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About the Author

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Often humorous, sometimes heart wrenching, Marilyn’s stories are portraits of an extraordinary life, generously sprinkled with tales of her Texas upbringing, vivid observations of urban living, and the challenges of life as a widow.

 Marilyn Woods is an artist, teacher,  member of both a writing group and a drawing salon, avid Duplicate Bridge player and matriarch of a family of fifteen. A big city girl, having lived in many of our country’s finest, including Dallas, Washington, DC, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland, and New York, Marilyn Woods’ life changed magically when she moved to small town Pauma Valley, California, population 980.

After a long career in journalism and radio broadcasting, she and her husband “retired” and purchased acreage with an orange grove. They planted a Provence lavender field, built a bocce ball court and a labyrinth of white stones, installed a vineyard, built a boutique winery, and learned to be vintners and farmers. As though this wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Marilyn also became a docent at The San Diego Museum of Art (where she is currently the Training Chair of the Docent Council). Her life changed again as Marilyn returned to city life, to live alone for the very first time.

Her love of California, nature, family, art and a big black dog named Steamer, populate the stories you’ll find here.

Sometimes it's hard to turn the page

Erica Jong, celebrated novelist and essayist, was flying high in the late sixties and early seventies when I was chasing toddlers. Toddlers with runny noses or skinned knees or both most often.

 

We, Erica and me, are now both firmly ensconced in our eighties. At a time of mammoth indecision for me, a quote of hers surfaced: “I went for years not finishing anything, because, of course, when you finish something, you can be judged.” 

 

This would be the first of a collection of influences from women helping me get my second book out in the world.

 

Fear of being judged is so unlike me. And also, very much like me. You’d think by this time I’d have enough confidence and experience to manage just about anything, but instead of growing, confidence wanes as we age.

 

Or at least in my case.

New territory. Scary territory. 

Safer to withhold.

I was procrastinating; the manuscript of my second book had been completed for several months — make that eight — and I didn’t move it forward. Forward to publishing.

 

My first book — The Orangewoods: Seasons in the Country Artfully Lived, and its journey to publishing was a dream. Each step along the way, like April’s orange blossoms floating from the tree to a soft landing on the ground below.  This book, I’ve over analyzed, overhauled, and over evaluated to the point of ad nauseam as I moved along the path to publication.

 

Why did I resist this time?

Different story. Different chapter in my life. Different voice. 

Not first person. Not me. But really me. In disguise as an aging princess.

Not memoir. Not a fairy tale. Not romance.

In reality, however, a combination of all three.

 

I recently read award-winning author, Elizabeth Gilbert’s, book, Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear. A particular passage got my attention: “Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

 

I read this over again and smiled remembering a certain curator’s advice at the art museum where I work. “When guests say something like ‘My kid could do that’ in front of a work of modern or contemporary art, a tactful reply might be, “Nice. Why don’t you tell our group where your child’s work is exhibited so we can all enjoy it?”

 

At a writing retreat in Colorado just a short while ago, the twenty women and two leaders of the five-day event provided profound inspiration and confidence for me. My manifesto became: “Just put the damn thing out there. Don’t fear the judgement and get on with the next phase of your writing life!”

 

And finally I read an interview with Sophia Coppola, in an New York Times interview about her new film, Priscilla. “When you finish a project, you’re like, oh,” she said, as a Mona Lisa smile appeared on her face. “You have to do it, because it bugs you until you do.”

 

After Goya, left unpublished, bugged me long enough. So, I made the move.

 

It's official, my second book has a release date of January 3, 2024.

 

Book number three is brewing!

Marilyn Woods

December 2023

The Renaissance of Me

Three long years ago, I lost my husband and found myself thrust into an abyss of uncertainty, sorrow and fear. To cope, I began to write. I had been a journalist most of my adult life, but writing was ancillary to my various careers, escapades and whims. This writing evolved altogether different in my arduous self-administered therapeutic journey, then to now.

Writing about loss was a completely foreign and excruciating endeavor. But, along with a great deal of wine-induced cry marathons, late night scribble sessions and enthusiastic support, I prevailed. Within the last three months I put the euphoric finishing touches on my memoir—my first book—not only about loss, but love and laughter and loyalty and learning.

Surprisingly, now with the relationship ended (my manuscript and me) here I am today suffering another loss. Those pages, over three hundred, have been my companion day and night, as I poured out my heart and tormented my mind. Constant focus. Driven relentlessly to heal.

My book is done. It’s out there. The universe will either accept or reject it. But it will not be rewritten in any major fashion. It could only have been written in that certain manner, a prose style of grief therapy. It could only have been written from the trenches. As I experience this rebirth of me, alone and optimistic at this point, I understand that I will never feel that way again; I will never be in that place again. My book is a memento mori of that lowest point of my life. The time when piercing grief and undying desperation were my constant companions who drove me to the finish line.

As this Renaissance unfolds, I sense a new me emerging. Just last month, I booked a very nice hotel in New York City for my traveling companion and me. A glimmer of pleasure surfaced as I tallied our expenditures. I only have to pay half of the hotel bill. Nice.

Rich Sterglutz pastel of me June 2012.jp

Painting by Richard Stergulz (2015) thegreenarthouse.org

My horoscope for the year predicts  “Immerse yourself. An intellectual connection is *huge* for you. You are attracted to people who make you laugh, love a good adventure, and those who (like you) don’t take anything too seriously.” I no longer prefer to stay under the covers; I am open to these people.

Walking home from the museum this afternoon, as I crossed the bridge, a couple holding hands strolled in front of me. I didn’t cringe. This new life could have some good stuff. Not much so far. But, I’m hopeful. I feel a shift. A Renaissance after a long period of sadness and stagnation.

These days, I have dedicated myself to writing. It is a lasting legacy of my loss and I find myself on the brink of writing about things other than that horrid time of my life. Things like friendship, fire, fast food. Interesting male companions. Scooters, electric assist bicycles, airplanes. Technology, Texas and Trump. Art, and country music. Radio, family and fallout.

The lens in my progressives are now rose colored and I like what I see. The Renaissance of me has brought balance, harmony and beauty into my new life. I am blessed. I will write about these blessings.

Marilyn Woods

Summer 2018

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