Wednesday, November 30, 2005

forgotten? fairy tale

I sent this fairy tale to Leslie in an e-mail. I learned that most people I know are not familiar with this beautiful Hans Christian Anderson's tale. So I retold it in short in mainly my own words. Thought you all may like it.The Little Match Girl is from a very poor home way back in Industrial Britain. There isn't a mother anymore, and the father makes the children make flowers and then they are sent out on the street to sell the flowers and matches. The Little Match Girl has only slippers with wholes in it on her feet that are too big. They were her mother's. She walks the busy streets and barely escapes a collision between a motor car and a horse and buggy. She loses one slipper and has to go on bare feet in the snow. It is close to New years. She doesn't sell anything. The stores are full of goodies. Well dressed people shop. They don't even see her. She is cold and hungry. She doesn't dare to go home. Her father will hit her for not bringing home money. She finds herself a spot in the corner of buildings to sit down for a spell. She looks at the matches and wonders if she dares to light one. She does. In the warm flame she sees a hot stove and stretches out her feet to warm them. The match goes out, taking the vision away. She strikes anothe match. The wall across from her becomes transparent and a table set with festive foods is laid out for her, making her tummy rumble. The scene disappears, when the match goes out. She strikes another one, and a beautiful Christmas tree, full colourful decorations and blazing candles appears before her feasting eyes. When the match goes out, the lights are the stars in the night sky. One of the stars is falling. Her grandmother, who died, and who she had loved so very much, had told her that when a star falls. someone dies and goes to God. She then strikes a handfull of matches. Her Grandmother appears with stretched out arms. She looks in her beautiful, loving face and remembers all the good times they had together. The grandmother lovingly takes the Little match girl in her arms and they soar in a halo of light and joy, far above the earth to where there was no more cold and hunger and no pain for they were with God. The next morning people on the street find the dead body of the Little Match Girl frozen, with a smile still on her face. They saw the burned matches and said, "She must have tried to warm herself." But no one imagined what beautiful visions she had seen, nor in what glory she had entered with her grandmother in the New Year.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Stupid snow.

I don't know if anyone else made it to the gathering tonight. (What is the term for DT nights? Circle? Meeting? Hippie Commune?) But I didn't. And I'm bloody annoyed.

I developed a fear of driving on snow a few years ago. Three hours of unpredictable spinning out on the highway will do that to a fella, apparently. The upshot is that I tend to limit my travel when conditions are white and six-pointed. Thus I bailed on tonights, er, you know.

But I'm annoyed because I've got something good this time. The last couple of times -- yeah, the reception was pretty positive (and I'm relieved and gratified at that, lemme tellya). But this time, oh, the chapter I was gonna bring... up till now, the novel's been tension and furrowed brows and such. Kind of a mafia-themed Jane Austen, at best. Without the humour. Or romance. But chapter three! This is the action. Bang! Zing! Biff! It's all in there. Definitely the goods and without question the stuff to give the troops.

And since everyone was so positive about the first couple of chapters, I figured this one would be a real winner. No way anyone would put down the book after this chapter. All midnight oil stocks, previously hoarded for an emergency, would be expended in the interest &c.

Hot stuff, I tells ya.

Plus, plus, I had a major announcement. Of a writing/publishing nature. See? The snow has not only denied this group the heart-racing palpitation of a gripping, driving story, but also the [melo]drama of a writer's life! Because, as all writers know full well, there's nothing as interesting as what a writer's doing! Especially (if not exclusively) what oneself is doing!

So there you have it. Snow, I curse thee. I give thee a minimum of one, and a natural maximum of two, figs. I spit in thine eye and cetera.

Come May, this kind of thing won't bug me any more. Not for months.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Steve Martin on Writing

On Monday, the National Post had an article by/about Steve Martin in which he gives some advice about writing. Quotes are taken from an article which appears in the latest issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine. These are compared with quotes from "Writing is Easy" which appeared in The New Yorker's 1996 fiction issue. Here are a few:

On Inspiration:
As I write this, for example, I am sitting comfortably in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I'm never at a loss for what to type. I just look deep into the heart of the rose, read its story, and then write it down.
2005: Sometimes you just sit down and start, as I did with L.A. Story. I like the idea of just sitting down and having vague ideas. Sometimes vague ideas create very original, surprising ideas.

On Writer's Block:
Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they can have an excuse to drink alcohol.
2005: Whenever I'm stuck I just do not write. I believe in a subconscious process, that on a subconscious level your mind is still working on it.

On Editing:
Sometimes the delete key is your best friend.
2005: You'll see more clearly what needs to be cut if you just lose that emotional connection to the moment of creativity.

On Borrowing:
Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow.
2005: Years ago I copied down a quote that came from a studio script reader who was analyzing a script. She wrote this line -- "by leaving out the occasional narrative step, the authors hook your interest and avoid the kind of point-blank exposition that so easily deadens interest." I thought that line was great.

Larry Keiler

Friday, November 18, 2005

Another trip to Emerg

Chest pains. 911. Sirens. Kitchen full of police, firemen, EMS workers in black uniforms, big bags of medical gear on the kitchen floor, iv's in Bob's arm, blood on the floor, wrappers and syringes left in the blood. Bob's face is pale, but his eyes are alert, watching everything going on around him. That's Bob for you, trying to experience everything no matter how bad. Grist for the mill of consciousness. Maybe for the mill of writing. Freefalling, writing without a parachute, going into the unknown, into the next experience, not knowing what will happen at the hospital or what he will write next. Until it happens. Living in the moment.

Eleven hours in Emerg. Blood tests. Doctors hustling from bed to bed. Girl with allergic reaction, pumped full of benadryl, very sleepy. Man having chest pains in the next cubicle. Man two cubicles down, more chest pains.

Three level 1 emergencies come in by ambulance.

It's a bad day, one nurse says to the other. We can't even take breaks, says a third.

A white haired woman in Room 1 cannot be revived. The chaplain comes, stands outside the room. No family is with her. She lies on a gurney, intubated, body covered with a white sheet. Face not covered. Yet.

They rush another woman in, a younger woman with smoke inhalation, throat coated with soot, burns on her chest. She moans and says many words in a strange language. Later she is quiet. Wheeled off to ICU.

The last level 1 is an older man. He is unconscious. Also wheeled off to ICU.

The walls in Emerg are blue and green. Pale colours, meant to soothe. They should be magenta, or fuscia, or purple or canary yellow. Something to lift the spirits. To breathe life into the patients who are losing theirs.

Bob's blue hospital gown has a number printed on the front. All I can think of everytime I look at the number is PRISONER.

I ask Bob if he'd like me to buy him a magazine. But Bob needs nothing. No book, no hobby. He is fascinated by every beep on the monitor, by his latest blood pressure reading, by the stories unfolding around him. When something interesting is happening that he can't see, I am his emissary. He sends me out to snoop around, come back and tell him what they are doing to the patient in bed 4.

I need to keep busy. Co-pilot stress syndrome. I resolve to bring my laptop next time. And my needlepoint. And a book. And a backrest for the horrid chair that I remember from last time. And the time before. And the time before that. I will pack a little kit bag, like pregnant women do, and keep it in my closet so I will just have to pick it up and go out the door the next time the ambulance comes for Bob.

Bob is in Bed 7. It his first time in Bed 7. Maybe it's a sign. Seven is a lucky number, I tell him. He doesn't hear me, the oxygen makes too much noise. And the monitor is beeping again.

I sit on the horrid chair and contemplate. Emerg... is that like emerging? Feels more like freefalling. Or maybe a bit of both.



Took some time to try the blog out. Still don't get the hang of the whole process. It's like trying to learn a new language. Mostly I run out of time and patience to stick with it. Read Leslie's story about sailing and feminism on the screen, yesterday.Good story. But you know what? Again I realize that I do not enjoy reading from the screen as much as reading from hard copy. Even with what I write myself. I have to print out what I have written before I can truly judge my work, get the real feel of it. So far I still feel an alien in the world of blogging. Where did that word originate, anyway. Where is it made up from. First I thought it was an invention from Larry Keiler. / Beautiful sun-up this morning. Pastel streaked sky and paling full moon over icing sugared world. Have a good day everyone.


Friday, November 04, 2005

The Great Failure

I've just read Natalie Goldberg's latest memoir, The Great Failure. My Unexpected Path to Truth, and I'm wrestling with what I think about it. My gut reaction is to say, "Nat - someday someone's gonna write a book about YOU, somebody you love. They're gonna sit down and put that pen to paper in some little cafe, just like you've instructed, and not lift that pen up until it all comes out, all those first thoughts - how you've injured them in some way, they'll write it as truth. What's THAT gonna feel like, Nat? And you can't respond, 'cause the book is in print, it's out there in the world."

I'm not sure if the writer should publicly "lay bare" the people they've known intimately - whether that's a sexual intimacy or the intimacy that comes from deep friendship or sharing common space, common ground. I'm not sure everything's fair game when it comes to first- person writing, nor am I sure I buy into the viewpoint that publishing what you are confronting through your writing is necessarily a bravery. I guess what I'm struggling with is the following: Because you are engaged in the process of explaining yourself to yourself, which in a sense is the first act of memoir, does that mean there are no boundaries? The ego, after all (and I use ego without negative connotions, the "I" perspective, not as egotistical), sees reality pretty much through his or her own "eye/I." Where does that leave the subject - the "he or she" who did this to me? And when you have an audience as big as Natalie Goldberg's - wow. That's public crucifixion - perhaps even crucifiction - since it is personal perspective.

The book is very well written (sometimes I can hear Natalie's voice putting herself through her writing exercises - and I mean that literally, I've listened to her audiotapes). But sheesh, I just wonder about the role of love in it all, and compassion, and trust, whether it is fair and write/right to do what's she's done.

In a way, she is at the cutting edge of "boomer-dom." She's written a memoir about what the huge demographic is now experiencing, the death of their parents- whether figurative or literal father/mother figures. It is how she handles this figurative father that I question in particular, although I have questions about her actual father, too. In her first book, she sets her Buddhist teacher on a pedestal. In this book, she takes him off.

As the writer, Natalie edits. There are parts where I want to say to her, okay Nat, let's explore HERE. Dig deeper into your own motivation and shortcomings, you've hinted at them. Like when she acknowledges with regret that her former husband, at the young age of thirty, faced the death of his parents alone because she was at the buddhist centre, doing zazen - sitting meditation - literally hours at a time. Days on end. That, to me, was internal bravery on Nat's part, to see that about herself. I wanted more there...

This isn't all theoretical to me - much of my recent writing is from the first-person perspective. So the struggle is real.