Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 23, 2014

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  If you want to participate, post an excerpt tied to the date somehow, and add the link here. This excerpt is from my memoir.  It is much rougher than the earlier excerpts, so criticism is welcome.  It is 23 sentences for the date.

My nearest sibling in age was four years older, and the only one of us who went to kindergarten. By the fall I was 18 months old, I inhabited a dim and quiet house for most of the day.  My mother slept on the couch from the time the older kids left, to the time they came home. I crept silently into my overstuffed chair, and lived a full life with my imaginary friends and my books. I eavesdropped from under the table when my father read to my younger sister, or when my older sister or brother read for my father. In my chair, I began to trace through the pages, finally cracking the code of the letters, and, with tears of joy, the words. My parents were astounded I knew how to read when I was three.  I had received a new book for Christmas from a family friend, and proceeded to read it in the car on the way back home.  Initially, my siblings were scornful, thinking I was pretending I could read, but when they verified I was reading the correct words, no one knew how I learned.  Neither my mother or father had any idea, and questioned my siblings. All of them denied spending the time or effort to teach me to read.  I knew how I had done it, but no one asked me.

I found my siblings’ abandoned readers and dove into them, thumbing through them many times in the three eternal years I waited for school. Books were my escape, my friends, my refuge.  Reading at an early age, after years of long, quiet hours to practice, I stood out in first grade. I gloried in the attention and approbation at first, but teachers’ notice had a dark side.  At one point, my teacher told me to finish reading a story to the class, and left the room.  While the children behaved well in the classroom, even while she was gone, my payback awaited on the playground.

I was surrounded and taunted. Backed by most of my classmates, the largest boy in the class towered over me, jeering, “Spell cat, if you’re so smart!” Even in my terror, I remember thinking, what a stupid word to pick. His face shining in fury, his fist inches from my face, he demanded a confession that I had made up the story and could not read.  Faced with physical harm, I quickly complied.

EM

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 18, 2014

Opening Sentences Meme

Shah Wharton tagged me in a writers’ meme, where I would give the first sentence in each of the first three chapters of my WIP.  The results were to be posted on Facebook, but for those who are not on Facebook,  and since I had written them here first, here they are.  They are from my memoir, which I have been working on most recently.

Chapter One: By the age of two, I’d perfected invisibility, without magic potion, industrial accident, or cloaking device.

Chapter Two: My escape pod was an overstuffed wing chair, shoved into a corner, uncomfortably laden with spiky feathers that surfaced to annoy the occupant.

Chapter Three: I stymied the good sisters at my Catholic school, writing stories instead of practicing my rows of letters, talking to my invisible friends, and generally refusing to  fit the round hole into which they were trying to hammer me.
EM

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 16, 2014

WIPpet Wednesday–Memoir

I am leapfrogging again to a different WIP.  All three that I have posted are in various stages of writing, and yes, I do hop around according to my mood.

This is from my NaNo rebel project in 2013, a memoir begun as catharsis, but which moved into exploration of early relationships.  10 sentences figured out thus: 7+16=23-14=9. The extra sentence is a gimme, to finish the paragraph without using a semi-colon (I love semi-colons, overuse them, and blast them from my writing as much as possible).


 

By the age of two, I’d perfected invisibility, without magic potion, industrial accident, or cloaking device. When my mother noticed my presence, her eyes narrowed, her lips thinned, reliving the difficult and unplanned pregnancy that produced me.  My father’s eyes skimmed past me at the breakfast table, the “extra” child who set awry his careful budget planning.  I had tried the “cute puppy” route with my siblings, but that had banished me from my brother’s room, and my sisters were almost magically inoculated against my charms.  “If you wake me up, I’ll tell the tigers under the crib to eat you,” my sister’s version of a bedtime prayer, made me a light sleeper at 18 months.  With nothing to recommend me to my siblings, who had to share already strained space and food with me, my best course was to disappear.

Poster child of being unseen as well as unheard, I hid under draped tablecloths, sidled along walls, never looked directly at anyone and only spoke when questioned.  I loathed winter.  Small, thin, and perpetually cold, I crept near any heat register hidden from the open sight line of parent or sibling.  In summer, I’d burst outdoors at daybreak to hide in the back yard’s pine brush and soak up the warmth of a Southern day.


 

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of KL Schwengel.  Check it out–a supportive group of writers to be found here.

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | July 9, 2014

WIPpet Wednesday Lost love

This scene occurs when my protagonist has made the “noble sacrifice” of sending away the woman he loves in order to protect her. Nine sentences for the ninth day of July.

I’m not liking the purple prose right now, so any help would be appreciated!

I find myself strong enough not to try to see her, or talk to her, but so weak as to wander by the gate, hoping to see her from a distance, standing in the midst of my memories as if addled. I can feel her in my arms, conjured by my longing. I indulge myself by recreating that evening in precise, jewel-like detail—the feel of the back of her neck under my fingers, which slip slightly in her silken hair; her breasts pressed so close to my chest I can feel her heartbeat. I hold the memory of her blue eyes full of love and acceptance like a candle in a dark, moonless night, knowing I will never see them thus again. Sweet Jesus, that way lies madness. I force myself away, refusing to acknowledge the scent of her which I swear on my soul lingers in the air. I leave some part of myself there; nothing so neat as a heart, all limned in lace and flowers. I drag myself away, leaving skin and blood and bone behind; when I see myself in the mirror of my room at the Stag (delicious irony), I feel shock that my skin is intact.

EM

 

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | June 17, 2014

Links to other Writing Process blogs

Dorene Meyer has taken up my challenge, and posted her writing process here.

Anyone else?  I’ll add links as I get them.EM

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | June 13, 2014

The French Bulldog puppy versus the doorstop

smaller EM

 

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | June 9, 2014

My Writing Process

The lovely and supportive writer S.J. Maylee tagged me in a writing process blog hop.  I have four questions to answer, so let’s get started!

What am I working on?

My day job involves a fair amount of writing, but I won’t go into that.  The work closest to my heart is a novel set in 14th century France about the struggles of a young widow who runs a publishing concern.

A few days ago, I set this novel aside because I am so dissatisfied with my fiction writing. I have a novella simmering about a British WWII war bride, but I’m having trouble breathing her in right now.  I have therefore returned to a memoir I started writing as a NaNo rebel last November, but shelved in December.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My narrative non-fiction is more poetic or evocative than most, since I am allowed some of the little darlings that are edited out of fiction when they do not advance the plot or character arc.

My historical fiction is heavier on history, and tends more toward literary fiction, than that which leans to historical romance.

Why do I write what I do?

What else am I going to do with my graduate degrees in medieval literature? Seriously, I enjoy exploring the lives of strong women in a culture that was legally and socially set against them.

How does my writing process work?

I’m a plotter, although I often have characters who decide to take over, so I leave some flexibility in the outline.

I’m also an inveterate editor, so it’s hard to chain my infernal internal editor in the closet to let me write.  I often write a zero draft, then run through it, editing lightly as well as expanding and contracting where needed.  Then come the substantive edits.

In other words, lots of wash, rinse, repeat.

Thank you, S.J., for tagging me.  Who wants to carry on the torch?  If you want to post these questions and answers, let me know, and I’ll be happy to link to you.

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | June 6, 2014

Nervous dog

This dog is so sweet!

 

 

 

 

 

EM

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | April 25, 2014

History of Profanity, Part 2

DISCLAIMER:  There are a lot of vulgar words in this post.  If you would find these words offensive, PLEASE READ NO FURTHER! Read More…

Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | April 9, 2014

History of Profanity

This post originally appeared on my blog of literary history and words, which has become moribund.  There are some great comments on the original post, which is here.

 

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks now. At first, it hit me that all the terms: cursing, swearing, profanity, are somehow deficient. Cursing, in the sense of wishing someone harm, or damning them to hell, and the like, has become pretty mainstream in the 21st century.  There are still people who do not like it, but most people are more comfortable saying “damn” than the notorious f-word.  My husband has an Irish friend who would easily say that it was “pissing down rain,” but would never in his life say “goddamn.” My Irish-American father would never say either, at least in my hearing. In stark contrast, during the Hundred Years War, the French called the English soldiers “goddams,” because they heard it so often from them.

Swearing also does not mean “bad” words, but swearing oaths as we do when we testify at a trial or join the army or get married. Swearing is in the background of expressions like the British “bloody,” which began as “sblood,” from swearing oaths on “God’s blood,” or “swounds,” on “God’s wounds.” “Swounds“ is now only seen now in centuries-old novels set in earlier centuries yet. To my knowledge, only a small number of religious sects, like the Amish, refuse to swear any oaths, no matter what the circumstances. It seems that swearing is pretty normal for most 21st century people as well.

Profanity is an interesting term.  It comes from the philosophical split of the sacred and the profane, the holy and the human. To profane something is to make something which is holy into something human, to bring sacred things to the level of human existence, the normal, the everyday. In the twentieth century, Canadian French had the only “bad” words that were truly profanity, in that they were religious terms used in instances of anger or frustration. “Hostie” and “tabernacle” are the words for the Roman Catholic Eucharist wafer and the large receptacle where consecrated wafers were stored on the altar, respectively. However, what most of us consider profanity has nothing to do with the holy and much more to do with human sexual and other biological functions.

Also, many of our “bad” words in 21st century English are Anglo-Saxon. All right, I’m a nerd and have studied far too many medieval languages. However, I have to stifle a laugh whenever anyone says, “Pardon my French.” Why would I pardon your French, when the word you belted out is Anglo-Saxon, and ironically, was made into a “bad” word by the very French you are blaming? In 1066, the Norman French who conquered England decided to marginalize the prior occupants of the island by recasting them as barbarians who could not even speak correctly. A former colleague, with whom I taught medieval legal history, used to say that the words used by the people who tended the animals were different from those used by the people who ate the animals. Look at “sheep” versus “mutton,” which comes from the Middle French mouton. The French terms became a sign of more polish, more culture, than the Anglo-Saxon terms.

This juxtaposition runs through all of our language, not just the “bad” words. Consider: “keep” versus “maintain,” “get” versus “obtain.” The feel of the words is so different, or at least the Norman French campaign to make us see the French as more refined succeeded, didn’t it? Is it any wonder that all of the “bad” words that cause a sophomoric giggle amongst 12-year-olds are Anglo-Saxon: “fart”, “ass,” “tits,” and the rest (which I leave to your imagination as this is not an 18-and-older blog)? I draw odd looks when I apologize for my Anglo-Saxon, but most of my friends know I am just being a pedant.

I love the history of language, and the history of rude words is even more fascinating. I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I’d love your thoughts and comments.

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