Saturday, July 28, 2012

Raising Baby

Our son, daughter-in-law, and baby grandson are visiting us for a few days. It's been awhile since last I bounced a child on my knee, and its pulled some muscles in my memory.
It wasn't chic to have four kids when Gloria Steinem and Sandra Day O'Connor made news. I can recall going from one store to another looking for maternity clothes and having to order from a catalog because selection was nil to nothing. I know other women were pregnant; the schools were full.
Today raising kids is the media and industry favorite. Popular TV and magazine talk about who, why, and how couples  procreate. Women stretch spandex shirts across swollen bellies where my generation hid behind tented dresses. Crying bundles from Storkville were seen as an uneducated "choice" of the love generation. I'm glad today having a child is cause for celebration. It seems okay to choose to have a large family even envied, while talking about the struggles is accepted and encouraged..
As I watch my daughter-in-law pack clothes and food for today's excursion, I'm amazed. (I used to do that!) Besides the massive diaper bag, now the video monitor is a must in this techno-phobe world where constant contact is a must of safety and convenience. I remember my mother's gift of a Commodore 64, "It's the future."
Each generation  seems to evolve. I can see my grandson at three years, looking around the room, checking for surveillance, before he acts out. Go for it, Honey.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How to Write a Great Novel

As a writer I'm always dissecting a good book, trying to figure what makes it compelling. Discussing a book with a friend recently, she told me to STOP--I was ruining it. Probably, but it's what I do.

Just finished Stieg Larsson's last two books in the Dragon Tattoo series, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who  Kicked the Hornets Nest. Too detailed, over-written in places, and in desperate need of editing, I couldn't put the darn things down.

Normally my critical misgivings would have quashed my reading, but in this case, I kept on devouring everything Larsson penned. His characters, of course, are one of the most significant reasons to keep reading. The female protagonist, Salendar, is the ultimate underdog, abused as a child with no legal rights as an adult, she is a survivor to the extreme. Dark and cunning, she is the defining 'woman hear me roar,' in control of her environment against all odds. And Blomkvist is the apex male character, loved (literally) by all women, the average man-next-door, who fights for truth and justice, and he's not conceited. Female readers are intrigued by him and male readers want to be this mythical man adored and sought by women and successful in business and private with no strings attached.

Larson's twists and political plots drag the reader through some of the writer's over attention to detail to cliffhanger endings that make an undeniably good read. This is proof that a persuasive, intriguing story with great characters is impossible to keep unpublished.

I better get back to it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scratching the Bones – Writing and Revision

Being brought up with a strong work ethic, my roots sometimes ache when I say I have chosen to be a writer as a vocation. A dull pain nags—I’m not producing an income, therefore I’m not productive. But creative writing is a gift. Art in any form is a product of creating. Cultivating words on the blank page is my expression of love for the gift of my creation, allowing me to share in the excitement of forming something from nothing. Of course nothing includes past knowledge from reading, teaching, training, or the personal baggage a writer is willing to address. The white page transforms into something other than what it was before we colored it with our life experiences.

Prose, for me, must have a purpose, a theme, not necessarily didactic, but it must satisfy my ‘productive’ requisite that causes the reader to think about an issue. Poetry, however, is like the wind that pops my creative sail. Starting not with a theme, but feelings, poetry is more personal, more spiritual. Poems are moments caught like a snapshot in words—each person sees something different in the picture. Ideally a poem should touch the reader, but the feelings generated depend on the reader’s experience, not the emotions conjured by circumstances the writer provides, as in details of a story. For the reader to connect, the poet must become the critic, changing her personal abstract passions into pictures of feelings. In this process the critic/poet releases her work, allowing the reader freedom to absorb it into their experience.

Creative writing, although inspired, is also a process. Just as the reader perceives something fresh from a different vantage point, the writer too must be open to change, new insights in her work. The process of revision after the inspiration demonstrates the craft of a writer. It is in the revision process that the work becomes shareable, the personal inspiration becomes universal. True revision can only come with time. When the ink is dry, and the page is a little foreign the writer can read her work from a different place in life. After the labor pains are forgotten and the baby can sit-up and look at the writer she can see with fresh eyes to be objective and analyze the work without the sentimentality of the moment.

It is impossible to critique one’s own work without good help. We can write and take time to be objective, but only an outside source can fill the subjective blanks. The poet/critic must be strong in her original inspiration to accept criticism and try variations. The original is never lost, but if a work is to be universal the writer must realize how it is perceived by others. Some works of creation will always be mine, poor and needy, a crying, angry child—not meted out for public viewing.

I like to think of my writing like the great Methodist preacher, John Wesley said about faith; it is a process of “becoming.” The revision process is the work part of writing, but it is in this becoming process of revision that my work goes from raw feelings to a universal space to be shared.