Joy of writing #2—sharing

meeow-book-feast
Mini-book fair, maxi-book launch: sharing with readers and writers

Most writers adore those moments when readers tell you how much they loved one of your books. When they quiz you about how you write, why you write, and why you wrote a particular thing a particular way. When their eyes glow and you know that you touched this person with your words.

It’s love you receive at those moments. Love and attention and respect — often from a complete stranger. And you feel simultaneously high as a kite and grateful, humble, almost embarrassed to think that someone has paid such close attention to your writing.

Mini-book fair, maxi-book launch at Meeow Cafe

Last week eight indie or self-published novelists got together for a Kiwi Book Feast, where they launched new books together and met some of their readers. I thought this was a lovely idea — to share the planning, the costs, and the fun with fellow writers. It’s certainly an idea worth developing and repeating. Launching a solitary book is huge fun but it’s not for everyone, that’s for sure. Launching eight gives the audience a sense of perspective and some choices — but not too many.

Double sharing: with readers and fellow writers

The multiple book launch gives writers another opportunity to share their ideas with readers in person. It also requires writers to share the work and the limelight of a book launch with each other.

Have you been to any similar event? It’s the first time I’ve encountered a multiple book launch and I’m curious.

No more mush: mindfulness to the rescue

2364980971_5a9e200b99_z
photo of trifle by Brooke Raymond CC BY-SA 2.0

When life deals you something very very good and something very very bad, how to cope? How do you keep the layers of life from merging into one great ugly mush?

It’s Thursday 16 February 2017.

It’s nearly 8am, nearly time to go to Webstock, a stellar conference that I’ve been so looking forward to.Webstock is a spa for the brain, featuring the humane and visionary side of (mainly) information technology. Held in the stately St James Theatre in Wellington, it’s two days of awesome speakers, top coffee, top ice-cream, top food, and interesting company. I’m especially looking forward to certain speakers, but I know that the two days will be saturated with surprises.

But it’s Thursday 16 February 2017, and my home town of Christchurch is smothered in smoke, dominated by a mega-fire raging on the Port Hills and driving towards the city. Among my relatives alone, at least one family has evacuated their home. My heart is breaking for this precious city that was whacked by earthquakes and is still struggling back up from that disaster.

It is not fair… life is not fair.

And lurking in the background is climate change, for our so-called summer has been a crazy mush of wild winds, hot days, and storms, switching daily.

The job: to relish every blueberry

But I must get dressed. Angsting won’t help. And what a crime to waste this truly exceptional conference by being there with only half a brain. Mindfulness rules and gratitude today.

I can’t terminate the worries. But I’ll keep them in their place.

 

Tips on love from the 20th century queen of romance

passionate-pen-cover-vk2-small

Here it is! a new edition of The Passionate Pen as a Kindle book.

It’s a wonderful book (though I say it myself) of 1997 interviews with New Zealand’s first romance writers, one of whom was already world-famous.And what a difference two decades make! These irresistible — and now historic — interviews will please romance readers, romance skeptics, and scholars of popular culture.

For Valentine’s Day, here is some hearty common sense about love and marriage from the unforgettable Essie Summers, who had already sold about 17 million books in 1997.

Essie’s own romance

[…] we had a courtship of about six weeks, completely by letter, and boy, could he write! Fourteen pages at a time. I hovered between thinking I had been rash to even encourage him, and feeling that it was right. Fortunately he came to Christchurch about May, and we ratified our engagement under a moon at Scarborough. So that was fine.

*

So I believe in romance. It didn’t alter. There were so many facets to Bill’s personality, that was the thing. Oh, we were both highly volatile people. We’d have our spats, but they weren’t important. We had great companionship, which is essential, although that wouldn’t be enough. You’ve definitely got to feel the physical chemistry too.

*

 It always used to annoy me at funerals when someone said, ‘We never had a quarrel.’ I think it’s nonsense. It either means that one is domineering and the other a vegetable, or else it’s a straight-out lie.

Tips for a happy marriage

It could be that some women read my books because they miss a bit of romance, which I think is a pity. Men ought to be able to tell their wives not only that they love them, but how they love them. You do get some men who take their wives for granted, and I think that love should be articulate, I really do. If there’s a quarrel some men feel they ought to bring their wives a gift or flowers, but it wouldn’t do me. If Bill and I had quarrelled in words I would expect to make up in words.

*

Women ought to be able to tell their husbands how much they appreciate them. It’s quite nice once in a blue moon to say, ‘Oh, I just feel extra special about you today,’ and a hug. Why should we be bashful about that sort of thing?

 *

And we’re not always very gracious about the way we receive compliments. You can turn it off by seeming embarrassed, and saying, ‘It’s a long time since I heard something like that.’ Which sets a man back, doesn’t it? If people can just be warm and loving, it’s great really.

Essie’s notes on romance novels

Perhaps romance fills a need, and that’s good. It is escapism, like whodunnits.

*

If you had them [the hero and heroine] fighting madly all the way through, or if you portray the hero as too macho, too horrible, the readers and the heroine would think, ‘My goodness me, I wouldn’t marry that man for anything.’

*

Though it often happens light romance is criticised for not being real enough, it is real. I’ve proved it in my own life. Life was never penny plain for me: it was always twopence coloured.

Joy of writing #1: aerogrammes from Daddy

15826003_10154554812169843_575587945481170356_n

Most nostalgic and illuminating Christmas gift of 2016: copies of our Dad’s letters in 1954 when he was in the USA as NZ’s first (?) Fulbright Scholar. He went to study the training of theological students (that being his own role in New Zealand) and had his mind blown, I think. His aerogrammes to the entire family were scanned and collated by my wise sister Lesley.

  • Look at the handwriting — so individual, a bit wonky but fully legible except for a few with faded ink.
  • Think of the quantity — 9 letters to me in 6 months, and about that many to each of my 5 sisters. To Celia (our mother): 52, that’s two per week.
  • Such joy imparted—in both directions. DMT would sometimes quote from our letters to young Americans, with obvious glee.
  • Such mind-widening information from abroad! None of us had travelled outside of New Zealand, not even Celia. All sorts of details were remarkable to DMT and to us:

For lunch we had: a glass of water, a glass of milk, a plate of salad (on left) — (at same time) a plate of donuts, golden syrup and stewed apple! Followed by chocolate ice-cream & the usual horrible weak tea.

Form dictated function and style

The letters served multiple functions. Dad was too busy to keep a diary. As artefacts of the pre-digital world, the physical items were saved as a precious record of DMT’s time away:

I would be glad if someone would kindly assure me that my letters are being kept. […] I have things that I want to write down so that I don’t forget them, but instead of keeping a diary I’m relying on these letters as a record.

The form influenced style. Aerogrammes — two sides of a flimsy sheet of paper —invited writers to be concise, so we could say a lot in limited space, and perhaps entertaining. DMT included various small cute illustrations too.

Every letter was a love letter

The love in these letters is obvious in so many ways. I haven’t yet read his letters to Celia, because of a slight technical obstacle, but they’ll tell a whole different side of the story. All I know so far is that he had a substantial repertoire of endearments. These are just his salutations!

Dearest darling, Dear One, My dear one, My darling Celia, My darling Ce, Celia darling dear, My beloved, My dear mate, My sweetest, Celia my dear one, My sweetest dear, My dearest one, My dear beloved one, My dearest beloved, My dear sweetheart, My dear darling sweetheart, My dear birthday girl, My dear wifey, My darling wife

What treasures

Writing is not just a bite-sized digital communication or a business tool or a source of income. Writing can also promote healing, happiness and hope. Good to remember that…

The personality of numbers as revealed in sudoku

sudoku

Something’s just become clear to me: the reason why I like sudoku is because it’s a sociable, strategic game. Sure, I play alone, in theory. But equally, the numbers are playing me. Each one has a distinct personality and they use their unique strengths to the hilt.

Anyway I’ve just spent a happy pointless hour with my pals, numbers 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 and 9. I’m still getting to know them, but so far, here’s how I read them. They’re all female except for 6, 7 and 9.

  1.  is the head prefect, calm and reliable but without charisma
  2.  is a cooperative type, often negotiating with best friend 3
  3. is placid, phlegmatic, floating along with no apparent interest in proceedings, easily underestimated
  4. is probably my favourite: bolshy and rude, sometimes sneaking in the shadows, sometimes elbowing her way into the action; does her dirty work with an umbrella
  5.  is kind and will help you when she can
  6.  is a dancer, musical, enthusiastic, but often clumsy
  7. is an entrepreneur, bold, sharp, super-energetic and a bit scary
  8. is large, hungry, a squatter
  9. is enigmatic and dignified. He has his mind on higher things. He has more natural authority than number 1 but never needs to exert it: the others just get out of his way.

I have no idea whether the personalities of numbers are due to genes, environment or star signs. And I have no idea whether they show different characteristics outside of the sudoku playground, or maintain their identity in all circumstances.

For answers, I’m looking to you. I’ve googled the psychology of numbers etc. to no avail but I cannot be the one person in the world to whom they have revealed their personalities. Please share your knowledge: knowledge is power, and you could earn the gratitude of sudoku players worldwide.

In fact there’s a business here for somebody, an industry even … you’re welcome!

Why older people talk about their ailments

6-girls-togs.jpg
The six Taylor sisters being schooled at home during a polio epidemic

Aunt Beulah posed (indirectly) a fascinating question in her latest blog post:

Why, as we grow older, do we feel the urge to discuss our health problems at length, when as children we never did?

So many hypotheses rushed into my head that I was forced to share them immediately. Oh dear. So that means I’m a case in point…

These hypotheses are warped by my early life as a cheerful healthy kid with five healthy sisters in the 1940s. My thoughts are bound to be misguided or outright wrong. Tell me, I can take it!

  1. (Worst first.) Our world has shrunk. We are less interested in the outside world and  more interested in ourselves. So we assume the big world is equally interested in our ailments. Ouch. Please let that not be true!
  2. We were strong healthy children. So most health problems were due to “childhood ailments” which we would, by definition, grow out of. By contrast, after middle age any ailment might be, probably is, a sign that we are getting older, and there’s only one way this can end. So we talk about our ailments to stave off decrepitude and death.
  3. Colds, flu, scarlet fever, chicken pox and measles were infectious and non-selective.  With every epidemic our family got a job-lot, six for the price of one. There was nothing individual about being sick, nothing interesting. If I was sick, so were Jill, Deirdre, Prue, Lesley and Penny. Now we feel alone with each new ailment, and we talk about them for company and reassurance.
  4. We’ve lived beyond Doctor-Knows-Best to the Do-It-Yourself era of health maintenance. For every whiff of an ailment we can instantly get 100 solutions on the internet. There is a heck of a lot more information that can be shared, so we share it.
  5. We have a scientific interest in the state of our body and wish to optimize its efficiency for the years ahead. We love being alive and want to make the most of it. So we talk about how to manage our ailments.
  6. We sympathize with friends who have ailments and want to offer support. So we enable their health-talk.

A friend of mine, Elisabeth, lamented the deterioration of a precious relationship. She and her friend (let’s call her Valerie) used to have exciting spirited passionate wide-ranging intellectual conversations every time they met. Now … each entire outing would be filled by Valerie’s health-talk. Not a single other topic was discussed.

Now that’s bad. Endlessly ruminating over health problems must be one of the worst things you can do for your health. It’s boring, and it throws the relationship out of whack — unfair division of time and topic!

I’m pretty interested in the workings of mind and brain, and I am my only available case study, so I’m at risk of becoming a Valerie. But I do have a private rule: no more than 5 minutes per meeting per person may be spent discussing health problems, whether they be bunions or cancer.

This rough and ready private and flexible rule does not preclude sympathy or empathy. But sometimes a change of topic is as good as a dose of aspirin.

Do read Aunt Beulah’s article which stimulated me to think about this! It’s talk about health talk, very funny and wise.