Friday, March 30, 2012

Lolly Winston Humor

Lolly Winston's "Good Grief" is an excellent book. I savored the last twenty pages, unable to leave the characters and their world in Ashland, Oregon,that I enjoyed these last few days. At times the story brought tears and other times, I laughed out loud, even in the reception room where I was waiting for an appointment.

Here is an example (page 256) of her style. It's a scene where Sophie, the main character, has been avoiding the man she dated for reasons I won't tell. He hasn't contacted her for a while and she's made a good-riddance list in an attempt to get over him. One morning she hears his voice on her answering machine as she's heading out the door to go to the bakery where she works. She clutches the front door handle and listens to the beginning of his apologetic message.

"Squeezing a stack of cookbooks to my chest, I creep back down the hall to the kitchen, holding my breath as if he might hear me through the answering machine.

This better be good."

A few lines down:

"I lean toward the answering machine as if to sniff it. Clean laundry smell, broad shoulders, narrow waist, callused warm hands. None of my good-riddance list items come to mind."

I'll miss Sophie, Crystal, Drew, Ruth, and Marion. Maybe I'll reread it one day just to be with them again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Class Musings

We talked about blogging in my Tuesday Writing Class today. The Minister of Leaves from my previous blog post caused Marilyn to wonder, "What branch was he sitting on?"

Art mused about "What wisdom was the minister rooted in?"

Art and Marilyn are our comic team but now we have a new character to explore with back-story and plot. Anyone want to research The Republic of Tea in Novato to learn more about this mysterious minister?

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Minister of Leaves

A week off from teaching the writing classes gave me an opportunity for extra time to read "Good Grief" by Lonny Winston. A cup of tea was all I needed while the rain on the windows blured the budding trees and the gentle tap on the roof whispered, read, read, read.

Someone had given me a pack of The Republic of Tea's Honey Ginseng. (China green tea, linden flowers, pollen, Eleuthero, Panax ginseng,and natural flavoring.) I read the back of the pack while the tea kettle heated. Here is what was printed on it:

"The leaf and the water, what would one be without the other? As with tea, so with life, only in union, with ourselves and other, do we join our fullest and truest sense.

--The Minister of Leaves"

Friday, March 23, 2012

Your Characters' Decisions and the Consequences

Frances G. Wickes in her "The Inner World of Choice", talks about the moment of choice and how one can conquer fear and go forth with the change or not. She says:

"If at that moment the ego turns back because of fear, if it dwells in hate, if it refuses decision because of weakness, the dark hour is not the 'living midnight' but a dead midnight out of which dead day comes. The 'new' day has died in the womb of night."

Well said and and an idea for plot. Do you have a character that could be too afraid to choose a change and you could show the devastating result? Frances does a good job in sparking character development based on her stories from real life. Great book, out of print, but available used.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thoreau Quote

Henry David Thoreau sets high standards:

"If you can speak what you will never hear. If you can write what you will never read, you have done rare things."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Could your Character Have a Projection Problem?

Frances G. Wickes, in her "The Inner World of Choice", has sparked a possible flaw I could write for one of my characters in "Hada's Fog". She explains how projection is another enemy of choice. So I got to thinking about another relationship interplay for my novel.

One character, the projector, is unable to take responsibility for his actions and the consequences in his life. He blames others and projects on his brother what he cannot accept in himself. He, the projector, is having a personality meltdown but tells his parents that his brother is going crazy.

I have not written that he will realize his wrongdoings by the end of the novel. I'm saving his transformation for the sequel. But what is interesting in what Wickes explained is that the interplay between the projector and the object (his brother)involves the object opening the door to the "projected image". She says "When we see two people caught in this confusion of unconscious interrelatedness we know that each has left a door unlocked: for if the projection encountered a locked door, it would, like a boomerang, return to the projector."

I have made the brother the perfect person but now I have his flaw. He opened the door for the projector to inflict the projection upon him. Hurray, he will be more believable now.

Wickes has helped me see how to bring about the projector's change in the sequel. She says that when one, either the projector or the object, "has the courage to cut himself free, the other may, through a strange synchronistic happening, find that the bond is mysteriously broken in himself also." The brother will break free from the inferiority dominance of the projector and then, the projector will have an opportunity to redeem himself.

Thank you, Frances!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reading isn't What It Used to Be

Thanks to Patrick Von Wiegandt, conference recorder extraordinaire, I listen to speakers from the San Francisco Writers Conference on the CDs he sends me in record time. I miss half of the conference presentations because I work the registration desk.

Lolly Winston's key note on Saturday is one I didn't hear until Friday in the car on my way to observe a teacher intern. Mesmerized by her talk, I had to have her book, GOOD GRIEF, as soon as possible. I had just enough time to stop at my favorite book store where I found one copy was left on the shelf. I pounced on it and couldn't wait to begin reading it.

I've marked it up already but realized I have to have a code:

Mem meaning good for reference in my memoir

Blog obviously good tips for this blog

Class to squeeze into the handouts for the two writing classes I teach. And BD Class is to put on the board for discussion with the class.

Sometimes I draw a smiley face for my reader self to remember to stop worrying about the codes and enjoy the book.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Enemies of Choice

In Frances G. Wickes' book, "The Inner World of Choice", she writes in Chapter Four, "As we enter the country of the enemies of choice, we find ourselves in gray mists where ghosts wander over the waters of unconsciousness."

She tells of a child's dream in which a Tall White Ghost held magnets that "lured his conscious energy away from the tasks of the day into a world of daydream" until he was saved by a God that "takes you and cleans away all your ghosts". Later she explains that "It was the crocodile god, Inertia, who gave the magnet to the Tall White Ghost." Inertia is a powerful enemy of choice.

Wickes had the advantage of a long, successful career as a psychotherapist with "micro parables" as they're called in the Foreword written by Henry A. Murray. She uses those "micro myths" with metaphors to illustrate conflict-settling decisions. Each example she gives could be a story prompt, a tempting distraction from my memoir.

Do you Underline, Highlight, Circle, Make Margin Notes?

When I read, I have a pencil ready to underline, circle, and make margin notations. I've left my mark on every book I've read. Currently, I'm underlining Frances G. Wickes' "The Inner World of Choice". There's very few sentences I haven't indicated as important.

Her book is one of several I'm collecting concerning theories about the main topic in my memoir. My working title is "The End of Choice". Ideas float in my head and I capture them in my notes. I have a recorder in my car for spontaneous insights, yet how to compile them into a page turner is the trick. So, I make sure I meet with Wickes for an hour most mornings to read, to mark, and to absorb. She was eighty-seven years old when she wrote this book in 1963 and updated in 1988. Every page is poetic, heartfelt, and valuable to my topic. She intersperses dreams she analyzed for her clients and uses them to build a multi-layered concept that makes total sense. And, best of all, I look forward to reading the next chapter in the treasured time I've scheduled with her.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tips for Writing Essays

Dinty W. Moore in "Crafting the Personal Essay", gives quick tips for writing essays.

One is "to explore those areas that you truly don't understand. If you already firmly believe that something is wrong, then you will discover very little putting your convictions into an essay. (Write a letter to the editor instead.) If you know that you are entirely in favor of something, then why put forth the effort to dissect and explore?"

Later he gives a second tip. "Before writing, make a list of all of the common points-the cliches and usual turns of discussion--around the topic you are exploring. Then write an essay using none of those common points."

His third tip is "Tackle something so vexing that in the end you wind up surprising yourself."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Conference Inspiration

My memoir percolates now and then, but since the San Francisco Writers Conference, it's boiling, demanding attention. I have four novels in various stages and a Dublin Class Anthology in progress,but trepidation sets in when I think of doing a book length memoir.

I'm researching "how to" while I carry a large Mark Hopkins Hotel writing tablet up and down the two stories in my house, taking notes as they flash in my mind. For a week after the conference I stayed up until midnight working on it. Now the notes wait to be combined into links between the short story excerpts that will be interspersed to make my point. But honing the point is the problem.

Maybe I should create a character to help me. Since I rely on my characters to write my novels, maybe they can write my memoir too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Good Advice

Dinty W. Moore says,

"Most writers, beginning and accomplished, are just too hard on themselves...Be hard on your sentences, be hard on your paragraphs, be ceaseless and unrelenting in your revisions, but stop questioning your ability to be a writer."

P.S. Members of the Dublin Writing Class, what rhetorical device did he use?