Fear in Writing: November 2010

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Thursday, November 25, 2010

New Writing Space

And now I wanted to share my new work space...
My husband ordered this desk for me and I added the Arshile Gorky print.  Something so beautiful should inspire me, right?

Happy Thanksgiving!  I am thankful for you all!  Write on...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Just thought I'd share my mood for today.

Happy Saturday!!!  Now let's get writing...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Writers writing something else

As a strange coincidence, I have books by three authors on my nightstand--and they are all out of genre for the writers!  Sunday night I began The Witch's Boy by Michael Gruber.  I've read his mystery/scyfy/thriller series featuring Detective Jimmy Paz.  But my favorites of this talented author are his art/history literary mysteries, including The Book of Air and Shadows and The Forgery of Venus.  I automatically bought The Witch's Boy without even reading the description because I'd read anything by Gruber.  Surprise!  It's a fantasy "retelling of classic fairy tales...the stunning new tale of a boy raised by a witch, a cat, a bear, and a demon" (books).  So far, it's really fascinating and magically intriguing.

Also on my endtable, John Grisham's Ford County and The Given Day by Dennis Lehane.  The latter isn't so much off-genre for the author as it is for me.  Lehane has written other historical dramas, including Coronado and the psychological thriller Shutter Island (books).  But it is still odd for me to have so many mystery writers' non-mystery books!

Do you find yourself exploring the off-basic exploits of your favorite authors?  Do you like it when an author tries something new?  Have you ever written off-genre?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Foreign Post Roundup

1. 10 Writing Pests by Elspeth Antonelli.  Her usual posting charm is in high gear for this post.

2.  Sex sells by Roland D. Yeoman.  Yes it does, and this post is an great take on the subject--plus some other hidden links.

3. Al shares his early life--and it IS a love story!

4. Prize and contest for December at Dangerous with a Pen! (And I'm sure your holiday month was looking empty and boring...) But one of the multitude of prizes is a very beautiful, handmade ornament. At least click over to see the designs!

5. Aaaahhh...the question on all our lips: what will Kate Middleton's title be when she marries a royal? This and other interesting monarchy facts right here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Writing...not writing. Blogging...not blogging.

So I wrote another scene on Thursday.  Hooray!  Felt good until I realized I couldn't find the notebook containing the scene I wrote a week ago!  Well...it'll work out.

But blogging?  I just can't seem to get back in the pocket.  The ideas aren't flowing...The bloghopping interest has waned a bit...

So, sorry.  I will come back.  It's just taking a bit longer than expected.

**BUT...This was written Friday night.  THEN I started hopping around some of your blogs and commenting...and I remembered how much I enjoyed the exchange of ideas.  I think I'm back!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Autumn in...Your Writing

Ok.  Reload.  One of those times.  What is it with this season?  The parties the holidays the school activities...the stress!  How does anyone write in Autumn?

And yet it's my favorite time of year!  The colors are so inspirational.  I want to spend every moment in the crisp, cool air.  People are nicer, stores are happier, children are storing up the good points for Christmas (right around the corner, btw).

But this is the first time I've sat down to write anything in more than a week.  Sadness.  Even my reading has dropped off to an average of 1 book/1.5 weeks.

When is your "busy" season?  How do you get through it?  Do you stop writing for a period, or struggle through?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Getting back to basics

It's been a long few weeks of constant movement.  Shuffling family members around.  Shuffling kids around.  Shuffling everything and everyone!  And, as you've probably noticed, I have been absent from most of your blogs.  The time just hasn't been there.

So, for a few days I am taking a vacation.  I am getting a weekend with my husband--much needed--and a weekend away from the blog.  I hope to come back to this, my writing, and my kids refreshed and revitalized.

See you Monday!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Art. Stolen. Writing.

Program in an Artistic Soiree, Study 1, Degas
I love art.  I love Abstract Expressionism and Cubism and Impressionism and Surrealism.  I love paintings and statues and pottery and mixed media.  I love what art brings to a space, to a life, to a moment.  I love what emotion can be contained within a piece of art--and what emotion lies in wait, only to be released upon interaction with a viewer.

Chez Tortini, Manet
 A few weeks ago, I began reading Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton.  It is a fascinating look at the different facets of the artistic realm through the eyes of an anthropologist.  She dissects the meaning, the purpose, the people, and even the locations of some of the most important events in art--museums, art schools, art magazines, auctions, biennales, and art shows.  It really opened my eyes to all the different planes that make up the complicated shape that is Art.

And in reading this book, I have awakened in myself a long subdued passion for the stuff--Art.  I DVR any art special that appeals--from Art & the City (unapologetically cheesy) to a documentary I watched just last night called 'Stolen.'  I subsribe to Artforum magazine.

The Concert, Vermeer
 'Stolen' is an award-winning film by Rebecca Dreyfus that follows renowned art detective Harold Smith as he tracks down 13 priceless works of art, all stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  It was "the largest art heist in modern times"  (stolenthefilm.com).   Among them, Vermeer's 'The Concert,' "one of only 35 of the masters surviving works"  and "the world's most valuable missing painting."  A tragic loss for the world and a fascinating story of something that shouldn't have happened.  Involving murder, ex-con art thiefs, an eye-patch wearing detective, smuggling, and 16th century paint chips mailed to a reporter--this story has all the pieces of a great mystery.

And it has revived my desire to write an art mystery book.  I have read many, some disappointing, some quite fascinating.  But could I do it?  I don't know.  But I want to!  Not yet...someday.

What world inspires you?  What realm do you long to break into through writing?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Missing Pieces

Storytelling is an art.  Perhaps the oldest art.  It is a way to live on after death.  It is a way to impact the next generation and those beyond them.  It is important.

We tell stories in my house.  But it started before us...My father was a storyteller.  Some were fantastic and a little jaw-dropping in this current age (like the brother who died because his hair got stuck in the tub drain--to get us to keep our long hair away from it while bathing), while others made us giggle with wonder (like the dozens of variations on Grizzly Adams and the Indian Chief looking for his son Falling Rock--you know, like the road sign: 'Watch for Falling Rock.')  Now he shares his crazy mind with my children, and they love "Papa's" stories.

So we tell stories.  I make my kids superheroes and animal whisperers, great adventurers, pilots, artists, and ballerinas.  They have been around the world through our stories.  They have battled Transformers and befriended lions, tamed snakes, and saved many'a'zoo.

And now my 2yo daughter is picking up the torch.  Unfortunately, her favorite place to tell stories is on the swing.  This means that I hear the tale like a Jim Carrey balcony scene: every other phrase is missing.  For instance yesterday, a prince and a princess were dancing.  Then, all of a sudden, the princess was in a spider web!  I didn't get to hear the action that brought her to this scary fate.

This phenomenon made me think...What if we leave too much out of our narrative?  There is no reason to show a character's every move from plot start to plot end.  But leave out too much, and the reader can become lost.  'How did MC get here?  Why did he go here?' they might wonder.

I recently finished a book that left me feeling a little like this.  It is a book I had long anticipated as the author is widely sold (internationally) and respected.  Jo Nesbø's Nemesis struck me this way.  It wasn't necessarily action that was missing, but more the feeling that I was missing some information.  And then there would be a paragraph I'd have to reread because I was sure I had skipped a page, but hadn't.

In this case, it very well could have been the translation.  But...will I read another Nesbø?  Because of his reputation, yes.  But not as quickly as I would have.  Will I continue to listen to my daughter's stories?  Of course!  But only because she is my daughter.  If a career storyteller told them in every other sentence fashion, I wouldn't stick around.

How about you?  Do you struggle with how much action to include and how much to leave out?  Have you ever read an author who has this problem?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chewing what you bite

So you fill your schedule.  You have multiple kids.  You have a mortgage.  You have responsibilities.  You have desires and dreams.  And you have something in every category that has to be done this week.

Now, many who know me might say I am the last person from whom you should take time management advice.  I am often frazzled leaving the house, at least five minutes late for appointments (usually the fun ones, like coffee with friends), and even let the stress affect other parts of my life.

But, like right now, I can't go back on the promises I've made or the events I have planned.  It's a busy time of year for anyone, and for us it is exacerbated by the kids and their parties and needs.  (Don't worry, I'm not one of those moms who has my kids in a million activities.  They are just 2 and 5, and only one of them does Fall and Spring soccer--nothing else yet!)

So, if you can't cut back on the things you have to accomplish, and you can't change the time in which you have to do them, what do you do?  Do you take your kids to school late?  Do you push your editor for a later date to turn in your MS? 


You find a way.

You (oh, yeah, I'm gonna use the big word) organize.  There's really no other way to do it.  We live nearly 30 minutes from my children's school, so I have to take certain precautions to not have crazy mornings.  Precautions such as making lunches the night before, prepping the coffee to automatically brew in the AM--those things make it possible to do everything (having a great husband helps.)

For writing, we prep our supplies so they're ready when we have a moment to scribble--notebook and/or recorder in purse, computer plugged in near the biggest kid distraction--the TV, outline stored on the desktop for easy clicking, editor's and publisher's numbers on speed dial.  Whatever your plan, just having one gives you an edge. 

What is your plan?  Do you have time to chew what you bite?  Or are you overextended?  If so, what can you cut?  What suffers?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Beat poetry for your weekend

A work friend sent this poem to me Friday night and I loved it so much I decided to share it.  Considering the Literary Movement Series: Beat Generation had the most traffic of any post I've ever published, I thought you all would like it.

Keep in mind the institution against which the Beats were fighting, the staid lifestyle by which they were surrounded.  Then think about life today.  How much of this is still applicable?  There is a question for thought at the end...

'Marriage' by Gregory Corso

Should I get married? Should I be good?

Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?
Don't take her to movies but to cemeteries
tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets
then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries
and she going just so far and I understanding why
not getting angry saying You must feel! It's beautiful to feel!
Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone
and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky-

When she introduces me to her parents
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie,
should I sit with my knees together on their 3rd degree sofa
and not ask Where's the bathroom?
How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap-
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?

Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we're losing a daughter
but we're gaining a son-
And should I then ask Where's the bathroom?

O God, and the wedding! All her family and her friends
and only a handful of mine all scroungy and bearded
just wait to get at the drinks and food-
And the priest! he looking at me as if I masturbated
asking me Do you take this woman for your lawful wedded wife?
And I trembling what to say say Pie Glue!
I kiss the bride all those corny men slapping me on the back
She's all yours, boy! Ha-ha-ha!
And in their eyes you could see some obscene honeymoon going on-
Then all that absurd rice and clanky cans and shoes
Niagara Falls! Hordes of us! Husbands! Wives! Flowers! Chocolates!
All streaming into cozy hotels
All going to do the same thing tonight
The indifferent clerk he knowing what was going to happen
The lobby zombies they knowing what
The whistling elevator man he knowing
Everybody knowing! I'd almost be inclined not to do anything!
Stay up all night! Stare that hotel clerk in the eye!
Screaming: I deny honeymoon! I deny honeymoon!
running rampant into those almost climactic suites
yelling Radio belly! Cat shovel!
O I'd live in Niagara forever! in a dark cave beneath the Falls
I'd sit there the Mad Honeymooner
devising ways to break marriages, a scourge of bigamy
a saint of divorce-

But I should get married I should be good
How nice it'd be to come home to her
and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen
aproned young and lovely wanting my baby
and so happy about me she burns the roast beef
and comes crying to me and I get up from my big papa chair
saying Christmas teeth! Radiant brains! Apple deaf!
God what a husband I'd make! Yes, I should get married!
So much to do! Like sneaking into Mr Jones' house late at night
and cover his golf clubs with 1920 Norwegian books
Like hanging a picture of Rimbaud on the lawnmower
like pasting Tannu Tuva postage stamps all over the picket fence
like when Mrs Kindhead comes to collect for the Community Chest
grab her and tell her There are unfavorable omens in the sky!
And when the mayor comes to get my vote tell him
When are you going to stop people killing whales!
And when the milkman comes leave him a note in the bottle
Penguin dust, bring me penguin dust, I want penguin dust-

Yes if I should get married and it's Connecticut and snow
and she gives birth to a child and I am sleepless, worn,
up for nights, head bowed against a quiet window, the past behind me,
finding myself in the most common of situations a trembling man
knowledged with responsibility not twig-smear nor Roman coin soup-
O what would that be like!
Surely I'd give it for a nipple a rubber Tacitus
For a rattle a bag of broken Bach records
Tack Della Francesca all over its crib
Sew the Greek alphabet on its bib
And build for its playpen a roofless Parthenon

No, I doubt I'd be that kind of father
Not rural not snow no quiet window
but hot smelly tight New York City
seven flights up, roaches and rats in the walls
a fat Reichian wife screeching over potatoes Get a job!
And five nose running brats in love with Batman
And the neighbors all toothless and dry haired
like those hag masses of the 18th century
all wanting to come in and watch TV
The landlord wants his rent
Grocery store Blue Cross Gas & Electric Knights of Columbus
impossible to lie back and dream Telephone snow, ghost parking-
No! I should not get married! I should never get married!
But-imagine if I were married to a beautiful sophisticated woman
tall and pale wearing an elegant black dress and long black gloves
holding a cigarette holder in one hand and a highball in the other
and we lived high up in a penthouse with a huge window
from which we could see all of New York and even farther on clearer days
No, can't imagine myself married to that pleasant prison dream-

O but what about love? I forget love
not that I am incapable of love
It's just that I see love as odd as wearing shoes-
I never wanted to marry a girl who was like my mother
And Ingrid Bergman was always impossible
And there's maybe a girl now but she's already married
and I don't like men and-
But there's got to be somebody!
Because what if I'm 60 years old and not married,
all alone in a furnished room with pee stains on my underwear
and everybody else is married! All the universe married but me!

Ah, yet well I know that were a woman possible as I am possible
then marriage would be possible-
Like SHE in her lonely alien gaud waiting her Egyptian lover
so i wait-bereft of 2,000 years and the bath of life.

Here is Corso reading the poem:

Do you fight any institutions or mores in your writing?  Do you take on social norms or even political entities?  Do you create something to fight against, but find it is a stand-in for a very real subject?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Write what you don't see

I thought of a writing exercise today.  I was sitting in my car with the rain beating down, crashing against the metal and sliding down the windshield, and I thought, I could write this scene.  Then I thought, But how hard is that?  Any half-decent writer can describe what they see.  The challenge is to create something unseen.

So, for a writing exercise (if you're looking for one), I propose you sit somewhere with a notepad (a computer can be rather distracting), take in your surroundings, and then write the opposite.  Maybe not the direct opposite, but try to imagine everything different.

You could change the seasons, you could change the weather, you could change your house from a 1-bedroom walkup to a 3-storey townhouse on the river in Boston...Or you could make it fantastic!  Why couldn't the leaves be pink or the rain be alien gore?

Anyway, it's just an exercise I thought of and wanted to share.  As you know, setting is very important to me as a writer and reader.

Also...I apologize for not being around the blog world or posting much this week.  My in-laws dropped in for a surprise visit and with Halloween weekend and other things, it has been super crazy.  Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Bad Trip

My five-year-old son loves books. Jake can’t yet read, but he loves to hear the stories and make up his own. On Monday, he was looking at the back cover of a Berenstain Bears book on the way home from school. For those unfamiliar with these now-classic children's books, the back cover is a grid of more than 30 thumbnail pics from all the titles in the series. During this particular car ride, Jake jumped from thumbnail to thumbnail, making up names for all the books based on the pictures. Titles like Too Much TV and The Bad Habit became ‘Trouble with TVs’ and ‘The Bad Bear Nail Biters’. When he arrived at one that shows the Bear family on vacation, Jake call out, “‘The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Trip’!"  

I choked on my coffee. Visions of stoned Sister Bear and hallucinating Mama danced in my head. Well, danced very slowly. I could even envision the cover: psychedelic colors in a swirly tie-dye pattern backdropping a droopy-eyed Bear family surrounded by Cheese-Its and empty soda bottles.

Obviously, this wasn't what Jake meant when he said ‘The Bad Trip’. But how often do we say something that could be misconstrued? When it’s intentional we call it a double entendre. When we don't we might label it Freudian slip. But when we write it into a novel...Oops?

I wish I had a great example from the many I have read over the years. I can only think of settings. Say you're writing a very serious situation, but you have the female lead say, "It's very hard!" while hugging the male protagonist. Is she talking about the horribly emotional and energy-draining dilemma in which she is embroiled? Or is her scene partner very well-endowed and excited to share it?

Have you ever read a ‘Bad Trip’-esque slip in a book? Have you caught a ‘it’s very hard’ moment in your own writing?