Monday, August 30, 2010

Shreddings (Jillian)

The photo below is a window into my endeavors of the summer. I have become the Duchess of Shreddings. In scanning writings and musings from 1997 to 2000, I produced three of these boxes. Once I am finished with 2001-2002, I may have three... or five more. And I won't even think about the pile of paper from my last two years of high school.

Quite a feat, and an amusing one to boot. I'll admit, though, that there is a bit of wistfulness mixed into this scene, the tangle-y nest of paper strips that once had been the products of a determined pen. But it is no tragedy. While the thumb drive lasts, so do these whispers of yesteryear.

I was once told - at the very very dawn of my writing - that I should save everything because "you never know if you might need it." Honestly, though, I am starting to see a personal statute of limitations of that sort of need. In other words, if it sits in over-crowded binders for five-plus years, it is probably not as needed as it once was, and should be retired. Retired with Honors in the scanning ceremony, officiated by the Duchess herself... in fond memory.

This process has reminded me of long-dead ideas and failures; like looking back through time, I see my younger, early-teenage mind at work editing and creating in multiple colors of ink scratching out little details or changing a vital character's first name (sometimes several times, depending on my mood), asterisk-pocks in the margins, and prompt Xs over paragraphs that just didn't work. I may not ever use those ideas, characters or stories again, but they are still with me... and can fit in the palm of my hand.

So this is a shuffle, and an archiving ritual... not a chance to dance around a bondfire of my old self. After all, these words, as rough and uncut and unrefined as they are, are still a part of me.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How Some Stories Come About (Jillian)

As you well know, I love musing over stories and what writers have to say about their art. Today I happened upon an article about Justin Cronin, the author of The Passage. I haven't heard much about this novel, but I learned it is about vampires and is far, far darker than Twilight. Not that that is the reason I suddenly find my curiosity piqued. (Article by Peter Stanford of the Daily Telegraph.)

I was fascinated with the idea that he plotted-out the book with his young daughter. While bike-riding, they light-heartedly constructed a vampire story to pass the time. Only later did he turn it into a substantial and daunting piece of fiction. What a special experience that would be, to share a story with your loved ones in this way! The story has a history beyond itself. I'm reminded of how M. Night Shyamalan's Lady in the Water was a bedtime story he told his children.

Some lovely tidbits:

"I wanted to write a book that had the attributes of literary fiction – meaning good careful writing and characters with human complexity – and that also operated simultaneously in a whole variety of genres – from the post-apocalyptic to the western. That literary-popular distinction is, in my view, vastly overstated. At the far poles there are clearly books that are purely commercial and purely literary... but the middle is where most people read and most people write.”

On mass-marketing of fiction:

"One thing that worried me was how writers get categorised and so they end up having to write the same kind of book again and again. That is fine if it is what you want to do, but I would rather be locked in the trunk of my car with a weasel than write the same book every three years until I die.”

Well said!


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