The Woven Tale Press
(c) copyright 2013
Editor: Sandra Tyler Author of Blue Glass, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and After Lydia, both published by Harcourt Brace; awarded MFA in writing from Columbia University; creative writing professor; freelance editor; Stony Brook Universityâ€™s national annual fiction contest judge; a 2013 BlogHer.com Voices of the Year. Follow her blog at:
Editorâ€™s Note The Woven Tale Press is a monthly culling of the creative blogging web. Too many well-conceived and artful blog posts are relegated to their archives too soon. So enjoy here an eclectic mix of the literary, humorous, and innovative â€“ blog posts ephemeral, meant to be indelible. This month: Eye-catching photos of vintage cameras, a monkey and his a water bottle, and a Siberian giant cat. Curious about tattooing? Earthworm graveyards? If you enjoy particular posts, click on their URLs to visit the actual blogs. To submit a post go to: http://woventalepress.com
From my Eyes to Yours
I love taking photos of nature. But I also have three other great loves – vegan cooking, listening to music, and vintage camera collecting. This camera is a Univex Minicam AF-5. It was made by the Universal Camera Corporation in 1938. According to Camera-wiki.org: “Universal Camera Corp. was a film maker and camera maker that created some unique camera designs in New York during the 1930s and 40s.” I have no idea whether it works or not. If I can locate the right kind of film and a lab to process it, I would definitely like to try.
When starting to paint, I always have a particular image in my head that I want to come out on the canvas – it never does. My hand must have its own brain. Or the neurons bumping around in my brain go haywire before they reach my hand. What appears under my hand is usually something wildly different from that original image. However, this strange hand-brain makes some fun things happen. Maybe my neurons start to dance before they reach my hand, and my hand does its own dance on the canvas to some unknown tune my brain can’t hear. If I let go and permit the haywire neurons to continue the happy hand dance, my creation begins to take flight and become free. However, if I fight the crazy neurons in my hands and work on something more controlled, that image loses the spontaneity that gives a painting life and energy. The painting may become more true to form but has no spark. A person commented about where, on one of my paintings, the dancing neurons had made the hand paint a red lake instead of the more controlled and average blue-green of most lakes. This person said she didn’t think she had ever seen the lake in question look red. My thought was, of course not! You have to have dancing neurons to turn a blue-green lake red. And why have a blue-green lake when you can have a red one? The red lake has life! As the Swiss artist, Paul Klee, said, “The painter should not paint what he sees, but what will be seen.” I may see a blue-green lake but a red one will be seen when the dancing neurons take control of the painting hand. The hard part is to continue to allow the neurons the freedom to transmit dance to the painting hand. Resist control. Dance on!
Good Morning Fog!
The morning fog lies low, a thousand feet below my perch, obscuring the valley from view and its busy commuters racing to punch some remunerative clock. This is my rarest of days with no work in the queue, but a multitude of chores to be attended. I have spent the last two cups of coffee posting and commenting on posts, and a few more private writings to a friend and confidant. I can’t know what this Tuesday will bring other than the inevitable late morning lift of the mists that roost each morning in the crevices of these mountains; a lift that will bring the masking white to block my vista on its way to join the clouds. The growing season has ended and the ragged remains of my summer vegetables have to be discarded, the garden soil turned and winterized, and the beds that dutifully fed my table returned to a bleak resemblance of a yard (if you can call 60-square feet of flat area on the side of a mountain, a yard). Once my well-neglected chores are over, I hope to ride into town; there are friends there that are as unattended as my household duties. My schedule has kept me captive for weeks in my glass-enclosed office, viewing the sunrises and sunsets through blind covered windows. I am reminded of a writing professor’s advice to put to paper not the world you see, but just a tiny sliver, the view through a single slat in a Venetian blind. It is there that you find the most interesting stories. My experience has taught me that he was right – most people only can see the vast world before them and miss the important nuances that poets and writers exploit to quell their addictions’ urges. The cottony vapors have now risen to the treetops of my mountain below, clawing up the grade to darken my windows.My coffee is gone.My day has begun. And there are tasks to be done.
Climbing The Freytag Pyramid
Scholars have been analyzing the structure of drama for nearly as long as it’s been written or performed. One of the more notable studies belongs to nineteenth century German playwright and novelist, Gustav Freytag and his “Die Technik des Dramas” (Technique of the Drama). 5
He didn’t originate the concept, mind you. Aristotle introduced the idea of the protasis, epitasis and catastrophe—beginning, middle and ending—three-act plot structure, which was later replaced with drama critic Horace’s five-act structure.
Stage 1: Exposition—introduces the setting of the story, the characters, their situation, atmosphere, theme, and the circumstances of the conflict. Traditionally, exposition occurs during the opening scenes of a story, and when expertly executed background information is only gradually revealed through dialogue between major and minor characters. Stage 2: Rising action—sometimes called complication and development—begins with the point of attack that sets a chain of actions in motion by either initiating or accelerating conflict. Difficulties arise, which intensify the conflict, while narrowing the possible outcomes at the same time. Complications usually come in the form of the discovery of new information, the unexpected opposition to a plan, the necessity of making a choice, characters acting out of ignorance or from outside sources such as war or natural disasters. In this stage, the related series of incidents always build toward the point of greatest interest.
Stage 3: Climax—is the turning point, where the protagonist’s journey is changed, for the better or the worse. In comedies, the protagonist’s luck changes from bad to good, due to their drawing on hidden inner strengths. Drama is the other side of the coin, where things take a turn for the worse and reveal the protagonist’s hidden weaknesses. Stage 4: Falling action—during this stage, the conflict unravels and the protagonist either wins or loses against the antagonist. This is also where a moment of final suspense might be found, in which the final outcome of the conflict is in doubt. Stage 5: Dénouement—also known as resolution, or catastrophe— in drama, brings the events from the end of the falling action stage to the actual closing scene. Conflicts are resolved in a manner that either creates normality and a sense of catharsis for the characters, or release of tension and anxiety for the audience. In comedy, the protagonist is always better off than they were at the beginning of the story. And in tragedy, the protagonist is worse off in the end—hence the alternate title for this stage, catastrophe. As I’m sure you’re well aware, Freytag’s analysis wasn’t meant for modern drama. For starters, front loading your story with exposition is usually the kiss of death for your audience’s declining attention span. If exposition is truly needed, it should occur naturally within your story in the smallest fragments possible. Also, modern storytellers tend to use falling action to raise the stakes of the climax for dramatic impact, having the protagonist fall short of their goal– encountering their greatest fear or losing something or someone important to them. And when they’re at their lowest point, they’re struck with an epiphany, giving the protagonist the courage to take on the final obstacle, resulting in the classic climax. And there you have it. Now, sally forth and writeful…
The Graveyard of Earthworms
My monotony needed twisting today, so I went for a stroll, sans iPod. You know, to breathe in a bit of city fresh air, clear some cobwebs, that sort of deal. There I was walking down the street, mind-sifting through character conversations and scene settings, when I looked down at the pavement and realized that I was traipsing through what looked like the aftermath of the Great Worm War of 2013. The sidewalk was a battlefield littered with the corpses of thousands of earthworms coating an entire city block.
Logically I knew how this could have happened. I knew they came to the surface either during the heavy rains (but it’s been dry weather for the past week) or to pair off and mate only to get caught on things that are hard for them to crawl across, like sidewalks, and subsequently fry on the surface from sun rays. But that normally occurs during spring. So, what then? Had there actually been a battle? Warring clans pitched against one another over territorial disputes? Factions in conflict over the claiming of a throne? Families locked in a deadly dispute over an unholy union? Or was it a warning? As I stood there, staring at their dried remains curled into runic shapes, I wondered if they had been somehow gifted with a vision of the approaching apocalypse and had sacrificed themselves in an effort to warn us in the only language they knew. The last Germanic language spoken to them by man before the two species went their separate ways. In that moment I felt like Indiana Jones in the passageway to the Grail chamber, trying to decipher the worm cadavers’ possible portents of doom, only without the aid of a diary or Sean Connery whispering something about, “Only the penitent man will pass.” Or like John Nash without an ounce of the mental code-breaking ability. And I stood there. For longer than I’m comfortable admitting. Frustrated by the limits of my linguistics. Finally, I forced myself to move on, but not before making a promise: No more outdoor strolls without my iPod.
Inked and Loving it!
Tattoos are taboo! At least for my ol’ folks back home. I grew up judgmental about people with tattoos, until I fell in love with a hippie and things changed completely. I started loving the colored art pieces on the bodyscape. When he used to sketch on a piece of paper, I would imagine his hand working up his art on my skin. The beautiful lines and curves made a swift entry into my imagination, and I could visualize all sorts of images, colors and patterns. A few years of consideration later, I jumped the ink-wagon, and walked into a snazzy tattoo parlor. The soft spoken guy at the other end of the table, all inked and pierced in all nooks and corners, asked me firmly, “Do you really want one?” My tongue quivered a bit and I popped out a meek “I do.” I felt like the bride dressed in white at the altar with her running shoes on. He smiled, handed me his card, and said to decide and let him know. Two months later, I walked into the place again – this time with eight designs printed on paper that I could spread out in front of him. He scrutinized my designs as a lawyer scrutinizes evidence brought to court. My nerves by now were tingling. Was I chicken? I bet not! What was it? No idea. And then a voice from behind me said, “Have you rounded off at least one of these?” I turned around to face a dusky clean-shaven hunk with deep black eyes and a curly mop of hair and…the cat caught my tongue. Yup, I fancy the bad, body-tattooed, chewing gum kinda notorious brats. And this one fit the bill! I could feel myself blushing. Even though slightly abashed, I asked him, “Are you Al?”
“Yes,” he said. “How do you know me?” “I think I spoke with you the other day and sent you a mail with my design marked ‘please consider.’ ” He looked at me blankly. I felt like a gushing teenage fan in front of her favorite football player. I began again. “Anyway, which design do you think would suit me?” He looked at my designs, then pulled out a pencil from a folder and began sketching something on a piece of paper. The rabbit is my Chinese sign (left) and the Chinese letter is the symbol for rabbit as well. The color blue is my sign color (Emerald).The red heart symbolizes “love” and the bubbles make me “full of life.” Minutes later, which seemed like hours, he looked up from his drawing. I smiled. The next thing I remember is sitting in a chair with my ankle out as his canvas. Half an hour later, he showed me how far up it had reached. I loved it! But he wanted to make some modifications. Now this scared me. Was he saying that he was unsure about what he was doing? He changed the needle and mixed a bit of blue into white and started again. Another half hour later, the masterpiece was complete. Two and a half hours later, I landed up at the place again!
This on e sp (Caligrap ells my daughter ’s name hy-Mas hq) in Arabic
What now? Yup, that was the look the guy at the reception gave me when I uttered that I already want another one!
Debt (Web Serial)
For a debt he owes, a thirteen-year-old girl’s father gives her away to an older man she doesn’t know, while her pleas fall on the ears of a mother who has no voice or power to change their condition. This story is of Syreeta and her struggle to be more than just an owed debt. The historian records, but the novelist creates.- E. M. Forster I set this story in 1906, the year of my grandmother’s birth. It’s loosely based on my great-grandmother’s life in rural Tennessee. Yet more than 100 hundred years later, we are faced with the same issue. I dedicate this story to the women and girls who still don’t have a voice in their lives. Below are the short snips of the continuing story so you can follow Syreeta’s journey.
Debt ( The Beginning)
I was thirteen when Papa gave me to you. One small bag on the porch waited while you drove up the road kicking up dirt. Begging and pleading, I asked Papa why he didn’t want me no more.
“I’ll be good, don’t send me away Papa, please.” You got out of the truck and walked up the stairs, a black man, as old as Papa with steel for eyes. I hid behind Papa, scared, as you climbed the stairs. But without a word he put my hand into yours. He never gave me his eyes, while I cried out, “No! Please no!” Papa said to you, “Now go, take her.” I wouldn’t go, holding onto Papa’s legs, but he pushed me away like a dog. His own child. “Why, Papa, Why!” I yelled unyielding, trying to stay. You grabbed my arm saying, “Your Papa owed a debt he couldn’t pay, Girl. Let’s go.” As you drag me away, I looked for the truth in my parents’ eyes. Momma shed tears, while Papa turned away. This was the day you took me for payment.
Black birds flew high in the morning sky, covering the sun like a thick dark shawl, blocking its light. I felt like my soul lost its light too, as you drove us away smiling, releasing the dirt that covered the road.
You were talking to me, but I said nothing while tears ran down my face. I turned around to stare out the back window of your pickup, at the home Iâ€™d shared with a family who thought of me as nothing but a commodity. You spoke words I couldnâ€™t hear, words that fell on the dirty floor of your truck. I watched as my home got smaller inside the brown dirt cloud, in the side mirror, my heart breaking. I felt like nothing, wanting to hide in that black hole that covered the sun as the birds flew over. What was wrong with me, that Papa hated me so, I thought. What did I do to make him sell me like a piece of meat? As the sun reappeared, I made up in my mind that if Papa hated me, then I would hate him too.
A King’s Blemish
One of the things that could end the rule of a traditional Irish king, was the king appearing with a blemish. In the tale The Second Battle of Moytura, the king of Tuatha Dé Danann, Nuadu is rendered unfit for kingship after losing his hand in battle. He is accepted with an artificial hand – but only until his successor is found. Physicians’ manuals from early literature appear to confirm that the ideal of an unblemished king was not just a literary plot device, as they go into detail about how to heal and, not least, cover up the physical injuries of a king. A blemish may, however, have been represented by other shortcomings in the ruler. Whether this be a literary technique or a reflection of reality, several tales tell of kings found unfit to rule because of weak character and/or poor judgement in poignant matters. In The Wooing of Étaín, Eochaidh Airem becomes the ruler of Ireland. His consort is the Otherworldly Étaín – commonly interpreted as a personification of sovereignty. When he is rivalled by a king from the Otherworld who wants his Étaín back, Eochaidh loses her because of a blemish of character: Mider, king of the Otherworld, challenges him to a game of fidchell. As the game proceeds, Mider loses again and again – supposedly intentionally – and must perform superhuman feats for Eochaidh. Eochaidh’s curiosity as to how Mider fulfills these tasks causes him to break his word and spy on the other. Mider is angered over the king breaking his word and Eochaidh is shamed into promising Mider any stake in a last game of fidchell. This time Mider wins, and he selects Étaín as his price. Eochaidh can’t break his word twice and loses the sovereignty. Greed and dishonesty breaks Eochaidh’s kingship. Once having broken his word does not allow him a second chance. Another tale of a king’s downfall is found in The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel. The king is Conaire Mor, whose consort is not mentioned at all, but it is stated that he is a descendant of Étaín. The necessity of the king having a consort is often emphasised in epic tales, but the case of Conaire appears to be an exception. Conaire is described as a perfect king in every way – until he makes a poor judgement regarding his foster brothers. One of Conaire’s gessa (sacred law a king must fulfill) is that no robbery can occur during his reign. His foster brothers break this law for him, and when they are put to trial for their actions, the king hesitates. First he decrees that the plunderers shall be executed. He changes his mind, however, and sends them to plunder Alba (Britain) in-
stead. On their way to Alba, the fosterbrothers encounter an infamous murderer, Ingcél, who joins them in going home to destroy Conaire. It appears an Irish king best upheld his reign by following these ideals: Always hold your word. Don’t hesitate, don’t show weakness towards someone who, expected or not, turns out to be your enemy. Don’t be outsmarted by someone who hides their emotions better than you.
Meet the Locals
The biggest enjoyment I get from travelling is meeting the locals. I get a thrill out of struggling with communication, sharing food and learning new things. On our travels we have experienced many amazing moments with locals, and on some of those encounters we managed even to remember to take photos!
Our roommate in Thailand
Probably the most unusual species we came across: A leaf insect
Little Ruby on her way to freedom in Gili Meno, Indonesia
The giant cat of Siberia
A bird we met in Queensland 17
My Lonely Planet cover image for Mongolia
I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, bee, bee, bee 18
Spells Of Chocolate!
We’d just made the bus, on our way to Meera’s birthday party. Meera goes by Rat, who knows why, except that on her blog she does indeed relish life’s little nibbles. Besides her, I’d connected with only a few other bloggers in the online world, namely Karan from the K-Factor – who was already messaging fellow bloggers about looking forward to meeting them all. Karan had just completed his 100th post in a span of only seven months! Here was a kid who could write 4-5 posts in a day; he could cook up a blog post while brushing, plucking an uninvited long arm hair, or even while lazing in semi-sleep mode. He was literally a super blogger, while I’m a sloth blogger – I’m trying hard to figure out how to hit my 10th blog post soon. As I watched the trees whizzing past us outside the bus, I realized something. “Dude, we haven’t brought along any gifts for Meera!” “Oh, don’t worry about that, Man! Elder people don’t expect gifts from young students like us. The advantage is that we can go anywhere like this – empty-handed,” Karan said. “Still, Man, we’re going to meet her for the first time.” “Do you think it’s my first time going to someone’s birthday party? I like to walk around empty-handed everywhere. You need to socialize yourself more.” Argh. I still needed a lot of training to win an argument against this guy. When we got to the party, the blogger guests had distributed themselves into self-indulgent subgroups. Eavesdropping on one group, I recognized some words: “Madras cafe,” “Dhoom 3,” ”White House Down,” “Di Caprio,” “Tarantino,” “Kubrick,” “De Sica”.... Obviously, this was the movie critic/fanatic bloggers group. Since their movie analytical skills clearly override mine, I thought it would be wise to move on. A vigorous bunch was shouting,“Modi-UPA!” “Socialism-Liberalism!” “Syria-USA!” “Stalinism-Marxism!” This was the politically-enlightened bloggers group. I remained beneath their radar and flew away unscathed. Then there were the humor bloggers, laughing at nothing; the shutterbugs; and the meditative lot (readers? poets?) who were showing off their ultra-modern gadgets. Finally, there were some exquisite women ressembling Lakme and L’Oreal models. A certain cult of bloggers, the foodies, how-
ever, was nowhere in sight. And then I saw Meera, adorned in an elegant white dress. She pointed to where the nibbles were and asked us to stay for the cake-cutting at 9 p.m. As we strolled towards the nibbles, I saw that every guest presented her with some gift. Regret shot down my spine. There they were, the foodie bloggers! The people who wrote all about food – traditional food, pastries, wines, pizzas – assembled around the nibbles. I wondered whether they would be reviewing the party food in their posts the next day. Ah! The smell of chocolate dragged us towards a chocolate cake, and Karan and I each grabbed a slice. “I still feel we should’ve brought some gift for Meera,” I said. Surprisingly Karan said, “Now I too think so. We will do it next time for sure.” I sunk my teeth into the chocolate layers, closing my eyes. I was falling! The sensation made me open my eyes, but before I could think, I had fallen hard onto the ground. Strangely, there was no pain. Only numbness. Svlowly, I sat up and scanned the place. There were trees. As if I’d fallen inside a park or forest. Sun rays pierced down through gaps between the leaves. As I tried to stand up, a rock hit me hard on my back and I was again on the ground, kissing leaves. Karan was lying beside me, and we didn’t have the faintest idea how we had gotten there. The last thing we remembered was taking a bite from the chocolate cake, just before 8:30pm. We finally got up and started walking. When we had reached a clearing in the midst of the forest, my heart stopped; up ahead was a four-legged horse-like creature grazing. Vine-like structures emanated from its rear and it was blazing with a silver glow. Then we saw an Earth Golem grazing as well. Fairies were resting on flowers. White gigantic lions roared. Human-like figures emerging from persistent flames. We could hear water flowing some place nearby and we walked in the direction of the sound, until we reached the banks of a milk river. I wondered what kind of aquatic life might exist in a milky river, as we tentatively stepped across a bridge to a house in the middle of it. A house quite familiar, a replica of the wicked witch’s house from Hansel and Gretel! Hungry, we neglected thoughts of any consequences, and soon were feasting upon chocolate broken off from the roof, and bread from the walls. “Nibble, nibble, gnaw;
who is nibbling at my little house?” echoed from within the house. Karan replied, “The wind, the wind, the heaven-born wind,” and we continued our feast. A man in a suit opened the door. He was well-built, perhaps in his early fifties. “Welcome to the land of Ever-Sun gentlemen. I’m the manager of the Ever-Sun land. Assuming that you people go by the names Karan and Anil, please come inside.” How did this guy know our names? Was this a modern trick played by the old granny? Inside, there was a huge feast. A lot of small kids…no wait! They weren’t kids. They were midgets and fairies! The manager asked us to join the party and hesitantly, we complied. We were in the land where the sun shone always! The head midget was unwell and the manager was in need of our help, a small favor in exchange for a promise he made to us: To return us to our own world! With oggle-goggles as our aide, all we had to do was lead the fairies across the land. The fairies had to fill the flowers with honey; bless the fruits with sap; help the plants and trees to blossom. When it was time for the job to be carried out, Karan and I mounted King Eagle. We put on our oggle-goggles to guide us by some virtual trickery. As King Eagle glided through the sky, the fairies indulged in their work. They touched the plants to blossom; caressed flowers with their tiny hands, filling them with the sweetest honey. They kissed seeds and wrapped them in tissue and juice. King Eagle flew up so high, we saw angels in the clouds.They swayed the clouds so hard, the clouds brought down the rain. We saw blue dragons dance, and heard their thunder. I looked back at Karan. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. “Whoa! Why are you crying, Man? What, you scared by the sight of fiery blue dragons?” “I don’t know how long we’ve been trapped here, Man! Our family and friends will be worrying about us.” “Ha! You don’t know the trans-universal time rule? Our earthly timeline can’t move forward when we are in a fantasy world,” I said, trying to console him, even though I too now was worried. As we reached the end of the Ever-Sun land, marked by waterfalls to eternity, we turned around. When we had returned, we had few questions for the manager.
“So why were we summoned here?” “Someone wants certain things to happen in a specific way.” “It’s some kind of divine intervention then?” Karan asked. “Ha ha! If you feel so, feel free to interpret it like that.” “Why don’t the plants, trees, and flowers in your world bloom like this in our world?” “Well, you see, each world has its own legacy to carry on and a story to be written. The authors’ of the earth’s story are you humans! You are the people who can make the heavens shower and rivers flood. Maybe you two were brought here to carry a story back to your fellow beings.” It was time for us to bid farewell to the Ever-Sun land. The manager offered us gifts to take with us, as he opened the door of his huge granary. Smack in the middle was a stack of huge cheesecakes, and we chose the largest. The manager whistled and two fairies flew in, with a piece of cake for each of us. All the midgets and fairies then appeared to bid us farewell. Before eating the cake, we closed our eyes. When we opened them, we were back at Meera’s, out on her lawn. “Happy birthday dear Meera!” people were shouting from inside her house. “The cake cutting has already started! The time didn’t freeze much apparently,” I said. We tried to walk as fast as we could carrying the large cheese cake. Once we were inside, everyone stared at us, as we were carrying around the largest and strangest gift of the day. “Happy Birthday Meera!” we shouted, taking her by surprise as we came up behind her. Her jaw dropped at the sight of the largest, cheesiest cheese cake ever. Now I know why she prefers the name Rat! Walking back to the bus-stop that night, Karan asked, “Can you really comprehend whatever happened in Ever-Sun land or the words the manager spoke out to us?” “Umm...not really, but I hope we will in time.” “Yeah, I think to find out the meaning of everything, we should attend all the birthday parties from now on that supply chocolate cakes!”
At the End of the Rainbow
I remember turning on the television. The camera moved down the normally sand-colored dirt road, now churned into a red sticky mess by the latest rains. Oil puddles of ominous grey and brown refused to melt into the earth. They glimmered with a splattering of rainbow colors, but the oil was still and stagnant. The sky was grey, no clouds. The camera crew had walked up to a little coffee-skinned boy who stood in the lane smiling, periodically pressing his palms together, fingers outstretched. He looked at the reporters, eager to please. “And have you ever seen a flower?” One of them asked. “No.” “Not at all?” “No,” said the little boy, shaking his head and smiling. I packed my bags. And what if we were fooled? That rainbows are just scars in the sky That we stand and applaud While they bleed? No pot of gold at the end of any rainbow Just fools with their dreams And don’t they know The smell of blood and gold is the same? Through all my years in uniform, I would think about the little boy who had never seen a flower in the mud of his shanty town, who trusted those that sent the bombs that would set him free – free of a family to love him, free of the need to go to school anymore, and free to choose which crater to sleep in, now that his house stood no more. 23