Archive | December, 2011

Before New Year’s Resolutions

31 Dec

End-of-year rush

to bakeries for chocolate chip scones

and Boston cream pie:

hedonism before next year’s ascetism.

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Sarasvati Dream

30 Dec
I had a dream in which I was staying at my parents’ house, and they were there, but so was a young woman I’d never met before; she may have been Indian. I went into the bathroom, and the tub was full of water and bubble bath and a colorful plastic Sarasvati statue (she wore a red sari) that served as a water fountain—water spouted out of her hands. It may have created an arc the shape of a rainbow. Later I went into the bathroom again with the intention of taking a shower, and although the tub was drained, the Sarasvati statue was in the tub again, sitting on the floor of it. I considered taking her out, but then it occurred to me that she filled at most half the tub’s floor, and  I could leave her in there while I took my shower.

Sarasvati is my favorite Hindu goddess—she and Durga are the two I relate to the most. Sarasvati is the goddess of the arts and knowledge and wisdom. According to the New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Sarasvati is a water goddess in addition to an eloquence goddess and a role model for female artists (p. 273).
Although I read a book called Hindu Goddesses before I went to India, I’d forgotten Sarasvati’s association with water. It’s appropriate that the dream involved seeing her in the bathtub. It’s also appropriate that I dreamed about her while I’m immersed in writing a novella.

Character Naming

30 Dec

I’m in the process of revising my fairy tale novella Woodland Castle (it’s a working title, and honestly it’s a lot better than the first title I
came up with). I originally wrote it rather intensely, the whole thing during the month of November, as part of my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. (Maybe next November I’ll actually write a full-length novel instead of a novella and three stories.)

I just discovered that during that intensive November writing experience, I had created a witch-burning character called Father Duplicitous. I might want to change that name to something a bit more…subtle. After all, a villain shouldn’t have a name like that unless you’re writing for cartoons (“Dudley Do-Right,” for example) or writing slapstick comedy. This novella is neither. I’ve given all the other characters German names (since I eventually decided to base the kingdom on Germany), and there’s a posibility that his name might be the same thing, or something similar, but in German.

Researching Disturbing History

29 Dec

I’m currently working on a fairy tale novella inspired by the Burning Times, a. k. a. the witch-craze in Renaissance and “Enlightenment” Europe. That’s right, while there were some scattered witch trials and executions in medieval times, the actual witch-craze–that involved the execution of between 50,000 and 100,000 people (the vast majority women) didn’t begin until about 1540. That’s the Renaissance, not the “Dark Ages.”

My research (and I do get sucked into research!) has led me to an online e-book called Women and the Practice of
Medical Care in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/women-and-the-practice-of-medical-care-in-early-modern-europe-1400-1800-leigh-whaley/1023351355?ean=9780230282919&itm=1&usri=women+and+the+practice+of+medical+care+in+early+modern+europe

Many of the women accused of practicing witchcraft were traditional healers, who used herbal medicine and in some cases practiced midwifery. For a long time, women practiced in the medical profession, but in the late Middle Ages along came official medical schools in universities, where women were barred from studying. Accusing traditional, unlicensed healers of witchcraft and burning them at the stake was quite a way to decrease the competition.

I visited Massachusetts in the fall (including a day in Salem) and although I have previously read up to some extent in the Burning Times, since then I’ve gotten sucked into doing research on the topic and incorporating it into my fantasy fiction. My sources include:
Barstow, Anne Llewellyn. Witchcraze: a New History of the European Witch Hunts. Pandora, NY: 1994.

Demos, John. The Enemy Within: a Short History of Witch-Hunting. Penguin Books, NY: 2008.

Ehrenreich, Barbara, and Deirdre English. Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: a History of Women Healers. Second Edition. Feminist Press, NY: 2010.

Illes, Judika. The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft. HarperElement, London: 2005.
Russell, Jeffrey B. & Brooks Alexander. A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans. Second Edition. Thames & Hudson, NY: 2007.

Whaley, Leigh. Women and the Practice of Medical Care in Early Modern Europe. Palgrave MacMillian, NY: 2011.

Inspiring Walk

16 Dec

It’s an unseasonably sunny day, with an unseasonably bright blue sky, and a temperature around forty-five degrees. I took a walk to the library. The walk (approximately twenty blocks each way) inspired a total of four little four-and-twenty poems (that’s poems that are no more than four lines and twenty words). However, I won’t post them here because I’d rather hold onto them and  submit them to the fourandtwenty.com or, failing that, another literary journal that takes poetry.

I’ve been meditating a lot since last Thursday–experiencing an unofficial at-home meditation retreat often interrupted by working or hanging out at In Other Words (the only remaining nonprofit feminist bookstore/community center in the United States), or by attending parties. Tonight, for the first time, I’m going to join a Buddhist sangha, the Portland Friends of the Dhamma, even though I’ve had bad experiences
with two previous sanghas.

A few weeks ago I went up to a Buddhist monastery in White Salmon, Washington and met some members of Friends of the Dhamma, and they have me convinced–or at least hoping–this will be a much more satisfactory sangha. I’m glad I’m back into my formal sitting meditation
practice after two years of grad school–no sitting meditation, and no reading Buddhist books for a whole two years. I graduated in the spring
but wasn’t very disciplined, despite my intention of plunging back into sitting meditation immediately after grad school. I think visiting the monks at White Salmon was an inspiration, a reminder.

“Do Not Go Gentle into That Good-Night”

10 Dec

I’m currently reading the young adult novel Matched by Ally Condie. It’s been compared to The Hunger Games, but  I see more similarity in
it to Lois Lowry’s The Giver. After a couple pages, I began to think I’d like to see a novel set in this world but from a non-white and a non-heterosexual perspective. Outcasts are so intriguing.

Here are links to a couple of poems that are mentioned in Matched:

“Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15377

“Crossing the Bar” by Alfred Tennyson http://quotations.about.com/cs/poemlyrics/a/Crossing_Bar.htm

Adventures with a Witch and a Manuscript

8 Dec

While I was in grad school last year, I took Michelle McGann’s YA (Young Adult) Publishing class. In this class, we read and discussed many novels written for teens. We also broke into groups–pretend publishing companies–and worked with manuscripts on editing, marketing and promotion, and book design.

After I took the class, another student suggested I submit my completed YA novel My Curious Adventures with a Witch to the YA Publishing class, so that rather than paying an editor to work on my manuscript, I’d give students an opportunity to supply me with editorial and marketing feedback. So this past term Michelle shared the manuscript with her class.

I found out yesterday that my manuscript was so popular that three out of the six groups (pretend publishing companies) chose my manuscript to work on! I’m so looking forward to revising it…and I’ll likely share the next draft with my new writers group. I hope that after the next revision, literary agents will have a similar reaction to that of the students.