A gem of a quote from Tobias Wolff via Mary Karr’s book, LIT: A MEMOIR
“Don’t approach your history as something to be shaken for its cautionary fruit…Tell your stories, and your story will be revealed. Don’t be afraid of appearing angry, small-minded, mean, immoral, amoral, calculating, or anything else. Take no care for your dignity. These were hard things for me to come by and I offer them to you for what they may be worth.”
I found this quote from Bowdoin College’s web site and have not been able to determine the author beyond the fact that s/he is an instructor or professor at that college. But, I’ve got to share this. I’ve been going round and round with keeping a journal and this quote is so helpful:
“The function of a research journal is to set down your thoughts about the primary and secondary source material you are reading. It is a record of your questions about the materials you read, and provides a place to record the questions this material raises. The object of the journal is to record your thoughts about the primary and secondary material at hand. You want to do this as close to the moment of having the thought as possible, and you want to minimize anything that hampers this objective. Make your journal accessible and easy to use. Use a special computer file devoted to the purpose, or a spiral-bound notebook, or whatever device works best for you. Don’t worry about correct spelling or punctuation. The journal is not for anyone’s eyes but your own.”
In short, your research journal is a record of wondering.
Now, I’m off to read HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh (again).
RANT: I read one of the worst YA novels I’ve ever encountered this week. The main character was surrounded by loving, intelligent adults who solved 95% of the MC’s problems. I was irritated the entire time I was reading because YA books should be about the struggle of adolescence (of course) but also it must show how the MC acts to save themselves because that’s what adolescence is all about: trying to act adult-ish for the first time. 3-year-olds need adults to fix everything for them. The point of a YA novel is to sort of show that “Hey, you 15-year-old, you’ve got the emotional resources to do more than you think.” The point is not for the MC to run to doting mommy and wise teacher and helpful guidance counselor so that they can fix all your problems for you. I didn’t stop reading because after the first few chapters I started studying how NOT to write YA. As a kicker, in the final scene, the girl kisses the boy and then everything is OK because boys are the solution. When that happened, I threw the book across the room. [No, I’m not going to name the title or the author because that is mean and there is enough mean in the world.] RANT OVER.
And then I read ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven and my hair almost caught fire this novel is so deeply amazing. Read this book! Niven did not take short cuts, she did not take the easy route. She took the hard, brutal, HONEST route and it was such a beautiful book. This is how you write YA. Read it and learn from it. Brave, brave, heart-filled writing. Well done, Jennifer Niven.
Having a blast writing my next column!
Writing a grant (which seems to be an acceptable form of navel-gazing)
(slowly) transitioning to early morning writing again and realizing that this isn’t just a quick habit, but a choice that I need to build my life around
my latest column in the Bemidji Pioneer published BRAVE-HEARTED CHOICES
doing research and wondering about the practice of keeping a research/reflection/inspiration/purge/character/etc. journal
noticing abundant signs of autumn’s arrival: leaves beginning to change color, increased wild animal activity, temperatures dropping, geese flying south, and craving steaming cups of hot chocolate
writing against a grant application deadline (grant writing is difficult for me, but ultimately such a beautiful way to clarify my vision and goals)
preparing for a research road trip
reading: FEATHERS: NOT JUST FOR FLYING by Melissa Stewart, THE YEAR AT MAPLE HILL FARM by Alice & Martin Provensen, THE PRINCESS AND THE CURDIE by George MacDonald
Reading: FIVE CHILDREN AND IT by E. Nesbit and THE WOLVES OF CURRUMPAW by William Grill
Working on two new manuscripts and enjoying every moment of it
Trying not to get steamrolled by all the deadlines which are aligning like a long line of dominoes
Admitting that autumn is on its way…
Attended the Tall Ships Duluth festival and it was heartbreaking in two ways: the ships were heartbreakingly beautiful and the crowds were heartbreakingly enormous. (It was absolutely worth the headaches and long lines of waiting once, but I will not be back.)
Enjoyed a backcountry wilderness trip in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and it was amazing and beautiful and restorative. Grateful for the opportunity to return to one of my favorite places. Grateful for a safe trip. Grateful for all the stillness, hiking, paddling, exploring, swimming, snorkeling, laughing, adventuring.
Continuing to work on figuring out a new journaling system that incorporates textual notes, visual notes (sketches), character sketches, purge writing, and because I can’t seem to eliminate it, notes about my to-do list.
Reading: THE WOLVES OF CURRUMPAW by William Grill, HAWK RIDGE by Laura Erickson and PLAINS NDIAN DRAWINGS 1865-1935: Pages from a Visual History by Janet Catherine Berlo
Preparing for the wild rice season!
committed myself to 90 days of deep textual & visual journaling as a practice (my ideas come so fast and furious and I do my best to capture them but it often feels as if I’m trying to catch a tiger by the tail)
trying to purchase the correct size of filter holder and polarizer filter for my camera is beyond complicated
mind-mapping everything: all the books ideas, travel plans, memories (so helpful!)
Reading: Lit by Mary Karr
What a full week!
My latest essay, BROKEN TOES AND BROKEN PLANS, was published.
I visited Wild Rumpus and discovered some new books and publishers and had long, beautiful conversations with two of the booksellers and it lit up my month. Thank you Wild Rumpus!
Did an abbreviated version of the F. Scott Fitzgerald in St. Paul walking tour.
Viewed the Seeing Nature exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and it was mind-blowingly good. Overflowing with ideas and beauty and connections. A favorite insight from Claude Monet, “Monet painted what he sensed, not just what he saw.”
Went to the Children’s Literature Research Center at the University of Minnesota to view archives from Marguerite Henry, Wesley Dennis, Richard Scarry, Wanda Ga’g, Lynd Ward (and more) that are a part of the Kerlan Collection. Life-changing. This was on my Life List.
Reading: THE PLAGUE OF DOVES by Louise Erdrich, SHACKLETON’S JOURNEY by William Grill, NATURE ANATOMY by Julia Rothman
Struggling to settle into a project: I’ve got so many ideas that I end up doing a bit of work here and there on each of them. I’m doing a lot of mind-mapping, in my efforts to corral my ideas. Need to settle in and finish something!
My 11 x 14 sketch pad is magical. Its large, unlined format is freeing.
My library presentation, 13 LIES YOUR ENGLISH TEACHER TOLD YOU, was a success! People showed up! They participated!
Weighing my options regarding the fall SCBWI conference offerings
Went to Ely, Minn. and visited the North American Bear Center, the International Wolf Center and, oh my heart, my favorite place, Sigurd Olson’s home and writing shack
Enjoyed a two-day, solo, silent retreat and it was delicious: so many insights…I’m sure they will show up in my writing and work moving forward (Lesson: make it a practice to regularly get quiet and take good notes.)
Reconsidering how I can best utilize social media platforms
A reminder: You are more powerful than you realize. You really can make your life into what you want it to be. (N.B. you must know what you want in order to get it)
This article, SARAI WALKER: ‘I STOPPED HOLDING BACK, AND MY WRITING HAD A NEW ENERGY, is good stuff
Reading: GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell. I am sooo close to being finished with this tome. I love it, I hate it, Scarlett O’Hara is wearing me out in the best possible way and I am learning so much about writing and plot and character
And finally, it’s August! I love this sultry, luscious, hot month with all that I am. Enjoy!
Visited the Forest History Center in Grand Rapids, Minn. after years(!) of driving by it and thinking that I should really stop sometime. An amazing place.
Made reservations for a solo, silent retreat.
Made reservations to view the Kerlan Collection.
“Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights. Remember that. No nonsense.” – from HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh
Reading: HARRIET THE SPY by Louise Fitzhugh and GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
I think being an artist means telling the truth, your truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or others. You can tell your truth in any medium you choose: text, paint, conversation, pie baking, sculpture, kind acts, singing. Whatever. The medium is irrelevant, the message is paramount.