Sometimes, in order for my writing craft to excel, I have to take a break from it. Which is why, at least once a year, I break out the assless chaps and hit a writing conference.
Writing conferences are great. While the free-love atmosphere and mind-boggling variety of mind-blowing drugs are not to be dismissed, I have to admit my favorite aspect of writing conferences are the booth babes.
I find myself in an interesting position now, and I suspect my Turtleduck compatriots are feeling much the same.
Never before have I really thought about where a story will end up while I’m still in the planning or writing stages of a project. It’s always been “I’ll write this, and worry about what I’m going to do with it later.”
I’ve long been interested in all kinds of dance and music. Over the years I’ve taken piano lessons, played in school bands, sung in choirs, gone to concerts and dance performances. More recently I’ve taken a variety of dance lessons, looking for the kind of dance that would speak to me.
Hip hop and salsa weren’t it. Flamenco was closer – all that drama and Spanish guitar, and the close attention to technique. Belly dance held some of the same attraction as flamenco, but I didn’t fall in love with either one.
Then I discovered contra dance.
I have a problem.
No, I mean…I have a Problem. A big problem. An I-need-a-12-step-program problem, only I wouldn’t go because I don’t want to recover. It’s fun. I like it.
You see…I want to know everything. Ever.
Oh, not gossip, or basketball scores, or how many hairs are on my arm–I want to know all the cool stuff.
All of it.
Did you know there are no rivers in the northern half of the Yucatán peninsula? The whole thing is karst! Local people access fresh water from the cenotes.
Love is a wonderful thing…most of the time. But sometimes, love goes bad. It becomes something horrible and wrong. It hurts more than it uplifts. It haunts you. It taunts you. It becomes a nightmare.
I’ve been in love enough times to be intimately familiar with both sides, the dark and the light. The happy and the sad. The wrong (too many times) and the right (once). In fact, it took me 30 years to find The One after many near misses (one ill-fated engagement that ended badly and one actual marriage that was right at the time, but hurt too much to continue). I’m happy to report that I’m happy and I’m in a solid, healthy relationship with the best husband on the planet. It took me quite awhile to get here, and the journey is what lead me to write Without Wings, my second chapbook, which is releasing on April 1st.
My first story was Snow White and the Seven Pygmy Pole Dancers. With hindsight, I realize that perhaps my fourth grade Show and Tell audience wasn’t ready yet for such a work. This lack of readiness was demonstrated by the relentless teasing I underwent at recess for the next week, something that did not end until I hit upon the strategy of telling individual tormentors that the character of Stumpy was based on them. At that point, the taunting turned into beatings. Severe beatings. And not the good kind – I was on the receiving end of these beatings. This was pretty much the template for my life through grade school and high school.
Is it any wonder I ran away to New York City, where I was sure my literary skills would be recognized and appreciated?
They lurk, unseen, waiting for you.
They can be anywhere. You can be sitting on the couch when one strikes. You can be walking down the street, at the store, in the shower, even in your own bed.
Then, they strike.
I’m a writer, obviously, and I read blogs about the writing process. I’m also a knitter, and I read knitting blogs. Sometimes the two merge. For example, which one is this (telltale words omitted)?
I love the starting process just as much as finishing the project – and for me, with too many projects started and not enough finishing taking place, I would not get the joy of the full experience of being a … . I would only experience the starting part, the finishing remaining a mystery.
One of the (many) weird things I’ve discovered about being a writer is the way something sparks an idea in my mind and it grows in ways I could never have expected. Even the things I know will touch me don’t always have a predictable effect. Take the musical Les Miserables, for example, and the Dream’verse.
Some twenty years ago I saw a touring production of Les Mis. It blew me away. I spent the rest of the weekend in a music-filled haze, playing over and over my Original Broadway Cast Recording Double-Length Cassette that I’d begged/borrowed money to buy.
Before that fateful weekend I’d poked at writing. Like many beginners, I had story starts in many sizes and genres, begun on a surge of inspiration and abandoned when the glow faded. Maybe the ideas weren’t fully-formed, the characters flat, the spark not strong enough…who knows. All I knew was that I had a lot of failed stories that I’d cared about once, that I wanted to care about again. The last thing I needed was another false start, but Les Mis took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I had to do something with it, even if it turned to cold cinders like the others. Resistance, as the Borg will have it, was futile. I had to try. (Though Yoda and my character Eve Marcori would remind me there is no try.)
My grandfather passed away on Valentine’s Day.
I am still numb, and the funeral is on Saturday.
Gramps was my last living grandparent, and he was a WWII veteran. His greatest accomplishment in his life was serving in the war.
He even earned a Purple Heart.
He was 97.
His health was really good, almost perfect, for many years. But a few years back, he took a fall and that changed everything. He steadily deteriorated. About a week ago, we were told to see him because he wasn’t going to be with us much longer. He hadn’t been eating and was being fed intravenously. It was time.
Hubby and I went to see him the day before he passed, but due to a miscommunication, and quite possibly my stupidity, we didn’t end up in the right place. Apparently, my dad was there at the same time. He said we went to the wrong place. I’m not sure how, but the fact remains: I didn’t get to see him before he died.
I will carry that with me forever.
So, I will write Gramps a note. And hope that wherever he is, he will see it and understand.