Thursday, January 27, 2011

Live On the Edge, Write With Exuberance

Who is this kid, anyway, and what is his mother thinking, letting him run around without pants? Hmmm. Actually, that kid would be mine and keeping his pants on is a full time job. (Lol.)

This little man loves life. And he lives it on the edge--as much as a seven-year-old can--hugging random strangers at the grocery store and using his school's elevator during recess. (His principal does not approve.)

I wish I had some of my sons unfettered joy of life and make-believe. I'd definitely be a better writer if I did.

I raise my cup of herbal tea in a toast. Let's make today a day of exuberance and optimism. (But please, keep your pants on.)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New View

My husband and I were strolling along through Central Park when he stopped and snapped this lovely scene. It's one of my favorite souvenirs of our trip. What a great guy! Handsome face, pretty eyes, and a clever photographer as well. I am a lucky girl.

Every time I look at this pic I notice the unusual perspective with the pine trees in the foreground. It offers me a new way of remembering that sunny pond. As though my husband and I were emerging from the shadows into a bright, enchanting world of our own.

It's nice to see things with fresh eyes.

Hmm, I feel an analogy coming on. Here it is, blogger friends. Sometimes, diverging from the beaten path of writing makes all the difference in a story.

How do you change your perspective when you need a new idea for an old manuscript? Do you take a walk, read a dictionary, talk to friends, research? Actually, I do enjoy a good dictionary read once in a while . . . What do you do?

Well, I'm off to paint my mudroom and guest bath in beach-y tones. Already half-done and looking good. Think teal and grey respectively, both with crisp white trim. Next step, making a shell wreath and doing faux plaster in the French Country kitchen/great room. As you can tell, I'm a do-it-yourself type. But only once a year to distract me from the winter doldrums. These projects give me a renewed appreciation for some undervalued spaces.

If only fixing my plot lines were so easy!

Happy Monday!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Carl Bloch

As a child, I grew up admiring the work of Danish painter Carl Bloch. The other night I had the opportunity of taking my children to see a Bloch exhibit. What a wonderful, pinch-yourself moment!
This is a portrait of the artist himself. He was born in 1800's Copenhagen. His parents wanted him to become a naval officer, but he had other ambitions. Rembrandt was Bloch's inspiration and hero. A handsome, talented man, wasn't he?
Much of Bloch's greatest success as an artist came from his altarpieces. I sat on a small chair in a dim room and gazed at his glorious Gethsemane. The angel's hair glows from the canvas.
This work is entitled, Let's Go For A Swim! I think it is both clever and whimsical. Bloch had a sense of humor mixed in with all his other gifts. Although I did not show any examples here, his beach scenes are so ahead of their time.
A landscape entitled Rising Moon. I look at this and imagine the damp evening air and the lapping water.
King Christian II Jailed. Notice the depth, color, and light within this painting. The shadows create a disturbing atmosphere. Remarkable.
Getting Ready For the Carnival. I love the reflection in the mirror, the blue wall, and her radiant hair and skin.
These are a series of Bloch's engravings. Amazing that he could create something so intricate by cutting grooves into a hard, blank surface. I really enjoyed Old Woman Feeding Sparrows. It reminded me of the char woman feeding the birds in Mary Poppins.
Sweet. First Love.
At the Pub.

It's interesting to learn that Carl Bloch did not do any etchings for 12 years. Returning to the craft with renewed perspective and passion, he is now known as a true master of this art form. That's a good lesson for us all. It's never too late to begin again. (Even for writers experiencing a creative block ;)

When Bloch's wife died unexpectedly, leaving him with a broken heart and eight children to raise, he faced depression and loss of motivation. His friend, Hans Christian Andersen, wrote, "Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth."

Carl Heinrich Bloch took his friend's advice and became noble in deed and art. After his death from cancer in 1890, an insightful eulogy was read at his funeral, "Bloch stays and lives."

It's true. He does.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

So Sad But So Good

Do you have a song that you play when you need cheering up? Every writer should have one. Or ten.

I do.

And please keep in mind that I come from a karaoke-singing, Rock Band-playing family. We sing these songs loud with the music blaring, and they always chase disappointment away.

Here are my top ten pick-me-up favorites:

1. Cry To Me by Solomon Burke
"Well, here I am, honey. Oh, come on, you cry to me." I smile as I sing along with this one. Who wouldn't? Solomon Burke could sing me the telephone directory, and I'd be happy.
2. Try A Little Tenderness by Otis Redding.
3. Bring It On Home by Sam Cooke
4. Get Over It by The Eagles.
5. Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones
6. It's A Long Way To The Top by AC/DC
7. Here We Go Again by Whitesnake
8. My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelley Clarkson
9. The Diary of Jane by Breaking Benjamin
10. I'm Not Crying, Business Time, Think About It or anything by Flight Of The Conchords. Hilarious. Love you Jemaine and Brett!

What songs make you happy?

But on those days when I want catharsis and to wallow in sorrow and open a metaphorical vein-

Whiskey Lullaby by Brad Paisley

"She put him out like the burning end of a midnight cigarette.
She broke his heart. He spent his whole life trying to forget.
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind, until the night
He put the bottle to his head and pulled the trigger."

Hurt by Johnny Cash

"I hurt myself today,
to see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain,
the only thing that's real."

Oh, ouch. Ouch! Maybe my problems aren't so bad . . .

What are your so-sad-they're-good songs?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Bait

John Donne, I like you. A lot.

A scholar, a ladies man, a poet, and something of a rebel, you satirized the society of your time, married your bosses niece, and had twelve children with her. And if that weren't enough, you later became a priest and movingly delivered your own funeral sermon three weeks prior to your death.

Remarkable by any standards, good sir. You wrote, and lived, with style. You also enjoyed a good metaphor and used symbolism skillfully, making topics like unity and death and life more understandable. Take these two excerpts from Meditations XVII.

1. "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
2. "And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

You are a writer's writer, Mr. Donne. We love to borrow from your work and finding inspiration there, we create upon your greatness. (Hemingway certainly did, not to mention Simon and Garfunkel.)

And sometimes you took a cue from others. Christopher Marlowe's The Passionate Shepherd To His Love was posthumously published in 1599 and began with, "Come live with me, and be my love." Never a fool, you recognized a good line, and using Marlowe's first words, you made them even better in The Bait.

"Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will some new pleasures prove
Of golden sands, and crystal brooks,
With silken lines and silver hooks.

There will the river whisp'ring run
Warm'd by thy eyes, more than the sun ;
And there th' enamour'd fish will stay,
Begging themselves they may betray . . ."

This love song sounds a lot like The Bait. Come Live With Me written by Bryant and Felice Boudleaux and performed by Ray Charles. (Click on the song title and listen to this youtube rendering, bloggers. Let me know what you think.)

Thank you for sharing your cleverness, Mr. Donne. Centuries later, you still have people talking.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Life Vs. Fiction

Sometimes life gives fiction a run for its money.

For example, a friend of my family once told me the true story of his "wicked" granny. The aforementioned lady lived in the late 1800's, and she was the lovely daughter of a good, upstanding family. Here is where the wicked part comes in. This prim, recently-engaged woman entered the local post office to mail some letters and saw a handsome stranger across the lobby. They were instantly drawn to one another, as if they had no other choice, as if the universe or fate had stepped in and arranged their meeting. Dazzled and giddy, these two didn't question their good fortune. They ran away together and got married that day, leaving the girl's family, and her former sweetheart, agog. What makes this tale even more amazing? They loved each other for more than six decades. Until death parted them.

I first heard this story as a teenager, and I thought it was Romeo and Juliet come to life. Wonderful, romantic, unconventional, and innocently daring.

Those unexpected, little ironies that life tosses our way often make the best stories of all. Indeed, miracles can happen, even in this cynical old world. Ever have an experience that's truly stranger than fiction?

Monday, January 3, 2011


I love Guy Lombardo's rendition of Auld Lang Syne. I tear up every time I hear it because I think of the people who made me. Or helped me make myself. I look back at my childhood, that box of cherished memories and hard knocks, and I think of the metaphorical road I've traveled.

On New Year’s Eve, I withhold a few, quiet moments from my busy household and reflect on my blessings.

Such as . . .

1. Soft sweaters. It doesn't matter if they are old, new or in-between. When you put on a soft sweater, it feels like you're getting a hug. And I can never be hugged enough in my opinion.

2. Second chances. Third chances. To infinity and beyond chances . . . After enduring the monumental parental responsibility that is Christmas and knowing I have failed to provide the enchanting yuletides of my youth for my children, I am all for the underdog in need of exoneration. My heart aches for the person who doesn't have faith in change. Seriously, life would be intolerable if we didn't have the hope of forgiveness, if we couldn't believe that someday we could finally rid ourselves of the demons that have shackled and barred us from complete happiness.

3. Board Games. Few things compare with seeing your child's face light up while playing a game. In that relatively small amount of time, you can forget your troubles and remember why you love the people you love. And laughter? There is laughter all around, sometimes until your eyes water. Just ask my sons about the SLAM scrabble episode involving the word Larry...

4. My husband. I'm a big fan of marriage. If Louis were to repeat his proposal, "Could you possibly, maybe, consider becoming my wife?" I’d say yes again in a flash. Especially when he takes my hand and turns those beautiful grey-green eyes my way.

5. Our dog Matilda. I think this puggle is adorable, but she’s still undecided about me. I kind of like her playing hard to get, and I also like that she snores louder than any person I’ve ever known.

New Year's Eve reminds me of the treasures I possess. It tells me who I am, and like the glittery ball dropping through the darkness on the last night of the year, leads me towards more in the days ahead.

How was your New Year’s Eve? What are your treasures?