1: Write regularly. Daily might be extreme, but try to be extreme.
2: When in doubt / take it out.
3: At the end of your writing day, do not complete the action/description/dialogue – but know what it is. Start with this known at your next writing time. 90% of the time you will slide right back into the work.
4: Eschew, Ignore and Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here, the notion that there are no rules. There are rules to everything. Artistic Creation demands rules.
5: Follow your characters.
6: Follow your characters.
7: Follow your characters.
I note that folk still like reading this, though it happened a number of years ago. I gotta say, the more I think of it, the more I am tempted to actually write a Book for the Bible. 2 Micha, perhaps.
I had an odd request – a very odd request, come to think of it – to re-write a portion of the New Testament. It is Luke 7 36-50, where Jesus is Anointed by a Sinful Woman. I was asked to write it from the woman’s point of view.
I met the man who made the commission at a Starbucks (his suggestion). He is a successful business man and owns and runs a professional corporation. He gave me the verses he wanted done and asked if I thought I would be able to do so. I said yes. I have the ability and the project intrigued me. It would hold my interest.
He was not garrulous or forthcoming, and I refrained from asking him why he wanted this done. However, I did query the direction he might want the story to take. he was vague about that, also. A woman’s point of view. A woman of the times. I felt I pressed that issue strongly enough, even if I did not get an answer.
We discussed price. I told him what I thought such a project was worth. I explained it as an issue of time expended (even I wasn’t sure how much effort it would be). He agreed to an hourly price.
The end result was that he did not pay me. he disliked the finished story. I include the work and our email exchange at the end of the adventure. I wish he would have been as detailed in telling me what he wanted before the fact, instead of after.
Luke 7: 36-50
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,
38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.
47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
Jesus then forgave the sins of the woman, and told her to go in peace. And although this outraged the Pharisee and his guests, and made them question the authority of Jesus, the woman left the house cleansed.
Email Exchange Re: Bible Story
I was in the fancy downtown Library a few days ago. When I left, I took a different route than usual. On the non-street side of the library, for its whole length, there is a walk/bike/delivery area. Down at the auditorium end, three chaps were unloading a van. I was surprised when one of the men smiled and waved at me.
He is a musician acquaintance who – oddly – I come across in similar circumstances, at other places, two or three times a year. This time he and his mates were unloading their equipment for a gig later in the evening at the library. They were going to play ‘background’ music for an event concerning the Giller Prize.
I have since looked it up on Google. It appears the Giller finalists are being presented at a half dozen venues across Canada, to be part of some type of panel about writing.
Anyway, while explaining what they were doing there, he told me he was so out of touch with Canada’s literary world, that he wondered if I was there because I was a finalist for the Giller, and on the panel.
I believe that we were both disappointed.
I have noted some folk looking at this post from a couple of years ago. I had put it up because of the success of the television series, A Handmaid’s Tale.
Now, Ms. Atwood has produced a new novel, The Testaments, [which, by the way, has a brilliant front and back cover] with an international launch from London, England. I can humbly state that my part in her literary life remains the same.
It was not my intent to piss off Margaret Atwood.
The opposite, in fact. I wanted her to know she was an inspiration.
She was giving a reading at the University of New Brunswick in my student days. I attended, but there was quite the gathering and she was whisked away at the end. However, I overheard there was a ‘gathering’ in her honour. Invitation only, of course. Academia and literati.
I crashed the party (that was the term used by the professor who clapped his sturdy hand upon my shoulder but – happily – did not thrust me into the night).
But Ms. Atwood was kept deep in many a learned conversation and I had no opportunity to converse. I did, however, overhear where she would be spending next afternoon – the historic University Observatory.
Next day I knocked upon the Observatory door.
It was not a cheerful Margaret Atwood who answered, and answered with alacrity.
She asked my name.
She asked my business.
And she asked how the hell I knew where she was. She had stolen the day to do some writing. Some ‘real’ writing, in this window-of-opportunity grudgingly offered on the book tour.
At least I was there to praise Atwood and not to bury her with some essay question.
Nor had I a manuscript to hand to her.
I might not have garnered a smile, but her curt thank you was reward enough.
For me, at least.
Over The Transom
My friend Google tells me that “over the transom” is still a viable term. In this case it refers to a manuscript accepted by an editor submitted cold – perhaps even from the dreaded slush pile.
At any rate, my manuscript for A LOST TALE was accepted “over the transom”, and I was asked to New York to meet the editor. Although I had experienced and appreciated Montréal, Toronto, London, Berlin and other large cities by that time, I had not been to New York. Many events of that trip are memorable, but none more than my “lunch” with the editor.
The editor took me to a dark and trendy place for a late lunch. There were not many people there and, restaurant fiend though I am, the food was not my top priority. Discussion of “the work” and proposed changes was more on the menu for me.
As I sit across the table from my editor, I can not help but notice a man seated by himself beside the wall. He is tieless and shirtless and, though the lighting is dim, what there is reflects from his naked skin. He sits with a beverage and seems to hum to himself.
My editor is discussing both the menu and some confusion he perceives at the beginning of my novel. I note items on the menu unknown to me and am doubly confused.
The shirtless man at the other table increases the volume of his humming and eventually a waiter goes to him and has words. The shirtless man has words back, but they sound like gibberish. At my table the editor suggests something from the menu and I happily comply. There is wine.
Whilst I eat and listen to suggestions, the shirtless man is spoken to by two other waiters. As I (wisely) restrict myself to a second glass of wine, two uniformed policemen enter the restaurant and approach the shirtless man, whose gibberish had increased even more in volume. In the course of a few minutes three other uniformed police officers – one of them female – arrive on the scene. They are now ranged around the shirtless man and his table. I finally tell my editor what is happening behind him and why I am not concentrating fully upon his suggestions. He turns around.
Two of the officers remove the table from in front of the shirtless man. Two others, one on each side of him, haul him to his feet. It is then that we see his shirtless state continues all the way to his naked feet. The female officer takes the tablecloth from the table and drapes it around him. The four male officers form a circle around the naked, shrouded man uttering his gibberish, and hustle him from the restaurant. The female officer picks up what appears to be a pile of clothes from beneath the table, and a pair of roller skates, and follows them.
I say to my editor that I have never seen anything like that.
My editor concurs.
Of course, when I give readings or lectures or talks, it is to be expected that I’m a writer. That’s why I’m there. Even if I don’t wear a name tag (which I dislike with passion). I believe I’ve learned not to read too long (regardless of the great material), but I can chat and answer questions about writing until the cows come home to roost. Clichés with a twist a speciality.
In addition to being narrowed-in on as a writer, I have been mistaken for dead authors. In this situation I do believe I must make some comment. For the sake of the dead as well as myself. Although I believe I can still make a good impression as a person who is alive, even here I have run into trouble. A taxi driver did not want to believe that the writer he mistook me for was dead.
“I never heard that,” said he.
“Are you sure?”
“He’s been dead for years.”
“You look just like him.”
“Not in his present state,” said I.
The taxi driver did not find me humorous.
A few days ago, however, a new wrinkle was added to my apparent Zombie life.
I was sitting on a park bench,waiting for a bus and watching the bustle of the city pass by. A man of middle years, puffing on a Vapour, settled on a bench across from me. After a few additional puffs, he stated – not asked –
“You’re a writer.”
“Because I’m using a pen?” (which I was, though I was fiddling with sums)