Valencic fondly remembers the local toy store, Toy Chest, where her brothers and sisters would buy "toys and kites and yo-yos," and the record shop next door where they would spend hours browsing the 45s and LPs.
Some days, she said, they would ride their bikes along the street, looping around the blocks until they were breathless. Other days they would climb the old evergreen trees in the park. Sundays it was always the same: the Mountain View Theater for the matinee. The children would scroll around the block, lined up with their five cents in hand to see the double bill.
"Those were wonderful times," Valencic said recently, "that generation, the '50s and '60s, it was a good time to grow up, a safe time."
Valencic is nostalgic not only in conversation, but on the page. Now living in Las Vegas, the Chinese-American writer recently released a collection of poems reflecting on her years growing up in Mountain View during those years.
Her poems, she says, are a store for her memories — such as the one from 12 years old, when she went door to door collecting for the March of Dimes.
"Being that age," she recalls, "I still believed that the world was good and that people were generous. But no one gave! Every house I stopped at, they shut their doors."
Still she kept on. At dusk, empty handed, she came up to a shabby old house, its windows stained with rust. Hesitantly, she knocked. To the door came an old man, grinning to see her.
"And from the back room he brought me a coffee can of pennies that he had been saving. Can you imagine? That's been with me for all these years; that you can't judge by the look of things."
Valencic says she knew from a young age that she wanted to write. As a child she was different from her brothers and sisters, who were content to color books or watch television. She would go out into the backyard and swing by herself or sit by the koi pond, watching the light reflect off the water.
"It was a time to be alone," she says, "and that's what writers do, we need to have time to be alone and to create." Writing, she feels, is a natural extension of her self and a way of making sense of the world. When you're a writer, she says, "You write everywhere, you write anything. ... Your thoughts just run down to your hands, just naturally you do it and naturally you have to do it."
Valencic's collection of poems, "When the House Was Bright Pink," arose out of a desire to share her childhood memories with her brothers and sisters and with others of her generation.
Her style, she says, is inspired by Ogden Nash, the late American poet known for his pithy light verse. The way Valencic tells it, she came upon Nash almost by accident. On a whim, she bought a collection of his at a second-hand shop and just as whimsically filed it away. When she picked the book again up a couple years ago, it brightened her spirits, moving her "to lift up the pen and start writing poems again." Nash, she says, is what really got her rhyming.
To read excerpts of her poems, or to order "When the House Was Bright Pink," visit www.jcvstudios.com.
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