We are wading into fall with slow tentative steps. There was the trip to Jack Kerouac’s old place in Hyannis, boys insistent on something more fun, us uncertain if we’d found the right house, still I shot the Polaroid anyway, just in case. Days pass us by leaving a bowl of tomatoes behind. The slumped over sunflower plant harvested with the boys, the little one eating seeds faster than we could squeeze them from the hulls. Reminders of the little pleasures. Books culled from the kitchen shelves. Paint samples brushed on beige and pumpkin-hued walls, variations on white if only we had a Rauschenberg painting of the same color to hang on our future falls. Inside the view will be clean and bright and despite resistance, we carry on. American Dream (the new LCD Soundsystem) on the speakers. Coffee in the pot. A novel in the works. Stay tuned.
The silver sky threatens rain, again. Orange tiger lilies cut from the garden days ago, withered on their stems. Green tomatoes out front slow to ripen. Unplugged moments, wild as the flower beds, boys with steam to burn. Summer rushes on despite our protests, despite all the corn and berries our bellies can hold. The Cape came and went leaving us with seaside dreams and stacks of books to read.
I’ve wanted to share a few good reads I’ve picked up this summer, from writing craft to fiction, some of them acquired at the Falmouth library sale always a summer highlight for me.
But first, if you haven’t read Mary Oliver’s piece on The Artist’s Task, it’s worth your time! So many truth snippets in her poetic essay, particularly the beginning “creative work needs solitude” and “concentration, without interruptions” something that isn’t easy to come by during these summer days. Still, we carry on. Also, “In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around, but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary. Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities.”
I’ll leave you with these snippets, first writing craft then fiction.
1. If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland– “Keep a Slovenly, Headlong, Impulsive, Honest diary. It has shown me that writing is talking, thinking, on paper. And the more impulsive and immediate the writing the closer it is to the thinking, which it should be. It has made me like writing. It has shown me more and more what I am—what to discard in myself and what to respect and love. You must in time learn to write from your true self not only in your letters and diary, but in fiction. When you have written a story and it has come back a few times and you try to write it over again and make it more impressive, don’t think of better words, try to see the people better. It is not yet deeply imagined. See them—just what they did and how they looked and felt. Then write it. If you can at last see it clearly the writing is easy.”
2. Write and Revise for Publication by Jack Smith – “Read a little each day. Read critically and examine how writers practice their craft. How do they open and close stories? How do they develop characters and advance plot? How do they handle point of view? If you haven’t been reading for craft, now is the time to start doing so.”
3. State of Wonder by Anne Patchett – “The news of Anders Eckman’s death came by way of Aerogram, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope. Who even knew they still made such things? This single sheet had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota to mark the passing of a man, a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world. Mr. Fox had the letter in his hand when he came to the lab to tell Marina the news. When she saw him there at the door she smiled at him in the light and in the light of that smile he faltered.”
4. Away by Amy Bloom – “It is always like this: the best parties are made by people in trouble. There are one hundred and fifty girls lining the sidewalk outside the Goldfadn Theater. They spill into the street and down to the corners and Lillian Leyb, who has spent her first thirty-five days in this country ripping stitches out of navy silk flowers until her hands were dyed blue, thinks that it is like an all-girl Ellis Island: American looking girls chewing gum, kicking their high heels against the broken pavement, and girls so green they’re still wearing fringed brown shawls over their braided hair. The street is like her village on market day, times a million. A boy playing a harp; a man with an accordion and a terrible, patchy little animal; a woman selling straw brooms from a basket strapped to her back, making a giant fan behind her head; a colored man singing in a pink suit and black shoes with pink spats; and tired women who look like women Lillian would have known at home in Turov, smiling at the song, or the singer.”
5. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – “The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium. They hardly dared to breathe as the short, solemn figure of their director emerged from the naked seats to join them on stage, as he pulled a stepladder raspingly from the wings and climbed halfway up its rungs to turn and tell them, with several clearings of his throat, that they were a damed talented group of people and a wonderful group of people to work with.”
6. The Constant Gardener by John Le Carre – “The news hit the British High Commission in Nairobi at nine-thirty on a Monday morning. Sandy Woodrow took it like a bullet, jaw rigid, chest out, smack through his divided English heart. He was standing. That much he afterwards remembered.”
Have you dined at Sevenstrong Avenue in Northampton yet? If not, get there stat. It will knock your socks off. Chef Jonathan Adler and his team put out locally sourced food artfully rendered. I’ve been photographing the restaurant and kitchen, documenting their seasonal drink and tasting menus, and learning about locally foraged plants and fermentations in the process. The music and company are good, along with the food.
Delighted to be back at The Curated Fridge for the Spring show, curated by Jessica Roscio. So many great pops of color and artists to discover. Check out the show. The Curated Fridge.
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I see, and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” — Joan Didion
Ah, winter. I putter around waiting for winter’s end, which in New England, feels like against grey chilled days composed around soup and tea making with intermittent bursts of toddler led cookie making. The days are filled with short writing bursts with the hope that a collection of short stories will turn into a book and find the light of day at winter’s end. Yes, there are many things to look forward to this spring. Travel adventures, new photo work, less soup and more picnics. Less theory, more action, including more stories, book projects, and classes to teach and share. To arrive though, through the colds and flus, I’ve been making time to not only nourish our bodies but also fill my mind with words, images, and sounds that have filled the creative well.
I want to share all the inspiration I’ve noted over the past few months. Maybe you need a boost or would like to share your creative antidotes for winter.
Your Inner Critic Is A Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative by Danielle Krysa
“You must be willing to get in there every day and just try things, while being totally open to imperfection. Not every idea will become a masterpiece, and that’s fine. Your studio is a safe place to play. No one needs to know about projects that don’t go anywhere, and remember, all projects go somewhere. They all lead to the next piece, either by teaching us something good, or something not so good. The top corner of your collage may be brilliant, even if the rest of it sucks; so, tomorrow, start there. Your short story may be rough around the edges, but that third sentence is a real beauty and could be the beginning of your award-winning novel. Create new starting points for yourself every day. Experiments. Make mistakes. Play some more. This is the path to genius!”
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
“If all the Saturdays of 1982 can be thought of as one day, I met Tracey at ten a.m. on that Saturday, walking through the sandy gravel of a churchyard, each holding our mother’s hand. There were many other girls present but for obvious reasons we noticed each other, the similarities and the differences, as girls will. Our shade of brown was exactly the same—as if one piece of tan material had been cut to make us both—and our freckles gathered in the same areas, we were the same height. But my face was ponderous and melancholy, with a long, serious nose, and my eyes turned down, as did my mouth.”
More brilliant writing from Smith in her latest novel, which starts off with rich character descriptions that trace lines, outside in.
On Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude by Todd Hido
“I don’t analyze my photographs like this while I’m shooting. Making and anazlyzing are completely different processes. You do have to examine things a little bit when you’re making—there is some conscious recognition in wanting to take a picture—but as much as you can you should just make. See, respond, click. And the more you click, probably the better.”
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin. I listened to the audiobook while washing dishes and folding laundry. Rubin’s practical advice on overcoming failures and creating regular habits based on understanding oneself makes good sense and can be applied to those unfinished creative projects.
My Creative Life podcast with conversations about creatives and makers. My favorite, to date with photographer Michael Ash Smith.
Filmmaking Classes on Skillshare. Everyone is jumping on the video bandwagon so it’s a good time to brush up on your skills or learn a new art form…
Postcard Art by yours truly. Because postcards are cool and timeless, plus they keep us connected and put art into the world. Win win.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” — Andy Warhol
Your turn. What’s feeding your creative inspiration these days?
Well, here we are folks, into the new year and these strange days that feel more like dystopian fiction than reality. This isn’t how I imagined the start of 2017 by any means. I’ve found comfort in my family, small acts of resistance (in the streets and on the mat), and a few rolls of film wandering around in the darkness of night, these Cinematic Nights. These images hint at a fictional reality that erases identity, place, time. Silhouettes in motion, blurred frames, light streaks. The dark in the light, light in the dark. It’s a start anyway.
Cheers to all the goodness you can make and gather! Fill up and Happy New Year!
The Curated Fridge is the brainchild of Yorgos Efthymiadis. I came across the site several months ago and was inspired by the concept and caliber of fine art photography shown. Immediately, I wanted to be involved and am thrilled to report that I made it in the Dec 2016/Jan 2017 show. You can read Elin Spring’s take on curating the show on her photography blog as well as check it out the 24 square feet gallery at The Curated Fridge.
Brothers 2016 | Pacemaker Crown Graphic | Atomic-X
On a windy Saturday morning in November, I caught the wild ones on 4×5 film. This took some doing after the teepee they built blew over several times before we found a way to wedge and hammer branches into the hard ground. After several minutes of camera set-up behind the dark cloth checking focus and waiting for passing cars, I caught this moment with one in slight motion and the other stick still. These two steal my heart every single time.