A few years ago, maybe only two years ago, now that I think about it. Two years ago, I found Mary Beard. And since then, the more I find out about her, as she shows up in my peripheral, the more of a crush I develop on her.
Mary Beard has a laundry list of ‘things she is’ behind her name. In summation, she is a Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge. She is an English scholar and classicist, think study of ancient Romans and Greeks among others. She’s been made a Dame of Commander of the Order of the British Empire, which puts the title Dame in front of her given name. There are more titles she touts as well; and she has a regular blog that appears in The Times Literary Supplement.
I first came to know of Mary’s in an article written in the New Yorker. I was fascinated with the easy going, long gray haired woman with no make-up that was practically glowing because as she sat comfortably on a velvet chase, she looked like she had the whole world figured out. The article was wonderful as well, and instilled the beginnings of my crush. Apparently, Mary’s not so polite trolls on social media are no match for her. She often engages them. So much so, that she engaged one such young man and they are now friends. She did indeed, if I am remembering correctly, garner an apology as well.
Art for the sake of art. In Latin it’s: Ars Gratia Artis. That’s the motto of MGM, if you look at their logo of the roaring tiger, above his head is a ribbon with those words written across it.
I’ve always loved that idea. Art for the sake of art.
As a writer, my art, the moment I know I’m creating art, is when the world falls away. Once that happens, when I’m in the thick of a story, skies open up, the sun twists and turns; I own the light and the stars and the shadows. I allow the elements to frame what I’m doing in just the right way. That’s when my art comes alive for me. That’s when I’m writing for the sake of writing.
Art however…oh art for the sake of art. Not for the almighty dollar, not for the fame, the notoriety, but to make tangible the way an artist sees the world. I love that.
I recently read the essay “One Hundred False Starts” by F. Scott Fitzgerald which was published in The Saturday Evening Post on March 4, 1933. It is an interesting insight to his process. The false starts are snippets he’d written down on pieces of paper that floated around him, on his desk, in his pockets. Bits of paper with bits of a story line written on them. Most of the ideas, he claims, he’ll never run down and make anything out of.
Of course, that had me thinking about my own process. There are big ideas, bull-ish ideas that won’t let go until they are satisfied their story has been properly writ. However, when I need a break from the books, I write short stories. Some ideas come to me quickly, but sometimes I skim through my archive of ideas to find inspiration. And my archive of work, it’s pretty large. I have a whole file on my computer dedicated to documents named “just an idea” “idea22” “Idea on a Sunday evening” “Idea 543”. The file folder is bulging with my random thoughts, my angst, and sometimes it seems just writing for the sake of putting words on paper. I also have note books called “works in progress”, the tactile version of my own one hundred false starts. Bits and pieces of paper with ideas jotted down. Ideas that seemed interesting at the time, that seemed like something worth following through with. Like something worth holding onto. Continue reading
The fall school year is in full swing. The smoke that hung low and choked us for too many weeks has loosened its hold around our necks, and a glance at the ten-day weather forecast shows highs in the seventies after we fight the next two days of 95-degree heat.
I lived in Colorado for a few years, and while I was there I wrote. A lot. I was finding my voice and trying to figure out my process. I wasn’t doing these things consciously, I was just writing because I had to. Looking back now, of course I see all the lessons on writing I was learning.
During that time I also began submitting short stories. I feared submitting anything to an agent then, that seemed like such a pipe dream.
One of the publications, Mountain Gazette, had a contest every issue, they published a black and white picture and challenged their readers to write a 1000 word story about said photo. I didn’t always like the pictures, but one caught my attention. I wrote a short piece called “Ending Up.”
The Gazette did not publish my story. I pulled it out two years ago and gave it a polish. It has now won me second place in a literary contest and was just published in Flare, a literary magazine.
I just received my copy this past week and I always get a little thrill at these stepping stones in my career. So of course, I had to share this news with my three loyal followers.
Click here to open the short story.
Oh, and you might be wondering if I saved that photo?
Of course I did.
Was talking to a junior in high school who had an assignment for English class. After reading the first short story from The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, the teacher wanted the class to write a two-page paper about the things they themselves carry. They could be physical things or metaphorical things.
After reading the papers, the teacher commented that he thought the class would have more fun with the assignment. He mused that he thought the kids would talk about more physical items, instead, there was a lot of emotional and rather serious topics brought up.
I’m not sure if that is a sign of our times, but if I had talked to my seventeen-year-old self and made her write that paper, I know she was carrying the weight of the world. So it would have been emotionally driven in ‘my time’ as well.
Of course, being a writer, I started thinking about that idea and the book. I remember reading the first chapter of Mr. O’Brien’s book. I was in college and that opening chapter blew my mind. Tim O’Brien’s writing was mind-blowing. And beautiful and horrible and lovely. (I found the first chapter here if you want to check it out.)
All of those thoughts lead to my present day self. What do I carry? Without a filter, if I had to dump it all out and write about it right now, at this very moment… Continue reading
I’ve been thinking on a plethora of thoughts lately. The heat, however, has weighed me down and I’m not quite interested in following any of them down the road they are leading me. I’ve been reading Madeleine L’Engle slowly this summer, as if every paragraph is a conversation we’re having over coffee.
In the early morning hours, I’ve been writing. While the earth is cooled a bit and the air outside doesn’t threaten to choke me with its intensity. I wake with the early dawn and write outside as long as I can. I have three stories I’m writing right now, my morning mood dictates where I’ll spend my words.
Here’s a glimpse into how I find stories. Sometimes.
When I was in college, on Thursday nights I would end up sometimes at a bar. I can’t remember thename of the bar as there have been several years placed between me and the times I used to go there and they have changed their name.
So, Thursday nights was ladies night at said bar I can’t remember. Ladies got in free and recieved a free drink as long as you bought one more. So for the price of one beer we could get in and have a decent night. For a starving artist hiding in college this was a great way to spend a Thursday night.
Every thursday the band The Rebecca Scott Decision would play. Headed by, well, you guessed it, Rebecca Scott. She wears a smirk when she plays, short black hair, tall talent. I loved her. There was something about her music when she played live. Kicked my imagination in the very guts. I would fill napkins with imagery from those nights.
(Yes, I was a writer who went to a bar to hang out and ended up in a dark corner scribbling on napkins to make sure I didn’t miss anything.)
The group that gathered were so strange and writeable. There was always the same strange guy who danced awkwardly, never to the beat of the muisc, but his favorite dance move was to slowly punch the air. The table of dolled up girls who had found the bar for the first time and just loved how cute and cozy it was. There were the guys who trolled the bar, predators looking for a lone girl who had separated from the pack. The one girl who came just for the bartender who politely refilled her drinks but didn’t really see her. I loved everything about it, all set to the soundtrack of Rebecca Scott and her music. Continue reading
I talk about the early morning hours a lot. It’s because I love them so much. I’ve finished with the planting of flowers and setting up my porch so I can move in for the coming summer season. I find myself awake two hours before I really HAVE to be awake so I don’t miss the sunrise.
I haven’t always been a morning person. I do tend to get so excited and enthralled by the smallest things that I’ve often just forgone sleep so I can be a part of life. I reveled in the night as much as I do the days. In my youth, when it was just me and my gypsy spirit, I toted the wonders of the late nights with the same gusto. I was a night owl then, but as life happens and I have the kid now, I’ve had to adapt and change a bit and now find myself a creature of the morning.
I’ve been thinking about the open road. You see, it’s spring in my little corner of the world. The snow is melting and in another life I would be getting ready to take off. Trying to figure out how to mooch a ride off a friend, or where the cheapest plane ticket could get me, or what sofa of what friend would welcome me for a time before I outstayed my welcome.