Novels make you crazy?

 

I guess this could explain a lot about me. My readers will have to decide.

Victorian Doctors Thought Reading Novels Made Women ‘Incurably Insane’

At History Buff, Caroline Wazer, writes that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg—the same guy who invented corn flakes in an attempt to “cure” people of masturbation—called novel reading “one of the most pernicious habits to which a young lady can be devoted. When the habit is once thoroughly fixed, it becomes as inveterate as the use of liquor or opium.”Woman reading illustration

The idea that reading novels was a really bad idea for ladies had been suggested in an article not-so-subtly titled “Novel Reading, a Cause of Female Depravity,” which was published in a British journal all the way back in 1797.The author claimed to have personally witnessed the moral decay of several young female readers.

Similar beliefs were held by many medical doctors of the period.

Read the whole story HERE

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At Dangerous Minds, Tara McGinley offers us

A list of reasons for admission to an insane asylum

You probably won’t be surprised to see that novel reading is on the list.Insanity List photo

After viewing this list of what could have gotten you admitted to West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane back in the late-1800s, McGinley says, “I’ve swiftly concluded that the criteria was rather all-encompassing. Who among us is a stranger to what’s on this list?”

In this century, she adds, it looks more like a “wish list” for Dr. Phil’s guest bookers!

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Erased from history

At Salon, Anne Boyd Rioux reminds us that two books on many best-of-2015 lists were written by women who died in virtual obscurity, Clarice Lispector and Lucia Berlin. The republication of their stories was big news.

Lit Hub even declared 2015 “The Year of Rediscovered Women Writers.”

Feminist scholars have been recovering forgotten women writers, generations of Shakespeare’s and Melville’s sisters, as some called them. But virtually all of them are disappearing again.

A case in point is the phenomenally talented American writer Constance Fenimore Woolson, one of the most highly regarded American writers of the 19th century. Critics hailed her as America’s “foremost novelist.”Constance Fenimore Woolson book covers

Yet, almost as soon as she died, Woolson faded from view. At the turn of the 20th century, the cadre of male critics and scholars busy forming the American literary canon decided to completely ignore essentially all of the dozens of women writers who had made names for themselves. And for nearly a century, it appeared as if women writers simply didn’t exist, except perhaps as third-rate magazine writers who churned out sentimental drivel.

Read the whole story HERE

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The New Republic gives us the story of another woman writer erased from history in an article entitled

What Kate Did

Today’s most heated literary arguments uphold the legacy of the newly-reissued Kate Millett’s ‘Sexual Politics,’ Maggie Doherty writes.

Kate Millet photoFrank Tewkesbury/Evening Standard/Getty

The return of the book is well-timed. “Think of the discussion surrounding Jonathan Franzen, a writer who now garners as much ire for the antifeminism legible in his novels as he does for sexist remarks made in interviews.

Or consider Rebecca Solnit’s back-and-forth with one men’s magazine last year.

When Solnit mocked Esquire’s list of “80 Books Every Man Should Read,” she pointed both to the omission of female authors and to the troubling representation of female characters. Many of these books, she argued, were essentially “instructions in women as nonpersons.”

When male readers fired back, Solnit responded, citing Millett, that books shape men’s views on women and sex—and some books suggest men have a right to both at will. The line between literature and life looks very thin once again.”

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS & THAT

A novel written by AI passes the first round in a Japanese literary competition
Robot Writing novel illustrationIt may be time to add ‘novelist’ to the list of professions under threat from super-smart computer software, David Nield writes, because a short story authored by artificial intelligence has made it through to the latter stages of a literary competition in Japan. It didn’t scoop the top prize, but it’s not a bad effort for a beginner.

Read the whole store HERE

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Grey Books Fort photo‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ Book Donations Banned by Thrift Store

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Water tower that pulls drinking water from thin air

Water Tower

Harnessing drinking water from thin air sounds like magic. However, the Warka Water structure harvests rain, fog, and dew. The system is inspired by design cues from naturally found forms, like termite hives and cactus spines, and combined them with low-cost, locally found materials to create a sculptural and biomimetic tower.

Read whole story HERE

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The horror that never ends

In The Guardian, celebrated correspondent Janine di Giovanni has selected

The top 10 books of war reportage

One of his choices (whole list and link below) includes ‘Hiroshima’, John Hersey’s incredibly powerful 1946 report on the aftermath of the first atomic bomb ever used on people.

Hiroshima may be a footnote in ancient history to most of the world, but not to the people of Japan where the memory of the appalling destruction and carnage is still vivid and alive.

I was at a science fiction convention in Yokohama when a a Japanese translator felt compelled to interrupt a discussion by lily-white, mostly American and almost completely oblivious panelists obliquely talking about the war before an increasingly antsy Japanese audience. After his cautioning remarks, the subdued panelists continued with a bit more sensitivity.

And if, after Giovanni’s list, you’re still looking for reading material… there’s this novel called “Letters from the Fire‘, covering a different war, a “smaller” war (if there is such a thing), a war which didn’t end with a mushroom cloud… but which – as EVERY war is – was still full of loss and pain and confusion and devastation.

Unlike most books on the list, it’s a novel not war reportage – but it is based on absolute fact, so much so in fact that when it was first published I caught a young and earnest bookstore clerk filing it in the ‘Non Fiction’ section of the shop. When I pointed out it was fiction, he looked genuinely baffled and asked, “Are you *sure*?”

“Reasonably,” I said, “I wrote it.”

But he might have had half a point, actually. It’s fiction… but this is as real as it gets.

I don’t know what it is about war, about its brutality and its callousness and its vainglory and its bitter, bitter triumphs and tragedies which are one and the same thing because what is a triumph for one side is invariably the other side’s tragedy and it’s a matter of luck as to which side you land on. I don’t know what it is. But even while we continue to fight them – usually for no reason that anyone can really remember after the whole thing is done – some of the most incandescent writing and some of the most incredibly poignant human understanding possible has also been born in the flames of war. Perhaps it’s worth reading about the ones past – and if you read enough maybe you’re going to reach the point of enlightenment where another becomes unthinkable.

I’ll drink to THAT, at least.

From the list:Hiroshima destruction photo The devastated city of Hiroshima. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Hiroshima by John Hersey
And here is where compassion lies. All the brutality and horror of war down to the most base level, told by six survivors.

Read the whole story HERE

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The Suicide Note as Literary Genre

William Turner painting

William Turner painting

Feature image: “Bedford and the River Great Ouse,” J.M.W. Turner, c. 1829

Everything has gone for me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been.

“So ends Virginia Woolf’s poignant suicide note, addressed to her husband,” Dustin Illingworth writes at Literary Hub. “It is a throbbing document, hauntingly beautiful, in which a decision is made to part with a rote anguish.

“This, then, is the morbid fascination of the literary suicide note: that it is, perforce, the final written work of the author in question. If we believe that writers possess a special relationship with language—one in which the incommunicable is somehow voiced—we might be forgiven our curiosity for what these moments of literary extremity are able to reveal of the inviolate mystery of death.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Adult dolls. Not for children – and NSFW

Cinderella 14 260x150

The Enchanted Doll is the brand of the Russian jeweler artist and designer Marina Bychkova who makes absolutely incredible porcelain and polyurethane dolls for adults.

She creates unimaginable dolls which are valued by connoisseurs all across the planet. Marina’s dolls are not smiling; they are pensive, mysterious, and sad. Each of them has their own soul, their own destiny.

See all the dolls at Design You Trust HERE

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THIS & THAT

Teams of Tiny Robots Can Move 2-Ton Car

Ant Size Robot photoMicrorobots Video by bdmlstanford

Taking inspiration from ants, researchers at Stanford are designing tiny robots that have the ability to pull thousands of times their weight, wander like gecko lizards on vertical surfaces.

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

David Bowie Quote poster

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A love story retold

Most Western readers have a peculiar blind spot in the historical tapestry of European history.

The Empire of Byzantium.

There’s the Glory Of Rome, and then there’s the Middle Ages. Byzantium is a missing link, something that existed over there beyond Greece, almost Asian, almost Middle Eastern, something that fascinated but did not find deep roots in the Western European psyche.

But in Eastern Europe we all know about Byzantium. It was much closer to home, looming much larger on the horizon. When I was growing up, stories of Byzantium were simply part of my education, part of my cultural milieu.

One story in particular.

As the saying goes, well behaved women never make history, or as one of my great-aunts was wont to say, the pursuit of purity and virtue never helped a woman rise in her world. A good woman cooked meals, cleaned house and raised children. Those who did not do these things were by definition not good women. And not-good women…got up to all sorts of things that were then whispered about behind closed doors.

In the story of the Byzantium Empire, one of these women stands like a colossus: Theodora of the Hippodrome, daughter of a bear-keeper, arena dancer, a woman they have called a whore, someone who clawed her way from the gutter into the circles of the aristocracy. Beyond that – into the purple, crowned with an imperial diadem, ruling an empire at the height of its powers at the side of the besotted Emperor Justinian.
Justinian And Theodora mosaicThe magnificent mosaic of Justinian and Theodora in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna

It is one of the greatest love stories in world history.

By most contemporary accounts, Theodora had more than enough heart and spirit and courage to have achieved all this. But because she did so, and did so while female, the rumors started swirling and history has never stayed neutral or even silent on this.

Procopius, a Byzantine historian, depicted Theodora as a wanton temptress who used her body and her sexuality to get what she wanted out of the powerful men in her world. Procopius had his biases and much of what he wrote was exaggerated or even invented. But he helped paint Theodora as what she ended up being in the pages of history books. Sultry, sexual, full of subtle poisonous malice, selfish, given to indulging her own pet people, ideas, or obsessions.

She may have been some of these things. But she was also something that was looked on askance in her world – a strong-minded woman who knew what she wanted and did what she could, what she was permitted by her gender and her society to do, in order to get it. It is quite probable that she was no saint. But she was equally probably not the wicked witch of the east, the image in which she was cast.

I grew up with Theodora and her story dangling before me like some rich Byzantine jewel. When I was younger I had no real means of judging; I read books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the time that she lived in and that was all I had to go on. She was mad bad and impossible but she was fascinating.

And in the end I suppose it was inevitable that she should take root in my storytelling mind and demand that her story – the story of the woman, not the icon, not the two-dimensional harridan, not the evil power who seduced a weak-minded scholar (which some would have Justinian be in some versions of the tale) into breaking all the rules, marrying her, raising her into the aristocratic circles of her time and making them accept her, and finally crowning her as his empress.

So I wrote a historical fantasy, Empress, which was based on her story – and in doing so I have written another book in MY world, the world in which the Syai of “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” also exist in the same way as Greece and China co-exist in our reality.

The Secrets of Jin-shei coverEmbers of Heaven coverEmpress cover

I am writing books which are the building blocks of a much larger world, a world which exists INSIDE MY OWN STORY MILIEU as a huge and ongoing backdrop and in which my individual stories are set, in their own place and time, like jewels, like tiny detailed works of art set into a huge larger-than-life map of a world big enough to contains them all.

“Empress” is the first new fat historical fantasy I have produced since “Embers of Heaven” was published some years ago. It is the story of a not-quite Byzantium and a woman who is not-quite Theodora. But I drew inspiration from both, and created my own version for my own world. This is the kind of story that I so love writing – the sort of tale that unfolds like a rich tapestry, and the closer you look the more glorious detail comes out, until you’re lost in it and can’t quite tell where it ends and that (by comparison) sad pale thing we call reality begins.

You can find a fuller version of this essay at the Book View Café HERE

You can buy Empress HERE

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Quote of the DayQuote: Saying It Wrong posterJust as I did.

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Cooler Than Leprechauns?

To honor St. Patrick’s Day, Sandra Gisi offers us

Three Irish Creatures Cooler Than Leprechauns

“You’ll be seeing a lot of images of tiny bearded men in green coats and hats,” Gisi writes at Quirk Books. “Known for causing mischief and hiding pots of gold at the ends of rainbows, the leprechaun gets all of the holiday’s attention. This is a bit unfair to the plethora of characters that appear in Irish folklore. Here are a few other mythological creatures that should get some love on St. Patrick’s Day!”

For example:Clurichaun drawingClurichaun

The “Kloo’-ra-kahn” for example is considered to be the “cooler” version of the Leprechaun. So closely related are the two that people often associate them as cousins. Also a fairy, the Clurichaun is said to be always tipsy and loves wine more than gold. If treated with proper respect, they will protect your supply of alcohol, but when offended they will wreak havoc on your home and spoil your wine. They do tend to become a bit surly if they’ve had too much to drink (who doesn’t?). The Clurichaun seems to be the better choice as the poster child for St. Patrick’s Day.

Read the whole story HERE

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Win a copy of Empress

Empress is my newest book, a historical fantasy inspired by the saga of real-world Byzantine Emperor Justinian and the courtesan Theodora, one of the greatest love stories in world history.

You can read the details about my novel HERE

And enter the giveaway for a chance to win your own copy HERE

And if you just can’t wait, you can buy a copy HERE

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I had a delightful time talking about Empress in particular and worldbuilding in general during an hour-long Skype interview podcast with Beth Barany at her website, Writer’s Fun Zone.

You can view the interview HERE

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Anonymous writes at The Guardian

“For many library visitors, I’m the only person they’ve talked to all day”

“As austerity creeps further into people’s lives, more are turning to libraries like mine for help with job applications or IT skills, or to stave off loneliness,” Anonymous says.Libraries photoPhotograph: Keith Morris/Alamy

“I know many people think we don’t need libraries when there’s Amazon, kids can use Google for their homework, and supermarkets sell paperpacks for £3 and are open 24 hours. But libraries are so much more than books.

“They have ebooks, audio books, academic journals, online resources, online driving tests, genealogy research. They play host to art classes, carpet bowls, tea dances, cafes, dementia support sessions. They provide a space for carers to meet, and people to be part of a community when they may otherwise be socially isolated. I’ve lost count of the number of customers who have told me, ‘You are the only person I have spoken to all day.’

Read the whole story HERE

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Another story in The Guardian by Mary O’Hara notes that

“Every time I hear of a library closure it hits a nerve”Child in Library photoPhotograph: Getty Images

“As someone who grew up in a home without books, no spare cash to buy them and no tradition of reading bedtime stories, my local library offered something unique and indispensable. It’s hard to think of anything that brought me more joy as a primary school-aged child than walking back from the Falls Road library in west Belfast with a bundle of books.

“Having a library within walking distance of home was a way for a young girl from a poor background to access the same breadth of reading material as anyone else – at no expense. It stripped away at least some of the disadvantage that came with being from a low-income family. So every time I hear of another library closure…it hits a nerve.”

Read the whole story HERE

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Quote of the Day

The loss of libraries is another surefire way to entrench inequality” ~ Mary O’Hara

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‘Do you even science, bro?’

At Jstor Daily, Chi Luu examines how nouns suddenly become verbs, and talks about popular internet memes like “Let me librarian that for you” and “Do you even science, bro?” in which “librarian” and “science” are nouns weirdly disguised as verbs.

“So is this a playful new linguistic construction,” he asks, “or is it time to roll our eyes at the internet, again?”

Read his whole delightful essay HERE

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Two more of my newest novels are now also out as  ebooks

The print version of my newest book, ‘Empress‘, has been available for a short bit, and now the ebook version is out;  as is the ebook version of ‘Shifter‘..

Empress cover‘If you like Guy Gavriel Kay, you will love ‘Empress’. — Kari Sperring, author of ‘Living with Ghosts’ and ‘The Grass King’s Concubine’.

‘Empress’ is a historical fantasy inspired by the saga of real-world Byzantine Emperor Justinian and the courtesan Theodora, one of the greatest love stories in world history.

In my world, my protagonist is Simonis, a woman who lived many lives before rising to the top – a helpless child in circus performances, an accomplished courtesan and spy, a heretic who sheltered men thought to be damned for what they believed. Emperor Maxentius is the man who loves her enough to drape the Imperial purple over her shoulders even though his entire culture recoils.

When he marries Simonis and gives her a new name, Callidora, he makes her a partner in the ruling of the empire. When the Empire faces a rebellion that appears unstoppable, Maxentius and his generals are prepared to flee the raging mobs. But Callidora announces that the men can do what they want, but she will not run.

If I must die, purple makes a good shroud.”

The men are shamed into standing their ground and the Empire survives.

Buy Empress HERE

And now ‘Shifter‘, third book in The Were Chronicles, is finally out as an ebook.

Buy Shifter HERE

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At Mental Floss, Jennifer M Wood examines

The $80 million typo – For want of a hyphen…

Mariner One photoMariner 1 on takeoff

NASA’S one little mistake

The damage: $80 million

Hyphens don’t usually score high on the list of most important punctuation. But a single dash led to absolute failure for NASA in 1962 in the case of Mariner 1, America’s first interplanetary probe. The mission was simple: get up close and personal with close neighbor Venus. But a single missing hyphen in the coding used to set trajectory and speed caused the craft to explode just minutes after takeoff. 2001: A Space Odyssey novelist Arthur C. Clarke called it “the most expensive hyphen in history.”

See all the other typos HERE

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At The Dodo, Stephen Messenger tells us how

Kids bring shy shelter dogs out of their shells by reading to themKids read to Dogs photoHumane Society of Missouri

An innovative new idea, called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, is already making a huge difference for animals at the Humane Society of Missouri. The idea is simple: train kids to read to dogs as a way of readying them for forever homes, all while instilling a greater sense of empathy in the youngsters, too.

Read the whole story HERE

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At BuzzFeed, Selina Churchill reports on

Sex, misery, and cliffhangers — Writing Fanfiction

For example:

Smut is popular: The fastest way to get your story read by thousands is to write for a big fandom like Supernatural or Buffy, and slap an “Adult” rating on it…show it all in eye-melting detail.

The ubiquity of smut in fanfic is a surprise to nobody. TV writing features hot people in the most intense situations they can invent. Who can be shocked that viewers develop fantasies about The Doctor or Scully or Loki? Come on. You give the world sexy werewolves, and the world will sit at its keyboard typing “Drip the wax on me, Edward.”

Read the whole story HERE

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THIS & THAT

SheKnows Website offers free Ruth Bader Ginsburg Coloring Book

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Men Give Up on Books Sooner Than Women: Study

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Harper Lee’s estate will no longer allow publication of the inexpensive paperback edition that was popular with schools.

Cheap paperbacks of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ no longer available

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Quote of the DayAstrology posterCan’t argue with that.

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Words in the Woods

The Rainforest Writers Retreat 2016 is over

My hubby went along this year to see this wondrous place to which I vanish sometimes in the Olympic Peninsula rainforest. The cabin we were in was snug and cozy, with a temperamental gas fireplace heater which switched itself on and off with a loud put-upon WHOOMPF.

The cabin was directly across from the Salmon House Restaurant where we had one scrumptious  meal which included their trademark tempura-battered mushrooms.Lake in the rainforest photo The lake was disconcertingly high with the shoreline trees knee deep in water. The lake grew like a semi-sentient monster, and every time we looked out it was visibly higher, hungrier, reaching. The crescent of shingle beach on the far side which I walked the year before, from which I took some great photos of the Golden Hour on the lake, was quite vanished, under water whose depth I really didn’t want to consider testing even in my knee-high gumboots.

And the reason it was so high and getting higher? Well, it rained. A lot. It rained SOLIDLY from sun-up to sundown most of the time we were there.Rainforest photoDespite that, we did get to visit the world record spruce tree together, and it was as amazing as it always is. I love big old trees and this one I have developed a special affection for. I have to go visit it at least twice during a weekend like this, and lay a hand on its ancient skin, and wish it well.

I gave a talk on World-building to pretty much a full house. Other highlights included the group dinner (at which I got to speak French), the soup-and-grilled-cheese-sandwich lunch provided by Deborah and Chuck (some amazing soups this year. The Moroccan Vegetarian offering was stupendous.), and the Saturday party which produced a bottle of absolutely amazing Sabra chocolate liqueur. In between there were the chats with people, the “what are you working on” connections made in the writing parlor. All that.
But the reason all of us were there were the words in the woods.

Some of us edited, some plotted or planned, and others just wrote furiously.Writers writingI had brought along a vexing timeline that needed nailing down before the next book could begin, and I did that on Thursday, breaking the back of a job over which I had been procrastinating for months at home. I even launched into the writing on that day, which meant the first words of a new novel were written right there next to the window in the lounge of the Salmon House, staring out at the changing sky and the wash of sunlight over damp moss and glittering water.

On Friday I did nothing except sit there and wrestle with words in the woods – and I wrote more on the book, wholly unrelated scenes which will need to be slotted in properly and a very rough draft of it all with entire screeds of what I knew very well were immense infodumps which would need expanding and smoothing down later.
But the words were now there, they had been nailed down, and at least I had the material in black and white with which I could WORK to make it a coherent tale. Between these long snatches of narrative I tweaked my timelines with crabby tiny writing on my large sheets of color-coded background sheets. Someone asked me later having observed me doing this how on earth I could READ anything I wrote in that tiny scribbled hand in the boxes of those tables. The answer of course was simply that sometimes I would have to do it by extrapolation, figuring out what I must have meant to write by reading the context around it.

The word count on the whiteboard grew. Before Friday was over several people had broken five figures and by the time the final word count was read out after a rain-wracked group photo on Sunday morning we had produced 300K words plus change. I myself came in fifth at 20,000 plus by the end of the weekend. It was a good weekend, and much was done, and my story is coming clear in my head.

Following the closing ceremonies on Sunday, we hit the road home, in a cloudburst which continued from Olympia to well past Tacoma while I sat bolt upright with both hands gripping the steering wheel. A dozen rainbows made their appearance to the sides of the road as we drove, glimpsed through the rain as it let up every now and then.

Now it is just a memory of words, the rising lake, and the woods. And the photographs which documented the passing of another Rainforest Writers Retreat.

From here… there’s a new book waiting.

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Books change lives posterYou go first.

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There can be only one

On life, and writing – another in a continuous series of portraits of the writer as a young woman.   (Originally appeared at The Book View Cafe – http://bookviewcafe.com)

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A single mind, a single pair of hands

3 Muskatereers illustrationAll for one and one for all! (The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas)

I am an only child, except for my sister who isn’t my sister.

When I was very young my immediate playmate and companion was my nine-month-younger cousin, the daughter of my mother’s sister, whose relationship to me in my own cradle tongue was “sister-from-aunt” and whom therefore I have always and confusingly referred to as simply my sister.

She and I had a wonderful time when we were little. We did make-believe like it was nobody’s business. With the assistance of a brace of wooden cooking spoons which doubled as swords, and my mother’s blue satin dressing gown which served as anything from a royal cloak to the robes of Cardinal Richelieu, we parceled out the necessary parts and pretty much comprehensively rewrote The Three Musketeers according to which characters could be interacting at any one time. She was D’Artagnan. She was always the action hero and that was fine with me. That meant I got the INTERESTING parts. I got to be Richelieu.

We also played games that we made up ourselves. But outside of this rich little world of shared sisterly imagination, she was the gregarious sort who had hordes of friends with whom she hung out at all other times… and I was more of a solitary. I had my sister, I had my books, I had the dolls whose lives I embroidered with such enthralled storytelling glee when I played with them. I was on my own, and that was okay.

I was beginning to discover that storytellers often are.

When I was a little older, and I’d moved away from all of that, into a new world, a new continent. I persisted in the solitary state. I had a friend here and there as I began to drift through school after different school, never really staying in one place for long enough to fall into a group, a gaggle, a clique. Always on the edges looking and observing, always on my own. Always in my stories, inside my head.

At some point – when I was maybe thirteen, fourteen – I had a book whose exact title I don’t now recall but which was something along the lines of “Games you can play on your own”. I don’t know what it says about me that I even knew such a book existed, never mind that that I owned a copy. At this point I have mercifully forgotten most everything it contained – but I do retain, verbatim, one particular game instruction. It involved something they called “keeping your mind fixed”. What you had to do is choose a thought or an idea or an object and keep your mind fixed on it for a certain designated stretch of time.

The verbatim thing I remember is this: “This isn’t as easy as it sounds because the moment you think ‘My mind is fixed’ it is not because if that were the case you would not be able to think about your mind being fixed. Cheating is easy but pointless.” So was the game, really, but apparently this was the sort of thing, the sort of game, you could play with nobody other than yourself – it was a retreat into the mind, into inner worlds. But I was already all too good at that. I transcended the games-for-one book pretty quickly. I don’t know what became of it.

At this point it serves as a signpost, I suppose, I was on my own, and it was okay. I was the one sitting in the library at recess, with my nose in a book. I was the one who was never picked for a sports team but whose schoolwork was always in demand from those popular people who WERE so picked and had far too much of a good time in their social circles to bother about turning in their math homework on time. I was the dreamer, the learner, the prism through which the world refracted and was re-shaped; I looked and observed and kept meticulous notes.

I may not have had dozens of friends or gone to hundreds of parties, but I saw more sunsets, walked in the comforting shade of more trees on more summer days, listened to more birds and learned their language, read more fairy tales and used them to understand the real world, told first myself and then others more stories. I was on my own and that was okay.

I am an introvert, and although I can come out of my shell and be as gregarious as the next person, it is usually for a short period of time and then I have to crawl back into a quiet place and plug myself back into my solitude to recharge. There are very few people in this world in whose company I am completely content for longer than a limited period of time before I need to escape again. There are really times that I can’t handle anything bigger than my cat.

On the face of it, I am one of the lonelier creatures on this planet – but it isn’t really that. I DO have friends, and there are definitely times when some of them live too frustratingly far away from me to actually practice that friendship – but we’re always a couple of typed lines away in email or social media, so it’s mostly OK. Those who are like me are a lot like me — we all walk our own paths and are content if they occasionally cross but for the most part quite at peace with otherwise walking alone.

We’re on our own, we storytellers, in the end, and that’s OK.

There are certainly those who write and create who are far more extroverted than that – and that works for them, so that’s OK too. But for the most part those of us who live with a part of ourselves in a world that is often so completely unlike our own that it gives us vertigo when we look from one to the other. We are used to the fact that at SOME point during the process of creation we will need to be alone with what we are shaping.

Because for the process of that shaping… there can be only one.

It’s in a single mind, a single pair of hands.

I guess the solitudes of my childhood and my young days have served me well, in that, at least. I know how to be alone, and how to deal with the intrusion of the clamor of voices which don’t exist outside my own mind into the more solid reality which I share with others of my kind. Occasionally I get a distant look and begin to listen to songs which nobody else around me can hear. I’m on my own, then. When I dream, when I write. At least until it’s done, and it’s ready to be shared with others.

I’m on my own. And it’s okay.

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