Thursday, July 18, 2013
Harpsichord music and Harry Potter
Thu, July 18, 2013 | link
Last night I attended a concert by Sweet Zephyr featuring early music
from Georg Telemann, Johann Mattheson, and Johann Melchior Molter. Delightful group featured two baroque oboes, a natural
trumpet (very interesting instrument that is one step up from a heralding trumpet), harpsichord, and baroque bassoon. The
setting was the chapel of Exeter College, a small chapel with tall stained glass windows all around and beautifully painted
(etched?) pipes for the organ.
Then today a visit for my grandsons,
Ryan and Sam, both of whom read all of the Harry Potter series very early in life. I visited the grand dining hall at Christ
Church that was featured so prominently in the film. Hundreds of students were pouring through--the highlight of their visit
I've finished my final project to present tomorrow,
an excerpt for my novel. Hopefully it will be well received. But looking forward more to hearing the works of the other 11
students, all of whom are marvelous creative writers, each with a different special talent. I'll miss them greatly when this
is over. We've shared so much of our lives over this week, especially during meals and hanging out in the courtyard on in
the common room.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Working and playing in Oxford
Tue, July 16, 2013 | link
I barely have time to keep up with the blog, there is so much going
on. My course takes up the entire morning, then there are three hour-long meals (quite delicious) with lots of chatting with
tablemates, plus the extracurricular activities.
is having an unusual heat wave and AC does not exist here, it can be quite draining to push through the day and try to get
some good rest at night.
But I've met many people who I think
will be lifelong friends. And all with so many good stories to share. At dinner tonight, Tony talked about doing bookbinding
in his youth and how difficult it was to imprint the goldleaf on the cover at the end using a copper tool that had to be just
the right temp (which you determined by spitting on it). There are other folks from the States but also from Australia, Norway,
Germany, the Netherlands. Most are my age or much older--well into their 80s--with a scattering of young people.
I enjoyed the Inspector Morse tour very much but wish I could have recorded
the detailed descriptions she gave of each location, including the episode and the plot. One murder took place in the very
exclusive Randolph Hotel and the room in which the "death" took place is still asked for by tourists.
Our class exercises continue to be interesting and challenging. Today
we watched a few opening minutes of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff and discussed how character is developed in film and how
that differs from the written word. We also wrote a dialogue based on the first meeting of two people who've met through a
personals ad. I chose the one about a man who calls himself "Parasite" looking for a wealthy 40-50 year old woman
who likes to scuba dive. Gee, just like onling dating back home!
Sunday, July 14, 2013
First session with tutor Jonathan Miles
Sun, July 14, 2013 | link
I joined about 15 others for our first session with our marvelous
tutor, Jonanthan Miles (his historical account of the Wreck of the Medusa is slated to become a film). He suggested at the outset that perhaps there is no such thing as "character"; there
is only what a person does or does not do in the moment in a given situation. He asked us to think about all the iterations
we go through in a 24 hours day--the person we become as each new situation arrives. He talked about the slow process of discovery
as we meet an actual person. How we get to know a stranger on the train (with a reference to Hitchcock's film of that title),
or at the next level how we might get to know someone sharing a month's holiday with us, and finally what we get to know in
a long term, close relationship. So what we skillfully hide about a character as the reader first gets introduced to them
in our novels is as important as what we reveal. When we meet someone in real life, they control what we get to know about
them. This is what our characters should do--control what they let the reader know about them. His general criticism about
our initial pre-course assignments was that most had revealed way too much information about their characters, taking away
the intrigue, the discovery, the slow revelation that is so necessary to creating a compelling character. Today we meet with
him individually to go over our initial assignments. We also did an in-class exercise to practice the art of revealing a character
slowly, not providing too much information and leaving the reader wanting more. We were instructed to let the reader engage
with the character through hints and guesses, suggesting that knowing less and teasing more intrigues the reader. Too much,
too soon, and the reader gets bored with the character.
A bit about OUSSA
I will be taking a one-week residential course on "Creating
Character" by well-known author Jonathan Miles, July 13-20, 2013, at Rewley House, Oxford
I will be joining people from the UK, Europe and further afield (me!) for enjoyable,
yet serious study with some of the finest tutors in the country. For over 100 years the Oxford University Summer School
for Adults (OUSSA) programme has been making it possible for everyone to take advantage of the Oxford system of expert
tuition in small groups.
This intensely practical course explores character. Through
examples stretching from Chaucer to Becket, you will identify the ingredients that give fictional beings life. When, does
a character take on an archetypal status? When does a character degenerate into a two-dimensional stereotype? Most people
feel comfortable creating characters that they know well. But what about those figures that are more distant from our
everyday experience and yet who seem to demand a place in our stories? And what about the possibility that there may be
no such thing as character? This writing workshop explores different ways of approaching and building rounded, interesting,
recognisable but not cliché-ridden characters.
entrance requirement for a summer school course is enthusiasm for the subject and a commitment to undertake the required
coursework before and during the summer school.