25 October 2009

music is my muse

At least one of them. For me, music comes from the same place as my writing. It evokes the same emotive response in a way that beautiful writing moves me. I would consider it the highest level of achievement to touch that place of music with my words.

Luciano Pavarotti embodied that place of words and music and bore its beauty to the world. He will be forever revered. This is his last public performance at the Opening Ceremony of the 2007 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. I am moved to tears each time I watch this performance.

I am forever indebted to my parents for bringing music into our home. My father recorded countless hours of classical music on reel-to-reel from the USAF base library where we were stationed in Tacoma before we went overseas. I grew up with Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Dvorak, Bach, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven - from the classics to the obscure. And my mother enforced the daily 30-minute piano practice that gifted me with a tactile connection to the music we heard every day. It was how I first heard the muse that inspired me to write at all.


10 October 2009

what's real - what's not

Spending a lot of time lately fact checking. If you write a story into a real setting, I think you have a responsibility to make sure you get the real parts right.

Questions like did it really snow in Redmond Christmas 1981? Where would a brand new U.S. Marine go to boot camp if he enlisted in Seattle? And would said same new Marine be hot or cold on August 17, 1990 as he arrived on his new assignment? Or who won the Super Bowl in 1982? (I admit, that's a cheater one because I remember when it happened.)

Today I watched some classic NFL footage. Read stats from all kinds of places, online and that old traditional method: books. Spent some time talking to my USMC cousin in D.C. with some real-life experience in the Gulf War. Read some historical TIME magazine articles. Googled "Scud Bowl." Watched part of a George Clooney movie.

Over the last couple of months, my husband has had to field a whole lot of random questions. As if I was the 3-year old he needed to revisit: do the schools close in Tam O' Shanter if it snows? can you find me a 24-year old weather report? 25-year? what high school did those kids attend? when you were a kid, did you see a Steller's jays or just scrub jays? was there a fence around the golf course? what kind?

Confounded by so many notebooks of so many facts, I have been writing around and around the story today. Perhaps sleep will bring it all together into an intuitive informing of character for tomorrow.

Or perhaps I'll just have that dream, like my daughter, where I am really hungry and the refrigerator is full of only one thing: eggs. Cartons and cartons of eggs.

Analyze that.



01 October 2009

good, bad and ugly

Wednesday is the longest day of the week, what with the writing workshop from 6:30-10 pm. It comes right after a full day of work, drive across state lines (not as far as you might think), peanut-butter sandwich and a triple-shot americano. Last night was especially difficult since I have this pain-like-fire in my back that is probably left over from Saturday when I slipped on spilled milk and fell in the grocery store, quite the moment of excitement in itself.

Personal visuals aside, workshopping has been a valuable experience for me. I gain so much from being able to participate in the shared experience of working with other writers to study and practice the craft of writing. I appreciate the practical nitty-gritty of language - the good, the bad AND the ugly. The collective experience of the group becomes a powerful, motivating and positive learning experience for me. Plus, there are times when I get to hear absolute moving, heart-breaking beauty, like last night with a piece from one of the writers, Mir.

17-ish years ago when I was actively writing and trying to get into an MFA program, I was in a weekly workshop with author and teacher Fran├žois Camoin. I also did a conference workshop with author Phyllis Barber. Both were inspiring. It seemed like a bright beginning to a bright future.

My reality is that life fell apart shortly thereafter, not in any small part due to my own sustained shortcomings. I lost my family. Lost myself. Lost my faith. Everything I thought I knew about anything changed. And I stopped writing. I did not write a word for almost ten years.

New Year's Eve 2004, two women who had become my friends and mentors were killed by a drunk driver on Martin Luther King Boulevard as they drove home from a celebration powwow. Losing them seemed unbearable, beyond tragic, and I was without a way to grieve. I had lost so much, and while I had come back a great ways, I still could not seem to get my feet solidly under me. As if I had gone so far down that there was no coming back.

Desperate for some solace, I began to write in a plain college composition book. Journaling, perhaps, although it wasn't really a daily journal so much as it was an outpouring of words and pieces of language that spun through my thoughts day and night. The act of writing gave me the smallest pause in the chaos, a moment of peace. It gave me a voice when I did not think I had one left. Allowed me my grief and my joy.
Connected me to that which is greater than us all.

I reached out and joined a peer review group led by Christi Krug, Wildfire Writing. Christi is a kind and supportive writing coach and exactly what I needed at the time. She also pointed me in the direction of Stevan and Joanna and the current workshop group, Over the Pinewood Table, that has also resulted in what I would consider a number of life-long friendships.

I have gone in and out of workshops ever since. But more importantly, I continue to write. Daily. It probably just sounds sentimental to say that writing saved my life. I wonder. But so what if it has?