Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Ursula K. Le Guin ( oh and lamé)

My theme this year is the ABCEDARIA of Women who have inspired me.

L is for Ursula K. Le Guin

Image result for ursula le guin

 Ursula K. Le Guin

a fantastic writer of fantastical worlds. a daring essayist. a feminist. Never an apologist. Oh - this marvel of a person. I'm going to give you a bit of an essay here. I could have picked from anywhere but this is one of the finest explanations of a writer's mind that I can find.
“The poet Gary Snyder’s finely unpoetic image of composting is useful here. Stuff goes into the writer, a whole lot of stuff, not notes in a notebook but everything seen and heard and felt all day every day, a lot of garbage, leftovers, dead leaves, eyes of potatoes, artichoke stems, forests, streets, rooms in slums, mountain ranges, voices, screams, dreams, whispers, smells, blows, eyes, gaits, gestures, the touch of a hand, a whistle in the night, the slant of light on the wall of a child’s room, a fin in a waste of waters. All this stuff goes down into the novelist’s personal compost bin, where it combines, recombines, changes; gets dark, mulchy, fertile, turns into ground. A seed falls into it, the ground nourishes the seed with the richness that went into it, and something grows. But what grows isn’t an artichoke stem and a potato eye and a gesture. It’s a new thing, a new whole. It’s made up.” 

Here is a smidgeon of her works - if you like speculative fiction, sci fi, etc... then you will already know her. If you have a prejudice against such work - well that is too bad and you probably don't like country & western music either but it isn't my job to change your mind. But in that case read her essays - any of them! This is a woman whose intelligence cannot be restrained. Which is good for readers everywhere. 
The Earthsea Series - any of them.
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Word for World is Forest
The Wind's Twelve Quarters
essays - The Wave in the Mind,
Dancing at the Edge of the World
The Language of the Night

Okay - enough of this. Try it out if you haven't already. I've already discussed her fascination with Virginia Woolf in a blog post - but really there is nothing she puts her mind to that doesn't thrill me.
Anyone who inspires you in a myriad of ways out there?

And here is a post from the past - I think I've included it in almost every A to Zed - it needs to be said again....

lamé - the abcedaria of a writer

lamé  - 
Here are ten things I know for sure about writing:

1. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like to be told what to do - your protagonists will resist your efforts to make them behave. It's weird - almost like they came from you and weren't born free of your influence. Wait a minute...

2. Life in all its wild chaotic nowness will rise up and lay a beating on you if you try to ignore it for your manuscript. And knowing it won't be half the problem solved.

3. A woman will come to you in your dreams wearing a fantastic outfit of that weird sparkling fabric from the sixties. Silver or gold lamé. That's it. She will insist on you feeling the fabric. She wants to be in your novel. Don't let her in. She'll drive you crazy and so will that itchy stuff.

4. You might not like Neil Young - I really don't think I'd like to spend a whole bunch of time with him - but he is a narrative genius. I want to know what happens to him when he's wandering lonely on the highway. I do. And he understands pace and mood and style.

5. In the middle of the night when the woman in the fabulous lamé comes calling you will wake up and lie there wondering if anyone truly truly knows what plot, story and structure are. And you'll be sure, because it is the middle of the night, that anyone does but you do not.

6. After you finish fretting about plot, story and structure you'll move on to wondering if you haven't been lying to yourself about everything to do with your writing. You'll also wonder what the slinky shiny material is called. You won't remember that it is lamé until the next day and even then you might need to spend an inordinate amount of time on google trying to find it. Time you could be spending on your plot, story and structure for instance.

7. Even though you know all experiences are treasure for your work-in-progress you will be perplexed as to how you can use your new understanding of various strange and out-of-date fibres in a plot where clothing of any sort has barely been mentioned and then it was describing First Nation's dance regalia. Perhaps you need to bring in another character, you'll think! It might solve all your plot, story and structure issues. Well it might! Just like having a baby with your philandering gambling alcoholic husband might help your marriage. Well it might!

8. When your head hits your pillow after a good day in those long dug out ditches that guys fought in WWII - what are they called? Oh, yes, trenches, after a long day in the revisioning trenches you will fall asleep like a baby and the answer to your plot, story, structure problem will come to you intact in a dream. The woman in the lamé outfit (her fifth one!) will explain it to you perfectly. You will feel so relieved. Until you wake up and you realize that she told you the key was that god backwards spells dog. Oh yes. It will happen.

9. You will rise none the less and you will work in your optimum time of day for success. You will eat good healthy brain food and you will stop only to do your pilates or your yoga (where are those tapes - damn it) or take your dog for a much needed walk because hey, he didn't ask you to be a writer now did he? You will find your groove because you've read King and Koch and Lamott and you know it is showing up that counts and the heck with the muse. It's work for heaven's sake not a calling. And you will churn out the work, the shitty first draft or the clarity revision or the final draft or whatever mixture of those three plus the diversions you've taken allow you to call it. Because you are a writer. And you will sleep the sleep of the just.

10. You will awake after sleeping the sleep of the just and look at your previous day's work even though Elizabeth S-C told you NOT TO and it will be brilliant! No it won't. But there will be threads of brilliance in amongst the dog puke and it will simply have to do. 

And that is what I know for sure.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Ursula LeGuin is the perfect pick for L!

And I love your 10 things. :) Especially the woman wearing the itchy lame who wants to be part of your book.

I may have to recant my advice about not looking back! This time I had to shake things up on my WIP (and I'm also desperately behind in word count) and I read the previous stuff (didn't edit it, though!) to come up with ideas for subplot threads to pump the word count up. :)

Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, I'm so happy you put in your wonderful post about lamé, Jan! It's brilliant! I love it! And hats off to anyone who can create whole new worlds, as fantasy writers can. Little wonder you admire Le Guin.

Bish Denham said...

LeGuin... Love that explanation of what it is to be a writing. For me, the image is of a pot of stew on a stove, simmering, simmering, simmering. So much goes into it, bits of this and that, spices and herbs, left overs, just about anything. And, I can have more than one pot on low, gathering flavor, taste...

Susan Scott said...

Love Le Guin's words, compost combining, re-combining - her writings are poetic. Thanks Jan also for the lamé - lovely!