Author Archive | Dalma

Westport Magazine: A Godsend is “The Perfect Summer Read”

We’re delighted to join other Connecticut authors—among them, Stacy Bass (the photographer of In the Garden, a pictorial journey through beautiful Fairfield County gardens, and John Cavi, author of the political thriller, The President’s Ultimatum, in this month’s Westport Magazine “Local Voices” column about local writers.

You can read the article here.

Wonderful is the fact that the article calls our book, A GODSEND: A Love Story for Grownups, “the perfect summer read,” and also wonderful is that it goes on (in its online incarnation) to publish the recipe for our perfect summer drink–called, not surprisingly, “A GODSEND.”

If you like your love stories to have adult—over 45–heroes and heroines, with adult feelings and adult baggage, read the book! And if you like your summer drinks with bourbon, try the cocktail! Better still, do both: Read and drink…..and enjoy!

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In HeynSight #1: The Challenge for Stepmothers

 
My work has for so long been about busting myths about women, marriage, love and dating, stories that keep us from writing our own unique scripts about our own relationships, so I’ve started a Blogtalk radio show (see the player, below) on the subject. It’s all about learning what these stories are; how they live in us; and how to ditch them when they interfere with our happiness.

The myth this week is about stepmothers: Why are so many of the roughly 14 million stepmothers in this country dreading Mother’s Day? Why do we keep perpetuating the myth of the Evil Stepmother, a myth that’s guaranteed to make everyone unhappy? Why does this ancient story have the power to guide our present beliefs? The answers may not be uplifting, but they explain why 65 percent of couples in stepfamilies divorce!

I hope you’ll tune in to the In HeynSight program and let me know what you think. This is the debut episode; I’m sure we’ll improve as we go. In the meantime, I’m excited to be able to connect and share conversation and ideas on a regular basis. Enjoy the show!

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Shades of Women’s Power

I’m late on weighing in on this, but I wanted to get past the din of everyone’s ridicule of the book, Shades of Grey; to move beyond the predictable bewilderment and hostility that accompanies monster success like this. That it’s terribly written. That the heroine is silly, dumb, ignorant, naive. That the book isn’t even “real” porn, it’s pretend porn– “mommy porn,” which, apparently, means soft stuff for silly mothers who wouldn’t know good hard serious porn if their bodices were ripped by it. 

These assaults are not new. Erotic books are easy targets, but for hundreds of years the target was literary fiction– if written by women, that is. (I don’t see E.L. James has yet been accused of being “shrill” and “strident,” words historically used to belittle women with a voice, labels that deny women writers a right to power. I suspect Ms. James opted to let her heroine and herself be accused of idiocy, lousy writing and silliness over shrillness and stridency, due to the demands of Mr. Grey.)      

Women are eating  up copies by the hundreds-of-thousands. Why? It doesn’t matter; no one will believe their reasons anyway!  Freud’s contention that women don’t know what they want lives on, leaving critics and experts to jump in to guess. We’re tired of being the boss at work; we want to be bossed in the bedroom!  We need to be submissive because that’s our inherent nature! We miss the masterful man of yesteryear! We’re masochists at heart! The old “Dark Continent” idea about women’s desires prevails. As the late Carolyn Heilbrun wrote in her masterpiece, Writing a Woman’s Life, “It is hard to suppose women can mean or want what we have always been assured they could not possibly mean or want.”  

Nevertheless, I say it’s about power. Not power over (who is bigger, who is more dominant, who is richer, who is male), but power to….power to have her own narrative; to tell her own story of her own pleasure. She isn’t just chosen; she chooses; she does what she wants and she writes it. Here’s a woman who chooses to have sex that thrills but scares her. She chooses excitement, not marriage, as traditional dead-end plots would have young women do. She chooses to take very good care of herself too, which in this case happens to mean allowing herself to be very well cared for. She chooses to depart with the conventional, to go with her gut on some of Christian Grey’s sexual demands, and to reject those that repel her.  She negotiates her own desires carefully, and knows how to assure that they’re honored. (Whether we like her pleasure choices is beside the point, as is whether she signs that contract. It’s her story, not ours.) If power is “the ability to take one’s place in whatever discourse is essential to action, and the right to have one’s part matter,” and I’m quoting Heilbrun again, then the awkward little Anastasia Steele has, in choosing excitement and pleasure, wielded sensational power. 

Stories about women having power and control are pitifully few. Most—in porn as in life– are about pleasing, and the price paid for failing to please. Here is a woman’s story about mutual pleasure, which in my experience is how women define power in the first place.     

 

 

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Boxwood Blight

Among the various scares we face daily—wars, tornadoes, illness, you name it, it’s all in the newspaper every day—one of the saddest is blights. Now there’s a word we don’t use a lot: blight! It has an ancient ring to it, something Dickensian, like “catarrh”; “carbuncle” –certainly curable conditions. But incurable blights are still with us. I studied some that attacked sugar maple trees in Vermont when I was researching Vermont sugar farms for A GODSEND: A Love Story for Grownups, the ebook I co-wrote with my husband. Maple trees, in addition to their sensitivity to periodic freezes, have had their growth stunted by acid rain, and their buds decimated by insects—aphids, parathrips, and the newest and most awful, the Asian Longhorn Beetle. A maple-sugar farmer, as our heroine is, is constantly on the watch for these blights that can ruin her livelihood.   

 It’s one thing to research a character’s life—her unique worries, her vulnerabilities. But here in southern Connecticut where I live, a new blight has been racing like fire across our land for the last five months, and it’s that’s grave enough to be cited by Dr. Sandra Douglas of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. It’s Cylindrocladium, or Boxwood blight, an incurable fungus so insidious, according to Wendy Lindquist, the landscape designer who alerted me to it, “it must be removed and disposed of properly—not put into a compost or brush pile.” Boxwoods, those hardy, deer- and shade-resistant plants so many homes cherish for their simple, clean beauty and ease of care, are suddenly being wiped out within a week of getting infected.

 So check yours out, if you have them. Go to www.greenx.com/blog to get a sense of what to look for. Tell your friends. And don’t plant boxwoods this year until you speak with a professional.

 

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Introducing A Godsend Cocktail: Publishing With a Twist

I didn’t think of turning my husband’s and my ebook, A Godsend: A Love Story for Grownups, into a cocktail of the same name, but two friends, Eileen Winnick and Tessa McGovern, suggested I do so. They’re creating a series about writers, for writers, called “Liquid Lunch,” which will soon air on Tessa’s site for short-story writers, eChook.com.

The idea is wonderful: Writers talk about their work in Tessa’s Connecticut kitchen while concocting a drink….so viewers take home not only the personal story of the writers’ books and experience, not only Tessa’s interviews with them about all things writerly, but also, a wonderful and innovative cocktail as well.

Both Richard and I wanted our cocktail to reflect some important aspect of our two protagonists. We wanted character-driven drinks! We also wanted it to be a truly grown-up drink—one with character (there I go again) and a long, illustrious history. A sophisticated cocktail for lovers who might have tasted everything and want something a little old and a little new.

As it happens, our hero, Evan, and our heroine, Eve, meet in Manhattan. As it happens, too, I adore Manhattans. So: We now had the basis for the drink, but now wanted to improve it, update it, snazz it up a bit. So we did.

Eve is the owner of a Vermont maple sugar farm; Evan is an outdoorsman and nature-lover from California. We’ve taken the basic ingredient in the Manhattan—bourbon—and added a few ingredients indigenous to Evan’s and Eve’s lives and locales, which we think make the traditional drink even more delicious. On any evening before or after dinner, we think you’ll find the combination of good bourbon, pure maple syrup, lemon and bitters nothing less than…a Godsend.

A GODSEND

    • 1 oz. Maker’s Mark or other fine bourbon
    • ½ Meyer lemon or one whole lemon
    • 1 T. pure maple syrup
    • Angostura bitters to taste
    • Chipped ice

 

Pour ingredients into a shaker, and pour into a Martini glass. (The above ingredients serves one….so you’ll definitely want to make more, even if you’re alone! I like mine very lemony, so I usually add more lemons and then, of course, more maple syrup. And I like dark maple syrup, but it’s not necessary.) Garnish with a lemon peel.

Cheers and good wishes!

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A Special Video For Women’s History Month 2012

March is Women’s History Month, and last week, on March 8, we observed International Woman’s Day.  In the short video below, I’m honored to be in the company of three women whose work I admire enormously, and who have in their own idiosyncratic ways transformed the way the world thinks about women’s lives and loves. They are brilliant and revolutionary: Alice Walker, Erica Jong and Alix Kates Shulman.

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My Bobsledding Adventure

When I think of where I’ve been all my skiing life, it hasn’t been Utah.

Alta, yes; but somehow I’ve never associated Alta with the beehive state. Rather, its iconic status always seemed to stand alone, stately but stateless; the purists’s place, as Wildcat is the daredevil’s place or St. Anton, the ritzy one.

I can only attribute my ignorance to the kind of deprivation that leads to tunnel vision—I grew up in the east, went to school in the west. The questions were always, “Which do you like better, Vermont or Colorado?” “Stowe or Aspen?” Silly me: I just found a better question: How about Deer Valley, Canyons, Park City and Snowbasin—all of them, each one more wonderful than the next, all on the front of the Wasatch range (Alta, Snowbird and Solitude are on the back) and all close by–next week?

You fly into Salt Lake City and are on the slopes of any of the above in less than an hour—and that’s with no connecting plane deterred by cranky weather to frustrate you. I did the trip last month, and took advantage of Ski Utah’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Winter Olympics by going down on the bobsled—on the same track that Olympians go down. That’s me in the picture in fact, second from the front.

For anyone else craving this thrill ride, there’s still time. Public bobsled rides on ice are available through March 17th. You can make your bobsled reservations online at www.UtahOlympicLegacy.com, or by calling 435-658-4206. Bobsled sessions sell out fast, so reserve asap. Once the ice melts, Park City opens summer bobsled rides. The summer rides, on wheels on a cement track, begin the second week of June through Labor Day.

If you can’t make it yourself, here’s the story of my own bobsledding adventure, with a link to full article on Everett Potter’s Travel Report website. Enjoy!

 

Embedded in a Bobsled

By Dalma Heyn

On a chairlift at Park City a few weeks ago I sat between two young vacationing North Carolina businessmen about to take their first ski run of the day. It was a perfect day: Lots of snow; sunny but not too. They were talking about a bobsled ride that afternoon. They and eight other guys from their firm had laid down $200 apiece (as you can, too) for the privilege of hurtling down the same ice track the Olympic bobsled teams did in 2002. (Park City’s track, in fact, is the only one in the world that lets passengers start at the same point as the Olympic athletes do.)

“I did it last evening,” I volunteered softly.

“Omigod,” one of the men said through his blue bandana-covered face: “Was it amazing?”

“Yes. It was.”

“Amazing, like a superfast rollercoaster?”

“No, not like a rollercoaster.” The men were staring at me now, awaiting specific description of what, if not like the fastest rollercoaster in Christendom, it was like.

“Amazing, as in…” I started, and then took leave of my vocabulary, “as in….” I grabbed the only word I could find “…as in intense. More than intense, really. Intensely intense. Intensively intense.”

Read the full article at Everett Potter’s Travel Report.

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Women Mentorship: Helping Each Other Thrive

March is Women’s History Month, and last week, on March 8, we observed International Woman’s Day. What’s new today–not just this one day, but in our lives–is the idea of women helping women. Not just women in trouble; women helping each other thrive. Women mentorship. In honor of helping each other in whatever way we can, I honor someone who has helped me enormously.

Some people fantasize about having a driver, or a personal trainer, or an organic cook. I used to fantasize about having a mentor: that person who would care about my work, nurture me as I set out on my book—take me beyond my own thinking, hang in there with me as I think it through.

Even today, whenever I thumb through a book’s acknowledgments, I wonder who did what for that author. Was the acknowledged person a careful reader, a gifted fact-checker, an acquaintance, a relative, even a stranger who offered a single brilliant insight? Or a mentor?

Mentor himself—there was one—was, as Webster’s Dictionary puts it, “a friend to whom Odysseus, when setting out for Troy, entrusted the care of his house and the education of Telemachus.” Telemachus was the son of Odysseus’s foster brother, Emmaeus, so it was no small thing to hand over his nephew and his palace while he went off to war. Later, the lower-case word came to mean someone with influence or power who oversaw the education and career of a younger protegee or mentee; an influential senior sponsor or supporter. Aristotle and Alexander the Great. James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Batman and Robin. Even now, when used more loosely, as I do, the idea of that wise friend and faithful counselor feels like one of the greatest of life’s luxuries.

I have had a mentor for two decades. She is a contemporary to whom I turn the moment I have a book idea; a writer, like me, and very brilliant, whose thinking is not necessarily a reflection of my own, but complementary and, I sometimes think, essential to its development. “My deep gratitude to Annie Gottlieb, whose inexhaustible intellect and support sustained me,” was my inadequate acknowledgment in my first book, The Erotic Silence of the American Wife, in 1992. I did a bit better with my next book, Marriage Shock: “I am deeply grateful to Annie Gottlieb, on whom I depended not only to help me process, map, and formulate all that I learned, but much more: to bring such intense material to life when its substance and meaning often felt—as it did to the women themselves—too slippery to unearth and articulate.”

You see where I’m going with these condensed tributes: Annie makes it matter to me that I get it right, from the thought itself throughout the thought process.

Annie calls this being “a writing buddy.” Writers do have colleagues and friends who matter tremendously to their work and to them, but Annie is different. The often inchoate expressions from women that I’m privileged to share with them, those slippery, tentative transgressive, angry and fearful thoughts about their lives, their loves, their frailties and failures and regrets and hopes, become magically simplified and amplified when I can process them, over years, sometimes, with Annie. Annie makes my idea matter. She makes how I say it matter. In so doing, she makes what I do matter.

There was a conundrum years ago when women dropped out of support groups, complaining of abandonment. Why would these groups withhold their encouragement not from the woman in the middle of a divorce or a breakdown; not from the one who reentered rehab or remarried the alcoholic; but from the woman who became successful in her work? There were many reasons for thinking such a woman wouldn’t need help, but today, as we flood the workforce, we know better. And we’re getting the once-forbidden hang of empowering her not only in her personal life but in her career.

Whether we’re influential or powerful, older or younger, whether we can pave the way for her or just help her find her way, we’re becoming I’ve-got-your-back mentors. We support, criticize, clarify, teach, empower. The next evolutionary leap? To move beyond merely pressing for equal pay and equal representation at the top, and insisting on them; assuming them. We take that leap by jumping in the way Annie did, to make what women do matter.

This essay was originally written for Open Road Media.

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“Financial Infidelity” Isn’t Cheating

Not long ago, The New York Times reported a list of “money disorders” linked to our economy. Overspending. Underspending (hoarding); serial borrowing (we all know what that is); financial enabling (too much money forked over to adult kids); and so forth. Stars like Wynona Judd (overspending), admitted to once buying too many cars and Harleys, but doesn’t anymore.  

But “financial infidelity” caught my eye: “Cheating on a spouse by spending and lying about it.”

Oh dear: Is that a disorder?  If I told my spouse what, say, a new ski helmet costs (which I won’t buy, but still, mine is a little shaky on my head), he’d wonder about my sanity, not to mention the new goggles required to fit over that ski helmet. I repeat: I’m not doing it, so don’t call Richard and tell him I’m cheating on him). Continue Reading →

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