Shonda Rhimes and Grey’s Anatomy

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One of my modern writing influences is Grey’s Anatomy. Yes, I’m as influenced by movies and televisions as books. It’s all about stories to me, wherever we find them. Some people like to say that there is nothing good on television anymore but I think that if you look for it, and if you don’t just zone out when you watch, there are some great and inspiring works. Grey’s Anatomy was one of those for me.

I started watching Grey’s Anatomy, created by Shonda Rhimes, back when it first went on the air and was immediately in love with the writing. I adored the characters of Meredith Grey and Christina Yang. I loved George. I watched it every Thursday for years, until life intervened. Six months ago, I started going back and watching it from the beginning, as time permits. (Which means I’m only through episode five or so.) But the writing still inspires me.

I read her memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, this past year and it was just like her writing on Grey’s Anatomy. Now, Rhimes starts out by saying that she loves to lie, but I find more truth in her fiction than a lot of other places in life.

Her tone is completely conversational, as if you were right there with her. She talks about her writing –

“There’s a hum that happens inside my head when I hit a certain writing rhythm, a certain speed. When laying track goes from feeling like climbing a mountain on my hands and knees to feeling like flying effortlessly through the air. Like breaking the sound barrier. Everything inside me just shifts. I break the writing barrier. And the feeling of laying track changes, transforms, shifts from exertion into exultation.”

I call it the writer’s high. It’s incredible and I totally agree.

Shonda is an introvert, an extreme introvert, highly gifted with words and, it seems to me, highly intelligent. Saying yes to things is terrifying, but she begins doing it anyway, even if it finds her “licking the dust at the bottom of the Xanax bottle because oh yeah, I don’t take Xanax anymore, it’s been twelve years since Xanax was my friend.”

 “I was just an unusual kid. Lucky for me, my parents held unusual in high regard. And so when I wanted to play with the cans in the pantry for hours on end, my mother didn’t tell me to stop messing around with the food and go somewhere else to play. Instead, she declared it a sign of creativity, closed the pantry door and let me be.”

Lucky for all of us.

“As Watergate played out on the tiny black and white set my mother had dragged into the kitchen and balanced on a chair just outside the pantry doors, my three-year-old imagination made a world of its own. The big cans of yams ruled over the peas and green beans while the tiny citizens of Tomato Paste Land planned a revolution designed to overthrow the government. There were hearings and failed assassination attempts and resignations . . . Man, that pantry was fun.

This memoir is a window on her world –  vivid, honest, engaging, funny and wonderful. I’m so glad she decided to share it.

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Writing Inspiration

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I decided that on Tuesdays, I would share something about what has influenced me as a writer. (Of course, I’ve already missed that mark and slid into Tueswedthursday, but that’s what happens when you have a day off from work.)

Where to start? Everything influences me. Someone once asked me, “Where do you get your ideas for writing?”

The truth is . . . EVERYWHERE!

Every book I read, every news article I see, every interaction I have in the library where I work may spark an idea for me and start my brain off down some rabbit hole – scaffolding onto old knowledge, combining thoughts and ideas into something new.

It’s how I process the world.

I saw a book dedication on Pinterest recently that said it was to everyone who thought the author was writing about them. It’s much more tangential for me, I’m not usually writing memoir, and my perception of any one event or person probably would probably not be recognizable to someone else but . . . “Life is strange, and so we write.”

Tornado Dream

I tend to find that when I am struggling with something emotionally, if I don’t talk about it out loud, or try to deny my fear, it invariably ends up in my dreams. Well, back in 2011, at the end of May, a tornado struck our house when I was home alone with our one-year-old daughter. It took me quite a while to write about it. This is one of the things that came out of it, a dream that I had afterwards.

TornadoDream

A Sanctuary Built of Words in Art Show

The framed version of A Sanctuary Built of Words has been submitted to The ARTS of the Southern Finger Lakes for the Spring member show that starts this Friday in Corning, New York. I’m pleased I got that far. Now to finish the book so it can be there for sale too!

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Cover art for A Sanctuary Built of Words!

Finally! Cover for the forthcoming book . . .

What if sanctuary isn’t always a physical place?

Sometimes it’s located in our heads and sometimes

sanctuary can be found in the stories we share . . .

SanctuaryCoverGeorgia

Mrs. Bell’s Cat: A Short Tale for Halloween

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Mrs. Bell’s Cat

 

One fall day, Mrs. Bell opened the bay windows in her sitting room as she was dusting. She didn’t notice the lithe little shadow that slipped in, slid through the doorway into the dining room and up the stairs to her guest bedroom on the second floor, where it found a nice dark closet to rest . . .

Sorry, folks. Took this one down to publish it.

 

And the refrigerator too – a Father’s Day memorial

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My father died last October. On the last day I saw him, in the hospital, I said good-bye and told him I loved him. I said, “see you later.” It seemed to me like he wanted to say something but couldn’t get it out. Instead he said, “later, later.” But later never really came.

My mother called at 12:45 in the morning to say that she had heard from the hospital that he had passed. We were grateful that Hospice had been able to send a gentleman in to sit with him over night but it seemed that my father had waited for everyone to leave, then left himself.

I went to work the next day, to wrap things up so I could be away for several. As I walked back to the break room at lunch time, I passed a cart of books waiting to be shelved. The last book on the cart had fallen over to lay face up and the cover was a beautiful watercolor of a rainbow trout, the title said “Trout Reflections.” I grabbed it. My father was an avid fly-fisherman and had taught me to fly fish as a teen. It was probably the time when we had connected the best, and was undoubtedly the most harmonious time in our relationship.

That night, I got home from work and was in the next room when my refrigerator started making an odd growling noise. It would growl on an up note and then stop, growl and stop, growl and stop. It continued for several minutes. I walked into the kitchen and listened. It made me think of how my father, dressed in the tiger print bathrobe my mother had made him, would tease me as a child saying, “grumble, grumble, growl.”

Feeling slightly foolish, I said out loud, “Dad, if that’s you, please stop messing with my refrigerator. I need it to keep working for a while longer. It’s okay, I know you loved me, I love you too.” It made the noise two more times and then stopped. It never made that noise again. Unfortunately, the next day it died too. My Dad always did like a good laugh.

Shhh . . . I’m writing.

Yes, I’m still out here. Still writing and submitting, which is why I haven’t been posting. There are times when you realize that if you want to actually accomplish your goals of being published, you have to shut up and write.

I recently heard about a wonderful web site called coursera.org where you can take courses for free from professors at top universities around the world. I signed up for the Science Fiction and Fantasy course, hoping it would help me look at the literature a little more deeply. It required reading a full length book every five days, doing a short assignment and then responding to assignments from four other people. I quickly realized that the timing was really not right. I can either write or do a course, along with work and family. Both is just too much.

Right now I have about a dozen short stories that I’ve started and a couple novels to edit. I’m sending things out and hope to have some good news soon. I’ll post when I think of something useful or interesting to say.

2014 NaNoWriMo Calendar (National Novel Writing Month)

Thought I’d offer this here for anyone who would like one for this year. I tried to find quotes for inspiration that I haven’t seen a million times before but I kept a few of my favorites from last year. Just click on the image to get the full size. I created it as an 8 1/2 by 14 Microsoft Publisher file then saved it as a .jpeg.2014NaNoWriMoCalendar

The Butler (movie) and Biography vs. Historical Fiction

My husband and I went to see The Butler, starring Forrest Whittaker, yesterday.

It was riveting.  I admit I cried several times.  Never once in the two hours did I wonder how much longer we had to go just… what is going to happen next?

It was a fascinating journey that spanned nearly eighty years.

I left the theater wondering if this was an actual person’s life or an amalgamation of people and events?  It seemed like too much to have happened to one person.

It was.

I found this article from The Slate, “How True is The Butler?” that discusses the differences between the life of  Eugene Allen and the movie.  It’s a lot.

It makes me wonder – should they have done that?  It’s one thing to make up a minor character or an event, but this was pure fiction inspired by the fact that there was an African-American butler who worked in the White House through many administrations.   It was good, but it was fiction.

On the one hand, I admit I felt a little bit hoodwinked by learning that he was a real person but then learning that they made up nearly every dramatic point in the movie.

On the other hand, I’m glad he didn’t personally go through all that, but somebody certainly did, many people in fact.

It’s exactly what I thought it, an amalgamation of events and lives.  It was a good movie, well acted, and I enjoyed it very much.  I just wish they’d left it at that and said it was fiction instead of making the connection to the real person as if it were about his life.

It feels disrespectful to this man whose life it was based on.  It’s like they said, your life isn’t good enough.  I think if they had focused on the drama of what he experienced in the White House, that would have been enough for a good movie, but they had to sensationalize it to make a “BOX OFFICE SMASH!”

As a writer, I know and expect that memoirs are subject to the vagaries of memory and perspective.  I also appreciate that the best historical fiction and science fiction are born out of fact.  When it comes to fiction, I staunchly defend the author’s right to write the story they have to tell.

This is different.  This was someone’s life that was subverted into a drama for the screen and sold to viewers with the idea that it was based on his life.

What do you think?  Is it too soon?  Was it disrespectful to change his life so much?  They aren’t claiming all the events really happened to him, so why does it feel so… disrespectful?

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