When Will She Finish This (From a Year Ago)

TO DO

Weekend in Mendocino: Clouds lower, spit rain. The meadows on the headlands are green like Ireland’s. No flowers yet, it’s still early in the year.

Out there, where the surf meets the cliffs, lives a Kraken.

The Training in Miracles: p. 158 of Self’s Historical (Well, Maybe NOT So Historical After All) Novel

From 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., this group was kept constantly occupied with reading and rigorous forms of self-affliction: lying face-down on the stone floor of the chapel, or bathing from a pump in the chilly pre-dawn. This was calculated to prepare them for the rigors of an overseas mission. They dedicated themselves to the study of languages, such as Dutch, English, French, and German. They received medical instruction, for they would be required to run hospitals. Last, they received guidance in the writing of their own sermons, and in the performance of miracles.

(If indeed this turns out to be an ACTUAL HISTORICAL NOVEL, then self will have to cut out all the parts about miracles)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Opening, New Flash

Living and breathing Philippine history for two weeks does have its advantages. Such as

HISTORICAL FLASH! HISTORICAL FLASH! HISTORICAL FLASH!

  • In the city of Manila, on the twentieth of May, in the year one-thousand, five-hundred and eighty-nine, Doctor Santiago de Marquina saw a girl he estimated to be about fourteen years of age rising about a foot above the floor while she made her confession. This occurrence took place in the chapel of the convent of the Barefoot Saint Clares, situated by the Puerto Real in the old fort known as Intramuros.

Stay tuned.

Writing of the Day: The MC’s Sister Writes a Letter

What self is doing, she does not know. She just keeps tossing off letter after letter. Like, not only does she accept the throwdown of writing about 18th century Philippines, she has to make the whole thing epistolary!

Anyhoo, this section’s fresh as fresh, as she made the whole thing up about an hour ago. Thoughts?

You wrote that it is useless to appeal to the Bishop in Manila, for he cares more for “musk, civet, and pearls” than for his priests, which necessitates your appealing to Spain. And the Governor General is no better, you say, for he “struts about in the richest of silks and brocades”. If this individual were to somehow present to me at this very moment, I would demand that he be strung up from the highest gibbet. For are these things you have requested not proper and necessary for any human being, never mind those who are representatives of the Church and our country?

I am inclined to write a letter to the King himself, to inform him of what is truly going on in the islands, for He may well not know. Oh, to what lengths are we driven to serve both Our God and Our Lord!

Your loving sister,

Dorotea

In so many previous drafts (maybe the 1st to the 10th draft), Dorotea was the MC’s (secret) love interest, but self was unable to keep up the tension after the MC left for his mission in the Philippines, so she decided to turn Dorotea into his sister. There was more to the letter (e.g. curses to the English etc for occupying the islands, which they did for two years, in the early 1760s. They ultimately decided that the country didn’t have enough gold or silver to justify them staying.)

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

Self’s MC Arrives in Manila, 1766

This scene used to be at the end of her novel, because she was going to have her MC recall it in flashback. But on second thought, she couldn’t think of a good enough reason for him to have a flashback at the end of the novel, there was no emotional pay-off. So istead she moved this section to the early pages.

There’s some quasi-mystic thing going on in self’s descriptions, it’s that way throughout.

The sails were lowered, the ship slowly nosed into the harbor. Looking down at the churning water, Matias saw it was viscous, almost metallic in aspect, as though, somewhere, silver had moltened and now lay floating on the surface. Closer and closer to the harbor the ship moved. The ship was now but one of a throng of sea vessels: galleons, tall three-masters, swiftly moving Chinese sampans, squat dinghies. There was a great tumult of activity all along the quay.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

How To Stoke the Fire: More from Rosario Ferré

This summer self made a stab at re-reading the late Rosario Ferré’s story collection The Youngest Doll. She remembers being stunned by the title story, the first time she read it. The intervening years have not changed her response to the story, not one bit. She urges everyone interested in feminist literature/island literature/Puerto Rican literature or just plain literature to read it.

In addition, self has been slowly re-reading Ferré’s essay on her writing process, The Writer’s Kitchen. The essay was published decades ago, in the Journal of Feminist Studies, but every time self re-reads it, the words are as fresh as the first time.

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HOW TO STOKE A FIRE

I would now like to speak a bit about that mysterious combustible element that feeds all literature — imagination. This topic interests me because I often discover, among the general public, a curious skepticism toward the existence of the imagination and because I find that both laypeople and professionals in the literary community tend to overemphasize the biographical details of authors’ lives. One of the questions most often asked of me, by strangers as well as friends, is how I was able to write about Isabel la Negra, a famous whore of Ponce, my hometown, without ever having met her. The question always surprises me because it bespeaks a fairly generalized difficulty in establishing boundaries between imagined reality and lived reality, or perhaps the difficulty lies only in understanding the intrinsic nature of literature. It would never have occurred to me to ask Mary Shelley, for example,  if on her walks along the bucolic paths surrounding Lake Geneva, she had ever run into a living-dead monster about ten feet tall.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amwriting historical fiction

It took his men ten months to make it through the Straits of Magellan. By the time they did, Loaisa was dead, one of his captains murdered, and twenty-five of his crew held for ransom by the Portuguese in Pernambuco.

Gulls and the Pagophilics

from the Dictionary of Birds (1985):

  • a ‘large, homogeneous, successful group probably at the summit of another evolutionary line.’

from Birds of the Western Palearctic (Unforgivable, in self’s view, that Dee fails to provide a date of publication):

  • ‘Predator, scavenger, food-pirate … taking almost anything available of suitable size, texture, etc’

Self’s horror story The Rorqual (currently 51 pages — self is so out of control!) uses exactly these kinds of dictionary definitions (in self’s case, pages long) to describe her ‘pagos’ and her ‘longnecks’ and her other what-not. She birthed this horror in Tyrone Guthrie. She can’t seem to write any of it until she returns to Annaghmakerrig. California is just too dry, too intensely hot, too savagely suburban.

Stay tuned.

More From Rosario Ferré’s Essay, The Writer’s Kitchen

  • Any writer or artist, women or man, has a sixth sense which indicates when the goal has been reached, when what she or he has been molding has acquired the definitive form it must have. Once that point has been reached, one extra word (a single note, a single line) will irreversibly extinguish that spark or state of grace brought about by the loving struggle between the writer and his or her work. That moment is always one of awe and reverence: Marguerite Yourcenar compares it to the mysterious moment when the baker knows it is time to stop kneading the dough; Virginia Woolf defines it as the instant in which she feeks the blood flow from end to end through the body of the text.

Reading on the Fourth of July, 2019

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HOME: 4 July 2019

Today self finished Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart and began a re-read of the Rosario Ferré collection The Youngest Doll (University of Nebraska Press, 1991). Some pieces are memoir, some are nonfiction, some are magical realist.

  • Being a writer . . . one has to learn to live by letting go, by renouncing the reaching of this or that shore, to let oneself become the meeting place of both . . . In a way, all writing is a translation, a struggle to interpret the meaning of life, and in this sense the translator can be said to be a shaman, a person said to be deciphering conflicting human texts, searching for the final unity of meaning in speech.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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