Sunday, December 27, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Another way that my story differs from a NaNo story is that I have written most of it over a period of three years (except for a small core section that started as four short stories written in 2003). So rather than springing out of my head in one short month, my story has had time to percolate and develop over a period of years.
Nevertheless, I do know that it needs revisions. For example, as I was writing, if I came to something that needed research or fact checking, often I just simply inserted asterisks as a reminder to go back later and correct the details, rather than stopping the flow and getting distracted with research right at that moment. (Note: I did not do this for facts that were critical to the plot, just for details and minor events.) As well, I know that there were some shifts in characterization as the book evolved.
What I need to do is sit down and read the whole thing at a sitting to see how it holds together. One of my concerns about revising is that I know that I hate to cut (but am happy to add!). But this manuscript already is too long; I'm going to have to be brutal and cut, cut, cut. Another concern is that I am not sure how to keep it coherent and consistent, given that it is so long. I am used to writing and revising much shorter pieces.
So, if you were hoping for revision advice, that's not really what this post is about. It's more about me looking for advice. I have come across one site that looks very helpful: HollyLisle.com.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Bookends LLC - A Literary Agency
Words on Top
It's past my bedtime, so more on this to follow...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
But this morning, I awoke, and it was November 1. How could I not sign up? It was the first day of NaNoWriMo, and it was a Sunday! So I did register, but I am not going to push myself to pump out 50,000 words. All I really wanna do is finish a first draft of the novel I started in Nano 2007. I know myself, and the structure and camaraderie of Nano help me to sit down and write. I figure that some writing is better than no writing. My starting count is 95,008.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I have been playing with my sketchpad again. This one is titled Circular, and I made it with the acrylic brush and ink pen tools. I like the way a random doodle just kind of evolves until it becomes its own unique thing. I need to work more with layers so that I feel less constrained in experimenting with different effects.
I'm so tired this weekend. The last two weeks have been an orgy of excessive work -- very grueling. I'm getting too old for this work, work, working.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Go check out his blog. He also puts his paintings on The Daily Painters Art Gallery (see link in sidebar). He sells his paintings via the web too.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Now, I am not a super duper gardener. I like digging and planting. I am not so good at weeding and watering. And I'm really bad at thinning. I always plant too many seeds (because probably most of them won't grow), then I don't want to thin them (because they managed to grow and I want each and every one of those little plants to survive...). Weeds thrive in my greenhouse much more than they should. And every summer I go away for a few weeks on a holiday, and whoever I hire to look after the gardens never waters enough. Don't even get me started on the topic of slugs.
But nevertheless, I have enough fresh-picked organically grown veggies to feed my family all summer. We eat seasonally -- radishes, spinach, lettuce, green onions, and sorrel show up first, then peas, swiss chard, sui choy, carrots, beets, kohlrabi, beans, cucumbers, kale, tomatoes, and hot peppers. (This year, the cabbage worm decimated most of the sui choy, rutabagas, kohlrabi, and kale. Every year something fails to thrive.)
Growing vegetables is very satisfying. I love picking and preparing food that I have grown myself. For example, tonight we had lasagna (made with onions, swiss chard, and tomatoes from the garden, and locally raised organic beef). From the garden, we also had green beans, and cucumber salad, and a tomato, onion, & basil salad.
One trouble, though, is that it is hard to keep up with whatever is in season. I try to use or preserve or give away everything that I grow. I have a busy working life, so my gardening and food preparation is relegated to evenings and weekends, where it competes with hikes, bike riding, seeing friends, and all the fun stuff.
Right now, apples are in season, and I have three heritage apple trees. I spent every spare moment this weekend doing things with apples. Yesterday I picked up all the usable windfalls. I sorted out and washed all the good eating apples. I made apple-plum clafouti for yesterday's dessert. I made a batch of apple jelly. Then tonight I made a batch of apple-rhubarb butter. But there are still bags of apples waiting to be dealt with -- and we haven't even started actually picking them yet!
Just a word about apple butter-- don't make it. Every time I make it, I say to myself that I will never make apple butter again. It just takes way too long to push the pulp through a sieve. I have tried many different methods, and all of them are time consuming. (Tonight I used cheesecloth and a colander.) Once you've finally got some strained pulp to work with, it takes a long, long time to cook down, and you have to stir it constantly or it will scorch. Altogether, sterilizing the jars and equipment, chopping the apples and rhubarb, the initial cooking, the sieving process, cooking down the butter, filling jars, and processing in the hot water bath took about two and a half hours tonight, all for six little jars! But it is delicious. I guess that's why each year I "forget" and make it once again.
Monday, September 14, 2009
As well as his use of colour, he also does some really interesting things with texture and line. He works in a variety of media.
As I am beginning to dabble just a bit in making images again, I am curious about exploring other media. Oils are my usual medium of choice. . . but I am thinking about branching out. Maybe it will help me get out of this very long "dry" period.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
A painting a day. . . I am green with envy.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A myth dating from August 4, 1577, tells of a black dog appearing during a thunderstorm in a church in Bungay, Suffolk, killing two people and injuring a third. The same day, a similar black dog appeared in a church in nearby Blythburgh and people died there as well. Bob Trubshaw summarizes a number of folkloric accounts of black dogs, and another interesting website specifically on the August 4 events is at everything2.
Our black dog is medium sized, has brown eyes rather than red ones, and is merely high strung -- not ghostly and ominous. She's not a hell hound, just a brat.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Essentially, he points out that going on a quest to "find one's voice" is counterproductive; it will have precisely the opposite of the desired effect and will yield writing that is bland and twice chewed over. Instead of navel gazing and fretting about how one appears to others (I am taking liberties with my paraphrasing here), he instructs writers to focus on what they want to write about, and to be aware of who their readers are. He cites portions of an essay written by Kathy Acker, who describes the quest for writer's voice as akin to wanting to be godlike and control the meanings that can be taken from one's writing -- something that narrows possibilities and puts writing in a cage. In contrast, Acker sees writing as play, and eschews all rules.
I think that Ross and Acker are onto something. In most forms of human endeavor, being overly concerned about how one appears to others and others' opinions about oneself is truly a motivation killer. Just think of the NaNoWriMo mantra -- Get it down on paper. Don't edit. Don't worry about how bad it is. It's just a first draft, so get those words down!
So getting caught up in trying find one's voice in the first place, then trying to replicate it, and worrying what others will think of it does seem like a pointless kind of digression. I mean, how many of us actually are any good at self awareness in the first place? It seems to me that a characteristic writer's voice is something that is easier to notice in others than to observe in oneself.
That said, I *do* pay attention to the tone I am taking in a piece of writing. Moreover, I think that my "writer's voice" varies depending on the kind of writing that I am doing and the way that I position myself in a piece. I write in a variety of different forms and genres -- nonfiction, including scholarly chapters and articles; long fiction; poetry; and life writing/memoir. I think my voice might be quite different across these genres. I don't think that I have one consistent "fingerprint" voice.
Finally, I consciously attend to characters' voices and strive to let them speak for themselves. Character voices differ from my narrator voice (whether omniscient or not). Yet, because they come from me, they are part of my repertoire of voices and registers.
I wonder if the quest for one's unique writer's voice is simply an artifact of creative writing instruction. So many beginning writers start by emulating the style of writers that they admire (and generally they do so badly). So, instructors have to point out not to copy -- "Try to find your own voice," they say. It sounds more palatable than, "Quit copying other writers all the time."
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
There is a story. The road gets much much, worse. Do not believe the maps of the area. If you keep going, soon there is no road, and nowhere to turn around. You will need to drive through creeks, bottom out in mud holes, and chop down trees that block the way. Eventually (if you make it through), you will find yourself on a ranch, with a heavy chain preventing the possibility of exiting to the road.
As going back the way you came is not an option, here is a hint. Combination = 4000.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
So here are some of my thought on editing:
I think it really depends. When I write a poem, I write in bursts. Words and images come, I set them down, then contemplate, and put down a few more words. It's word by word and line by line. I write slowly, but then when I have written the draft of the poem, it is close to being finished; I do very little editing.
When I write nonfiction, articles and chapters, I also write slowly, crafting each sentence as I go. Each time I sit down to write some more, I reread what I have already written, and edit it. So then by the time I have completed a draft, it needs little editing. Usually, I package it up and send it off quickly. Partly this is because I have *no time in my life* so I am forced to be efficient, and partly it is to prevent myself from adding any more to it (because, invariably, my editing takes the form of adding, and the manuscripts are always too long already). The reviewers always have suggestions for revisions, and by the time it comes back, I have some distance from my piece, and usually I make a number of editorial changes then. (Sometimes I even cut a bit!)
But for my (almost completed) novel, I am way less sure about how I will accomplish the editing. I have tried not to get stuck into editing mode while still getting the first draft down on the page. But, as with the other genres, I still have written very slowly, crafting as I go. (I thought I was finished some time ago except for a short transition between sections, but the transition keeps growing, chapter by chapter.) The challenge that I am finding is figuring out how to keep the coherence and flow consistent in such a long manuscript. I think my editing problems will be at that level more than at the word-by-word level.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I have been spending some time surfing the net looking at examples of work by young people that involves constructing narratives using multiple modalities (e.g., text, images, animation, voiceover) and posting them online. Very typically what people do is use resources in existing software utilities, like role-playing games. They draw upon the game to create characters (robotic soldier), settings (futuristic battleground), and actions (jumping, shooting), then put together a storyline or short episode. Machinima (machine + cinema) is an example of this creative genre.
The video below provides a tutorial of how to create machinima using the game World of Warcraft. It also models character creation, and plays with the boundary between exposition and fantasy.
I find it fascinating that the power of story is such that people find ways to create narratives using whatever is at hand. Around each of these types of creativity, a community springs up, offering an audience, critique, and suggestions. At the same time, commercial enterprises that create the games, films, and products (all interlinked) have a huge role in shaping the fantasy worlds, character options, and narrative themes that are possible. Hmmm.
I am trying to get my head around how this fits with the traditions of written literature (e.g., novels) especially, and also oral storytelling, performance, and film.
We are storying beings.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Here is another painting by Alessandro Andreuccetti that I just love. What first strikes me is the movement, like autumn leaves in a breeze. The theme (autumn trees), the colour palette, and the impressionistic looseness are characteristic of my own painting style (when I used to paint, although I work in oils, not watercolours).
Evan stood on the beach facing the grey inhospitable sea. At the farthest distance, the rough woolen sky was separated from the clay-coloured ocean by the merest smudge of a horizon line. In the middle distance, the ocean was like stippled granite. Then closer to him, grey-green waves with foamy tops rose up and raced toward him up the beach, stopped just short of his dirty canvas runners, then slid back down carrying away little rivers of beach pebbles.
Pebbles. Rocks. In his pocket, a weight against the top of his thigh. A rock. A rock like the heat of an egg yolk, an eyeball, a heart pulsing in his pocket. . . .
Friday, May 1, 2009
You can go to his blog at: http://aandreuccetti.altervista.org/blog/ and view other images of his paintings.
Monday, April 27, 2009
It is amazing what happens to time when you are having a major life experience like your first relationship. It gets completely filled up. Every single moment becomes intensely saturated with significance. Later, when you look back, there are all these events, emotions, and significant moments packed in one after another and you remember them all perfectly. So it seems incredible when you realize that only, say, three weeks have gone by, yet more has happened than in three normal months. And those three months that you would have typically had in the past seem so pale, empty, and pathetic compared to every colourful, jam-packed hour in your current eventful life.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Chicken with Dark Beer (Coq à la Bière)
"Southerners in France like their chicken cooked in wine, preferably a rich red, but northerners go for the caramel intensity of dark beer laced with plenty of onions. The sweetness of the beer is enhanced with a spicing of juniper berries and a shot of gin, the local tipple. I enjoy a puree of celery root or lentils on the side, but the traditional accompaniment would be mashed or boiled potatoes. The chicken can be prepared ahead and refrigerated in its sauce up to three days, or freeze it up to one month. Thaw, reheat, and add the yogurt and vinegar before serving." —AW
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 bone-in chicken breast halves, skinned
- 2 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
- 2 chicken drumsticks, skinned
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 tablespoons dry gin
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 3/4 cup chopped peeled carrot
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 3 medium)
- 3 juniper berries, crushed
- 1 (8-ounce) package mushrooms, halved
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup dark beer
- 1/4 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Combine first 3 ingredients; sprinkle evenly over both sides of chicken. Heat butter and oil in a large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove pan from heat. Pour gin into one side of pan; return pan to heat. Ignite gin with a long match; let flames die down. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
2. Add celery, carrot, shallots, and juniper berries to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms. Place thyme, parsley, and bay leaf on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; tie securely. Add cheesecloth bag to pan. Return chicken to pan, nestling into vegetable mixture. Stir in beer; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the meaty parts of chicken registers 160°. (Breasts may cook more quickly. Check them after 35 minutes, and remove them when they're done; keep warm.)
3. Discard cheesecloth bag. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm. Place pan over medium heat; stir in yogurt. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated (do not boil, as the yogurt may curdle). Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning, if desired. Place 1 chicken breast half or 1 drumstick and 1 thigh on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 3/4 cup sauce and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
- Calories: 370
- Fat: 16g (sat 6.6g,mono 5g,poly 3g)
- Protein: 30.8g
- Carbohydrate: 15.1g
- Fiber: 1.4g
- Cholesterol: 103mg
- Iron: 2mg
- Sodium: 465mg
- Calcium: 55mg
Okay, I haven't tried this recipe from Cooking Light yet, but I plan to. . . .
Saturday, April 18, 2009
band-aid diagonal across my red magnetic
lips can speak no
chinese bobble heads
rubberneck swivel for slim waisted girls
hot my thighs kiss
across your lap round paunch
warm as bath blood
wordless middle age
boundaries signified by
skin soft as
limb length of touch
me and snooze entangled
complete it is
I had a set of kissing bobble heads when I was a child, but mine wore red.
This image comes from the Flickr photostream of MacaDamien.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
To get to the other side.
Okay, okay. I know it's a rooster. And it's crossing a stream, not a road.
But the point is the same -- ya do what ya gotta do.
But wait! This rooster is visualizing something. Faced with a problem -- a body of water between him and his destination -- he saw the board and employed the praxis of using it as a bridge.
Behind him is a clutch of hens, waiting, wondering, "Will he make it?" " Will he fall in?" Perhaps they are considering stepping out onto the bridge, fretting about the possibility of falling in, not wanting to look a fool in front of their hen house mates.
It can be read as leadership versus conformity. It can be read along gender lines. After all, is whatever is on the other side worth risking one's feathered self? The breed is not entirely flightless (although flighty), but does one really want to test it in such a high stakes situation?
The other side -- we are all heading there. Some of us embrace new landscapes, and others hang around the chicken yard as much as possible pecking at bugs in the familiar patch of dirt. I'd like to think that I am one of those exploratory other side type of birds.
The photo is from Robot Nine.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I wanted to post this picture of pigs that amused me. There is something about pigs -- especially ones with very pink noses, dog paddling in twos across a very green stretch of water -- that needs to be noted. Sadly, this image came to me in an email with no info about where it came from, so I can't attribute the source. Thanks, photographer, wherever you are.
The other thing I wanted to mention tonight has nothing to do with pigs. I came across a blog by Tony Mancus called Into the Headland. He writes an entry every day, and every entry is a poem. That is inspiring. Much better than my strategy of just waiting for inspiration to strike! Here is a small fragment of one of his recent poems:
"i will speak encryption with tiny keys.
my tongue a salt lick--the animals come rushing."
Go check out his blog to read the whole thing.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I want to post some of my favourite photos from Ericalokichicken's Flickr photostream. The first one, Sailboats, is incredible because of the patterns of light and dark. As well, I like the contrast between the spikey linear masts and the round shapes of the boat hulls. Finally the wavery reflections suggest the emphemeral aspect of this moment in time.
This next photo, The Drive Home, also uses light/dark contrasts in monochromatic blue to create a haunting and dramatic mood. The interior shot, the shade of blue, and the childlike reflected face suggest the psychological interior of memory.
This next one is called Shadow Reflection. As the title tells us, it is another exploration of reflection -- self in the world. This photo is a lovely use of negative space, with the body shadow appearing as a transparent silhouette against trees, which as themselves are silhouetted against the sky. All of these layered images are but reflections themselves. I think. It is very interesting and complex, both as an image and also in terms of the ideas the photographer is playing with.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
I was looking for images of sock puppets, and came across this great photo of sock monkeys on the website Robot Nine. This website has lots of interesting photographs and arty images.
Here is another great photograph from Robot Nine. It is from a series called "Lonely Trees." This site especially focuses on quirky themes, like "Food Art," "Trailer Trash Dolls," and "Skeleton Sculptures."
Friday, March 13, 2009
It is also work in a satisfying way. With the work of my hands and creative mind, I use the bounty of the earth to fashion something to please the appetite and all the senses. Together, we sit down and share food, talk, and tell the stories of each of our days.
I have always believed that it is important for a family to sit down and eat together. I also believe in cooking from scratch (although I am not dogmatic about this; yes, I do use canned tomato sauce). I like to use food that I have grown or gathered. But winters are long here.
So it is pleasing to me that each of my children has grown up appreciating food. Each of them enjoys cooking and is, or is becoming a good cook.
These pictures that I have included here show a pizza that my son made when he was fourteen. He made the pizza dough, spread the sauce, found various things in the fridge to use as toppings, grated cheese, and added herbs.
(Cheese, of course, is one of the fundamental food groups for teenagers.)
He baked it and served it to us for supper. What a satisfying meal, and what a great way to be a family together! It also was a wonderful lesson for him about the value and rewards of daily work.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
I love mountains, and am fortunate to live in a mountainous area. Sometimes after sitting in an office all day at my computer solving problems, I come away grumpy and full of worries. But it only takes a long look out the window at the mountains to put things back in perspective again. On a sunny day, I can see mountains from my office window.
Even better, I can do more than look out the window. I can and do spend lots of time outdoors. In the winter, I ski, both downhill and cross-country. Recently I have started back-country touring, and also I am learning how to do telemark turns. The photo above is a view from our local ski hill -- spectacular!
Landscapes often inspire my photography and also my painting. In fact, quite a few of my poems include landscape imagery as well. Place, and the natural landscapes that surround me, are very important to me and influence the choices I make about where to live, work, and play.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Work is where we can make ourselves; work is where we can break ourselves. It is a making and an unmaking that can ultimately never be measured by money alone. In work we can indeed, and in a moment, build or ruin our fiscal fortunes, or we can slowly and imperceptibly, over long years, destroy the inner complexion of our character. Sometimes to our despair, we know instinctively that work is never done. At its worst we are Sisyphus, pushing the boulder over the last incline only to see it fall back and away, out of our grasp, to the very bottom of the slope, to be pushed back up with the same despairing effort the following Monday morning.
At its best, work seems never-ending only because, like life, it is a pilgrimage, a journey in which we progress not only through the world but through stages of understanding (2001, p. 12).This quotation speaks to me. I find myself suddenly at this stage of life going through a transition -- a midlife crisis of sorts -- in which I am asking if the work that I am doing is the right work for me, or if it is "a sleep and a forgetting" that is distracting me from the true purpose of my life.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
I finally made it to my writing group tonight. We did a writing exercise in which we wrote a character sketch with the aim of portraying a sense of who the character was primarily through sensory description. This what I wrote:
Kevin stood in the doorway, poised with his weight on one leg, uncommitted to enter, already, one imagines, on his way down the hall. This was as much as could be hoped for -- a moment of pause, a dry observation intoned nasally, delivered with a wicked hook disguised as humour. Then down the hall he'd go, as quiet as a big cat, taut as a bicep, moving as if he were invisible, as if his steroid-built body was hidden by the Indian cotton shirt, as if there was not an electric four inches of impenetrable air space between him and anyone else passing down the hallway.
Okay -- one paragraph. That's a start.