Conflict: How I Came to Write CUT FROM THE EARTH

Conflict instigated the writing of Cut From the Earth. Real life drama. Family drama. Like good fiction riddled with problems that move the story forward, conflict, literally spurred me from my comfortable hammock, thrust me to sea in an open dory, rowing without life jacket along Brazil’s southern coast, and into writing a novel. Moments before leaving land  –  providence  –  I threw in the boat the book Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitecomb; a writing book that I had been packing around the world and had yet to follow its advice and instruction.

What conflict started a 40-day sea journey, the opening of that book, and pen to paper?

I was attacked by my husband’s younger brother  –  accused of lying and sabotage.

Why? Because I told the truth when asked by the brother’s, now, ex-partner, of any strange behavior I’d witnessed while she was away from Brazil in France. She being French and I being American, both involved with Brazilian fishermen brothers, along with my fondness for her, I told her the only thing I knew for sure about her partner’s actions in her absence:  How he had invited me into their place, late one night, while I sat at an open window writing as my husband slept nearby.

“Do you want to come in?” he had said suggestively with a devilish smile, looking to his door.

I knew he was drunk or under the influence of something, and I had heard it was not uncommon in Brazilian culture to be hit-on by brothers in the family; a show of one ups’em ship, the demonstration of ones prowess over another. So, I was not totally caught off guard by the invitation. I declined. I went to bed. In the morning I mentioned the incident to my husband, he shrugged it off as if not surprised nor threatened by it. I too did not take it to heart, but found it interesting from an anthropologically point of view. I left it at that. When I shared the story with my friend, I never thought I would become involved in their matters as nothing actually happened.  I had written the suggestive approach off as an ignorant drunken offer that could not be taken seriously.

But in a heated argument between the couple, the brother, in a fit of desperation, and I assume drunken or drugged rage, burst into our abode and accused me of lying and trying to ruin their already tainted love story. For their romance was singeing on hot rocks of a previous betrayal of his. Now, after reflecting, I am not surprised he reacted as he did when she brought up the incident to him, as I believe he doesn’t remember what he said to me that proposition night, nor was he aware of his body language because of his altered state. A novella style argument ensued, ending with me and my husband fleeing our small coastal town, to protect our relationship from their disintegrating one. And to actualize a long dreamed of trip of my husband’s   —  to camp and explore the little visited islands along Brazil’s southern coast.

We left the drama of the mainland and set to explore the uninhabited tropical islands.

The traumatic event thrust open the space for me to begin writing Cut From the Earth, a story that had been brewing for years. The moment manifest of long quiet days with nothing begging of our time but feeding ourselves, seeking out ancient hieroglyphics, and enjoying the peace and wild of the islands and sea. Idle time. Open time. Time without demands. Time without constraints. I wrote 70 pages of Cut From the Earth under swaying palms, by headlamp in our tent during tropical night storms, in the ion charged ocean mist as waves crashed on the island rocks, and at smoky fires repelling the swarming insects. The novel’s story came forth into the hot humid air as my own steam of the past events simmered. And the experience of rowing an open dory on the Atlantic, life jacket less, rang a tune of old sea times of my husband’s forefathers in the eighteenth century while they explored and settled the Brazilian coast: the time period of my story. Conflict, oh sweet conflict! How you prod and push us into ourselves and our dreams, forcing us forward, to look for solutions to our problems, for sometimes it takes an out-of-the-ordinary event to release us onto our desired path.

Conflict the substance of epic tales and the kick-starter for the realizing of Cut From the Earth.

Bright Summer Writing Tips

Summer is the writer’s time to get out of our writing chairs and rooms and into the world.  With longer days and warmer weather, summer offers a comfortable phase of the year to gain experiences and insights that we can bring to our writing now and the other seasons. 

10 Ideas:

1. Unearth an old work, reread it, rework it, investigate solutions and apply what you find.  Seek.  As come August 1, September 1, and October 1 many literary journals begin accepting submission again.  Be ready. 
2. Spend time in nature.  Write. Scrawl out poems along a mountain trail, stroll beaches and let the sand and sea speak to you, sit upon a rock and mesh with its geological essence, with a notepad and pen always within grasp.
3. Visit all the bookstores in your town, talk with the folks that sell or will sell your books, check-in how are they? Make contact.
4. Read part of your works-in-progress or a finished piece publicly: at an open mic, at the local bookstore, at a public event, coffee shop or group campfire.  Share.
5. Sit at a sunny outside cafe soaking in the summer energy, making character sketches and expanding your characterization scope, take notes on passerby quirks, and document the summer smells and colors.
6. Meet new people. Meet new perspectives. And learn new ways of viewing the world, to incorporate into your stories.
7. Visit your summer farmer’s market and summer fairs, record over heard conversations, and document creative dress.
8. Take a trip, visit a new place, join a group or club outing, creating an opportunity for new experiences that can instigate new inspiration for writing.
9. Read, read, read!  in a place that you can only read in the summer, outside on a porch or in a hammock, on top of a flat rock along the ocean.  Read those titles you’ve stacked up over autumn, winter and spring, the Christmas and birthday presents, open the cover and dive in.
10. Attend a summer writers workshop or conference, summer is the time of expansion, opening!

11 Indespensible Writing Books for Fiction

With a plethora of writing books I sat on the floor, for hours, in the writing section of Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, investigating ALL the writing books they had on their wooden shelves. Happily I hunted.  At that time I left with two key books (*listed below).   In other cases, a writing friend has suggested a “must have” book, or even gifted me a pertinent writing book.  In the books that follow I found the answers to writing questions or problems I was encountering in writing my first novel, The Tile Maker

The list:

1. *Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb, foreward by Dennis Lehane—Succinct, this book explains how to write your first novel, and at the end of each chapter has suggested reading.  Blessed I bought it and have it, for it is my guide on what to do next, as I head towards publication.
2. The Writer’s Portable Mentor (What a great title! I love this book! I was gifted this book) by Priscilla Long—This book is like finding a gemstone, valuable beyond measure…no kidding. 
3. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler—In this book the mythic structures of storytellers and screenwriters, based on Joseph Campbell’s work, show’s you how to tap into the mythological core which exists in us all.
4. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein—Written from an old pro Sol Stein has been on all sides of the industry and his experience and knowledge are helpful for any writer. He introduces “triage” as a way to revise your manuscript drafts. 
5. How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein—Another winner, with good questions to ask yourself as you write and rewrite.
6. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass—Straight forward, this books tells you the key ingredients to write a breakout novel.
7. *Rules for Writers by Diana Hacker—A must have on hand, when grammar, punctuation, and dialogue questions arise.
8. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & David King—Excellent advice on all key parts of writing fiction: show and tell, characterization and exposition, point of view etc…
9. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman—Organized into three parts, preliminary problems, dialogue, and the bigger picture, this book has sound advice and examples of what works and what doesn’t.
10. Webster’s Newworld Thesaurus—Every writer should have a hardbound Thesaurus, yes, I use the Internet Thesaurus at times, but most of the time, it is my pleasure to thumb through this good friend, given to me by a good friend.
11. Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition, Unabridged, with a 1934 copyright— A Very Large dictionary, with 600,000 words, I still do not have this dictionary but I want it, and will have it one day.  I am making due with a Chambers Dictionary, I picked up used, a 300,000-word dictionary as of now.