overdrive as they played my piece. Here is the actual recorded version from the KQED audio archives. JUST ONE?

The delightful photo above is from the Goddess of Adventure Blog. The author lists 5 top advantages to dining alone. I agree and have found dining alone in France or Britain or anywhere but America is quite the delightful experience. They really do have tables set for one!

Or play here:

Mommy and the Muffins in La Selle Sur Le Bied

IMG_0061Mommy and the Muffins first destination last summer was La Selle Sur Le Bied, a beautiful rural community 110 km southeast of Paris, where they had a 10 day visit with very dear forever French friends Christian and Chantal, who have chosen this lovely community for their retirement.

The Muffins learned that basil comes from a garden, not from the grocery store and that it becomes part of very tasty dishes.IMG_0052

That there is nothing quite so interesting or charming as a stroll down a French country road.IMG_0068

That the portable travel high chair that Mommy brought along and which straps securely to any chair works just great to eat those delicious meals.IMG_0046

IMG_0065That there is a poule around every corner.

That Christian knows exactly just how to put on your shoes.IMG_0055

IMG_0090And that relaxing with Chantal creates the perfect ending to another  beautiful day in the French countryside.

Provence and Quimper on a Table

P1020647My collection of Quimper china comes from the Quimper factory, from Paris flea markets, from eBay, and even matching petite dejeuner platters from my ancestral home in Maine, a gift from my beloved Aunt Midge. I loved seeing the artists at work in the Quimper factory. Amazing how each of their marvelous patterns is created with only single brush strokes.

Adding just the right ambiance to my table setting is the delightful musical petite poupée I bought at my favorite boutique on Île SaintLouis.

And speaking of La Vie en Rose, here is my daughter’s recording of the Edith Piaf classic which was played to her guests’ delight for the last dance at her wedding (click below to play).

Le Prieuré Restaurant

Room PrieureWhen my daughter and I arrived in the off-season at Le Prieuré, astunning chateau on the Loire river just a few kilometers from Saumur, we were surprised to be offered an upgraded room gratis. Imagine our delight and amazement when we entered this spectacular room swathed in roses and graced with antiques and a huge marble bath, with its French doors opening right onto the rooftop overlooking the river. The breakfast served in the room was exactly as in this photo. My own non-digitalized photos are off in a album buried in my shed. You can seeoutside prieure the flat rooftop of the dining room in the center right of this aerial view of the chateau and our French doors that opened onto it.

In the restaurant that evening we decided to splurge and order the Gastronomique menu which at the time (1999) amounted to $200. We started with an amuse bouche in the salon, then moved to our tableFRA_PRIE_Dining_p2wide, where for the next 3 1/2 hours we were treated to course after course, eleven in all, including three appetizers, three full main courses (filet mignon, lobster tail, and duck), and three full-sized desserts, with a palette refresher of grapefruit sorbet in between, plus 5 different wines. When the waiter arrived to ask about coffee, we looked at each other and graciously declined. Not another bite or swallow was going into our bodies. We decided it was the most grand meal we’d ever had (or have had to this day). So even when we discovered to our shock when we paid our bill the next morning that it was $200 EACH, we felt it was well worth it for an unforgettable memory.

Traveling in Corsica with my daughter

Arriving Corsica Ile RousseHere we are, coming in by ferry from Nice to L’Île-Rousse. One of the perks of traveling with my grown daughter, besides the fact that she is very outgoing and fluent in French, is that we are in complete sync as traveling companions. No squabbling over when to get up or when to go to bed. And with her encouragement, I see many sights that would have passed me by had my “old bones” been making the decisions. Her theory: if we’re here we should see everything! So, armed with our favorite travel book, a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide we set out to see every nook and cranny possible during our scheduled days in Corsica.

Top on the agenda was to see many of the places that serve as locations in my novel MOTHER TONGUE which included Bonifacio, the Citadelle at Corte, the Restonica Valley, and L’Île-Rousse. Even made a few stops to capture roadside graffiti scrawled by FLNC sympathizers.Dinner on the beachMaggie dinner on beachBut one of my favorite memories was dinner on the beach at LÎleRousse, the western port where we had arrived by ferry earlier in the day.