Sunday, February 17, 2013

Feeling smart?

Too many inducements. I now have an i-phone, one of those smart phones that's smarter than me. At least I figured out how to make phone calls, though the darn thing buzzes and rings at the same time. Probably it knows I need both. The speaker feature is kind of neat. I can put the darn thing down and just wander away.

Here's my Sunday night update for ROW80, A Round of Words in 80 Days, a truly lovely writing community.

WRITING: I'm reminded of the first paint-by-number picture I tried at about age 8. Very quickly, I began  to paint the colors I wanted, not those itemized on that careful list of numbered colors. And then I began to paint outside the lines. The result was impressionistic and not as pretty as my sister's tidy painting. Now I begin writing each morning and nearly straight away begin to deviate from my ROW80 goals. Does anyone else do that?

ROW80 goals are supposed to be measurable, but I can't measure the words I'm editing or the new pages I'm writing. My goal is simply to finish editing Years of Stone by the end of this round.

Since Wednesday, I've been doing a bit more research on several supporting historical characters who appear in my story. What I've found is that letters, newspaper articles, speeches, and portraits help me to visualize these folks more fully. I begin to know their internal worries and hopes, sometimes the formidable obstacles they faced. What spins out next is a mystery but reads true.

Naming characters is always a challenge. So much goes into a name. But to be historically accurate meant one of my major characters had to have a name change this late in the story! Mary was a very common name in the 1840s. But Mary Hutchinson, matron of the Cascades Female Factory, cannot be confused with Mary Dallow, that mouthy, blue-collar lady who has fallen in with a bushranger and most likely slept her way to Van Diemen's Land.

Mary Hutchinson, on the other hand, grew up at Parramatta, a women's prison in New South Wales where her parents worked. She married young to a handsome Wesleyan pastor with poor health. When he left the ministry to become a superintendent at Cascades, Mary became the matron. Beset with overcrowding at the prison and the threat of riots, constant criticism from the local press, and the continued ill health of her husband, how would this mother who had lost several of her own babies react to the rising infant deaths at Cascades? Petulantly says one report. But there's more to the story.

READING/CRAFT: Finally caught up with reading. My office has returned to a semblance of order, and I'm currently reading Jeri Westerson's Veil of Lies (A Medieval Noir). So far I'm admiring her crisp storytelling, evocative settings, and neat plot twists.

MARKETING. Reading some articles, working on Book Club reading/questions. The "event" at a local bookstore has been postponed to April (travel intervenes). Some progress on quilting. OMG, the smart phone beeps me when I get new e-mail. Obviously I need training on how to change the settings! Even my computer doesn't do this.

Karen Huber's latest post , "A Matter of Practice," talks about facing into the "now" by accepting both light and dark sides of your self. We are all in different stages in our lives, but her words always resonate for me. Here, I'm thinking of my characters. Do I allow myself to understand their dark as well as light sides? Something to ponder. I appreciate Karen's vision of practice, her willingness to face fear, and her writing that builds from meditation. That inner stillness, so difficult to find, perhaps comes with practice.

My smart phone now feels like an intrusion. I shall turn it off!