31 Oct 2008, 2:18pm

Happy Haunts

chrome gnome
Would you rather a chrome gnome? or a chrome dome for Hallowe’en?

Cracks, they get into everything.

See you on the flip side of the spooks.

Quote: “The unnatural, that too is natural.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

30 Oct 2008, 2:26pm
General Glad Game
Comments Off on Catch-up


So much has happened this week I can hardly think back to half of it. Luckily I took notes. And the bad-handwriter’s-helper, photos.

In summary,…
Home is getting real estate related cleanings and tours. Looking at other places to live.

Did three poetry workshop groups this week.

Rest of writers fest. (To be elaborated on.)

This novel-thingee seems to chomp time by the week. It’s at 130 pages now. I have plans of characters and lot arches and notes and known gaps to fill. It’s far more engaging than I expected.

Intercepted mom and cousin at mom’s checkup. 4 1/2 hours there with commuting. A lot of news. Re-realization of time’s fast forward. The little boy I last sat with at length as we cut out paper snowflakes got his driver’s license and is considering a career in social work. Dad doesn’t have cancer. Mom has more skin cancer.

The whole parents visiting here idea fell thru as did the visit aunt and uncle idea. Still in the fluxing air this idea of a BD party for Hubby.

Apparently tomorrow is Hallowe’en. Had originally thought we’d be out of town on a some getaway then. Now seems not. Haven’t considered costume beyond what I had back in August. And who remembers back to August anymore. Costume seems moot. Are a couple places I could go but masquerade is more fun around friends or in daily shopping, errands than with acquaintances.

This afternoon I can stop long enough to catch my breathe and find out it’s Thursday. And just shy of November. Pardon?

Glad Game: Can have the luxury of this pause.
To have a day with literal blue skies and sunshine.
To have a full stomach.
Got a random act of poetry postcard.
Zum lip balm with shea butter seems to work better than the one I had before. (Small reliefs are disproportional to their size.)
To see resolution and stability enter an old friend’s life and the new comfort within his own skin.
To have found my address book.
To have been able to have given a hug when it was needed. (Iron arms when my heart would move still happens occasionally.)
To get in a book from the library that I was curious about and the ease of branch-to-branch movement.
Thick coat against cold.
The feeling – even if not the verifiable fact – of progress.
A few new books to peruse.
Gregorian chants and to fall asleep and wake up with Louis Armstrong’s voice in my head thanks to this spoof song.
For room in tomorrow and coming weeks to get some more new regular structure/routine.

27 Oct 2008, 2:26pm
Books Creative Writing Ottawa

Voice, Imaginary Voices and a Writer’s Particular Voice

The Writers Festival has one more day remaining with two events this evening at the National Library and Archives.

Cross connections on the issue of voice come from various presentations …
writing life
The issue of voice and decisions on what to put in the mouths of characters reoccurred through the fest with the the theme of Imagination.

Let us start with Tristan Hughes of Revenant and Donna Morrissey of What They Wanted. In Writing Life #1 they mentioned that as kids they not only had imaginary friends like most or all kids, but also had imaginary animals, and imaginary enemies.

That reminded me of the quote from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, “In politics, madame, you need two things: friends, but above all an enemy.” (Idea primed from a collage of Mulroney quotes poems by Christine McNair in a recent reading.)

Hughes said that, when you think about it, how odd it is to be a writer, to realize you sit in a room and talk to your imaginary friends and then write down what they said.

Speaking of invisible, in the same panel Joan Barfoot said being invisible is a weapon for those who know how to use it.. She was speaking in reference to the antics of life in the senior residence she writes about. You can get away with a lot of mischief if no one is paying attention.

In the masterclass on voice and setting Andrew Steinmetz expressed his take on that immortal issue of appropriation/authenticity of voice. He said that to him appropriating a voice is a practical matter, not a moral one. Bottom line: Can you do it well? The act of writing to erase yourself as a writer, “giving up interest in your own ideas” as Leonard Cohen put it. It’s a dress-up time. So can the writer entirely step behind the curtain?

Poetry Cabaret
Monty Reid of Luskville Reductions, Dannabang Kuwabong of Caribbean Blues and Love’s Genealogy, Meredith Quartermain of Matter and host Rhonda Douglas of Some Days I Think I Know Things at the Fall Ottawa Writers Fest.

The capacity to step outside ourselves is there, elastic. Meredith Quartermain mentioned a writer friend who was frustrated that even as she did poems of cut-ups and collages and completely non-linear forms, still she found herself writing about her mother.

Edeet Ravel (I believe it was) quoted Alister McCleod who said that whatever a writer does, each of us has our own fingerprints and we can’t exchange them with anyone. She added poetry comes from a deep place in our unconsciousness and we by necessity express ourselves uniquely.

Kuwabong. This idea of self-erasure was picked up later by others as well such as Dannabang Kuwabong of Caribbean Blues and Love’s Genealogy.

On October 25th he answered an audience question about whether as authors there’s a feeling of being exposed when writing personal narratives. He said that wherever a poem comes from and what it means as you compose, when you put words on the page it becomes a public voice, no longer you. What is written is from a public collective of observations recorded. The reader who has had a similar experiences or feels the poem for whatever reason, in that act of reading relates and makes it a personal experience, a private voice inside his or her head. That doesn’t make the poem confessional.

Monty Reid added that because a poem may have emotional rather than literal truth. The reader makes it personal no matter what but poets are liars.

Authors are drawn to good stories. Does it matter whose stories they are?

A jot, no tittle

2 more days of writers fest to go. The food blog is down for the count during this but my 40 word year blog is still going.

I seem to have run short on time to transcribe again, the idea of breakfast having slipped to brunch, and now to lunch….

Here’s some photos of the Fest at Flickr.

24 Oct 2008, 4:30pm
Comments Off on Masterclass: Writing Dialogue

Masterclass: Writing Dialogue

The noon hour masterclass series Oct 23 was an Essentials of Dialogue panel: Pasha Malla of The Withdrawal Method and Canadian icon Brian Doyle, hosted by Writers Fest organizer Sean Wilson.

Brian Doyle

Doyle and Malla talked about different stylistics of dialogue, realistic versus impressionistic, how to pare it back and about how using quotation marks in fiction is cumbersome, budy and distracting. They both vowed to go cold turkey on them, go back to the simple dash like Joyce, if nothing else than as a protest against misuse such as market signs that read “fresh” melons or “best” tacos in town. It was a warm panel with good flow.

Doyle was explaining that why he uses the style of dialogue he does: write what you know. He grew up in the Ottawa Valley and here, along any of the tributaries, the settlement happened at the same time, from people from the same group of countries with a common understanding of narration. No one could give a straight answer to a simple question. Everything comes with a story, fencing, bantering, feeling each other out, holding back and extending semi-truths and shifting. When he was small if he’d ask his Uncle Paddy What time is it? he’d answer with something like, This isn’t my watch but it’s 10 after 2. Now you didn’t care what time it was anymore. You wanted to know where he got the watch.

Malla, who majored in film said this matched what he was told to do as an undergrad. “Never answer a question directly”. You can bring out the life of a relationship from any banal exchange. Everything can be a way to convey hooks of other information and do more work. To get a conversation to do all it needs to do you can use props to create a manifestation of tension. The art is to make everything multidimensional.

Doyle said that if you are just having the character say something to further the storyline or offer a backstory, that’s not good enough. You’re using your characters and making them do your job.

Masterclass series: Dialogue At one point Malla said he wished to demonstrate the point that he’d brought something better to read, (handing his own book) and quick quip, Doyle said, would you like to read from mine? This is their good one handshake as they were laughing from it. It’s lovely when authors on panel are familiar with each others work and enjoy the skills of the other. Doyle quoted from Malla’s text and they talked a few times on what made a particular piece of dialogue work.

How little or no dialogue can be used to good effect Malla recommended the 2001 movie I’m Going Home directed by Manoel de Oliveira when he was 92. It’s slow placed and almost entirely silent but what is conveyed is done through economy of words, gesture, body language. Likewise Gerry about 2 men in a desert uses no conventional storytelling notions of story building, but without talking, you get the sense of their relationship and story and with emotional impact.

They talked about speech tags (he said, they said) and how anything other than “said” can draw attention to itself instead of disappear. If the voices of characters are developed and distinct, explaining who said what isn’t necessary.

To the question of giving each character a verbal tic, the writers responded along the lines of whatever your person style dictates. The fear of getting started in writing comes from school and needing to get graded on how something is right or wrong. Just write. “Kick the teacher out of your soul. I’m working on a memoir of teachers and it’s not going to be pretty.” That got a good crowd laugh as well. (Laughter wave #40, or thereabouts.)

When asked how to find the voice of a character Doyle said just get them talking. Allow the two to talk until they are going. Bring in a third person to interrupt them and you’ll know something then about how they react. You don’t have to keep the first pages. Use them to warm up and no one will ever know they exist.

Quote: “Go with your strengths and feel lucky if you have any.” – Brian Doyle

  • RSS Humanyms

  • Archives