Welcome Aboard the Spaceship: More on Ursula K. Le Guin

I remember when I spent a couple of weeks in a writing  residency at a cottage on the beautiful grounds of the Hedgebrook Foundation. The notebook on the table contained entries from writers who had stayed there before me. On one page, Ursula Le Guin had drawn a little lizard and commented on its presence, signing the entry, UKL. I was in awe of who had been there before me, and yet, somehow, I felt invited to the great party of writing and life. I felt as if I’d been allowed to shape the two in my own way.

Tributes are pouring in now, some formal and respectful, others more personal, remembering moments and insights and connections, human to writer, with no difference between the two.

Here’s one on Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. Excerpt:

Ursula K. Le Guin helps me know where I am.

She is not gone.

And this beautiful account of friendship and of a child’s glimmering insights from William Alexander. Excerpt:

Ursula died at the age of eighty-eight–a multiple of eleven. I wish she could have waited for ninety-nine instead.

She collaborated a few times with my youngest daughter Iris. Together they told stories about monkeys and cats.

And that in turn reminded me of the time I read Catwings to my son back when he was five. We read it many times. We read the sequels. The very notion of cats with wings gave rise unfailingly to delighted laughter and to the anxious turning of pages.IMG_2220IMG_2219 2

And then there was wonderful Alexander, lost and treed, cold and terrified by a wandering owl, who was then found by a stranger and discovered an entire family of most unusual cats.

Of course, back when I read these out loud, over and over again, I had no idea that many years later I would meet a wonderful Alexander who was a friend of Ursula’s. There’s that invitation again, a kind of magic that we ought to make the effort to pass along.

From Remington to Scrivener

Today I added the Scrivener link to my web site–I’d had it on my old blog and meant to plunk it in here as well, just never got to it. Then I found this post, which I have also decided to revive, because back when I wrote it, in 2013, I meant to finish a novel I’d begun all the way back in 2006. Never did finish that novel–another novel, two picture books and a giant nonfiction project all got in the way. The picture books are published but the rest of it is still in editing. As a result, most of this post still holds up in the category of life’s ongoing to-do list. 

notestoselfOn beautiful Whidbey Island, courtesy of the Hedgebrook Foundation, I dawdled, rambled, ambled, daydreamed my way to a very drafty draft of what has now become a middle grade story. It’s peopled by a boy, ghosts and goblins, monsters, and bizarre, fairy-like winged creatures. I think they all came right out of the mists, there in the Pacific Northwest, although it’s taken me a while to understand where they might have been pointing me. The story is set on an island much like Whidbey, somewhere up here in this beautiful, waterlogged part of North America. And that’s all I know how to articulate at this time.  can say about it right now, for fear that talking too much will make the story shrivel up and die.
It’s the writer’s job to try and make sense of the chaos that presents itself in drafts. More and more, I’m coming to see that it’s not logical sense I’m after. Too much of that and the story drowns itself in commonsense and leaves nothing to the imagination. Too much logic in my plotting and I lose interest in the story. I fail to surprise myself.
But I do need a modicum of logic, and that is where Scrivener has now taken the place of the piles of notes I used to write myself and then lose.
Not that I don’t still write those notes, on post-its and paper scraps and the backs of envelopes–here are a few that are residing on my desk at this very minute.

But when I’ve collected a few, I type their contents into Scrivener, and it obligingly reminds me of them the next time I’m scrolling through the messy pages of the novel in progress.

I can manage timelines right in there as well, where previously I used to strip my walls and tape up rolls of butcher paper and draw lines all over them, or muck around with several dozen sticky notes and try to get them in some kind of order. Scrivener reminds me that my job is not to organize my novel but to recognize patterns in its disorder.

You purists with your enduring love affairs with paper and pen and ink and graphite, listen up. I share your dysfunctional obsessions. I really do. Only my addiction is not to the pen and pencil, but to the QWERTY keyboard, because my first foray into letters was on this machine. Back at the dawn of my own literacy, I banged away on its keys and learned to spell my name.
Here’s what else I found when I went into my photo folder to retrieve that typewriter image!
I’m saving this barfing jack o’lantern right into that Scrivener file, along with several other pictures from my 2006  Whidbey experience, a map I drew for the story in a VCFA workshop with the marvelous Julie Larios, and a Loreena McKennit music file with Yeats’s Stolen Child set to haunting music. And my pages, ready for me to reenter.become the writer I need to be for this novel.