Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Crystal Bridges Museum, Where Literature Met Art

Most people have no idea of the gem that sprung up in a little Northwest corner of Arkansas. (I know, you are not one of them--but I was, even though I have lived around here now for quite some time.)

Ms. Alice Walton (yes, of the Bentonville Waltons whose empire is known as WalMart), envisioned, created, and at last birthed an art complex so fabulous it easily holds its own among the world's most renowned treasure houses. And what's best about it is that is is exclusively American Art (hence the name).

To pull me out of the house after having slaved over Book 4 of the Legends of the Winged Scarab, The Crystal Curse, friends suggested I join them on the three-hour drive to visit the CRYSTAL BRIDGES Museum of American Art.
(Another "Crystal" -- get it? How providential was that? If I believed in my own fables, I surely would think it was a sign...)

Reproduced under the "Fair Use" law from Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art website  http://crystalbridges.org/about/
During my long life, I have traipsed through most of Europe's grand museums, and even worked at the renowned Boston Museum of Fine Arts (did you get that in "Sirocco"?); so one might assume I am a little jaded.

Well, let me tell you: Crystal Bridges can not only hold it's own but, in my and every one else's book, it is right up there with the most prestigious collections. However, what impressed me personally the most was the modern architecture blending into a seemingly natural setting. Soaring ceilings, concave and convex beams defying gravity as glass and steel melded into each other, the vista tumbling down into the pool.

Walking trails encircle the acreage leading you through a soothingly natural and seemingly monochromatic landscape. But don't be deceived. The work to produce this serenity must have been monumental. Stone slabs of almost ancient Egyptian proportions line the easy walkways, suddenly thrusting you upon babbling brooks. A closer look through the foliage reveals the bronze sculpture of a fat and quite contented pig; then a bear exposes his enormous backside as he munches on a salmon.

Despite its grandeur and splendor, Ms. Walton not only gave the Crystal Bridges collection, its buildings and grounds, together with its enormous upkeep, to art-lovers, but she declared it "Admission-Free." Permanently! We saw seven-year old kids on a field trip with their teacher, young people with babies, families who might think twice about visiting "a museum" where the admission fee exceeded their weekly food budget.

Art and Literature cannot sprout from the dust of hunger or neglect. Young souls must be exposed to them, they must be taught. CRYSTAL BRIDGES is Ms. Alice Walton's and the participating donors' gift to imbuing future generations with the seeds of their own culture.

Now, do yourself a favor and visit the beautiful website of Crystal Bridges. You may want to schedule a trip to Bentonville.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Birth of a (print) Book

    As far as book-births go, preparing THE CRYSTAL CURSE for its print version was a breech birth! Or -- in Edvard Munch's rendition -- it was a SCREAM.
    You’d think after the lot I had done before, it should have been a piece of cake…well, sometimes the best bakers forget the yeast…maybe it was “the curse.”
   However, at last, The Crystal Curse is now UP and running (I am just waiting for the “Look Inside” to appear on both Kindle and Print versions); and KHAMSIN (in its drastically reduced state) is already selling well. With the upcoming promotions through BookGorilla and ENT, I am hoping for “hot cakes.” (What is it with these bakery metaphors today?)
    If formatting for Kindle, the Nook and iTunes are different animals with bookmarks and hyperlinks, this print version turned out to be as cursed as El Hanash, the crystal snake.
    Sized at 6x9, different font, different line spacing, mirror-margins, correct pagination – the computer’s page 1 doesn’t start at the book’s Page 1, alternating headers, main Parts must start at the odd page—you get the idea. I had wrestled and tweaked for the last two days.
    Finally, I was happy with it and uploaded the print manuscript to CreateSpace, Amazon’s Print-on-Demand arm. One last check on their screen: Oops, a tiny mistake. Three asterisks to denote a scene change were not centered…Corrected my manuscript; clicked SAVE so I could re-upload.
    “No can do,” the computer said.
    “What! Give me a break!” (Or "kak," as Cornelius, the South African in The Crystal Curse, would have said.)
    “There may be a problem with your hardware,” the (fairly new) computer blared (just so I would get it). I did. When I finally managed to open my document, it had turned into complete gobble-di-gook. No recovery. If my house had more than one story, I might have jumped out the window.
Instead, I contacted the good people at CreateSpace.
    “Boo-hoo-hoo. Can you PLEASE e-mail the Word version I just uploaded back to me?”
    “No can do.”
    “Boo-hoo-hoo.” (Or "mat" as Alexei, the Russian in The Crystal Curse, would have hissed.)
    “Don’t cry, lady. I can make it so you can down-load it yourself from your dashboard. Will that work for you?”
    “You bet-cha!” (CreateSpace has not let me down yet when I boo-hoo-hooed before with one or two other problems—always my own doing).
    I dried my tears and saved the darn thing six times all over the place. Usually, when I make corrections/changes, I save that version as a new (dated) document. But for three asterisks? Who knew?
    I sure will - for Book 5!
* * * (those were the culprits)