Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is “finding motivation when life spirals downward,” (as the title implies!). Come on over to find out how I do it.
Today is the release day for EXILE OF THE SEAS!
Around the shifting borders of the Twelve Kingdoms, trade and conflict, danger and adventure put every traveler on guard . . . but some have everything to lose.
Once she was known as Jenna, Imperial Princess of Dasnaria, schooled in graceful dance and comely submission. Until the man her parents married her off to almost killed her with his brutality.
Now, all she knows is that the ship she’s boarded is bound away from her vicious homeland. The warrior woman aboard says Jenna’s skill in dancing might translate into a more lethal ability. Danu’s fighter priestesses will take her in, disguise her as one of their own—and allow her to keep her silence.
But it’s only a matter of time until Jenna’s monster of a husband hunts her down. Her best chance to stay hidden is to hire out as bodyguard to a caravan traveling to a far-off land, home to beasts and people so unfamiliar they seem like part of a fairy tale. But her supposed prowess in combat is a fraud. And sooner or later, Jenna’s flight will end in battle—or betrayal . . .
I got to go on a tour yesterday of Georgia O’Keeffe’s winter home and studio in Abiquiu. That’s been on my list for a while now and – wow! – it was totally worth it. I love studying how other artists live and it turns out that she and I share many aesthetics. No surprise as I love her work. Also no surprise that she’s more visually oriented than I am. My sister-in-law who’s a painter asked me if I got any “vibes” from the place. Yes. Yes, I did. Her powerful personality haunts that space and they’ve kept it exactly as the day she left. Remarkable experience.
This week on the SFF7 wonder blog, we’re discussing catering to younger generation – what words and ideas have we given up because younger readers won’t know them. This is my topic, so I’ll kick it off with a few stories for why this has been on my mind.
It’s hard to say if I’m imitating her, or Santa Fe design in general. Sometimes you do something just because it looks good. We happened to have this cow skull – which is kind of a long story. Suffice to say that David and I are both biologists and we have a lot of different bones and skulls. In this landscape they become less eccentric and more fashion statement.
RoseMarie sent me this article about a “new writer” giving up Facebook and Twitter. I kind of hate to give it the dignity of a link, because it’s really very silly. “Article” is really a strong word. It’s only 434 words long (yeah, I checked), which is comparable to my shorter blog posts. Really it reads like “Hey, this one friend of mine, who got an MFA? Well she gave up Twitter and Facebook, even though she was really good at it, you know? And she thought it totally worked for her.”
I don’t think I exaggerate there.
The “premise” was the “new writer” who’s been published in Narrative Magazine, which is respectable but hardly earth-shattering, and is, um, exactly one publication credit, cut herself off from the social media to concentrate on her writing. (By the way, the phrase that she’s “hoping to publish her first book soon” can be translated as anything from “it’s not done yet” to “she’s pitching to agents” to “she’s working her way through the university presses. In short, we have no idea where she stands on it.)
But I digress.
The result of the grand experiment? Even in the full essay, she never mentions if she gets any more writing done. Of course, she comes from an MFA frame and one of the amusing things about that mindset is three months of “focusing on your writing” isn’t really expected to produce anything in the way of wordcount. Deep thoughts can be enough. Her conclusion was she felt she “detoxed” from Twitter and maybe she needed to. Most of her musing is about whether she’s abandoning her social media platform when she needs it most.
There’s this guy on Twitter I followed recently. He followed me first, for a reference I made, so I followed back – he looked reasonably amusing and I usually give anyone who’s not only posting links a shot. He’s looking for a job. So he takes other people’s posts and mentions that he wants a job. For example, someone will say “I’m a writer – I have the papercuts to prove it” and he’ll reply “I need a job – I have a ‘hire me!’ sign to prove it.”
He’s clever and makes me smile, which is what it’s all about. So, I bit.
I asked him where he is and what kind of work he’s looking for. This is the opening he’s looking for, right? If I could, I’d be willing to point him in some directions.
So what does he do? He replies, twice, about how he needs a job and how sad it is that millions of people don’t have jobs. He tells me a state and a vague kind of work and gives me absolutely nothing to go on. Oh, and he tells me he got on Twitter because he’d heard it was a great place to connect with people.
And yet – he completely failed in his opportunity to connect with me.
I think that’s the part people miss: if you’re going to do the social media thing, you have to do it because you enjoy it, to really connect with people, not to manipulate the medium to get what you want. It’s fascinating, really, how invulnerable the system is to insincerity.
I suppose that’s the difference, too, between imitation for the sake of status and repeating an idea because of the image it creates.
Can I help it Georgia had a brilliant eye? Maybe the cow skull is just my little way of connecting with her, in a cosmic non-Twittery way.
I’m happy to be back in my vista.
People from the East and South complain of the open spaces here, how they feel exposed and swallowed up by the expanse of it. I recall someone telling a story about being tailed for miles on the highway on the eastern plains of Colorado or Wyoming — I forget which — slowing so the person could pass, though the other car never would. The driver simply clung to the back bumper. Finally the storyteller pulled over and the other car did, too. An East Coast woman tumbled out, apologizing, saying how she felt so overwhelmed by the empty sky and deserted highway that she just wanted to be near another car.
My New Hampshire boss complains that she has a difficult time judging distance here. She can’t tell how fast a car is approaching or how close it is, because she feels she has nothing to reference it to.
I understand what they mean because I feel suffocated in places like Virginia. The Appalachians are pretty, yes, but they hem you in. The trees, even shed of leaves seem to block the sky. Granted, it was foggy and rainy during our visit, compounding the feeling. Even the houses, though, seem to be built to wrap around you and divide you from the outside.
Not like our house, designed to pull the vista in and fill the rooms with it.
I drove from Abingdon to the DC area, to visit Allison. Oh, said the innkeeper in Abingdon, you’ll drive through the Shenandoah valley. It’s so beautiful. At one point it just opens up and you can see the valley and the mountains.
Even with all this fog and rain? I asked.
Oh, he said.
It cleared enough going north that I did see some of the valley and the distant rolling hills, which I just can’t quite bring myself to call mountains. Theirs is a vista of softness and blur. Eternally smoky.
Something in me relaxed to return to the crisp Western light, our slice-edged mountains. Even in a sleepy photo like this one, the outline of the peaks is crisp and defined.
I suppose it’s all what you’re used to. I grew up in the West and some restless part of me only settles down when I’m here. Georgia O’Keeffe came here for the light though, among countless others.
Great is the gift of being able to see.
It’s like having a Georgia O’Keeffe painting on your wall. Only it’s real and ever-changing. I see now, what she saw here.
Of course, I can’t quite capture the image like she could.
I remember a story I read in her biography (autobiography?). The book is still packed, so I’m pulling this out of memory.
When Georgia was a young woman, she drew and painted. She wanted to be an artist. At one point a teacher told her she didn’t have what it took. That her skills and talent were adequate, but that she lacked that something extra that would make her a great artist.
And really, you have to be great if you want to make a living at it. The Pro-Football player analogy.
Georgia went back to her room — she was living at a boarding school, though I don’t recall now if she was still a student or teaching there. And she took all of her work and hung it on the walls. She papered the walls with it and sat there and looked at all of it.
She saw her teacher was right.
None of it had that extra something that would transform it from image into art.
So, she destroyed it all. Burned it, maybe? Or something less dramatic — perhaps she just stuffed it all in the trash can.
I can’t recall the sequence after that, except that she discarded all she knew and started over. She might have not painted for a while. And when she began again: it was there. The thing that makes Georgia O’Keeffe art instantly recognizable.
Sometimes someone would bemoan the art she’d destroyed. She would reply that it was no loss.
Maybe I’m leaving out the important part of the story here, the “how she did it” part. But I don’t think so. Clearly that’s not the part that stuck with me. The part that did is the image of her, standing in the center of her room, with everything she’d done stuck all over the walls. And what it took for her to see that it wasn’t good. To destroy it for that reason.
Every time I see her art now, I think of that moment. It magnifies my admiration.