COMMITMENT, POWER, AND MAGIC 11/01/2010
The magnificence and magic of making a start:
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets: "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." -W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition
Follow your dreams, they know the way.
What do you dare to be?
MY STORY, MY MORNING SUN 10/25/2010
The New Year 2010 was a few days old, and the promise of hopes and dreams had been shattered. In my living room. I sat alone with the broken pieces, my scribbled notes from a one-hour consultation with an editor. Each word revealed the ways I had failed in my story, my MORNING SUN.
With dread I read the critiques: your story is flat ... it is missing an arc ... it needs a plot ... the voice is too distant ... the characters are not believable ... the story is not publishable in its current form ...
Outside the wind howled, and I thought I had heard the sound of death. It was my breath trying to recover on fragile grounds. A dream was dying.
I put away the sheets of paper, uncertain if I could write another word again. A quiet voice inside me said, "Time to accept the truth. You may have a story, but you do not have the skills to write it."
Winter turned to spring. The cold of yesterday had left, but the chill of a lost dream remained. Each day the birds sang in the trees their songs of hope. At night my parents's heritage and all my ancestors circled my thoughts, wouldn't let me go. I heard their voices in the dark, heard them speak. Summer came. I traveled west to the Lighthouse Writers Retreat. The story I believed was miserable was now awake with hope.
I dared to return to my story, my MORNING SUN. Not everything was lost. I recalled the editor's words, the ones I neglected to hear at the end of our telephone conversation: You have everything you need ... changing the voice from third person to first person will solve the story's shortcomings ... add an epilogue ... lift that veil ... let us know your characters ...
I began to write, revising my story line by line. Deleting whole pages became a common occurrence. I inhaled and remembered to trust the journey.
At Sacred Cake: Every piece tells a story.
Today I share with you a new scene from MORNING SUN. This one came to life after a stroll at Jennifer Valentine's Sacred Cake, after days of being stuck.
Thank you, Jennifer, for asking me to share a snippet of my novel in progress. Thank you for reminding me that I had everything I needed to move forward in my dreams, for the encouragement that eased my fears. Thank you for these words at Sacred Cake:
"You may discover beauty in something you overlooked before ... something beautiful ... My wish is that you leave here with feelings of inspiration and an uplifted heart."
I left your place renewed. I returned to my story and began to type. The muse was at my side, and I remembered what had been lost but has since been found: no matter how dark the morning, the sun always rises.
Close by was editor Alan Rinzler's email to me on August 8, 2010. I had sent him a preview of my revisions in progress. He wrote:
I like the new opening very much. Good work. Keep going ...
IN MORNING SUN, WE REACH THE END OF ONE SCENE IN VIET NAM TO A NEW ONE IN GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN--
It was a Saturday morning in September. The sun had not risen, but my father and I were awake in the kitchen. I sat at the table and watched him pour boiling water into the sink and over a silver bowl of uncooked noodles. Steam rose from the relief. Father blinked and backed his head away. He waited.
The steam evaporated like wisps of a spirit in the air. Father picked up a pair of chopsticks and stirred the noodles softening, expanding inside the bowl. His eyes were focused, his neck tilted down, his arms flexed with thick and elevated veins.
It all seemed a miracle, my father standing there and preparing the day's family meals. Each inch of him in full concentration. Each inch of me feeling the pulse of my father's life. He slid the noodles into a colander and rinsed them under the fresh, running water at his fingertips. His broad shoulders stretched wide beneath a green T-shirt tucked inside his blue jeans. A black, leather belt hung around his waist. He was no longer the frail boy and young man he used to be when in Viet Nam. Today his stomach was full and his body padded with added weight. The pain of having known days without food was a faraway memory. He shook the colander.
A PRELUDE TO MORNING SUN 10/18/2010
NO MATTER HOW DARK THE MORNING, THE SUN ALWAYS RISES.
Join me here next week on Monday, October 25, 2010
for a new scene in my story, my MORNING SUN,
a historical fiction in progress.
The photos above were taken as the sun was rising over Lake Michigan
on September 27, 2010. Chicago, Illinois.
Thank you, Jennifer, for asking and encouraging me
to share a scene from my novel in progress.
Thank you, Kelly, for also expressing an interest in my work.
Jim, thank you for reminding me to not give up.
Sisters, I hear your cheers. Thank you for being a constant force of support.
And to Tom, who is on his own journey,
for the gift of VIETNAM: JOURNEYS OF BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT
and these words on the inside cover:
May this book be a guide and reference ...
Good luck, good writing ... I await the beauty of MORNING SUN.
Thank you to our readers who come here every week
to be part of a special community. Inspiring. Encouraging. Believing.
I am doing things I never thought I would dare to do.
I DREAM 10/11/2010
8th Grade Essay
Sometimes I anticipate the future. I think about my grades, what college I may be attending, what field I'll be studying, and if playing the piano will still be my passion.
I envision myself at a college such as Stanford University. I know that in order to get to college, whichever one it may be, it is necessary to do well in all the school subjects. Another reason I must do exceptionally well in all the school subjects is because my dream occupations are so different from one another. One requires math and science while the other requires language arts and social science.
One of these dream occupations is to become a CSI forensic scientist--dusting for fingerprints and analyzing evidence. I see myself at a crime scene, using magnetic powder to lift prints from a wall, looking for fibers in a pile of dirt. Remembering myself at forensic summer camp, I aspire to someday be doing the same things, only in a real crime scene.
My other dream occupation is possibly becoming an attorney. I can just see myself speaking loud and clear, examining a complicated court case. Hopefully in five years, my future will unfold and I will select one of those two very different career paths and I will become either a forensic scientist or an attorney.
I dream, hoping that I will finish the Certificate of Merit in piano and go all the way to the Advanced level. I hope that no matter how old I get, I will always be able to play as well, if not better, as I do today. If my dreams come true, I will still remember Sonata KV 331 by Mozart, including all eighteen pages. The image of winning third place with this song will still be installed in my brain. Maybe by then I would have accomplished even more in piano, becoming a piano concertina.
Anything is possible.
LOVE STORY 10/04/2010
HG, a contributor at four days a week, has started pre-K. Last month, HG turned to Mom and said, "I have a story."
"What is it?" Mom said.
"I love my friends. I love my school. I love my mommy and daddy. And I love you."
HG picked up a marker and wrote the story on green paper. HG handed the story to Mom and said, "Put it in my packpack. Please. I want to read it in school. Okay? Don't forget."
THE GIFT OF HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON 09/27/2010
The subject line stated: GET IN TOUCH. When I saw the sender's name, I leaned in closer to see if it was a mistake. I wondered if I had opened the wrong file folder. It was almost 3:00 o'clock in the morning. I was not fully awake, possibly dreaming.
I opened the email:
I am hoping to have my above email address forwarded to Mia - an old friend. Came across a book the other day that she had given me once with a note written on the inside cover, and as I read it to my 8 yr. old daughter she asked me who Mia was. And so, I told her my story of a dear friend that I had lost contact with. Googled her name and found this amazing site.
For a moment I did not move. A buried wish was coming to life. I read the message a second time, and a third. I heard Gerry's voice, the return of a long lost friend. It had been almost four years since we last talked. I wrote and put an end to another day slipping away without my friend: This has to be one of the best mornings of the year ...
Gerry responded with an exuberance that was all her own. Her first word bringing back the friendship I had missed:
The gift of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Gerry emailed me the note I had written inside:
I hope you will always read it to yourself and your baby. I love this book! Again, thanks for being a great friend.
I smiled and thought about the magic of books reaching beyond the page.
Gerry and I caught up on each other's lives, emailing and talking on the phone. We went up and down memory lane, had a few good laughs. Her voice full of life. She told me about her young son and two daughters, the love and joy they bring to her everyday. I shared with her my writing dreams, how it has unfolded since our days at Cosmopolitan magazine. I became silent when I learned her life had changed since we last spoke.
Her once happy marriage had come to an end. Twenty-four years and gone. The shock and the unimaginable thereafter. I listened with a heavy heart. Her tears and endless sleepless nights. Days without electricity, bills going unpaid, the debt collectors at the door. Through it all I heard a woman full of strength and not giving up on life and dreams. She found a part-time job and hopes that one day soon a full-time one will come.
When I wondered how Gerry kept it all together, she said, "My children and a solid core of phenomenal friends. Now my Mia is back ..."
Together with Gerry at Lake Michigan.
Today Gerry and I live in different states and hope to see each other soon.
Until then I have my photograph of us at Lake Michigan. We have emails and the phone. This time we're not letting each other go.
I think of Gerry. I see her courage and remember her words to me as she moves forward in life:
It's amazing the strength you can find in yourself when you have three kids staring at you needing you to show them how to put one foot in front of the other.
On a Saturday morning in late August, my family and I were having breakfast in the kitchen. My sister-in-law, Trang, walked in and said in Vietnamese, "There's a man at our door."
"There is?" I said. The doorbell did not ring. Not a knock nor a tap. "How long has he been standing there?"
"Maybe fifteen minutes. Maybe a half-hour," Trang said in English. "He is here for the vegetables."
Mom jumped up from her chair and ran to greet the man and disappeared.
"He didn't want to interrupt our breakfast," Trang said in Vietnamese and sat down next to me.
"Does Mom know who he is?" I said.
"I don't think so."
"Each time they come, Mom is happy," Father said. "Doesn't matter who they are."
I picked up my camera on the table and walked to the door leading to the backyard, where Mom's garden flourished. Mom was on bended knees with a bundle of fresh Vietnamese herbs in her hand. She looked up from her conical hat and talked to the man who had heard about her garden, her little Vietnam in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Their conversation was an exchange of smiles and laughter. A nod of the head to reveal an understanding. I imagined the memories carried them back to their villages in Vietnam, back to the times before the wars, to the moments when the sun was bright and beautiful. Like today. Here in Grand Rapids. An uncertain journey had found its way to a new life.
I later learned the man was a restaurant owner who preferred to serve the freshest vegetables available in Grand Rapids. He thanked my mom with a bow and purchased five bags of Vietnamese herbs, spinach, and lettuce. For now they will not worry about the coming winter.
I left my shoes behind and walked to Mom's garden, her heaven on earth. I stood for a moment and took in the breath of the morning air, my visit home. I dipped my toes into the soil, felt the roots of Mom's passion and love for the things that grow green and vibrant.
My father joined me in the garden, where he helped Mom plant and nurture the seeds during spring and summer days. I followed him to the vines wrapped around the fence. He showed me the large melons that did not have an English name, the melons he had served in our soup. He said, "Your mom loves these melons."
I nodded and understood. I said, "It's good to be home."
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EVERY PIECE AND TWEET TELLS A STORY 09/13/2010
Whispering hope at Sacred Cake.
I was stuck on a scene for a novel, had been stuck for days. My work in progress. I thought I had something decent. But when I came back I saw the undeniable truth stare at me:
These words and sentences do not work.
I dropped my head in frustration. I asked, "Why?" No one answered in the silent room. The muse refused to return. I was alone, left to figure things out on my own.
For a while, I sat at my desk and tried to fix one sentence from that now disjointed scene. Switched words around, wrote new sentences, removed and reinserted a comma. I toiled and turned. Nothing was working; everything was flat. I screamed without a sound.
I clicked away, clicked on Wednesday Writings, clicked on Thursday Treasures, clicked on Tuesday Travels and there on the page, I saw the bird and the sign.
I remembered Jennifer Valentine from Sacred Cake, remembered her unexpected tweet to me on August 29, 2010:
@FourDaysAWeek I think your site is lovely. Uncluttered. Simple. And I can tell you follow my sister! Lots of leaping!! :)
Jennifer was responding to an earlier tweet of mine:
Spent days tweaking my website. It matters to me the way it all appears and navigates (even if no one visits). Love or crazy?
It was our first conversation on Twitter. Until that day, I never thought Jennifer knew I was here.
I clicked on the sign: FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER. I went to Sacred Cake's shop. Another sign appeared. EVERY PIECE TELLS A STORY. An assemblage of beautiful jewelry photographed with words unfolded before me. Printer's Blocks rested on a dresser. Whispering Hope hung on a door. Something was stirring. I saw the beautiful, Chocolate Truffle earrings set to words and music, pages from a newspaper and books. I purchased the earrings and felt something lifting.
I returned to the scene in my novel. A day and a few hours later, the sentence that refused to show itself to me in its best light, appeared on the page.
Thank You, Jennifer Valentine,
for being the sign and voice in a silent room
that helped bring back my muse.
After a stroll at Sacred Cake, the scene in my novel finally came to life.
And those Chocolate Truffle earrings, love them.
Welcome to Sacred Cake. A place of calm, where vintage assemblage jewelry becomes a poem that you can wear; and you may discover beauty in something you overlooked before ... something beautiful and functional to add charm to your home, something that makes you smile, or stirs your spirit. My wish is that you leave here with feelings of inspiration and an uplifted heart.
The potential of the average person
is like a huge ocean unsailed,
a new continent unexplored,
a world of possibilities
waiting to be released and channeled
toward some great good.
WHY I WRITE 08/30/2010
At my writing desk in the morning.
I arrive here at four days a week, alive, committed, and giving voice to a dream. I dare to be a writer. Everyday. I show up at my desk trying to write good fiction, imagine and explore alternative worlds. I try my best to create memorable characters and stories that will resonate beyond the page.
There is struggle in finding the right words, that perfect sentence to connect two seemingly disconnected scenes. Whole days can be spent searching for those words. Doubts seep in, and there are hours when I wonder why I am here. Why follow my dreams?
I walk away. I always return. Because I write to explore, release, create. I write to feel alive.
Then comes the unexpected moment when the words and scenes I seek find their way to consciousness, move my story forward. Every now and then I discover a truth in a lie, and it feels like bliss.
I am alive.