Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The First Storytellers I Knew

One of my early inspirations were my grandmom's sisters. She had 6! She also had 3 brothers but I didn't get a chance to meet any of them. But, her sisters were something special. Each was very different and several had quite a wit! Some of my family's folklore comes from these fine ladies.

I grew up in the same house they did. My grandmom was the oldest and because there were so many of them, many years seperated some of them in age. Therefore, my grandmom, Rose, was closer to some. But, each one influenced my childhood and adulthood.

Often, when they would visit, and many times they would visit all at once, our gatherings would take place at my house. My mom, an excellent housekeeper and decorator, would invite them over to see what was new; changed. They would walk through the old farmhouse and talk about memories that were spurred from different rooms. And, always, they would tell me about my grandmom. She was the quietest of the group. But, I got lots of scoop on those visits.

Usually, we would all settle down in the living room, or parlor. As the kid, I ended up on the floor. But, I only recall that because of the view I had of the sisters. Each laughing as they recalled something funny one of them or their parents, usually their dad, had did. And, there was always something humorous going on. Their stories would go on for hours. So enthralled, I don't remember needing a potty break.

Their stories, were my first realization that I loved stories. Loved to hang out with my grandmother's sisters and hear anything they had to say. Many kids would have given each of them a nice kiss on the cheek before going outside to play during their visits. Not I!

We've lost many of them now. My grandmom included. But their stories visit me often.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Sweat than Talent

How does that old saying go? 99% perspiration, 1% inspiration. I think that's it. It makes a heck of a lot of sense, right? I've always been told by writing teachers and read on others' blogs that you have to persevere. I like that. I have perseverence. Atleast with writing. And my kids, but you kind of have to keep them around, huh?

But, what happens if you're inspired a lot more than you put in? I have that problem continuously. I have so many story ideas and then often, can't finish them.

With my first novel, which still requires polishing, I had to literally put blinders on to my other ideas. For me, that was where a lot of the perspiring came in. Keeping on with the task at hand and not flipflopping. Oh, I wrote about the other inspirations in my little Hemingway notebook. By the way, if you don't have one, I highly recommend one. They make you feel like a writer by just forking over your $14. But, back to the ideas. As soon as I get another idea, I'd write it on my "Ideas for Novels" page. If I saw someone walking by who was interesting, I'd record their habits in my "Ideas for Characters" page. And, as I've done several times, if I had ideas for both, that inspiration got it's very own section.

I have three such full ideas now. And, several months ago when I believed I was finished with my first book, after typing "The End", I turned to that black book and chose the one that wouldn't stop nagging me. Then I went back to my 1st book and tweeked it some. Then back to the new one which was just still forming. And so on.

What is my point in all this? I think it is to say that you can't let any ideas fly away. You have to write them down; consider them. For me, writing them down is what makes them concrete. I have a small tape recorder for those times where I am in the car, on the highway, and unable to write or I would put my kids in danger. I've never checked that recorder once. If I record it, I remember it. And, my remembering anything I haven't written down is a big deal!

Don't loose your steam while you are working on another project. Ideas don't wait for you to type "The End". You have to see them when they are in front of you, record them and say thank you to the idea gods.

I now have two fully developed ideas to choose from. Eventhough a few months ago, I had only one nagging me, now the other is too. How do you choose? Is this where the lopsided formula of perspiration comes in?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Forty-five Minutes to Another World

I enjoyed the small roar of the airplane as it flew over my house and me as I held my Warrior yoga pose on the back porch. Six o'clock in the morning and someone, many someones, were heading to Washington, D.C. on business or to be a tourist. Others will be coming home from one of the same. It was headed to Dulles Airport, east and north of where I stood on my back porch doing deep breathing and enjoying the serene of the unusually cool late June morning.

My dad would take me sometimes to pick up my grandmom from Dulles when she would be coming home from a trip to Miami or California. Usually Miami to check on her apartment building and tenants there. Being from a very rural small town in Virginia, it was exciting to travel close in to the city and to an airport where planes were flying in constantly and people spoke different languages. Another world only forty-five minutes away!

Dad and I would sit sometimes on the retro circle benches that perhaps had a fake tree in the middle. I always felt like someone from my grandparents photos when they were young in the 1950's. Grandmom with her cool blue eyeglasses and sharp suit and Grandad with his thick black frames, a tight ribbed burnt orange turtleneck and sports coat. His hair would have been slicked back.

Then Dad and I would go to the terminal and I'd watch as the planes came in. Having never flown before, and not until I was in college, I was totally mesmerized by those huge flying machines.

Grandmom would come off the plane and into the airport, slowly due to her arthritis but with a smile to see me. We'd funnel through all the people to the down escalator, another thrill, to the baggage claim.

Once all three of us were back in the car, Grandmom's new cadillac always with the smell of a nauseating new car, she'd tell us how her trip was on the way home.

And, as we'd pull into her driveway, unloading her things and telling her we would see her soon, we knew we would as Dad and I would walk home across the field that seperated our houses. I always felt displaced on those days. Such busy people moving around the world just forty-five minutes away. And, here I was, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, home again.

Now I would have to tell my little sister all about it. Who's the traveler now?!

Did you ever have a time where your world felt thinly seperated from another?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Apple Trees and a Roll on a Hill

Last evening, in spite of my fear of lyme disease ridden ticks, I was delighted to see my kids rolling down the hill in our back yard. Feet and head facing north and south, their bodies rolled east. I had taught my oldest this a while back, remembering how much fun it had been for my sister and I when we were kids.

Knowing I would check their little bodies and blonde heads later, I stared at them as they giggled and rolled, running up the hill to "do it again, Mom". Flashbacks of my sis and I in the 1970's dressed in some rainbow t-shirt with unicorns on it and corduroy O.P. shorts hit my memory bank. Our tan little bods rolling down the miniature hills in my grandmom's yard towards the apple trees that bordered her front yard. Our hair tangled and filled with grass cuttings and our clothes having grass stains, we'd hoop and holler and start all over again.

The apple trees in her front yard were my first playhouse. Apple trees being the best tree in my opinion to school a kid on climbing a tree, I was often found there. In the hot summer, their low branches provided shade and the feeling of protection. In the fall, their apples gave me many a snack, often a stomachache from too many but the best being fried apples after a Sunday dinner at Grandmom's. She would fry them up in a lot of butter, sugar and cinnamon with the skins on. They were so limp and sweet, I'd savor each slice before it would slip down my throat.

Aren't apple trees one of the best kind? For all they do. And, isn't watching your children partake in something you did as a child that requires nothing but a small hill, inspiring? I hope this post brings back a good memory to lube your writing process on this Tuesday!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Black and White, it's Gray

So, this is my first blog posting. I'm a writer. I should say I am a writer and wanna be author.

Are there sometimes where you wonder why you are so drawn to writing? I do. I believe I have lost my mind. I know now why it took me so long to realize I loved it so much. I mean, I majored in English Writing in college but didn't do anything with it for over ten years. I blame having children and getting older with a lack of stamina to stay away from it. It certainly isn't the easiest endeavor. File clerk, that's easy. And, sometimes, I think I want just that. An easy job that requires little thought and offers accomplishment. Even small accomplishment.

Writing seems to me to be a lot like raising children. Very rarely do you feel that you've done something wonderful. There's frustration every day. Confusion always. Did you make the right decision? Did you give your daughter the best advice? With writing, you wonder if you should have taken your character to the right? No, to the left? Maybe neither. Maybe your character needs to go straight and wait for the next opportunity to make a decision that guides his path towards the conclusion. Oh man, there are sooo many options.

But I guess that's exactly the point? Just like with my kids, there isn't always a right or wrong answer with my characters. There are many right answers and usually only a couple wrong ones. And, my choices make my kids unique. I hope! And so I'm thinking that's how it is with writing. Your character may take ten left turns and mine may go straight until the end. Both will hopefully be wonderful stories. And, both will be our own.

But, back to the frustration and our choice to be writers. On those days where receptionist seems a nice career alternative, I immediately realize, I can't give up on this writing thing. Can't isn't quite the right word. More like, unable to give up on it. Even when I get frustrated, my mind keeps working through the kinks. Maybe there will come a time when I don't care anymore but I can't see it in my near future. I enjoy it too much.

And, there are days where I can't seem to "get" to it. Two kids and all the other things on my list to do keep me from my schedule (I say this as if I have a schedule). It's probably the same for so many of us. But, when I do get to it, and on those days where my story just comes out on paper, it's exhilarating. And, I'm HOOKED!

Is it like this for you??