The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 6, 2017:

 

Nothing else does quite as much [as imagination] for most people, not even the other arts.  We are a wordy species.  Words are the wings both intellect and imagination fly on.  Music, dance, visual arts, crafts of all kinds, all are central to human development and well-being, and no art or skill is ever useless learning; but to train the mind to take off from immediate reality and return to it with new understanding and new strength, nothing quite equals poem and story.

Ursula LeGuin

WORDS ARE MY MATTER: WRITINGS ABOUT LIFE AND BOOKS, 2000-2016, WITH A JOURNAL OF A WRITER’S WEEK

 

 

The Prompter Room

For Saturday, April 2, 2016:

 

“Without the playing of fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth.  The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

Carl Jung

I am so excited!  I just received the manuscript of a fantasy novel that is the second of a planned trilogy, and if it’s half as good as the first one I edited, this one’s going to be another winner.

The author is a young man who is a stunning writer.  As good as his writing is, his imagination is even better, and I cannot wait to start reading through the manuscript so I can enter into the realm of his creative visualizations once again.  One of the things that makes his work so good is that he’s a master of the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ facet so necessary in fantasy fiction.  He has honed his skill at guiding the reader into and through his characters’ lives and actions in such a way – much of it through dialogue – that we have no trouble believing their world is as real as ours.

I wish I could give more specifics – examples of good character development, for instance – and I wish, too, I could copy small portions here, but I can’t.  Let me say this, though: even though our genres are different, his work is so inspiring, I hope my writing rises to his level when I grow up.  This is one young man to watch, and I will be sure to share more details as soon as I can.

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, March 9, 2016:

 

“I believe in everything until it’s disproved.  So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.  It all exists, even if it’s in your mind.  Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?”

John Lennon

” … You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one …”

John Lennon

Some of the dreams I’ve had this last week or two sure have seemed real.  They’ve been quite bizarre, so I hope they’re not real.  They haven’t reached the nightmare stage, thank goodness, but I must be dealing with something in my unconscious to precipitate such strange people, actions, and images while I sleep.

I don’t know much about the dream life – though it is a field I want to study at some point when I’m feeling a little more courageous – and I rarely remember my dreams.  Even if I can’t remember specifics about them, bizarre or otherwise, I do carry with me a sense about them, a feeling of ‘I need to pay attention to this,’ or ‘I need to figure out why …’.  I know they’re telling me something.  They’re bringing up things I need to pay attention to.

My mother had a rich dream life.  She could remember most of her dreams almost like a flip book, those boxy little books of stop-action figures that moved across the pages in minute increments.  She was able to write them down and study them, and sometimes she even crafted stories or poems about them.

I so wish I could do that!  But then I believe in fairies – or faeries – and little people, or the possibility of them, and she didn’t.  We both believed in many myths, for there’s always at least a grain of truth in myths, but she didn’t believe in dragons and I do.  Kind of.  I have a strong symbolic connection to dragonflies.  They’re not the same, I know, but I do believe they are representative of the power and strength of dragons.  I believe there’s a freedom, an ease in and with life that speaks to me through dragon(flie)s.

Ultimately I believe in possibilities.  I believe in mysteries and symbols.  I believe in, and have experienced, what some call paranormal occurrences or mystical experiences.  There haven’t been all that many, but there have been enough over the years to assure me they are real, and some have found their way into my own stories and poems.

So maybe part of my dream life takes place while I’m awake.  When I think of all the possibilities, all the mysteries that can’t be answered or explained but that are waiting to be explored, the world opens up for me.

What if there were actually nothing to disprove?  Can you imagine that?  Surely I’m not the only one …

The Prompter Room

For Sunday, March 6, 2016:

 

“A rockpile ceases to be a rockpile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, THE LITTLE PRINCE

Across the little dirt road from my front bedroom window there is a pile of rocks.  They’re in a different configuration from the one that was there when we first moved here because snow plows and water line workers with excavators have pushed them farther from the road and a little closer to the woods.

The bigger rocks – small boulders, really – likely will stay where they are now, holding up a  slight slope of dirt and brush that is shaped rather like a miniature amphitheater.  The smaller rocks, though, get moved around on a regular basis by the young men who live next door.  I call them ‘kids,’ but they’re in their late 20s or early 30s.  These young men spend a fair amount of time over there laying out trackways for their remote-controlled cars and trucks.  Their image of that rockpile is obviously a race track.

Mine is a garden.  Every time I look over there, I see daffodils and violets in the spring, Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed, and other wildflowers in the summer and fall.  I see a birdbath or a small pool for the birds, butterflies, bees, dragonflies, squirrels, and deer to refresh themselves, and maybe the occasional bear.

Before I knew the kids had their own plans for that little rocky slope, I scattered all kinds of flower and tree seeds over there.  A few months later, all the neighbors dumped their raked up leaves in the same spots.  So much for those seeds, but I tried again the next two years.  Nothing was obvious, but some wildflower seeds take a year or two to germinate.

The heavy equipment came in early last summer.  Any potential seedlings that might have survived the collective leaf dumps were plowed under and scraped over.  As soon as the machines finished, the ‘boys’ next door were out there, raking away woody debris and rearranging the smaller rocks into new tracks.

By then, I had virtually given up my attempts at any semblance of a garden, wild or otherwise, in that spot, so two apparently lifeless hydrangeas that wouldn’t grow next to the house joined the piles of leaves, branches, sticks, and rocks across the road.  Near the end of the summer, however, I found those same hydrangeas had rooted together and were now thriving.  They had tripled in size!  Given that success, I tossed a handful of old daffodil bulbs behind the hydrangeas (and away from any robo-racing).  My best friend had done the same years ago and was rewarded with an ever-growing expanse of naturalized daffodils every year.

It’s almost spring here again, so it’s almost time to start looking for the first green shoots of the early daffodils.  I don’t know if those old bulbs will do anything – they may have been too old – but at least I can hope again.  If the hydrangeas made it through our mild winter, I know I’ll start thinking about the possibility of a garden across the road again.  It won’t be a cathedral, but it will be more than just piles of leaves, sticks, and rocks.

The Prompter Room

For Wednesday, November 4, 2015:

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”

Lewis Carroll

Yesterday, as I sat in a hospital waiting room, I pulled out my little notebook and wrote with my non-dominant hand.  A few days earlier a friend and sister writer/poet posted a challenge similar to NaNoWriMo: write a play a day for the 30 days of November. She’s done a wonderful job with hers and she encouraged me to try.

I know I can’t begin to craft anything as imaginative as her playlets have been so far, but I enjoyed looking at the waiting room, the people there, the activities with this exercise in mind.  I didn’t get a chance to finish, but I’m going to save the pages I wrote and I’m still thinking about the possibilities there.

What a clever idea!  As my friend did for me, I encourage you to try something similar.  Her challenge helped me get through the long day.  Thank you, Mary — your example really stirred up my imagination, and it’s come at just the right time!

Place Names

Mesdames y Messieurs,

It’s almost summer, and that means a lot of people will travel to various destinations across the country, around the world, or even just around town.  What follows is based on a group exercise I suggested for an online writing group: a creative possibility using some of the famous place names of New Orleans.

I was born there, but my parents and I left when I was 18 months old and I’ve been back only once.  Even if one has never been to the Crescent City, though, most everyone knows some of the names of the streets and places through song and literature.

There’s Tennessee Williams’ play – subsequently made into a movie – called Streetcar Named Desire.

And there’s a book called Frenchmen, Desire, Good, Children, by John Chase, which was published in 1949. The title refers to four different streets in NOLA (but read it without the commas and you get another idea!). Of course there’s also Bourbon, Canal, St. Charles, Rampart, Royal, Chartres, Orleans, Basin, Dauphine, Iberville … and so many more. {Note: A politically correct person who reads the book will have trouble with the antiquated mentions of some groups of people, but for a history of New Orleans it’s a good read that explains the colorful origins – and pronunciations – of the original street names.}

For all you travelers, then, here’s an “assignment”: Pay attention to the names that jump out at you and why.

When you get back, write a piece – even a travelogue – that incorporates the names that meant the most to you and explain why. Did they get you thinking, stir up old feelings or new possibilities? Are they related to someone you know or knew? In short, explore the creative possibilities from all the creative names in the Big Easy or any city, town, or village.

For those of us who remain homebound, we can do the same with the places around us. In our closer-to-home travelogues, which names are we drawn to and why? What do they evoke? What do we want others to know about these places that are so familiar to us?

Another option is to ponder why NOLA has so many ‘nicknames’ and write about that. I know of few other cities with so many and different monikers, and each has its own defining image.  Does the same hold true for the places around you?

Or do you give names to certain places closer to home?  When my sister and I were young, for instance, we had a couple of favorite ‘roller coaster roads’ on which we’d implore our dad to drive.  (We never told him about the ‘drag race road’ we used later as teenagers …)

Sometimes it’s as simple as being in the right place at the right time. After all, Tennessee Williams was inspired by the streetcar that ran right outside his door, and the rest is literary history.

Don’t forget to try out your non-dominant hand for this too. That’ll really get the creative juices flowing like that beautiful, mighty and mysterious Mississippi River!

Wherever you go, safe travels in/on planes, buses, trains, cars and imaginations.