Saturday, April 30, 2022

My Brain On Books XXXI




I am reading for The Office of Letters and Lights the folks who bring us NaNoWriMo today as I love what they are doing for literacy with their Young Writer's Programs and because I've participated in NaNo every year since 2004.  I have been blessed to have it in my life and would like to give something back if only kudos and link love.  I'm putting this plug at the top in hopes some who stop by will check out their site and see all the great things they do to foster love of reading and writing and story in kids. 

This post will be organized like a blog inside a blog with recent updates stacked atop previous ones. I may be posting some updates on Twitter @Joystory and the Joystory fb fanpage. But this is where I do anything more than a line or two.  Including mini-challenges that don't require a separate post..   

Be sure and see my tribute poem to Dewey and the Thon she birthed at the bottom of this post

My Read-a-Thon Nest

11:55 PM - Just passed 50% in the novel A Gift Upon the Shore.  I've been reading it steady since around 7pm. The reader app tells me I've read in it for nearly 9 hour and there are nearly 8 hours to go.  It says I'm averaging 137 wpm.  That is slow, even for me with my visual impairment.  My average for most fiction in ebooks with large fonts is around 200 wpm.  Which is a huge come down from my heydays in my teens and twenties before the RP started encroaching on my retinas.  Back then I was clocked at nearly 1K wpm.  Back then, in the 70s, I could have read this book in under four hours.  When I read it in the early 90s I read it in a single day but it probably took 6 or 8 hours with lots of pauses for eyestrain.  That was a treebook which by then would cause my eyes to ache after hours.  Ebooks don't cause the ache but they do cause them to start burning and to feel like sandpaper after hours.

But it isn't just the eye issues slowing down my reading.  It's the emotional ones.  The first time I read it I was still a True Believer in the doctrine of my church foamily and tho I recognized the fundies in this novel as a cult I was a few years away from recognizing my own community as a cult.  Reading this book again on the heals of spending an intense month writing my memoir about the events that tore me out of the fabric of my life is like pouring salt on the wounds I've just ripped the scabs off.

See yesterday's post, Of Flux and Fuss and Frustrations, for a more in depth explanation of the roots of the emotions this novel is stirring up.

I must be a masochist as I'm going straight back to it as soon as I've posted the update and get something to eat.  I'll probably stick with it until the end of thon but if I pass the 80% mark by then it will be hard to put down before I sleep.  Unless my eyes rebel.

27 Essential Principles of Story
by Daniel Joshua Rubin

5:55 PM = Another switch. 
My cell is charged but I'm going to read one more NF chapter before switching back to the Wren novel.  This time it is going to be 27 Essential Principles of Story: Master the Secrets of Great Storytelling, from Shakespeare to South Park by Daniel Joshua Rubin.  As a writer myself, I've been gleaning a great deal of understanding of the construction of story from Rubin over the last several months.  I may need to own a copy someday as I can't seem to digest what I need in the 2 to 3 weeks of each loan period and I must not be the only one because I'm often waiting in line for another turn.

It is also time for food and another thermos of coffee.  I have fish sticks in my toaster oven and my water is hot...

As for Wolff's Reader, Come Home--I just read the chapter likening what happens in the brain to a 5 ring circus with performers akin to Cirque de Soleil.  A fantastical menagerie of speedy acrobats on high-wires and trapeze in a coordinated choreographed dance that engages five areas of the brain encompassing all the lobes and layers to integrate the circuits designed for hunting, foraging and socialization into a new thing we call reading.  It is not something that is genetically programed as is learning language.

4:44 PM = Switching again. 
This time to Reader Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolff.  I read her Proust and the Squid years back.  Or at least I had it out of the library several ties and advanced my bookmark though I can't be sure I finished it as my reading records were lost in a move.  Anyway Proust was her attempt to show how literacy literally changed the structure of our brains.  That book was published before smart phones and social media took over our lives and now she is back with a warning.  This new kind of reading is also changing our brains and meanwhile is forming the brains of those born into the new milieu in ways we may not be able to anticipate and ways we may not not relish once it is too late to undo.

As for the Tori Amos, I think I just found a soul sister.  A poet, song-writer who stresses about the same thing I do but has the courage to stand in her truth and speak her truth about the distressing things she has witnessed.  I hope her courage is contagious.

But I could only read a couple chapters.  Each chapter begins with the lyrics to one of her songs followed by the story of it's birth.  Poetry must be taking in sips not guzzled like a novel.  I will return many times over the next two weeks of my loan and probably at least one of those returns will be before the end of the thon.

3:33 PM - Time for a change of pace.  My cell on which I was reading A Gift Upon the Shore just dropped below 10% and must go on the charger.  I don't feel like being tethered so I'm switching to my Windows tablet on which I have my Libby library where I will read a chapter apiece in several NF while waiting for the cell to charge.

The first up will be Tori Amos's Resistance: A Songwriter's Story of Hope, Change, and Courage.  Sounds like a possible antidote to the mood instilled by a post-apocalyptical novel.

Yet what a terrible place to be forced to set aside Wren's story. I just passed 30% and Civilization is gone.  Nuclear winter just set in.  Two women alone in a house on a bluff above the surf on the Oregon coast not yet knowing if there are any survivors in the local rural community and if so are they the friendly kind?  A plague that has killed millions, roving gangs of nihilists terrorize the still civil, and all electronics was fried by EMP...

Is there hope?  And if so will they choose it?  The only clue is in the author's choice of names for her protagonists: Mary Hope and Rachel Morrow.

A Gift Upon the Shore
by M K Wren

5:55 AM - Oops! 
I sat down on the bed to wait for water to boil for coffee and fell back to sleep.  Getting started now with M K Wren's A Gift Upon the Shore which was a gift to readers everywhere and everywhen back in the day before computers and internet.  A post-apocalyptical story about saving the books for future generations.  I read it first time decades ago and felt the need for a reread in this day when the book burners are at it again.  What might happen if they gained the upper hand?

4:44 AM - Intro Meme I'm setting this to go live at 4:44 AM but it may be well into hour 1 or even hour 2 before I check in again.  I'll be reading my first pick sitting in my beanbag chair nursing my first thermos of coffee.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Kelso Washington USA.  Across the Cowlitz river from Longview where I grew up and had been living with my elderly mother since 2013.  I moved into my 400 square foot efficiency unit in late July.  This  post was a photo essay of my new space.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Non-Fiction: Resistance by Tori Amos

Fiction: A Gift Upon the Shore by M K Wren

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Chips and guacamole.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

Living alone for the first time ever.  Nine months now.
Legally blind with RP aka tunnel vision
Diagnosed with high functioning autism six years ago
Have a caregiver who comes in five days a week to help with chores and errands I can't do alone.
I proved during this move that I have more volume in fiber art supplies than in clothes by at least thee times.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I'm going to be buddy reading with someone for the first time since the first year of Dewey's Thons and I'm hoping to interact with the community more this time than in the last several thons.

Ode to Dewey
by Joy Renee
We Miss You Dewey


Friday, April 29, 2022

Of Flux and Fuss and Frustrations


Over 50K in a memoir

Back again after long hiatus.  

Recent events give me hope I might be back on a regular basis.

I just spent the month of April participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and am about to break the 50K goal with my next session and realized I had completely forgotten to write the post announcing my participation or to sign up for ROW80 at the beginning of April.  This was one of those times, rare in the recent past, in which the writing itself took me over and became the reason and the reward.

More about that later but first a recap of the missing months:

Last fall the chaos of the move in July had still not settled down as I’d expected.  Everything in my life and environment was in flux and unpredictable including the caregivers I needed to survive in my own apartment.  I didn’t let that stop me from doing NaNo in November but it did stop me from blogging about it and keeping up with my ROW80 accountability updates.  

Then December was devoted to crocheting for Christmas presents, none of which I finished in time.  Then on Christmas day I started reading and read several books a week thru the end of February.  I kept trying to talk myself into reviewing them but well…

Then in late February my first Housekeeping Inspection was scheduled for mid March and the next two weeks were all about that.  Two days after that I got sick and vegged on my bed/couch with videos for ten days.  Then as soon as I was free of symptoms I got my Covid booster shot and spent another half week lazing with vids and ebooks.  

Sick Station
for the last half of March I vegged here with DVD, streaming video, talking book machine and ebooks which commandeered a third of my writing station.

The day I realized I was sick and not lazy because I could not get up off the beanbag chair without sliding off onto my knees first I had moved my entertainment materials, devices and charging cords in by my bed/couch which cluttered up my writing area with physical and mental distractions.  Now I found myself thinking about writing with fondness again but first I’d have to clear away the clutter.  

I was mildly motivated.  Too much fuss.

And then something happened.

My sister Jamie messaged me out of the blue that she had just signed up for April Camp NaNo—her first NaNo ever—and suggested we be writing buddies if I was planning to participate.

There followed a long back and forth with me congratulating her on her plan and dithering about what I would designate as my project.  Since she was doing a memoir-like piece about living with chronic disease it started to feel natural for me to lean toward a memoir-like theme as well.  After some more fussing on my part and feedback on hers, I settled on returning to the memoir I’d worked on for a previous Camp NaNo two or three years ago:  True Joy.

True Joy then as now is an attempt to explore the issues keeping me from standing in my truth which was the reason why I could never finish my many many WIP.  I hashed this out with Jamie that evening providing her with some of my own insights and taking in some of her input.  Then for the kickoff writing session at midnight on April 1st I wrote this statement of intent:

The intent as I begin this project is for this to remain between me and the page.  I must tell myself that and believe it long enough to reach deep and tell my story—the story that defines my life.  Because there are others in my story who are not displaying their best selves I felt I could not tell the story so I bottled it up.  Secrets kept like that can kill.  

I have spent decades using as a substitute the vast storyworld I created in the late 80s which I call By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them or Fruits of the Spirit or FOS for short.  I’ve got somewhere near 20 WIP set in FOS and for a couple of years at least that playground of ideas has stopped working as the outlet for dealing with the issue that is at the very heart of who I became after November 2, 1994.  

It is partly but only partly because even when I disguise the event in layers of fiction acted out with players that in no way resemble in any physical or psychological level the individual who committed the act that irrevocably changed who I am, that person would recognize the elements of the incident once publication made it accessible.

So I keep writing up to the edge of The Incident and then shying away.

I’m going to start in the first section by relating The Incident in as much fine detail as possible and whenever it helps to do so to use the same techniques as fiction to create the scene.  After I’ve done that, which might take days of intense writing, I will create new sections to unpack the life history relevant to how and why The Incident had the effect on me that it did and the story of how it changed my heart, soul, spirit, faith, and mind and how that changed the path of my life and how it catapulted me out of the cult I was raised in and sent me on a search for a truth I could live with and set me on a spiritual journey towards true Joy.

I can report now that this effort has been a success unlike the previous attempt.  Maybe because I wasn’t alone this time.  With Jamie supporting me and hearing me out whenever I thought I’d had an insight or was just drowning in the chaos of the emotions, I could muddle through.  As someone who knew the players, who had been adopted into our family in spirit as an orphaned teen, attended the cult functions through Junior High and High School without ever buying into it, she had the ability to stand both inside and outside the zeitgeist of it from where she could see where I’d twisted pretzel shapes into my thoughts and suggest better ways of thinking about it.

Also supporting me in the exercise was a cousin who reconnected with me last summer with her own story of escaping the cult.  Our email exchanges contributed to my word count as well as to the untwisting of my thoughts.  With the help of these two soul sisters I was able to begin groping my way toward firm ground in my mind but not until I’d brought my heart and soul into the process.

I can’t go into the details here on how I made my way through the twisty tangles of my mind and what sparked the insights that helped me unsnarl the chaos of thoughts and emotions because I’m still uncomfortable with outing others publicly but I have lost the inhibitions about fictionalizing it.  This applies not only to the Incident of November 94 but to fears of making the cult in my storyworld resemble too closely the one I was raised in.  Though I will no longer go to extremes in trying to disguise it nor will I make special effort at verisimilitude.  It is fictional.  There will be similarities and there will be differences.  The final shape it takes will be dictated by the needs of the story.

Writing Station
Not perfect.  Not even near my ideal but it worked well enough for this project

I accomplished all of that without completing the move of the distractions back to the beanbag alcove.  The day following the evening I committed to Camp NaNo I focused on making the writing area as serviceable as possible for the kickoff leaving the sick station intact as before I could set entertainment back up in there I had to tear it down to bare floor corner to corner on a search for several missing items and it would be so much easier to do that before I set up the charging station in there again.  Just last weekend I completed that search and moved the devices in there but never got the charging station set up so many of the items have found their way back.  Especially the videos and DVD player.

But that is just as well as tomorrow is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and I can read on the beanbag with ebook or audio book without having the entertainment station set up to perfection.  It might be best if the videos are left right where they are until after the thon.

What this month has taught me is that I'm too fussy about details that don't matter, that I'm too easily frustrated by the unexpected, and that flux is the very definition of life and can be channeled to accommodate the aspirations instead of drowning them in a wallow of woe-is-me.  

Focus is the key and as one on the autism spectrum focus is my superpower when I find the right target for it.  That's called being in the flow and when I'm there all the fuss and muss and frustrations just float away.


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