lilacs in bucket

lilacs in bucket

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Brown Egg


I'm taking an artist's day today, and it's actually Monday. I'm taking a day to write, wander about with my camera, and of course, eat. To that last end, this morning I wound up on the corner of Kimbrough and Madison, at The Brown Egg.

I have to say I love restaurants. I love independently owned eateries because it seems to me that you find the best food in those places and, beyond that, you find character.

The Brown Egg is such a place.

Tucked into the corner of a strip mall, at first you might pass by it unless you're looking for it, which I was. I read about it in the paper recently and I've heard word of mouth that it's a good place to eat.

I mentioned character. This place has it. Dark wooden square tables, bookcases overflowing with all kinds of books, globes, musical instruments, other artifacts. The vibe is comfortable. The food is very good (I had biscuits and gravy) and of course, I have to mention the coffee. I had a medium roast breakfast blend this morning, which made me feel just a little bit pampered and special.

The bakery case is full of beautifully dressed cupcakes. The lunch special will be white bean chili (I see it written on a black chalkboard above the counter).

I liked that I saw a pair of elderly men dressed in heavy wool sweaters sitting at one table, while a younger college-age couple wearing their blackframed glasses and beanie caps sat at another and, a pair of Springfield Police Officers sat not too far from me. It was an electic mix of folks; good, I thought.

I left satisfied and happy. Bravo, Brown Egg! I'll be back.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

January



Here we are, smack in the middle/end of January. January, the first month of the new year. The month of bone-chilling winds, hot tea in pretty china cups, hearty casseroles steaming in bakeware and fur-lined snowboots, splotched from tramping through snow. January. The month of new resolves, goal making, organization and list upon list upon list of things to accomplish here in this new year. Lists of things we will DO this year, things to accomplish, goals.


We're goal orientated anyway, aren't we? But. Do we need to be?


Well, as far as I am concerned, about organizing your closets, which seems to be what January is about, you can do that any time. January just seems a good month to toss out old and not usable, and to put everything you wish to keep in order, from tupperware to sweaters.


But as writers, well, we work all year long. We organize, search through, find new, find old, we put things in boxes all year long. Writers have an interminable attic containing every thought, every character, every scene we can ever think of, in boxes in our eternal attic, to be pulled out when needed.


We have memories, we have photos, we have trunks and trunks of fabrics, and notecards of handwritten recipes and weather forecasts and Bibles complete with family trees. We have baby bibs and quilts and land owner records. Some of us may be lucky enough to have diaries, personal, hand written thoughts, impressions, real life happenings.


Allow yourself to revel in these things, allow yourself to think about what went before you. Relax. And then, allow yourself to reflect.


When you are ready, climb the stairs to your attic. Take a long look at that dress dummy in the corner. What is that dress dummy wearing? Sniff, smell, touch, see. Open the trunk you've always wanted to look into. Pull out the old letters (is there a hint of perfume lingering there?), the photos (who are all those people), the fabrics (how sensual), entrench yourself in the history entombed there.


Inhale the history, claim it. Aborb it.


And then sit down and write it all out. Come back and tell me what you found. Is it more than what you expected? I suspect so.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Adverbs


Are adverbs our friends?

Do you ever run crazily or scream loudly or maybe even climb mightily? Now, when I run, I just run. It may be crazy at the time to be doing it but, I run just the same. I seldom scream but if I do scream, take it for granted, it's loud. My climbing, which these days is limited to small ladders at my law office, trying to reach a file from the top shelf, is simply that. I climb up the ladder, retrieve the file, and I climb down. There's nothing mighty about it.

What do adverbs do to our writing? I believe, adverbs weaken our writing. The real action, the real strength, is in the verb.

Are you ever insanely crazy? I heard that one not too long ago. Okay, that's an obvious one. Let's move on.

Sometimes I think writers, and I'm talking to myself here too, simply like to hear the sound of their own voices. We love words. Spinning a weave of words is what we do, right? Well, sure. But what we really do is spin an idea. We sow an idea in the reader's head, a grain of a seed that blossoms into a plant and bears fruit and is the story we are writing.

Adverbs are pretty, sort of like a false promise is pretty. When you get below the surface though, it's all show and no substance.

I attended a writing workshop last weekend and part of the program included a critique session. I sat in and, it being my first time at this workshop, I tried to stay quiet and listen. We had a lovely lady bring her work; she read 19 pages aloud and although it was an intriguing and well thought-out story line, her work was filled with adverbs and trite cliches. I ended up writing her a note and I simply asked her to read through her manuscript and cut the adverbs out. She was confused and asked the question of the critique group, "Are adverbs bad?" Apparently, an editor somewhere told her to use them all the time, as much as possible. I don't think that is the trend but if it is, heaven help us. At any rate, I don't think she was satisfied with the answer she got (not from me) that, yes, adverbs are bad. They do not help your writing in any way.

If you have not read it, find horror writer, Stephen King's, book called On Writing. Mr. King addresses the subject of adverbs very well and listen, that guy, he's sold a bijillion books. He must know something.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Magic of Words



It's amazing to me sometimes, how I will be thinking of a particular topic and I will go online to other writers' websites (one in particular, dear Barb), and I will read my exact thoughts!


I have characters walking around in my brain and have had for several years, not all connected to the same story, but they're all having a cocktail party in my brain at the same time. I only hope they all like one another. I have images burning, I hear songs playing but not all of it is cohesive to one story. There are always more stories, more exploration to take place.


It's a demanding job, being a writer, seriously, it is. It's not about blithely weaving about with a crown of flowers on your head, wearing white guaze, dancing in a flowered meadow to Bob Dylan. Wouldn't that be nice? No. It's work. It's psychology and it's history and it's layers and layers and layers of being human and loving and losing and being debased to the lowest level and being the phoenix rising from the ashes, and becoming stronger only to be combatted against again and over. It's failure and redemption and finding love or some other positive trait, after having lost so much.


I am working on but having serious trouble, with JANO, the January sister of NaNoWriMo. I feel as if I am spinning out of control and this story line or that will dictate what I write next and I can't tell what it will be.


Maybe I shouldn't worry about it, just let it be (Beatles)...maybe that would be best. What about you?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Don't fear the Brussel


It's been another kitchen day for moi, the eternal cook. And I do love the brussel sprouts, those cute mini-cabbages...so green, so lovely. Oh my. What to do with them???

This is what I did with them. First of all, I have a pound of brussels, so. They were all about the same size, so I cut them all in half. I chopped a half onion, threw a quarter cup unsalted butter in a pan, and let the butter and onion get all happy together, threw in some salt, some pepper, some red pepper flakes. Let it go, The onions need to tenderize, the brussels, well, they need to carmelize. Let them get tender. And then.

Take the pan away from the heat for a second and pour in maybe two tablespoons white wine (dry or semi-sweet). Just enough to deglaze the pan. Once that is finished, I pour in a carton of chicken stock, a little half and half, and some salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper. Some corn starch, stir, bring to a boil, let it thicken, drop a quarter cup or so of parmesan cheese over...let it alone.

Very, very nice.....