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Jean's Blog (Check out links to Guest Blogs in lefthand Column)

DONE IT!

A year ago, I plunged into my novel and stopped writing my monthly blogs, wanting to channel all the energy of my creativity toward the one goal that beckoned enticingly from the shadows. Now winter has passed, an astoundingly mild winter, but one that seems reluctant to cede its place to spring. Clouds race across the sky, propelled by an unseasonal wind. Storms and hail batter the middle of the country. Here we are, in May 2016, and the chill in the air still makes the crocuses and daffodils shiver along with the rest of us.
I spent a year of writing and thinking about writing. My novel is done, except for responding to advice from agent and editor. I have neither. I am stranded in the nether world of doubt and despair from which I rescued other writers for years. Who will love my brain-child? Who will make it all real? I wait. Answers will eventually come. They may not be the answers I so desire. I am not a patient person I discover, although I always thought I was.
I set out to write that novel, clear about where it would begin and where it would end. I knew the beginning. I knew how it ended. I was fuzzy, but hopeful that I would be able to sharpen focus on everything that needed to happen in between. What I had not anticipated was the way certain characters, just a name at first, struggled and elbowed their way to importance, and in doing so, unfurled infinite possibilities, influenced interaction with others, tilted the story differently and through their motivations and individual needs skewed the involvement with their environment and world events their way. I felt myself being dragged along to unpremeditated scenarios by the energy the characters themselves projected. It was a mind-blowing experience.
Now, like so many other writers of first novels, I sit on hot coals, pretending to do and say all that is expected of me in my real world, while the world and characters I created bang on the door of my consciousness, demanding to know what will happen next. The novel (tentative title, CHILDREN OF THE NILE), is finished, but not final, as I wait for responses.
This the mere beginning. But what of the people whose lives I explored, whose lives I lived as I wrote them? They became more real to me than flesh and blood. We lived together for so many months, shared Eureka moments, struggled against each other, flew above the clouds into the zone together and emerged dazed but triumphant to read words that wrote themselves, words I loved, and was unaware of having written.
Now there is only the pain of waiting.


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The February Blues

Painting by Joyce Mosseri

available for purchase

Snow, ice, wind, storms, sleet and bone-chilling cold. That has been the recipe so far for this bitter winter. Even the stoics are shaken. For hibernating creatures such as myself, the days stretch, unwinding opportunity as I sit and contemplate the blank screen of my computer.
Groundhog Day came and went with no clarification as to how long this weather will hold us prisoner. The three warring groundhogs of the Northeast could not arrive at a consensus, so - weary sigh - we either have an early spring or five more weeks of winter.
I planned to hibernate, but I did expect to be able to poke my nose out of my burrow now and then to sniff the air.
Meanwhile, my life as a writer is taking me by surprise. I am learning that having made a commitment to my characters and the story they are weaving, everything I hear, see and read measures itself subconsciously against them. Everything around me feeds into my story. I am working internally far more than I expected and I am loving the process. My characters are growing wings and flying on their own. Only time will tell if their wings take their story into the minds and hearts of readers. They have made it into mine.
If anyone reading this is an aspiring fiction writer, I strongly recommend John Gardner's fantastic book, "On Becoming a Novelist." Along with Stephen King's engaging book on writing, it has spun a web of very useful insights into the process and reach of the imagination and its relationship to writing fiction, to creativity, and truth.
Other books have been somewhat helpful, but these two set my feet firmly on a path I am treading with wonder and delight, breathing in the air of discovery and marveling at the view, all the while hibernating and waiting for spring.




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THE WRITING LIFE


Winter at Stony Creek House: Firewood, Sunlight and Snow

Strange December weather.
Two azalea plants are flourishing on our city living-room window-sill, encouraged to spectacular bloom by the subtle wafting of warm air from the radiator nearby and the delicate winter sunlight sifting through the glass of the window pane. They bloom year after year, sometimes twice a year. Every new array of strong little buds comes as a charming surprise as the years go by.
Spring-like days offer gentle air and blue skies, but hidden in our cautious, almost disbelieving delight there lurks a sense of foreboding. Will we have to pay for this unseasonal gift with harsh and cruel winter months to come, as a new year moves in?
I am drifting slowly toward the moment when I will be able to sink into working on my novel without guilt. January begins next week. My year of transition is over.
I have not succeeded in staving off some of the words that have begun to crowd my subconscious. 15,000 of them now sit enticingly in my computer. Every time I dare to open the file, I am sucked deep into the lives of my characters, who are filling out in unexpected ways, gaining strong voices, past lives, and a destiny.
I feel that this forage into the realms of the imagination is what I was always meant to do. Time disappears. There are no hungers but the hungers of the individuals I have invited to live in my mind. I am merely a conduit and like a Jinn billowing from a bottle, I can offer them a future that only I can conjure into reality.
There is research to be done, and I am reading into the period when the novel is set, and into some of the background. I am so excited to be embarking on a new challenge, a new project that will push beyond what I know and enlarge my interior world. I so hope it will all come together to produce the shape and resolution of a fully realized work of fiction. I am stepping with optimism and energy into my writing life.
Onward, 2015! And a happy new year to one and all.



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