Monday, 19 September 2016

Finding new inspiration

Last week, I was feeling a bit down about not working or publishing.  I took a walk, which is one of my favourite ways to unwind and let my mind wander.  It's no surprise that I get a lot of
ideas in this way and this walk was no exception.

I remembered a few friends had told me about free courses you can take through public libraries.  When I had the chance, I checked out courses offered through the West Vancouver Library and found Coursera.  They have four courses related to creative writing and allow students to audit their classes.  I am loving this course on plot and thought I'd post this week's assignment in the hopes of getting some feedback.  Here goes!

Assignment:  Write 100 - 200 words about a visit to the doctor or dentist.  Use the ABDCE (Action, Background, Development, Climax, Ending) formula.  The action leads you to the doctor's office.

"She noticed the page beginning to blur around the edges.  She blinked her eyes quickly in succession, one – two – three.  She carried, on, worrying about losing control of this roomful of preteens.  Their regular teacher had selected this story about the earth and their duty to protect it. 

The page continued shrinking and Favia had to follow the words with her finger.  She found herself tripping over simple, one-syllable words.  She knew what was happening.  It wasn’t a common occurrence, but she recognized the experience from when she was thirteen.  She read faster, hoping to make it through the book.  The classroom was beginning to grow louder.  She surreptitiously reached into her purse for the pill that would solve her problem, but the bottle was empty. 

The book dragged on, pulling the children and herself into a helpless spiral of guilt.  She turned the page, her nose nearly touching the book and she heard a boy nearby whisper “What’s wrong with the sub?”  The next thing she remembered was waking up in a hospital bed.  “Likely an aneurysm,” someone was saying.  But she couldn’t get her mouth to tell them that it was only a migraine."

Can you find the ABDCE?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Book Review: A Handful of Dust

I picked up A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh at the local Community used book sale on the
recommendation of my friend Daniel.  I've never read Waugh before, but I assume he recommended the book based on my love of Jane Austen and other British writers.  

Like Pride and Prejudice, A Handful of Dust focuses three or four families in a country village (as well as in London).  Tony and Brenda Last are the Lord and Lady of Hetton Abbey, an extensive home and grounds rebuilt in the Gothic Style, but with "rather a shortage of bathrooms." (Waugh, 11.)  While Tony loves the country life, his wife of seven years is growing restless.  Enter John Beaver, an impoverished young gentleman with no work and little sense.  He spends most of his days waiting by the telephone to be invited to various lunches, dinners and parties when someone else can't make it.  He mistakes Tony's general invitation to visit Hetton as an actual invitation and shows up for the weekend when Tony and Brenda think they have the house to themselves.  Brenda is friendly, but Tony is continually rude without meaning to be.  Shortly after, Brenda decides to take up a small flat in London and begins an affair with Mr. Beaver.

This is certainly different from my other favourites including Austen and the Brontes, mostly in that it is more modern.  But also in that it is more wholly satirical.  At one point I wondered how Waugh could stand to write about such deplorable characters that not even their creator could love, but then I started to develop a bit of a soft spot for some of them.  Even though they are hideously self-involved, greedy and insensitive, they are completely oblivious to their faults.  I actually became quite fond of Tony Last, which was a mistake.  I found the ending quite grim on his behalf.

I also had some trouble with the death of John Last, who is only a child and quite well drawn as such.  It's fine to mock the petty habits of the rich but to kill off one of their children seems rather cruel.  However, it was a necessary catalyst for the rest of the characters and events of the novel.

I have mixed feelings about the book.  I laughed out loud several times, but couldn't help wondering if Evelyn Waugh would paint me so ridiculous.  Did he like anyone at all?  The book went in strange and unpredictable directions, the writing was smooth and I found I'd read it all much more quickly than I imagined.  I'll leave it up to you to decide if you will pick up this novel.