Archives for July 2011

The journey towards creativity

This morning it seemed that everything in the universe fell into place and I was able to chat with a dear friend back home in Australia. Katie  is one of those people who I have walked along side in a common journey towards fulfilment and creativity in everything. For a long time we were pretty much at the same place in our journey. We talked about the same fears, the same confusion and shared the same hope. Then something happened (I guess you could say life?) and Katie just exploded into forward motion and action. After trying several different creative outlets, she realised the one true desire of her heart was photography and focused wholly upon it. She entered her work into major competitions – and what’s more, won some of them. She worked out a marketing strategy, designed and developed a wonderfully professional looking website and even started booking clients.
 
And all I could do was look on in envy. My life wasn’t exactly in the same place as hers was. Although, when I think about it, I start to think, I am in the same place; a place of creative frustration, desire, hope and desperation. All through our conversation Katie kept telling me that we are basically the same people. That despite the differences in our current voyages, really, we are on the same pathway.

She suggested that when you get to a place when you have experienced hurt so much your whole world has been destroyed then nothing more can be fearful enough to stop you. That entering a competition or putting my work out to places for publication cannot possibly be any worse than the first few hours that walking into a strange place called a women’s shelter and admitting there was abuse in the one relationship I should have been the safest in was. Seriously; how bad can a rejection letter from a stranger feel like after living through and surviving that kind of experience?

Hazel, a writer friend shared her understanding that faith and fear are really the same thing; that they will inspire a reaction of one kind or another according to what I allow to rule my behaviour. If I allow the fear of rejection slips to overrule my desire to seek publication, then the reaction will be a life lived in the ‘could have beens’ and the ‘I wonders.’ I don’t have to emotionally deal with rejection if I don’t send my work out for others to judge. But if I act in faith and send out my work, then somewhere, somehow, despite a million rejections, eventually someone is going to like what I write and I will collect my first ‘by line’.   By acting in faith, I will be opening the doors for Divinity to start working and reveal a gift of telling stories.

So this is my challenge and my inspiration. Start writing every day again. Start off with something as simple as my morning pages (a la Julia Cameron) and let the words start to flow. Not only search out but actually enter writing competitions. Everywhere; even if they do cost money. Because I must trust that the work I create is good enough. I have to have the conviction that, as before, I don’t have to wait for the so called muse will to come to me…. That if I am faithful in my writing time, the words will come to be no matter what I feel.  That if I start to move forward, everything else will follow – in the same direction.

Thomas Keneally’s Library – and mine

 

As the end of your life started to come into clearer focus with age, what would you do with a personal library collected over the period of a lifetime? The books that you fawned over and then paid for at a favourite bookshop, gifts given for birthdays and Christmas, books borrowed from friends on pains of death to return and then never given back, or dare I even suggest, the occasionally lost library tomes that got lost in the shuffle of life.

Tom Keneally, celebrated Australian author askedhimself the same question of his personal 2500 book library and after judicious advice, decided to donate it all to the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts.  What a wonderful idea. Give the books lovingly collected over the years to a school so that the precious resource of literature isn’t lost to the rubbish dump or broken apart into meaningless little chunks.

But I wonder if Thomas Keneally wasn’t Thomas Keneally, Australian Living Treasure, if his collection would have been treated with such respect and care. I know that many people donate books to the Ottawa Public Library, and they are sold off at bargain prices (sometimes as low as $0.25 a book) rather than being added to the main collection. Often I wonder if it isn’t an insult to the deceased who left their book collections behind, hoping that the books would become part of the city collection. Although anyone who bequests the library with their collection must surely know that their precious collection will be torn apart, don’t they?  Perhaps the best idea, if you aren’t a famous, prize winning author that is, and you have a sizable assortment to share with other book lovers, is to find a small school library in which to place your collection. 

Obviously I think the best plan is to hurry up and get published, win  a few prestigious writing awards and make sure that someone, somewhere will want my collection of books when I eventually go to meet my Maker. So tell me, what are your plans for your collection? Or are you like me, and haven’t actually given it much thought – until now!

Returning with a Book List

 

 

Yes. Its recently been Canada Day. Kate and Will popped in for scones with jam and cream, and because I was moving in, (and even though I begged them not to,) a huge firework display was put on in the neighbourhood. And in honour of this country that I live in, I will be attempting to read Canadian authors more widely.
Which is the perfect segue to talking about the Random House Inc Book Challenge. Life hasn’t really lent itself to reading very much over the last couple of months. Living in a house with nine families and 15 children tends to make silence – or even just peace and quiet – a hard commodity to come by, and the lack of books to write about will reveal just how very different my life has been from earlier in the year. Joyfully I am moving into my own home soon and when everything is settled, the pleasure of reading will once again be mine.
So for better or worse, here is a combined reading list for April, May and June.

The Italian Matchmaker – Santa Montefiore
I loved it. Pure and simple. The imagery. The story line , whilst I don’t hold to the ideas about the afterlife sprouted by the author in her spiel about her inspiration, was perfect in its execution.

Sarahs Key – Tatiana de Rosney
One scene, where the author writes about the mothers and children being separated brutally had me weeping. I could feel the mothers panic, desperation and despair. I could sense the children’s fear. Gut wrenching and an eye opener for many I’m sure about the involvement and behaviour of many French people during WW2 .

Mini Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella
Same old same old. I had hoped that the character might have started to grow up and stop being so utterly daft, but it appears I am the only reader who is hoping for character development and growth. The whole series appears to have become little more than a formulaic cash cow for writer and publisher.

Eternal on the Water – Joseph Manning
I don’t often read books by men – not sure why that is, but I am grateful that I picked up this one. Although the end of the story felt a little rushed, perhaps forced to fit into a predetermined word count set by a publisher, the characters felt real and the sadness at the obvious demise still left me hurting.

Plain Truth – Jodi Picoult
OK. So I didn’t see the twist in the tail/tale, but once again, Picoult has written a book that was entertaining and easy to spend time dwelling on. I think I would have liked more about the life of the Amish people, but that could be because I’ve had a lifelong fetish with Amish people and love peeking into their world.

Dreaming in English – Laura Fitzgerald
I had to look up this book on the library webpage to read what it was about, so I guess you can read into that what you will. It was a little too perfectly wrapped up at the end for me, and totally unrealistic. Keep in mind that I am friends with a woman who is currently battling Immigration right now. She is more than capable of being a productive member of society, educated, willing and eager to study and work and still faces deportation in four months. I wish everything was as happily ever after as this book suggests.

Aprons on a Clothesline – Traci Depree
Book three in a series about an apparently ‘Any Town USA’, I didn’t realise that it was technically part of the ‘inspirational’ genre of books – code for Christian novels. Not that I have an issue with that at all. And I actually appreciated that it wasn’t ‘preachy preachy’, but overall the book hasn’t stayed in my memory over the past few months, so I have nothing more to write about it.

The Other Family – Joanna Trollope
An entertaining cautionary tale revealing the truth in the idiom “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”   Some of the characters were annoying – they could have done with a slap or two – but overall, I could read this book to the end without wondering when the ending was ever going to come.

 

The Wishing Chair Collection – Enid Blyton
Read this series of books to Bronwen as her first foray into chapter books. The adult in me sniggered at how totally judgemental, class oriented Blyton was in her writing, but the pleasure of a little girl asking for ‘just one more chapter Mummah’ is timeless.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake – Aimee Bender
This particularly interesting book was somehow twisted into something a little bizarre in the end… but was still an absorbing read.

Home Truths – Jill McLean
Interesting to read the build up and explosion of violence in a domestic situation. Would be nice if society did step in when they gained the knowledge of abuse and did something about it. But then, that would require people to look beyond themselves, take a risk in getting to know their neighbours and saying something in a particularly awkward situation.

The Prairie Bridesmaid – Daria Salamon
So much of the insights of this character reveal much of what has occurred in my life of late. Painfully personal for me to read and impossible to write about.

The Girls – Lori Lansens
Such an unexpected story topic… craniopagus twins! It was interesting to see the change in strength between the two sisters over the course of the story. No real surprise in the end – the twists and turns come inside the novel itself.

The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton
Glorious. The perfect overlapping of several characters, one mystery and history blended with current day life. Cannot wait for this authors other book to land in my ‘inbox’ at the library. Absorbing, well written and utterly believable. The twist is one you always knew was coming in the back of your head; actually I thought there was something even more sinister than what was revealed, but satisfying in the end.

 
 I hope that as soon as I get settled and find my way to the local library I can resume my reading habit!

Mem Fox’s Possum Magic Indeed

 

I guess there really is some possum magic happening in the Fox household…..OK.. that was in poor taste. But I wonder, does the revelations of authors lives change how you see the books that they write?

I know that after the news that Robert Munsch was recovering from an alcohol and cocaine addiction, I considered his books in a whole different light. I think that it must be a Canadian thing that I just dont get….. I dont understand why his childrens books are so popular and that people think they are funny. Nor does my six year old understand it either.  Then I sarcastically considered the possibility that you had to be drunk or high to see the humour.

And the acknowledgement that Marian Keyes is struggling with depression and it currently unable to write anything new gave me a better understanding of the struggle to keep developing story lines that will excite and tempt a reader into handing over heard earned cash to buy a new book. Truly, they dont call it the Black Dog for nothing; it can rule or even destroy a life.

So the revelation in the news today of Mem Fox’s husband denying a sexual relationship with a 17 year old boy and her standing by him alters how I see her. I cant help it. I read things like that and it says a lot about the people involved according to my filter of the world.

Am I the only person who is this way? Can you hear about a persons life and hold their work separate from the work that they create? Or does it make authors – these people who I am guiltly of idolising at times – more human. More reachable. More like myself? Or would I prefer to keep my writing idols on the pedestal?  What about you?