On this Full Moon

“>“When I shall have departed from this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, then my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown
. And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also.”

-from “Aradia, or Gospel of the Witches” by Charles Leland. 1899

Autumn Night
“The moon is as complacent as a frog.
She sits in the sky like a blind white stone,
And does not even see Love
As she caresses his face with her contemptuous light.
She reaches her long white shivering fingers
Into the bowels of men.
Her tender superfluous probing into all that pollutes
Is like the immodesty of the mad.
She is a mad woman holding up her dress
So that her white belly shines.
Haughty,
Impregnable,
Ridiculous,
Silent and white as a debauched queen,
Her ecstasy is that of a cold and sensual child.

She is Death enjoying Life,
Innocently,
Lasciviously.”

-Evelyn Scott. published 1919

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The Night – Wind by Emily Bronte

In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
'How dark the woods would be!

'The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem.'

I said, 'Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

'Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supply bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow.'

The wanderer would not heed me:
Its kiss grew warmer still:
'Oh Come!' it sighed so sweetly;
'I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

'Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

'And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And thou for being alone.'

Witches, artists, and writers have always held an affinity for the moon. On this esbat, as you struggle along with first drafts, revisions, and edits- allow yourself to go free. And if you start to worry, remember this from Shakespeare:

“Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,

And loathsome canker lies in sweetest bud.

All men make faults.”

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Ambrose Bierce and An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

“A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck.”

Thus begins Ambrose Bierce’s short story about a Southern civilian about to be hung by two soldiers of the Federal army. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge first appeared in Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (1891).

“He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children.”

“…now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was a sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by–it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each stroke with impatience and–he knew not why–apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer, the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.”

The man stares at the water and considers that if he were able to free his hands he might be able to jump into the creek and swim to shore.

What follows can be read in full here: http://fiction.eserver.org/short/occurrence_at_owl_creek.html

Ambrose Bierce, himself, served in the Civil War, enlisting in the Union Army’s 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. His experience during the Battle of Shiloh would haunt him for the rest of his life, and inspire several of his stories.

Noted for his economy of style, dark imagery, and fabulism, he despised the Realistic School. Upon the publication of Stephen Crane’s, Red Badge of Courage, he stated, “”I had thought there could be only two worse writers than Stephen Crane, namely, two Stephen Cranes.”

In 1913, the sardonic, disillusioned idealist took off for Mexico. On September 10th, he penned a letter to Samuel Loveman. This letter, posted from Chihuahua was the last time anyone saw or heard from Ambrose Bierce ever again.

In 1963, the French short film version of Owl Creek won the oscar. One year later it aired as an episode of The Twilight Zone.

quotes by Bierce:

“A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms agains himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

“Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.”

“Doubt, indulged and cherished, is in danger of becoming hdenial; but if honest, and bent on thorough investigation, it may soon lead to full establishment of the truth.”

“Dog – a kind of additional or subsidiary Deity designed to catch the overflow and surplus of the world’s worship.”

“Telephone, n. An invention of the devil which abrogates some of the advantages of making a disagreeable person keep his distance.”

Quotes on Acting… for Writers

 

Here are some quotes on acting from various theater actors and teachers which can also be applied toward creative writing

1.”Each action of the actor on the stage should be the visible concomitant of his thoughts. ” Sarah Bernhardt

2.  “He who is incapable of feeling strong passions, of being shaken by anger, of living in every sense of the word, will never be a good actor.”- Sarah Bernhardt

3.   “Permanent success cannot be achieved except by incessant intellectual labour, always inspired by the ideal. ” – Sarah Bernhardt

4. “There is all the difference in the world between departure from recognised rules by one who has learned to obey them, and neglect of them through want of training or want of skill or want of understanding. Before you can be eccentric you must know where the circle is.”- Ellen Terry

5.  “Imagination!  Imagination!  I put it first years ago, when I was asked what qualities I thought necessary for success on the stage.”- Ellen Terry

6.  “Vary the pace.  It is the foundation of all good acting.”- Ellen Terry

7.   “Imagination, industry, and intelligence — the three I s — are all indispensable to the actress, but of these three the greatest is, without doubt, imagination.”- Ellen Terry

8. ” “He never adheres to the first image that appears to him, because he knows that this is not necessarily the richest and more correct. He sacrifices one image for another more intense and expressive, and he does this repeatedly until new and unknown visions strike him with their revealing spell.” — Michael Chekhov

9.  “The inner life of the [imagination], and not the personal and tiny experiential resources of the actor, should be elaborated on the stage and shown to the audience. This life is rich and revealing for the audience as well as for the actor himself.” – Michael Chekhov

10.  “You have to get beyond your own precious inner experiences. The actor cannot afford to look only to his own life for all his material nor pull strictly from his own experience to find his acting choices and feelings. The ideas of the great playwrights are almost always larger than the experiences of even the best actors.” – Stella Adler

11.  “Whatever you decide is your motivation in the scene, the opposite of that is also true and should be in the scene.” – Michael Shurtleff

12.  “One way we can enliven the imagination is to push it toward the illogical. We’re not scientists. We don’t always have to make the logical, reasonable leap.” – Stella Adler

13.  “We don’t live for realities, but for the fantasies, the dreams of what might be. If we lived for reality, we’d be dead, every last one of us. Only dreams keep us going…When you are acting, don’t settle for anything less than the biggest dream for your character’s future.” – Michael Shurtleff

14.  “Work for the actor lies essentially in two areas: the ability to consistently create reality and the ability to express that reality.” – Lee Strasberg

15.  “Talent is an amalgam of high sensitivity; easy vulnerability; high sensory equipment (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting intensely); a vivid imagination as well as a grip on reality; the desire to communicate one’s own experience and sensations, to make one’s self heard and seen.” – Uta Hagen

16.  “When an acting teacher tells a student ‘that wasn’t honest work’ or ‘that didn’t seem real,’ what does this mean? In life, we are rarely ‘truthful’ or ‘honest’ or ‘real’. And characters in plays are almost never ‘truthful’ or ‘honest’ or ‘real’. What exactly do teachers even mean by these words? A more useful question is: What is the story the actor was telling in their work? An actor is always telling a story. We all are telling stories, all the time. Story: that is what it is all about.”- Stella Adler

17.  “When an actor is completely absorbed by some profoundly moving objective so that he throws his whole being passionately into its execution, he reaches a state we call inspiration.”
– Stanislavski

18-  “Put life into the imagined circumstances and actions until you have completely satisfied your sense of truth and until you have awakened a sense of faith in the reality of your own sensations.”- Stanislavski

19.  “Acting is the ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.”- Sanford Meisner

20.  “Less is more!”- Sanford Meisner

21.  “Your talent is in your choice. “- Stella Adler

Another Quick Meme: Oh My!

Ahem.  Interrupting The Neverending Writing Meme for something not-so-entirely different:  another meme.

Yes, that’s right.  I’ve been tagged.  Again.  By someone else:   Steven

Okay, here we go:

1. If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Why?

Shapeshifting!   I love to change forms in creative meditations.  It would be so amazing to shift for real on the physical plane.   Just transform into a bird and take off.   That’s freedom.  🙂 

*and as an extra, if somewhat nefarious reason, there are a few jerks I’d want to perch on top of*
2. Who is your style icon?

This one is difficiult to answer.  I’ve never thought of emulating someone’s style.  I admire Cain’s terse style, his rawness.  But I also really admire Wilkie Collin’s highly descriptive prose and his deep character portraits.   I’m probably some weird mix of all the different types of writers I enjoy.

Recently, a beta told me I reminded her of Iris Murdoch.  That was pretty cool to hear!  🙂
3. What is your favorite quote?

This quote by Goethe is always good to keep in mind:  “An unused life is an early death.”

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

“That I’m my own person.”
5. What playlist/CD is in your CD Player/iPod right now?

Actually, nothing.  I’ve been enjoying the beauty of silence.
6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

Both.  I love the fresh, somewhat inspiring feeling of dawn.  Yes, I’m an optimist.  😉  And night, because it’s so peaceful.

It’s the afternoon that I’m quite happy to sleep through if possible.
7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Dogs!  

Cats are cool, and they fascinate me with their meditative poses.  But dogs bring out the maternal side in me.  Uh, yeah.  I react the way towards canines the way other women supposedly do toward human babies.  What can I say?


8. What is the meaning behind your blog name?

Ah, this one is easy.  (and probably obvious).  I’ve been interested in gypsy culture since I was a little kid.  Of course, in the years since, I’ve learned the true plight the Romany have suffered.  But that romanticized image remains.  And when I hear the term, “gypsy”- I think of a carefree person living by their own terms.

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 9:01 pm  Comments (11)  
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William Butler Yeats and the Golden Dawn

“A line will take us hours maybe; Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought, our stitching and unstinting has been naught. “-  Yeats

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame! “- Yeats

Born with both his Ascendant and Moon in  Aquarius, it is little wonder that William Butler Yeats grew up with both a love for words and a desire to transform  Irish theater and poetry.

As a child he’d been attracted to ghost tales and  fairy myths which led him into the esoteric works of Swedenborg, Blake, and Jacob Boehme.  At the age of twenty-two, while living in London, he became acquainted with Madame Blavatsky, author of The Secret Doctrine, and founder off the Theosophical Society.  While enchanted with the ideas she brought forth, he was disillusioned by the society’s resistance to attempting magic, and quickly withdrew his membership.

In 1889, he met Maud Gonne, a fiery Irish revolutionary worker and member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.   While disturbed by her belief that the means justified the end, he was so otherwise taken by her  that  he declared, “If she she said the world was flat…I would be proud to be of her party.”

Soon thereafter, she introduced him to Moina Bergson Mathers and MacGregor Mathers, the celibate husband and wife who worked together as Priest and Priestess of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.  Yeats not only valued their intellectual pursuits, but their willingness to put what they learned to practical use.  He said that after attending their rituals, he “formed plans for deeds of all kinds”.  Whereas after attending Theosophical meetings, he “had no desire but for more thought, more discussion.”   Furthermore, he discovered that the concentration needed for lengthy rituals and prayers influenced his writings, “making it more sensuous and more vivid.”

On March 7, 1890 he became an initiate of the Golden Dawn, assuming the magical name, Demon Est Deus Inversus.  Which, although literally meaning, “The Devil is in the inverse of God”, might have been in reference to his personal daimon.

I DREAMED that one had died in a strange place
Near no accustomed hand,
And they had nailed the boards above her face,
The peasants of that land,
Wondering to lay her in that solitude,
And raised above her mound
A cross they had made out of two bits of wood,
And planted cypress round;
And left her to the indifferent stars above
Until I carved these words:
i{She was more beautiful than thy first love,}
i{But now lies under boards.}

-poem written by Yeats for Maud after dreaming of her death

A CRAZED GIRL

THAT crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea.’

-poem by Yeats

*article source and for further reading:  Women of the Golden Dawn: Rebels and Priestesses by Mary K. Greer

Charles Baudelaire: The Beautiful and Dark Poet

Charles Baudelaire: French poet.  April 9, 1821- August 31, 1867

“A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else.”- Charles Baudelaire

    When  Charles Baudelaire was only six, his father passed away.  A year later, his mother wed the future French ambassador, Lieutenant Colonel Jaques Aupick.   While  the sensitive and artistic child was extremely close to his mother, he found himself constantly at odds with his rigid stepfather.   Sent away to a boarding school in Lyons, Charles later described that time as, ” the unease of wretched and abandoned childhood, the hatred of tyrannical schoolfellows, and the solitude of the heart.” 

Upon finishing his education, while his stepfather wished him to enter law, Charles decided to pursue a literary career and began associating with fellow bohemians.  By 1843, he’d become known as a dandy- living off of credit and the goodwill of others.   Around this time he began a lifelong romance with the Hatian-born actress and dancer, Jeanne Duval.   Born of French and black African ancestry, she became his muse, his  “Vénus Noire”.

One of the poems he dedicated to her was The Balcony, in which he declared:

    “MOTHER of memories, mistress of mistresses,
    O thou, my pleasure, thou, all my desire,
    Thou shalt recall the beauty of caresses,
    The charm of evenings by the gentle fire,
    Mother of memories, mistress of mistresses!
     
    The eves illumined by the burning coal,
    The balcony where veiled rose-vapour clings–
    How soft your breast was then, how sweet your soul!
    Ah, and we said imperishable things,
    Those eves illumined by the burning coal.
     
    Lovely the suns were in those twilights warm,
    And space profound, and strong life’s pulsing flood,
    In bending o’er you, queen of every charm,
    I thought I breathed the perfume in your blood.
    The suns were beauteous in those twilights warm.
     
    The film of night flowed round and over us,
    And my eyes in the dark did your eyes meet;
    I drank your breath, ah! sweet and poisonous,
    And in my hands fraternal slept your feet–
    Night, like a film, flowed round and over us.
     
    I can recall those happy days forgot,
    And see, with head bowed on your knees, my past.
    Your languid beauties now would move me not
    Did not your gentle heart and body cast
    The old spell of those happy days forgot.
     
    Can vows and perfumes, kisses infinite,
    Be reborn from the gulf we cannot sound;
    As rise to heaven suns once again made bright
    After being plunged in deep seas and profound?
    Ah, vows and perfumes, kisses infinite!”
     portrait of Jeanne Duval by Manet 

   Although Baudelaire became a highly respected art and literary critic, his own work did not appear until the publication of Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal) in 1857.   While such lofty figures as Flaubert and Victor Hugo praised the book,  the sexual and macabre themes caused much consternation and Charles, his publisher, and the printer,  were fined for offenses against public morals.

The accusations meant little to Charles.  He wrote to his mother:  “You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality. Beauty of conception and style is enough for me. But this book, whose title (Fleurs du mal) says everything, is clad, as you will see, in a cold and sinister beauty. It was created with rage and patience. Besides, the proof of its positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. Moreover, since I was terrified myself of the horror that I should inspire, I cut out a third from the proofs. They deny me everything, the spirit of invention and even the knowledge of the French language. I don’t care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and its faults, will make its way in the memory of the lettered public, beside the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron.”  

#

Quotes:

 “One should always be drunk.  That’s all that matters… But with what?  With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you choose.   But get drunk.”

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”

“There is a word, in a verb, something sacred which forbids us from using it recklessly.  To handle a language cunningly is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.”

Quotes from the Romantics

 Friedrich, “Wanderer Above the Mists”

1.  “A cheerful life is what the Muses love, A soaring spirit is their prime delight. ” – William Wordsworth

2. “Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. “- Wordsworth

3.”Faith is a passionate intuition. “- Wordsworth

4. “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”- Wordsworth 

5.  “Life is divided into three terms – that which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present to live better in the future.”- Wordsworth

6. “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her. “- Wordsworth

7.  “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”- Wordsworth

8. “That though the radiance which was once so bright be now forever taken from my sight. Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass, glory in the flower. We will grieve not, rather find strength in what remains behind.”

9.  “To begin, begin.”- Wordsworth

10.  “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. “- Keats

11.  “He ne’er is crowned with immortality Who fears to follow where airy voices lead. “- Keats

12.  “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of imagination.”- Keats

13. “It appears to me that almost any man may like the spider spin from his own inwards his own airy citadel.”- Keats

14. “Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by singularity, it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. ”

15.  “Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works. ”

16.  “You speak of Lord Byron and me; there is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task.”- Keats

17.  “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent. “- William Blake

18.  “Active Evil is better than Passive Good. “- Blake

19.  “As a man is, so he sees. As the eye is formed, such are its powers.”- Blake

20. “Do what you will, this world’s a fiction and is made up of contradiction.”- Blake

21. “Energy is an eternal delight, and he who desires, but acts not, breeds pestilence.”- Blake

22.  “For everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.”- Blake

23. “Great things are done when men and mountains meet. “- Blake

24.  “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create. “- Blake

25.  “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”- Blake

26.  ” If a thing loves, it is infinite. “- Blake

27.  “Imagination is the real and eternal world of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow. “- Blake

28.  “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”- Blake

29- “The difference between a bad artist and a good one is: the bad artist seems to copy a great deal; the good one really does. “- Blake

30.  “The soul of sweet delight, can never be defiled.”- Blake

31.  ” The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself. “- Blake

32.  “Those who restrain their desires, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained. “- Blake

33.  “To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. “- Blake

34.  “What is now proved was once only imagined.”- Blake

35.  “If I could always read, I should never feel the want of company.”- Byron

36.   “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad.”- Byron

37.  ” In solitude, where we are least alone. “- Byron

38. “The ‘good old times’ – all times when old are good. “- Byron

39.  “The great art of life is sensation, to feel that we exist, even in pain.”- Byron

40.  ” Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction. “- Byron

41.  “To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all. “- Byron

42.  “A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. “- Percy Shelley

43.  “Death is the veil which those who live call life; They sleep, and it is lifted.”- Shelley

44.   “Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted.”- Shelley

45.   “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar. “- Shelley

46.”The pleasure that is in sorrow is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself. “- Shelley

47.  “The soul’s joy lies in doing.”- Shelley

 “Funeral of Shelley” by Fournier

Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 6:31 pm  Comments (14)  
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Isadora Duncan: The Free Spirit

“People do not live nowadays. They get about ten percent out of life.”

“You were once wild here.  Don’t let them tame you.”- Isadora Duncan (1877-1927)

 

Born in San Francisco, the poetic thinker and dancer proclaimed,

“I, Isadora Duncan hereby vow on my twelfth birthday that I will dedicate myself to the pursuit of art and beauty; and to the single life.  I will never marry.  I will never submit myself to any claims other than to truth and beauty.  To seal this vow, I hearby burn my parents’ marriage certificate.  Beauty is truth.  Truth, beauty.  That is all we know on earth, and all we need to know.”

While Isadora did eventually marry the Russian poet, Sergei Yesenin, in 1922, the Mother of Modern Dance kept her vow of dedicating herself to the pursuit of art, beauty, and truth.

From early childhood, Isadora studied the lines of ancient Greek sculpture and the movements of nature; both of which she incorporated into her unique style. Rejecting classical ballet which she deemed, “ugly and against nature”,  she clad herself in Grecian tunics, threw off her shoes, unbound her hair, and danced from her soul.  Stressing improvisation and pure emotion, she strove to rid her movements of all artifice.   The result was a simplicity of grace, which like all masterworks, appeared deceptively easy to achieve.

Isadora considered the solar plexus the “internal motor” and would stand hours in trance.   “I spent long days and nights in the studio, seeking that dance which might be the divine expression of the human spirit through the medium of the body’s movement. For hours I would stand quite still, my two hands folded between my breast, covering the solar plexus… I was seeking and finally discovered the central spring of all movement, the crater of motor power, the unity from which all diversions of movement are born, the mirror of vision for the creation of dance.”

   In 1903, she gave a lecture in Berlin where she stated her dance principles. 

“My intention is, in due time, to found a school, to build a theatre where a hundred little girls shall be trained in my art, which they in turn will better. In this school I shall not teach the children to imitate my movements, but to make their own, I shall not force them to study certain movements, I shall help them to develop those movements which are natural to them.”

 She opened her first school in Grunewald, Germany in 1904.  Driven by her belief that, “Every child that is born in civilization has a right to the heritage of beauty”, she  covered the poorer students living expenses.  During class,  she urged her students to listen to the music and wait until it moved them to dance.

Of dance, she said:

“If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.”

“Natural dancing should only mean that the dance does not go against nature, not that anything is left to chance.”

“The true dance is an expression of serenity; it is controlled by the profound rhythm of inner emotion. Emotion does not reach the moment of frenzy out of a spurt of action; it broods first, it sleeps like the life in the seed, and it unfolds with a gentle slowness. The Greeks understood the continuing beauty of a movement that mounted, that spread, that ended with a promise of rebirth.

The Dance – it is the rhythm of all that dies in order to live again; it is the eternal rising of the sun.”

“If we seek the real source of the dance, if we go to nature, we find that the dance of the future is the dance of the past, the dance of eternity, and has been and always will be the same.

The movement of waves, of winds, of the earth is ever the same lasting harmony.”

“It has taken me years of struggle, hard work and research to learn to make one simple gesture, and I know enough about the art of writing to realize that it would take as many years of concentrated effort to write one simple, beautiful sentence.”

Published in: on September 13, 2009 at 2:36 pm  Comments (18)  
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Jo March: An Inspiration for Writers

alcott_b_02

 

“I will do something by and by. Don’t care what, teach, sew, act, write, anything to help the family; and I’ll be rich and famous and happy before I die, see if I won’t!”- fifteen-year-old Louisa May Alcott

She succeeded.   One of her novels, Little Women, first published in 1868, was almost immediately deemed a classic.  Since then, there have been numerous film versions, plays, musicals, and even an anime based on the book about four poor girls growing up during the Civil War. 

Colt-like, tomboyish,  hot-tempered yet sensible Jo March, has been an inspiration for female writers (and perhaps more males than care  to admit) for over 140 years.    The image of Jo,  upstairs in the garret, using an old tin kitchen as a desk, pen at hand, is at once old-fashioned and romantic. 

While methods may have changed since then,  the passions and tribulations of writers forever remain the same.

Quotes  from Litttle Women

1.  “Jo’s book was the pride of her heart, and was regarded by her family as a literary sprout of great promise.  It was only half a dozen little fairy tales, but Jo had worked over them patiently, putting her whole heart into her work, hoping to make something good enough to print.”

2.  “Quite absorbed in her work, Jo scribbled away till the last page was filled, when she signed her name with a flourish, and threw down the pen. ‘There, I’ve done my best!  If this doesn’t suit, I shall have to wait till I can do better.’  Lying back on the sofa, she read the manuscript carefully through, making dashes here and there and putting in many exclamation points; then she tied it up with a smart red ribbon, and sat a minute looking at it with a sober, wistful expression, which plainly showed how earnest her work had been.”

3. “Jo’s breath gave out here; and, wrapping her head in the paper, she bedewed her little story with a few natural tears; for to be independent and earn the praise of those she loved were the dearest wishes of her heart.”

4.  “Six weeks is a long time to wait, and a still longer time for a girl to keep a secret; but Jo did both, and was just beginning to give up all hope of ever seeing her manuscript again, when a letter arrived which almost took her breath away.”

5. “Having copied her novel for the fourth time and submitted it with fear and trembling to three publishers, she disposed of it on condition that she cut it down one-third and omit all the parts which she particularly admired.  So with Spartan firmness, the young authoress laid her firstborn on her table and chopped it up as ruthlessly as any ogre.  It was printed, and she got three hundred dollars for it, likewise plenty of praise and blame.”

6.  “I don’t know whether I have written a promising book or broken all the Ten Commandments. “- Jo

7.  “I’ve got the joke on my side, after all.  For the parts that were taken straight out of real life are denounced as impossible and absurd, and the scenes which I made up out of my own silly head are pronounced charmingly natural, tender, and true.  So I’ll comfort myself with that, and when I’m ready, I’ll up and take another. ” – Jo

8. “Jo wrote no more sensational stories, deciding that the money did not pay for her share of the sensation.  She produced an intensely moral tale, but found no purchaser for it.  She tried a child’s story, but found that no editor paid for juvenile literature.”

9.  “I’ve no heart for it, and if I had, nobody cares for the things I write.”- Jo 

“We do.  Write something for us, and never mind the rest of the world…”  -Marmee

Jo never knew how it happened, but something got into her next story that went straight to the hearts of those who read it…

“There is truth in it, Jo- that’s the secret.  Humor and pathos make it alive, and you have found your style at last,” said her father.  “You put your heart into it, my daughter.  Do your best and grow as happy as we are in your success.”

Published in: on July 19, 2009 at 4:13 pm  Comments (30)  
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Writing and Creative Quotes from Babylon 5

I’ve recently become a fan of the science fiction show, Babylon 5.   As I head into the middle of the third season,  I strongly recommend this show to anyone who loves complex, three-dimensional characters, deep storylines, with dashes of quirky humor thrown in.

This wonderful site:  http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/lurker.html has interviews with the show’s creator and main writer, Michael Straczynski, after each episode.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Straczynski:

1 Would it be fair to compare Cagney and Lacey with NYPD Blue? After all, they’re both cop shows. But in fact, they’re not the same kind of cop show; they share the same genre, but there ends the overlap. The two shows are distinct, separate entities, just as Harlan Ellison’s work is distinct from Bill Gibson’s work, even though both incorporate elements of SF.

The ST pilot existed in its own universe, and was primarily an action show. The B5 pilot exists in its own universe, and primarily sets the stage for a political mystery/intrigue series. It wasn’t meant to serve the same functions as the ST pilot.

It seems to me that many SF fans continue to compare everything to ST because that’s their primary frame of reference, and they continue to apply it whether it’s relevant or not. My suggestion…get another frame of reference.

2. What the soul was, who’s right, and even whether this is SF or Science Fantasy, was it explained enough to merit one over the other … how can I put this…? I don’t want to spoon-feed stuff to people. What I want is not to hit someone with a MORAL, or a message, or “This is what a soul is,” or “This is what makes it an SF series,” I want to start discussions. Arguments. Preferably a bar fight or two.

We present an issue. Here are the sides. Now…what do YOU think about it? I want this show to ask, “Who are you? Where are you going?”

3.  I confess I don’t see the problem. In real life, some women are scientists, and doctors, and atheletes…and some women dance in bars, some women hook part- or full-time. Some men are scholars and diplomats and teachers…and some men are gigolos and thieves and *also* dance in bars. Where exactly is the problem in portraying both sides of this? Have we become so concerned with being politically correct that we can not show a legitimate part of human existence?

4.  Correct; the title of “The War Prayer” is a nod to Twain’s piece of the same name, which should be read by *everyone*. Given the growing problems with illiteracy, I try to refer not to pop society so much, as to literature…Tennyson, Twain, even writers whose last names don’t begin with T.

5.  Re: B5’s roster of strong women characters…this is something of a bugaboo/obsession with me. I *love* writing strong women. (For that matter, I love strong-willed, independent, smart women in real life as well; I love being outsmarted, love it when someone can go toe-to- toe with me on something.) Generally, and this isn’t entirely intentional, women on shows I work on tend to get some of the best lines, as is often the case with Ivanova. It’s not a case of being “one of the boys,” but being one of the *people*. There’s a subtle difference.

6. You don’t think that “Believers” was SF. Tough.

No, it didn’t have warp gates, or tachyon emitters, or lots of technobabble…it was about people. And the dilemmas they face.

Part of what has screwed up so much of SF-TV is this sense that you must utterly divorce yourself from current issues, from current problems, from taking on issues of today and extrapolating them into the future, by way of aliens or SF constructs. And that is *precisely* why so much of contemporary SF-TV is barren and lifeless and irrelevant…and *precisely* why such series as the original Star Trek, and Outer Limits, and Twilight Zone are with us today.

Like Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry and Joe Stefano and Reginald Rose and Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin and a bunch of other writers whose typewriters I’m not fit to touch, my goal in part is to simply tell good stories within an SF setting. And by SF I mean speculative fiction, which sometimes touches on hard-SF aspects, and sometimes doesn’t. Speculative fiction means you look at how society changes, how cultures interact with one another, how belief systems come into conflict. And as someone else here noted recently, anthropology and sociology are also sciences; soft sciences, to be sure, but sciences nonetheless.

7.  A lot of our episodes are constructed to work as mirrors; you see what you put into it. “Believers” has been interpreted as pro- religion, anti-religion, and religion-neutral…”Quality” has been interpreted, as you note, as pro-capital punishment, and anti-capital punishment. We do, as you say, much prefer to leave the decision on what things mean to the viewer to hash out.

  • A good story should provoke discussion, debate, argument…and the occasional bar fight. The thing about “Believers” is that, really, nobody’s right, and in their own way, from their point of view, everybody’s right.
  • 8.  Sometimes, there are no-win scenarios. And what matters then is how your characters react, what they do and say, and how it affects them.

    9.  The choice *had* to be either/or. That was the point; to put the characters in a situation of conflict and see how they handle it. Sometimes in life there are ONLY two choices, neither of them good. Your message comes from a position of trying to avoid the hard choices. But the episode is ABOUT hard choices. It *has* to be either/or.

    10.  You have an introduction, a rising action, a climax, and then a denouement. Aside from experimental theater kinds of things, that is the basic underlying structure to all movies, plays and television series.

    “Twin Peaks,” which you cite, really isn’t a very good example because, in my view, TP *never* resolved ANYthing. Thus it became an exercise in viewer frustration that eventually was a major reason why the show was canceled.

    11.  I like humor. I like that characters can show another side of themselves. If there is any real test of sentience, one of them must surely be the possession of a sense of humor, since it requires self reflection. And there is always unintentional (on the part of the character, at least) humor.

    SF-TV has generally taken itself either too seriously, with rods up butts, the humor forced…or it’s not taken itself seriously at ALL, and gone campy. This show takes itself seriously, but not in quite a way that lets it fit in either category.

    For me, as a viewer, I enjoy the shows that are roller-coasters, that take you from something very funny…and slam you headfirst into a very dramatic scene. Hill Street was like that, Picket Fences is like that now…why not SF? I’ve also found that humor can help you reveal things about the characters. The Londo/G’Kar scene at the elevator in “Signs and Portents,” for instance. It says something about both of them without coming out and *saying* it.

    12. Ivanova is jewish. Ivanova is russian. Of the two, she tends to see herself as a russian first. There’s no value statement there, that’s just the way she is. Her parents were both russian, going back many generations on both sides. Some in her family tree were jewish, and some were not; there was some intermarrying. That may be part of why she sees herself as more russian than jewish, but it may be just a quirk.

    (And to the protest of, “Well, you created her,” yes, I did. But there comes a time, if you’ve done your job right as a writer, when the character more or less takes over, and starts telling YOU who and what he or she is. There are times I mentally turn to Ivanova and say, “Okay, what do *you* think?” And she talks to me in my head, as do all of my characters. It’s part of making your characters real.) 

    ….The problem with this discussion is that it has very little to do with who Susan Ivanova *is*, and more to do with the politics of what a russian or a jew or a russian jew *should be*. She is what she is, like it or not.

    13.    Someone complains about the characters not staying the same

    Losing the characters she’s come to enjoy? No. But the characters are changing. That’s the point, and that’s been the intent from day one. But what’s the alternative? I’ve heard ST fans complain loudly and bitterly that after 7 years of TNG being on the air, nobody’s really changed, nobody’s been promoted into different ships or major changes in responsibilities…they’ve had Riker as XO for seven years, which in the real military would mean his career is *over*.

    Change is the only other option.

    The goal, from the start, was to create an overall story, but which would also require arcs for every single major character. They’re all going somewhere. In many cases, that “somewhere” plays into the larger arc; in some cases, not. If a woman is single, then gets married, then gives birth, and she’s your friend, have you “lost her” just because she’s gone through these changes? Of course not. She has changed, in good or bad ways, but she’s still the same person.

     14.  Re: being fooled into thinking the crystal construct in Delenn’s quarters was nothing more than a meditation thing…in general, it helps to remember that I subscribe to Anton Chekov’s First Rule of Playwriting: “If there’s a gun on the wall in act one, scene one, you must fire the gun by act three, scene two. If you fire a gun in act three, scene two, you must see the gun on the wall in act one, scene one.”Waste nothing.

     15.  Obviously, clearly, and irrefutably, an actor brings a *lot* to any role. No question. But it tends to begin with what is created. I’ve seen it said here, repeatedly, that none of the characters are uninteresting; they all have lives, and agendas, that make them fascinating to watch: Londo, Morden, G’Kar, Delenn, Garibaldi, Ivanova…what those characters are came out of my head, in terms of who tey are, what they say, what they believe, where they came from and where they’re going. Why would I invent a new character that was any less involving, or interesting, or multifaceted? Particularly knowing that he’s going to be a central character?

  • 16.  Tom: the quibble you raise is one of the points I’m trying to make. You say someone from 1890 would go crazy. I vehemently don’t agree. Go back and read letters from the 1890s. Heck, go read letters from 1776; the language, the emotions, they’re all very much the same. The chrome of technology has changed, some social styles and attitudes have changed, but people still go through school (usually), get married, raise kids, hold jobs, and look to a better future one day.
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  • 17.  The only way to make a viewer feel a character’s pain is if you feel it in the writing, and a lot of that came through. I live with these characters running around in my head 24 hours a day…and when I’d finally finished “Shadows,” it was as if they all sorta stopped and looked at each other, and at me, and said, “Gee, thank you EVER so fucking much, jeezus, why don’t you just go pluck somebody’s eye out while you’re at it?”To which the only reply is, “Now that you mention it….”
  •  

  • 18.  Things you don’t expect to happen…that’s kind of one aspect I was after here. By way of comparison….
  • There’s one great thing about The Shining, despite some other flaws in the film: they set up Scatman Cruthers (sp?) as the one guy who understands what’s going on…he gets the Shining, he’s a potentially heroic character, and when all hell breaks loose, he’s the one to get into the snow plow, cross terrible weather, we’re all sure he’s going to get there and fight the menace… he overcomes weather and nonsense to get there… he blows through the front door, ready for action… and gets an axe in the middle of his chest and dies.I *loved* that, and always kinda wanted to something of that nature, where you set someone up to be that kind of character, the future, whatever, then you yank it back and let the audience say, Oh, hell, NOW what?
  • Because stuff happens. Because rocketry was the hope of the German Luftwaffe to win the war. Didn’t work out that way. Just because a character says it, doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to happen at all times. A parent can look at a child and say, “He’s our hope for the future,” and the next day the kid gets turfed by a semi-truck. Stuff happens. Nothing is guaranteed in the B5 universe; any character — ANY character — is vulnerable. That, for me, is part of what’s exciting.
  • There’s no rule that every person who is hoped to help solve the problem in real life is gonna make it to the end or BE that solution. So if you delete that person, now it’s “Oh, hell, NOW what’re they gonna do?” which is more intrinsically interesting to me than the other option.Generally speaking, about once a year, toward the end of the year, I kinda look around at the characters with a loaded gun in my hand, and say, “Hmmm…if I take out *that* person, what happens? Is there anyone here I can afford to lose? Would it be more dramatically interesting to have this person alive, or dead? What is the absolute bare minimum of characters I need to get to the end of the story and achieve what I have to achieve?”
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  • 19.    RE: alternate lifestyles…I said when stuff happened, we wouldn’t make a big deal out of it, it’d just be there…and I said we’d address it in our own way, in our own time. We’ve done a bit here, we’ll do a bit more down the road. I won’t give you or anyone a timetable; I’ll do stuff as the integrity of the story permits, not sooner, not later. I will not allow this to become a political football. If you do nothing, folks yell at you for ignoring it; if you do a little, they yell for not doing more; if you do more, they yell for not doing it sooner. Screw it. I do what the story calls for, as the story calls for it.
  • Susan and Talia had been dancing around one another for months; that night, though, would’ve been the first time they got physically intimate. 
  • See, here’s where I start to have a problem. For starters, I don’t do any thing to be politically correct, or politically incorrect, I do what I do in any story because that’s what the story points me toward. Anybody who says “It’s not necessary” isn’t entitled to that judgement, frankly; you don’t know what’s necessary to the story. And by framing it in the “is this NECESSARY?” way is designed to make you defend your position when such defense isn’t the point; is it NECESSARY to have humor? to have a romance? to have correct science? No, *nothing* is NECESSARY. It’s what the writer feels is right for that scene, that story, that character.
  •  20.  one of the most consistent comments I get, in email and regular mail, is the spirituality conveyed in the show, that we have shown, and will continue to show, tolerance toward religion, even created sympathetic religious characters. “Thank you for your tolerance,” they say…until we show somebody or some action THEY don’t like…and at that point suddenly it’s a lot of tsk-tsking and chest thumping and disapproval; so okay, how about I just stop all positive religious aspects of the show?

    It seems to me, that if I do *all that* with religion, and with thje (the) simple act of showing maybe ONE PERSON in all the long history of TV science fiction across 40 years has a different view of life, that the show is somehow degraded, or downgraded, or dropped in opinion…this simply reinforces the notion, held by many, that a lot of folks in the religious right wish to make sure no other perspective or lifestyle is ever shown on television, at any time, unless in a negative fashion.

    The thing of it is, while on the one hand I’m getting praise from religious folks for addressing spirituality in my series (speaking here as an atheist), I’ve gotten flack from others who think it has no place in a SCIENCE fiction series, and why the hell am I putting something in that goes right against my own beliefs? *“Because,” I tell them, “this show is not about reflecting my beliefs, or yours, or somebody else’s, it’s about telling this story, about these people, with as much honesty and integrity as I can summon up. That means conceding the fact that religious people are going to be around 260 years from now.” Well, fact is, all kinds of people are going to be around 260 years from now. And what did the anti-religion folks say specifically about including spirituality in my series? “It’s not *necessary*,” they said.

    Translation: they didn’t like it. Well, tough. It was right for this story, and this show. And it seems to me rather hypocritical for some folks, who applaud the show for tolerance, for my standing up to those who want to exclude religion from TV, to then turn around and say the show is diminished because it showed that same tolerance…to another group or perspective. I guess tolerance is only okay as long as it’s pointed one way.

    My job is not to reinforce your personal political, social or religious beliefs. My job is not to reinforce MY personal political, social or religious beliefs. Then it isn’t art or storytelling anymore, it’s simply propaganda. My job is to tell this story, about these people, AS people, as mixed and varied as they are today. And there is no outside objective criteria as to what is, or isn’t *necessary* in a story; that is the sole province of the author. You may or may not like it. You may or may not choose to watch it.

    * bolding mine.   Since it goes along with my number one rule:  be true to the characters and their story