Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Discovering Mrs. Standhope
Tue, August 13, 2013 | link
I had received criticism that two of my characters, an English couple
named Mr. and Mrs. Standhope, were too formulaic and only existed as a vehicle to advance the mazzeri subplot in the story.
I hoped that at Oxford I would meet an English couple who could provide inspiration for more memorable and essential characters.
And did I ever. Only it was just "Mrs. Standhope" that I met. One of my classmates, Marjorie, an outspoken, sassy,
witty, and slightly "daft" (but in the nicest, more endearing way) Englishwoman, turned out to be the very essence
of the character I had hoped to create. And she has agreed to help me with dialogue and description to make "Mrs. Standhope"
into a version of herself. Mr. Standhope is off to the dust bin along with Marjorie's ex! I know that my readers will take
as much delight in her as I did if I can get her properly translated onto the page.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Too Much Imagination
Mon, August 12, 2013 | link
In all my years of taking writing classes and being critiqued,
Jonathan Miles was the first to suggest that I had "too much imagination". As a result, I throw in irrelevant or
superfluous information, get too wordy, explain too much, and don't let the reader the privilege of drawing his or her own
conclusions. So that was my task as I went through the week at Oxford. To pare down, keep to the essentials, and STOP explaining
On the way home on the plane I was
reading "The Paris Wife", the novel about the wife of Hemingway. The author has a scene where Hemingway meets Gertrude
Stein and Ezra Pound. Stein has read one of his stories and said it was not to her liking. She says, "Three sentences
about the color of the sky. The sky is the sky and that's all. Strong declarative sentences, that's what you do best. Stick
to that...When you begin over, leave only what is truly needed." Pound gives Hemingway similar advice, "Cut everything
superfluous. Go in fear of abstractions. Don't tell readers what to think. Let the action speak for itself." Of course,
I'd heard such advice before, even from my reading of Stephen King's "On Writing", but it sunk in this time. So
I will begin over keeping that advice in the forefront of my mind.
Home, Jet Lagged, and Catching Up
Mon, August 12, 2013 | link
I have been home for 5 days now and just beginning to catch up
with sleep, finances, laundry. In kind of a fog from the jet lag although sleep hours are back to normal. I feel like I want
to continue to blog and post about the trip in retrospect, from my notes and memories.
Our time in Saint Maximim was filled with solving transportation problems, getting Aveline started in
her day-long French school, which she loves, and trying to do some sightseeing with the baby in tow while Aveline was at school.
Every evening we took a swim in the lovely in-ground pool at our home exchange house, fed the kids dinner, ate a leisurely
French dinner ourselves (my daughter and myself), and then collapsed into bed to get ready for the next day.
We took day trips with the baby. The first to Cassis where I took a dip in the Mediterranean,
which had turned suddenly cold a few days prior, had a fabulous lunch of their famous moules et frites (a huge bucket of mussels
in a lobster and red pepper bisque sauce--yummy!), and walked the waterfront. I had been there before and it's just as relaxing
Another day we headed 150 km to Digne Les Bains for
the Lavendar Festival. We discovered that the "festival" consisted mostly of a big parade with floats and bands
and the street lined with tables so everyone could have lunch before the parade started. Aveline just loved it. My favorite
was the band in traditional costumes all on bikes! They kept perfect formation with one hand on the handlebars and one on
their instruments. Quite the sight!
A third trip was to my all-time
favorite restaurant on the terrace of the Logic du Gutteur in Les Arcs sur L'Argens (north of Saint Tropez). Fabulous food
(you can drool over the food on photo page). The last time we went (with my daughter, son-in-law, and his mother) we had arrived
late, but Maggie, with her excellent French had talked the chef into staying and preparing lunch for us and a waitress stayed
on as well to serve us. This time we arrived on time and it was just as fabulous as before. Tres cher--but what the heck!
Then on another day we traveled to the Abbaye du Thornonet and after
visiting that ancient place had lunch at the Logis du Thoronet--equally elegant. A salad with duck gizzards, smoked duck,
and foie gras to die for followed by a scrumptious filet in a rich mushroom sauce. The French certainly know how to do food.
Before I headed to the Marseille airport to head home, Maggie talked
me into visiting the Basillica in Saint Maximin. I was glad I did. It's quite beautiful and like many Catholic churches in
Europe has a crypt purported to be the resting place of Mary Magdalene. I wrote and performed a dramatic portrayal of her
years ago so it was interesting to see the relic they have.
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.