Monday, November 30, 2009

Finished

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Depends on what you mean by hard.

Ask me again after I've had about fifty hours of sleep.

Haven't slept since a 3hr nap in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Not sure when or how much before that.

I actually topped word-count by 5K because I had been not allowing myself to check word count for over a week because I was doing it too often and loosing too much time and attention to it. So I guestimated my day's output around midnight each day and rounded down the resultant total to the nearest multiple number ie 33,333 because they are easy to type in and I have an affection for such number. :) So this afternoon when I allowed myself to check where I stood, my ap showed 55673. The NaNo verifier lost 600 odd of them tho.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Serenity #155


The five crocheted bookmarks destined for the winners of my RIF read-a-thon mini-challenge


I took a little break from NaNo today even though it might mean I don't get my win this year. Still need between 6 & 10K. But today I wanted to hang with Ed on possibly his one day off this week and he wanted to have a Gilmore Girl marathon. So during his cig intermissions between episodes, I crocheted and finally finished the last of the five bookmarks for the winners of my mini-challenge at the read-a-thon over a month ago now. I hope to get them in the mail this week.

I'm not happy with the blue one on the far left. I misjudged the length of ribbon and I think I'm going to pull it out and measure out a long-enough piece to make the tails at the bottom about four to six inches. I'm not happy with the picture either. The colors are not showing true. The purple and green one in the middle, the one I made today, especially is not right. It was even worse before I fiddled with the color hue and saturation and brightness and contrast. Before that the green looked blue and the purple looked blue-violet and the ribbon looked magenta. But in getting that one to look more like itself, I made the two variegated pastels to either side of it look too bright and color saturated than they really are. I think I need lessons in taking pictures.

Anyway. I'm looking forward to the end of NaNo in a bit over 23 hours now. I got a taste of one of the things I gave up in the last couple weeks and I am craving more. More TV stories. More crochet or needlework. More reading of fiction. More sleep. More exercise. More goofing off--like computer solitaire, mah jong and jigsaw puzzles. More just-because music that might mess with the mood I need to establish for whatever story scene I'm working on.

But I can wait one more day. It would be a bit silly to just quit on the last day. Not that I really want to quit. I am enmeshed in the story world to the point I can't think about anything else for sustained amounts of time. I do want the word count pressure lifted though so that I can relax and enjoy a slower pace. I want to be able to savor the ah ha moments and all the moments in between while feeling safe to stay all day-dreamy which is what incubates the story.

But enough of this. Now is not the time to be musing about the fit between a NaNo pace and my preferred work habits. Now is for pressing on toward the mark.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Still Drumming the Keys

WELL DON'T DIS BEAT ALL
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Wearing my fingers to the bone.

The better to drum with my dear.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Forays in Fiction: NaNo Finishline In Sight

mai storee   b on itz last leggs
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3 days. 13K to go. Doable? Just. Readable? No so much.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day

But don't be a turkey.

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Remember the meaning of the day lies more in the thanks part than in the yums part.

Let your gratitude extend to those supplying, preparing, serving and cleaning up after the meals.

Finally, appreciate the fellowship of friend and family.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

5 Minute Coffee Break

fine 5 minuts 4 coffee brek din bak 2 wurk serv myn wit coffee on side k?
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NaNo day 25 about to be history leaving me with five more days to bout with my story. And one of those is Thanksgiving with obligations I can't duck.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

dis NaNo thinkn cap ai wearz n diktate wurdz itz ur only hope nao
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Supposed to have hit 40K today. Only got 26 and to get that had to pull a 4K day. To get the 50K by midnight November 30, I'll have to pull 4K every day, including Thanksgiving Day. Am thinking only miracle or magic could make it happen now. Well, that and keeping fingers on keyboard.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Word Bank Overdraft

yor storee so riviting so captivatng so nchantng......zzzzzz
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Applied wordage to NaNO today. Am tapped out. Slept only 3.5 hours this morning. Eyelids have minds of their own.....

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Serenity #154



Still got drumming on my mind. See last weeks post. Got a kick out of this vid of Jerry Lewis in a drum duel with Buddy Rich. Loved the huge eclectic collection of drums in Jerry's 'set'. It made me feel like:



But then the nasty harpies started messing with my head. "Whahahahaha. What female drummers besides babies banging pots and pans have you ever heard of?"

Well...



Harpies: "Oh yeah? but what about blind drummers? Bwararharharharhar."

What do ya know...



Harpies: But that's a kid. Who ever heard of an over fifty woman learning the drums? *Kackle*

Ummm...



Harpies: She wasn't over 50 when she started!!

Oh stuff it you ol shrews!!! I've got as much right to make noise as you do. Get outta my space less I start practicin' on your face!

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Project Portfolio

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I finally got around to sifting through my story and poem files to make hard copies of anything I didn't yet have and anything that had been revised enough to warrant a new one. It is a task I've been putting off for months even though I'd been waiting for years for the opportunity before I finally had it as of July. I got my printer for my birthday last November but didn't even break it out of its box then, being busy with NaNo and plans to visit my Mom for a couple weeks before Xmas. I had planned to set it up right after Xmas. Then that visit was altered by her Mom's accident and instead of a couple weeks before Xmas it ended up being six months after Xmas.

But the printer has been set up since July and the excuses since then amount to massive procrastination on a majorly intimidating project. Actually I didn't completely blow it off. I have been doing the sifting part for months as a by-product of the work I was doing in working with my FOS story world and prepping for NaNo and doing NaNo. I had done the sifting for the poems while I was in Longview and they were just waiting to be tended to. For them I was intimidated by the formatting challenges.

On one of the shopping trips with my sister just before returning home last June, I picked up a box of 250 sheet protectors for three-ring binders. My mom gave me two very large--one is approximately 2 inches thick and the other 4--binders that once held the annual papers and reports for a couple of the agencies she used to volunteer for. I was intending to turn them into project files for my fiction--the smaller one for my sci-fi fantasy trilogy and the larger one for FOS. I also bought a 1 inch thick plastic three-ring binder to create a portfolio for my stories. So I could migrate them out of the current one they share with my poems.

The portfolio I created in the late nineties was a no-ring folder with 20 non-removable sheet protectors. The first 11 held poems--2 each, front and back--the rest held either whole stories or one sheet story seeds, again 2 each with the front page of the story facing out on one side and the story seed facing out on the other. I'd been wanting to move the stories out to make room for all the new poems created for Monday Poetry Train over the last two or three years. Many of them had been composed in Blogger and didn't exist even in files on my laptop let alone as hard copy. I did the work of hunting them down in my archives and copy/pasting them to my poetry WhizFolder while I was in Longview last spring. Was planning to print them off then but didn't get around to it. The biggest chore today was the formatting of each one individually. Since many of them had been composed in response to a photo or piece of art, I went ahead and included the graphic. The poem portfolio is now full with 40 poems. I have another dozen or so haiku but am waiting to do them.

One of the factors intimidating me about the fiction printing project was my plan to make clean copy or every single story and story fragment after doing a thorough edit. I decided to limit myself to only the fragments that did not yet exist in hard copy. There were less than a dozen pages that fit that criteria. The idea was to just get it all into one binder and see where things stood. And then replace each one as needed or as I get around to editing, revising or expanding them. I managed to stuff sixty-some sheet protectors into that binder. And all but a handful--five or six--are full with pages of stories or story fragments--full stories, partial stories, storyseeds, and random scenes from WIP.

After filling the portfolios I put labels on each that mimicked the look of titles: Poems by Joy Renee & Stories by Joy Renee. I was not prepared for how moved I was by the look and feel and heft of them as I held them, opened them and turned the plastic pages like the pages of a book.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Forays in Fiction: Using Common Stuff

Keep ur hanz on keyboard coff up dem wurds ah ketch da snezez fur u
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Been sick the last several days so words are trickling slower than my nose. Hense the lazy LOLcat headers that head little to nothing. Hoped to conserve my words for NaNo but mostly consigned the extra time to sleeping or trying to. Being sick reminded me of that quote from Virginia Woolf's essay "On Being Ill" I posted yesterday and while preparing that post I took her musing about how odd it is, considering how common it is, that illness does not have a place equal to love, battle and so forth in literature, to heart and decided to incorporate some illness into my NaNo to make use of the rich vein of intimate detail now available to me. Since it is so hard to think of anything else with sneezes building up like Old Faithful's geyser behind my eyes, I might as well mine it for all its worth.

Could go on...but still conserving the wordage for NaNo.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quote: from "On Being Ill" by Virgina Woolf

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Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist's arm-chair and confuse his "Rinse the mouth--rinse the mouth" with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us--when we think of this, as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

from "On Being Ill" by Virgina Woolf

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaNo Waylaying Ways and Means

NaNo Procatsinashun tactic #555
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Cost of cups = 100 words each
Cost of peanuts (for flicking at cups) = 66 words each
Cost of band-aids and Bactine = 7 words (as long as its words 1661-1667

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Last Night I Drempt...

Last night I drempt i gave my NaNo novel to basement cat
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Better that than your soul you say? But what if it's one and the same? It be hard to tell the difference right now.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

NaNoWhineMor

i-has-to-work-overtime-again-today-do-not-want.jpg
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__So don't

__What u mean?

__NaNo all volunteer rite?

__Yeah. So?

__You do for fun rite?

__Well...

__So it stops being fun just stop.

__Get thee behind me you basement cat minion!

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Serenity #153

What does joy, O Mag, B & N, Shakespeare, Dreams, Books, Drums and Gilmore Girls have to do with one another let alone with Sunday or Serenity?

Well Friday was my birthday and Ed was planning to take me out to dinner but got home late and wiped. Instead he brought home Subway sandwiches and the latest O Magazine to hit the stands. I'd mentioned the O Mag earlier that week when the Oprah show was about the making of the cover and the story behind it--the shenanigans Ellen pulled on her show last winter that inspired Oprah to invite her to share a cover with her and the photo shoot and the reveal of the cover. Ed had walked in while I was watching, shortly after the reveal and I was like 'Whoa, look, my name is on O!!! I want! I want!'

I was half being silly but only half. I collect things with my name on them. Not because--or at least not just because--it is my name. But because of the meaning of the word that is my name. I didn't start doing that until the mid nineties tho. Before that, for most of my life and especially through my whole school years, I hated my name exactly because of the association with the word and its meaning. It didn't help that I was constantly reminded by my parents that they'd named me Joy because my arrival had brought them such joy and I was supposed to be a joyful child and I'd been such a happy baby so what happened? Because from about age 4.5 on I was a moody and often morose child.

Ed was aware of all of this so his bringing home the O mag was a meaningful gesture to go with his apology and promise to do something special on Sunday instead. So today he took me out to Hometown Buffet for dinner but first we made a stop at Barnes & Noble so I could spend over an hour browsing and deciding how to spend the $40 gift card my niece (who was my secret Santa last year) had given me for Christmas just before I left town for six months to help out with my Mom's post-surgery care in Longview.



So today was both a belated birthday and belated Xmas celebration in a sense. And after nearly two hours of browsing and finding and considering over a dozen items on my serious wish list, I selected two books and--something else--but first the books:


Thinking Shakespeare byBarry Edelstein wasn't on my wish list by title but by topic--I needed something to give me insight and hard facts about what it means to act in and/or direct a Shakespeare play because of that story I'm planning to write that has Faye, Julia, Wilma, and Inny producing Macbeth with high school kids. Before I picked this one up, I'd looked at several of the Shakespeare books I keep checking out of the library and looked for several more that weren't there. Every one of them would have eaten at least 90% of the card and a couple would have gone over. I still seriously considered at least three of them but couldn't decide between them. Then Ed handed this one to me and I read the subtitle: A how-to guide for student actors, directors and anyone else who wants to feel more comfortable with the Bard.

That hooked me into opening at random where I read this advice: Shakespeare's characters thought in ten syllables. After I read the explanation surrounding that line, I knew I needed this book and I knew the library didn't have it because I've had out every Shakespeare book they have at least once and had never seen this one. Only then did I look at the price and see that I could have it and at least one other of the items I'd considered--one of the $30 something which meant either the Crochet Stitch Bible or the book with 200 braid patterns.

But on second thought, I still have the Crochet Stitch Bible checked out of the library and besides I knew I could get them both on Amazon cheaper if I waited so my thoughts went back to the first book I'd pointed at on our way into the store--the new Stephen King. I knew it would be months before we could get our turn at the library and I knew Ed was as eager as I for it. But on the other hand, I wouldn't get to read it until after Christmas anyway as I couldn't start it during NaNo and I really didn't want to carry 1000 page tome with me to Longview since I'd not likely be able to read much while there anyway.

While all this was going through my head, I was making my way back to the front section where we'd started. Alone because Ed had wandered off as soon as he handed that Shakespeare book to me. I had started to head back to the sewing and craft section but had just made a turn back towards the display tables where the bestsellers where and was about to make another sharp turn toward the bargain section where I'd spotted that encyclopedia of symbols and signs in dreams which I'd spent a good ten minutes looking at earlier, intrigued by its discussion of the language of image and musing about its relevance for a writer who might like to know the potential impact of certain images they're thinking of using in stories or poems. That was only $10 and Thinking Shakespeare was only $8 so I could have both and still have something else in the $20 something range.

But before I could get back to that spot I ran into Ed. Almost literally. I stopped short by about half an inch. He was looking for me and he had the something else plus a book. And he was telling me that if these three items went over the card limit he would cover the excess. The book was the latest Oprah Book Club selection, Say You're One of Them.

So tempting. It was on the list I had rattled off in the car on the way. I'd been wanting it since Oprah announced it a couple months ago and he had looked at all the places he had been shopping--Wal-Mart, Target, grocery stores--but it was never in stock when he happened to be looking. B&N is quite out of the way of his usual routes and he wouldn't have gone there without me. He had been promising me a visit 'soon' ever since I got back from Longview in June but it never worked out for both of us on the same day. So tempting.

But the Oprah Book Club web event had met over that book last week and my turn is coming any day for the library book. So I held my finger up, saying 'Maybe, but just a sec.' and darted (as best I could with a white cane in a semi-crowded store aisle) toward that dream symbol book to take another look at it. Ed followed and when he saw what I had returned to, he laid the novel in some random place and reached for the two books in my hands and said 'Let's go.' as he laid them on top of the box he was carrying:



It's a beginner's drum kit with the sticks and a practice pad, a book with lessons that start with how to hold the stick and include over 100 exercises that take you into advanced technique and a DVD with over 70 minutes of instruction. I'd pointed this out to him in the first ten minutes we were in the store. I hadn't really thought to include it in today's choices but for him to consider for Christmas maybe or just to be pointing it out because my long standing interest in learning the drums had just heated up again this past week as he and I reached the Gilmore Girls episode late in season two in which Rory's best friend Lane Kim finds her true passion and calling--drumming.

I'd first told Ed of my thwarted interest in learning the drums our Senior year in high school when we noticed we both had the annoying habit of tapping--he with his fingers and me with pencils and pens. I told him that my first choice for a band instrument as I entered sixth grade had been drums but it had been nixed by both the band teacher and my parents. The teacher said it wasn't a girl's instrument. My parents said it wasn't for hymn accompaniment. I ended up with the clarinet which I hated and dropped after two years.

I had been talking a lot in the last two years--ever since NaNo 2007 when I gave two of my major characters drumming as a skill and passion--that I really needed to learn how to play drums now if I were to make these character's ability on the drums believable. I don't know the jargon, or the feel of holding the sticks or how it feels when the sticks hit the drums surface. I don't even know the correct way of holding the sticks.

By bringing the box to me and offering to pay the extra so I could still have two books, Ed was essentially telling me it was time, that finding that kit at that price on this day was a sign and I'd be a fool to walk out of that store without that box because who knew if either of us could get back here before Christmas and it was so obviously a Christmas special they would not likely continue to stock beyond it.



He was right and I came home with them. As thrilled as I am that I'm about to embark on learning a skill I've dreamed about for forty years there is that part of me wondering what the world were you thinking? Your poor wrists are not going to thank you. In fact they just may curse you.




But then again, nobody is saying I have to get good at it. This is about playing with a couple of sticks and letting the rhythms penned up in my brain loose once in a while. And its about learning just enough that I can create a believable character who can be as expert, as genius at the drums as her story requires. And its about saying 'Yes!' to something that my intuition has been trying to tell me for most of my life is needed by my psyche and for some unfathomable reason is connected in my psyche with the concept of joy--and Joy.





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Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNo Woes

Dis not werkin owt lyke I tot it wood.
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That about sums it up. So no sense in wasting any more words on bemoaning it as any words I can conjure tonight are needed for NaNo.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Forays in Fiction: Tangled Yarns

Tangled Yarnz!1!  it b mai birfday?
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Almost skipped doing Friday Forays at all this week because I'm waaaaaaaay behind in NaNo still and frustrated beyond words. Besides today was my birthday and I celebrated by doing loads of laundry including the bedding and breaking out our winter wear and running some of it through the wash and the rest through the dryer and then having to find new easy to get at homes for all that bulky stuff in this tiny room that is our bedroom, our entertainment center, our library and our offices.

I'm sure that doesn't sound like a normal birthday celebration but I needed to take advantage of Ed's folks being out of town for two days to have hours and hours of use of the machines and room to spread the mess into the living room--piles and piles of blankets, sweaters, sweats, jackets, coats, scarves, gloves, long-sleeved shirts, wool socks and long johns. Plus the fact is that I relish the chance to move about the house without the fear of colliding with other moving bodies or feeling my every move under observation or of leaving evidence of my passing through a room behind.

I also spent several short sessions and one nearly full hour on the mini-tramp which I was able to have indoors around the clock. And while on the tramp and while handling laundry I did a lot of musing about my story world and trying to talk myself down from the feeling that I've got a hopeless mess of tangled time-lines, story lines, plot lines, character arcs etc etc etc. Trying to forestall the urge to start fussing with the tangled mass of threads and picking at them and separating them out and making tidy little skeins. Oh, and the research too. Because if I go there, fretting with the minutia whether story threads or fact checking or organizing the WhizFolder files, I'm essentially abandoning NaNo. No way to get normal NaNo word count while doing any of that let alone the catchup quantity I now need. I'm at least a week behind as it is.

Then to add to my angst, Oprah interviewed Stephanie Meyer today and I learned that she began writing the Twilight saga in 2003 after one vivid dream that gave her the characters of Ed and Bella standing in a rain forest clearing. She wrote that scene, which is now in chapter 13 and then wrote to the end of the first novel, Twilight, and then came back and wrote from the beginning to that scene. She was a stay at home Mom with three pre-schoolers--5, 3 and 1. Six years later she has four books published and two movies.

I know it can be counter-productive to compare ourselves among ourselves. But I can't help wondering if I'm as dedicated to the proposition of being a storyteller as I've been claiming. The first of the stories now in my FOS story world was begun when I was in 9th grade in 1973. The story that established the story world and then enfolded most stores begun before and after was begun when I was in college in 1985.

One of the things that stood out in stark contrast between mine and Stephanie's work-habits is that she kept her story project a secret from all but a select few. Even her husband was out of the loop. Maybe I'm doing too much talking about writing (including right here in my Friday Forays) and talking about my stories instead of doing the writing work itself. And that's exactly what NaNo is supposed to give me. The time and place and right to write for as many hours of the day as I want for 30 straight days.

Another stark contrast (and somewhat related to the first) is that those few who knew were also her rough draft readers who, with a combination of encouragement with their eager demand for the next pages and their constructive suggestions when something wasn't working right, kept her confidence and determination unflagging. I don't have that.

And yet another contrast: I've lived those same six years without the hindrances Stephanie had--no kids, no household to run (and no outside job besides.) Based on the evidence of how I actually use my time, any observer would be justified in telling my stories and characters, 'Sorry, but she's just not that into you.'

One of the things I do have in common with Stephanie is that the seed of every one of my stories that went beyond one scene or 1000 words originated in a vivid dream. Sometimes that dream was a single haunting image and others were complex plotted stories. One of the things I've been doing for a couple years now is not recording those dreams when they occur because I felt so overwhelmed by all the WIP I already had going. I've been wondering for awhile now if that was a mistake. If that was as much as telling my muses to get lost?

Well, when I saw that picture on icanhascheezeburger.com I immediately realized what I need to make it thru the last half of NaNo. I need to squelch the urge to tidy up the threads of my yarns and cultivate the attitude of the cat--the joy of playing among the tangled threads and dare I, can I say it? Toss the cat a few more skeins!

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Book Giveaway: The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

( oops. fixed the post title. so embarrassed. )

I'm authorized to give away 5 copies. Rules for entry in the drawing are below. Please read them carefully.

The Gate House
by Nelson DeMille
Grand Central Publishing
800p

#1 New York Times bestselling author Nelson DeMille delivers the long-awaited follow-up to his classic novel The Gold Coast.

When John Sutter's aristocratic wife killed her mafia don lover, John left America and set out in his sailboat on a three-year journey around the world, eventually settling in London. Now, ten years later, he has come home to the Gold Coast, that stretch of land on the North Shore of Long Island that once held the greatest concentration of wealth and power in America, to attend the imminent funeral of an old family servant. Taking up temporary residence in the gatehouse of Stanhope Hall, John finds himself living only a quarter of a mile from Susan who has also returned to Long Island. But Susan isn't the only person from John's past who has reemerged: Though Frank Bellarosa, infamous Mafia don and Susan's ex-lover, is long dead, his son, Anthony, is alive and well, and intent on two missions: Drawing John back into the violent world of the Bellarosa family, and exacting revenge on his father's murderer--Susan Sutter. At the same time, John and Susan's mutual attraction resurfaces and old passions begin to reignite, and John finds himself pulled deeper into a familiar web of seduction and betrayal. In THE GATE HOUSE, acclaimed author Nelson Demille brings us back to that fabled spot on the North Shore -- a place where past, present, and future collides with often unexpected results.
Become a fan on Facebook

www.nelsondemille.net

Read an excerpt





Rules:

  • Leave a comment in this post expressing your interest in entering the drawing.
  • Provide an @ by which I can contact you in case of a win. Either in your comment or in an email to me at joystory AT gmail DOT com If you email your @ be sure to connect it to your entry. If I do not receive an @ your entry will be disqualified.
  • If, in the case of a win, you would like me to link to your blog in the winners announcement post, provide your URL in your comment or via email. This is not a requirement for entering nor do you have to have a blog yourself in order to enter.
  • Bonus Entries: If you blog or twitter about this giveaway or link to it in other ways (ie facebook, myspace etc), send me a link to the post or page and your name will be entered again for each case. Meaning, you can blog and tweet for two extra entries. (Multiple tweets will not gain you further entries as I do not wish to encourage twitter spam.)
  • Deadline for entering is NOON PST Saturday, December 5, 2009. I will select the winners with a random sequence generator using www.random.org.
  • I will announce the winners in a post as well as notify by email. Winners must respond with their mailing info within two days or forfeit. In which case I notify the next entry in the sequence generated by random.org.
  • Winners must provide a US or Canadian mailing address. Hachette is unable to deliver to PO Boxes. Also, for those of you winning the same title in more than one contest, be aware that Hachette may not deliver multiple copies of a single title to a single address.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sorry

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I read too long last night and into the morning and into the afternoon. When I sat down after dinner to do the post I had planned my lap top threw a tantrum, insisting on a restart. Now I'm out of patience and brain sizzle. I could probably revive myself with some caffeine but I really don't dare do that tonight as I've got my one month BP check tomorrow morning and going in sleep deprived and wired on caffeine is not likely help.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happiness is...

funny pictures
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Will be spending part of this night's session writing on my NaNo novel and part of it reading a novel. Maybe my Merlin will deign to join me for the latter.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The Power of Story



I wish I'd thought to post about this last week thereby helping to spread the word but instead I'm posting in the afterglow of an event already passed. I just finished participating in the latest Oprah Book Club web event. This time for Uwem Akpan's story collection Say You're One of Them. This time CNN's Anderson Cooper was participating and CNN.com was hosting it via CNN Live. Facebook got in on the act too putting up a feed so anyone with a Facebook account could make a status report directly from the same screen you were watching the event on. As always Skype was involved but I don't have that technology on my laptop. Not that I can really imagine myself Skyping in on a whim from this room. :)

It took most of my reserve of social courage to make that one entry in my Facebook feed at the beginning. Some times I think the real reason I'm not published myself by now (except on my web site) is due to self-sabotaging out of fear of having to make public appearances on behalf of my stories.

But I digress. I apologize. But it may happen again before I'm done. I have to just get this written at speed, going wherever my thoughts go because I'm a bit punch-drunk from sleep deprivation, having spent all last night trying to finish or reach good stopping places in several library books that had to leave when my husband left for work if I did not want to walk the mile to the library and back to make sure they were in the slot before 10. Then after the books were wrested from my grasp at eight, I spent several hours trying to close the gaping abyss between my current NaNo word count and where it should be by day 9. I made over 1700 by 2pm at which point I succumbed to the temptation to turn on the TV for Gilmore Girls.

For those in the know, it was the episode of Luke's sister's wedding near the ending of season 4. Need I say more? Sure, I've seen it at least twice and I still have my niece's DVDs but it was HARD to not turn it on knowing it was on right that moment. Besides if I got the disk out later I'd probably watch four episodes instead of just one. I chalked it up to research on story. :) GG is one of the best done TV drama/comedy ever and the things a storyteller in training can learn from watching repeatedly are innumerable.

So GG was followed by Dr. Phil which I knew was continued from last Monday. And then of course Oprah--the big Oprah/Ellen O cover reveal. OMG I want a copy of that magazine! Besides all the other great things about it, it has my name writ in huge red script across the middle!! Yeah I know it's not really my name when it's used that way.

It wasn't until Oprah was over that I opened my PDF of the first story in the book "Ex-mas Feast", a free download provided when I reserved my spot on the web event over a week ago. I have been in queue for a library copy since the day Oprah announced the selection and I just reached next in line today which means it'll be another three weeks or more before I get my turn unless whoever has it now turns it in early.

Me being the great procrastinator in all things had that story on my lap top since the day before Halloween but didn't open it until an hour before the web event was to start. It was thirty pages and I finished it with seconds to spare--or so I thought at first before I realized that the timer on the event window had frozen at 7:34 and my watch, which is five minutes fast said 7 after 6. By the time I had tried refresh twice, closed the window and signed back in and this time accept the offer of a download/install to make a faster and smoother connection, the event was underway. I had missed at least five minutes.

So I'm probably going to go watch it over again on Oprah.com tomorrow. I could also download a podcast on itunes but I don't know if I've got enough room left on my hard drive for a 90 minute video.

Below are Oprah's video logs reacting to four of the five stories in the book. The first one had the embed disabled and there wasn't one available for the fifth at all. They are worth watching to get an idea of the powerful impact these stories can have on a reader. I can't wait to read the rest now. She is careful to share only enough of the story itself to make it a teaser and not a spoiler for those who haven't read them yet. Which is good because it appears all five have endings like the first that Oprah says make her gasp.

Oprah reacts to the first story "Ex-mas Feast"

A homeless family in Nairobi is supported by the teen-aged daughter's prostitution as seen through the eyes of her eight year old brother.



Oprah reacts to the second story, "Fattening for Gabon" In which a family member is sold into prostitution. Different family, different African country. Yet again a child's POV as are all five.



Oprah reacts to the third story, "What Language is That?" A meditation on the communication between friends when verbal means are denied them.



Oprah reacts to the fourth story, "Luxurious Hearses", A Muslim boy travels incognito on a bus full of Christians who'd likely be unfriendly if not hostile if they knew.

The fifth story takes place during the Rwandan genocide as seen through the eyes of a teen.

What I really wish I could have posted with this was a few excerpts of the web event itself. Especially some of the Skype video of the young man who was a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, having been about the same age as the teen in the story at the time. As he shared his story and how he's coping fifteen years later and how encountering this Akpan's story at this time was such a boon. I began weeping and couldn't stop. He was still talking when CNN cut away for the next scheduled thing. I'm hoping the Oprah video tomorrow will not.

While I was sitting here in this tiny room in a trailer house in a tiny town in rural Oregon USA, listening to that young man bare his heart and soul for the tens of thousands watching from around the globe, and feeling my heart open to his, I was just overcome by the power that stories have to connect peoples hearts and then to combine that with the power of the technology to make possible for the potential of thousands of hearts around the globe to be opening under the impact of the same story in the same moment. I was just awestruck by it. It just really once again confirms for me what I have sensed in an inarticulate fashion, that story is the key to healing so many of our ills. From the stories we tell ourselves about our selves, about our family, about our neighbors, about our tribe/nation, about our religious community, about our divinities, about our universe and what it means to be alive, to the stories we share between cultures, between friends, between enemies, between our past and our future.

But stories have as much power to harm and poison as they do to heal. That's why it matters what stories we tell, and to whom and why.

When I first started thinking this way about story, I pooh-poohed my self, saying, well of course you're going to be seeing story everywhere you look and giving it credit when it's probably absurd to do so because you've not pulled your head out of one story or another since you were four years old long enough to check out other options, to see if there is anything else in the world worth waking up for each day. Biased a bit , you think?

But then something like this web event happens, or the day of the read-a-thon last month and I'm astonished by the power of the evidence to support my bias.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sunday Serenity #152

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Josh and Emily Dickens Updates



If you're new to this story see my original post about the tragic car accident these close family friends were in three weeks ago--just five weeks after their wedding.

I haven't updated on Josh and Emily's situation since that post as I have been getting my info several days after its news so I really didn't think it would be useful to anyone. But tonight my sister has forwarded a week's worth of update emails that end with this evening and two important links were included in one of them.

Click the pic at top to see a synopsis of the story and contribute to the fund set up to see them through the next 6 months to a year. Emily had their main income job as Josh was still in college. She won't be able to return to work for at least six months. She'll be wearing the halo for the broken neck for at least three months.





The latest on Josh is that the surgery on his eye may not be necessary after all. He was released from the hospital at Port Angeles just over a week ago and has been at Emily's side at Harborview Hospital in Seattle every moment he can since.

The latest on Emily is that she has had to return to ICU this evening after having been moved to her own room Friday morning and allowed to go about in a wheelchair. There is some indication of an ulcer or internal bleeding. She is also not making enough of her own blood and may need more transfusions.

So prayers for them and their families are still welcomed with gratitude.

Here is the link to the Facebook where up to the minute updates are posted.

My sister has taken on the care of Josh and Emily's puppy Harley. She has had training and experience in training puppies and dogs and my Mom was gracious enough to welcome him into her home where my sister and her son live. I'm scheduled to make a couple week visit to Mom's after Thanksgiving so I'll get to meet this little pup.

Harley

Ah, shucks, I thought I'd saved a copy of Harley's pic my sister shared via IM but I couldn't find it. I just spent an hour looking for it (really need to organize and winnow my picture folders) and now its past midnight so by default I've logged another zero word count day for NaNo.

I gave up on the pic and posted without it then went to join the Josh and Em facebook page where I found my sister had posted a link for the pic so I came straight back and added it here. He's a cutie. 4 month old German Shepherd, Austrailian Shepard and Pit Bull cross. I also found the link to the article that had the pic of Josh at Emily's bedside and added it while I was at it. Click that pic to reach the article.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Friday Forays in Fiction: NaNo Quota--10 Things I'd Rather Be Doing


moar kittteh kapshuns

I made this. To vote for it or share it just click the pic

OK now that I've got that outta my system, I'll have another go at my story. Let's just leave the dang quota out of it OK? I know my working style is what the psyche books call 'slow to warm up'. I know that once momentum builds I can do 3K, 4K even 5K in a single day. So I'm going to relax, surrender to the story and trust that I'll catch up. And meanwhile stop obsessively gazing at the dang bar graph flaunting my flagging word count for all to see. Who besides me is looking anyway?

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dona Nobis Pacem



I composed this paired haiku poem a bit over a year ago inspired by the picture below. It is my sense that it is only with the power of story that we can can recognize and implement solutions to our problems. The best hope for conflict resolution at any level is for all parties to know the other's story with the same intimacy as they know their own. And I don't mean 'the story as written by' I mean the story as known by and lived by the others in the same way you know and live your own.

It takes great courage to be open to this knowing.

Our stories are like trees with roots going deep, nurtured by the soil of our history and the waters of our memories. The roots of our individual stories entangle in the deep past. We can no more isolate our story from that of our 'opponent' then a spruce can isolate its roots from that of the oak in the forest. And above the surface of the soil in the light of each day our common dreams and hopes, fears and angers weave the stories that are making our tomorrows. Our stories are poisoned by fears and can be healed only by love.

Peace is not a gift granted or imposed by an other (or Other) in response to a simple request. Peace cannot be granted unless and until the recipient's yearning for the peace of his br(other) is as unreserved as his yearning for his own peace, Peace cannot be parceled out or fenced in. Anyone wishing for any br(other) to be excluded from it cannot himself have it.

It is within each of our hearts that peace must be made welcome and it is by welcoming our br(other's) heart into our own that we invite peace in. For if peace is not everywhere it can be nowhere.











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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

My Women Unbound Reading List (X10 or so)

<===click graphic for challenge home.

See yesterday's post for my acceptance of the challenge and my answers to the starting meme questions.

So upon deciding to accept this Women Unbound 'women's studies' reading challenge last night, I started pulling potential books off my shelves, both owned and borrowed, and combing through my bib slips for titles and authors of library books I know are in the system, especially those I've got bookmarks in and then I thought to check my ebook folder on my laptop. This is what developed after several hours of contemplation and shuffling of book piles taller than my arms are long. I couldn't narrow it down to eight. I didn't even try. Nor am I committing to limiting myself to what is on the list. Other things might come to mind or come into my life in the next twelve months. So this is just a selection to select from as whim and fancy take me. Though I may let my whim and fancy be influenced by suggestions or recommendation. Pardon me for not taking the time to italicize all these titles. I'd still be at it at dawn.

Non-Fiction:

Women Who run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D. [own]

The Heroine's Journey by Mareen Murdock [library]

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine by Sue Monk Kidd [own] (thanks to Bonnie Jacobs for pointing me to this one around two years ago. I had it checked out of the library repeatedly for over a year and then got my own copy. I've started it at least twice and maybe three times, reached the halfway point at least once. This is not the book's fault. I have had active bookmarks in a couple dozen NF books at a time since the mid 1980s when I started college. It's my style and I stopped fighting it. Besides, I learned that I have better retention of the material if I read a few pages or a chapter and then set it aside. My 'study' method is more like meditation than memorization or cramming of facts and concepts. And when a book has a bibliography I sift through it for titles carried by our library and make note of other interesting sounding ones for some dreamed of future when I can have access to any book I fancy. I bought this one in part for the bibliography Kidd included and so I would be free to mark in the margins.)

The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women Writing on the Green World edited by Linda Hogan and Brenda Peterson [library]

She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse by Elizabeth A Johnson [own]

In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza [own]

Resurrecting Eve : Women of Faith Challenge the Fundamentalist agenda by Roberta Mary Pughe and Paula Anema Sohl [library] this is at the library at the moment. I've started it a couple times. I think one of the author's is local or at least an Oregonian. I remember thinking when I read the bio how close she was and how cool it would be to be able to chat with someone on these issues for which these two things were simultaneously true: that I would not have to stop every five words to define a term; and I could feel safe to admit what I really thought. I'm seldom, maybe never in the company of anyone for which both of those are true at once.

The Great Transformation: the beginning of our religious traditions by Karen Armstrong [library] I've read several of Armstrong's books and credit her with lighting my path out of the post fundamentalist funk I fell into shortly after my initial declaration of independence of body, mind and spirit.

Goddesses and the Divine Feminine : a Western religious history by Rosemary Radford Ruether [library]

The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood & Social Change [own] I won this in a mini-challenge at the first read-a-thon.

Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall [own] this was among a box of 'green' reads I won at last April's read-a-thon

Angry Conversations with God: A Snarky but Authentic Spiritual Memoir by Susan E. Isaacs [own] this was a review copy for which I still owe a review so I suppose it should go to the top of the list.

Trespassers Will Be Baptized: The Unordained Memoir of a Preacher's Daughter by Elizabeth Emerson Hancock [own] ditto

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? by Robin P. Williams [library] I laughed when I saw this in the card catalog because just a few days before I'd been thinking that I needed to research Shakespeare controversies in order to give my characters, the interminably bantering and bickering Wilma and Julia, something to snipe at each other with.

Which reminds me, there are several Shakespeare plays that should probably go on this list. Hmm. Well, something to think about.

Fiction:

Rape: a Love Story by Joyce Carol Oates [library]

Dear Husband by Joyce Carol Oates [library]

Collector of Hearts by Joyce Carol Oates [library]

[OK just about anything by Joyce Carol Oates could be on this list and I missed all but a few since 1999 and before 1980 when I first discovered her]

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood [library]

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood [own]

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood [own]

[Again, consider anything by Margaret Atwood, including a reread of Handmaid's Tale, as under consideration. And while we're at it anything by Alice Munro, Anne Tyler, Elizabeth Berg, Alice Hoffman, Barbara Kingsolver, Doris Lessing, Marge Piercy, Edwidge Danticat, Alice Monroe, Tony Morrison, Maya Angelou ...just a few of the women story tellers whose stories illuminate women's place and purpose in society, their hopes and dreams broken or fulfilled, defining the very shape and boundaries of their soul. ]

Dawn Powell at Her Best [library] (this is an anthology of her work including two novels, eight stories and an autobiographical essay representing a revival of the work of an American novelist of the mid 20th century. I was introduced to Powell by Rory Gilmore btw)

Say You're One of Them by Uwen Akpan [The current Oprah book club seclection. I'm in queue at the library and it's almost my turn, meanwhile I do have the first of the stories in this book in PDF thanks to a free download from Oprah which I'm going to read by Monday so I can participate in the webinar with Oprah, the author and CNN's Anderson Cooper.]

While I'm at it, might as well add a couple by this year's Nobel Prize for Literature Herta Müller, a Romanian born woman writing on the theme of the dispossessed while living in a tyrannical regime with an unfree press. Maybe I can get some backbone of my own by contemplating that. Let's see, our library has two of her's:

The Appointment by Herta Müller

The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

ebooks:

Middlemarch by George Elliot

Emma by Jane Austen

Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolfe

Pride and Predjudice by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment [a fee download thanks to Oprah]


Following are fiction titles I own that tend to get neglected in favor of library due dates. Several of them I have even started and laid aside when a due date loomed.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The Hero's Walk by Anita Rau Badami

Lost and Found by Carolyn Parkurst

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The Fatigue Artist by Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve [another author whose work abounds with feminism themes which I need to catch up on]

Poison by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer [ditto]

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

The Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons

Why Did I Ever by Mary Robison

Divided by Katie Waitman

The Mark of the Angel by Nancy Huston

The Ladies Auxiliary by Tova Mirvis


You can follow my progress in these and other 2010 challenges in the Reading Challenges Portal.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Women Unbound Reading Challenge

I'm signing on to the Women Unbound reading challenge.

It began November 1st and runs through the end of November 2010.

Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ The definition according to Merriam-Webster
the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender.
There are three levels of involvement to choose from:

  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.
Click on the graphic to go to the challenge's home site to read more. Participants are also encouraged to share their potential reading list via a blog post, email or comments over at the home site.

I'm going to commit to Suffragette level and I'll put together my potential reading list in a post later this week. I was intending to include it here but I got carried away answering the questions in the Start of Challenge Meme.

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?

The right to choose my own path in all spheres. The right to autonomy. The right to be in relationship with family, friends and society and with any powers-that-be including Higher Powers one-on-one without designated intermediaries male or otherwise--whether a chaperon, father, husband, or priest.

2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Yes, though I came late to the consciousness. 1992 to be exact. In my mid thirties. At the time I broke free of the 19th century patriarchal, fundamentalist Christian sect I was raised in and dared to start thinking for myself.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?


Our own complacency and self-sabotage.

Complacency in the assumption that the progress we've made is secure and can't be taken away from us in ours or our daughter's lifetimes. Just witness the cases of rape against American women working as contractors in Iraq and the way they were treated by their employers (American corporations with Pentagon contracts) after. Well, before as well, actually, because at the time of hire they had signed employment contracts that required them to take any disputes arising with the company into arbitration (controlled by the company by the way) and accept whatever was decided by the arbitration, forfeiting their right to a court trial. What is the corporation's most feared employee dispute? Sexual harassment, of course. Does this look like an end-run around the judicial decisions of the last decades that established sexual harassment as a type of harm work environments should be free of? How many other corporations have put similar clauses in their employee contracts?

I could give more examples of the gains feminism has won for women being whittled away by quiet legal clauses, by local and state propositions on ballots, by school board decisions and so on but this isn't the place. Just read those articles linked above and start following this story and others like it and ask yourself whether we can claim to have arrived at a resting place in our struggle. The saddest part of it is that so often it is women who are actively involved in the attempts to hold their sisters back from being their best selves. For ask yourselves where were the women (in management, boardroom, human resources and the legal firms hired to write and enforce them) when these contracts were first envisioned and then implemented.

Which brings me to self sabotage. Whether it is the women who benefited the most from the gains in rights and respect women have earned or won in the last decades, working their way up the various ladders and busting through the various glass ceilings or the women who grew up in the last two decades taking it all for granted or the women who remain by choice (or not) in the mindset that sees those very gains as a threat to society or theirs or their daughter's souls, it is women themselves who have it in their hands to either build on those gains or watch as a whittled down version is snatched from their daughter's or grand daughters hands.

When I hear of a career woman who is condescending towards a by choice stay at home mom I think OK have you forgotten so soon what that self-satisfied, patronizing, arrogance emanating from the 'males-in-charge' felt like when it was aimed at you? Wasn't the thing our sister's fought for autonomy? The freedom to choose our own path? How does it serve you or your daughters to devalue one of the most womanly roles of all? And one of THE most valuable to our society. By doing so you have not won ground you have ceded it.

You have been co-opted by the mind-set that sees 'what-ever-women-do' as less valuable, less esteem-able, less worthy. If you're not careful you will find yourselves working for the legal firms that write the contracts for corporations, inserting the clauses that take away your sister's workplace safety and as the lawyers that stand before the judges and juries arguing that a contract is a contract, so sorry your honor but she could have chosen not to sign it and after the events in question she could have chosen to move on to a different job more suited to her temperament. After all a job is a job and you do what you have to to keep it, right?

When I hear stay at home mothers challenging the 'good mother' status of mothers who by choice or necessity work outside the home, I wonder what choices they would make if suddenly they did not have the 'good husband' with the very good pay check for are they not aware that the middle class lifestyle for a family of three to five requires the equivalent of at least two minimum wage paychecks plus at least one good benefits package that includes comprehensive health care for the family? Are they aware that jobs like that are on the endangered species list in America along with the middle class life style? When was the last time they wrote their congress person to ask them to vote in favor of raising the minimum wage or extending welfare benefits for single parents? Or to lobby for child-care benefits for low-income working mothers and after school programs in the schools and community centers? Or to demand health care reform on the order of Medicare for all?

And when I see trailers for movies like Mean Girls, and witness first hand or hear stories about the exquisitely nasty ways that girls and women use their power over others on the playground, the Junior High School lunchroom, the High School Prom, Myspace, gossip columns and pundit pontificating, blog comments, social cliques from mommy clubs to the DAR, on the job, on church committees, in boardrooms and at dinner tables...I nearly despair for us. For what was it all for--the marching for the vote, the right to own property (including bank accounts) in our own name, the right to education of equal quality (including higher education), the right to enter professions along side our brothers, the right to challenge the abuse of power over us at home, at school, at work--what have we gained if we then choose to turn our power against each other?

This self-sabotage stems in part it seems to me from the tendency of the feminist movement and women in professions, in their eagerness to pull themselves even with men in our culture, to have devalued the feminine along the way. So instead of bringing into their work environments the feminine traits of nurture, empathy, relationship and community tending, co-operation, and win-win conflict resolution, they absorb the prevailing corporate mind-set that sees one-up-manship, win-at-all-costs and if-you-win-I-lose as the baseline rules of the game they play and turn on each other mistaking the tenet of fair and equal treatment to include the concept of 'fair game'. And their sisters who remain doubtful of the validity of their cause see what looks like proof that feminism is bad for the culture, bad for the family and bad for females.

And thus we have a house divided against itself. And that house will fall if women inside and out of the movement don't reclaim the feminine strengths of nurture, empathy, relationship and community tending, co-operation, and win-win conflict resolution, and bring them to bear at home, at work, and at school to re-envision and co-create a society that values all people (including women and children) above profit and power.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Ah, the Things We Neglect for NaNo

wen u be dun w play rite? u promissst11!
moar funny pictures

Just toss the kitty a candy wrapper from that pile you have beside the keyboard. That'll keep him happy for another twenty minutes. Enough time for three hundred words maybe. .


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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday Serenity #151

561, 562, 563...  No wayz u makez ur Nano word countz today.
moar funny pictures


Way!!! At least I may. My first 2009 NaNo session stands at 1111 words of 1667 quota as I break to sleep at the new 7AM (Fall Back of clocks gave me extra hour) If I wake by 3PM I have good chance of making the last 556 words before dinner.

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