Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shaking off the Dust....

Well! I think I've recovered from the Inauguration. I got myself all prepared for it (fortunately I didn't have to work or anything). I had two knitting projects, a BIG box of tissues (knowing myself as I do), a pot of tea and a notebook and pencil lest I should have any impressions.

Oh - I also had the husband buy me some DVDS....I'd never recorded anything on a DVD but I figured it was probably not a good idea to tape it on VHS. So there I was, and the whole thing unfolded. There were about 9.4 bazillion people in Washington - and I venture to say that there were probably not many people in the country not watching. Well...I know some people had to work and couldn't, and some really didn't have the means, and of course there were people who felt as *I* did for the last two Inaugurations - not worth watching.

But the whole Witness to History thing got to me big-time, Civil Rights Worker that I was/am. I guess my thinking now is that we have a man singularly appropriate for the job at hand, a man wise enough and young enough and bright enough to at least be able to sort OUT the nasty knot that the country seems to be in, and because his message is that we are ALL going to have to work on it, I'm betting time.....with a lot of crossing and pulling and tugging and following loops to their ends, that we'll be able to put back the skein into some semblance of order.

I pretty much wept through the whole thing, but I downright CRIED when I saw the ancient Tuskegee Airmen standing there, or saw Dr. King's son (who looks much like his father). And I cried over things like seeing the President {yay} and the First Lady {yay} hold hands as they walked along the parade route. Later in the evening I watched some of the Balls that they had to go to (I imagine by then they BOTH wanted nothing but a glass of orange juice and a hot bath) and I watched them dance together and it struck me that anyone watching them, who maybe didn't even know who they were, would still have two impressions: 1) those are some TALL FOLKS; and 2) they really do care for each other, deeply.

The contrasts between the "current Administration" and the last are as glaring as being taken from icy water into a soft, warm blanket.....and I've been reading blog comments all over the place and it seems to me that by FAR the greater number of "my fellow Amurricans" are saying things like "hope" and "optimism" and "relief". And you know - if it was the SELF-SAME guy, and even he wasn't black, I think we'd be saying the same things.

I can't stand Ashton Kucher. (How's that for a topic change?) Anyway, I never liked "Punked" or any of that stuff. But he (!) said something that I found one of the most inspiring things said during all that long day. I'm probably paraphrasing, but what he said went something like this:
"I've seen Presidents hand off the baton to Presidents -- but this is the first time I've seen the President hand the baton to the people." It's true, the whole message is that we're in this grim, sticky, war-filled pool, watching the whole economy not only fall into the toilet but hearing it flush, and yet -- by gum, if we ALL put some effort into it, we will be able to get out!

I love that there are children in the White House again. I love that our First Lady wore a gown designed by some 26-year-old kid (whose name will now be preserved.....with the the Smithsonian). I love that she orders stuff online.

I love that Obama took a train and hung out the back waving at people (like Lincoln). I like that he used Lincoln's Bible to take the Oath on. I like that he ate pheasants from Wisconsin at his fancypants Inaugural luncheon (and that it was somehow like Lincoln's too).

And I like the fact that we have a President in whom I have some faith. But it makes me wonder....what are John Stewart and Stephen Colbert going to talk about? (In the words of me aul' mother o' blessed memory, "may that be the worst problem you have all year!")

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thinking of Wigwams.......

If you look at any blogs being written in Wisconsin you'll see the same story: it's about -22 degrees outside this evening (and if you take into account "Wind Chill" factors, it's about -47 degrees).

In Wisconsin terms, when it's colder than twenty degrees below zero, we concede that it's "gettin' there". It's pretty cool out.....downright chilly. When it drops below about thirty degrees below zero (especially before wind chill) we nod wisely and say, "Uhn-huh....gettin' cold. Pretty cold out."

Of course, on the flip side, when Weatherman Gary announces that it may be up to 34 degrees above zero next week - even if it IS still January, we start rooting through the drawers to find shorts and tank tops, because clearly summer is right around the corner. And believe me -- when it gets up to +50 degrees in March we WILL be going out in sweatshirts. It's all relative, and we have a saying here: "If you don't like the weather.........just wait a minute." (We have been known to have three distinct seasons -- between sun-up and sundown, in one day.)

So what has that to do with wigwams? Well, think about this: in the Old Days, it would be lovely and snug in the wigwam. The sleeping mats are drawn close to the glowing fire, the buffalo robes and beaver-pelt covers are warm. But then -- nature calls. Imagining this I thank the Powers that Be once again for the brilliant thinking that evolved into the Indoor Bif, for which I am eternally grateful. Just sayin'.

On the writing front -- I did a little tidying-up of the first ten pages of my NaNo novel (!) and boldly took it with me to my Writing Group. I felt cheeky as all get-out, truth to tell -- but I did it. Now, I have to admit - the first few pages I was really writing -- I got into the heavy-duty padding a little later on. I was more nervous than usual - I've taken short stories with me up until now and gotten excellent meaty comments and some decent feedback. A "novel" is a whole different pig race.

Well -- I did get the anticipated good comments, some descriptions of such things as "point of view", &c, and two comments which I took particularly to heart -- no, three actually.

1. They said that they DO all agree that those first moments intimate a story worth telling, and that I definitely SHOULD continue with the salvage plan;

2. My long suit is, without any doubt, description, and they all enjoy my descriptions. Stephanie again said various bits were evocative, which is, in my mind, about the highest praise. "Evocative", to me, is the imaginative creation of an experience, and when I read stories that *I* feel evocative I am one happy reader;

and the 3rd comment, which truly went to my core: I think it was Patty said it but the others concurred: I should start to think past "short stories" and begin planning and anticipating longer works, perhaps YA - but in the realm of NOVEL.

Those group meetings are always stimulating, inspiring -- but I thought that was really something. What it means, of course, is that I'm going to have to buckle down even more, start to get much more serious, and instead of fancying myself a writer I'm going to have to accept and embrace the identity of "Writer" and act like one.

My new-found discipline that saw me keeping up the word count every single day during NaNoWriMo has .... waned, diminished, faded - and must be revived and stimluated. I'm not going to say "Resolution"....but I'm going to try to establish some compartments in my daily turn. I'm easily distracted (OK, I'll wait while you laugh your behinds off, wipe your eyes and regain control) but c'mon, after 10:30 pm I have a chunk of time Entirely My Own, and I'm going to try to establish a genuine habit of going into my writing room and ... you know, writing! (The sad part? The reason I'm going for 10:30 pm is that theres nothing I want to see on the teevee after that. Sheesh.) resolutions, but I'm going to make a little list:

1. Reduce the amount of time spent in front of the teevee
2. Fill the time away from the teevee with knitting or reading (or knitting AND reading)
3. Except for the Tuesday Night Conference online, keep Daisy in the Writing Room. (Note to self: if you try to watch the teevee AND write or work on the computer, it doesn't work.)
4. Sublist: items requiring genuine research, and it is NOT one minute too soon:
a) Mary Hayes-Chnoweth
b) The Metis Wife and Mother in the Fur Trade
c) that lady doctor up north


Put in scheduled time to work on not only the novel but the other ideas -- and last -- set a goal for myself, a deadline, and actually DO submit the stories the Group told me to submit. Those magazines aren't going to come to the door asking for something to publish.

That is all. Now then - to work!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

That's not a windstorm.....'s ME, sighing with relief. All the busy and all the fussy and all the anticipation that lead up to the holidays are past, and so are the holidays. I love 'em, but the older I get the happier I am with my good ol' routine, with my normal daily round (or what passes for normal anyway).

2009! I remember sitting in my little desk at Eugene Field Elementary School in Minneapolis -- it must have been about 1951, and thinking, for some reason, "I wonder if I'll still be alive when it goes from 19-- to 20--?" I also remember being just tickled when we could finally write "1956", although I've no idea why. No, wait -- I think I turned 13 that year, maybe that was it.

And following that thought - when I WAS 13 my sister was away at college and I had my parents and the house to myself as though I were an only child. The only thing I really remember of that was that, a few days after she'd left (she went to school in Ann Arbor) Mom and Dad and I went to try out a new thing in our neighborhood: a PIZZA place! And of that? What I remember most was the novelty of being out for dinner (a rarity) AND of it being "just the three of us". Hmmm....

(Have I ever pointed out, here, that I tend to DIGRESS? I'll apologize right here for it because it's going to happen again. And again.)

Now then - my NaNoWriMo novel. Can you believe it? I still haven't just gone back and read it straight through!! I might be just a little bit afraid to -- but the Husband has. He said he liked it, and did say that it would be worth going back to edit. It was pretty clear to him that there were vast sections where I'd been really trying for word count (well fer SHER) but it was his opinion that there may be a salvageable story in there.

I'm not much one for Resolutions; seems to me they're self-defeating. But I think that I'll make a Decision for the New Year, and that's to do it. To go back, to resurrect those characters, and to make a real effort to get into that story armed with vinegar and water, crumpled newspapers, and a stout broom and see what I have left at the end. It COULD be that I'll tidy here, polish there, rearrange something -- and wind up with "The End". But if the experience of editing it is even HALF the learning that the writing was, I'll still be ahead of the game.

I really do like the feeling of a new year beginning and all the effluvia of the last year gone and blown away. This year, of course, there's much to be optimistic about, not the least of which is the change to a cognizant, intelligent, clear-thinking young man in the White House, which fills me with a confidance I'd all but forgotten.

The economy is in the toilet (and guess what, it's been flushed) but MAYBE, just MAYBE, folks will look around and recognize their WEALTH, which has been hidden under all the STUFF. Instead of going out to a restaurant maybe some families will gather around their supper tables again.

Perhaps instead of agonizing over a ton of new clothes because the season has turned, girls will get creative and realize that they have an infinite number of new outfits already - all they have to do is pair things up differently or add one of the many scarves........

I think what I'm thinking is this: Husband and I have always said "We're absolutely as rich as Croesius - we just don't have much money" and I think that would be true of everyone if they only paused a moment and thought about it. Two quotations come to me, both popularized during the Depression (and as a writer, and one not very sharp about maths, I'm not sure what the difference is between then and now in the scheme of things):

"Wear it out, use it up, make it do or do without". Just take recycling a little further than we have been and it's a win-win-win-win-win.

"Do and say the kindest thing, always in the kindest way". That was on classroom walls for many, many years. It's the Golden Rule, it's the Wiccan Rede, it's just simply the way it should be.

Now then - my Writers' Group meets on Monday, and I have some work to do. I don't know if I'll begin taking "the novel" to that or not, but I may; otherwise, it's going to be a very writerly weekend.

Oh - and to anyone who may be reading this: I do hope that this new year brings you contentment, delight, curiosity, opportunity, optimism, enthusiasm and laughter. And prosperity, of whichever sort brings you the most of the aforementioned!