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Thursday, March 29, 2007


"If you have two loaves of bread, sell one and buy a hyacinth." Persian saying.

Spring is here, at last, after more than 20 days straight of rain. The sun is shining and it's finally warming up. And today, I bought hyacinths.

I love the fragrance and the colour of these flowers. To me, along with daffodils and tulips, they are a real sign of Spring and new life. I love their name, and the story that tells how the flower originated.

Each year the ancient Greeks celebrated the festival of Hyacinthus, which lasted throughout the tranquil night. In a contest with Apollo Hyacinthus was slain. They had been competing in discus throwing, and the god's swift cast sped beyond the goal and struck Hyacinthus full in the forehead. He had been Apollo's dearest companion. There was no rivalry between them when they tried to see who could throw the discus the farthest; they were only playing a game. The god was horror struck to see the blood gush forth from the terrible wound and Hyacinthus fall to the ground. Hyacinthus was dead and Apollo knelt beside him weeping. "Oh, if only I could give my life for yours or die with you!"

As Hyacinthus' blood stained the grass there blossomed a wondrous flower that was to make the boy's name known forever. Apollo himself inscribed the petals with Hyacinthus' intial -- or as others say, the two letters of the Greek word that means "Alas" -- a memorial to the god's great sorrow.

When I was living in Greece, and tutoring English to the children of a dentist's family, I wanted to bring the mother a gift. So I bought a pot of beautiful purple hyacinths. I was quite suprised and puzzled to find that instead of keeping them on her window sill so she could enjoy their sweet fragrance and lovely blooms, she had stuck them outside on the porch. It wasn't until later that I found out that Greeks consider hyacinths a funeral flower -- ( I guess the way we think of lilies as funeral flowers).

Hyacinths do remind of Greece in other ways too. When I lived in Plaka, I was talked into co-writing a mystery novel for a fellow in our group who we called Gary Hollywood, a wanna-be writer/painter. He handed me an 80 page badly written outline of a story and thought he could publish it as is. I needed some money, so I offered to co-write it for him and in fact developed it into a 400 page pretty good first draft. One of the eccentric characters in the story, a gay guy on the island of Mykonos, was named Hyacinthos. I was just thinking about this book the other day when I saw some hyacinths that reminded me of it. Mr. Hollywood asked to see the manuscript, then he refused to return it but sent it off to a publishers. Naturally it wasn't accepted because it was only a first draft. Little did he know, I had the copy (and still do). And I was thinking the other day, if I ever find the time, perhaps I should drag it out of the archives and see what I can do with it. many little time to work on everything!
I've been sticking really well to my schedule lately of writing. I've finished marketing most of the travel stories. Still have to write the Chile story. But now I'm mainly working on my novel as I want to try and finish as much as possible before I leave on my trip mid May.

The travel marketing has been rather discouraging and the other night I was out having beers with some travel writing peers and began to feel really like a 'failure' when it comes to selling stuff. One of the writers present started out in one of my travel writing classes and has since become very successful with loads of publications and free trips thrown in. The other woman present also has numerous publications and is good at pitching ideas. I'm just plugging along hoping for the best but finding out that most of the markets don't want to pay a coin for all your hard work and nowadays the newspapers are taking very little freelance. To get into any of the top travel writer's organizations, you have to have at least 10 paid publications a year. For me, at this rate, that ain't gonna happen. And sometimes I have to wonder if it's all worth it. so many others...I write because I have to write, and want to write, and for that reason won't stop. Now here I am going off to Greece again (and Venice) with a list of story ideas to research while I'm there. So I guess I'll just keep on trying and hope that I find another editor who likes my works and keeps the door open. (It's been awhile, but it has happened to me in the past.) And as for the novel...If I don't quite wind it up by mid May at least I know it's closer to the finish and what I am writing is good. I'm satisfied it's going to be a success, something I can really be proud of. And then...maybe I'll have another look at that old Icon novel and see if I can resurrect Hyacinthos.

"On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome."
Edgar Allan Poe 18009- 1848 "To Helen" (1831) st.2


Megumi said...

I love the heady scent of hyacinth. It's so dreamy and romantic (and bad for my allergies...)

I'm glad you're not going to give up writing. That would make a lot of us sad. Besides, you have a gift for it, so I'm sure you'll publish the required 10 articles per year. ^_^

Wynn Bexton said...

Don't worry, Megumi, I won't really give up. I'm just horribly disillusioned over all the travel sites (online and print pub.) who expect you to GIVE away your work. And all those kinds of publications don't count for 'paid' that you need to get memberships into the big travel writer's orgs. I figured I've more than paid my dues having been publishing since 1982, but these days it's incredibly difficult to make any money at it.

Adrian Swift said...

Are prospects better for writing travel-related books instead of articles?

And best wishes for a happy, fun and safe trip coming up! Will you still blog from afar?

Wynn Bexton said...

Yes, Adrian, I've been giving this some thought. Actually I have been thinking of doing a travel memoir but haven't had time to develop it. However lately I'm reading a very good book "North of Ithaka" by Eleni Gage (daughter of Nicholas Gage who wrote "Eleni") It has made me yearn for my village life in Greece and I've started remembering so many of the stories of my time there. So once I get the novel finished I plan to start putting it all together.

I don't know how easy it is to publish a travel book but lots are self-published, and I've already had a suggestion to make a proposal to an e-publisher which I am considering when the time comes.
Meanwhle I shall keep plugging along sending those stories out and hoping to hit BINGO!

Anonymous said...

I love hyacinths too! In Argentina, it's a common boy's name - Jacintho.
I do hope you develop your travel memoire! Or at least compile a bunch of travel articles. (Hint hint, lol.)


Gabriele C. said...

I have hyacinths on my balcony.

I have that problem with my history essays - there's no paying market for the ones I post on my blog which are a bit more on the 'easy to understand' side. I have got a few academic essays published, but even there it's only the fame, not the money.