25 November 2011

Hidden Brussels

Built by the friends of Odilon-Jean Périer:

(The price of a thought.)

(Whoever hears me sing keeps me alive.)

Can you name this spot?

19 November 2011

On the horizon....

I've done this twice - January and July last year. It's not only a great eye-opening experience, it's also fun.

Curious? Interested? Find out how to join in the River of Stones here.

14 November 2011

A jam pot, consommé secrets and bravo to Robert McCrum's "Ikea fiction" column

Another year to heaven as of yesterday. Two friends gave me a beautiful copper pot the size of Kentucky.

They said it is for making jam. Have never made jam. Don't know the first thing about jam except it's sticky.

If making jam is like making consommé however, I'll be happy to start. Here's today's batch getting going:

It's really like giving a chicken a really good bath. Here by the way is a recipe for a good version by Jamie O. He says his mother's secret ingredient is a rasher of bacon. Hm. I've got meat in mine, down at the bottom where you can't see it - about a kilo of stewing beef. But I would say my secret ingredient is that I stuff the chicken with onion or leek - really stuff the hell out of it. I'd shove a carrot in there too if I could.

Finally, bravo to Robert McCrum in yesterday's Observer deploring "Ikea culture" fiction. I get so sick of hearing/feeling/breathing the idea that everything has to make money, that there is no other validity. Ironic, however, isn't it, that the thing Ikea is arguably best at is... bookshelves.

11 November 2011

The Creative Collection

From time to time I realize again how necessary balance is. Sometimes I have to give more time and energy into what I do for a livelihood than usual, and what happens is that the part of me that really makes me feel me/good/true gets the short end of the stick. A couple of days out of balance, and -- like being out of the office a few days and returning to a mountain of email -- it takes awhile to right the balance again. I like my day job but it isn't my raison d'etre. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have convergence there. Would I start to detest/resent my creative projects, since they would now be the source of my livelihood? Or would I be just so excited, that I was doing something I loved and it sustained me? Well, that's a question I hope to be able to address later. In the meantime, when I get out of sorts, when I haven't been able to devote even 5 minutes in the morning to my notebook (grrr), sometimes I go to the following places to help get me back on track, and remind me where true north lies....

Sustainably Creative with Michael Nobbs
The Creative Intelligence Blog with Orna Ross
Path of Possibility with Sage Cohen
Zen Habits with Leo Babauta
The Art of Non-Conformity Blog with Chris Guillebeau

I don't always comment on their blogs but I am always grateful to their wisdom, succintness, and capacity to share their experience.

09 November 2011

Poets in Pyjamas

I said I would write about my on-line poetry class and today's your lucky day. First of all, it's a great concept for someone like me, writing in English, living in a place where English is not the native language, and resources for anglophone writers, let alone poets, are rare. I can't reasonably get to London, the closest/easiest place, on a regular basis (not yet anyway), so face-to-face options are out. The on-line format bridges all of these gaps and I think it can only get better (1) as technology improves and (2) the school gets more and more experience in doing this. We do an on-line chat through a secured space set up by The Poetry School, not a lot of bells and whistles with the interface, but it works. Assignments are posted and forums run on the PS site, and I have to admit I haven't done much on the forums - but neither has anyone else. I think this is a question of time because who frankly who has it? Not me...It would be nice in theory but in practice, I'm squeezing every hour for all of its potential writing time, especially on the weeks when we have an assignment to do. That's a poem in a week  - the assignment is put up and we have a week to complete it and upload. Writing weeks alternate with chat weeks and I really like/need that break. The chats are fortnightly on a weeknight evening and this is where it gets really ticks all the boxes: I attend the class from the comfort of my own home, and no one can see me so I can wear my pyjamas if I want (and believe me, I want), and no one can hear me either so I can call out to the kids that it's time to brush their teeth or get in bed etc, or will somebody please come and make me a cup of tea. For all I know the entire class is in pyjamas to which I can only say: bring it on! Sure, we the participants probably don't know each other as well as we might if it were face to face, but on the other hand I'm there every two weeks from Belgium with people from all over England and one from Ireland, and have not once been late. Anyone who knows me in the real world will appreciate that.

That's all I have time for now but next up I'll talk about the substantive experience. Anyone out there doing something similar? Would love to hear from you.

01 November 2011

A year ago, a year ahead

A public holiday here in Belgium, Toussaint in French (All Saints in English). It's a full-fledged autumn day with blue sky, white clouds, full-spectrum foliage. And, I just realized, one year ago I embarked on NaNoWriMo. It was a funny year to do NaNoWriMo because it seemed like that was the year it broke into the mainstream, so that even people who aren't writers heard about it, and debated its pros and cons as though they knew anything about writing fiction. I won't be doing NaNoWriMo this year because, astoundingly enough, I am working on the second draft of the 50,000 words I churned out this time last year. This is painstaking work, the work of choosing the right words, the work of balancing a structure so that it stands, the work of finding time in which to do the work, and being mean about it, even snarling and hissing perhaps, when that time is threatened or encroached on. This is not the work of a month but more like a year, if I can manage. In fact 2011 was supposed to be my Personal Novel Refining Year. It didn't work out that way but there's no stopping that year from commencing now, today, instead of January 1, is there? In a way that makes perfect sense. Start where you are, calendars be damned. Yes. I like that.