Tuesday, June 22, 2021

What Is Your Mascot/Avatar/Spirit Animal?

 

Paraphrasing question #23 on the same list of better questions to ask a writer,  I decided to have fun today. I mean, the question itself echoes the infamous Barbara Walters school of interview standards, “if you were a tree, what tree would you be” silliness. (It should also make anyone question if the list labeled “better questions” merits this title)

 

But you know what? Be we as children if we deem to write for young spirits.

 Let’s play. I go first.

So what animal would I be?

 ๐Ÿบ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿจ๐Ÿซ๐Ÿด๐Ÿผ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿญ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿฆ

 

Could you guess?

 ๐Ÿ‘€

A decent guess, knowing me even a wee bit, would suggest a feline of some sort.

 That would be wrong.

 I admire felines. I am in awe of their beauty and grace. They are far-away, god-like beings. So aspirational as to not even be my aspirational avatar.

I am no such thing.

๐Ÿ˜ž

 For me, this one does it:


The giraffe is a peaceful animal who manages to stay above the fray. Giraffes have a great perspective, having been graced with the anatomical advantage of a perennial outsider, seeing more of the whole picture, not tangled in the weeds below. And unlike birds, Giraffes do this with their feet firmly planted on the ground.

That is what I aspire to. 


DD even drew one for me when she was four-years-old:




Do share yours, if you dare to play. Like the giraffe, I may bat my long lashes. But I won't judge you.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Place to Write

 

There is a romantic notion that a writer must have a special place to write. I recall a question a friend asked when we talked about process. This friend is not a writer.

She: “Do you have a retreat?”

Me: “Retreat to what?”

She: “A place where you leave everything behind in order to write.”

Me: “You mean— other than a desk at home?”

She: “I mean away from it all. A writer’s retreat.”

          Me: “And who’s going to take care of my kids, fold the laundry, and clean the cats’ litterbox?”


Yes, my friend who knows my family and me actually imagined real writing requires a cabin in the woods, or at the very least, a shed in the backyard with a padlock & key only the writer possess.


All you need to write is an ability to delve inward, focus, and a pencil or computer. A regular corner where focusing usually takes place is helpful, but not a must.

Mine is a wee corner of my bedroom~


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The One Thing a Pitch Must Do

 

There’s a notion universally acknowledged that the one thing a story must do is arouse the listener/reader’s curiosity.

 

This goes triply for a pitch. A pitch must wake up a part of the mind and have it scream, “TELL ME MORE!”

 

Which is precisely what my first ever effort at pitching did not do.

(Does this ๐Ÿ‘† wake up your curious bone?)

 

My first effort writing a story for publication was a noble failure. I had no idea what I was doing on the publishing front. That’s the way it is when delving into a new field.

It did get some lovely personal responses from busy editors, so I know it was not a complete dud as stories go. But I mis-labeled it, (a six-thousand word manuscript is not a picture book) it was episodic, (by then, out of fashion in publishing) and the pitch was as bad as can be.

 

The story itself was about the time in a five-year-old’s life when his sister is born and his beloved grandparent dies. Things happened. Things that mattered.

 

But from my point of interest, the real story was an interior coming-of age journey. The boy was a contemplative, imaginative dreamer who wondered about the meaning of it all. To me the real happenings were interior.

 

And so I came up with a pitch that went something like this:

“In a year in which nothing much happened, Isaac grows inwardly.”



I mean, really. Would you ask to read the rest of it? I’m amazed at the few positive encouraging replies I did get.

 

Okay. This ๐Ÿ‘† is what not to do. For goodness sake, there was a ghost in Isaac’s house, and the most beloved person in his life was dying, and the new baby was taking all his parents’ attention and...

So just remember that a pitch has one job to do. That job is to make the recipient shout even before the end, “I must know more!” 


Tuesday, June 1, 2021

STARTED but never FINISHED

 

I have friends who testify to many started but never finished manuscripts. Their virtual drawer bursts with the begun & abandoned.

“Someday...”

 

When I was a wee child, I had many such stories. Half-written real paper pages (that was a pre-digital age) not mellowing but yellowing from neglect, lay next to other unfinished arts and crafts projects. They accepted their destiny to never arrive at a destination.

 

That all changed in my late twenties.

I worked for a friend who is also possibly the most talented artist I have ever known. I saw the chest of half-done and abandoned textile work that was her life then, and it scared me.* I made a vow, not to another person or the creator, but between me and myself. From then on, I won’t give myself permission to begin a new work until I finished the one I had started.

For me, that vow was one of three best private decisions I ever made.

 

This is not for everyone. Nothing is. But if you are plagued with many “someday I’ll get back to__” started projects, my wish for you is that you find your way to a clear that cluttered path. My “how to” may sound harsh, but harshness may be what’s needed.

 

I find half-done manuscripts a sad sight. For me, only real life gets to be a never finished story. That is, until it, too, comes to an end.


* I'm happy to write that my old friend seems to have conquered the issue as well, as her amazing creations are now sold by the finest galleries.

To quote another writer, Nancy Sanders

"If one can, 

two can. 

If two can, 

you can too!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

HARDEST PART of the ARTISTIC PROCESS

 

Creatives have answered the title question differently but, not surprisingly, some patterns that seem near universal emerge.


I have friends who say the hardest part is—

 *Just getting started (as in staring at an empty canvas)

*Muddling through the sagging middle (this one is close to universal)

*Finding how and where to end (A talented friend struggles with this)

*Revising beyond a superficial dusting (This requires input from others, IMO)

*Putting your work “out there” (Many creatives never do because it is. too. blasting. hard.)

 

But worthwhile things are often hard. So this is not a complaint, but a list of blessings.

©Grant Snider



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Digital Life and Death

 

’Tis a truth, which should be universally acknowledged, that life and death on this earth does not parallel life and death in the digital realm. (Apologies to Jane Austen)

 

I have Facebook friends who passed away. Their Facebook pages and timelines still live. I have blogging friends I had followed whose blogs had died, but I happen to know the blog owners are very much alive.

 

Many of my posts on this blog are scheduled ahead. In the event that I leave this earth, posts will continue to appear for a time. The only hint that I’m no longer here would be the complete lack of comments, as I moderate all comments and will no longer be there to do so. (Hint: if you want to check my earthly pulse, just comment ๐Ÿ˜‰)

 

On people search sites I found my parents and other dearly departed people continuing to age. Apparently, these sites, which make their fortunes collecting public data on all of us, can’t bother to scour records of death.

 

Strange worlds we live and die in; two parallel timelines that only partially intersect.



Tuesday, May 11, 2021

To Google or not to Google Oneself?

 

Aye, that is the question*

*(Maybe not THE question, but A question)

 

Alas, we use “google” as a verb now for “internet search.” There are other options, though I still use Google because it reigns supreme.

 

I have found that occasional googling (or Duck Duck Go-ing, Swiss Cow-ing, Gibiru-ing Bing-ing and more) can bring up some surprises about self. Hopefully they are nice surprises, but the question is whether it should be part of anyone’s digital hygiene practices.

 

I think at this day and age where so much of life’s connectivity is digital, it is healthy to look oneself up now and then. I know writers look up their published books. I recall some on a chat board saying they are stalking their own titles. Stalking suggests obsessional behavior. But doing a bi-annual search just in case something very wrong (ouch) or something very right (yay) is floating out there— is rather sensible.

 

But it is an awkward feeling, I confess. If you are creeped out by looking yourself up, just don’t. So far, I have found at least four nice surprises, (a review I was unaware of that is now quoted and linked to my website, a blogger’s review of one of my published articles, and more) and one not so happy thing, (a site purported to give personal info on anyone and everyone decided to confuse my age with my much-older DH.) But on the whole, I found what I expected to find. I’m not famous, so that is about what I anticipated.

 

Two friends, who insisted there couldn’t be anything about them on the Interwebs, were proven wrong. There is something somewhere. But if you don’t mind, don’t care— that’s fair. Don’t look. You don’t have to.

 

Like most things in life, I straddle the middle ground: no staking/haunting, not avoiding. Once or twice a year does it for me.

 

If you ever found real surprises while googling self, I’d love to hear about it. At the very least, it would make a good story.

*This^ actually happened to a writing friend


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mayday— or a Day in May

 

        My first post for this May, and the phrase “Mayday! Mayday!” rushed in.

 

So I followed it to its supposed origins, which I found interesting. Origins in common lingo often shine a light on historical events, and Mayday didn’t disappoint:

 

The Mayday call originated in the 1920s. A senior radio officer at Croydon Airport in London, Frederick Stanley Mockford, was the first to use this signal to indicate emergency situations. Mockford’s superior officers asked him to think of a word that would indicate distress and all pilots and ground staff would clearly understand during an emergency. As much of the traffic at London’s airport at that time was to and from Paris, Mockford proposed the expression “Mayday," derived from the French word “m’aider" that means “help me" and is a shortened form of “venez m’aider," which means “come and help me."




Which lead to the question of what distress signal preceding it, SOS, stood for.

Also interesting, and spiritual to boot:

SOS, short for “save our souls" sent by Morse code, predates the use of Mayday. In 1927, the International Radiotelegraph Convention adopted Mayday as the radiotelephone distress call in place of SOS.

 

Here’s wishing SOS-free and no Mayday this May. Have a great one ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’—


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM

 

For reasons I can only describe as ignorance of consequences, lack of vision, lack of understanding how publishing works, and a touch of ego, I never considered a pseudonym when I first sought publication.

It seemed a needless complication, because one’s legal name is straightforward and pseudonyms suggest expectation of an illustrious publishing career. In addition, a pseudonym says you are hiding, which means you have something to hide.

 

I now wish I knew more back then. Pseudonyms are more than a form of protection, (because most who write never get the harsh bright lights of mass recognition anyway) they are distinct public personas and thus “brands” of sorts, and many find this very helpful creatively.

 

A pseudonym is employed when writers write in divergent and incompatible genres. Think kidlit and erotica, or kidlit and politics, or kidlit and most genres not kidlit.

 

A few years ago, I met a much-published writer who wrote in three distinctive genres. She used one pseudonym for her mysteries, another for her erotica, and her legal name for literary novels. She is by no means a household name in any of her three author identities. But she did admit her strongest income stream was from her erotica writing. No surprise there.

 

She said the different names helped her stay creative and focused. I understand, and no longer find this practice a wee creepy, like I used to.

 

Add to this consideration the matter of privacy, barely possible at the age where the Interwebs give your home address to anyone who will pay a few dollars, (and even free) as another name has a layer of security, albeit a thin one.

 

I never considered it, and even my social media presence (such as it is) is all-public. Easy, as I’m not famous. But if you are just starting out and foresee seeking mass recognition, think about it and see if a pseudonym will make you creatively better focused and feeling more secure. If you choose to go that way, have fun with the choice of pseudonym because having fun on this journey is what will keep you going.



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

My Kryptonite*

 

* The definition of kryptonite is Superman's ultimate weakness, or anything that causes someone's ultimate weakness. An example of kryptonite is the one food a person is seriously allergic to.

{This word was added to the dictionary in September 2018. Kryptonite referred to a mineral from the planet Krypton that had an extremely harmful effect on Superman.}

 

Well, no Superperson, me. But to each humble mortal a Kryptonite must needs be.

 

Mine is rather odd, as it is not a thing but a lack of a thing. The thing I must not lack if I am to be producing original writing (or thought, craft item, or a genuine smile) is caffeine. Put it another way: I need my coffee or black tea, and you may report me to the authorities as a bonafide addict. But while you snitch on me, I should add that it is my only addiction, if that makes a difference.

 

It gladdens my heart to read studies that confirm caffeine consumers live (on average) longer. It staves off Alzheimer’s and increases IQ by a statistically significant measure. Not such a terrible dependency as such goes.

 

I also stick to two-three cups a day, always before four in the afternoon. Well, almost always. If I have to drive later or stay awake, I break the before-four rule. Thus, I do my best not to have to drive later and also excuse myself from activities that ask me to be perky after dinner. If you’ve ever asked me to come to a lecture at such late hour, now you know why I said ‘no.’ On the other hand, if you asked me to meet you for coffee in the morning hours, now you know why I almost always said ‘yes.’

 

Confessions time over. I have to get back to my coffee now.



Tuesday, April 13, 2021

JEWEL or JUNK?

 

Reflections on First Drafts

 

There is a notion floating in writerdom that first drafts are garbage, bad, something to be overhauled, repaired and refurbished  beyond recognition.

In other words, “a sh---y first draft,” as Anne Lamott put it in her book about writing, Bird by Bird.  (She has a whole chapter called Shi—ty First Drafts.๐Ÿ˜ณ) It’s a brilliant chapter, as is the whole book. It’s part of her battle cry against paralyzing perfectionism, and in that sense, I concur.

 

But here is where we part. I have a much-published writing friend who said it differently, and I’m in his camp. “The first draft is where all the important stuff happens: Characters created, their actions emerge from an unformed blob of earth, and a rough shape of a story materializes. The rest is akin to a fine sculpturist working on refining the shape to make a beautiful polished marble figure.” 



All my stories changed some in revisions. But THE STORY was there in the first draft. So were the happiest creative moments, most of which I experienced while first drafting. No matter how many missed plot turns, absent descriptive ambience or typos, (to be worked on in revisions) these first drafts were not garbage. They’re the real deal.

 

Junk? Na-ah. First drafts are jewels in need of TLC and a fine polishing cloth to shine.




Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Literary Characters from One’s Real Life

 

Question: How many of your story characters are from your real life?

Answer: All of them

Answer: None of them

Answer: All of the above

 

My late father, a man who lived an astonishingly rich life and also possessed great writing talents, was often urged to write his autobiography. He refused, saying autobiographies are always exercises in self-justification, and in many instances also in self-beautification. He preferred fiction because he thought it more honest.

 

After penning quite a few fictional stories, I find that I agree with his assessment of fiction. The writer’s truth is in them, though it is not “just as it was in life.”

 

I trust these truths, and would even go so far as to call them self-evident,* at least in a roundabout way. *(With apologies to the brilliant wording of the United States Declaration of Independence)

Yes, even cute animal picture book stories are really people you know. Think of Aesop’s fables.

Now you got it.



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

SELECTING THE NAMES OF CHARACTERS

 

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

From Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare

 

        What’s in a name?

        Actually, a lot. (Sorry, Juliet)

 

Depending on the type of story, character names can be allegorical, (rife with meaning alluding to their function, such as in biblical narratives) a play on class and setting, (think of just about any romance story) or a tickle to the funny bone.

 

There is overlap in these naming categories. I think Dickens played on the humorous as well as class distinctions. J. K. Rowling does the same with some of her characters. But no matter the intention, the effect is for a name to be evocative.

 

There are times where a story doesn’t call for strong and piercing name choices. But I would never waste the storyteller’s opportunity to make a tale come alive with banal choices like Dick and Jane, which, come to think of it, may have been chosen specifically for a banal effect. They are “every girl and every boy,” I suppose. Not characters in the sense writers aspire to create.

 

Some choices are personal, as in a grandma writing a story using her grandkids' names. As such, they are fine for self-publishing home consumption. I’ve written short stories using the names of my nearest and dearest, which have meaning to me only. But from some years’ distance, I can see that for general audiences I have wasted the opportunity to layer every word by not choosing in a writerly way.

 

So back to Juliet: Love who you love, my sweet, and let your names not keep you apart. But for certain know that William Shakespeare chose your names with care.



Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Must Writers Feel Emotions Strongly?

 

One may ask the same question in the title^ about actors or fine artists. Where in the artistic process and being does emotionality fit?

 

Seems to me that the subject is not how much the creative person feels, but how much empathy they have for others' feelings. Unless the writing is entirely about self, the power to put oneself in another’s overalls is key.

 

In addition to enhanced empathy, there’s something called mirror-touch synesthesia, where others’ physical sensations are literally felt in one’s own body. Some quantified version of this is operative in good writing.

 

There is a price to pay for being an empath. Just take a look at artists. The talented ones cultivate ways to express what they sense, thus producing books, painting, and theater performances. But this comes after the first principal: feel another's joy but also devastation.

 

Ah, the joys of being human.




Tuesday, March 16, 2021

What Are Common Traps for Aspiring Writers?

 

The question is evident in plenty of interviews, posed to published authors. It’s a variation on “what would you tell your younger/pre-published self,” or “what advice would you give young’uns,” period.

 

I posit that the question itself is wrong. An “aspiring” writer is one who never writes but has a yearning to be a writer. Don’t’. Be. That.


We are what we do, truly. 

 If you write in a semi-regular way, you are not aspiring; you already are a writer. What the questioner means is “aspiring to be published.”

 

“Be published” in the passive tense, means someone else is publishing your writing. Self-publishing is not an aspiration, because it’s also something that is entirely in the writer’s hands and requires a credit card. Either you do it or you don’t. Don’t aspire; just do, if that’s the way for you.

 

Back to the title. My not humble enough view is that the most common trap for one who wishes (i.e. aspires) to write is they don’t do it.

WRITE.

Down with aspiration. Onwards with perspiration.




Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Talking to Younger Self

 

You’ve heard the question, no doubt. If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?

Process isn't just the thing. It’s everything.


I find it more relevant to tell my young’uns (the ones who are in my life and occasionally want to know what I think) that they are already living “the life.” This is it. Destination is the illusion. You never get there, unless by “there” you mean death, which we all get to.


It sounds grim but it isn’t. Goals are just a way to go, not a destination. This means there is no reality to the elation of reaching or deflation not achieving a goal, because we live on the road.


I know this feels counter intuitive to many who are raised to think of concrete goals.


Put another way, using the metaphor of a marathon for any goal— if I dream of becoming a marathon runner, the very act of training is the experience, the real thing. I will eventually run a marathon or not. Then the act of running is the thing. If I complete the marathon, that is the thing. If I don’t, I’m having that experience of something not completed, and it is the thing. In the rare event that I win the marathon, I’m experiencing that, and it’s the thing.


No matter what, I’m living the life. Younger self: this is it. The thing.




Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Does Writing Energize or Exhaust You?

 

A good friend who is a prolific reader but doesn’t write asked me a variation of the this post's title question.

Hers was more along the lines of “do you love to write?” or maybe “do you need to write to be happy?”


I thought of an answer one of my favorite authors gave to the question. Polly Horvath is a master whose prolific output would suggest she lives to write. When asked if she loves to write she said, “I love to have written.


That about sums it for me as well. Before any first-drafting day, no matter if it’s a novel or a picture book, I feel anxious in a vague way. I recognize this feeling as a sort of fear. Fear that I can’t, fear that I don’t have it in me, fear that if I don’t I never will again.


Then I sit down and write. After the day’s self-assigned output, I have a feeling of calm that I now recognize as a sort of peace. I might even liken it to a calm version of bliss.


So there it is: I love to have written.


It also answers the question in this post’s title. I am drained but also filled. I am exhausted and energized at once.


Anyone who confronts fear and comes out the other end knows this feeling.



Monday, February 22, 2021

Have You Ever Gotten READER’S BLOCK?

 

Writer’s Block is a famous phenomenon even those who never write fiction have heard about. It’s depicted in movies about writers and plenty of writing memories. Biographies and fictional writing characters speak of it. The irony that they write about not being able to write doesn’t escape me.

 

I haven’t had writer’s block, and my only explanation is just that I say NO to it. I’ve had days when in the midst of first drafting a novel I am seized with fear that I just can’t do it. At least not now. Maybe not ever.

But then, I make myself sit and do it. I write, and that’s that.

 

I tend to agree with another writer who concluded that the so-called writer’s block, if prolonged, isn’t a specific writing malady. It is clinical depression as manifested in people who write. For others, clinical depression robs the very zest for living. Everything feels flat and pointless. In a writer, this becomes a sense they have nothing to say and can’t write.

I’ve been blessed not to have had clinical depression to date.


But I have had Reader’s Block. Those are periods when I’m unable to focus on reading. I don’t mean reading articles or short blog posts or letters. I mean reading good literature. I pick up a book I normally would relish reading, and find that I. Just. Can’t.

I’ve observed that, for me, these periods are not ones of the doldrums, but rather periods when exciting things (either good or stressful) are taking place. Something happens to my ability to dig in and focus on more demanding reading.

 

This whole pandemic thing-a-ma-jig has been such a period. I managed to read one good novel, but it actually took the same sort of “just do it” I enlist for days when writing threatens to challenge. I also managed to write, because that “block” isn’t allowed by me. But reading continues to be a challenge.

 

I hope this reading block lifts, and soon. If you’ve ever had it and got through, let me know how to kick it to the curb.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Most Difficult Part

 Different folks struggle with different stretches. We’d be gingerperson-cookies if this weren’t so. But then, there are the life patches that we have in common and find challenging.

For many who write stories, the middle is the hardest part.

I used to feel alone in this until I began communicating with others. Some call it the muddling middle, which is just what writers would do for such— conjuring a nice alliteration.

But why should the middle of a story be so hard?

Part of it is the way we train ourselves to come up with roaring bang-up first line/paragraphs. This is essential to hook the reader/listener. Okay, Check. ✔


Then, there’s the matter of the ending. Pure pantsters (writing without any plan by the seat of their pants) may find endings daunting. Most storytellers know the beginning, the protagonist’s challenge, and (get ready for this---) the end. Check.✔

 
The end is a bookend to the beginning of the protagonist’s quest.


I heard John Grisham respond to a question about writer’s block by saying he always knows the ending before he even starts on a new novel, and so he must envision how to get there and avoid the blocking bumps. Along that bumpy part, you must do everything not to lose the passengers/ readers.


This brings up the most challenging part: all that middle. The meat of the tale. The how to get from the beginning to the end.


Beginnings and endings take care of themselves. Middles don’t. Middles are the hardest part.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

WHAT IS THE FIRST BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?

 

I found this question on an internet post about questions that are not clichรฉd, which you might want to ask writers.

Unlike these questions below: 

Where do you get your ideas?” (Here, there and everywhere) “What is your writing process?” (Butt in chair no matter what) or “What advice do you have for writers?” (Write, period.) 

These three are nice questions, but they are not interesting because they've been sprinkled about all the way from Ho-humVille to SoozzzzBay. ๐Ÿ˜ด


So on to the better questions list. The one about the first book that made me cry jumped at me.


Many books have made me cry. But the first? The very first?


Obviously, this isn’t a factual research question. The memory of a one or two year old can’t be reliable. A two year old may cry out of fear or shock, and I sense the question is about a different sort of crying, empathetic sadness.


Which brings me to the first storybook that gave me this experience, and the answer is as clear as it is easy for me. Hans Christian Andersen’s THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL made me cry at the age of four, and does to this day every time I re-read it.


When I read it to my kids, DD would stare into my eyes to see the waterworks begin, because they always did. I would tell myself that I know the story and I will not cry this time, but invariably and inevitably, I did.


This story breaks all the conventions taught today in kidlit workshops: It ends sadly, the main character dies, people left behind do not “change” and the narration is much more “tell” than “show.” Yet newly illustrated versions keep popping up. {It’s good to remember to let go of these conventions in the service of great literature.}


I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but in lieu of paying homage to a great storyteller there, I sat on the knee of the master when I last visited Central Park in New York.



Above all, a writer must know empathy. I owe Hans Christen Andersen the empathetic strain he awakened in me all the way back when, and to this day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Below the Surface

 

This morning, while steaming milk for coffee, I removed the sort of skin that formed on the surface before using a whipper to make a homemade variation of latte. The moment I did that, the memory of an old relative, long gone, popped into my mind.


I noted an oddity about myself that had been there for years, but I never filed before. I steam milk every morning, and remove this layer, Lactoderm, from its top every time. The memory of this relative comes before me every time I do this, but rarely at other times.


For the first time, I’m not only noting this, but also wondering why it is so. There is no connection between the surface of steamed milk and this person. Or is there? If there is, my conscious mind can’t access it.


In the midst of revising on my next novel, it occurs to me that such little details pointing to subconscious patterns are essential to writing rich characters. In fiction, we have to make these patterns rise to the surface. The reader will be unsatisfied if we just note them and leave them there without explanation.  


I may have to use my storytelling imagination to build the tiny bridge real life doesn’t.


Fiction is so much tidier than life. In fact, the act of writing is itself an effort to tie up loose ends.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

AUSTRALIA DAY

 

    My wall calendar tells me today is Australia Day.


To Australians, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, which is the beginning of the country of Australia we know now.


To me, it’s a reminder of a classic. Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.


First published in 1972, it’s still a best seller and an iconic text. Alexander, an American kid, is having such a bad day that he thinks moving to Australia will solve his predicament. It’s logical, in the way kid logic works. Australia is far away. Australia is upside down, in the southern hemisphere. Australia is shrouded in otherness and it’s “not here.”


Many adults never outgrow this sort of thinking. When “here” is hard, “elsewhere” will be better.


At the end of his terrible no good day, his mother assures Alexander that tomorrow is another day and, besides, there are bad days “even in Australia.”


I’ve never been to Australia, but my Aussie friends and acquaintances gave me the impression Australia is culturally rather similar to the United States, especially when compared many other parts of the world.*


Viorst’s choice here is poignant, because there is no running away from challenging times. There’s only moving forward, for tomorrow is another day.


 *(Incidentally, in the Australian and New Zealand version of this book, Alexander wants to move to Timbuktu, which I find less successful. He could have wished to move to the United States for a similar effect. )


This kind of Australia Day I can celebrate, and do every day. The assurance that tomorrow—  everything is possible.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Are We There Yet?

 

You’ve heard the question, and likely asked it yourself.

“Are we there yet?" ask the children, sitting in the back seat of the car.

“Are we there yet?” asks the dog, waiting for the next feeding.

“Are we there yet?” asks the writer of the editor, hoping the last revision nailed it.

 

The question reminds me of the late great Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a professor of chemistry and a religious philosopher. He said to be wary of anyone who tells you when the messiah will come, for the messiah is always coming but never there yet.

 

After the year we’ve had, I hear this question almost daily. If not from others, then inside my head.

But then I remember Leibowitz, and answer myself. We are always on the way, never there.

 

Living in the moment.

©by Shelagh Duffett