Saturday, January 31, 2009

Write what you know?

When I first started writing, one of the first rules I heard was "Write what you know." Well, I know about PT with kids, so did this rule mean I was supposed to write about PT with kids? That struck me as kind of boring. I was already doing it all day. Did I really want to write about it all night? My answer was 'no.'
The more I thought about it, I saw it as a challenge. Couldn't I take some of what I've learned and turn it into stories? I don't mean PT stuff like hamstring stretches or wheelchair prescriptions. I mean real lessons, like the dignity of the individual, how alike we all are underneath our bodies, how the disability of one person affects their family, and how different community members react to that person and their family. I was intrigued. And I started writing.
In the fiction novel I am writing, Sophie, the protagonist, develops polio. She goes from being an insider to being an outsider in her own society, an experience common for people with an acquired disability. She learns that her true value as a human being is not tied to her body. That's what the kids I work with have been teaching me for 30+ years.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Research finds on ebay!

Since I'm writing historical fiction, I have to research the period and setting for my novel. I started by researching the traditional way: through books. I purchased about two dozen books and borrowed another couple dozen from the library. Then I jacked up my excitement for the project by traveling to Munich for a few days in October to research the setting in person. Since then, I found another (cheaper) way to research from home: ebay!
I bid on and won a Sears-Roebuck catalog from 1938. It gave me pictures of items that were in use at the time like dresses with puffy sleeves, console radios, and wringer washers. Great stuff. Just today, I won a German 1938 camera. Why a camera, you ask? Because I want to describe the camera Sophie uses, and having it in front of me is the best way I know to create an authentic description.
95 pages and counting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Feedback from my instructor

I am pumped!
I got feedback from my ICL instructor, Nancy Butts, on the first third of my novel. Here's an excerpt.
"I got to page 4 and I wanted to stop and tell you right away that you had struck gold. I know it's been a long difficult frustrating process for you to get to this point but the addition of Esther and all the details about Sophie's secret friendship with her are perfect. To me it seemed as if you had found the heart of your book... from this moment on, I started to gulp down the book the way a young reader would. I didn't want to slow down long enough to be your teacher...I just wanted to read. And that is the single best compliment anyone can ever pay to a writer...I can already envision it on the shelves of a bookstore somewhere."

Friday, January 16, 2009


I don't like being cold. When I took my dogs out this morning, the thermometer read 9 below. It made me think that bears have the right idea: just curl up and sleep until it's all over.
And yet, there is a certain beauty in that incredible cold. Tough tiny goldfinches flit around my thistle feeder. Frozen imprints of last night's deer outing create a path through my snow-covered yard. Each branch of each tree is outlined in white as if by an artist's paintbrush. It is truly magnificent. Especially when viewed from my couch, curled under a blanket while reading a book and sipping coffee. That's my version of hibernation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Myth and truth

Mythology was required reading in high school and I loved it. Each culture uses their myths to describe universal truths about people and their relationships with each other and their world. The stories deal with greed, love, jealousy, pride, selflessness and other themes that seem unchanged throughout human existence. Each holds a kernel of truth that transmits down through the ages, regardless of how old the story is.

Joseph Campbell did an amazing job describing the basic structure of myths and in pointing out commonalities between ancient myths and well-told modern stories. He says the modern storyteller is honoring the ancient mythic tradition if he/she knows the kernel of truth or the moral they want to impart. But today's storyteller can't overtly state the moral in one sentence and still get the work published. The moral needs to be woven through the story so it becomes part of the fabric, so to speak, and not something that hits the reader over the head. I have so much to learn.

I sent out the first one-third of my book to my ICL instructor, Nancy Butts. Now I'm onto the 'big swampy middle' third of the book. Wish me luck.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Nazis are big in the movies this winter

We saw Valkyrie the other day, a movie based on real events in WWII where some German officers conspire and attempt to assassinate Hitler. Tom Cruise was a one-eyed, one-armed Nazi officer. Go figure. We saw the trailer for Defiance which is also based on a true story from WWII. In that one, blond haired blue eyed Daniel Craig plays a Jewish man. Yeah, right. It sounds like a fascinating story even if the casting seems odd to me. Then there's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Reader, which I believe are both fiction.
I guess I'm not the only one who is fascinated by the lessons to be learned from that place and time. Sixty plus years after the end of that war, new stories of heroism, conflict and personal sacrifice continue to surface.
That means there will be room for Sophie's story too.