A gathering place for readers, writers, and other advocates for a more just world

What is Lori Foroozandeh ’s writing process for sharing some of the most horrendous experiences imaginable: rape, starvation, beatings in an Iran concentration camp. Visit her blog to read her answers:  http://lorissong.com/2014/02/16/blog-hop-tour/ and visit Amazon.com to learn more about her book: Lori’s Song

“The author Marta Merajver-Kurlat http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/index.php/blogroll), author of Just Toss the Ashes and Living with Stress among others, invited me to participate in this blog hop tour and answer these four questions about my writing process.”

ALL ABOUT MY WRITING PROCEDURE Writers Museum


1)           
What am I working on?

 I am writing a sequel to my first novel, Pieces of You, which will be set exclusively in the future; whereas, Pieces’ protagonist, Mark, time-traveled from past experiences to the near future to the beyond. The title of my new novel, Battle of Jericho 2035, gives ample detail about the  plot. Using the example of how Joshua and his army won the battle of Jericho in a Biblical story, they did not knock the wars of the city down by force. They just marched around it (as commanded by God) and the walls fell flat on the seventh day, after  the 13th march.

In my Battle novel, the masses of people on Earth are controlled by a world council of super rich led by the leadership of one bank, nicknamed CandyLand. The people’s rations have been cut to the level of near starvation due to a malfunctioning space elevator. CandyLand’s director has ties to an unscrupulous group, while insurgents among the people are linked to Mark and his team of supernatural beings. There is sacrificial love as in the first novel, but the actors are not the same and the decisions could affect millions, not just Mark’s loved ones.


2)           
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It’s easier forstanding on a book me to offer similarities. I’d like to think my current work has some things in common with C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, especially the first book, Out of the Silent Planet.  As one of that book’s reviewers stated, “The most compelling points are the simple conclusions Lewis comes to about human nature and the corrupt world we live in.”

Science fiction is defined by readwritethink.org (a website that offers teaching resources) as “often about technology of the future detailing partially true theories of science. (If  it bends to the  unbelievable, it is labeled fantasy). The plot creates situations different from those of both the present day and the known past. Science fiction texts also include a human element, explaining what effect new discoveries, happenings and scientific developments will have on us in the future.” My story fits this criteria but injects social justice issues, typical of some but not all SciFi writers.

 

        3)            Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always loved science fiction best, maybe because it demands a creative flair, and maybe because it manifests possibilities within our impossible dreams.

I do believe it’s possible to write into being a different world, at least from the perspective that we can envision what it will look and act like. My hope is that my narratives will inspire readers to join with other dreamers and together become the architects of at least the foundations of this new world.

 Although I can’t explain why, I don’t believe I could ever write strictly to entertain. And although nonfiction—especially business and academic writing—has been my domain for most of my life,  those genres aren’t appropriate for my current writing goals. People read non-fiction to learn more of what interests them, not to have their beliefs and prejudices disturbed. While reading fiction, we absorb new information but in a more subtle and very effective way, by imagining ourselves there.


4)           
How does your writing process work?

 Not very effectively! Many of my colleagues have formulas that others applaud and often try to replicate. You won’t get that from me… I’m still working on “finding my voice,” on finding that place within myself where confidence, creativity, and competence merge.

 I don’t write regularly, in fact I seem to subconsciously (or deliberately) restrain the  urge to write. Some of that is my fear of failure—while acknowledging that not trying is a certain path to failure. The rest I chalk up to perfectionism. A former communications professor said something that has stayed with me all these years. It succinctly describes the problem with perfectionism: “you cannot be a participant and observer, too.” Too often I choose the observer role and then wonder why I can’t loosen control over my thinking to let in the light (of insight).

 I’m still searching for that precious place about which a Zen master told Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones: “If you go deep enough in writing, it will take you everyplace.” So instead of telling you how my writing process works, I will state unequivocally how I know my writing process should (maybe will?) work—actually it’s taken from Natalie—“..and though death is howling at our backs and life is roaring at our faces, we can just begin to write, simply begin to write what we have to say.”

*     

Joyce’s first novel, completed in August of 2012, was a response to a loss that made her ask some deep questions. Pieces of You, about a mystical journey that will make the protagonist capable of the sacrifice love asks of him, is available through amazon.com. Her author page: http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Elferdink/e/B008ZTCRUY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0  includes a book trailer. A sequel will be published later this year.*     

I am inviting Lori Foroozandeh to join our Blog Hop Tour next week. Information about her horrendous experiences in an Iranian POW camp as told in her book can be found here:

http://www.loris-song.com/ (WEBSITE)
http://lorissong.com/ (BLOG)
https://twitter.com/Loris_Song (TWITTER)
https://www.facebook.com/lforoozandeh#!/lforoozandeh (FB)
http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Foroozandeh/e/B002NSC2DU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 (AMAZON)

The article linked below from the online version of the Chronicle of Higher Education points out some convincing reasons to “geek” a liberal-arts education. A primary  argument is that it teaches us how to learn. Rather than learning a particular task that will soon become obsolete, we learn how to  analyze the topic and discover its application to new situations. According to the author, Nannerl O. Keohane, “teaching focus, critical thinking, and the ability to express oneself clearly both in writing and speaking [are] skills that are of great value no matter what profession you may choose.”

http://chronicle.com/article/The-Liberal-Arts-as-Guideposts/130475/

Margaret Nussbaus, author of Not for Profit, poses a second argument, stating that democracies need “complete citizens who can think for themselves, criticize tradition, and understand the significance of another person’s sufferings and achievements.” With this capacity, we can make significant contributions to our communities rather than wringing our hands or feigning indifference because changes elude us.

Then there is the argument that a liberal-arts education just makes us more interesting–to ourselves as well as to others.  Our inner thoughts are not bounded by what others have told us; we can explore new worlds with words as our passport. We can astonish our acquaintances by giving them something substantial to think about.  And we can explore ideas–and answers–together!

Do you geek LAE, too?  If so, I’ve got a universe or two I plan to explore, but I prefer to travel with friends…

(Based on the Supernatural as Depicted in Novels & Films)

I  originally wrote this article for The Write Room blog. Please read it here but add your comments to the diverse reactions at this link: http://www.thewriteroomblog.com/?p=1209#comments

 Paradiso_descending soulsA while back I reviewed an author’s novel with the understanding that he would reciprocate. When I didn’t hear from him for a few weeks, I asked if he had finished mine. His answer: “No, I can’t read it—there is an angel in your story and I’m an atheist.” I was shocked. In the last few years so many movies and books have supernatural characters that I couldn’t believe one angel would be that disconcerting. Since demons, ghosts, witches, vampires or other spirits deemed evil are the subjects of a great many box office hits (have you seen movie previews lately?), what could possibly make a grown man squeamish about one supernatural being on the good side of the list?
We’ve certainly had an abundance of authors writing about the supernatural—both good and evil. When I searched Amazon for “angels in books,” the result was 90,088 books (although some of these are “fallen angels”). The key word demon yielded 22,170;  witches, 28,110; vampires, 37,698; and ghosts, 89,786 for a total of 177,764 on the malevolent side of the spirit world.
There was a time when angelic beings were more popular than the demonic—or at least more acceptable in movie theaters. The 1947 Academy Award winner was about a man who had given up his dreams in order to help others and whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brought about the intervention of his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody. That same year, Angel on My Shoulder, a film about a deal between the Devil and a dead man  did something unique for the times—it depicted hell—and it didn’t do nearly as well financially.  In those days, angels had the higher approval ratings. Now, while society may not be exactly rooting for the dark side, people are fascinated by tales of the demonic. Consider, for example, the popularity of The DeVinci Code, The Blair Witch Project, and most of Stephen King’s books and movies.
These examples of book topics and changing movie popularities are insufficient for a statistical conclusion, but they do support my perception that modern Americans find the evil side of the supernatural more interesting, even more believable, than the good. If you believe in demons, as does the novelist who couldn’t read my book; wouldn’t you have to believe there are good spirits, too? Everywhere we look in our world we find opposites. It is the related concepts which are opposite in meaning, (e.g., up and down, right and left, good and evil) that allow us to use language to distinguish people, places, ideas, and things.
I believe in the existence of good and evil and research proves I’m not in the minority. Most people, like me, seem to accept its representation in angels and demons.  I ‘ve just never paid much attention to angels, thinking they live apart from my world, in an unreachable place.  And since in my youth I was terrified of evil spirits, I chose to ignore the possibility of their presence.

I still tend to ignore the angelic, even though I made one a character in my novel.  But I can no longer ignore the demonic; stories and images are first view of Exorcisteverywhere. In the first two decades following It’s a Wonderful World, moviegoers’ tastes favored drama but not horror, but then came Rosemary’s Baby in 1968 and the Exorcist in 1973. And the horror has never stopped, only gotten more sensational (a list of movies for rent last Halloween proves this point).

The question I wrestle with is why the demonic side currently seems more interesting or at least more popular than its opposite. Read the rest of this entry »

 Trip to Rome & the Amalfi Coast

I haven’t been posting since before  a plane deposited three other ladies and me in Italy this May. Thank God for cameras because words cannot adequately express what we saw while roaming through Rome, Naples and along the Amalfi Coast. I’ll let these YouTube videos–okay, and the Italian music–speak more eloquently of the beauty of the art and countryside and of the calamitous ruins of the Coliseum and the city of Pompeii.

http://youtu.be/8v7eF-FSoJQ and

Travel through Space & Time

I had also abandoned my work on my second novel until just recently. Now I’m back, or maybe I should say I’m off to outer space. I’d love to have you join me to  explore what a tiny, but unified team of rebels with divine connections will encounter as they resist a global corporate empire, owners of a working space elevator, who have their own otherworldly partners. Here’s the beginning:

Space Elevator Malfunction

The two in the climber unit had no warning. One minute they were looking down at the blue marble as the elevator lifted them and their cargo of grain into deep space, the next they were space junk.

 

Looking skyward, the small group on duty at the anchor station couldn’t spot the tether.  At less than eight inches wide—a tiny silver ribbon in a wide open sky—it wasn’t the easiest thing to make out, even with binoculars, as it climbed upward from the space station to the counterweight 62,000 miles up. But it had hung there for fifteen months now, never swinging in the breeze, as taut as a bow string.

One end of the cable remained anchored to the floating platform on which they stood. That connection was easy enough to see. When Torin, the chief mechanic, finally spotted an airborne section in low-Earth orbit, he understood why they hadn’t immediately detected it. It was not straight up.  Rather it had drifted to the left of the anchored section and appeared to be curving just where visibility with the naked eye became a struggle.

“Omygod,” he yelled. “When did the last climber unit start up the space elevator, Callie?”

“Two days ago,” the team’s girl Friday—a title no one would call her to her face—yelled back. “According to the log, loading was completed at 6 a.m. Tuesday with the lifters aloft thirty minutes later.”

“That means the elevator car should be 10,200 feet up by now. Please take a look ’cause I’m not seein’ it. And please tell me I’m only imagining a curvature in the cable!”

Callie looked over Torin’s shoulder while he zoomed the attached camera into the right height. An empty computer screen stared back.  As she turned toward Torin, an inscrutable look passed between them.

He turned back to the screen before he said, “They would’ve made contact if they were in trouble.”

“Maybe they encountered some space debris and had to slow down. The Maintenance Climber is still not as fast as we’d like. Try a different height.”

“No, that’s not it,” he replied instantly. “The orbital debris tracking system would’ve alerted us. I’ve already initiated a comprehensive search. We’ll know in thirteen minutes if the climber cars are up there.”

Nothing. The three moving cars–a vertical railroad–that had been crawling up the screen an hour before, were now invisible. Panic made Callie’s slim body shake so that she could barely get the words out: “You’d better.. make the call.. to Dad’s office.”

 ***

If you will give me your reaction to these paragraphs, I might save you a seat on the space elevator…

I tell my students to eliminate words that don’t add anything to their subject. Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) gives reasons and examples here: Conciseness in Writing

I buy into the concept, but also expect communication–whether written or oral–to be vivid and clear, and so I must ask if there is a realistic minimum when too few words are as bad or worse than too many. Today, for the first time, I tried to tell a story in just 55 words (the flash fiction assignment I found at http://austinbriggs.com/category/Flash-Fiction-Contest/)

Are these few words–reduced from a scene in my book, Pieces of You, –enough to cause you to imagine the scene and discern the message imbedded in the story’s title, What if heaven is fun and fulfilling? Or would it benefit from more detail?

Blurred Photo of MarkThe news as usual is of carnage.

Disgusted, Mark turned to the mystifying peephole. His deceased mother, gloriously happy, was there teaching wide-eyed scholars, the scent of flowers and the notes of masters on the breeze. She took his father’s hand and faced Mark, saying, “We will help you teach them to love each other.”

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