The Art of Possibility

“The lesson I learned is that the player who looks least engaged may be the most committed member of the group. A cynic, after all, is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again.”

The Art of Possibility, Rose and Benjamin Zander

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“Encore!” Bunting’s Book A Terrific Read

“Let go of the outcome of the future and allow yourself to live in the mess of the now.” Page 87,  Let’s Write a Short Story!

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Joe Bunting’s ebook Let’s Write a Short Story! is a terrific read. It’s designed as its own encore: Read it; use it; refer to it:

     – First, read it for pleasure;
     – Second, use it as a workbook, completing the writing assignments;
     – Third, use it as a reference book for future submissions and for inspiration on those days when you’re laying face down on the carpet praying for God to remove the writing gift from you.

At 152 pages including appendices Let’s Write… is full of wisdom, from the pragmatic to the spiritual. It covers the act of writing and the desire to tell stories with deliberate humor and a level of expertise that makes the writing crisp and very readable. It focuses on the fiction writer and isn’t just a “blog three times on the ceiling if you want me”* book. The author provides magazine suggestions, links, checklists, and examples of the technique he refers to. It’s all just incredibly well-written and useful.

Read the book, use it, refer to it. Join the crowd of us who have gathered together at http://letswriteashortstory.com. Follow author Joe Bunting’s blog at http://thewritepractice.com.

Heed the wisdom of published authors like Hemingway, who is quoted on letswriteashortstory.com as having said

                  “If I were alive, I would read this book.”

And mostly, write your story!

*I couldn’t resist the reference to Tony Orlando and Dawn’s “Knock Three Times (On The Ceiling If You Want Me).” I apologize.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lets-Write-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B008Z96GF6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345493288&sr=8-1&keywords=lets+write+a+short+story

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Snapshot In Time: Get Your Song Back

Many years ago there was a little girl named Margaret who loved to sing. A neighbor lady asked her why she loved to sing and she answered “Doesn’t everyone love to sing? Grandma sings. That’s how she met Grandpa. He doesn’t sing normally but he plays the piano and sometimes the organ at church. He sings with his fingers.”

Margaret’s rules for when to sing and when not to sing adjusted to the time and season. She was a snow skier and when she was skiing she did not sing. Neither did she yodel. It was low class to make noise when skiing. There was too much joy in the sound of your skis on the snow to mess it up with singing. Racing down the hill as fast as her snow plow allowed made her feel as if she were being chased by a big fat Ball Of Joy that would knock her over if she slowed down. When she did stop Joy caught up with her and filled her up so her throat was tight with it.

Except for skiing, and school, Margaret sang when she felt like it. She didn’t think about it, she just let fly with whatever song bubbled to the top. She particularly loved the folk songs her mother played on the LPs she stacked six-high on the turntable in the living room.

One day Margaret’s Grandfather (the same Grandfather who sang with his fingers) took her shopping at Northgate Mall. People could shop anytime at Northgate Mall because it was covered. (Many years ago shopping malls were not covered.) Everyone knows a covered mall is as good place to sing as there is, almost as good as the bathroom.

Margaret and Grandpa were walking next to Nordstrom’s when Margaret let fly with the chorus of the old folk song “O My Darlin’ Clementine”:

“O my darlin’, o my darlin’, O MY DARLIN’ CLEMENTINE!

“You are lost and gone forever! O, my DARLIN’ CLEMENTINE!”

Grandpa was very English, and very taciturn, and he loved Margaret very much. He kept walking, holding Margaret’s hand, looking straight ahead at where he was going, and watching the people in the mall look around to see where the noise was coming from. Most of the people in the mall looked at Margaret and smiled, partly because she was so small and the noise she made was very large, and partly because it made them remember when they were little and could sing.

Some people didn’t smile because Margaret made them wonder why they didn’t sing anymore, not even in the bathroom. They wondered what had happened to them. They felt they ought to at least feel like singing even if they didn’t do it.

That’s what life does to you. It takes away your song.

What would Margaret say to that?

“Get your song back.”

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White Trash

Charice looked out the window of the barn and remembered she’d hated her name when she was little, until she read a book about a French woman named Rosalie. The book came from  her Mother’s bookshelf. This was where the books that were really too old for her rested when her Mother wasn’t reading them. Charice was not specifically forbidden from taking books from that shelf to read, it was just one of those things when you are seven that you feel rather than know. But the binding of the book was so lovely with its old leather and gilt pages it practically screamed at her to take it. Charice had been reading for two entire years and was by far the best reader in the second grade. She took the book and read it.

The story took place in France, a faraway, exotic place to a girl in Seattle, Washington, but that was where her name came from so she was eager to see what the place was about.  The heroine of the story was the woman Rosalie. She was loved by many men because she was young, and beautiful, and a dancer. But the woman Rosalie was good to her parents, and kind to poor people like herself. Charice wanted to be beautiful and kind too. When she read she pretended to be the woman Rosalie who danced in Paris but was not just an ordinary dancer who wore less than she should have and flipped up her skirts at the men in the first row. No, the woman Rosalie was better than just a good dancer. She was an artist.

The story of the woman Rosalie was the first book that lit Charice’s imagination on fire with the idea that words sitting on a page were just waiting to take you to real places, true places, places you’d never been and might never visit. And the people there were real and true people you could love or hate as you felt you should. Charice kept the woman Rosalie with her when she walked to school, and on the playground during recess, and when she waded in the drainage ditches full of rainwater on her way home again. And Charice took more books from her Mother’s bookshelf. The more she read the more each story spilled a promise remembered onto the next book, and the next, and the stories became a waterfall of remembrance showering into an ever-deepening pool of delight.

Charice was seven and a half years old when she read for the first time The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. When Gandalf died she cried with Frodo and Sam and the rest of the Fellowship because she loved The Wizard, and now he was bravely and irretrievably gone. She delighted with the Fellowship when Gandalf returned, White, and ready to stand with Men against the Evil Sauron. Stories mattered.

The woman Rosalie and Gandalf the Wizard convinced Charice to become a writer. Not just a writer but a storyteller. “I will describe true places my readers have never been” she told herself when she was eight. “And they will cry, and laugh, and the stories will be real.” Years later when she read Ernest Hemingway’s admonition to write as true a sentence as she could she fell in love with him, too, and was sad that in the end he had despaired, and blown his brains out with a shotgun. Charice believed it was his writing that had driven him to do such a thing, and admired him for staying the course even when she was sure he had seen his own destruction at the end of it.

“Writers go places other people are afraid to go” she often said to herself when a story was so awful she had to throw it away just to be able to pick it up again and continue.

Charice smiled, not at the memory of Hemingway, but because the sun peering over the tops of the hills surrounding her home inaugurated a new day. She smiled too at the memory of her decision so many years before to be a storyteller.

“And so I have become” she said.

She took the first ten pages from the stack of paper that sat on her lap–the first draft of her newest novel–and threw them out the window. She leaned her head out the window and watched the pages flutter down to rest upon the pile of paper that already lay in a disintegrating pile next to the barn wall. She continued to throw pages out the window, a few at a time, until the entire novel, all four-hundred double-spaced pages lay in a heap.

She sat up straight, took a deep breath, climbed down the ladder to the first floor and walked across the yard to the house, humming cheerfully.

“I think I’ll make some tea” she said.

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If We Could Take Pictures In Church

Things I would have photographed this Sunday if I could take pictures in church:

- Far down the hallway, pastor leaned his face very close to the man in the wheelchair who can’t talk very well, and put his hand on his shoulder. The man spoke as well as he could and with great effort, weaving back and forth and waving his arms. Pastor spoke back, and smiled. Their faces were mirrors of love and affection.

- My friend three pews up and one section to the right stood with her eyes closed and both arms reaching upward in the way we do at church, singing her heart out: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….” She is eighty and was just diagnosed with dementia.

- A old woman sat alone in the fellowship hall and a man passing by told her the bright turquoise scarf and matching blouse and earrings she wore were beautiful. She looked up and smiled and her eyes glowed like sudden candles in a dark sanctuary.

- A little girl held the specially-designed communion-wine-squirt-bottle with both hands, carefully squeezing wine into the tiny cups. Her face looked as if it had been taken from one of God’s angels on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

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What Eagles Never Bear

We’re watching the Decorah Eagles again this year (http://www.decoraheaglecamalerts.com/ie.htm) and it occurred to me that there are certain things eagles will never have to bear:

SPAM: no eagle has ever

·         been offered the chance at penile enlargement

·         needed a belly fat blast

·         been offered a work-at-home strategies to make a six figure income

·        been offered a chance to date eligible black-white-gay-straight-men-women-blondes-brunettes

·         been told to vote no on prop 29

·         been told to vote yes on prop 29

·         been advised to help the president win reelection

·         been advised that it will be curtains for the free world if we do not defeat the current administration and replace it with a new president.

MEMORY LOSS: no eagle has ever

·         misplaced his keys and had to call his spouse to let him in the house

·         forgotten to mail the Netflix video back

·         forgotten to return the library book so often the librarian knows him by name and calls him when it’s close to time to return his materials

·         burnt dinner on the stove because he forgot the burner was up on high

·         forgotten the name of the woman at church who just introduced herself

·         misplaced her reading glasses

·         forgotten to put the perishables back in the refrigerator so the milk curdled overnight

·         left her coffee in the microwave until the next morning.

FAMILY OBLIGATIONS: no eagle has ever

·         missed his parents

·         loved his sister

·         shared his fish with his brother

·         prayed for his siblings

·         laughed at anything at all.”

I’m glad we’re not eagles.

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“Mom, You Want A Cup of Coffee?”

My older brother dropped me on my head when I was a baby and he was only four.

They rushed me to the hospital, and my brother tells the story of seeing Mom, worried look on her face, not knowing what the doctors would say, nor whether there would be any permanent damage (whether there was or note is a debate we can have—later).

He wanted to help, to fix things, make things all right again.

He somehow managed to get a cup of coffee poured, and he went to Mom in the living room and said “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Today, Mom got to follow the ambulance carrying Dad down to Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle. He’s been fighting pancreatic cancer, and a number of other ailments that plague eighty-year-old men. She had to drive in the pouring rain, of course.

Dad is probably fine, and he’s receiving the best of care, but from 1,500 miles away it’s frustrating.

I want to help, to fix things, to make things all right again. I want to go to the hospital and sit there with her and say “Mom, would you like a cup of coffee?”

If you’ve ever had a situation like this, tell me about it in the comments section below.

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