Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Fan..

I thought we’d talk about literary fandom this week. Last week, I linked a post I’d found about the fans of Twilight. It was interesting, in that it gave an idea of how we tend to dismiss Other Fans as ridiculous without looking for the shared experience. The blogger is not a Twilight fan, neither am I, and it’s true I have trouble understanding why fans of the series don’t see the issues I see in the books, but the post had a tone that tended toward unkind. Not being a fan of the series, I missed a lot of the attitude in my first look. But I can catch it in any review of Tolkien because I'm fan. Not the dorky kind, the one who names her kids after characters or watches the awful movies Peter Jackson made from The Lord of the
Rings over and over. I’m kind that learned elvish and Old English in College, studies the Appendices and can tell you all about the First Age of Middle Earth. So, the dorkier kind, I guess. I never really put myself under the label: Tolkien Fan until I caught myself correcting someone on a tiny detail from the Silmarrillion, my husband looked at me and grinned, knowing I’d have to see it now. So I’m developing a sympathy for Harry Potter fans, and Twilight fans. It’s not Tolkien, but there is something similar in the way all fans relate to their books. For me the real relationship was possible because there was a whole mythology, there was depth and meaning and intention, along with a story to follow and characters to love. I like knowing that there is information I’ll never know, I like the grandness of it all and the obsessiveness of the author. I like being able to fall into a world that is real enough to believe in. But there are other reasons books have fans. What is similar? What’s different?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fourth Friday Fairy-Tale prompt (from Spinning Straw into Gold)

(I almost gave up month, because I'm not happy yet with this one, and I generally don't like sharing poems I'm not completely happy with, but the prompt is designed to encourage us to open up a bit writing-wise with each other, and so here it is, warts and all. Be kind with criticism, please, but do give it!)

Why do you call us
angels? Laughing at our bird’s wings
The river gave us?

You, smelling of incense and dark, earth-
birthed greens. Soft-eyed
boy under dying tree; thoughts
like early apples bursting in the sun-

              nearer. It will be

a baptism with us, while your eyes
reproach and tiny wings
sop the blood.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I’m sorry, I didn’t post in the discussion yesterday. I thought about it, but then I got absorbed in cleaning behind the woodstove. Then I went online determined to post and I ended up wasting the battery on facebook. I guess this isn’t the week for me, writing-wise, I haven’t written much at all this week; my mind’s been full up of other things. How often does that happen to you? Instead of writing, I’ve been setting up for winter. We’re going to cover two of the windows, to conserve heat this winter, and curtain the others, so they can allow light, but can also be insulated. I’ve patched a bad spot in the road, prepared a space in the yurt for a bathtub (one of those old claw-foot beauties!) so that we can have long, warm soaks after a cold day outside, I’ve become comfortable with my sewing machine (at last!), enough to make a cover for the feather bed, and I’ve been taking my turn at sifting the soil in the front garden - a hard job, especially with Yarrow eager to help.
So Jenna, enjoy another Monday off while I try to re-balance my daily life. Next week I’ll probably have burned myself out on autumn work and be writing like crazy.
 But here's a link to an interesting little post reviewing a book on fan-culture, because, sometime soon, I think it'd be fun to discuss fandom in the book-world.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our Happy Dead

October is the dying month. My beeches are dry, earthy gold, rustling and clicking in the wind. The days are as haunted as the nights. I have candles burning all evening for all my many intentions, on the altar where St. Francis refuses to look away from Christ, a bundle of twigs at his feet to remind the saints of the coming winter. The burnt Virgin looks tired, watching the fire all night while St. Anthony spends his time hiding earrings and spoons. 
There are so many happy signs around us this week, I’m collecting them for understanding later. I watch the crows gather and play while Petka waves welcome to them, we watch the falling leaves and the shooting stars, bless our days with beads and water and wait for clarity. Good days are building in the slow month before All Soul’s.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Anonymous Author

I’m opinionated. My mother has used words like harsh, judgmental, and critical to describe me in the not-too-distant past (last month), and sometimes she’s right, I’m a snob. I like good books, books that don’t read like a fifth-grader’s first draft, books that don’t make me wonder if the entire world is illiterate. I like good coffee, not weak decaf, gas-station pumpkin spice, or burnt beans. I try not to be harsh about my preferences, but sometimes - like when people claim Dunkin’ Donuts has good coffee, or that The DaVinci Code is a “smart, smart, book,” I do get vocal.
    Jenna recently sent me this article, by an author I’ve never read, about the affect the public persona of an author has on the reader. It’s not something I’ve thought much about before, but I realized that I do judge authors by the way they present themselves. I can forgive a good deal of disagreement on politics, religion, life-in-general, but I have stopped reading author’s whose tone is condescending, who doesn’t seem to respect the reader, or who doesn’t seem honest in relating to the public. And sometimes, I’ve stopped reading an author because I can’t get past the bad back cover photo (if that isn’t harsh I don’t know what is).

There is a danger in becoming too public as a personality, devoting too much time to blogging, tweeting, interviewing, and entertaining. ‘Being an Artist’ can take up all the time that used to go toward creating art. Camus has a fun little story “Jonas, or The Artist at Work” about a man who becomes overrun by the distractions of Being an Artist. There’s something off-putting about back-cover photos - they always fall short of the image I’d like to have of the author, and if he goes online to discuss his opinions of the election, praise writers I’m convinced are bad, and update me on his daily weight-loss regime, I might lose the ability to see him as anything but a sweaty jogger in obnoxious t-shirts. In short, writers should think before they build a public image. They should be honest in blogs and interviews, but the sort of honesty you bring to a first date, not the sort you share with old friends on a drunken weekend. Because they are crafting an image - and it shouldn’t be completely unattractive, right?

Friday, October 12, 2012


      I’m thankful life doesn’t turn out as expected. I thought about it yesterday, on my knees in the dirt while a pig gnawed at my pant-leg and Petka clung to my arm, trying to hammer together the pallets that make up their pen. I could never have imagined myself so.. rugged. Even the activities I’d imagined for myself -writing and cleaning, throwing and baking are different. Full of the tang of reality. I think I’ve found my niche - found, not settled in - perfection is a long way off.

My house is a beautiful mess this morning, everything scattered because my mind is on other things: the child and dog competing for scrapes of breakfast, and half formed poem, the wind around the house and the cold air it brings. I’m writing - one eye on the greedy ones - at a table with cold coffee and candles stubs, empty glasses and misplaced spice jars form last night’s hot cocoa, the remains of which have just been discovered by Petka, abandoning breakfast for something better. I like having a home in the disorder, it fits me, perfection is something to strive for, to build up in dreams and slowly pursue. I’m going to spend the day bringing order to my candle stubs, leftovers, and loose papers, enjoying the process, and the inability to succeed.

Monday, October 8, 2012


The sun is autumn-bright, pine-needles make the path to the outhouse slippery for the tiny moccasined feet that follow me out and back again. I’m planning black coffee and fig-jam filled pancakes for tea and cleaning up the messy that’s collected this past week. Petka is napping. I spent the morning prioritizing my nap time activities - the poem I’m trying to finish for this, the article I’m working on for that, pilates and letters and here I am, posting a blog - which is actually on the list, but lower down, because Yarrow doesn’t make blogging impossible so much as she slows it down. I could use a lesson or two from her. She likes things to be slow and peaceful, my little elf. She likes the long days at home, and the hour long strolls up and down the driveway, stopping to pick up a stone, a leaf, a stick; stopping to write out her magic in the dirt and laugh up at the sky. She likes the days with no visitors, and she likes to watch her bushia’s truck pull up in the yard, wave and smile.

    Jenna is taking the week off, to do the things in life that pile up when priority goes to the computer, our discussion will return again next week. There’s no rush, we have time. I might do the same, spend this week mainly off-line, canning apples and making jams, putting the gardens to bed and stacking wood. Finishing poems. Sewing. Reading Each Peach, Pear, Plum again and again to the girl who enjoys repetition almost as much as her beloved Baby Jesus. But if I can, I’ll wake up early to post things and enjoy the wider world. It will be my gift to myself for learning again to love the dark autumn morning.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ways and Means

This week we’re going to continue discussion technology and it’s effect on writing with another of Jenna’s suggestions. I tend to write my drafts with a pen. Ideally a very nice, black pen, able to make a nice, dark line on the paper. I don’t generally like lined paper, except in journaling, and hate writing in pencil. I used to type my edited poems on the typewriter, but mine is having trouble now, so I tend to just rewrite. I love handwritten drafts. The look, the feel, the scent, and all the crossed out bits that I can rediscover later and edit back in. A computer doesn’t allow me to have the crossed out sections, so when I write on the computer I tend to delete whole pages in a fit of simplification only to discover later that I really wanted one partially remembered bit back. Those are my reasons for writing by hand. But do I think it has an impact on the final product, in general, not for me specifically? I don’t know, I think it must, but I wouldn’t go so far to say the impact is good or bad. I can’t usually tell the difference between a typewritten or handwritten final draft. The impact is less on the outcome than the process. I think typing everything on the computer leads to a more transitory relationship to the words themselves, they are so easily deleted, they haven’t ‘bled’ on the page the way written words do, but that impermanence gives the writer more freedom while editing to completely transform the piece.
I do wonder, in my more judgmental moments, whether writing solely on the computer has contributed to the huge number of badly written, barely edited books coming out on the market. I know I edit less when I see my writing on a screen instead of a page, and I know that the ability to put so much done, so quickly, with no fear of running out of space has encouraged me to over-write at times. But I don’t know how much of this is due to my own personal weaknesses as a writer and how much is due to the influence of technology. I’m interested to see the response here, because I don’t have a set opinion, so much as a collection of muddled feelings and impressions.

What do you think? Do we need to reclaim the written word, abandon our computers and return to a place without screens and humming monitors? I don’t think so, but I would argue for keeping the texture of writing alive in some way, in typewriters, inky pens, and coffee stained pages that can be finalized on the computer, but have lived in some way without it.