Saturday, September 29, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

JOE: Good afternoon, Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good afternoon, Joe. A bit late, aren't we?
JOE: A tad. This morning was rather busy with errands on behalf of various people.
CALLIOPE: Well, as long as you were doing good deeds. any progress on the book?
JOE: Yes. I finished the character descriptions for my two main characters. I also have some work to do on their typical interactions. Nevertheless, I did have enough to write the first chapter.
CALLIOPE: So you are off and running. How did you start the book?
JOE: With a rather strong disagreement but without the topic being indicated.
CALLIOPE: So the reader knows they are in strong conflict but not what about?
JOE: Exactly. I wanted to start it with a sense of the emotional climate and engage the reader to wonder what the issues might be.
CALLIOPE: It sounds like a good start. What's next?
JOE: Next is some background information by way of their internal reflections and dialogue.
CALLIOPE: Sounds like a good start. Good luck with the rest of the story.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

JOE: Good morning, Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning, Joe. Tell me how things are going with your new novel.
JOE: Thanks for asking. Sometimes I just sit down and start writing stories. When I wrote my last novel, I came to realize that I did not really know my characters and therefore they were not likely to be very real.
CALLIOPE: A good point. So what did you do about it?
JOE: I read somewhere about enneagrams. These are character type discriptions involving a person's fears, wishes, desires, motivations, best qualities and worst qualities as well as how they interact with others of the same or different type.
CALLIOPE: Very interesting. So did you decide to use them for your characters?
JOE: I was well along in the last novel before I discovered this approach. I went back through what I had written and adapted the characters to fit specific patterns.
CALLIOPE: And with this novel?
JOE: I decided to approach it a little more systematically from the start. First I made a list of the main characters I thought would be included. Then I decided how old they would be and what their names would be. From there, I looked through the character descriptions and decided on types for each character. Then with the character in mind and plans for how each would fit into the plot, I read through the character descriptions and made up a character profile for each one based on what I found.
CALLIOPE: Sounds pretty organized, especially for you. Are you concerned that you might be confining your characters too much?
JOE: Not really. I am using what I have done as a guide and starting point. As I write, I expect that there might be some changes in what I know about each character, perhaps some radical changes in them and maybe some characters I have not yet imagined. I have found that to some extent characters help me write the story and I never quite know where it is headed.
CALLIOPE: Is that what you found in your last novel?
JOE: Yes. I had a theme in mind that I planned to follow. But characters emerged whom I had not even considered at the start and each one became more complex as the story unfolded.
CALLIOPE: I'm excited and looking forward to seeing where the adventure leads.
JOE: So am I. Let's get going.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

JOE: Good morning, Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning, Joe. I am anxious to hear about your new novel.
JOE: Well, it's not exactly new. I have had the idea for about ten years but never did much with it before.
CALLIOPE: Why not?
JOE: I had just recently gone through a divorce and I think the experience was still too close and too personal for any kind of objectivity.
CALLIOPE: I guess I can understand that. It is hard to be objective when your emotions are still tossing you about. Yet your emotions are what would make the story real and interesting.
JOE: I realize that. However I was unable to find any sort of balance between objectivity and my personal feelings.
CALLIOPE: I know what you mean. I think the best fiction is a metaphor for the author's inner struggles. But the author needs to be able to see beyond them to make them a metaphor.
JOE: Exactly. I couldn't get beyond my own struggles to find any metaphors. I was locked in them in a way which paralyzed me.
CALLIOPE: Good insight. How about now?
JOE: Now I have had time to digest what happened to me. Parts of my experience are still a mystery, but I think now I can approach the topic with a better sense of balance. I also have learned a great deal about writing fiction, particularly using dialogue. I think I am ready now.
CALLIOPE: Great. Keep me posted.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

JOE: Good morning, Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning, Joe. What's new with your writing?
JOE: Glad you asked. Yesterday was a busy day. I worked carefully, for a change, to make sure my submission was in the correct format. Then I converted my manuscript and synopsis of The Pastor's Inferno to PDF format and sent them off to a New York eitor who agreed to review the project.
CALLIOPE: Sound exciting. Is it?
JOE: Yes, it is. I have been working on this project since last November. I have had the idea for much longer than that but could not figure out how to do it.
CALLIOPE: What do you mean?
JOE: I had originally wanted to write the book as a series of interviews with abusive priests, but realized the cost would be prohibitive in my current circumstances. Then I had the idea of doing it as a novel and suddenly saw it as within my resources.
CALLIOPE: That's quite a switch. Have you ever written a novel before?
JOE: No. I have done a series of short stories over the years but never attempted a novel before.
CALLIOPE: So how do you think you did?
JOE: I am not exactly unbiased, but I think it turned out well. I guess we shall see how it is received.
CALLIOPE: I guess we shall. Now what?
JOE: My excitement about this project is carrying me forward and I am anxious to get on with the next project.
CALLIOPE: Which is?
JOE: Another novel tentatively titled, Marital Property. I'll tell you more about it next time.
CALLIOPE: Can't wait. Talk with you then.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

JOE: Calliope, are you there?
CALLIOPE: Of course I'm here. I have been with you since your first interest in Chaucer during high school. Why do you think you found The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Christobel so engrossing? I was there to encourage you in your first steps toward literature.
JOE: I am happy to have you with me. I have sensed a feminine presence for quite a while when I was writing, but thought it was just my imagination.
CALLIOPE: I must admit I felt taken for granted but did not want to be intrusive. At least now you know I'm here.
JOE: Many times when I write, I feel lonely with only my pen or computer as companions. I have often wished to have a collaborator but it always seemed so awkward to arrange.
CALLIOPE: I will be right here whenever you need me or just want company. Glad to be of service.
JOE: I have been reading that the best writing comes from authors' exploration of their souls' deepest fears, desires and mysteries. Would you be willing to help me on such a journey?
CALLIOPE: Of course. I will go with you wherever you travel, even to the most inner recesses of your mind and soul. I can't say what we will find there since I cannot penetrate places where I am not invited. I will be happy to serve as your guide to your personal underworld as Virgil did for Dante in The Inferno as well as in more harmonious adventures.
JOE: That's great. I am looking forward to the journey. It sounds like everywhere we go will be an adventure but not always a happy one.
CALLIOPE: Exploring you soul will probably be upsetting at times but there are always things to learn about yourself and to use in you writing.
JOE: Thank you for accompanying me.
CALLIOPE: My pleasure.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Conversations with Calliope

Several days ago I was reading David Morrell's book, Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. He suggested that writers keep a written dialog with themselves about their writing and about their inner workings forming the basis for their best writing. I decided a dialog with myself might be a little boring.

I remembered writing a story, My Muse, some time ago but did not think of her as having a name. However I did like the idea of a feminine presence helping me with my writing. I found a list of the muses and discovered Calliope was the chief muse and might be able to help me with my authority struggles. She is the muse of eloquence for which I have been striving. She is also the muse of epic poetry. I thought back to my fascination with Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales and the works of Michener. Epic poetry seemed about as close as I could get to fiction among the muse specialties.

I decided to start writing my blog as a dialog with Calliope, at least for a while, hence the title Conversations with Calliope. Please join me in my journey if you are interested.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Writing as Living

Last night I was thinking about all the experiences I have not had. Some were by my choice and some just from not being able to do everything in life. There just isn't time. Then I realized that I could experience anything I wanted by writing about it. Maybe it isn't quite the same, but I have total control of my adventures and no constraints of time and money. Why didn't I think of this before?

(Lillian Hellman's Cabana- Martha's Vineyard)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

By the Sea

We seem to have the wonders of nature all around us. Sometimes we seem to busy to notice them though. I was thinking especially of sunrises and sunsets which seem all the more spectacular on the ocean than they do in our backyards. Maybe when we are away on vacation, it is easier to take the time to notice them, or maybe they really are more colorful.

(Sunrise, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Passive Aggressive Volunteer

I thought everyone who volunteered must be cheerful. My volunteering in clinical trial makes me happy and I always show up and leave from my appointments cheerfully. I was quite surprised recently to hear of a study volunteer whose motivation escapes me. Although it is a very good cause, he arrives at his appointments in a consistently dour mood and devies the nurses' best efforts to engage him in any kind of conversation. He volunteers only essential information and nothing more. This is one more I need to add to my list of life's mysteries.
(Sculpture garden- Nantucket)

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Are Sunflowers For?

I was reading Thomas Berry's book, The Great Work. I found a passage about how we have made everything utilitarian and have stopped just enjoying nature for the most part. I saw a field of sunflowers and wondered what they were for. They might have been for birds or people to eat, for oil, or maybe just for fun. I stopped to commune with them, and enjoyed seeing them from various directions and perspectives. I decided to enjoy them just for fun.
(A field of sunflowers- Leroy, NY)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Looking Back from the Future

Recently I wrote about the benefits of living in the present. Although not a realistic place to live, the future can sometimes provide a good vantage point for looking at the present. Sometimes I don't know what to do or how to do it. I become paralyzed by the options, decisions and potential consequences of my current situation. I solve this problem by projecting myself into the future, after the problem has been solved and the goal achieved. I leave all the present anxiety behind. Then I look back from the point of having accomplished my goal to calmly consider how I reached it. It sounded strange to me at first, but then I found out it worked.
(Rainbow- St. Maarten)