Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I lay curled up like a broken comma"



Last night, that sentence came to me as I lay awake, worrying about something. I thought it was pretty cool. I thought I might take it and run with it, turn it into an as-yet unwritten story.

The problem is that an image isn't a story idea.  I have nothing to place it in. No context, no problem set.  In the past I would have taken that line and kept on writing, hoping an elusive plot would rise from the mess.  This may work for some people--not for me. I would have ended up with a shapeless mass, trying to revise it into life.

So for now, it's archived.  I need a spine, not a vertebra.

Actually, real life has similar moments of discovery.  A quick sense of clarity about a family problem. The thought, "You know. I really should try this."  Or the converse, "I can't.  I'll never. They won't..."  But one difference between real life and fiction is that real life keeps happening, no matter what.  Until you die, narrative isn't optional.

But there's a similarity.  Moments of clarity can be nurtured, or they can be lost. They can be questioned or cultivated or put to use.  Otherwise, life can have a random quality, and we might feel we aren't the authors of our own scenarios.

As in writing, making use of our clarity fragments takes work.  But it's not always the kind of work we think of as Work.  A lot of this work has to do with kindness.  If you think it's cool to be kind to other people, why not be kind to yourself? The fragment of clarity might simply need you to let it hang out for a while. Give it air.  Don't rule it out, and see what happens.

Other kinds of clarity are negative: The bitter "I'll never..." kind of conviction that makes you feel like a broken comma. Here humor is your ally. These thoughts tend to repeat over time, the bad jokes of a feedback loop.  Oh! You again, negative thought. Thanks for sharing can be a pretty good strategy.  If you give these thoughts air, rather than tightening around them, they may loosen their grip.

All this from one punctuation mark. Not bad for one night's insomnia.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

How Do You Pronounce **?

Along with other Philadelphia Stories authors, I will be reading on WXPN Radio's Live at Kelly Writers House, to be aired on Monday, October 3 at 8 p.m.  88.5 in Philly, and on the Web for my fans in Monrovia and Antarctica.   

I'm going to read from two stories, one because it reflects my Quaker roots, and the other because it's published and available online.  The FCC description of what you can't say on the radio makes a fascinating tone poem in itself.   Preparation is arduous, study complex. Here's what Kelly Writers House sent from the FCC Rules  (I'm not sure I'd want to be related to the person who wrote this):

“Assh*le,  F*ck, F*cker, F*cking, Sh*t, C*nt, Clit, N*gger or other racial slurs, Bitch is inappropriate if it refers to a woman, Balls, Blow, Suck, Dick, Pussy, Swallow if referring to genitals, "The definition, language or material that, in context, depicts or describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities or organs, vulgar and lewd references to the male genitals and to masturbation and sodomy broadcast in the context of 'explicit references' to masturbation, ejaculation, breast size, penis size, sexual intercourse, nudity, urination, oral-genital contact, erections, sodomy, bestiality,menstruation and testicles, sexual activity with a child."

Try reading that several times fast and see what happens.  


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"The Family That Slays Together, Stays Together"

And now, for something completely different.  Our son made a 2-minute SLASHER movie starring, well, us.  Comments on YouTube  most welcome!  Repost the video on the web and I'll buy you a drink. Well, if you live near us, that is.  (Not kidding, friends.  Send me the link and we'll talk where and when.)

HERE'S THE LINK: MEMORIES
By Paul Frank Mallon, II 

The real star is this innocent-looking house
 (Thanks for the blurb, Jane Wilson!)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Help, Considered

I bought the book, enjoyed it, saw the movie, enjoyed it, and still I missed the most obvious connection to myself.  I grew up in a family that embraced Christian moral values, but which was pervaded by what I call "atmospheric" racism.  We made contributions to organizations that benefited black people, while racist comments (and attitudes) wafted up to the ceiling, unregarded.
And of course, even unspoken attitudes affect the world around us.

This letter to the editor provoked my ah-ha moment.  I think the appropriate term is "white blindness."


New York Times

LETTERS
How 'The Help' Depicts Race Relations


To the Editor:
Prof. Patricia A. Turner makes an excellent point when she criticizes "The Help" for implying that good white people of the 1960s were by definition non-racist. But it does something even more insidious. It invites white audiences, as do most Hollywood movies about race, to identify with an enlightened white character - in this case, the stand-in for the author of the book, Kathryn Stockett.
In so doing, it validates our fantasy that we would have seen the truth and we would have risked our comfort for the sake of justice. It assures us that we would have been, and by extension we are now, on the side of right.
Funny how racism persists despite us white people being so darn virtuous!
MARY BROWN
New York, Aug. 29, 2011
The writer is a director and producer of documentary films.


Mary Brown's letter is in response to the essay by Patricia Turner.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What Would a Blog be Without Followers?

Many thanks to super creative YA fiction writer, Catherine Stine, for awarding me a Most Appreciated Follower!  Check out her thoughts on writing, family, treasures, & city & country life.

To pass on the friendship, I'd like to award Most Appreciated Follower to:

1. Ryoma Collia-Suzuki, the most enthusiastic friend whom I've never met!
2. Richard Sidney, one of my oldest friends.
3. Jane Reed Wilson, Sister-in-Law Extraordinaire and fabulous graphic designer.

Feel free to copy the award on your own blog/website.

On another note, my husband and I spent a wonderful hurricane weekend on Cape Cod, walking in the maelstrom, lighting kerosene lamps, and cozying up in the new bedroom. Since there was very little actual damage done by the hurricane, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in an unexpected way.  The old dark house is warm and intimate by candlelight.  What could be better?

I'm about to blow away!!
Anyone else have a hurricane story to share?