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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

My plan for today’s post involved social connection, history, economics and the evolution of institutions, but it hasn’t come together. Yet

I’ll keep working on that but for now, allow me to direct you to this sampling of free fiction from the inimitable Kelly Link:

The Faery Handbag

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

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I ran across a draft letter I wrote several years ago, and I’m kicking myself for not sending it. Why? It was a condolence letter to the husband of an old friend of the family, and I realize now that I never felt like it was good enough to send.

L. and her first husband were close to my parents when I was young, and as couples split apart and merged in new formations, L. remained part of our circle. Even when she remarried, moved away and I hadn’t seen her for years, L. occupied a warm place in my heart. Then she got sick and died, and I didn’t know what to say to the new husband I’d never met.

Still, I searched for a card. I bought a stamp. I drafted a letter. I didn’t send it.

Running across the draft, I realize that what I might have said was less important than the impulse to share what L. meant to me. Here’s my draft, names abbreviated:

Dear P.,

I wanted to write to say how sorry I was to hear about L.’s passing. You know my father M. well, of course, and L. was a good friend of our family for years.

L. was many things, an academic, a family friend, wife, mother, upstanding member of the community and snazzy dresser. She was kind enough to invite us to her son’s bar mitzvah. The energy was happy, swirling, bright and compelling, much like L. herself. 

When I think of L., I remember her smile, her warmth, the care she showed for those around her. I think of her dancing.

I am so sorry for her loss.*

Perfect? No, but it was good enough. What lesson do I take from this? What will I tell myself the next time? 

I wanted it to be perfect because it mattered. But I had it backwards. I understand now that because it mattered, it didn’t have to be perfect.

* * *

Reach out.

Share your feelings.

Send the card.

* * *

Photo by Jackson David on Pexels.com

* * *

* Note following a discussion on this with my father: I debated using the more typical “sorry for your loss” but decided that while I was deeply sorry for P., what I meant in the bigger picture was “I’m so sorry she’s gone.” So I used “her loss.” Told you it wasn’t perfect, but that’s ok.

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Find Your Own Way

I always wanted to be able to draw. In high school, I had a friend who was a wizard with a pen. It was a form of magic, really, the translation of life to page. I could just about manage a creditable human eye and that’s it. It’s match was beyond me; the second one was never quite the same. I spent a good bit of my time in French class trying to improve (apologies to my French teacher) but eventually gave up and turned my hand to personalized on-demand poetry for my classmates. (It’s amazing what you can do with a hard deadline.)

I was better at the poetry. But I still wanted to draw, at least a little.

Thank you, computer graphics!

I’m not a wizard, but I was able to fill at least some of that gap with Illustrator, Photoshop and the like. And of course I write, another way to translate life to the page.

* * *

In art and life, find a way to do the things that call to you. The path may not be the one you expected, but it can take you to your destination just the same.

My personalized monogram in the style of Tolkien’s glyph.

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In general, I like being home but these days I’ll admit, at times my thoughts stray to travel. As in, “Oh yes, once upon a time we used to go places and see things” and “There was a whole world out there, remember?”

And then I ran across scans of an old travel journal and had the fun of paging through the journey. Visiting the Swedish royal palace, discovering my brother’s previously hidden talent as a navigator, outrunning a swarm of mosquitoes, champagne in Stockholm, eating fish cheeks, taking tea in a converted windmill.

It was all lovely, even the insecty bits. And I’m pretty sure I’m not just saying that because travel has become one of those mythical ideas, like unicorns and shaking hands with strangers.

At the very back of the journal I rediscovered my father’s bird list. I think it was made after the trip, and there’s something precious about our layered handwriting, anchoring our shared memories to the page.

* * *

Female European Marsh Harrier
Female European Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Paco Gómez, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Story Seed

Look, obviously you’ve heard this story before. Princess grows up, escapes arranged marriage with dullard from the kingdom next door, falls in with the wrong crowd, is kidnapped and sold into slavery across the sea but conquers all to become a highly-trained assassin, mycelial mage or dragon groomer.

I mean, honestly, these things happen all the time.

Photo by John Ray Ebora on Pexels.com

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Catus Dyspepticus

Between staying up late and errands and a dyspeptic cat,* I’m behind schedule today. Hmm. A writer with no time to write. Must be time for a cat picture!

I love cats, and have since my very first. This is me with Oliver, a.k.a. Cat Number One(-ish, he’s the first I remember with any clarity). He was black as night and could jump from the floor to the top of a swinging door.

* * *

* She lost her lunch… everywhere.

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An interactive, customizable blackout poetry site? Yes, please!

Blackout Poetry Maker

Click the words you want to keep, then “black out.”

Have fun!

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I used to be a terrible procrastinator. Now I’d say I’m about average. Work deadlines? No problem. The birthday card I need to send out? Yeah, that’s definitely going to be late (sorry!). And don’t get me started on my writing for the past year. It was much easier to put it off to doomscroll pandemic and political news. Not better, by any means, but easier.

I had to put that to a stop. But what to do instead? How to stop putting things off and get more done?

The good news is that useful research has been done on how to get past procrastination. Here’s an article with a handy rundown:
‘Why Do I Spend Weeks Avoiding Tasks That Will Take Me 10 Minutes to Do?’

This is an excellent question.

There’s something about the task itself—and the way you feel about it—tripping you up.

As I’ve mentioned, I like the “procrastinate productively” strategy. It can still be hard to get everything done, especially when “everything” includes projects with no external accountability (like writing, if you aren’t a pro). But I find there’s always something little I can do, at the very least. Also? Be kind.

Don’t expect you’re going to get rid of the tendency to procrastinate in the 10 minutes it took to read these tips, and try not to be so hard on yourself. 

For writers who find themselves stuck, I like this book:

On Writer’s Block by Victoria Nelson

“As a rule, young children don’t complain of wanting to fingerpaint but finding themselves mysteriously unable to do so.” 

She’s got a point. So have fun and get things done:)

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I woke this morning with a story start in my head, and it’s using up most of my mental bandwidth at the moment. So instead of something new, here’s something old, from a trip journal I took to Latin America in 2000. I’m laughing at the memory now.

April 26
Wednesday
San Jose

I’m late writing again today because we got up at 6:30 a.m. for a rainforest canopy tour and just got back. It was a lot of fun. I was a little worried that I’d need strength, you know like hand-over-hand on a wire, but then the guides started talking about how they’d had an 80-year-old man on tour a while back who was fine. It was a lot of fun (again!).

We drove north 45 minutes or so into the woods, a bit of protected land that’s part of a larger park containing 6% of Costa Rica’s land. We were the only ones on the tour and had a total of four guides. We parked at the “Canopy Adventures” headquarters and were outfitted with harnesses, caribiners (climbing rings), and gloves. We got back in the car with our gear and drove another kilometer or two up a very rocky and steep road. It wound up into the mountains, through a farm and past pastures. After parking at a little turnabout in the trees we proceeded on foot.

The hike was only 20 minutes or so but through the forest and steep. In some parts we walked along a road paved 60 years ago by farmers who needed to get their milk to market despite heavy winter rains. The rocks they used were hauled from a far-off river bed, then set carefully enough that the road is still useable today. The rest of the walk was over a path paved by tree rings, given added traction with metal mesh embedded into their tops. Along the way our guide pointed out different flowers and plants native to the rainforest. I remember the bromeliads (a relative of the pineapple that grows on trees and air), plants to eat if you get lost in the mountains, and plants used to weave coffee-gathering baskets.

Suddenly we were at the base of Platform 1 and the real start of our adventure. Our first task was to climb a wooden ladder up into a tropical oak tree, then out onto the first platform high up in the tree. Each of us carried our gloves and pulley attached to the climbing harness we’d been wearing since HQ. At this point, we were hooked onto a cable with one caribiner, then told what how to move along the wire and land safely. I felt a little like a side of beef, hanging from the wire by my belt and hoping my tippie-toes were enough to keep me on the platform.

We were to travel from one platform to the next along these wires through the trees. At each platform a guide would stand facing us as we held the cable running between platforms. Pulling the cable down in a modified pull-up, the guide held the pulley on top of the cable while connecting our second caribiner to it, just below the cable. Once this clamp was secure the guide unhooked the first caribiner from the cable and clamped it to the pulley, in the opposite direction as the first. Now there was nothing keeping me on the platform but the guide’s hand in front of the pulley. Upon hearing an answering cry of “¡Listo!” from the team at the receiving platform, that hand too was removed. Feet up, head back, one hand on the caribiners and one on the cable behind to brake, and I was off.

There were nine platforms, all fun, with the longest and steepest drop being the best as far as I was concerned. At each I was unhooked from the pulleys, then secured to the tree, which I climbed up or around or through to reach the next jumping-off point. The trees were huge, and seemed to carry the weight of the wooden platforms with ease.

After one or two jumps I noticed that a light touch on the caribiners attached to the pulley would keep me facing forward as I shot through the overgrowth. I also got quite good at braking and had lots of fun zooming at full speed just to the platform’s edge, then stopping right in front of the startled guide. Very fun. They got me back at Platform 9 though. Rather than climbing down from our final jump we rappelled, although the guides controlled the descent. No problema, I thought, I’ve done this before, and I’d be happy to go first. Rope between my legs, hands gripping the locked caribiners, I sat into the harness and eased slowly past the platform’s edge. Humph, I thought, this isn’t too baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadddddddddddddddd!!!!!!!!! And almost swallowed my tongue as I was playfully dropped half the distance to the forest floor. The guides thought it was funny as hell, especially when all I could say after that heart-thumping, stomach-inspiring drop was “Jesus Christ!” Total free fall, unexpected, scary, and yes, funny as hell. I was still laughing five minutes later.

* * *

Not me but it gives you the idea; I was too busy to take photos for most of this trip.
Photo by Mam NC on Pexels.com

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Write fiction, or want to? Care about what’s happening with the climate, and how it will change life on Planet Earth? This new contest may be for you!

Introducing Imagine 2200: Our new cli-fi contest

Contest guidelines
• Entry is free!
• Submissions close April 12, 11:59 p.m. U.S. Pacific Standard Time.
• Authors must be 18 years or older at the time of submission.
• No previously published, multiple, or simultaneous submissions accepted.
• Submissions must be 3,000–5,000 words.
• If you need accessibility accommodations, please email us at imaginefiction@grist.org.

As always, keep an eye out for any fine print, particularly in the publishing rights arena, but it looks good from what I can see.

And for those who are interested in the ways in which a changing climate might impact us beyond the obvious (like ticks and wild pigs moving North, so fun*), check out this article on the interface of climate and one classic musical piece:

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, remade for a post-climate change world

* * *

* Not fun at all, but at least it’s given us the humorous-sounding portmanteau wordpigloo.” So there’s that.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

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