I’ve been wondering why people keep telling me that the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a feminist book. What’s so feminist about a story that’s all about violence against women? It may be a thriller about finding the man who “did it” and punishing him, but isn’t that just a platform to write about violence of the grossest kind against women? And what’s so feminist about a lead character who is sleeping with a much older man, (who already has a lover), and who buys herself a pair of boobs the first opportunity she gets. There’s even a little girl on girl action. Sounds like a certain kind of guy’s wet dream to me, and it sure makes me wonder what the word feminist means these days. I get the whole thing about being able to be feminine and feminist. Way to go, I say. But violence against women? Sexual violence? no thanks. Surely that doesn’t fit under the name feminist. Argh… Had to rant…
Writer Laurie Elmquist stopped by my house today to give me a card to congratulate me on some recent good writing news. It was a lovely gesture, and I appreciated it a lot. I opened the card and put it on my mantle where I can look at it for the next week or so, and then we went out for a walk with our dogs.
After our walk I came back to the card because I had started to appreciate it more deeply. The card was a lovely gesture from a generous friend, but it was also something more. The reason Laurie knew in the first place that I had writing news is that we write together. We walk and talk about writing, we shop and talk about writing, we drink tea and talk about writing. If we are together, we are probably talking about writing. We both write, and we both teach writing. And we are part of a larger group too–the Wildwood writers.
The Wildwood writers is a group of women who have been writing together for years, through many rejections and false starts, and yet we continue to write and we continue to write together. And the truth that I realised when looking at my card today, is that it’s not despite the rejections and false starts that we stay together, it’s because of them. Because we need each other. Writing is hard hard work, and it takes a long time, and most of us would have given up long ago if it weren’t for the Wildwood writers meeting each week and listening to our tales and our writing.
So thank you to Laurie for always being there for me and for bringing me a beautiful card, and to the Wildwood writers, without whom I would most definitely no longer be a writer.
A day on the beach reminded me that even 13 year olds can soak up the beauty and stillness of a deserted island. They chaffed at first, too tired to be enthusiastic, but soon they were competing to see who could walk on logs longest without stepping on sand, and who could hit a far away log most times with a thrown rock and who would jump first into the freezing cold water.
Truth is, it’s hard to sit down at the computer on a sunny summer day to blog. I’d rather be outside digging up the potatoes or walking along the beach, or having a quick swim at a lake. That’s the problem with living in a climate like this. Ten months of the year it’s cool and it’s okay to sit inside, but those two months of warm weather, you just gotta get out there. And I want to not only for my sake, but also for my kid’s sake. Anything to take him away from sitting in front of the tv or computer. So out we go. And, to be honest, I’m happy to give up my writing life for those fleeting summer moments. Who can say no to a mid summer picnic on the beach in the company of loved ones? Or a day at the river watching growing kids swim? Or an afternoon browsing the pictures at the Moss Street Paint in? Not me.
I have bees in my garden. If that seems like a celebratory statement, it’s because it is. I was just listening last week to a Quirks and Quarks podcast about how bees around the world are disappearing,, and then today I was sitting in my garden, and there were bees. The thing is, over the past few years I’ve been changing my garden over from flowers to vegetables. But the bees were in the flowers, which I still have a lot of. There they were, pollinating the lavender and roses, and ignoring the vegetables. Seeing the bees there reminded me why I had planted the garden in the first place, which was to create an oasis of scent and beauty, and that still seems like a good idea, even if I also know that growing food is important. A bit of both perhaps, because we eat the food, and it’s good for our bodies, but the scent and sunning beauty of the flowers is good for our souls–and the bees.
At last. It’s been a long road between when I wrote the article and now–but here it is at last. Here’s a sneak peak at “John One Eye”–the article I wrote for the anthology.
“Back long ago in the days when I was a pirate,” said my husband Michael, adjusting the bandana around his head, “I met a man named John One-Eye. He was old even then, and he told me about some treasure he hid in the forest. Do you want to come and look for it with me?” He knelt down under the tree where our son Rowan and his five-year-old friends sat spellbound.
The children’s eyes widened with wonder. “Yes,” they whispered.
Michael smiled and stood up. “Then come with me.” He beckoned and eight children fell into line.
“Let’s look under the cedars. Do you see anything there?” Michael bent low and crawled under the overhanging branches of a cedar tree. The children followed him into the clearing. They scurried around, peering over roots and under branches.
“Nothing here,” said Rowan.
“Then we’ll have to go farther along the trail.”
I smiled and walked back to the picnic table to wait. I was glad for a few minutes to myself, to listen to the quiet of the park, and the noises of children having fun. I could hear them as they squealed in delight when Michael pretended to ask a duck if he had seen any treasure. They wandered along the path, searching among the salal and hostas and running in the grass just for the fun of it, until at last Michael led them to a stand of pines.
I set the picnic table with orange plastic birthday plates and blue cups. The sun was strong for an April morning. Not far off I heard, “Here it is! Here it is!” Rowan spied it first, but sixteen little hands reached upwards as Michael lowered the box down and pulled off the lid. Inside were cake and strawberries, and little goodie bags for each child.
The children gathered around the table. Their faces were flushed from running, and their hands stained red from strawberries. “Was your dad really a pirate?” said a small voice, muffled with cake.
“Yeah,” Rowan nodded happily. Michael looked at me over the heads of the children and winked. And with that, a story was born.
I was reminded today of the value of writing what we know. I went out with my family on a short kayaking trip across Baynes Channel to Discovery Island. Just a short trip, but it reminded me of so many things about kayaking: the sound of the water licking at the paddle as it dips in, the rocking of the boat when the current catches it, the dry feeling of salt on the skin when water drops from the paddles. I remembered how the boat feels slow and lagging when I’m paddling in a following sea, and the strange feeling that produces when I look to shore and realise the I’m actually moving really quickly. I also remembered the joy of being among rocks and seaweed and tall sea grasses on a pebbly beach with sharp white shells and bone bleached logs, how fantastic even the simplest of food tastes in the out of doors, how happy even teen aged boys are when they have nothing to do but hang out on a beach and watch eagles circle in the air and seals loll on a rock. These are all things I can write about, because I know them, deeply, in my body, my memory, my bones, which is a good thing, because so much of writing is mysterious and unknown.
I’ve recently finished a couple of large writing projects, so I’m turning back to a piece of fabric art that I left off a few months ago, partly because it was too large, and it made me overwhelmed. But then today, just as I was thinking I might get back into it, I saw this video on the work of Merle Axelrad Serlin. She’s doing expertly what I have been fumbling with intuitively. Because I am not trained in this artform I am limited in my technique, which is one of the main reasons I gave up on the project. Isn’t it wonderful how the world conspires to give us what we need? Just as I was thinking about how to tackle this project, there was a video that led me to a person who could help.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been struggling with a section of my novel. This is the novel I’ve been working on for years, plugging away intermittently, when I have time. Slowly, slowly it’s taking shape. But there is a section I just haven’t filled in.
A section that I know I have to work on, but which is empty. Big, empty spaces live there instead of words. At a workshop yesterday, I had an epiphany. I’ve been writing this whole novel by exploring the relationship between two people. It works (if I do say so myself). We get to know these characters well. We like them. We wish them well. Then, in this section that I’ve been avoiding, the one where there is a big hole; I’ve been trying to figure out the plot. Now don’t get me wrong, plot is important, but why do I think I have to change, in this section, from focusing on character to focusing on plot? It’s because there is a complication that arises in the plot here, so I’ve been trying to figure it out by approaching the material from the perspective of what happens. But here’s my epiphany. I can just keep working on character. How would they respond in this circumstance? What will they say about this piece of information? How will they feel when they discover this complecation? Aha! Why abandon what has been working? This is it, I’m sticking with my exploration of these two characters, and beware to the plot–I’m gonna get you!
Oh there’s nothing like a sunny warm day in a cool and rainy place. When those days come, nothing, really nothing, can keep me inside. Not even the thought of hours or writing. I tried, I really did, but today my feet kept taking off on their own and propelling me outside. So eventually I gave up fighting, and went to the beach. So many families, kids, kayaks, frisbies, sandwiches, bottles of water, bathing suits, towels, sticks, ropes, books and babble. Wonderful. Let’s hope it happens again soon.