Category Archives: Blog Posts

She was warned. Nevertheless, she persisted.

The exact words attributed to Mitch McConnell are actually “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Yes, of course, some are dismayed by what has become a “left-wing meme.” However, leaving that rather flat, dismissive assessment aside, McConnell’s words reveal some rather unpleasant expectations of women—even today in the “first world.”

Seems we are all in the same moment of time, but not the same moment of history. Afterall, she was warned. Nevertheless, she persisted.

The gentlemen of the US Senate seem to be trapped in the plot of a late 18th- or 19th-century novel in which the heroine is warned by the more “naturally” intelligent men around her, all of whom condescend to bestow upon her the gift of a rational explanation. Nevertheless, (or always less than?) this woman continues to behave like a man and persist in her madness, skirting the very margins of acceptable “feminine” conduct.

A few examples?

Maria; Or, The Wrongs of Woman

Persuasion

Frankenstein

Vanity Fair

Mary Barton

Jane Eyre

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

The Awakening

Here is Senator Warren reading Coretta Scott King’s letter: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2017/feb/08/coretta-scott-king-letter-jeff-sessions-elizabeth-warren-senate-video

“Story Water”

Getting to know your characters is the most important aspect of plot for me. A good story develops from the decisions, the reactions and responses a character makes in relation to given circumstances.

The economy collapses!

But who your character is will determine what she does in response: marry a millionaire, start her own business, join a revolution, write a poem, run for political office, move to another country. So getting to know your characters is really a way of coming to terms with the story you want to tell.

Stories are like life: there are the cards you are given at birth and the way you play those cards. It’s important to push ourselves to reveal and come to terms with the cards our main character has been dealt. It’s important to explore the limits, the boundaries of that character’s beliefs because understanding those limits will create dramatic tension throughout the story and catalyze the plot point.

Here are the words of the great poet Rumi:

STORY WATER

A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
to light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

John Berger

The great John Berger passed away just a few days ago on the 2nd of January. He was a wonderfully prolific writer who made art history, the way we see the lives of artists and their productions, come alive. He was a playwright and a novelist.

On a personal level, though, three of his “poetic essays” affected me most: And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos (1992); The Shape of A Pocket (2003); and Hold Everything Dear (2008). I don’t know what else to call these three works because Berger does much more than, in the original sense of the word, “assay” or “essay” his topics.

Berger had an extraordinary ability to shatter boundaries: the frameworks we choose to render invisible and apolitical to ourselves and others. He was an iconoclast who shattered the boundaries of genre, refusing to accept the usual, framed ways of seeing literary (and painterly) forms.

These three “poetic essays” are prose meditations that distill at points into love poems, intimate and public, that reflect on eros as well as agape, the ethics that bind us to one another. What I will miss most is his ability to depict the fragility and sturdiness of life—that and his reminders about the darkness of the age in which we live.

Here are two obits:

New York Times

The Guardian

Inspiration

Yolanda Lopez’s image of the seamstress as Virgin Mother is especially inspiring to me because my mom was a seamstress from the age of 16 to her retirement, and she held our family together with a strong work ethic and a great deal of faith.

The word “inspire” is especially important to writers–whether poetry or prose. It derives from the Old French “inspiracion” which means “inhaling, breathing in; inspiration” (c. 1300).

The earlier roots of the word are from the Latin “inspirare” which means to “breathe upon.” (For those of you familiar with the Old Testament, consider the implications of the moment when God breathes life (spirit) into Adam.)

In Middle English “enspire,” (borrowed from Old French and Latin) was originally used to describe a divine or supernatural being who imparted truth to others.

This twinned idea of “breath” and the translation of truths from the divine to the human realm are integral to all of us as writers–lower-case, modest “truths,” anyway. The poetic line, and well-written prose, has breath. It is a line that can be breathed, spoken. It expresses the voice of the writer, and it attempts to express an observed truth about our world, our experiences in the world.

I hope we can all start the New Year in a positive, creative frame of mind. My best wishes to you and yours. May the New Year be filled with much joy, good health, and inspired productivity! Cheers, Liz