My First Victorine Reading!

Hubby Barry and I recently visited Louisville, where we participated in the Spalding at 21C: Voice and Vision reading at the 21C Museum Hotel, along with four other talented writers. Besides me and Barry, the lineup included Misha Feigin, Ellyn Lichvar, Alan J. Naslund, and Vickie Weaver. Celebrated author Sena Jeter Naslund emceed.

When the award-winning poet Misha was introduced at the reading, I remember thinking, “Why was I invited? I don’t have nearly his credentials.” Since I was the last to read, I was pretty nervous, but the crowd was so welcoming I quickly felt comfortable, even though such wonderful writing came before me.

Because of copyrighted artwork in the reading area, Barry and I didn’t take photos of our actual reading, but we did catch some shots beforehand.

Barry read from his novel-in-progress, and I was delighted as always at his lyrical language. Filigrees of cigarette smoke? Yes, please!

During the event, I did my first public reading from Victorine, my novel which is forthcoming from Fleur-de-Lis Press this year. I felt almost possessed by Victorine during my reading, she who is remembered by history as Manet’s favorite model, although she went on to painting success herself. I have no illusions about who’s in charge of her story (she is!), and I’m honored to be a part of the process.

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I’m beaming, because I’ve been visiting with some of my favorite peoples! Note my nearly ever-present pearls, although I wear the white set more often.
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We enjoyed this colorful display, only one of many intriguing exhibits. And yes, that’s Mr. Barry D. humoring me by standing before this.

The next day we drove on to Nashville, where we visited the renamed Frist, now the Frist Art Museum. We went specifically to see the Frida and Diego exhibit. Please try to get there, if you haven’t already!

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am drawn to strong female figures. Victorine is certainly one, as is Frida. It seemed natural to me to go from reading about Victorine to viewing Frida’s dynamic paintings.

May 24–September 2, 2019

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection

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This is a Diego painting. Barry and I are teaming up with these fun finger puppets here just because I have a collection of them.
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Doesn’t Frida look like a lioness as she has Diego on her “mind?”
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Said to be the most detailed of Frida’s paintings, I find the imagery of this to be evocative. It seems to me that she is protecting Diego’s talents, as she is protected by the earth, which is in nature’s embrace.
While this photo is playful, I had to sit and stare at this painting silently for a few minutes. It made me dizzy, but in a good way. (Art sometimes does that to me.) I’d like to think Frida would have appreciated the fun finger puppets. She strikes me as both uber serious and playful all at once.

Frida’s strokes are measured, while her colors are freely sprinkled. I like her restrained style, because her subject matter and her use of tones are so extreme that if she had used thick paint or wild brushing, it would be too much. Her manner of painting also tells me something I suspected: she comes across as passionate beyond compare, and she is, but she also controls her image. Nicely done, Frida. Nicely done.

Barry and I also made a stop by the Speed Museum with a dear friend while we were in Louisville, and The Frist had a surrealism exhibit as well as the Mexican Modernism, but those are both topics for another post.

Have you seen any of Frida’s paintings in person? If so, what did you think of them? Do you agree or disagree with my take on her work?

Manet’s Mania for Chokers

In Victorine, my historical novel coming out in the next few months, I write about the black choker Edouard Manet paints Victorine wearing. I imagine it as his bootlace, called into service on the spot.

Later, I give Victorine adoring fans who purchase and sport chokers with her as Olympia in lockets. It hardly offsets the cruelty she experiences in the streets after the “scandalous” nude painting was exhibited.

But Victorine is not the only one of Manet’s models to wear chokers. While I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand someone psychoanalyzing the painter and his predilection for encircling his model’s necks, I prefer to chalk it up to his respect and regard for fashion. Few paint fabric and fashion of the day the way he did.

When I stumbled upon this collage on Instagram, I knew I had to share it with you. Thanks, guzelonlu, for this lineup.

Four of the images pictured are Victorine. Can you tell which?

Bonus points if you can tell me the titles of those paintings. First one to comment gets a shoutout from me on Twitter.

#Manet #ArtHistory #Art #Impressionism

Graduation and More, Kyoto Style!

It seems like my husband, Barry, just started attending Spalding MFA’s Creative Writing Program, but this July, he graduated in Kyoto, Japan. That means there are two — yes, two — Spalding grads in the house!

What an honor and privilege to be there to cheer on all of his hard work, hear him do his graduation reading, see him receive his well-earned hood. Barry, I’m so proud of you. Much love!

A highlight of every Spalding trip is spending time with writing friends, old ones and new. (Please, no comments about my hair. Let’s all agree that it does not travel well and leave it at that.)

I’m passionate about architecture, and Japan’s was refreshingly different from that of most countries we’ve visited. We were staying about ten minutes from Toji Temple, so we took an early stroll one morning to view both the temple and its extensive grounds.

The group took a day trip to Hiroshima. It was, as you can imagine, a sobering experience. We heard a survivor talk and we visited the various monuments and museum.

There were more casual gatherings, like the night a group of us went out to karaoke. We gathered in a room, maybe a dozen of us, at a long table. Passing down drinks and mics, we ended up singing most of the songs together. Lady Gaga songs were a favorite, as well as songs by the Beatles. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the evening, but it was so much fun!

Here are miscellaneous shots of our hotel. I spent time writing in the lounge pictured. The hotel had kimonos and Samurai outfits for us to try on, so of course we did.

If I’m not mistaken, I’m the student/alum who has been on the most trips with Spalding. I was on the program’s second trip abroad, and have been on every trip since as a student or an alum. While Barry and I are welcome to go on any future trips we want, it will likely be a few years before we go again. (Which isn’t as sad as it sounds, because there are plenty of places in the U.S. we want to visit.)

I’ll close with random photos from the trip and try not to cry when I imagine not getting together with our Spalding family abroad soon. I’m sure we will go to homecoming in Louisville, though, most years. At Spalding, you’re always family.

Is There an Idea Store?

As far as I know, there is no idea store. At least not as such.

Some freelance writers find that their biggest obstacle is coming up with ideas. My mother has an inquisitive mind. She’s curious about everything, and she passed that gene onto me, I guess. I come up with too many ideas some days. (Not all of them are good, but still.)

Because of my nature, when I go for a mammogram and someone gives me a rose, I thank them first and then ask why I’ve been given such a sweet gift.

From that recent question came an article I wrote that is just out over at Radiology Today. While I don’t always share everything I write so as not to overwhelm, here’s the story, if you’d like to take a look.

Writing this was engrossing, involving discussions with caring health professionals and a patient or two. And the editor was a dream to work with.

Ideas can come from anywhere. They can come from annoyances, from curiosity, from passions, from wondering, from lack of knowledge, from observation…there are endless sources of questions/ideas.

Pretend you’re a two-year-old and keep asking, “Why?” If you do, you’re halfway there. Of course ideas have to be refined and angled. That’s a whole course in itself!

Oh, and what did I mean by there isn’t an idea store “as such?” If you read publications and websites and identify a gap, well, that’s your signal to ask if they would like to have that gap filled. It’s called sending a pitch or a query. What they typically publish tells you more than anything what they’d like to see more of, or what they need that they don’t yet know they need. Sometimes you’ll get an enthusiastic response. Sometime you’ll hear nothing. Keep pitching.

Sure, there’s a world more to be said about this topic, but this will get you started. Happy idea hunting. Don’t forget to bring along paper and pen, or your phone if you prefer to record ideas.

Writers, where do you get your ideas? What inspires you? Readers, do you have a list of topics you wish writers would write about?

idea bulb paper sketch
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

Thanks for stopping by. I value every page view.

XOXO,

Drema

Whole “Lotta” Interruptions

*The title’s pun is explained below. Sorry, Led Z.

First of all, my apologies for my absence. I’ve been writing blog posts in my head but I can’t seem to get those to transfer over from brain to screen for some reason. Hmmm…🤓

I had (have) a helpful post in my mental cue, ready to go. It was all about giving up unhealthy habits. But then…

Before I explain, let me say that I would have written this yesterday except I was happily helping a certain Someone celebrate his birthday. (Blatant excuse to use adorbs pic of my DH.) 


He wisely asked to go to Sweetwater to look at (and ultimately purchase) guitars before lunch. Being a certified chow hound, there’s not a whole lot I won’t do if there’s the promise of lunch after. If you feed me beforehand, I’ll be too “tired” to go. 

While I could almost live at Sweetwater (It’s uh-mazing! Shiny instruments, eco friendly in ways I’ve never heard of, field stone decorated everything, the friendliest, most helpful staff I’ve ever met, and free candy and video games!), after a few hours I’m ready to leave while someone’s only getting started.

(BTW: When you’re married to me you get strange things like the shower filled with birthday balloons.) 

And yes, lunch, when we finally got around to it, was delish. Did you know Smokey Bones now offers lettuce wrapped burgers for the carb conscious consumer? Holla! 

All of that to explain why I’m just now writing this post! 

As far as writing goes, I’m in this unenviable place where I’ve polished my rough draft to the point where I will trust my first beta reader to look at it. (Read: long-suffering-yet-gifted husband.) But the draft isn’t ready for my other sweet, willing betas. (Mainly because I’m experimenting with form and I’m hoping it works but I can’t be sure without feedback.) 

While I feel aimless and strange without a novel to work on, it’s also allowing me to work on other projects. Like painting a cabinet I rescued from the curb. 


Getting the “naughty” words off the otherwise gorgeous wood of another curbside find has been another project. (Hint: toothpaste. Yup, that’s all it took.) When someone asked what I was doing with toothpaste I said truthfully I was getting the f@ck off my table. 😋

We won’t talk about all of the furniture I put out on the curb during Spring Cleanup myself that, thankfully, was quickly snatched up. You wouldn’t think I’d adopt more. 

Before you call me a hoarder (I’m actually the opposite), at least I knew just where the new finds would go before I brought them inside. That’s a key difference. 

I’ve also been cooking. Probably too much. The grocery store just happened to have a gorgeous pork loin for sale. And I bought all eight pounds of it! Between that and other beefy projects our freezer is well stocked for when I succumb to the writing bug again. 

(In my defense, Indiana has the best pork.)

Sure, I could write. I have a few strong contenders for Next Novel, but I haven’t wanted to commit yet. I’ve made a few notes, even jotted down a really loose summary of one, but up until a few days ago, I hadn’t chosen. 

Sometimes you don’t get to choose.

I had a vivid dream the other night I couldn’t figure out.  I’m usually pretty good about detecting what my subconscious is trying to explain/complain about when I dream. This dream incorporated people I know, but I understood in it that they were only symbols. 

Symbols. My new girl was talking to me. Gotta say, she kinda hooked me with that dream. 

So I began to accept that maybe this character who I thought I had put in the “maybe” pile might be a front runner. Then.

Then I was taking a walk. Sure, I often think about writing when I walk, but this evening I was enjoying the violets, the scented, leaved trees. The sound of a bat connecting with a ball. I was marveling at how I can walk the same route and see something new every time. And I was cherishing the beauty of our small town. 

This character clearly did not enjoy my reverie, because she yelled “Write this down.” Which, of course, gave me (literally) pause.

This timid, shy character, one I thought might for once not give me as much spirited grief as my other two MC’s started talking. 

She told me the book’s title, and its opening words. I sighed because they worked. And because it meant she is spunky. I can’t resist writing spunky characters. 

Then she told me her nickname growing up, and I fell in love with her. Try to keep me from writing about her now. 

“Of course I’ll write your story,” I said. “Just don’t shout at me again. Ever.” She will. They all do when I get something wrong.  

To show her who’s boss, I didn’t write any of it down, either. Until I got home. 

I am working eagerly on some ancillary writing/design projects, so unless she insists I don’t plan to dive in for a few more months. If you want to make bets, go ahead. Not even I believe I’ll be able to stay away from her that long.

My second novel will (maybe) be far enough along in the revision process that by fall I’ll be ready to listen to her. 🤞🏻

Wait, who’s that kicking her heels against the back of my car seat? 

Fall, ‘Lotta. You gotta wait until fall. 

If she wrestles control of my writing hand before September, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, it’s back to all of my intruiging and challenging projects — More on them as they develop. They’ve been so much fun that I can’t wait to share. 

(One more gratuitous pic of the birthday dude.)

The Novel That Wouldn’t Die…Or Live!

   

Said hair after getting it ‘did’ today.
 
So you’re sitting in your hair stylist’s chair, revising your WIP. You look at your words, laugh, and almost warn her not to read over your shoulder if she’s easily offended because it contains adult language. Instead, you’re embarrassed by what you read for an entirely different reason.

Let me say that I’ve been nurturing this novel ever since it was a poem, and I’m getting, well, impatient is not the word. Irritated? That’s closer. Let’s go back to second person, shall we?

So you read a paragraph and then another and you realize your story’s tone sways. Your wise cracking feminist becomes a learned scholar and back in two easy paragraphs. Whiplash.

You know what you are trying to do. You know she’s a totally different person on the inside than she’s portraying. You are purposely playing with form. But for one, her persona is way more intriguing. Her intellectual interiority makes her sound emotionally frigid, even though that’s what interests you most about her, her thoughts.

Also: you are trying to achieve a goal one of your writing idols could not. And you think you know now why she couldn’t. Doesn’t mean you can do it, though.

Besides that, this MC is way too self aware, even for first person. 

Plus side: MC behaves deliciously horribly. The way you want to act sometimes IRL. She’s selfish, sometimes cruel, and seems shallow to others. But she’s loyal, talented, and a keen observer. She finds it beneficial to be underestimated.

Then there are these other characters who want to take over. They’re uber strong and entertaining, to the point where you struggle to draw the lead men. That’s right. Men. Plural. 

You didn’t expect to have the men share the spotlight. You kicked one out. He showed up again. You wrote him out. Back. Then you made the mistake of asking your Writing Mother what she thinks. “Keep him in.” So you do. 

Except this guy so far isn’t a strong character. You feel around blindly because you have to tell. There’s no showing this guy. Or maybe you still haven’t cracked the code that reveals who he really is. Maybe you never will.

Ah, and then there’s that other guy. He, too, is overpowered by the MC and friends, though you have more hope that you will be able to capture him. He’s a tune, not a tone, so that might be easier. Might. Still, you hold the poor guy at a distance.

And in the end you wonder if your ambitions exceed your abilities. If SHE couldn’t manage it, what makes you think you can?

But after all, your whole novel argues for accessibility. It seeks to rescue (the metaphorical) Rapunzel and all the ivory tower dwellers. You can have lofty thoughts and still live among mere mortals. 

I’m (reclaiming story by first person switch here) seeking to first destroy the ivory tower, then rebuild the Tower of Babel. So we can all communicate, ya’ll. Death to intellectual snobbery! Life to accessible ideas expressed with real-life language. 

I’ll still always love reading rich, dense essays, the kind I have to stop and stare up at the sky and mull over. Maybe I should start a translation service for busy people who aren’t theory heads.

With pen in hand, I’ll keep revising. I will either see this novel born or put it out to pasture myself. Cliché intended. 

Am I overly ambitious? Let’s just  

 call me ambitious. Time will tell whether the “overly” fits or not. 

Ten Seconds? That’s a Mighty Long Time…

We all complain that we don’t have enough time to write. I get it. (My apologies to our dearly beloved, departed Prince for ripping off his song lyric for my title, but he’s understandably on my mind. RIP.)

I worked with a trainer for a short time at the gym Barry and I recently joined. She loved having me do planks on a bosu (half a ball on a platform, if you’re not familiar. This:)

I don’t mind admitting that my core strength is not what it could be. She’d time me on that silly, wobbly thing and say, “Only 10 seconds left. You can do anything for 10 seconds.” That got me to thinking about time and our perception of it.

A while back I was honored to visit my former workplace and teach a writing lesson. It was awesome seeing former students, meeting new ones. One of the assignments I gave them was to write for five minutes. Now some of these students freeze up if you ask them to write an essay. They are terrified to put pen to paper, yet some of them wrote a couple of sentences. Some of them wrote nearly a page. In five minutes! Was it polished writing? Of course not. I don’t care who’s writing, rough drafts are always that. There were gems in their sentences, though, to be mined later. I was impressed with what they accomplished and I hope they were too.

It took me less than 10 seconds to type this sentence. I timed myself. And that was with going back and fixing a typo. What if you typed ten-second sentences every time you got a chance? How much of a story would you have by the end of a day? (So I realize how difficult it is to pull yourself in and out of the flow, but it would be a fun experiment. Better yet if you can hook those short stints onto one another and give yourself five, maybe 10 minutes even.)

Back to that bosu: when you’re holding yourself in position and everything in you wants to drop, just give up, but there’s someone standing over you, believing in you, telling you that you can do it but can you really you think and then she says you’re halfway there and you can’t believe it’s only been five seconds and whoever said life was short must be insane because this sure isn’t and your abs burn and your arms say that they’re giving you all they’ve got, Captain, but is it enough and then she says it’s time but then maybe you go an extra second just to prove that you can. Whew. Yeah, I’m not at all convinced of the brevity of 10 seconds after all. (We call that stream of consciousness in writing, that big, self indulgent gush without air, by the way. Yes, it’s just as much fun to write as it seems. Not as much fun to read unless you’re me. I like the stuff when other people write it.)

Ten seconds is longer than you think. Five minutes? An eternity. So take those bits of time. Pull out your list of ideas and get started on just one. Maybe you’ll start stealing time from things that used to matter that don’t now. You know your time wasters better than I. Just never underestimate the value of 10 seconds. Hey, maybe we should all plank for 10. On second thought, I have some writing to do.

Seriously, though, consider sharing one of your ten-second sentences with us. It doesn’t even have to be polished.