Thank you, Susan Scott for inviting me to take up the baton in this blog cascade whereby we introduce and reveal ourselves to the wider world. I am honored to accept Susan’s invitation because of who she is, not only my good friend, but also one of the better angels on our planet, an accomplished author and blogger, deeply thoughtful, deeply immersed in the psyche and a Jungian dream specialist. Susan, who lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and who is currently working on a new book with co-author Susan Schwartz, a Jungian analyst, Aging & Becoming, is author of In Praise of Lilith, Eve & The Serpent in the Garden of Eden & Other Stories, a must for every aware woman’s library. I always look forward to reading Susan Scott’s next post on her thought-provoking blog, http://www.gardenofedenblog.com/.
What am I working on?
I have published two books – Begins the Night Music: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume I (2012), and To What Green Altar: A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume II (2013).
Currently, I am working on several books – “Leftover Bridges,” a collection of essays I have written over the past 15 years, “The Phantom of My Blog & The Blue Deer: The Afterlife of Caregiving – A Dementia Caregiver’s Journal, Volume III” (a working title), “Funny Farm Stories,” and a collection of my previously published magazine profiles and feature stories on Delaware history and environmental stewardship. Queued up behind them, I have a couple of novels.
Besides these, I continue to write my blog, give book presentations and post as a blog guest author.
How does it (the book or the writing in general) differ from other works?
I have been writing and publishing newspaper and magazine profiles, feature stories and essays for 35 years. For those, I research and interview subjects to produce a thorough, rich story relating just the facts.
I find writing my blog and my books cathartic, for I am released from the stricture of news media journalism, and thereby can luxuriate in interpretation and nuance of tone.
I began writing my blog and published my two books to convey the often traumatic reality and deep significance of my mother’s and my caregiving journey through her dementia. I wanted to support others who find themselves in similar circumstances, to let them know they are not alone. My blog and my books differ from my previous works in that I had to step over the edge and relate intimate details about myself, my mother and others involved that otherwise I would not convey. (For this reason I publish under my pen name, Samantha Mozart.) Once I published these pieces, I frequently felt like a lemming having marched over the edge and then having second thoughts.
Further differing from my previous works are the music soundtracks often accompanying my blog posts, augmenting the tenor of the story and building a suspension across thoughts. You can play the music on my blog mp3 player while reading my post. For this post, Philip Glass’s “The Blue Deer” from his Toltec symphony intermeshes nicely; no. 25 on my player, right sidebar.
Moreover, while writing my blog I suspected that you are padding around in the alcoves, chambers, catwalks and labyrinths of my blog, rummaging through all my stuff, and I do not know you are here. You make no comment. You are The Phantom of My Blog. You? I listen. The power of the music of the night.
And so, one day when I was standing on the catwalk surveying my blog, the Phantom came up behind me and nudged me over the edge. I grabbed for a rope in the fly system, slid down to the end, had to let go and fell into a heap of backdrops. Then, I knew not which scene I was in. I thought I was speaking English to an English-speaking audience, yet no one comprehended. This scene serves as a metaphor for my caregiving experiences at those moments when I reached the end of my rope.
I never knew what the Phantom would be up to next. He reappeared occasionally and then he told me his name – Moriarty. Moriarty plays the banjo, has a black, fluffy dog named Dickens, cleans up and organizes things around my blog, hangs fresh headers, but he doesn’t dust. All last winter when snow deepened over the ground, Moriarty somehow couldn’t find the snow shovel. Sometimes Moriarty and I engage in dialogue sitting at the blog round table, sipping wine by candlelight; other times we climb the winding wooden staircase up to the cupola and gaze out over the tall-grass meadow, where down by the stream at the edge of the woods we see the Blue Deer and her white-speckled fawn, Batik.
This style of writing differs from my magazine and newspaper journalism via my interweaving facts and the imaginative. Upon my magic carpet, blissfully I fly through the holes in the clouds.
My writing process?
A story arises in my head. I am visual. I think in pictures. I get a framework, I may even hear dialogue, and then I am compelled to write. I cannot focus on much else until I write the story. I am like actors who live in their character until they finish making the movie. I find that during my writing process I am taken out of the world and I neglect mundane things needing attention. I strive for a balance during my nonwriting periods, therefore – socializing, going for walks, just getting out and around.
Sometimes I write my story drafts in longhand. This slower process gives me time to think in the interstices of the phrases, thus I envision descriptive detail and emotion I would not during the faster process of typing. This slower process brings density to my writing. I write every day, even if just thoughtful, descriptive emails. I have no set time or time limit to sit down to write, although I do try to accomplish it in the morning, for about three hours. I sit at my computer desk and type on my special keyboard, an old IBM style, my buttery keyboard, the one I used back in the late ‘90s when I consumed bowls of popcorn while diligently typing my novel. (My novel remains unfinished, due to life obligations, the protagonist stuffed in a drawer, where I sometimes hear him sneezing.)
I write without stopping, then go back, read it and edit it. I read it phrase by phrase for rhythm, flow and sound, as if it were a musical composition. I write as if I am sitting in an armchair next to you, saying, “You know, when my friend R read my piece, in the role of my reader, he said he wasn’t sure other readers would grasp my meaning of ‘hairy clouds.’” I then read it aloud and do a computer spelling and editing check. Finally, I let Alex, the little man inside my Mac computer, read it to me. I find that’s the best way to tell how it sounds. When he reads it and it flows, then it is good. Then I let my magical potion steep – for maybe a couple hours or overnight. Often I do my best writing away from the work, such as while airing my mind on the front porch. Later, I pull the piece out, make any changes and proofread it again and maybe again until I’m sure it is well-dressed and fitting, no more alterations needed, and as with a darling child on its first day of school, I send it out into the world.
I am an observer and a people gazer. I like writing about place, about nature, intriguing characters and writing dialogue. I write to music, classical mostly.
Why do I write what I do?
I love the opportunity to express myself. Also, I find crafting the language fulfilling. I love the music of a well-turned phrase. I find it heartwarming when a reader picks out a passage and laughs or tells me how beautiful it is, how meaningful they find an essay I’ve written, or how much they loved my book. I don’t want to just come and go in this life. I want to contribute to humanity. My pen is my sword. So many authors have left legacies in their writing that uplift and inspire me, that make me think, that show me truth. They communicate with me telepathically, down through the ages. I hope to leave this kind of legacy through my writing. It’s my way of giving back.
I wrote about my dementia caregiving experience as a personal catharsis and thought that by publishing these books I could share my experiences with a broader caregivers audience, lending them support. I based the books on my blog.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is my favorite author. Above all authors, he most inspires me; we are kindred spirits. Would that I could write as well as he, his Irish-American lyrical prose rolling from his pencil onto his yellow legal pad, when he set himself to it. I could listen forever to the stories of the Irish poets and authors, especially Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Frank McCourt, Colum McCann, Bono. The words roll off their tongues and flood your senses in waves of beautiful music. Encounter an Irishman, ask “How’s it going?” and they’ll reply, “Well, as a matter of fact, let me tell you a story….”
I love books, reading and great storytelling. Tell me a good story and I’m content. Mostly I love the great classics of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Passing on the baton
I am pleased to introduce another of the better angels on our planet, and my good friend, book author, journalist and blogger, T.J. Banks. Everybody has a story to tell. Stories come up to T.J. and say, “Hey, write me,” she explains in her “Sketch People” blog profile, http://www.tjbanks927.blogspot.com. T.J. is author of six books, one of them award-winning, and including riveting novels and nonfiction. She is a working journalist, currently writing for Western Mass Women Magazine, Hartford County Women Magazine, and for petsadviser.com, http://www.petsadviser.com/, where she writes a cat behavior column. In her series of “Sketch People” conversational interviews, T.J. sketches human interest profiles in her inimitable soft voice with warmth and color. So, pour yourself a cup of tea and sit down with T.J. and the personalities who pop from the page while she sketches their stories of “passion, purpose, and adventures along the way.” You’ll remember these people and want to read more of T.J. Banks’s works. You can find out more about her books on her Amazon.com author’s page: http://goo.gl/wQpoyr.
T.J. is also a Reiki Master, whose cat Zorro was her Reiki Master. She is an animal advocate and her specialty is cats. She tells her cat stories often from the cats’ perspective of their humans. She has been the human to a host of cats, particularly Abyssinians.
July 1, 2014