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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Good Writing

The tug of war is back in play.  The resting phase of my WIP ended on July 15, an arbitrary date I picked so I’d have a deadline, since I can count on myself to adhere to those.  The next day, I opened the thing up on the computer, saved my most recent draft as Version 4, and then swapped and revised the first two chapters.  Having cut the first 25 pages the last time round, my starting point had improved, but it still didn't feel quite right. It was like a jigsaw puzzle.  On the surface the pieces seemed like a fit, until I looked on the back side and understood I had forced the match. Over the previous six weeks I let the thing percolate in my brain until finally, the brew solidified and I knew what I needed to do.  Now, the cardboard blends seamlessly.

This week, I am printing the draft out, twenty pages at a time.  I see so much more when I am not staring the screen, and this allows me to reread for big picture issues as well as rhythm, flow of language, and typos, which will forever be the bane of my existence.  Next round, I’m sure I’ll find a million more.

In between this, and that four letter word, “work,” I'm trying to move forward on a new story.  Thankfully, I'm scheduled to present pages of this project once a month at my bi-weekly writing group, or I'm not sure it would still be alive.  The topic is deeper and and more difficult than anything I've written to date.  Every word feels like I'm slogging through an overgrown jungle.  In truth, I'm not sure I'll ever get through to the clearing, but each month, when it's my turn, some how I stumble on.
It took much less of a struggle to pick up another magazine article a few weeks back.  This one comes attached to a moral victory. As many of you are aware, I’m not good at selling myself.  My two previous articles in our regional lifestyle magazine (see above, on the right) were handed to me by the editor (about which I’m entirely grateful.)  The idea for this new one simmered on the back burner in my mind since January, until finally I got up the gumption to pitch it via email.  Less than two hours later, the editor offered me the opportunity to write the feature.  Although it won’t be published until 2013, it has an end of season deadline to ensure photographer has time to capture good photos, and I’m working on it now.  

All this is to say, while I’ve been a poor blogger this summer, I’m writing, and moving forward, and hope you are too.

What are you working on this summer?

Friday, July 20, 2012

To the Airport

The truck on the bridge clatters overhead,
like I do on the inside,
bleating tarmac fields,
the cacophony of rush hour
echoing the dissonant fugue
playing inside my core.

I lean into the wheel
pushing toward the calm of night
a black-inked road,
mounding and falling,
florescent eyes
boring holes through 
a woolen curtain—

Ahead, distant taillights
slice the darkness,
precise incisions scoring the night,
etching a forward trail—
but leaving it 
bleeding thick and crimson.

Liza Carens Salerno

Friday, July 13, 2012

Red Barn Motif

There is a scenic vista everyone takes pictures of in our town--and when I say everyone, I mean, I googled it and found multiple reproductions of it, even one offered on one of those mass market art websites.  But when my favorite local photographer captured it on an autumn day, I realized however “mainstream” or reproduced the view may have become, its beauty is authentic. 

Unlike the dories or the catboat this isn’t a photo I’ve struggled to take.  The view has been there, unwrapped like an opened present the hundreds of times I’ve crossed the bridge in front of it over the years. There are some things though, that never fail to reach our vulnerable places, scenes that make us stop and swallow the view like morsels of aching wonder.  

Lately, I’ve lost the rhythm in my days.  My back hurts sitting at the computer, which I’ve blamed on lack of exercise, but since I spend two hours a day trying to write, before I sit for five hours in front of a computer at work, this creates a challenge.  To try to loosen things up, both physically and mentally, I decided to try to get back to the routine of early morning walks this week.  Now, my back still hurts and I’m even more behind in my writing.  

But I got these.  

Hope your weekend is filled with reflective images!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Blessings

We wake to the wren bleating outside our window.  The sun reflects pink off the pine trees crowding our back—a soft breeze brushes the blooming hydrangea against our first-floor screens. 

It’s early.  Robins skitter across the back yard and pause, cocking their heads before plunging their beaks into the earth.  A hummingbird zips between the bugle petals of the fat-leafed Hostas.  We wash our faces, fill a thermos with fresh brewed coffee, drive to the bagel shop for warm-from-the-oven treats, and head to the harbor.  There, we toss life jackets into the dinghy and stream forward through swaying boats, to the barrier beach from which a long jetty juts into mouth of our harbor.  Anchoring the boat, we grab our supplies and stone-step to the end of the wall where a rectangular granite slab acts as a seat.

Around us, morning gears up.  Seagulls argue on the mudflats forming in front of the low tide beach.  An aged motor boat pulling a tin dinghy passes by, a woman sits on the bow—arms wrapped around her knees, face tilted toward the sun.   Across the water, the clean lines of a handcrafted sailboat bob in front of a stone boat house.  The tide recedes, exposing barnacles suctioned to sea green rocks.   Terns dive and flit at the water’s edge.  Over our shoulders, the sand bar shimmers in the early light, and though I’ve done so on so many occasions, I put down my coffee and rustle in my pocket for the camera, desperate to capture this essence of summer.  

Most Sundays, we attend early church.  Once in a while though, we seek the blessings supplied by what we call “The Church of the Jetty.

July 8, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Gifts of Stone - Part Three

During a late supper the other night, the phone rang.  Our neighbor, who I have written about here  and here,   called to tell us the light was just right for a stroll around his yard.  My husband was working late, and though my daughter visited often as a child, she had yet to see the transformation that has occurred down the street from us over the last few years.  We cleared our plates, dosed ourselves with bug spray and headed out.

This man and his wife have owned their property for over 20 years.  We visited their chickens and goats and picked raspberries from their bushes when our daughter was little.  But in this latest manifestation, their land has taken on a soothing, mystical quality.  Since I’ve written about it before, I won’t go into great detail.  I’ll only share that along with planting lush country gardens, and sculpting delightful frog ponds, they've taken the stones that seem to multiply in our soil and built cairns all around their acreage.  At night, they are lit from below by spotlights and glow as if ignited by a warm and sensual earth.  Each stone tower is unique, special and labeled with its own name.  They are situated in the sloping yard surrounding a 150 (my guess)-year-old farmhouse, amid daylilies, hosta, a two-level castle of a tree house, and a hand-built stone labyrinth.   

Walking around the property during that full moon dusk felt like traveling through a dream.  The light was low.  Our daughter had no idea what to expect when I explained what she was about to see, but once we arrived she grabbed the camera from me and wouldn’t give it back.  I’ve enhanced her photos as best I can in the hope you will recognize the enchantment.  Our neighbor said, “People visit all over the world— Asia, Australia or Scotland to experience cairns.”  

How lucky are we?  For us, the magic is just around the corner.

Happy Weekend to all. Hope your plans are magical.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Use it or Lose it - July IWSG

This is my July post for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group.  For more entries, read here.

When the blank page becomes too much to look at, I start typing and see what comes.  This is one insecurity with which I am “secure,” if that makes sense. Whether the outcome is good or bad, when I let them, words always surface. 

Over the three years during which I have been writing regularly, I’ve situated myself in front of the computer many times with no hint of what to write about (this is one of them).  When it happens, I perform a “brain dump,” placing my fingers on the keyboard and typing whatever is going on in my mind.  It’s like lubricating the brain.  The gears may stutter at first but then they click into place and the ride is long and smooth.  The results aren’t always the most cohesive pieces, but nonetheless, writing occurs.  

While we are editing/revising a particular project, it’s easy to get caught up in the “what if” of what we’ve written—to worry about developing more conflict, cutting and pasting to insure logic, and analyzing points of view.  Is the story compelling enough, does it makes sense, is it realistic?  Are there comments readers have suggested that need addressing?  All of these things and so many more are critical to a well-crafted piece.  But when we get bogged down in the technicalities, it is easy to forget the delight that’s produced by the pure writing—by the idea that blossoms in your brain and sloshes through your fingers like the refreshing torrent of a cool spring river.  None of the “hard stuff” if you will, can happen UNTIL the ice melts and the waters flow. 
I’m 4,000 words into a new project I have been struggling with since about page two.  I don’t have a real idea of where the story is going and the topic is difficult.  Each word feels like the drop of blood produced when they prick a finger and check for lead. When it’s time to work on it, I drag myself the computer saying, “Oh I don’t know.  Am I really going to finish this one?”  

On Saturday, I called my own bluff.  “Just sit down, dummy.  Start typing and see what comes.”  And I did.  There was no plan.  Seven hundred words later, I "discovered" what had happened to my main character to put her in her current circumstances.  I’m still not sure I’ll ever finish this thing, but it has new life.  Better yet, during that sit down, the pure fun of writing enveloped me once again.

When you are stuck, or have lost your motivation, when you wonder if any of it will be worth it, just sit down and write—anything.  Don’t edit.   Let it flow, and the joy will touch you again.