Friday, May 16, 2014

A Little Forget-Me-Not Fell into My Life

My brother Tom, or rather his wife Ellen, sent me some old letters they found while moving; one of them was from my sister Winnie and it touched me because I could almost hear her voice:

August 17, 1959

Dear Philip,

Sorry I didn't write sooner, but I hurt my finger while playing baseball and this is the first I've been able to type in a long while.   However, I do have my notes all ready and I'll sit down, Probably tomorrow, and type them up. 

How's everyone up there?  Why don't you ever write? I suppose you spend most of your time driving the tractor for Don and swimming, Huh?  I bet you and Pat can't wait to get back to school.

I haven't been doing much down here.  I ran out of boyfriends shortly after you left and I'm too poor to take myself anyplace, so I've just been sitting here, mostly.

I was thinking of taking a jaunt up there on my vacation but I probably won't be able to afford it. If you come back within the next week or two I thought I'd take you and Pat downtown to see Darby O'Gill and the Little People at the Riverside.  Unless you're too grown up now to be seen with your mouldy sister.

Tell Pat to write and you better too.  I'll try to get those stories typed up and in the mail by the end of the week.

So long for now,


P.S.   Hi Ma 

Of course Winnie has been gone since December 1966 so a letter like this was a precious little gift that brings back so many memories.  My brother Patrick calculated that she was only 19 when she wrote this - and I would have been 10. 

Winnie was the youngest of the girls in the family, and I was the youngest of the boys, so we had something in common.  She was my favorite sister. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Bit about Quotes

So I'm planning to write a Science Fiction Novel.  Yes, me.  I'm going to do that.  Shocking.

I've spent most of my life programming computers, and when I started it was cards and more cards.  Color coded cards. Key punch work. Sorts and lists.  Tedium ad nauseam.

How do I get from that to where I want to be; which is writing fiction.  Science fiction.

I was reading about the "snowflake method", or should that be "Snowflake Method" which is a top down approach which was something that was all the rage for Systems Design back in the 1980's.

I never wanted to do things that way.  I was always a bottom up kind of guy.

But let's talk technique.  I'd been wondering about quotes and how to quote the characters in stories. 

We must never call them people.

I came across web page about quotes and it's concise enough that it deserves favorable mention.  It's from the Writer's Digest University and here is the LINK.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Portrait of a Young Woman Reading a Book

I originally purchased a print of A Young Woman Reading by Renoir when I was 29 because it reminded me of a woman that I had known briefly perhaps eight years previously.

I had the habit of falling in love with women who were more mature and generally a little older than me.  The picture doesn't really look like Martha, but enough time had gone by that it could remind me of her.

Martha was talented, played the cello and started the day with a classical album.

My interest in classical music began with the albums my sister Winnie left in the front bedroom closet when she departed for one distant place or another.

I regarded them as a treasure when I found them.

Winnie would take me places when I was very young. For example, when I was eight she took me  to a rowing pond in Kosciusko Park on Lincoln Avenue.  I remember her engaging me in conversation all through the bus trip there.

Several years later, she bought an extra tennis racquet so we could play together and taught me a little about tennis and how to score it.

We practiced when she was back from one of her trips.

She died of a brain tumor while she was living in London in December of 1966 when she was 26.

I was 17 at the time and heartbroken to lose her.

I especially treasured the albums she left because they were hers.   She was the first woman I loved and I will never feel that I can love anyone the way I loved her.

Among the gifts she gave me was a love and trust of intelligent and gifted women.  She was the basis for the majority of my relationships with women, even the ones that didn't go well for me.

In 1990 my wife Mary and I ventured to Paris, we visited the Musée d'Orsay and I saw the original Renoir "Woman Reading" and it was remarkable to look at it closely and mentally compare it to the print which Mary had helped me get framed.

And with which I had become so intimate over the years. 

The differences between the painting, and what I viewed in my mind were remarkable.  The original was old, and cracks were visible.  I could see the brush strokes.  The print was much more like a photograph of the original that had been cleaned up to remove the blemishes.

Mary was instrumental in helping me locate Winnie's grave in the St Pancras and Islington Cemetery in East Finchley and I was able to see where she was resting for the first time in my life.

The grave had a long cement marker decorated with green glass fragments on the top.  A tree was growing at its base.

When I talked to my brother Pat about that we both agreed that Winnie would have liked to have something living growing so close.

One winter's evening when I was seven or eight Winnie asked me if I wanted to wipe her glasses for her when she had came in from the cold and her glasses had fogged up.  After I wiped her glasses, she told me in an off hand manner that she would not have a long life.  She showed me the palm of her hand and the short line that represented how long she would live.

Since she was about ten years older than me she must have been 17 or 18 at the time. That is the picture of her that stays in my mind.  I will always remember Winnie as a young woman with small cat eye black rimmed glasses, coming in from the cold.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How can I possibly say that?

Dialogue, or writing dialogue is something of a mystery to me. I don't really know what people say to each other, or should say to each other if they are fictional characters.  Considering that I've been watching fictional characters on television or reading them in books, I should have a much better idea of what some mythical non-existent might mutter to their lover, who, for example, isn't there either.

Well I put "Writing Dialogue" into the You Tube search engine and the first item in the queue was by somebody who had some very interesting and informative things to say about writing dialogue.  He also had a blog that you might be interested in looking at:

Creative Writing Video Tutorials for The Multimedia Age


Now What was I Going to Write?

Once upon a time I came up with a grand scheme for writing a book and then couldn't find a word to put in it.  Somebody told me I had to have a title, and outline and a character.  And of course I never wrote a word that way.

When I wrote My Secret Lymphoma I didn't begin with an outline, I just began a blog (also called My Secret Lymphoma) and then asked myself what was missing.  I reconstructed the parts of the book that seemed to me to be important.  The biopsy, for example.  The lumbar puncture.  The fact that I went through an uncomfortable period where I was begging for drugs.

Now that I'm writing another memoir and doing more actual writing than organizing I'm enjoying myself a good deal than I did writing those many outlines.   I'm more concerned about enjoying the writing itself, and I might get a book to publish eventually.

I've been looking around for free classes or small You Tube pieces that will help me understand how to do a memoir and found something by Laura Fraser about structuring a memoir

You might enjoy it.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tightening up Style

I like to write blog posts.  Nice, informal things that don't require a lot of mental stamina.  Writing that normal people like to read is more akin to art.  Or should I say Art. It creates an image that the reader is drawn into.  In the words of John Gardner it creates "the dream" that the reader does not want to drop out of.

So there is such a thing as writing sentences that do not distract. In a paragraph that works.

I found a good example for that in Dr.  Chandler's Writing Guide Part 10 on YOUTUBE.

Please forgive the adds.