Archive | May, 2012

Is it good to take a break from writing?

29 May

I traveled to Chicago last week-end to be involved in one of my other loves — singing. With rehearsals close to eight hours a day, there was little time for writing. I managed a few lines in my journal before gong to sleep, but that was all. But did I forget about writing? No. I thought about it all the time. I thought about characters, situations, and settings that I could use in future writing. I listened to conversations and observed people. I experienced the week-end.

If you make a commitment to write, I don’t think you can ever take a break. You may take a break from actually sitting at the computer and putting in your daily quota of time or word count, but the ideas are always churning in your mind. And you always have a pen and paper with you, because you might want to jot something down for future use.

Writers live in an inner world of words and ideas, and it is a world that never goes away. So I take a break when my life goes that direction, but I am always a writer. The stories are there, and I will write them.

I used to be a teacher in another life time, and that profession was the same. I was constantly looking for ideas and materials that I could use in my classes, even when I was on vacation. What other professions are life-consuming like writing and teaching? Do you need a break once in a while, or is it something you love so much you want it to consume you?Image


Still Pretending

20 May

I became a writer because I love to pretend. 

I was an only child until I was almost five, and we lived on a farm seven miles from a town nobody (almost) has heard of. We had no TV, but we had books and I had an imagination.

I often entertained myself my making up stories, with me as the star, of course. At some point I decided to start writing the stories down.

I am still pretending. That’s where stories come from — the wonderful world of “what if.”

Now I sometimes use my imagination as a tool to learn more about a character in a story I am writing. I spend a couple of hours “being” my character. I try to walk like her, eat what she would eat, even choose my clothes with her tastes in mind. (Of course, it could be a male character as well, but some of the choices would be a bit of a stretch.) 

It’s fun! I still enjoy playing that I am someone else. And it is good preparation for going back to write about the character. I know her better, because I have been inside her skin.

Does anyone have any other tricks for getting inside the mind of a character?Image

Missing Papayas

6 May

ImageIn my book The Gate House, the main character Nara has moved to England after growing up on a island in the Caribbean. Besides the warm weather and the ability to wear sandals everyday, Nara misses the tropical fruit. She often laments, while preparing the full English breakfast for guests at her aunt’s bed and breakfast, that eggs are sausage are fine, but a colorful plate of tropical fruit is what she craves any time of day.

Having lived in the tropics myself for seven years, I can feel the longing for fresh fruits and vegetables year round. And even though bananas, pineapple,papayas, mangoes, and even more exotic offering like starfruit are available in most supermarkets, the taste is much more intense when the fruit has not traveled on a ship to reach the store.

In Costa Rica, where I lived, papayas were a staple on most tables, and one of the main ingredients in a fruit salad. There was actually a time when I grew tired of papayas, we ate them so much. And they were not the small Hawaiian papayas that are most common in the U.S. These were the grand-daddies of papayas, often more than a foot long and no light weights!

Fresh papaya is delicious, and healthy, too. But if you get your hands on one of these giants and want to try something different with it, here is a recipe for papaya bread that was given to me by a friend in Costa Rica. Apparently the the enzymes in the papaya interact with the baking powder and baking soda, so follow the directions carefully. I have made it many times and it is moist and yummy!

Papaya Bread

Cream together until light: 1 c. sugar and 1/2 c. butter

Add 2 eggs and beat until fluffy.

Add and mix: 1 c. mashed ripe papaya, 1/4 c. chopped walnuts, and 1/2 c. raisins

Sift together: 1 1/2 c. flour, 1/4 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. soda, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Pour batter into greased & floured 9×5″ loaf pan.

Bake at 325 F. for about 1 hour 5 minutes.

Do you enjoy reading about food in a novel? Do you include details on food in stories you write?

Time to Write; What to Write

1 May

If you haven’t got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you’ll only have to throw away the first three pages.- William Campbell Gault

There have been probably thousands of blog posts, articles and even books written on how to find the time to write. And it is a true challenge for those of us who are not to the point in our writing careers where we can devote the majority of our day to uninterrupted time in front of the computer. Most of us have demanding families, day jobs, and all the chores and errands that go along with life in the modern world.

But still we want to write. Well-meaning writing coaches coaches advise us to get up early, stay up late, write on our lunch hours, go out to a coffee shop or the library for an hour or two. All of these suggestions work — sometimes — for some people. But what if you are just too darn tired to get up early or stay up late? Or you have to run to the drug store on your lunch hour? Or you need to be home with children or waiting for a plumber, so the coffee shop is out?

The solution I have found is two-fold. One — I write all the time. Early, late, at home, at work, occasionally in a coffee shop. I have my spiral notebook or my net book computer with me. Whether it is a few minutes or a nice solid hour, I write. I work as a substitute teacher, and I actually wrote the better part of a novel while walking around the classroom supervising high school students. And they thought I was making notes about their behavior!

The second part of my solution is to write what means something to me. I am in the position right now where I am finishing up a few projects, and looking for something new to work on. I had a couple of ideas for follow-ups to things I had written, but they weren’t calling to me. I couldn’t get started. I have also been toying around with the idea of writing about my parents and how they met at the beginning of World War II. I have letters, scrapbooks and a short memoir that my dad wrote, so I have the basis of their story. I sat down yesterday and today and wrote a sizable chunk of the beginning of their story. Each day, I couldn’t stop until I finished what I wanted to say.

How do you create time to write? Does what your are writing influence how much time you spend?