Sunday, March 17, 2013

A bear in squirrels clothing? (And a veritable link-feast)

First, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Acorns Go Bragh! 
I've noticed that the Squirrel Ladies have also taken to accessorizing the wooden deer they have in their front yard. At first, I thought it was just a one-time thing, but it's wearing ribbon for St. Patrick's Day. I know, I know, I should've gotten a picture. Hopefully, there will be more a-deer-nment (hehehe).

Not to be outdone, my mom sent this picture of her wooden porch bear (who often wears Penn State gear).

I could go form some squirrel and a jug-o-moonshine.
I've come across a lot of interesting things on the web in the past week or two (mostly thanks to friends on Facebook). Thought I'd share to get your creative juices flowing. 

One of my former colleagues wrote this post about her time working in Disney World teaching a drawing class to park visitors. She writes about getting back into the habit of keeping a sketchbook and trying to sketch for 30 minutes a day.
"Having drawing in my daily art practice really was such good practice. I got to the point where my right hand, my dominate hand, would need a break so I’d sketch with my left hand instead. Not only was this a preventive measure against carpal tunnel for my dominate hand, but it was a great workout for my brain as well. I had to concentrate and really think about what I was seeing and what I was sketching in order to translate what I saw in front of me onto my sketchpad."
For me, writing fiction is the equivalent of drawing with my left hand. I think it even prevents carpal tunnel (what with the amount of time I spend staring a the screen instead of actually typing). But I like Carrie's prescription of 30 minutes a day. It seems doable -- and as I've found with essays/column/personal narrative writing -- will no doubt get easier and generate more ideas the more I do it. 

Speaking of personal essays, here are two examples of how powerful vulnerability is -- capturing moments of shame, regret, fear, sadness, anger -- those parts of your brain that you're often too scared to share with others.

1. A personal essay by a deaf woman who writes about lipreading. It's fascinating to learn about the challenges and mental gymnastics she faces daily (like trying to lipread when the lighting is bad or how impossible it is to lipread when someone has an accent) and the guilt she feels about lipreading when so many in the Deaf community refuse to accommodate the hearing world (courtesy of Tell Me a Story -- a great place to find great writing*). 

2. And this excerpt from an Associated Press article about an Army psychologist who helped hundreds and hundreds of men and women he served with in Iraq, but couldn't escape his own demons. The following was written by Capt. Peter Linnerooth about a female soldier whose Humvee had been struck by bomb. 

"I stood at her head and considered her hair, for Christsakes. The blast had mussed her hair. Removed her foot, cleaved her abdomen, but mussed her hair. For whatever reason I looked at it and longed to smooth it back from her forehead. Like I do for my children. It was reddish-blond, curly, almost kinky, and in disarray. I looked around me to see if anyone would notice this gesture, if anyone would mind. Hell, I don't know what to do in an abattoir of human suffering, it's not my job. I deal with easy things, like the paranoid, the personality disordered, and those without hope. All I wanted to do was smooth her hair, perhaps compose her for the next stage of her journey. But I never did it, and regret it to this day."

Linnerooth killed himself in January. Read the whole story. As citizens of this country, the very least we can do for the men and women who've served on our behalf is to attempt to understand the battleground they face at home. Read it and then write your state, and national representatives and plead with them to provide more resources to our service people suffering from the mental traumas of Vietnam,** Iraq and Afghanistan.  

On a lighter note, take a look at this visual representation of Kurt Vonnegut's theory about story archetypes (sorry ... that sounds a little too tweed-and-leather-elbow-patchy ... it's just a graphic that shows the most common story plots. There.)

* There you can also find a really compelling piece from the New York Times magazine about the changing face of story narrators and how it reflects a cultural shift. Here's an excerpt: 
"I have since come to believe that these manuscripts reflect a more fundamental cultural shift. In evolving from readers to viewers, we’ve lost our grip on the essential virtues embodied by a narrator: the capacity to make sense of the world, both around and inside us."
This piece actually helped me figure out why I've been feeling like my novel doesn't feel very ... fresh or modern in writing style compared with what I've read lately that's new. I think it has to do with the fact that I'm using an omniscient voice rather than writing first-person. I kind of feel better about my choice now. 

** Yes, even a war that's 40 years old. As evidenced by the Vietnam Vet I met last fall, they're still fighting demons, too. I could see it in his eyes.

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