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To make sense of what I do …

Sometimes in order to make sense of what I do, I turn to the words of some of the most illustrious writers, their thoughts on the process. Here are a few of my favorite quotes…

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” —Allen Ginsberg

Very true, Mr. Ginsberg. And thank you for Howl, which is best read aloud, says my cousin Christopher, after drinking bourbon.

 

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It’s here!

Posted by on Nov 4, 2016 in Blog | Comments Off

Book Book cover

Happy Holidays

Posted by on Dec 23, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! See you in January.

Time, Lost and Found

Posted by on Oct 29, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off

Time has been an issue lately. And when I say lately, I mean for the last ten years. First of all, the old-timers who admonish that it’s fleeting (meaning our time here on earth, not the weekend) are one hundred percent right. And it moves faster and faster the older I get.

Lately I have been trying to cram more and more into smaller windows of time. I give myself deadlines – by November first, I will have x, y, and z completed! Of course November first is a mere two days away, and the following things have happened that have prevented x, y, and z from being completed: I was feeling overwhelmed by x, y, and z and so had to go out with some girlfriends for vodka tonics to discuss it, I’m a mother (‘nuff said) and our boiler just cracked and died leaving us with no heat or hot water until we get it replaced. Meanwhile I’m furiously working on four novels and one is supposed to be released in November.

In order to have more time to write, I clearly must sacrifice other activities, or at least slash the time spent on them. And I think I have come up with the top five things that must go, immediately:

1)      Checking Facebook. I will still check Facebook. But I will limit said checking to twice a day, for ten minutes apiece.

2)      Television. Except for the news in the morning while having my wake up cup of coffee, no more TV.

3)      Cooking, cleaning, laundry and the like.

4)      Grocery shopping and other errands.

5)      Parenting and all activities that go along with.

 

If anyone out there has other suggestions/advice, please email me at connect@gaelenvandenbergh.com and I will post your ideas to my website.

Weekday Cassoulet

Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

A few days ago I caught a snippet of a half hour cooking show on which this dish was being made that looked delicious and simple. I actually only caught the end of the show, when the dish was coming out of the oven. The chef tasted it, and then did what they all do, gushed effusively with her mouth full. “Mmmm. MMM! That is SO amazing!” Just once I would like to see one of them take a bite and immediately spit it out onto the floor, wipe out their mouth with a dish towel and say “oh wow, what the hell happened there?” I’m just saying, it might make them more relatable.

Did I mention this program is only a half hour long?

I decide this dish looks simple enough for me to make. On a weekday. It’s called “weekday cassoulet”, after all. I go online and check the ingredient list. I check my pantry and fridge. I already have everything! Serendipity. The next evening I come home with realisically around forty-five mintues to make dinner. I print out my cassoulet recipe. Then I see the following, in small print.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Inactive prep time: 15 minutes (is this when I stop prepping, have a glass of wine and stare into space?)

Level: EASY

Who has an hour and forty minutes on a weeknight to make dinner? I am starting to suspect that the prep time is thirty minutes if you are an expert chef with a team of people to prep everything for you. Like Miss Thing from the cooking show.

I give my daughter a large snack and return to hell. “4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs”…Okay, I have boneless, skinless. My bad. “Cut in 1/2 through the bone”. I’m not sure a knife would work, there. I don’t have a hacksaw, so it is fortuitous that my chicken is boneless. “1/2 pound slab of bacon, sliced into large lardons”. What the heck are lardons? I have regular bacon, presliced into what I believe to be standard sized pieces? I assume this will do?

Many vegetables to chop…1/2 cup white wine. I check out my stash. Take away 1/2 cup and there won’t be enough for my “inactive prep time”, which I’m really looking forward to. I send hubby to the liquor store.

Then follows a series of insane steps. First rendering the bacon fat by cooking the bacon on low heat, until crispy. This takes a very long time. Who cooks bacon on low heat and expects it to get crispy? Then I have to remove it to a plate. Then I must brown the chicken, and remove it to a plate. Repeat this process with several other components, and my countertop is filled with plates of ingredients and a lot of time has gone by, and hubby has not returned with my vino so I’m sipping on what’s left of my stash, and read that I need to use it to deglaze the pan. Crap. I sadly dump the wine into the pan and “carefully layer” all the plated items into a casserole dish. I slide the dish into the oven and survey the scene, greasy plates and vegetable scraps everywhere.

Hubby returns and I start my inactive prep time. Of course, this has been eaten up by the actual prep time, which took FAR LONGER THAN THIRTY MINUTES. I flip through The Joy of Cooking to see if there is a similar recipe made for real people with lives, and find nothing. My daughter wanders into the kitchen and peers around me. “I don’t know why that book is called the Joy of Cooking,” she remarks. ”Every time you read it you get all mad.”

The final steps prevented me from walking away and allowing the oven to do its thing. Oh no. I had to stay there, and after ten minutes remove the lid to the dish and change the oven temperature. Then after another ten minutes I had to take it out, and “artfully arrange” a sliced tomato on top (what the f—, it’s a f—ing tomato) and sprinkle the whole thing with homemade garlic bread crumbs. I flip through the recipe. Nowhere does it allow for prep time for this. Of course! I should have had this in my pantry already! What do you do when you find yourself with a spare fifteen minutes? You should use that window to whip up some homemade garlic bread crumbs. Yummy!

This is why I’m not supposed to watch the Food Network.

The next day, I’m watching the Food Network (instead of what I should be doing, working on my novels, and making garlic bread crumbs) and hubby walks in, and proceeds to deliver a lecture about what happens when I watch the Food Network, causing me to miss all the crucial instructions for the dish being made.

“See?” I huff. “This is why these recipes don’t come out right. I can’t pay attention because you’re yapping at me!”

Hubby sighs. “I think there might be more to it than that.”

 

To make sense of what I do…

Posted by on Aug 8, 2013 in Blog | 3 comments

Sometimes in order to make sense of what I do, I turn to the words of some of the most illustrious writers, their thoughts on the process. Here are a few of my favorite quotes…

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”
—Allen Ginsberg

Very true, Mr. Ginsberg. And thank you for Howl, which is best read aloud, says my cousin Christopher, after drinking bourbon.

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of
some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were
not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor
understand.”
—George Orwell

No $@*&. Sigh.

“The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
—Philip Roth

I’m on my way, Phil. Is it hot it here?

“I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before
developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
—Harper Lee, WD

Got one of those.

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.”
—Andre Gide

Comforting to know my madness is good for something.

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
–Saul Bellow
I read this quote years ago and so far it has always been true! If I can read it. Does anyone else have a favorite quote that inspires you? It doesn’t have to be about writing…

Relationships

Posted by on Jul 13, 2013 in Blog | 4 comments

I am deep into my next novel, Running in Circles, the sequel to Running Against Traffic. Paige Scott is back in Philadelphia, and she is, among other things, wading through the murky waters of her past relationships, trying to make sense of them in order to move forward. It got me thinking about successful relationships - what are the key elements? What are the secrets of the couples who are truly happy to be together? Thoughts? I would love to post a blog devoted solely to your responses.

My Running Buddy

Posted by on Jul 10, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

Thanks for teaching me that a beautiful day should never, ever be wasted inside on the couch, and thanks for your contagious enthusiasm and companionship. Thanks for running with me for eleven years. RIP, Bubba.

Nimmer, aka "Bubba" March 2, 2001 – May 4, 2013

Nimmer, aka “Bubba”
March 2, 2001 – May 4, 2013

Why I Run

Posted by on Apr 28, 2013 in Blog | Comments Off

As the best running season is slowly enfolding, the season when the sky lightens while I am out there in the mornings, and the birds awaken and sing as my spirit awakens and sings, and I can feel the cool morning air against my arms and legs because I’m not bundled into layer upon layer of long clothing to keep out the chill. It’s magical. It’s invigorating. Everything in my neighborhood is flowering, renewing, and I am as well, when I run. Especially when I run in the spring.

I expect other runners will nod in agreement when I admit that running has that effect on me in any season. It’s why we run. It’s why I need to run. Running renews my sense of purpose, my sense of control and empowerment in my own life. I am filled with childlike hope and imagine – believe, even – that wonderful things are ahead. The light of day sparkles when I run. I become excited about life.

When I say I need to run I say it emphatically, without question. I can survive without it, of course, but it will be just that. Surviving. Existing. I have become dependent on the glow my day takes on, the feeling of exuberance that can be so fleeting, as we have become adults and march through life, getting “it” done. For me in particular, and I don’t believe I’m alone in this, the need transcends indulging in an endorphin-laced cocktail of wonderment and empowerment. For me, running also lifts me above a level where some can walk along, but mine is made of quicksand. I muddle along but invariably, I begin to sink into murky, moody dark places.

It all started in my early twenties, having since my teens been floundering in the the quicksand, but partying away the angst of living there. Then in my twenties, the partying didn’t work anymore. I was staring around me, and overcome by bleak, and the terrible sense of being alone in this, in my own head, in my quicksand.

My mother made a suggestion. She suggested I try running. What? Run? I was a smoker, a partier, and completely unmotivated to do anything, much less something athletic. I had never had any athletic talent whatsoever. How was I going to run?

I tried it, though. Thank fortune, I put on the running shoes, and I jogged one whole city block. That was all I could do. I could hardly breathe, just slowly jogging that short distance, which was a wake up call. But with that wake up call, I also felt my body and mind wake up a little. A clarity, a zing, a something happened. I tried it the next day, and the next. One day after I had slowly worked my way up to  three miles without dying and was religiously going that distance, my mother casually remarked that I might consider turning right, at the mile-and-a-half point, instead of turning back. She drew a map of a five mile loop for me. I was appalled. Five miles. Never going to happen! She said that one day I would just know I was ready to make that turn. To try to conquer that new, unfathomable challenge. I would just turn onto a new path.

She was right. I did it. And I’m still doing it. I know I can turn onto a new path, thanks to running. I know how I can do it. I just have to decide to. How can I live without this assurance that running bestows? I’m not sure I can. Lace up your shoes, fellow runners. I’ll see you out there. It’s spring, it’s a glorious time to run.

Imagine your life without running.  Running has a different effect on all of us.  Share with us what it means to you.

 

Zombie Apocalypse !

Posted by on Apr 21, 2013 in Blog | 2 comments

zombierunblog     A few weeks ago my dear friend Gordon asked me to run a race with him. I love races. I race often (or, I used to race often). This was a different sort of race, however. We were signing up to be chased be zombies. Er…Okay…?

After reading and giggling over the website information, including the fact that this race originated in Philadelphia (of course it did…Leave it to Philly to come up with a zombie race) and the following tidbit, I signed up.

“They may be called ‘the walking dead’, but don’t be fooled. Zombies will chase after you just as fast as someone who doesn’t eat brains for breakfast. Try our tips to get in the best shape of your life, or you may not have one for much longer!”

I was looking foward to this one. I’m a Philly girl. Perverse, not to mention an adrenaline junky. Willfully sign up to have zombies chase me? Sure! In the wee hours of a Sunday morning? Doesn’t get much better than that. Hell, I survived the literary zombie craze, how hard could a 5K race with them be? A 5K is nothing, I bragged to myself. And to my husband. And maybe a few friends.

Talk about a quirky morning. My friend Gordon picks me up and drives us to a zombie apocolypse. After only one cup of coffee, freezing my ass off in the misty dawn of the dead. we jog to the starting corral, not knowing what is in store around the corner. We all wear belts with balloons attached, that represent our internal organs that the zombies will try to snatch and consume. Once all of your balloons are gone, you’re a goner.

And we’re off. About a half mile in, I’m feeling pretty terrific. The sun comes out. What a lovely day. What the…What the $%#& is staggering across the road at me? Holy crap, it’s a zombie. Then more and more appear, lunging at us and some full out chasing us. They are in full gruesome makeup, and snarling and some cheating, in my opinion, by sprinting out from behind trees. Gordon and I are quickly separated, as he takes off in one direction, tailed by zombies, and I take off in another. So much for safety in numbers! It’s every runner for themself. These zombies keep appearing, and some are disturbingly agressive. And fast! I lose all of my balloons, and try to enjoy the rest of the race, but the damn zombies still chase me! I sprint and zigzag, shrieking to them that I have no goddamn balloons left! I’m already dead, back off!

We finish the race and meet up, completely high on endorphins. We feel like we’re eighteen years old. Gordon pretends to mosh as if we’re in the club pits of our youth while his wife records it on her phone for future blackmail, and I bounce around blabbing about continuing the run when I go home, as it was only 3.1 measly miles.

The next morning I rise to find that I have morphed into the Tin Man overnight. I can’t bend my legs. My hips won’t swivel without excruciating pain, and I lurch to the stairs and peer down. How the &$*(# am I supposed to get down the stairs? By the end of the day I want to be hooked up to morphine drip and hubby has the nerve to poke fun at my overzealous confidence. He points out that I’m not as young as I think I am. I point out that he would be in real trouble if I could walk. He’s a big talker when I can’t get out of my chair!

I guess he’s right. But that was one exhilarating race. Sometimes the adrenaline is worth the pain.

zombiefinal

Oatmeal what?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Blog | 8 comments

Aaaah…It’s almost grilling season. That magical time of the year when Hubby takes over the cooking. When I can sip a cold glass of white wine on the patio, my bare toes resting on the warm bricks, watching my daughter flit about the yard building fairy houses. The kitchen remains clean. Dinners are fresh and tasty. We all slow down. We take a little more time to enjoy the lingering sunshine.

Unfortunately, I have to be a good mother and bake with my daughter when she wants to bake. I don’t bake. I think baking is repressive, confining, very messy (hello OCD) and produces sugary stuff that I don’t like to eat anyway. And yet, I found myself baking again, last weekend.

I rope myself into this, mind you. I take all the blame. When my daughter was in first grade I received that call from her school that no one wants to get…That dreaded what-do-you-plan-to-contribute-to-the-bake-sale call. “Money,” I readily replied. The chipper voice on the other end of the call explained rather patronizingly that they needed actual baked goods. Why? Can’t they just take a check and deposit into the account they are trying to fund? Apparently not. And it was at that moment that I heard myself cheerfully volunteer to make thirty raspberry scones. And what I mean by that is, I actually floated out of my body and watched and listened as I said this and hung up the phone! No chance of calling back to plead temporary insanity!

I have mentally blocked out most of that memory, that scone baking nightmare. I do remember Hubby finding me in the kitchen weeping, my hands in the air coated in thick gloves of sticky dough, a wooden spoon glued to one ot them, flour everywhere. That’s all I remember.

Oatmeal cookies. My daughter wanted to bake cookies, I chose oatmeal. I followed the recipe and stuck them in the oven. I took them out of the oven. I stared down at the pan. What the…what ARE these? They ran together into one giant sheet cake cookie that was weirdly crispy but not in a good french fry kind of way. Oatmeal sheet cake, as I have discovered, should not be this…um…crispy.

My daughter tried one, patted me comfortingly on the arm, and fled.cookies2

Hubby found me in the kitchen, staring at the pan.

Hubs: “Honey? What are you doing?”

Me: “I’m a bad mother. I can’t even bake with my daughter.”

Hubs: “You’re a good mother. The cookies look…I’m sure they’re fine.”

Me:” %#%$”

Hubs: “Honey, really.”

Me: “&%$@.”

Hubs: “They can’t be that bad.” He tastes one. “Look, you don’t have to prove you’re a good mother by baking.”

Please tell me I am not the only mother that cannot bake.  Do you have a baking nightmare to make me feel okay ? lol