Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

So I was lucky enough to have Hollywood make a mix for me. And is it one of the best mixes, I've ever heard. Well, I should say so far. Because I've only listened to four tracks. And have replayed them over and over. I'm slow sort of listener and like to savor my music and then move on with time. Anyway, it's a fabulous mix and I look forward to the time ahead as I slowly listen to everything and think it all over.

I have to say though…it's odd listening to a certain sort of music anymore. I loved it when I was in college because I resonated with it so well and I still love it. But the resonation isn't there anymore. I think there's a song on there from the group Xiu Xiu's La Foret and they're really tight and really good and they have that sound. I'm trying to think of another band that has the sound of I'm thinking of but I'm not quite sure- it's a feeling that runs under lots of bands, and bands that are very different from each other. Like at the drive in and radiohead and Death Cab (sometimes) and Pinback (at times). There's the tight feeling that comes from good music but under that, there's a turmoil. A tight sharp turmoil. Very pretty, very well done.
And while I still enjoy that sound, my heart isn't there anymore. And I find that somewhat of a shock and almost odd.
Now that I have the time and the love to be at home and do things, I find that these things are helpers to the condition of myself. Knitting, drawing, gardening, writing, cooking- all these things, which I do nearly everyday and improve in every day, all these things mend, resolve, evolve the state of myself.
And the turmoil…it just seems to pass away. I sit on a bench and draw a teahouse, using brown and green pencils and the inward grind slows and relaxes. I cook with green and red peppers and they come out wonderfully- things loosen inside. Break down and come apart and I eat in rest. My words march along swifter and smoother and everyday they march, my seedlings in the kitchen break through the soil and start to grow, just all these things, everyday, they change everything. Everytime.

**There is perfection nowhere but everyday there is improvement. I think that must be the life of an artist- this improvement. This ascension. I don't want perfection. I just want to improve. And that is possible everyday.

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How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.