Tag Archives: quotes

(Notes for) A Great Responsibility

A plus quilt top is arranged, now waits to be sewn together….

I’ve had the idea of this post since early August, but then it was time to go on holiday, and since my return, sewing amid revisions have usurped my attention.  Not to mention that this topic is somewhat daunting, ahem, but having dropped hints toward it in my previous entry, it’s probably time to follow up with some succinct explanation.

This little quilt will be heading to the UK, maybe as soon as today!

However, succinct is not my middle name, lol.  Instead I will try to expand the few notes I made before we traveled to the Midwest, in the hopes I get the basics of my sentiment down correctly.  Of course, my views are completely subjective, so take my musings with a grain or two of authorial (and quilter’s) salt…

Equate writing a novel to quilting in that the seams must last as long as possible – so a book must be written with the greatest of care humanly possible….

Why the Peach Tree conundrum matters – that while I don’t take myself too seriously, I do take into account the novels I write with all due gravity….

I’ve linked the peach tree note to a post I wrote about it, if you’re interested.  Okay, so writing and quilting aren’t life and death matters.  They are at best occupations, or simply hobbies, or are they more?  Just this morning I came across several quotes from Man Ray, which probably is why I’m writing this post, as he straddled the line perfectly between what was necessary and what was superfluous in art.  A good sense of humor struck me first, but underneath was the realization of just how our personal efforts, regardless of how widely they are embraced, demand the best we can give of ourselves.  Within a wider quote, Man Ray says: To create is divine, to reproduce is human.  He’s not talking biology, but art.  By now drama in any genre has been written and rewritten extensively, but our own twist on various themes remains essential, as does the duty to set forth those paragraphs (and comforters) with as much imagination and respect for those to whom we are presenting them.  I wouldn’t give away a half-finished quilt, nor should I publish a tale merely because I can do so.  Now, having said that, let me also state that some of my first indie novels are….  They aren’t of the same quality of what I now produce.  But at the time they were the best of my abilities, and released with honorable intentions, same as the first quilts I made.  Life is a constant learning process, and artistic growth is often cataloged for all to see.  So I won’t discount those early efforts, but I most certainly can exceed them.

Flannel-backed, it’s 34 X 40 inches, and should be handy year round in Great Britain, ha ha.

To me, the gift of publishing independently demands I do my utmost to provide readers with the highest level of my talents, and I feel the same about making quilts.  There can be no shortcuts permitted, for a quilt would unravel after so many washings, just as a novel falls apart if not properly researched and plotted.  I don’t want to waste my time, or that of whoever receives the spoils of my imagination, in doing a half-assed job, excuse my French.  Certain projects are covered by a caveat, like The Hawk for instance, as I note that it is a beta-version, and critiques are most welcome.  When I find a typo, I attempt to correct it as quickly as I can, and in the case of quilts, patches are applied when seams rupture.  My efforts are solely human in nature, although the inspiration is quite divine.  And I smile as I proceed in these tasks, for what a tremendous pleasure to craft stories and stitch quilts!  As Man Ray also says: I have been accused of being a joker.  But the most successful art to me involves humor.  This is essential in accepting responsibility, for it keeps me from taking too much pride in what I do.  As I noted, writing and sewing aren’t life and death.  Yet the intrinsic value remains and a fine line needs to be tread in keeping these gifts honest without my shadow overpowering them.

I’m adding a close-up of the back; the alphabet is essential to an author, and I just couldn’t resist this fabric….

My goodness, that’s quite a lot to say early in the week!  Yet these thoughts have been crowding my brain, and as I’m nearly back to writing, space was necessary, ha ha, just like clearing off the little quilt wall as the next fabric WIP cries for my attention.  Last night I finished hand-binding a baby quilt (photos included within this post), washed it this morning, and hope to send it later today.  Another part of the great responsibility is to see these projects through.  I’ve been graced with nimble fingers as well as inventive gray matter, so idle moments are rare.  I welcome your thoughts, and I thank you for reaching the end of this rather scattered but well-intentioned post.

Back on the horse one more time….

After a much needed break, today I started what will be the last section of my serialized WIP, The Hawk.  Not sure how long this part will end up, probably more than the 60-70K of previous entries.  And as I began this morning’s work, I had to wonder, was I even going to manage a full chapter?  Initiating another hunk of this project is never easy, but today felt especially laborious.  After the first scene, I sat back, staring around where I write, and sew.  I took two rows off the quilt wall, pinned them, then sat back down again.  Then I got up, made some tea, returned to my chair, read over what I’d written, drank my tea, considered sewing those pinned rows, then gritted my teeth ever so slightly and banged out a paragraph.

Then I saved my work, closed the document, and had a snack.  Recently I’ve been battling acid reflux, but if I eat every couple of hours, I feel okay.  And while it was almost lunchtime, that paragraph had the essence of another strong scene, or at least one that would culminate in enough words to say I’d written an entire chapter today.

Sometimes writing is merely an act of patience; if you’re willing to wait out the blockages, sure enough something ends up on the page.

By the time I’d finished that scene, I needed more than a few nibbles.  I also required a little downtime, for it has been a while since I last worked on this tale, and honestly, the thought of this being the last time I open the document in order to start up yet another part is….  Jeez, it’s more than a little terrifying, perhaps that’s why the words were so stubborn.  There’s a lot of ground to cover in the conclusion, and while I don’t want to miss anything, this novel is already so big, I don’t wish to overstay my welcome, if you know what I mean.  It’s not only readers I’m considering, but yours truly.  Three years I’ve been plugging away at this behemoth, and I am *SO READY* to be done with it.  But not in a hurry-up-and-fly sort of manner, pun intended.  The proper pacing is essential, and after all this time, I want to get it right.

Ha ha ha!  Maybe that’s as absurd as what this novel has become, but I can only do what I know is true.  The quote above has been a guiding force since nearly the start of this book, that index card living on my desk amid post-it notes, Carmex, dental floss, seam rippers, and pin cushions.  I don’t know if I’ll frame it when I’m done, but it needed to be showcased, not only for its depth.  That I haven’t lost it over time is amazing, just as I’ve kept the flame lit underneath this story.

But a different theme now reigns within The Hawk, that of keeping the faith.  Maybe it’s due to me trusting that eventually I was going to reach this stage, lol.  Mostly it’s that this novel isn’t merely about life after conflict, hawks, or familial drama.  It’s about trust, love, and brotherhood.  As I glance at GK Chesterton’s words, I’m reminded of various moments within The Hawk’s creation scattered amid my father’s final months, the arrival of two grandchildren, as well as other milestones too numerous to mention.  This book isn’t only three years in the making, but lifetimes in its humble creation.  And it’s not over yet.

However, for the last time I’ve started a new section, one item to check off.  And I’m willing to wager that not every writing day will be as rough as this one was, although they’re not going to be simple.  But the thrill is that they will be; I shall finish this book.  And when I do, hehehe, one helluva party is happening at my house!  In the meantime, there’s words to write, plots to twist, characters to torture, I mean, explore.  And a message to unveil, the likes of which I’m waiting to learn.  Tomorrow I’ll peel away another layer to find what treasure awaits.

It’s a Big Wide World, The Conclusion

Taken from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

Taken from the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.

On Sunday the 21st, I spent the afternoon at the National Mall.  I had been once before, five years ago, my first time in DC.  That was right before the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial was dedicated, and the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial was being renovated.  So for this trip I had some goals.  I also wanted to see the Jefferson and Korean War Memorials, a lot on tap for a few hours in the capitol.

I want to preface this post by noting that I am not a political sort, nor am I especially keen on historical markers.  But for some inexplicable reason, I find this end of the Mall so moving.  Not sure if I’ll get to the other end, maybe one day.  My hosts and I discussed that if I return next summer, Arlington Cemetery would be our destination, perhaps the Holocaust Museum too.  But for this day, we began at the Jefferson Memorial, and would wind our way toward Lincoln.

So, Thomas Jefferson….  He’s lost some luster over the years, but one can’t deny his accomplishments.  This memorial is less than one hundred years old, which surprised all within my party, although it feels as old as the Washington Monument.  I was struck by the views of course, the largess of Jefferson’s statue, but what hit me hardest was one of the quotes along the wall.

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions.  But laws and constitutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.

Not sure how many folks fully grasp the power behind that statement.  Of course, taking photos at the Mall means capturing tourists, and we all had our reasons for being there.  I do hope some took a moment to read Jefferson’s words, reflecting upon that and other vital truths.

One of the many quotes in the FDR Memorial.

One of the many quotes in the FDR Memorial.

Words were everywhere we went, next to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.  This is a rambling memorial, covering FDR’s four terms in office.  I loved the waterfalls, appreciated Eleanor’s inclusion, snapping shots of most of FDR’s quotes.  I don’t know if today’s youth can properly grasp the Depression’s effect worldwide, nor the magnitude of WWII.  But there is plenty of food for thought, if one is willing to seek it.

As we approached the MLK Memorial, I photographed quotations which lead up to the monument.  Again, time is necessary to read over King’s messages; it’s one thing to know who these figures were, another to understand their impact upon society.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Intriguing to contrast King with Jefferson, both seeking freedom, yet one was a slaveholder.  Changes in laws and constitutions must be enacted to ensure our continued advancement as worthwhile human beings.

In reaching the Korean War Memorial, my thoughts were twofold; admiring the sculptures, also taking mental notes; the Korean War figures into my WIP, one of the reasons I wanted to see it.  The sculptures are magnificent, bringing home the corporeal message of battle; they were fashioned by Frank Gaylord, himself a veteran of WWII.  I imagined characters from The Hawk standing amid the juniper bushes, then pondered the number of US dead from that conflict, over 54,000 people lost.  (As an aside, that was over the course of just three years.  A similar number of lives were lost in Vietnam over the span of two decades.)

After that, my friends and I had a bite to eat at the nearby refreshment stand.  I still wanted to trek over to the Lincoln Memorial for pictures of the renovated Reflecting Pool.  We split into two groups, one which would fetch the car, while my group would wait near the Korean War Memorial, preferably on a bench under a lovely grove of trees.  And that was what happened, slightly interrupted by an impromptu rain shower.  Visiting the National Mall stirs many considerations, which are still with me days later.  I pleaded my West Coast upbringing more than once, was that why these memorials touch me so deeply?  Is it the history behind those honored, their convictions and sacrifices?

Maybe it’s a mix of all those notions alongside the appreciation for merely seeing these monuments.  Usually I spend my time in my little corner, but how fantastic to step into another, and within those acres find myself transported many years in the past as well as to a foreign land.  As a writer, I want to soak up myriad experiences so my characters ring as true as possible.  But as a human being, lifelong learning is a must, for as Jefferson also said: We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

IMG_20160821_125502

I look forward one day to accompanying my grandchildren to these monuments, sharing with them my gratitude for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And if we’re caught together in a thunderstorm, all the better.  We’ll chat about the day Grandma first saw Jefferson and Martin Luther King together, and just what that truly means.

Not long after I took this, the heavens opened….

Still learning what this book (and my life) is about….

Orchards in bloom, spring 2015.

Orchards in bloom, spring 2015; I think back on those days, often wondering just how I made it through some of them….

On the second leg of my recent holiday, friends asked the subject of my WIP.  It’s slightly difficult to describe without giving away the initial plot line, but past that, I noted it’s about love, PTSD, war, faith….  It’s a big book, plenty of room for various themes, but it would be nice to settle upon a main idea to easily sum up The Hawk.

A couple of days ago I flipped to the next quote in my page-a-day calendar, finding the essence of my novel encapsulated in a single sentence: To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.  I meditated upon those words as I finished dressing for the day, but no one was attributed to such a statement.  Fortunately, the internet provided me with the sage, one Arne Garborg, a Norwegian writer and linguist.  According to Wikipedia, Garborg championed the use of Nynorsk (New Norwegian), in addition to tackling the issues of his day.  I had left up the tabs for Garborg, as well as not moved my calendar ahead, just so I’d remember to write this post.  For this quote truly sums up the last three years of my writing life, as well as chunks of my personal existence.

But let’s first talk about The Hawk; initially I had in mind a short story.  Then within weeks, I found a much larger project had developed.  I wasn’t scared off, for I’ve written another series, and it felt good to sink my teeth into something so different than anything I’d previously created.  Magical realism has been a thrill to incorporate into the story, but this novel is grounded by factual events of the era, which is the early 1960s.  I’ve learned plenty about the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, and how The Beatles were first introduced to America.  But the novel’s main focus is human relationships, my stock in trade.  Several love stories are being told, not all of them romantic.  Finally there is war and how that colours the soul.  Early on I came upon a quote by GK Chesterson, which for a good while highlighted my work: The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.  Perhaps the first half of The Hawk is based upon Chesterson’s words.  The second half required different guidance.

I can’t actually say how much I’d written before my father died in April 2015, certainly a decent amount.  When I came home from caring for him and my youngest and her new baby, writing was far from my brain.  I sewed quilts, experimenting with the improv style that now forms the basis of my crafting.  By August of that year, I felt able to sit at my computer, and since then I’ve been steadily churning out chunk after chunk, interspersed with family, fabrics, and finding my way post-Dad.  Recently my friend Laura Bruno Lilly noted that this novel’s length might subconsciously be related to how long it takes to grieve, and I would agree.  How much I have grown as a person during the last three years is directly related to my father’s illness and death, becoming a grandmother, and still eking out chapters of a tale that has evolved from a mystical historical yarn into….  It truly is a love song learned from my beloveds, kept in a safe place to return to them wherever they might be.  Where I am within the story, it’s as if Arne Garborg was waiting for me to reach 25 August 2016, even if he’s been dead for nearly one hundred years.  I have one final part to complete and his quote is a beacon illuminating the safe shore.

When writing any kind of story, be it a saga or flash fiction, I am firmly led by my faith not merely as an internal compass, but for how the words are placed upon the document.  A combination planner and pantster, I don’t try to overthink the plot, although I’m not adverse to taking down necessary notes.  Is it a coincidence that Garborg is Norwegian and Klaudia lives in Norway?  Ha ha, perhaps.  Or maybe just how threads of my work interconnect in unexpected manners, richly flavouring a tale with very humble beginnings.  My biggest goal as an author is twofold; to entertain and uplift.  But behind those notions is how this work pertains to my personal enrichment, often surprising me, as well as delighting.  I love to sing, in addition to writing, so it was with a sly smile I read Garborg’s quote, also with a profound sense of gratitude, both for the insights and how blessed am I to perform this task.  It’s been a while in the making, but good things do come to those with patient hearts, both the reader and the writer.  And the lover; to learn another’s heartsong doesn’t happen overnight.  Yet, once that that intimate knowledge is accrued, miracles are possible.  I knew it many of the days I spent with my dad, I feel it daily with my husband, children, grandchildren, and other relatives.  I can’t escape it as this story winds down, but in that case, often I am the one being sung to.  And good thing, for many loose ends remain in need of resolution.  As I await this novel’s conclusion, I am aware of copious grace wrapped in a blessed melody.  When I forget this or that point, I simply close my eyes, permitting an otherworldly guidance to set me aright.  Music has long been an inspiration, but not always are the tunes of a corporeal strain.

Why I’m a writer….

On this last day of quotes, I didn’t have to look hard for inspiration.  To my left in the writing/sewing grotto is a poster, and while I no longer participate in NaNoWriMo, the notion of fifty K in thirty days brought me to where I am today.  Thank goodness for Chris Baty: There’s a book in you that only you can write.

Ten years ago I had no idea this noveling journey was on the cusp of my horizon; I was living in Yorkshire, England, homeschool three teens, assuming my authorial dreams would merely dwell within my own head; hah!  My eldest twisted my arm only slightly to sign up for National Novel Writing Month, and by the end of November 2006, I had one hundred thousand words which later turned into my first novel.  Other issues swirled amid those words falling on paper; we made the decision to return to America, after over a decade spent in what is still my second home.  But while Britain lives within me via tea and a deeply rooted sense of history, the words began there through an unconsidered manner of writing; just do it.

That’s a quote for another day, because to just do it implies a task in need of completion.  That initial book was plotted out the month before NaNoWriMo began, but the notion of creating fiction had lingered for….  Oh my goodness, as long as I can remember!  So many story ideas were scribbled in notebooks; I like to say I have more plots than sense.  But how to release those lives, histories, drama?  The only manner is to simply write.  Don’t worry you might be telling a tale previously shared.  No one can tell your story in your manner but you.

Why is this notion so necessary?  Partly for all the ways someone else could unravel said yarn, nobody else possesses my experiences, which subtly and not so subtly enrich the story.  Like no two quilts are the same, neither are books, regardless of the subject.  And beyond the mere output of the tale told is the effect upon the storyteller.  My first novel is, ahem, not my strongest, but it ushered in more books, leading to where I sit today, with a behemoth that centers upon a most vital theme, that of trust.  Which takes me back in time ten years, believing that maybe I could crank out fifty thousand words in one month, because there was a book in me that only I could write.  Isn’t that a compelling reason to write that book you’ve always wanted to?  Nobody can do it but you!

Substitute book for whatever burning desire lays within your heart; life is short, no time to shove aside dreams that simply don’t go away.  I was forty when I started my fictional escapades, so age is no factor, well, not for words.  I won’t be training for a marathon, although maybe with The Hawk, I am, ha ha.  But it all began by embracing what is possible, not fretting over would it be good, might it be appreciated.  A new world is waiting to be explored; get writing and find your own yellow brick road.

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for three quotes in three days.

A little heartache along the way….

As I prep The Hawk Part 7 for release, I’m brought back to something Eric said to Sam in Part 4: I know I’m new at this faith stuff, but he didn’t spare his own son.  Why shouldn’t we expect some heartache along the way?

Writing this novel has been an exercise not only in faith that one of these days I’ll finish it, but broadening my trust in God to get me through the less stellar parts of life.  As I noted yesterday, 2015 was teeming with delights.  It was also bittersweet, and to be honest, since I started The Hawk, my family has undergone great change.  Shortly after the writing commenced in October 2013, Dad saw an oncologist at UCSF, who recommenced chemotherapy.  Suddenly Dad’s journey with cancer was taking a severe left turn, but this is how life, and death, proceeds, not always how we would imagine or prefer.  In 2014 I did little noveling but a lot of driving, for my father as well as two pregnant daughters.  That year I wasn’t even sure if The Hawk would fly, ha ha.  I detailed my stalled efforts in a poem, which I recently reread, reminding myself how much life has altered in the last few years.  Yet, that is the force behind our existences, although not always are those changes pleasant.

A theme I constantly revisit is that need for change, which leads to growth, which often translate to heartache along the journey.  Within a novel, drama is essential, and the same holds for life, but how we deal with heartache doesn’t have to be over the top.  Christ asks for us to know all is well regardless of the oncoming storms.  And to even give thanks for those storms, for within the maelstrom is the opportunity to cling to him.  In Part Seven, Marek tells Lynne that when we pray for God’s will, we are handing over the burden, allowing Christ to continue the mystery, as well as do all the work.  We are walking in the dark, Marek notes, but sometimes that’s the easiest thing.

Yet, our human natures chafe at that idea, for we want to be in control.  Last year I sat beside my ailing father, control long out of his hands.  It was out of mine too, whether he was sleeping peacefully or aching for painkillers.  Within the fiction, I want to share these truths, as well as the lasting joy that lingers, albeit in manners I don’t fully understand.  But that’s fine.  As I said a few posts ago, it’s not for me to determine the purpose, only to engage in the process.  And when that process turns painful, to then seek peace from the most secure and eternal position; on my knees or with eyes closed, fully aware I’m not alone.

Not even Christ was spared, but in his sufferings, I know mine are understood.

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly for the impetus behind this post.

Quotes Here and There….

Thanks to Laura Bruno Lilly, I’ve been asked to provide three quotes in three days.  Today’s was easy, just plucking it from a recent post: Git ‘er done, courtesy of my father.

Dad from March 2006

Dad from March 2006

I’ve been thinking about Dad recently; he died coming on a year ago, and this time last year he was….  Still at home, but not for much longer.  He had prostate cancer, COPD, and on the fourth of March 2015 was diagnosed with heart failure.  I remember that day like it was yesterday; for several weeks I’d been helping with my new grandson as well as assisting with Dad’s care, and that was the same day I was going home.

I wasn’t away more than a week, returning to my dad in hospice care at his house, but after only a few days, it proved to be too large a task for Mom and family.  Dad went into a care facility, and died less than a month later.

His health spiraled down so quickly, yet now I’m grateful that he didn’t suffer longer than he did.  And as for us….  2015 was full of many joys, what with The Burrito and Little Miss’ arrivals.  But as they grow, my father isn’t a part of their corporeal lives, although he’s never far away.  My kids tell me how much I sound like him, as if I could pass along his character simply by speech.  And if there was any statement I associate with my father, it’s his gravelly admonition to git ‘er done.

Those words can be attributed to a variety of meanings.  Right now I’ll slap it in my life alongside The Hawk as well as a baby blanket that is in the process of being hand-quilted.  Yet when thinking of my dad, I am most proud of how he was a recovering alcoholic.  The last ten years of his life, five of those spent battling cancer, he had been sober.  I never imagined he could stop drinking, and am still so thankful for that gift.  His last days were one kind of inspiration, but that final decade remains within me.

Thanks again to Laura for giving me a chance to reflect upon someone so loved and still greatly missed.  We’ll see what tomorrow’s quote elicits.