In Search of Fairy Tale Magic

This post was inspired by today’s Tiny Spark, written by Amber over at Tori’s blog. 

To Whom it May Concern:

I have been waiting a long time for an appearance from my Fairy Godmother, or for a man with a long beard to appear with my invitation to join a school of wizardry.  I’ve made hundreds, if not thousands, of wishes upon stars, and clapped until my hands hurt to prove my belief in fairies. I’ve looked for the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, and I still open every new closet or wardrobe door with the hope that this time I could walk through to another world.  I’ve started building fairy houses on the back hill, hoping to at least hear the tinkle of laughter and music from an all night gathering.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

A fairy house in a stump. Perfect neighborhood.

I’ve believed in magic with all my might.

But still, you tease me and refuse to give me my hearts desire. Every time I ask for a little magical assist, or an answer to come in my dreams, you make me find alternative solutions instead.

Enough is enough. I hereby turn in my resignation and will no longer believe in the magic of others.

I plan to create my own magic instead.

Sincerely,

Lisa Kramer, Word-magic Weaver and Prince(ss) Charming

A fairy from my imagination.

A fairy from my imagination.

 

What You Think You are Writing vs. What You are Actually Writing

I’m having a little bit of an identity crisis at the moment.

I know, I know . . . shocking right? Me, trying to figure out who or what I am?

Well, now I have a new symptom of this confusing identity issue. I no longer have a clue what I am writing.

As you may recall, I am currently in the middle of a course/book writing project. I was determined that I was writing an actual adult novel for a change. It was, for all intents and purposes, a fantasy novel, sort of. Kind of. Maybe. But, then again, as I wrote earlier this summer, I am having trouble labeling the genre of this work. Now, of course, many of you suggested that I just write and worry about genre later. And I agree with that. That was also the advice from my editor/instructor in his most recent letter responding to chapter one. (which he liked, by the way).

But he also wrote:

“If I were writing this story (I understand I’m not), I might change that age bit about young women of 21 to young women of 18, and give some thought to a YA novel. As you know, a hot writing niche right now. I just finished the first story in the Hunger Games trilogy, which confirmed what we both know–this isn’t Nancy Drew any more.”

So much for my writing an adult novel. I mean, I know I don’t have to change it, but when he’s right, he’s right!  So, I am now writing a YA novel, but I still have no idea what I am actually writing. Suddenly a romance element has entered the picture, an element that I DO NOT WANT, but it’s creeping in and making me uncomfortable! I am fighting against it, which makes each word a struggle to write.

I guess the book is writing itself and I am just the conduit. Or I simply have lost control of words, my ideas, and my story.

The biggest problem is that every time I try to write now, the doubts creep in and garbage pours out. I know, I know, I just need to let the characters tell the story and figure it all out later.

I just wish I could get out of my own way, and stop fighting myself and my words.

Do you ever find a conflict between what you think you are writing and what you are actually writing? How do your reconcile the two? How do you break through?

Creating a Reader in a World of Multi-Tasking

I have been reading since I was at least 4 years old. I spent much of my childhood curled up under covers with my best friends, the ones found between the pages of books. I could spend hours or days hidden there, sometimes never coming up for air until I had read a book from start to finish. I’m sure there were times that my mother had to remind me to come down or leave the house.

Even now, if I have no other commitments, I can disappear for days, ravenously reading anything that comes my way. Much to my surprise, my addiction has only been fueled more by my Kindle (something I was against owning at first). Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer the feel of a book in my hands, and the joy of turning pages. But, once I discovered the ease of finding FREE books on Kindle, as well as the ease of making a purchase just after you finish one book and realize you want something else to read, I realized that there is something truly wonderful to having words at your finger tips.

As a matter of fact I’ve read around 10 books (or more) since I headed to my “summer home” at the end of June.

Sarah sees me reading all the time. She has picked up the (perhaps bad) habit of collecting books. She claims to love reading as well, but there is a difference that drives me crazy . . .

Sarah never seems to finish a book.

She has several books started. She has a summer homework assignment which requires her to read two books and write 8 essays (short) about them.

Getting her to sit down and read those books has become torture.

Not that she isn’t reading. She is currently sitting next to me reading her Highlight’s magazine. I just cannot get her to sit down and finish a book.

I have a theory. In a world where everything comes in high-speed mini-bites, she can only focus in short bursts. A magazine story or article requires a shorter attention span than a novel.  I see it with all my students, who never seem to finish their reading assignments completely. We are raising a generation of people with the inability to focus for an extended period of time.

It makes me sad. I can only hope that someday Sarah will find a book that she simply cannot put down.

Do you think reading is becoming a lost art?

Two Years

Two years ago today I started this blog.

Since that first pathetic post I have:

  • written 585 posts
  • approved 7629 comments
  • been protected from 5738 spam comments
  • had (supposedly) 39,054 views
  • written hundreds and hundreds of comments on other people’s blogs
  • gained and lost subscribers (right now I have 155 blog followers).

But these numbers really don’t mean anything to me. Since I started this blog, I have also:

  • lived in four states (Colorado, Iowa for summer theatre work, Kansas, and Massachusetts).
  • taught several hundred students of all ages in theatre, writing, English lit, puppetry and other areas.
  • driven thousands of miles (including across country three times)
  • read approximately 118 books
  • walked miles and miles in beautiful locations
  • taken hundreds of pictures
  • created a couple of pieces of “art”
  • directed shows
  • taught camps
  • written hundreds of morning pages
  • met amazing people
  • traveled out of the country
  • played too many computer games
  • been angry, scared, sad, happy, excited, lonely, content, frustrated, confident, doubtful and any other emotion you can think of
  • gained and lost weight
  • shared ideas with wonderful women
  • eaten chocolate, laughed and celebrated life
  • cried millions of tears

In other words I’ve lived my life. I’ve tried to share honestly on these pages. I’ve written words from the heart. I have been honored to interact with many incredible people. I admit that I still envy bloggers who seem to ease into successful blogs: the ones who get Freshly Pressed repeatedly while I limp forward slowly, the ones with hundreds and hundreds of followers and hundreds of thousand of hits. I admit that there are days that I feel frustrated and wonder why I bother. What do I hope to achieve with this blog?

That question looms large as I celebrate this, my second blogiversary. What do I hope to achieve with this blog? Where do I go from here? Do I continue as I’ve been doing, posting about whatever inspires me at any given moment, including rants and rambles along the way? Do I start something new, coming up with a more focused vision? Or do I simply give up, saying, “it was a good try but now move on to something realistic” ?

I am in the middle of reinventing myself, of discovering who I want to be and what marks I want to leave in this world. Saturday I spent the day with theatre educators and others who are passionate about the importance and value of arts education in the schools, and arts as part of life. I discovered people who are doing incredible work, on both a large and a small-scale. I was reminded that I do belong in that world in many ways, I just have yet to figure out how I contribute.

I live in a world of creative energy, and am slowly finding a foothold in that world. Blogging has helped me in many ways. I have learned so much from fellow bloggers, that I’m not sure where to even begin. But, I will try.

  • I’ve learned how to see the world a little differently from people like Piglet in Portugal and Terry at The Incredible Lightness of Seeing. Because of them I carry my camera with me wherever I go, and began incorporating my own images into my posts more often.
  • I’ve learned about courage from many sources, but particularly: Kathy at Reinventing the Event Horizon who is delving into her past with beauty, compassion and courage; Mark at The Idiot Speaketh who faces the challenges of his disability with humor and honesty, while still offering compassion and support wherever needed,  Ré at Sparks in the Shadows who is heart-breakingly honest with her struggles in life, but works daily to improve herself as a writer and challenge her world; and Dory at If I Were Brave who challenges herself daily to bring joy and face her fears. She’s now embarking on a fiction writing course and I know she will shine in that.
  • I’ve learned about love from Christine (who has also helped me see the power of photography). Ahab and Tori. I’ve learned about the craft of writing from Broadside and Wordsxo. I’ve learned about pursuing passion from Julia’s hundred word challenge and Stuart’s commitment to the arts.

My list could go on and on, but I honestly don’t have time to link to all the fabulous blogs I’ve read. Because, one of the downsides of blogging is that I have blogged away all the time I need to do other things. I am just starting on a book project with actual deadlines. I need to focus my energy on that to some extent today, or I will not make my deadline. But, this blogging world is now a home, that I am afraid to leave. I am more comfortable writing here then I ever thought I would be in the early days of my blog. I have found a community. I have met a few bloggers, and hope to meet more. I have discovered amazing people who I connect to on many different levels.

In many ways my blog has become my home. But, I wonder, is it time for this little bird to leave her nest?

Simultaneous Stories

I wake up and somewhere a child falls asleep. I turn on my computer to start writing a blog post, and another blogger starts typing hers.  People dance in one part of the world while people die in another.

I walk outside to answer the call of the moon, and elsewhere others see the same moon as I do, while still more rise to worship the sun.

We all live simultaneous stories.

This movie intrigues me for a number of reasons. One is simply that one of my high school friends contributed to it. But, the idea of simultaneous stories intersects all of my writing lately.

Stories are what connect us and what divide us. As a newborn takes his first breathe in one part of the world, an old woman might breathe her last. Those breathes are connected through time and space.

As a couple consummate their love for one another in an elaborate hotel room or the backseat of a car, another one breaks apart in irretrievable pieces. Those stories connect through symbolism and meaning.

As our government falls apart in the face of greed and stupidity, people all over the country struggle to pay their bills, feed their children, and take their medicine. Those stories are connected by a lack of understanding.

As we live our lives securely here, someone dies brutally there. Sadly, those stories too are connected, because the explanation for them lies in belief systems that cannot meet half way, as well as a greed and a hunger for power that corrupts the stories of all human kind.

In the link between stories, between lives, between souls we touch, lie the stories that we all know, feel, live and breathe. All cultures have common stories, told in different ways. All cultures have their demons, their ghosts, their creation myths, and their justifications of existence. All cultures have their jokes, and their songs, and their fairy tales. All cultures have their stories, and they only differ in details, not in essence.

All cultures have the stories told around campfires or while  snuggled in under the covers of darkness.

These are the stories I want to write. These are the stories I want to share. These are the stories I want to hear.

“The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.” —Harold Goddard

Join me, my friends, as we sit by the campfire and share each others stories. Help me, my friends, link those stories together in a glowing web of understanding and hope.

I am the Storyteller, but I am not the only one. Together we tell the stories we all need to hear. Together we create the stories of life.

Together we are The Storyteller.

And if life is a story, then we have the right to choose how that story ends. We can choose our own destruction, or we can recognize the ties that join us and create a story that allows room for us all.

Join me, my friends, as we sit by the campfire to share our stories.

Embracing our Sentimental Inferiority

The "SarcMark" is used to emphasis s...

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Well female blogging buddies, we’ve been put in our place. After all,  Nobel Laureate VS. Naipul claims that “no woman writer could ever be his literary equal.” For more specifics about this story, check out this blog post at NPR.

It’s good to know that, simply by nature of being a woman, I am incapable of achieving literary heights.  It’s comforting to know that I don’t have to express intelligent thoughts or write anything requiring thought of my readers. After all, I am only a woman so I have nothing worthwhile to offer our society.

Would anyone else like to join me in thanking this “wonderful” man for clarifying it all for me? I’m going to rush out and buy his books immediately, so that I can absorb all of his manly wisdom that has put me back in my place.

NOT!

Once More into the Wild

“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Many thanks to Hilary Clark from Pining for Poetry and Prose for pointing that quote out to me today, as today I feel lost in the wilderness, unsure of which direction to choose. But perhaps the direction does not matter. I just need to take a step and forge my way through the underbrush, embracing and learning from whatever comes into my path.

Words fail me today. I cannot interpret the mass of thoughts jumbling around my brain. I cannot describe the heaviness I feel deep inside.

ONCE MORE INTO THE  WILD
A Prose Poem

An image keeps popping into my mind of a dark forest. Here and there, amidst the trees are doors of every shape and size. Some simple, some elegant, some austere, some intimidating. None of them have windows. All of them have locks.

All is stillness and silence.

Far ahead in the distance there is a flutter of filmy cloth. A lavender curtain decorating an open window. The breeze blows through, carrying on it the tinkle of bird song and a laughing stream. I cannot feel the breeze yet, but I know that if I could it would bring elusive scents of beauties unknown. The window is bathed in golden light, with hints of green. A glittering green vine has climbed over the windowsill  reaching tendrils through into the heavy dark forest; but the guardian trees will allow no breach of color and light.

The window beckons but I don’t see a clear path to get there. I fear the doors that lead to places forbidden because someone could come crashing through to bar my way. I fear the leafless trees that reach their crooked hands toward me, threatening to trap me in a merciless grasp.

And yet I move one foot forward. The window beckons.

A Journey into the Wilderness

[Submitted to Poetry Potluck Week 36–Sketches, Images, and Impressions]

The Spark of Creativity

Yesterday Sparks In Shadow asked some difficult question in response to my questions about my blog. She said:

As to the topics I find most interesting to read about here — for me it would be anything to do with the writing or artistic process, because I like hearing how other artists tackle the issues I’m also dealing with. (I’ve really got to get back to your previous post about the play writing class/workshop. I need to get back to it when I can immerse myself without distraction.) How do we tend to shape our stories or art? How much do we consider the way our art is experienced by others? Is our goal to make things only with ourselves in mind, or do we want to grow into wider acceptance by incorporating aspects of feedback and certain kinds of structure? How does that feel? How do we handle re-writes or other changes? How much and how do we want to be different, in terms of pushing the limits or heading into abstraction, or do we want to excel at more accepted norms? What does that even mean?”

Ah that Sparks, she likes to ask the difficult questions. 😉

This morning as I lay in bed trying to ignore the insistent whining of Lizzy that I get up and feed her, I thought about the mystery of creativity. 

Two nights ago I crawled into bed to read a little after declaring my intent to write because I want to. I’m reading a book called Literary Women:The Great Writers by Ellen Moers. This somewhat dated book takes a feminist look at the women writers who had influence on writing today, although they may not have had as much recognition as the men. I say it is dated because it was written in 1976 and I think that more women have made impact on the writing world since that time, and received more recognition for that impact. But, I bought this book at a library sale, hoping to find more ideas about women who have been swallowed up into history as written by men.

I’ve been finding lots of interesting things. But as I read two nights ago something sparked in me. A simple phrase formed itself in my mind, “She was not allowed words.” The phrase kept repeating itself in my head, and then grew in urgency. A voice called to me, “You must write this down now or you will regret it!” and the phrase repeated itself again. I jumped out of bed, having moved my dream journal a few days ago when I used it for something else and forgotten to return it, and scrambled around for something to write on. I found two  large index cards and then searched for a pen.

Then I wrote. “She was not allowed words. No woman was.” And a story started pouring out, or at least the beginnings of one. I’m not ready to share more of it yet, but maybe one of these days.

I wrote, filling three sides of the index cards. Then I put them aside until yesterday morning.

Yesterday I woke up thinking about those cards and that story. I’ve heard that story before, I thought to myself. Where have I heard that story? Then I remembered. Several years back I took an advanced course in writing books for young people through The Institute of Children’s Literature. The end result of that course was Giving up the Ghosts the book that still hasn’t found a home. In the beginning of the course, I had to write several book proposals so that my instructor could help me choose the best one to work on. Sadly, I seem to have deleted some of that work accidentally, but I still have hard copies of most of it. At first I proposed ideas for two fiction books and two non-fiction (both having something to do with the arts and theater, one I think about perfectionism). My instructor, after reading my lengthy letter describing my life, nixed the non-fiction saying that it sounded like I needed a break from that stress and pressure. She had me write proposals for four fantasy fiction books that I might be interested in writing. One of them was called Judith of Lexiconia, and told the story of a girl who had the power of words even though girls were not allowed to read them. She discovered that her power extended to being able to write about something, and have that thing come true. [No offense, but I would like to remind you about copyright for a moment. ;)]

My story started years ago, and now it wants to be told. I’m not sure yet if it will take the same form, or where it is going, but somehow the words spoke through me urging me to listen.

Where do those ideas come from? What sparked that moment and made me get up and actually follow that urge? I’ve had plenty of ideas pop into my head during the night, but often (much to my own regret) I am simply too tired or too annoyed to actually write them down. But this time the call could not be ignored.

I remember reading long ago in The Artist’s Way the idea that creative energy surrounds us, with all the ideas floating around waiting to be plucked from the energetic mix. I’m obviously paraphrasing from a long ago memory here; I would quote the book directly, but I don’t know where my copy is at the moment. 😦 I believe that we are all connected by that creative energy and that some people have more easy access than others.

I don’t always have access, but once in a while the spark ignites and takes me on a journey that is both terrifying and joyful. This time, however, I think I am truly excited for this journey and ready for it, because of the warm support system I have found in the blogging world.

Where does the spark come from? What are some of your answers to Sparks In Shadows questions?


When is it Time to Say “Rest in Peace”?

As if I wasn’t already having a doubt myself as a writer day, I came home to find this in the mail:

I’m not really surprised. Anyone who has read my book GIVING UP THE GHOSTS has liked it. (I’ve linked you to an excerpt of it, if you are interested). Even the harshest critic of them all, a 10 year old avid reader.

I revised for this contest, and made it stronger. But here’s the thin, it is a single book. It doesn’t have series potential, or at least not obvious series potential. It doesn’t follow the over-sexualized young adult vampire trend that I have been reading lately. It is a book about two girls trying to find their place in the world. One of them happens to be able to see ghosts.

I’ve submitted this book to several places, large and small. It is hard to label this book. It’s kind of current, paranormal, fantasy, coming-of-age. It is what it is. I’m not saying it is the world’s most brilliant book, but it certainly is better than some published books that I have read recently.

I admit, I am not a good advocate for myself. I am not good at the business side of writing. I don’t want to write to the needs of a publisher, I want to write the book that my souls is trying to write, but then I want it to find a home.

But that leads to the question, when do you give up? When do you let the poor little manuscript rest in peace, gathering dust with all the rest of the accumulated words from years gone by?

Maybe it is time for me to really give up the ghosts on this one.

Free Range Bobbsey Twins

1966 cover of the revised version of The Secre...

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Nathan braved the depths of my parents’ attic in search of board games. Although that search was futile, he discovered many of the discarded and preserved remnants of my childhood, including a collection of Bobbsey Twin mysteries preserving their words for the pleasure of any creatures who might find a home there. He decided to save them from reader-less misery, and pull them down for my–ahem–I mean my daughter’s reading pleasure.

I asked him to find another book I loved, but couldn’t recall the title so that was a failure. I also should have told him to grab the Nancy Drew mysteries while he was up there, but that will be left for next year’s scavenging.

So far Sarah hasn’t picked them up, but I have read her the first chapter of two books. She was interested but had to go to sleep as it was way past bedtime. I of course was unable to wait for the second installment and dove into these sweet delicacies of childhood memories.

As I was reading, I was struck by the dated language. That should not surprise me, I guess, seeing that these copies were 1960s reprints of early 1900s books. I couldn’t help but giggle at the reference to Bert’s “special friend” which takes on a whole new meaning in our society. I also cringed a little at the domestic roles the girls take on as opposed to the more active roles of the boys, but in these books that has its charm.

But then something more important struck me. These books are about two sets of twins age 12 and 6 who have discovered that they have a talent for solving crimes and relish any opportunity they can to play detective. They are of a genre that spans children’s literature and television, including Nancy Drew, The Scooby Gang, Harriet the Spy and even Veronica Mars. These stories allow young people to be smarter than many of the adults in this world. I love that.

What I find interesting, though, is that in order for the kids in these stories to be successful they had to be Free Range children. Now, don’t get me wrong, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey play prominent roles in their children’s lives, guiding them and making sure they have food and warmth. But, in terms of modern parenting, they would be accused of complete neglect. Seriously, the twins are allowed to wander around amusement parks without a parent in sight. They are allowed to row boats without adult supervision. They make their own lunches, run around in the woods, eat blueberries off of bushes, climb trees, and explore interesting places all without their parents hovering around them. What’s more, when they come upon a mystery, their parents support their choices to explore and solve the mystery (as long as they are careful).  Shocking!

Why is it that our children only truly become Free Range in the world of fiction? I can’t imagine what the stories of the future, written by today’s children will be like. There will be less cotton candy fun, and more restricted play as the characters are afraid to walk out the door in case they are kidnapped by a stranger with candy. That doesn’t sound fun to me.

What are some of your favorite childhood stories? How do they compare to the life of children today?

 

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