The Tense Silence of Our Youth

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Instead of Hansel and Gretel, we have been Hannah and Gerta perhaps – two who find themselves lost in the great forest while the breadcrumbs meant to indicate a way home provide nourishment for ever watchful crows.

There have been times we both felt this way. Some of them have been simultaneous.

This state of being included some of our greatest obstacles, not only in writing but in day-to-day living. Hard to go forward when we’re looking back.

Struggles though these times have been keenly disheartening, but reminders from family and friends that everything is relative often sustains us.

Or turning around from running away to face the fear, the discomfort, the pain until it has nothing more to say, no more to deliver.

Like a string of pearls reversing into velvet black time, these difficulties have also formed a radiant calm and beauty, encouraging reflection.

Through all of this, we’ve managed to accomplish what once seemed impossible.

We’re still at it.

Planting Trees in Correspondence

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Correspondence is one of my favorite forms of writing. It’s inspiring. It bleeds over into the way I ‘hear myself writing’ when I get into fiction.

I recently corresponded with a friend, in which she described the delight of a day of horseback riding. It prompted my own inner storyteller, and the following tree planting theme emerged. It’s a memory I cherished but hadn’t thought about in many years.

Me: When I first moved to Washington State from New Jersey, I stayed for a month on a hundred acre piece of land on Mount Hull in the Okanogan. I did many things while I was there, including apple-thinning and picking on vast irrigated farms. One thing I did and loved, when I was young and my back could take it, was planting MANY trees there, after a federal incentive so people could take employment in the wilderness area which had a mostly barter economy at that time. It was done because many mature trees had been clear-cut some time before (such a sad thing to see and walk in). If one was to encounter a clear cut wound in the wild, the best way to approach it would be with a baby tree in one’s hand. It made me think of Johnny Appleseed, though I don’t know much about how far west he got in his travels.

(I’ve since found out the following – courtesy of Wikipedia: John Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), often called Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.” Interesting. Not all the way to Washington State, but apples are the crossover.)

… and after my friend’s response, my reply:

Me: I love your letter. Thanks for what you said about the trees. It’s a sweet reminder of one time of beauty and service… and I like the opportunity to remember it. Looking back again, I realize that it was only one time in my life when I did such a thing. When I lived in Cumberland on a few acres, we planted over 100 trees, and I used to dream about them at night. I’d be coming back over a hundred years later to visit them, amazed at how tall the cedar and redwoods had grown, how colorful the sugar maple was in fall, how graceful the cypress, how grand the weeping willow up high over the river. It was hard work, but at the end of the day, all that was left was happiness.

Concocting an Inspiration Buffet

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A topic came up for us last week. We were discussing where our inspiration comes from when we begin a new writing project. Dozens of suggestions clamored to the surface and different ones tugged on each of our sleeves.
Primarily for Andrea, it’s her intuition. She tunes in, and the story calls to her.
For Leslie, it’s more visual. It can be a memory tangent or a photograph as the catalyst. It can be picturing the characters in action or conversation. Any piece of art can get her started.
Other times it’s a combination of those two, with additional spices added.
We stay alert to opportunities around us which leads to asking questions that draw out the story. This is about making a conscious decision to fly manually. We come out of autopilot and listen to the world around/inside of us.
It can be as simple walking down Main Street, seeing an always deserted restaurant full of people and wondering what led to this moment. Questions beget other questions, and soon a plot develops. Will it be a mystery? A comedy, drama, or something supernatural? Only time will tell.
We do know that it’s important to be open to inspiration everywhere we go. It could be our next story.
Where do you get your inspiration?

Sprint n’Splat

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How have you been?

As for us, here’s this month in collaboration:

These questions go through both of our minds, and we discuss them every time:

Does my sister condemn me?

Does she pass judgement or accuse me of slacking?

No, she never does. We’d like to get to the place where we can accept this as truth, rather than adding stress to our lives worrying what the other will think.

And to be honest, worrying over what each one of us thinks… of ourselves.

At its best, collaboration provides the way for us to keep up our dedication amid setbacks.

Having a partner oftentimes raises energy. Even when one is decidedly NOT up for anything, small tasks can be done by the other. We have to be okay with that.

We have the best intentions every day.

We had a good run for a couple of weeks at the beginning of June, revising our second draft, left, right, and center.

THEN, we tripped…. health-wise: our usual unwelcome, annoying, and intermittent experience turns around and bites us again.

No matter how many times we’ve been through the two steps forward/one step back thing, every time we have a good run, we forget that interruption could be lurking round the next bend… in this case, Chapter 28.

Patience, love, and compassion win the day in these situations, even if we can’t see it right away. What is most important after all?

As with location for putting up a successful business, communication is essential for collaboration.

How do you get through your rough patches? What are the tools you find most helpful when you doubt yourself?

We’d love to hear from you.

Have Dahl’s Hopes

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(Andrea)   There is magic everywhere. We just have to be aware and open.   It’s a puzzle, but once you see the pattern you can find it if you want to. It’s also a game of hide and seek. Ask a question, spin yourself around, and then go find the answer.

Sometimes, it’s about admitting you’re afraid. Look at your fear and know that it will all be okay.

I took yesterday off since I worked all day [that] Saturday. I was very happy about being able to get some good organizational work done on the book. I was a little discouraged when I read on the Internet that some readers don’t like flashbacks, and that they are much more interested in the present. You may lose the reader if it’s not done correctly.

I have fretted about this since we need back story. Can the flashbacks hold the reader’s interest? Without them, I feel the story would fall short, so I am leaving them in. We may need to tweak and remove unnecessary parts, but I vote yes to the back story. (Leslie: “And I like it too.”)

After taking yesterday off, however, I haven’t been able to get back into the groove again today. I’ve been getting down on my work. Still, I know it’s a good story. Will others feel the same?

I watched a show that is in its final season. Though earlier seasons were enjoyable, this was not very good. They kept doing flashbacks for no reason other than filling space. It’s really boring. That was also where some of my fear’s been coming from today.

As I was sitting in doubt, my other sister sent me a “Words with friends” word. I looked at the word she sent, and it was, “Hope.” It was a much needed word on a day like this… a synchronicity of sorts, bringing the shift that I needed.

I shuffled my letters. Not the best ones. HHPADLS. What to do with that? I tried a few different combinations using ‘S’ at the end of hope. They all came back as ‘Not a word.’ I finally tried something different since I knew the word ‘Dal’ as lentils. I added an H for extra points to see if it would go. It did.

Now, sometimes I look up words when I don’t know what they mean. I wasn’t going to with this one but something nudged me.

Half way down the search results, I saw, ‘Roald Dahl.’ I’d never heard of him before but I did see a blurb that he was the writer of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Willy Wonka is a longtime favorite of mine as I am sure it is for many people. But the thing you see is that Willy Wonka has continued to come up since before I started writing the book and it keeps coming up. I see it all over the place. It’s even referenced in the book we’re writing.

Then I read some of his quotes. They spoke to me clearly. Of all the great ones, this one jumped out at me:

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Well, I believe.

The next word my sister sent was, “Have.”

I put them together and I ‘Have Dahl’s Hopes’

See the magic. Be the magic. That is my wish for everyone in this day and age.

 ~*~

(Leslie) This was written when August was brand new, and a lot’s flowed under the writing bridge since then. After writing the above, Andrea had seen Roald Dahl pretty much everywhere in the interim… so it only made sense to post this entry on what would have been his 98th birthday… today: the thirteenth of September.

Since this awareness of his existence has become evident, he whispers to us. We strive to approach that state where he lives, looking ever more closely, more carefully, for every tiny speck of magic. Then we can expand it on a daily basis, seeing ourselves stepping inside as we do.

EARLY EDITION (T-85 minutes, Birthday Edition)