Friday, May 29, 2015

Langage Plain Enough to Comprehend

Over the years I have encountered the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in histories and various collections of his wit and wisdom.  I knew already I had a collection of quotes of his on my bookshelf, but I still chose to buy this slim volume at a neighbor's garage sale.

Edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi 2007 Fall River Press

Here is a quote from page three that my desire to communicate well can take to heart:

I can say this, that among my earliest recollections I remember how, when a mere child, I used to get irritated when anybody talked to me in a way I could not understand...I can remember going to my little bedroom, after hearing the neighbors talk of an evening with my father, and spending no small part of the night walking up and down, and trying to make out what was the exact meaning of some of their, to me, dark sayings.  I could not sleep, though I often tried to, when I got on such a hunt after an idea, until I had caught it; and when I thought I had got it, I was not satisfied until I had repeated it over and over, until I had put it in language plain enough, as I thought, for any boy I knew to comprehend.
 A remark by  President Abraham Lincoln made to Reverend J.P. Gulliver, from Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln by F.B. Carpenter

Another way this childhood remembrance of Lincoln's desire to understand adult communication encouraged me is that it validated the theme and intent of a short story I wrote a few years back and which I had recently pulled from the drawer to refine up a bit.

I need to clean out those heavy file folders in my drawers and  I hope to do it without being too rough on some of those early manuscripts.  A little validation and encouragement might give me just the right touch.  I miss having a fireplace though...somehow burning old journals and rough drafts feels different than shredding them.  Perhaps it is just that crackle and warmth of the fire versus the mechanical sound of the sheering teeth of the shredder slicing the words into confetti that still needs to be recycled. Ah, but there is is something to the instant finality of flame licking through those pages one wrote and saved and then released as somehow no longer needed...especially those not written in language plain enough to be truly comprehended.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Author Robert Raynolds ...What is at the heart of any story?

This book begins with a very gracious setting of tone and scene. 
     The narrative character is a Roman,a pagan,the son of a senator, and a very ambitious man.  He opens the story by sharing a conviction he says he  was born with,that life is good. This,his earliest conviction, has stayed with him in his more than seventy years. Before beginning the action of his story at the climax of the reign of Emperor Theodosius the Great, the narrator wants first to give a view of his Roman world and he says he wants  "... to fulfill the ancient courtesy of introducing myself, a Roman." (page 9 The Sinner of Saint Ambrose by Robert Raynolds (c)  1952) 

A few pages later our narrator says: hope by now I have conveyed in words something of that warm subtle sense of an actual meeting-how it is to feel the presence of a man before you know his name or hear his story. ( p 13)

And so we meet up with history through the fictive autobiography of Gregory Julian. Author Robert Raynolds artfully tends not to intrude, but I believe I do hear his hope in this passage below: 
 “ I have always been able to find a man or a woman who sensed what I felt and understood what I was talking about.  I think it is as simple as this, that people know life is at center an almost incredible mystery, and we love to communicate our strangeness to one another.  For the true interest of a man’s life to himself and to others is not only in what he did in the lusty days of his doing, but this interest resides deeply also in what the man thinks about it all when he finally matures, reflects and weighs for value. Then the open heart understands the wordless and the unexplained, and in my experience, compassion and sympathy are established.  This is a delightful thought, for it leads me to hope that between the lines of my story the reader is going to meet and understand the inner man of my heart.  For his interior life is the vital part of the man.”( Page 12) is often a storyteller's hope that: "...between the lines of my story, the reader is going to meet and understand the inner man of my heart..."

    "Perhaps one of the tragedies of human society is this, that no public man is as good as his private self might have been.  Or it could be put the other way around, since we are all part public, that society is composed of the tragedies of people.  Once he knows this, a sane man and compassionate man will love individuals more and more and society less." ( page 11)

 I found this book in a second hand shop with  a "Book of the Month Club" review still tucked into it and found myself reading all 443 pages of the tale. 

It's a compelling story; old Romans have quite a bit they can teach us. 
"What use is it for a corrupt generation to preach moral precepts to it's children?...When the state dishonors its obligation...justice is sold,  hatred is preached...children can see for themselves...For have not adults set before them these examples of how life is lived?" ( page 396)

Center pages of the Book of the month Club Review

You are in good hands with this narrator...and his author. "As I said, I was born with a fundamental confidence that life is good.  The fact that I have lived seventy-odd years would not amount to much unless I had been able to retain a respect for life and an affection for people. ( Page 13)

"At the heart of any story I could ever tell would be the tragic wonder of the human spirit..." (page 13)


It is certainly a good question for any storyteller to ask themselves...what is at the heart of any story I tell?

best to you,

P.S.  I have not yet seen any other of  Robert Raynold's work but here are a few titles: 

Brothers in the West
The Choice to Love
In Praise of Gratitude 
Thomas Wolfe: Memoir of a Friendship

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Creativity...Chalk it UP!

Chalk it up to sheer creative energy....
two senior Advertising and Graphic Design students decided class projects were overwhelming rather than inspiring and so they switched from computer to chalk boards .

  Here is one that caught  my eye,  and speaking of motivation I do like the message.

by Dangerdust

 You can read about the two chalk artists  known as Dangerdust HERE.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There's a Book Being Written on a Bench by the Sea

There is a trail above this beach.  Native plants  edge the sides, wild radish,  mustard yellow rocket, golden rattlesnake grass, buckwheats and curly docks and lots and lots of poison oak.  Lizards and rabbits scurry across the trail from the northern hillside to the brush above the sands but  I stay on the path and enjoy the view from the soft dusty center. 

There are benches along the trail, most of them donated as memorials to previous trail pilgrims.  The first few times I saw a shoe box sized plastic container under one of the benches, I thought someone must have forgotten it.  It wasn't mine. I didn't even think of opening it.

The next time I saw it, I thought perhaps someone must trustingly leave their art materials on location so they can have them at will.   Then one day I saw a couple looking at two journals and at their feet was the open box full of pens and crayons and colored pencils. 

I realized the books must be something for everyone to share...and so eventually, at a later date, I peeked.

 Children feel free to stop and write or draw as well as older visitors. 

The path and the water, the rocks and the birds, the sky- the air, the ambient quiet of the waves...this is already a place of refuge and rest and restoration...and yet someone thought to make benches too and then...someone left the means  to draw a little picture or write  a word  or two... and leave it to share.

I hope there are many such places made in the world...corners gentled for reflection and recollection and communication for anyone passing along the way.

                                                            No, I haven't written anything in it yet...but I might.  
What might you write in a little book by sea? 

Here's to places of rest and refuge...  Jeannette

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Been thinking..

and reading and working and writing, how about you?

Here's a quote I read today:

Marshall McLuhan said, “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.” 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Stein On Writing : My Diagnosis is Dire! a book review

     Reading  Sol Stein's 1995  Stein on Writing was like getting a full physical and the follow-up lab on my cherished but anemic writing.  I had poked around in chapters before because his book is, as he says, not theory but usable solutions, however I had not yet read it straight through from page 3 to 303.  Now, this first month of 2013,  I have done so.  Even  if the book jacket didn't announce the depths of his editorial experience, as I read I knew I was reading someone who has wielded a red pen as keenly as a surgeon wields a scalpel.

It is, in some ways,  a terrible book to read.  Having himself been subjected, luckily he explains, to what he calls the wisdom and tyranny of experts when he was brimming with hope and arrogance every chapter has a "so you think you can write?"  tone.   He describes himself as being a cocky beginner,  describes conferences with his teachers as "ordeals" and himself as one who "slunk away" to rethink what he had written.  Of course this man is tough to read, because he has experienced that a writer needs a tough skin and he has in his subsequent years as an editor undoubtably poked at many writers of thin and tender tissue as if they were hairy hided.
"It took some time for me to learn the other lesson, that a writer, shy or not, needs a tough skin, for no matter how advanced one's experience and career, expert criticism cuts to the quick, and one learns to endure and to perfect, if for no other reason than to challenge the pain maker."  ( page 5)
He is however, eager to impart his secrets, his keys to credibility.  If you think your prose is fit and trim, read his chapter on liposuctioning flab and subject your work to a new level of scrutiny before someone else does!

I am still thinking about Chapter 10 - The Adrenaline Pump: Creating Tension.  As much as I have to learn from an expert like Mr. Stein, there is much about his world view that has no draw for me.   The opening of chapter 10 however,  pricked like a needle:
"Writers are troublemakers.  A psychotherapists tries to relieve stress, strain and pressure.  Writers are not psychotherapists.  Their job is to give readers stress, strain and pressure..."(page 105

Yes, and yet I still don't  believe this. The world is full of trouble and the maker of it has many minions, those consciously on board and  unknowing dupes.  Yet I  hear an echo of a word I was given and  know I need to heed, "Your characters are all too nice to each other."  This critique was  delivered to me by a trusted friend, a mentor in realms of utmost importance, and I want to heed it.
 I'm working to understand how to identify the type of trouble it would be worthy to make.  Who should I trouble and to what ends?

 In the meantime, I recommend Stein on Writing  if you want to check the pulse and stamina of your own work or even just become a more discerning reader.   He is a doctor of the craft and chapter by chapter lays out the tools  needed to practice.  When you need surgery it is best to overlook your longing for the doctor with great bedside manner and find the one who really does know how to cut.  Stein  writes:
 "Is it panful to cut a whole scene?  Yes, indeed. Why then should you do it? Because like a surgeon you are interested in preserving the body of the work by cutting out a part that's not working properly or that's causing harm to the body as a whole." ( page 282) 

And of course when you find the very weakest link in your work and repair or remove that, there is a new weakest member.

I'm ready to read some of my sequestered work before I re-shelve these incisive instructions.

I would be glad to hear what you think of this book.  I'm usually slow in getting around to reading what  most everyone else has already read so perhaps you've already read Stein or have another book on writing you  might recommend with or without reservations?  I enjoy hearing from you.

(Quotes from the first paperback edition published by St.Martin's Griffen, New York.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

J.R.R.. Tolkien on Peril in the World...

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."

J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings