My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as those who simply love to read. You will find eclectic snippets here—news of projects I’m working on, comments regarding books I enjoy, favorite authors, quotes, and reflections regarding my own experiences. I especially like to write about my dreams—those parables in the night seasons. Symbols and metaphors delight and intrigue me. You will find them here.
I read a good book this week. The novel has an unusual title, and I'm always attracted to intriguing titles--The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood. The book tells the story of a woman, Vivien, who lives in San Francisco in 1919 and does not know if the man she loves died in the terrifying 1906 earthquake. She feels the shattering loss and withstands the sickening constancy of not knowing what happened to him. To assuage some of her own grief, Vivien begins to write obituaries for the hundreds of people who lost their loved ones in the quake. Only her style of writing about the deceased is unique. She ascertains that people come to her and first give all the details--where their loved one was born, names of siblings, information about their education and what they did for a living. After the individual summarizes the deceased's life milestones Vivien pronouces, "Let me make you some tea and toast." And when the sricken person sits down to eat the buttered toast and sip the tea, Vivien says, "Tell me about your loved one." Viven finds that this is where she uncovers the real heart of the obituary, because the story is not just about the details, but about a life.
It all began at Target. In homewares. Giovanni stood there by the rows of cutting boards and boxed stainless steel cutlery. He wore his striped shirt and green corduroy vest. (He loves vests). It was an ordinary Saturday. I walked up to him with the red Target cart and said, "I think we better go over to the Tide aisle. We need laundry soap." "Wait," he said, and steered the shopping cart over to the framed pictures. I was a little puzzled. Giovanni is not fond of looking at framed art. He really doesn't like pictures on our walls. He much prefers a smooth surface. But I followed him. He pointed to a black and white photograph of the Eiffel Tower. "Would you like to go there?" he asked. "What do you mean?" I queried back. "Do you want to go to Paris?"
I wanted to win. I'd entered a contest for authors who had published books independently. I thought I had a really good chance. I'd hired a talented editor to tighten all the loose spots, and the designer who crafted the cover is a gifted artist. I'd had a lot of positive responses to the book, so mailed out the finished product with high hopes. When the winners were announced, though, I hadn't even placed. In the past I'd entered other contests and not won. I didn't really think much about it, actually. I always told myself that simply entering contests was noteworthy--that I hadn't stopped trying--that was success in and of itself. But I was struggling this time around. I wanted external validation, not merely the internal affirmation that I could provide myself. As I grappled with the feelings of disappointment, I was able to bring myself back to my foundation--words--and the artistry of piecing them together.
Remember dodge ball? You may be too young. The game might be considered the rudimentary form of paint ball. The object is to hit as many people as you can with a large rubber ball that stings when it hits one's face, or back, or leg. I used to hate it when it was time for dodge ball as a kid in elementary school. I tried to get "hit" early so that I didn't have to be pursued. And when I was forced to be the one in pursuit, I could hardly stand throwing that ugly, rust-colored ball at the other kids. I always lost.
I am shy. My friends know me as a "raging" introvert. I don't mind being alone. In fact, I spend great quantities of time at my desk. If writing was "just writing" I'd have it made. But if an author wants readers, well it's a different ball game these days. One needs to learn how to market. I'm not one easily coaxed out of her comfort zone. Not long ago in an effort to learn more about marketing tools, I attended a seminar for self-published authors attempting to promote their books. One of the women attendees from New York stated she had dressed up as a chicken and stood in front of a large bookstore in Manhattan to promote her latest recipe book. There was no way that I could do that. No that wasn't me. I left early.