Hello beautiful blog-o-verse. It has been a while since I have even looked at my own blog (http://cafeleone.net); let alone post anything. I blame it on the micro-blogging sites of Facebook and Twitter. These two venues have allowed for much greater “lifestreaming” as well as to reach a larger audience. The reality is, that a blog is a very difficult beast to maintain and promote. Whereas people can accidentally reach my words on Twitter and FB, the blog is someplace that people have to intentionally go. They need to put me in their blog roll or their feed reader. Whatever the case, I do not get a ton of hits on this site. Not surprisingly. The jury is still out on which of the two social media sites I prefer. I find it hard, if not pointless, to use both. I can only assume that I will find a more segmented approach to these sites. Facebook for more light-hearted Danisms. Twitter, I can use for more of the “personal branding” (YUCK! Do I hate that term!) as a writer interested in the Italian-American experience. There are other parts of my life and I have yet to decide where they should live.
The blog is for posting my writing or longer ramblings. But, I also want to use sites like Red Room, where I can highlight any writing and share them with other writers and maybe seek relevant critiquing.
Speaking of writing, I wanted to give myself a State of the Writing update and share it with you. So here it goes.
At the surprising urgings of my Creative Writing professor, Jim Murphy of Boston College, I began writing a work of fiction about the section of Newton Massachusetts in which I was born, affectionately called The Lake. The Lake is a predominately Italian neighborhood and has maintained this quiet state for decades. There are stories to be told about The Lake and I wanted to write one of them. The working title is The Son of His Father (to this day, I have never Googled the title for fear I couldn’t use it).
The Son of His Father is a story about a man of Italian-American heritage who spent much of his life running away from that heritage. When confronted with the death of his father, my protagonist returns home. He is forced to face and ultimately reconcile with his roots. I will be honest with you, dear reader, this is the first time EVER that I have been able to explain the story in just two sentences. I’ve always said that when I am able to do it in one sentence, the book will be available for public consumption.
I am no different than most writers. I enjoy the process of research more than I do the process of writing. I am the master of playing the “research card” whenever I don’t feel like writing. The good thing is that I truly have a lot of research to do. The Lake is filled with compelling stories the span the spectrum of the human drama. The Lake is also filled with beautiful people, many of whom I call friends. Though I am absolutely writing a work of fiction and am taking liberties with some of the local details, I also do not want to lose site of the essence of this place. The concept of place is extremely important to my writing. I have always considered both “place” and “process” to be what I bring to the writing table. Not to say that these things are more important than plot or characterizations by I am not as tuned in to these.
For research, I have been spending a lot of time just hanging out in The Lake and re-familiarizing myself with the area. I admit that I have a hard time approaching people and asking them questions, but I am VERY good at observing and I take advantage of that. More than one person has seen me wandering the streets trying to be discrete as I take photos that I believe are relevant. On a side note, I am also fascinated with images of the “Madonnas on the half shell” on people’s lawns. Any religious icons used as part of a home’s landscape just intrigues me so I am definitely going to try to snap a few pictures of those when I get the chance. I also carry with me a voice recorder. This is for planned and spontaneous interviews as well as capturing thoughts when I cannot get to a pen and paper easily.
My greatest source for information about The Lake has been a surprising find. His name is Eddie and he is probably 26 years old. He comes from a very prominent family in The Lake and his grandfather was the man who got things done in the neighborhood. Whether someone needed a street light fixed or to gather some volunteers to donate blood to a particular patient in the hospital (my mom was one of those patients), “Fat” was your man. Eddie is a wealth of knowledge, stories and a palpable pride in his heritage and his neighborhood. This pride is contagious. We have spent hours sitting at Maria di Napoli Ristorante with just an espresso or an appetito. I recorded every word and let him guide the conversation. I have replayed the tapes a hundred times and each time I hear something new. Stories of love for family and community and culture. I am eternally grateful to have met Eddie on Facebook.
Facebook, despite it’s flaws, has been a tremendous asset to my writing and I cherish the connections to writers, to The Lake, to other Italian Americans, to long missing friends and family.
Additionally, I use a couple pieces of software that I would like to share with you. The first indispensable application is Evernote. If it is part of your job to remember anything, ever, then you need to be using Evernote. I agree that there are a bajillion substitutes, but until I am able to use those applications across multiple computers, networked or not, and use it on the internet and inline with my browsing and now on my iphone, then I won’t even consider them. I have one workbook for work and personal, but many tags and sub-tags to organize my writing (ie, @writing, @TSOHF_research, @TSOHF_contacts, @TSOHF_history, @TSOHF_ideas, etc, where TSOHF = The Son of His Father and is used to distinguish it from other projects I am interested in pursuing…someday).
I currently also use a mind mapping website called mind42.com and am searching for alternatives. But, I REALLY cannot see my way out of a project without mind-mapping and some form of low or high-tech solution is always close at hand.
The entire project, with copious backups are housed on Google Docs. I may be revisiting that decision soon.
For low-tech solutions, I have been using the Junior sized Circa binder from Levenger. I have not jumped on the Moleskine bandwagon, but I do own a couple. I just need the flexibility of the Circa system, but even that is far from perfect. Also, from Levenger, I am in love with their Concept Pads, I believe they are called. The other item I cannot seem to live without is my whiteboard. On this board is just a couple of columns: “New Chapters” and “Edit Chapters” I either handwrite or use sticky notes to remind me where I am in the process. Some days, I feel like creating from scratch and will put the chapter numbers in the first column. When all I want to do is edit existing chapters, I use the second column to tell me which one I am actively working on.
For any burst of writing, I have to use my laptop with my Levenger (of course) Laplander lap desk on the living room couch. I have become quite good at tuning out distractions and if I am don’t, I can always blame the noise on any lack of productivity.
Wine and winemaking will make an appearance in my novel and this year will be my first ever attempt at making wine for real. I will be documenting that process for either this or future projects.
2 years ago, before having to deal with the mortality of my own father, if you asked me what page I was on, I would have said somewhere around page 80. Two years later, I am probably on page 100. I openly admit that these last two years have been extraordinarily difficult for me to deal with. I feel like I am on a tight rope and on one side of me is greatness and the ability to share a story that I feel is important to tell and on the other side, the image of a 45 year old man, lying in the corner in the fetal position. I am scared to move forward, but I am not sure that I have a choice.
Thank you for listening to this ramble. I am not going to edit or rethink my words. Please forgive the randomness of this post. It is important for me to take stock of the process and “put it out there” for my friends to read. Your opinions and support mean the world to me.