Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Poe and Friends

If you know me, you know I enrolled in graduate school about a year ago.  The first class was fabulous - I learned how to do the research for my historical novels, which is exactly what I needed.  As an added bonus, I actually did a lot of research and rewrote the first chapter of one of my novels to make it historically accurate and just plain better. 

My summer creative writing class was cancelled, and I decided not to take a fall class because of some health issues and the general state of chaos of my life.   

Just this morning, I registered for a 19th century American literature class that's intended for undergraduate seniors.  They created a graduate section of the class just for me.  The deal is that I have to do more work than the undergraduates.  The cool part is I have a lot of say in what that extra work will be. 

The super awesome thing I found out this morning is it's not just a 19th century American literature class (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, and other authors I absolutely adore and haven't read in quite a while).  It's specifically a class on Poe.  16 weeks of Poe and friends.

I love Poe.  One of my favorite childhood movies was The Pit and the Pendulum (yeah, I realize that's a little odd).  My favorite genre to write in besides the impossibly challenging genre of historical fiction is dark comedy.  While I realize Poe maybe wasn't going for comedy, for me it always will be. 

Now that I know the class centers around Poe, I'm even more excited about it.  I think I will take the opportunity to rewrite one of my dark comedies while I'm in Poe mode.  The cool thing is I probably can use my rewrite as my final project for the class. 

The recurrent theme that I keep finding in my work is the complex relationship between hopelessness and mental illness. There's a lot of that in the literature of this time period - like "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892), which echoes Poe's "Ligeia" (1838).  I'm curious to see how authors in this time period write about mental breakdowns of men compared to women. 

Today I'm reading Washington Irving's The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819-1820).  Apparently Irving was the first American author to earn a living entirely from writing.  He is considered an inventor of the short story genre.  Apparently he was a hell of a salesman and a master of self-promotion because what I'm reading so far is not that great.  "Rip Van Winkle" is amazing, but the other "stories" I've read so far are just reflections, like the sort of thing we write here on our blogs.  I can't believe he got paid for them. 

I'm going to trudge through as many of Irving's reflections as I can.  And then I'm going to jump into Last of the Mohicans.  I've seen the movie but haven't read the entire book.  I remember the little sister going a little bit nuts toward the end of the movie.  I'm very interested to see how Cooper handled that in the text or if it's there at all. 

Happy Thanksgiving.  I'm going to spend my week reading - and hopefully will do a little bit of writing too before I pop in my The Pit and the Pendulum DVD.

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Being Stuck and Unsticking Myself

I'm definitely stuck.

Writer's block is an understatement.  I feel as though my Muse has been starved, bludgeoned, and then repeatedly knifed in the stomach before being chopped into little pieces.  She's not coming back. 

My instinct tells me to read, read a lot, read a lot of short stories that will inspire my creativity and will coax a new Muse out of hiding.

I've done that the last few days - that and an almost normal amount of sleep.  It seems to be working.  I signed up for a literature class at my college.  It's 19th century literature.  The fabulous thing about graduate level classes is you get to make it your own.  I'm making this class a study of hopelessness and mental illness. 

Yesterday I bought the complete collection of Poe after being dissatisfied with the free kindle version - the formatting is bothersome.  Today, I am going to make a bowl of popcorn or maybe something healthier and pop in the DVDs of the Vincent Price movies and readings of several of these stories.  I'm pretty sure that while I'm enjoying the movies and stop fixating on my stuckness a new Muse will sit down next to me and whisper some great ideas into my ear (hopefully in a creepy Vincent Price voice).

I also decided to re-join Write 1 Sub 1 - the monthly version - and commit myself to writing a series of short stories, mostly in the historical period of the novels I'm writing.  Nothing bad can come of it.   I know it's a little late in the year to start, but whatever, right?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG - November

I'm not sure it's an insecurity exactly, but the amount of work it's going to take to finish my historical fiction novel is starting to feel more than a little overwhelming. 

Giving up on it and moving on to an easier project isn't quite my style, so I decided to break the revisions into parts and focus on one part at a time in chunks of about 9 or 10 chapters.  It will take me as long as it takes me to finish this first section, but when it's done it will be done and then I'll move to the next section.

How do you manage writing projects when they start to feel overwhelming?

Go to Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J Cavanaugh to read the other posts or join us.