Saturday, July 23, 2011

Poetry called me, and I had to answer

I had a great time at Poetry Center San Jose this past week. I had a horrible poetry teacher in college who seemed bent on picking his favorites, then destroying all other students so they never wrote poetry again. I was destroyed. I hadn't written any poetry (save a funny rhyme for my daughter when she was three) since about 1970. Baby, that's a long time! But Poetry Center let me come back, like John Donne's compass, to the point where I began.

My critique group (yes, I am extolling their virtues again) includes a poet, and one day she brought a piece about a tiny place in Texas which led us all to reminisce about small towns in our past. Evelyn C. challenged us each to bring a poem about a small town for our next meeting. One week to produce a poem after 40 years! Holy iambic pentameter! But I don't write poetry,which I kept telling them, but they wouldn't let me off the hook. So I wrote something about a little town in Oregon that keeps a pretty low profile.

The next week, I informed them I still didn't write poetry, I write short paragraphs. I read my piece and was informed it was "narrative poetry," and they liked it. Shock! I was so emboldened that I took it to Poetry Center, where Nils Peterson was reading form his recently published book--and his stuff is a lot like mine (similar style, but better, of course). At the open mic part at the end of their meeting, I read my poem about Scio, Oregon. I liked the feedback I got from this very warm and encouraging group. So, I guess now I'm a poet. Who woulda guessed?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

the reason to write

I have analyzed my struggle with the book. I began it rather naively--writing whatever scenes popped into my head after a brief outline. I'm sitting back now and re-planning the whole thing. I apparently need a strong outline, and my rather nebulous notes about what's coming in the book do not sustain my momentum. I know what makes my main character tick, for the most part, but I'm not sure why she cares about the secondary character, whose murder sets everything in motion.

And I am fragmented. I'm working on a quilt, keeping the homeschooling stuff going through summer and preparing for our classes in the fall, and we've had a death in the family this summer. That leaves a gap, and an emotional hole to dig out of to reach the surface again. Add travel plans to see my side of the family, keeping the household going, and arranging times for my daughter to hang out with friends. I'm a taxi service. So a lot of my notes are on little pieces of paper that I have to translate when I get home. Some of those notes require their own Rosetta Stone. I wish I had better handwriting.

What I have to do is to keep plugging away-and to remember that I'm telling a story because I want someone to read it, laugh, escape, and maybe pick up a couple of ideas of their own on coping with life.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

To want, to need, to just do it

I have been coveting a Kindle. I, who have always lusted after the smell and feel of paper pages turning, leading me onward in knowledge, or suspense, or...whatever. But it has occurred to me that electronics have their downsides, too. Can you order a book, used, for a Kindle? And I would miss the particular feel of a book.... Anyway, it's all a moot point because I cannot afford a tricked-out Kindle, I don't need one, and so, my desire ebbs and flows. No necessity usually means, for me, no product. But I do hope my book ends up on one. :)

The book has been a huge struggle lately. I write and I toss out, I delete and switch paragraphs around like cards in a deck. I have a troublesome character who seems to be refusing to enter the pages. I recently noted to a friend that while sitting one's backside in the chair in front of the computer is a necessary discipline, writing from a sense of duty seems to be a losing effort. The drudgery of dutifulness seems to cause my creativity to dry up like water on a hot skillet.

While we write from a desire (indeed, a need) to write, we still have to exercise discipline to keep focus, and keep the page count rising. The difference between discipline and writing out of duty seems to be, for me, like the difference between guiding someone to a focused end versus chasing them there with a broom. Like wanting a Kindle, the desire to write is not enough to get there. On the other hand, how many of us like it when we are MADE to do something--shoved there by outside forces and held with our noses to the grindstones? But if we feel the need intrinsically, discipline is what keeps us moving when we become discouraged or distracted.

The Kindle, I can do without (for now)--but I can't really do without finishing the book. I think I'd regret that forever.