Disappearing Writer

January 15th, 2019

One aspect of writing that’s difficult to describe, is that we disappear when we write. That’s one of the toughest requirements, or should I say fallout, from writing. To do so requires a person to vacate their own life, their own mind, their own daily activities. In their place, the writer inserts stories about other people, and their struggles, goals, and nightmares.

In the meantime, the real person, the physical writer, sits at a desk. Hours pass, even days. Dishes accumulate; the floor needs to be vacuumed; the bed sits unmade. Calls go unreturned, and of course, bill pile up.

Life outside the writer’s mind continues.

But the writer agrees to exit life, to create this other thing, this other living body, this story, this novel, this essay.

It’s an uncomfortable choice, but a goal that compels me to it.

Niched

January 14th, 2019

I’ve started a new short story. It started as a look into a recurring nightmare which over time I realized was also my worst fear.

It seemed interesting to explore it, to examine all the thoughts tied in with that recurring dream. I also described what happened in the dream, as well as my responses to it.

Once I explored the recurring dream, people emerged, deep ideas, fears, and emotions. I found the short story has taken off.

Yet what I’ve figured out is that the story will be a chiller, a “suspense” piece, and clearly a niche work.

Why do we do that? Why do we consider Science Fiction, Horror, Detective, and other types of stories to be “genre” fiction?

Is not one of our greatest writers, Edgar Allen Poe, a “genre” writer? Have you actually read Poe? Today, his work would be shunted into a category, and never see daylight.

So my horror story is in progress. When I have a draft, I’ll put it up.

Walking into My Dreams

January 3rd, 2019

SPOILER ALERT: This post is about a process, so I won’t write specifically about my dreams or nightmares. Not yet. The novel will comprise these images, sensations, and events.

I have a nightmare. It haunts me, in the way dreams can. How do dreams unsettle us? They put us in a world we do not choose and we must suddenly make sense of. In dreams we sense a presence of beings who impart to us general sensations. In turn, we feel vague responses.

My feelings in dreams come fast, and they are of two kinds:
POSITIVE
– an overwhelming sense of peace
– knowing I am loved
– romantic love
– subsumption in the divine

NEGATIVE
– terror
– unease
– sadness (such as dreaming one of my dogs or cats dies, family member)
– THIS ONE IS HUGE: shame

Shame forms the basis of my worst, recurring, nightmare.

TO BE CONTINUED ….

New Year’s Day 2019

January 1st, 2019

Update: I had a sudden urge to run and got in 5.3 miles this morning after all.

The New Year rolled in, and I saw it this year. I spent the last day of the year running 11.25 miles through Charlotte. Last night, I attended my cousin’s wedding, then enjoyed a vegan dinner, dancing, and revelry.

I hoped to run this morning to start the year, but it’s just not in me this morning. I only slept a few hours, and today is the long drive home.

Tomorrow I plan to really start my New Year. I hope it is a time of personal change and growth. Among my goals are writing more, eating better, and reaching my running goal of 1,500 miles (that’s 500 miles by April, and 1,000 by August).

I’d also like to be more focused in general. Pare down material possessions, spend more time with friends, family, and my beautiful animals.

The first part of the year brings a couple of concerts – Sean Lennon in DC, then Shaky Knees Festival in May.

I’m looking forward to spending 2019 with you, FD readers.

Running Out the Old Year

December 28th, 2018

The winter solstice, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and other holidays this season give me a chance each year to run long, in the cold. Often those runs take place in other cities.

Last year, I experienced my dream of running through Washington D.C. That morning’s run went way behind my dreams, starting with the night before when a lovely, quiet, soft, snow fell everywhere. I remember looking out of my hotel window and seeing that beautiful fluffiness coming down. I was also especially stoked to have found a park on the street – saving myself about $20 in parking deck fees.

The next morning I woke to amazing clean whiteness everywhere. D.C. is busy during the week, but on holidays and weekends, remarkably quiet.

I took off about 8 a.m. in fresh, unmarred, snow. I ran along the waterfront, across to Virginia and the Pentagon (where an officer stopped me for trying to jump a fence. I know, the Pentagon, what was I thinking).

Back from Virginia, I crossed into Georgetown, through Dupont Circle, across the Mall and along the beautiful public art there, and back to my hotel at the Naval Shipyards.

You can read a bit more about my run at this FB link.

Did I mention, I saw Spoon at the 9:30 club? Yes, and wore my high-heeled leopard-print sandals too. In the snow. It felt like as much of an accomplishment as running 15 miles through DC that morning.

This weekend, I travel to Charlotte for my cousin’s wedding. My plans include a long run through the Queen City. Snow or not, I am looking forward to closing out the year with another long run, in another city.

Holidays Drawing Near

December 17th, 2018

Winter means quieter days, especially this time of year. It gives us all a chance to reflect, to plan, and to appreciate what we have right now.

This year is different, as I have returned to my novel. It means spending hours a day in that world, disconnected from this one. I have to keep up with regular responsibilities, freelance, bills, banking, returning calls. I also have my critters to take care of.

In the end, I hope I’ll have several hundred pages to share with you.

Guiding me are three principles:
What is the story
Is it important
Can I tell it

I also struggle with my overall approach:
Sweeping, broad, complex (Russian novel)
Succinct, moving, lean (du Maurier)

I tend toward writing like the Russians. The only concern is I may not finish if I cram everything I’d like to in there.

Dog Days … are Every Day

December 14th, 2018

Tony, a gentle Walker hound at the Pitt County Animal Shelter

Yes I am a writer, but as most of you know I am a fierce animal advocate. I’ve joined as a volunteer shelter dog walker, through an amazing program at ECU (led by Dr. Melanie Sartore-Baldwin). Dr. Baldwin enrolls students in the program to study kinetic movement, and its effect. But the real treat is for the dogs … who get out of their pens about three times a week.

The community can join too. That’s how I participate. Often on Sundays after my long runs, I’ll head to the shelter in my running clothes. It was hot last summer, and today I walked in the chilly rain.

The doggies are not perfect, and indeed, they often have never – EVER – been given human attention. So they simply don’t know what to do. Champ is a big pittie who loves to hump my leg. He just doesn’t know better. He chases cars, too.

I always love to spend time with the hounds. Today, I sat in the pen with Tony and stroked his sweet face. Another hound girl was in quarantine. I’ve named her Sheila.

Animals lack the ability to choose evil. That’s why they are “innocent,” and we are not. We are fallen. We are born into a sinful nature, because we will intentionally choose to harm another being.

That’s why it’s incumbent on us to protect animals, children, the elderly, the poor, and other vulnerable people.

Do you have a nearby shelter? If so, why not go find your new best friend! Or maybe take a few dogs to walk.

When Writing Was Everything

December 13th, 2018

This phrase came from another writer; how I wish I created it. This phrase served as the title of Alfred Kazin’s autobiography (1915-1998), his stories of editing during the times of Ginsberg, Hart Crane, George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, Hannah Arendt.

For me the phrase captures my years in Prague, Czech Republic, when writing was everything. I woke up to write before teaching English at 8 a.m.; wrote all day many Saturday and Sundays; and spent holidays writing.

I would sit and dream for hours, writing those stories, about the people whose lives took place in this disconnected time.

To continue yesterday’s post, this dreaming place explains why fiction writing is not for the weak; it requires hours spent dangling in a non-world, capturing unreal, shimmering people, places, and actions that exist in this demi-world between our tangible present, and the unconscious night world.

I left that world behind when my husband and I divorced, mostly for the practical reason that I had to earn double my previous income to keep my house, support my animals, and do the repairs, buy the groceries, and pay race entry fees for marathons twice a year.

So I largely left behind my dream world. I earned a Master of Public Administration, and embraced my love of politics.

Today that’s the work I do … but I am also returning to the novel, The Curing Season, to see if I have enough dream time available in a day to pick it back up.

More on Writing

December 12th, 2018

Writers share many traits but if I had to guess … I would say losing track of time is high on their list of commonalities.

How do writers lose time, and why? It’s nearly an occupational hazard for writers. That’s because writing – especially a novel – requires us to sit down and genuinely work at disconnecting from the world around us. Indeed, it’s necessary if we are to write.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve worked on my novel. That’s because to start means to lose about four hours. Yes, to review my notes, read what I’ve written so far, review my plot outlines, characters, and motivations … well that’s a couple of hours. Then to have their next actions come to me, along with the weather that day, other people and their actions, dialogue, and feelings, clothing, colors, landscapes … that’s several more hours.

And like all other writers, we labor under the need to publish. That’s for the basic reason that we need income, but most of all, we like finishing a beautiful project.

So for me, it’s been better and more accessible to wrap up an analysis, presentation, or freelance project, rather than pick up my novel.

It’s coming though. I’ll take those four hours to get back in the bath. Then I’ll race against time and my own impatient nature to get a few chapters written.

Thanks for tuning into Fiction Daily.

Where the ‘Road’ Began

August 14th, 2018


Photo courtesy of Google

On Monday I spent several hours researching the places Jack Kerouac visited in Rocky Mount. I am not the first to do this work: John Dorfner of Raleigh, N.C., has done the heavy lifting. My goal is to assemble facets of Kerouac in new ways, while adding new information.

If you’ve read On the Road, you know the episode about halfway through where the heart of the novel really begins: “One day when all our Southern relatives were sitting around the parlor in Testament, gaunt men and women with the old Southern soil in their eyes …. a mud-spattered ’49 Hudson drew up in front of the house on the dirt road. … A weary young fellow, muscular and ragged in a T-shirt, unshaven, red-eyed, came to the porch and rang the bell. I opened the door and suddenly realized it was Dean. He had come all the way from San Francisco to my brother Rocco’s door in Virginia, and in an amazingly short time.”

Testament being Rocky Mount, the house is on Tarboro Street. That’s the neighborhood where so many of my friends lived, when I grew up in Edgecombe County. It was 1328 Tarboro Street, just across from the little store where Dad and I used to watch Matchbox car races, about a half mile from Eastern Elementary School, where I attended third and fourth grade. Sycamore Street, Eastern Avenue, and I went to junior high school at Edwards, on Marigold Street.

Changes after desegregation meant that many people left these beautiful neighborhoods – and Edgecombe County became somehow less desirable, in what is called “white flight” – two decades later I returned to my own elementary school to teach French. I loved the children, although the demographics were against them. Their families had few resources; often when I visited their homes I saw roaches, horror movies on play, even in one home a pile of dirt. Parents who drank; and crack that invaded our cities in those days.

We segregate ourselves based on money, skin color, fame. We classify ourselves as “better than,” even when we don’t intend to.

Kerouac knew that. Indeed, On the Road contains the narrative of a man whose first language was French, who never felt he belonged to this or that group; a man who by traveling was able to connect with all people, all places.

The Buddha taught that all life is change. A river is never the same from moment to moment – and yet, it is always the river. On the road, everything always changes, and yet it is always the road.