I have been dreaming of wolves for the last year or so. My dreams are always vivid. I also have many lucid dreams; dreams where I can control the dream and even where I can re-enter a dream days after having it. All of my stories have come from dreams. Vivid dreams that wake me up at 4am in the morning scrambling for pen and paper to write down what I see in my dream world. But lately there have been two dreams that I keep on having…
One is a dream of wolves and the other is a stirring in my imagination, new scenes in a new story in a new series…
The wolf dream is a favourite and one that I love to return to. I have always believed that if I have a spirit animal, as the native Americans talk about, it is the Wolf. There is something about wolves that call to my soul. So it does not surprise me that for the last year I have been dreaming of wolves. I have been at the crossroads of death and life, grief and joy these last 400 days. Dreaming of the wolves symbolises change, a wandering and roaming both literally and figuratively, a need for freedom and a longing for my pack. I am searching. I am hunting. I am roaming. But I am roaming in the spirit of the Wolf. I am feeling more certain than I have been in a very long time of where I want to be, who I want to be, what I want to write.
At first I was attracted to the shape and form of the letters in the word,
with curvy vowels anchored by strong consonants,
the word that came to mind was tango,
a beautiful woman held gracefully by the strong arms of her partner,
Before even reading the word, my lips were softly tasting the sound of the letters,
cool clean water with a subtle sweetness exploding on the end of my tongue,
I mouthed the letters out slowly in the first steps of the tango,
the man pulled the woman closer into his body.
her soft curves melted into his hard muscles,
as he pulled her in even tighter he started moving,
his body carrying her graceful form with him,
I whispered out the syllables into pairs and triplets,
the dancers slipped into an effortless and intimate elegance,
the dance was coming into its fullness,
the dancers had no eyes for anyone but each other
and only the beautiful sounds of the whispered word reached their ears,
Imagine being one small part, a word, of a story…Now imagine your skin being part of a global story.
This is what SKIN is.
…while thinking about how much I liked forms that reflected their content, I thought of my unfinished story “Skin,” and suddenly it suddenly occurred to me that there is a kind of “publishing” we already do on skin: tattooing. The idea of publishing a story on volunteers, one word at a time, was only a few mental leaps away. The whole concept of the Skin project leapt into my mind in that moment. I put out a call for participants in summer of 2003…
– Shelley Jackson
2003 – Shelley Jackson came up with this idea to craft a new medium for story. She would write the 2095 word story and then request volunteers to have one word of the story tattooed on their bodies.
…The existence of the author is a necessary flaw in this (every?) story. But this project makes me keenly aware that I am not the only, or even always the dominant voice in it. I recently took great pleasure in watching three “words” coach a fourth, nascent word through her first tattoo: “Have you eaten anything? Here, have this apple. Do you want us to hold your hand?” My presence was a comfortable irrelevancy to them at that moment. Furthermore, my story is being rewritten, one word at a time, by my participants. As my words enter the specific contexts of their lives, they change forever. In the end, 2095 other people will have signed their names to my story…
– Shelley Jackson
Each person would be given a word by Shelley and would then need to tattoo this word on their body. Once accepted as a WORD each volunteer would then receive the complete story. The provision being that they would keep this story forever confidential.
…I was quite serious when I called this a Mortal Work of Art. As words die, the story gradually changes; it’s possible that the first word will die before the last one has been published, meaning that no complete version will ever appear. But I consider each version of the story legitimate; each successively shorter version of the story that will be created by these deaths is the story too, right down to the one-word story that will be its final printed form. If all my words hold to their promise not to share the story, that will truly be the end. The work includes its own disappearance in its aesthetic project, so it is not complete until it is gone. However, like all living things, each “word” has a complex destiny of his or her own, affecting many other lives, and I consider that part of my project too. When I die, the destiny of the project will fall into the hands of the remaining words, who might decide, who knows, to do something different with it than I intended! Some people have asked if they could will their words to their children, creating a second-generation story…
– Shelley Jackson
I love the idea of this project on so many levels. I love the exclusivity of the story only being made available to 2095 people. I love the secrecy and the intimacy of tattooing a story one word at a time on different people around the world. I love the idea of being a WORD in a story in both a figurative and a literal sense.
Tattooing is an ancient art form. I have always been fascinated by the whole process of tattooing.
Who gets a tattoo?
Why they get a tattoo?
Where they choose to be tattooed?
“There is something wonderfully melancholic about a piece of writing that’s living flesh and finally dies and is grieved over.”
– Shelley Jackson
Tattooing is one of the most intimate experiences.
I have long been fascinated with tattoos and I have been designing my “dream” tattoos for years now. I have not yet found the perfect tattoo that I would want inked on me permanently yet so the search continues. But a tattoo is so much more than a symbol or a fashion accessory, in many cultures it is an integral part of the culture’s history and spiritual practices. Tattooing is a bizarrely intimate ritual: a ritual where a person literally carves a symbol, words or an image into your skin with permanent ink.
…the body interests me most as something to write about, not to touch (not in a professional capacity, anyway). I am fascinated above all with using it as a object of fantastical transformations, because we care about the body and we know it intimately, and I think that makes it possible to invest bizarre scenarios with very strong, creepy, personal feelings…
– Shelley Jackson
As a writer alone this bizarre ritual where blood and ink are fused together into a permanent “stain” sparks my imagination.
This long-held personal fascination with tattoos and the desire to seek out their history in different cultures sparked the idea behind The Tattooist my current WIP.
Would you get/Do you gave a tattoo?
Do you prefer Literary (words/quotes/mantras) tattoos or image tattoos?
Would you be a WORD for Shelley Jackson’s SKIN project?
Not the character Angela Lansbury played in Murder She Wrote…No this Jessica Fletcher is my newly purchased vintage typewriter. Yes, my typewriter has a name. If you can name your car, then I can name my typewriter. Jessica Fletcher is one of my all-time favourite fictional characters so what better name to use to christen my beautiful “new’ typing baby. As much as I am a technology-addict and have all the latest gadgets I am also a bit of a purist when it comes to the act of writing. I like a little of the old and the new. I have been looking for a vintage typewriter for about 5 years now and this month I found Jessica Fletcher. She is an Imperial Good Companion 5 Typewriter Circa 1957.
Typewriters are works of art. Comparing them to our modern-day machines from MacBooks to iPad is like comparing a grand piano to an electric keyboard. Yes the electric keyboard is more portable but it is not a thing of beauty. Nothing beats a grand piano. For me a typewriter is a work of art. There is something that gets me excited about that clickety-clack of the keys or the smell of the ink or getting the ink stains on your fingers as you adjust or change the ink ribbon. The other day I read an article about an author who types out their first drafts on a typewriter for that sheer “inspirational digital-distraction-free ambience” and then transfers that to the computer for the editing stages. I LOVE that idea. It inspired me. Soon after reading this article, I found “Jessica Fletcher” online and I knew I had found my “machine of inspiration”.
Being the enlightened writing purist that I am 😉 I used Google to look up the history of “Jessica Fletcher” and her sister machines. I was delighted to unearth a few gems. The Good Companion Portable Typewriters were named after a best-selling novel “THE GOOD COMPANIONS” by English Novelist J.B. Priestly published in 1929. (Aside, a typewriter named after a best-selling novel – KISMET for this writer.) The first Good Companions were unveiled in 1932 with the Marketing Campaign of: “The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” The typewriters went on to becoming the most popular typewriter in England when it got the Royal stamp of approval (Royal as in the The House of Windsor of Buckingham Palace.) when His Majesty King George V (Reigning Queen Elizabeth II’s grandfather.) purchased one for his own use.
From 1932 to 1963 the Imperial Good Companions went through 7 different designs and were called Good Companion 1 – 5. The Good Companion 5 – “Jessica Fletcher” was the last design and most modern version of these typewriters. Imperial then went on to manufacture three other typewriters after the Good Companions but the company ceased production and closed its doors in 1974.
“Jessica Fletcher”and her sister machines were very modern for the day. The innovative design contained these new additions to the Companion Portable Typewriters:
An aluminium body in a fibreglass case
A 4-colour choice ribbon
Touch-Control (where the writer/typist can choose the striking power of the keys to match individual finger strength)
Two colour Stencil Selector
Total Platen control for precision paper register
Automatic Ribbon Reverse
A Finger-friendly basket shift which means very little pressure is needed to operate the keys
I have tested all the keys and they all seem to be in perfect condition. I do need a new ribbon so will have to still buy that. The keys feel much smoother than any typewriter I used to use at school. The keys also feel much more tactile. “Jessica Fletcher” has the very sexy, curvy style that the most gorgeous 1950s ladies had. (Think the stylish female cast of Mad Men.) The colour is gorgeous too: a metallic silvery blue-green. It is not an accident that I compared the vintage looks of “Jessica Fletcher” to a Grand Piano. When I lift the lid and take a closer look it reminds me of a harp or an opened Grand Piano. “Jessica Fletcher” has only had one owner and it is obvious that she took good care of her baby.
No matter what instrument I use to “Getting the Words down”; whether it be pencil, pen, fountain ink, typewriter, MacBook, iPod, there is something about a vintage typewriter that inspires me in some deeper place. Perhaps it is the sensual feel of the keys that are made for my fingers or the sound of those letters hitting the paper but there is a definite sensuality that typing on a vintage typewriter brings to the craft of writing. Maybe it is a longing for simpler times and slower times when you did not have a million immediate distractions and a clamouring to use up time at a rate of knots. Perhaps it is the storyteller facet of this writer that is drawn to working on a vintage typewriter or longhand writing with a fountain pen because storytellers are the history-keepers of the world. So perhaps it is up to us storytellers, us history-keepers to constantly bring Renaissance to our corners of the world. Perhaps it is up to us storytellers to teach the stories of the past to inspire the storytellers of the future. What I love about “The Good Companions” in particular is that they were among the first portable typewriters that were not only inspired by a novelist and his novel but were marketed and manufactured for the Writers not the Typists or the Secretaries. This is a machine that must be cherished but must be used. It was never manufactured to collect dust on a shelf in an attic. It was manufactured to help writers tell their stories to the world. That is what this writer is going to do. “Jessica Fletcher” is going to let me tell my stories with a romantic blush of the past and all the writers and their stories that have gone before me.
Jessica Fletcher, my literary Grand Piano, sits in pride of place next to MacGyver, my literary electric keyboard, my Macbook. Sitting, pride of place, in the centre of my beautiful antique roll top desk Jessica Fletcher has found her home.
” The Good Companion brings fame to writers.” – Kismet with perhaps a hint of destiny for this writer…
“This Good Companion brings joy & inspiration to this writer.”
There is a place for The Typewriter in the 21st Century.
Would you/Have you found a place for a Typewriter in your world?
If you have not ever used a typewriter, what are your thoughts on typewriters?
Which favourite vintage model typewriter do you lust after?
How many times have you had a word on the tip of your tongue but it won’t come to you? As a writer, I have to find new words and synonyms all the time. The worst thing you can do is keep on repeating the same words through a manuscript. But sometimes it is harder than one thinks to find new ways of saying the same thing. It can also be difficult putting an action into words. Sometimes even us writers just draw a blank when it comes to “that perfect word”.
I am in the middle of editing one of my manuscripts and I cringe at how many times I have overused certain pet words. Yes I use a dictionary and yes I use a thesaurus but sometimes even these great reference tools are not enough. What about those times when you can’t think of the exact word but you can describe what you are trying to say. Then what? A dictionary nor thesaurus won’t cut it at these times.
Well recently, I found the perfect tool to solve my word issues. I came upon it quite by chance and it was a fortunate chance indeed. Realising I needed an updated dictionary and thesaurus, I thought I would search for one in the App store (Apple) that I could download onto my iPod Touch. So I entered a search term for dictionary & thesaurus. There was a whole list of various dictionary&thesaurus combinations but one app stood out to me…
I couldn’t believe my luck. This is exactly the application I had been searching for. It took me less than 10 seconds to download it. I have been using this application for about 2 weeks and it has changed my world! Now if I want to say something is green I have a whole list to choose from to describe green. The application also works a bit like a word association game. If you type in a phrase, it comes up with all the synonyms associated to the words in that phrase as well as the actual phrase.
Wildcards can also be used in the search terms to customize the results…
Find words that start with bl and have a meaning related to snow >
Find words and phrases that start with blue >
Find any words related to snow >
(These are just some of the more specialized ways you can use Reverse Dictionary. All info quoted from the App’s store’s app.)
The great thing about this application is that it also contains a number of full dictionaries and thesauruses. So if you have found a word but you want an expanded meaning of it then you just click on the “more definitions” and it will take you to a list of dictionaries and thesauruses: Everything from Dictionary.com to the Oxford Dictionary. There are also a couple of useful dictionaries for fiction authors: Rhymezone, Mnemonic Dictionary, Idioms and the Urban Dictionary and for Word Nerds – The Online Entymology Dictionary.
The good news is that this application is available in both Apple and Android.
So if it’s on the tip of your tongue and you just can’t find the exact right word… If your manuscript is covered in red pen from your editor with large “Please find another word!” all over it… Don’t waste time. Download the Reverse Dictionary. This little app will change the way you write and make your editing life super-simple. Your editor will love you and your manuscript will shine.
This weekend was like an IV of oxygen straight into the arteries of my creative self.
I had been anticipating my first writer’s conference for about 2 months. I researched all the best online advice I could find on the net. I was ready to network,to observe,to question and to learn. However, nothing could have prepared me for the tremendous dose of inspiration and knowledge on offer at the RWNZ 2010.
From a VP of a top publishing house, to an Editor of another publishing house to an Agent to the many authors, scriptwriters and experts that gave workshops: It was this writer’s jolt of creative electricity. The questioning and learning was definitely achieved. The observing and networking was constant throughout the weekend. The conference venue was tangible in the creative energy that was enclosed in its hallways, ballrooms and boardrooms for 3 incredible days.
Personally, I had registered for this conference with the aim to garner knowledge from experts in the publishing industry. What I have gained from this weekend is immeasurably superior to what I had hoped to gain.
One of the highlights of my weekend was finding critique partners that I can connect with. As much as I enjoy and appreciate the feedback from online critiques, it has been a task set for myself to find critique partners within my home city. This task I can now tick off my to-do list.
Being a writer though, I do not plan to selfishly keep all these creative pearls of wisdom to myself. I am a writer after all and I am a blogger. This means that my writing process is meant to be shared to the benefit of one and all.
Over the next few days I will break down all the workshops I attended into gourmet food for thought. For this blog post though I will give a bite size synopsis of all the tools and tips I learned this weekend.
In the history of all cultures throughout the ages and throughout the world Story-telling has been and is crucial to human health. Every good story has at least one of the crucial elements at the heart of every culture: Love and Romance; Justice and Crime; Trials and Triumph of Good over Evil, Myth and Spiritual. Every story-teller is there to pass on the stories that record the history of nations, that inspire the actions of the present day and that influence the future of tomorrow.
So how do we define good story-telling?
There is a simple test that is a universal standard:
A) Does the story achieve what it sought to achieve?
B) Does the story communicate the story-teller’s intentions to the audience?
There are three critical aspects to ensure the correct outcome of a story:
In the first aspect, the audience simply seeks entertainment. This entertainment needs to satisfy them. The cardinal rule to any story, whether it be audio, visual or written is to never disappoint the audience. In the story they must be supplied with sympathetic protagonists that are believable. These protagonists need to grow through overcoming a conflict. Your antagonist is the instigation or the culmination of this conflict. These characters are the vehicle to carry the emotions of both the storyteller and the audience. The audience will mimic the emotions and actions of the characters that they are invested in emotionally. Though we are rational beings the audience needs its emotions engaged to invest their belief and their hopes in the story.
In the second aspect: Your inspiration needs to be at the heart of your story and needs to be communicated through any means necessary to your audience.
Memory is the mother of Inspiration. For both emotions and rational thought to be in balance, the storyteller needs to be AMUSED in the truest sense of the word. The story-teller needs to be in the presence of the Muses.
The third aspect of a storytellers’ toolkit is Language. You can alter the part that the audience plays in your story by the subtle mastering of some language tools. Painters use different colours of paint to portray a visual image. Musicians and composers use musical instruments and voice to entrance audiences. As story-tellers we need to use our greatest and simplest tools: we need to use our words to paint a picture and to create a world that the audience enters into through the doorway of our language. In a story we are the composer, the painter and the director through the subtle mastery of words.The way we utilise them can bring the reader into the mind of a character or we can put them in the room observing our character.
Our words become our voice. Our sentences become our compositions of sound. Every storyteller needs to learn the art of language and words like a mime uses body language. The language needs to match the scene of the tale. If the scene is full of action, then the language needs to be staccato and terse in character. If the scene is full of conflict the language needs to be restrained and held back. If the scene is emotional, your words need to state the emotion. In any scene your characters need to be infused with depth and emotion. Your characters need to have strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately your audience needs to either recognise a reflection of themselves in your characters or a reflection of people in their lives.
Through all three of these crucial aspects we have the unique power of communicating a world we imagine to the audience’s imagination and touching both their hearts and their minds. For a magical moment in time whilst the reader is engaged in the tale: they begin to believe this world we have created through our words and they begin to be a part of the story themselves. The STORY-PLACE has now become a favourite destination for both the reader and the storyteller. The pen is a powerful weapon that has the power to change thoughts; mold views; create worlds; give power to the weak by giving them knowledge; lastly it has the ability to take us, storyteller and reader, into a world where anything is possible...