Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The First Half of the Week

This week I'm taking a creative non-fiction class with author Nancy Peacock at Meredith College.  I've learned so much, beginning with the fact that I totally misunderstood what creative non-fiction was.  I thought that it meant taking liberties with the truth to write a story.  Being creative with the facts.  Not so.  As one participant in the class said, "It's writing the truth creatively."  (I paraphrase.) I've learned that the essay, or memoir, has to have the same elements as a good story.  

Okay.  Some of you seasoned writers may be saying, "DUH!" but I'm a relative newbie to the art of writing!

I've almost always written fiction.  Many of my stories have lots of truth embedded in the story, but I guess I thought that by fictionalizing the characters, changing a few names, etc., I would be freer to explore my (or others') stories.

But today, I took the idea of a story that I wrote a few years back and used it in response to a prompt to write about something we carried.  Nancy read from one of my favorite books, The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien to get us thinking.  She and I had, coincidentally, both given the book out for World Book Night!

So I wrote this story as honestly as I could.  I believe the essay that emerged has it all over the short story that preceded it, and I intend to move forward with it and put the old story in a file drawer.

For an hour after lunch, we do what Nancy calls "independent study."  Writing on demand and reading it out to people you've only known a short while is demanding and somewhat exhausting.  Add that to the fact that on Friday, my father would have turned ninety, should have turned ninety except for that day when he fell down the stairs (you can read my fictionalized version of that day here.)  So yesterday my brain was very tired and instead of writing during that hour, I took my camera around the beautiful Meredith campus.  I was walking down the sidewalk and looked over and saw the origami crane in a leaf, pictured above.  It seemed to represent the workshop and the cosmic discoveries I've been making there.

PS:  There are still a couple of spaces in the Bookbinding class.  Let me know if you're interested.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bookbinding Class

Over the years, I have collected many books by this fine artist who also happens to be my daughter.  I have journals, datebooks, photo albums, book art.  They are carefully wrapped in tissue and stored on my bookshelf.

"Use them!" she says each time she sees them.  But I can't bear to.

When my youngest sister turned a certain milestone age, all the women in my family gathered at my house for a spa weekend.  We pampered ourselves, laughed, enjoyed each others' company.  As part of the activities of the weekend, my daughter led us all in a bookbinding class and everyone took home a beautiful little masterpiece!  She was a patient and knowledgeable teacher.

On July 21, she will lead a beginning bookbinding class for six lucky people.  If you're interested, please email me.

If you want to see more of her books and get an idea of what you'll take away from the class, please visit her website Rockpile Bindery.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Grist for the Mill

This past weekend I went to New York to visit family.  We had tickets to go to the 9/11 Memorial site.  There are two pools there where the two towers stood.

When I first started writing a few years ago, I took a class at Meredith College with Angela Davis-Gardner.  My initial attempt at a story was based on a PostSecret postcard.  It read:  "All those who knew me before 9/11 believe I'm dead."  I could not stop thinking about what that person's story was, and began to write my ideas.

The story has some strong sections, but this weekend I realized that it captures none of the real terror of that day.  I had just finished reading Don Delillo's book, Falling Man, which did a beautiful job of getting inside the head of two people who escaped from the towers that day.  The image of the Falling Man, a stunt person who reinacted someone falling from the towers, especially sticks with me.  I looked at the Brooklyn Bridge and thought of all those people running horrified away from the island.  Women must have been in heels; people were covered in dust; hearts must have been racing, loved ones in their thoughts.

I know that 9/11 is the defining event of my lifetime.  I hope we never see anything as horrifying as that on our soil, and that we are more compassionate and sensitive to those who live with terror and fear every day for having witnessed the day.

The atmosphere around the reflecting pools is still electric with what happened.  I saw people crying and I know that the emotions were not just felt by those who found names engraved on the stone around the pools.

As a writer, I will draw on my emotions from my visit this weekend and go back to my story and revise.  My character, Annalyn, hasn't been sent to the depths of disappearing yet, and I'm more prepared now to take her there.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Word of the Month is...

It all started when I picked up the latest issue of  The Sun Magazine.  The Readers Write section was called "Good Advice."  It was a longer than usual section; everyone wanted to tell their experience with following or rejecting advice.

Then a family member called.  "I need to talk about something.  I don't want any advice.  I just want you to listen."

Day before yesterday I met with some people about how to raise funds for an organization.  "Ask for (and listen to) advice from people who raise and dispense money."

Last night I had dinner with a writer friend.  We both needed advice and took turns asking and giving..

Advice is a tricky thing.  We all want to give it.  A few of us want to get it.  Some of us don't want to get it but do anyway.  And a very few of us, like my family member, know how to let you know they don't want it.

In a very short while I've been told how to listen to advice and use it to my advantage.  I've asked outright for it, been asked to refrain from giving it, refrained from giving it.

Tomorrow I'm going to ask a friend for some more advice, and if anybody asks me for some, I'll be only too happy to give it.  But I'm also going to be more aware that it's not always what someone wants when he or she comes to me with a problem, and I'll try to listen with my heart open, keeping my good advice to myself!