Monday, November 23, 2009

what happened to the last two weeks?

In an amazing display of un-timeliness, those that I work for remembered that I'm good at writing, and asked me to do rather A LOT of it. In the last two weeks, I have written two fifteen page development plans for thematic research initiatives, two submissions to Government, about four fake Evidence Portfolios, and a plethora of smaller stuff . . . .

Thus, I'm a TAD behind on ye olde Nanowrimo - but I am not disheartened. I've written another 2000 words today on *the book* and will just keep on at it throughout the summer. Come February, I will be revising the first draft. That's a promise.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

losing my momentum . . . and finding it again

I've been a bit quiet - perhaps because my momentum got lost in a plethora of actual work, and, I have to admit, a fabulous busy weekend with parties and friends . . . . ooops.

However, thanks to Andrea's mean words, I am now reinvigorated, and have written my first 250 words of the day - I am planning several blocks like that interspersed with writing a "roadmap" (it's a metaphor, I think). Fortunately, mine is not on nanotechnology: it is on indigenous knowledges, peoples and identities, which is actually probably harder to "map" than nanotech.

My hiatus has also been caused by the nature of what I'm writing. I got stuck in a literary bog of hopelessness and despair as I tried to write the first person account of the Armenian genocide. I've taken heart from the fact that many of you don't write sequentially and have decided to set this section aside for a while, to be returned to in short bursts rather than total immersion, as I was getting too sad, too overcome by the horror of history, and the shortness of human memory.

Here are the things that saved me from the bog:

Thank you Martin Luther King Jr, for this quote that reminds me that there is hope in Lucine's story. It bends towards justice. I love this concept, which contains within it an image of a plant seeking light.

Then there is this: Chagall's double portrait with a glass of wine, in which the artist and his beloved reinact the joyous Jewish marriage ceremony, both Paris and the shtetl in the background. My book must do this too - show the Adana and London, the past and the future, the dead and the living.

This picture, and those words, have seen me through writing 40,000 words about slavery; they've been beside me as I wrote 20,000 words about the expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal; they've helped me write a conference paper on Chaim Potok's responses to the Holocaust. They'll do me right now.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

further updates on THE BOOK, including an imagined conversation with Toni Morrison

Above my computer - an ugly work Dell - hangs a yellow post-it (are there really any other kind, Kate?) on which I have scrawled:

I'm trying my best, Toni, I really am. It takes quite a lot of work - I'm sure you know this, as a Nobel Laureate etc etc.
Several things have happened: my main character has a job! It turns out she's a journalist - or at least, a journalism student. You see, I didn't know that until I wrote it. This is one of the more terrifying things about writing - even the author is not really in control. The story takes on a life of its own. Also - she has a name! She is Lucine (last name to come - I have to ask my Armenian colleague if she minds me pilfering hers) - Lucine means 'moon' in Armenian.
The political as hell bit is going to form much of the next section, in the guise of papers Lucine has smuggled into Syria hidden in her shoe. There will be extracts from real eyewitness accounts etc here I think. Better not give the game away too much - suffice to say I am at the moment setting up a beautiful culture with words, only to then destroy it. Yuck.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NanNoWriMo: otherwise known as insanity

I'm hoping to update fairly regularly - but for those of you who come here thanks to Andrea's lovely linking - here's a space holder - a random paragraph from the first day's writing.

So these biscuits evoke for me a multitude of meanings: on one simple level they are the taste of Christmas to my family, a flavour that reminds us all of the warm kitchen and the large tree, my mother rolling out the dough and chilling it before shaping the pears with their clove stalks. On another – the story of Mrs Kassardjian who embraced my young parents so far from home on their first Christmas as soon-to-be parents, at that liminal moment before my family came into being. And more distant, more resonant – a cultural memory of a way of life I never witnessed, a side by side existence, of cultural pickpocketing, in a part of the world that we now all associate with extreme ethnic divisions. So they bring hope, in a way, that the biscuit can remind us of a hodge podge, a melange, a mongrel culture that drew on all around it, that is called one thing but claimed by another – that we can all be a little more like Mrs Kassardjian, an Armenian refugee making Greek biscuits in London for two New Zealanders who’d never been to Greece or Armenia – but who passed those flavours – almond, cloves – to their children.

I will actually blog about the process, and the loveliness of my husband and children as they live with me through this - maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after. You see, I still have to work; and cook; and do research! Tonight I'm off to share recipes with some of my favourite women . . . . some of theirs may be stolen for THE BOOK. They don't know about the evil thieving ways of writers, as of yet . . . .