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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

POLITICALLY CORRECT?

"'M pollertics, like my religion, bein of a exceedin accomodatin character."
Charles Farrar Browne (Artemus Ward) 1834-1867

I've spent the last couple of days with my nose in books (Plutarch), research notes and searching the internet trying to sort out the sequence of political events taking place in my novel (319 BC) between Macedonia and Greece. I wonder, Am I getting everything politically correct?

I don't mean that crazy 'politically correctness' that has become today's subtle form of censorship. How often in my classes worried writers ask if it's okay to say this or that. Is it politically correct? The whole thing has gotten out of hand. You can't say firemen, policemen, chairmen, any more. Everything must be gender generic. People worry about using the wrong expressions and offending. Personally I think it's all gone too far.
I do agree with a certain amount of 'censorship' when it comes to gratuitous violence, blatant and degrading pornography, racist, religious and gay-bashing. In my classes when we discuss workshopping there are some rules. Once, before I was able to go over those rules, a man presented some material in the novel writing class that was so over-the-top and shocking that it created a major stir, freaked everyone out (including me), and as a result I lost two of the best people in my class. So for this reason, I now make it clear what is okay and what is not okay to be presented. (In this guys case it wasn't even good writing although he figured he was going to be another Steven King.) There's nothing wrong with erotica or a well-crafted horror story like "Silence of the Lambs". But this person's gratuitous violence and ugly pornographic gay-bashing stuff was delived to the class with great relish and was completely unacceptable, in fact shocking and frightening.

Anyway, no, I am not worried at the moment over that kind of 'political correctness'.
I've been trying to unravel the political intrigues happening in Macedonia and Athens in 319
B.C. which will eventually lead up to the unfortunate execution of a popular military governor known as Phocion the Good. "Have I inadvertently said some evil things?"
Phocion asks after making a speech which the people had applauded. (from Plutarch, "Apothegma, Phocion") (Phocion was known for his terse statements.)

As I'm neither a historian nor politically inclined, it's been quite an education trying to sort out the political events that were happening in Alexander's world at that time. And the interesting thing I've noted is that not much has changed in this world.

Some quotes by Plato, from "The Republic" "Oligarchy: A government resting on a valutaion of property, in which the rich have power, and the poor man deprived of it."

and "When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquests or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader."

Does this sound familiar?

Anyway, it's been an interesting few days and I'm learning a lot while I research. This character, Phocion, merits a book all to himself (besides the one Plutarch has written). He was an amazing man, the elected military governor of Athens, who served the people selflessly, avoided war in favour of negotiating, and refused bribes (he even turned down a gift of money from Alexander.) But in the end, the Athenians turned against him, and falsely accused him of collaborating with the enemy.

It's such a tangled web, all this political scheming. There's a multitude of behind the scenes plots all leading to a tragic end. I just hope for the sake of my novel, I'm getting it all correct.

"The best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class." Aristotle "Politics"

"The good have no need of an advocate." Phocion. 402- 317 B.C.


Sunday, March 27, 2005

HEARING VOICES

"Literature is the one place in any society where, within the secrecy of our own heads, we can hear voices talking about everything in every possible way."
Salman Rushdie "Is Nothing Sacred?" 1990

No, I'm not schizophrenic. But I hear voices in my head: voices of people out of the past speaking to me, telling me their stories, coaching me on what to say on their behalf.

The fiction writer must get inside his or her character's heads to show the reader what the character is thinking and saying. It's never exacly your voice. Each voice is different.
When I'm at the keyboard I'm almost 'acting'. I'm 'in character' improvising by using words and syntax that the characters in my story might use. The characters may have overtones of my 'style' of speech, but each character must have their own way of speaking that is not mine.

I've never had a problem with dialogue. I started writing plays when I was about 10 years old, before I began writing stories. Once I had dreams of acting, and did perform in a few productions at school and in plays written by myself at Church and camp. A year after I graduated from high school I wrote a cautionary tale The Street when my boyfriend and his pals became addicted to heroin. A group of young people and myself produced and performed in the play, which was an amazing success at the time. A few years ago, after taking a playwriting course at College, I redeveloped the same play, this time without the censorship of parents or society, and it was perfomed to great reviews for three weeks in a theatre-cafe downtown.
The dialogues and monologues in that play were the speech I was familiar with, the street slang of the '50's. I was invited to be a script consultant by the producer/director because some of the young people in the cast didn't understand the vernacular of the time. Expressions like "Holy Doodle!" brought down the house!

For my historical writing I must use a completely different level of diction. It mustn't be 'archaic' speech, which is old-fashioned and stilted. Yet it has to keep to the tone of the period, and fit in with the cadence of the prose.

In my on-the-shelf work in progress Dragons in the Sky, because it is a first-person narrative, the voice is distinctly Welsh/Celtic. It was the voice of the protagonist Olwen speaking to me, telling me her story. I gave the MSS to my Dad once, to get his opinion on whether I had caught the cadence of the Welsh language in the speech. Because I had grown up hearing my Dad's Welsh lilt, it came naturaly to me. Where I went wrong with the novel (and why it's currently on the shelf) is because a writing instructor I had at the time kept insisting I should be writing it third person. I tried to switch and it didn't work. So I shelved it in order to work on my current w.i.p. But one of these days I'll get back to it, because Olwen is waiting for me to finish narrating her story.

In Shadow of the Lion, because it is a Homeric kind of tale, and very much a Greek tragedy, I have tried to keep the language suitable, without letting it become stilted and too formal and I avoid usuing modernisms that spoil the flow of the language.

I am dealing with various speakers, because it is in multiple point of view, from the voice of a small child (Alexander's son) to the voice of an aged Chaldean Magus. I speak in the voices of rough Macedonian generals and peasant foot-soldiers, the officers who were the educated companions of Alexander, a Persian nobleman and the Indian mahouts who accompanied the royal herd of elephants. I'm also the voice of the women: Roxana the Soghdian, Stateira the Persian, Leila, the Median nurse, Adeia-Eurydike, Thessaloniki, and Kleopatra who were Macedonian royal women, and Olympias, Alexander's Epirote mother. Each character must have their own voice.

The past few days I have been a Macedonian Regent speaking to the Assembly. Next I will be an Athenian military governor. It's tricky, but it's fun.

To make sure I am getting the correct speech patterns, tone and variation I often run passages by male friends to make sure I am not sounding like 'me', a woman. It requires a lot of imagination to take on the persona of a Macedonian commander. But somehow I've managed to pull it off.

Writers, like painters, have to be observant. It's important to observe and listen in on dialogues, conversations, try to imitate speech patterns of people you hear around you.
It also helps, when I'm writing, to have the 'image' of the character fixed firmly in my head.
For this, I have done a great deal of observing, so I can imagine what the character is like from someone I've seen in 'real life'. When I read my work to my critique group, there are several characters (male) who my listeners have suggested that certain movie stars should be cast for so I know I'm getting the male voices fairly accurate. I found watching the movie "Alexander" useful, although I did disagree with some of the movie's casting and at first the brogues of some of the speakers bothered me. But then, the Macedonian highlanders spoke in their own hill-country cants, so I understood the reasoning behind some of the choices.

The dialogue and internal thoughts of the characters are part of their development. The characters are people, so dialogue has to sound natural and be meaningful, helping to forward the plot, build tension, as well as operating as a medium for exchanging information, setting scenes, and foreshadowing. It must be realistic and appropriate for the period, not wooden, archaic or contrived. Each characters has their own speech pattern just as living people have individual speech patterns.

Being a writer is much like being an actor. You have to be versatile, a cameleon, and assume many different roles and voices.

"I thank you for your voices, thank you,
Your most sweet voices."
Shakespeare "Coriolanus" act ii sc iii 1607-1608

Friday, March 25, 2005

CHRISTOS ANESTI: A GREEK EASTER

"I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." The Revalation of Saint John the Divine 1.9

REMEMBERING PATMOS

Every year at Easter time, I think of the many beautiful Easters I have spent in Greece. In particular, my very first Greek Easter when I went with a friend to the island of Patmos.

On Good Friday, the funeral bells begin tolling in the early morning and the flags fly at half-staff. As my friend and I climb the hill from the port to the Church of the Apocalypse, the sound of fireworks crackles like gunfire, resounding across the pastoral hills. The goats grazing among the profusion of wildflowers stop to stare at us with their curious yellow eyes. Far across the valley, a donkey brays.

Patmos is the island where 2,000 years ago, the disciple John, known as St. John the Evangelist, was exiled by the Romans for preaching Christianity in Asia Minor. Just below the tiny white-domed Church of the Apocalypse is the cave where he lived, sheltered beneath the small chapel. It was here that he recived the terrifying visions described in his book of the Apocalypse, known as "Revalation"

Patmos is a small island near the Turkish coast once noted for its shipbuilding and trade. Today it is known mainly for the Monastery of St. John the Theologian and for the pilgrimage at Easter which attracts visitors from all over the world.

In the port village of Skala a funeral processional winds through the streets. The epitafios, a small casket decorated with red and white carnations and icons of Christ, is borne through the candlelit streets. The heady fragrance of incense wafts from the censers. As the priest chants litanies, a men's choir harmonizes the story of the crucifixion.

The crack of fireworks and chiming of church bells awakens us the next morning. At the harbor the fishermen are setting out in their turquoie and red caiques. Looming above the village and the port is the Monastery of the Theologian founded 900 years ago. That night, in the monastery chapel, a crowd gathers. The cobblestones are strewn with branches of hyssop, its purifying fragrance mingling with the scent of incense and bees-wax candles. A monk begins a rhythmic hammering on a long wooden beam. This beating of the talanton symbolizes the risen Christ and heralds the beginning of the Easter mass.

A midnight, as the bells begin to peal, the monks and priests file out of the chapel to join the throng of worshippers. As the Pappas announces the joyous proclamation "Christos Anest! Christ is Risen!"his words are echoed in unison by the worshippers. He touches the flame of his altar candle to the wicks of the slender tapers held by each celebrant. One by one the flame is passed on until all the candles arelit and the courtyard blazes with light.

For the children, it's time to collect the brightly colored red eggs distributed by the priest.
The polished eggs are symbols of the blood of Christ. The children play a game, tapping the ends of the eggs together to see whose is the last to break.

Now the celebration is over and we follow the celebrants through the streets of the village as they carry their lighted candles home. Each flame is carefully protected until it scorches a cross above the lintel of the doorway. This will ensure good fortune and God's blessings for the year,

We walk the four kilometers down the dark road through the cypress groves to the port. On the edge of the bay someone has set off a red flare which fans out over the harbor, illuminating the fishing boats in their moorage. Down on the beach, one last rocket hisses nd whine. Then all is quiet. The trace of gunpowder smoke lingers in the air. But there is a spirit of peace on Patmos.

"The egg is dear on Easter Day." Russian proverb

KALO PASKA
HAPPY EASTER

condensed from a published travel article by the author.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

STARTING THE DAY RIGHT

"My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lies, no matter what form the latter two take. Such is the program I would adhere to if I were a major artist."
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov 1860 - 1904

This week I've not only focused on my writing program, but also in getting myself back into an exercise routine. Although I walk a great deal every day (I don't own a car), I often forget to do my stretches and floor exercises on a daily basis, and working for long hours at the computer or poring through books and writing notes tends to wreck havoc with one's body. I'm in severe need of a massage! So this week I am have gone back to waterfit twice a week. And hopefully by next week I'll also resume going to the fitness centre on the alternate days.

I'm not particularly sports minded, although I do like to watch a few spectator sports like gymnastics, figure skating, Olympic sports etc. I enjoy most walking (hiking) and swimming.

I long for the Aegean Sea, those warm turquoise waters where I love to drift in the hot Greek sun. But for now the pool will have to do.

I find water a soothing, calming therapy and a good way to wash away the cares of the day and clarify thoughts. I enjoy walking by the sea, taking boat trips, or playing in the water.
I find a lot of ideas come to me when I'm floating in the sea.

I also love to walk, and find that some of my greatest inspirations have come when I am walking. When I lived in the village in Greece, I used to walk 5 k. down the mountain to the port of Karystos, have a swim on the lovely beach there, then walk back up to my village.
On those walks I created so many narrative scenes, dialogues, and ideas for my writing.
Of course, I always carry a notebook so that I can write these thoughts down immediately. And because I do this, a great many segments of my novel (and other writing) have been previously written, those spontaneous bits of writing that need little editing.

When I'm home, I have the radio tuned into the Classical Music station. Music is also an inspiration and creates a serene mood.

And, of course, being a person of words, I love to talk...especially to other writers.
Last night I had a wonderful long phone conversation with my good friend Suzaki. I read her the notes I made yesterday for my novel, a filler piece for a scene I'd workshopped at our writer's group. Her enthusiastic response was inspiring. We often spend weekends talking about our work, and if I'm stuck, she'll be sure to come up with an appropriate idea or suggestion. Writer's have to keep each other buoyed up, be there for each other.

"All good writing is swimming underwater and holding your breath."
Francis Scott Fitzgerald (Undated letter)

So now it's time to start my day. I'm beginning late today because of my swim, my walk and now I've 'talked' long enough and it's time to actually do some work!

"Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically aesthetic or heroic in little unnecessary points, do every day or two something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test."
William James 1842-1910

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

ISLANDS IN THE SUN

"What seas what shores what gray rocks and what
islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing
through the fog.
What images return
O my daughter."
Thomas Stearns Eliot "Marina" 1930

Last night, after writing my "Finding Safe Havens" blog, I had a pleasant dream.
I was with my daughter on the island where my family used to have a summer home.
My daughter was about 10 and I was showing her the island. Our friends were there, my hiking buddy Doreen (who died several years ago) and her daughter Paula. We used to be an extended family in those days, as her family had a home there as well. In the dream my daughter and I were hiking through the forest on the trail to Sandy Beach, a place where we had spent many happy hours in the past. We were walking along with a view of the shore, dunes and waves coming in.
It was a peaceful dream, a return to a safe haven of the past. I woke with those long-ago memories in my mind.

I should have always been an Island girl. When we spent all those years on Keats, one of the many beautiful Gulf Islands off the Coast, it was my haven and it was with deep regret that my father sold it. My parents had planned to retire there but sadly, my Mom died. My children spent their childhoods there, their little hand and foot-prints imbedded in cement on the cottage patio. Once I wrote a booklet about the Island which was self-published and distributed in the Island store (as well there is a copy in the Provincial archives.) "The Admiral's Island" was the history of the island and the first British naval officer, Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, who came there to survey when the British were trying to locate the Northwest Passage. (Capt. Bligh was also sailing in those waters.)

I love the Gulf Islands. And twice every year my writer's group goes on a retreat to one of the them, Mayne Island. We've got our reservations made for the end of April and the theme will be romantic poetry and "The Flowers That Bloom In the Spring." (trala!)

These days, while I'm not writing, I am keeping my mind occupied with thoughts of returning to the Greek Islands. I have visited many of them, written about them, and found much of my inspiration while wandering the beaches and sailing too and fro in the beautiful Aegean Sea.

When I lived in Greece during the '80's I was fortunate to be given the use of a small shepherd's cottage on the mountain behind Karystos, Evvia. Lala was my Garden of Eden, a quiet retreat from the bustling life of Athens. The little stone cottage I lived in had been originally built in Byzantine times. It was a magic cottage, the rafters hung with herbs.
I went there to write and became part of the village life. I'll write more about those days when I begin my Greek stories.

My first published travel article was about a trip I made to LEROS Island in 1982. "You go there to find yourself" a man told me on the eve of my departure. And it was true. As I wandered alone on the beach and up the country lanes, I heard the sound of the earth music.
"Listen to the Earth Music" was the story that launched my career as a travel journalist.


Since then I've written many stories about the Islands of Greece.
SAMOTHRAKI: " I place my hands on the magnetic lodestone of Samothraki, which represents the Great Mother..."
RHODOS: The Island of Roses in Winter
KEFALONIA: "The air is redolent with the fragrance of sage, thyme, by leafe and oregano..."
PATMOS: "This is the island where 2,000 years ago the disciple John, known as St. John the Evangelist, was exiled by the Romans for preaching Christianity in Asia Minor." This is where he wrote the Book of the Apocalypse, known as Revelations.

I've also visited worldly MYKONOS a stepping-stone to the sacred isles of TINOS and DELOS.
"Swimming with the Rich and Famous" is a story about my visits to the Ionian Islands of Kefalonia, Ithaka and LEFKADA where I took a cruise and went swimming on Aristotle Onassis' private Island, SKORPIOS.
And a most memorable visit was to ITHAKA, Odysseus' island kingdom, which is just as described by Homer. "The ferry rounds Ithaka's rocky headland into a secret cove..."
You can find links to some of these published stories on my website: www.dreamwater.org/ruthaki

"The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung." George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron 1788-1824

Ah yes, lovely LESBOS where the lyric poet Sappho lived. I'm working on a two-act play about her, inspired by my trip to Lefkada when I took the boat to Egremeni Beach and lay on the white sand below the high cliff where Sappho lept to her death. Later, I went to Lesbos (Myteline) where she had her villa and school for young girls. My play The House of the Muses is about her tragic life. There isn't much of the poet in Myteline, although I tried to conjur her spirit. But there's a beautiful statue of her in Myteline by the harbour.

I've left the play half-finished while I work on my novel. But this summer I'm going back to Lefkada where she died, and perhaps her Spirit will speak to me there.

Oh there's so many islands. I've only mentioned a few of those I've visited. So many I haven't written about yet. My favourite is beautiful THASSOS in Macedonia. Why haven't I written about it? I've been there several times and will surely go again. Odysseus visited there too, I believe. You can see the grooves in the marble under the water at the old harbour near Aliki where they'd drag the ships up to shore. They say the "Sirens" he heard who lured him to shore may have been the temple maidens singing. And it's true, once you land on Thassos' pine-forested shores you'll never want to leave!

I've found inspiration just writing this piece about the islands. I can astral-project myself to any one of them, and escape from the hassles of my 'real' world. They are my safe havens.
And like Odysseus, I'm drawn back to them by the Siren's hypnotic call.

"In the life of each of us...there is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness." Sarah Orne Jewett 1849-1909


Monday, March 21, 2005

FINDING A SAFE HAVEN

"And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the heavens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea."
Gerard Manley Hopkins "Poems - No.20 Heaven-Haven"

After all the wild turmoil of the weekend (confrontations as well as a lot of partying), it's good to find some peace and solitude. A safe haven is what I need most tonight, as the storm continues.

One of the wonderful things about my writer's group is the camaraderie between all of us members. We are a 'family', sharing each other's joys and sorrows. It's a safe place to bring our inner thoughts and precious writing. And the critiquing is honest and thorough.

Tonight, after five hours of writing (mostly notes, trying to get a grip on the political dilemma facing my character Polyperchon) and, just before leaving home dodging another nasty dart thrown my way, I went to my weekly Scribbler's meeting.

"Safe into the harbour glide..." Charles Wesley ("Jesus Lover of My Soul")

Safe at last, among my writer friends and colleagues.

And when I read from the chapter segments I've been working on the last week, the comments were so positive and encouraging! Ah...these are the moments we writer's love to bask in.

As well, I've had some really supportive comments from other writer friends and these are precious to me. I feel more empowered now. Strong. And I can feel my creative juices bubbling over, ready to burst. Yes!

I love being home writing like I was today, not leaving the house til this evening when I went to my group. My apartment is a safe haven for me. It's set up as my writer's abode, each room telling of a place I've been in my travels, Greece in the kitchen, Morocco and Turkey in the living room, bits of other places here and there: Bourbon Street, Mexico, Guatemala. And in my bedroom, on the wall in front of my bookshelf and computer, are pictures of the Muses, and Sappho, and Artemis. Above me, a print of the Triumph of Achilles, then the bulletin board with notes and pix, photos of my friends Dinaz, my Persian Princess friend in Athens, and the dear departed ones: Roberto and my shepherd, Mitso. And, of course...on the wall by the window a plaster face sculpture of Alexander, above it a flower garland, beneath a pix of the Acropolis in the moonlight, and a map of ancient Macedonia. My room(s) are set up to express my writer's life. Here I feel safe and comfortable. I must always have harmonious surroundings in order to be inspired.

So when I came back home tonight, glowing from my writer's group and all the good vibes generated there, I felt safe and happy again. Soft, cool jazz playing on the radio. Peace. And tomorrow...another day of writing. I feel I'm on a roll now!

"All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens."
Shakespeare "King Richard II"

Friday, March 18, 2005

TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."
Burrhus Frederic Skinner "Contingencies of Reiforcement" 1969

Gah! I have just spent the most frustrating day! Hours of it wasted trying to sort out this damn machine. First, my printer keeps shutting down claiming to have a paper jam (it doesn't). I happen to be one of those writers who needs to have hard copy in front of me in order to efficiently edit. I was to start writing a new part of my novel today but wanted to read through what I've been working on before I begin. Of course, I can read off the screen, but I prefer to have it in front of me, red pen in hand ready to edit. Grrr! After numerous tries with very little success I gave up on it and shut the printer down for awhile. I'll sort it out later.

Meanwhile, I then decided to adjust the settings of colour on my screen. I tinkered around awhile, got the colour looking good but suddenly all my print and icons are tiny including on my Word pages. The pages are coming up with wide borders on each edge, printed sort of book-size. Annoying. And hard on the eyes too. So I spent another while trying to figure out what I did wrong, and couldn't, so I just had to continue the way it is.

I am definitely so not technically savvy. My techie guy happens to be in London England at the moment. I dread the thought of having to wait til he returns before I get this damn thing figured out. Shit! I found it much more efficient in the days I worked on a simple word processor. I had a good one, a Canon Star-Writer, with the printer inside. I worked for a few years on that, quite happily, prefering it over a computer, even lugged it to Greece on a number of occasions. It never let me down. I will admit there are great advantages to the computer. For one thing I adore the cut & paste and certain other features. And the internet access is great. But it can also be a major distraction. And, as today proved, a big pain in the arse.

So I finally gave up tinkering around with the Monster and decided to do some written notes and more research on the political situation leading to the Macedonian civil war. (Namely what was going on in Athens while Polyperchon, the new Regent, was tripping the light fantastic around Pella taking his new role far too lightly). Interesting going back to Plutarch. I love reading him.

So here I am, the day is almost over and I have accomplished very little except to get a stiff back and feel all achy and sore from tension. Rats! And I had hoped to have the whole day to write. Instead I wasted most of it fiddling with this #%@*# stupid machine!

"He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things might himelf to be a true poem" John Milton "Apology for Smectymnuus" 1642

"Technology...the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it."
Max Frisch "Homo Faber" 1957

Thursday, March 17, 2005

TO MARKET, TO MARKET...

"To market, to market to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!"
Nursery Rhyme

Every once in awhile a writer must take time to do some marketing. After all, if you don't send your work out, it will never be recognized and published. I'm personally not as diligent with this aspect of writing as I should be. But if I want to have success as a travel journalist, I have to discipline myself to do the marketing. So, for this past week I've spent most of my 'writing time' researching both short-fiction and travel markets on-line and sending out stories to appropriate publishers. I also made new lists of markets for my classes. This required checking the old lists to make sure the publications are still in existance because small magazines come and go quickly. I also went over the publishing guidelines. This is a very important part of marketing because you must research your markets otherwise you're wasting time. For instance, no use sending a back--packing adventure story to Conde Naste which generally publishes for the jet-set traveller. And it's a good idea to also check the publishing schedules for the various newspapers and magazines. That way you get a heads-up about what they will be looking for and if you have an appropriate story written, you can send it off in good time.

I've got a number of good articles written which haven't been in print yet, and others that have been previously published and can be re-run. So I browsed through my stories this week and sent a few off to appropriate publications. Some are paying markets (the best!) others are not. But it's good to get things in print on-line or in a print publication just so you can add them to your publication portfolio.

It's wise to keep track of everything you send out. I keep a notebook with lists of articles, where and went I sent them and if I included photos (jpegs or print). I used to market with hard-copy but these days life is simpler and you can submit on-line. However I have found with on-line publications you don't always hear back from them. So you must keep track of the responses and queries too.

An example of this happened this week. A year ago I had sent two articles to an on-line publication www.BootsNall.com I don't recall ever getting a reply to my queries about these articles. And it just happened that I was ego-surfing on google this week and lo-and-behold there were my articles listed. I checked the site, and sure enough, they had both been published last year. (You can see them on the site: "Firedancing" and "One Full Moon Night in Athens" both creative non-fiction travel stories.) I queried the publisher, thinking that they might have sent me a cheque or response letter via snail-mail as I had no record of having a reply from them even though I'd queried some time after submitting.
The editor says that I must have been contacted and unfortunately there is no pay for this publication. At best, I figure the response must have gone automatically into 'deleted mail'.
Anyway, even though there wasn't any monetary reward for the publications, they do look good up in print.

"One Full Moon Night in Athens" had been accepted for an anthology to be published by Lonely Planet some time in 2003. I was thrilled when I received the contracts from them.
I signed the contracts and, unfortunately didn't check the fine print for 'kill fee'. And much to my disappointment, a few weeks later was informed by L.P. that their 'target market' people decided not to use my story as it might discourage travel. (The article, which was for an anthology for first-time back-packers in Europe, was a cautionary tale about the danger of date-rape drugs.) I had only worked with a contract like that once before when I was hired by A.P.A. Insight Guides to write up the "Trips and Tours" part of an Insight Guide about Vancouver and environs. Their contract provided $500 U.S. when the work was submitted
(on both disc and hard-copy) and $500 on publication plus copies of the book. I'd had no problems with them so had not thought there would be a problem with L.P. So it was a good lesson to remember to check for 'kill fees' if you sign a contract, otherwise you will not be reimbursed anything for your work even though they had accepted it.

By the way, when I was working on the Insight Guide, we had a five week deadline to meet. I had never worked on a computer before so this required me taking a crash course in computers in order to get my work on disc. And I had to make many field trips around my city and environs to get the material. It was quite a challenge but an exciting project and I was working with an old newspaper journalist, the former editor of The Village Voice who had also published several travel books about Greece. So it was a thrilling learning experience. And an even great thrill when, browsing in a book store in London England, I picked up a copy and there was my photo and bio along with the credits for my work!

Marketing is a vital part of the writer's life. You have to be tenacious and not deterred by rejection slips (of which you will receive enough to paper your walls). The symposium I attended last weekend put on by the B.C. Association of Travel Writers (of which I'm a member) was a forum about marketing your stories. In my travel writing classes I stress this valuable aspect of travel writing. And I always invite a former student of mine to my class to give the marketing pep talk. Andrew started out in one of my travel writing classes several years ago and has since become a successful travel journalist. He's a retired realtor so has the marketing skills it takes to get published. His pep-talk inspired me, too, so that's why I decided to take time out this week to do my marketing. Let's hope a few of them sell!

"'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print..." George Noel Gordon, Lord Byron
"Any work that we love to do will certainly bless us in return." Daily Word



Tuesday, March 15, 2005

THE IDES OF MARCH

"Beware the ides of March..." William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar)

Of course, the ides of March conjurs the ghosts of Shakespeare and, in particular that of Julius Caesar who was immortalized by the bard in his play. Thinking of this day reminded me of an interesting visit my friend Patrick and I made two years ago to a lovely beach town in Turkey.

The little hamlet of Gumusluk is a day-trip out of Bodrum on the shore of a fine small natural harbour. It was once the harbour of ancient Mindos. Some of the ruins of the town are under water which you can explore if you are a scuba diver.

I looked through my notes from that visit and here is what I wrote about it:

Our second day in Bodrum we set off for a change of scene and took a
little dolmus( mini bus) to a small fishing village a half hour from
the city. Gumusluk Beach is a blue flag beach, though it’s mostly
stony with sand farther out in the shallows. We got beach chairs
and umbrellas free for the day courtesy of the beach café where we
ate lunch. The sea here is jade green, the water calm and shallow.
After our swim we walked though the village which is the site of
ancient Mindos.

The classical city of Mindos was inhabited from prehistoric times to
4th c. AD. Some house foundations can be seen on the hillside or
underwater, which can be explored by divers.
In ancient times Mindians mixed their wine with sea water to relax
the stomach so they were called “the brine drinkers’


Now here's why the ides of March reminded me of this little village:

After the assassination of Julius Caesar, Brutus and Cassius lived in Mindos
for over a year.


As I'm a historical fiction writer these unexpected vignettes of history really capture my imagination.
I remember standing on the curve of that little beach imagining what it must have been like back then, putting myself into Brutus' and Cassius' heads as they 'hid out' there. What was their life like, those two assassins?

On a previous trip in northern Greece I had visited ancient Philippi, named by Philip II of Macedon -- Alexander's father -- the site of the Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C. in which Octavian and Antony defeated Caesar's murderers, Brutus and Cassius.

It is experiences like this that make my life as a historical-fiction (and travel) writer so rich.
I've been lucky to have had many opportunities to visit places like this. And the thought of heading back to Greece again this summer is such a thrill. I haven't quite decided what my focus will be this trip. I'm probably not going to visit northern Greece as I've been there so many other times and I'm pretty well finished researching my novel.

It looks like I'll be heading to the Peloponnese in the path of the Spartans (and the Macedonians were there too). I've still got stories to write from my last visit (the stories about Turkey included) so retracing my steps might help inspire me to get those travel tales written.

"O Julius Caesar! thou art mighty yet!
Thy spirit walks abroad, and turns our swords
In our own proper entrails."

"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, "This was a man!"
William Shakespeare: "Julius Caesar"

'TIME FOR A LITTLE SOMETHING,' SAID POOH.

"Give all to love:
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame.
Plans, credit and the Muse,
Nothing refuse."
Ralph Waldo Emerson "Give All to Love"

"Time for a little something," said Pooh. A.A. Milne
That funny little bear, one of my favourite creatures, had it right. This weekend it was definitely 'time for a little something' and I certainly tried to make the best of it. Starting on Saturday night when Suzaki came for dinner and we went out dancing. Unexpectedly we were joined by two other friends, men, which made the evening even more interesting.
I don't remember when I danced so much and so well and felt so good! It was that incredible lightness of being. An almost perfect evening, dancing our cares away. Chachacha...

And the goodwill continued all weekend with other celebrations. (Pooh would have loved it!) A Celtic festival with a St. Pat's parade (lots of rousing pipe bands and Irish dancers). Couldn't have asked for better weather which made it all the more pleasant. I bought my usual smokie and iced tea from the street vendor and sat on the Art Gallery bench watching the men play chess. Then I walked through town and caught the bus home, tired but happy.

In the evening, another surprise when my chileno amigo came over and we talked for a few hours just like we used to, always a stimulating discussion about politics and life, but also all about my Cuba trip. And he brought me a video of several Cuban art films. And we both agreed how much we have missed these little get-togethers.

So the week has started off on a high note. And plans are being made for coming adventures.
Ingrid and I went and booked our tickets for Greece this afternoon and got a good deal.
So now that's all set and lots more to plan. London first, then a quick trip to Wales, and on to Athens. I'll be the tour guide. I love doing that! Of course, as usual, I'll be flying on a wing and a prayer, but somehow I just know it's going to work out okay. It always does.

In between all this excitement I actually did some writer's work. Last night I spent a few hours researching short-fiction markets for my classes (and myself). I've sent off my Welsh Coal Mine story to two places and sent off queries about some other articles that have been out there for awhile. And I did a bit of editing on writing from my classes. No time to focus on the novel although it has been on my mind and I am plotting my next segment.

Tonight was my writer's critique group here (we take turns having the meetings at each member's homes). We are planning our next island retreat for the end of April with a theme of romantic poetry and Springtime. My classes end this week and I'm looking forward to the Spring break so I can get caught up on all my writing. I simply must try and get at least one more travel article written besides working on my novel. And do some marketing too.

"If I had more time, I would write a shorter story." Mark Twain


Saturday, March 12, 2005

SPRING IS BUSTING OUT ALL OVER!

"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough."
Alfred Edward Housman "A Shropshire Lad" 1896

"Spring is busting out all over..."
"Cherry pink and apple blossom white..."
"In the leafy treetops, the birds say good-morning..."
Tra-la-la...

All these songs were going through my head today as I played outside in the daycare yard with the little folk.
"I'm forever blowing bubbles...
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high, almost reach the sky..." Tra-la-la. I sang this song as the bubble machine spurted a cloud of shimmering rainbow tinted bubbles that floated around the playyard, and the children frolicked trying to catch them in their tiny hands.

It was a good day. Spring is in the air. And in the yard the gardens were abloom with crocus, daffodils and hyacinths. The daycare is located near a public market, and it faces a park-like area with blossoming trees, lawns, a stream with rushes where redwings perch and ducks cruise and once it warms up a bit more, turtles bask on the rocks.

My part-time day job is working as a daycare supervisor (Early Childhood Educator as they are called.) I've been an ECE supervisor for over 30 years and who would have thought ten years ago that I'd still be working! I quit full time work back in '93 when I decided I'd had enough of the politics and nonsense of mean-spirited Boards and got offered a ticket to Greece by the Greek Consulate in order to do more research on my novel. But, alas! because of economics I've never really quit working, except now I have only one Centre I 'sub' at and that's because I've known a couple of staff members for years and feel it is a kind of 'family' to me. It's an under-3's centre and the little ones are adorable. I'm kind of the resident Grandma. And that's okay.

So, today I worked all day with my little friends and enjoyed most of the morning and the afternoon outdoors enjoying the balmy Spring weather.

I love this time of year and have felt my spirits rising in the past week. The last few days there's been a 'spring' in my step and a song in my heart, especially today.

I did intend to do some writing tonight, but once I'd made dinner and watched the news I didn't much feel like doing anything more than vegging out. And that's exactly what I did
except for editing on travel article for someone in my class. I also made a couple of phone calls, one to another woman who wanted travel markets for a story she's written, and another to discuss trip plans with my friend Ingrid. We're getting ourselves organized to go to England and Greece in mid-May and June and both of us are excited about the possibility of adventuring together. She wants me to show her "my" Greece. And she has never visited England before either. We have a mutual friend (Kitty) in London who we want to visit and another one (A-B) from Norway who we hope will meet us in Athens.

It's the weekend and I'll write tomorrow, then go out dancing to the L.Q. with my pal Suzaki.
I hear there's an Irish (St. Pat's) parade downtown on Sunday too. And the weatherman predicts lovely Spring weather!

"The flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra-la
Have nothing to do with the case..." ("The Mikado" 1885)
Sir William S. Gilbert


Thursday, March 10, 2005

KEEPING TRACK OF TIME

"Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend."
from "Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers" Theophrastus 278 BC

From the time I gave up my full-time daycare work in order to spend more time writing, I began to keep a daily time log. This wasn't just for my own information (to see how much time I spend or waste on my craft) but also because I was declaring a self-employment tax refund and in case anyone should want to check up on me, I wanted a record of the time I spend on writing and/or writing related activities. I find that this method helps keep me focused on using my time wisely, not wasting it. Although I am still an accomplished procrastinator and waster of time, just looking at my records helps me see where I have fallen down on the job. I used to keep the time log in a notebook. Now I have a calendar on the wall and mark each day with my times.

I count the times I am doing research, attending classes or meetings that are related to writing (such as the poetry Board meeting, my critique group etc). Also writer's events such as the travel writer's gala I attended last weekend. I also, of course, mark down my actual writing times. And each month I post my monthly goals. If I haven't achieved those goals that month, they go up on the top of the list for the next.

For awhile I wasn't keeping track on my writing times and therefore I was not being so diligent about attending to my tasks. But now that I have the calendar posted I find that I am much more likely to spend the time I should and need to be spending at writing.

"Not a day without a line. Nulla dies sine linea"
Proverbial from "Pliny the Elder Natural History" Apelles 325 BC

This week I am really trying to stick to the program of writing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. . Some days I am writing a bit less because I have classes to teach, editing for classes or other writing activities. But I seem to be progressing well now that I am keeping track again.

Today I did mostly notes and editing comments from Monday's critiquing of my new chapter segment. Later I had to go up to the bank but on my way there I began to get lots of ideas and even tonight on the bus going to my class I had to take out my notebook and write down some thoughts. I seem to be on a roll again, and that's good!

Of course you need a break in the routines. My break today was to walk through the neighbourhood to a different part of the district. It was a balmy day. Daffolids are blooming in all the gardens. I enjoyed my stroll through the old residential area where I live. This part of town was my teen-age stamping grounds so it was kind of fun returning to the scene of many memories.

This evening I had my "Prompting the Muse" class. We talked about way to combat writer's block. There weren't many people attending but those that were there are doing some interesting writing and as usual there was a lot of laughing and fun. Afterwards it was my leisure time. I always need to unwind after teaching. So I met my friend Cliffy on the Drive and had a glass of wine, then we went over to the LQ where our favourite jazz singer was entertaining. I enjoyed the last set of music and then I walked home.

Tomorrow is a busy day with two classes, but I'll try to put in my writing time in the afternoon because Friday I have to work all day at the daycare. One has to make some real money once in awhile (the classes I teach and the daycare are my bread-and-butter jobs).

But I feel good that I am once again keeping track of time and getting more written on my novel. Perhaps keeping a time sheet makes it more like a real 'job', but then...isn't it?

"There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep." Homer

Monday, March 07, 2005

CHOREOGRAPHY

"Dance me to your beauty
With a burning violin
Dance me through the panic
till I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch
and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love..." Leonard Cohen

I've always loved dancing. I especially love the senuous movements of Latin dancing.
When I was a teen-ager, my strict Baptist parents prohibited dancing, convinced it would lead to erotic behavior. So if I wanted to join in any school socials I'd have to lie and say it was a 'Square dance'. I was a shy kid and longed to dance as well as other girls, but usually hung back and just watched. I probably 'jive' better now than I did back then.

When I got my first job after high school graduation, I secretly started going to dance lessons: ballet and flamenco dancing. I hid my dance shoes and tights and sneaked off once a week to Kay Armstrongs Dance Studio downtown. I knew I was too old by then to become a real dancer, but I loved the lessons, the fluid artfulness of the ballet and the exotic passionate zapadeados and castanets of the flamenco dance. One day my Mom discovered my ballet shoes so I told her I was taking lessons. She accepted that and even let me practice at home. At the newspaper office tower where I worked, which was built in a hexagon around the elevator shafts, I'd practice my zapadeados in the marble-floored hallways while I was running errands for the reporters. Then, as soon as I was 'of age' my friends and I started going to the dances downtown: Danceland on Fridays and The Embassy Ballroom on Saturdays.

I twisted and chachacha'd my way through the '60's. And in the '70's life in a hippie household became one long boogie. I recall attending many concerts where I'd be on the floor whirling and twirling, free as a butterfly. Then there were the disco days, and now it's the Salsa.

This week I have been writing an erotic scene for my novel. Erotic and love scenes have to be choreographed much like a dance, every move carefully paced, to build the sexual tension.

Just to keep in the spirit of the day, I decided later to go and see the movie "Kinsey" , an informative and interesting film. (I still recall the scandal of "The Kinsey Report" and after that, the sexual revolution began!

I read the new chapter segment tonight at my critique group and it was well received. Now I can get on with plotting more political intrigues. And eventually there will be some fight/battle scenes which also have to be choreographed.

Dancing is definitely an important part of this writer's life. But living the solitary life that I do, the other parts of it are left mainly to my imagination...and of course (as we writers must rely on our own experiences)...all those delicious memories!

"It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!"
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde 1854-1900

Sunday, March 06, 2005

WRITING AWAY

"The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet..." Tao te Ching, verse 64

There is a similarity between historical writing and travel writing. Both are about journeys: one is a journey back in time, the other a journey of the present. I am both a historical and a travel writer. I write about my travels, I travel because I write, combing a historical-fiction research trip with the travel writing.

The traveller, that gypsy soul I possess, was born in me and encouraged by the travels I made with my family when I was a child. The historical fiction writer was born when I was twelve years old and our family travelled across Canada by train, a long journey from the gentle hills and maple forests of Ontario, across the wide expanse of sun-dried Praires, through the densley forested wilderness of the majestic Rocky Moutains to the lush green shores of the Pacific Ocean.

My life was transformed on that journey. I imagined how it must have been to be a pioneer, riding in a covered wagon acros those vast priaries, to portage by canoe and travel on foot through the rugged mountains with the explorers. I became one of them, a pioneer adventurer, an explorer who wanted to know what was over the next mountain.

My main interest was always historical writing, but I realized that in order to publish a major work, I should have some publishing experience. When I graduated from high school, I worked in a newspaper editorial office with aspiration of becoming a reporter. So I decided to use my journalism skills to write stories about my travels. The very first travel article I sent out was published. That convinced me that travel journalism was for me a way of getting in print and making a little extra cash to supplement my travels. Since then I've had many publications and I've been teaching a class in travel writing at night school since 1994.

Yesterday I spent my afternoon in the company of travel writers, members of the B.C. Association of Travel Writers (www.bctravelwriters.com) at a symposium which included a panel of travel writers discussing marketing techniques. Among the attendants were several of my present and former travel writing students. Several of them have become distinguished in the field which makes me feel proud!

It was interesting to note that one of the speakers mentioned how it was often difficult to find time for our own writing when we also teach. This has been a dilemma for me. But teaching is also a stimulant for my own work and, of course, it's my bread-and-butter. It was also pointed out that belonging to writer's groups, such as this travel-writer's organization is part of the necessary 'tools' to being a writer. I make a lot of important contacts through the BCTWA. Besides, travel writers are fun to be with, always on the go to exotic places, adventurers like myself. Even my travel writing classes are fun, lighthearted social events, not as serious as the novel writing which requires so much more discipline.

It also has benefits on the side, such as tax returns. Because I publish, teach and travel in order to write, I can declare all my travel expenses on my income tax. That's the way I afford new trips. Otherwise I am too poor to travel.

My most frequent destination is Greece because I combine my research trips with trips to various locations there. When I go to locations for my research, I am able to capture the essence of the countryside, to get in touch with the spirits of those I write about. These details place the reader at the scene and it has helped me make my characters more dimensional. Each time I travel to Greece I try to visit a new location, with the possibility of writing a travel article about it. So I have covered much of the country, preferably going to places where that are not teeming with tourists.

I have cousins and friends in England and Wales that I hope to visit this summer. And I've also traveled often to Turkey, once to Morocco, and to other points in Europe (though not recently). My last trip was to Cuba for the Havana Jazz Festival. I will definitely return there!
Last night, after the travel writer's gala, I went to my friend's house to watch a movie about Cuba. "Soy Cuba" (I am Cuba!) a fantastic black-and-white film made in 1964 by Russian film-maker Mikhail Kalatzoshvili. Paul is one of the Havana buddies I chummed with during the jazz festival in Havana. He has a radio program for jazz/blues and generously loaned me a stack of Cuban CDs to tape. Last night we also watched a DVD of The Afro Cuban All-stars in Japan as well as listening to several excellent CD's he's going to tape for me. One was a Cuban doo-wop group popular in the '60's "Los Zafiros".

My travels have provided me with opportunities to meet so many new people, many of whom I have kept in touch with. And this includes the wealth of classical scholars I have met in Athens during my time there when I was researching for my novel. So travel for me is an important aspect of my writer's life.

Travel writing is easy. Writing a historical novel is a huge committment, a long journey that may take years to complete. But in order to write anything successfully, you simply must WRITE. And now I must get on the road with Alexander again while I have this day free to make the journey.

"The world's a theatre, the earth a stage
Which God and Nature do with actors fill." Thomas Heywood ("Apology for Actors")



Saturday, March 05, 2005

POETS AND MUSIC AND A MAGICAL MOMENT

"I reckon--when I count at all --
First -- Poets --Then the Sun--
Then Summer-- Then the Heaven of God --
And then -- the List is done --" Emily Dickinson

Perhaps it was the new hair colour, though I was at first alarmed at the slight apricot tinge to the blonde after having been used to a sun-bleached platinum shade for so long. But later, when I was out on the Drive, and ran into my friend G. he said I looked 'fantastic'. Then I met up with V. in the coffee shop, and she said the same. That seemed to set the tone for the rest of the day yesterday.

I'd been running all around town earlier, trying to get replacements for those missing CD's, because my Havana buddy has invited me to come to his place later tonight to watch a movie about Cuba. I wanted to make sure I had retrieved the ones that had been taken as I know they were two of his favorites.

Then, in the evening I had to attend a Board meeting for the Pandora's Poetry Collective.
So there was no time to rest, definitely no time to write, and all that bus riding had made me weary.

I'm glad I hopped on board with the Pandora Poets though, because they are two dynamic women who are doing so much in the community, working with downtown street kids, school groups, encouraging young poets as well as the workshops they do for adults. And the Board meeting was exceedingly organized. A pleasant experience, and a worthy cause to be involved in. They have some exciting plans and hopefully will get the grants they are applying for.

Friday night is usually my dancing/socializing night and I'd told my friend the Babylonian I'd meet him at the L.Q. after my committments were over. By then I felt very tired, and considered going home instead. But I had that new 'do' and was all dressed up, so I went as planned. It was an odd night. There weren't any of the usual 'regulars' at the bar. I got a good seat, my usual favourite perch, and settled in to listen to the music. The lilt of the Latino music is uplifting and gay. However, my mood and energy level was low.
The Babylonian came and left. Said it was 'boring'. There were strange vibes, that's for certain. And as the evening progressed it was evident there was something going on with the owner who can sometimes be so uptight. I was also in a guarded mood in regards to that certain 'friend' who is one of the weekend musicians. For some time now I haven't felt comfortable there and end up getting my feelings hurt, spoiling my usual good time.

When he saw me, just like old times, he gave me one of his bright smiles and waved. We talked, briefly, at the break. I didn't expect more than that. Frankly I was in a dark mood again. Then, a surprise!
My friend J. appeared (It was only her second time there and she'd been there all along but we hadn't seen each other.) She slipped me a goodie on the way out and that little toke boosted my spirits like magic. My mood changed and I began to feel happy, my energy returning. Too bad there was nobody there to dance with! I weighed carefully what (if anything) I would say to my chileno before leaving for the night. Then suddenly we were talking again, just like we used to, and he was giving me a big warm hug. And I felt as if that dark cloud that had been hovering had lifted.
"I love you," I said.
"And I love you, " he said. "And it will be forever."

Maybe it was just the Latino charm. Maybe it was the magic of the moment. But I trust that we have really 'made up' and that we can resume our friendship like it was before. (He wasn't my 'boyfriend'. We didn't have that kind of relationship. More importantly, he was a special friend, one who I admired and enjoyed, an intellecutal relationship. And I have felt so bad about that loss.

So, here it is the weekend. And although it's an overcast day, in my heart I feel the sun shining again. Once again, no time for writing today. I'm going to a travel writer's gala this afternoon with my young aspiring writer friend S. And later tonight to my Havana buddy's house to watch that Cuban movie. More about these events later.

"Love-quarrels oft in pleasing concord end..." John Milton

Thursday, March 03, 2005

BREAKING THROUGH

"If he wrote, he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them down."
Ernest Hemingway "Winner Take Nothing" 1933 "Fathers and Sons"

My "Prompting the Muse" class tonight was interesting. We did a lot of different writing prompts including one on 'obsession', one on writing with all the senses related to prompts from various food items (the ones on 'caviar' were most fascinating!) and stories about 'leaving'. We also talked about writing from loneliness. All the emotions evoke strong writing and sensitive stories. In this way writing can be a catharsis.

I find this is true for myself. And today when I was writing on my novel, even though it was mostly editing and rearranging chapter segments, as long as I was immersed in it, I was not thinking about other things that have troubled me lately. Writing makes me happy. The escape into that other world is liberating.

I managed a couple of hours of writing today which pleased me. I could have spent longer, but had to go out for food supplies (my larder was empty and I was starving!). Then I had promised a young friend I'd type a short story she needs for her Saturday writing class, as she has tendonitis and can't use the keyboard. While I was at it, I did a lot of editing for her.
She's just learning, and has a long way to go. But it's interesting and worthwhile helping the novice writers with their craft.

I decided to take a break tonight after my class and stopped on the Drive to see my friend Cliffy. Not much was happening and there was, once again, no jazz happening at the L.Q. where I like to go on Wednesdays. In fact, the place was dark except candlelight when I got there and I might as well have gone straight home, but stopped for a glass of wine anyway.
It only served to make me feel sad again. The vibes of my lost friend are there. Too many memories. But it's a big part of my social life and I can't let that get me down. Somehow, I'll break through that barrier too and overcome my feelings.

A rainy night in the city. I'm starting to feel a bit better but a long way from my usual self.
Tomorrow is another busy day with two classes and a lunch date. But Friday I should have most of the day to write again and after today I feel more inspired. Just getting down to it was a break-through and I am beginning to feel the cadance of the prose again and get back in touch with the characters. I like being in their world. Sure, it's an 'escape'. But it's pleasant and exciting, and necessary if I ever want to get the novel finished. I want to get back to the place where I am 'living' the story, 'dreaming' it every night, 'feeling' the characters near me. Once that happens again, I know I'll be able to go on to the end without any problems.

"Writing is nothing more than a guided dream."
Jorge Luis Borges "Doctor Brodie's Report" 1972

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

RAINY DAZE

"Rain rain, go away
Come again another day." Nursery Rhyme

Rain again on the 'wet' Coast after a record-breaking sunny period. Gloomy, to say the least.
I had to be out all day today, from early morning til late in the evening, so no time at all for writing, though part of my day was definitely 'writing oriented'.

I worked at the daycare today. The kidlets were restless because of having to stay in. Too many rain puddles in the play yard and the little ones (under 3's) weren't allowed out. It was fun being there though, and a good way to pass the time.

I used my break to edit writing from my novel class. These are mostly first-time novel writers and there's definitely a lot for them to learn yet. But I have to take time to critique their work as it's the way they learn... by writing, practicing and studying the craft just as with any other creative endeavour such as music or painting. I always find it amazing to note that a lot of people don't understand the basics such as indenting paragraphs, lines of dialogue, avoiding lengthy run-on sentences etc. As well, they are just learning about 'voice', character development, setting details, flashbacks, internal thoughts and all the rest of it.

I felt in a semi-daze all day today, like my head's stuffed with cotton, my ears plugged, sinuses clogged up. This cold is getting me down. So in spite of some pleasant moments, I'm still not feeling myself. A bit depressed, and somewhat sad. At least I'm well rested after my weekend away.

Tonight my novel writing class seemed stressful, mainly because we were again pressed for time. With everyone doing their homework we run out of critiquing time and I feel bad for those who didn't get chance to read. Only two more weeks to go so we'll do mostly workshopping from now on. It hardly seems that 8 weeks is enough. The way it's set up is they should at least have one chapter completed by the end of that time and can hand it in to me for editing/critiquing. This is in addition to smaller assignments I give them each week.
It seems to work though. I've had several people who started their novels in my class, actually finish them and get them off to agents/publishers. So that makes it all worth-while.

Tomorrow I'm actually hoping to spend some time on my own writing. I have the whole day except for errands, and a class tomorrow night. I just hope my brain unfreezes so I can think straight. Oh Muse, where are you?

I was disappointed today to find out all the Easter holiday time and another staff's practicum time had been given to another sub. I was hoping for some extra days work to help me dig myself out of the poverty hole I seem to be entrenched in these last months. Oh well. At least it means free days for me to write, so I have to make the best of it. My night school classes end in two weeks and after that there'll be a month of unemployment for me unless I get the odd call into the daycare. So, no excuses not to spend the time writing. It's embarassing to admit I haven't finished my novel yet. And one good thing is, when I'm immersed in Alexander's world I am happy and not thinking of the things that have been bringing me down lately.

"There is weeping in my heart
Like the rain falling on the city." Paul Verlaine