Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writing a Nonfiction Picture Book

If you've never followed along on a writing adventure with Nancy I. Sanders at her Blogzone, I highly recommend it.

Last week Nancy began her newest adventure--write an 800-word nonfiction picture book. Am I excited? Well, yeah. I had just made up my list of projects I want to consider for the next few month of writing, and a new nonfiction picture book manuscript was at the top of the list. I love the camaraderie, encouragement, and accountability that comes with working with other writers to accomplish a goal.

Nancy's suggestion here at the beginning of this project is to find ways to stay motivated for the next three months until the project is complete. Since I haven't been blogging very regularly lately, I see it as a good way to get both projects on track. AND I'm going to hide a little money for a shopping spree when I get to the end of this adventure!

If you're interested in joining the journey, check the links to Nancy's blog above and climb aboard. (If you haven't noticed, I like journey metaphors.) Hey, maybe we'll plan a shopping trip for the end of February, too.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Idea of Order in Key West

It's Poetry Friday and I'm rambling on about my recent trip to Key West. Be sure to stop by Jama's Alphabet Soup for her latest concoction of poetry!

 Last week the hubs and I took a much needed November vacation. We flew to Miami and rented a car, drove down into the Keys, through the mangrove swamps lining either side of the road, across the seven-mile bridge, all the way to Key West. We stopped in Key Largo for Cuban coffee (oh, so good!) and a glimpse of the African Queen, the old steam boat famous for the scenes between Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The Queen currently takes sightseeing tours out into the Atlantic on motor power, but the steam engine is currently being recreated, and she will once again sail on her own steam. 

They say Truman's Little White House is one of the best kept secrets in Key West. What great history this place holds. It was originally the Navy Commandant's House until Truman began using it for his presidential trips to the Keys. He originally went on doctor's orders for rest and loved the place so much he once wrote in a letter to Bess, "I've a notion to move the capital to Key West and just stay." Some pretty historic documents were discussed and signed here--The Marshall Plan, the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and the executive order integrating the armed forces. 

Chickens roamed the grounds! Many other presidents have visited and stayed here. And when they go, they actually have to pay to stay. 

Truman's catch of the day--a six-pound grouper and a three-pound yellowtail. 
U.S. Navy photo, Harry S Truman Library
I am making my way to the literary world of the island. Hemingway's gorgeous house is a full of light and air. He was prolific while here, and I can see why. Such a beautiful place to write.
Hemingway's House in Key West is still home to 50-75 poly dactyl cats--all descendants of Hemingway's original brood of felines. 
A well-fed, fat cat on Hemingway's bed.
Hemingway's writing studio.

And finally to poetry! 

Wallace Stevens loved the island, too. He once wrote, "It was very much like a cloud full of Cuban senoritas, coconut palms, and waiters carrying ice water."

Stevens and Hemingway reportedly had a fist fight in Key West. Both were inebriated. Stevens insulted Hemingway to his sister. She went home crying and Hemingway went looking for Stevens. They met in the street where Hemingway knocked Stevens down, but Hem was still wearing his glasses. Bystanders called for Hemingway to take them off. When he did, Stevens punched him the jaw, but only succeeded in breaking his own hand in two places. After that, Hemingway thrashed him and left him in a puddle. Later Hemingway wrote in a letter, "But on mature reflection I don't know anybody needed to be hit worse than Mr. S."

Don't you just love hearing the stories, the stuff life is made of?  Hemingway fightng his demons, most likely he was bipolar with a history of suicide running through the pages of the family album. Stevens wrestling with his own disassociated worlds of poetry and  business. 

Oh, but the art. The words. 

From Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea:

“He always thought of the sea as 'la mar' which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as 'el mar' which is masculine.They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”

Sunset cruise on the Schooner America 2.0. (I even got to steer!)

The Idea of Order at Key West
by Wallace StevensShe sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.
If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.

It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Read the rest here.