Now for what I've been up to since my last blog post...
I've joined the little local library's book club that meets once a month. Our first meeting was about "The Glass Castle," a memoir by Jeannette Walls. While several other women in the club disliked the book, unable to see past the child neglect, I thought it was a wonderful read even if the story was disturbing at times. I couldn't condemn Jeannette's mother because I connected with her; in fact, almost felt a kinship with her. But our discussion about this book was lively and thoroughly enjoyable. I was so pleased to have found this group. The next month's book was "The Lace Reader" by Brunonia Barry. This one I had read shortly after it was released in paperback because a friend recommended it, and I loved it. I was shocked when not a single other person in the book club even liked it, let alone enjoyed it as much as I did. But I laughed and again the hour-long discussion passed quickly with everyone making comments. I look forward to our next meeting!
As I've continued reading books on writing, following are a few of the remarks that stood out for me.
"Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's."Stephen King in "On Writing, a Memoir of the Craft" is a proponent for leaving out most of the specifics of a character's appearance. This does seem to be a delicate balancing act, although also a subjective topic. I have read quite a lot of King's books (like most of his readers, my favorite is "The Stand") and enjoyed them at the time, but I have eclectic taste when it comes to fiction so I have also enjoyed works where the author painted a very clear and concise picture of the major characters. I'm not sure where my own descriptions will fall.
"If you jump back and forth from deep inside a character's head to a far-distant overview of the action, then back in close . . . The smoothness of your narrative will be compromised. One way around this is to start chapters with the more distant narrative you want to include, then move in closer into the character's mind and stay there."I appreciated all the comments on viewpoint in "Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint" by Nancy Kress, especially about third person as that seems to be the viewpoint I prefer, both for reading and in my own writing. I now have lots of ideas and exercises that may help improve my manuscript once I begin the self-editing process.
"Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art . . . "Wow, this one struck a nerve. Actually, Ray Bradbury in "Zen in the Art of Writing" had all my nerves humming!
"What do you think of the world? You, the prism, measure the light of the world; it burns through your mind to throw a different spectroscopic reading onto white paper than anyone else anywhere can throw."Quite inspiring, yes? I may have to print that quote out in BIG letters and tack it to the wall in front of my computer. "Zen" is a fabulous little book.
"The project I'm preparing will have personal relevance . . . . It will be a process of self-discovery. I can't imagine spending a year or more on a novel and not emerging from it with greater self-awareness than when I began. That way, even if the project doesn't attract a publisher, my time has been well spent."Perfect. These words written by David Morrell in "Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing" were like a bonfire blazing in the night, leading me to my Self. The manuscript I'm working on began as something fun; now I can clearly see how it can be more. All the ideas that have been flooding my heart and soul since I set the manuscript aside have become a tidal wave; I am enjoying the rush, the excitement renewed, and I will sort out everything as I go along.
"People, events, or our own negative thought patterns can threaten our faith and drive it underground unless we remain aware and alert. Protecting our faith in ourselves requires vigilance in the present moment because that is where faith exists. If we stand on faith and project into the future, we move from faith to hope, from attention in the present to expectation for the future."I will be turning to Peggy Tabor Millin's book "Women, Writing, and Soul-Making" repeatedly, I am sure. Her words touched me on many levels, and I know that I will resonate with the spirit of her messages each time I open her book.
"When we reveal ourselves through our writing and do not turn away, we connect with the reader and impact lives."This statement by Millin reminded me of Bradbury's "self-consciousness is the enemy." Even when blogging, I find that the posts that seem to touch readers the most are ones where I had completely stepped aside from controlling what I was writing.
Lastly, has anyone ever read Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" who didn't like it? I cannot imagine that is possible. What a gem. I had to give up putting tabs on phrases that grabbed me because the edge of the book was becoming a mess!
However, I did want to comment on her chapter titled 'We Are Not the Poem.' So many times, I have wondered if someone reading my journals from my 20's and 30's might think I was certifiable, destined for the loony bin, suicidal, delusional, or had lived an awful life. Even this past week, I wrote two very different writing practice entries; one from a writing prompt of Millin's called 'a golden curl' and the other a stream of consciousness flow called 'illusion of safety.' Every writing expresses a unique moment of sensation or emotion. Goldberg says:
"They were my thoughts and my hand and the space and the emotions at that time of writing. Watch yourself. Every minute we change. It is a great opportunity. At any point, we can step out of our frozen selves and our ideas and begin fresh. That is how writing is. Instead of freezing us, it frees us."