Thursday, October 21, 2010

old friends we have

i remember my high school graduation. i remember the long green shoots of spring grass under my shiny shoes, i remember how my panty hose sparkled in the sun. i remember the long march down the quad to the chapel and i remember how the line snaked around the mounds of doggy poo left by mister von's big st bernard, lady.

i remember the interminable speeches, i remember the final hymn. but mostly what i remember is walking away when the singing and the processing and the speechifying was finished. i remember thinking, even then, how quickly those four years were over, that a whole new chapter had opened in my life and a whole enormous one was done.

it was the first time i was aware of such a stark demarcation between what was Then and what was Now.

last night, a friend from high school and i got together for the first time since that june day so long ago. instead of nearly 35 years, it felt as if i only blinked.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

thinking of voting for linda mcmahon?

have you seen The Wrestler? it's a movie with mickey rourke and a great song by bruce springsteen. to my way of thinking, it illustrates more perfectly than anything any politically-minded pundit might have to say about the worthiness of linda mcmahon to represent me in the senate of the united states.

notice i said ME. i don't know about the rest of the residents of the state of connecticut. they may all disagree with me - after all, she's got a gazillion dollars and all i have is a Story.

but as every writer knows, Stories are all about Truth. at a recent debate, another Grandma asked how mcmahon could justify the systematic dehumanization of women in which her organization continues to indulge. mcmahon replied with some waffle-mouthed answer straight out of the Army Manual on Prognisticating to the Press.

but let's face it, boys and girls. the people the WWE exploits mercilessly and without quarter aren't primarily women ... they're men. i dont care how big and strong a guy is, or how staged the fight - that shit has to hurt. as the mother, stepmother and mother in law of three beautiful young men and grandmother of someone who will be, i value male flesh because it's part of my flesh. i wouldn't allow my sons or my grandson to so abuse themselves for any amount of money. no matter how great you might think our healthcare system, original parts aren't interchangeable with man-made ones. since i've had first hand experience, so to speak, in the creation of those original parts, i feel highly invested in preserving them. pregnancy is too big a pain in the ass not to cherish the final product -whatever its sex turns out to be - for life.

and thats the reason i say we don't vote for linda mcmahon. voting someone into office who has made a veritable fortune off the destruction of the literal flesh and blood of another human being - be it male or female flesh - is like turning over the keys of a blood-bank to mr and mrs bedbug.

everyone says we want Change in washington. the only people who will vote for linda mcmahon this november are the ones who believe politicians are all blood-sucking parasites. and in her case... they'll be right.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

the sound of dialogue, or thoughts on dialogue, part two

more than any other part of a story, my experience as a reader is that i "hear" dialogue spoken aloud in my head, even if i'm reading silently (as i usually am.) consequently, one of the ways i use dialogue is to introduce and maintain each character's individual "sound" in the reader's mind.

the best way i've found to do this is to read your dialogue sections aloud. i actually recommend you read ALL your writing aloud - to see if you've captured your unique "voice." but when it comes to dialogue, this step is one of the most important. just the words the character uses, and the way in which the character chooses to express her or himself will reveal a lot about the character, for example.

it's also important to get the "sound" right because dialogue mimics conversation. you want the words to flow in the reader's head as naturally as a line of conversation flows off a person's tongue. having someone else read your piece, especially if they read it aloud, can be even more helpful when it comes to capturing the right tone of "voice" for each character.

in terms of when and how to use dialect, my feeling is to use it sparingly. people dont think they have accents, first of all - no one hears their own. dialect is like pepper - sprinkle it judiciously but don't let it overpower the stew. you don't want your reader wading through paragraphs of 'dinna's' and 'fashes' and 'lassies' for example. establish your character as whatever it is she or he is and then allow the reader to fill in the accent. accent is as much a question of cadence as it is of funny words and spellings- capture the cadence of an irish brogue, for example, and you will never have to use tortured english again.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

thoughts on writing dialogue

a mistake that writers sometimes make is to believe that dialogue and conversation are analogous. in other words, if this were an SAT question, it might look something like this:

Conversation is to people as Dialogue is to characters.

i think this analogy is wrong, but i think it speaks to why writers – especially novice writers – can feel dialogue is somehow “difficult.” it’s not enough to say that dialogue and conversation aren’t quite the same thing. dialogue and conversation are as different as a flower from a farm implement.

for me, the relationship between conversation and dialogue is more like that between poetry and language in general. or, in other words:

Dialogue is to conversation as Poetry is to language.

as i have come to understand dialogue, it's the deliberate distillation of conversation into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling in a reader. poetry attempts to do the same thing with the language as a whole. poetry, too, is a distillation of the language into an artificial form with the purpose of evoking meaning and feeling.

dialogue should be used by a writer to do two things: reveal character and move plot. if a line of dialogue is not doing one or the other, or even possibly both… i get rid of it. so the next time you find yourself evaluating a snippet of dialogue, whether yours or anyone else's, ask yourself - does it reveal character or move the plot? if it doesn't, consider if it really needs to be there.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

little libby's big adventure

it isn't always easy for my kids to have me for a mother. im very aware of my limitations, and i've generally always tried to make sure my kids are aware of them as well. most of the time, the children have learned to make accomodation. they look the other way whenever i do, say or wear something embarrassing. they learned not to expect certain typical mom things from me - like participation in the PTA, bake sales, rides to practice or interest in wedding attire.

mostly they've grown to tolerate, if not love, my differences.

but every once in a while, one of them puts their feet down and insists i toe the line.

if it were up to me, each of my kids would simply apply to the university of connecticut and go. their grades are good enough to get in, the price is right and dollar for dollar, i think its one of the best educational deals in town. utilitizing my approach saves energy, money and that most precious resource of all - mommy's time. my older three saw the light and did just that.

and then there's libby.

libby's friends are being hauled up and down the east coast on that annual exercise in parental insanity called the College Tour, and thus libby decided she should be, too. normally i'd be highly resistant and do what i do best when confronted by something my children want to do and i don't: delegate it.

but to libby's credit, her grades are better, her SAT scores higher than her three sibs. she wants to explore Other Options and there's no one around to delegate. and thus, thirty years to the month i became a parent for the very first time, libby and i set off on a College Tour.

so far we've seen four schools in two states. may goddess have mercy on my soul.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

Friday, October 1, 2010

nice matters

as a writer, i've been conditioned to avoid "nice" like the plague. nothing should ever be described as "nice" - except in dialogue - because "nice" is vague, ineffable. you can't point to something and say "that's what nice is."

but maybe, come to think of it, you can.

another hate crime is splashed across the cyber-scape: this one culminated in a young man's suicide. he was a college student, was good at music. his room-mate thought it would be funny to film a sexual encounter between this young man and another. when it was made public on the web, the young man killed himself.

whoever turned the webcam and thought it would be funny to film such a thing wasn't nice. that person was low and petty and mean and small-minded and deserves everything i hope the DA is about to throw at him. and her, because there was more than one person involved. but the question is, where did these kids - because they are kids - learn such behavior? where did they learn it's okay to be mean to someone?

my suspicion is they learned it from their parents.

my book club recently read a book called You're Wearing That? by Deborah Tannen. far be it from me to dispute ms tannen's findings, but if that's really how most mothers talk to most daughters, i guess i understand why the world is such a despicable place. there's a difference between disciplining a child and being mean to a child and if you're not sure what that difference is, here's a clue. put yourself in the child's place and imagine yourself on the receiving end of whatever it is you're saying. and for mothers with daughters - especially the ones who participated in ms tannen's study - here's another: as long as the child is dressed appropriately for the weather and her basic hygiene needs are met, allow her her own choices in clothing, hair and overall appearance. it's none of your business how anyone chooses to wear their hair, and that includes your kid's.

because mean matters. and nice counts.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.

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