Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice

This is the slogan for the latest protests in Egypt that have become violent.  The battle is not yet won there and the military continue in power.  It seems like the same battle over and over again but at least there is a battle!  It's as if we have collectively woken up from a slumber of over a decade where no matter what corporations, banks, or politicians did, there was no way to object.  Beginning with the Arab spring and continuing all over the US, that has changed.
What does the future hold?  2012 doomsday predictions may go the way of the Y2K frenzy but there is an economic crisis and the future looks challenging for many of us.  Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots provides a beacon of hope that we can fight the terrible inequities and injustices that have created a tiny powerful wealthy ruling class and a diminishing middle class. 
Another movement that gives a glimmer of possibility is the local Farmers and Builders http://www.farmersandbuilders.net/   This group started with a Buffalo urban farm and is now expanding by buying empty lots in a blighted neighborhood with the idea of starting a farm and a community.  And if the future is bleak, that is the perfect start to another way of life that is respecting the earth and its inhabitants.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where does your writing take you?

     When I began nanowritmo (that write a novel in November free for all) I had a vague notion I'd be writing about Colombia.  Instead I find myself in the complexities of a father daughter relationship in a small American city.  What happened?  There is no real control over the writing process; it leads you.  You may nudge it but it has its own life full of surprises.
    Then I'm left with the question- when will I ever write about my year in Medellin?  There is a surfeit of material- the Latin boyfriend, the violence in the streets, and the extremes of wealth and poverty.  The list goes on.  This was my own "year of living dangerously" or stupidly as I could say, years later, looking back.  Why did I ever go to Medellin to teach English at the height of the drug lords' power?  It wasn't like I hadn't done some research so there are no excuses.
     I went to South America expecting Europe.  The first awakening came at the airport in an enormously long line of passengers transporting TV's and anything else that might fit onto a plane.  A guy next to me launched into how thieves cut fingers off to steal rings and how they could be identified by their bloody pockets where they'd stuck the fingers.
     Next the school, a binational center, picked me up from the airport in a bulletproof car.  That should have been a clue.
    In my year in Medellin I saw a motorcycle shooting (it supposedly cost $50 to have someone shot), the glass out of the lobby of my apartment building shot out, I had to get under a table in a restaurant because of shooting, and I watched tanks drive up the street where I worked. Excellent fodder for writing. 
     Yet there was an enormous beauty in the landscapes.  Driving down the mountain roads to the city, the city glittered in the night.  I had a fantastic set of friends- we cooked French meals, hiked, and read poetry together. 
      So much more to tell- the friend's brother who was addicted to crack (bazuko in those days) and stole everything in her house, and another friend's house with her deceased brother's room preserved as if he were still alive.  My dear friend Patricia with her gorgeous smile, Lai Yin from Malaysia and our meals together talking for hours. So against that backdrop of fear and violence, there was a great deal of love.
     One day perhaps I will tell those stories, but not yet.  Here is a poem from those days....

Santa Fe de Antioquia

The smell of decaying fruit hangs
in the hot sun,
A green as strong
I´d never seen
in years of temperate moderation.

Ceilings beyond reach
in a room very old,
matching the inhabitants
busily fashioning
caskets out of wood,
the family trade.

Neatly stacking them
just beyond the bedroom
where I sleep in coolness,
for babies, tiny and white,
for adults several wait.

This night double church bells
announce another lost.
Bats flutter, then
rest flat
           blotting out paradise in palm trees.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My personal nanowrimo

It's that time of year again.  Everyone's a writer or can be.  Who came up with the idea of nanowrimo?  How many people actually go through with it? http://www.nanowrimo.org/ The idea is to write a novel in a month and there are websites to sign up with and post your daily number totals.  Entire classrooms, even in high school, sign up for the task.
  For me, nanowrimo gives me external permission to get away from the endless editing and the business of trying to get published (sending work out is a huge undertaking in itself).  It gives me permission to do what a writer does, which is simply write!  I am often so involved in the other aspects of writing (editing, etc) that I forget what it is to be involved in a story to the point that it is the backdrop to my life. It's what I think of the moment I wake up; it's what (or what happens to the characters in the story) makes me cry or dance around my living room.  I wrote my first novel when I was 21 or so and this obsession so frightened me (I though I was going crazy) that I avoided writing for many years. 
So for nanowrimo I set no goals for myself.  I don't even bother to sign up anymore.  That would defeat the purpose.  I simply write as much as I can.
  The idea I started with this November is "What would make you take up arms?"  What's your starting point?  What would make you take up your pen?  Go with it and enjoy.