“In Pillow Prayers, the reader is carried along by a mystery that takes aim at both hypocrisy and grace.”—Alice Elizabeth Rogoff, Editor Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, author of Mural and Painting The Cat’s Vision.
“A moving and beautifully cadenced story. Anyone old enough to have lived through the tumultuous, free love, drug and color enhanced ’70s will recognize these characters. You may want to re-read the opening just for the pleasure of the prose.”—Geoffrey Fox, author of A Gift for the Sultan and Welcome to My Contri
I don’t often think about these questions while I write. Mainly I just keep on in my writing groove, inspired by the vision I had at eight when I read The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner, a teacher turned children’s writer. Did you read that book too? I wanted to write just like Gertrude.
I started thinking about how I write a novel while waiting for my daughter at Many Rivers Books & Tea, a bookstore on the corner of Main Street in the Sebastopol, CA. Though it was Sunday, my daughter was at school—she teaches 4th grade this year—preparing the next week’s lesson. We were going to celebrate Annemarie’s birthday by having tea together. But my daughter was late, so I browsed the aisles of books, teas and objects designed to further the bookstore’s mission “to provide customers with tools to support genuine spiritual practice.”
Soon I got into a conversation with Jim Wilson, one of three owners of Many Rivers Books & Tea, that continued until Annemarie arrived. Then we had tea and she bought two bags of rune stones for her class studying medieval England. I got a present too, because Jim invited me to read at the ongoing “Thursday at Many Rivers” event on April 9th, 2015.
So how does writing novels fit in with spiritual tools and spiritual practice anyway? Four words came to me as if displayed across a screen of a Powerpoint presentation: Earth, Sky, Spirit, Story.
I realized I begin a book starting with the earth and write from the ground up. I write from the place where my characters are, seeing what they see. With them, I look upward to the sky, searching for—call it spirit, a vision—and from that cloud-spun, high unknown space, the story emerges. I do this again and again, beginning in the same way: earth, sky, spirit, story. It becomes a practice.
Decades ago I began writing Dreamers from the vantage point of the cobblestone streets of Pittsburgh during the civil rights upheaval of the 60s. As a streetcar turns the bend in a snowstorm, it smashes into Thomas’ brand new, borrowed Impala, upsetting baskets of newly-clean laundry. It is this seemingly innocuous accident that drives the love affair of Thomas and Annie.
In my novel of magic realism, Sundagger.net, I compare two deserts, chapter by chapter, matching the actual Anasazi ruins of the American Southwest with the spiritual desert I experienced working as a tech writer in Silicon Valley.
Spiral, the prequel to Sundagger.net, begins with Willow, a girl coming of age, standing at a dry riverbed, searching Chaco Canyon for a famed hunter with whom she’s desperately in love. From the desert floor, Willow talks to lizards and to crows.
The ancient Anasazi of the Four Corners area, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet, knew the connection between Earth, Sky, Spirit and Story too. All you need to do is to look from their amazing Great Houses to the heavens to realize it; they designed their buildings and created rock drawings to align with the equinoxes and solstices.
I too followed the same migration route my characters take in Spiral, beginning from the Great North Road, sixty miles long, which you can only see with aerial photography. At my Reading on April 9th at Many Rivers Books & Tea, I’ll share selections from my novels as well as a short videos from my three trips to the Four Corners area, where I explored Chaco Canyon, NM and its furthest, northern outlier, Chimney Rock, CO.
NOVEL WRITING AND MY SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS TO FOUR CORNERS
Earth, Sky, Spirit, Story with Margaret C. Murray featuring her upcoming novel, Spiral
Recently my eldest son and music artist Chris Goslow and I talked about putting together a special gift bundle that is truly “all in the family.” We decided to offer a book/album package at a big savings. For a limited time, you can purchase and enjoy my books, Sundagger.net and Dreamers, along with Chris’ albums, Waterfall and I Love You .
Click HERE to see more about the mother & son bundle.
In the short interview below, you can see how Chris and I share much in common creatively and are able to work well together.
1. What does this mother-son bundle mean to you?
Margaret: From as far back as I can remember, I have been writing away at my novels and my son has been playing music. The idea of presenting my fiction and my son’s music together in a fun way is just delightful, even magical.
Chris: Personally, it’s very satisfying for me to support my mom’s creative accomplishments while sharing my own.
Margaret: Three years ago Chris and I offered a Holiday Mother-Son Bundle for the first time, and I loved that experience. I was living up North in Sonoma County and would take the inscribed book and CD packages to a rural post office in Graton, CA driving along beside the apple orchards and vineyards in the green, winter mist. It was so fulfilling to me; I felt one with nature, the season, and my writing life. Back then we each had only one product, but now we both are offering two artistic works–four altogether. That’s a real achievement!
2. Talk about your working relationship with each other. Do you often help each other when it comes to creative projects, and if so, how?
Chris: I remember being in grade school and hearing my mom talk about wanting to publish her books. I also had my own creative dreams, so for both reasons it was an especially important issue to me. Our creative paths have had a lot of parallels, even though obviously I have been focused on music, and she has been focused on writing. Then again, I also am a writer, and she loves music. In fact, the main character in Dreamers is also a musician.
Margaret: Yes, I made Annie in Dreamers the violinist I wished I was when I was taking violin in grade school! As for how Chris and I work together, this year we started having a Monday work meeting via Skype. As usual with most of our collaborations, Chris came up with the idea. The original objective was to discuss our two different teaching careers since we are also both teachers, but we ended up talking about all the parts of our writing and music lives. For example, I’m typing my answers to this interview Q&A today during our Monday Morning Skype Meeting while at the same time talking and seeing Chris on my computer screen! Isn’t that magical!
3. Do you find it surprising that you are both artists? And did you always know you could work together this well?
Chris: It’s not surprising. It’s just part of my life, always has been. I always felt an affinity with my mom and a closeness with her as well as a desire to help her be happy. So the seeds of our working together go back a long way.
Margaret: No, it’s not surprising to me that Chris and I are both artists. The surprising part–the amazing part– is how necessary, how life-changing Chris is to my writing life, and how much a difference he makes. Sharing my writing life with him a practice I don’t want to ever stop. Honestly, it’s astonishing to experience how all my children work together with me and each other. Chris’ brother, Jonas, is a performing artist too as well as a consummate web designer. Jonas designed this website as well as my Sundagger.net website. Their older sister is a singer and teacher; Annemarie, with her eagle reader’s eye, was my first copy editor.
4. It’s clear that family is important to both of you. How does family influence your creativity? For example, do you write about your family, are any of your stories (or songs) based family experiences?
Chris: Family influences a lot of my art over the last few years. In fact, my entire I Love You album came about from songs I wrote for my wife, Charr Crail, or about our relationship. Even my first album Waterfall included mostly piano pieces I originally wrote the first year I met my wife, specifically after she asked me for music that she could use with photography slideshows she was making. So in a sense, both albums are an outgrowth of our relationship.
Margaret: Pretty much all my life I thought I would never write about my family because they were just too ordinary! Maybe that’s why I was so attracted to the ancient Anasazi of the Southwest, the characters in the “old world story” of Sundagger.net. But still I definitely drew from my own experience, using my own family as building blocks. And clearly, Dreamers is laid out against the backdrop of my life growing up in Pittsburgh, PA during the upheaval of the Civil Rights era. I stood on all the street corners the main characters, Thomas and Annie, did. Each contains a description, a voice, or an attitude of my own memories of my family, friends and lovers. Even the dog, Lucky, is based on my sister’s dog! All the music mentioned in Dreamers are pieces I played or loved myself.
Northern California Storybook &Literature Festival Returns Saturday, April 14th
I am honored to be one of the authors featured in the 2nd annual Northern California Storybook and Literature Festival. Come celebrate books, reading and literacy with me. Experience Native Californian Maidu culture too. It’s all happening at the Maidu Library and Community Center in Roseville (The Maidu Museum is within walking distance). And it all takes place on Saturday, April 14th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
I will be speaking on the Fiction panel from 11:30 to 12:30PM. Click on this program to see all the scheduled events and panels.
On the Fiction Panel, I’ll be asking and answering your questions. Perhaps I’ll speak about my background growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the shadow of the very first Carnegie Library where I was, in effect, saved by books. Or I’ll share my experience writing and publishing with a small press: How my latest published novel, Dreamers, a Coming of Age Love Story of the ’60s, was written over too many years. How a ruined dwelling in the Southwest desert led me to write my first novel, Sundagger.net, a Story of One Family, Two Worlds and Many Lifetimes. Plot, characters, setting and style also fascinate me so maybe we can talk about that. But more importantly, I’m looking forward to hearing from you–and the books you have loved, written or want to write. We’ll have lots of time to share. Look for me at my booth.
I’ve also invited Shelley Buck, author of Floating Point, to display her memoir so she’ll be there at the display table along with me, talking about her journey “Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley” on San Francisco Bay and, like me, looking forward to greeting you.
You can find us sitting at the WriteWords Press booth. Come take a look at my novels: Dreamers, A Coming of Age Story of the ’60s and Sundagger.net, a Story of One Family, Two Worlds and Many Lifetimes. I’ll be happy to talk about whatever you like. What writer doesn’t want to share their work!
Saturday, April 14th 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Maidu Library and Community Center
1530 Maidu Drive, Roseville, CA 95661
Along with myself and Shelley, there will be authors from across Northern California, including New York Times bestselling author Deborah Underwood and local Roseville favorites Ann Martin Bowler and Jack L. Parker. These writers have written a variety of children, teen, adult, fiction and non-fiction books.
It’s Free! And there is something for everyone in the family. As well as author panels, the festival also features family entertainment, book signings, free crafts for children, and even advice on how to get published.
Barnes & Noble will handle all book sales and you can purchase delicious sandwiches, fries, etc. from local Drewski’s and coffee, shaved ice, pastries, etc . from Karen’s Coffee throughout the day.
The Native American Maidu Museum and is close enough that you can walk to it. The museum is built on the edge of an ancient village site in which Nisenan Maidu people thrived for over 3,000 years, featuring petroglyphs carved into the sandstone boulders.
It’s exciting to be part of this book celebration organized by the Roseville Public Library, Placer County Library and Sacramento Public Library. Plus I get to visit my son, Chris Goslow, and my new daughter-in-law, Charr Crail, who live in Sacramento.
As the City Librarian of Roseville, Natasha Casteel says,“ We hope the entire family will come to get inspired, use their imaginations, and meet the people that create books.”
Directionsfrom Sacramento: Take I-80 east to the Douglas Blvd East exit. Continue heading east on Douglas Blvd. Make a right on Rocky Ridge Drive heading south. Make a left at Maidu Drive into the regional park.
The Maidu Library is located at 1530 Maidu Dr., Roseville, CA 95661.
I just returned from a trip to South Africa with my two sons. I wish I could do it over again, not to change anything or do it differently. Yet..if only I could experience the whole epic adventure again..and again..and again.
In the meantime I’ve brought Africa back with me.
By that I mean I’m intending Peace–the peace that happens when you have nothing you have to do except watch a hippo slowly walk across the sand, one huge foot at a time, and slowly lower itself into the Letaba River. The hippo will stay submerged in the cool water like this all day with only its two round humps of eyes showing and you can stay too, just watching, just being there. Or wherever you are right now, watching hippo eyes.
I’m intending Happiness, the feeling you had as a child, the kind that makes you laugh at anything, like when you turn the corner and come upon a group of six young African maids in crisp, laundered uniforms at the foot of the stairs in a Polokwane hotel. They laugh aloud when you tell them they look pretty, and say you look pretty too, making tears come to your own eyes then and whenever you remember that hot morning, that corner of the stairs, those lovely dark faces laughing with you.
I’m intending Awe, the majestic sensation of watching a pride of lions saunter by in a line. You count them one-by-one, ten lions in all, pacing intentionally and very slowly along a grassy ridge at dusk. “They’re hunting,” says the expert Kruger Park guide. “The females are taking the young males out for their first hunt.” You realize you aren’t breathing and make yourself take a breath. You can do it now. Just breathe.
And finally Gratitude, the abject gratefulness of a privileged American, getting what Africans have in their bones, their acceptance of life, of how close we are, all of us, to each other and to the animals. How amazing to realize we both love and protect our offspring. You know that when you repeatedly see adult elephants, giraffes, and white rhinos in the bush hover over those fabulous curious babies of theirs. You watch the adults stay close to their young, guiding them away from the road and you, sitting in rented cars, jeeps and SUVs, exclaiming and holding out your cameras or cell phones, attempting to to capture it all forever.
I’m bringing back Africa with me. Yes, it was the trip of a lifetime. How fortunate I am it was mine.
Book Launch: Dreamers, A Coming of Age Love Story of the ’60s San Francisco, California –Author Margaret Murray will launch her new book, Dreamers, a Coming of Age Love Story of the ’60s, on Thursday, November 10, 2011 at Alexander Book Company, 50 Second Street in San Francisco from 12:30—1:30PM. Also featured will be music by Chris Goslow (www.chrisgoslow.com) and chocolates from Sonoma Chocolatiers (www.sonomachocolatiers.com). Admission is free.
It’s the 1960s in America at the height of the Civil Rights showdown. Street-savvy Thomas, desperate for stardom, meets music student, Annie, desperate for love. To impress his struggling family, Thomas drives a flashy borrowed car home to Pittsburgh and is involved in a minor accident. What was a fender bender in a Christmas storm escalates into a confrontation with police and he becomes a fugitive.
In the suburbs, Annie evades yet another Christmas family fight by going to the theater, bumping into Thomas afterwards and mistaking him for the star. They’re both in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they’re dreamers.
What They’re Saying About Dreamers
“I want every person I know to read this book.”—Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, Award-winning American theater artist and activist, author of Little Rock, Theaterworks, Palo Alto
“Take Annie, a fresh college grad from a traditional middle-class white family in Pittsburgh, stir together with Thomas, a handsome black man with baggage who’s hell bent for theater success, turn them out in New York City awash in weltschmertz, drugs and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, add a rich white sugar-lady who’s been paying Thomas’ bills in exchange for boudoir duty, sprinkle with innocent love and naked ambition, and you have a gripping novel served up by Margaret Murray. Brimming with truths of the heart and spirit, here’s a unique coming-of-age love story you won’t want to miss.” —Naida West, author, www.bridgehousebooks.com
Margaret C. Murray was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and began Dreamers in 1969 when she attended the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since the ’70s and recently moved to Sebastopol. She is the owner of WriteWords Press. This is her second novel.
Dreamers Book LaunchNovember 10, 201112:30 - 1:30PMAlexander Book Company50 Second Street (Between Market & Mission) San Francisco, CA 94105 Tel: 415-495-2992