About Kimberly Kurth Gray

As a writer and editor, I am always looking for a great story. I am the 2009 winner of the William F. Deeck/ Malice Domestic grant for unpublished writers and a Hruska Fellowship finalist as well as a Wellstone Emerging Writer Fellowship winner.My latest short story, In the Darkness of the Woods, can be found in the Mindful Writers'anthology Into the Woods.

Mindful Writing

By Kim in Baltimore, reading fascinating short stories.

A few years ago I joined a group called the Mindful Writers. Each year I attend two retreats, one in the fall and the other in spring, where I am able to write for hours in peace and take hikes and meditate. These have been some of the most glorious times of my life.

Last year the group decided to compile some of our writings into a book and the result is Into The Woods. All of the proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to The Children’s Heart Foundation. I have invited Lori M. Jones, Ramona Long and Kathleen Shoop to the blog to share with our readers more about this wonderful anthology and why this foundation matters to our group.

Lori’s Story               .FullSizeRender (6)

In 2005, I was pregnant with what appeared to be a healthy baby girl. Then at a routine 24 week check-up, the doctor said, “I can’t find your baby’s heartbeat.” When the doctor finally did it was only at half the rate the heartbeat should have been. There are 40 known heart defects, and she was diagnosed with one of them – Complete Heart Block – which is a defect in the heart’s electrical system. She would need a pacemaker as an infant in order to survive. She is now 12, on her second pacemaker, and doing very well. But when she was a baby, I had no idea what her future would entail, or more specifically, how she’d handle being different. I dissected my emotions through writing which led to me being offered a contract for my first children’s book – Riley’s Heart Machine – about a girl dealing with being different from her peers because she has heart machinery.

I searched for a heart charity to donate some of the proceeds to which led me to discovering the amazing work of The Children’s Heart Foundation. I eventually became more involved with the charity, from chairing the Pittsburgh Congenital Heart Walk and sitting on the PA Chapter board and the national board to eventually leading the PA Chapter as its president.

Since writing Riley’s Heart Machine, I’ve traveled to schools delivering assemblies on Writing from the Heart and have published another book, Confetti the Croc, which celebrates our unique qualities. I also have written two novels, Renaissance of the Heart and Late for Fate.

One of the best gems I discovered in my writing journey was The Mindful Writing Group. Through the discipline of writing together, I was able to complete my manuscripts. More importantly, I have found my tribe!

The anthology means so much to me because it’s a full circle moment for me. This book was a chance to join forces with all of my tribe members and create one beautiful project. And then they told me the proceeds were going to The Children’s Heart Foundation, to help the very charity that was fighting to make sure my daughter and other children have a bright future.

Kathleen Shoop on why the anthology is titled Into the WoodsIMG_6751.PNG

Into the Woods was a natural outgrowth for us, The Mindful Writers Retreat Authors. We write together a lot – in person and online. After years of retreating together we decided it was time to create something, a sound bite of the variety of voices that make up the group.

An anthology is a fabulous way for authors to pool their energy into a project while maintaining independence in what each person produces for the book. The collection creates a unique and vibrant body of work that can be read in short spurts or in its entirety. The theme – Into the Woods – seemed like the perfect idea for The Mindful Retreat Authors’ first collaboration since so much inspiration, ideas and wonder has grown out of our times in the lovely woods.

Ramona Long on why she wanted to be the editor of this anthology

I volunteered to edit Into the Woods because I wanted to support The Children’s  Heart Foundation and this was a way I could do that. Like any anthology, working with a group of authors is always a learning experience, but I was particularly happy to work with this group because we are so closely bonded as Mindful Writers. We are all a part of one another’s stories, in a way.

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Dear Readers, thank you for joining us today. Please share your stories about a group or organization that is close to your own heart.

The Detective’s Daughter – The Importance of the Dinner Table.

On Sunday I met my mom for Mother’s Day brunch at one of my favorite coffee shops, The Filling Station. As we sat around the table chatting with my children I was reminded of all the happy dinners I had growing up. Our kitchen was always filled with people and everyone was welcome.               .FullSizeRender (1)

There is something magical about a table. You gather around to share stories and secrets and many times the meal becomes secondary to the conversation. It’s the gathering together of friends and family that remain in our memories long after the menu has been forgotten.                FullSizeRender

As we grow older and families move away or pass on, we gather with friends. My book club meets each month around one of our tables, regardless of how cozy and comfortable a living room might appear, it’s the table we gravitate to.  I look forward to the evenings I spend with friends and family, whether it is the girls I grew up with or my wickedly wonderful cozy sisters here on the blog. Though our times together are infrequent, they are meaningful and cherished by me. FullSizeRender (2)

So, dear reader, make the time to share a meal with someone you love or like or maybe even just want to know a little better. It is the community we find around the table that really nourishes us.

 

What was your most memorable dinner conversation? Who is the person, living or dead, you would want to invite to your dinner table?

 

The Detective’s Daughter :The New York Trip Part 1

We are having a technical problem this morning. Earlier comments have been lost and you may get a second message announcing this post. We apologize for any inconvenience!

Kim, back in Baltimore, planning the next getaway.

Last month I visited one of my favorite cities, New York. I try to get there at least twice a year. Though I’m not fond of crowds or the Times Square hubbub, the West Village has wrapped itself around my heart. It was the Jane Hotel that first introduced me to this lovely neighborhood several years ago.

The Jane Hotel, designed by William A. Boring and opened in 1908 as a hotel for sailors, is not only a beautiful and inexpensive place to stay but is rich with history. More than 100 survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel during the American Inquiry into the sinking of the ocean liner in 1912. The sailors felt right at home in the cabin-like rooms.

I stay in a “Captain’s” room usually on the third floor with a view of the Hudson River. The rooms are a fair size though not overly large, but you could swim in the bathtubs! The Jane also has a restaurant and a nightclub. Even if you’re not a “clubbier” it is worth going to see the Victorian architecture.

In the late 1980’s RuPaul lived in the “penthouse” apartment which is now the rooftop bar. Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Million Dollar Club were among the bands who performed there in the 1990’s.

As much as I love New York, I believe I really go just to stay at the Jane. Everything else is a bonus.

Readers, Join me next month to learn about all the fabulous places I visited when I was able to drag myself from the hotel. In the meantime, please share your favorite hotel experience.

The Detective’s Daughter — Snow! Snow! Snow!

Kim, in Baltimore, watching her cement steps crumble under layers of salt.

When I was about seven years old, don’t even ask me what year that was, we had an incredible snowstorm. The snow was piled so high we had to tunnel through it. Now granted, I was a little kid, so the snow banks might not have been quite that impressive to the adults, but it was bad enough that everything in Baltimore was shut down and the National Guard was transporting all medical personnel and law enforcement to work.

Nana, Mom, and I stood at the door and watched as Daddy climbed up into a truck that had wheels almost as tall as my father. You see these over-sized trucks everywhere today – don’t even get me started on that! – but back then, other than a tractor trailer, people did not drive these types of vehicles. A man inside had to help pull Daddy in. I remained there as the truck drove away, its tires crunching across the ground breaking the cold silence.

The snow days of my childhood were thrilling, filled with hot chocolate, popcorn and endless hands of 500 Rummy. If Daddy wasn’t called into work, he would pull me on my sled or we would walk our St. Bernard, Barney, to the park. I can’t recall one time my parents rushing out to the grocery store or any of our television programs being interrupted by a haggard looking weather forecaster predicting doom.

My family loves snow, though we don’t get very much of it here in Baltimore. Just seeing the snowflake symbol pop up on my phone brings a smile to my face and I rush to my pantry to make sure I have our snowy day essentials. Coffee, cocoa, popcorn and the ingredients for a hearty soup or dumplings are always available.

Now my own children are grown. They no longer sit on the stairs anxiously awaiting to hear if their school is closed. They don’t need any assistance with their coats or boots and mostly know where they’ve left their gloves and hats.

Last Saturday night I sat near the window, my coffee mug in hand, and watched as heavy wet snowflakes dropped from the sky. The yard was empty, but in my heart two beautiful children ran with their dog and flung themselves on the ground to make snow angels.

One of my favorite movie scenes is from White Christmas. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Allen are on a train headed for Vermont. While sitting in the dining car they create a winter wonderland on their table and sing of their love of snow. That’s how I feel. While others may be counting the days to spring, I am hoping for one more snow day.

Dear Reader: Do you love or dread snow? What is your fondest snow day memory?

The Detective’s Daughter — The Ornaments of Christmas

Kim in Baltimore decking the halls…and every other room!

It has taken me nearly three weeks to decorate our tree. This project began the day after Thanksgiving and our tree is not that big. The problem is me. I need to reminisce over each ornament then find exactly the right place for it to hang. Maybe by Christmas Eve it will be finished.

Growing up in the house in South Baltimore, we had two Christmas trees. One was downstairs in my grandparents’ apartment and the other was upstairs in our apartment. Both were artificial and I was an adult before I realized people could have live trees other than in movies.

Nana had a beautiful silver tree that sat on a table she sometimes gift wrapped. The ornaments were all silver like the tree, but changed colors as the color wheel turned.

Mom’s tree was a traditional green wrapped in colored bubble lights and adorned with ornaments that she and I (and sometimes Daddy) had made. We would sit at the kitchen table and paint wooden gingerbread men, angels and houses. There was also a trio of angels made from feathers. They were my favorites.

As I decorate my own tree I remember all these stories and how each lovely ornament came into my possession. There are the ornaments I was given by my students when I taught Kindergarten, the little things my own children have made, and the ones we’ve collected on our travels. Still, after all these years, it’s the ornaments I have kept from my childhood that truly mean Christmas to me.

I have recently found a beaded lady Nana made and have added that to my tree this year along with a snow-covered house my son bought for me last year. New items to hang beside old favorites. I still have one more box left of ornaments and though my family will say we have enough and the tree looks good, it isn’t finished until all the boxes are empty and the garland is draped over the branches.

I wish each of you a happy holiday season!

Dear readers: Do you have a favorite holiday ornament or tradition? Please share it with us.

The Detective’s Daughter – Hollywood Glamour

Good morning – we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming with a special announcement!

The winners of the Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker contests are:

Gail Arnold (Shannon’s winner)
Ann Mason (Jess’s winner)

Gail and Ann, message us your emails on the WCA Facebook page and we’ll put you in touch.

Now, over to Kim!

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Kim in Baltimore melting from the intense heat.

A few months ago I read a book called Design for Dying by Renee Patrick which I highly recommend. I love reading about old Hollywood and show business, in fact I’m a bit obsessed with it. I blame my grandmother. She had subscriptions to Photoplay magazine and Rona Barrett’s Hollywood. We spent hours – and I do mean hours – flipping through the glossy pages covered with updates on everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Paul Newman. While other girls on my block were dreaming of Robby Benson and Parker Stevenson, I was setting my alarm to get up at 3am to see a Robert Mitchum movie. The best nights were the ones where a Barbara Stanwyck film followed.
As much as I enjoyed the movies and magazines, what I really loved were imageNana’s stories of her older brother Al. Al was a bandleader who had his own club in the D. C. area in the 1940’s. I was fascinated with the photos of his orchestra and the many acts that had performed in his club. I could picture William Powell and Myrna Loy sipping martinis and watching as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glided around the dance floor.image
Just like all good Hollywood pictures, Al Norton’s life had a dramatic end. Nana told me many times how her brother, dejected by the woman he loved, died of a broken heart in his kitchen. Many years later I found a newspaper clipping about his death that revealed the truth; it wasn’t so much his broken heart that killed him as it was the gas on his stove he had purposefully turned on. Nana would never admit to that, but would tell me two notes were left. She burned hers after reading it.image
Though I never met this man, he has been a great influence on my life; from the books I read to the cocktails I drink. When I find a delightful book like Design for Dying or watch I Love Lucy reruns, I can’t help wishing to be sent back to that glamorous era.

Readers,
If you could be transported back in time, where would you want to go? Would you want to meet one of your ancestors or a famous historical figure?

The Detective’s Daughter – The Summer Reading List

 

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Kim in Baltimore surviving the heat.

What do Jaws, The Eye of the Needle, Where Are the Children, and Valley of the Dolls have in common? They are a few of the books I remember my mom reading when I was a child. Every day, whether she was sitting on the front steps or in the car waiting for Dad to come out of work, Mom was always reading a book.

Last summer, as I was moseying about in the East Village, I picked up a well-worn copy of Rosemary’s Baby in The Strand. By the next day I’d read it cover to cover. Rosemary’s Baby is one of my favorite movies and I remembered Mom reading the book years ago.image
Each week we took a trip to the Enoch Pratt library where Mom would walk out with an armful of novels she’d have read long before our next visit. By the time I was fourteen we were both reading Mary Higgens Clark, Phyllis Whitney and Barbara Michaels.

Throughout the years I’ve read Gone With the Wind more times than I can count. I have Mom’s battered copy locked on the shelves of my desk. I take it out just to hold sometimes, remembering Mom sitting in her folding chair, with her cigarettes and iced tea at her side, flipping the pages of the latest book she’d borrowed.

Dad was not much of a reader other than the morning and Sunday editions of The Baltimore Sun. However, one week Mom checked out The Godfather from the library and before she had her iced tea poured and her cigarette lit, Dad was absorbed in the novel. It’s the only book Mom and I ever recall seeing Dad read.

I’ve thought often about the books Mom has read and decided this summer to make them my reading list. I could cross off Rosemary’s Baby and Gone With the Wind; they are books I will read time and again. It wasn’t hard to come up with titles, but I needed to keep it compact. There’s only so many weeks in summer! Here’s what I came up with:image

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Jaws by Peter Benchley
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett
Neither Five Nor Three by Helen MacInnes
Window on the Square by Phyllis A. Whitney
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carre

I’ve finished reading Valley of the Dolls and am well into the Phyllis Whitney book. I unfortunately began watching Mad Men the same time I was reading Dolls. It was depressing reading and seeing how little freedom and respect women were given. I don’t think I can bring myself to watch another episode of Mad Men!

As I’ve compiled these books and read through them I’ve thought about what these titles say about my mom. Why do we select the titles that we do? Why are some inclined to read only mystery while others enjoy the classics? Is the genre you prefer inherited or learned?
I spoke to Mom this morning and asked her why she chose certain books. “They seemed interesting,” she said. She wasn’t particularly aware if they were best sellers or if a movie deal was in the works, she just enjoyed reading. I think that’s the part I inherited.
Hope you’re enjoying your summer reading.

Readers: Please share with us the titles of books you have read more than once and why.