Saturday, May 26, 2012
Dear readers and writers,
I've been reminded several times lately that things-out-of-place make a great theme for writing. One reminder was in my Pomona College Magazine, where I read about Angolan students studying in Portugal when Portugal embarked on slaughter of Angolans in Angola. You may have read Heart of Darkness by Conrad in one of your literature classes. It was about the Portuguese occupation of the Congo, the next door neighbor of Angola. When the dictator and his henchmen recollected the ones studying in Portugal, would they be far behind? So the story was about a man who spent days driving batches of these students across Spain to France, where they could get papers and receive protection. It was riveting. I mean, I started reading it in the bathroom when I was about to go to bed and could not stop, no matter how sleepy I had thought I was.
The next reminder was my reading in preparation for our trip to the inland passage mentioned in my last posting. As the glacial ice disappears, the ocean rises and the safety of animals that cross the glacier decreases. The animals WERE in their place but the place has changed so much it's no longer safe. So now, home is out of place, a scary concept for thirsty humans living in a big city in desert country; a concept that made me write a few sad poems lately.
The third reminder was my husband's shoes. We both take off our shoes in the house, but unlike the Japanese people, we don't keep them on a rack by the door. Each of us has a favorite spot. But sometimes, they come off elsewhere and then when we need them, they're elusive. It almost seems as if they're hiding on purpose. What if they did? So goes a funny little microfiction.
Think about the sand in the oyster when you're looking for inspiration. Things out of their normal places make great story or poem starters.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Dear readers and writers,
We've just decided to go up the Inland Passage of Alaska this summer, after talking about it from time to time for years. We worry that waiting much longer will erode the glaciers too much and there may be nothing to see. The glaciers seem to believe there is global warming; they are retreating a noticeable amount every year.
I don't know if you've seen pictures of the Inland Passage or Glacier Bay, but the azure ice rises a thousand feet above you and ice bergs split off with thunderous booms and float away. The cold water is a deep blue, not the anemic grey-blue foamy ocean I grew up knowing from Myrtle Beach, SC or even the aqua-then-navy shading of La Jolla's beach. It's such a deep color it's hard to photograph successfully, I've been told. I don't know why this scenery has captured my imagination so thoroughly, but it may have something to do with the dolphin and whale games I used to play with my kids. Anyway, this will be one for my bucket list for sure. No doubt, it will show up in a story or poem soon.
Do you plan to go somewhere that will stimulate your imagination this summer? I hope so!
Photo from Wikipedia/Creative Commons with thanks.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Dear readers and writers,
I've just sent off my novel, The Bad Project, for a cover-to-cover review, and I'm feeling tumultuous again. This is the third time I've sent the text of one of my books to someone this way. I can't call what I feel anticipation or fear, it's a mixture of both.
It's the shoulder daemon, you see. When he's in his editor phase, he tells me so clearly that I cannot write beautiful prose, that it's full of errors, that it stumbles when it should fly. But when he is in his writer phase, he can't wait to see what the characters can do any more than I can, and he tells me how fascinating they are, and how well the things they do reveal their deeper selves. And even how well I've written about them at times. There's no way I can tell which phase has the upper hand on the truth. But an outsider, a knowledgeable reader, my reviewer'll know for sure.
So, I throw salt over my shoulder, cross my eyes at the evening star, cross my fingers, eschew my husband's lucky number (13), etc and feel on edge. It's not reasonable that the ms has even arrived and I'm already nervous. No one can read it as fast as I'd like this to be over. I tell myself to calm down, breathe deeply. I rub my feet with hand cream. I stretch. I answer old emails that I've almost forgotten about. Is it still the same day? Egads.
Image: Comedy and Tragedy masks from mosaic at Hadrian's Villa, Creative Commons with thanks.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Hi readers and writers,
Yesterday, I moderated a panel on "Blogging to Increase Sales" at the Biographers' International Conference, held this year at University of Southern California. My panelists were Beverly Gray of Beverly in Movieland blog and author of Roger Corman, An Unauthorized Life; Scott Martelle, author of Detroit: A Biography; and Mark Sarvas of the famous literary blog, The Elegant Variation, and the novel Harry, Revised. Each of the panelists agreed that blogging doesn't produce a noticeable spike in book sales. NO, OUR TITLE IS WRONG!
What blogging does is to provide a platform, a way to connect with many potential readers interested in your subject, and a road to publication. These are all valuable services, but not ones that directly link to sales. Yet, the audience still was interested and eager to learn the ins and outs of blogging, how much, how often, how tantalizing, how snarky, how you-relevant, how historical, how up-to-the-minute, how well written? We discussed all that and more. Like the rest of the workshops at this super meeting, it was well worth attending.
I recommend the conference next year and into the future if you're interested in writing about lives or even if you will only use biographical material in passing in your writing. A lot of the sessions were more general than just about biography.