For dreary February and so far in March, it seems like every second has been occupied in one way or another, thus my delay in blogging since early February! I’m in one of those periods of time when I’ve been a bit over-extended and that accounts for this delay! I’m enjoying everything I’m doing but realize that there’s been a bit of a traffic jam regarding my commitments that is gradually easing up.
If you read this blog or follow me on Instagram at all, you know that the time of year we are about to enter, Spring, has always been the time when I come out of dormancy (although I’ve not enjoyed much dormancy this year!!) and feel re-energized!
Easter, sunshine, daylight saving time, that special color of the leaves as they are about to bloom, a bit of travel and some new ideas are on the cusp. This is a time of inspiration resurrected.
On Reading and Writing
I routinely read a number of books at one time but right now seems a bit over the top. I joined a book group last year as a way to add a bit more diversity to my reading selections. Generally I run towards memoirs and biography, historical fictions, best sellers, mystery and fiction. I wanted to add books to my reading that I might not normally pick up if left to my own devices. The book group has introduced me to new authors, new styles and new genres.
Last year , for example, our group assigned Redeployment, a book that was the debut novel of the writer, Phil Klay, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His book was made up of short stories of our military during their deployment to or return from Iraq and Afghanistan. I opened the book with some level of misgiving that this was not my usual genre and didn’t know if I would like it or not. What it did was open up a world that I know nothing about, artfully written in a way that was totally engrossing, engaging and sometimes, disturbing.
Most recently I read Lilac Girls, a story based on the real lives of real people, whose circumstances intersect around the Holocaust of the Second World War. The talent of Martha Hall Kelly, the author, at description and dialogue in this, her debut novel (as with Klay, a masterful debut novel!), is truly astonishing. She has the patience to fully describe a scene, dropping the readers into the midst of brilliantly described situations they can truly understand and feel. Both the characters in the book and the reader are drawn together into incidents or circumstances, seeming to experience it together. Her descriptions: “Clyde, who was no thicker than two sheets of paper…” Her homey, intimacy with the reader: “You should have seen the stars that night, thrown across the sky in great bunches. It was as if they were watching, looking down on all that, sad that they could do nothing.” It’s beautiful writing and I felt a part of the scene. She uses the circumstances and points of view of the three women to move the story forward. It is a narrative device that I am, much less skillfully at this point, using in my war brides story, also based on real women during the Second World War, a story that I set aside a little over a year ago to gain some perspective on crafting this complex story.
I also found great inspiration and encouragement from Martha Kelly’s acknowledgements about her writing – the evolution of the story, the lengthy research required, the help she received, the worry over doing justice to the actual people who were the basis for all that happened, the prodding of her sister-in-law who said, “Just do it.” It gratified me that I too feel that overwhelming responsibility when I sit down and write about the war brides. That accountability can lead to paralysis and self-censureship as it did with me. Lately, I too have just been advising myself to “Just write it already!”
I am currently reading So Much Pretty, also a debut novel by Cara Hoffman, a book club selection that I don’t think I would have read if it had not been assigned. I haven’t read this entire story so I can’t adequately express it’s impact on me except to say that half way through, I am again impressed at the skill with which the author tells this quirky, complicated story.
Reading these debut novels and learning about their authors and their writings before tackling these big stories, encouraged me, intimidated me, and ultimately have led me to address my nagging frustration with my own fictional or memoir writing and the time I have (or haven’t) been devoting to it. What am I doing (or not doing) with it? What are my goals with it? What do I hope to achieve? For whom am I writing it? But I’ve come to believe truly that there are stories in all of us and that it’s primarily in the act of writing, the doing, that you perfect the skill and the craft. I feel energized and motivated again to write. See my previous post called On Writing
So I’m grateful to these authors, and others, who provided this push for me. I’m also grateful to you for taking the time to read my pieces. Every writer needs a reader.
My husband and I have a few trips coming up – in April, a weekend with our grandkids at a Wisconsin indoor water park, a trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate with friends at their 50th anniversary party followed by two days in Washington D.C. Then at the end of May and beginning of June, two weeks in Germany and The Netherlands, visiting friends and family. Still need to work out some (ok – all) of the European itinerary.
We’ve been fortunate to visit the nation’s capital many times (OF MUSEUMS AND MEMORIES) but we continue to go back because it never gets old. In Washington, this time around, we will probably concentrate on the parts of the Smithsonian that we have not yet seen, and I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing a cherry blossom or two (hopefully with all the variations in weather back there it isn’t too late).
My husband worked in Germany for almost a year about 11 years ago. During that time I visited often and got a chance to spend time in Berlin, Dortmund, Frankfort, Munster. This time, we will visit with friends and want to spend some time in Munich, a city in which we have not spent any time. Have you been there? Do you have any ideas about must sees in Munich?
The Netherlands is tiny. You can see a lot of this country in a few days. On a previous trips there we’ve been to The Hague, Amsterdam (broadly), Delft, the canals, Rotterdam and Alblasserdam. We were fortunate enough to be escorted by our Dutch relatives who were fabulous tour guides and gave us a view of the country that no paid guide could do. I remember that one of my first sites when arriving at our relatives’ home was at the end of their street where a small canal, a windmill and cow were there to greet us! Just as though it had been staged!
Our relatives provided their native impressions and perspectives, their political views, showing us nooks and crannies of Holland that regular tourists may not get to see. But we have not spent nearly enough time in Amsterdam, in the museums, specifically the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and then in the Anne Frank House. On this trip I want to delve deeper but I don’t want to overcrowd our stay, packing ten pounds of hamburger into a two pound bag, as my husband says.
Until we meet again (and I promise it won’t be so long between visits next time)…..