Archive for the ‘Drafts’ Category

Once more into the fray…or not.

In Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Querying, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 24, 2016 at 7:47 am

Every day (except when I shut down the phone, and close the shutters),  I meet people who aren’t blips on a screen or figments of my imagination. A lot of them cope with problems that make mine pale the same way the moon does when the sun comes out. Most days, I also read from some writer whose work makes mine seem ridiculous. Somewhere in the whole mix of uncertainties, I whistle a happy tune or crack a joke or blow off a huge amount of steam (this last in private, as much as possible; enough other people blowing off and blowing up in public, I see no point in joining that parade).

No amount of self-delusion will convince me I handle rejection well. I don’t. Rejection hurts. I don’t like pain. I hate getting the facts wrong. I hate getting brushed off. I hate ridicule, unless self-inflicted.  I forgive a lot and forget little.  I’d be better off forgetting more and forgiving less? Maybe I will some day, I haven’t found the trick for it yet.

All this is about the loathed and dreaded trio called Synopsis, Query and Rejection. Plus the underlying question: if writing is the part of the exercise I like, can I just give up on the dream of joining the Heavenly Choir of Published Ones, write on and deal with life as it shows up, period. Lots of folks have dreamt of making It – publishing, acting, singing, painting, tap-dancing, you name it. They didn’t. They did plumbing, copy writing, accounting, dentistry or gold smuggling instead. C’est la vie, and all that.

Yes, others became literary agents, editors, publishers, producers, film makers, etc. Some start off reading queries (or a few lines of same). Some read part of the synopsis. Some ask for the first ten, thirty or fifty pages. I assume most of the ones doing that drudge work are young, and, of course, on the lookout for what their boss wants. Do I have the time, patience, energy and stamina for another ride in that direction, while keeping the rest of my life from foundering on low-lower-lowest income and the growing problems this entails.

I don’t know how to describe what I write. Especially not for a three hundred word max drop-down page on someone’s web site. I’m an almost seventy-year old university drop-out. I had something resembling a career, ages ago, and dropped out of that too. I live in a run-down town and teeter on the edge of… what do you call it? Poverty? Yes, I guess that’s what you call being poor in this country*, unless political correctness strikes those words from your vocabulary. I laugh a lot. I cry a lot, too. Some of my characters do the same. Some do nasty things. Some would love to get even, and don’t. To my knowledge, none of them make it to the Promised Lands, no matter whose promises they listen to.

There. The paragraph above captures some of it, except for the laughing part. Without the laughing part, none of it is worth bothering with. If you don’t laugh, you may as well close the shutters for good, and just give up. Which would be a pity because you’d miss the saffron yellow and the orange and wine red on the curtains, the light on the bookshelf and the sight of Aly walking by on his way to the bus out of town.

*this makes for a lot of us living under the official poverty line, by the way. There’s life and lots of it, below the poverty line. But this seems more annoying than interesting to those for whom gross and net earnings are what matter – and all my best to them if that’s what keeps them going.

As the man said: “Sanity’s a hard concept to define”.

In Absurdlandia, Drafts, dreams, Hautvoir, photography, Poetry, Rejection, Revision, Synopsis on May 23, 2016 at 7:36 am

Dreams are impossible to share. With some dreams, you try anyway because they were so horrific, you need words to exorcise them. With others you don’t try, because they’re so close to perfection, you don’t want to mess them up.

The dream last night was of the second category. Rather than attempt a description, I flip through the images in my head, secure in the knowledge no one else has access to them. What? a dream of sexual fulfillment? Of world-wide fame and fortune? Nothing of the kind. A dream of someone lost between two cities, wandering in a third and what she records there with her camera. See? You know nothing about what made the dream something close to perfection.

A poem I didn’t copy down yesterday. One of the Russians, I’ll find it again. Sometimes, things you don’t copy down linger the longest.

Last night, I typed in the infamous The End on my latest attempt at fiction. Will it fly? Will anyone else catch the mix of Little Nemo and…never mind. You build your paper plane. A few strokes on a computer can destroy it. Objects built with 3-D printers have more consistency than a piece of unpublished fiction – a thing almost as fragile and elusive as a dream.

Meanwhile, in the world of real: the astounding space of a so-called service provider. With a computer-savvy someone yesterday, I spent two hours finding the access to – well, to the service provider’s automatic answering device. My query now carries a Ticket Number. No, it doesn’t match up to the number of seconds evolved since January 1st 1601 (the computer-savvy someone tells me this is one clocking device used by another entity). I may or may not receive a satisfactory explanation + adequate solution. This is the world of real where things screw up a lot, then a bit more after that.

Occasional stop-overs in dreamland: mandatory, the body decrees. Don’t even think of dealing with Real without them.

“…wait, OK, let’s go.”

In Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Synopsis on May 19, 2016 at 7:56 am

At 7:27 am, I have no idea what I’ll do with the anywhere-from-four-to-twelve participants in this afternoon’s workshop. Nor do I know how many will be fluent in French, recent arrivals (as in, less than a month ago) or more ancient (as in five to six months of presence on French soil). However, the workshop organizer told me last night one of the teenagers stutters and another tends to behave like a hermit crab. Purpose of the workshop: How to Introduce Yourself. Only certainty: Will Not Be Boring.

The best moment in yesterday’s coaching sessions: three twelve year olds (two girls, one boy) discovering It Can Be Done. Memorizing multiplication tables, that is. Best moment, not because they can now reel off the tables of 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x and 6x. Because, a piece of basic info kicked in at 4x. It kicked in when one of the girls whined: “that one’s too hard”. Except, she’d said the same thing for 2x and 3x too. Once she’d sailed through 4x (5x is a cinch), she said: “Oh 6x is too… wait, OK, let’s go.” Hence, the title to this post. (The basic technique, of course, is the same as that involved in memorizing anything, including the scripted words for a stage or film role, as taught by Sanford Meisner: rote learning, no pauses, no special effects, nothing other than the words so you don’t have to think about them anymore.)

Ridiculous? The world is coming to an end, the sky is falling, Paris is burning (sorry, make that one police vehicle), the seas are roiling, the earth is heaving, we’re promised worsening catastrophes on all fronts. Three kids catch on to the fact you can exercise your brain, and I’m happy?


Fiction-wise: word-by-word revision with two objectives in mind. The first – and most important: maintaining the right tension throughout. Meaning? the right tautness. Without the right tautness i.e. each character as crisp as I can make him or her, there’s no way I can achieve the second objective: a synopsis that captures the overall mood of the thing. Easier said than done because nailing the elusive it, that’s too hard. Can’t be done, can’t…OK, let’s try anyway.

Some preliminary effects of faulty wiring on jollity

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, coffee, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Revision, RLB trivia on May 16, 2016 at 9:51 am

The other day, the wiring did something strange and fried the innards of two useful appliances: a computer I used as a stocking device for photos and such, and a photocopier for which I couldn’t find ink cartridges anymore but could use as a scanner.

This morning when the dog insisted that 5:45 AM was the adequate moment for a search through the fresh garbage on place du chateau, the light switch from downstairs to upstairs failed to produce the expected result. For some reason,  Fiat Lux  was operational again when we returned.

I’m typing this on a disconnected laptop because I have a fairly healthy sense of humor but losing the contents of this computer would push the envelope of my equanimity straight over the cliff. The automatic back-up feature stopped functioning a while ago. The external hard drive churns but doesn’t save. Yes, I save my writing on little plug-ins. Still. When power systems play games and fry the innards on my appliances, I don’t fall down laughing.

The more pleasant times? Pleasant indeed. Brief though. Yesterday, for instance. Several pleasant hours, all in a row. At one point, on my friend’s terrace, I imagined my dog gamboling through the countryside instead of foraging for dreck amid the smashed bottles. But I’d need a car, wouldn’t I? Not much chance of having the kind of money that buys a car again. C’est la vie.


Of course, I appreciate the humor in someone using a search engine that turns up websites for upholstered furniture when you type in the title of this blog. Since my small frame is now well padded in all directions, there’s something apt in said ap. But the fickle power supply does something unfortunate to my jollity. C’est la vie.

A day off. I’d like to be racing through the draft, making the sorrier parts sing and so on. I keep giving the light switches sidelong glances instead.

Allez. Maybe it’s this room that induces gloom. Allez, allez, almost finished reading through The Horse’s Mouth again, or How to make misery sing.

I’ll need a bit more coffee first before another look at my draft.

Context: a story of

In Artists, Collage, Contes d'Exil, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, Story material, Sundays, Theater, Visual artists on May 15, 2016 at 8:07 am

Something like finding the right word order for a sentence. Or where to hang a painting to best effect. Bits of scenes: where best to introduce in the flow. There’s a strong visual element involved in the space where one of the characters hides out. The visual element blocks further development into words for the moment. Image in transition from the visual to the verbal.

Context of another kind: in their first version, the words and sentences occurred in something I wrote over fifteen years ago. They were part of the final scene in a series of interlocking pieces. A few months ago, a musician friend asked me to speak a few words in the mix he was composing, based on Beethoven’s Allegretto in his seventh symphony. I used some of those words, spoken by a fictional old woman walking her way from Crimea to a point beyond Lake Baïkal.

Last night, my friend had me listen to those same words spoken in Soninke in one of the final pieces of his composition called Pérégrination. The speaker: a young man from Mali. The words I walk, I walk, I walk take on yet another meaning, given the iterations that brought him to our street five months ago.

Triumphant highs – brief. Crashing lows – always too long. No point in being told I’m “too intense”. What can I do about it, except acknowledge the intensity of the highs and the lows, and manage my life as best I can with the head I’ve got. I have no idea how life fares from inside someone else’s head, no matter how much I may attempt to imagine such in fiction.

Story: Bits of living – my own, that of others – like pieces of puzzle or bits of paper getting shifted around for the “best” fit, whatever best means under the circumstances.

Still re-reading Joyce Carey’s The Horse’s Mouth. At one point yesterday, chapter 13 felt like an odd piece of autobiography, save for the fact I never was a painter, let alone someone by the name of Gulley Jimson. But still in my mind’s eye from long, long ago: Cézanne’s painting of men playing cards. Something like a page holder in one of the unfinished scenes.

Hurts? You bet.

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner on May 14, 2016 at 9:09 am

when fiction veers too close to reality, the real challenge begins. Maybe you want to howl. Or break down and cry. Or lash out. Or give up. You counted on someone and that one person on whom you counted does not come through for you. For instance. Or reveals that whatever you wanted or expected wasn’t in the cards at all, as far as he or she was concerned. You can pack up your illusions and do bloody well whatever you want with them. We iz not interested in you, not even one tiny bit.

In the cacophony yesterday afternoon – each one of the ten workshop participants was tuned in to different music and destroying his eardrums from what I caught of the sounds – in or of that cacophony over which I had to shout several times, I choose to concentrate on a few seconds only.

I choose to concentrate on a few real moments of contact. Eyes connecting to something I was offering. Taking it in, and making something of it. For the most part, the workshop participants weren’t. Participating, that is. They were busy shutting out as much of their present experience as they could. A body experiences enough contempt from others? A body often decides to treat others with contempt in return. Hurts, in both directions.

They’ll tell you – and life will demonstrate this, over and over again – they’ll tell you life isn’t for dreamers. Over and over again, events will show how vile and despicable humans can be. For some reason, this is supposed to shut down all reflexes other than those of compliance and submissiveness. Stay out of trouble. If trouble comes looking for you anyway, just shut up and put up.

As a first step in the getting-to-know-you process yesterday, I filled out my own card with name, age, country of origin and profession. A few of the boys said: wow, you’re old. Indeed, I answered. Humans haven’t found any other way to live for a long time than to age.

OK. At which point one of them said he’d like to live until a hundred. So, we managed to move on to the next second, and the next second after that in a two-hour session best described as a post-doctoral exercise in frustration – both theirs, and mine.

“living truthfully in imaginary circumstances”. a post to keep afloat.

On to the next thing – a howling wolf? a blazing inferno? a fly doing the back stroke?

In Drafts, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision on May 13, 2016 at 9:01 am

I’m keeping the agenda loose for this afternoon’s workshop. For one, this is my first meeting with “the group”. For another, I’m told, members of “the group” vary from one session to another. So do their numbers – anywhere from four to twelve participants. Basic language skills (and in what languages)? Variable, comes the illuminating answer.

As a general outline, the two-hour session will involve a basic getting-to-know-you section. On which – depending on the identifiable variables – I’ll tack on something about expressions imagées. For instance, what does a French speaker mean when he or she says: “j’ai des fourmis dans les jambes” or “il a la tête dans les nuages” or “je donne ma langue au chat“? Do you have a similar expression in your language to say I’m restless or he’s daydreaming or I give up, tell me the answer.

Plus: whatever happens for real, in real time. I’m bringing along paper, pens, pencils, crayons and such,  and we’ll see what happens when somewhere between four and twelve teen-aged asylum seekers from an assortment of origins sit down for a session they haven’t asked for but must attend or else.

Next week, in another session (90 minutes) I must lead twelve of the same (or other) youngsters through basic training in how you present yourself to a French teacher/potential employer/person in authority in order to exude respect, self-confidence and eagerness of a controlled/enthusiastic kind. Again, the session is mandatory and the group home is – how shall I say – experimenting in the field of occupational programs. Most of the thirty or so residents in the home are still in administrative limbo. I bet they spend more time with their head in the clouds or their eyes glued to their phone than devouring manuals on French grammar or memorizing the dictionary.

Somewhat in limbo myself, story-wise. Must up the ante somehow or the assembled ingredients will not provide a satisfactory finale.

As I write this, I’m looking at photos I did of a nine-year-old boy’s copybook. The boy does better with words when he can draw at the same time. For instance, a drawing to describe what happened (and why he was punished but not the other kid) when a classmate called him the dumbest guy in the whole school. The other kid punched him in his glasses to make his point and our hero swatted him on the head in response… ah! there’s another expression imagée for the group this afternoon: donner une bonne tarte. Which doesn’t mean giving someone a good pie but rather, delivering a vigorous swat with the open hand.

Of what, if any, use any of this will be in fiction? Time in one of its wrinkles may reveal.

From a place where soaring strings make me laugh

In Absurdlandia, Animals, Artists, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, Scene Prep, Visual artists on May 12, 2016 at 6:47 am

Food happened somewhere after nine pm last night after a most volubile General Assembly. Not that the folks at Volubilo are more talkative than others. Words tend to flow before, during and after meetings here.

This morning, the dog wanted out at five thirty am. I relented at five forty. Climbed into my house clothes (paint-spattered work pants and T). While I did so, a singer by the name of Frida Boccara broke into her rendition of one of her hits from the seventies. In my head, that is. Minus the soaring strings, I sang along: “Il y aura cent mille chansons quand viendra le temps des cent mille saisons…” etc. Upstairs, near the exit to the great outdoors, the dog moaned along. At any hour of the day or night, surrealism may strike. Best enjoy it while you can.

A bit of rain fell overnight. Under the street lamps, the white blooms on the black locust trees twinkled with wee drops and the parked cars looked like a wedding party covered with confetti (none of the parked cars had smashed windows and none were charred heaps – things are quiet on place du château at the moment. Or were, have  been, or had been, whichever verb tense now applies.)

Numbers. Vast subject. Spent a good part of yesterday afternoon drilling school kids in the nine times seven and six times eight routines. Followed by the General Assembly of a collective forever teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. We’ll keep my personal finances out of this. This is no time of day to discuss issues such as minimum living allowances or minimum wages or any other minima whatsoever. Suffice it to say I’m not alone in the contingent of precarious livers. Maybe all the talk is a way to vent anxiety. I saw a photo of young people demonstrating under the banner Génération Précaire, and felt a strong urge to invite them to make that a plural. But I had other things to do, such as drilling school kids in seven times nine being the same as nine times seven.

No wonder then that I reconnected with Joyce Cary’s Gulley Jimson for a few minutes last night. Gulley’s just stolen a few tubes of paint to pursue his latest artwork, and packed newspapers into his shoes and trousers so as not to freeze while devising a paintbrush out of a bit of rope. He’s now attempting to discourage a little kid from becoming an artist. But the kid’s persistent. I’ve read The Horse’s Mouth several times already so here’s a spoiler: the kid sticks around throughout the story.

Which brings me, the long way around, back to my ongoing draft revision.

Geography on my mind

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision, Sanford Meisner, Scene Prep on May 11, 2016 at 7:11 am

Last night, amid several incursions by real life characters, I left a fictional one walking down a familiar stretch by riverside. The fictional one has lived in this same fictional town all his life – something far from what my personal CV looks like.

A solitary character in a solitary place is one of the hardest writing exercises for me. There’s none of the friction two or more characters can produce through dialogue, conflicting agendas, misunderstandings both great and small. Plus, neither descriptions of landscape (or even, physical descriptions of the characters) feature in my habitual writing patterns. In fact, a lot of the revising on a first draft involves adding some pointers for the reader as to where events are occurring; where the characters are holding their verbal joust; where so-and-so happens to be,  etc.

After leaving both real life and fictional characters of my immediate acquaintance, I opened my copy of Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth, a Folio edition I picked up for five euro in Lisbon, three years ago. Will I read through the book yet again? Maybe. What mattered last night was the first page that begins with the words : “I was walking by the Thames,” and proceeds to show the scene through the eyes of Gulley Jimson – the kind of character copywriters describe as “a lovable rogue”. Had Gulley been a flesh and blood type, I doubt he would have described himself in those terms but that’s neither here nor there.

My fictional one walking by riverside is nothing like Jimson, and his river is nothing like the Thames. His general mindset is of the whereto now variety, as pertains to his life, not only to the purpose of his stroll.

Meanwhile, real life characters phone, ring my doorbell, walk into a neighbor’s house while I visit. My closest contact with a Gulley Jimson-like character yesterday would be one of the elders from the local gitano community. He usually greets me on the street with a respectful bonjour, madame.  He was in his cups yesterday. Called me Céline, told me I was mignonne and made kissing movements in my direction. Hello. Goodbye.

A man walks by riverside in the small French town in which he’s lived out his life thus far. He’s fictional and doing so in the overall context of an ongoing story.

Nu? Nu, on to the day, both his and mine.

The old story about half-empty or half-full

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Animals, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, news coverage, Revision, Sanford Meisner on May 10, 2016 at 7:38 am

I feel like a punch-drunk boxer tackling the fifteenth round this morning. Because of wild carousing all night? If only. Because of straws and the relative strength of a camel’s back – although I identify more with donkeys. Something to do with geography and culture, no doubt.

A shame authors can’t sue translators. In this instance, the translators may be as dead as the author so there’s not much litigation in view. I didn’t expect a transcendental experience when I paid my fifty centimes for a tired edition of Groucho Marx’s autobiography. Why I didn’t leaf through to “hear” if the writing sounded like Marx? I don’t know. Bottom line: it didn’t even sound close to Groucho and there wasn’t even the titter you get from watching a segment of a Dickens-based film dubbed in Japanese. From what remains of the reading experience, I gather Marx suffered from insomnia and feared ending his days as an indigent. On both scores, he has my full sympathy.

Even the prospect of tackling more revision feels like a full bale of hay added to the load this morning, so I’ll stick with pleasantries such as : the wind. Has stopped. No need to brace against crumbling buildings and risk a konk over the head from a falling piece of said structure (wordpress wanted this to read “a monk over the head” but no flying monks or nuns reported anywhere in the neighborhood).

The French press is all a-flutter over yet another sexual harassment scenario. All the usual stuff and all the usual To Tell or Not To Tell because that’s how harassment works best. I note, in this case, that the man changed targets whenever a woman turned on him and slapped him in the face. I used a more extreme gambit with a long-ago creepy boss. It worked but whether the harasser suffers the consequences he deserves or not,  there’s no glorious feeling that attaches to recollections of that type.

I’m broke and beyond because of the dog’s illness. Can’t see how I’ll make it through the week, let alone the month. Banks advance money to some but hold back funds for others. I belong to the second category. When things get ludicrous enough, either you collapse or you don’t. Sometimes, you do both and the rest of the story depends on whether you collapse, then pick yourself up, or the other way round.


moneys-in moneys-out update, in case some far-away family member reads this: the money I deposited on the 4th finally landed on my account this morning. I’m sure the bank’s debit feature will work at electronic speed though. I’ll save the sarcasm about to rise up – a waste of energy better put to some other use.