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Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
When I shifted from non-fiction to fiction 10 years ago, I was convinced that I needed to start with a clean slate; in other words, not attempt both at the same time–as though they were separate streams of consciousness. My colleague and I had not quite finished Women’s Ways of Leading at the time, but we rushed to finish. After all, in fiction there is surprise, and scenes, and tension, conflict and sex, while in non-fiction…few of the previous approaches are usually present.
When my colleague Mary recently said that my non-fiction (in a new text entitled Liberating Leadership Capacity) had benefited from the writing of The Justine Trilogy, well, I had to reexamine my assumptions. Was there more of a confluence than I imagined? I am using “confluence” here to mean the processes of merging and emerging. This is what I notice: language flows more easily, like rivers coming together; language choice is more poetic; cognitive dissonance echoes tension; touches of mystery and romance provide glimpses into wisdom.
Would I advise dappling in fiction and non-fiction at the same time? Sure–it’s a fertile playground. An adventure. Camus might call it absurdism, but writers have often created reciprocity between and among novels and essays.
We are off to Washington, D. C. for the release of the new text–then to New York to see our granddaughter and a few plays….
Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
My colleagues and I will be signing our new text at the American Educational
Research Association in Washington, D. C., Sunday, April 10. The subtitle, Pathways
to Educational Wisdom captures those notions about leadership that transcend
usual practice to answer this question: What insights and epiphanies lead us
beyond the horizon of ordinary into the realm of wisdom?
Monday, January 5th, 2015
Welcome to the New Year, which I welcome with optimism and anticipation.
This coming Thursday, January 8, I will be speaking about The Italian Letters at the extraordinary Book Passage in Corte Madera. I’m delighted by positive feedback about this novel, the sequel to the award-winning The Cairo Codex.
This year will also host the release of the third novel in the Justine Trilogy, A Rapture of Ravens: Awakening in Taos. The world release will be in Taos, New Mexico, in June, 2015.
My resolution…to read and write good novels!
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
On Friday evening, November 14, at 7:00, I am talking about and reading from The Italian Letters in San Francisco at Books, Inc., Opera Square, 610 Van Ness. This will be a Champagne Launch and you are all invited.
Why is this so special? Books, Inc. is the West’s oldest independent bookstore with 11 stores in California. Amazingly, their “origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California, and set himself up in the business of selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946.”
On December 9, I’ll have the pleasure of sharing The Italian Letters with the community of readers at the Palo Alto Books, Inc.
Check out booksinc.net and join us.
Friday, October 24th, 2014
My son Tod suggested this morning that I explore the Brain + Gut phenomena as an analogy for desirable novels. Capital idea! Many now recognize that humans have two brains. One in the head and one in the gut. The gut is loaded with nerves and neurons; a very complex brain indeed. For the gut, taste+reward=energy. So describes Heribert Watzke of Oxford in the video below. So far, so good.
We experience the pleasurable taste of a good novel in the gut as well as in the brain holding our hat. I would suggest that a novel must satisfy the intellectual cravings of the big brain in companionship with the yummy tastes experienced by the gut brain. And the best news: both brains entertain your emotions, that lovable human possession that makes the world go round. Thus: Intellect + Taste + Emotions=Human choice and desires.
Think of the last novel you really loved (I’m hoping it was The Cairo Codex or The Italian Letters). Did it meet these criteria? How so?
Tuesday, October 7th, 2014
John Berendt is a truly unique writer. In Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil he engaged a true story and characters into a richly texturized novel of grace and elegance. Memoir authors have borrowed this approach in recent years—to their detriment when the fiction is excessive—and to their glory when it worked.
As I began to write The Italian Letters (just released), I turned to Berendt’s second such novel, A City of Fallen Angels, set in Venice for insights into the Italian culture and legal systems. I, in turn, invoked some of his approaches, particularly the use of true incidents and characters, into my novels (the Justine Trilogy). Berendt—and earlier Truman Capote (In Cold Blood)—offered gifts heretofore undiscovered. For me, these writing strategies created a format to bring together my background in history, non-fiction, and fiction. Thanks, John.
Friday, September 12th, 2014
You need to know that the forthcoming The Italian Letters (October 14 release) is the second edition of Etruscan Evenings. What does that mean? It means that the second edition is a suspense novel, much more so than the first. It alters the characters, the tensions, the events, yet is true to the plot. Such an undertaking is very challenging. I’ve done second editions on textbooks before, but in fiction it means something entirely different. In this case, it meant that the novel shifted genres. Perhaps that’s a new concept, not sure: “SHIFTING GENRES.” Here is some of what it entails:
• an analysis of the first edition to identify aspects in the current genre
• deciding on the desired genre and what forces will drive it
• discovering the elements that would shift the genre to suspense, in this case (e.g. Justine is more proactive; characters are more edgy; occurrences are more sinister; elements are more entangled, each competing with others; motivations are more complex, delving into the psychological dysfunctions of characters; pace is accelerated.
• shifting genres is intellectually challenging–which I enjoy–in that it is essential to hold a gestalt of the novel in your head and play with the pieces holistically.
Questions about these practices?
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
Today Huffington Post suggested as much–so do I. Let me reflect with you on why this is true.
I am fortunate to have several feminist friends–including a daughter–and write feminist novels; e.g. The Justine Trilogy. The first, award-winning The Cairo Codex. The Italian Letters is being released on October 14. In addition, I’ve had the pleasure of writing Women’s Ways of Leading with feminist friend Mary Gardner. But I digress… These are some of the reasons, and how to know one when you meet her:
1. Feminists are strong, smart, and fascinating. They are awakened to the world of possibilities and see no limits. Friends like this are challenging and provocative, enabling you to see yourself in the same way.
2. Feminists understand what it is to be fully human, fully alive. To engage in a world of adventure, activism, travel, caring, problem-solving and new ideas.
3. Feminists are without prejudice, for they have been there. The place is called “invisible.” That was when identity was based on what others thought of us. So, they defend equality for everyone.
4. Feminists are honest. Therefore, you can count on authenticity in the relationship and hearty, rigorous feedback. I have a great writing group that is composed of stimulating companions.
5. Feminists know that reciprocity is the most vital, vibrant factor in any relationship. I’m invested in your awakening, you in mine.
Monday, June 23rd, 2014
This was a goal, a desire of prolific writer Norman Mailer. I have been thoroughly entranced by the idea of finding a smarter alter ego. Even the omnipotent narrator falls short because, while she knows everything, it is everything that you as author know and think. So how does an author transcend self? Find that iconic self that challenges your more conscious self. Is she hidden inside, in the nooks and crannies of those silken gray folds? Mailer made an easy choice. In his last novel, Castle in the Forest, his narrator was the Devil. Ah.
Answering your own questions makes you smarter.
Sunday, June 8th, 2014
That’s how Anthony Tommasini titled his excellent column on music and dissonance (NYT, June 1, 14). In reference to Milton’s use of “barbaric dissonance,” the author waded–no–jumped right into the many understandings of dissonance from politics, to music, to psychology. I had been the most familiar with cognitive dissonance as that state of internal tension arising from contradictions, confusions, that we must make right. Those eternal puzzles that cause our heads to spin. Problems that leap at us during the night and steal our sleep away.
Well, Tommasini’s discussion of the clashing, barbarous, discordant sounds in music are not unlike those tight-wire puzzles in novels. Such cases of dissonance indeed set “the senses on edge.” Here are a few cases that occur to me at the moment when the author:
1) dangles a subtle unknown before the reader with just a brush of puzzlement. What could this mean? Lead to?
2) two barbarous acts confront the reader, yet the narrator isn’t aware of the contradiction. You want to cry out–look, can’t you see!
3) a fine mesh of small descriptors about a character hints at impending transformation–or disaster! We don’t know which.
4) a directly-declared, barbaric crime (Sherlock-style), yet you know that there will be nothing direct or obvious about the resolution. Arthur Conan Doyle makes sure of that.
Next up: Norman Mailer’s hunt to find a narrator “more intelligent than he was.”