Distracted Catholic confesses via poems

Cover-Front-WidowPiano(web) 2Happy new Year! That greeting falls a little flat this week in view of events in the Middle East and the wildfires in Australia. The parties are over, and the weather is wet, windy and dark. Bleh, right? What’s left to look forward to?

I have something: a new book! The Widow at the Piano is another poetry chapbook, following fast on the heels of Gravel Road Ahead, which came out in October. The two are quite different. Gravel Road Ahead follows my Alzheimer’s journey with my late husband. Readers say they have found it comforting and inspiring.

The Widow at the Piano, subtitled Confessions of a Distracted Catholic, is bound to get me in trouble, although early readers have pronounced it smart, sassy, touching and funny. You see, it’s about being Catholic and playing the piano at church. Any time you get into politics, money or religion, folks are bound to get their dander up, and I’m expecting there will be those who don’t love this book.

That scares me, but I don’t think I have ever published anything that is so “me.” In my years in journalism, we could hide behind our allegedly impartial reporting. In my novels, I could say, “That’s not me.” This book is absolutely me, and I’m bound to take criticism personally.  Oh well, that’s what happens when you’re a writer.

I know I’m not a perfect Catholic. This book lays it out there for the world to see, how sometimes when I pray, I wonder if anyone is listening; how sometimes when I look like I’m praying, I’m analyzing the flower arrangements or wondering what the priest is wearing under his vestments; how sometimes I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch when I’m supposed to be thinking about the body and blood of Christ. Distracted! That woman at the piano is the same woman who goes into the kitchen to put the kettle on for tea, finds three other things to do and returns to her desk fifteen minutes later without having started the tea.

And yet, it’s a love story, too. God knows, I love doing music at church. As a widow coming to Mass alone, it gives me a place among all those couples and families. The liturgy is magic, and so is the music. I don’t work anymore at the church I wrote about. I’m at another church playing and singing for free and loving it. I’m considerably less distracted. But one of the virtues of the Catholic Church is that the Mass is the same all over the world, so in a way it doesn’t matter which specific parish I’m writing about.

The Widow at the Piano is available for discounted pre-orders now and is scheduled for publication on March 15. If I were you, I’d order a copy just for the gorgeous cover publisher Shawn Aveningo-Sanders of The Poetry Box has selected. It’s piano porn for those of us who love images of musical instruments.

I will be looking for opportunities to do readings and talks as much as possible in the coming months for both the Widow book and Gravel Road Ahead. Contact me at sufalick@gmail.com if you’re interested. I will be at the Author’s Fair being held next Saturday, Jan. 11 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Newport Public Library.

I started writing poetry as a little girl. I remember carrying around a little spiral notebook that fit in my pocket, writing sing-songy rhymes with a fat pencil with a big eraser. My skills have matured a little since then. Although I have published poetry in various journals and won some prizes, it has taken 60 years for my poems to appear in book form. Suddenly I have two poetry books within six months. So exciting.

I was sitting by my father’s hospital bed when I got the email that Finishing Line Press wanted to publish Gravel Road Ahead. “Dad, they want to publish my book,” I said, my head spinning a little with shock and surprise. Very ill and not a literary guy, he probably said something like “Good” and changed the subject, but it was a big deal for me. Dad is gone now, but I am grateful that in a year of tremendous loss, God sent me these two gifts.

And now I offer them to you. Here’s a teaser from The Widow at the Piano:

IF JESUS CAME TO MY DOOR

I’d say, “Excuse the mess”
He would. He might even
share the couch with the pit bull
and rub her balding belly
as she lies on her back, submissive,
which I probably ought to do, too,
but no, I’d be fixing my hair,
putting my laundry away,
offering Him coffee or tea,
and wondering if He was really He
or if I just let a bad guy in,
someone who would rape, rob, kill
or whip out a Kirby vacuum to sell.
But no, the guard dog’s upside down,
wide open to His blessed hands,
and she knows. She knows.

As we pray for peace and safety, I hope my words can offer some comfort or at least a few minutes of distraction. Just don’t forget the tea kettle.

 

 

New book features stories about diners

Big Guy's DinerRemember the Big Guy’s Diner? I do. Located in Newport, Oregon, it was a block of white bricks with red window trim. A bell rang when you entered the door. Often the big guy himself, owner Mark Jones, was cooking at the grill. You could sit anywhere. It was casual, and if the plasticized menus were a little sticky and the bathrooms slightly disgusting, so what? You could get a milkshake there that would cure just about anything, and the Monte Cristo sandwiches were heavenly. Although some of our friends decided The Big Guy’s was not up to their standards, Fred and I went there a lot. He was a fan of the two-two-two breakfast: two eggs, two slices of bacon, two pancakes. My order depended on my mood. Feeling virtuous: a BLT and soup or salad with iced tea. Just don’t care anymore: the Monte Cristo with fries and a vanilla milkshake.

After Fred’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I attended support group meetings in an office across the street in the Sea Towne shopping center. Fred would meet me afterward at the Big Guy’s. It was like a date. I’d park my Honda next to his blue pickup, and we’d say hello as if we were surprised and delighted to run into each other.

Alas, when Fred couldn’t drive anymore, our Big Guy’s dates ended. Soon after that, the restaurant closed. The property sat vacant for years, but finally the old building was razed, and O’Reilly Auto Parts moved in. Fishtails in South Beach became our regular lunch spot.

Dine_Cover_Front_Only_For_Web_06.20Searching through old posts, I’m surprised I didn’t write anything about the Big Guy’s Diner here before. Now I don’t want to say too much because my essay about that piece of Newport history is soon to be published by Hippocampus Press in a new anthology of true stories called Dine. Imagine a whole book devoted to our favorite “greasy spoon” restaurants. They shared the cover last week. Preorders begin in August, with publication Oct. 1. Read more about the book here.

That means I will be promoting two books in October, Dine and my poetry chapbook Gravel Road Ahead. The chapbook is a collection of poems about being the wife of a person with Alzheimer’s disease, from diagnosis to the inevitable end. Preorders for that book are being taken now. I need my friends to order lots of copies to ensure a full press run. Click here, order, tell your friends. If you want an autographed copy or just don’t want to mess with the publisher’s forms, contact me directly at sufalick@gmail.com to let me know how many copies you want, and I’ll put you on the list.

Lick_Sue_Fagalde_COV_EMI also have a piece on sex (gasp!) about to appear in Creative Nonfiction magazine, and a second chapbook, Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic, is coming out from The Poetry Box next March. I have already had poems appear this year in Rattle and Atticus Review. Although 2019 has been the pits personally—all the Dad drama, Annie’s surgery, and certain personal ailments I don’t care to discuss, professionally it has been amazing. Odd-numbered years seem to be good for my writer self.

I feel a little guilty about all this advertising and bragging, but when a friend asked yesterday what I was writing, all I could think of was promotional material for all of these publications. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work for every book that comes out.

So, who remembers the Big Guy’s? Now that it’s gone, do you have any suggestions for Oregon diners that would be good for book-signing parties? I can’t think of a better combination than crisp, salty French fries and a good book.