Just because I haven’t been doing exers every day doesn’t mean I’m not writing. I’ve been having work critiqued by the St. David of Wales writing group (with this summer’s writer in residence, Lynn Otto) and for a two-day workshop at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology near Otis, Ore., which is near Lincoln City. Also, since the workshop, I’ve been trying (and mostly failing) to write a few hours a day.
Here is a writing exercise from mid-August 2013, when I was staying on the Oregon Coast for the Sitka workshop. As background, I’ve been working on a story about Canyoudiggit, a South Pacific Island populated in the 19th century by missionaries who declined to go home. It was known as Bettencourt Island until a recent despot (as the person in charge of administration is called) thought of a catchier name. There’s a lot more backstory, but that’s for later. … Sarga tiles are an entry to children’s stories. A child picks a tile from the box and the story proceeds from there. The stories that proceed from the sarga tile prompt are amazing and varied.
Like all my exercises, this was timed to last 20 minutes, with a time stamp before and after.
Here we go. Just a minute in after 10. I like starting on the dot. Intention today is to find a name for the satellite island to Canyoudiggit. Where the McCoys hang out. To be named later. Also, move from cinderblock to stone construction for the houses on Canyoudiggit. Can’t import cinder blocks. Of course, part of the charm of the story is that it’s all impossible. Nothing to do but watch goats, work in the garden, blow glass, drink beer, play cello, contemplate clouds, and have sex.
Belay that. Arr. A pirate story, here on the beach, the coast, where the weather is cold and foggy. Always mid-60s. Brought me jacket and a good thing. Arrr. Forgot me pirate kerchief. Kerchief, mischief, chief chef, chowder, chowderhead, salmon ass, salmon eggs, globes, red globes, red globs, lava lamp, morph, slow burn, Tillamook burn, the Castros Fidel and Mimsy, borogroves, raths, wrath, wraith, wreath, weave, rove, riven, run, stocking, shocking, bird’s egg blue, all thee pictures, a story for each one. A vast vista through an open window. The sarga tile opens a vista like that. A sunny beach with tables and umbrellas on a seawall with the ocean crashing beyond. White sand, glorious sun, warm and too too bright. I’m chilled. It’s also dark in here. Not getting going much. Damn. Off to Starbuck’s soon. Bucks, elk, bison, binyon, bindu, Hindu, woodoo, voodoo, you do, scooby do, doodly do, and you too, screw you, through you, by you and with you. Yow. Not much is going on. Pick up that sarga tile, the one with the brown edges. Oops, what happens if you drop and break one? You get stuck in the fantasy until someone is brave enough to come and rescue you. What if you don’t want to be rescued?
She dropped the brown tile and it shattered, and as it shattered, she shrank to about 3 inches high. The cracks in the floorboards become chasms and she falls through one of them. There is a whole world down there, with spongy flowers on sticky green stems. Everything in pastels, like a little girl’s game. Not too much pink, but pale greens and blues and a lot of white. All the flowers—a forest of them—are cartoonish and flawless, if anything as ugly as they really are can be flawless. After much wandering in this forest of perfect and perfectly boring flowers, she finally finds a real flower. It is getting a bit brown along the edges of the petals, but it has the papery texture of a real flower—and it has scent. Faint magenta lines in creamy petals. The cartoon flowers smell like candy; this one smells like a flower. It’s big enough for her to curl up in, which she does. It’s slightly sticky with honey, and she licks that off, then falls asleep.
During the night, a mouse comes along, looking for a place to sleep, and is annoyed to find a girl curled up in one of the few, rare fresh flowers in this place. He taps her rudely to awaken her, and after she gets over her fright befriends her against his inclination. She is small enough to ride on his back, her hands around his little pink ears. They set out to look for more real flowers, also some crumbs. There are breadfruit trees amid the fakery, also. Fresh currants, tiny to big people, are glorious red globes to be eaten like apples. She gets juice all over herself.
Two minutes [left; it’s 10:19]. I’m bored with this, cold and edgy and hankering to take back the DVDs I borrowed. What a waste of time. What a waste. Remembering “The Good Wife” plot. Damn. Running out the clock. Soon to Starbucks. I have a new message. Not everything can be golden. Amen