Cuyahoga River

Cuyahoga River
Cuyahoga River in the Valley

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tony Morrison on Writing

Toni Morrison once said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” She points out that a writer writes not just for others, but for herself. But yet, in writing about her struggles with life, Morrison finds ways to connect with the reader, crafting her writing in such a way that it becomes something she would want to read. She's already stated that she's writing books that she wants to read. How does one find an objectivity, while writing, to create someone you would want to read? When the words flow from within you, you're writing about something you know, something that happened to you or something you can imagine happening, something about the human condition, a universal problem to be solved. I suspect that when Morrison's got it all down on paper, she looks at what she wrote to see if it did what she intended. She becomes her own critic. But what she's really doing is telling a story that needs to be told. She's reaching out to other people. The message I get from this is how important it is to pick the right projects. All our writing should be something that hasn't been written yet and it must be something we would want to read. If I don't like to read mysteries, why would I write a mystery? If I don't care about planes, why would I ghost write a book about planes? It comes down to the number one rule of writing--we must write what we know.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Exploring Costa Rica

Home from Costa Rica after a relaxing vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.
We were outdoors, even for meals, most of our days—hiking, sunbathing, swimming, or just taking in the scenery. The color of my skin shows it. The vacation came just in time to help me get well from the shingles, and I felt almost normal within two days of our arrival in the rejuvenating climate. Conditions were rugged on the trails and the roads going from place to place, but we were pampered with drivers picking us up, guides showing us the wildlife, spa hotels with great food and beautiful rooms and excellent service. It was relaxing even though we were up most mornings at six to eat breakfast so we could get on with the adventure of the day. During a night hike we saw viper snakes, several kinds of spiders including a tarantula, a scorpion, and a kinkajou. We saw many squirrel monkeys and white-faced monkeys and pacas right on the grounds of The Falls of Manuel Antonio. On our guided hikes we saw raccoons, their weird raccoon called a coatimundi, a wild boar, sloths, lizards, iguanas, crocodiles, blue morpho butterflies, and Costa Rican gray squirrels. We saw all kinds of birds, who were singing literally all night (also saw sleeping birds)--hummingbirds, parakeets, quetzels, turkey hawks, mockingbirds, egrets and herons, osprey and frigatebirds, a toucan, tanagers and the Montezuma Oropendola. On our bumpy dirt-road drives, we passed skinny-looking cattle, horses, and unchained and unfenced dogs, as well as mostly fenced-in houses. The landscape was filled with shimmering green hills, baron volcanos, strangler figs, lots of coconut trees, palm trees, huge ferns, waterfalls, and lots of flowers we don't get at home, like birds of paradise.
Paul and I can recommend the company that put together the package--Latin Destinations--and the outfit that coordinated all our ground travel--Swiss Travel. But Delta Airlines' delays in both directions for mechanical issues and our luggage being MIA for three days caused some unnecessary stress that could have been avoided if the airlines was better equipped to handle the out-of-ordinary.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Wisdom of the Jungle

You're reading this as I'm living in the jungles of Costa Rica. I'm writing this before Paul and I leave to explore ancient paths through heavy forests and immerse ourselves in a culture that has evolved on a strip of mountainous volcanic earth between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Eight nights and nine days of living in the jungle will surely teach us something new, and I'll emerge with stories to share with friends and family. Maya Angelou write that "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” That's what drives me to write. You may tell your stories out loud and repeat the same ones over and over again, and as you do that, as you wait for the right moment to say what comes to mind at a dinner table or while walking in the woods, you are letting that untold story out into the world. What is it about human nature that makes us want to tell others what we've learned, what we feel, what we've experienced? I'm intrigued by storytelling, that desire we have to get our stories out into the world. I suspect that part of what we're doing when we tell them is wishing for a response from those to whom we tell our tales. No writer wants to write in a vacuum--even if our stories are never published, we have a sense, while writing, that someone's listening, even if it's only our muse or the God that watches over us.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Growing Up in Lorain

In my unpublished book White Preacher's Kid (hopefully that will come out in 2015), I try to capture what it was like for a white girl to grow up in the black ghetto. In a lot of ways, it was what followed, the move to Lorain, that was hard. We moved to the suburban area of Lorain near Amherst when I was thirteen. All the rules that one lives by were already being questioned, but how does a young girl who feels like an urban black inside accept the invitation to be part of a clique or any offer of friendship from white kids whose parents are members of a country club and have pools in their back yards? You're probably surprised by my portrayal of blue-collar, rustbelt, dilapidated Lorain, Ohio, whose population has been halved in the last forty years. But for this thirteen-year-old girl, Lorain felt very foreign and intimidating. How I spent the next five years, growing up, is being handled with kid gloves in my book because I never figured out how to fit in and the ways I chose to acclimate were self-deprecating and tragic. Lorain's sex-and-drugs tough world revealed itself and it was just the thing for me to throw myself into. I became so deeply lost to who I was that I had what amounted to a nervous breakdown my first year in college. I think a lot, but back then, it seems to me I was avoiding thought. I didn't want to know right from wrong, yet I was trying to find what my life was meant to be. But I really thought I was just being a party girl, trying to capture as much of life as I could because I knew I'd be dead by the time I was thirty. If I kept up that lifestyle, I would have been. The story is one of survival, so treating it with kid gloves is probably the wrong approach. We'll see how I find a way to tell the story without doing too much damage.