Monday, January 2, 2012
Saturday, July 23, 2011
By Emily Suess
In the novel Seeing Red by Claudia Ricci, readers follow Ronda on her adventures of love, passion and self-discovery. Sounds hokey and unoriginal on the surface, doesn’t it? But let me just say that Ronda has issues, and they are very interesting issues. Instead of pursuing a career in dance at the age of 19, Ronda got caught up in a relationship with her college professor, got married, and raised two boys.
Now 18 years later, Ronda is newly divorced and dealing with her sons’ transition into adulthood. Life is forcing her to examine her marriage, her unfaithfulness, and her changing relationship with her children.
At the same time she must come to terms with these changes and her own infidelity, Ronda finds a renewed passion for dance and gives herself over to the study of flamenco. However, her life takes a twist when her lover, Jesus, disappears in Spain.
With a book as artfully written as Seeing Red, it only takes a few pages to become immersed in Ronda’s world. For a time you won’t even know you’re reading; you’ll just feel like you’re there.
Emily Suess is a freelance writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. This piece appeared first on her blog, Suess' Pieces.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Big thanks to flamenco guitarists Lee Rausch, left, and José Miralles, for making Sunday's flamenco book party such fun! And thanks to all who came!
It was a bustling afternoon in The Bookstore in Lenox, MA. The café there, called "Get Lit," was chock full of visitors drawn to the sweet sounds of alegría, soleares, bulería and other beautiful flamenco melodies.
Thanks to Jo Ann Losinger, who owns the painting, "Shattered Cups," the Seeing Red reading was held in the presence of the marvelous painting by Pittsfield artist Kellie Meisl that adorns the book's cover!! This is a painting with an amazing story behind it!
In the photo below, Kellie (left) enjoys a glass of sangría with Jo Ann (center) and musician Sandy Lord.
Friday, June 24, 2011
By Claudia Ricci
Years later, she tries to focus on the details: the cinnamon sugar sticking to her shoulder. The thick fold of leaves overhead.
The cold buttered toast wrapped in tin foil. The smell of his sweat mixed into the smell of pine needles. The feeling of him feeding her the small concord grapes. And especially, the watery green sunlight, the way the rays of light angled, dissolving into gray forest shadows.
She concentrates on the small details because she hates to look at the bigger picture. When she does, she is sure to get into trouble. She is likely to look back and agree with her therapist, who once pointed out that the first time Ronda had sex with the man who became her husband – the man who fathered both her sons – she was, for all intents and purposes, raped.
Ronda cannot face that, so she focuses instead on the cinnamon and the leaves, the grapes and the light. The way the rays of the sun filtered through the trees and seemed to hang, like fog or mist or smoke. Lying on the blue blanket with Ben that day, she recalls passing her hands through those slanted rays. Watching the light as she sliced her cupped fingers through it.
Sometimes she allows herself to recall this: how he whispered to her as he slid his fingers into the waistband of her sweat pants that morning, and quickly worked them down and over her hips. “I really think I’m in love with you Ronda. Can you hear me Ronda Cari, I’m saying that I love you.”
Lodged as she was beneath his heavy frame, she coughed up a reply, “Ben, I am not ready. I really don’t think I want to do this yet I am just not...” He kissed her then, and she must have swallowed that last word, “ready.” By then his urgency and his thick hands took over. He settled himself between her thighs.
“Please stop,” she yelled, but by then, she wasn’t deciding anymore. She was feeling his fiery skin and the sandpaper of his face and she was hearing his urgent breathing as he pushed inside her.
She heard him exhale and say a single word. “Amen.”
What filled her mind then was the sound of the bird, the bird that he had called the red-eyed vireo. She heard the vireo warble its sweet morning song in the tender canopy overhead.
Later, on a night when he should have known better, when everything about the new baby was painful and exhausting and wrong, Ben dared to say that he hadn’t realized that she wasn’t sure, that he never knew that she hadn’t wanted to do what he made her do that morning on the mountain. He hadn’t realized that she had been so terribly frightened that first time. He implied, simply, that after all was said and done, her feelings on the mountain that morning didn’t add up, or worse, that they just didn’t matter to him.
That night with the baby was one of those evenings when Ben Junior simply couldn’t be comforted, no matter what she did for him. Ben Senior had come home from campus to find her with the baby in a T-shirt and diaper, face down across her knees.
The infant was wailing, a long, low persistent screech, and she was in the rocking chair, bouncing him face down on her knees and rubbing circles on his bony back. Now and then she’d lift him to her shoulder and he would stop crying for a moment and then he would pull his legs up, and hiccup and puke a stream of white curdled milk onto the wood floor, and then he’d start screeching once more.
Ronda was frantic even before Ben Sr. arrived home and placed a long kiss on the crown of her head. But things didn’t improve after he walked through the door. She told him she was totally spent, and he made some comment about her needing to join him in their bedroom for “a little love and affection.” Which she interpreted to mean that she needed sex, which she absolutely knew she didn’t need. Lately, he’d been alluding to the fact that they hadn’t made love for months.
“Maybe you need sex, Ben, but that’s not what I need. That’s not going to fix things. Honestly, Ben, when you see me struggling like this, how can you even talk about sex? Don’t you see I’m drowning here?”
She held the newborn to her shoulder. Ben Jr. was barely seven weeks old and she was sore and still bleeding and constantly feeding the baby and crying and feeling depressed all the blessed time. And even though the semester was over, Ben was spending less time at home. Things between them had gotten so tense that for several nights she had been sleeping on the single bed in the baby’s room.
He was leaning on the door of the nursery, the room that for a few short months before the baby came had been her ballet studio. A studio minus a mirror.
“Let me take him for a while,” he said. He reached for the baby, and held him. The baby’s cries softened for a moment, but then he began bawling again. Ben walked back and forth across the nursery bouncing the infant against his chest. The baby quieted again.
“See, he needs his daddy is all,” Ben said, in a low voice.
Ronda sat in silence in the rocking chair, glaring at him.
“And all I was saying before is that it’s time you come back to sleep in our bed,” he said. “That’s all.”
“Oh, so is that for your comfort or mine?” she shot back. “Because who gets up four or five times every night to feed this child? Not you, surely not you.”
He stopped walking. The baby started crying. “Ronda, I don’t want to fight, honestly I don’t. I just want things to be right between us again. The way they were.”
“When was that exactly Ben?”
He closed his eyes. Stood there. “Please Ron, I know you are stressed to the max. I know you are exhausted and furious and …”
“You know that but what do you do about it?” She started rocking in the chair. There was no way forward, nowhere to go with this discussion. “You take care of you, period. But then, that’s all you’ve ever done. You want me back in bed so that maybe we can screw. What difference does it make to you that I’m falling apart? It never has mattered, how I feel. That very first day, way back when, up on the mountain. You just did what you did, because that’s always what you do. Just exactly what suits you.”
“Ronda, stop this nonsense. You were there because you wanted to be. I didn’t force you to come.”
Her eyes flared. “You forced yourself on me, Ben. You didn’t care a bit how scared I was.”
“Great, now you bring that up again. It’s a little late to be talking about that, isn’t it? Besides, you seemed to enjoy yourself just fine the second time that morning. How was I to know? How bad could things have been the first time if you were so gung ho the second time through?”
Ronda set her head into her hands. “I don’t believe you, Ben. I do not believe what you say to me.”
“All I’m trying to say is that it’s in the past, Ron. We have a son now.”
“It’s not in the past,” Ronda yelled. “Yes, we have a son, but he’s a son I take care of, night and day. You drop in now and then, but when you do, what help are you?”
Ben seemed genuinely shocked by the last comment. He dropped onto the bed, and held the baby, who once again quieted. As if somehow the infant knew at that moment, that his parents needed him to be silent.
The two of them, Ben Sr. and Ben Jr., just sat there, father and son in statue.
“I try to be helpful Ronda,” he said simply. “I have a job. A career. But I do try to help you with him when I’m here.”
“Well, good for you,” she snarled. “It has been a lovely year for me, being pregnant, dropping out of school before my sophomore year, and now, having this…this dreadful…” Her words melted into a whisper. She shook her head. Sometimes she said things that she felt in the moment, but that later, she absolutely knew she didn’t feel.
The baby wailed sharply then and Ben handed him back to Ronda as if he was on fire. She hoisted him to her shoulder. She was starting to cry. She wiped her nose with the sleeve of her bathrobe. Here it was six o’clock at night, and she was still in the bathrobe she had been wearing since the morning.
Ben retrieved a box of tissues from the changing table, handed it to her. Then he sat down on the bed. “I know you are angry, Ronda. You hate to talk about all this.” He paused, waited for her response. She said nothing. She sniffled. He leaned closer.
“Ron, you made the decision in the end to have this baby. I know sometimes you wish you hadn’t. But I told you then when it happened that I’d support whatever you wanted. And this is what you said you wanted.”
Ronda brought the rocking chair to a halt. And in what amounted to a second miracle, the baby stopped crying, again. But that just got Ronda crying harder.
“Think about it, Ben,” she sobbed. “I was barely 19. I had never even seen a man, naked. And you, you just moved in on me that morning and …and you took over. And there I was lying in that goddamn forest on that goddamn blanket, completely vulnerable, with you, 20 years older than me, a professor I hardly knew, and there you were doing things to me I never dreamed of doing and there I was terrified, so terrified…”
There hadn’t really been anyone before Ben. Only a boy. A rangy high school beau named Robbie who she’d known since seventh grade. The two of them had shared popcorn at Saturday night movies. They had gone to football and basketball games, parties, the prom. But they’d always had a curfew. They had always lived under the ironclad scrutiny of Ronda’s mother. Mama Marie, as Robbie had always called her.
And then Ronda went to college. All of her dorm mates had lost their virginity by Thanksgiving. She had hung on, though, writing long letters to Robbie at Cornell. Looking forward to some vague future she wasn’t sure was ever going to happen.
Her second semester, though, she had met the infamous and handsome Professor Ben. Philosophy 114, Morals and Society. And when he actually noticed her, when he had complimented her writing, when he scrawled on the bottom of her first essay, “Please come see me, as you seem exceptionally talented,” she raced to his office. At which point, he spoke to her not about Nietzsche or Kant or Hegel, but about ballet, asking how many hours a day she worked her pliés and arabesques and battements. About how sore her legs were at the end of an afternoon on toe.
By the end of the spring term, Ronda had earned an A plus. And as soon as the final grades were in, the very next night, Ben invited Ronda over for warm Japanese Saki and to share his passion for astronomy. They spent the evening on the roof of his apartment house, studying the moon through the telescope he had made himself. Staring into the black velvet sky, he explained that four billion years before, the earth and the moon were one.
By 8:30, they were indoors, lying on the sofa together. She read to him: “Ode to the West Wind” by Shelley. The following night, Ben fixed her dinner: homemade pasta, garlic bread, porcini mushrooms, fresh tomato sauce with basil. And when she’d eaten only a bite or two, and claimed she was full, because she had to watch her weight, because she was a dance major and being a dancer, she had to stay slim, then, he fixed her a gigantic Caesar salad. As he tossed the dressing into the crisp green lettuce, Ronda noticed how wide his shoulders were, how the sides of his eyes crinkled when he laughed. That’s when she blushed warm, and a new thought rushed into her mind, “I could fall in love with this man.”
Two weeks later, they had dated 18 times: seven lunch dates, four more times on the roof tracking stars, three movies, including one antiquated drive in, two times bowling, once roller skating, and once a canoe ride that ended with her diving over the side and swimming to shore. One warm clear night, they swam at Craft Pond, and afterward, they stayed up on the roof talking the whole night, lying beneath the white light bulb of a full moon. By May 17th, Ben had already asked her three times to go up to Greylock with the soft blue blanket. She kept saying no, because she knew about that blanket. Because he had used it with innumerable other girls. So widespread were the rumors about Dr. Fallon’s famous Greylock breakfast picnics that a couple students one year had pitched in and bought him a basket with a checkered cloth lining in the same sky blue color as the blanket.
She held out until May 28th. The following week, she was supposed to move back home for the summer. To live with Mama Marie. To be a lifeguard at the local pool. And maybe because of that, maybe because she couldn’t face life without Ben, couldn’t face life erased of all emotion, all warmth, all light, all male touch, she agreed that “maybe” she’d go up to Greylock. She would think about it overnight, she said, and let him know the following morning.
“Call me early,” she said on Wednesday night when he had walked her from the ballet studio back to her dorm. “And then, I’ll be all ready, or I won’t, and then we’ll go. Or we won’t.”
“Fine,” he said, folding his arms and squinting into the sunset at her, and then, when she just stood there, looking at her Dr. Scholl sandals, her bare toes, he reached over, grabbed her. “Come over here,” he whispered, pulling her into the arms he had built up so systematically, with push-ups, and late night workouts in the college weight room. “Your body is gorgeous,” he said as he kissed her face and raced his hands up and down her torso, which was tightly encased in a black leotard.
“This isn’t the best place,” she said, chuckling, struggling out of his grasp. “I mean we’re right out in the open, Professor Fallon.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Which is why I’d like you to come up to Greylock with me. In the wee hours of the morning it’ll just be me and you and maybe a few bears.”
He had packed carefully. The freshly squeezed orange juice he poured into stemmed glasses. A thermos of coffee and for it, real cream and mugs. Whole strawberries laid out on a flowered china plate. Grapes that he squeezed, jokingly, from his lips and teeth into hers. Small triangles of Swiss cheese and squares of cold buttered toast. And the cinnamon rolls. He bought two, on the way, at 6 a.m. when the Cinnaman Bakery first opened its doors in town. She ate a bite of one. He ate his and had begun to work on the rest of hers. It was then that she poured herself more coffee, lay back on the blue blanket. Played with the rays of sunlight. Then closed her eyes. Figured he was eating, so she would just rest. Let the sun pour down on her face. That’s when he cupped his hand gently over her breast.
She lay there, trying to decide what to do. Before she could reach a decision, he had lifted her T-shirt, and slipped his other hand inside her bra. All the while he kept his eyes fixed on hers. Saw that she saw. Saw that she saw that he couldn’t wait.
“Ben?” she whispered. “Is this…is this…” what she was going to say was, “is this a good idea, I mean, right this minute?”
What he said instead was: “Don’t worry, Ms. Cari, this is not a test. Or a quiz. Or an essay. Or a philosophical debate. This is just when I make love to you in the sun. Because I’ve been waiting for you. All semester. Every fucking day since I first saw you waltz into my classroom in a goddamn leotard. For chrissake do you realize what you do to men wearing those goddamn dancer’s clothes? I want you to know it was torture sometimes trying to keep my mind on the books. Surely you realize now how I feel.”
“But isn’t it always this way for you,” she said in a low voice. “I mean, right? Every semester it’s a new girl.”
“No. I know what you’ve heard,” he whispered, his face buried in her chest. “But I promise you, I’ve never felt like this.”
And so in a great fever and no time at all he removed her T-shirt and soon enough her bra, and she discovered how much she liked him licking her torso and nipples. And before she knew it, he took the white paper bag, the one that said CINNAMAN BAKERY in red letters on the side and he tipped the bag upside down and he shook it so that cinnamon sugar sprinkled onto her shoulders, her flat belly, her breasts. Throwing the bag aside, he proceeded to suck the sweet brown powder off her skin.
She was in ecstasy. She was in doubt. She wanted to get up, run out of the forest. She wanted to stay all day, lying there curled up with him. She moaned out loud.
That’s when he rolled on top of her. That’s when he began undressing the bottom half of her, saying, “I really think I’m in love with you Ronda. I love you. Can you hear me Ronda Cari, I’m saying I love you.”
“You do?” she whispered, in a tone that meant, “You really mean this? You don’t say these very same words to every girl you bring up here?”
“I do. I want you. I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anybody before.”
It was at that moment she murmured “Ben, I am not ready. I really don’t think I want to do this yet I am just not....” By then though he was inside her body and then he exhaled the word Amen. Then all she could do was listen, and watch. He was powerful. The pain was sharp and tight and ripping but she focused instead on the vireo, its sweet warble, and what came to mind was how she first saw Ben, facing the blackboard, strong. A big reddish blonde head and a blocky, square body. There in front of the classroom, a coffee mug in his right hand and scrawling with his left, something from Plato’s Republic.
Why when Ben was first inside her was she thinking about the curious way he had of erasing the blackboard, from the bottom up, the short up and down strokes. Why was she thinking about chalk dust at a time like this?
Later, as he was lying beside her, as she looked at the clear glisten on her belly, as she felt tears gather in her eyes, she decided to listen to the vireo only.
Ben Fallon was trying to kiss another purple grape, a grape the same color as the stain on her lips, into her mouth, but she wasn’t sure she wanted him to. Her eyes blurred, and she sprang off the soft blue blanket. Stepped lightly over Ben, and fled through the forest. There, she crouched low, hovering over a mossy spot. Eyes closed, clouded, she breathed steadily, gathering herself into a still moment. And then, not knowing why she had to dance, she did. She rose in the sunlight, a flower unfolding, and bent at the waist, twisted, circled once quickly, arms clasped over her head. Again and again and again, she rose, threw herself into a wild series of relevés, each time she came down feeling the thick wet moss between her toes. Each time she rose, feeling her abdomen go up, up, up, and down and up, up, up. Up and out of itself, again and again and up some more.
Finally, when the dead feeling down between her hips had melted, when the stiffness had poured out of her lips, when her eyes had dried, when she was winded and no longer scared and she could feel her lower half alive again, at that moment, she stopped. Still on toe, her breath going quickly in and out of her mouth, and so much sweat on her brow that it began forming small beads, at that moment, she twirled again, bending alternately forward and backward at the waist. As if she were a leaf.
As if the tree overhead had hold of her hands. As if she was attached by a stem, and she was caught in a wind and blowing in every direction. Like all the leaves, all of them whispering and waving overhead.
A steady clapping began. She looked up, and there stood Ben, in his blue jeans only. His zipper undone, his belt dangling on his hips. Embarrassed, she dropped onto her knees and leaned over so her forehead touched the ground.
“That was incredible,” he said, lightly touching her hair. “Really.” He spoke in the most polite voice she’d ever heard from him.
“I don’t know much about dance, but I think you are terrific. I mean, if you want to, I bet you could be a really great dancer.”
“You think so?” she asked, looking up at him. She recalled then what her father had said when she was eleven, just a few months after she had started on toe. “Gironda,” he said, “You are so beautiful dancing. You are a real ballerina.”
“Yes,” Ben replied, taking hold of her hand, and pulling her to her feet. A smile played at his lips. “You would be especially popular if you always danced like this. Buck naked.”
Her gaze fell. Ben kissed her mouth and then both breasts. He turned and led her back through the forest to the blanket.
Together, they sank. She was hot and flushed. Without knowing why, and with something new and totally unfamiliar rushing through her, she pushed herself on top of him. Taking hold of his hands, she stretched their arms out together. Wide.
“I feel right now like I could fly,” she whispered, her legs stretched out behind her. Warm light bathed her back. Energy pulsed from her pelvis straight down through her thighs into her toes.
“I feel like I could screw you again,” he whispered.
She went up onto her elbows. Stared into his gray blue eyes. The salmon-colored curls ringing his sweaty forehead. She saw the earnest look in his face.
“So I think I would like the same thing,” she said, not knowing her own voice. “Screwing, I mean.” She leaned her lips right into his ear and breathed out, hard. “Only this time, Professor Fallon, please. Make sure that I’m along for the ride?”
Monday, June 6, 2011
JUNE 6, 2011 -- The Bookstore in Lenox will bring a taste of romantic Andalucía to the Berkshires on Sunday, June 26th when a local author will be joined by two local flamenco guitarists. Novelist Claudia Ricci will read from Seeing Red, a novel of love and self-discovery set in the Berkshires and Southern Spain.
Ricci, a student of flamenco guitar for 12 years, will be joined by two area flamenco guitarists, Jose Miralles and Lee Rausch. The Pittsfield visual artist who created the powerful cover art for Seeing Red, Kellie Meisl, will also join the celebration of art and culture that takes the reader from the slopes of Mt. Greylock to the deep gorges of Andalucía.
As one reader wrote about Seeing Red’s heroine, “Readers follow Ronda through Spain on her journey of love and self-discovery as she explores her marriage, motherhood, infidelity, and loss, all the while nurturing a once-forgotten passion for dance that transforms and empowers her.”
Seeing Red will remind you of that trip you took to Spain or it will inspire you to visit for the first time. As another reader wrote, “I finished Seeing Red yesterday and it is a page turner! It made me think of the summer I spent in Spain 22 years ago. There were so many things in your book I could relate to, the location, the culture, even the food -- Spanish tortilla and paella are so good!”
The Seeing Red reading and book party are part of a new series of book events that Matt Tannenbaum is holding at his new wine bar, “Get Lit,” which adjoins the Lenox Bookstore. “I am excited about giving Berkshire County residents a chance to enjoy great literature, music and a glass of wine as a wonderful cap to a summer Sunday afternoon,” Tannebaum said. “Ricci’s prose – both powerful and poetic – will move her listeners and transport them for a few moments to sunny Spain.”
The reading and flamenco will be held from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 26th at The Lenox Bookhouse’s Get Lit wine bar, 11 Housatonic Street, Lenox Massacusetts. For directions or more information call (413) 637-3390 or visit the bookstore’s website at http://bookstoreinlenox.com.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
"At first I thought I would not be able to read on screen, but when something catches your interest, on screen, or in print, you will read it! The story so far is excellent. Something any age could enjoy. Especially me as a college student (where Ronda's story began). Can't wait to read the next chapters! :D"
--Jesenia Mejia, Albany, N.Y.
"I personally LOVED this! It kept me wanting to know more about Ronda and about her family. I kept asking myself so many questions about Ronda as well as about her sons.
As for reading online, I like it so much more than holding a book. I spend so much of my time on a tight schedule and I am always using the web for something such as research and so forth, so I really do think that reading online is a great option for people like myself."-- Dilis Tolentino, Albany, N.Y.
"I'm so pleased to have the opportunity to read a novel in this format (and, so far, I'm enjoying this one quite a bit!), and I really hope this kind of thing takes off because it can benefit two entirely different kinds of people: readers and non-readers. Non-readers can appreciate the fact that someone is breaking up a book into manageable pieces for them, avoiding that sometimes-daunting task of finishing a whole book when you're busy. Plus, there's a lot to be said for short-attention-span management. There's also the time-management benefit, which would appeal to avid readers. How many times do you sit down to read just a little before bed and wind up still awake and reading over an hour later? While that speaks volumes for the content of the book, it's nice to have no choice but to read what's given to you and then be forced to wait. It's a little bit like "to be continued" TV episodes or finishing a book in a series and then having to wait until the author writes the next volume. I tend to find myself bouncing back and forth between these types, so this works out great for me, either way. :-)"
What I love about Claudia's writing is she can run you through the gamut of emotions in a single page. Things are pretty bleak for Ronda but how is it Claudia get's me laughing when I get to this line:Karen and Jack each get an arm under Ronda and move her slowly down the stairs, Ronda stumbling, her legs coming forward on automatic, as if she's Raggedy Ann and her red- and white-striped legs are stuffed and made of cotton.
I agree with Lynn, MORE! This is great reading the book online!
-- Kellie Meisl, Pittsfield MA
Sunday, February 27, 2011
By Karrie Allen
Sunday, February 27, 2011 2:08 AM ESTSPENCERTOWN — The same day Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post, announced AOL’s takeover of the news website, which would revolutionize both media giants, the website also started serializing the book, “Seeing Red,” written by Spencertown resident Claudia Ricci. When the Huffington Post published the prologue of her book the first week of February, it was a first for Ricci and the news website.
Ricci, who has actually been writing for the Huffington Post since April 2008, approached Nico Pitney, national editor for the Huffington Post, and suggested serializing her novel, which had just been published in early January.
“He loved the idea and had me work with a book editor at the Huff Post,” said Ricci. She posts her novel, chapter by chapter, three times weekly — Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday — and will continue posting until her entire book is online.
While serializing her book is a new venture for Ricci, writing is not. After graduating with a master’s degree in journalism from U.C. Berkeley, she started her career at the Chicago Sun-Times, where she covered environmental issues. “My team project on toxic waste disposal was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize,” she noted.
She then went to the Wall Street Journal and worked as a staff writer in the New York bureau. She left when her oldest daughter, Jocelyn, was born. In 1996, she got her Ph.D. in English from the University at Albany, where she has been teaching English, creative writing and journalism since 1998.
In January 2009, she and her husband, Richard Kirsch, moved for a year to Washington, DC, where she taught English and journalism (on sabbatical) at Georgetown (while her husband worked on national health care reform). They moved back to Spencertown a year later and she resumed teaching full time at UAlbany.
Ricci and her husband moved from New Jersey to Spencertown full time in October 1985 and have raised their three children here. “We have just celebrated 25 years in our Spencertown home. … We have considered this home for a very long time!” commented Ricci.
So what inspired Ricci to write this book and where did the title come from? A growing passion for flamenco music — and her “patient” flamenco teacher.
Ricci and her husband saw their first live performance of flamenco in Scottsdale, Arizona many years ago and then they saw Maria Zemantauski play flamenco guitar at a Spanish restaurant in Albany. In 1999, Ricci approached the Troy-based virtuoso guitarist about taking lessons and so Ricci has been learning how to play flamenco music from Zemantauski ever since.
Her music teacher was not only an inspiration for her book, but also for her life. In 2002, Ricci was undergoing chemotherapy to treat her lymphoma and one day, against her doctor’s wishes for her to “give it a rest,” she decided to go to her music lesson anyway — but she was unable to play; her arms hurt. Zemantauski told her to just hold her guitar and after a while, Ricci actually began to strum the guitar.
“The next thing I knew, I was playing and the pain had receded,” she said. And she is now, “thank God, very healthy.”
Ricci also found inspiration for her book after a trip she and her husband made to southern Spain. They visited Andalucia, to an “extraordinarily beautiful little town called Ronda, perched on a 300-foot cliff; it was very dramatic and stuck with me,” said Ricci. “At some point, I had an image of a woman dancing flamenco while standing under the stars,” so she originally called the book “Eyes on Orion.”
But about a year ago, Ricci asked Zemantauski if she could rename her book after her music teacher’s CD. “I listened to Maria’s music writing each and every chapter of ‘Seeing Red.’ My ritual was simple: I would turn on the music, slip the headphones on, sit down and follow Ronda Cari [the main character in her book] through her wild adventures across Andalucia,” said Ricci. “I want to say that without [Zemantauski], and her music, this book would not be.”
The music, noted Ricci, “inspired the character and the mood and it opened up a creative space in which I was able to write the book.”
Ricci described the premise of the book on Huffington Post in this way: “Protagonist Ronda Cari is married and the mother of two and, oh yes, she also dances flamenco! Pretty soon she has a Spanish guitarist lover named Jesus and he’s got eyes — what else, the color of melted chocolate!”
She noted that while the book has plenty of romance and some decidedly hot encounters, it is definitely not a romance novel. “It’s a story about a woman’s passion for her dancing and her discovery that art — and friends who do art — can help us heal from the worst of heartbreaks,” she said.
Ricci’s collaboration with her guitar teacher has led to a collaborARTive group of women artists — musicians, painters, writers, photographers — all of whom would support each other’s work. “We have teamed up with artist Kellie Meisl from Pittsfield, whose art is on the cover of the novel.” The cover art is actually one of her pieces, titled “Shattered Cups,” which was created for the 2009 Think Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Art Exhibit. (Meisl’s explanation behind the piece can be found in the back of the book.)
“Seeing Red” is not Ricci’s first book, though. Her first book, “Dreaming Maples,” was published in 2002. The mother-daughter novel takes place in a Vermont sugarbush and pits young Candace Burdett, an artist, against her mother, Eileen, who abandons Candace as an infant and returns to claim her daughter 10 years later. The book weaves around the diaries Eileen kept while pregnant with Candace.
Her first novel earned Ricci a nomination from a large New York publisher for a Pushcart Prize, which rewards a book that an editor feels is highly deserving of publication.
When Ricci’s not writing books, which she loves, or blogging, which she also loves, she enjoys writing columns and all sorts of feature articles for the Huffington Post. In addition, she has published several short stories in literary magazines around the country and actually has a third novel she finished, but is yet \unpublished.
She is also in the process of writing two other books, both on blogs and both connected. One is called “Sister Mysteries” (www.renata1883.blogspot.com) and the other is “Castenata” (www.castenata.blogspot.com).
“Blogs make it possible to do hyperlinks and also to accompany text with lovely images (I take photos and load them into the books). I am hoping to package these books at some point for an iPad format.”
This idea has inspired her to contact a company that is designing “apps” for the iPhone and iPad to see what it would cost.
“I would be very interested in publishing other novelists in this serialized format and I am exploring how it might be done in a cost-effective way,” said Ricci. “I believe heart and soul in publishing and in seeing stories told,” which is why she has her own community writing blog, My Story Lives (www.mystorylives.blogspot.com).
When asked about the future of serialization at Huffington Post, she said she certainly hopes they will start a fiction section and serialize other novels. But so far, she noted, they haven’t said anything about doing that.
However, Ricci has already been approached by another novelist from Missouri (who already has four books in print by major publishers) about serializing her book, “Spiritkeeper,” on Ricci’s blog.
“I plan to start publishing her book as soon as she is ready to begin sending chapters,” she said. “She has commissioned a dust jacket (cover image) precisely for this purpose!” Ricci’s also very interested in publishing other novelists in this format.
When asked about the future of print, especially for books, she said, “I believe that serialization, online and on phone apps are definitely a major part of the future of publishing. It’s been very common in Japan for some time now for people to read novels on their cell phones.
“I really really hate to think we will lose print books entirely. After all, print books are fabulous and wonderful. However, the publishing industry certainly seems to be moving quickly toward digital and electronic formats.”
As if Ricci hasn’t accomplished enough, she was also behind the success of a children’s book about the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy. She has had a small publishing company, Star Root Press, for 10 years and back in 2001, this children’s book fell into her hands at her synagogue in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She published the book, “On That Day” by Andrea Patel, and in six months, the book sold 3,000 copies. “Many many adults bought it as it was an amazing book,” said Ricci.
In January 2002, “Reading Rainbow” named it one of the most successful children’s books about the tragedy. Later that year, they sold the book to a larger publisher and you can now find the book at Amazon.com.
When Ricci teaches, she focuses a lot on storytelling, since she is, after all, a storyteller herself. “I tell my students that we may lose paper newspapers and we may lose books in paper form, but we will never stop telling stories. Storytelling is wired into the human brain; we make sense of the world by telling stories.”
Ricci will be signing actual print copies of her book, “Seeing Red,” at the Chatham Bookstore from 1 to 3 p.m. today. She noted she will probably do a reading around 1:45 p.m. And if you can’t make it to the book signing, be sure to read the serialized version of her book at huffingtonpost.com.