Toast & Leather, not Leathery Toast

Saturday morning. The smell of toast. Suddenly it barrels into me, sending me awash with childhood memories, nothing in particular, just an overall sensation & security.

They say, that smell is our most powerful sense, conjuring up memories, & entire atmospheres with a single pertinent sniff. I cannot smell a leather jacket without remembering the day my hubby proposed to me, wearing—that’s right all you bright people—his leather jacket. And I don’t just picture the memory, but all the sounds & sights & feelings from that day encompass me. That’s how powerful our sense of smell is, linking us to all our other senses.

So how does this tie in to the writing life? Well let’s say  if it doesn’t, our writing may as well be part of the hog reports on the local farm channel. Flat. Flavourless. Footsore.

It’s easy to remember to include sight in our writing, describing people & places, sometimes to gluttonous excess, leaving us reeling & holding our gut. That’s important— after all readers want to see what we picture when we write. What about our other senses?felix-the-cat-5-senses

Taste—If a character eats Belgian chocolate, are they going to just chomp it up & there’s an end to it, or are they going to savour it to which point we also begin to drool, rereading the passage, to the detriment of the book in our lap, whose ink begins to run.

And hearing—Unless the protagonist is deaf, he must hear things. Why tell us he is hanging around outside a stadium that’s hosting a rock concert, when letting us hear through him, the bass booming through his eardrum & out the other side, drowning out his ipod, & making him yank out the earbuds.

That same fellow would feel the vibrations of the rock concert, through the soles of his boots, & by leaning against the building his head begins to throb. Thus we also feel what he does.

Should sense of smell be only a doormat for our other eloquence? If our protagonist brushes against a lilac bush in bloom, they’d have to be half dead not to smell the overpowering fragrance of thousands of tiny misty mauve buds.

And touch? If our protagonist reaches into a dark closet for a raincoat & touches instead something wet & furry, that moves, ooh, then what? I want to feel through her fingertips so I too can squirm.

Reading is for many, a house of horrors, or pleasures. The readers enter. They’ve been told there are very interesting goings on in there. You know, book jacket stuff, very hush-hush, full of suspense.

So there they are, totally in the dark, all senses on ALERT, feeling, sniffing, listening. Reaching about, squinting, anticipating something—anything. They’re in with flared, flapping nostrils, eyelids stretched wide enough to drop the eyeballs out, hands cupped behind ears, to catch those flighty waves of sound, fingers tingling & feet feeling for footing, & in some cases, tongues flicking in & out, licking the wall. (Well, maybe not.)

Sooo—as writers, let us not disappoint.

(View rest of article here: http://dragonflydithers.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/911/)

Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

Raisins in Disguise

Please bear with me here–there is a point to my dithering–

I remember when I discovered that squashed red ants smelled like raisins. I don’t recall the where-to-fore, I just promptly plonked my young backside on the sun-warmed sidewalk, my bare big toe doing the deed and my nose sniffing with satisfied flared nostrils. True story.aahoar_frost_crab_apples500

I loved playing at my grandparents house. I was nosey, plain and simple. My explorations took me one day behind their big clunker of a TV with its 50 million wires, mesmerized by how they snaked in and out, over and under. Oh, but what was this, a loose cord, not plugged in anywhere? And here, an outlet with nothing plugged into it?

Well this intrepid little Sherlockette put two and two together, plugging one into the other. Voila! Zap! Youch! One fleeting, enlightening moment later, I emerged nursing a powdered black thumb and a science lesson, free of charge. Fact.

aaaf-d_71b47f9ce3a85afac7d3b5b9Summer is my season. Always has been. Born at its peak. Great memories. I had this plastic rectangular tub, see, and after a sweet, summer rain, I noticed how many, many earthworms arose to bless the puddles. And me–I soon had my tub 2 inches deep with the squirming things and even had the good grace unusual in one of such tender age, to add some sopping soil to their exquisite habitat. I had no leashes, but trustingly allowed 2 or 3 of them out at a time on the ground for a walk, intrigued by their legless manoeuvres, making sure they each got their turns. Amazing.

And somehow, after all these years, (the number of which is being withheld from any of you nosey people,) I have retained this fascination of the seemingly simple things in life.

-The way the hoarfrost glitters in all its crystalline glory.

-How a fern frond unfurls as it matures, from a tightly sprung coil to fingers reaching out of the shade to grasp the slip of light coming through the trees.

-How a spider knows just the right moves of his dance, even the first time out.

-The way mercury spilled on a table breaks up, then pools together, over and over when you nudge it.

-How several minerals can be huddled up in the same piece of rock.

-The northern lights, an enthralling display of colours like painting in motion, constantly being renewed.

-The shapes and hues in a candle flame.aaamercury_drops

This wonder in the things around us, this curiosity, never losing the ability to see as a child sees, is a wondrous tool, for all children’s writers. Two words–“What If”– are a writer’s creed. If we no longer care about the little things we would cease to write. We are constantly asking questions, and it’s where the answers take us that results in stories. And the more we ask, seek, look, the better the story. Our passion will flow through the pen and transfer to the reader. And then we’ll both be on the ground squishing red ants, marching earthworms, all worries and cares forgotten.

Well, the surviving ants might be worrying.

Christina’s motto is:
Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

Caustic Cadences

Cadence: 1.the rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words
Ever notice, how when listening to someone you’ve known for decades tell yet another one of their stories, you hear their words and yet nothing of what they say.

You hear the cadence of their voice lulling you into a stupor and you know ahead of time where their tone will change, rise, fall; you know where they’ll pause to perform some personal habit–sipping coffee, tucking hair behind ears, blowing a bulbous nose.yawn1

You know as you ‘listen’ which lines they will repeat for effect. And you just watch, eyes glazed, smiling or nodding in all the right places, because those cadences are branded on your brain in a niche reserved for such experiences?

(Maybe you marvel how you ever wondered that your kids can’t focus in class. Or yourself. Think back–teacher’s have these cadences too, some rich, some tedious.)

Not everyone has a dynamic cadence to their voice and speech, captivating their audiences. Some cadences tire you while others make your eyes leap out of their sockets and have you groping the floor for them, to put them back in vowing to hold on tighter.

That’s our task as writers. Our cadences need to pop, bang and sizzle. Other times they need to stealthily sneak up on a reader and envelope them in essence of comfort. Our cadences need to take corners with no warning, twirl the ends of big kaleidoscopes, toss our readers up in roller coasters that end in pools full of rose scented clouds, or of jello dotted with scorpions. Keep–them–guessing. Their heads twisting, their antennae probing, their emotions and sensations pulsing.

As with anything, there is such a thing as overdoing it–my simple advice–do not go there. Things still have to be believable.

We need to test our voice–our cadence–on a heart rate monitor and make sure that line is hopping like an Easter bunny on–well, take your pick of stimulants however illegal and feed it to him in a carrot.

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Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

Girl on the Ceiling

I am sitting at my computer performing one of my work-procrastinating ruses—looking at art sharing sites. I love art for its own sake, & as a writer I appreciate how an illustration, painting or photograph can spark weird &wondrous ideas if you’ve any sort of imagination at all.
Often I use picture prompts for daily writing exercises, which as all writers know, is an important habit to form. Some suggest ten minutes a day, some a thousand words; we all have to find what works for us. I love the pictures because I am an exhaustively visually-oriented person, while others prefer to use written prompts which can be found all over the internet, or pretty much anywhere. Even a cereal box if you’ve any kind of muse. (Alright, I admit that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get the point.)

So today I came across an illustration labelled “The upside down girl” by Nata Metlukh. A girl sitting on the ceiling, the living room quite normal below her. And I laughed out loud. No I was not on the bus, or at the library, or sitting jury duty at the time, so that’s alright. I laughed because it reminded me of a ten year old girl I know/knew very well.

That girl used to go to bed at night, lying on the top of her bunk beds, her creative brain poking & prodding her. She would lie very near the edge of the bed & tip her head backwards over the edge, then stare out through the open door & her brain would take over. Or perhaps her heart… or her muse…
What if—(don’t all kids’ thoughts begin with those two words? They are The essential words to a writer,)—what if I could live on the ceiling? I’d have to climb over the door jambs from room to room. I probably couldn’t reach the door knobs or the light switches. And the shadows would be wonky from ceiling lights being on my floor, so of course I’d have to walk around them.

And if I could live on the ceiling, what about chairs & couches & tables? Would they join me there? Would I have to drag them up & nail them down? How would I get down? How would I bath…

Maybe I’d need big suction cups with straps on my hands and feet and walk along the walls & down. Or would I have to wear weighted boots to sit & eat & other stuff & take them off to sleep? So it would be like in a rocket. And what about my dog? Could he still come in my room in the middle of the night & jump onto my lower bunk where he’d nested himself a little hollow in the blankets? Or maybe he’d be on the ceiling with me.

I was fascinated with the creative imagery it brought to me then & it’s still so vivid. As writers for children it’s vital to have a tenacious grip on memories like these. And I don’t mean just the memory, but the whole as a sensory Vision–uppercase V. The sights, the sounds, the smells, if any; also feelings, inner & outer.

Crawl back into the skin of your former self, take your adult mind with you, but as an observer/recorder so you can experience it all anew. Then you can begin to understand the child that was & the children that are, that you wish to write for.

Here’s a different sort of exercise I did a while ago that I highly recommend. Write down your childhood memories, & any correlating thoughts from those times including all sensory perceptions. I have two lists. One is my own memories, the other of outstanding episodes with my own children. Your observations can be food for thought, in chocolate, liver, or strawberry cheesecake.

 

 

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Christina’s motto is:
“Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)

My Spleen Ran Away with the Spoon

Life often gets so busy I often feel my insides careening in different directions, and I’m convinced my spleen ran away with the spoon. Or my pancreas.

The more I learn about the whole “mess” that is publishing in this digital age, the more complicated and frightening it appears.

To agent or not to agent. To e-book or not to e-book. To self publish or not to.

Add to this the whole world of self-promoting. Another new aspect for authors these days. Author visits, blog tours, blog posts, twitter tweets, and book signings. Do these leave enough time to actually write?mini

Don’t forget the multifarious rules we must learn by heart. Scrapping adverbs, using strong verbs, no passive speech, commas with discretion, dialogue and narrative in correct proportions; conflict, plot, scenes and point of view must all toe the proverbial line. And through all this rule following, let us not lose our own, unique voice as a writer.

And then there’s the barbarous competition itself. If we as writers don’t, quite literally, mind our p’s & q’s, our manuscript will be passed over for the next. If we don’t follow the rules and rhymes and rigmaroles–well the publishers won’t even kiss it good-bye. We can only hope they put it to some use and recycle.

So, back to the mayhem that muddles my mind. A few months ago it drove me mad. Discouraged. And wondering who the heck & what the heck & —

—why the heck am I still writing??

I’ll never manage to deal with all of this sanely.

I took a short break. I wielded a big sword and one by one lopped off the infiltrating tentacles of doom and demise. I forgive you if you say I’m in denial–not facing this reality information overload.

I left one door open. The one just for writing, where not even the mini-me editor hovering over my shoulder could fit through. And I wrote. Just wrote. To amuse myself, to relieve myself—and I rediscovered why I write.i didin't know

There truly is a magic in words and in language. What I enjoy most when I write is how in the very act itself, ideas meld together in a way that prior brainstormings fail to create satisfactorily. Witticisms, details of foreshadowing, metaphors, poetic prose, or the spontaneous birth of a person, place or thing to fill that nagging gap. Or the forgotten little item  in the cupboard that provides a crucial turning point. These are the real  thrillers!image_01

And there I go, once more unencumbered, my inner knots untangling, and I smile as my kidney and gallbladder sail to sea on a beautiful pea-geen boat.

Christina’s motto is:
Some people see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say, why not?” (George Bernard Shaw)
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