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My birth day

Because today is my birthday (19 February), I am sharing an excerpt from Tracking the Human, the novel I am writing based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison. The excerpt is based on stories I was told about my birth.

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When Sally Jo went into labor, her husband drove her to Research Hospital. Dr. Keiger told her the baby was presenting the bottom instead of the head for delivery. He kept trying to turn the baby around, but the baby kept on presenting its rear end. Finally he told Sally Jo he would have to deliver the baby using forceps. She was terrified. She had seen a baby delivered by forceps the day before who was severely bruised about the head. What would happen to her baby?

When Sally was handed the newborn baby girl, she kept her eyes tight shut, afraid to look. What if her baby was bruised or deformed in some way? Sally Jo was fearful about the whole procedure. The nurse who handed her the baby, told her to open her eyes and look at her baby girl. She was not sure she wanted this baby, but here she was. She opened her eyes slowly, and looked at the wrinkly red-faced baby with straight black hair. Sally Jo had never held a newborn and didn’t know what to expect. The baby was kind of funny looking but she couldn’t detect any bruises or deformity. She was disappointed that it was a girl but glad that it wasn’t deformed.

Uninvited, Sally Jo’s mother showed up at the hospital to see her granddaughter. One of the neighbors must have told her about the baby. All the newborns were kept lined up in cribs that looked like clear plastic boxes. No one, not even the mother, was allowed to hold them. The nurses did everything. They made sure everything was clean and sanitary. They didn’t trust the new mothers to know what to do. Relatives stood outside the nursery peering through the glass partition at the babies in their boxlike cribs in the nursery.

One woman looking at the babies in their lined-up cribs commented,

Look at that big boy in the back row.

Sally Jo’s mother turned around, glared at the woman and said,

That big boy yer talkin’ about? That’s my granddaughter.

Then she left the hospital without going to see her daughter.

 

Poetry finds the way

Although I had to ditch Life Expectancy, the title I had chosen for the novel about my father because it was the title of a book by best-selling author Dean Koontz, I did find a title for my blog: Family and Fiction

For the blog, I decided not to use the title of the book. The blog is about the book and more… about investigation, research, reading, writing, rewriting, soul searching, self-doubt related to the book and beyond.

Discouraged about not finding a title for the book, I put it aside. Better not to think about it. Concentrate on issues at hand – an open house party for a visitor from Venezuela, helping my older son and his spouse to move from Nairobi, Kenya to Canberra, Australia, activism on climate change and for human rights for asylum seekers.

The book and the title were shoved out of sight, out of mind. Neglected, yet festering in the background, telling myself I should do it. I should continue. It had to be done. But I ignored those interior voices and kept myself busy with everyday life.

Until…Poetry finds the way.

I attended a panel at the poetry festival, Poetry on the Move, in Canberra. I brought with me a blank journal with illustrations by Ebenezer Edward Gostelow (1866-1944) that I had purchased at the National Library of Australia. I’m a sucker for buying beautiful journals as gifts. But not for myself. Easy to write on the computer when you can change it anytime but in a journal? More thought and better handwriting required.

A side journey:

Ebenezer Edward Gostelow was born in Sydney Australia in 1866. From 1889 he taught in country schools across New South Wales. As a self -taught artist and lover of Australia flora, he livened up blackboards in his classroom with captivating chalk drawings of flowers.

My journal is livened up with a drawing of a banksia on the front cover (photo) And on the inside with 10 full-page color illustrations as well as small sketches of flowering plants that pop up when least expected.

Back to the poetry festival: 

While waiting for the poets to begin a panel discussion, I sat down in the front row and read previous entries in my Australian flora decorated journal. I found quotes copied from books I had been reading, including Land Fall, a poem by Clive James and several quotes from Tim Winton, Island Home. Then a quote from a poem by Gary Snyder, Rip Rap and Cold Mountain Poems:

“Tracking the human future of intelligence and despair.”

That was it. One sentence that says what I’m trying to do in the book I’m writing.

The title found me: Tracking the Human, with a subtitle from a poem by Kenneth Patchen, Nobody’s a long time.

                         I’m on the road again… to writing, blogging, publishing….

How did you find the title for your book, short story or poem?

Your comments are welcome.  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                               I’m on the road again… to writing, blogging, publishing….

 

Word Count: 456

Keywords: Poetry, Poetry on the Move, Canberra, Ebenezer Edward Gostelow, National Library of Australia, Banksia, Australian flora, Clive James, Tim Winton, Gary Snyder, Kenneth Patchen, Tracking the Human, Nobody’s a long time, title

Who is the Queen of Australia?

What?

You didn’t know that Australia has a queen?

Well, the Queen of Australia is not Australian.

The Queen of Australia is…..

The Queen of England…

Yes, indeed folks.

So if and when you become a naturalized citizen of Australia you are supposed to pledge allegiance to the Queen (of England). This is irksome, if you don’t believe in royalty and you do believe in social equality. Very irksome.

Australians have been trying to do something about this anomaly for some time now.

According to the book This Time by Benjamin T. Jones, “Republican voices have been heard since the early colonial days (in Australia) but they were never mainstream.” Jones documents the first Republican Campaign in Australia in 1850.

As an Australian citizen born in the USA, the fact that Australia still is NOT a republic and that the head of state is the Queen of England is almost unbelievable.   In terms of everyday life, it would seem that the Queen does not play that significant a role.

But look again, as Jones does in This Time, an easy-to-read, well-documented book about Australia’s Republican Past and Future. http://benjaminthomasjones.com/new-book-this-time-australias-republican-past-and-future/

Look again at the symbols that surround us in our everyday life in Australia.

The flag: the Union Jack is in the upper corner of the Australian flag. So what is Australian about this flag? We need a new flag. Ausflag is a non-profit organization working towards a new flag. Many beautiful and appropriate designs have been submitted to their website. Check it out at www.ausflag.com.au

Just two of many beautiful designs submitted to http://www.ausflag.com.au

Jones noted, “For many Australians, the relics of empire and monarchy are so ubiquitous that they become invisible. ” For those of us NOT born  in Australia of British background, it is quite noticeable. I already mentioned the flag, which is British rather than Australian. The coins all have the Queen of England on them, as does the five-dollar bill.

Three of the five states have British names: New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. As noted by Jones, “Every major city, and indeed most regional towns, have a central business district marked with George, Edward, Victoria and Elizabeth streets, in honour of royals past and present”. Jones asks, “What constitutional model and national symbols best represent modern Australia?”

All Australians and people interested in Australia are encouraged to read this book and think about “What does it mean to be an Australian?”

Your comments are always most welcome.  Thank you.

Lost without a title

Trying to write a novel without a title overwhelmed me. I was in the process of writing and preparing to publish a novel based on events in the life of my father, W. Lon Hutchison, from his birth in 1907 in Indian Territory, soon to become the state of Oklahoma, to his death in 1971 in Kansas City, Missouri, when the title of my book  Life Expectancy abandoned me.

What had I done so far?

And writing is  always far… in time, in work, in travel, in research… very far.

I researched on location and in libraries in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, the National Archives, Kansas City, Missouri, Oakland, and San Francisco, California.

I wrote and rewrote chapter by chapter with feedback from a monthly writers’ group. I researched small independent publishers of fiction in the USA who accept queries. I was ready to start my blog and send the queries.

When I lost the title Life Expectancy (because it had already been used by best-selling author Dean Koontz), I came to a full stop.

Stuck.

I had to change the title and lost confidence in the book project. The project no longer a part of me and what I was doing. The book felt removed, intellectualized. The writing not good enough for me to continue so better to drop it. The blogs I had drafted were in disarray and out of sequence. My life and thoughts moved on but I had not brought the book and the blogs along with me.

Stuck.

Has this happened to you?

How did you get unstuck?

How will I find a title and the energy to restart this book project?

Did you have difficulty with a title?

How important is a title to a book project?

Your comments are most welcome.

Book Title Woes

Abandoned. That’s how I felt. My title for the novel I am writing about events in my father’s life abandoned me after two years of traveling and living together.

Someone else had grabbed the book title, Life Expectancy, that I thought belonged to me. None other than the best-selling author Dean Koontz.

No choice. I had to start over, searching for a title.

For every possible title for the novel about my father, I did an online search. Those that were recent book titles and/or by well-known authors, I listed as TAKEN, even though it’s not possible to copyright a book title.

Here’s a partial list of possibilities I considered.

(I researched each and every one):

• Large as Life

• Double take: TAKEN

• Double Down

• Round the Bend: TAKEN

• From Here on In

• Hard Travelin’: TAKEN

• Hustlin’ Man

• Somewhere Man: Taken

• A Man of the Time

• Hustling Life

• Living Large

• Down to the Wire: TAKEN

• Body and Soul: TAKEN

• Piece of the Action: TAKEN

• Beyond and Back

• Dead Heading

• Ride This Train

What did I choose?

A Man of the Time

Then

Large as Life

Then

. . . Still not satisfied… without the “right” title, I couldn’t grasp that this writing project continued to exist and belonged to me.

What next? How was I going to find a title? How was I going to reconnect with this research/writing project about events in my father’s life?

How did you find a title for your novel, short story, poem, creative non fiction?

How important are titles to the writing process?

Your thoughts are most welcome.

Words or Paintings?

Which would you choose to communicate your ideas and emotions – words or paintings? As a blogger perhaps you think it should be words?

But, words can’t reach our inner most selves as paintings can.   Nor can we easily express in words how or why a particular painting affects us.

Art should not be judged from an aesthetic viewpoint. No, Kupka insisted, fighting for breath (he was dying). It was nothing more nor less than an attempt to communicate.

– Quote about Franz Kupka from The Red Highway                         by  Nicolas Rothwell, p.63.

It’s not “either/or” words or paintings… We need both in our lives. Art inspires and elevates. Art brings people together.

On Saturday in our back yard, we celebrated both – painting and books with our neighbours and friends!

What a splendid way to reach out to others and share beauty! Art is part of life and community. Art is not just for exhibition in galleries and museums.

Through it (art) people communicate to one another their feelings, their most intimate and infinitely varied and poignant thoughts.                                                                                                             -From Dialectical Materialism, Philosophy and Art,                                  by Alexander Spirkin

 

Have you ever held a neighbourhood art show?

Have you ever attended a neighbourhood art show?

Please comment on your ideas about art, communication and community.

Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Significance

I thought I had it. A clever evocative title with a double meaning. During two years of research and writing for a novel based on events in the life of my father W. Lon Hutchison, I used the title: Life Expectancy.

The term Life Expectancy could refer to what people expect from life or to a statistical average of how long someone might expect to live.

Two years after I chose the title, I decided to do a web search to find out more about the definitions of life expectancy.

WHOOPS!

In 2004, Dean Koontz, a well-known USA suspense/horror writer wrote a bestseller titled Life Expectancy. The book by Koontz, has a listing on Wikipedia. Rolling Stone hailed Koontz as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”

Why didn’t any of the writers and bloggers’ tips that I’d read advise me to check if there already was a book with the title I wanted to use?

I’d written a draft of the book with the title Life Expectancy, had prepared queries to send to several publishers, purchased the domain name lifeexpectancy.info and was ready to launch a blog about writing the book.

Everything came to a dead stop. Better late than never.

I had to find another title. Meanwhile I felt as if my writing project no longer existed, had disappeared, becoming a vague memory of something never completed.

Where to get inspiration for another title?

Online, I read

  • all of Woody Guthrie’s lyrics,
  • phrases from Shakespeare and
  • a list of songs recorded by Johnny Cash.

I re-read some of my favorite poetry books by Kenneth Patchen, Gary Snyder, Eleanor Lerman…

A month of searching, hoping that a title would find me. No luck.

How did you choose the title for you book or books?

What is the significance of a title?

Your comments and feedback are most welcome.

Thanks!