Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thanks, I'll take one!

(Many thanks to the creator of this stand. Thanks too to the blogger who shared it. Apologies for not knowing your names.)

Isn't this just the cure for everything?
Right out there on the fence line, inviting the passerby's to pick up a copy and enjoy the gift of poetry.
Better than a lemonade stand.
Better than a bench even.
Better than a basket of free apples.

Stop by any blog on the way to...and pick up a poem here, a story there, a recipe around the corner, a tool and a product to make your life better.
The only problem with this easy accessibility:
We forget how much work and blood and tears go into each poem, each story, each intellectual product we can access so easily, borrow, and transport away. Just like this picture! 
We pay for the lemonade.
We subsidize the bench maker.
We send thanks to the apple procurer.

Let's reward the artists properly. Let's tell them loudly and with numeration, that their work is most valuable, priceless, more important than anything else on the street!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Indie Books

"George Washington Crosby began to hallucinate eight days before he died." Such is the beginning,  the story of George and his father. Tinkers, by Paul Harding, won  the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. It is his debut novel.

Paragraphs are pages long.
Narratives are  jumbled; present and  past interwoven.
Third person  switches to first person.
Time passes, the clock stops,  hours are relived.

We learn about his life, George's, his father's, his children and grandchildren, his attempt to understand them, to record his thoughts and discover his words and the sound of his voice were nothing like he anticipated. We feel the weight of a life, the weight of regret, the times and places that defined that life.

We learn how to see clearly. How to take things apart and put them together, how clocks work, how pain and chill feel, how family and ties bind and strangle too.
We learn that language is a marvelous tool.

This is a first novel!
"Tinkers is an elegiac meditation on love, loss and the fierce beauty of nature." {Book jacket}

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Can't Talk about That.

I used to keep notebooks, journals, lists.
Now, I blog.
I blog to talk about what I don't talk about anywhere else.

Yet, when I sit to write here, on this page, to begin to  explore, talk about or allow my thoughts  to freely surface to a conscious level, I stop and stumble and get carried to other topics in no time. Curious, isn't it?
I feel that I have knowledge of myself and the  faraway place where I reside in my dreams, the  state of longing that doesn't appear often in the daytime.

Estranged from a homeland, from a mother tongue, from the patrimony of centuries, for me, the immigrant, the orphan, the out-of-place-you-sound-sofunny-whereareyoufrom, for me. these are the very things that want to surface and be witnessed. Yet, I can't talk about them.
There is a great big weight on  my shoulders that i can't put down.  I tried. I really did. And by writing a few stories, I thought I had expurgated and dug up the roots of my disquietude.

We all have these things we can't talk about.
We all shut down the very things that distinguish us.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Closed for winter and other signs.

In my lifetime, I have seen things change,  tool inventions, evolution in medicine, nutrition and transportation. I've seen the need for regular dental upgrades, kitchen upgrades, lawn upgrades and now computer upgrades.  We have become bionic men and women with glasses, implants, valves and supplements to enhance our performance and boost our morale.

Have we changed?  Could we still survive in the woods, away from civilization?

So, what happens to us when faced with habits and rituals we are not accustomed to?
What happens if we are here in this park in the middle of winter and we see this sign?
(Somebody thought the same thing. Hence, the next sign, guiding the visitor to the closest facility.An afterthought, I'm sure!)

It wouldn't bother me to find a hidden spot and take care of my needs in an emergency.  I have vague memories of such occasions as a child.  But my grandchild would not know that in an emergency, you take care of your needs expediently and not fuss and upset anyone.  My grandchild would panic. Not even out with camping buddies she ever had to heed mother nature, naturally.  She always had a contraption with fresh toilet paper.

I do wonder how and when we will forget to pick up real paper and write with a real pen.
Or, soon, pick up a real book, and hold it close, go back and forth from front to back page before
deciding to purchase it, unaided, without any warranty or recommendation, just because that tome had spoken to us, whispered a promise only we heard loud and clear.

I'm not rushing to buy a nook or a kindle. Or read the papers on line, for that same reason.
I'm going to sit down this weekend and write in long hand.
Cause I can!
Cause the word cause will be my choice and no program will under-red it and demand my attention.
Cause I still control what thoughts I share.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why can't it be easy?

Morning on the water. The camera captures the contrast in light, ripples in the water, lines and curves of familiar objects. The scene is recognizable, a ramp, a water scene, mountains in the distance, rocks and outcrops, a boat, a morning mood.

 I should be able to do the same with words. I should be able to frame my thoughts as in a photograph, with a main subject, a hint of light on the main focus area, and a whole side line of details to create the scene of the action. A cinematographer would know how to go from here to the next scene, perhaps on that boat, off that outcrop, in more sinister waters. A cinematographer will have read the script and know what the writer wanted to achieve, the mood, the pacing, the final conflict of man vs man or man vs nature story.  The writer, though, had to get it all down on paper with words.

It is not so easy for that writer. Writing works in some unpredictable ways in some people.
Take this exercise in bringing you this post.

First, I had the thought/feeling expressed by that title.
I wanted to talk about that.
I searched in my picture bank and I chose this picture.
The picture dictated the narrative in that first paragraph.

I had no idea of how the post would evolve, what it would contain.  It has become more like a child's painting, a stroke here, a recognition there, a aha moment of retracing and voila', if I just add a sun there, the picture is finished.

We actually don't know much in thought. We know more as we squeeze the thought out, as in a toothpaste tube, and shape it into words on paper, one thought at a time, stringing it and wrapping it to feel and smell and look like the topic stated in the title, the theme on the picture that started the whole process.

These impulses feel creative, but they come up short.

How do others get around to choosing a topic, providing the content, illustrating it, illuminating it with powerful imagery and metaphors.  How do you all do it, post after post, poem after poem, story after story?

Why can't writing be as easy as breathing, as easy as taking that photograph? 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Observations on the concept of duty.

For decades, ever since I was a young child, I felt good if I had a plan for getting chores done, homework completed, personal hygiene taken care of.  Going to bed with dirty dishes in the sink was never a good thing. Not brushing teeth through and through was never an option. That sense of duty ran deep in my veins, and I felt personal satisfaction with getting things done.

Now that I have plenty of leisure time, for sitting around and having many cups of coffee before anything has to happen, before my skills are needed somewhere, I should feel happy and contented under these conditions.
I don't.

The majority of times, I artificially look for things to do, for projects to oversee. Even with gardening, with so much to do, I  save things  for another day, so all my days feel full.

How ironic!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"A lyrical invitation."

This picture is the title page of my memoir, When I was your Age.

I chose pictures and titles  to entice you, invite you to come along with me on this beach, to share my life story with you.

It is a "lyrical invitation'.  The phrase belongs to David Orr, as he explains the art of memoir in his interview by Narrative Magazine on June 7th.

Do visit and reflect with him on this concept.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Write like you speak: Your voice

"Grandma, you talk like a teacher!"
Yes, I do! When I started writing my memoir, Jasmine, far right in this picture, my grandchild, was just a pre-teen. I shared a couple of entries with her and her reaction saved me lots of re-write.  I was not trying to sound like a teacher, but that's how I tended to talk in and out of the classroom.

I was writing these pieces for my family, and that comment of Jasmine helped me refocus.

Use your own voice, the person you are with your family. You are writing for them.
Unless, of course, you are a famous....and your publisher has assured you that your memoir will be sold by the millions of copies to all your adoring fans. What do they expect?  Your famous persona.

For most of us, that expectation is not there. We are who we are and we only have to please those people for whom these memoir pieces are written.

Write like you speak.
Write so your family can recognize you.
Write so you see your soul in the words you choose.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writing Memoir Pieces: Look for an overall theme.

You may recognize this picture from the masthead of sixtyfivewhatnow, my main blog.  It speaks volumes to me about who I am, what I'm doing in that blog.
Pictures you choose will appeal to you for some intrinsic and extrinsic motive. Yes, they will be about where you lived, how you lived, whom you loved, who loved you.

Most importantly, they say something about your perspective, your point of view, your angle of vision in your own life.
Let me illustrate this concept through  the picture above.

The camera is looking at both the water flowing, and the big boulders in the way.
The eye is moving upward, following the movement of the water.
The boulders are part of the passage the person is making through this territory to get to the next stage.
They are not impeding movement, they are to be navigated around or over.
For me, these boulders represent what we  encountered, will  encounter, as we flow like a river to the sea!
The images and the overall metaphor are ancient, classic.

Was your life a garden of delights? A torrent of desire?

Keep an image in mind as you choose pictures and artifacts that tell the story of your life through your experiences, your vision of what you hoped it would be, and how it turned out, and how you survived.

p.s. you don't have to chronicle everything. Choose what is most meaningful to you.