Thursday, September 10, 2009

Voice, Process and Robert Frost


I was meandering around my collection of notebooks with quotes within their pages and stumbled across this piece of gold:

I never write except with a writing board. I've never had a table in my life. And I use all sorts of things. Write on the sole of my shoe.
~ Robert Frost~ (1874-1963)

circa. 1910

This made me question myself not only as a writer and my craft of writing, but also my overall ambition and drive. Virginia Woolf exclaimed that every writer (especially women) needs a room of their own. In Frost's case not having a table wasn't his point. No doubt having the finances to purchase a table was not the issue. Rather he thought outside the box and figured out what worked for him.

Robert Frost's personal life was riddled with grief and loss. His father died of tuberculosis, when Frost was 11, his mother died of cancer in 1900. In 1920, Frost had to commit his younger sister to a mental hospital, where she died nine years later. Mental illness plagued Frost's family, he and his mother suffered from depression. His daughter was committed to a mental hospital in 1947. Frost's wife, Elinor, also experienced bouts of depression. They had six children. Their son Elliot died of cholera, their other son Carol, committed suicide. Their daughter Marjorie in 1934, died after childbirth, and daughter Elinor Bettina died three days after her birth in 1907. Only Lesley and Irma outlived their father. Frost's wife, who had heart problems throughout her life, developed breast cancer in 1937, and died of heart failure in 1938.

He lived a life filled with much sadness and no doubt found it a challenge to find time to write. He did what Hemingway said to do: "Work every day. No matter what has happened the day or night before, get up and bite on the nail." Frost did this and will remain a positive influence on writers everywhere for years to come. Frost was honored with four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry so it's really not worth mentioning that his way really did work for him. Many have looked to one of his most famous poems for the answer.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same.


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way.

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Instead of this poem being about the regrets, one may have perhaps thought it's about Frost's way of living life. He took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. He used what worked for him, such as the sole of his shoe. A small less traveled part of his craft, his process, but one that worked and made him revolutionary.

No matter our situation, station, financial income, do we each, as writers, demand a process to encourage and nourish our voices? I certainly have not done this for myself. I write when ever and where ever I can. I've mentioned before, I write while cooking dinner and while giving my toddler a bath. Although the writing manages to get done (mostly) it's not nearly as often or as creatively motivated as I feel it should be. I still have that ache, that inner moan of unfulfilled passion.

When I went away to Wellspring House in Massachusetts I had that room of my own. It was quiet. It had amazing natural light. It had a nice view. It was comfortable. It was inspiring. I felt free to write in my way, my voice, my process. I have not managed to create that kind of space for myself within my home or my daily life.

Then this got me thinking about other writers we are all familiar with and their process as writers. Such as where they wrote. Frost used a writing board like the one seen here.

Jane Austen described her writing as being done with a fine brush on a "little bit (not two inches wide) of ivory".

Emily Dickinson used a table similar to Jane Austin. Small, confined and alone. Emily wrote at night when everyone else was asleep, however, Jane wrote sometimes in a full room.

Hemingway always had a work space. He hand wrote prose and stood at his typewriter for the dialogue.

My point is, each writer has not only their voice, but their process that in part creates their voice. Right now, as I write this, I'm laying in bed, it's past one o'clock in the morning and everyone is asleep, my husband is six inches away with a pillow over his face. Will my voice say, I'm a writer with no process? Worse still will I have no voice of my own due to no room of my own?

Jack London said: "You can't wait for inspiration you have to go after it with a club."

My club is in hand and I'm going to go after it!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"I Remember..." Winning Entry

Flames shot out like serpents’ tongues, licking the ankles of young bike riders. In fear, they veered far to the left—had a car been coming, it would have hit them dead on. This time, their instincts saved all but some of that blonde peach-fuzz that we boys all proudly considered leg hair. The stench of it burnt hung in the air, invading the odor of our sewer playground.Bryan jumped down from the drainage opening and shook his can of hairspray. His giggle sounded maniacal, but I was eight. Evil is so hard to distinguish in a cloak of fun.
“They barely dodged it in time!” he laughed.
“Just think if I had gotten his shorts!”
No children drove by for another ten minutes, so Bryan and I left the sewer, headed towards one of our homes. He lead me, three years older and naturally the alpha between us. Our houses sat across the street diagonally from each other, so I never knew which we’d play in until we got there.
“Would you like to see Sally, my new snake?” he asked.
“Another snake!” I gasped.
“Sure, show me.”
We walked through his front doors and past his two older, leering brothers. They stretched lazily over the arms of furniture, resting their sneakers on end tables. Bryan took no notice of them, but my mother sure would have.We entered his room together, and the smell of many reptiles assaulted my nose. I thought it odd that the smell of Bryan’s bedroom was indistinct from the sewer we had played in earlier.But immediately my attention fell onto a cage on the floor ten times larger at least than the next largest cage. The snake inside, which must have been Sally, slept; she must have been five feet long. I gawked, standing there in slack-jawed surprise.
“Beautiful, isn’t she?” he asked.
He reached down into the cage (which had been open, without a roof) and grabbed Sally tenderly with both hands. As he raised her from the cage, the slits of her eyes opened subtly. I became afraid.Bryan draped Sally like a shawl around his neck and stroked her tenderly. I had never seen such affection light his features.
“I feed her mice, small little lab mice,” he told me quietly. “They’re the kindest, gentlest rodents, and Sally swallows them whole.”
I went home not long after that, and I skipped over mentioning Sally and the sewers when my parents asked how I had spent my time with Bryan.That night, after I had gone to bed and to sleep, one of Bryan’s older brothers fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand. He had been lounging on an old, broken recliner in the attic, and the cherry had lit some of the home’s insulation. People panicked and screamed, fire trucks came and blasted, and the home burnt down, snake and all. Despite staunchly believing that there is no hidden reason behind the minute happenings of the world, I couldn’t help feeling that Bryan deserved this loss.
In some small way, I still can’t.

Friday, August 21, 2009

~Real Simple Magazine Essay Contest~

Real Simple Magazine had an essay contest. You were to write an essay that answered this question:

I decided to write a short essay but thought it failed to be a submittable piece. Nevertheless, here it is. It was a fun prompt and made me think.

Some feel that they have become grown when they get their driver’s license, go off to college, become legal to drink, get married, or have a child. Others may believe that once you reach a certain age you’re a grown-up. I even used to think that at 30-years-old I would be a grown up.

I’m 32-years-old now and I know that’s not the case. Nor, for me, was it when I got married, in fact when I got married I was only 18-years-old, not even able to legally drink. At that time I was sure that I was grown, however, I realized very quickly that I was far from it. After a ten year marriage and divorce I was positive that I had not grown up yet, I had so much to learn, too many things to regret. By the time I re-married I was 29-years-old and I was beginning to think that I had this grown-up gig down pat. Two months after our marriage we found out we were pregnant. I knew at that moment that growing up was still in my future.

At this point I had lost three grandparents and this was when I realized what growing up is all about. It’s not an age, or an accomplishment, it’s a process, a feeling from within and one is really never grown up in the full sense of it. It’s the act of living each day, learning from our mistakes, watching our children grown into individuals.

Noteworthy Novel Notes With Mr. Hemingway

You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless – there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the damn thing ~ Ernest Hemingway

This is where I am with my novel. I am feeling ‘helpless’. Lost, without the anchor of a solid story line. I know what I would like to happen but once I start writing the characters tell me, order me to listen without arguments. Therefore, the story has taken many twists and turns.

I was given a piece of advice from my mentor, Denne, he said “Write until you know where you will start the next day,” he felt it was most important to write daily. Denne was mentored by Ernest Hemingway, himself, a gift indeed.

I was reading Ernest Hemingway on Writing and found a passage within the section about Working Habits, a letter between Ernest and someone he called Mice:

Mice: How much should you write a day?
E.H.: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.
Mice: All right.
E.H.: Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start. Once you are into the novel it is as cowardly to worry about whether you can go on the next day as to worry about having to go into inevitable action. You have to go on. So there is no sense to worry. You have to learn that to write a novel. The hard part about a novel is to finish it.
Mice: How can you learn not to worry?
E.H.: By not thinking about it. As soon as you start to think about it stop it. Think about something else. You have to learn that.
By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, pp.216-217

This is fantastic advice! I will be working on a my WIP (Novel) or a new idea I have for this upcoming Novembers NaNoWriMo...I do plan to call upon these words to help me through.

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

'At Home In The World' by Joyce Maynard

At Home in the World is a meaningful glance into Joyce Maynard’s personal narrative. This account, if needed, will stimulate integrity, and bravery for writers in need of insight. Joyce, whom has a background filled with creative inspiration, was stifled from writing about it in an open and honest way. It was not until many years later, after weathering a dysfunctional family that included emotional abuse, alcoholism, eating disorders, and clinical depression, to spending a life-changing year, living, learning, and loving J.D. Salinger.
It is incredible how Joyce was able to develop, not only as a truthful writer but also as a woman, speaking honestly about the world, as well as being a part of it - despite JD Salinger. - JD wrote her a letter in response to her article published in The New York Times, telling her not to listen to any advice given her regarding her writing. However, he himself stood in the way of her becoming her own voice. She had to break away from him in order to start, if you will, her real life, as a writer with a voice of her own.

I myself, requested the article that started it all, in response to my request I received the article as well as an email from Joyce herself. She was kind and encouraging. I asked for her blessing to write this piece and she gave it willingly, reminding me not to write for anyone but myself and to write with courage and truth. Something JD definitely did not empower her to do. She had to conquer his strong hand in order to do this. Joyce has become the type of writer she had once hoped JD to be, an enriching piece of equipment in the world of writers rather than a dictator of prose and purpose. I respect Joyce for her courage.

Being completely honest with ourselves as humans is always a challenge, a curse really, to be truly forthcoming with our innermost thoughts and feelings, to share our success as well as our flaws in an open, unadulterated way. Sure, we all have our secrets, healthy most often, but the real question is how can a writer be successful in life if works they produce are false, fake, or bogus? I would venture to say, as in any station in this world, they would fail, both personally and professionally. A life of hiding how you really are, and your authentic experiences, is a life not worth sharing. Joyce admits herself, that the writing she did prior to At Home in the World was merely laced with truth, leaving the better part to fiction, masquerading as fact. This made me, regrettably, hesitant to read anything from her earlier work. JD wanted Joyce to write only superficially while discrediting her for it at the same time. Joyce herself wrote “…I had been holding on to secrets that kept me from understanding or explaining myself. I knew it was time at last to explore my story.” She had to overcome wanting and forcing herself to please everyone else and just tell ‘her’ story, not for anyone but herself.

Listening to ones inner voice, the response of our body, during times of uncertainty, is yet another amazing lesson to take from Joyce’s experience. Joyce’s body did not respond to JD’s constant attempts at sexual intercourse because emotionally he was not taking care of her.
Only after Joyce entered into a loving, kind, and healthy relationship did her heart open as well as her physical body. Through her life transformation and advancement, Joyce has been able to heal from her past and be able to let it go, in a spirited manner, with much opposition. A lesson all humans can walk away with and an even greater lesson for a writer to discover and endeavor to grasp.

For a look at Joyce's brand new book:
check out her web site

Friday, August 14, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

I was asked to do an interview for one of my blogger friends about my writing. It will be posted on her site August 15th...check it out! Lori is a great writer that has been very supportive of many and their endeavors.

Thank you Lori for this opportunity! Thank you for being so encouraging!


I've decided to take part in this years NaNoWriMo...during the month of November I'm going to write 50k words on either an original story or work from a new starting point in my current WIP...haven't decided yet.

Would anyone like to share their thoughts?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Artistic Goals- A letter application for a writing retreat

September 26, 2008

My name is Lydia and I’m thirty-one years of age. I’ve been married to my wonderful and supportive husband for almost three years. In February of last year we had our daughter. Motherhood has been the best ride of my life. Hard and seems impossible at times until she smiles or laughs, than I thank God for the gift of a child. We live in the Gulf Coast area of Mississippi. Being born and raised on the West Coast, moving here has been a huge change. I am really enjoying the South however, and eventually would like the chance to travel.

To explain my writing endeavors, I would like to share an experience with you. When I was a young girl I often thought of becoming a writer. When speaking to my parents about this they encouraged me to go for it. They told me to work hard and no matter what I wanted, if I worked hard enough, I would accomplish it. I have fantastic parents and hope to be like them with Amelia.

I began writing poetry first. To be honest, I don’t even remember how old I was. Poetry is an art that I’ve always valued and enjoyed writing. I remember sharing my poetry with my parents and the look on their faces as they read it. It brought them great joy. I don’t know if they were smiling because it was so horrible or if it was because they knew how hard I had worked at it. I would venture to say it was the latter. The thing is, the reason they were smiling and enjoying my poetry didn’t matter to me as much as the thought that my poetry had made them feel something. That was the beginning of my addiction to writing.

I continued my writing of poetry and attempted at times to write essays and prose. Failed attempts did not affect me because I kept hearing my parents’ words…”if you work hard enough at it you will accomplish it.”

When I was about nine years old my grandfather passed away. He had been living with my parents and I. My mother and I were home at the time of his death. For a nine year old it was a strange and scary moment. I had nightmares and was afraid to be in the house where he had died. I had difficulties in school as well as trouble dealing with all the emotions I had. As things do, with time, it got better. We moved to another house and soon I was back to ‘normal’.

It wasn’t until eight years later that I wrote about that day. It was for an assignment in my literature class. My teacher was Ms. Symms; she was one of those fantastic life changing teachers. She wrote amazing notes in the margins, asking me to “enrich my imagery” and to add more “noise and voice” to my writing. I received an A on the assignment, but that wasn’t the best part. I’ll never forget the way I felt when she handed me my paper and told me that my story had moved her to tears.

(A side note: I was able to reconnect with Ms. Symms years later and let her know just how important she was and is in my life. We hugged and cried together. It was an amazing experience all around.)

I had taken a moment in time that was deeply powerful and painful, but necessary to write about and I had moved someone else with my words. That was the most exhilarating feeling and from that moment on I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to share myself through words, hopefully moving others to feel things they’ve may never have felt before.

I have since completed many more poems, articles, one one-act play and a screenplay. My goal right now is trying to have a more regimen writing schedule since Amelia was born. I’ve got a third possibly a half of my first novel completed and it is burning inside me to finish it.

It is for that reason that I would adore and treasure the time spent at Wellspring House. To focus my thoughts, do further research, and get my novel on its way to completion.

Thank you immensely for taking the time to consider my application.

Salmon on a Wednesday

Cheeze-it’s, hard lemonade, salty river,
Giggles and goats, chartreuse lures,
white cranes, sunny blue sky.
Big fisherman in little boats,
Grandpa holding tight even though he might fall,
peeing in a bucket that cuts into your thigh,
numbered buoys as we pass by.
Big nets, small flags,
cool wind on our faces as we accelerate.
Forest as far as we can see,
shades of yellow, orange and red as our summer
fades away, up the river on a Wednesday.
Smell of wood stoves
fishy perfume, trees and boat fumes.
A day spent without a watch.
Only family and memories in the making.
“A smell not many will experience,”
one of the last lumber mills around.
Smells like lumber, only not,
as a logging truck climbs the mountain.
Trolling motor vibrating in twelve feet of water.
Fishing for salmon, Chinook to be exact
yet, catching them won’t measure the worth of this day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Remember series...and giveaway

I received a recommendation for Writing Down The Bones~Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg last year and promptly purchased it and it was read in a week. I did many of her prompts in the book and they opened up so many new thoughts to me. Very fun, and exciting, to write about something you feel deeply about but didn't even know you felt that way until someone encourages you to write about it. (Something I'm sure all writers try to help others experience)~ If you haven't read this amazing book, you should definitely, run out and get it! Right now!! Run!

Goldberg's WDTB has a chapter entitled: A List of Topics for Writing Practice. Goldberg says, "Sometimes we sit down to write and can't think of anything to write about. The blank page can be intimidating, and it does get boring to write over and over again for ten minutes of practice, 'I can't think of what to say. I can't think of what to say.' It's a good idea to have a page in your notebook where you jot down, as they come to you, ideas of topics to write about."
She goes on to give you some prompts to get you started. One in particular caught my eye and sparked my imagination. It was this:
(pg 22 WDTB Goldberg)
'Begin with "I remember." Write lots of small memories. If you fall into one large memory, write that. Just keep going...If you get stuck, just repeat the phrase "I remember" again and keep going.'
I began to think about this lately and revisited it in one of my blog posts. I've got so many more that I have already written. I will go back to those "just keep writing" entries in my notebook and edit/adjust so that I can continue my I Remember posts. Who knows how many will come of it. Writing then is very freeing and at times wonderful! Some of the memories are welcomed and others of course take you to a dark place. Either way it's a freeing experience.

I thought in particular of, what I think would be a really fun and exciting way to bring others into this series with me. This is what I propose:

I will give away a copy of Writing Down The Bones~Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg to the person who writes the most thought provoking, touching, memorable "I remember" essay...lets say no more than 500-600 words. The deadline will be September 1, 2009 and I will announce the winner (possibly 2-3 winners, depending on the responses) by September 15, 2009.

Here's how you submit: just post your essay as a comment to this post.
I'm so excited!!! Okay, so what do you guys think? Anyone up for it? It should be lots of fun and a chance to get your juices flowing when you're stuck.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bedtime Qualms

Somewhere between the ages of 18 months and 29 months, my daughter has:

1) learned how to open doors

2) pee in a potty

3) talk A LOT

All of these combined make for a child that won't go to bed. Well eventually, but after much work!

Our bedtime routine: I usually get her into bed around 8:30 or 9pm, read (what feels like 25 books), take her potty, brush her teeth, go back to the bedroom, lay her down, say our prayers together, turn on her soothing music, dim her lights, do our "I love yous", hugs, kisses (from each family member, including our dog Bordeaux), and then close her door. Sometimes she fusses a little bit but most often she's fairly quiet, laying there, storing up energy, in order to start the real bedtime routine.

~Cut to ten minutes later~

Uttered from the most precious mouth ever, we hear "Mommy" or "Daddy" followed by "I pee pee" or "I poo poo." So we take her back to the bathroom and the entire potty process (which is usually a good seven to ten minutes long due to the fact that our 2 1/2 year old has mastered the art of stalling), then we're back in bed a second time, hugs, kisses, I love yous are repeated, "night night", door shuts.

During the following ten minutes I start to relax (rather silly of me really), have began to do some reading, writing, or just plain vegging in bed with hubby. Oh the joy! Knowing your child is comfy, safe, and tucked in for the night is a wonderful feeling.

~Cut to ten (maybe fifteen) minutes later~

"Mommy...Daddy, I pee pee, I pee pee." Now mind you, she's wearing a pull-up to bed still because we haven't completely finished potty training. So when she says she has to go we listen, even though, I really want to let her just go in her pull-up. It's not a good idea because every mother knows that during potty training consistency is the most important part. However, patience is the most tasking part. How she's able to hold her pee pee and even poo poo for intermittent potty visits as the moment of bed time is still a small mystery (babies must go to some secret society stalling school before the potty training starts).

Again, after second potty visit in last twenty or so minutes it's time to lay my sweet down into her bed a third time with all the vigor of our original bedtime routine (kisses, hugs, I love yous and the whole bit). The door shuts and I slowly wind back down into my little piece of bliss hoping that sheer exhaustion will gently guide (if not hold down) my sweet child.

~Cut to ten minutes later~

This time seems different...has it happened? Has she actually fallen asleep? As the twenty minute line has passed I'm almost positive she's amid her first dream. Just then, I hear a door open (listening closely because I'm positive it can't be my lovely...she's fast asleep by now)...then...I hear some banging and thrashing in the bathroom. I must explore. In the bathroom I find my child, with poo all over and a proud, gleeful smile across her face. "I poo pooed Mommy!!!" she exclaims. I can't help but smile and congratulate her. After all she's my baby, but she's growing up so quickly. These bedtime qualms, although exhausting, won't last much longer. Soon she won't need me as much.

During the next ten minutes I give her a good cleaning and sanitizing and then again, place her into bed. This time I can tell it's the last time, she's pooed and peed herself empty and her eyes are droopy. With my daughter, she sucks her two middle fingers on her left hand when she's ready...speaks slowly and so sweetly. "I love you the most," I say. "I love you the most," she repeats.

So now it's a little after ten usually and the bedtime routine as come to it's conclusion. Any idea of writing or reading is out the window and I'm down for the count. Even so, the thing is, with all the work that goes into making, carrying, birthing, and raising a child, it is the most rewarding, fantastic experience a person can be privileged to have. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Here's to: my Amelia - potty training - and the every night Bedtime Qualms!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

Before there was texting, twitter and all other forms of computerized conversation, abbreviation was reserved for quick note taking and list making. Now though, it's a form of communication that includes letters and numbers, sometimes even punctuations that form faces that are supposed to equate emotion.

For example: B4 there was txtg & twtr & all other frms of pc convs, abb. was rsrved 4 quck nte takg & lst tkg. :-)

Crazy - through one generation, we have managed to belittle the beautiful English language into mere letters. What would Virginia Woolf, T.S. Elliot, Emily Dickinson, and Ernest Hemingway say?

Instead of words expressing emotions, a complex human response to various conditions, we've replaced the with: ;-) (wink, playful,) :-( (sad) :-O (shocked) ;-P (tongue out, silly) :-/ (confused, upset, embarrassed) :-D (happy, joy).

Reminds me of when I was in grammar school and all of us kids made words out of the numbers on the screen of a calculator. (8008= BOOB) (1134=hell (upside down). We thought we were so clever, now we've lost all wit to simply save time.

I'm by no means saying I'm not just as guilty of this, I send out tweets and texts every day of my life with absolutely no vowels. I myself have contributed to this phenomenon. Saving time while still communicating is better than no communication at all. Right?!

A thought I needed to voice

I'm sort of lost lately between my reasons for wanting to write. On one hand, I want to write for the art of it. On the other hand, I want to as a means to make some kind of income in this horrible economy as a stay at home mother. On the other hand, or I suppose we're on feet now, I want to write to be read. This is new for me. I've always wanted to write to share myself with others. Help them to feel and see things in a new way, a way they have never felt or seen before. This was always how I felt about writing, unwaveringly. Now, I'm torn between all the other reasons and feel like I've sold out on myself. Not a good feeling.

My hope? To write for the art, for the capability of sharing myself with others in an honest and moving way, while, being read and therefore making some income for our family.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Signs I need some sort of REATREAT!!

1) I'm angry with love bugs - they get more action than I do lately and they feel the need to do it on me, near me, or around me. Little basards!

2) My daughters naptime is something I secretly hope for every morning when I open my eyes.

3) My husbands breathing pisses me off.

4) Randomly I want to rip off someones face, sometimes they're loved ones, other times strangers, I don't discriminate.

5) I'm forgetful, weepy, pissed, irrational, emotional, and feel as though being in a coma might not bad.

6) I beg for a disease or sickness that will force me into the hospital for a week or so, just to get some sleep and have food brought to me in bed.

7) I long for lonlieness.

8) I actually pray for #6.

9) Hate the sound of the words: mommy, Lydia, or Baby (husbands nickname for me), when it's uttered in regards to summoning me.

10) I get completely crazy (see #5) when the coffee table or chaise are out of line with the rest of the furniture.

11) I'm cussing (not something I do on a regular basis)...honestly this one was an afterthought of writing this list.

Friday, July 3, 2009

I remember (part one)...

I remember snowy days in Idaho. Waking up to beautiful silence. Outside my window, pure untainted snow.I remember leaving Idaho many times, sometimes for fun, but mostly for crazy reasons. I remember leaving for Oregon once I had left my ex-husband. I remember leaving another time, for Las Vegas, to marry said ex-husband. We left at four in the afternoon on a weekday to go start our life together. It would be the beginning of something sad and lonely. I remember a few days after we were married, being slapped across the face by said ex-husband. I remember the moment, that moment, that I had made the biggest mistake of my life.

I remember going to sleep with the sound of the Oregon Coast seeping in through my apartment window. Smelling the cool and wet fishy air. That was absolutely a dream. I remember my first night, in my own place, at twenty-six years old. I had never had my own space (besides my bedroom in my parents house) so this was very scary but more exciting. I remember walking on that perfect beach with the tide around my toes.

I remember the exact second in time that I realized that I definitely did see a positive sign on the pregnancy test. I remember the first time I heard my unborn babies heartbeat. I was alone with the midwife. I was wearing red, a red dress, pulled all the way up over my stretch pants to expose my belly. I didn't care, it was the most amazing, breathtaking sound I have ever heard. I remember the first time I felt my baby kick hard for the first time. I was startled and it made me say "OH." I remember the sheer and absolute of child birth, 'they' say you forget, but 'they' lie! Nevertheless I want to do it again. I remember the first time my daughter said "mama" - her first word (as it should be).

I remember the first time I got paid to write. I still have that $13.00 check framed. For an article I wrote for a college paper.

I remember the night I found out that one of my dearest friends had been in a horrible car accident. We weren't sure if she would make it through the night.

I remember so many things...moments in time that stand out in my life thus far...these were just a few...more to come.

Women, Fiction and the Voice of Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1814 when she was only nineteen years old, having grown up in a household vibrant with writers’ energy all around her. Her father was William Godwin, a well-known author, and her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was also a writer and predominant feminist. Although coming from such a background, Mary Shelley was forced to publish her first novel, Frankenstein, anonymously. Women at this time were appreciated largely for their ability to birth babies and fulfill their duties as scripted by the men in their lives. Indeed, John Langdon Davies warns women in A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, “that when children cease to be altogether desirable, women cease to be altogether necessary” (112). In a regulated culture such as this, many women writers were unable to publish their writings under their own names, or, quite frankly, at all. As a consequence of this, women writers began writing in a male rather than female voice in order to fool the audience and therefore become accepted. Woolf suggests in A Room of One’s Own, that since a novel has this correspondence to real life, its values are to some extent those of real life. But it is obvious that the values of women differ very often from the values which have been made by the other sex; naturally, this is so. Yet it is the masculine values that prevail. Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.’ And these values are inevitably transferred from life to fiction…One has only to skim those old forgotten novels and listen to the tone of voice in which they are written to divine that the writer was meeting criticism; she was saying this by way of aggression, or that by way of conciliation. She was admitting that she was ‘only a woman,’ or protesting that she was ‘as good as a man.’…She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others (73-4).
Virginia makes a valid point in her statement. Men and women are distinct in the way they think and live. They make decisions based on different ways of seeing the world. Therefore it makes sense that their writing styles would be different. It is as if, when writing Frankenstein, Shelley was in constant conflict with the feminine voice that was trying to escape but being held back, muzzled in some respect by the male voice that the public demanded. These gender-coded contrasts are striking and numerous.
In Frankenstein, when the monster is narrating his journey to Victor Frankenstein, he discusses at length his encounters with the De Lacey family. Shelley uses beautiful, poetic language to write portions of the monster’s regaling yet abruptly changes her tone mid-text, causing the narration to become cold and unconcerned seeming. For example, when the monster sees the family members one by one for the first time, he describes their appearance. Shelley’s linguistic style in this section might be considered as “feminine.” When the monster sees the young girl, he describes her as having a “gentle demeanor” looking “patient yet sad” (107). This is a lovely way of describing a character rather than simply saying the young girl was quiet and seemed upset. Further on in this same section, when the monster is telling Frankenstein how he felt while watching this family, he says:
The young girl was occupied in arranging the cottage; but presently she took something out of a drawer, which employed her hands, and sat down beside the old man, who taking up an instrument, began to play, and to produce sounds sweeter than the voice of the thrush or the nightingale. It was a beautiful sight, even to me, poor wretch! who had never beheld aught beautiful before. The silver hair and benevolent countenance of the aged cottager won my reverence while the gentle manners of the girl enticed my love. He played a sweet mournful air, which I perceived drew tears from the eyes of his amiable companion, of which the man took no notice, until she sobbed audibly; he then pronounced a few sounds, and the fair creature, leaving her work, knelt at his feet. He raised her, and smiled with such kindness and affection that I felt sensations of peculiar and overpowering nature: they were a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as I had never before experienced, either from hunger or cold, warmth or food; and I withdrew from the window, unable to bear these emotions. (108)
A rush of feeling and sensitivity move through this piece, enabling the reader to relate to the monster’s pain, joy and confusion. Shelley creates a tone here, overflowing with warmth and comfort. The monster uses words such as “benevolent countenance,” “gentle manners,” “sweet mournful air,” and “sensations of peculiar and overpowering nature.” It’s at this moment in the book that the monster becomes human, indeed, perhaps even feminine, to the reader rather than a gruesome creature. Soon after this passionate description delivered by the monster, Shelley in a moment of sudden realization of her own sex perhaps, changes the tone of the monster’s words by writing, “they sat down to eat…the meal was quickly dispatched” (109). Moments such as this clearly show an abrupt change in voice causing a virtual slap in the face for the reader, quickly waking them up from the splendor of the monster’s previous feminine narrative. This demonstrates Woolf’s statement: “It is fatal for any one who writes to
think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly” (104). Shelley implies by her work that she thought about her sex frequently, preventing her from writing out of truth. If only she had been able to hear Woolf’s opinion: “The whole of the mind must lie wide open if we are to get the sense that the writer is communicating his (or her) experience with perfect fullness. There must be freedom and there must be peace” (104). Shelley couldn’t have been free or at peace if she was unable to write in her own gendered voice.
To further compare Shelley’s shift in voice, Frankenstein contains many letters from various characters in the novel. Shelley had a challenge in writing these portions, because they go back and forth from male to female narrators. Shelley’s voice, when writing a letter narrated by Elizabeth, ironically suggests a masculine undertone. Elizabeth’s letter to Victor pleading him to write of his health contains such language as “For a long time I have thought that each post would bring this line, and my persuasions have retrained my uncle from undertaking a journey to Ingolstadt” (63). This sentence disputes a feminine narrator: Elizabeth sounds abrupt and distant, while another letter, narrated by Victor’s ailing father, suggests femininity. Shelley’s use of language as well as punctuation in the letter from Victor’s father (telling Victor that William has been murdered) implies a feminine narrator. “William is dead! -that sweet child, whose smiles delighted and warmed my heart, who was so gentle, yet so gay! Victor he is murdered!”(71). Punctuation in this quote is extremely important in indicating a feminine writer. The linguistic style would represent itself better if Elizabeth rather than Victor’s father had written this letter.
Even though Shelley’s voice transforms many times in Frankenstein, the novel remains a classic. She ought not to be looked down upon for these variations, but on the
contrary, one should only be convinced further of her talent. However, Woolf might disagree, for she pointed out in A Room of One’s Own when speaking of Mary Carmichael’s first novel Life’s Adventure that Carmichael “wrote as a woman, but as a woman who had forgotten she was a woman, so that her pages were full of that curious sexual quality which comes only when sex is unconscious of itself” (93). This point raises the following question: Is Shelley’s female writing voice more enjoyable for the reader because it’s natural? Perhaps the real trick is, if you’re going to write as a man, as Shelley did, it’s best to write as a woman writing as a man, declaring a vicious catch twenty-two in the complicated world of women and fiction.

Works Cited
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1998.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. New York: Harcourt, 1989.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Homeless & Without Conversation

Okay, so I'm not technically homeless.
I am however missing out on a space to call my own of any sort, for writing. Space as in the physical sense as well as in the mental sense. I'm chasing a three year old around by day, exhausted by evening and obliteraed by night (or now so it seems, so excuse my blabbering).
I'm writing my first novel, well I've been writing my first novel for what feels like a decade but it's probably been more like five years. I know! I know! that's crazy! I should have had it done by now.
I went away, for the first time in my life, to a place for writers to write, a retreat, Wellspring House, in MASS. It was absolutely wonderful! I was there an entire week, completely alone, in silence most often, in a tiny room of my own. It was a dream. The town was beautiful, it was fall and the leaves were turning. I mean a DREAM!
I wrote, I read, I slept, I barely ate, don't know why but I didn't need to...I was full on inspiration. I got several pages written, good pages too.At the end I was positive that I would come back home and remain focused and on key with my schedule to finish this book.


Yep, I froze! Got home and now it's been far too long to admit and I haven't touched it. Granted I've written other things and will have an article published in a new online magazine soon...but my beloved novel...sits, waiting, homeless and without conversation.


Here a twitt there a twitt everywhere a twitt twitt!!
Twitter is a forum to make you feel lonely if you have no followers. I feel as though I'm walking down a street, able to look into every store I pass. Within each store is a different story, different music, different vibe. I stop and watch for a bit. I knock on the glass..."hello?" "oh hey I love that too" or "I have an opinion on that."
No one hears though, I'm talking to myself. I'm tweeting to twitters who can't or don't seem to hear me.
Oh the madness!
Why do I still log in every so often during my day to see what's happening?Human Nature, it must be, we all love to look into the lives of others. We want that connection.
My mission is to have at least 10 followers (which is a funny term for this because I feel like a puppy following the tweeters - oh someone throw me a bone) by August 1st... is that unreasonable?
Tweeters twitters, whatever!