Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Seasonal Music and Whalesong to Ease IWSG Pain

MONTHLY INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP CORNER

Migrating gray whales sometimes learn notes from humpbacks on their shared journey

Migrating gray whales sometimes learn notes from humpbacks on their shared jpurney

Rockin’ in the Ole Town Tonight
If—as the Zen Buddhists and String Theory Physicists say—all is vibration—then a full schedule of outdoor music festivals in natural surroundings, weekend after weekend throughput June and July should place Northern California and Humboldt County in particular in good graces with the gods.

Harry Belafonte kicks off Willits, CA series of summer  live music festivals —solstice 2016

Harry Belafonte kicks off Willits, CA series of summer live music festivals —solstice 2016

Headlining the Kate Wolf Music Festival June 23 – 26, 2016 at Black Oak Ranch, Laytonville, CA is veteran crooner Harry Belafonte. Contemporary of Frank Sinatra, Sidney Poitier and Nat Cole, his voice and repertoire have captivated audiences for a minimum of five decades, and still he pleases. Only for reason of age and fame does Belafonte NOT join the revelers who overnight in gay abandon within Black Oak’s leafy canopy, their campground, tents, sleeping bags, makeshift awnings a-go-go all part of the madness of the onset of summer.

Blending Cultures through Music
Free camping goes with ticket purchase at Mateel Community’s 32nd Reggae on the River August 4th-7th in Humboldt County’s renowned French’s Camp, near Garbeville. While international headliners like James Taylor whiz through on a whirlwind tour.

I may be forgiven by my fellow IWSGers—and our faithful Cap’n.Alex—for mentioning only once the fact that, because summer of 2016 is forecast to outstrip 2015 in temperatures and arid conditions, by Lammas and the balmy days of August—Summer’s End—the renowned desert happening of Burning Man may appropriately celebrate burning humans—in the music world, as well as in the ‘real world’.

Camping under the stars to Music has filled summer festivals since Woodstock

Camping under the stars to Music has filled summer festivals since Woodstock

Meanwhile, we writers seem to find a space—rearranging our own personal hell—in order to focus on what we do most of the time—stringing words together.

Does Going Through Hell Help us Write Better?
Quoting our group’s enlightened captain:

Many writers have been through some crisis in their life. Maybe it was a bad childhood, a divorce, drugs, alcohol, illness—the list is endless. It’s left scars and many seem to draw upon their difficult experiences to write great stories.
Alex J. Cavanaugh, author and blogger

Some of us are more fatalistic than others. I can’t seem to shake the feeling that my responsibility lies not just in writing; but somehow in blending into the written fabric some encouragement to my fellow scribes that we will get through this coming crisis. By that I mean us IWSGers: I can’t be quite so optimistic about the human race in general.

So it’s really a good thing to listen to the drumbeat of summertime—let go those old cold winter reins, shake a leg, kick up a jig or two and enjoy the music.

It can’t hurt, can it?
©2016 Marian Youngblood

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June 1, 2016 Posted by | authors, belief, blogging, calendar customs, culture, energy, festivals, music, nature, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Writing for Pleasure or Pitch?

January with the Gremlins

Wormholes in Time -- a dominant theme of my ABNA 2012 entry, 'Coco Bay: the Awakening'

Earlier in the year — mid-January, to be exact — I was panicking slightly because some of my blogging buddies were focusing not just on producing their regular blogs, but also doing edits and re-writes of their WIP (work-in-progress) for submission to ABNA. I’ve covered the finer points of entry to this annual award in my bloghop post, immediately below.

At the time I was mostly concentrating on encouraging other bloghop authors — younger/newer, published or not — to enter, just to get the ‘feel’ of an international competition. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is bigtime, but it’s also fairly simple to enter and before the fun begins — judging — it is not too taxing to come up with five (required) items that qualify you for entry:

1. Your bio — called ‘About You’
2. Your contact details: self-explanatory
3. Book description — ‘About your Book’
4. Your excerpt — up to the first three chapters of your book
5. Upload your MS — ‘Your Entry’.

Simple. You would think so, wouldn’t you?

It’s that last bit, ‘Your Entry’, that creates palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness and sometimes compels the most fearless of writers to break down and cry. And it’s not because you haven’t edited your WIP to perfection, had three Beta Readers review and revise it, and rewritten the ending to your own plot-bunnies’ demands, see also below.

It’s the pitch.

Southern rim of the Bermuda Triangle, the Bahamas set in deep ocean trenches, as seen from Space

While on the submit-to-agents, submit-to-publisher circuit, it’s known as the infamous query letter. Ah, I hear you sigh, that. The query letter is that most difficult of all instruments for a creative writer of fiction to write, because s/he is tearing her hair to describe from a ‘marketing’ perspective what s/he has slaved over for the last —fill the gap— months, dreamed dreams over plot, character nuances and surprise twists in a story that was close to one’s heart. Now, to present it to the reading world, it must go through the hoops of the query circuit. We have to distill our fledgling work of 50k+ words into a 300-word bullet. Not only that, every line has to catch the eye of the destined agent. Or it gets rejected. All of us who have trodden that thorny path know how soul-destroying (ongoing) rejection can be.

Amazon use exactly the same method to get you to capture the essence of your newest baby: but instead of having to write them a query letter, they ask you to submit a pitch. That’s not the same as ‘about your Book’. More exactly, it’s a short ‘snappy’ catch-all to hook readers. More significantly, in the ABNA contest, your completed entry will be judged in Round One solely on your pitch.

Now that the competition is officially closed while first round judging takes place, five thousand writers in each category (general fiction and YoungAdult fiction) are biting their nails, comparing blogs and praying they hit the target with their pitch: one thousand of those praying will be chosen to go through to round two — *Round One ‘winners’ announced February 23rd.

My ABNA 2012 entry 'Coco Bay' combines deepsea breeding tanks with deepspace time-travel

So, just for laughs, here’s a link to the first chapter of my entry, ‘Coco Bay: the Awakening’, the second in my Green Turtle Cay trilogy of deepsea, deepspace, deeptime fantasies to cross the final frontier. If, after you have read my opening chapter, you want to compare it with my pitch, below, please be my guest.

But you will surely be able to tell, won’t you? that I still feel I wrote one, but not the other! It’s the perennial schizm that working authors face. No wonder they say we’re neurotic.

Coco Bay: the Awakening by Marian Youngblood — the Pitch:

Philadelphia Experiment witnesses say Navy destroyer USS Eldridge disappeared in a mist cloud in 1943

When Annabelle awakes from a scary dream of a WWII Navy ship returning through a time wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle with crew’s limbs stuck randomly to the bulkheads, she knows she’s in for an interesting week at the new Seaquarium.

In Green Turtle trilogy Part-1 she met the mysterious John, head of a Bahamian initiative to save world oceans, when she started work for the consortium in its ocean-floor lab.

In part two, Coco Bay, she discovers the marine project has endless resources — both financial and electromagnetic — somehow connected with 500,000 square miles of Bermuda Triangle on their doorstep. Harnessing electromagnetic Triangle energy could work miracles for her local Out-Island community and she finds herself drawn by the thrill of rescuing endangered species, without really understanding where these never-before glimpsed denizens of the deep are being rescued from!

When an entire human family returns through the wormhole to help John scale up the operation from eco-project to wholesale planetary migration, she dives in to help. These are John’s own children, missing in the time-fabric since the project began forty years earlier.

A random chain of events may save earth’s sister world, Europa, with its great mysterious deep, but may also redeem Earth’s inhabitants from destroying their own future.

Coco Bay — second in the fantasy trilogy — will appeal to a wide age/readership, within the present-day context of world concern for mass extinctions. Its scientific reality pulls readers into a scenario which crosses electromagnetic boundaries, suggested by exciting developments in plasma science current with astronomers and physicists.

Parliament buildings, Rawson Square, Nassau, Bahamas


The Bahamas’ unique setting and history will appeal to readers, travelers and piracy buffs alike.

Fantasy/borderlineSciFi novel along the lines of Cosmic Connection meets The Abyss, its final (electromagnetic) surprise twist should entice readers for more.

*ABNA first round neurosis ends February 23rd when they announce 1000 authors in each category who will go forward. Wish us luck.
©2012 Marian Youngblood

February 11, 2012 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Genre-Bender or just Plain Naïve?

INSECURE WRITERS CORNER

NaNo keeps one at it, leaving little room for impromptu extras

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you
~ Ray Bradbury

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog — and coincidentally involved with Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Group — that November is a heads-down month for writers, authors, part-time-bloggers and scribes of every description. This covers those aspiring authors who blog in the bath, motived teenagers desperate to show they can break away from their school curriculum, to seasoned veterans like the icon quoted above (which, after February’s launch of his second book, CassaFire, will include our host, Alex). Hope he doesn’t mind being called a veteran, but I’m sure he won’t mind being thrown in with Ray Bradbury, 90!

This means that I, newbie NaNo-er only three years in, will make this particular blog shorter than my usual efforts — more inkeeping with my prolific (and self-disciplined) blogging buddies who seem capable of blogging day and night seven days a week for 365 days at a stretch. My headscarf is doffed to them, but I am the first to admit I usually only write when the Muse directs and, under normal circumstances — unless I’m NaNo-ing — I tend to wait for her signal.

This is probably naïve of me. But I admit to being naïve. There’s no point in pretending — particularly when it comes to writing and allowing the word to flow through the mind, down the arms, via hands and fingertips on to the blank page.

I am first to admit I still find the process miraculous. Almost like subconsciously intending to bathe, and five minutes later finding oneself soaking deep in the luxurious warm waters, without any recollection of having undressed, lit candles, found towel, shampoo and soap and turned on the taps to fill the bath. But I digress.

The same goes for knowing how to describe what I write. Naïve. On Twitter — which, as you know, requires a brief description in fewer than 140 characters to describe oneself and one’s tweets — I say I write New Age fiction. But, as far as I know, that isn’t a genuine genre. This was brought succinctly home to me when preparing my new profile and studying the genres suggested in this year’s NaNo — which, as you probably know, has put together a whole new user-friendly novel-conducive webpage, just to get us all fired up to CREATE for the next 30 days.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the genres in question — which have to be mentioned in query letters, and are important concerns to agents and publishers, the serious dramatis personae of the Publishing Industry — are not exactly well-defined. You are supposed to know. And sometimes trial and error is not an option open to you. If you have been writing query letters for the last six years and you’ve been describing your work as Sci-Fi and somebody *in the know* says they like your ‘Fantasy’ work, you swallow hard and start all over — with the knowledge that you’ve probably wasted a lot of time that could have been salvaged if you’d done your homework. Problem is, however much homework you do, it is still difficult to know the difference between ‘magical realism’ and ‘paranormal romance’. Well, maybe some of you experienced authors do know the difference. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m naïve. And it takes time — and loads of errors — to get it right.

So what do you think?

The genres which NaNo lists as ‘standard’ in this year’s contest are:

Adventure, Chicklit, Erotic Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror & Supernatural, Literary Fiction, Mainstream Fiction, Mystery Thriller & Suspense, Religious Spiritual & New Age, Romance, Satire Humor & Parody, Sci-Fi, Young Adult & Youth, and Other.

No Magical Realism, you’ll note.

When I first started out submitting queries, I was paralyzed by my inability to decide which genre my MS fit into. Being a Brit, it was, for me, even more daunting to read young American beginner writers (on Facebook and elsewhere) bandying about their knowledge of genres with fluent ease — as if I ought to KNOW. It has taken me a decade or two to calm down and use a couple of standards when querying.

Mt.Shasta's presence is awesome, even from a distance of 80miles, photo ©2008MCYoungblood

This quandary is purely self-inflicted, because I wrote historical non-fiction for years, before finding my voice in novels. Since the switch I have written not only historical romance, (Phantom’s Child, pictured below right) but also am blessed that my supernatural novella, Cockatrice is to be published early in 2012 by NetBound Publishing; and my New Age tome, SHASTA: Critical Mass, (sidebar-2, right, and pictured above) has been picked up by AllThingsthatMatterPress, also for publication in 2012. Two of my recent NaNo novels in the Green Turtle Cay series fall under the banner of fantasy, although they are borderline Sci-Fi.

So, you can see my dilemma. It might seem I have not yet honed myself — as any sensible person might — to fit one genre. It certainly makes for intrigue and change of pace. And it keeps me on my toes. But the question remains. How does one decide on one label, when so many strands and possibilities exist within a single manuscript which might make it more suitable under another?

In order to maintain my sanity — and because NaNo calls, which means I shall have to wind this up 🙂 — I blame the system that insists on labels. Bureaucracy in the microcosm. I may not like having to live with it, but live with it I must, if I wish to continue to write and be published.

Your opinions and personal experiences in this thorny field, dear Reader, are most welcome because, at this stage, I suspect I am not alone in this duel with the Publishing Powers-that-Be. Thanks for listening. And thank you, Alex, for allowing me another shot at these insecure blues…
©2011 Marian Youngblood

November 2, 2011 Posted by | authors, blogging, culture, novel, popular, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Future is Crystal –reworking a WIP

Celestial motif at Honey Street, crop circle formation of June 26, 2011, photo Gordon Burns

When the Crop Circle season really gets going, as it did last week in mid-June this year, their mesmerizing patterns seem to reach out and grab hold of human imagination. And, if you’re a croppie they don’t let go until you’re thoroughly immersed in the ethos of their messages and their beautiful craftsmanship in the corn.

I am hooked every year: I go through the unbeliever stage in early April, when it’s a question of ‘will they–won’t they appear?’ and then when midsummer comes [this year, 2011, the main season was unimaginably late and huge doubt attended any crop appearance], I’m a convert all over again.

In winter the mind wanders to what seasonal miracles appeared and what might have been.

I wrote a whole crop circle-cum-crystal novel for a writing contest in the month of January 2010 and have yet to polish and rework, re-edit and improve it for final submission. So, it is still a work-in-progress, my current WIP. But, because we’re in mid-crop circle season right now, I am daring to share just a taste of its flavor: hope you enjoy. This is one of the middle chapters for
THE FUTURE IS CRYSTAL.

THE FUTURE IS CRYSTAL by Marian Youngblood Chapter TWENTY–ONE
Just as Mark said it would, the trail led towards the main section: the astrolabe, he called it. On the ground you couldn’t tell, but Megan had overheard Colin and Mark discussing over Mark’s laptop, the intricate way the crop circle had been laid out, complete with its new tail formation that had happened in a flash of light last night. The whole thing was beyond amazing. This time the light orbs, the crop circle creators or whatever you wanted to call them, had done something truly out of this world. And, even more miraculous, Mark had managed to capture them on film with his special Kirlian camera.
Even more miraculous, Megan had managed to get some real cool footage on her own camera. It was just a regular state-of-the-art video, but when Colin persuaded Mark to upload the results, she was thrilled to see she had actually got light orbs on screen. How cool was that.

Astrolabe crop circle from solstice, June 21st, 2009, 'phase one' at Alton Barnes

Now they followed Colin along the curved line through the ‘orbit’ he’d chanced upon first off: looked like Jupiter at the central axis, he said, but each orbit had smaller shadows leading to the largest planetary body. If they followed the Jupiter orbit all the way round they’d reach the astrolabe. From the main stem, they could see it all laid out, straight down the field into the distance — at least four football pitches — down the central axis of the tail.
 He led them carefully along the single file path, moving from the smallest circle to one slightly larger, then larger then larger as they progressed along the orbital arm.
Megan followed close behind with the others trailing a little. She paced slowly past neatly-folded wheat stalks lying exactly parallel one with the other as if a medieval monk had come and gently laid each bundle of stems in neat rows like a rush mat leading to a temple. Colin heard Megan’s breathing –- gentle and rhythmical -– measure for measure placing her footsteps where he put his. Neither of them wanted to disturb the pattern, lying so lovingly in a prearranged layout, willing them on through a series of ever larger ‘moons’ to where the orbits connected to the central solar system axis. From there, Colin was determined, from what he’d seen on Mark’s screen, that the pattern opened out and they would find a space to set down all their equipment and really get a feel for the place.

Alton Barnes Astrolabe crop circle 2009 'second phase', June 22nd

There was definitely a sensation in the air and it wasn’t only his sensing like a dowser: he could feel it: a tangible electrical charge.

‘These stems are bent at the node ever so gently, but the stem isn’t bruised or broken in any way. It’s amazing.’ Megan was right behind him.

‘I know; I was noticing that. It’s so carefully contrived.’
Colin couldn’t help himself. He was quick to launch into the scientific explanation, given any excuse. He continued to pace slowly forward, but spoke quietly over his shoulder to her.
‘You know, It’s been scientifically documented that soil samples taken from inside crop circles show changes in crystalline structure and mineral composition. Expert analysis concludes that heat of 1500ºC would be needed to create such a change.’ Megan gasped, but kept her feet on the path in front of her.

‘So the orbs we saw last night were capable of that kind of heat?’

‘Seems so.’

‘Unbelievable.’ They both continued pacing, aware that the other two were gradually catching up with them.
Mark gave a hoot, like a bird. He too must have noticed the bent nodes on the unbruised plants.

‘There’s a big one up ahead,’ Colin called out, knowing Megan was so close behind him she probably couldn’t see, but to give the others a brief guide. Even though these new generation wheat crops were agriculturally developed to grow roughly no higher than knee height, it was still pretty difficult to get any kind of vista; Colin could see a widening area, with a lot of tufted decorative clumps surrounding it like cherries on a Christmas cake. It had to be the joining of phases one and two and the start of phase three.
He decided to continue his little lecture, since Megan was probably new to the whole thing and might be interested. He’d always been quick to spot a new convert.

‘Did you know crop circles also show evidence of ultrasound? you know, the kind of frequencies that are known to hover at ancient sites like Avebury, stone circles and such like?’

‘No, I didn’t.’ She sounded interested. So he went on.

‘And like all ancient sacred sites, crop circles appear at the intersecting points of the Earth’s magnetic pathways of energy; the nodes. Therefore the size and shape of a crop circle is typically determined by the area and position of these node points at the time of their appearance.’

‘Sorry, you lost me there. I don’t quite get that. Say again.’

‘Well, this electric and magnetic energy, it’s quite common here round Avebury. The whole of Wiltshire, in fact; the Salisbury plain…’

‘Yes, I know about Stonehenge.’ She was still following devotedly, both his argument and his footsteps. He liked that.

‘Thing is, it usually happens in chalk; not so common elsewhere. There are areas where they have similar electromagnetism, parts of Oxfordshire have deep underground waterways, aquifers — and Northumbria. Northeast Scotland is pretty heavily imbued with it. But there the aquifers are in granite. It’s something they think may even have protected the ancient sites -– here especially -– from being broken up; something about it that can interact with human brainwave patterns, and because the human body is itself electromagnetic, crop circles are known to affect people’s biorhythms. Consequently, it’s not unusual for people to experience heightened states of awareness and spontaneous healings in crop circles –- a situation also common to sacred sites and holy places. That effect alone could have protected them from desecration.’

‘That’s interesting.’


Milk Hill, Alton Barnes crop circle phase three (end June, 2009), the 'tail' of the astrolabe, photo Lucy Pringle

‘So, you’ve noticed?’

‘Yes. For instance, back there, in that first little circle, I didn’t want to leave.’

‘I have to say you’re not alone in this. It’s been talked about a lot in recent years. The crowd that gathers at crop circles is usually very placid, peaceful. No rowdy demonstrations like a street crowd after a football match.’ He thought that was a pretty good analogy.

‘I wouldn’t expect that anyway. Must attract a different group, these formations.’

‘Yes.’
‘
So what were you saying about ultrasound? I thought lights were making the circles. Are you saying both sound and light?’

‘There’s no evidence to suggest…’ he stopped and looked back at her. ‘…until what your camera picked up last night. Now we’ll have to start all over.’ He laughed.

‘Well, what about the scientific evidence? You said…’

‘Yes. scientifically speaking, the plants are subjected to a short and intense burst of heat which softens the stems to bend 90º at the plant node just above the ground. They seem to re-harden into their new position without damage. They keep on growing. Research and lab tests suggest that ultrasound is capable of producing that kind of effect.’

‘But short bursts of intense LIGHT could do it, too, right?’

‘Well, with what you just provided the scientific establishment –- I mean, your great video footage -– might send them all back to the drawing board.’ He looked over his shoulder and gave her a congratulatory smile.

‘Wow. I like that. But it doesn’t explain how some of the crop lies in one direction and right next to it there it is lying at right angles; sometimes you get four different directions going in one space.’

‘True. I don’t know how they DO it. I just know that the process has been isolated to make it possible.’

‘Ah. So you don’t really know either. We’re all still guessing when it comes to the magical quality and the designs they come up with, right?’

‘Right.’ Colin thought he’d need a whole lot more time back at the drawing board to convince this new audience. He changed the subject. ‘Clearing coming up.’

‘OK.’ Megan glanced back. The other two had caught up and were right behind her. ‘Could you see anything as you came along? I’ve been a little in the shadow of the expert, here. Dogging his footsteps.’ She burst out laughing and Jane joined in.

‘Yes. He CAN get to be a little pedantic.’ Colin did not react. He’d apparently heard it all before. He stepped into the new space, stopped and laid his bags down gently on the matted ground.
The others joined him and paused to survey their new surroundings.

The vista was breathtaking. It did have a magical feel and it spread out in a swirling pattern that looked phenomenal. Like all the smaller circles, growing in size as they progressed round the curve, as well as the padded path by which they entered, the whole quadrant they stood in was matted at a level less than an inch above the ground and folded criss–cross over and back like a woven blanket. Only where the pattern reached the circle’s central point, did the direction and flow of the lay change, going the opposite way.
They were standing in an ellipse, rather than a pure circle; more the shape of a facial oval. There were four quadrants each with a separate directional lay. This gave the pattern a three – dimensional effect, foreshortening the optical distance, so the far edge of the ellipse seemed closer that it actually was. From their perspective, the complete formation must have stretched as much as thirty feet across and forty feet from side to side. They’d come in on a lateral arm of what appeared to be a graphical rendition of the sun, round which the planets with their little moons –- the spaces they’d walked through were Jupiter’s moons –- clung on one arm.
‘See how those two sides are like an ellipse stretched into points of a compass. Two points: left and straight across, forming a geometric outline. That leads to the sextant instrument, I’m sure of it. It’s acting like a compass needle for the astrolabe itself.’ The other three were silent, in awe of the formation. They let Colin speak. A third arm, to their right didn’t actually project, but led the eye all the way down the field, stretching to where they had parked the car. It had to be fully 800 feet long. 
Mark immediately dug out the laptop from his bag and dropped everything else on the ground.

‘I want to see how it compares: now that we have a kind of aerial shot, thanks to Megan and her camera last night, we can see exactly how it connects from here. The ground falls away from us to where the car is parked. Can you see?’ He pointed to nobody in particular. He was joined immediately by the two girls.
Colin started setting up his dowsing rods next to where he’d dropped his baggage on the forgiving wheat. He turned to Jane, who was starting to gesture if she should help.

‘No, you go ahead. It’s a great video. You should really see what it’s like, so you get an idea of our position here -– makes sense. Super idea, Mark.’ He left them in full chatter, and got back to hooking up his equipment.
Mark was already revving up. He had a rapt audience. He started pointing and gesticulating, fully absorbed.


Immaculate central 'lay' of the June 18th 2011 formation at Cow Drove Hill, Kings Somborne, Hampshire

‘See. We’re in the oval here, sort of the ‘face’ of the Sun and from here the full extent of all three phases are visible: not as brilliantly as Megan’s shots, but…’ He keyed up the passage in the footage where the final tail was completely formed, connecting the other two phases, but before it started standing on its tail like a 3D mirage. ‘Now, watch this.’ He went back a couple of minutes to where the orbs were actually forming the tail with its elusive coded symbols.
‘See how they do it? You’ve got the pattern with its teardrop-shaped center – that’s us here… then there’s the configuration of four connected circles on one side and five more circles of increasing diameters on arcs tethered back to the teardrop center. This is the one we came in on. That’s the bit these light guys’ buddies made last week. Phase one the astrolabe; phase two the planets in orbital arcs. The orbits, the little moons we walked through -– they’re just that bit more complex than the first. They happened overnight, too. Then five days later Megan and I get to see a third addition. And see…’ He traced with his finger on the screen the path the orbs had made. ‘See how they just etch and move, etch another line and move. It appears in seconds.’

‘Awesome.’ Both girls spoke together.
‘Kinda like Maya symbols or something from the early Mid–East –- scripts: you know, cuneiform.’

‘Wow. You’re right, Megan. Hear that, Colin? Megan says like Sumerian cuneiform or Egyptian hieratic. It is, you know.’

‘Problem is deciphering.’ Colin didn’t raise his head. He was preoccupied with his rods.

‘Has to be over eight hundred feet in length from the tip of that compass point back there to the other end of the tail, don’t you think, Colin?’

‘Yeah, one thousand feet, easily.’ He was still fixing rods together.
Megan had perceived something else. She was also pointing first to the laptop screen and then out into space over the field.

‘Each of the tail lines of code or whatever they are come up and attach to the ends of each orbit arc. Do you see that, Jane? sort of like a balance like the way you hold your crystal when you’re dowsing.’
Jane peered over her shoulder with a knowing look and then out at the field.

‘You’re right. The damn thing is telling us dowsing code. Did you get that, Colin?’ she called.

But this time Colin was up and away, totally engrossed in his own world, following his rods where they led him, outward from the middle of the ellipse toward a point where the solar system took off into the imaginary world of dreams: the tale of tails, the stuff of fantasy.

‘I think you’re right there, Megan. Better get my crystals into action.’ And Jane dug her quartz out of her pocket and held it up in front of her face.
The pale transparent beauty hung completely motionless for a moment, dangling in sympathy with the still air and glinting in the sunshine at the end of its slender thread. Then, as they watched, imperceptibly at first and then with more momentum, it began a clockwise spin.

Mark went back to studying the laptop images, but Megan couldn’t. She was completely mesmerized by the gleaming orb.
@2010-2011 Marian Youngblood ‘The Future is Crystal’

Three 2011 crop circles cluster round Honey Street: Barge Inn at upper left with orb #1CC left; centre #2 Knave of Swords, July 4th; upper right #3 cuneiform script, also July 4th, photo Olivier Morel

Interestingly, in 2011, when the season started to get busy — from summer solstice on — a series of ‘orb/orbit’ crop circle images have appeared — at Kings Somborne, Hampshire and near the Barge Inn at Honey Street, Wiltshire. The Barge Inn is famous for its ‘croppie’ clientele and, without fail, the fields in its vicinity get adorned every year at this time. Last year it was the 08/08 Honey Street fractal; this year there have already been three formations: two on July 4th and the spinning space object (photo, top, June 26th, 2011).

There has been much speculation and discussion about incoming intruders from space. Least of these was the June 27th Antarctic special, a non-starter, asteroid 2011-MD, so-called asteroid-doc, which passed earth at 1700UT with 7000 miles to spare. Others include varying reports on the threat posed by comet 2010-X1 Elenin, expected to cross Earth orbit in September. All seem to feature in the rash of orbiting bodies pictured in the 2011 crop circles.

This year’s season, having started late, may still surprise us. If you like, you can take this excerpt of my novel, The Future is Crystal, as a little taster of croppie things to come.
©2011Marian Youngblood

July 4th Honey Street Crop formation #3 points North (rt): 'Milk Hill' script, cuneiform or alien code?


postscriptum: when I posted the above ‘flash fiction’ excerpt from one of my chapters, I wasn’t expecting corroboration… but the Honey Street #3 crop circle which appeared a.m. July 4th is indeed a version of cuneiform [like 1991 Milk Hill coded script] mentioned in my text. Woo-hoo! MY

June 27, 2011 Posted by | authors, crop circles, crystalline, energy, fiction, novel, publishing, sacred sites, stone circles, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ABNA Minefield after NaNo Haven?

2010 ABNA winner in YA fiction category: Amy Ackley's 'Sign Language'

I, along with several of my writerly-and-blogging friends, entered ABNA 2011 last week. The two-week entry period for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, sponsored by Penguin Group USA and presented by Amazon.com, with Publisher’s Weekly as Review Sponsor, closed last weekend.

The contest’s aim is to ‘publish and promote a manuscript by an unknown or unpublished author’, the winner being awarded a publishing contract with PenguinUSA, including a $15,000 advance.

That’s the carrot.

There are, however, several sticks that drive this donkey forward.

They’ve devised some unexpected hoops for us ‘unknown’ authors to leap through. And to brave those fiery hurdles, you need an iron-clad constitution, or at least the ability to meditate yourself out of those stress-filled moments of Angst before and after the contest’s several stages. It also helps if, in addition to your flair for putting pen to paper, you have a background in agenting, query letters, publicity and self-PR.

Which a lot of writers don’t.

Some of my writerly friends have been so psyched up –nerve-endings shattered, normal life relegated to broom closet– that we ended up sharing some inside information which may be of use to someone thinking of entering future writing and publishing contests. Though, the way I feel right now, I could be wrong.

If I write these lines BEFORE the judges read the ABNA entries and eliminate (most of) us from Round One (announcement due February 24th), then my comments can’t be seen as ‘sour grapes’, either by my writing friends or the judges.

As I see it, compared with the safe haven of NaNoWriMo, the annual creative writing competition which has run every year since 1999, ABNA is a minefield. It’s not difficult to see why. It’s not being run by writers or authors, but by the ‘Industry’.

"Off with her head" -- Disney Queen or ABNA reviewer?

O, skeptical veteran author who has ploughed her way through the mire set with explosive devices designed by agents and publishers to restrict the floodgates of queries and unsolicited MSS to a manageable flow, a readable number: you need read no farther. I commend you, but am not addressing you in this blog.

My thoughts are instead directed to the unsuspecting budding ‘unknown’, author of a work which may have been written in an ecstatic rush during last November’s NaNo, or one which took years to write, hours of editing, polishing and resubmitting; even a work you’ve already self-published, because nobody else seemed interested. These words are for the novelist who at best isn’t sure s/he has written something good, at worst wants to burn the MS; but in her heart –and in hazy days and insomniac nights at the keyboard– believes it will be the next world bestseller.

I’m comparing and contrasting. But I know I’m also talking apples and pears.

After the NaNo experience, you emerge feeling glued to the keyboard

NaNo was conceived 12 years ago by a non-profit group, the stellar Office of Letters and Light in San Francisco. Run by and for writers, NaNo loves its contestants, encourages them with profile pages which fellow participants can access, community posts that share tips and hints, and it stirs them up with frequent email encouragement. It even persuades volunteer group leaders –MLs (stands for Municipal Liaison, but means Motivation Leader)– to keep writers in geographical groups hard at it during the month of November. In essence, it succeeds in inspiring a large majority of its 200,000 participants (2010 figure, a phenomenal number) to write a novel of at least 50k words in thirty days. Those that make it –writing an average of 1667 words per day– are declared winners.

You emerge from the NaNo experience feeling your fingers are permanently glued to the keyboard.

Even if your family and friends have deserted you and you have forgotten how to cook, clean, or sleep, when you’ve written a NaNo novel, you feel you’ve accomplished something. You suspect you might just conceivably –with a little tweaking, triple edits and a couple of final rewritten chapters– throw your baby into the shark-infested waters of the real world of publishing.

ABNA –now in its third year– comes along conveniently in January (humanity in northern hemisphere at a low ebb, dreams in hibernation). It offers a brief window of opportunity for entry into its two fiction categories, young adult and adult, and you, the revved up, rewarded and real-world-rookie writer go for it. After all, you’ve got a new novel in your pocket (or hard drive), so why not?

If that describes your feeling of euphoria, beware: there are pitfalls.

There are several holes in the 2011 competition –not least the fact that 5000 adult fiction authors and nearly-5000 YA fiction contestants have now entered ABNA and been left hanging. No profile page like the friendly NaNo interface, no sharing. Not even a taste of comparing one’s entry with the other 4999 contestants in the same genre, no personal touch, no encouraging emails. All right. It’s a competition to promote professionalism in writers and project two of them to stardom. The contest homepage suggests you join numerous discussion boards and help groups if you need to know more. And the entry format is simple: an upload page for submitting your MS, its description (which goes on Amazon.com if you win), a 5000-word excerpt along with your author Bio, contact details and the pitch. That’s it.

Ah, there’s the rub. The pitch.

A pitch (as in ‘sales pitch’) is a series of short paragraphs which grab the reader/reviewer/listener and give a punchy version of your plot outline: not necessarily in any chronological order, so long as it ‘grabs’.

Round One, which closes February 24th, eliminating 4000 of those aspiring entrants in each category, is being judged solely on the pitch. A group of editors chosen by Amazon will select 1000 pitches they judge most likely to reveal an exciting new concept in the novel beneath. Not the excerpt, not the description, certainly not the author’s past achievements. A 300-word pitch.

And, as we all know, novelists are traditionally lousy at writing their own PR.

Most of the feedback I’ve heard is from (accomplished and innovative) writers who are placing little voodoo dolls of themselves on the desk next to their laptops and sticking pins in them.

‘My pitch sucks,’ ‘I can’t write a pitch for love or money’, ‘I’m going to fail Round One because I don’t know how to pitch my story’ are a few of the comments I’ve read. Sixteen pages of commentary and shared suggestions exist on the NaNo web community helping 2010 NaNo novelists to overcome lack of faith in their 2011 ABNA pitch. These are not first-time writers, not amateurs tossing a ball in the air to see where it lands. These are dedicated, passionate authors throwing themselves and their lovingly-crafted characters (MC, protagonist and supporting cast) to the wolves, oops, sharks.

Because, unmasked, that is what ABNA is. The publishing industry’s undertaker: the smiling, cravatted, pin-stripe suited facilitator, helping put the last nail in the coffin innocently provided by 8000 novelists. Some of last year entrants were so deflated by the reviews they received from ‘industry expert reviewers’ that they will not enter again this year. Some will never try another contest.

According to personal testimony, a few of this year’s potential entrants were so daunted by the prospect of writing a snappy bullet for their pitch, only to be turned down before a single actual word of their novel was read, that they decided against entering ABNA altogether.

They say only the strong survive.

Round One, above, eliminates 90 percent.

Round Two offers a little ray of hope to those 1000 lucky survivors. That’s when Amazon/Penguin editors and reviewers will get to read the fortunate contestants’ excerpts. Not the MS yet: just the first chapters. ABNA chose this to mean not a random excerpt which to another writer might show individual flair, style and voice, but the first 5000 words, i.e. the opening chapters, of your novel. This, they say, gives an insight into the novelist’s grasp of how to hold a reader from the outset. We’re getting closer to the agent-query process. Round Two will be judged on a scale of one (poor) to five (excellent) on ‘overall strength, prose, style, plot, hook and originality’ of the excerpt. Then on March 13, 2011, 250 novels will be chosen in each category to progress to the Quarter Finals.

Round Three: Publishers Weekly reviewers select 50 entries to move forward to the Semi-Finals. Announced April 25, 2011.

Semi-Finals April 26 – May 23, 2011
At this stage top excerpts in each category will be posted on the ABNA homepage where the public may view and vote for their favorite entry, but also where each contestant will be reviewed by a celebrity panel, ‘each consisting of at least one well-known author, one agent, and one editor’. That rather sums it up. Now the truth will out.

Finals May 24 – June 1, 2011
Three finalists in each category will have their complete MSS read and chosen by this select panel and excerpts of these six novelists’ work will be displayed on the ABNA homepage. The public get to vote for their own chosen winner –one finalist in each category. Panel reviews of the finalists’ work will also be posted.

Amazon celebrates the winners in both categories in an awards ceremony at a venue yet to be named after an announcement on June 13, 2011.

One blogger estimated the chances of being chosen as the publishing industry’s next top author as 0.02%.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. As the final rounds progress, others will be scanning, not just the ABNA website but the weblogs of entrants who made it through some of the hoops. These are themselves agents, editors, publishers representing other institutions, aware that ABNA may be missing out on some unique talents whose gems are slipping through the cracks. That raises the odds to at least 0.06%.

So all is not lost.

I say this vehemently to absolve any and all of my scribefriends who may or may not mention ABNA in their blogs this month. Nobody wants to bite the hand that (potentially) feeds. I take full responsibility for this blog opinion. Their blogs, here, here and here are talented, informative and mostly talk of other things. But IMHO the odds need to be counted, the truth told.

Agents whose blogs share an industry perspective on the current economical difficulties facing publishers are quick to assure us that, if our work is superb, our concept original and our writing has an individual ‘voice’, it will be heard by the right ear and our work will reach readers.

Readers: ah, them. The reader is, first and last, the audience we really write for. If we forget that amid the media hype, the punchy pitch, we forget who is really important. Without the reader, dear Reader, our writing is just tapping electrons into the ether.

NaNoWriMo helped me create something from the bosom of my Muse which surprises and delights me. Even if it needs another three months to develop it into something readable by another, I love it for the stretching effect it had on my psyche. I may be wrong, but the ABNA setup seems geared to do the opposite: to shrink and contract that flow of inspiration that lies within.

I am certain I shall be a NaNo participant next November. I am not so sure I feel like braving another ABNA in 2012.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | authors, culture, fiction, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Displacement Activity during NaNo month

FEATURED WRITERS CORNER

November is NaNo writing month

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by
– Douglas Adams

My last two blogs have featured talented — and busy — authors: the GuestBlog is such a boon when you’re feeling not quite writerly yourself.

Er, well, it’s not that I haven’t been writerly, I have. Just otherwise focused.

NaNo started on November 1st and won’t stop until November 30th and we’re not quite half way through the introductions yet. NaNo is when you abandon all hope of having a life, get up each day knowing you have an obligation to fulfill, fall into bed far too late into the wee hours because you know you won’t get a good night’s sleep otherwise, and generally find it difficult to communicate with your family — unless they’re on Facebook for a couple of minutes. Did I say eat? Whatever’s within reach. So long as it’s quick.

By now all leaf color is a leaf carpet

But November is also the month of Scorpio. That black and white personality, do or die, and if you die, don’t expect anyone to come and pick up the pieces — kind of month. Winter approaches. You can feel it in every breath. Watery autumnal sunlight, and where I live up here on the 57th parallel (cf Juneau, AK), light is gone from the day by 4p.m. Leaves are no longer pretending to cling to tree branches because most of the colorful ones are now carpeting the driveway. That kind of month. A time when one should be out there making the nest ready for hibernation through the next three months of dire weather and even direr temperatures.

And yet that’s the month a small group of writer-stroke-genius displacement activists chose to nurture the NaNo Bug.

Those of our critics who aren’t writers themselves say writing is ‘displacement activity’ from Life with a capital L. As a child, were we encouraged to write or were we encouraged to get an education which would slot us into a ‘good job’?

No displacement activity

Nevertheless I am writing. It’s what a writer is supposed to do.

NaNo was founded in 1999 by a looseknit group (I like the picture that conjures up, kind of like a quilting bee) of writerly types in San Francisco, CA. They chose to set aside the month of November — all 30 days of it — to create the bones of a novel. The ‘bones’ amounts to 50,000 words. Or writing a minimum of 1667 words every day. In order to nourish, challenge and encourage each other, certain perks, ‘gifts’, achievement stickers and carrots are used.

While the pain and self-immolation this exercise invokes might seem to be some people’s idea of lunacy, the Nano idea grew.

Gradually a body of supporters, themselves plunging into writerly waters for the marathon type-in, brought Nano fame. And purpose to November for writers. The month made the real world go away. Instead of the world of lethal freeze outside, your world turns inwards, into the novel or what the novel will become. You hand yourself over to an overlighting presence. You become just the fingers on the keyboard. The body on the bed.

NaNo’s acronym grew from the idea that November is now National Novel Writing Month and a website encourages the cotidien and foolhardy habit, suggesting you upload* a daily wordcount, so as to see your own (growing) stats and feel you are accomplishing something. There are free stickers and website widgets to egg you on, should you feel in need of a boost. And at the end of it, when you’ve passed the 50,000 word mark (some achieve 70,000-100,000. Hey, let’s not knock it), they proclaim you a Winner and you get a purple ‘winner’s’ accolade; plus the offer of a proof hardcopy of your book in print from Amazon’s CreateSpace.

But what happens to this human being who has committed her/himself to such a daily chore (sometimes a pleasure, sometimes a chore)? Does the Muse** visit every day and hold her/his hand through the ordeal?

Even if you don’t feel the Muse holding your hand every day, there are a couple of NaNo folks who do. They’ve taken on the volunteer job of keeping you at it. Been there, done that. They too, most of them, are sitting at their laptops in Peoria Illinois and Ashland Oregon and Walnut Creek California and (Rome, Madrid, London and Skye) pitching in again this November to finish writing their very own ‘new’ idea, plot, adventure, MS, WIP, exercise in writer’s-block-removal.

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him
– Ray Bradbury

At the end of the 30 days, if you drag yourself kicking and screaming to the keyboard every day, and create a piece of work, long or short — ignoring edits, spelling errors, lack of thought-flow; just get it out there — there’s one thing you’ll have achieved. A 50,000-word story. It may feel awful, scratchy, patchy, unformed or uninformed, and half the characters may have glaring holes in their back-stories, but it’s the bones of your next novel, your very own WIP — the Work in Progress that will make you feel a teensy bit achieving.

It may take another year before it becomes fit to print, but that’s not the point. During the process, and especially in the middle doldrums — Week Two Blues — it’s the vision of a completed task that draws you on when you tell yourself the last thing you want to do today is sit down and write a chapter about some silly characters that won’t talk to each other.

That’s part of the clever NaNo trick. They must have learned it from Jack Kerouac. He pasted sheets of copier paper top-and-tail together and fed the roll into a typewriter carriage, stocked up with coffee and ‘uppers’ and wrote ‘On the Road‘ in three weeks.

I’m not suggesting the ‘uppers’. Besides, NaNo ‘writing buddies’ are quite good at keeping you going if you flag. Or Facebook. Remember what they say: if your Subconscious has been alerted and informed by your Will that it has to regurgitate something every day in November, believe me, the Subconscious does.

And it sends in the Muse.

You may not like Her. You may not even be able to identify with Her, but at the end of 30 days, you will have Her staring you in the face, handing you a story. And when you really have something finished — I didn’t say polished: that comes after — you really feel you have to do something with it! Because it’s your WIP and it’s all yours.

They say writers are the least likely people to market their own wares. Isaac Asimov said:

Rejection slips, query and form letters, and synopses, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil, but there is no way around them.

2010 NaNo in progress

Which brings me back to Displacement Activity. What NaNo does for writers is just such a way around the roadblock that Asimov thought inevitable. It physically takes over space and time and allows the writerly urge to come through. Displacement activity is put aside to make way for words. That means life functions, regardless/oblivious of eating, drinking, sleeping, making love, shopping, paying bills or stoking fires — or any other life chore, for that matter — take a back seat, offering space for the writer and Muse to get to know one another all over again. And ideally during the process, all distractions, such as rejection slips, plotlines, query letter seminars, agent/ editor suggestions or even how the story’s going to end (along with cell phones) fall into the file drawer below the supply of tea/coffee, twinkies/cookies, cheese bits, and granola.

The rest of the world can criticize you for making writing your Displacement Activity from Life. But by the time you’re past Week Two, the halfway hurdle, and you find you’ve got a story going, your characters are coming alive, even if you’re not quite on the home stretch, you (hopefully) don’t believe your activity is displacement at all. You’ve found a new friend.

So why am I here writing this blog? Must be Nano Displacement Activity. Sorry, dear readers and fellow writers, I got to get back. My NaNo Muse is calling.

* An exciting widget until year 2010 was the wordcount widget. You copy & paste your daily output as input to the NaNo page and it counted the result for you and pasted the glorious total as part of your personal and site-wide stats. In 2010 this feature will only become available to site visitors after November 25th when the widget will be available to participants to ‘verify’ their (completed) output/MS/novel.
**Some days She does; some days She doesn’t.

Ed. As evidence of Marian’s supreme NaNo Displacement Activity, she wrote the following little Drabble for entry in the December Drabble contest over at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash.

NOLA HOLA

She’d worked hard – her beads sparkled in December sunshine. Farmers market always busy on weekends, the tomato and squash guy in the next stall said, selling his pumpkins for pennies. Mark ’em down low was his recipe for getting home early.

Freezing, only her second time, she gotta stay to cover costs. Don’t come back without a Franklin, or I break your arm, he’d said.

That weirdo, watching from a doorway since lunchtime, came over, handed her a 1000 dollar bill.
‘Cleveland cover it?’ he asked, picking up the jewel case.
Passport outta Dodge, she thought.
‘Sure,’ she said. ‘Thanks.’

©2010 Marian Youngblood
photo ‘Colourful beads’ by Natasha Ramarathnam
A Drabble is a story — a bullet, an idea, a character outline, a work of fiction that is exactly 100 words long: no more, no less.
December Drabble Theme at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash

November 13, 2010 Posted by | astrology, authors, culture, novel, seasonal, winter, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ladybirch shares the healing touch

FEATURED WRITERS CORNER

Vermont colors influence the heart, fill the mind of artist novelist, Genie Rayner

I first ‘met’ Genie Rayner electronically, when I read her heartrending poem Paradigm Shifts on KPN, a writers’ webcommunity we both belong to. Her fierce stance through personal pain struck me most significantly:

“In the grand scheme
the little things don’t
seem to make much difference …

Just as climate change
shrinks Mother Earth,
my father’s world
shifts too
and he’s lost his little girl.

As he bends closer to the ground,
turns off more lights
as he goes more blind,
he already wears his death mask,
shrinks deep into Alzheimer’s past …

Then a long, warm fall
with hints of the shadows
of spring,
one cat makes friends
with the others,
and new times to write,
to try to sing …
these little things
make all the difference in the world …

Even if
I’m no longer
his little girl.” Paradigm Shifts by Genie Rayner, 2009

For me it gave meaning to Robert Frost’s belief that ‘a poem begins with a lump in the throat’.

I learned more as we got to know each other. You know how these web friendships take time to unfold. Before the years of caring for her dad, Bill, she seemed to me somehow like a southern swallow homing in on her northern perch: originally from New Orleans, she just kept moving north until she found Vermont — and stopped. And stayed.

‘My soul had to find Vermont before I could gain the courage to call myself an artist,’ she says.

Genie Rayner, part migrant bird, part cat-woman, wholly writer

Maybe she is part-bird. Like me, she is deeply caught up in the seasonal movement of the flying creatures, owls, cardinals, hawks; also trees, flowers, anything green; she grows an organic garden, empathizes with frogs, deer, most mammals, autumn breezes. Like me, she has more cats than most people consider ‘sensible’. I make no excuses. I like her. In her writing on her ‘other’ wordpress blog, she goes by the name of Ladybirch — it is, after all, a Birch (B)log. She is poet, novelist, freelance editor, photographer, artist, quilt-maker, chair-restorer, writing mentor and consultant. Co-founder of Rutland’s BirchDel Poets and Druidfarm Creations, she encourages all talents focused on creativity for the wellbeing of mind, body, earth and soul. You get the picture: she’s a busy woman. At the moment she’s working on a poetry chapbook — or two — a novella and, if you need your own work edited, she’s your (Magiclamp Editing) woman. In her spare time she has written her first novel, Song of the Blessing Trees published by British small press Gilead Books.

i wasn’t certain I was being very kind when I asked her to take time in her busy schedule to contribute to my little Writers’ Feature Corner, but she readily agreed. And I’m so glad I did, because she brings to this sharing of our thoughts on writing — so many authors, budding or successful, with so many points of view — a gentle wisdom and deep perspective of what it takes to extract words from the subconscious and place them one in front of the other on the printed page.

Bless you Genie for this insightful piece.

The ‘Whole’ Meaning of Writing by Genie Rayner
When you think about it, words are funny things. There are, after all, easier and quicker ways to communicate: eye contact, touch, music, visual art, dance, even silence can all speak volumes – for good or ill – if we’re aware, attuned and receptive to the possibilities waiting to be evoked.

As writers – and speakers – we know all too well that words can be awkward, slow, difficult to find. They can cause pain or distress, tears, anxiety or fear; they can wound and cause irreparable damage. On the other hand, the right word(s), written or spoken, are among the most beautiful things in the world.

At least to this writer.

As much as I love and need the other arts, as much as I use the other ways to communicate, there is nothing quite like a beautifully-turned phrase, a thoughtful way of putting words together, to inspire a sense of meaning in one’s life.

Almost everyone is familiar with the popular definition – and concept – of logos. In his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, though, Viktor Frankl digs even deeper than the usual translation of ‘word.’ From his experience in a World War II concentration camp, Frankl explains that logos actually denotes ‘meaning’ first and foremost:

Genie at a recent BirchDel Poets' gathering in Vermont

“Frankl relates how he came to discover his new school of psychotherapy … in Auschwitz where he had been interned. He tells how, with his trained clinical eye, he began to perceive that his fellow prisoners were wasting away and dying physically because… they had no ‘meaning’ to live for, so they gave up the struggle and buckled under. Very unobtrusively Frankl started to pick up meanings in the[ir] lives… in casual conversation with them; then, he began very naturally and imperceptibly to feed these same meanings back into the lives of respective prisoners. What he noticed in sheer wonder… was that these companions of his, who had practically surrendered to their fate… came suddenly alive and could go through any torture, any trial, any hardship in the camp, thanks to the meaning or meanings that had been injected back into their lives….

“So it was that Frankl discovered and later developed his logotherapy – that is, making people whole (= therapy) by giving meaning (= logos) to their lives. For the primary signification of logos is ‘meaning’; its secondary signification is ‘word.'”
Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises (NY: Paulist Press, 2001, pp. 19-20), by Herbert Alphonso, SJ, quoted in Genie’s Master of Arts thesis

I think one of the reasons for this is because words – and by extension, at least for writers, the written word – connect us to one another. They can and do create relationships, sometimes when we don’t even know the other person(s). A wise woman recently wrote to me of the ‘umbilical connection’ writers have with words; that most basic relationship, then, grows and connects to untold others who read our words.

That is one of the fundamental reasons I write: relationship.

Sometimes I’m lucky – and privileged – enough to know that my words have made a positive impact on someone, and that is thrilling. Even when the impact is negative, at least I know I’ve made a connection, made someone think enough to argue with me or want to discuss something further. That, too, is exciting. I’ve done my job!

I’m also enough of a writer to fantasize about the connections some of my now-unpublished works might make after I’m dead and gone. If anyone goes through my desk drawers and the boxes under my bed, they’ll find reams of old poems, essays, jottings, story ideas, and books in various degrees of progress. Maybe that person or those persons will care enough for my efforts that s/he or they will take the time to read them. Perhaps a poem will be found at a time when it’s needed to help someone through a tough spot; perhaps one of the unfinished books will stir up enough ideas for the reader to continue it to fruition; someone might even think something is good enough to submit posthumously and it will finally get published and reach others somehow, somewhere.

But even before then, one can – and does – hope that some of the same things will happen. Some of my poetry and other writings have engendered lifelong or important relationships, just as others’ works have inspired me to contact and connect with them because of something meaningful in their words or craftsmanship.

More often, though, I have no idea how readers take my words or respond to them. Most writers don’t.

So what’s the point of writing?

I keep coming back to ‘meaning’ and relationship and connection. Perhaps the most important relationship, the most meaningful one, is that with ourselves. Though I always hope others will find some kind of meaning in my work and my words, they can’t if I don’t first. I suggest this is why blogging has become such an integral part of our recent technological lives: people need to connect with themselves and with others.

Of course, there are always pieces that will never meet other people’s eyes, heart or soul, but I still had to write them for my sake. I hope I’ve become a better human being because of the letters, poems, stories and fragments that have helped me work through trauma, crises, heartache, joy, even silliness… but they’re too personal or not developed enough ever to crawl out of the desk drawers or boxes under the bed.

Sometimes just putting words to paper – especially putting words to paper, rather than typing on a keyboard – makes that vital connection between head and heart that, I hope, results in a more developed person. Though the works themselves may not be complete, simply making the creative effort to find meaning makes me more complete. If I’m lucky, working through something by writing about it will spark insights and revelations that couldn’t have come otherwise or in quite the same way, and I am even more whole.

Righteous!

It truly is. One understanding of the word ‘righteous’ in the Bible is ‘right relationship with God.’ Though it may sound selfish and self-centered, if I can’t or don’t make that critical connection to me – to what’s going on in and with my ‘I’ (as in Martin Buber’s I and Thou) – first, then I can’t connect to God, or the Other. And I sure can’t connect to all the unknown others I hope will find meaning through my words.

It is, after all, a cooperative creative process, this ‘thing’ writers must and can do. We writers may think we’re solitary, but we’re not really. Call it spiritual, religious, holy, or any other term with which you’re comfortable, writing is a co-creative endeavor that involves many others—some known or intended and seen, some unknown and unintended – and many layers of involvement.

Just as Frankl’s spoken, and then written, words were healing – and ‘wholeing’ – for others, I think most (if not all) of us want our words to do that as well, regardless of genre or theme or plot. At least on a fundamental, intuitive level.

We strive for that connection, those relationships that complete our work – and ourselves – with our work, by our work.

With that intent, we can’t help but contribute to a better, more complete and healed world, even if it’s person by person, reader by reader. It may be a slow process, co-creating a collective world of and with meaning, but it’s worth it, in my view. Maybe it’s even better to be slow, more one-on-one. There’s an intimacy to that concept that really appeals to me.

Regardless of how long or slow writing is, how solitary or collected writers are, I suggest that we are working for and toward the umbilical relationship of wholeness with others and ourselves. That gives a meaning to my work that can be expressed only through more words.

Every time I sit down to write, I look forward to the anticipation of possibilities and connections that will emerge – for something unexpected always occurs. I always find a little more of and about me and I hope I always find a little more of and about others, the world, the human condition, God, and the mysteries of the creative process.

It doesn’t get much more meaningful than that.
©2010 Genie Rayner

October 13, 2010 Posted by | authors, birds, culture, environment, gardening, Muse, nature, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Energy, Intent and Writing by Jim Vires

Featured Writers Corner

The allure and magic of the printed page

When I first got the idea to feature some of my struggling author friends, it was a seed kernel: a tiny cell in need of germination: I have quite a few writerly friends in various guises, on a couple of continents, some friendships generated through the miracle of electrons… all extremely busy at what they do. The writerly occupation, after all, as we’ve said before, is not something you can pick up and put down. It lives inside. It has its own form of development, its own pace, its own drive. We, the hands on the keyboard, the implement allowing it voice, are merely facilitators.

So, when some of my author friends agreed to write a guestblog for me, I was over the moon. Every writer sees the Muse differently. Every one of them has a unique perspective on our communal pursuit.*

All of them are busy, as I say: as a writer, storyteller, blogger, novelist or journalist, you have to keep at it or you’re doomed. So it was not a surprise when some of my friends said they’d do it, but it would be a while.

Jim Vires, my column guest today, said: ‘when do you want it?’

Jim is just as busy, just as motivated, just as obsessed as the rest of us.

Evolution of a Conceptual God by Jim Vires on Amazon

He has just launched his phenomenal ‘The Evolution of A Conceptual God’ on Amazon – subtitled: ‘Navigating the Landmines’. It is a collection of powerful stories, both fiction and non-fiction in a life curve designed by the author to overcome adversity and his gratitude in being able to do so. Jim arranged for all profits from the sale of his book to go to Salvation Army Homeless Shelters.

He’s moderator/group leader Yinseriv of the NonFiction writers group on KPN Network (run by KeyPublications guru Damian Gray); he’s a video wiz, photographer and music buff; and he writes — and helps others to write — in his so-called ‘spare’ time. He also dashes about the country helping others get their books launched, but we won’t go into that this time around… in short, he’s an inspirer, as well as being inspired.

I am therefore honored — and delighted with his speedy response — to be able to present the spiritual view of storyteller, ‘teller-of-tales’ Jim Vires on writing as a medium to inspire others.

Energy, Intent and Writing by Jim Vires

Often I hear from other writers that they have succumbed to Writers’ Block. To be truthful, these words have passed my own lips. I suffer from this self-imposed malady when I think of writing as a craft, or as my job. For me, there is a cure for the condition, but I never learned of it in any college classroom. The glossy paperbacks touted as ‘How To’ by bestselling authors fail to mention it either. I remind myself that writing came to humankind as a gift.

Before I continue, allow me to address any readers who may bring up that language preceded writing as a gift to humankind. As a member of a tribe with a long history of storytelling, I do agree that language is a gift. I also see the gift of language shared by other dwellers of our planet. To the best of my knowledge, so far, only humans have mastered writing with purpose.

‘Purpose’ is the key word I want to focus on about writing. Often as writers, we start with a set purpose in mind as we put words to page. Our cerebral cortex starts firing as we set our awareness to a task. When all works well, we find that we enter an altered state of awareness as we write. The distractions of outside influence fade as we focus on the words imparted from our brain to the world. You may call this altered state by any number of titles depending on your frame of reference. In the end though, it becomes one writer acting with purpose, to place format to a thought using one letter at a time.

Are you aware of the purpose of your words? Many of us have used the written word to influence, or at times, manipulate the thoughts and emotions of others. When we do this well, we transpose our intent to the will of our readers. This is never ‘bad’. Without the phrasing of a thoughtful love letter, our reproductive prerogative never would have evolved from who is the best physical suitor. Wars have started and ended over the words written on a page. These are just three examples of the power behind the purpose of words.

What happens once the words leave my brain and enter the domain of the reader? All control of my purpose, intent and meaning default to the experience of the reader.

Shall we try an experiment?

Smile.

Jim Vires - perennial optimist, author of 'Evolution of a Conceptual God'

Five simple letters form one word. What did you think of as you read the word? Each of us filtered that one word through our experience. Did you smile at an innocuous request? Perhaps you came from a background where you learned that a smile is a mask. The word smile may signal a harbinger of deceit. The point I make is that as I typed the word there was one meaning in my mind. One purpose. Through the act of reading, we all share the word. It has become our word. This is the Spirituality flowing underneath writing. We connect in a shared experience.

As a writer, I am all too often forgetful of this on a conscious level. Until I enter an altered state while writing, I am imposing my will, purpose, on the reader. Once I do enter that state, words flow from my fingers in an attempt to connect with my projected reader. Instead of imposing, I strive to connect with you, the reader. You become the focus of my being. This is the joy of being out of myself and fully alive in this moment. This is the gift of writing.

Does this seem a little too ‘New Age’? Allow me to challenge this. What is the power of any classic literature? The writer has taken us outside of our existence and placed us within a frame of reference we may never have lived. The writer places words in a careful arrangement that allow us to travel inside of the written word and give life to the words. The words become living words. In a transcending of time and place, we enter into a contract of writer and reader. The writer wrote with purpose. At what point though, did the purpose leave the intent of the writer and become part of a greater purpose? This happens the moment there is a reader.

While in the process of writing, the writer owns the words, and it is the writer’s job to bring meaning to those words. A thoughtful writer always considers the intent of the words. The writer considers the thoughts and emotions that the reader will experience by the selection of the words.

This again brings me back to purpose when writing.

The written word can wound and it can heal. Rarely when writing are our words a null void. Why would we write if they were? Granted, most of us write without intent to hurt others. How often has your intent been to heal? I dare to guess that it is not often enough. When we use our words to educate, lift up, or bring a smile to our readers, we are engaged in healing work. As we enter an altered state while writing, we become funnels for the energy that surrounds us. The words become a balm freely given to the writer with the understanding that they are to share with readers. If we allow the process to shine through us, at the end of the job the words turn into a paper, story, poem, blog or a book. The writer gives up ownership of the words.

At this point, the reader now owns the words.

As stated earlier, we can never tell with certainty the perception that a reader is going to bring to the page. It is now on the reader to take the words to a new sphere of influence. The five minutes a reader spends reading on work break eases some of the tension and worries that are common to so many. The reader interacts with coworkers and family, now infused with the purpose, power, of the words he read. A classic energy string radiates within a community and quite possibly returns to the writer.

I wrote this blog with intent and purpose for you, the reader. As I distill final words to an ending, I understand that my part of this contract ends. Now the contract rests with you when you continue your life.

Smile.

It is a simple word, the word smile. Such a simple word holds so much transformative power.

© Jim Vires 2010

Ed. Thank you Jim for a sidestep into the cosmic realm of dreams, belief, heart and soul and for bringing us back to earth too: because this is where we all have our work cut out for us!

*My other writerly cohorts who have appeared or will appear again in this conspiracy to collude in the crystallization of seed-words on the printed page include:

Cathy Evans
Hart Johnson
Pete Madstone (May 2010)
Natasha Ramarathnam
Genie Rayner (October 2010)
Rob Read
Mehal Rockefeller (April 2010)
Catrien Ross of Energy Doorways
Tara Smith (September 2010)

And to Jim: bless you.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | authors, consciousness, culture, Muse, publishing, spiritual, Uncategorized, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Writing’s the one thing I can call my own’

Featured Writers Corner

Oftentimes we have no choice: the keyboard calls

Margaret Atwood once said:

“Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths”

I think I would put it even stronger: we are compulsive wordsmiths, yes, but sometimes we are actually unable to put the pen down or — in this case in the 21st century — abandon the computer keyboard. We may, like my adorable blogging compatriot, Tara Smith, be compulsive people-watchers and take notes or store the info in our heads until we get a moment to write it down; or we may just be of the temperament that it takes us over, we have no recourse but to let it and we set aside somewhere, some time apart from our Other Life in order to do it. It drives us. It controls us. I am no longer fooled into thinking I have a choice in the matter.

Virginia Woolf said: ‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ That was an early 20th century view. Nowadays, all we ask is a tiny corner in the middle of the madness, so we and our Muse can be together for a brief (illicit) rendezvous.

As you probably read in my blog on John LeCarré, this little corner is my attempt to feature my favorite real-life struggling authors. By that I mean those of us who are continually pitting our wits against the ever-growing behemoth of the Publishing World: the world we writers are so NOT equipped to tackle and yet, as agents keep on telling us: we don’t get there unless we try. So in addition to being tied down with imaginary ropes and shackles by our Muse, our flow is constricted by being constantly reminded that to publish we must become marketers.

To refute this assumption, Barbara Kingsolver says:
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”

I present you with persistent blogger, Princess of Procrastination, ChickLit author of Cardiffella and my Welsh Sista, Tara Smith.

Featured Writer: TARA SMITH

When Marian asked me to guest on her blog, I immediately decided to do it without thinking about it at all. For those of you that don’t know me (which I’m guessing will be the majority of you), that’s very typical of me. I’ll agree to almost anything and I never think about the consequences. I over-commit myself, I allow myself to be persuaded into projects, and I tell myself that it would be rude to say ‘no’ (well, it would be rude to say ‘no’, especially when people specifically think of me to help them with something And I really don’t like to be rude).

Cambrian Princess, Tara Smith

Anyway, along with my Can’t Say No Attitude, I’m also a Procrastinator of the Highest Order. You would think that the two wouldn’t go hand in hand – indeed, they shouldn’t go hand in hand – but unfortunately they seem to be Partners in Crime.

So here I am, at the eleventh hour (24 hours before Marian’s deadline to be exact, and when you consider that I was asked to do this weeks ago, you can probably see how much of a procrastinator I really am) typing up this blog post.

Those of you familiar with Marian’s blog will have come to expect detailed, well thought-out posts which show care and loving attention to every sentence, so I should probably apologise because my efforts are definitely not of the same level at all. As with all writing, I’m a Fly By The Seat Of My Pants kind of girl, which means I rarely research and just dive right in, hoping against hope that I will have produced something legible at the end. I really shouldn’t call myself a writer at all, I’m far too haphazard in my approach to it.

But the thing is, I enjoy writing. No. Scrap that. I love writing.

It doesn’t matter if I am writing for my own blog, for other blogs, for my fan fiction stories, or for my original stories, I just love to write. Sure, I get frustrated more often than not when my Writing Mojo doesn’t do his job properly (my current Writing Mojo looks suspiciously like Jensen Ackles, by the way, and as he’s been so naughty lately I may have to punish him accordingly), but when I get into the flow of it, writing makes me about as happy as it is possible to be.

Writing, for me, is escapism from the busy life of a working mother. I only work part time, but add the 16 hours of my earning job to the endless hours of my ‘mother’ job, and there really aren’t enough hours to go around. Sometimes I think that if I paused for a moment, everything would come crashing down upon me, such is the balancing act that is my daily life. I don’t really have any hobbies (aside from an addiction to reading [and procrastinating] ), so writing is the only thing that I can do that is especially for me. My kids can’t get involved in it, my husband can’t get involved in it, and my cats can’t pester me about it either. A working mother (or any mother, for that matter) is spread so thin that sometimes she can forget all about herself, so for me writing is the one thing that I can call my own that is not accountable to anyone else.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t write for a while, it doesn’t matter if when I do write it is nothing more than the mad mutterings of a crazy person, the writing comes from me and me I don’t really have a current project as such, more a pile of unfinished projects that could probably do with a good dusting off (part of the problem of being a procrastinator is that you tend to be a starter and not a finisher, if you know what I mean). I’d like to say that I have written a novel. Well, actually I have written a novel, it’s just it’s nowhere near ready for publishing yet, so it’s technically a draft.

Soon to hit the bookshelves -- if the Muse is willing -- Cardiffella by Tara Smith

This draft was the finished product of last year’s NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month), and it was the first time I had ever written something so long in such a short space of time. You would think that after achieving 50,000 words in a month I would be able to go back and add another 10k and tidy it up a bit with no problem at all.

Alas, the bane of procrastination!

Still, with another WriMo coming up I am hoping that another month of sleep-deprived crazy writing will give me the kick up the butt that I need. Last year I wrote a Chick Lit comedy – which, let me tell you, was a complete surprise to me, as I had been sporadically working on a fantasy-based novel for a good number of years (yes, years: it’s not a typo. I’m not the most prolific of writers to be sure). This time around I’m thinking of taking another genre path and going for contemporary drama instead. I’ve been known –- despite my reputation for being slightly loopy -– to write good, solid drama over the years, and I’m thinking that’s what I should maybe do. If I do it, that is. Yeah, we’re a dithering bunch, we procrastinators, and can never decide what we are going to do until the last minute (hence this eleventh hour ramble blog post).

That’s the beauty of being a writer though, there aren’t any boundaries. Most jobs in the real world have a routine to them that borders on mind-numbing. Unless you are extremely lucky and have a job that you love, or you work in some sort of challenging academic field, your place of work pretty much fences you in and you have to deal with the same stuff day in, day out. I work in a newsagents three days a week, and although the tasks vary a little for the different days, it’s still the same things that I have to do one week after another. The only upside (or downside, depending which way you look at it) is that along with the regular customers that frequent the shop, you are almost always guaranteed to get a few new people every day. And for a writer, that is good news.

People-watching (or nosing at strangers; you decide) can be a fountain of inspiration if you do it properly. On the few occasions when I am not running around like a headless chicken with newspapers flying out of my hands, I’ll stop for a moment and observe a customer. It may only be for a few seconds, but in that short space of time I’ll have given them a name, an occupation, a relationship status, and a little back story.

Not that I’m a stalker or anything, you understand, I’m just a curious person (as in curious about other people, not curious myself. Then again, I suppose you could call me odd if you wanted to).

NaNoWriMo: writing every day in November

Anyway, that’s what I do in between counting the magazines and putting stock on to the shelves. You see, even when I’m supposed to be working, my brain is still in writer mode. Which is why I call myself a writer. It’s not something that you can make yourself do, you either are or you aren’t.

I’ve had people say to me over the years that they can’t understand how I can write stories from thin air, as they wouldn’t know where to begin. Others have commented on how I can fill blog posts with (mostly) legible words on a daily basis (though, to be fair, that was only during last October and November, which were the only two months that I managed to blog every day. . . *shifty*). But to me it would be inconceivable if I couldn’t write a few paragraphs about any subject in the world. I can’t understand what is so difficult to understand, if truth be told.

Writing, for me, isn’t a job. It’s isn’t a hobby either. It’s just a part of me, like my arms or my legs. I can go months without physically writing anything, but the storytelling instinct lurking inside me is never far from the surface. I could no more stop writing than I could stop eating (and I do love to eat, it has to be said). And let’s not forget that I’m just an ordinary thirty-something woman. I have a crappy job, two kids, a mortgage, and bills to pay (or not to pay some months, let’s be honest). I’m no J.K.Rowling or Dan Brown, I’m just me, Tara Smith, living my ordinary life for the time being while I sit on the pipe dream of becoming a published author.

Everyone needs something to hope for and to aspire to, or life would become stagnant. My writing dream may only ever be a dream, but it’s a darn good one that I’ll keep having until I stop breathing. I love to write. That’s it, that’s me. It’s what keeps me sane in my insane life, and it’s something that I’ll always do, no matter what.

And no-one can take it away from me, because it’s mine.
©2010 Tara Smith

That, folks, was TARA SMITH. Isn’t she fabulous?
OTHER featured writers soon to appear (or appear again) are:

Cathy Evans
Hart Johnson
Pete Madstone (May 2010)
Natasha Ramarathnam
Genie Rayner (October 2010)
Rob Read
Mehal Rockefeller (April 2010)
Catrien Ross of Energy Doorways
Tara Smith (September 2010)
Jim Vires (October 2010)

ED: Tara Smith is author of hilariously funny Cardiffella, a dedicated NaNoWriMo participant, working wife and mother and Blogspot blogger Princess of Procrastination. Enjoy.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | authors, culture, Muse, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

18 Steps to Becoming a Writer

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already a writer. So the appended list is intended as a little tongue-in-cheek, because those in the field who haven’t yet plunged have miles to go before they sleep….

Author David Cornwell in Cornwall speaking to Jon Snow, courtesy Channel 4 News

There is one great role model still out there, however, and he gave a rare interview on British television (to Channel 4 News’s Jon Snow, thank you) on September 13th. In his eightieth year, David Cornwell — no you don’t know him by that name, but read on — will publish his 22nd book this week on September 16th.

Before I get to the steps to mastery of this mysterious gift — writing — I want to say that Jon Snow did a magnificent job: not only did he subsume his role as producer/director and questioning acolyte into the greater picture which his interviewee painted, but he seemed to enjoy every moment of it. His follow-up Snowblog had a telltale air of enthusiasm and excitement about it, as if his trip to Cornwall to see Cornwell had actually inspired him.

His opening line: ‘The night sleeper drew exhaustedly into Penzance station’ was a creative scene-setter. Well done Jon.

The octogenarian-to-be certainly inspired me. David Cornwell is, of course, in case you hadn’t guessed, the all-Brit deeply researched (by personal experience) spy thriller writer John Le Carré. He has lived in his clifftop home overlooking the wild Atlantic Ocean for nearly forty years. That kind of rootedness — plus his earlier career in the British Foreign Office — leads to writerly focus and concentration. And those, as we know, are the main ingredients in pulling off a masterpiece, the following 18 steps notwithstanding!

Scrivener storyboard: the 'greatest advance for writers since the word processor' Michael Marshall Smith

Step One: Decide you’re going to write a story.

Step Two: Decide it’s going to be brilliant. Imagine the response of your [teacher, classmates, reading group, agent] and how it will completely change the way they look at you.

Step Three: Open up Scrivener for Macs or Microsoft Word or, if you are really doing this for the VERY FIRST time, unpack the old portable typewriter and put a fresh sheet of paper in the roller and snap to. (I’m not the only one who remembers what that feels like).

Step Four: Stare at the blank white screen stretching on into infinity until your eyes begin to water and your brain hurts from the sheer emptiness of it all.

Step Five: Check your e-mail. If writing a novel, research agents for a couple of hours.

Step Six: Stare at the blank Scrivener/Word document again.

Step Seven: Realize you need music. Spend the next hour finding the perfect “mood” music for what you want to write.

Step Eight: Inspired by [insert perfect music here], click back over to Scrivener/Word document.

Step Nine: Change Facebook status to: [Your name here] is WRITING!!! Realize you aren’t on Twitter, and that anyone who is anyone is networking/wasting time on Twitter. Sign up for an account and spend the next two hours figuring out how it works and what the hell # means.

Step Ten: Stare at blank Scrivener/ Word document. Decide you need a title. Brainstorm for the next hour.

His 22nd spy thriller is launched this week

Step Eleven: Come up with a GENIUS title. Proudly type “The Scent of Green Papayas” at the top of the document, followed by your name. Happily consider how easily a story will come now that you have such an amazing, literary title.

Step Twelve: Take a four-hour break for snacks and naptime.

Step Thirteen: Refreshed, sit down and toy around with pen names for a while.

Step Fourteen: Realize to your horror that your genius title is actually the name of a Vietnamese foreign film you saw seven years ago.

Step Fifteen: Erase the title, pressing Backspace much harder than necessary.

Step Sixteen: Stare at the blank Scrivener/Word document until your eyes bleed.

Step Seventeen: Check Facebook. See that fourteen people have commented on your status, asking what you are writing. Feel both guilty and annoyed.

Step Eighteen: Slam your laptop shut and go to the movies. Tomorrow’s a better day for writing, anyhow.

See? You never knew writing was so easy!

This little provocative bullet was provided by Chuck Sambuchino in the Literary Agents Editor’s Blog.

it is far more relevant to hear from Le Carré directly: while the Channel 4 Snowblog does go into detail on the points of the Snow interview, as a ‘news’ interview, it concentrates on the spy stuff, its relevance in our 21st Century world. What stay with me, on the other hand, are Cornwell’s clear and lucid words on solitude and being touched by the Muse. His years of experience in handling spies and other British Foreign Office delicacies (when Britain was still called Britain) are merely a hook for the content of his books on espionage. What he said in this rare and insightful interview (probably his last; he said so himself) is far more important for budding — and successful — storytellers.

‘Popular writers have usually got one flag they can always wave. And it haunts them. It haunts me. Can I ever write another Spy Who Came in from the Cold? The answer is no, I can’t. But I can do other stuff.’ His latest title Our Kind of Traitor, will more than satisfy readers hungry for an exposé on current (London-centered) compromised politicians and a banking system’s feigned ignorance of money-laundered Russian cash acquired via offensive (and illegal) means.

For Le Carré the writing life, he says, is the only life he has. His imaginary characters are his friends. He admits that his walks around his home take the form of a reconnection with childhood. ‘I populate these hills with the characters of my imagination.’ His supportive and ever-present wife Jane does the donkey work — the typescripts — after David has used the dining room table as a storyboard: chopped pieces of edited MS scotchtaped, paperclipped and scribbled on, folded together or pried apart when a paragraph doesn’t work. [So he’s no advertising guru for Scrivener]. His mind, like his dining table, is a cohesion of scattered bits.
‘It’s all I know now. It’s that and my family. We have very little social life’, he admits gleefully.

Le Carré, pen-name for David Cornwell, forever guided by the Muse, his 22nd novel is published this week

He is the epitome of the non-planner. His works don’t have an outline, format or detailed chapter-by-chapter mission plan. He likes to go with the flow.

‘I don’t make plots in advance. I don’t make great march routes. I actually try to throw people into a messy life and see how they’ll sort it out — while I’m writing. So the whole adventure is one I share with the reader.’

To me, however, one of his most precious gems, dropped when the blogger-presenter and cameraman weren’t paying attention, was on the role of focus, solitude and attention given by the writer to his Muse. He used the ‘flag-flying’ of authors as a springboard, but his personal insight seemed to come as an afterthought, as if its relevance might not be understood by the current generation of writers influenced by ‘spin’, the ‘pitch’, that whole marketing morasse which a writer can drown in. It was a key thought behind his declaration that this might be the last interview he would give.

Talking about what one has achieved is very addictive, he says. ‘I’ve seen the best minds be wooed by the camera. It is exciting. I’ve been there myself. But it deprives one of one’s essence’. He describes his final interview as ‘most candid and honest’; says only through solitude, in allowing the fusion between the word and the mind to coalasce, to filter through from that place of inspiration to typeface on the printed page, does true connection — and joy — emerge.

That’s the gift. And talking about it disperses and fragments it.

So, in maintaining forty years of silence (on camera) but by allowing his words to flow in print, Cornwell has not only been true to his Muse, but to his reader.

That, in my humble opinion, is true dedication to the art.

©2010 Marian Youngblood
It seems right that soon-to-be-octogenarian David Cornwell (b. October 19, 1931) should feature before a series of talented author/writer friends are showcased here over the next weeks on this blog. Each one is dedicated to the artform. Each has a tale to tell. I hope you enjoy. And if you are perched on that branch, uncertain if you should dive in, go ahead. The medium’s lovely. And the water’s warm.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | authors, culture, Muse, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments