Sunday, September 26, 2010

Latest Project

I have begun to do research on the life of Mary Pickford. The Encyclopedia of World Biography calls her, "the first star of American cinema. Immensely popular in the silent era of motion pictures, Pickford was also a shrewd businesswoman and the first female movie mogul."

Born in Toronto, Canada, in 1893, she started stage acting at an early age. Here and in the U.S. she worked her way up the theatrical ladder until, even to this day, more than thiry years after her death at the age 86, we still remember her as "America's Sweetheart."

Her marriage to the swashbuckling actor, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., was dubbed "the marriage of the century," and the couple's adoring fans considered them Hollywood Royalty.

Mary was very proud of her Canadian roots, and today she has a star on Canada's Walk of Fame. I love this photograph of her, writing, and I know I'm going to enjoy getting to know this rare woman.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Memoir Writing

Anyone interested in writing a memoir was given plenty to think about at our monthly "Spirit of the Hills" writers' meeting on Saturday. Our speaker was Pat Calder, one of our own group and someone who taught creative writing for thirty years.

Pat shared with us some of what she had learned from a workshop on memoir writing that was presented by Judith Barrington, as part of the San Miguel Writers' Conference in Mexico in February of this year.

The most important thing, we were told, was to get the memory down. Just write! The art comes later, in shaping it. If part of the memory has become lost, keep writing around it. You may find a new memory. The more you write, the more you will remember.

Someday I may decide to write my memoirs. I've been collecting anecdotes in a file for years, fleshing them out a little whenever the spirit moves me in that direction. These stories from my life aren't in any chronological order, as they would be if I were writing an autobiography. Yesterday I learned that memoir is driven by theme, rather than by a sequence of events.

Defining a theme could prove to be difficult because, to this point, I've gone off on all sorts of tangents. A reader might find that boring. I can see now the importance of narrowing it down, in "finding the linkages that give resonance to the chaos of life."

Judith Barrington says there's no such thing as a fictionalized memoir because memoir is true. She says that the best way to learn how to write memoir is to read the good ones. We came away with a list of recommended titles. Right now, I'm going to track down a copy of Barrington's Writing Memoir: from Truth to Art.

Write on!

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Keeping the Story Alive

I know that the story I've been working on is incubating because it comes to me when I wake in the night.  It is still there. Even when it's been several days since I've been able to work at it, it's alive in my subconscious.That's comforting, at least.

I've been busy writing press releases about a book signing I'm doing in two weeks, sending off announcements about events I have coming up in the next six weeks, selecting audience-appropriate readings to give, preparing a presentation for two school classes early in October, and getting around to all the area bookstores and signing their in-stock copies of Growing Up Ivy.

It's all part of the business, but I can't help feeling that I should be writing. Better days ahead!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to Basics

One last weekend at the cottage. Our retreat is pretty rustic, but occasionally, I find that is a good thing. There are times when I need to get away from all the distractions technology brings about. We have no television at our cottage, no Internet and therefore, no social networking (my biggest time waster). There is no telephone either, except for our cell phones, with a limited number of people on the other end who have access .

The quiet at the lake allowed me to sort out some of the complications in my novel-in-progress. How much information would the man who ran the village art gallery have about the two women in the house across the alley? One was an artist; he'd sold a painting for her once. But neither of their names matched the one on the watercolour.

How was I going to make this work? What a muddle I had created! I had written myself into a corner in more scenes that just this one.

Over the weekend, I sat down with my lined, yellow notepad and listed what the problems were, which changes had to be made to the story in order to bring about the outcome I need. It would be back to the noisy world soon enough.

Write on!

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