Art is Fundamental

Toucan Snail by Barry Midgorden

“Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” ~ Martin Luther

“The world is but a canvas to our imagination.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~ Edgar Degas

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ~ Jonathan Swift

Many of you know that I have degrees in theatre, I’ve taught English and theatre for many years. And I’m married to an artist. Which means, art of all kinds is extremely important to me. I think it’s important to all of us, though often we don’t know it.

Last night my husband and I watched an episode of Origins: The Journey of Humankind on NatGeo. The episode was about how, beginning with graphic representations, communication helped make humans the dominant species on the planet. It happened as those graphic communications morphed into story telling with words and dance. From there we developed ever more complex ways of communicating with each other until now we can reach anyone on the globe in an instant.

It’s the art left behind on cave walls, in archeological digs, and in ancient writings that help us understand how we have evolved, and how we have stayed the same. Art is communication. As the narrator of Origins, Jason Silva says, “Studies have shown creating art rewires our brain, increasing the gray and white matter in the cerebellum. This increases overall cognitive function.” Creating art helps us understand the intangible undercurrents of human emotion. And because of art we have the ability to get underneath the artist’s skin and experience life from his or her point of view. Because of this, art is fundamental.

I hate it when school districts need to make budget cuts, it’s always the arts that get cut first. As if communicating on deeper levels, is not important. So, I’m against this current push toward STEM education, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I know that those things are important, but we wouldn’t have any of those disciplines without first having invented art. Art encourages creative thinking because to participate in art is to think outside the limits of what we already know.

I don’t mean to say that scientists and mathematicians are not creative. They can be but they need to be able to do what Picasso says, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions (ideas) that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” In my limited experience, people who are involved in the STEM disciplines see the world in a particular concrete way and are uncomfortable with ambiguity. Artists love ambiguity because it’s not linear thinking. Ambiguity is where the magic happens, the visions for a better world, and the innovations come from. I believe great scientists use ambiguity too.

I would love it if art were given its due and instead of this push for STEM in education, we included education in the arts as well. We should make our educational model STEAM instead to include all students. Not everyone is suited to think in linear ways. Some of us are out on the edges of human emotion and thought. We see things others may not even have a clue exist. I don’t want us to leave those students behind as if they’re not important. After all, how many novels, movies and TV shows have predicted, or caused future inventions. I don’t think it’s an accident that the novels, 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are flying off the shelves during these turbulent times. Those and many authors, felt the coming of dark times and wrote about them. Some of them envisioned solutions that have little or nothing to do with mathematical equations, building structures or proving new scientific theories.

It takes all kinds to make this world a better place, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill, if we don’t appreciate art, then what’s the use of all the struggle? It’s the beauty of the flowers, the sunrise, or sunset, the fluidity of the moving human body, the smile on the face of another, the colors of the painting, or the words or music that touch our heart and make life worth living. Jason Silva also said on Origins, “No human society has ever been found without music. It lies at the core of our culture.” So, it is art that touches our souls and help us appreciate each other. That’s where the next innovation needs to take place, in our hearts. We can have all the fabulous gadgets in the universe, but what good are they if we are fighting with each other and destroying our planet?

I didn’t mean to get so philosophical. It’s just that as I develop as a writer, I’m able to express that I’ve felt for a long time that we humans sometimes get our priorities mixed up. We think that art is a frivolous thing, but without art, we never would have evolved to where we are now. I know from experience that every time I see a movie, or a play, read a book, listen to music or see a painting, my point of view about the world is altered. I can’t say that about seeing a mathematical theorem. That might happen when I see great architecture, but then again, an artist had to create the design for the building. It seems to me without art, STEM might never exist.

Thanks for reading. I hope you leave a comment or share with friends and family.

If you’d like to join my email list click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Life is an Adventure

Aisle at Powell’s Bookstore

“Never be afraid to try a new experience, and keep an open mind about everything and everybody.” ~ Marian Tanner

“Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.” Mame in Auntie Mame

As I write this, we have just returned from our trip to Portland, Oregon. It’s a kind of ritual for me to take stock of what I learned when I travel. This trip made me feel hopeful and excited for the future. It made me want to be even more whole-hearted in my approach to life. Here are some reasons why.

We got to connect with lots of old friends, and some family. It’s always great to catch up with people and find out how they have been and what they’ve been doing. Interacting with others is a great way to take a vacation from my own challenges.

We stayed with a dear friend, Jean, that we have kept in contact with but not seen in about twelve years. I enjoyed our talks and having tea with her every afternoon. She also took me to have high tea with a woman in her nineties that we used to do Reiki with. She still lives alone in her lovely home. We had a stimulating talk. The thing that impressed me about Mary was that she is still interested in everything and everyone. She was a good example for me. I want to be like that too.

Another person we got to connect with was Barry’s boss at Sophia Center, Sister Kathryn. She’s a story teller and just as we were leaving from our second visit, she told a story about the Sisters of the Holy Names in the 1800s Jacksonville, Oregon that I want to use in my sequel novel. The sisters established a convent in Jacksonville but were not well received until a small pox epidemic broke out. They worked tirelessly to help save as many people as they could. After the epidemic was over, the hearts and minds of the community were changed and the sisters were not only accepted into the life of the town, but appreciated so much that a picture of their founder was hung in City Hall. That reminded me of the movie we had watched with Jean just a few days before, The Letters, about Mother Teresa. Both stories are a testament to the fact that one or a handful of people can make a huge impact on the lives of people around them.

One of the most fun things I did was to take a trip to Powell’s Bookstore. It was a place I loved when we lived in Portland and I had a wonderful lunch, browsed and bought books, and took pictures for an episode of Loving Literature. I’m one of those crazy people who loves having lots of books around me even ones I may never get to read. It’s like having a favorite blanket. Books comfort me, so being in Powell’s was a little like sitting on a comfy couch, wrapped in a throw reading.

This morning I was catching up with my email and social media. I flipped past all the negative stuff and found a blog post by one of my favorite authors, Pam Grout. The title is, “Why I’m the luckiest person on the planet, Episode 23.” Obviously her blog is about the wonderful things that happen to her because that’s what her books are about, helping people learn how to allow great things to happen to them. I liked this quote from the post, “I get interviewed a lot. One of the common questions is, ‘What kind of goals do you set for yourself?’ And sometimes my interviewers scratch their head with my answer. ‘I don’t. Rather, I trust the universe so much that I let it set the agenda. It’s so much wiser and sees so many more possibilities than I ever could.'” Then she goes on to tell about her latest free trip to Italy where she got an invite to meet famous people and stay in fabulous places.

Now that’s that kind of life I want! Today I’ve decided to allow the universe to introduce me to more fabulous people and places.

As I look back on our trip, I find so many things to be grateful for. The beauty of the blooming flowers, (something Portland is known for), the abundance of love we shared with friends and family, Portland’s fabulous public transit system, helpful people at the Oregon Historical Society, unexpected conversations with strangers, and for great inventions like airplanes.

And thinking back on our trip this morning I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed over the almost twenty-one years since we moved from Portland. When I was younger, I was so serious. I saw life as hard. I didn’t ever dream I’d get to live the life I wanted. Paula, another boss of Barry’s that we connected with, reminded me of that. She told us about an artists retreat she attended that helped her see that she had blocked her own creative dreams. She decided not to do that any more. It was so much like my own awakening experience. It reminded me that we are way too hard on ourselves, and eat the same dreary experiences over and over again, instead of partaking of the banquet of life.

I’ve said for a long time that life is an adventure. I finally believe that, and am looking forward to more fabulous experiences.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Book Bliss

Inside Powell’s bookstore

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,’ said Jojen. ‘The man who never reads lives only one.” ~ George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons

“You’re never alone when you’re reading a book.” ~ Susan Wiggs

Today I’ve just returned from Portland, Oregon. Actually, as I write this, I’m fantasizing about my upcoming trip which begins in a few days, so technically I haven’t gone yet. However, I won’t get back in time to prepare this post, so I’m scheduling it ahead of time.

It’s been nearly twenty-one years since my husband and I moved from Portland to Southern Arizona and believe it or not, we’ve never been back. It was a great place to live mostly because of the scenery, lots of fantastic entertainment, and the great bookstores.

In fact, Portland can boast of having the largest independent bookstore in the entire world. Powell’s City of Books took up an entire city block when we lived there. I can’t wait to see if it has expanded. You can be sure I will be making at least one visit to the store and I plan to buy at least one book while I’m there, more if I can fit them into my luggage for the trip home. As I recall the bookstore had a coffee shop, several levels and rooms each dedicated to a specific genre it may take me several days to explore it. I’ll be taking pictures, you can be sure, and I may dedicate my next Loving Literature video to my experience there.

I haven’t told many people this, but it’s a favorite fantasy of mine to have book readings at the store. It may not happen until I’ve published my fourth or fifth book, but I keep visualizing what it will be like to read and talk to a huge room full of fans about my writing process and share parts of my new book with them. In my mind’s eye it will be a rare sparklingly sunny day with the profusion of flowers, particularly rhododendrons, azaleas, and the roses the city is so known for.

I’m not a very gregarious person, but I hope to strike up some conversations with the employees and maybe interest someone in The Space Between Time. One way I thought I’d do that is to ask for advice on a little known, but great book to buy. Or maybe I’ll sit in the coffee shop writing or reading and find a friendly patron to talk with. I’m determined to be more open to great conversations with people who love books.

Thinking about books and how much reading has done for me, I thought I’d share a scene from my second novel, tentatively titled Time’s Echo. This is a rough draft, and may not end up in the final version of the book but I thought you might be interested in reading it and making comments.

Time’s Echo begins two or three years after the end of The Space Between Time. Jack, Jenna’s husband, has opened his center for the arts. Though Jenna’s primary job is working on her second novel about her experiences with Morgan, her three-times great-grandmother, she also offers classes at the center. In this scene, she and her friend Naomi are wrapping up just such a class. My idea for this novel is that Jenna’s ideas about women that she expresses in her writing and in public will put her and her family in some dangerous situations. This scene shows that not everyone hates her.

 

“Ms. Holden, I wanted to thank you for teaching this class. I had no idea there were so many powerful, and creative women throughout history,” said Amy. She was one of the students who was taking classes on scholarship at the Umpqua Center for the Arts. She was a bright girl. Jenna was glad she had been privileged to have her as a student.

At first Jenna had thought she’d be much too busy writing the next book about her adventures with Morgan, her three-times great-grandmother, to teach classes. Since finding the box containing the journals, she had been living in two worlds. It was sometimes difficult for Jenna to focus on the present moment.

However, Her mother’s dear friend Naomi had suggested the class about prominent women and their contributions to the development of humanity. She offered to team teach the class with Jenna. Given the political climate, the two women saw the class as their way of helping their students see that women have always been making important contributions.

This was the last day of the class. Jenna had thoroughly enjoyed teaching it with Naomi, though they were really more like facilitators. The students were the ones who had chosen women they found interesting, then taught each other about their achievements.

“You’re welcome.” Jenna said to Amy, “I’ve had fun learning about women I had never heard of before. Which woman was your favorite?”

“That’s a hard one to answer. Eleanor Roosevelt I guess. She was one of my favorites because even though she came from a wealthy and powerful family, she always looked for ways to help people, and that made her feel better about herself.”

“I like her too. I hope you’ll consider taking other classes with us.”

“Oh, I will. I want to try acting and some of the art classes. I’ve always wanted to paint.”

“Good for you. I look forward to seeing you around the Center.”

The center was a success because the course offerings were designed for the enrichment and enjoyment of local residents of Roseburg and the surrounding environs as well as drawing students from farther afield. The courses were unique, relatively inexpensive, and weren’t offered anywhere else.

Obviously the class had been a big hit because other students hung around to talk to Naomi and Jenna. What surprised Jenna was the fact that several young men had taken the class. Because of that there had been some lively discussions about the rights of men and women. In the end through consensus, the students decided that the class was really about human rights.

 

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

To join my mailing list, click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Writing and Reading Lessons

Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series.

“Nobody needs me to sing MacDonald’s praises, but that yard of books did more for me than provide excellent entertainment. For some reason the McGee books spoke to me like textbooks. I felt I could see what MacDonald was doing, and why, and how, as if I could see beneath the skin.” ~ Lee Child

“Dickens didn’t write what people wanted. Dickens wanted what people wanted.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

“Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” ~ Stephen Pressfield

I’ve gone back to working on my sequel novel to The Space Between Time, and because of that and the political climate, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about my characters Jenna and Morgan and their relationships with their husbands. I’ve known for quite some time that Morgan becomes a Suffragist, and Jenna has a tangle with the conservative right who want to keep women in their place. But when I first started working on that manuscript in 2014 I felt a little bit stuck. Things were going along pretty smoothly at the time but events have turned to give me more fodder for my imagination. Because of that I’ve been thinking about how Jack and Seth will react to their wives becoming activists. I want to get into their heads to see what interesting things their struggles will bring to the story. This book may turn out to be more about how men and women relate to each other than Jenna and Morgan’s involvement in the women’s movements of their respective time periods.

As I’ve no doubt written before, my mind is rarely quiet. I’m always storing away bits of information I pick up from the books I read, current events, the movies and TV shows I watch, and conversations with friends and family.

Every once in a while all the disparate things I’ve been thinking or observing come to a conjunction and I get a big AHA. I’ve recently had one of those ahas when I read an article about “The Awesome Omega Male.” I don’t want to go into detail about how my thinking came together, however, I will say that I’ve come to some interesting conclusions about the different kinds of male characters in movies and books.

My husband and I had been watching many action movies lately. After reading the above mentioned article, I realized that male oriented action movies come in two basic categories. There are the alpha male movies with the characters who are egotistical and on a rampage of revenge. It could be as trivial a reason as somebody messed with their stuff, or crossed them in some way. I don’t like those kind. They don’t seem to have a point.

In the other category there are characters who are alienated from society, but they have more omega male qualities. These characters are introverted and like it. They don’t go seeking trouble but if it comes, they have the skills to take out the bad guys. They can be empathetic and kind, but for the most part they like working on their own. They don’t have much of an ego because they know their own strengths and weaknesses and how use both to accomplish their goals. In this last category of movies, the men use violence only when necessary to protect those who really need it.

One thing I loved about the article on omega men was it defined the type of men I grew up knowing. I knew that I could go to my father with a problem and he’d listen without judgment. I could rely on him to protect me if I needed it, but he also encouraged me to stand up for myself. So that’s the kind of male characters I created for The Space Between Time. When my writer friend told me that she thought my male characters were too soft, I told her I wrote the kind of men I knew, yet I did consider making them tougher. However I just couldn’t do it. I liked the men I’d created, and I didn’t want to change them. The article on omega men gave me the justification for the type of male characters I had written.

As Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher series says, “Character is king.” He’s right. We remember characters over plot, but the plot is what the characters swim in to learn their lessons, to grow and change, and to accomplish their goals. That means that we must create lots of challenges for our characters to deal with, which in turn helps us show who our characters are.

Child also said in the introduction to the first Jack Reacher book, that he likes characters who are winners but alienated in some way. He likes characters who are confident and who can defeat their enemies. We have traditionally thought that the winners are the alpha males, the strongest, loudest, most domineering egotistical men. But the world is changing and so are men. We need winners who fight for all of us, not just to make themselves look good.

As I’ve been thinking about the omega male model, I’ve been comparing it to the female psychological models. According to an article I read by Stephanie S. Covington, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., and Janet L. Surrey, Ph.D., women’s primary motivating drive is toward connection with others. Alpha males think that’s a weakness but we’re discovering it’s a huge strength. That’s the one omega man trait that the above movie characters struggle with. Many of them have had a significant close relationship, or they would like to have a connection with someone but for now, they’re loners.

Since reading, as the Lee Child quote above says, is like taking a writing seminar, I’m reading some Jack Reacher and other books with strong male characters. I want to get a different perspective on men so I can use this information to flesh out Jack and Seth and the other male characters in my book. I want them to be distinct from each other and believable, but most of them will continue to be omega males.

I’m discovering that reading really is a fantastic way to become a better writer.

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

To join my email list click here.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Mother of Invention

Apollo Launch

“The Cold War did a lot for us. Just think of it, we went to the Moon and back because we wanted to win the “Space Race.” ~ Aaron Sneary

“Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.” ~ Harry Lime in The Third Man

A few weeks ago we had dinner with a friend who is going through huge life changes. During our discussion, he pointed out that the Cold War helped us with a great many technological advances. My husband and I agreed with him. It seems to be our way for necessity to be the mother of invention.

Last week I used some quotes from Gary Zukav’s book The Seat of the Soul, to make my point that the human race is evolving. Sometimes we need to take a look back to discover where we are going. Near the end of his book, Gary Zukav points out that at some point near the beginning of our existence, we five-sensory human beings chose “to learn through fear and doubt instead of through wisdom.” Yet the point he is making with his book is that we now have a chance to choose a new way to learn and evolve.

Here we are at this crucial time in human history, not just in this country, but all over the planet. What will we invent? How will we grow? Will we choose to set aside our petty squabbles and begin to work together? I hope we really do move away from inventing ever more complex technology, and instead make deeper connections with each other and with who we really are.

Last week I also referenced an article on the site, Prepare For Change that gave evidence that humanity is waking up because the frequency of the earth has risen drastically in the last few months and years. If you didn’t read my post, just know that the frequency of the planet is linked to human brainwave activity. Maybe we’re finally using parts of our brains that have been dormant for so long.

If you look back at history, it takes a lot to shake us up enough to make us adopt major changes in the way we think, in the way we treat each other, and in our societies. Usually most of us fight that change with everything we’ve got. It doesn’t seem to be that way this time. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems that the number of people trying to hold on to the old ways of being and doing are relatively small. Unfortunately, at the moment they also happen to be those in power positions, at least in this country. But the flow of history has changed. The old ways no longer work. We can’t abuse the environment, or people and assume the planet or people will lie down and take it. This is illustrated by the multitude of demonstrations, calls, emails, and snail mail being sent to our elected officials. It’s also reflected in our art.

I think I can speak for other artists when I say that the work we create is our attempt to understand, and maybe even define what it means to be a human being. And some artists of late have attempted to point out that humanity is standing on the precipice. We can either evolve or die. The remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Matrix series, and Arrival are just a few of the movies that use human evolution as themes. There are also other art forms that do that same thing, but I don’t need to list them all here.

Arrival is particularly interesting because it advocates cooperation as a way for the human race to save itself so that millennia in the future humans can help save the alien race that has arrived. I’m all for using more cooperation probably because that was a major lesson I learned from my involvement in theatre. If the director, producer, actors, designers and crew don’t work together, the production falls apart. It’s like that for companies, sports teams, educational classrooms, families, and so many other life situations

In Arrival, the key to human evolution has to do with changing the way we think by learning the language of the aliens who have come to earth. I loved the idea that the language we speak causes us to think in specific ways and one way to change the way you think is to learn a new language. So, maybe we need to require that all students learn one language other than English by taking six or eight years of the language they choose. Wouldn’t that be great, to have lots of different language offerings for students. I for one am sad that I attended a series of small towns with scant foreign, (I don’t like that word) language offerings. I wanted to learn French, but when we moved to a new school, they only offered Spanish and German. I wish now living so close to the Mexican border that I had taken Spanish. Instead I took one year of German. Not enough to learn the language properly.

What we need is one universal language that everyone on the planet learns, like everyone on the planet eventually learns in the movie Arrival. I think it would be great if it was a completely new language not spoken by anyone on the planet at this time. Maybe some linguist will come up with such a language, or the one that they created for the movie could be developed further and we could use it. I’d learn it. What do you think?

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Evolution

Great Buddha, Kamakura, Japan

“The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life.” ~ Gary Zukav

“Only choices made in love are compassionate. There are no exceptions. Do you have the courage to act with an empowered heart without attachment to the outcome? If not, you have no ability to give or experience compassion. That is the shocking truth.” ~ Gary Zukav

The Sunday morning ritual in our house is to watch Sunday Morning on CBS. Last Sunday there was a segment on Kellyanne Conway. I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch but I’m glad I did.

My first impressions were that her life has changed in ways she had not anticipated. That she gets attacked, like lots of public people do, for things that don’t matter like what she’s wearing. I don’t agree with her politics, but seeing that interview, which I admit is the first time I’ve seen her talk, made me feel sorry for her. She seems afraid and out of her depth. But what she said about being hounded for everything she does is a reflection of our hunger for “the dirt” on people. That’s not fair no matter who is in the public eye. I think we judge others when we feel out of balance and helpless. We think it’s a way we can control the outside world.

Watching the interview caused me to do a great deal of thinking about the discourse among the various political factions in this country. I’ve struggled since the election with the best way to help the evolution of our country, culture and myself. And for some reason seeing this woman trying to express herself clearly during the interview, helped me see that the great divide has more to do with our evolution as a species, and not for any other reason. And what does the evolution have to do with politics?

Not long ago I found a link on Facebook to an interesting article by Edward Morgan. It was on the site Prepare For Change about scientific evidence that the human race is waking up. The earth vibrates, as does every living thing on the planet. These vibrations are connected and have an effect on all the others. The very first sentences of the article states, “On 1/31/17, for the first time in recorded history, the Schumann Resonance has reached frequencies of 36+. This is a big deal. In 2014, it was considered anomalous for the frequency to have risen from it’s usual 7.83 frequency to somewhere in the 15-25 levels.” The article goes on to say that the spike in the Schumann Resonance is not returning to it’s usual 7.83 Hz. Why is this significant? Because, “These emerging resonances are naturally correlated to human brainwave activity.”

It seems to me that if the earth’s frequency has been raised by the elevation in human brainwave activity, then perhaps there are people who feel the change and are deeply frightened by this unseen vibration that they sense but can not define.

Years ago, in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s, when I was going through a significant spiritual upheaval, I read the book The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav. It was not only eye opening, but comforting as well. In it Gary Zukav says, “We are evolving from five-sensory humans into multi-sensory humans. … The perceptions of a multi sensory human extend beyond physical reality to the larger dynamical systems of which our physical reality is part. The multisensory human is able to receive, and to appreciate, the role that our physical reality plays in a larger picture of evolution, and the dynamics by which our physical reality is created and sustained. This realm is invisible to the five-sensory human.” pg. 27.

We’re struggling all over the world with what it means to be human and whether to continue on in the same old patterns, or to embrace new ways of being. The political climate has forced us to take a good look at ourselves and examine what we’ve created. If the article published by Prepare For Change is right, most of us are choosing to evolve and become multi-sensory. If that’s true, then we have to show compassion to those who are not yet ready to evolve.

I have to say that I have struggled a great deal about how to do that. We can’t let the people who are asleep run the world. That is proving to be counter productive. So, I have considered marching. I do sign petitions and send massages to my elected officials. But for some reason the words resist and protest seem wrong to me.

A local friend of mine posted her thoughts on this issue in a very long essay. She may have borrowed it from someone else, but the gist of it was that we should use the word persist instead of resist. I loved that because as a writer, I’m a big fan of using words carefully. They can be like daggers, or they can heal. We can be like the drops of water that eventually split the rock in two through persistent dripping. So, to help humanity continue to evolve, I will persist in my own awakening, in being kind and compassionate, in listening, in working to help others become successful. I will persist in urging our elected officials to think of every one of their constituents instead of lining the pockets of the wealthy and in turn getting rich themselves. But most of all, I will trust that even though it looks like everything is falling apart, it is really falling together. Sometimes you have to tear down the old to reconfigure it into something new.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

Perceptions and Filters

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” ~ Viola Davis

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Our minds influence the key activity of the brain, which then influences everything; perception, cognition, thoughts and feelings, personal relationships; they’re all a projection of you.” ~ Deepak Chopra

One thing I’ve learned is that we each see the world from our unique perspective and often, because of our personal filters, what we think is true, isn’t true at all.

I first began to consider this through someone else’s story. This woman is a kind of mentor figure to me and she told me of an incident with one of her children. They were reflecting on some event when he was young and she said to him, “And do you remember the love?” to which he replied, “No, what I remember is the condemnation.” This was, of course, a shock to her.

As she and I talked I understood that no matter what happens to us, we interpret the events through the filters of the way we feel about ourselves, and through our responses or reactions to what has happened to us in the past. My friend taught me to take a step back when I was in conflict with someone else. I had to take a breath and ask myself, through what lenses am I seeing this situation? Is my perspective affected by my reaction to past events? Asking those kinds of questions is a vitally important communication tool.

With that in mind, here is another short section of The Space Between Time. In this scene, Jenna and her new friend Jack, have gone to a barbecue with some of her high school friends. Here Jenna finds that maybe she had been wrong about her mother’s reasons for being distant. Perhaps her mother did love her and one of the ways she showed that was to support Jenna’s school activities. There is more to that backstory, but you get the idea.

Let me know what you think, and don’t be afraid to point out any errors, or improvements that I could make.

 

During dinner, Jenna was surprised when the conversation turned to her mother.

“Remember the sleep overs your mom let us have?” Matt said.

Jenna crinkled her brow. “Sleep overs?” She had no idea what Matt was talking about.

“Well that’s what we called them. You remember, when we had a deadline for the paper. Sometimes Mr. Stevens would have to go home to be with the kids because his wife had the night shift at the hospital. When that happened, we’d go to your house to finish the mockups.”

Gina chimed in, “Those were fun nights. All our parents knew if we were at your house, we were okay. And your mom was great bringing us snacks and making suggestions. She would stay up all night with us, then feed us breakfast before sending us home to get ready for school.”

Jenna was stunned. She didn’t remember those times at all.

Fred said, “You had the cool mom. We loved hanging out at your house. It’s sad she’s not here to see you become a writer. I think she would have loved that.”

“Yeah, I miss her,” was all Jenna could choke out. I had the cool mom? Why had she blocked out those memories? The swirling telescoping feeling she had the day she stood on her mother’s front porch after the funeral came back. Guilt engulfed her. I have blamed you for my unhappiness all these years. She couldn’t wait to get home to her journal to process her tumultuous emotions.

 

I wanted to include this little scene in my book because I, like many of us, blamed my parents for things that happened in my childhood. But, as children, we never know what our parent’s are dealing with. We don’t know their whole story. We forget that they have challenges and emotional baggage too. Most of them are doing the very best they can. I wanted to show that Jenna was finally growing up and able to understand her mother a little better just as I did my parents.

By the way, I had the “cool parents,” and I loved that.

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

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2017

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