Archive for the ‘articles’ Category

THE SECOND DRAFT AND MORE

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

I sometimes say the first draft of a novel is the most satisfying to write. When the creative spirit gallops free as a mare in the fields, kicking up its heels, you know the work is going splendidly! But when it’s not, your spirit [creative or otherwise] drags along like a lame donkey hauling a cart of manure. Life can be unmitigated hell. (more…)

THE FIRST DRAFT: One trick to get there.

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

It’s a marvellous “high” seeing those three hundred pages stacked up on your desk-the first draft! How long did it take? Three months, a year, a decade? I remember when the last page chugged out of my, by then, wheezing printer that I gazed at that first draft in awe for at least ten minutes. It was the first glimpse of my new-born.

But how did it get there? It’s important to give that some thought, especially now that the real work of revising lies ahead. What did I learn from completing it? (more…)

What I learned from William Makepeace Thackeray

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Only a week or so ago, I posted a blog here entitled, what I learned from Ernest Hemingway. In it I said that Hemingway was good writer because he let the dialogue of the characters do most of the heavy lifting-that is the writer could convey emotion, mood, feeling etc., to the reader. To do otherwise was tantamount to having an annoying stage director come out in the middle of a scene to comment on what the characters were thinking and feeling. (more…)

THE WRITER’S VOICE

Friday, December 26th, 2008

As I said the other day, I thought I’d post a few articles about my musings about writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sometimes critics speak of a writer’s voice. But what do yousuppose they mean?  I think of it as a goal to be achieved on a very long road. It’s that uniquely personal “way” you have of expressing yourself to the world in word and thought-the sum total of yourself as a human being. You might say it’s the Holy Grail of writing. (more…)

What I learned from Ernest Hemingway.

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

A quick Google of the title The Sun also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, brings me pages upon pages of articles. With scads of information and opinion out there, what can I possibly add?

But before I answer that question, here is a photograph of the River Seine in Paris which I took in 2004–just to set the mood for the book set in Paris in the 1920’s

Most critics discuss at great length themes and characters of this novel. But my question is this:  how does a writer create such a palpable, all pervasive mood in a novel.

What is that mood? (more…)

EDWARD HOPPER: CAPTURING PRIVATE, SOLITARY MOMENTS

Friday, December 19th, 2008

AUTOMAT, by Edward Hopper

I have a fascination with the paintings of the American artist, Edward Hopper. Somehow-whether by technique, imagination or subject matter-he is able to create the most compelling and evocative scenes, which stir my imagination.

One of my favourites is Automat an oil painted by him in 1927.

A young woman with a yellow felt hat sits absolutely alone in a barren restaurant drinking a cup of coffee. I look at this and immediately feel her isolation and loneliness as if it were my own. Is she running away? What thoughts are in her mind as she stares into the cup?

Right away, Hopper has got us speculating, as he does with all his paintings. Where did she come from? Where is she going? You’re caught right in the middle of a story which you can “read” backwards or forwards in time. I was so taken with this painting that the woman in it became the inspiration for a character in a short story, The Thief, and now a novel which I am writing. Struck by her isolation and self-containment, I called her Celia.

I search the painting to see what emotions Hopper creates and how he does it. Behind the solitary woman is a large window, blackened by an impenetrably gloomy night. The lights or reflections of lights recede into the background giving a murky, tunnel-like effect, leading to nowhere. The radiator, crouching at the left of the painting, seems just as isolated as the girl in the composition, but almost looks more communicative than her.  The lonely,solitary moment is caught in time-permanently engraved on my mind.

Just think how many stories could grow from this one painting! Will someone, a boyfriend or family member enter that door, hoping to bring her back? If no one comes, where will she go as soon as she drinks her coffee? To a dingy hotel room? Onto a train to New York? That would be just like so many other Hopper paintings, which so often depict hotel lobbies, motels and railway cars. Or maybe she will change her mind and go back home.

Perhaps this painting speaks to me of the apprehension of the unknown as we proceed moment to moment through life. So often, we are unsure and tentative, fearing to venture out into the unfamiliar. Then again, maybe the girl is incapable of reaching out to others. After all, for me, Celia-the character in my story who was inspired by this painting- grew into a character that was desperate to get free of her self-imposed isolation from the world. And so, for me-art, painting, sculpture, and photography are so often an inspiration for writing. Of course, all art [whether it is painting or writing or music] speaks of its own time-that is, the time and place in which the artist lived.

Hopper painted much of his work in the twenties, thirties and forties of the last century, when rapid industrialization and urbanization were forcing people from their old dwellings and old ways of living. Consequently, so many people felt lost and displaced. And yet, the emotions evoked by his work are universal, whatever the time and place. Great art transcends time and place and touches a nerve in us all, which communicates those universal emotions and ideas to us. Just like a photograph, Automat is a permanent moment in time existing in a world which, at the same time, seems so transient.

And that is why such a painting as the Automat inspires me even today.

No Man’s Meat by Morley Callaghan.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Writers always want to write a better novel or short story. And so, we naturally turn to writers we admire. I like to use images in stories and so, I often wonder how a writer can develop an image which governs the meaning of the whole story and breathes life into it. After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a mental “word” image must be worth at least five hundred.

No Man’s Meat is a novella written by Morley Callaghan, one of my favourite Canadian authors. But no commercial house would touch it. It had to be published privately by an avant-garde house in Paris in 1931. And soon, I will tell you why that was so.

But, first to the story. Bert and Teresa Beddoes are a reasonably well to do married couple from the city [probably Toronto]. Frequently they stay at their cottage somewhere up north where the farming is poor and the farmers live a hard-scrabble existence. The Beddoes are laughed at as city folk.

Their marriage [they say] is one of peaceful contentment, loving and respectful, but it is clearly lacking in any sort of passion. They sleep in separate rooms in the cottage. (more…)

ON THE MAGIC OF TRAVEL AND WRITING

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Magic in travel? You must be kidding! All we hope is to get there and back safely. When we consider the long lines, the cancelled flights, the rude security staff and the cramped seats on planes, don’t we all feel a lot like cattle being pushed and prodded from A to B? Now you’re asking for magic? Isn’t that a bit much?

Perhaps it is a tall order, but I’m thinking of those moments-and they may be few and far between-when suddenly, on your travels, you see or experience something that makes you view the world in a new way, from a different perspective. The world opens up and that, in itself, may be magical. Isn’t that the real purpose of travel-unless we’re talking about business trips? (more…)

ARE MEN REALLY FROM MARS AND WOMEN REALLY FROM VENUS?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

So says the book by John Gray, PhD.

But are they really from different planets-are they actually a different species?

How often have you heard this?

Oh God! Didn’t you know? Men and women are so different, it’s no wonder they can’t communicate. This is usually said out of hurt and anger when a relationship hits the inevitable bumps [crashes?] along the way mostly through poor communication.

Since I have never bought into this Mars vs. Venus notion, I have done an informal survey. Nothing scientific-just asking friends. (more…)

Death in Venice

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Do you know the great novella by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice? If you haven’t read it, you may well have seen the movie. When I was in Venice, I was haunted by this story as I wandered through the narrow, twisting calles on my last trip more than seven years ago. In fact, I entitled the photograph below Death in Venice, which I took of a cafe on San Marco.

(more…)