Sunday, May 31, 2015

Forest, healing

Evening view from Kootenay National Park, near Radium Hotsprings

It's close to a decade since on a drive into the BC interior, I witnessed the epidemic of devastation caused by the pine beetle.

Huge infected swathes of evergreens were reddened with new infection. Trees that had been struck the year before were already grey.

In the great cycles of nature, the forest renews itself. Today, beneath the skeletons of dead trees, healthy new forests rise thick and green.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Peace and quiet on the Yarrow dike

Yesterday, with friends who live beside it, I walked with friends along the Yarrow Dike.

This is a place we have often enjoyed, but new trails and footbridges have been added lately, making this quiet woodland path even more delightful.

We delighted in the flowers, blooming so early this year, and were able to grab some wild snacks along the way. Wild thimbleberries and salmonberries were ripe for the the picking.
Though it is not usually in flower until July or even August, fireweed was flowering along the railway tracks. A tame cosmos volunteer showed itself among the wildflowers, adding to the feeling of delightful surprise, while a fisherman tried his luck in the green and quiet Vedder River.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Wanton destruction at White Rock Beach?

Are the taxpayers of White Rock really footing the bill for this? Who could possibly benefit from such "beautification"?

Maybe the owners the expensive flats above think it improves their view? Meanwhile, it's destroying the beach walk on their doorsteps.

Until the clearcutting began, the section below the treed hillside and the sea on East Beach had been one one of my regular walks. In spite of the  "proposed reconstruction," I for one feel heartsick at the wanton devastation.

The right half of this picture shows how lovely this section of the promenade used to be, with the ocean on one side, and the railroad tracks flanked by a bank of fragrant and oxygen-giving mature trees on the other.

Seems I'm not the only one to find it hard to understand why the mature, healthy trees slope to the tracks on East Beach are being hacked down by the City of White Rock.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

David Madden: writers evolve their work by learning technique

Image from David Madden

David Madden places great importance on the ability of writers to identify and fix errors of technique in their own work. 

In his useful and practical book on self-editing for fiction writers, he states that a writer goes through four stages in the matter of revision. His own words on this matter are quoted below:

1. He makes a mistake, but fails to see it.

2. He makes a mistake, he sees it, but doesn't know how to fix it...hasn't learned enough about the techniques of fiction.

3. He makes a mistake, he sees it, he has learned how to fix it...but he just can't do it.

4. He makes a mistake, he sees it, he knows how to fix it, he fixes it...

Writers on writing: Elizabeth George trusts the body

Image from Amazon

In her book of craft, Write Away, crime novelist Elizabeth George describes how she constructs a novel.

"I always know the end in advance...I engage in a few activities in the pre-plotting days and weeks of the novel writing process. During this time, I primarily try to find out...what kind of story I want to write. 

To learn this, I trust my body rather than my mind. Writing is not only an intellectual endeavour for me, it’s also very much a physical one. When I’m on to the right story, the right location, the right situation, the right theme, my body tells me. I feel a surge of excitement in my solar plexus that literally sends the message Yes yes yes! to my brain. Until I feel that surge of inner excitement, I remain in the preplotting stage simply because I have nothing to plot about."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tim Winton: fraught waiting and tools of enchantment

Image from Penguin Australia

Australian novelist Tim Winton spoke at the Vancouver International Writers' Festival last fall. He commented on what drove him as a writer, and what he thought about stories.

“I had to make myself up from scratch at the age of 12 ½. Had to tell stories, entertain my way to the driveway, to avoid getting beat up. It was like tap dancing in front of a machine gun.”

Western Australians, "learn to swim before we learn to read and write," says Winton. A surfer, he compares surfing to writing a novel. "Sit, wait, be attentive. Wait for the energy to meet me, then ride it to the beach." Writing, he says, is "a long game." In fact, it's mostly a kind of “fraught waiting.”

Tim Winton is an environmentalist and a citizen activist, but he doesn’t mix this with his writing. 

“I don’t think novels are tools of persuasion. They’re tools of enchantment.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Writers on writing: Vincent Lam keeps only pages that pop

Image from Millpond records and books

When Dr. Vincent Lam read from his historical novel at the Surrey Library, I took notes. This was something he said:

“You need to be willing to get this perspective: to say anything you have written can be cut. Everything is on the table and anything can go.

This perspective helps the writer to see what needs to stay and what can go. "When you read the manuscript, the parts that have to stay pop. The pages that don’t have to go."

Helpful editors he worked with suggested what could go and what needed more development. 

Lam wrote and threw away "thousands of pages" in the course of completing this novel. He wrote 75 pages on the childhoods of peripheral characters. The author needed to write them, but they weren’t needed in the finished book.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Writer and storyteller Richard Wagamese breathes into the story

To Richard Wagamese, writing is a spiritual path. This is what he said about his practice at CAA CanWrite! 2010 in Victoria.

"If I want to harness that energy, I have to breathe. And that is how I always begin. When I work out of that place, magic happens. With faith, trust and courage, I can go there every day.

The physical senses are the tools of storytelling. All of us are tribal people. We all long to sit around a fire and hear one voice speaking. If we can hear it, this voice can fill us. Go back and find out how the Viking sagas were told.

You (audience of writers) were blessed into the story campfire when you came here. We are meant to conjure stories for our human brothers. You have experienced enough now. You can do that too. Have faith – trust that you can find an insight that heals."