Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Painting in the New Year

Every year I resolve to lose weight, write more, read more, work out, be a better person, etc. Every year I break down mid March and wonder why I am doing what I am doing. By the end of the year I find myself sad that I never followed through with the promises that I made to myself. What kind of resolution are these? They are the kinds that are too broad to make. You can resolve to lose weight, but that means you have to do many things to make that change. It's hard for most people to stop eating junk, to start eating write, to calculate calories, to work out every day, plan out your meals.

It's just as hard to write a novel. What kinds of characters am I writing about? What are their stories? What are they like? What do they like? What do they look like? What is my story arc? What is this really about? etc. It is tough to stay on topic when you have a two year old roaming around the living room and you have to work a full time job so this means you have to get up early to squeeze in your writing time but what you really want to do is sleep.

Over the past year, I did write but mainly for myself. I also learned some new skills that I continue to work on despite the kinds of messes I've made with it (sometimes literal messes). I've become a painter and I love it. It is a wonderful thing to be able to express oneself while making art even if it isn't the art that you are accustomed to doing. When people move their eyes over an image that I created and express their desire to do exactly what I was able to do in a few hours, I feel glad. I was able to put away the fear of failing for a few short hours. That in itself has taught me a lot. Painting teaches me that my inner critic, ever present while I am writing, needs to be silenced. I let the suppressed feelings out and allow them to roam. It has allowed me to be more creative and to take chances that I haven't taken before.

So this year there are no resolutions. There is only the wish to stay the same or to get slightly better at the things that I have worked on all year. I am not going to take a leap of hope only to find myself in the gorge of despair next year. I am not going to resolve to write more or to even read more of a particular author. I am just going to be a painter of words. I will plop them down, smear words across the page with as much feeling as I can muster. I hope they scatter around the world bringing light to other people's dark, for that is what every writer hopes.

Here, here to a yellow New Year! I hope everyone's New Year is as bright as they paint it.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Gifted Books

Tonight I sat down to a silent television for the first time in months. Normally when I sit down it is going full blast and I am unable to hear the television programs upstairs. However, tonight is a rare night. I came into my sitting room to read. Alexis was asleep at a decent hour and for the first time in a long time I picked up some books. Now don't get me wrong, I am constantly reading. It's just that it was the first time I actually sat on the couch and didn't hear a sports game raging in the background. It's the first time I didn't have to read Maisy for the hundredth time.

For Christmas, I received some books from Emil. One of which I was coveting since 2001 called "Poetry Speaks". I found an extended and updated version. I wanted it but I always provide reasons to myself as to why I shouldn't buy expensive books of poetry. I am so glad to receive it. In the recordings they have the great poets like Tennyson, Browning and Whitman. I have not heard the latter two, but I did listen to Tennyson tonight. It was amazing to hear him read "The Charge of the Light Brigade". The pacing and the singing quality of the author's voice was wonderful. While the recording was not clear in some places, due to the way it was recorded (a la wax cylinder), it was interesting to hear him read his own work. Aside from the recordings, what is also fabulous about this book is that other living poets dissect the work of their predecessors. Some of these poets I have not heard of which gives me reason to look up their work as well.

Another fabulous book I received is entitled "By the Book" which is a compilation of authors and questions they are asked about their writing and about which books have influenced them. It was compiled by Pamela Paul. I listen to her book podcast on the New York Times Book Reviews. She has so many interviews. While some questions are repeat questions and feel more like a letter that was sent to the author, others are different. There were some really interesting responses. Neil Gaiman being one of them. I have not gotten through the book yet, but it is also being devoured.

Then of course there was another book I wanted. It is called "The Literary 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Novelists, Playwrights and Poets of All Time". Of course I know many of the writers that this book has highlighted, but this is also a revised edition and includes 25 additional writers. I have not read all of the writers listed in this book. There are a few that I have never heard of. I will have quite the course reading writers I have not read.

Emil is so good to me to buy me books for my holiday presents. I feel spoiled as I pointed out books that I would love to have but wouldn't normally buy. I stick mainly to works of fiction. I go to the library for books and I've been reading from my stash. To have a bunch of books that educate me makes me quite happy seeing that I can forego the grad school costs.

Have there been books that you've wanted but haven't bought? Have there been any books you received as gifts that have influenced you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Multiple Personalities

I know that it has been months since I've posted on here. I'm letting that deter me. It was a busy year and I've little to show for it except my growing daughter, a few paintings and a book of journal entries an inch thick. If I were to say that I haven't learned anything during the year, I'd be lying. This year has taught me something about perseverance. I have a hard time sticking with things. I've short stories written but not revised, paintings painted but not displayed, things crocheted but not given to the people I wanted to give them to. So here I am with everything half done. I find myself wanting the life I have not yet strived for. So now, I am left with an overwhelming worry about what I will leave behind. All I can see is it will be a tub full of half written/painted/crocheted stuff.

I have friends that tell me, "Well you have a child. You work full time. Give yourself some credit." I very well could say all of these things. They are all true. If every woman said that, Toni Morrison wouldn't have become a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. For a woman, having a child shouldn't be a crowning achievement nor should it be her only identity. I often find myself asking what am I? What is my identity? When I try to answer it I get so many personalities that I may as well be committed. I'm sure that I am not the only woman who feels this way.

So here's to a new year pregnant with the promise of follow through. I will be looking forward to finishing my stories and sending them out places. I have many ideas for more stories and paintings. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

So Much More

This morning I got up and rolled out of bed thinking about the gym. I've become an everyday gym user the past few weeks. I realized that if I am not doing something engaging in the morning, I won't wind up doing it or even get to it. Now I have a five thirty routine. I get up, I get dressed, brush my teeth and head out the door to wait for the bus.

After letting people know of my routine, they all asked, "How about your writing? Are you still doing it?" No matter what the truth was, I wanted to answer "yes". However, that is not the whole truth. I didn't want to answer "no" because then I'd feel like I let myself down. So I devised a way so that I'd be able to do it so that I'd be able to feel like I am getting things accomplished when normal people would cop out and say, "I'm a busy mom." I'm a busy mom too, but when you have things that are so important to you, when your goal is to become a writer (or to be a writer) and you need to put food on the table and clothes on your kid's back, you need to make time. This is what I've done.

So, instead of having a set time for writing or reading, I've been writing in the notes section of my iPhone while I commute to and from work every day.  Not all of the writing is junk, most of it's ok and needs significant work, but it is getting done in short bursts of time usually spent commuting.

Many people might ask, "Well how about the weekends?" Weekends are reserved for the spaghetti faced kid that I don't get to spend time with.

It is also spent learning new painting techniques.

Soon, I'll be cleaning up the backyard so that I can hang out with friends BBQ style eating fresh tomatoes from my garden, so weekends are out of the picture for now.

Even as I sit writing this, I realize I love routines. I love being able to read and write when I want. I want to be able to do a lot with my life and still be the conventional mom who makes dinner and reads stories. There is no reason to not be any of those things, but there is every reason to be so much more. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Possible Book Quilt?

Years ago I had an awesome comforter. It was lilac in color and had purple lettering with pictures of butterflies and dragonflies. It also had Shakespearean Sonnet #21 imprinted upon it:

Sonnet 21
So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,
Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich gems,
With April's first-born flowers, and all things rare,
That heaven's air in this huge rondure hems.
O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air:
   Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
   I will not praise that purpose not to sell.
I adored that bed in a bag set so much that I had it for almost five years. By the time I begrudgingly put it in my closet for safe keeping, it was pilled and very worn. The batting sunk down to the edges leaving nothing for the middle. It was so beat up you could almost see through it.
Since that comforter set, I have been on the hunt to buy a new one that is similar in nature. I have not found a single one with bookish qualities. No poems, books, characters of books of any kind quilts or comforters exist. Therefore, I may resolve to make my own bookish quilt.
Here are just some of the samples fabric samples that I have seen online from Spoonflower that I wouldn't mind putting on my quilt. You don't have to just make a quilt. You could make that awesome cover for your tablet or laptop! Or design some literary pillows!
Sherlock Holmes I presume! I really like this because it has the book's quotes on it.
Great lines of literature. This one has many great characters. Dracula, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Moby Dick, etc. I hope I don't have nightmares.
Various titles of great books:

Alice falling down the rabbit hole. This one is really cool. They have several different Alice ones. Some of them are pretty psychadelic.
The Orchard House in Concord, MA! In case you don't know, it is the house where Louisa May Alcott wrote "Little Women". 
If you are an Austen obsessed person, you ought to check this out! You can make a quilt with JUST Jane Austen themed fabric!

The Color Purple. No quilt can be complete without it.
Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". Need I say more?
And my favorite book in the whole wide world: Jane Eyre!
There are many I have left off here but I am curious to know: which ones you guys would select?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Much More Than We Realize

I read a blog this morning about how words matter much more than we realize. As a writer, we paint our pictures with our words. For every stroke of the keyboard, we are shifting people's perspectives whether it be for good or bad. As people, we speak our words to communicate to others our thoughts and feelings. Whether or not it turns out to be good or bad, our words should reflect our true selves. They shouldn't be used for ill purposes and squandered away on meaningless things, or sent out into the unknown space of the internet only to be conjured up later for some other ill used  purpose.

This last weekend, I went to the Paint Bar located in Newton, MA. It was a gathering filled with a few co-workers. I was fully expecting that my painting would be a bunch of horrible incoherrent smears on canvas. It was anything but. I'm not saying that it was a masterpiece, but I still want to hang it on my wall. Although they idiot proofed the session, my confidence level rose. I found that I learned techniques I probably never would have learned anywhere else. I had fun doing it and I am going to do it again in March or around then. I'm very excited to try it again. 

The same thing that happened to me in that painting class is also occurring with my writing. Who better to learn from than one of the masters? Dickens is a wordsmith and he knew the value of using just the right word for the in a particular situation. Words like plump or discourse appear in his pages without sounding as if he sat with a thumb in his thesaurus.  Although he does ramble about inconsequential things, it is for the benefit of localizing his text so that his writing is believable. It is an art that most writers today have strayed from. 

Artists come in various forms. I am so glad for the experience to recognize techniques and learn new ways to use them, whether it be painting or writing. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

On Being Confident

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a famous writer. I fantasize about the ability to work in solitude hearing nothing but the hum of the computer. I could look out my window and see a misty moor with lush green hills, trees that reached to the sky as I look out my window to an English country setting. My fingers tap the keys and words pour from my bleeding heart so free without any second thoughts.


Yet it is not like that while I am trying to write a story. Sometimes I get frustrated to even write a single word because it feels that it doesn't convey the particular tone or meaning I want. Or sometimes I feel that what I have been working on for the past few months is absolute garbage. I put it down and I get so angry about it. I get really frustrated.

And then I realize that what makes me really frustrated is that there are times when I have no time for typing my story. There are no keys click clacking. I am not even in ENGLAND. I am here in subzero temperatures and haven't seen the light of day in a month and I'm scrubbing the tub when I hear a scream from the other room. It is my fifteen month old waking from her nap. All in one instant, my dream of becoming a novelist writing in an old English country house comes to a screeching halt and I am more disappointed in that split second than at any other time. My afternoon is dashed. There will be no writing today. Chores and toddler raising have usurped the two hour spot I designated for writing/reading/self-improvement.

I walk over to my child's room and this is what I see, the moment I walk in:

The next second, my frustrations have melted some and my canceled plans are somewhat forgotten. I see her smiling face and I am grateful that she is happy and safe. My darling smiles and twists and turns as I change her diaper as I plead, "Stay still. Please stay still for mama. Please?" She rolls around the bed as I try to pull up her pants. For a few moments, I can only imagine when I will write again.  If I try to write on my phone, she rips it away from me and takes selfies like this one:

If I write on a computer, she steps in and starts hitting random keys. If you let her alone to your devices, things like this happen:

And now, she has learned to walk. She sticks out her arms and walks like Frankenstein. I think it is hilarious (aside from good writing material). Especially when she is trying to speak incoherrent words such as "OOOOOOOOOOOOO. AAAAAAA.  ZAA!" And then she fell. She looked to see what I would do. Since I did nothing, except smile at how cute she was, she clapped, picked herself up and continued to walk to the coffee table.  This amazingly simple act that she performed, showed me that just because she fell it didn't mean to get all upset and cry. She shook it off, appreciated the steps she just took and got herself right back up so she could go where she wanted.

I learned a valuable lesson from her. I learned that I need to greet the day with more happiness, to take what I want no matter how I may portray myself, smile more often, applaud myself that I was able to write this long on a subject before I lost interest and get right back to it when I feel that enough time has gone by.

For now, I will cherish every Frankenstein step my angel takes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Deliciously Delaying Dickens

This new year hasn't started out that perfectly for me. I've had a few setbacks with colds and toothaches. I resolved to read all of Dickens beginning with, "The Pickwick Papers". Although there are some hilarious sketches of the townspeople and it is indeed entertaining, I am having a hard time putting down the John Irving novel, "In One Person". It follows the story of a gay man coming out during the 1950's and follows him through his "crushes on the wrong people" up to present time. It is exquisitely plotted and I am only through half of the book!

My real interest in this book came from a few years back when John Irving came to Boston University to give a reading of his other book, "Last Night in Twisted River". I brought my Aunt's copy of her book (that she leant me) and had it signed by the author! I said to him, "I really love your books, " trying not to sound like a version of Annie Wilkes as my heart thumped in my chest. He murmured a "thank you" and handed it back to me and I left with butterflies.

I'll never forget it because as I sat in the auditorium before he signed our books, he had asked people to fill out these notecards to ask him three different questions that he would then talk about for the duration of the reading. He did not answer anything about his writing style, which were the nature of the questions I asked. He answered questions that had to do with the subject matter of his books. One of them was a question about "The World According to Garp". He said, and I am paraphrasing because I can't remember his exact wording, "I believe that this country still has a bias to gay people and it is absurd. I think that people should have equal rights in marriage just as any man and woman have and this is why I have turned back to the subject matter that I had started with "Garp". There is just inexplicable hatred for people and there is no reason for it. I decided to write something that takes the subject head on." I have never read "The World According to Garp", although it is on my to be read list because my brother had said that out of all the books he had read, he liked that one a lot (the fact that he read that amazed me). Of John Irving'd books, I only read, "Last Night in Twisted River" and "The Fourth Hand". I tried to read "Son of the Circus" several times, but I did not get through the first fifty pages (in my defense, I was trying to read it while going to school full time). 

Being in that auditorium was a treat. But what was really delicious was when Mr. Irving started to read from this new novel. Work that had only been seen by his eyes. In that hazy auditorium with the dimmed lights and the stool on which he sat, he began reading this wonderful work which I found to be amazing. I found myself thinking, I have to pick it up and then failed to figure out when it would be released. How serendipitous it was that my Aunt (again) leant me her copy of "In One Person"!

So, once I am finished with the book I am reading, I am turning all of my attention to Dickens and his many works.