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Posts tagged ‘Magnificent Nose’

thank you Auntie ‘Nette

April 19, 2012

fransiweinstein

So many of my posts are a result of a particular post I’ve read on Magnificent Nose I know it will come as no shock to see that I’m doing it again.  This latest one, “And Then What Happened?”, is a wonderful story about stories, and what makes a good one.  I’m not going to go into detail because I really think you should read it for yourselves, but it was when the author, Martha F., was telling stories to her 3 1/2 year old niece that she realized that the key to a good story is when it’s relevant to the listener — or reader.

Reading about how her niece kept asking “and then what happened?” every time she paused, I was instantly transported back to when I was 3 or 4 years old.  My mother had two sisters, one an identical twin and another, seven years younger.  They were all close, but the relationship between twins — especially identical twins — is like no other relationship.  They said the same thing at the same time, without consulting with each other they’d show up wearing the same clothes, and if they didn’t speak to each other at least twenty times a day they didn’t speak once.  Sometimes my father and I just shook our heads.  I’m an only child, so you can imagine how foreign this concept was to me.

Not long after my aunt was married (mere months before my parents) she got sick and wasn’t allowed to have children for five or six years.  She and I spent tons of time together and, to the day she died, she and I had a very special bond.  I always said I had two mothers, and to a large extent, I did.

When I was with my dad everyone always said how much I looked like him.  When I was with my mother everyone said I was the image of her.  So it’s not surprising that when I was alone with my aunt everyone assumed she was my mother.  And I’d always grab her hand and whisper in her ear:  “Ssssh, don’t tell them you’re not my mother, Auntie ‘Nette (her name was Annette but when I first learned to speak ‘Nette was as close as I could get, and it stuck).  It was our little secret, a private joke we shared.

Unfortunately my aunt had more than her fair share of sorrow.  She was finally able to have a child.  When Cheryl was just 13 months old my aunt’s husband, Cheryl’s father, died very unexpectedly.  My aunt was 32 years old.  I was five.  Needless to say, we all spent even more time together.  And in one woman, I had an adored aunt, a second mother, an older sister, a best friend and a confidante.  It stayed that way until the day she died, in 2000.

She always had the patience of a saint.  She would play with me for hours and hours.  We’d read.  She loved reading — always had her nose in a book.  Before I could read she’d read to me.  But what I loved the most were the stories she made up.  And like Martha’s little niece, I’d also always ask, “What happened next, Auntie ‘Nette?”

What I’ve never thought about, until Martha’s post sent me wandering down memory lane is, most of the time my aunt asked me what I thought should happen next.  She turned on the switch to my imagination.  She got me involved in the story.  She introduced me to storytelling.

She’s probably the reason I became a writer.

Thanks,  Auntie ‘Nette.  I just want you to know you’re still encouraging me to share my stories.

looking for an idea? Just look around …

March 27, 2012

fransiweinstein

If you follow my blog you know I love Magnificent Nose.  It’s another WordPress blog.  Recently Sara Goas, one of the writers who contributes, had a great post: “Inspiration” — a fictional story about an English teacher, her students and ideas — and where they come from.

I loved this story because my entire career has been about ideas.  So for me, it was very personal.  Thankfully, it’s only happened to me once, but I have suffered through writer’s block, and let me assure you, it’s terrifying.  So I know first hand just how hard to come by an idea can be; and, like the teacher in Sara’s story, I also know where to look for inspiration.

All around me.

People watch, in other words.  Listen to what people say — about everything.  About the books they’re reading, the movies they’ve seen, the fights they’ve had with their spouses, how their kids are driving them nuts, why they want to lose weight, why they want to gain weight, why they hate their job, what they’re looking for in a relationship, what they like to eat, why they can’t eat broccoli, where they like to travel, what the dog did, what their mother-in-law said, why they broke up, what they like and dislike about themselves.

Pay attention to what they do when they’re checking out the cereal aisle in the grocery store, when they’re stopped at a red light beside you, at the movies, in the departure lounge at the airport, at the dentist’s.

Become a voyeur.  Eavesdrop.  Just try to be discreet about it.

Which reminds me of a ‘discussion‘ I once had with a former boyfriend.  Okay, he was pissed off and decided to let me know it.  We were at a restaurant and when we were having our appetizers he suddenly stopped eating.  Waving his fork in my face he threatened to leave if I didn’t start paying attention to the conversation he was trying to have with me.

Instead of listening to him it seems that I was totally engrossed in a couple sitting two or three tables away from us.  They sat there like two total strangers.  There was no warmth between them … no familiarity.  They weren’t speaking.  They weren’t even looking at each other.  They were each lost in their own thoughts, and even looking in different directions.

Without really being aware of what I was doing, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  And unconsciously, as I sat there watching, in my head I was imagining their entire relationship and what had led up to this oh-so-lonely dinner, where the only thing they were sharing was the table.  What’s more, I was writing dialogue — which I was sharing with my boyfriend, instead of having a conversation of our own.  Hence his frustration.

He wasn’t wrong, of course, but the writer in me was happy.  In the space of the hour or two that we all found ourselves under the same roof, between what they didn’t say, and their body language, I got enough material to write a book, or a movie or a play — or, as it turns out, even a good portion of this blog.

See.  Ideas are everywhere.  So let this be your warning.  If you ever feel someone staring at you, it’s probably me.  Don’t take it personally.  And please don’t think I’m being nosy or rude.  I’m just counting on you for some inspiration.

how a WordPress blogger inspired me …

January 9, 2012

fransiweinstein

Who’d a thunk it?

Not so long ago I was trolling through WordPress, as I often do, looking for interesting blogs — and found one almost immediately (oh, I know there are tons of them), but this was the first one I got to and I loved it — so I didn’t look for any more that night.  If you’re a writer — or even just love reading interesting, well-written posts — then you should check it out:  Magnificent Nose.  What I find really interesting is the fact that there are several writers who contribute to it.  It’s a neat idea and they’re all great writers.  In fact, I liked it so much, I decided to follow it, and subscribed so I would get email notices every time there’s a new post.

Over the holidays I was notified that Julie Goldberg — had just posted:  “I don’t have time to believe in writer’s block”.  I don’t know a writer who hasn’t, at one time or another, stared at a piece of paper (or a computer screen) hour after hour, day after day, maybe even week after week or month after month — and it just stared back.  So needless to say I was intrigued.  And once I got into her story I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

What Julie was describing was a scenario I am currently living through — or at least was living through until I read her blog post:  A novel she’s been writing for about 20 years.  A project she starts and stops and starts and stops etc. etc. etc.  The good news is, she’s finally making some good progress.  But that’s not why I’m sharing this with you.

I started writing a book almost 4 years ago.  Amazingly, I had about 6 chapters written in 5 months — and I had a full time job at the time.  Got off to a really fabulous start while visiting friends in Bequia, where I wrote 3 chapters in 10 days.  And then I hit a wall.

No, it wasn’t writer’s block.  It took me about a month to figure out that I was avoiding the chapter that came next because it dealt with subject matter I didn’t want to re-live:  The death of my mother.  Once I figured that out I had a decision to make.  Deal with it and write the chapter or abandon the book forever more, because the book would not be the book without that chapter.

By then I had become a freelance writer and a strategic consultant so I was working from home.  The quiet was too much for me so I took my laptop to a neighbourhood Starbucks and wrote it in 3 days.  I sat there for as long as 7 hours a day — and yes, I kept buying. I drowned myself in coffee and tea and water and sustained myself with yoghurt and cheese and crackers and the odd  slice of lemon poppyseed poundcake — so I didn’t have to feel guilty about being there all day.

And that was that.

Several times I tried to get back into it and couldn’t.  I was distracted.  I knew it wasn’t writer’s block — I have been doing all kinds of writing — just not on my book.  The longer I was away from my book, the more pissed off at myself I became.  I love the idea of this book and desperately want to write it; and finish it; and share it.

But I just couldn’t focus on doing it.  At one point I decided to go away for a month — to some remote locale where I’d have no distractions — nothing else to do but write.   Until life took over and I got a new client and was too busy (happily) writing for him to spend any time on myself.

Now, of course, I don’t care.  Because Julie’s blog struck a chord with me — a big chord.  And that very night I, once again, got excited about my book.  In my head I started working out the chapter to come.  I’m trying to write something every day — and so far, I’m succeeding — thanks to Magnificent Nose.

You see — inspiration can come from anywhere — even in your own backyard — which is exactly what WordPress is for those of us who blog here.  Is there a moral to my story?

You bet.  Don’t just come here to write your own blog.  Spend some time reading other blogs.  You’ll meet some great people who have some very interesting stories, many of whom have had or are having similar experiences to your own.

And who knows.  They might even be able to help you sort out a problem or two.  Look what happened to me.

 

 

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