Excerpts, WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet for November 28

I have been MIA from this blog for far too long, having spent the last seven months on sabbatical. I will not promise to be back on a regular basis, but I promise that I will try to return more often.

I offer below a WIPpet based on my work these past several months. It is not fiction, nor even creative nonfiction, but a snippet of my dissertation, which is a critical edition of a 1530 Middle English translation of a French work written in 1400 by Christine de Pizan. The sentiments expressed by the translator will relate to many of us, I suspect.

My math is (1+1) x (2+8), minus 1 because it didn’t work to do twenty sentences or lines. Please go check out the other snippets that have been posted here:

In the twentieth century, many scholars, especially those studying Christine’s influence and relevance for contemporary times, have focussed on Christine’s works on women’s education and place in society. Moreau and Hicks, in their translation into modern French of Cité des dames, remark that the spirit of the work is “étonnament moderne” [stunningly modern]; they compare Christine’s views on women’s status to those of Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf (Moreau and Hicks, 14-16). At the same time, Moreau and Hicks insist that one must “non seulement prendre conscience de ce qui nous rapproche de celles et de ceux qui nous ont précédés, mais aussi de ce qui nous en sépare” [not only be aware of that which draws us closer to the women and men who have preceded us, but also of that which separates us] (Moreau and Hicks 22). In this manner, these scholars avoid the common critical blunder of “seeing in Christine de Pizan the apostle of modern female emancipation” (Kennedy 11). Some literary sociologists have measured Christine against their own standards, overlaying modern social structures upon Christine’s texts; in 1935, this conflation led to Howard Rollin Patch referring to Christine as “the militant suffragist” (Patch 25).

  1. Boke of thy rudenesse by consyderacion
  2. Plunged in the walowes of abasshement
  3. For thy translatoure, make excusacion
  4. To all to whom thou shalt thy selfe present
  5. Besechynge them upon the sentement
  6. In the composed to set theyr regarde
  7. And not on the speeche cancred and frowar[de]
  8. Shewe them that thy translatour hath the wryten
  9. Not to obtayne thankes or remuneracions
  10. But to the entent, to do the to be wryten
  11. As well in Englande, as in other nacyons
  12. And where mysor[dre, in t]hy translacion is
  13. Unto the perceyver, with humble obeysaunce
  14. Excuse thy reducer, blamyng his ygnoraunce.

 

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Stream of Consciousness Saturday — Cold Contrasts

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, hosted by Linda G. Hill. The prompt this week is “contrast.”

Earlier this week, I was walking from the parking lot to my job, buffeted by strong winds that lowered the “real feel” to the single digits. I was cold, and miserable. However, it was my own fault that I was cold, since I didn’t take the time to cover my neck with my scarf, pull the hood of my coat securely over my head, or find my warm mittens. I had the wherewithal to be warm, but not the time, or so I thought.

In the midst of my misery and self-pity, I remembered a piece I am plotting set in the 14th century. The contrast between my ability to stay warm and that of my characters is stunning. In 14th century Paris, one had a thick woolen mantle, a cape-like article of clothing, that would protect one from the cold, and woolen gloves and stockings. There were no waterproof boots, no Goretex mittens, and no down parkas. If it were rainy or snowy, the wool would become wet, despite the high lanolin content of homespun wool, making one wet in addition to cold.

Things didn’t greatly improve inside. Fires only reach so far into a room, and lack thermostats to keep interior spaces at a comfortable minimum. Stone buildings retained a chill, even when covered with tapestries to fight drafts, and glass windows were not common in most dwellings. The “common” folk lived in small spaces with many family members sharing a bed, which had to be a welcome source of warmth on cold nights. It makes me slightly ashamed to rail against the builder who constructed a house in upstate New York in 1960 without insulation. My uninsulated house would be a haven of warmth to my characters, and I try to feel grateful for what I have, looking at the half full glass–really a full glass, if I think about it.

One doesn’t have to go all the way back to the 14th century to see a contrast in our ability to stay warm. My father told stories of finding snow inside the window of the bedroom he shared with his brother on the unheated third floor of the house his parents shared with his uncle and aunt. I loved to hear him talk about the mad dash down the stairs to the heated bathroom to thaw before breakfast in the warm kitchen. He didn’t have a winter coat, but a thick wool sweater that repelled most of the snow and some of the cold on his walk to school.

Today I am sitting in front of my fireplace, claiming the warmest spot like a cat, musing on how easy it is to complain about what one does not have rather than to appreciate what one does have. I want to take the more difficult path of being grateful for what I have–even an uninsulated house–rather than concentrating on what I don’t have. For me, gratitude is more about the people I have in my life than the things, but it is worth remembering that my life is better and easier than it was for many previous generations. My writing, set in previous centuries, is good practice for keeping that in mind.

From Here to Eventually

Escaping from life

Seth Godin vacation life escape
Seth Godin on life

Seth Godin has pinpointed the horns of my dilemma.  Of course, I would choose a life where I needed no escape.  My life is much like many writers who have had day jobs, from Geoffrey Chaucer to Nathaniel Hawthorne, not that I belong in such august company.  I am very good at my day job, but honestly, I tend to invest too much time and energy in it.  There are months, or even years, where I do not have the energy for anything else.

However, I want to do more, and believe I have something to offer. Even so, I find it difficult to put my writing above other parts of my life. I feel selfish, and worry that my belief of something to offer is merely the figment of an inflated ego. I often think I should wait for retirement, but I also remember someone who worked for me once, and unwittingly gave me a lesson in waiting for dreams.  For years, he had planned travel and other unfulfilled wishes he would accomplish once he was retired. Sadly, he passed away less than a month after his retirement, leaving so many unfulfilled dreams.

I believe I will make the leap of faith to write now. Dreams delayed often are often dreams unfulfilled.

EM

Musings

My writing space

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Several months ago, I was tagged in a “Show Your Writing Place,” meme that was circulating around.  Although my space has been set up for several weeks in my younger son’s room, I haven’t written the post until now.  This picture shows the incense I burn in the morning for my meditation before I start working. The penguin cup was a Christmas present from my younger daughter. When it got chipped, I converted it to a marker/pen holder.  My fountain pens, with various color inks are waiting for me.  I do indulge in colored paper as well, especially when planning or mind mapping, which I am doing here.

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The left side of the desk has my pencil holder, my cases for my fountain pens so that they can travel from work to home without injury, and a stack of loose paper for reminder notes.  Given my ADD, I stick the notes in the clip on top of the little silver holder, plunk it down in the middle of the desk, and hope I see it. It’s not fool-proof, but works most of the time.

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Despite my recent shift to minimalism, I still have my little ceramic boxes from decades ago, which now corral small, pesky items. The top shelf also holds my parents’ wedding picture. My mother passed away last April after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s.  I like to see my parents in a much happier time. My phone and bluetooth speaker are missing from this picture, but I find music essential for writing. The middle shelf has some of my craft books and a box of fountain pen ink. The bottom shelf holds my younger son’s books, since it is still his room when he come home on school breaks.

What does your writing space look like?  Do you have objects nearby for inspiration or solace? I’d love to see, if you are willing to share.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

WIPpet Wednesday, Memoir

WIPpet Wednesday is a blog hop of excerpts, hosted by the lovely K L Schwengel.  The only rule is that the excerpt have something to do with the date. If you want to join, the link is here.  Feel free to add your link, and please go visit and encourage the participants.  I am continuing to post from my memoir here,  and it is 3 paragraphs in lovely math of 3+0=3.

I will return to other wips, or at least cheerier parts of my memoir next Wednesday, I promise!

In the spring of fourth grade, I started feeling ill and having trouble hearing, so Mrs. B, my wonderful, kind, homeroom teacher moved me to the front row of the class.  She spoke to my parents, who were unconcerned. Every Easter, my father unveiled the camera for ceremonial pictures among the dogwood trees in our front yard.  In my picture, a stick-thin little girl valiantly tries to summon a smile for the lens, not quite hiding the pain in her eyes.  Less than a week later, I reluctantly told my mother I thought something might be wrong with me, since my urine was the color of Coca-Cola.  She thought I was faking, a bid for attention, but I took an old cough medicine bottle andbrought her the proof. After much railing about the expense and bother, my parents took me to the pediatrician, whom I’d seen the previous summer when my eardrums ruptured.  Once the pediatrician verified that I had not contaminated the sample with any foreign substance, she tested it.  When she came back into the room, she was very angry, and I was so afraid I had done something wrong. Her voice was very tight, but she spoke gently, telling me I was very sick and had to go to the hospital.  Palpable frost entered her voice when she turned to my parents. “She has the strain of strep that causes rheumatic fever,  but it has attacked her kidneys instead.” She stopped, shook her head minutely, and continued.  “She has been ill for weeks, if not months. You will take her to the hospital now, and I will meet you there.”

I was in the hospital for over a week, and confined to bed for four months.  My mother stayed in the hospital with me, but seemed angry and distant as always.  My father showed the first crack in his immobile exterior that first day, turning pale and anxious as the doctors explained my illness. I knew I was very ill, perhaps dying, when my parents allowed me to have as many soft drinks and popsicles as I wanted. I found out years later that my father’s best friend had died of the same disease when they were ten years old. I turned ten the week before I entered the hospital.

I took penicillin for a year after being released from the hospital.  My parents had no medical insurance, and were drowning under the expense of my hospital stay, so the veterinarian who lived next door gave us the canine version at cost. I became the invisible invalid, ensconced on a couch moved into the corner of the dining room.  Everyone walked by me, but never stopped to talk or visit. I lived entirely in my head that summer. I planned my life, daydreamed, read books, and decided I was not going to die.

EM

WIPpet Wednesday

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.

Creativity

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.

ROW80

ROW80 Check-in Back Among the Living

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have checked-in.  April was a tough month for me.  It began with a mysterious sickness that lasted over three weeks, and ended with a trip to see my parents that was dispiriting and extremely uncomfortable.

So far in May, I’ve been trying to prepare for shoulder replacement surgery, getting ahead of the day job so that things would go well during my 2-3 weeks out.  Then I found out last Thursday that my surgery on the 21st has to be rescheduled. While I am bitterly disappointed, I should be able to get things back under control since I am ahead of the game in the day job.

So how have I been doing on my goals?  I’m fine on some, and far behind on others.  I’m concentrating on the half-full glass.

Writing:

Write one hour three times this past week. No, but I’m going to strive to meet this goal.

Community:

Visit my assigned blogs twice a week. I missed a week or so, but I am making it up the next two weeks.

Reply to all comments. No, but I have scheduled times to bring me back on track. I plan to catch up on my sponsor posts and guest post comments as well.

I did not reach the goal of non-blog related posts on Facebook or Twitter.  I plan to schedule these posts as well. 

Clutter:

One hour three times a week at home going through paper detritus of modern life. Done!

One hour three times a week going through electronic files–rename, delete, archive. Done! Luckily, both these tasks can be accomplished with less than full brainpower.

I also pulled, cleaned and put away all my winter clothing. I am in the process of cleaning and putting away my summer clothing, although the weather is quite volatile here lately, and I regret putting some of my winter clothes away.

Health:

Walk. Seriously. 30 minutes a day. My best lately has been three days a week.  My shoulder is a bother when walking, so I’ve taken it easy.

Follow-up on all the health issues.  I have followed up on several health issues.  There is only the surgery and one other problem to address.

Family day, no working and time with family, one day per week. Yes. Except when I was out of town on business, I spent every Saturday with my family.

Reading:

Update Goodreads at least every other week. Nope.  I need to put this back on my radar.

List and report on what I’m reading, even the dry, academic stuff. I haven’t been reading much academic stuff lately,  I’ve been up lots of nights, and read non-stop through many of them.

 For Wednesday’s check-in, I’ll list what I’ve read this past month or so.  In the meantime, please go encourage some of our participants here.