Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An anecdote about Picasso...Let your Imagination Run Wild!

This story is credited to Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein

"One day, Picasso took a train trip and, as happens on such occasions, engaged in conversation with the gentleman seated next to him. When the man learned to whom he was speaking, he began grumbling about the ways how modern art distorts reality. According to one account, Picasso demanded to know what was a faithful representation of reality.

"The man produced a wallet-sized photo and said, "There! That's a real picture--that's what my wife really looks like!"

"Picasso looked at it carefully from several angles, turning it up and down and sideways, and said, "She's awfully small. And flat."

Moral: Without imagination, the world is indeed as flat and small as the picture Picasso examined."

What would we be without our imagination? Where would we be? Columbus wouldn't have proved the world was round, Neil Armstrong wouldn't have stepped foot on the moon, and Henry Ford wouldn't have dreamed up the Model T. We need to encourage our children to dream about the future, not stifle their creativity. Imagine what they could accomplish if their imagination were allowed to flourish! 

A thought to take with you today. 

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

A How-To about Writing Scotsmen, Revolutionaries and Companions: Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series

I had thought that I was the only one with  a weird writing style. I rarely write in a straight line (i.e. chronologically, chapter one follows chapter two, etc.). I end up writing what I call "snippets" of scenes that I fit into place later, as the story takes shape. Even my poetry tends to wander at times. I write anytime, anywhere, whenever I get the chance. This random functionality (or as a friend calls it, "chaotic scribbling") is a must for my busy mum lifestyle. Otherwise, I'd never get around to writing, and employ all sorts of excuses.

Yesterday, I bought the Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon. It's a compendium of things related to her "Outlander" series. The series focuses on Claire Beauchamp Randall, a British nurse who served in World War II. In 1945, she and her husband go on a second honeymoon in the Scottish Highlands. There she stumbles into a ring of stones, which transports her to 1745 Scotland. She ends up in the middle of a clan war and is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a young Scot warrior, for protection. Their journey includes the Battle of Culloden, the American Revolution, and time-jumps to 1968 Britain.

It's not quite historical fiction, not quite fantasy/romance, but has elements of all three. The Outlandish Companion includes things as varies as 1)synopses of each book in the series (up to A Drums of Autumn) 2) Scots Gaelic dictionary of expressions, 3) brief Scottish history, including clans and the events leading up to the Battle of Culloden, where the clans were defeated by the British, 4) character lists and geneologies, 5) an article about the medical practices of the era, 6) Frequently Asked Questions about the series, 7) Celtic musicology, 8)Celtic myths and legends, 9) How to conduct historical research and 10) her thoughts and ideas about the writing process in general. (Whew!)

Ms. Gabaldon is candid about her writing process. Before starting Outlander (known as Cross Stitch, in the UK), she wrote and published scientific articles in marine biology. When she made the decision to switch to fiction, she decided to learn how to write a novel by "just writing it". In fact, Outlander was meant to be her 'practice novel', and hadn't planned on showing it, much less publishing it. When she posted snippets of it on a discussion board, her fellow readers wanted "to find out what happens next", so she continued to write it. In fact, she admitted she hadn't planned on concentrating on 18th century Scotland at first, but through research and more writing, she completed Outlander and began a new journey.

The Outlandish Companion doesn't skimp on information; it's packed with notes, letters from fans, and copies of the original conversations on the old-style "bulletin boards" (before e-mail and chat). It can be overwhelming at first, but you can pick and choose which sections interest you. If you write in the historical fiction genre, this would be an excellent book to have on your bookshelf.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Indiana Annie and the Used Bookstore

I step into the used bookstore and I feel like Indiana Jones in some sort of exotic temple with foreign languages on the walls and strange tales waiting to be read. Of course, I'm actually at Book Sellers, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the books are all arranged according to subject: science fiction, history, poetry, mystery...the list goes on.

The store has an interesting selection of book translations in other languages, including Korean, Chinese, Japanese, German, Spanish, Czech and Portuguese. I found German translations of the "Star Wars" saga and "King Kong", as well as a Portuguese translation of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's (Sorcerer's, US) Stone." You can find the most unexpected treasures there. Once I picked up "Winnie Ille Puh" in Latin.

The Writing section is farther down the same aisle. There are plenty of how-to books, others full of publication advice (some several years out of date, unfortunately) and blank journal books. Some are spiral bound, others are hard-bound, with colorful covers and all sorts of designs. I've found unique journal books there and have built up my stock of blank books to jot down all sorts of ideas.

In the back are several shelves of the one dollar bargain books. Old college textbooks, humor collections, classic stories and recent novels, exercise and fitness, cross-stitch patterns, and non-fiction galore. It's a undiscovered treasure chest. I've found books dating back to the 1920s (like a copy of E.M. Forster's "Captain Hornblower" and "Cartellas del Armas" from 1944), but you have to to really dig to find them. Once you find them, it's worth the one dollar you pay for each.

I'll keep coming back a few times a month to see what's "new" on the shelves. It's like a siren call that I can't resist, one that leads me to treasure. 

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Muse Just Took a Hike! Need help!

What do you do when your Muse decides to fly to Bermuda without you and you don't know when he/she/it will return? You stare at your computer, but the words are frozen to the keyboard?

What do you do when you lose your will to write? When you feel that no matter what you do, how much you try to spread your message, how accommodating you are to your fickle Muse, you feel that no one wants to read your words and no one cares?

A writing life is like riding a perpetual roller coaster, full of anticipation on the climb and exhilaration on the down slope. There are times when the ride seems to take forever, and there are times when the power fails and leaves you stuck on the inside of a figure-eight loop. If your Muse is in an especially evil mood that day, he/she/it releases the seat belts and the long security bar holding you in the car. And you find yourself flailing in space for something, anything to write as a life line.

I'm at that point today. Fellow writers, can I have some kind words and encouragement? Thanks in advance.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creative People!

I. The Most Creative Person I've (Personally Known)

I majored in foreign languages and education during my undergraduate years at Virginia Tech. One of my practicum assignments was in a 4th grade classroom at Murray Elementary in Charlottesville, VA. I had the honor of working with the most creative person I've known. Alex Davis was enthusiastic about teaching; she showed her love of learning through interesting projects with the kids.

Unlike many teachers, she involved her students in some decision-making. At the end of each quarter, she met with every student to discuss their grades. Beforehand, she asked them to write down a)what kind of grade they thought they deserved for the quarter and b)why. I expected them to give themselves all A's, but interestingly enough, they were brutally honest in their assessments, and were pretty accurate.

She encouraged problem solving, independent thinking and journal writing. All this within a careful structure: Every morning, she opened each class with a problem or question, and went over each day's schedule, Alex was also a superb timekeeper and usually left herself enough time to summarize what we did that day.

I thought she was a wonderful and gracious woman who was willing to open her classroom to a novice teacher. I wasn't surprised to find out she'd been nominated for Teacher of the Year that year.

II. The Most Creative Person I'd LIKE to Know
Julia Cameron in my ideal creative person. She the author of The Artist's Way, Vein of Gold, and The Right to Write, among other books. Sheadvocates a creative life by going out and doing it. Writers write, artists paint, draw, or sculpt, musicians compose and play, actors act. Enough said.

She's realistic in her expectations. Perfection isn't required. Ms. Cameron has a child-like quality that's essential for play. Her family encouraged her and her five siblings to lead lives true to their natures. Although she's dealt with bad events in her life(including a messy divorce from a well-known film producer,  and an alcohol problem), she triumphed over them. Ms. Cameron wants to help people realize their talents and dreams too.

III. Okay...how am I creative?
I can write without worrying about whether people like it or not. I keep several journals and blogs (both on and off-line). I paint, draw, and collage, and try new techniques. I seek out new places to visit and people to meet. I like bold colors like scarlet red and royal purple and unique pieces of jewelry.

I have two autistic children and every day is a creative challenge to draw them out of their isolated world. What can I do when there are temper tantrums, or a bare-bottomed child trying to escape her diaper?  Creative mom to the rescue!

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Ideal Creative Life

It would be relatively simply, but complex at the same time. I'd combine writing and teaching part-time. My wide net of friends encourage my writing by giving me constructive criticism, praise and a way to decompress and relax. My ideal writing place would be in a nice house with pets and planets. I'd have a music studio with my keyboard, percussion instruments, violin and the latest recording equipment. I'd also have an art studio where I can paint and draw at any time, day or night, when inspiration hits me.

I'd write in a sunroom, screened on three sides, with a desk, sofa, coffee pot, espresso machine and a well-stocked mini-fridge. Super speedy internet connection, with Facebook, LiveJournal, Twitter, Skype, etc.Plus I'd have an iPad and another electronic tablet to draw digitally.

When I need to write out, I'd go to the local cafe', a beach house, or a park. Behind my house, I'd have a Japanese-style water garden, with succulents and koi fish. When I need a complete change of scenery, I prefer to write near the ocean, with the wind in my hair, the sounds of waves nearby, and the gulls crying overhead. I scribble things down by hand and transfer the copy into the computer.

I would have a good relationship with my agent and editor.My books would include chapbooks of poetry, short stories, science fiction, mystery, non fiction. I fell like I have some control over what I publish. If I get paid for it, great! the thing that matters is that I'm happy doing what I'm doing and that I have the support and encouragement to do it.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Song Lyrics: Dark Island

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I recently heard this traditional Scottish song again and fell in love with it. I remember the first time I heard it: an episode of Stargate Atlantis, during the funeral scene in "Sunday". This is the song the piper played on the bagpipes. I couldn't remember the name of the song, although it was familiar. So I looked up the lyrics.

Like many Celtic songs, there are many variations of the lyrics. Here is one variation by Stewart Ross (Inverness, Scotland). There's another one by David Silver, here. The tune itself was originally by Ian McLaughlan. It was written for the 1970's BBC series "The Dark Island"

In the years, long ago
When I first left my home,
I was young and I wanted
the whole world to roam.
But now I am older
and wiser, you see,
for that lovely Dark Island
is calling to me.

O, I've wandered away
from the land of my birth
and been roaming around
to the ends of the earth.
Still my heart is at home
in that land far away,
That lovely Dark Island
where memories stray.

One day, I'll return
to that far distant shore,
and from that dear Island
I'll wander no more.
'Till the day that I die
I will no longer roam,
for that lovely Dark Island
will be my last home.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

You Know You're a Writer Mum when...

...you can toss around a soft football (soccer) ball with one hand and type with the other.

...you can concentrate on editing drafts while the Wiggles, Kipper, Pinky Dinky Doo, Blues Clues or Barney is on in the background.

...you can hum/whistle/sing the theme songs of the above kid shows and do it automatically.

...you time your writing sessions based on the length of kids' shows.

...you can write and feed a baby at the same time.

...you scribble stuff while in the pediatrician's waiting room or the kids' ER.

...you can network during playdates.

... you introduce yourself to the kids' teachers as a writer

...people ask you if you ever sleep and you have to honestly answer, "I don't. Not really."

...you organize your article notes or novel ideas while sitting through a PTA meeting.

...Naptime = 1000 words. Maybe. If you're lucky.

...you can cook/wash dishes/load the laundry/fold laundry/feed baby/serve snack while on the phone with an agent.

...your kids and spouse tiptoe around the house when you announce "Mummy's on deadline."

...you don't mind driving around at 2 AM with a colicky baby, since you're normally up writing anyway.

...you read books to your kids and think, a) "I could use this idea in my story." b)"Who wrote this???" or c) "If this was MY story, I'd..."

...you base some of your characters on your kids. Not exactly on them, but close enough.

...you foster the love of reading and writing in your kids. They're the next generation of writers.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Admin Post: Important, Please Read!

If you've subscribed to the feed or bookmarked my old I Gotta Write on blog.com, that blog has been deleted.

The new address for I Gotta Write is: http://igottawrite1.blogspot.com/

The new feed address: http://igottawrite1.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss

Please adjust your bookmarks and feed readers. :-)


All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creative Profile II: Style Inventory and Family Influences

Creative Style Inventory

When did your creative awakening occur?
About 10 years ago. I started writing again and taking guitar lessons.

What talents do you have, naturally?
writing, music, art, teaching

Which elements (fire, water, wood, air) draw you toward them?
Fire and Water. Yeah, a contradiction. I get ideas in a spark and I tend to really go on them.But I also let the ideas go where they take me, flow like water.

Where and when do you create? Where and when do you wish to create?
Where...anywhere. Literally. Sitting in the coffee shop, or the playground or in a park or a campsite. When-evening, after the kids go to bed. If I could, I'd be in a house on the ocean.

What activates your creative energy and what drains it?
An interesting conversation w/fellow writers and artists (in person or on-line), TV programs, a trip to someplace new, a long walk, inspiring books and pictures. What drains it--negativity,obligation, neediness, a rough day with the kids.

Do you use creative rituals?
I write longhand with colored pens and/or fountain pens. I order coffee when I'm out. I listen to music. If I'm stuck, I'll read on-line blogs and sites of creative people. 

What has been your greatest creative hurdle so far?
Dealing with my husband's indifference, finding time to be creative (w/2 autistic kids and 1 toddler), and the energy to do it.(Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia)

What time of day are you most receptive to inspiration?
late afternoon/evening/night

How does limited thinking and/or the fear of being wrong or looking foolish short-circuit your creative goals?
I end up wondering if anything I write is worth anything. Hubs has said "it's still the same story" even after I've edited it. Is this all a waste of time? The impression I get is "That's nice, but when will it earn any money?" I get the same indifference w/my art. His tacit disapproval used to bother me but I've had to accept the fact that the only one that it matters to is me, not him.

Family Influences

What spiritual beliefs help or hinder you?
I was raised by a strict Catholic mother. "Do as I say, not as I do." The guilt, the hypocrisy, the penance.Taoism and Eastern mysticism has helped me quite a bit.Go with the flow, don't sweat the small stuff. I do try  to get a better handle on my temper. I believe in a benevolent God, not a punishing one.

What skills or philosophy helped you to stay committed to your creativity despite obstacles?
Sheer persistence, and honestly,a "this is for me" attitude.I don't want to end up bitter or as "just a housewife". I want to enjoy life, not watch it go by.

Was your family creative? Were they supportive of your uniqueness and its expression?
My family didn't really encourage any creative work. Mom made crochet tablecloths while Dad was at sea, but she gave it up. She busied herself w/the details of raising the family almost to the exclusion of everything else. It was only in the past few years that I learned she used to play the violin as a young woman.

Dad was a chef in the Navy for 27 years. He loved experimenting in the kitchen and arranged food in presentation. Apparently, the creative gene runs on that side of the family too. My half-brother and younger sister both draw well, my other younger sister was involved in drama, and a distant cousin works as a Hollywood actor.

Creativity was not encouraged. If anything, I was supposed to be "practical": get good grades, get a good job, help the family, then think about what you want.

What kind of messages did you get about your creativity? 
See last question.

Did your home life build or undermine you self-confidence? Did you get a sense of what you were good at?
Undermined, definitely. I wanted to write,but Mom wanted me to go to a nearby college and become a lawyer or doctor. I had a strong interest in music, but that wasn't encouraged either. I was constantly under fire for being interested in the arts and homeopathic medicine.

What is the legacy of women in your family? How have these scripts shaped your choices?
Almost every one is married and a housewife and mother.The only exception I can think of is my cousin Dannie Lynn: single and working in Washington D.C. But my generation is balancing work and family. My sisters are both in the medical field, I'm a writer/artist and another cousin works in Human Relations. 

Who was the most supportive person in your family? What did you learn from him or her?
Ironically enough, no one really encouraged any creative endeavors. My dad came the closest because he always said, "Do what you want to do." I learned not to be so uptight about life from him and that appearances aren't everything.

What impact has your mother's behavior had on your creative courage?
It stifled my creativity. It wasn't until I moved out on my own that I finally had the courage to try. 

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Creative Profile

Creative Profile

Identifiable style?
I like to be whimsical and creative in my writing, art, and pictures. I don't want to be ordinary. I like to experiment with different methods and different styles, like combining poetry and photography. Sometimes I'll also post works-in-progress to show the progression from idea to finished piece.

Do you integrate everything in your life into your expressions?
Mostly. I tend to bring my own personal experiences and desires into my writing. I'm a linguist, so most of my science-fiction/fantasy stories integrate language/culture.  I include the issues the matter most to me. All my characters have a little piece of me (a mannerism, or a personality trait, for example). I bring my personality into my virtual classroom. No substitutions.

Do you practice an artistic discipline on a regular basis?
I write every day, sketch and paint. I also do tai chi and Chi Kung (Qigong) to help with my rheumatoid arthritis.

How often do you create?
Every day, as much as I can.

Alone or with others?
Alone, usually, but I can also create as a group. Right now, I'm part of several writers' groups with brilliant and supportive people. (both real-life and on-line)

How important is innovation to you?
Very important. I'm not satisfied with the status quo. I like to put things together in different ways.

Are you a completely different person when you create?
I'm happier, less critical and less cranky. More confident and outspoken.

Does it help improve other aspects of your life or make things more difficult?
It's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it helps with my emotional balance and health. On the other, I'm a "starving artist" and I'm misunderstood by people like my husband.

Do you need to be recognized for your creations? By whom?
I used to link my need for approval with my husband and was disappointed. Now I just want to be successful in doing what I love. I'm working on opportunities for financial gain right now.

Have you previously considered creativity an alien process?
Not "alien". Just "impractical". It wouldn't pay the bills or gain appreciation.

Do you consider yourself "talented'?
Depends. I think I have a natural inclination for certain things, but I don't think I can't do something scientific-wise or technology-wise because I have no "talent". Everyone can learn new skills.

Is it helpful to push against society or conform and please others?
If we all go with the status quo, nothing changes. Life becomes stagnant. Problems aren't addressed and nothing improves. The ones who think they know the best for everyone become powerful. I used to believe in not rocking the boat. Now I think it's a good thing once in a while.

Do you have an advanced understanding of certain expressive materials?
Words on paper, pencil and ink on canvas.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Little Stories about Bookworms...

Poem by Ralph Bergerngren

"My pop is always buying books:
so that Mom says his study looks
just like an old bookstore. The bookshelves are so full and tall,
they hide the paper on the wall,
and there are books just everywhere,
on table, window-seat and chair,
and books right on the floor.
and every little while he buys
more books and brings them home and tries
to find a place where they will fit
and has an awful time of it.

Once, when I asked him why he got
so many books, he said, "Why not?"
I've puzzled over that a lot."

The Bookworm (and other Vermin) by J. Doraston
'There is a sort of busy Worm
that will the fairest books deform,
by gnawing holes through them
Alike, through every leaf they go,
yet of its merit nought they know,
No  care they aught about them.

Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint,
the Poet, Patriot, Sage or Saint,
Not sparing wit nor learning.
Now, if you'd know the reason why,
The best of reasons I'll supply:
'Tis bread to the poor vermin."

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, August 16, 2010

Writing Exercise: "My One True Love..."

My One True Love...
(if he actually existed)

will love and cherish me as I am and will not try to change me.
supports my choice of profession, no matter how "strange" or "penniless" it seems.
will read my writing and give me feedback
is cheerful and unafraid of the future.
believes in an equal partnership
does not dominate in word or action. His was isn't always the "right" way.
is willing to make sacrifices on his part and not just expects me to give up everything
is willing to be flexible, not rigid
doesn't only think about his stomach (or other parts...)
shares some of my interests
willing to stand alone, if needed
can be practical-minded, but not to the point where it becomes ridiculous
does not blindly follow tradition
is a risk taker
is not glued to the TV set most of the time
is wiling to dream
doesn't scorn odd ideas
likes social outings and doesn't want to be a hermit
stops harping about finances all the time
understands music and doesn't dismiss it as frivolous
likes to travel
refuses to give up
has a way with words

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cats and Writing

I didn't grow up with cats. My mother was definitely anti-pet; she had her hands full with three children and didn't want to put up with a fourth (or fifth, depending if he considered my dad as a kid). I never understood the deal with cats, until my husband and I started dating. He grew up with cats; his family owned three at the time: Smoky, Jasmine and Rufus. Smokey was the Big Brother, Jas was the Feline Diva and Rufus was the affectionate Tom Drooley.

After Hubs and I got married, we adopted a little orange kitten from the Albemarle County SPCA. She climed into my lap and refused to leave. We named her Trouble. Unfortunately, that Christmas, she fell ill--the flu hit our house hard, and she died on my birthday. I was devastated, but a year later, we acquired two other felines, Frank and Jesse.

When we got them, Hubs thought we had two boy cats. He named them Frank and Jesse, after the infamous James brothers. On a trip to the vet, we found out Frank was actually a girl. We should have named them Bonnie and Clyde. They were two Confederate-gray cats with bright green eyes, part Persian and part mutt. Frank was the spoiled princess; Jesse the easygoing laid-back guy. He thought he was a dog in cat's clothing, followed me around and even played the occasional game of fetch.

Frank and Jesse stood guard outside the computer room while I was writing. Occasionally, they'd scratch at the door because they want attention, and I'd go out and pet them. If I wrote by hand on the couch, they kept me company by moving to my lap. If they got too obnoxious, I went out to write.

We had to give them to the SPCA three years ago...and right now we don't have any room for any pets (with 3 kids). But I think cats make good writing companions. They're independent, but can be sociable when they want to be. They watch the world go by and notice the smallest details. A writer has to be just as observant to add spice to her writing. Cats are mobile and find the most interesting places to explore and to curl up in.

Are cats psychic? Maybe. I think they're more attuned to their surroundings, that observation thing again. I've seen too many weird things to discount the possibility. Even with all their little quirks, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Besides, as a writer, the cats had to put up with my little quirks too.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Writing Exercise: "Your Life Guide"

If you were to have a guide, what would you tell them about how to communicate with you in a way that is most supportive?

Give me positive encouragement. Tell me what I'm doing right, but don't hesitate to tell me if something's not working. Give it to me straight and don't hide behind smoke and mirrors I want to work as an partnership with both of us equally learning from the other. If I have an idea, let me fully explain it before you jump to conclusions. Even it isn't feasible, some parts of it might still be possible. Make this a conversation; tell me what you think. If you're silent, I might assume you're not interested and I'm just talking to a wall.

Don't nag me. That's a surefire way to turn me off. Don't offer your advice from high above your pedestal. If you are manipulative, Ill break the partnership, no questions asked. But if you're willing to work with me, I'll try to honor our partnership as best as I can.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quotes about Books

"Where is Human Nature so weak as in the bookstore?" - Henry Ward Beecher, Star Papers

"Any man with a moderate income can afford to buy more books than he can read in a lifetime."- Henry Holt

"There are 10,000 books in my library, and it will keep growing until I die. This has exasperated my daughters, amused my friends, and baffled my accountant. If I had not picked up this habit in the library long ago, I would have more money in the bank today; I would not be richer." -Pete Hamill, "D'Artagnan on 9th Street: A Brooklyn Boy at the Library."

"Early to bed and Early to rise, Work like hell and advertise." -A distorted proverb from an agent.

"I cannot live without books." -Thomas Jefferson

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." -Jorge Luis Borges

"Where books are burned, in the end, people will be burned too." -Heinrich Heine

"An effective minor character is a well-made bundle of ideas, and an effective major character is a well-made bundle of ideas to whom we are asked to pay more attention." --Eric Maisel, "Deep Writing".

Ben Franklin's Epitaph
(1729- he wrote it, but it's not on his gravestone)

The Body
Benjamin Franklin, Printer
(Like the cover of an old book,
its contents torn out,
and stript of its letter and gilding,)
Lies food for worms:
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
for it will (as he beleived) appear once more
In a new
and more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
The Author

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Writing Exercise: "If I were..."

If I were...

a color, what color would I be? Purple.
What shape? An arrow.
What movement? A gliding wave.
What sound? A harp arpeggio
What animal? A phoenix.
What song? A lullaby.
What number? 7
What car? A jeep.
What piece of furniture? A rocking chair.
What food? Chocolate
What musical instrument? A violin.
What place? The beach.
What element in nature? A waterfall.
What kind of tree? Cherry blossom.
Something I'm afraid of? Disappointment
What are the words hiding behind my eyes? Nebulous silk.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Writing Exercise: "100 Things I Love"

100 Things I Love

playing piano
playing guitar
listening to music
Celtic music
anything by John Williams
scented candles
bubble baths
colored pencils
brush pens
root beer
books by Mercedes Lackey
books by Rita Mae Brown
watching the news
my teapot
ice cream sundaes
banana splits
St. Bernard puppies
watching people
walking by the beach
martial arts
Oriental philosophy
visiting a good bookstore
getting letters
getting E-mail
going shopping
coin collecting
going to a music store
quaint inns
sailing on the ocean
the smell of the tide
fresh fruit
eating out
going to a party w/friends
holding a kitten or a puppy
a good soaking rain
trees in bloom
the smell of honeysuckle
amusement parks
historical sites
working w/kids
making ATCs
anything by SARK
my kids
my computer
making love
roller ball pens
unexpected gifts
nice dresses
clothes that fit, period
hearing my kids laugh
seeing my kids triumph
Emeril Live!
acting (improv)
glass statuettes
Irish dance
action movies
Star Wars
Star Trek
anything by Julia Cameron
teddy bears
blue birds
panda bears
Great Britain/Scotland/Ireland/Wales
Doctor Who
meeting new people
Japanese gardens
sun sparkles on the water
a nice dinner
a great party
peace and quiet

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Bookstore is a Just a Bookstore?

A bookstore is a bookstore, some people claim. We don't hesitate to go to the cathedral of Barnes and Noble or the chapel of Books A Million. Bright lights and wide aisles, books of all shapes, sizes and colors. Shelves of videos, compact discs and Blue Rays, bundles of slick magazines. Classical music and cappuccinos. Sit and stay a while, read a novel while sipping at a Starbucks latte. Clean and convenient, you can find any book, anywhere, in minutes.

Efficiency is good thing in our modern world. It's a comfort to be able to find the latest novel  waiting for us there, to be picked up. Or the next month's issue of "Cosmopolitan" or "Plane and Pilot". When you enter one of these mazes, you think, "Where do I begin?" There are more choices, more decisions, more options, more money to spend.

I enjoy going to the megastores. I also enjoy going to the smaller, independent bookstores. If the megastores are the cathedrals of bookdom, then these shops are shrines, unique stops for the pilgrim on literary quests. When I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia, I loved the various book places near the University of Virginia and on the Downtown Mall. I met a good friend, Barbara, while she worked at the Book Cellar.

As the name implied, it was located in the basement of the Hardware Store Restaurant. I became a regular, talking with Barbara behind the counter. Barbara lived alone with her 9 cats, but she loved books as much as I did.

Other bookstores included "Oakley's Used Book Store" and "Read it Again, Sam". The majority of those books involved Virginia history and geneology, but I could find Stephen King's books among Amy Tan's, Henry Thoreau's with Anne Rice's, all for bargain prices. I found out-of-print and special items that I could never find at a large retailer. The proprietors of these shops knew me by sight and we'd chat about all things while I paid for my treasures.

My favorite one was Heartwood, located in an alley across the University, right across Jefferson Park Avenue. There were narrow aisles with books stacked like soldiers and squeezed into rows on the floor. This made it hard to navigate, but Heartwood smelled like paper and ink. I found a German version of Don Quixote published in 1820 and a collection of Poe tales from 1900. Who knew what you could find?

When I moved to Charlotte, I lamented the lack of independent bookstores. Living in Thomas Jefferson's Village certainly spoiled me, but I didn't waste time finding one. The Used Book Stores at the corner of Plaza and Central is currently high on the favorites list. A huge attraction is the bargain shelves with $1.00 books,

Each little store has its own quaint charm, each has its atmosphere. Some, like Heartwood, smells like ancient tomes. Others convey a folksy charm that puts you at ease. Stay, read a while, no cappuccino required.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing Exercise: "Word Choices"

Writing Exercise: "Word Choices"

Directions: Start with a simple sentence, then transform it by adding and subtracting details. Kind of like the kids' game "Telephone".

1) I drank a cup of coffee.
2) He drank a can of soda.
3) He drank a large can of purple soda.
4) He threw the dirty can and the orange soda.
5) He angrily threw the dirty can and the orange soda.
6) He angrily threw the smelly, dirty can and the flat orange soda.
7) He angrily threw the smelly, oversized socks and the flat green pie pan.
8) He playfully threw the smelly, oversized socks and the large green sweater.

Use your last sentence as the first sentence of a paragraph.

He playfully threw the smelly, oversized socks and the large, green sweater, She dodged the dirty barrage by diving over the side of the bed. It missed her head by mere inches. Then she grabbed the grimy pair of blue sweatpants and hurled it in his general direction. The laundry fight had begun, and no one wanted to stop it, as childish as it seemed.

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Nanowrimo 2006 Story: "The Silk Dragon"

My Nanowrimo 2006 story "The Silk Dragon" will be moved from the old site to "Annie's Flights of Fantasy", my archive of original work (non fan-fiction). Here is the link to the Introduction page, which will have all the links to the "sessions" or "chapters". Each "session" will have links to the page before and after it. 

Why "session" and not "chapter"? Nanowrimo is "National Novel Writing Month" (November), and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I began writing and didn't stop.  squeezed in more writing in between taking care of (then) two kids, a 3 year old and a 10 month old at the time. The places where I had to "break" are the "session" breaks. They're of various lengths and not necessarily where I'd actually break the story into chapters.  

Yes, this work is unedited, and I've kept it in its original form to show the process of writing.  It's raw, and yeah, it's silly and rather weird.It's the process, not necessarily the end result, that is important in this novel. And when I was running out of steam, I pulled ideas from kids' shows, real life, history, etc. al. See how many you can identify.

Read and enjoy! And please, leave comments! :-)

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quotes from "The Art of Writing", Part II, "Worthwhile Advice"

More quotes from The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters, translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping. Although these were written a long time ago, they hold true even now for we writers today.

From the "Poets' Jade Splinters", edited by Wei Qingzhi (unknown date, but definitely before 1244 BCE)

"Advice for Beginners", from Comments on Poetry by Hou Shan
It's better to be clumsy than clever, better plain than affected, better crude than weak, better eccentric than vulgar. This is true for poetry, as for prose.

"Don't Try too Hard", by Xu Yanzhou
Huang Luzhi said to Guo Gongpu, "Why do you try so hard when you write poems?" This is to the point---a good lesson for beginners.

"Convey the Idea, not the Name", from Forbidden Meat (Note: Yeah, that's the actual name)
Su Dongpo says, "Good painters paint the spirit, not the form. Good poets convey the idea, not the name." Here is a poem by him:

"Comparing a painting to the object
is how a child judges paintings.
If you think your poem is the last word on a subject,
it shows you're not a poet."

"Three Ways to Steal" , from Varieties in a Poetic Garden. (This is one of my favorites)
There are three kinds of plagiarism in poetry writing. The clumsiest thief steals the words. Cheng Ju's line "The light of sun and moon is heavenly virtue" is from Fu Changyu's line "The light of sun and moon is transparent."

The second kind of plagiarist steals the idea. Consider Shen Chenqi's lines"
"The remains of summer flee from a small pond.
Coolness returns to the tips of tall trees first."

Now consider the original lines by Liu Hun:
"Ripples arise in the pool.
Autumn comes to tall poplar trees."

The third type of theft doesn't leave much trace. Wang Changlin's lines go:
"With two carp in my hand
I watch wold geese fall into distance."

The original lines by Qi Kang are
"My eyes see of migrating cranes.
Holding up my zither, I wave."

And one more...

"Read More and Write More" by Su Dongpo
The secret of writing lies in reading more and writing more. Many writers worry about writing too little, yet they are too lazy to read. Whenever they write a poem, they want it to be the best one around, but it is impossible for such writers to achieve this. By constantly writing you will learn to diagnose faults and diseases in what you write, and you won't have to wait for others to point them out.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quotes from "The Art of Writing", Part I, "Process"

I dug out one of my favorite Chinese classics: The Art of Writing: Teachings of the Chinese Masters, translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping. Here are some quotes about the writing process:

From: "The Art of Writing" by Lu Ji (Taoist poet, 261-303 CE)

Chapter 3: "Process"

Search for the words and sphere of thought,
then seek the proper order;
release their shining forms
and tap images to hear how they sing.
Now leaves grow along a branching thought.
Now trace a current to its source.
Bring the hidden into light
or to form the complex from simplicity.
Animals shake at the tiger's changing pattern
and birds ripple off when a dragon is seen;
some words belong together
and others don't join, like ragged teeth, 
but when you're clear and calm
your spirit finds true words.
With heaven and earth contained in your head,
nothing escapes the pen in your hand.
It's hard to get started at first,
painful like talking with cracked lips,
but words will flow with ink in the end.
Essence holds content as the trunk lifts the tree;
language is patterned into branches, leaves and fruit.
Now words and content match
like the mood on your face---
smile when you're happy
or sigh when your heart hurts.
Sometimes you can improvise easily.
Sometimes you can only bite the brush and think.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Slice of Life of a Mummy Writer

This was my "writing morning" this morning:

7 AM: Kids are up, Wiggles are on, coffee's in the pot. Son powers up my laptop (good boy!). Breakfast for all.

7:15 Daughter has meltdown, need to calm her. Son cuts power to laptop, must reboot.

7:30 Finally check E-mail Older daughter decides she doesn't need diaper...putting diaper on moving target very challenging.

7:45 Reboot computer. Again.

8:00 Pinky Dinky Doo on Nick Jr. Son decides he wants to put DVD on, turns it on, his sisters howl in protest. Must settle argument. Son sulks because he doesn't get to do what he wants to do. Decides to throw tantrum. Time-out in room.

8:30 Jack's Big Music Show on Nick Jr. Again, replay of incident at 8 AM. Sorted out halfway through the program.

8:45 Look over friend's draft, make notes about revision. Look over other writing, makes notes on round-robin chapter.

9:30 Kids playing quietly, I run a load of laundry, and write. Find Baby Girl's blocks the hard way by stepping on them. Implement clean-up.

9:45 Son wants to get out. Dress kids, shoes. Takes much longer than it should..

10:05 Load kids in car. Also takes much longer than it should.

10:25 Arrive at Northlake Mall. Kids play in the playplace. Get a couple of chocolate chip cookies in honor of National Chocolate Chip Day.

11:30 Find out Charlotte DOT is repaving usual way home. Must take long way around.

11:45 Lunch. Chicken sandwiches and tater tots. Check e-mail. Older daughter decides she wants Baby Girl's lunch instead. Chaos ensues

12:10 Afternoon Wiggles on. Manage to finish edit draft and send it.

And that was my morning. Right now, the kids are taking naps/quiet time so I can finally catch up on writing

So...how's your writing day been so far?

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to Subscribe to my Feed (updated 8/3/10)

I've had some questions asking how to subscribe to the I Gotta Write RSS Feed.
Here's how:
1) In the right hand column, find "Subscribe to I Gotta Write".
2) Click on the "Posts" or "All Comments"
3) In the pop-up menu, you have a choice of how to view the feed. (through Yahoo, Google Reader, etc.).
4) Select how you want to follow the RSS feed and click on that button to find instructions on how to add it to your reader.
There, you're done!

Some more admin notes:
I Gotta Write has a Facebook Page, here: Facebook link
a Discussion Forum, here: IGW Discussion Forum
and is on: NetworkedBlogs

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Literary Heroes: Whom Would I Invite to a Coffee/Tea Party?

My literary heroes (aka fictional characters and or/their authors) on the guest list:

1) Amy Tan (author of "The Joy Luck Club")
2) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation,
3) Sherlock Holmes and his chronicler,
4) Dr. James H. Watson,
5) Stephen King
6) Agatha Christie and her detective,
7)Hercules Poirot
8) William Goldman ("The Princess Bride") and his swordsmen,
9) Inigo Montoya ("Hello my name is ---, you killed my father, prepare to die!") and
10) The Dread Pirate Westley (aka "As you Wish"),
11) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (incl. Allan Quatermain, Mina Harker, the Invisible Man, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and Tom Sawyer),
12) Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn's creator, Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens),
13) Diana Gabaldon ("Outlander") and
14) her time traveling doctor, Claire Beauchamp-Fraser and
15) Clare's Scottish husband, Jamie Fraser,
16) and while we're in the UK, Ian Fleming and
17) his superspy James Bond, along with his boss
18) "M", the gadget guy,
19) "Q" and the snarky aide,
20) "Miss Moneypenny"
and to help with catering the tea/coffee party
21) Sookie Stackhouse ("True Blood")

Writers, whom would you invite?