Saturday, November 11, 2017

Left Bank Writer's Retreat 2017

A third trip to Paris feels like going home, especially when you go to meet friends you seldom see, but fall into accord with like no time has passed at all. Especially when you spend evenings together playing petanque and eating cheese and charcuterie plates on the sidewalk. And especially when your sister and brother-in-law have come as well, celebrating life and monumental birthdays.

The Left Bank Writer's Retreat this year had a completely different feel - most of us were return retreat members - and the activities were changed enough to make us feel like we were expats of our own, exploring inspiration and talking our way through Hemingway's cafes.


One of the greatest experiences was performing in a play in the Luxembourg Gardens. The play, Finding Sylvia Beach, was written by one of our group, and I was honored to have a role!




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Collaboration

Writing is considered a solitary act...and it is...to a degree. There is one person making marks on a page, either via pen to paper of fingers to keyboard. This doesn't seem to capture the essence, however, of inspiration.

Guidance in writing is an active sort of thing. It entails listening ~ to the "random word" of inspiration, a companion to art. Action begets action, as well, and that often comes from outside sources. Those sources can be natural, physical, or human. A sunset...a smell that throws us back in time...a passing phrase of a stranger.

And then there is engagement. Creative collaboration of a group of like minded people. One who can see the next step clearly when you're stymied. One whose talent's enhance your own. One who can keep you accountable.

We've had a rare week here at Firefly Creek. Like-minded and ready to embrace our callings, there have been daily writings, discussions, readings, and assignments between me, my siblings, and my brother in law.

This is how life should be. Dinners should be bacchanal events. Dusks should be spent on the deck by torchlight, listening to readings of Byron. Days should be spent on devotionals to connect us to the life force we celebrate in word.

Phrases and observations emerge ~ "Early May honeysuckle, one of the greatest gifts of creation..."

"He doesn't sound like the most noble of people."
"What's that got to do with it?"

Tasks emerge ~ "Set up your own webpage ~ record this reading professionally with R playing the background music..."

Ideas emerge ~ "Why not this layout? Take your story this direction."

Questions emerge ~ "Do you have a vision for the end, or is it a revelatory process?"

Oh, it's a process...and it's enhanced by collaboration.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Spring Freshet

I write more in fall and winter. I'm inspired more by those seasons. It seems like spring and summer should inspire more, with their riots of colorful blooms at every turn.

I suppose I feel like they speak for themselves. I go for the understated. The beauty less loved. I adore the solace of snow. I chat with engaging, crackling fires ~ and note the sublime in crackling morning frosts.

This is a lesson for a writing life. Look at more than the obvious, the showy. Focus on the undercurrents, the building blocks for the "greater" seasons to come. This will create a fullness in your work, enriched by quiet introspection and observation.

Then, when the riots of morning birdsong and evenings of spring peepers in the pond come, as they have now, the fullness of their songs will be enhanced by the comparative depth of silence.

Emergence




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why didn't I think of that?

I have to admit, I'm rather ridiculously excited about a concept I wish I'd come up with - that editing writing can be fun. What?! That torturous exercise of revision ~ of grappling with vocabulary for the perfect word or turn of phrase? How?

By comparison. I just finished the chapter Form Versus Formula in The Right to Write where Julia Cameron compares writing editing to film-making editing. Again I exclaim, What?! There is nothing I love more! Then the flash came ~ I understood what she was saying, and it has changed everything.

In film-making you get shots ~ lots of them ~ from every angle imaginable. If you are filming people, you film each person from the front, side, and/or back. If one person has a monologue, you film the other character's reaction to it. If they are handing off objects, you get a tight shot of the transfer. Then you take it all back to the computer and begin splicing and dicing and weaving the clips into scenes. THEN you give the scenes filters and effects to really set the tone and mood. And it's thrilling.



Why, then, can we not think of writing this way? I think there's the idea that it has to come to the page in perfect form, from start to finish. Why not just throw everything out there, from every angle, from every perspective, and not even worry about refinement til we get to the editing process? Yes, you can keep the best parts, and leave the others on the cutting room floor.

If there is something beautiful you "can't part with," tuck it in another file for potential use on the next project.

Add light, add effect, add emotion...and above all, enjoy. "Action!"


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Who I am instead

My sister sent me this quote last night, sharing in her frustration over it. Sometimes security is absolutely worth it ~ like caring for a loved one through illness or in their twilight years; or, making sure your children have a life that will grow them into thriving adulthood. There is something about security that brings its own satisfaction.


I would also argue that dreams aren't so easily murdered. I think everyone has an alternate persona apart from their everyday life, apart from what they do. Ask anyone "who are you instead?" and you'll likely get an answer that sounds something like the idea of these dreams.

The key is to live in keeping with your desires as far as possible anyway. Weave your dreams into your secure life. These are not mutually exclusive things.

I am a park ranger ~ that is what I do. I am a writer and an artist and a traveler ~ that is who I am. While I was caring for my father, part of what got me through was styling myself as Emily Dickinson, L.M. Montgomery, or Charlotte Bronte, secluded in my home, writing, caring for my father and the land, and finding beauty where I could.

Do you have a dream in the midst of your everyday life? Take an online class, take a picture, watch a how-to. Buy a notebook and a fresh pen, buy a sketching pad and some pastel pencils. Step out in the direction of your dreams, and I think you'll be surprised at how resilient they are.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Prepping for Paris

Returning to the Left Bank Writer's Retreat in June has me already dreaming of the City of Light. I'm swimming in related literature until I get back there in person...I'm longing for violet ice cream, art, and the sound of bells chiming the hours.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March 1st

In like a lion 
Or in like a gentle lamb 
The air seems quiet 

Unnaturally so ~
A weather breeder we called it

A restless stirring
Disquiets my inner peace
Storms are predicted. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Effort of Ease

Tonight I realized there's more to this literary journey than just seeking out author's haunts ~ although that will always remain an on-going quest and pilgrimage goal for me. But every day is a literary journey through life! Every day there is some connection, some insight, some passing thought or quote that stirs the soul. This is to become my pool, my well, as Julia Cameron would say, into which to drop the random word.

My current inspiring read, with a Kendra-original bookmark

"When we write, we 'place' ourselves in our world. We say, 'This is where I am right now, and this is how I feel about that.'" Julia Cameron

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Gadding about in Sleepy Hollow

"IN the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee,...there lies a small market-town or rural port...which is...generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town..."

Crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, the longest in the state of New York.
"Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley, or rather lap of land, among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail, or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquility...
From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW..."

"A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a high German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his pow-wows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions; and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole nine fold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols...
 
   
The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback without a head..."



Bewitching indeed. This mesmerizing tale hooked me and my sister when young with suspense and lore that was tantalizing and yet not tooo macabre. When my niece moved across the mighty Tappan Zee Bridge from Sleepy Hollow, we knew we had to visit.

Sleepy Hollow is not only surrounded by the high hills that Irving wrote about, the cemetery sits on one of them, arching above the Old Dutch Church.

 
It is everything you might imagine a cemetery to be...
 


  
The wind was blowing balmy and mysterious as we stepped into the setting of the story itself. We visited and paid homage at Washington Irving's grave - where else COULD he be buried? - and thanked him for his creative and fantastic imagination.
 

 
In that storybook place you could easily imagine "the ploughboy, loitering homeward of a still...evening, [who] has often fancied Ichabod's voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow."

Friday, November 11, 2016

O. Henry

"The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate."
O. Henry

This story begins in reverse. It begins in Asheville, NC, where I've seen the marker to O. Henry, William Sydney Porter, many times.

 
But Asheville is where he spent the last years of his life, and he is buried in Riverside Cemetery there. He was a native Carolinian, after all, but for many years, I'd heard how his journey also took him to Texas. He moved for his health, to try to help a persistent cough. While there he published a satirical paper called "The Rolling Stone."
 
He also got a job in a bank, but spent three years in jail for embezzlement. It was a turning point, as you might imagine. He used the time to hone his craft and memorize every word in the dictionary.
 
While on a trip to San Antonio for training, I happened by the O. Henry house one night with a group from class quite by accident, on our way back to our hotel from the panaderia, Mi Tierra. Here it was, by happenstance!
 

 
 
I learned that ~ "Hoping to use O. Henry as a role model, Bexar County Chief Probation officer...assigns his probationers as docents in the O. Henry Museum to fulfill their Community Service. A college scholarship [is] awarded to the probationer who best demonstrates a change of attitude and goals in life."
 
The mural behind the museum was painted by one such probationer, and remains as a symbol of hope to others.
 
 
O. Henry died at the age of 48, from cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, and an enlarged heart. People visit the gravesite of the author of "The Gift of the Magi" and often leave $1.87 in coins on his stone...
 
 
 
"One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."
 
 
 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

More of the Lost Generation


Last summer I was invited to Asheville to do a week detail in the museum storage area of the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of my favorite NPS team-mates also came, and in our free time we scoured the city for remnants of Thomas Wolfe and Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Part of it was showing Kate places I'd already found, such as My Old Kentucky Home, Riverside Cemetery, and the Grove Park Inn.



My Old Kentucky Home was Julia Wolfe's boarding house and the setting for "Look Homeward Angel. It is still very much like stepping into the novel.

The Parlor

The dining room
One of Tom's suits hanging in an upstairs closet. He was very tall.

Tom's grave marker in Riverside Cemetery - we left a pen.

While at the Wolfe site, we found out that Jude Law had visited as research for his part as Thomas Wolfe in the upcoming film "Genius." We were told they even took him to the cabin where Wolfe wrote "You Can't Go Home Again." No amount of wheedling could make them tell us more, or where the cabin was, or whether we could see it. That made us more determined than ever. We asked everyone we could think of, did online research, and sleuthed out the rest... It took some crawling over gates and quite a hike, but....


As for the Fitzgeralds....

At the Grove Park Inn, where Scott would stay when visiting Zelda during her days in Highland Hospital.

Zelda died in a fire at Highland Hospital on March 10, 1948. I'd never been to the site of the hospital before, so we had to find the location and pay homage there as well. Many of the building still exist, but there is a stone to mark the location of the hospital.
One of the buildings Zelda would've known
The site of the hospital and Zelda's marker - "I don't need anything except hope, which I can't find by looking backwards or forwards, so I suppose the thing is to shut my eyes."  Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald


To finish off the trip, we found a "Speak-Easy," which had been one of Thomas Wolfe's father's favorite local spot. Lex 18 - the atmosphere was evocative. A silent film played on a screen in the dining room, and Kate and I ended up naming the night's cocktail based on the plot of the film - "Marushka's Revenge"!
Lex 18 Moonshine Bar





Saturday, May 9, 2015

Helen Hunt Jackson

In Colorado Springs, on a recent visit, my sister told me about Helen Hunt Jackson falls. "Who was Helen Hunt Jackson?" I asked.

"A writer," she responded. "Contemporaries with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe." Suddenly my mind reeled back to "The Belle of Amherst," where Emily Dickinson says of Helen ~ "She has the facts, but not the phosphorescence."

It sounded like a perfect literary journey ~ plus, as it was in Cheyenne Canon, a perfect place to see some snow and do some hiking!



Helen Hunt became an advocate for Native American rights, and I didn't realize that her novel Ramona had been made into a play and several films.


The falls were beautiful, and supposedly Helen liked to come here to think and write. Helen's house in Colorado Springs was dismantled, but part of it was salvaged and rebuilt inside the Pioneer Museum downtown. It was eerie, to say the least!






No days such honored days as these! While yet 
Fair Aphrodite reigned, men seeking wide 
For some fair thing which should forever bide 
On earth, her beauteous memory to set 
In fitting frame that no age could forget, 
Her name in lovely April's name did hide, 
And leave it there, eternally allied 
To all the fairest flowers Spring did beget. 
And when fair Aphrodite passed from earth, 
Her shrines forgotten and her feasts of mirth, 
A holier symbol still in seal and sign, 
Sweet April took, of kingdom most divine, 
When Christ ascended, in the time of birth 
Of spring anemones, in Palestine. 





Sunday, March 1, 2015

A weekend get-away

My first get-away after the snow - mostly - allowed me to leave the farm was to Huntsville, AL to the Monte Sano Writer's Retreat. The theme was "Unleash Your Creative Spirit!" and I feel like that's what it's allowed me to do. I've come home rich with ideas and inspiration.

Monte Sano means "Mountain of Health," and it has helped heal me, body and spirit, several times now. I have gone there to walk, to gaze out over the valley, to search for fossils, and now, to commune with fellow craftsmen of the pen, including my precious sister. We hashed over the agenda, deciding which breakout sessions would best meet our differing needs, and lamenting some that we weren't able to attend.

This year, however, all the authors were on a group panel. All the attendees gathered in a great room, and listened as each genre/author got about 20 minutes to speak to their trade. The things we learned from the most unexpected! The sessions we never would've attended ended up being the most illuminating.

One piece of advice that was consistent was to "read to write." We were encouraged to read those who inspire us to craft our own voice and vision. I'm ready to begin...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Art inspired by art ~ my short film inspired by the works of poet Kathryn Stripling Byer.

Wildwood Flower from Kendra Hinkle on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Braisserie Lipp's

"Don't you know that all writers ever talk about is their troubles?" Sylvia Beach


     "Outside on the rue de l'Odéon I was disgusted with myself for having complained about things. I was doing what I did of my own free will and I was doing it stupidly...You God damn complainer. You dirty phony saint and martyr, I said to myself. You quit journalism of your own accord...Hunger is healthy and the pictures do look better when you are hungry. Eating is wonderful too and do you know where you are going to eat right now?
     Lipp's is where you are going to eat and drink too....
     There were few people in the brasserie and when I sat down on the bench against the wall with the mirror in back and a table in front and the waiter asked if I wanted beer. I asked for a distingué, the big glass mug that held a liter, and for potato salad.
     The beer was very cold and wonderful to drink. The pommes a l'huile were firm and marinated and the olive oil delicious. I ground black pepper over the potatoes and moistened the bread in the olive oil. After the first heavy draft of beer I drank and ate very slowly. When the pommes a l'huile were gone I ordered another serving and a cervelas. This was a sausage like a heavy, wide frankfurter split in two and covered with a special mustard sauce.
     I mopped up all the oil and all of the sauce with bread and drank the beer slowly until it began to lose its coldness and then I finished it and ordered a demi and watched it drawn. It seemed colder than the distingué and I drank half of it.
     I had not been worrying, I thought. I knew the stories were good and someone would publish them finally at home."

                                                                                                      A Moveable Feast

Lipp's was an important place in Hemingway's career, because he says it was there that he remembered when he had been able to write again after his wife accidentally lost all his manuscripts. He said hunger was a good discipline and he learned from it. And he knew he must write a novel.


After leaving Lipp's Hem walked back to La Closerie des Lilas...

     "I sat in a corner with the afternoon light coming in over my shoulder and wrote in the notebook. The waiter brought me a café creme and I drank half of it when it cooled and left it on the table while I wrote...The story was about coming back from the war but there was no mention of the war in it...
     There were days ahead to be doing that each day."

                                                                                                      A Moveable Feast

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Along the river...

Today we return to the banks of the Seine. It's refreshing journey, after going back to work and finding it more depleting than wandering 4-6 miles a day in Paris. In the latest chapter of A Moveable Feast, Hemingway talks about the People of the Seine.

"Across the branch of the Seine was the Île St.-Louis with the narrow streets and the old, tall, beautiful houses, and you could go over there or you could turn left and walk along the quais with the length of the Île St.-Louis and then Notre Dame and Île de la Cité opposite as you walked."

Looking toward the Île St.-Louis
This was particularly meaningful, as the Île St.-Louis was our home away from home during the Left Bank Writer's Retreat. There are two islands in the river.  The Île St.-Louis is an island behind the Île de la Cité on which the city was founded, and on which sits Notre Dame. There is also the Crypte Archeologique under the island, with early Roman and Gaul ruins.

Notre Dame from the rear
He continues ~ "In the bookstalls along the quais you could sometimes find American books that had just been published for sale very cheap." These bookstalls are still there, all along the river, and they are proudly owned by multi-generational families.


"At the head of the Île de la Cité below the Pont Neuf where there was the statue of Henri Quatre, the island ended in a point like the sharp bow of a ship and there was a small park at the waters's edge with fine chestnut trees, huge and spreading, and in the currents and back waters that the Seine made flowing past, there were excellent places to fish. You went down a stairway to the park and watched the fisherman there under the great bridge."

The Pont Neuf ~ unfortunately I balked at the idea of taking a picture of another statue,
so Henry 4th is not visible...
Under the great bridge...
Hemingway says "if the day was bright, I would buy a liter of wine and a piece of bread and some sausage and sit in the sun and read one of the books I had bought and watch the fishing." We had our farewell drinks by the Seine very near that spot. Although the fishermen are gone and Hemingway is gone (and this so near the anniversary), the sun is still good, and so is the wine. And so is the river.