Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Breaks & Vacations

Well, it’s almost August, and I’m back.

I can still hear an elderly neighbor I had many years ago saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation.” She often went on cruises, and returned very tired. Seems she had way too much fun, and she needed the quiet of laundry, house cleaning and meal preparation, to recover.

That is about where I find myself. Fun and exhilarating moments can take a lot out of a person.

DD had the best time of her life (her words) at the international piano competition and managed to get through two of the four elimination rounds. They started with thirty semi-finalists, and she made it to the top ten. It was farther than she thought she'd get in this caliber of international competition, with the best of her generation of young pianists. Even better, while half were eliminated after the first round and never got to play their full concerto, (quite a feat) she got to the third round (the concerto round) and did very well. She made a good impression, and made some good friends.

I think it was good for me also. Most of all- while I suspected it, I didn't realize how important it is for me to stay off the Internet now and then. Ten days may be a lot, but it took about three days to adjust and get through Internet-withdrawal, so I may make it a yearly 'week off' from now on. At least for me it's the right thing to do.

I’m happy to be back, and after the three hundred and eighty seven Email messages get filed in their proper places, the real recovery will begin. That- and the task of getting household items into their places. The guys kept house, and with only ten days under their management, it is unrecognizable. They have an intriguing system of what belongs where. For example- Cheese crackers surely have a practical reason to be stored inside a hat. You get that, right? I’m a little slow, so don’t hesitate to solve that mystery for me.

Glad to be in blogosphere also and eventually I hope to get caught up with who’s been thinking about what.

But just for a few more moments, I need a vacation from my E-break vacation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Artistic Competitions

While the guys hold fort at home, DD and I will be going to an international piano competition. She- as a semi-finalist, and I- as her devoted chaperone.

DD adores competitions. We never signed her to any, as both DH and I are ambivalent about artistic competitions. She has signed herself, has won many, and insists she loves them. We have allowed it, but my ambivalence has not abated. I had to recognize that my way is not hers, and allow her to don her own wings.

I know that every time I submit a manuscript I have entered a competition of sorts. But to me competitions are like sausage- I don’t want to see how they are made. I don’t want to see who I’m up against, and be there when results are announced. Give me the privacy of a rejection letter opened alone, and I can deal with it.

In addition, the nature of artistic races is peculiar. I’ll take an honest running race with a stop-watch, a whistle, and a clear finish line. The Olympics, anyone?

DD, on the other hand, finds the gathering of the talented to be inspiring, and has formed friendships with kindred spirits. She loves listening to the music-making of others, and it helps that she often wins or places in these. She is much better suited for this world- bless her.

And this makes me very happy.

{While we’re there, this blog will go on a mini-vacation, as its driver will be in the service of that other venture. Great opportunity to re-charge the blogging batteries, and take a break from all things computer. I’ll be back early August.}

Monday, July 9, 2012

Blog Awards

~It’s summer, time for fun and *games*~

And I got tagged for two blog awards. Summer says I’m playing. But just like  Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks,  I’m going to do this run differently.

The {Booker} (not to be confused with the UK's The Booker) is for blogs that are at least 50% about books and the writing of books. This one comes with the request that I name five favorite books. If I name (only five?) wonderful books by writers I know or have ‘met’ in blogosphere, some very good writers will be left out. So I’m going to do this-

1.      The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

2.      Here Lies the Librarian By  Richard Peck

3.      The River Between Us By Richard Peck

4.      A Long Way from Chicago By Richard Peck

5.      A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

{Detect a running thread here? I don’t know Richard Peck, and he surely doesn’t know me. No payment changed hands.}


The second blog award is called-

I noticed the ribbon is purply-pink. I’ll have to work harder for a blue ribbon.

For this one, I get to name five things I like and five I don’t.

First, the good news-

1.      Good books.

2.      Good movies.

3.      The Bay Area in summer.

4.      Jerusalem in winter.

5.      Strawberry-Rhubarb pie.

Now the bad news-

1.      Formulaic genre fiction = bad books.

2.      Blockbuster sequels = bad movies.

3.      The Bay Area in fall. (We don’t have real fall here)

4.      Jerusalem in summer.

5.      Soft-boiled eggs when the white isn’t quite cooked and still transparently jiggly and the waiter says it’s just right.

All right, I cheated a little with symmetry. But I did have a tiny twist there at the end.

Now I get to pass both awards to five worthy bloggers:

Have fun and don’t forget to kick some sand.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Writer’s Tool Box

“When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem begins to resemble a nail.” This, from Abraham Maslow, the founder of Humanistic Psychology. I always liked his focus on the positive and not looking at individuals as ‘bags of problems.’ But what I really like about what he said was the plea to abandon formulas in favor of real thinking.

For people making a living from writing, formulas are a crutch and a necessity if they want to sell their work. Witness the plethora of writing courses and seminars, and degree programs in creative writing. My father used to sniff at the mention of these, saying, “I’d like to see a program in non-creative writing.” To him that would have been a more appropriate label for those degrees.

My father was a gifted writer, but he made a living teaching history, not from the exquisitely enigmatic poetry he wrote.

When I began my writing it was not formulaic. It became more so as I struggled to confirm to editors and critique-buddies’ suggestions. I find myself in a quandary now. Writing a new story is easier than ever but the result is more forgettable and leaves little residue.

Here’s what I’m after: the most deliciously luscious brownie in the world- made without chocolate, or a prize-winning pie that eats us back. Something to get me out of Ho-Hum town. A great travel story that never leaves home. When I figure it out I’ll let you know.

I’ve incorporated a lot of ‘how to,’ and now I need to figure out how to forget some of it. This last year almost every thing I tackled began to resemble a nail. Problem-quick-one-two-three-resolution- nailed it.

I must put the hammer down. Maybe look deeper into the tool box, or even outside of it.