Sunday, November 08, 2009

Putting the pieces together to make a Story

Okay, so I promised I'd fill you all in on the summer family reunion.
True to my word, I did not write this summer, but still the story wove in and out as our family gathered here in my creaky old house with old plumbing. They came from Berlin, Germany, from Santa Fe, from San Anselmo, from Tucson, from Texas. And as we gathered, events began to unfold.

We had a wasp invasion, right through the living room wall one memorable Sunday morning.
We had a major plumbing blow-out (tree roots in the pipes).
We had a record heat wave, 103 degrees, and no air-conditioning.

But we also had a great wedding reception, welcomed the newest baby, Anika Faith (see picture) and celebrated the first birthday of our Berlin baby Ceci, along with that of her Daddy, Michael, (my eldest son.) We had lots of late breakfasts on the deck, a trip to the zoo, lakeside swimming parties at my daughter Laura's home (oh hooray for that lake when the temp soared to 103).

And each day, no matter what the joy or catastrophe (usually some of each) I journalled, just a bit, before I went to bed. Just bits, but the story was weaving, in and out, flashes of character, bits of dialogue, scenes to remember, some dramatic, some funny.

Will these come into the new book I'm beginning? Maybe. But for sure they are woven now into the fabric of my life, part of the bigger Story. The story of family that undergirds everything else I write. I'll share next time some of the smaller bits, those colors and textures that stand out, the pieces of that bigger story.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Third Eye

Last Saturday I had the great joy of participating in the Northwest Bookfest, presenting a session with my writing buddy Mary Jane Beaufrand (author of PRIMAVERA, and the soon to be released THE RIVER.)

Our topic for the session was "How do you get your ideas?" and I had the brilliant (last minute) idea of heading for our Halloween fun store and purchasing a rubber eye, which I attached with spirit gum to the middle of my forehead, my Third Eye, so to speak. It was blue and a bit wrinkly around the edges, and I must say pretty realistic, once I'd attached it to my forehead, and added a bit of beige face toner.

I explained to my intrigued audience at Bookfest that this Third Eye is what all writers need, the ability to see in a new and creative way, so that we notice those great ideas that just slide by otherwise. Brainstorming together as a group, we used some "what if" situations, and an assortment of objects ranging from Russian nesting dolls to odd-shaped rocks to come up with story ideas. We had everything from aliens perched in neighborhood trees to teleporting tennis shoes. We let the ideas fly with no editing, and I know at least some of the delighted attendees headed off home to write up (perhaps) their first story.

Afterwards, I inadvertently created a lively story scene myself. Driving home from Bookfest, I made a last-minute stop at Trader Joe's, totally forgetting my Third Eye was still firmly in place. I was cruising the aisles with my basket, wondering why I was getting all the strange looks when I remembered it. I quickly combed my bangs over my forehead as best I could, kept my head down, and headed for the checkout stand.

The check-out girl did a double take, but didn't say anything. When I finally made it back to my car and looked in the rearview mirror, I had to giggle. The third eye was peeking out through my bangs, looking more realistic than ever.

All the way home I chuckled as ideas for stories, both funny and weird, zipped through my mind. So yes, the Third Eye, that most creative and unusual way of seeing things, really works.

Try it yourself. I'd love to hear your stories!