The Creative Writer as Voyeur

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The Aunties, National Palace Museum, Taipei – Photo by JS

I was in Taiwan recently and, looking through the pictures I took, found a few where I’d snapped groups of strangers.

Who are you and what brought you there? All delightful possibilities for the imagination to explore.

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Schoolgirls 1, Chung Ching Shrine, Taipei, Photo by JS
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Schoolgirls 2, Chung Ching Shrine, Taipei – Photo by JS
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Railway Lunch, Fenchihu Station, Alishan – Photo by JS
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Sightseeing in Style, National Palace Museum, Taipei – Photo by JS

Thanks for the memories, fellow travelers!

p.s.: I’ve done my best to blur all faces.

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Dylan, Ear-Worms, and More on Draft 12.1

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Credit: bobdylan.com

Bob Dylan’s star is shining bright since the announcement that he has been chosen as the 2016 laureate for Nobel Prize in Literature. Congrats, Bob! Well deserved, and thrilled that literature, in the eyes of one of the most visible literature prize committee, has been expanded to include song composition! Readers of these pages will know that I often use examples from song lyrics in my posts because I find that they connect us more tightly than words that live only (mostly) on the page.

Which brings me, in a round-about way, to a strange ear-worm of mine, strange because I’ve heard the song only a handful of times in my life. Oh, but what a powerful song Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man is, with it’s dirge-like tempo and angry insistence!

Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

(Pa-pa-pam pam pam!)

It comes to me at odd moments, a stray thought about a misunderstanding big or small, and the lyrics will pop into my head and stay there for a day or two, pa-pa-pam pam pam!

And speaking of words that live beyond the page, if only fleetingly, a reminder that Draft 12.1 is only a week away. Check out Draft’s newest related post, The Writer’s Unblocking: 4 Authors Share their Ideal Writing Spot.

Temporal Point-of-view; Upcoming Reading

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Autumn’s glory in Stanley Park, Vancouver, 2016 – Photo by JS

Less noticeable than who steers the narrative – a first person narrator, say, or an omniscient third person narrator – is the point in time from which a story is told. Have years passed and is the storyteller, older and wiser, revisiting her youth, as in Lee Harper’s To Kill a Mockingbird, or is the story unfolding in present time with no hindsight to call upon – except for portions told in flashback? Something to ponder as we go about crafting our stories.

Meanwhile I’d like to invite everyone in the Toronto area to Draft 12.1 on Sunday October 23rd, 3 pm, at the Flying Pony, an artist-run gallery at 1481 Gerrard Street East, west of Coxwell. The event will include readings by:

Karen Mulhallen

Josée Sigouin

Teri Vlassopoulos

Bänoo Zan

This will be my second reading at Draft. Thank you, Draft collective! My first was on October 31st, 2010 – Halloween – and the theme was Death! Back then my novel was entitled Intersection rather than The Fifth Season, and the excerpt I read here and here were narrated from a different point in time. The set-up is explained in the first video but what counts here is that my male protagonist, Adam, was in North America and had recently met female protagonist, Joanne, before he flash-backed to an earlier love interest and a dramatic event connected to it.

In the current version of the story, Adam is back in his home country, South Korea. The flashback occurs a whole year later and is motivated by trying to grapple with the novel’s central dilemma more than Adam’s poor track record with relationships.

In any event, I’m not planning to read the re-imagined version of this scene but, rather, the opening chapter of The Fifth Season narrated by Joanne. The temporal point-of-view should be be obvious in the first minute or two. If you come, let’s talk about it at the break!

Exhausting the Wind

The wind ruffles curtains
And sweeps dust bunnies under beds.
The wind gusts.
The wind puffs sails
And cartwheels through wheat fields.
The wind booms.
The wind knocks chairs down
And wrestles tables to the ground.
The wind keens.
The wind whistle past windows
And moans through roof rafters.
The wind sighs.
The wind rushes through leaves
And gallops between houses.
The wind wallops.
The wind lifts up my skirt
And whips my hair into my mouth.
The wind drives.
The wind slips through cracks
And coats the floors with grit.
The wind swirls.
The wind swings weathervanes
And chatters through blind slats.
The wind races.
The wind fans flames
And slams doors shut.
The wind roars.
The wind funnels through streets
And hurtles across public squares.
The wind growls.
The wind tears through backyards
And strips sheets off clotheslines.
The wind hisses.
The wind lashes across lakes
And slashes old flags in half.
The wind dries.
The wind desiccates the ground
And mops sweat off my brow.
The wind whispers.
The wind whooshes past my ears
And blows cool on my cheeks.
The wind wafts.
The wind carries the scent of curry
And makes us all hungry.
The wind caresses.
The wind brushes eyelashes
And tickles wind chimes.
The wind retreats.
The wind recedes as the sun sets.
The wind dies.

Cold-brewed tea

In March I promised to write a little more about tea here and I was thinking of the cold-brewed tea I make year-round – too delicious to have only in the summertime.

This is one way, using loose green tea.

To make 1 liter (1 quart), measure one heaping tablespoon of tea leaves and place inside an empty teabag or tea ball, then cover with filtered water. Shake/stir. To maximize the taste, let sit at room temperature for 30-40 min but not longer, otherwise the tea’s bitterness will come out.

Above I used a Chinese “silver tip” tea but I’ve also used others, including this “bilochun”.

Then, overnight in the fridge and, voilà! Fresh, grassy and not a hint of bitterness.

P1060020 cropped lower res copyLovely with yoghurt (plain Greek blended with wild blueberries, a little bit of honey, ground flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds), a banana and, naturally, mint. Santé!

Oral Story-Telling – John Pizzarelli

For a great example of oral story-telling, check out Radio Deluxe’s broadcast of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey’s concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center on the campus of Cal Stamidnightmccartney300te Northridge in Los Angeles, recorded live April 9th, 2016. Download Show. After the first two songs, John tells the story of how he came to record Midnight McCartney.

I’d previously heard him tell the same story on the Radio Deluxe program taped at John and Jessica’s home in New York, but this live version is even more hilarious. John lays it on thick and hits all the right notes.

A shout out to Jazz FM 91 in Toronto for airing this program every Sunday morning at 9 am.

 

Quirky Characters

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Confession #1: I started writing a novel because I thought blogging was (a bit of) a waste of time. One blogger, looking back on a series she had just finished writing in her spare time, said that her word count added up to a staggering 70,000, novel length! That was 2007.
Well, if I was going to devote that kind of time, I vowed, it would have to have more permanence than a few dozen blog posts. Yet here I am blogging (occasionally). Authors must have a web presence, which means that instead of thinking about my fictitious characters mired in their ficThai Basiltitious situations, I have to carve out a little time to think of something to say to you, my esteemed blog readers.
Confession #2: I have quite a few quirky habits. Take food combinations: Asian pear and cabernet sauvignon? Honeydew melon and Thai basil flower buds? Fresh mint and banana? Ahhhh … I could write whole blog posts about each but I won’t. This ain’t a food blog.
In a writer’s life quirks exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to flesh out characters. Imagine a fussy man who “babysits” his bacon, or a woman who suffers from “banana anxiety.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? That’s OK. Just make of it what you will. Go ahead and soak your cereals in milk overnight or squirt sriracha sauce on your cottage cheese. But don’t blog about it.
Use it.