Family Myths

grandmas last secret coverFamily myths are the richest to mine for stories. Family myths are things that a great aunt or uncle might have done, where they may have worked, lives they may – or may not – have lived.

It is rumored that one of my great grandmothers was Hoffa’s ex-girlfriend. Although when we tried to match up the timeline, it didn’t quite match; however, given a few corrections here and there – who knows?! It’s fun to think about.

Another family myth involves my grandfather – even telling the story here feels like I’m giving away secrets about my family, but my grandmother swore to her dying day that the tale was myth.

My grandfather was shot in the back by a police officer. A number of different stories are told as to why he was shot, but the officer stated he was aiming for his legs.

My grandfather was over 6 feet tall. The cop must have been the worst shot in the world if he was aiming at his legs.

My grandmother lived with people creating myths as to why he was shot. She would tell us stories about aunts and cousins who came to her asking for the truth, asking for money, asking for what they believed my grandmother had which caused his death. I was present for one such argument before my grandmother passed of a cousin asking her for the truth before she died. Grandma’s Last Secret is about one of those myths.

I love family myths so much, that I’m planning to write more stories about them. Maybe I’ll write “Hoffa’s Runaway Bride” someday.

newspaper about hoffa.jpg

What makes good literature?

An extremely good conversation in my literature class about intelligence (Inspired by Ted Chiang’s The Great Silence). We talked about other species that fall under the definition of intelligence, which is “the ability to understand and apply knowledge.” parrot.jpgConsidering Alex the Parrot and Koko the Gorilla, and other species: crows are problem solvers and remember faces. We discussed dogs, cats, and others. Is love, as an abstract idea, understood and applied by animals? And then – is intelligence found in showing love?

This is what good literature should do. Teach, delight, and create wonder.

Read The Great Silence here

What’s So Scary?

leaving-your-fears-insecurities-behind.jpg

“Don’t be afraid of failure.  The reality is that most people successes rise out of the ashes of their previous failures.”

From a new documentary on Netflix titled Creativity. The narrator is talking to the creator of Game of Thrones. The creator is talking about how many times he’s failed.

I started this to say – what are you afraid of?

Then I wanted to ask – what if there was no such thing as fear? What would you do? What could you do?

I want you to think about that. What if fear was not in the human range of emotion or thought?

 

Friday Feature: Ron Terranova and his buddy, The Cyclops, Polyphemus.

i, poly for kdp
Introducing- The Cyclops Polyphemus

My novella, “I, Polyphemus,” is now available on Amazon.com. Writing this book has been a labor of love for me, involving a couple of years of rewrites and research. With its publication I thought I would blog an introduction into the book’s genesis.

I became fascinated with Greek mythology when I was eleven after I nearly died from a serious illness. It was also at this same time that I began to write.

The tales of gods, heroes and fantastic creatures were somehow palliative, and drew me away from my focus on my illness. Of the many tales that captured my imagination, Homer’s Odyssey was my favorite, and Odysseus was my favorite hero. He was not the strongest or greatest warrior among the Greeks, but throughout the story he is referred to with the sobriquet “Wily” Odysseus. Reluctant to go to war against the Trojans, he acquiesces, angering Poseidon, who makes his journey home after the fall of Troy a long and tormented one

In book IX of the Odyssey, the cyclops Polyphemus is introduced. Odysseus and a number of his men take harbor on Cyclops Island on their way home to Ithaca. Nearly starving, they discover a cave stocked with milk and cheeses and glut themselves, when the cave’s occupant, Polyphemus, arrives home, and, after perfunctory introductions, begins to devour the Greeks.
In the Odyssey, of all of the characters Odysseus encounters, whether it be Circe, the Sirens, Calypso or the Lotus Eaters, seemed knowable. But Polyphemus was a brute riddle. For me he represented the existential absurd, as it seemed he was put on Earth for the sole purpose of encountering Odysseus and eating his men. He is a one dimensional enigma.
rterranovaAs a writer, the challenge to flesh him out and make him a sympathetic character was akin to the alchemist’s feat of turning base metal into gold. But what if in my story he is a loving shepherd who feels his sheep are his children? What if in my tale, Odysseus and his men instead of eating his cheese, murder his children? And what if the violation unleashes the dormant poet within the brute?
Through the years, as I would revisit the Odyssey, and as my political world view evolved, my perception of Odysseus evolved as well. He became more nuanced and less sympathetic. His wiles now seemed deceitful and duplicitous. He was complicit in the murder of civilians in the villages surrounding the walled fortress of Troy, he was an active agent in a war of aggression and the architect of the wooden horse that brought down Troy. He could now be recast as an imperialist, sociopath and war criminal. In my story he is the antagonist provoking Polyphemus into violence and madness.

This is a novella, but stylistically it has elements of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey as an epic narrative poem. The narrative is almost exclusively in the voice and point of view of Polyphemus. In portions of the story the narration weaves in and out of dreams, and enters the realms of Magical Realism and Surrealism. As in Homer’s works, the characters exist in a duplicitous world where intervention from the gods and Fates is constant.

The most central character next to Polyphemus is the centaur Chiron, who represents reason and denies the gods’ existence, and becomes a benevolent father figure to Polyphemus. Incorporating numerous characters from Greek mythology into the story was at first a challenge, but ultimately I felt I chose the right ones as my vision of Polyphemus began to take form.

As a character grows and begins to take shape, it is almost as if at some point the writer passes the torch to the character; the writing almost seems co-authored. For me, this happened when Polyphemus goes mad. It was as if I had become an observer merely chronicling what I saw as Polyphemus came to full, complex fruition- a mad poet, a vengeful father and a killer who kills with dark, sarcastic humor and a flamboyant joie de vivre. The complicated anti-hero Homer would never recognize was born.

I put everything I’ve learned and everything I had into this book, and my reinvented protagonist has become like a brother.

With that, let me introduce you to my one eyed friend- the cyclops Polyphemus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks, Ron!

noreen

The Myth of Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is a myth perpetuated by people who don’t really want to write.

write

And I really don’t like when people ask me if I ever “get it,” as if it’s contagious. In some ways, I think it is. People talk about it too much and infect others with their ideas of this mysterious and loathsome “writer’s block.”

Maybe I’m thinking of the block all wrong. I’m not sure at all what it means. Does it mean the person can’t sit in a chair and write? Are their hands broken? Is their brain injured? Or does it mean they can’t write as well as they want? Does it mean that writing’s not easy?

Hey – wait – let’s hold on to that one: Writing is not easy?!

Of course, at times, it’s not easy! Sometimes the scene isn’t quite right or the dialogue is inauthentic or the words aren’t laying out as smooth and beautiful as we’d like. Does that mean we lay down the ivory pipe, get up from our Italian baroque seventeenth century carved desk, retire our gray wool writing jacket with the patches on the elbows, and lounge for the rest of the day waiting for this “block” to pass?

None of it’s real!Writers-Block-is-a-Lie

The desk, the jacket, or the block – these are images people use to perpetuate the myth that writing is some magical gift that is laid down upon us and is taken away just as easily.

I’m not saying the ability to ribbon words rhythmically and meaningfully isn’t a gift – but it is work.

Now there’s the word we need to use. The only thing, perhaps, people are being blocked from is WORK.

A writer needs time. The lack of time can inhibit starting or finishing – but we make time. Many writers (Vonnegut, Angelou) woke up early.  I used to be one of those people who said – oh, no, I need my sleep. But then I decided I wanted to write more than I needed extra sleep. Writers, for centuries, have had no choice but to get up early or stay up late in order to produce.

And there’s that word again. Work. Let’s get to it, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how gifted you are, writing is work, writing is commitment. And there’s the other word so many people are afraid of: commitment.

If you want to be a writer it takes work and it takes commitment. The real work of writing is to commit yourself to it, to sit your ass in that chair, at that desk, or dining table, or in the corner closet, and write. Sometimes nothing is going to come out right. And that’s when you keep working, or you take a break, go grab a cuppa and get back to it. Writer’s commit themselves to time and action, whether it’s one hour a day or eight hours a day. And sometimes things come out well and sometimes they’re a struggle.

plumbers block

 

Imagine writing as a job. If you want to be successful, can you give up the moment it gets challenging?  Can you imagine your plumber calling you and saying, “I just can’t come today, I have plumber’s block”?

 

 

 

If something you’ve started has stunted, write something else, take it in a different direction, write an angry letter to one of the characters insisting they do what you want them to, then let them write one to you.

poe2

 

Let’s be honest about what writer’s block really is –

  • it’s procrastination;
  • it’s distraction; 
  • it’s fear of rejection.

 

I do believe people go through periods where they’re not as productive, or they have some psychological issues blocking them from releasing their ideas. These problems can be solved – therapy.

beautiful journalist looks typewriterIf you want to take part in the myth – “oh I can’t write today!”

If you want to perpetuate the myth – “What do you do when you get blocked?”

That’s fine. However, Do not bring your kind of negativity to me – “Do you ever get blocked?” Because I don’t want to hear it; I don’t want to be a part of it; and I certainly don’t want you attempting to infect me with your dis-ease.

 

read

 

Now – sit that ass in that chair and WRITE something. 😉 Good luck.