Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More about the shelves. . .

They cover most of the wall space ( three doors and two windows notwithstanding), and all I can say is, FINALLY! After years of storing books in shelved closets (what was I thinking, that books are sugly wetsisters to be hidden?), all my old friends are now easily at hand. I want to start rereading them immediately. This is the upside to an office renovation. The downside is the unceasing weeding through files and files and boxes and boxes of . . .stuff. Why did I think I needed twenty highlighters? And a gross of post-its? If I survive the cleanup, I'm going to lock the door and camp out in here. I love, no, adore, the feeling of being swathed in WORDS. Can't wait to get back to work.

The bedroom closets are going to have to wait.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Movie Trivia and not so trivial

Has anyone seen "Winter's Tale?" Looking for a bit of a romantic flick, my Beloved and I bundled up and trekked through the icy temperatures to see it. I wish I could say I loved it. It's visually beautiful, Lady Sybil from Downtown Abbey (Jessica Findlay Brown) was stunning, and the premise, that there's a miracle for everyone if you can find it, is charming. Will Smith as Lucifer ("Lou" to his top henchman, Russell Crowe) steals the movie.

But my stars - who decided to cut Colin Farrell's hair in such an odd manner? It doesn't seem "period" nor is it attractive. Just odd. Distractingly odd. It was all I could see, and since he's in every scene, I wanted to grab a pair of shears and fix the floppy bangs. Rats. I really wanted to love this movie, and I feel trivial and petty complaining about something so minor, but cinema IS a visual medium.

On another note, Richard LeParmentia passed away at the age of 66, far too young. He was the Empire officer in the 1977 "Star Wars" film who mocked Lord Vader for  his "sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion." He got an almost-strangling as payment for his lippiness, as Vader rumbles that he finds his "lack of faith . . . disturbing."  One of those seminal movie moments.  So sorry to hear about his passing.

We're heading to Roanoke for a play penned by another Hollins MFA candidate in play writing. BEN AND RITA will be performed at the Mill Mountain Theater. If it's half as good as Decision Height, we're in for a wonderful night of original theater.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

And the snows came...

This has been an interesting winter. "Interesting," one of those words that could mean anything from yuck to run screaming into the fire. And since the ice gods are clearly not done with us yet, I'm about ready to drive anywhere warm. Unfortunately, the sunny weather hideaways that are my go-to places are covered with ice and snow, just like us. What is the deal with snow south of the Mason-Dixon line? Holy Moley.

I should have been writing like a fiend, but instead I cleaned and watched the Olympics. Go Jordan Brown! Emptying files, paying attention to the TV with half my brain, deciding what to toss with the other half (not the brain, the files), I found some old talks I've given about writing. I surprised myself with how astute I could be when I'm trying to convey words of wisdom, earned in the writing school of hard knocks and a million, zillion rewrites.

While some aspects of my writing have evolved, others are constant. Character, for one. Always know what your characters fear losing the most, and take it away from the get-go. The bigger the stakes, the more vested the reader will be in reading to see if the hero/heroine can survive the loss, and even conquer it.  Or not. I rewatched LIMBO at five this morning (the high winds and sleet woke me up), and it's still a stellar movie. (John Sayles, director) The Joe Gastineaux character (David Straithairn) lost a crew at sea, and it was his fault. He has nightmares about it. But he's rebuilding his life, doing a little fishing for the first time since the disaster, falling for a lounge singer with moxie.  Now he has risked the lives of his new girlfriend and her fragile daughter, and they could all die because of his culpability in the past. Wow. He lost it all once before, and now he's about to lose what's even more precious because it took all he had to move forward after his boat sank.

Watch it. It's haunting and totally different. Came out in 1999.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Beatles live on. . . sorta

Many, many years ago (I won't say the exact number, it's too, um, many), I and a friend wanted to see the Beatles perform live. Lo and behold, a concert date in Kansas City appeared. My friend and I were wild to go. Alas, Kansas City was a ways from Ft. Leavenworth, where our fathers were stationed, and we were too young to go by bus all on our own.

Every girl should have a hero, and I have always thought of my dad that way, ever since he volunteered to drive us to Kansas City. My thirteenth year had been rough - I was a real pill and practically impossible to live with, and I knew it - so I was surprised at the offer. But he didn't back out, and so my friend and I got to see the Beatles live, although we couldn't hear much music because of the wall of screams. Screams to which we contributed in vocal-chord rending magnitude. My dad sat in the parking lot and waited for us, then drove us home, voiceless and limp with ecstasy at having seen our idols in the flesh. I have never forgotten it.

I watched Paul and Ringo on the Grammys, and while it was nice, it wasn't the same. Paul looks as if he's had a bit too much of the plastic-face syndrome, and Ringo looks like Ringo, but they aren't the Beatles without George Harrison and John Lennon. I can't watch them without feeling as if I'm betraying that adolescent ideal. I want to remember the thrill of their young, boyish faces and sly grins as they transitioned from song to song, knowing the wall of noise surrounding them made their lyrics unintelligible. They smiled through two hours of futile music, an image I'll carry with me forever.

Maybe it's nostalgia for another day and age, when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was the number one song, instead of "You Never Take Me Downtown Anymore." Or whatever the heck that filthy song is called.

Monday, February 03, 2014


It's not something you can teach, but you can certainly learn how to encourage creativity. I heard a news report that kids now can't stand silence - something has to be running in the background all the time. My first thought was that they couldn't stand to be alone with their thoughts. Then it came to me, that if you aren't alone with your thoughts, how can you think creatively?

Several writers I know write entire novels to a single song, playing repeatedly as they type. I tried it once, and found I was imagining the story behind the song, not the song that attracted me. Unfortunately, it wasn't the story I wanted to stick with for four hundred pages. The silence that surrounds me when I'm alone at my desk is like gold. I can't write without it.

That doesn't mean I can't write in the midst of chaos. Sometimes, the wildness around me forces me to go deeper into the quiet place in my head, and the story still comes. But those times are few and far between, I've discovered, and I much prefer the silver quietude that is so precious, I crave it.
I imagine it's visuals that draw artists and photographers. One of my children takes incredible photos - usually black and whites. I don't see what she sees as she takes out her camera, but I'm usually blown away by the end product, finally recognizing what pulled her into the picture. I love how my other daughter imagines structures, merging the practical with the aesthetic. She can create whole buildings, complete with inner lives and histories, visually.  They're talents I don't possess, but I know their source.

A rich inner life, the freedom to explore it, and the nerve to go there, are what take you down that creative path. Taking that first step into the unknown can be scary and exhilarating at the same time. Every first page of a new book makes me wonder if I'm going to belly flop off the high dive, or get in a perfect swan. The flops have been many. The perfect dive, I'm still working on. 

It's the silence that gets me there. The silence as deep as swimming underwater, holding your breath, until you have to rise to the surface and breath, or you'll die. You take that big gulp of air, and dive again into the deep, working harder with each descent to get it right.