Archive for June, 2009

The Mad Tea Party — Pull Up A Chair.
June 24, 2009

Image courtesy of AllPosters.com, Mad Tea Party

Image courtesy of AllPosters.com, The World’s Largest Poster and Print Store.

Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. `I don’t quite understand you,’ she said, as politely as she could.

`The Dormouse is asleep again,’ said the Hatter, and he poured a little hot tea upon its nose.

The Dormouse shook its head impatiently, and said, without opening its eyes, `Of course, of course; just what I was going to remark myself.’

`Have you guessed the riddle yet?’ the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.

`No, I give up,’ Alice replied: `what’s the answer?’

`I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter.

`Nor I,’ said the March Hare.

At times it feels like being a writer means a guaranteed seat at the Mad Tea Party. When the words you committed to the page so proudly yesterday read like the Dormouse talking in its sleep today, and plot holes looming as large as sinkholes threaten to suck down your house and family, that’s when you know your coffee has been replaced with Mad Hatter tea.

See? There’s the March Hare, cocking his head and regarding you quite peculiarly. There’s the Mad Hatter, (to your dismay), happily eating your partial with butter and jam.

Enter those doubting moments, those crises of confidence as you look around the table, taking in the Dormouse asleep in his chair with his fuzzy chin resting in a tea cup. Hopefully my real readers won’t fall asleep like that, you think, or use one of my pages for a bib, like the March Hare.

Is some of it good? we plead with ourselves as we hover around the computer, afraid to read it back. Please let some of it be good! Or, if you’ve just finished a novel, wondering, Can I do it again, can I really pull this off? Maybe I’m just a big-old fraud and someone’s going to figure it out any second now!

You may be interested to know that many writers, from the struggling to the renowned, have their Mad Tea Party moments. The excerpts below are from the book, Writing In Flow: keys to enhanced creativity by Susan K. Perry.

Few writers, of course, are completely predictable in their psychological tenor, and time spent creating isn’t always euphoric. As novelist Hilma Wolitzer says, writing is a “sickening joy.” Aimee Liu told me, “I mean there’s a certain amount of anxiety that I’m just not going to be able to pull it off.” Likewise, novelist Susan Taylor Chehak describes her seesawing mood:

“I love what I do. I don’t think there’s anybody happier with what they do. I get to lie around and read novels, I get to teach classes and talk about books. You caught me on a good day, though. … I’m ready to jump out a window a lot of times. It comes and goes. There’s a time when it gets to be extremely lonely. If I’m in a difficult place and I can’t figure out how to get out of it, or it doesn’t feel like it’s going right, or I don’t feel good about what I’m doing, then it’s so lonely, because there’s no one to talk to about it. You can’t take your problem to anybody and say, what do you think I should do? Should I change this scene and put it later? That loneliness can really get to me. It’s really depressing.”

It’s why staying in touch with other writers is so important: they understand the writerly “tempests in teapots” (in keeping with the tea party theme) we may experience from time to time.

My own tempests are more of the sort Susan K. Perry describes when she quotes writer Bernard Cooper:

“I’m infinitely scared that the work is somehow bad in a way that I can’t see, or that I won’t be able to do it anymore, or I’m going to make an idiot out of myself. Believe me, there’s a whole slew of things I’m terrified of. But the images, that’s where the joy is for me. …

When I get back a self-addressed stamped envelope, I feel as though I’m going to faint as I open it, and it’s not so much because, chances are great there will be a rejection, but because I just don’t want somebody to have written something that will depress me, like, “Well, I really like the last piece but you just didn’t …” or something like that. It’s the sense of bracing myself. … And when it’s just a form rejection, it’s “thank you, oh thank you!” I’m so glad.”

These tempests are part of the writing process for many of us, and the heightened drama, when diverted and invested into our plots and scenes, can be a writer’s blessing in disguise.

The truth is, the writer who faces the page each day is sometimes brave, sometimes scared, and ofttimes both; there, art is born. It’s art that sustains us during our teapot tempests so we can fill those pages with words.

Splash: there goes the inner critic, thrown overboard.

Splash: there goes the doubting mind, walking the plank.

Splash: there goes a shaky moment as the tempest recedes, and all that’s left is yourself, the computer and a blinking cursor, the muse running late, but you’re not worried.

 It is exciting to wake up each morning with a Mad Tea Party in waiting. And that’s when you realize two notable things:

1) that the Dormouse does look kinda sweet using your manuscript as a pillow, and 

2) that you wouldn’t give up your place at the table for all the Starbucks in the world.

Image courtesy of AllPosters.com, Margaret O'Brien as Jane Eyre

Margaret O’Brien as Jane Eyre on set.

Image courtesy of AllPosters.com.

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What Exactly Is A Meme, Anyway?
June 20, 2009

Replication of the flu virus.

Good question.

I did some research and came across a site with a great explanation, and bursting with Memes:

The Daily Meme: What is a Meme? 

Memes are a fun and interesting way to unite with fellow bloggers, besides providing a ready-made post on those days you’re less than motivated or your mind draws a blank. But they’re more than that; like the flu virus image above, they replicate and mutate and take on a life of their own (a.k.a., they’re just too cool).    

According to The Daily Meme: 

A meme is:  

•An idea that, like a gene, can replicate and evolve.

•A unit of cultural information that represents a basic idea that can be transferred from one individual to another, and subjected to mutation, crossover and adaptation.

•A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation); “memes are the cultural counterpart of genes”.

The term and concept of meme is from the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. Though Dawkins defined the meme as “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation,” memeticists vary in their definitions of meme. The lack of a consistent, rigorous definition of what precisely a meme is remains one of the principal criticisms leveled at memetics, the study of memes. (from Wikipedia)

Got Muse? A Writer-To-Writer Meme.
June 16, 2009

heartspenandpaper

 I’ve always found it interesting to read about how other writers write. What motivates you to the page, and what keeps you away? How does creativity strike — do you write when inspired, or stick to a daily word count? 

Many of us are interested in those behind-the-scenes peeks at the creative process and the unique way it unfolds for each writer. The Meme I cooked up below is quick, easy, and fun. I hope you’ll join in and share your writing process with us. 

Got Muse? A Writer-to-Writer Meme: 

1) Where do you write?  

2) When do you write? 

3) Planner or Pantser? 

4) Coffee or tea? 

5) Pen and paper, or computer? 

6) What gets you in the writing mood? 

7) What pulls you out of the writing mood? 

8 What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever read/heard/received? 

9) Got muse? 

10) Who is the biggest supporter of your writing?

11) Sound or Silence?

Instructions: Please answer the Meme with a post on your blog, and reference the original link:   Got Muse? A Writer-To-Writer Meme. Leave the link to your Meme in my comments section, so we can go read it!

I’m hoping for a collection of writers and their processes, all in one place, that writers can connect with and draw inspiration from as we toil alone in worlds of our own making. I plan to post a link (here in this post) to a new page that will list all participating writers and their blog addresses alphabetically. 

My answers are below. 

1) Where do you write?

 Usually I write at the kitchen table, the bar type, although I also write on the porch in the rocking chair, overlooking the horses and the wild beauty of the desert. 

2) When do you write? 

I write whenever I can, in between animals, chores and errands, especially if I’m in the middle of a novel. But mostly, I write at night; the coolness and quiet allow me to get deeper into flow. 

3) Planner or Pantser? 

Pantser with a capital P. I may have a story overview in mind, but where it takes me, it takes me. 

In my experience, writing is the art of letting go and allowing the story to breathe and develop through me. It’s why I feel as if I channel stories as opposed to writing them. 

4) Coffee or tea? 

Coffee most definitely, when I’m writing. 

5) Pen and paper, or computer? 

My laptop is like an extra appendage. I’ve worn the finish off where my hands rest as I write. Computer all the way, although my first three novels of yesteryear were written out in notebooks. The only ink I’d use was black, and only one pen: a Pentel EnerGel .7mm gel pen. It’s still the only pen I use. (I find it interesting that it matters so much.) 

6) What gets you in the writing mood? 

Good books, good movies, light bulb moments. I do more writing when life isn’t one big emergency after another, and there’s nothing like someone else’s work-on-fire to spark the fire of creativity within me. 

7) What pulls you out of the writing mood? 

Sadness. Stress. Anger. Tiredness. 

8 What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given/read/heard? 

Just write. (Two simple words that say it all.) 

9) Got muse? 

Definitely. I credit the universe and nature for being my biggest inspirational benefactors. 

10) Who is the biggest supporter of your writing? 

My husband, although I also have friends and writer friends who have encouraged me along the way, and still do. For them, I am forever grateful. 

11) Sound or silence?

Sound. When I’m writing drafts, I listen to all kinds of music: our FM stations, various cds, and XM music such as reggae, classical, 40’s, 80’s, 90’s. I also love nature music cds, with the sounds of thunderstorms, birds, rainfall, water lapping against lake shores, etc.

I prefer music without words when I’m editing, so it’s mostly classical music during those times.

 Click here: What Exactly Is A Meme, Anyway?

Books

Happy Birthday, Anne Frank!
June 11, 2009

“Just imagine how forgetful I’ll be when I’m eighty!”

May 11th, 1944.

June 12th happens to be the eightieth birthday of one of the most well-known diarists in history: Anne Frank.

Have you ever imagined what she might have looked like when she grew up, or what she would have become? Would she have been a writer, as she’d pondered in her diary, if only she could write well enough?

April 5th, 1944

I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write …, but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent …

And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! … I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?

Anne Frank 

Anne’s diary remains one of the most well-read books in the world, second only to the Bible.

And to think a publisher once rejected the diary with these words:

“The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.”

Click this link to see an age progressed photograph: Anne Frank at 80.

What was Anne’s full name? Annelies Marie Frank, born June 12th, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Anne and her mother.

Anne and Edith Frank.

(Photos courtesy of the Anne Frank House Museum.)

For information on Anne’s birthday celebration events, or to subscribe to the Museum’s newsletter:

Click here: Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam – the official Anne Frank House website
You could also write Anne a note or leave her your own birthday wishes:
  Anne Frank Tree – An Interactive Monument.   

A Bird’s Eye View … Part One.
June 9, 2009

The Ponies Shedding Moon

The photo above is the full moon of May, often called the Full Flower Moon by Native Americans, although my favorite name comes from the Sioux: the Ponies Shedding Moon.

And do they ever. There’s nothing quite like being outside at midnight brushing shedding winter coats under a moon so bright the horses throw shadows. It’s so relaxing; I have to keep reminding myself to stay alert so I don’t get stepped on. 

With the geldings munching hay, however, they barely notice my presence unless the bristles locate an especially itchy spot.  

When I’m done grooming, I’m covered in horse hair of all different colors, and left to chase little clouds of hair (stripped from the brush as I go along) around the corral. Those I miss, the birds will incorporate into their nests. Nothing in the desert gets wasted. 

 The Sky is A Painter.

The Spring sky.

Saguaros In Fruit.

Saguaros in silhouette (and throwing fruit. Seriously. One bonked me on the head while I was setting up the photographs. Roll your cursor over the photographs for captions).

Birds heart fruit!

 

Four servings of fruit a day, or is it five?

 

Ripened fruit.

 

Fruit close-up

I especially love Spring in the desert. Everything that flies, creeps or crawls appears with mini-carbon copies of themselves, the mothers showing off their babies like proud humans. Even the scorpion, usually an object of fear and aversion, looks sweet carrying her babies on her back. (Although she isn’t sweet at all, of course. Any babies that overstay their welcome are destined to be killed and eaten by the cantankerous female scorpion. And she’s quick; before I could snap her photo, she was gone. )

However, here’s a photo of another scorpion that climbs the rafters of our covered porch. Freak-out factor? A solid TEN.

 Equal to one thousand words on why we shake out our boots before putting them on.

From the porch, life that usually goes on behind the scenes is actively renewing itself — flowers blooming and fading, followed by the swell of fruit that feeds everything from insects to coyotes to birds. Lightening-fast lizards with speed-of-light babies scurry through the yuccas or cling to the garden walls, high up toward the top and quite out of reach of our overly-excited terriers, who find it high treason.

There are so many birds that I keep the radio off to listen to their songs and chatter, a world of their own going on above our heads until they touch down to peck at tiny hay seeds in the sand, steal kibbles from the dogs’ bowls, or share a drink at the horses’ water buckets. 

Camera in hand, and hot on the trail of interesting sights, I’ve come across birds’ nests in the most ingenious places:

Bird's nest.

This nest remains intact inside the skeleton of a saguaro. Usually, all you can see to indicate a nest are these holes:

Birds' nests inside each hole.

 

Old Saguaro.

 There was another interesting nest I found quite by accident, as I was preparing to open a new bale of hay. Nestled in the back and ringed with newborn, fuzzy feathers was a nest of:

Empty nest syndrome.

Gambel’s Quail eggs. (Callipepla gambelii)

The baby quail are the cutest things around. No larger than gumballs, they follow behind their mother in a single-file line, looking  like a string of pearls snaking left and right.  

And there are more nests — come join me for A Bird’s Eye View … Part Two, or, Cooped In The Hen House By A Thirsty Javelina.  

In the meantime, may the Muse of Creativity be kind to you.

(Photos by Emily Murdoch)