Archive for November, 2011

On Language

I’m between books at the moment, and haven’t yet figured out what the next one is going to be about. Not that I’m lacking for ideas. Like most writers, I’m sure, I have a swirl of possibilities and images and fleeting bits churning like a dust storm in my mind. It’s just that none of them has become the idea, the one that separates itself from the maelstrom and asserts itself, demanding to have the rest of its story told. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to fill the well so I’ll be ready to write, and looking for inspiration and reminders about why I love this job and this language of ours.

As often seems to happen when we open ourselves to the universe, what we need comes along, somehow. My great friend anovelwoman posted this wonderful video of Stephen Fry on language.

That, of course, sent me to YouTube to look for more. Stephen Fry again, this time with Hugh Laurie:

And as a bonus video, a little on swearing, too.


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Being a writer changes you as a reader. It’s not as easy as it once was to suspend disbelief and let a story take you away when you’re aware of the writer at work, crafting the tale. Even in the books I love best, I can see some of the choices the writer made along the way. In good books, I see those choices with appreciation for the skill of the person who made them, and they don’t take away from the pleasure of reading. In other books, well, the story gets lost because I’m too aware of the author sitting at his or her word processor trying to finish the damn thing.

So when a book makes me squirrel myself away from the world for a couple of stolen, don’t-really-have-them-but-am-taking-them-anyway hours to read the last hundred pages or so in one sitting, and the only thing that makes me put it down during that time is the need to go get tissues because it makes me cry, that is something very special indeed. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley is one of those books.

I finished it two days ago, and I haven’t started reading anything else. I am never without a book on the go, but this is one of those rare cases where I’m still thinking about what I just read and don’t want to interrupt that with something new. That’s in part because I enjoyed the book so much and in part because it left me wanting to be a better writer, and I’ve been thinking a lot about just what Susanna did that made me want to aspire to be able to do it, too. That is probably a topic for another post, but for this one, kudos to Susanna Kearsley. If you like Scottish history and books with writer protagonists, this one’s for you.

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The Writing Sweater

It’s a cold, wet, dreary, gray day here on the Wet Coast. (And no, for those of you Elsewhere, that’s not a typo, but an apt description.) It’s been just about dark all day, and the edge of our street is one long, massive puddle, thanks to leaf-blocked storm drains.

I’m inside today, editing. Like I often do on days like this when writing is on the agenda, I found myself reaching for my writing sweater.

I should not actually admit to wearing this sweater, and I never, ever leave the house in it. But somehow, on days when the house cools off quickly between furnace cycles and the light is thin and cool, this particular sweater works for writing.

It’s probably as old as I am, or close to it. Years ago, I rescued it from the donation bag when my mum was cleaning out her closet. It’s pretty much indestructible. It has permanent stains that may actually be wood stain from my mum helping my dad build our family’s cabin when I was a toddler. Or maybe they’re from some other project; I don’t know. I do know they’re not coming out. The sweater’s been washed hundreds of times. It’s got a couple of minor pulls, and there’s no doubt from the look at feel of it that it’s been around for a long, long time, but it’s in pretty amazing – if ugly – shape. It once had buttons, I think, because there are button holes, but the buttons themselves are so long gone there’s no hint of them on the knit. Lesser, newer sweaters have gone off to charity in the years since I’ve had this one in my closet. I own softer, more comfortable sweaters now. But somehow, this one keeps hanging around, available for days just like this.

I’m not superstitious about clothes, as a rule. But this sweater only comes out for writing. I don’t know why. I don’t even know why I rescued it all those years ago. But here I sit, writing this, wearing it, anyway.

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Thank you.

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