Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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Coffee Shop Perils

 

SL2056

“You never loved me, Victoria. I’m a good-looking man, not too old yet. I make a decent living. Enough to eat, pay my mortgage, and drive my car. I’m kind. Generous. Women adore me. Why should I go back to you?”

“Who is she? Tell me who she is! It’s her, isn’t it? I saw you with her and I knew it!”

“No!” Slams hand down on table. “You misread the situation. There is no one. But you don’t want me.”

“I’m trying to lose the weight! Please. It’s so hard!”

“You’ve been saying this for years!”

“Please!”

“Tell my why I should be with you?”

“Because I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. Is it someone you work with? Tell me!”

And this went on and on and on and on and on at the table right behind me, which unfortunately was so close my chair was actually touching hers. They yelled, she cried, he cried, they yelled some more–as though they were alone in their living room–until I felt the table shift and heard him say, “Let’s get out of here.”

Relief. Finally. I. Could. Get. Some. Work. Done.

I love working out of the house. The coffee shop generally provides me just the right amount of background noise and activity to keep me focused and centered. But not that day!

Too much time wasted, this had to be prevented from happening again!

What was I to do?

Low and behold: magic! apple-headphones

How come I hadn’t figured this out long ago? I was a kid / teen in the eighties–when no one would be caught dead without ear buds, we even strung them through our uniform and looped them over top of the ear instead of under, so our teachers wouldn’t see–how had I forgotten about these? About how they block out the world?

I’m all set now.

 

Any coffee shop stories to share? 


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A birthday and a first time at budokon yoga

I’ve been bogged down by edits this last while, and I’m feeling a little expressive this morning, so here goes a little free flow:

 

mom baby yoga

Today I lay flat on my belly and wiggle myself across the wooden floor like a caterpillar.

My muscles strain, my lungs expand, and I giggle as I finish the movement, feeling like a child. Feeling like you.

Seven years ago you came and have inhabited my focus ever since, imprinted on my soul. Today, I take the day to contemplate me. For a birthdate is as important for the bearer as to the one being born. I wonder —  what metamorphosis have I undergone in this time?

Seven years ago I walked until me feet bled, readying my body to release you, and two hours later you were here.

Today, I wiggle, ready to release myself. What will I be? Will my wings be red, emerald, turquoise, fuchsia? Perhaps they will never settle into one colour, but will shift and tremble with each passing mood.

My metamorphosis would have been very different had you not come into my life. Your smile, laughter, they are contagious, seeds scattered in the wind, spreading wide. Your endless thrive for experience, for life, your desire to share, your interpretations and wonder. You. All of you. Thank you for you teaching me, for showing me, how full of joy life can be, how much fun it can be.

Happy birthday, daughter.


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Spring Resolution

 

Champagne

 

New Year’s eve is supposed to be the day we declare a life changing resolution. We’re supposed to raise our glass of creamy bubbly champagne, smile, and reveal a promise to do something–something momentous, something we need to do that will change us for the better–that we’ve been waiting for just the right moment to endure. And in return, those who we share New Year’s Eve with us will reveal their own resolutions.

Or catastrophes.

Who decided that January 1 was the best date to begin that resolution? Who??? Well, whoever it was certainly doesn’t live in the northern hemisphere, where it’s windy and cold and for many of us snowy. Where the day light hours are reduced to a bare minimum. And all we want to do is hibernate and eat carbs. And it certainly wasn’t someone in the southern hemisphere who is perspiring from the peak of heat, and who just wants to sit indoors and be cool eating watermelon and drinking lemon water. Whoever it was certainly didn’t take any of this into consideration!

Now spring–the time of rebirth, regeneration–wouldn’t that be perfect time for a resolution? We’re coming out of our cubby, stretching, yawning, looking around, and seeing things fresh, including ourselves.

Outside are bikers, joggers, skaters, even though they have to wear a coat and hat, they’re out there. And loving it. People are walking around eating apples, talking to each other, laughing–and yes, this is city life I’m talking about, not commune.

Everyone wants to do something new, something fresh–not because they have to, but because they want to feel good.

Including me: I became a member of a gym and a yoga studio because I’m becoming too inactive and I want to get moving before it catches up to me. I’ve been buying more fresh produce, especially greens, and me and my family are devouring them. And I’ve been experimenting more with super foods, remembering what it means to eat for energy.

I’ve also been more positive towards my work–sitting down to write and giving myself a little inner speech, about what I want to accomplish and that I will accomplish it. And do you know what? It’s working! :)

Am I sounding a little hokey? I think I am–but I’ll allow it.

It’s spring!

So, come on, raise a glass of green smoothie, and declare your resolution!

green smoothie

 PS. My in-laws are preparing for winter in South Africa, as are some of you way down there–happy hibernating. That feeling of slowing down, getting out the thick sweaters, it’s one of my favourites :)

 


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Did I write that? Well, I certainly can’t read it!

Not so long ago, someone asked me an unusual question: Since I spent so many hours a week writing on the computer, did I not miss seeing my own handwriting?

“I write by hand all the time,” I replied. “The trick is being able to read back what I wrote.”

I do write by hand all the time. Every day. Some days pass that I do more writing by hand than on the computer. Every note, every thought, every nuance–big and small, every detail, and every time I need to figure something out (which, trust me, is on a continuous basis) I handle by writing on paper. The only thing I do on the computer is the actual writing of the novel, which for me, is a small fraction of the whole process.

I have notebooks, spiral bound books, loose leaf papers, index cards, multi-colored index cards, sticky notes of almost every colour found in the rainbow, and a giant roll of plain paper that I use to map out time frames that I stick to my wall as needed. To top that off, I have a variety of coloured pens, highlighters, and pencils.

Unfortunately for my family, I tend to work in the dining room. It has great lighting, good acoustics (for my blaring music), is kinda on its own so the through-traffic is not that bad, and looks onto the backyard (with a window bench were I can sit and ruminate–yes, I do a lot of that too). This just means that I’m the only one who gets to enjoy this room, as most of the time it’s taken up with all the said paperwork, plus much more, including reference books, cups of water, a multitude of mugs holding tea and coffee at various stages, a tissue box, and the occasional remnant of a snack.

Before anyone asks, no, I won’t take a picture. Maybe one day when it’s cleaned out.

I don’t miss seeing my handwriting. In fact, sometimes the sight of it drives me mad! Especially when I have no inkling as to what in the world my scribbling means.

How about you: Do you every write by hand? Or do you do all your thinking in your head or on the computer? And most importantly, if you do write by hand–can you read your own writing? 


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Oh my aching stomach!

Being a writer and a reader are two very different things. For some of us those lines cross paths on a daily basis, and I know many readers would never consider writing, just as I’ve met a few writers who don’t read (sorry–but I don’t understand you guys).

As a writer, sometimes it’s difficult to turn off my reader. Very difficult. And sometimes it’s difficult to turn off my writer when reading. Am I confusing you yet? I’m beginning to confuse myself! 

Image

That’s what this post is all about. Knowing when to turn off either the reader or the writer switch. 

What sparked it was a writer’s meeting I was at yesterday and a comment I’d received in my submission from another writer. He wrote to me that I use heart and stomach problems way too often as a signal that my character is distressed.

I explained that these were generic terms I put in and only go through in the final final stages of a draft to make the writing more original, and if that’s not possible I reduce the amount of stomach’s flopping in a given scene to only the moments of highest tension.

Another writer interjected at that point and said that as a writer when she reads about hearts skipping beats and knots in stomachs it drives her crazy, but as a READER these cues are invisible.

And this is of course true. At least I believe it is.

And yet, at the same time we writers don’t want to be so dull that we can’t think of anything past stomach pains when trouble is coming.

This roused a discussion about the physical symptoms of stress. I for one had done some research on this particular subject in the past, because I’d gotten really bored of myself writing chest tightening so often. And yet, the symptoms for stress are not unique. Our body will respond the same way over and over to various stresses: “Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper.”* 

It’s up to us as writer to try our best to have unique writing, and it’s up to the reader in us to know when it’s okay to leave in a generic invisible cue. Now, if only our writer and reader selves would just listen to each other!

How about you: how do you handle the physical reactions of your characters to tense moments in your writing? Have you ever noticed an onslaught of aching stomachs and pounding hearts in your own writing? And do you agree that sometimes these cues have a place in writing, or do they just plain drive you crazy?

 

*quote taken from: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm

 


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Really, it’s not very romantic at all…or is it?

I was spotted by some mommies when I was sitting with my laptop writing in one of our local coffee shops.

 

“Ohhhhh,” they said. “Look at you. You have the best job ever!”

I couldn’t stop myself–laughter poured out of me, until both ladies were looking at each other, questioning my sanity I could only suppose.

You see, people–non-writers that is–have a romantic notion of what it is to be a writer. They see me curled up alone at a table. My hair piled up in a high bun, a thick scarf wrapped tightly around my shoulders and neck, a large latte in front of me. They see comfort, coziness, self-indulgence. They imagine me spending my days idly writing to my heart’s content while the real world continues on with its demands.

They don’t see me screaming inside because I’ve rewritten a scene a hundred times minimum and it’s still not quite right. Or lying awake at night figuring out plot structures that have been evading me for what feels like eternity. Or when I get super grumpy (on an almost daily basis) because there is just not enough waking hours for me to accomplish what I aim to, because–yes, the demands of the real world still affect writers. And they don’t see me wondering what the &*^&* I’m doing this for–because it’s not like any money is involved. So, in a sense, it’s not a job at all.

They only see me doing exactly what I want.

And do you know what? They’re right.

I get to disappear into a world, one that lets me explore it fully. Nowhere else do I get to go inside people’s heads and know them as I do my characters. Nowhere else do I get to stop and look around, and decide what’s best, and what obstacles are needed. And nowhere else do I get to play with words and story.

I stopped laughing and said,

“It’s hard. Writing is not easy. But, yes, it’s the best job ever.”

 


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Oh, that magic.

 

I’ve gone from a panster to a plotter during the re-write of this novel. This novel is complex, lots of plot points, so much to keep track of with the multiple POVs, I had no choice.

I forgot that I’m a panster at heart. So, when a problem arose I played with it for days by sitting and thinking, writing down notes, asking myself questions, and when a solution arose I began to work it into the problematic scene. While I was writing, something new and unforseen unfolded: the perfect event, the perfect solution to my dilemma. I was thrilled. And I was reminded of the magic of writing, of not seeing where I’m going, of letting the words flow of their own accord and watching stories take shape before me.

I’d forgotten all about that magic because I’d been so intensely plotting and fixing and tweaking. But there’s no way that this particular twist was going to present itself to me, it waited for me to let my subconscious work and then came out.

Sometimes it’s best to just sit down and write and let the story tell itself. Sometimes, all the planning in the world just isn’t going to help.

I suppose the trick is learning when what’s needed: careful thought, or free flow.

Do you move back and forth between the two worlds of panster and plotter?

 

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