Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Training to amble

I ran across an interesting word the other day:



1. Something that limits or hinders.
2. A fishing net having three layers.
3. An instrument for drawing ellipses.
4. A shackle used in training a horse to amble.
5. An instrument for gauging and aligning parts of a machine.
6. A hook for hanging a pot or a kettle over a fire.

verb tr.: To restrain; to hinder.

Now apart from being a very versatile word with a variety of divergent meanings, the fourth definition caught my eye.

I had no idea horses had to be trained to amble. I thought ambling was one of those things that went automatically with unbroken stretches of desert, western sunsets, dusty trails and worn leather saddles. Maybe I've been confusing the cowboy with the horse.

Which poses a problem. As the pace of summer slows things down just a little, I've been okay with ambling through the weeks until school begins again and my daily writing and art routine has better defined hours. I'm still writing, still drawing and painting, but perhaps not at the same speed.

Does this mean I've been trammeled?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Good writing trumps everything

Over the weekend, I read a novel called Talking to the Dead: A Novel by Bonnie Grove. I'd been anticipating this book, partly because of one of those 6-degrees-of-separation circumstances, and partly because I follow Grove's info-packed blog. So I picked up this debut novel and snuggled into a corner of my love seat, preparing to indulge.

I was surprised as I began to read to find myself somewhat confused. Why? Because for reasons I still don't understand, I was expecting chick lit. Maybe I gave too much weight to the notion that it was "tender" & "quirky." Instead found a story that fell somewhere between "Regarding Henry" and "Sleeping With the Enemy." As I progressed further into the novel, I literally had to stop and reset my expectations. But it also helped me understand the maxim that "good writing trumps everything". In spite of my confusion, Grove's writing had drawn me into this story. And once I had my perspective back on track, Grove's writing shone as she led me through the trauma and discovery of a grieving woman.

So really, my review needs to begin here:

The novel begins with one of the best openings I have ever read:
"Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn't go home. They mingled after the funeral, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and speaking in muffled tones. I didn't feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing. Funerals exist so we can close doors we'd rather leave open. But where did we get the idea that the best approach to facing death is to eat Bundt cake?"
So begins the story of Kate, a young widow, facing her future from an internal emptiness where the past months have imploded in her memory and left her with questions she is trying to answer. Grove deftly stays with her character, revealing Kate's story bit by bit as she pieces the past together through an odd assortment of characters, including Kate's dead husband, that are never what Kate has assumed they are. Grove just as expertly reveals that Kate is not everything we expect her to be either.

Grove manages to weave themes of betrayal, obsession (dare I say idolatry?), manipulation and human nature into a story of recovery and hope. Her light touch keeps it from being overwhelming and points instead to the heart of forgiveness on the path to wholeness. My only criticism, perhaps, in this book is that the romantic ending looks formulaic against the honest reality and occasional brutality of the rest of the story. But overall, it is beautifully crafted and will draw you in to Kate's journey through grief and back to life.

A review copy of this book was provided by The B&B Media Group.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Conference reflections

Phew! We just finished the Creative Arts conference today and am I tired. But in a really good way. I think all in all, we can call it a success.

And it was a huge learning experience. Both in the process of organizing the conference (8 months of it), in teaching at it, and in getting to attend some of the other workshops offered as well. I think from each one I found a nugget of information that was an absolutely golden one.

Randy Ingermanson
once suggested that every writer (artist, etc) should attend conferences because "opportunities lie thick on the floor." I'll write more about some of those opportunities later but for now, just let me say he's absolutely right. And some of those opportunities look different than you expect.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

By any other name

I met a woman today who's background is in theater costume. I've had a taste of this and while I enjoyed it and love clothes of all times and types (I was a seamstress for 8 years), I also knew that in that situation, I was out of my league. I got the job done, of course, but because I was also the set painter, it involved some intervention by a wonderful crew of volunteer seamstresses to come alongside to make it happen.

This person was telling me of a review that described her costume work as "luscious" along with a lot more complimentary words. Isn't that a great descriptive word? I can envision luscious costumes, and in fact will get to work with her this fall and am very excited to see that process in action. The time period we'll be working in is given to "luscious" and I will be wielding a needle again when necessary.

I have a friend that writes luscious prose. (Mine tends to be fairly streamlined. So do my favorite fashion eras. And my home decor. But I digress.) My mother makes a luscious chocolate cake. And ad companies have made millions from the concept of luscious lips. (Speaking of luscious, you need to check out the photos on this blog - wow!)

What word would you like someone to use about your writing?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A dancing hippo

Just a portion of a sketch I did the other day. Ever feel like a hippo in a tutu?