Today an interview with me appears on the blog I’m Shelf-ish. An interesting blog with great rainbow bookshelves. Next week there will be two more interviews and I’ll link again to those. Thanks!
Tag: <span>From Ashes into Light</span>
I told Gudrun I would do a guest post for her this week. She deserves a rest. I had her read her novel one last time in January, to approve the copyedits. At least a dozen writers and literary types have read From Ashes Into Light in the last year and a half as it has been prepared for publication, and there was still one typo that no one had caught. Thanks Gudrun! It was the old i before e except after c, and it almost got through.
Gudrun has read over her forthcoming novel more times that she cares to count. She has always been a thorough editor, first in grad school (English Literature at San Jose State), then as a college English instructor (during the Vietnam Draft days, her classes were packed with men!), as columnist, and as a poet. She says she has always enjoyed the revision process.
When she is writing, Gudrun likes to get out of the way of her work. Meaning, she let’s what wants to come through come through, suspending any judgment or criticism. Then when it’s time to revise, Gudrun’s emphasis is how it sounds either reading it aloud or in her head. She uses poetic techniques to shape the effect of her passages, deleting or rewriting until the music of the writing appears. People often comment her work has a strong emotional impact and this might be part of the reason.
Of course, From Ashes Into Light required a lot of research too. As a former librarian, Gudrun was not afraid of the library at the University of California at Santa Barbara which provided a lot of the information about World War II and the time of the Spanish Conquest of California. She spent long hours there and lots of photocopying. Then there was the research trip to Czech Republic, the former East Germany, Germany, and Austria. Gudrun got to spend time with some her cousins and visit in person some of the places her characters visit in the book: Salzburg, Magdeburg, the Bodensee, Dachau.
There’s three weeks left until the publication date, and it’s a twilight time. After one and half years for me, and over 20 years for Gudrun, it’s hard to believe it’s almost here. It’s strange working on something for so long that is only going to take two or three days for folks to read. It’s ephemeral. But like other works of art, the reverberations can last a lifetime.
Thanks for tuning in to Gudrun’s Blog. She will be back, probably in two weeks. She’s working on a few guest posts for her blog tour. Gudrun’s blog tour is starting February 22nd, which just means she and her book will be featured on many different blogs as a way of letting people know about her book. There will be reviews of her book, interviews with Gudrun, and a few guest blog posts written by Gudrun for other blogs. Links to this activity will appear here, or on Raincloud Press’ website.
This morning I harvested rosemary. The attention and care it took for this project gave me a good feeling of place.
I remember one of the first times I had this feeling of connection to the land. I was sixteen, staying with my maternal grandparents at the Bodensee, the lake that creates 3 borders, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. As part of the research for From Ashes into Light, my daughter and I traveled to Europe, and I very much looked forward to seeing the Bodensee again.
From New York, we landed at the Czechoslovakian airport to the sight of heavily armed soldiers. Memories were triggered. I struggled to regain a sense of balance.My daughter’s confidence, curiosity and competence broadcast practical needs of the moment, reminding me to let go of the past. I experienced a strong connection to several places in Prague–especially the synagogue, as well as the Jewish cemetery. After more than 3 decades, I had come to the continent of my birth with mixed feelings of fear and release, which surprised me. The humility and sincerity of the people we met reminded me of cultural differences I had forgotten. There were tastes, smells and sounds that triggered many visceral memories.
In Prague, we attended a transpersonal conference where we spent a number of days listening to speakers in a building that looked like it doubled as a Renaissance style, ornate opera house. Towards the end of the conference, we danced with Olantunde on the streets. The music had a powerful trance-like rhythm. The night was clear and temperate. Even though there were more than a hundred people who joined the dance, I experienced a sense of close-knit community that transcended historical adversity.
We took the train from Czechoslovakia to the former East Germany. The fare was so inexpensive, I decided to go first class. It seemed as if there was no one else on the train but the two of us and several porters who frequently wanted to know if we needed anything. It was a long, pleasant ride dedicated to watching country landscapes along the Elbe River.
I remember practicing my German with a gentleman who was traveling to buy a new car and bring it home. He was retired and very relaxed about it, at ease with himself. His benefits were secure, and the knowledge of this seemed to permeate his being.
We came to visit my Aunt, and my mother’s closest sister in age. She welcomed us so warmly, I felt I had truly come home. She lived very close to one of the last Russian internment camps our family had endured.
We next visited one of my mother’s brothers, the chiropractor, who hired a chauffeur to pick us up at the station. I had last seen him when he was newly engaged, and now his daughter was grown up just as mine was.
Eventually, we came to the Bodensee, where I had spent 2 summers during my teenage years with my maternal grandparents, my mother and her youngest sister with her first-born son. Those summers I learned to appreciate the healing power of nature. Along the lake, in the woods and the community gardens, I sought solitude, healing and transformation.
However, my return to the Bodensee was different than what I had held dear in my memory. My grandparents were no longer alive. There was a hole in the fabric of the family.
My aunt and uncle took us on many excursions along the Bodensee, which were welcome diversions–from old cobblestone harbor towns to craggy heights of the Alps. There were moments when these places impacted me with a healing sense of finding my roots–a deep familiarity that had been nearly forgotten.
The publisher has unveiled the cover to my upcoming novel, From Ashes into Light. To be released Fall 2015.
I have been contemplating a problem with one of the characters towards the end of the novel. Eventually, I realized that the troublesome character faces similar challenges that I recognize from my youth. When I look back in my life, I see that self-knowledge has been hard won. The ability to self-reflect is a skill that has developed over time, and I am still working on it.
In examining this particular character’s evolution in the book, I am able to see my own life more clearly–areas of weakness, areas of strength and the constant need to keep learning. To see one’s own shortcomings is the first step. Insight cannot come when there is denial or a lack of effort to keep growing.
Now, I look forward to making necessary changes. My approach to working on the final draft of the novel has changed. New ideas have emerged. I celebrate that creative doors open the more I let go of tendencies to contract, to defend, or to be overwhelmed.
While I wait for the rest of the line edited copy of the manuscript, I have ordered my life as much as I can: Bills paid. Social needs and commitments met and enjoyed. I bought extra copy paper and a new gel ink pen. I returned the publisher’s contract.
Once the line edited pages arrived, reality sets in: many long days, the house cluttered with books and stacks of paper on every table surface. Still, I am excited to see improvement. I am happy to note evolution in clarity and purpose. And now I have three days to finish reworking the final chapters, and this draft will be done if the forces of spirit and grace choose to help me do so.