Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Writing the 'medicine'

" I never made a conscious choice about who would live and die in this tale...I just let the story unfold page by page, and go where it wanted to go. When I got to the end, I suddenly realized, with a sinking feeling, that Thumper was going to die -- and as much as I didn't want it to happen, writing anything else at that point would have been...false..." - Terri Windling in conversation with readers of her novel Wood Wife
A friend sent me an email the other day, "There is something different in your writing, a blooming, a peace, a comfort. Must think about that more." This friend is an avid reader who sends me books -- novels -- she has read and loved. Another friend, and long-time first reader of things I write told me once she didn't know about 'learning how to write' she just knew when she read a good story.

Here's something, from the Guardian, an article entitled, "Is the short story really the novel's poor relation?" : "[...]The story is small precisely because life is so big. Novelists are expected to tie up loose ends, whereas the short story writer can make a virtue of ambiguity. The short story is fundamentally different from the novel; not better, just different.[...] 

I've been feasting on novels reading for pleasure, and curiosity. Friends send me things to read and I am grateful to be able to pick up a page of former heart wood and enjoy the journeying of print on the page. Recommendations from trusted sources (like Terri Windling) steer me to books I would otherwise have never met. The other night as I climbed into bed and settled, into that space between activity and possibility, I saw myself at eight or ten looking into the glass display case in the old Kaimuki Ben Franklin Store. Pens. Esterbrook fountain pens. The one I see with ten year old eyes is a gray marbled beauty. Pete sat on a cushion on the vardo floor leaning against the futon. For a moment, maybe more, I edited myself hesitating. But eventually I said, "I have always loved to write..." I shared the Esterbrook moment with him.

Today is an 'Ole Day, the second of four phases of the Hawaiian Moon Calendar good for weeding, or repairing your fishing nets, or honing your tools. That's what I do here with these musings as I consider how my love of words, and crafting of words and expression grows as I age. Terri Windling's Q&A Session from Good Reads (2011) about her novel Wood Wife stimulated a frightening influence in the writing of my current medicine story. Did someone have to die in the story in order to be True? I wrestled with myself ... this writing life is a solitary match, but the bruises come nevertheless.

It maybe that at this stage of my writing life the feast of novels is fine-tuning my taste buds and story ear. A particularly good read for me is different today then when I was young; though some favorites retain their value over the long haul, and I reread them again and again. In between the savoring of novels where the writing is 'expected to tie up loose ends' I open the pages of my hard cover copy of The Hawaiian Dictionary, or Pualani Kanaka'ole's Ka Honua Ola to refresh my native instinct for multiple meanings and pluck words like omens. The expectation for tying loose ends changes when I go between the borders of 'correction.'

"The short story writer can make a virtue out of ambiguity." There. That is something that rings true to my internal tuning fork. Perhaps that is why I find such delight in writing the medicine. Short. Ambiguous. Layered with potential.

I have left the medicine story A Native Fern with this picture . As the 'Ole Moons include four of them prior to a Full Moon, I am giving the story time to tell me if more is to be revealed. What do you think?

I highly recommend reading Terri Windling's novel Wood Wife if you are in need of a beautifully crafted story wrapped into a novel about place, spirit, love, and timelessness. 

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