Sunday, February 28, 2010

In Search of the Muse

A twitter conversation started by Carrie Ryan prompted a bunch of writers to blog (and tweet) about their muse. I can't help adding in my two cents. The subject fascinates me. For years, I've been on a quest to find out exactly where these spurts of creativity come from. I've read books, collected anecdotes, and searched out academic studies.
So far, all I have are questions: Do we all possess the ability to have those creative moments? Do they come from a higher power or are we simply tuning into our own alpha brainwaves? Do we cultivate them through playfulness or discipline? Why can some people tap into them so easily while others struggle?
I've never labeled it a muse, but I've had my moments of insight. I'm working on a story and BLAMMO! -- an idea comes out of nowhere. Suddenly I can't type fast enough.
There's something addictive about watching your words pour out onto a page. I'd give up barefoot walks on the beach and even chocolate (yes, I mean the bittersweet kind with the candied ginger) before I'd give up those moments.
It doesn't happen often. To tell the truth, those times are few and far between. It's not like I sit around and wait for inspiration. If you want to get a book finished, you have to write. Most of the time, I take it word by word and page by page. Of course I have those days where I'd rather be watching a rerun of Househunters on HGTV than fixing that plot hole in chapter thirteen, but that comes with the territory. Writing is hard work. It's filled with challenges. Facing those challenges is part of the adventure.
But every time I open up my word processor, I wonder if this will be the day where I'll have one of those moments.
Hey, a writer can dream...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Magnet Poetry Addictions

My name is Nan Marino, and I am a magnet poetry addict.
They say admitting it is the first step--although it's an addiction I'm not ready to give up.
Those little square words are splattered all over my refrigerator. There are no artful arrangements. Some words are upside down. Some are clumped together. It's a mess. But I love the carelessness, the playfulness, and I can live with the chaos.

One of my favorite things about the magnet words is the font. I'm told that its called Coronet and was designed to "combine old fashioned charm with modern typographic sensibilities." *sigh*

It's fun to word gather. Pick the ones you like and then see if you can turn the jumble into a thought.

Sometimes you don't have all the words you need. Two choices here: Either figure out another way to say it or buy another box of words.

I love seeing the actual physical words in front of me. There's something about the way the each individual word is presented that makes even the most humble word special. I've noticed that seeing the physical word makes me put combinations together that I normally wouldn't.
It makes me look at words differently.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hey Chicago Public Library! Thanks!

The Chicago Public Library published their Best of the Best 2010: Best Books for Great Kids list yesterday. Neil Armstrong is My Uncle... is on it! I'm thrilled! I'm a public librarian too so being on a list that's compiled by other librarians means the world to me. Thank you Chicago Public Library!

Picture: Valentine's Day rose from my husband

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The First Time I Fell In Love...

I was ten.
Oh sure, there were times before that when I thought it was the real thing. There was that flirtation in kindergarten with a character named Sam (but he was such a fussy eater). And there were a few brief dalliances in second and third grade. To be honest, I hardly remember their names.
Don't think for a moment that my tender age meant it wouldn't last forever. Years later (okay, let's be honest and say decades later) I still think about it. The real thing happened in fourth grade. It was the first time I ever fell in love... with a book (and a book character).
Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables was my first love.
It happened fast, before Anne Shirley walked on the roof, or met her best friend, Diana, or got called "carrots" by Gilbert Bylthe. The moment she said the words "Anne with an e" and wished her name was Cordelia, I was hooked. It seems she had me at hello. (btw, I know I'm not the only one. If you love this book, I bet you fell for it at the "Anne with an e" part too.)
I remember other moments: how she thought it would be perfectly fine to spend a moonlit night sleeping in a cherry tree and how thrilled she was to drive under a canopy of flowering trees and how she gave everything a better name (I still rename things. I'm not sure if I picked it up from this story or if it's something Anne and I always had in common).
I only read the book once. It never occurred to me to read it again, and I never moved on to the rest of the Anne books either. In my ten-year-old mind, this was a perfect moment. Why ruin it with repetition and destroy a wonderful memory?
But yesterday, I was in a perfect moment/memory destroying mood. I wondered if the decades blurred the imperfections or if I'd fall in love all over again. So for the first time since I was ten, I read the first three chapters.
Here's what I learned:
Anne Shirley doesn't even appear in chapter one. (Hmm. So does the first chapter build suspense for the big meeting or should Lucy M. Montgomery have moved into the action faster?). The first sentence is 137 words long, not exactly the short, attention-grabbing hook we look for nowadays. Of course, the book is over a hundred years old. Perhaps in 1908, lengthy opening sentences were the norm. But that first line still grabbed me. In those scant 137 words, I knew all about the neighbor, Rachel Lynde (aka, the nosiest person in town).
And Anne? When she finally shows up in chapter two, she steals my heart all over again. I was amazed at how much I
remembered. As soon as we meet her, she talks about that wild cherry tree: " would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry-tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don't you think?" And she calls the "the long canopy of snowy fragrant blooms" the first thing she ever saw "that couldn't be improved upon by imagination" and renames Barry's Pond the "lake of shining waters". And of course, she talks about her name "Anne with an e" (which I agree is so much more 'distinguished' than Ann.)
I wish I could congratulate myself for having extraordinary powers of retention. The truth is that my mind is often sieve-like.
Remarkably important pieces of information often pass through my brain, unnoticed by my memory. But Anne of Green Gables isn't locked into my mind. It's etched into my heart. And when something touches your heart, you remember.