Sunday, April 24, 2011

R is for Reflection

The ability to reflect on any matter of relevance in one's life is a luxury.  We have too many things to do and not enough time to do them.  We work, we eat, we clean, we worry, we pamper, and we chide - who has the time to see the forest when there are too many trees in the way?

This Friday marked the first full day this calendar year that I managed to step back and think about certain things that are important to me apart from the elements of my daily existence (and I actually took the day off from work to do it).  It being Good Friday and Earth Day, what better occasion to take a balance?

Writing, of course, is one of those matters of great relevance.  Why am I writing? (It makes me happy). What do I get out of it? (Immense satisfaction and the chance to "escape" into the realities I create).  What are the challenges I face? Naturally, this was the most difficult one to answer.  To know my strengths and weaknesses presupposes that I have the wisdom to know the difference.  (And I hope I do).  In the end, I can sum up the results of three hours of deliberation in two words - recycling and remembrance. (I guess R stands for Reflection, Recycling, and Remembrance)

I have a tendency to "recycle" my main character in certain of my short stories.  I borrow many traits from my heroine in one work and bestow them upon the heroine of my next story.  Why?  Because I like the character I once created in a short story that to this day is my favorite piece.  And I need to learn to separate myself from her.  Otherwise, boredom and complacency will ensue. 

My struggle to imagine and develop unique characters who will be remembered by my (future) readers is a natural extension of my recycling.  I need to step outside of myself and create that which I do not feel comfortable and familiar with.

I need to start clearing that forest.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Invisible Bridge - Still Visible

I don't write book reviews.  I have neither the time nor the energy - I am glad if it all comes together in a perfect storm and I can do everything I have to and some of the things I want to. 

But every once in a while comes a story that won't leave long after I finished reading it, a story that will dance in the obscure corners of my mind like a silken ribbon, slowly weaving into moments of my day.

This is that story.

It is a long book, but one of the shortest I have read in quite some time.  From the first two sentences ("Later he would tell her that their story began at the Royal Hungarian Opera House, the night before he left for Paris on the Western Europe Express.  The year was 1937; the month was September, the evening unseasonably cold.") I knew I was hooked; the brilliance of Julie Orringer's writing shone through in just those thirty-nine words, gracefully setting the stage for a haunting yet uplifting story of love and survival without resorting to melodrama.  I sat with Andras and Tibor at the Budapest Opera while they listened to Tosca, I walked along the platform with Andras as he waited for his train to pull out of the station in Vienna, and admired the architecture of Paris with him as he first stepped onto its busy streets.   I inhaled her words as if they were air.  As the story progressed, I felt lucky to have never had to face the challenges they encountered. 

The characters were challenged by the political circumstances of the late 1930s and the Second World War, enduring incredible conditions with humanity and strength.  I am certain I was not the only one who wondered how they (and many others like them who were faced with such adversity) were able to persist and find the strength to hope.

I fancy myself a writer and hope to be published someday, yet novels like The Invisible Bridge remind me I have a long road ahead.

(Other novels that stayed with me, some for decades, are on my bookshelf, just an inch to the right)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It's Blogger Award Time - Well, Sort of...

My fellow writer and blogger CMSmith ( bestowed The Versatile Blogger Award upon me.  Thank you.  I accept - sort of. 

By accepting the award, I must fulfill certain tasks and I have decided to vary them a bit.  I too hope the "blog police" is not going to fine me for not following the rules.

Anyway, first requirement is to thank the person who gave me the award.  Done.

Second requirement is to share seven things about myself.  How about five?  Here we go:
-  I used to be a champion sprinter
-  I am a hobby architect
-  I can knit
-  I speak 3 languages fluently
-  I went "green" four years ago

Third, I have to name 15 bloggers onto whom I want to pass the award.  How about I pass the award on to five bloggers (writers or not) and then name four of my favorite sites related to writing?  I think that is a fair compromise.

- Hali Gomez's Blog ( - a fellow writer who shares her daily efforts and challenges when it comes to writing.
- David Lebovitz's Blog ( - a published author and pastry chef living in Paris.  Enough said.
- Healthy Child Healthy World ( - an interesting and relevant blog if you want to go green.
- Apartment Therapy ( - Style. Space. Inspiration.
- The Virtual Linguist ( - An alternative to a dictionary or thesaurus, and certainly funnier than both.

- Noah Lukeman's Ask a Literary Agent ( - a literary agent's blog about writing and getting published.
- Query Shark ( - submit if you dare!
- Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents ( - I make a point of reading his blog every week.
- Angela Booth's Writing Blog ( - her focus is helping others become better writers.