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Character Development #ROW80

February 1, 2015 3 Comments



By joining the Round of Words in 80 Days writers I have been given the opportunity to peek into the process used by different people. Initially revealing goals, and now following the theme for 80 days of pursuit of those goals, we let each other know how our lives are proceeding. Some have chosen more personal ideals, and others are achieving astonishing numbers of words/outlines/rewrites and characters developed. I am impressed with all of the participants, and have started to think more about character development.  I have not done this, but am now seeing the merit of telling stories of well-developed characters.  From fairy tales to murder mysteries the characters hold our attention, and in some cases can bring about new stories or a series of tales. I live tweeted Downton Abbey last week and find it highly amusing to see how emotional the audience is about the characters.  I also noticed that my own poetry is void of any characters.  I make it all about the cosmos, memory, psyche, all very general and without personality.  I need to work on this aspect of my poems.

There are three levels of character development I can identify in this challenge:

  • Public commitment as well as confession of failures.  This unifying act makes us responsible to our goals and the shared experience. This builds character of the core personal kind. It is needed to build a foundation of discipline and high standards.
  • Players in a fictional story, or historical figures in biography must be “fleshed out” in order to hold the interest of the gentle reader.  I think it is also helpful to imagine the gentle reader as a character to encourage a bond between the two. This kind of development is needed to give writing more substance, dimension and detail.
  • The genre in which one creates has a character that is distinct from others.  I notice some writers in this group write in more than one genre, which I admire.  Expanding beyond one to another is a creative stretch that requires practice and consideration.  I am, and have been, in the scribe mode, writing just the facts.  Now that I am making poetry I need to add emotional and artistic value to it.  I need to develop the character of my poems.

These three have all been at work in my life this week.  I have been reading about Dorothy Parker, her life and times. Her character has been made larger than life since the internet.  It dawned on me that Mrs Parker was a feminist in the early 20th century.  She was a contemporary of my grandmother Olga, who got a masters in education and taught shorthand and typing.  I was thinking about how odd it must have been to have no vote and be better educated than your husband.  I wondered if Olga read Dorothy in Vanity Fair.  I still prefer Mrs. Parker as my muse in poetry, but I must admit my grandmother was a feminist in a different part of the country.  They were both strong characters, but I have real memories of Olga.  I did write a poem about my grandmother, although it is short and sweet.  This whole process has brought me to think it is very wise for me to use these characters in my family tree about whom I know so much.  They inhabit my dreams and imagination, so I might as well use them as characters in my poems.  I have written plenty about the facts in their lives, but I could focus on a more essential theme.

I gave myself two poetry days off this week, which I regret.  I took a birthday holiday.  This aspect goes back to number one on the list above, discipline and character.  It is actually pleasurable to write a poem each day.  The mindset that tells me I deserve a day off from this grueling task is quite bogus. I don’t plan to make up in penance for the lapse, or enhance guilt over this.  I do notice that some silly side of my psyche wants to claim that poetry is hard and working on it is, oh my, such a burden on my important schedule.  This is obviously rubbish made by some shadow character.  I reject the claims of this looser.  That character will not be developed. I will write about this poetic couple on the left in the photo below:

My grandparents on a double date

My grandparents on a double date

Identifying as Poet #ROW80

January 28, 2015 11 Comments

I have told a few people in the last week that I am a poet. I believe I am trying it out to see if I like the title because I don’t think of myself as a poet. First I explained to my fiduciary who handles my investments and gives me advice for retirement that my most important interest at the moment is poetry. He knows, since we do split the money he makes in the market, that I am interested in his best performance with little or no chit-chat. He has incentive to do that since his own profit is tied directly to mine. He is not a stock broker, but has a fiduciary responsibility to me for which I pay him a percentage of the profits. I switched to this arrangement before the last presidential election because it all felt too volatile and risky. Since he has done a bang up job I feel secure to trust his future work on my (our) behalf. My debt free, secure financial position is one reason I can dabble with being a poet. I have arrived at a time in my life during which I can reflect and use my talents in any way I choose. Now that I have told the fiduciary I am a poet he is convinced I will not be producing any more income during my lifetime. I am fine with that because it puts the pressure on him to make sure I never become a staving artist.

Last night I told a friend I have known for many years who came over for a drink and conversation. He is visiting from out-of-town, so we had news about our lives to share since our last reunion. After he left I was kind of surprised that I had told him about the poetry writing at all, let alone describe myself to him as a poet. I did make it clear that although I publish it daily I am not promoting it per se because it is not very well-developed. I am not ashamed of it, but I have no pride in it either. It is a practice and a new persona. I told him I admire and want to emulate Dorothy Parker. He recited a couple of her witty lines. I am not sure how sincere he was, but he told me that I am like Dorothy Parker. We were laughing and joking together all evening, so this was part of the fun. In retrospect I am giddy about being compared to her, and this little exchange has given me new hope about my poetic prospects.  With some work I do believe I can be witty, satirical, and poetic all at the same time. I have loaded up two books by Dorothy into my Kindle and pre-ordered another about her life, Dorothy Parker Drank Here, by Ellen Meister. Now I am carrying with me two poetic muses, both ghosts. Henry Howard represents Tudor England and Mrs. Parker post WWII New York City. That should cover everything.

It is in the spirit of Mrs. Parker that I am working on curses and blessings suitable for twitter.  They must be short and pithy.  I am calling them #Twurses and #Twessings.  Join me if you like.  I think there is a market.  It is a bit of haiku in 130 characters, ideal length. I think rhyming makes it memorable. #Twurse the snow and howling wind, Super Bowl parties must begin.  I am sure I can warm up and do better than that. Thanks to all the #ROW80 writers who have taught me to have a good time and just do it, as they say at Nike.




#ROW80 Writing Challenge

January 5, 2015 11 Comments

winter writing challenge

winter writing challenge

I just read in a fellow blogger’s post about the ROW80 challenge. I have just started a practice to improve my writing by creating poetry and art.  I had not planed to commit to a daily routine, but I am finding that starting the creative day by drawing, editing photos, and making visual art I am more likely to be observant for the day. Observant includes in this case a full attention to detail as I go through my life, and easy flawless observance of boundaries I have set.  Since the group is making personal goals a shared conversation, observant will also mean that I pay attention to my fellow writers and the way they express themselves.  This idea arrived at a most propitious time, since 80 days of tracking my goal of a more poetic life will give me a good jump start to a full time practice.  I look forward to learning how other people contribute to this exercise.

Observe and Grow are the key words for my goal.  I hope to grow my vocabulary, my skills, and my creativity by publishing art and poetry.  By observing the world, as well as my dreams, I will find richer, more vibrant subjects.  I tend to be a scribe, writing just the facts, and supporting the facts with some photo documentation.  I still enjoy that, but feel I could do some story telling, humor, and abstract sound pieces if I develop my poetic sense.  I want to see where poetry leads me.  I am not seeking approval for the work as much as I am wondering what will happen when I apply myself.

For the next 80 days I will observe what happens when I write a poem each day.  This is an adventure I will share. It will include:

  • dream diary work to bring images into daily life
  • reading poetry
  • visiting the U of A Poetry Center
  • developing photography and art to inspire my poetic sense

It is my desire to explore a different way of using the written word.  I think it will open new doors for my self expression.  I also believe my daily life will be enriched by looking for poetic subject matter.  I publish my art and poetry on my Tumblr blog, The Flow.

winter writing challenge

winter writing challenge

The Power of Written Words

November 3, 2013 8 Comments

My father read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn aloud to me when I was very young. There were other books that followed, but he really loved those two stories, and made them come alive while reading them.  He liked to sing and recite poetry.  We sang at parities all the time.  Since we had a player piano, talent was no barrier to musical contribution.  I pumped happily away for hours singing with the piano rolls.  I still know the words to most of those songs, or could with some prompting, remember the lyrics. I wrote songs myself as a teen, but do not remember them at all, which is funny.  I do remember The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert W Service, which my father knew by heart.  As an Okie in Pennsylvania I know he identified heavily with Sam McGee because he frequently and randomly said “Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

My dad was a funny troubadour of sorts who did not know that his 8th great grandmother was Mistress Bradstreet, Pilgrim poet.  He did often say,” You’re a poet, your feet show it, they’re Longfellows.”  Now that I have discovered the Bradstreet connection I am revising the rhyme:

Keep the beat,

Think on your feet,

You’re a Bradstreet.

Since I found Mistress Bradstreet at the Poetry Center I am wondering about my own relationship to words and poetry.  Do I have any poetic DNA that I need to develop?  Curious, I attended the inauguration of Arizona’s new poet laureate, Alberto, Tito, Rios of Nogales, AZ.  He addressed the crowd, read some poems, then answered some questions from the audience.  He is a professor so he found it easy to teach the group.  His style includes plenty of comedy, which holds the attention.  An audience question was, “What is the difference between writing poetry and writing prose?”  His answer was perfect and memorable.  He said, ” Each line in a poem should be able to stand by itself.  If one of my poems shattered and all the lines were left alone, each should be strong enough to get a good job in another poem.”   I love that. I also love the Poetry Center which is very near my home.  I don’t really think the lines in my poem above could find work elsewhere, but if I work on it, perhaps the spirit of Mistress Bradstreet will guide me to achieve better outcomes.

The other fine advice Mr Rios gave, which he illustrated with a story from his youth, was that you observe events and happenings in your life that will die without a story if you do not tell them.  His attitude is that all of us have the potential to use words in a poetic way, and the experience enhances our own lives when we do it.  We also liberate objects and events that want their stories to be told.  This magical reality view of the objects comes naturally from his bilingual and bicultural background.  In Spanish reflexive verbs make the world a highly animated place in which things take action.  I believe Tito Rios is the perfect artistic and cultural representative who could have been chosen as our official poet.  I am pleased to have been in the special inaugural audience.

Birth of a Blogger

October 12, 2012 2 Comments

I play the part of Auntie Mame to three kids who live in California. I am not grandmother, aunt, or even Jewish, which gives me a distinct place in the family order. I have creative freedom that the other players do not have. I can be indulgent, which I am. I can go home and ignore them, which I do all the time. I feel a responsibility to model for and with them a fair and loving friendship between kids and an adult. This means the authority card can not be played unless there is a dire emergency. We are equals. Of course if I lived with them full time this would collapse quickly, because adults do need authority in order to hang out with kids at all.

They each have distinct talents and abilities. If I have a favorite it would be Max because we share similar interests in technology. This is the child every Apple share holder wants to meet. I think he wants to marry Siri. The kids inherit my old Apple products and are now officially hooked. The issue is that when a boy is alone with his computer, he is likely to just play stupid games and become addicted to it like to the TV. They need restrictions in order to have balance, so mom has very reasonable rules for tech use, which is a powerful force in discipline. To loose privileges to be with the electronics is severe for these guys, so they do behave in order to avoid it.

Yesterday I negotiated the permission for Max to start a blog. He quickly set up his WordPress page and published a picture of himself from the morning as his first post. I convinced mom that the archive will be her most precious possession that she will not need to file or protect. It will be there. Now comes the fun. He is extremely enthusiastic and interested. Mom is happy too because now he does not like to write. I have urged him to be consistent and thoughtful about his content. We talked about technical quality and how to develop interesting posts others want to read.  I am curious to see how this will develop.  I wonder if his enthusiasm can be maintained, and if he will use this practice wisely.  Do you know any kids who blog, and how they got started blogging?  I am very interested in finding other youngsters who are involved in this world.

It is with great pride that I present to the blogiverse the talented, the witty , and the very young Mr. Max Levy:

Max in front of his house

I ripped off his first post, which is this picture.  Please join me in wishing him blogging success.  We may all learn a lot from this young man.  He teaches me all the time.  Go Max!!!

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