owl in winter

owl in winter

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reading and Writing

You know, it seems to me that suddenly, everybody wants to write a book. I hear it a lot these days. Someone will say, "If I had the time..." or, "I'm going to write a book when my kids are grown" or, "I could write that book better than that guy."

Well, then I ask, what do you read? Who do you read? At that point, it seems the would-be world famous novelist doesn't read. Doesn't have time or, just isn't much of a reader.
Sorry, that is not the way it works.

There are two requirements to being a writer. One is to write. A lot. Write a lot, at regular intervals, with no distractions.

The other requirement is to read. A lot. Regular intervals, no distractions.

The two requirements cannot be separated.

Every book, every author, brings a learning curve to your work. I like to read, simply because I like to read. I enjoy it. I make time for it. Granted, I could be "doing" something else but I choose to read. It's about the craft, sure, but it's also because I like it.

As a writer, reading should be paramount to your craft. Reading teaches such things as character development, plot structure, narration, the telling of a good story. Without reading, how would you know good versus bad, interesting versus dull, pace versus stagnant? Reading shows you elements of your own work; what needs to be developed, what is needful and necessary and, on the other hand, what is not. Your work is in a constant state of refinement. Without reaching into other worlds, without that stretch, you could never know that.

What to read? It doesn't matter what you read so long as you do it. You may not like fiction as I do. Okay, then. Read non-fiction. Make time. Take a book to your next doctor appointment. Slow the pace down for one hour and read in the morning or in the evening. Read while you're sitting in the car line at school. I've even taken a paperback to a restaurant (I was eating alone) and read while waiting for my meal. Go to your library, make friends of the librarian. Check the Sunday paper best-seller list. Buy second hand books. Here's a thought - watch less television. Read instead. Do what you must but, do read.

You will truly, truly find reading will enrich your writing. It can't help itself.

Now, challenge yourself to read every day. Every day. Monitor yourself and, in a month or two months or six months, compare what you wrote today to what you will be writing that day. On that day, your mind will be so much more open and fresh. Your characters will be more full-bodied, as opposed to one-dimensional. You will understand more about plot and pace.

I guarantee it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Roast Chicken and Vegetables

Roast chicken and vegetables. Who doesn't like this? First of all, I started feeling a little silly as I typed this last night and now that I am reviewing and revising, I realize I should take a lot of my silliness out but quite honestly, cooking should be fun. I decided not to tinker with it too much.

So easy-peasy, this one. Not to mention, delicious.

Okay, pick up a whole chicken from your local grocer; I prefer five pounds or so. Pick up fresh carrots, leeks, fennel, onions, red potatoes, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, extra virgin olive oil. Quantity is subjective; depends on how many people you are feeding. I have several and so, I tend to use large quantities.

Rush on home, as I did today, and set all of your components on the counter. Pull out a baking sheet, a really large baking sheet. Pour a little olive oil over it. Survey your domain before continuing. If all is well, continue on to the next step.

Cut one onion into slices and arrange in the center of your baking sheet. Same with the leek. Just set your leek slices on top of your onion slices. Peel carrots and cut them up however you like them, cut potatoes into quarters, chop garlic (3 cloves), chop fennel, throw all of this into a big bowl (not a problem for me, as you may well know by now as I love bowls and own a shameful amount of those). Okay, vegetables in bowl, now what. Pour a generous amount of olive oil over, sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Throw some thyme and sage over, and then just mix it up a bunch and when you're finished, throw it out on the baking sheet arranging it around the onions and leeks, which are hopefully, already on the baking sheet.

Okay so now, you have monsieur chicken, rinsed, patted dry and ready to go. Tell him he's going to a party. He'll love it.

I like to put onions, apples or lemons in my chicken to keep it moist. I had a lemon so I used that this time but you could use any of what I mentioned or a combination of two of them. Cut one lemon in quarters, shove inside mr. chicken, along with some fresh rosemary and thyme, salt and pepper. Go ahead, oil mr. chicken all over, salt and pepper. Be generous with the oil to make a crispy skin. Place mr. chicken on top of the onion/leek/fennel mixture. Tie his little legs up.

Place mr. chicken and his backup, aka vegetables, in preheated 450° degree oven, roast for one hour, check. If vegetables are not done, roast for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven, cover with aluminum foil and let sit for 15 minutes, carve and serve.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Guess I Have a Little Fetish...

I've been working really hard lately. Working really hard at my day job at the law office (big Federal trial coming up at the end of the month), and working hard on the MIP. I already put down 1000 words this morning, which is really good these days as I have been coming home in the evenings, throwing a less-than-stellar meal on the table, and heading off to bed at 8:00 pm.

Exhaustion, plain and simple. I have been too tired to blog, too tired to take photographs, too tired to do much but the essentials.

In any case, when my friend, Lorie, called and wanted to go shopping yesterday, I was estatic. I love shopping with Lorie because, for one thing, we seem to spend quite a bit of time laughing and, because we seem to see things the other one would like. Great time. Off we went, Target, Pier 1, Marshalls, TJ Maxx....well, it was at Pier 1 that she informed me that I seem to have a little problem.

Bowls. I love bowls. Can't get enough bowls. I wonder how many bowls Lorie's seen me buy over the years, since she quite calmly informed me, "you're a bowl whore." She said it with affection, I know because should the truth be told, she is one too but, we weren't talking about her at that point. I didn't find a bowl I really wanted at Pier 1. It was later, at Marshall's, as I pondered my intrigue with the ribbing on the inside of that bowl and the low rim of that other bowl, that I realized...this might be out of control. And, quite frankly, it's not like I have room in my cabinets for another bowl. The bowl with ribbing on the inside (bottom corner of the photo) won that battle, by the way.

Bowls signify generosity and abundance to me. I don't believe you can have one without the other, can you? And since I enjoy being and having both, well, let's get a bowl and think about it. Bowls are beautiful in their simple roundedness, heavy, capable clay porcelain. Maybe they are like hearts, they can hold a lot of joy or pain. Maybe I love bowls because I have seen so many wonderful things come out of them all these years; thinking of my mother many, many years ago with a bowl on her hip, one hand holding it tight, the other hand stirring with a big wooden spoon. Maybe it is the memory of her setting a steaming bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon down in front of me because she knew the walk to the bus stop was going to be cold. A bowl full of something nourishing symbolizes a warmth not found so easily anymore. Maybe that is why I like them so much.
Bowls give me joy.

What gives you joy?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Waiting for Spring (Impatiently)

Can you tell I am ready for spring? I wrote this some time ago but, as we anticipate another winter storm tonight, I pulled it out and re-read it. Yes, I will be happy to see spring arrive.

The gentle ripple of the water breaks as our canoe passes through and I am soothed. Sunshine dances in patches on the water. My mind is often torn in two parts - the person I am and the person I want to be. When I am on the river, the two parts make peace. It is idyllic. There is no conflict.

Birds chatter in the trees and I wonder what they are saying. Are they exchanging gossip? Are they calling their children home for supper? I've seen eagles here, just every once in awhile. None today though.

We pass by ancient trees; thick green-leaved groves of them. White dogwoods and purple redbuds peek out from behind gnarled lichened trunks. Sometimes, I see the brown hump of a turtle's back and he swims hither and yon. He senses our approach and scurries for shore. The sun warms my legs as we slither through a spot where the trees are not so dense. Gentle warmth is moving up the front of me, over my neck and onto my face. I turn to it. Back in the shadows now but it is not cold. I like to watch the rocks slide by. Some brown, some grey, some lichen spotted.

It is easy to imagine the Native Americans traveling down river and I wonder, who came here before me? Who knew this place before I came here? Did they cherish it as I do?

Oh, quick, look! A deer, coming down to drink the water. He hastily backs up, nostrils flaring, smelling human.

It is quiet here. The rocking of the canoe must be similar to the rocking in the womb. I don't like to talk much when I am on the river as there is no need. Soon enough, I will be back in my office in Springfield, sitting at my desk surrounded by files and email messages, but for now, I have twenty-two miles of water to rock on through. I am content.