Dilemma

Confused Reader

Confused Reader

“I understand why creative people like dark, but American audiences don’t like dark. They like story. They do not respond to nervous breakdowns and unhappy episodes that lead nowhere. They like their characters to be a part of the action. They like strength, not weakness, a chance to work out any dilemma.” ~ Leslie Moonves

“Build your reputation by helping other people build theirs.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

“By helping others, you will learn to help yourself.” ~ And San Suu Kyi

I love reading. For me it’s a lesson in writing. I learn about writing from the great books as well as the not so great ones.

Recently I’ve read two books with great stories, but with not such great writing. I’ve been thinking about sending messages to these writers to point out things that bothered me about their books. But here is my dilemma. The books are already published, and I’m a new writer, so do I have the right to critique their work?

I don’t know these people personally. One has written many books, while the book I just finished is the first novel by the author. Both writers have won awards. The books are fantasy. Hmm. Maybe the standards are different for fantasy writers but I don’t think they should be.

I had some great mentors while writing my book. Even though it hurt a little to hear that I still had work to do to improve my manuscript, in the end I was grateful. And I’m committed to making my book enjoyable for the reader. I don’t want them to skip sections or be irritated by the writing.

Here are some things I learned from my writer friends that I think these authors could benefit from.

The information dump. There is always important information the writer wants the reader to know, but to stop the action to dump the information all at once is not good. Spread the information out a little at a time throughout the book.

Use of adverbs. Now, when my writer friends first talked about this, I didn’t believe them. I thought that adjectives and adverbs spruced up my writing. Then I read a series of books that I loved, but the writer used an excessive amount of adverbs and I got irritated by the shear number of them. I got the message loud and clear. I went back to my novel and cut out almost all of the adverbs.

Keep the main character in hot water. In this last book, there were huge sections of the book that I skipped. These sections were about side characters. This is information I might need, but not pages and pages of it. Like my friend Debrah said to me, “Give the information in a couple of short paragraphs and get back to the main character. He or she is the one we care about. And keep them in hot water. That helps the story build to the climax.”

Creating the world with language. In fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction you have to send the reader to the world you’ve created. Therefore, the language needs to be different than the everyday language we’re used to. If a writer uses current idioms or slang, it throws the reader out of being immersed in the story.

Edit, edit, and edit again. If I read a book and there are only one or two typos, stray words, or even awkward sentences, I just read over them and don’t think a thing of it. But if there are lots of them, I get annoyed. After reading these two books, I’m inclined to go back and take another pass through my novel. I was going to use a section of my novel in this post today and found a mistake. Whew, dodged another bullet. The more eyes on your work the better.

So, the teacher part of me says I should send the critiques. After all, I was irritated as a reader and if I was, others might be too. I want these authors to be successful. And maybe we can help each other become better writers.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Tenacity

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Patience and tenacity are worth more than twice their weight of cleverness.” ~ Thomas Huxley

“Turning pro is a mindset. If we are struggling with fear, self-sabotage, procrastination, self-doubt, etc., the problem is, we’re thinking like amateurs. Amateurs don’t show up. Amateurs crap out. Amateurs let adversity defeat them. The pro thinks differently. He shows up, he does his work, he keeps on truckin’, no matter what.” ~ Steven Pressfield

People succeed not so much because they are smart, but because they don’t give up. There will always be the naysayers. The people who take cheap shots from the top row seats, but who are afraid to get down and do the work to make their own dreams come true. The winners never listen to them. They don’t complain, they find their way around obstacles. But one thing is sure, they keep moving forward no matter how slowly.

Now that I’m about to publish my first book after seven years of work, what have I learned?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the work feeds the work. When I made a commitment to work on my novel a little bit every day, more ideas came and soon I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to begin working.

I’ve also learned that the work feeds the work only when you’ve found the RIGHT work for you. I was fifty-four years old when I found the right work for me. Yet no time was wasted while I was looking for my place in the world. Everything I’ve learned along the way contributes to what I now write.

Another important lesson has been that the time to be the most tenacious is when you’re stuck.

For five years I developed Morgan’s story in the past. It was the easier story to tell because I saw Morgan as distant from me. But eventually I was stuck. I couldn’t move on with her story until I wrote Jenna’s story in the present. I didn’t want to write Jenna’s story because much of what happens to her happened to me in different forms. I didn’t want to relive those tough times. But I learned something else that is vital for a writer, you can’t close the books on one part of your life until you’ve wrung out every bit of the lesson your soul desires to learn. As the character Pi in Life of Pi says of not saying goodbye to Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger he’s just crossed the Pacific Ocean with, “It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. That bungled goodbye hurts me to this day.” pg. 414

I don’t know if it’s this way for all writers, but for me, writing is the way I say the proper goodbyes. It’s the way I can reimagine or redefine what happened to me and put closure on those things that nag at my psyche, and my emotions.

One of the things Jenna suffers is being unjustly fired from her job, and then accused of embezzling money from the publishing company she worked for. I included that situation in my book because I lost a most beloved job teaching drama. I lost it unjustly. Years later one of my students told me that the story told by those who had engineered by dismissal was that I was let go because I had mishandled the drama club funds. It was a lie of course. In fact, the woman who handled the accounting for all the clubs had thanked me earlier that school year for making sure my accounts were accurate when I turned them in.

I used Jenna’s situation as a way to put some closure on my own story. In The Space Between Time, the lie was exposed and the perpetrators were tried and found guilty of not just one embezzlement scheme but of many. I used Jenna’s predicament as a way to get that negative energy out of my body. I didn’t want it to continue to rumble around in my head and heart.

Will the truth ever be revealed about that situation? I don’t know, nor do I care. I’ve had a chance to tell my story the way I wish it had happened and that helped me forgive my accusers once and for all.

Maybe the naysayers will be right. Maybe my book won’t sell no matter how hard I market and promote it. But I still have the advantage over them. I created something and if I did it once, I can do it again and again. One day there will be people who appreciate what I’ve written. I’d rather be working on something I love than dying in anguish and desperation doing work that I hate.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden @ 2017

Another Sample from The Space Between Time

Civil War Woman

Civil War Woman

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ~ George Burns

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

This week I thought you might like to read a section from early in Morgan’s story in the past from my soon to be published novel, The Space Between Time. This segment takes place in the past. Morgan is Jenna’s three-times great-grandmother and upon finding Morgan’s journals, Jenna sat down to read. When she did she entered Morgan’s consciousness. This scene takes place on the day of Morgan’s father’s funeral.

At that moment, her Aunt Veronica opened the sliding doors and stood glaring at her. Morgan’s heart took a little summer salt but seeing her aunt’s face cemented her resolve. She stood up, straightened her spine and stepped past her aunt. Jenna’s panic drained away as Morgan relaxed her face so that no emotion showed at all while staring into her aunt’s cold eyes. While neither woman spoke, Jenna felt the vast difference between the woman standing in front of them, and Morgan’s mother Julia.

Gold, silver and shimmering diamond described Veronica. She was a handsome woman, but cold, ambitious, and hard-hearted. Morgan’s mother Julia, on the other hand, had been made of different colors, pink, green, and lavender. She had been a loving, open minded, and caring woman.

Veronica closed the sliding doors and said with malice, “So, you and your father decided to deceive me. How do you think this will look when my friends back in Boston hear that you did not inform me of Thomas illness? Don’t you think I had a right to know? After all, I am family.”

A shiver ran down Morgan’s spine but she suppressed it. “Father wanted us to be left in peace, to spend what time we had together uninterrupted by fussing nurses, which you no doubt would have insisted upon.”

Veronica sniffed. “Your father never knew what was best for you. I’m sure he did this to spite me because I wanted to take you away and give you every advantage he couldn’t.”

Jenna shuddered as Morgan crossed the room and stood in front of her aunt. “Aunt Veronica, father was a good and kind man who loved me very deeply. He knew that I would be just another bobble for you to polish and have admired.”

At this statement Veronica bristled and lost control of herself. “Morgan, you are too independent by half. I see now that your father has taught you too much and not had a thought for your future. If he had cared about you, he never would have raised you to think like a man nor would he have involved you in this underground railroad nonsense.”

Morgan gasped. How had her aunt found out about that? But her part was small. Other members of the congregation had larger roles in helping escaped slaves cross the border to freedom.

A malicious smile spread across Veronica’s face. “Ah, you’re surprised I knew about that. Your father exposed you to filthy, shiftless slaves who ran away shirking their duty to their masters. Any number of terrible things could have happened to you because of your father’s thoughtlessness. I intend to change your foolish notions by taking you back to Boston with me and see that you marry the right sort of man. I will brook no refusals. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Go upstairs this instant and pack your things. We’re leaving on the evening train.”

Deep calm swept over Morgan. Ignoring the old argument, she spoke softly. “No, Aunt Veronica. I am not going with you.”

I hope you enjoyed this little segment. You can join my mailing list here if you are interested in receiving notification on this and other of my creative projects.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Rethinking Meandering

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

Star Trek Logo 50 Years

“Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” ~ Phillips Brooks

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” ~ Douglas Adams

“Artistic self-indulgence is the mark of an amateur. The temptation to make scenes, to appear late, to call in sick, not to meet deadlines, not to be organized, is at heart a sign of your own insecurity and at worst the sign of an amateur.” ~ Harold Prince

“Typically creative people are usually not clock-slaves or list-makers, so the idea of enforcing goals and deadlines can be somewhat daunting.” ~ Kristin Armstrong

Last week I wrote a post titled, “Determined Meandering.” In it I was exploring the advice my writer friends gave me about the seemingly endless rewrites of my novel. They advised not to get impatient to publish my book. That was probably their way of telling me that I still have a great deal of work to do before it’s ready, which is true. However, since last week, two things happened that have made me rethink my daily agenda.

First, I admit it, I’m impatient to publish my novel. It’s not that I’m sick of it, it’s more of a feeling that the time is now to publish it. I can’t really explain why I feel that way, except that when I meditate I feel that I need to get on with the rewrites, or be more efficient about how I accomplish the work.

Second, I’ve been reading the book E Squared by Pam Grout, who happens to be a full-time freelance writer herself. In the book she gives practical experiments to help the reader retrain their thinking so that they can accomplish their dreams and goals. One of the things about the experiments is that each one has a deadline, 48 hours.

As I was reading, and thinking about my current situation, I came to the conclusion that, though I hate deadlines, I must set one for myself in regards to my book. It occurred to me that sometimes people do their best work when they have limited time to finish it.

And thinking of the analogy of the meandering river, there are slow moving rivers and fast moving ones. When I was a child, I lived near the Columbia, which is a fast moving river. For years I’ve been telling myself I’m a slow writer, when I could be telling myself I’m a fast writer. So, I decided to change my mind and become a faster writer since perfection is impossible anyway.

Other interesting little tidbits have contributed to my shift in thinking. Barry and I’ve been watching the original Star Trek series again since September 8 was the 50th anniversary of the premiere. We’ve also watched some of the special features with segments by the writers. More than once writers related times when they were up against the clock to finish the script for the next episode, and how, by some miracle, they managed to produce an exceptional story, one the fans and critics loved. Thanks again, Star Trek for saving the day!

So, my conclusion: I can finish the rewrites and have an exceptional manuscript ready in about a month by being focused and determined. To that end I’ve changed my daily schedule around. So that I go straight to my office to write first thing. This way all the ideas I woke up with are emptied out onto the computer screen and later in the day when I go to meditate etc., my mind is less cluttered. It’s working so far, four chapters down, thirty-one to go.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment, or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Determined Meandering

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.” ~ Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I had a very different idea for today’s post until I met with my writer friends to discuss my manuscript.

The good news is, the plot is much improved. The other news, I refuse to say bad news, is that there is still work to do, and I’m dedicated to doing it.

Never before have I felt so engaged by my work. While I love being a teacher, there are aspects of the job that are annoying. Not so with writing. Working on this book is a little bit like watching a beloved movie over and over again and noticing things I had never seen before. Each time through the manuscript I understand a little bit more about my characters, I see places that need to be consolidated or cut, and I clean up sloppy sentence structure. Each improvement feels good.

At first when my friends gave me suggestion after suggestion, my heart sank a bit. I was hoping the manuscript was closer to being ready for publication. But as I digested their comments and where they want me to go with the book, I began to feel renewed excitement. They think the story is engaging which makes me determined to keep working.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been times when I long for the book to be finished. It’s a little bit like being on a teeter totter. Some days I’m up and some days I’m down. But isn’t that what life is all about anyway? Taking the challenges in our stride is what makes life interesting.

The other day I was checking into my Facebook feed, I’ve been taking a little break from it of late, and I followed a link to an article about a group of people living on the Greek island of Ikaria who are long lived, and extremely happy. They don’t have lots of possessions, many worries, or health problems. They sleep late, work in their gardens or at their jobs until mid-afternoon, then take a long nap. They eat simple meals and in the evening they socialize with their family and neighbors. As I read the article, I was thinking that’s the life for me! In the next moment I laughed at myself because for the most part, that’s the life I live, only instead of working in the garden, I write.

What can be more satisfying than to do what you love. You can have your rush to success. I’ll meander like the river and eventually reach a quiet cove, then be off again on another adventure.

P.S. I used to live on the Columbia River Gorge. I miss the reminder to go with the flow.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Review: Army Brats

Army Brats Cover

Army Brats Cover

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“What underlies great science is what underlies great art, whether it is visual or written, and that is the ability to distinguish patterns out of chaos.” ~ Diana Gabaldon

“When I am writing best, I really am lost in my world. I lose track of the outside world. I have a difficult time balancing between my real world and the artificial world.” ~ George R. R. Martin

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

I love sharing the work of fellow writers, so this post is about my friend, Michael G. Cerepanya’s new book, Army Brats. I got to read it through several drafts and it was exciting to see how he developed the story and grew as a writer. This is not his first book (the other is about his hiking adventures) but this one is more personal. It’s a novelization of his experiences being an Army brat in the late 1950s and early 60s in Germany.

One thing I loved about the book was that it’s funny, poignant, tense, and sad. It’s about difficult family relationships, and can’t we all relate to that? Michael doesn’t shy away from the torment of feeling his father doesn’t love him, or having a sister who is always trying to trip him up. I cheered when he gets in a good hit to his father during a boxing lesson, and it was particularly satisfying when his sister finally gets punished for being a tattle tale. What I particularly liked about the book is that by the end, his main character finds self-confidence.

Another thing I loved was the glimpse it gives into what life was like growing up with a dad who was career military. My dad hated his stint in the Air Force and was openly anti-military, so it was nice to see what life was like for Lucas Baryskivka and his family as they moved from posting to posting. Luke, the oldest boy in a family of five children, is sensitive and Michael relates with equal sensitivity how he learns to cope with his domineering father while at the same time managing to enjoy many funny and even dangerous adventures. Some of the adventures of Luke and his friends made me gasp with anxiety, or laugh out loud, a sign of a well written adventure. The relating of those childhood antics alone are worth your time.

Some writer once said, and I’m paraphrasing, the best writers mine their own lives for material for their books. Michael has done this with Army Brats. He has shown courage in examining his life and in the end we get a sense that he’s come to terms with the ups and downs of his childhood in a particularly satisfying ending.

Army Brats is available as an ebook or in paperback at his website. I hope you’ll consider adding it to your late summer reading list.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Writing Emotions

Henri Matisse - Blue Pot and Lemon

Henri Matisse – Blue Pot and Lemon

“I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.” ~ Henri Matisse

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ~ James A. Michener

“The best and most beautiful thing in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” ~ Helen Keller

I love books that move me to tears, or laughter, or foreboding. That’s how I want to write, but often, like this morning, I wake up with the certain knowledge that I’ve failed on a certain scene and must go back to rework it.

When I’m trying to write the physicality of emotions, how my body would feel if I were in the character’s situation, I find myself in a quandary. As an actor/director I know about body language and facial expressions. They convey our inner states of being, but an actor doesn’t necessarily need to experience the bodily reactions when they are supposed to be demonstrating strong emotion.

I’ll tell one short story to illustrate what I mean. The first play I directed as a public school drama teacher was Our Town. The actor playing George Gibbs could not cry in the crucial scene near the end of the play. So, I told him to lay over his wife’s grave on his forearms, head down, and move his shoulders as if he were weeping with the appropriate crying sounds to go with the action. It worked! We cried during rehearsals and the audience did during performances.

But you can’t fake emotions in a novel and describing them is something I struggle with as I’m sure many authors do. I’m going to include a portion of the scene here that I was thinking about this morning. I made a few changes but it will undoubtedly need more work. You can tell me what you think.

* * * * *

Once Jenna had read those words something was pulling her into a vortex of swirling energy. Panic overtook her but no matter how hard she struggled, she could not free herself. Her mind was paralyzed with fear. Though her present life was a mess, it was familiar.

As her vision cleared, the calming voice of the woman came to her, All is well. “Fine for you to say!” She was not prepared for this experience but she was trapped. The one thing that came to her paralyzed mind was something her father used to say, “The only way out iss through.” She would have to trust. That was difficult for her. However it was her only option. She took a deep figurative breath, and allowed the mists to engulf her.

When they cleared, She was standing in an old style kitchen. There were three women working there wearing Civil War era dresses like her apparition’s. Somehow Jenna knew this was Morgan’s home and who these women were. It was the day of Morgan’s father’s funeral. Jenna’s writer’s curiosity supplanted the panic of only moments before. Looking up from her task, Morgan’s best friend Emma said, eyes dancing, “We’re here if you need us.”

Jenna had only a moment to comprehend that her consciousness had merged with Morgan’s as she said, “Thanks.” Emma’s motto was, “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do this minute.” Morgan knew she was right. She couldn’t put off the confrontation any longer. She walked to the door of the small sitting room where her aunt sat fuming.

Looking at Veronica’s stoney face at the funeral, she was glad her father had decided to keep his illness from her. They’d sent the telegram informing Veronica of Thomas’ death the day before the funeral. When she arrived just in time for the service, storm clouds filled her eyes and each word she spoke was covered in ice crystals.

Morgan paused outside the sitting room to gather her thoughts with sweaty palms and a roiling stomach, before facing the ogre. Veronica was nothing like Morgan’s mother Julia who had been loving, open minded, fair and generous. Morgan always thought of her mother as the perfect representation of pink, lavender and green, caring and restful.

Veronica was made of different colors. She was gold, silver and shimmering diamond. Lovely to look at, but cold and hard-hearted. She wanted riches, power and position. That’s what she got when she married into Boston’s highest echelons.

Morgan took a deep breath hoping to regain her ability to think as she opened the sliding doors of the sitting room.

“So, you and your father decided to deceive me,” Veronica said with malice. “How do you think this will look when my friends back in Boston hear that you did not tell me of Thomas illness? Don’t you think I had a right to know? After all, I am family.”

Morgan felt a shiver run down her spine. Jenna understood very well how she felt. It had been the same for her when interacting with Fletcher and Mr. Dayton, but they weren’t family, and she didn’t have to associate with them any longer.

Morgan squared her shoulders. “Father wanted us to be left in peace, to spend what time we had together uninterrupted by fussing nurses, which you no doubt would have insisted upon.”

Veronica sniffed. “Your father never knew what was best for you. I’m sure he did this to spite me because I wanted to take you away and give you every advantage he couldn’t.”

Morgan crossed the room and stood in front of her aunt. “Aunt Veronica, father was a good and kind man who loved me very deeply. He knew that I’d be just another bobble for you to polish and have admired.”

At this statement Veronica bristled and lost control of herself. “Morgan, you are too independent by half. I see now that your father has taught you too much and not had a thought for your future. If he’d cared about you, he never would have raised you to think like a man nor would he have involved you in this underground railroad nonsense.”

Morgan gasped. How had her aunt found out about that?

A malicious smile spread across Veronica’s face. “Ah, you’re surprised I knew about that. Your father exposed you to filthy, shiftless slaves who ran away shirking their duty to their masters. Any number of terrible things could have happened to you because of your father’s thoughtlessness. I intend to change your foolish notions by taking you back to Boston with me and see that you’re properly looked after by marrying the right sort of man. I will brook no refusals. You’re not getting any younger, you know. Go upstairs this instant and pack your things. We’re leaving on the evening train.”

Deep calm swept over Morgan. Ignoring the bait her aunt wanted to distract her with, she spoke softly. “No, Aunt Veronica. I am not going with you.”

* * * * *

Thanks for reading and sharing with friends. Feel free to leave a comment from a reader’s point of view.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

My Process is Backwards

Cart - Before - Horse

Cart – Before – Horse

The other day I was thinking about my writing process and I realized that I do it backwards to the conventional wisdom. When I get an idea, I sit down and begin writing. I don’t do an outline, or any research. I get my ideas down on paper and it’s only as I write that I see the shape the story is supposed to take. If I need to do research, I do it on the fly, and I don’t apply a plot outline until after I’ve finished the first draft.

Some of you may think I’m weird but as I was considering my process it occurred to me that the reason I write in this way might be because of my theatre background. For many years I analyzed plays from an actor/director point of view. I was handed a script and discovered the shape of the story and character arcs from the finished product. For that reason, I find it difficult to create the plot outline from scratch before writing the story that is in my head. In a way, this is very inconvenient because I find myself waking up in the morning realizing I left out a vital part of the story. I must then go back and rewrite that scene I worked on the day before, and I may have to do that four or five days in a row before I’m satisfied with it. When the first draft is completed, I go through the manuscript dropping out scenes that slow down the story and creating new scenes that add to building the suspense in the plot.

Many writers advise newbies like me to keep writing the first draft without going back to revise because it slows down the process. We have the opportunity to make changes when the rough draft is finished. Maybe they’re right. All I know is that if I don’t get the improvements down on paper when they occur to me, they sit in my head clogging up my creative flow until I add them to my story. This does slow me down a good deal, but it’s my process. At some point I will change my method, but for now I’m stuck writing backwards.

I have never been a big believer in one right way to do anything. It’s true that there are as many ways to create a piece of artwork as there are people to create them. So my writing advice is find the method that works for you and expand upon it. If you attend writer’s workshops or take creative writing classes, remember, the method of writing that the instructor is proposing is their method. It doesn’t have to be yours and don’t let them bully you into thinking you are doing it wrong. There are no rights or wrongs when it comes to creative thinking. In fact it’s the people who think outside the box who come up with the best stories, theories, inventions, or artwork.

Having written that, I thought I’d include a portion of a new scene in my novel that I added in my latest round of revisions. It’s one of those scenes that I had to work on for several days before I felt it had all the elements it needed. I will no doubt do more work on it after I get comments and do more revisions, but for now, I’m happy with the way the scene turned out.

The set up: The Space Between Time is a time travel story of sorts. Jenna Holden in the present finds her three times great-grandmother’s journals. When she begins to read them, she enters her great-grandmother, Morgan’s consciousness. For her part, Morgan slowly becomes aware of Jenna’s presence and takes comfort in it as she travels from Vermont to become a teacher in Southern Oregon. The year In this scene is late fall 1859. Morgan is facing the town council, school board, and other town organizations on charges of indecent behavior. This fracas is lead by banker, Herbert Perry who does not keep it a secret that he does not like Morgan. This is Morgan’s explanation about what happened.

* * * * *

Charles cut him off by saying, “I agree with Mrs. Cobb. Let Miss Carlyle tell us what happened.”

Though Morgan was warmed by Charles support, he was only one man. Rage licked through her veins as she studied Herbert’s bloated face. He looked like the slugs that left slimy trails on her sidewalk. Resentment clamped its icy fist around her heart. Why does he hate me so? Getting herself under control, she cleared her throat and said, “I’ll be happy to respond to the charges.” Charles sat down. She stared into Herbert’s cold eyes for a few moments gathering her strategy. The silence lengthened and as he was about to speak, she cut him off by saying, “However, first I’d like a few questions answered. Mr. Perry is it not true that you have disliked me from the moment I stepped off the wagon train?”

Herbert glared at her, “What does that have to do with your conduct last night?”

“It has everything to do with why you’ve accused me of misconduct.” Again he was about to speak but she went on. “Isn’t it true that your first words to me had to do with the fact that you thought it inappropriate that since I was an unmarried woman, I should have an entire house to myself?” He started to speak, but again, she proceeded as if she were a lawyer interrogating a witness. “However, wasn’t the building of the house suggested by Mr. Evans and Mr. Pendleton, and was duly approved by the school board before my arrival?” She didn’t give anyone time to answer before continuing, “In addition, can you deny that every time I attempt to withdraw money from my account, which is legally and rightfully mine since I have no living male blood relatives, that you force me to produce the notarized letter from my lawyer, of which you already have a copy, stating that I am to be given complete control of my account? And, unlike other members of the community, I must wait an entire month before you will release the funds to me?” At this question, the women behind her gasped, while the men mumbled and shuffled their feet.

Mr. Wheeler startled everyone when he spoke up. “Yes, that is true. Miss Mancruso, who also has an account, receives her money on the day she fills out the withdrawal slip.” Morgan was grateful that Mr. Wheeler had spoken up. He had whispered those facts to her upon her second attempt to withdraw money from her account. Attention shifted from her to Herbert who turned his venomous gaze upon Mr. Wheeler. He, however, was unperturbed. She was sure he’d lose his job over the revelation.

“Thank you, Mr. Wheeler. I may need your testimony if I notify my lawyers of what has taken place today.” Herbert’s face looked like mottled stone. Morgan went on. “I wonder, if I were a man in this situation, would we be having this inquisition?”

“But you are not a man,” said Herbert, “and women must be held to a higher standard.”

“Why, may I ask?”

“Because it was Eve who ate of the fruit and led Adam to sin. Women must redeem themselves.” said Herbert lifting his chin. Some men nodded in agreement but most of them sat as still as statues.

“And that is an account of the creation of the human race written by a MAN in a culture where women were property, much like they are today.” She paused to let what she had said sink in. “As you well know from my credentials, among the subjects my father taught me were biblical criticism, world history, and world religions. The bible is one of only a few such accounts where the woman is to blame for a moral fall from grace. Many other religions revere the feminine aspect of God.” This statement created another stir in the room. “That having been said, I cannot help that I was raised for half my life by a man who taught me to think like a man. I can’t go back and unlearn what my father taught me, nor do I have any desire to do so. However, I have always followed a moral path as evidenced by my behavior since arriving, and by the references which I sent with my application. Yet at my first assumed offense, you decided that I should be sacked.

“However, to get to the point of this meeting, this is my side of what happened last night. When I discovered that neither the O’Days, or the Jeffries could attend my dinner party, I did as my friends have testified, I consulted not only Mr. Jeffries, but Mrs. Cobb. They both approved of my plans. We had our dinner at which we conversed, and played a game. Nothing more, so, I can only conclude that you have a personal dislike for me and have brought forward this vendetta for reasons of your own. I surmise this from the fact that you frequently come to the school to observe my teaching.” She had not mentioned this fact to the other school board members. Charles directed his disapproval in Herbert’s direction.

Before she could continue, Herbert sneered, “And it is evident by your teachin’ that you are an abolitionist. Ah am not sure that is the kind of teacher we want.”

Charles spoke up. “Herbert, Oregon is a free state, albeit a white one. What Miss Carlyle believes about slavery is her own business as is yours, I might add. I’ve had no complaints from any parents about her spreading her personal views and since you have no children in school, you have no right to harass her by showing up unannounced in her classroom. You jeopardize your seat on the school board. But that is a matter to be dealt with at another time. Miss Carlyle, will you please continue.”

She paused looking at Herbert, who had turned a dark shade of purple. Taking a look around the room she continued. “Ladies and gentlemen, I am perfectly willing to resign my position if that is your wish. However, I will not leave Table Rock City. I have funds elsewhere and can live very comfortably working with Mr. Evans at the paper and doing all I can to contribute to the growth of this community. You may get rid of me as a teacher, Mr. Perry, but I will still be a thorn in your side.”

By the end of her speech, Herbert’s jaw seemed made of stone. He was about to speak, when Arthur stood. Charles said, “Arthur, I hope you can bring some wisdom to these proceedings.”

“I hope I speak for others here when I say that I think Miss Carlyle acted in a most considerate manner last evening. She was deliberate in seeking advice from more than one quarter as to the appropriateness of having dinner alone with three bachelors, all prominent and respected members of our community, I might add. As Miss Carlyle has pointed out, it is no secret that you, Herbert, have not approved of her since she arrived.”

Arthur took a deep breath and continued. “May I also say, that she has been an asset to our town and our children. If we condemn her and release her from her position, it will take a great deal of effort to find a replacement with as wide a range of knowledge. I for one want her to remain in her post.” Turning to Charles, Arthur asked, “Is it appropriate to call for an indication of support for Miss Carlyle by a show of hands?”

Charles smiled as if he thought it good that for once someone else was taking the lead. “It is entirely appropriate. Before we call for a show of hands, does anyone have have anything else to add?”

The atmosphere in the room had changed markedly and it appeared that Herbert was resigned to his defeat for the present. After a considerable pause, Charles surprised everyone by adding, “Ladies, I would like you to vote as well. If you are in support of Miss Carlyle retaining her post as teacher of our school, please raise your hands.” A majority of hands went up immediately, others more slowly.” With a wicked smile, Charles said, “Those who do not support Miss Carlyle, raise your hands as well so she knows her accusers. Mr. Cobb and four older men looking over at Herbert, slowly raised their hands. Herbert only glared.

“Support carries for …”

Just then Emmet burst into the room. His clothes were covered with dust as if he’d been riding full tilt from his ranch. “What is this I hear about sacking Miss Carlyle?” His face was contorted in anger and his voice hard as rock. “If one of my hands hadn’t heard what Herbert said to her at church and told me, you would have cut me out of adding my two cents worth.” He looked around and saw for the first time since his entrance, that the room was full to bursting.

“We’re not sacking Miss Carlyle, Emmet. This is not an official meeting of any of these bodies, though we are keeping a record of what is said and done for future reference.”

“Well, why meet then?”

“To clear the air and see how to proceed,” said Charles.

“Well, I still wish someone had sent for me. I’d have things to say in her defense. Have you voted yet?”

“Yes. We’ve decided by majority vote to support Miss Carlyle which means no further action will be taken against her.”

“Good.” He put his face near Herbert’s. “Thwarted again, Herbert!”

* * * * *

I hope you enjoyed that scene. Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment from a reader’s point of view. Also feel free to share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Creativity

Daffodils serenading the sun.

Daffodils serenading the sun.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” ~ Albert Einstein

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’ve been reading some nonfiction books for a change and as they always do, they make me think about my life. I wrote about reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert last week. This week, I’m reading Rising Strong by Brené Brown. Both books have stirred the pot of my well of creativity. All of a sudden I’ve got ideas about new projects coming at me. In one way, that’s fantastic. In another, I don’t feel like I’ve got enough time to write them all down. I guess the ideas that are meant for me will stick around. The others will float off and land in another writer’s lap.

One idea I got about a week ago has taken hold. It’s a story about a young girl in an as yet unnamed kingdom who is secretly taught to be a warrior by her father. The young women of the villages in her kingdom must submit to a lottery during their sixteenth year to be sacrificed to a dragon who terrorizes the countryside. Or at least that’s the rumor. No one has seen the dragon for many years. However, the girls who are sacrificed never return, so everyone believes the rumor. The girl’s father teaches her to fight, which is forbidden, in an attempt to save her life. His reasoning is that if she can fight and strategize she might be able to slay the dragon and save the kingdom. I have some ideas about what really happens to the girls, and the discoveries the main character makes because, of course, she is chosen to be the sacrifice. But I have to let those ideas sit on the back burner for awhile before I write them down. The cool thing is that every day I get new ideas about the world in which the girl lives and what might happen to her after she meets the dragon.

It’s fun to have a new project in the works, however, I’m on another round of revisions on my novel, The Space Between Time and I want to get through it a couple more times before sending it off to my writer friends for more comments and possible corrections. Sometimes ideas flow too readily, yet, I’m grateful that they are flowing at all. I want to take a shot at writing them down and to see if the stories take shape.

Something else rumbling around in my head is that it’s almost eight years since I quit teaching full-time to become a writer, and at this juncture, I feel like it’s time to take some classes, or submit some work, do some research for my sequel novel, or do something different with all these ideas.

The bottom line is I’m restless, and yet I crave solitude. Kind of a strange combination of emotions. I think what this all means is that a big change is on its way to me, and that is exciting. I’ve got the summer off. Maybe the changes will happen then. In any case, no teaching for me this summer for the first time in seven or eight years. My mouth almost waters at the thought of eleven or twelve weeks to concentrate on my work with fewer distractions. So, if you ask me to meet for lunch or go for a walk, or some other outing during the day. I may refuse not because I don’t like you, but because I’m focusing on finishing my manuscript, and putting all the new ideas floating around in my head into the computer. How about dinner?

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Creative Life

Calla Lilies

Calla Lilies

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~ Brené Brown

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago I began reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about living a creative life without fear. Some books blow your mind, others help you work through trauma, others are just plain fun. Then there are the books that confirm your feelings, your point of view. Those books can give you courage to continue on the road you’ve chosen. Big Magic is that kind of book for me.

Though I’ve only been writing for eight years and consider myself a new writer, I do have years of experience in the world of theatre. And to echo something from Elizabeth’s book, when you commit yourself to the creative life, you have to stick with it through thick and thin. I’ve been cast as characters that were very different from me and consequently very difficult to play because I had a hard time relating to them. On the other hand I’ve played characters that were so much like me that it was difficult to know where the character ended and I began.

Writing is like that too. Some days I sit down to write my weekly blog post or work on my novel and the words flow out my fingers with little need of revision. Other times I struggle with the concepts I’m trying to convey. I write, then dump whole sections or sometimes begin over. Since I’m under a deadline for my blog, I have to publish it even though what I’ve written may not adequately express the idea that’s been running around in my head looking for an outlet.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing essays and stories to send to publications with open submissions. One particular opportunity struck my fancy. The magazine, Story has called for submissions on the theme of identity. When I saw that, I thought, “I have lots to say on that topic,” and I began writing. That was over two months ago and I’m still struggling with the piece. The deadline for submission is fast approaching and I have too much to say about identity. I can’t narrow my thoughts down into a coherent whole. It’s like when I get close to a vital idea for the piece it floats away from me. As a result I may not get it together in time to submit it for publication.

I was feeling discouraged about that, but after reading Big Magic, my viewpoint has changed. Maybe I’m not supposed to write about identity. On the other hand a story idea flitted toward me the other day, and it’s demanding attention. This story wants to be written, and written by me. Elizabeth’s theory is that creative ideas float around until they find the person who is supposed to bring the idea to life. That’s how this new story idea feels to me, unlike the essay on identity. I’ll continue to work on the essay until it tells me to quit. That’s all a creative person can do, follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead you.

You also have to put your work out into the world anyway you can. Last night in the section I was reading, Elizabeth related a story of the first piece she had published. The title of the story was “Pilgrims”, and the editor of Esquire magazine wanted to publish it. She was ecstatic. Finally after years of trying, her work would be published in a major magazine. Then she got a call. A large advertising sponsor had backed out of placing their ads and the editor would have to reduce the number of pages for the edition that was to include her story. They wanted to know if she would be willing to cut her ten page story by thirty percent. She could wait for a future publication, but the magazine business was changeable, her contact warned, and her story might never be published. She chose to rewrite the story and it turned out to be a good thing she did, because two months later, the editor left for a new position and her story would have gone into oblivion.

Choosing the creative life sends the practitioner off into a mysterious world. There are peaks and valleys. One day everything is going well with your project and the next, the idea well is dry, or tastes funny, or has gone underground and is flowing toward another artist. All we can do is commit to the work. I find that the deeper my commitment, the more I’m supported by the creativity fairies who sometimes lead me in directions I had no intention of going. Yet, I’ve committed myself to them, so I must follow. The point is, I look forward every morning to sitting down at my computer and following the breadcrumbs left for me that day.

Well, this is one of those blog posts that is kind of all over the place. My ideas are still not completely formed. The ideas from Big Magic are still drifting around in my head, and out in the ethers waiting to crystalize. That doesn’t matter. I’ll publish this post anyway.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016