Archive for the ‘Art & Culture’ Category

The Muse & The Marketplace 2015: Reflections

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

I attended my first writer’s conference last Saturday: The Muse & The Marketplace hosted by Grub Street Inc. a non-profit creative writing center in Boston (the same folks I took a class with earlier this spring). It was really cool to be surrounded by other writers of various stripes, to be exposed to a lot of fresh ideas about craft, and to meet-up with writer friends. There’s a huge component of The Muse that’s focused on publishing, including sessions and lunches where you can meet agents and editors, but I skipped those this year and focused on craft-based sessions. Click on the courses below for some of my take-aways:


["Timing is Everything: Negotiating Past & Present in Fiction"]

taught by Maya Lang

This workshop was fantastic and I wasn’t the only one discouraged by the blaring fire alarm that interrupted our session. Dr. Lang had a smooth, calm voice and made the concepts we covered – the position of your character in time and how that relates to the narrative of your story – seem approachable, achievable. She also talked about the way readers experience time: “Some stories make time disappear,” she said, “others make time slow down.” Like devouring a meal versus savoring an 11-course tasting menu. “Sometimes it’s worth dwelling.”

Notes:

  • META narrators are positioned away from the dramatic action, but the story brings them back through time to focus/reflect on that action. These narrators utilize: hindsight, regret, justification, self-awareness. The change in emotional state between then and now adds to the sense of emotional stakes – why the narrator is looking back.
  • IMMERSED narrators are present in the dramatic action of the story. These narrators utilize: immediacy, high stakes, likeability, more detail, no safety net, no pre-knowledge of the outcome. “You have to watch the pace of the unspooling” of the narrative.
  • Seamless flashbacks are woven into the narrative and flow of thought – they don’t disrupt the story. They are always “triggered” by a thought or sensory experience in the story.
  • Demarcated flashbacks are often longer and there is some sort of indicator (paragraph break, chapter break) indicating a movement in time. These tend to be fuller and richer than seamless flashbacks.

Reflections: This session was perfect for me because in The Ghost Story I am doing all four of these things – meta narration in the form of demarcated flashbacks alternating with live-action immersive narration with the occasional seamless flashback. I asked Dr. Lang if that was allowed, if I could do all of these things in one novel. That I didn’t want to do everything half-assed instead of one thing well. “Don’t think about what you ought to do in the first draft. Just write.” A lot of the temporal position questions can be resolved once you have the whole picture, she assured me, once you yourself can reflect back on the work.

Maya Lang: "Time is a tool at your disposal"

Maya Lang: “Time is a tool at your disposal”

["Dramatis Personae or What Are All These Characters Doing in Your Story"]

taught by Lynne Barrett

Twitterfbc7013Another fantastic session. Barrett dove right into characters from a theatrical point of view: their roles on stage, their exits and entrances, the dynamics of different numbers of characters interacting with different levels of knowledge. “A story has a cast with roles,” she explained, “And those roles and relationships can change shape and shift.” It was fascinating to think about making effective use of “stage time” for characters and developing triangles of tension between them. “Good books have lots of triangles in them,” she joked as she outlined the dynamics between characters in The Great Gatsby.

Notes:

  • The protagonist is important, but the story really starts with the entrance of the deuteragonist (2nd character) who may or may not be the antagonist. The introduction of a tritagonist (3rd character) allows for more variation – the deuteragonist can then take on more of a confidante role. But all of these roles can transform by the end of the story.
  • Aristole’s Poetics, Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, and the Comedia dell’Arte all have examples of different kinds of roles that are useful in interpreting your characters. Doubling up on roles can really add drama through bonds of love/hate. E.g. Breaking Bad where the anti-hero and his antagonist are brothers-in-law –more dramatic than if they weren’t related.
  • There are viewpoint characters like Watson who relate the story/serve as a lens versus focal characters like Sherlock Holmes who are the main drivers of a story.
  • How do you make things happen in a story about internal struggle? Character “rifts” – Characters that enact internal struggle/conflict with strong actions that are contradictory serve the story  best. Continual contradiction creates character. Characters that say one thing but do another, who are consistently inconsistent create action and movement.
  • Ways to think about your characters and story design. Try making a character map or list outlining the breakdown of your characters by: class, territory, genealogy, order of appearance. Entrance order in Shakespeare’s plays made clear the balance of power to an audience without a program. What does your characters’ order of appearance say about the balances within your story?

Reflections: Yes, a thousand times yes. My story is bloating outward with characters; everytime I fact a conflict or am not sure which way a story should go, I add more characters. “Every character should really contribute to the outcome of the novel,” Barrett warned, “Always try to think about who can serve more roles.” I really appreciate being told to think about the roles my characters play and how those interact. Whose story is it? Who’s telling it? Who contributes to that story and how? Also love the character “rift” point, that contradiction is the strength of good characters.

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Lynne Barrett: “Good books have a lot of triangles in them.” Connections of marriage, lust, power, and money in Gatsby.

["'A Woman Wouldn't Say That'- Gendering Characters Without Bending to Stereotype"]

taught by Dawn Dorland Perry

A gentle conversation about how to develop characters that don’t conform to gender stereotypes. “In the absence of information in a story, a reader will make an assumption, likely fueled by a stereotype,” Perry said. We discussed techniques of characterization and what some of our own stereotypes are about men and women. “Stereotypes eat our writing from the inside out,” Perry warned, and urged us to think deeply about the context and point-of-view of stereotypes creeping into our own work. Perry did an excellent job of making the material accessible and comfortable, though I wish we had had the time to dig a little deeper into how gender shapes the choices we make about our characters. We did some reading and writing exercises that were very fruitful.

Exercise: Step 1: Call to mind someone you know Spend three minutes list the salient traits of this character, inventing and embellishing wherever you like. PAUSE. Step 2: Flip the gender of your character. Take a moment to adjust to this new reality. Then for five minutes write a passage rendering a scene from this new characters point-of-view, either in third or first person.

Reflections: Doing the gender-flip exercise was great and I loved the discussion it generated… I almost wish we had done that earlier in the workshop! This is a topic I think a lot about because my novel’s protagonist, while female, often passes for a boy and is fairly non-conformist. Its important to me not to fall into the traps of my own bias, especially when I’m creating an entire world to populate. It got me thinking about: what are the stereotypes in the world I am creating? How do my characters break not only the stereotypes of our world, but of theirs?

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Dawn Dorland Perry: “Stereotypes eat our writing from the inside out.”

["One Thing You Should Always Do Before You Write"]

taught by  Nadine Kenney Johnstone

Not too many notes on this because we spent most of the session doing a visualization exercise. Johnstone was very down-to-earth and organized, even with the cerebral nature of the exercise. Writing without developing a scene in your mind is like moving into a house with not plan for unpacking, layout, and design she explained. She walked us through a piece of writing, having us call out the d

WP_20150502_15_17_26_Proetails of scene and character that stuck with us. Then she led us in visualization exercise. First we jotted down a few notes about a day-in-the-life of our character and had us think about one thing that might be different on this day.  Then we closed our eyes and she had us picture the scene, first from a birds-eye view with natural elements, time of day/year, etc. Then she had us zoom in on the space our character occupied and examine it through the senses, then through the furnishings and objects around the character, then examining the character herself and those around her. Finally we focused on action in the scene and that subtle shift – who or what has changed at the end? What won’t be the same anymore?

Reflections: I liked this exercise, though I don’t think I did it right – I started my character in her bedroom in the morning, after first waking up before I realized we were sort of supposed to start them in the moment in change. But when I asked Johnstone about it she said “If you started in her room, there was a creative reason for it.” I think this is a great exercise for really diving deep into sensory details. It’s something I do in a smaller way on a regular basis since descriptive detail is my jam. But I liked the idea of “what is different about today?” and that it could be as small as waking up in a different mood. I had a mini “ah hah” moment during the exercise, so that was fruitful.

A hook to get me into a fresh scene for my novel...

A hook to get me into a fresh scene for my novel…

["Star Literary Idol"]

Pieces read by Steve Almond, judged by Stephen McCauley, Anita Shreve, Elinor Lipman, and Mameve Medwed

Imagine having your first page read aloud in the dulcet tones of writer Steve Almond and judged by four brilliant authors? Yup, that’s “Star” Literary Idol. Almond read the pieces aloud and if one of the judges hears a line that would prompt them to stop reading, they would raise their hand. Once two hands were raised, Almond would stop reading and the judges would critique the piece.

The first piece read aloud was a darkly funny piece about a man struggling with obesity, attending over-eaters anonymous with a bunch of skinny women. The judges loved it and wanted more. The second piece they read was MINE. Almond read it beautifully, I’m sure, but I only heard half of it because my heart was literally beating so hard and loud it felt like my entire rib cage would split open. But… no one raised a hand. My first 250 words made it through strict judgement! They were intrigued. Anita Shreve was worried that it would be grim, but was interested in hearing what happened next. They all liked the imagery (even Elinor Lipman who said “I don’t usually go for descriptions of leaves and things…”) and the unexpected line “the trees rattle and cough with hundreds of birds.” And then they were on to the next piece and my hands were shaking and I could breathe again.

Reflections: Terror! Now the rest of my novel has to live up to the first 250 words! Which was always the case, but some piece of me wants to believe that if I fix the beginning enough, the whole thing will be fixed – NOT TRUE. As for the rest of the pieces read and analyzed during the Idol session, about a quarter to a third of them were stopped mid-read, usually due to confusion, boredom, or cliché. There was a large swath that made it all the way through, but where the feedback was really mixed – the usual comment was “The first part was slow/clichéd/confusing, but it really started for me with your second-to-last line…” There were a handful that the judges had only positive feedback on, and a teeny tiny number that the judges loved.

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Mameve Medwed: “Dialogue should be the cream that rises to the top.”

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Cultural Exploits 2011 (so far)

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
In no particular order:
  • Vienna Teng concert (swoon)
  • Susan Werner concert
  • George Winston concert
  • Kaki King concert
  • We’re About 9 concert
  • Jasper Fforde reading
  • Gesine Bullock-Prado reading and cooking demo
  • Museum of Science
  • Community theater performance of “All in the Family”

NB: I’m not counting my now permanent cultural exploits of planning author events because then this list would be infinite. These are just adventures I have attended outside of work for the pure joy of it.

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Cultural Exploits: December/January

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I also spent some long over due time in several lovely bookstores, new and used. I never did make it to Carmen, much to my chagrin, but will be attending a ballet with my grandmother come early March.

I know it’s January, the time for resolutions. I’m formulating.

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Poet: Mary Oliver

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

When I sent my sister an e-mail letting her know that Mary Oliver would be reading in Brookline, she sent me back a single word: YES. She then stole a friend’s truck to drive 70 miles on a weeknight to join me in the Coolidge Corner theater in which every red velvet seat was filled, and people spilled out into the aisles.

The young woman who introduced Ms. Oliver in a manner that was both gushing with admiration and knowingly self-deprecating, described the poet as writing from a sincere and “humble” place, despite her extensive awards and accolades. I wish I could remember her words precisely, as they resonated with me even before I had her Mary Oliver speak. I had read some of her poems before but not to any great extend. That is about to change.

“Have you ever tried to enter the long black branches of other lives…?” she askes us, and “Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” These are among the many soul-stirring questions she poses to her readers. Her poems stem from a passionate, but as said “humble” devotion and involvement with nature. There is a tenderness as well as a fierceness to her writing, a simplicity as well as an insistent sincerity. She uncovers life’s questions and answers in the woods and the nature around her. She also has a sweet sense of humor. She was a pleasure to listen to.

As we sat in the theater listening to Mary Oliver read poems from a smattering of the twenty-five or so books of poetry she’s published, I was caught up in the reaction of the audience, the murmurs and sighs, the tiny groans of contentment. The woman sitting to my right, uttering a soft “wow” after a particularly moving phrase. There was a feeling that each poem literally struck a chord in each person in the room, sending out a ripple of sound and movement. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed that kind of audience reaction to a reader before. Laughter, yes, applause, certainly. But this kind of physical and unwittingly vocal response… it was a wonderful experience.

I haven’t been to a poetry reading in a long time. I enjoy poetry but for some reason I think I would be more likely to go hear an unknown author than an unknown poet. Why is that? Maybe because I don’t read that much poetry, maybe because of the extremely personal nature of poetry. The idea that for a moment, while listening to a poet read, you are sitting in the living room of their mind or heart. I guess for me I’d rather that living room be a familiar space. However, I am on a d-list or two for local poetry readings, which I always skim for readings such as this. Maybe in the new year I’ll take the plunge and check out some new poets.

Mary Oliver on Wikipedia

Mary Oliver’s books on Indie Bound

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Author: John Irving

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

Last week I went with some friends and co-workers to hear John Irving speak at the Coolidge Corner Theater. I’ll be honest: I have never read anything by John Irving and when I told Greg I was going he said “Ugh! Didn’t he write Owen Meeny?” So I didn’t know quite what to expect. But my friends were all very excited to hear him, so I was looking forward to it as well.

I was not disappointed. He read the opening pages from his new novel Last Night in Twisted River, which take place at a logging camp (my fellow bookclubers and I looked at each other and smiled—we had just finished Louise Dickinson Rich’s We Took to the Woods which talks about logging camps at length). Then he went into a discussion of his process for writing books.

“I can’t start writing a book,” he said, “until I’ve figured out the last sentence.” For each of his twelve novels, this has been the case. Once the final sentence springs into being, he is able to map his way back to the beginning of the book and begin writing. He was the first to acknowledge that this “method” was very unorthodox and that as a young man he had tried to resist it, but apparently it was the method that worked for him. Twisted River he said, had been in the back of his mind for more than 20 years. He had many of the details in mind, but one of the main characters and that final sentence eluded him.

He spoke about wrestling and how writing is, more than anything, being willing to do something boring over and over, like any other form of exercise (reworking sentences, revising, learning how to structure a narrative). About his inspiration, the 19th century novel, and of his greatest teachers, Dickens and Hardy. About his favorite characters, the ones he found most challenging. About why his novels are so macabre and dark—that he writes about what frightens him. He took a fierce pride in his dedication to language and punctuation. The reading was only an hour, but he covered quite a bit of ground.

Doing the same boring thing over and over… it’s true. Though I love (ok, love and hate and love again) writing, it can be very repetitive. I was recently working on a revision (gasp, I KNOW, miracles are at work) and sitting there reworking the same sentence over and over… it gets tedious and frustrating. It is an exercise in creative will power. I’ve used the metaphor of exercise in the past to explain various attempts at writing regimens to non-writers: creativity is as much a muscle as your heart or your legs and without constant effort and exercise, it’s easy to be out-of-shape, making the next run that much harder. It’s hard, if not impossible, to run a marathon (aka write a novel) without consistent training (writing everyday). I still believe this is true.

Irving is a somewhat dashing older man, with silvery grey hair and his tan shirt unbuttoned at the collar. He seemed to epitomize the idea of the male writer. I couldn’t quite decide if there was an air of arrogance about him or not—though I suppose after twelve novels and an admirable amount of fame, a bit of arrogance is completely warranted.

John Irving on Wikipedia

John Irving’s books on Indie Bound

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Author: Margaret Atwood

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I heard Margaret Atwood speak at the First Parish Church in Harvard. My friend E went with me, which I was grateful for, as readings are always more interesting to attend with other people. Atwood is a petite woman with a wonderful halo of frizzy white hair. She looked older than I had imagined, but at the same time her face had a smooth, almost ageless complexion, as she bent over slightly to autograph my copy of her newest book The Year of the Flood. She spoke in an odd sort of cadence—slow at times, loud and insistent at others. You could tell by her response to readers’ questions which topics truly engaged her: questions about the environment and social justice, about science fiction and it’s history, about craft. She read a couple of pages from Flood (which I have since read—yes, in two days) and also played us several of the hymns from the book which a friend had put to music. The book itself centers around a religious group that is both laughable in it’s extremism and sobering in it’s predictions and believable ideology. The hymns reflected this; Atwood even sang us one herself, a children’s him about the humble mole.

Atwood is one of my favorite writers. Her book, The Blind Assassin, is probably my favorite novel. The Year of the Flood is a “simultaneal” companion book to her recent Oryx and Crake. I wish I had been more patient and re-read O&C before starting Flood. I had forgotten character’s names and certain plot points. Flood can stand on it’s own, but as with other simultaneals I’ve read (e.g. Ender’s Shadow), you can feel that you don’t know the whole story in a more profound way than when a novel stands on it’s own. Regardless, I enjoyed the book—it’s heart-wrenching, tragic, comic, and disturbing. The ending of this book felt more positive than that of Oryx and Crake, if you can say a book about the end of civilization could be in any way uplifting. Tragic, but with a bit more sense of closure.

Atwood was asked a question about her process, specifically about The Blind Assassin and she explained that she had to approach the book three times before she got a handle on it. The first time she tried telling it from the perspective of someone who had died, and someone had discovered a hat box of her letters. That didn’t work. Next she tried involving two characters who mutually discovered a box of journals by a woman who’s story the book was to tell. However, Atwood said, the two characters began having an affair and soon she had to put them in a drawer and start over. Finally, when she let the character speak for herself (and the hatbox by then had turned into a steamer trunk) the story began to unfold more organically.

I explained this process to my husband and his response that it was interesting how most writers and artists speak of their creations as if they have a life of their own. Obviously Atwood made the conscious choice to have the two characters she’d created have an affair, which caused the story to go in another direction… but if so, why? In my mind, I explained, a writer creates characters in a very interdependent way. So if the character you’ve created doesn’t line up with the way another character is acting or a plot point you’ve decided on or a direction you want to go in, you either have to change the character or the story. I think often the character will dictate that decision—creating rich characters that have that sort of decision-making power are worth hanging onto. Unless of course they change the story entirely. In which case you either decide to write that story or you put them in a drawer and start again.

It was a pleasure to hear Atwood speak (and sing!). She discussed everything from superheroes (she preferred Batman to Superman) to the books and magazines she had recently read to the fate of mankind (“Do you think we are doing better now than we were in the past?” someone asked. “That depends,” Atwood said, “on the ‘we.’”) At the end she made everyone vow to only drink fair-trade shade-grown coffee as commercially grown coffee is killing songbirds. Not being a coffee drinker, that’s a vow I can happily keep.

Margaret Atwood’s website

The Year of the Flood website

Margaret Atwood’s books on Indie Bound

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Cultural Exploits: September/October

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Upcoming:

  • Carmen, Boston Lyric Opera
  • A play or two (TBD)
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Wonder and art

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

So I have to be honest with you, as that is part of the purpose of this blog. No, I didn’t do any writing in Maine. Yes, I read alot. But you are probably thinking… what is this, a reading blog or a writing blog?

In a way it’s both because I think the two are intricately linked. I think it’s also very easy for me to get distracted/deterred/disillusioned by reading more-so than inspired to go and write my own. Which seems counter intuitive. How dumb is it to get angry in a bookstore because all these people have written books and I haven’t? Patience, young padwan, patience.

After writing the last post, it got me ruminating on something I read in Julia Cameron’s The Sound of Paper which warrants an entire post unto itself. It is a book about writing, about the art of inspiration, about finding your creativity and seizing it, about fighting off the ennui, the blockage, the frustration. It’s about artists and writers. And she writes it while working in New Mexico. My heartland. So obviously this book hit all sorts of interesting cords in me, despite it’s sometimes predictable mantras or slightly cornball metaphors. And her connection of the creative to the spiritual is also something that not everyone will agree with. As I said, it’s it’s own post, so I’ll stop there.

I wanted to address one of the tools she suggests in her artist’s toolbox, something she calls “Artist Dates.” “Take your artist out on a date” she says, and what she means is find places or events to inspire your inner artist. Take yourself there and wander around. Open your senses. Learn something new. Experience beauty. These “dates” are a way to keep your inner artist thriving and alive, constantly engaged in the world and in art. Tea of Tea & Cookies does something similar which she calls “Stalking Wonder” (the phrase itself borrowed from a fellow blogger). Her writing is beautiful and she talks about the need to pursue wonder, no matter how small, even (especially) in the midst of writing:

The wonder is always there, sometimes we just need to make an effort to look for it. My life may have me tied to the computer for the moment, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find wonder in my own driveway, on my street, in three blocks I’ve walked a thousand times before. I’d like to think that the familiar and worn paths of our lives could become beautiful to us again. As Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

I think these are the hopes I have in mind when I think about how great it would be to attend cultural events more often, readings, concerts, etc. to rekindle a sense of greater awareness and appreciation, to bask in the glow of other other artists. Tea speaks of something even finer, the idea of looking for the same glow in the small, beautiful things around us. I was thinking of this, of all these lots muddled together, and I realize that I am actually actively witnessing wonder and art but that I am not capturing it anywhere. It is like I am walking around with a very nice camera, peering at things and people through the high quality lens, but never taking a photo, only looking, only thinking about all the wonderful photographs I am seeing. It may sound strange (or to most writers do this?) but I often try to find words to go with particular sensations, emotions, images and combinations thereof. Wordpictures.

For example, something that strikes me most mornings as I head to work, is the sensation of coming up out of the subway, of the bright sun blinding the emerging subterranean passengers, the wind tunnel that the stairwell creates. To me, that tumble of sensations manifests itself in a phrase: “a bright wind” which might tumble it’s way into something a little bigger before being filed away:

Coming up from the subway, as she rounds the bend, there is a strong, bright wind that causes her to gasp. As she come around the corner, there is the wind and the blinding morning light through the trees beyond the stairs. She can barely see or breathe. Her hair flutters back, she clutches the pages of her book. It is the breath of G-d, the wind of trains. Above ground things grow steady but the sunlight glares off of the bricked pavement, a shining white mirage. She is only just going to work but it feels like she has stepped into another place entire. The air here feels so fresh, coming off the sea, despite the hot smells of coffee and exhaust, the dank and clinging smell of the metro. Her shoes snap against the sidewalk. Flags wave in the breeze. It is in these moments that she can understand the meaning of freedom. Her office is across the street—this time is brief. She waits for the traffic to pass before she crosses, holding her hand up to block the sun. She holds up her hand to the sun, which passes around and through her fingers in a red aura, and waits. (09/10/2007)

I am going to try my best to attend more events in the coming months. There are alot of great author readings in September and October that I’m hoping to attend. Hopefully listening to fellow writers will kick my butt into gear.

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Basking in the arts

Friday, August 14th, 2009

I know this is a writing blog and my focus is on writing. But I want to proudly say that I have been exceedingly social and cultural this week! I think that both of these things have the potential to feed creativity so it is not totally out of line for me to write about it here.

This past weekend we went with the in-laws to Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was the same sort of venue as Wolftrap in Vienna, VA—concert hall open on three sides with an extensive lawn and ambitious summer concert schedule. We brought a picnic (our contribution: raspberry iced tea, lemonade, mineral water, and chocolate zucchini cupcakes), a delicious spread of salads, cheeses, bread, and fruit, which we ate on the lawn, and the moved into the concert hall for the performance itself. The concert featured the ever incredible Yo-yo Ma on cello and his passionate performance rekindled the deep respect and joy that classical pieces inspire in me. As you may recall from an earlier post, I was raised on classical music, so the names of the composers, for the most part, were familiar to me (Fauré, Bizet, Shostakovich) and, though I hadn’t  heard them before or at least not in a long time, still sparkled in my memory like old friends.

This week I was also fortunate enough to stumble upon a free opera concert on the Esplanade, courtesy of the Boston Lyric Opera and Boston Landmark Symphony. So some girlfriends and I bought a picnic feast at Whole Foods, spread out over K’s mexican blanket, and dined on salads, cheeses, bread, and fruit while listening to excerpts from Carmen (which they are performing this fall! we have already taken a blood oath to go see it), Romeo and Juliet, Rigoletto, just to name a few. The orchestra and the singers were magnificent. I haven’t listened to opera—especially live opera—in ages. So it was a real treat.

For both concerts, the weather was somewhat poor. At Tanglewood it was overcast and hazy, with a threat of rain that never quite came. At the opera concert, it misted the entire evening, but not so much so that we were drenched. We were glad we brought sweatshirts. But it was I think it just sort of added to the experience—sitting in the misty rain and fog with dozens of other people listening to the voices of these four men and women sweep and soar, the rich and bright wood panels of the Hatch Shell behind the orchestra, the clear sounds of the instruments, the fine taste of gouda and grapes, sitting with friends…

I know I am one for many goals, many goals that I don’t seem to ever be able to reach out and try hard enough to achieve. But I would like to add one to the list—to make an effort to be involved in more cultural or artistic events. Concerts, book readings, museum exhibits, I think these can be so enriching when we are able to find the time to pause and soak in someone else’s art for awhile.

In addition to the concerts,  by the end of this week I will have seen two movies, visited a community farm, and gone kayaking. I will have spent time with five different friends (though barely any time, it feels like, with my husband!) Next week we are going up to Maine. Last summer when we visited this set of Greg’s grandparents I got some wonderful writing done. I hope I can again. It’s about time.

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Musical inspiration

Monday, July 6th, 2009

My memory likes to play tricks on me. I remember the moment when I realized songs with lyrics were worth listening to, but that moment comes long after I actually began to do a little song writing myself. So maybe that afternoon when I began pulling CD’s out of my father’s cabinet in search of the perfect soundtrack to our high school theater group’s production video, maybe that was just the final push that opened the door to my new found love for music with words. I still enjoy classical, new age, solo piano, acoustic  guitar, Celtic, and world music, but it was taking that moment to really sit down and listen to the words in hopes to line them up with visuals that gave me an excuse to start borrowing even more of my father’s CDs and, years later (fast forward to… a few weeks ago!) to be able to pick out CD’s that we both appreciate.

Considering the fact that my parents’ anniversary gift to us was a coffee maker (we don’t drink coffee… they do), I didn’t feel the least bit guilty in purchasing CDs for Father’s Day that I would then promptly “borrow.” Share and share alike, I always say.

Anyway, having not paid attention to much pop music prior to the age of 18 with the exception of Savage Garden (swoon), most of my developing appreciation came from my Dad’s enormous CD collection (which I had already raided for New Age CDs… don’t judge me). His long time passion was classical music, but more recently his tastes run more towards folk, with a mix of Celtic and Irish, country, and bluegrass. I have distinct musical memories that stretch back: hearing Pachelbel’s canon for the first time; being woken up on Saturday mornings to him blasting something classical or country to get us down for breakfast; Dad quizzing us over dinner as to classical music composers; Mom playing “The Spinning Song” on the piano;  listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter while lying on my stomach on the blue carpet in the living room; discovering Carrie Newcomer’s song “Bare to the Bone”; the Dar Williams and Maura O’Connell soundtrack of my summer while I interned in D.C.; listening to Patty Griffin’s “Living with Ghosts” while waiting for my father’s car to be repaired, the list goes on and on. So Dad, a belated belated father’s day toast, to the man who made me love music and made it a part of my soul and inspiration. I love you!

I have several music memories that deal more specifically with writing. Before I even begin, I can feel the itch to take this post in so many different directions! But this time I will focus on music as inspiration (rather than the writing of music). (more…)

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