We’ve been making costumes for the kids since Oscar’s first Halloween at age eight months. Going through all of these pictures made me realize how fast time has gone by, and also that I need to get my digital photographs organized. This post doesn’t include everything, but I don’t have time to dig through all of my photos. Did I mention I need to get organized?
Oscar recently decided, of his own initiative, that he wanted to learn an instrument. There’s a program at a nearby elementary school that allows him to take the bus over after school and take lessons with the band as part of an after-school program. After giving it some thought, Oscar decided he wanted to learn the clarinet.
He has really embraced it, loves the program and the teacher, and practices diligently every day without complaint. He’s definitely more motivated than I was at that age.
The concert was a big surprise. After attending so many squeaky violin concerts, Darin and I were impressed with the level of playing and how good the young musicians sounded.
The teacher is one of the nicest and most patient and friendly people I have ever met. She has a special appreciation for Oscar, and I love it when people see certain things in my kids that I also love and cherish, because it makes me realize that this adult has taken the time to get to know my son.
Aria also enjoyed the concert, and was surprisingly quiet and well-behaved. She recently lost BOTH front teeth (of course I taught her the song, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”).
Everyone who writes knows all about that cliche question, “Where do you get your ideas?” Everyone who writes knows that ideas don’t matter. It’s all about the execution of an idea. It’s all about how well the writer can pace a story, can bring a character to life, can make us care.
An idea is like a single seed. That seed has to be planted and watered. It has to receive sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Then, in about one hundred years, it will turn into a tree. But that tree is not your story. After growing and nurturing your tree for a century, you have to chop it down with just your bare hands and an ax, then split it into boards, then sand the boards, then build a house. But that house is not your story. You then have to paint and decorate the house and find some people to live in it. They will be reluctant. You have to coax them. You have to move in with them and and entertain them and make them delicious meals and then listen carefully as they speak. Then you write down everything they say and do, and that becomes your story.
The muse only comes when you feed her, spend time with her, and listen to her. She is elusive and she is easily bored. She will wander off if she doesn’t get enough attention. She will run away in fear if you act desperate or needy around her.
This is why writers are completely crazy. Some of them drink themselves to death. They are all terrible people. Everyone complains about them. But they give us books and stories and movies and plays and television shows and everything that helps us escape from our dreary lives. They spin gold and magic and mayhem and they create beautiful and fanciful worlds and characters we love and characters we love to hate. Writers tells us the truth about what it means to be human and to be deeply flawed in the midst of the poetry that is our lives.
The fun thing about this project is that I keep discovering new things about photography that I never knew before, like the fact that the Germans invented contact lenses and blue jeans, ha ha. Today I was about to delve into the world of photo journalism, one of my favorite topics (a long time ago as a naive high school student I once fantasized about winning a Pulitzer Prize for war photography). Instead, I tumbled down the rabbit hole of Lewis Carroll photography (did you see what I did there? Rabbit hole?).
For twenty-five years, in the late 1800s, at the very beginning of photography as an art form, Lewis Carroll experimented with the wet-collodion process (also known as “wet plate photography”), taking a fascinating series of portraits of his friends, including the photo above of Reginald Southey, a famous English physician. Carroll also took many, many, many portraits of…ahem, children. Particularly young girls. In fact, you could say he had a “thing” for young girls. That’s about as far as I’ll go with that. Thankfully, in all of the pictures the girls are fully dressed, and through all outward appearances they are appropriate photographs (Google them if you like–I’m not going to post them here), BUT, I find them rather unsettling.
Lewis Carroll was a brilliant and interesting man, and his natural light photography is quite stunning and innovative for the time. He was also a talented writer and illustrator (you probably know him as the author of Alice in Wonderland), but I think it would be generous to say that he had an unusual philosophy of life. In other words, the guy was creepy. To celebrate the Halloween season, I will do another post on one of my favorite creepy topics, the Victorian fascination with photographing dead people. So you have THAT to look forward to!
Two years ago was our wedding day. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. Our wedding was informal, cozy, and beautiful. It’s fun to marry someone whom you’ve already spent most of your life with, and we have no regrets about waiting so long to make it official. We didn’t marry a promise, a hope, or an idea. We married each other with full understanding and acceptance of who we are and who we’ve become. We are friends, we are parents, we fight, and we are flawed. But in the end, loving someone in the face of all that is the definition of unconditional love.
If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month, it’s a wonderful time of year when writers from all over the world come together to write a novel in a month. Or, more accurately, 50,000 words in 30 days. If you’re a writer and you’ve never participated, you should check it out. It’s great fun and an amazing community.
Unfortunately, they spruced up the website and it’s a bit slow and wonky. Frankly, I find it unusable, but I hope things are smoothed out by November 1st and they are just working out the kinks. Regardless, I will be writing a new novel and posting updates here. I’ll also be launching some new site features later in the month. If you haven’t already, be sure to follow this blog for regular updates.
The Germans have invented several things I love, including the printing press, the hamburger, denim jeans, and contact lenses. But my favorite of these is the Leica, a camera I love so much it features prominently in my novel.
Of course, I’ve never owned one.
They were invented to make photography portable and cheap for German mountain climbers. My favorite part about the creation story of the Leica is that the internal name for the product, within the Leica company and in the patent application, is the Rollfilmkamera. That’s right, the ROLLFILMKAMERA. I’m going to start referring to all cameras this way from now on.
Because of the high quality of its lenses and it’s portability and durability, the Leica became the favorite camera of photojournalists, including Robert Capa, a Hungarian born photographer who witnessed the rise of Hitler and became an iconic figure during the Vietnam War. I’ll tell his story in my next post about the the history of photography.
Wednesdays are my long days–I teach at night and am literally at work for twelve hours. When I get home I pretty much just put on jammies and get into bed with the kiddos to hear about their day and read with them. I had planned to get a post ready ahead of time, but I’ve had a terrible cold plus an extra busy work week. So for today’s blog you get a selfie with me and Aria hanging out in bed.
A novel is a huge, unruly thing. I was about to compare it to building a house, but it’s actually more like designing a town, along with the people who live there. Is my novel done? YET? (I know, I know, it’s been YEARS). Well. If I gave you my current draft you would probably be able to follow it and say that yes, it’s a complete-ish novel. But there are a few twists and turns that need straitening out. A few holes that need filling. Some set decorations and a little clarifying dialogue here and there. I plan to send it out by Thanksgiving or Christmas at the latest.
Because revising is a completely different process than writing, I spent some time casting about for help and advice. I finally found this book, which has been super helpful.
Current word count: 52,300
I set my book aside and leaned over to turn on my desk lamp, since it had gotten too dark to see. The wind was really kicking up, an ominous sound that made it seem as if the entire building was going to lift up over the trees. I burrowed under the covers when I heard the thunder, and for some time I just lay there, perfectly still, as I heard the storm get closer and closer. It seemed to roll along the ground, the sound getting deeper and louder, until I could feel the rumbles with my body. I tried to relax and tell myself it was only a storm; we used to get them all the time in Tucson. As I child I would crawl in bed with my parents, but now they were too far away, in every way.
A storm in January? When it was snowing? Was it normal to have thunder and snow at the same time? The windows shook and the storm seemed to be gathering a ferocity and power that I had never experienced before. Finally, it storm was directly over campus, with lightning and thunder crashing down simultaneously.
I got up and raised the window blinds, startled to see the girl from the library standing under the light pole with her head tipped up to the sky, her long brown hair streaming behind her. When lightning struck a few feet away she didn’t move. She didn’t even flinch. I sighed and lowered the blinds and got back under the blankets and started reading Hamlet again. I would have to do what most normal people do when they saw a ghost. I would go see a priest.