I have come late to Eileen Myers


I do not remember how I came across the name Eileen Myers. I do not remember how I came across the work of Eileen Myers. What I do remember is that I came across their poetry and Twitter messages in September last year. I am surprised that I had never heard of them before after all they are the same generation of my idol, Patti Smith. They both emerged in NY around the same time. They were both photographed by Robert Maplethorpe. They were both “punk” poets.  They were, are, both political. How come I had never heard of them?

And now? And now, I am learning to read their poetry and their books. I came across Myer’s last collection “I must be living twice” in Finchley, London. It was an omen. I bought the book and flipped through it as I took the bus home. What did I like? I liked the directness. I liked the straight approach. I have no time for the romantic poets or people who weave words in such a way as a reader needs a PhD in semiology  to understand their meaning. The images of Myers on the internet show a woman who is not bound up with fashion and notions of beauty – a woman who presents themselves as they are, wrinkles and untidy hair. They dress as straightforwardly as they write.

I am currently watching the television series Transparent, in which Myles is a character and also an actor. Reading the credits reminded me of “I must be living twice” sitting on my bookshelf. I took it down. I also did an internet search for their other works. The titles, I think, are arresting: “Not Me” and “The New Fuck You.” They are challenging titles and, I am happy to say, the poems in “Not Me” are as direct and challenging as I expected.  I like “narrative poetry,” by which I mean narratives / stories  told within the confines and structure of verse. The break in the lines and the thoughts are genius.

“When I came
in I switched
on the light
to a yellow &
black striped
towel on the
floor & a big
smashed water-
melon & a
pair of
cowboy boots.”
(Not Me, page 22)

I have come late to Eileen Myers but I am glad I have come.

 

Good Reads book challenge


goodreads challenge

At the start of this year I set myself a reading challenge – to read 20 books over the course of the year. I did this without any real expectations but so far I have read 9 books in print and as ebooks, which is 45% of the challenge. I am thinking that as it is only April I may have to up the challenge. 

The great thing about the books I have been reading is that I have been reading for pleasure not for insights into writing or inspiration for my own writing. 

I have acquired the books from various channels – recommendations, free books from authors I follow, hand-me-downs from friends, books found in bookshops and books donated to the free library at my local railway station.  I have read both print and electronic books, with print books being in the ascendancy. This is a change from previous years when I was glued to my Kindle. 

At the moment I am reading “The Miniaturist” (a hand-me-down) which got off to a slow start but now I am hooked. I am taking it with me to Sofia tomorrow and when I have finished it will donate it to the hotel library for someone to find. 

Already packed is “Red Square at Noon” by one of my favourite dissidents: Natalya Gorbanevskaya. I am currently writing a novel loosely based on the experiences  of Gorbanevskaya and feel ready, at this point in my writing and research, to sit down and read her account of the trials of the anti-CSSR invasion of August 1968. I have a copy of the original Penguin edition displayed below. 

I have carried this book around for nearly a year waiting for the right moment to read it. Somehow, this seems to be the moment. 

As for the reading challenge, I am looking forward to discovering new books from new authors during the remainder of the year. I wonder what will come into my hands and how they will come there. Perhaps, other people’s reading challenges will lead me in new literary directions. I have many many books yet to read on my Kindle and my bookshelf but this year there seems to be time to start tackling them as I will, one by one. 

I wonder if any of my readers and followers have any recommendations for me. …..

 

Adventures with paint.net


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Fractured door

As I have reported in recent blog posts I have slowly been returning to my roots in photography having rediscovered analogue photography. This week’s interest has been on trying to make my photos pop out and has lead to some interesting online adventures.

While reminding myself of how to turn ordinary flat photos into eye-catching HDR photos I came across reference to paint.net. I was messing about with the programme this morning trying to turn the image below into a really standout image but what I actually created was the image above.

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A nice door

The fractured image at the top of the page is actually the main image with the number 46 from the original door. I improved the colour using “autocolour” and then tried to improve on that with “hue and saturation.” I was still not getting the results I was looking for so I explored the effects. I hit the “fracture” command and the result above is what I got. It is not the intended result but rather nice nonetheless.

I think I should go back to my old Photoshop version 6 to continue with this experiment.

Photoshop Sketch Action


A new addition to my Photoshop armoury, is the Uniqum Sketch Painting Multi Action. This action creates a sketch and painting effect over which ever parts of your photo you highlight and makes some interesting pictures. The cost is $6 and is available from  www.graphicriver.net  as a download zip file.

Inside the zip file are the actions and the brushes. It is necessary to install both in the preset files in Photoshop before you begin.

Once loaded up you need to select a picture to work on. The action works best at over 3000 px and 300 dph. Once selected, create a locked background. Then, add a layer which you call “profaction.” With this layer active, select a large soft brush and brush over the areas of the photo you want to show up as a sketch. You can do this with any colour brush.

That done, you need to make sure the correct brushes are loaded. To do, right click on the canvas or press B to bring up brushes. At the top right of the brushes panel, click on the arrow and then select “replace brushes” with the Uniqum brushes you put into the preset file. Close and activate the background layer. Now you start the action for your version of Photoshop and let it go.

Once, I got started I found the action worked well. My advice is to take the time to do something else like make a cup of coffee or sort out your laundry as watching the action is pretty boring.

Here’s what I have made on practice runs:

dancinghousesketchsm

Dancing House, Prague

workshopscieszynsm

Old workshops, Cieszyn, Poland

With my new actions, and renewed interest in Lomography, my interest in photography has been rekindled.I am going to try it out on some more photographs.

Lynn

 

Mapping out a novel


maps

I love maps. Whenever, I decide to visit a place I aim to get a printed map and study it carefully. The map speaks to me of the layout of the place and how it has developed. This helps me to get inside the place a little bit.

On my desk at the moment, are five maps which are connected to my novel, Weaver of Words, which is set partly in Czechia and partly in Poland. When I first arrived in Český Těšín I used the map to orientate myself. I had in my mind the railway station and the border with Poland. Looking at the map, I could see that the whole of the original town centre had two railway stations at opposite ends, with the border in the middle. It gives an understanding of how the modern town developed – one railway line served the Polish side and one the Czech side. Every municipal building of importance was situated with that boundary. The two halves of the town seem, on the map, to mirror each other. The town halls of both sides of the river are on the right hand side of the main street which runs from one railway line to another, straight over the bridge on the Olza. This is clearly visible from the map but might not be so obvious from the ground.When I visited the town, the map gave me a greater understanding of the layout and feel of it. It also allowed me to see how I could have my characters interact with the town.

My three maps of Prague date roughly from the same era – the 1980s. The largest one, gives the layout of the whole city including suburbs. I used it when I went to live in the Czech Republic to help me get around. It still has some of my markings on it. When visitors came, I used the second map, to explain the history of the buildings. This map came with a booklet giving the provenance of all the buildings in the centre of the city.  By looking at these maps it can be seen when the streets were constructed and in which order as the building number and street numbers are both written down. (The building number is the order of construction). This allows observers to locate a building in the archives. The map has the names of streets, buildings and metro stations as they were called in the Communist Era.There are such delights as the Square of Soviet Tanks, which has probably been renamed by now. This is the city as my characters would have experienced it. When I used the maps to walk the city, I photographed the buildings and then located them on the street map. Would my characters have noticed this? Would they have visited the shops? Which pubs would they have sat in? The ones nearest their hostel?

The smallest map, is a tourist street map showing the areas the Communist government thought tourists should be interested in. It is a snapshot of a view of the city at a particular time in it’s history. It has the pubs, cafés and restaurants marked which has helped me to accurately locate places from the time and give buildings the name they would have had in that period.

When I look at the maps I am instantly transported to a different place and a different time. I look at the street names and wonder who are what they celebrate. I look at the buildings and infrastructure to see how the town planners envisioned their town or city. What were the important buildings and places for them? I see the out-of-date names and am reminded of times past. I look at the length and width of streets and wonder at their destinations. In maps, I see a country and I see dreams. When I can, I walk the streets with my map in my hand and experience the place from the ground. Then, I come to know the place.

The books which have inspired me as a writer and helped me learn my trade


image

Years ago, when I was thinking of becoming a writer, I consulted a few how-to-books by well-known writers and then went on to read their novels to see how their ideas worked in practice.

One of my favourites back in the 1990s was Rita Mae Brown. I read her book Starting from Scratch: A Different Kind of Writer’s Manual (1988), which contained lots of ideas for a beginner writer. And, of course, I read lots of Rita Mae’s own books. Back in those days it was harder to get information about publishers and so on, so this was a really useful manual.

I also owned Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (1989) as well as several of her books.

Many years later, when the idea of fiction writing re-entered my head, I looked at other manuals for budding writers. A key text was The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery written by Robert J. Ray and Jack Remick (1998). The large number of post-it notes inside the book shows how I used it to plot various novels. It is an excellent guide for anyone starting out as a mystery writer. The ideas for character development and plotting are extremely useful.

I have owned several different editions of Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft (7th ed. 2006). This is a book which never fails to help and guide. The short stories and extracts demonstrate how the techniques work in practice. Her insights into the writing process are both profound and encouraging. She notes that “most of the time spent writing is not spent putting words on the page.” (2000: 13) So true. I recently spent an entire week flicking through the internet and reading articles about my topic before setting down to type.

Finally, in the list of writing manuals I must mention Derek Neale’s A Creative Writing Handbook (2009), which I have just pulled out of my backpack. What a wealth of information and ideas there are in this book! Like Burroway’s book, there are lots of extracts from successful writing to show you how it can be done.

The fiction books I have read are far too numerous to mention. I am sure that, in some way, practically everyone has had some influence of my writing. The novels which are currently finding their way into my hands time and time again are small classics. Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop is a masterpiece of condensed writing. I love the way she can convey information and atmosphere in such a controlled fashion. The short, sharp sentences say all that needs to be said. Stephen Isherwood’s writing in A Single Man is sparse but powerful. It is a masterpiece of writing. The film, I have to say, is a wonderful companion to the book.

I have been learning how to create characters from Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. This is a marvellous book set in a small town and dominated by one character. From Olive herself, and the people who have been affected by her, we learn about her as an individual. She may not be the nicest character you have read about but Strout presents all sides of her story so in the end you understand her. I read this book straight through so as not to miss any of the nuances. It is a lovely lovely thing.

Always behind the scenes are the novels of Carol Shields. I find myself referring back to her characterisation and storytelling time and time again. Her final novel, Unless, has been one of my favourites since it was published. The storyline is not an easy one to read but it is told so beautifully that I have to keep going back to it.

A thread on a web-forum has just alerted my to The Writing Life by Annie Dillard (1990). The extract I have read looks promising. I can see this book in my hands with a day or two. Why have I never heard of her before? I note that according to Wikipedia she has been influenced by Thoreau, Emerson and de Chardin. It seems to me that I have much to learn from this writer.

The search for inspiration and advice never ends. I read practically every newspaper or article I get my hands on about the writing process. I read books regularly. Some of the books I read are old favourites. Some are books new to me. Once discovered all books have enlightened me in some way whether they were, in my opinion, good or bad books. Not all the books I have read have held my interest to the end but I have admired the craft behind them. And I shall carry on reading and writing.

 

Deep Writing


20160723_140520

Prepared text for a modern printing press

I recently read an article on the topic of “Deep Writing,” in which the author advises that writers need to park their worries and concerns before they start writing. I think that is an excellent point – it is difficult to write when stressed or worried. It is only natural that these stresses get in the way of the though process.

The writer recommends several techniques to create that special kind of “writing world” that “real” writers seem to inhabit. These involve setting timers, parking worries in a box outside the door, not checking emails or websites until the day’s writing is done, writing a set amount each day and so on.

I am NOT one of those writers who can write everyday. In fact, I sometimes don’t write for a whole week. I might think about writing but I don’t do it. As a writer of historical fiction, I spend a lot of time fact-checking and in the process get carried away looking at interesting things which are not necessarily relevant. I think I am a more rounded person because I learn all kinds of random things from the internet. I am not sure I am going to find much use for today’s nugget that the Duchess of Wessex has a computer database of all her clothes, but you never know.

However, I can enter a kind of writing zone when I want to. The whole of this week I have been doing my research with the backdrop of builders working overhead. I got a surprising amount done, considering the noise they made, and happily immersed myself in Wikipedia and various YouTube films. When they disappeared on Thursday evening, I was wound up enough to sit at my laptop and make major revisions to chapter one. Then, I went back to doing other things. I plan to work on chapter two tomorrow but there’s no hurry. The story will come when it is ready.

I sometimes wonder if I would write more if I didn’t have to go out and earn a living. I don’t think I would. I do “deep writing” when my brain tells me it is ready to write. When my brain is distracted then I do other things. Somehow or other, I seem to get to the end of the novels and produce, I think, something worth reading. That, I think, is the aim.

BTW the writer of the original article has had hundreds of articles etc published. That is impressive.

I include the original article for your perusal:

http://ezinearticles.com/?Deep-Writing-Requires-That-We-Put-Our-Worries-on-a-Back-Burner-Before-We-Sit-Down-To-Write&id=9466586

Lynn