Wednesday, January 20, 2010


For my English Lit class this week, I had to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. With all the reading I've done over the years, this was one of the classics I'd never even picked up. I saw the movie. I know what happened. I am dumb.

I should know by now that Hollywood movies back in the 30's didn't stick to the story line AT ALL. I really should know this. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-written, interesting literary story that was a completely new discovery. 

I am not quite finished, but I got to read the monster-y part while the wind blew, lightning flew, and thunder crashed around me. We are having a big storm and today I stayed in my jammies, made hot chocolate (with marshmallows), got out the blankets, sat on the couch in front of the fire, called the dog up onto the couch with me, and read a good story. To know me is to know that this was a little slice of heaven. 

One of the things I like about older novels is the minutia and detail about daily life they include. Jane Austen does this, Proust does it to a degree that maddens most people, and if I'm not in the mood to be slowed waaaaaay down, to read about life in slow motion as it seems the 'olden days' were, then I too get bored easily. The weather and the dry and comfy house set the mood for me today, and I enjoyed hearing about what the character did each day.

I think that is one thing missing from literature being written today. We live faster. The pace is just different. So to write about what I did for two hours when I wasn't doing anything is boring. We are now in a culture that demands stimulation, progress, entertainment on a scale never seen before. I don't necessarily dislike it, but it comes in to sharp focus when I read something written two hundred years ago. Proust wrote pages and pages about the few minutes right when you are falling asleep. I think it is very interesting, but now many people can't slow to that timelessness of contemplation.

Frankenstein was written by a very young woman in response to a friendly challenge. What could I write if I had to live the way they did in 1818? If the power goes off, I can't quit hitting the light switch every time I go in to a room, so I don't think I'd be inspired. I'd be annoyed to have to live without the modern conveniences. I do think that time spent doing nothing but listening, taking things in, instead of always spewing things out would do wonders for our culture. Slow down, just a little. Think before you say something. Really listen to the world around you. Shelley noticed some interesting things. I think those things might still be there, if we just paid attention.

Jo Taylor

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Am Still Me, But I've Changed

This last Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege, the fabulous luck, the absolute thrill of seeing two of my college roommates for the first time in 20 years. I would have recognized them anywhere, they look the same, and they were kind enough to say the same about me. We have aged oh so gracefully. We only had time for dinner this visit, but I hope there will be more visits in the future.

It made me think, in the subsequent days, how I have changed. The introspection isn't always comfortable, but the occasion to see dear friends when you've not seen them for years is a rare thing. Compared to the twenty-something me, the forty something me is less bothered by what other people think of her. I used to constantly put words in people's heads about what they were thinking of me when I was young and insecure. These two dear and wonderful women were always kind, sincere, not involved in the cattiness many women get swept up in, and sought always to be supportive of me and the path I was choosing.

I often feel bad, and feel like I am a bad friend when I have failed to stay in touch with people who've been part of my life at some time in my life. My friends assured me that it was never taken that way, and that they felt the same way sometimes.

My grandmother used to be very particular about me writing letters to friends as I moved around the country with my family from Army base to Army base. I had a hard time keeping up with friends, and they would slowly drift to the bottom of the 'to do' pile. I never meant to put them there, but staying in touch was hard work sometimes. Grandma would tell me how she still wrote to all her friends. It's very likely that Grandma only met 500 or so people in her whole life. I've met 5,000. Or more. How do you keep up?

Until just recently, the answer was, you didn't. I thought often of my friends in Killeen, Leavenworth (the town, not the prison), Joppatowne, Lompoc, Solvang, and San Luis Obispo, but finding them was out of the question. Then came the internet, then Facebook. It's been so easy. And I've been so happy. There's no pressure to write long tomes of all the things you've done - people just catch up as we go forward together in time.

I have to appreciate Facebook sincerely for this. I have no more 'I didn't keep in touch' guilt. And I've discovered that you basically continue to be the person you have always been. The girl I was at 20, she's still around. Maybe more polished, less anxious, more grateful, and less needy, but there nonetheless.

Realizing that about myself has been mildly interesting, but finding out that two dear friends are still two dear friends - now that is fabulous!

I hope to always see my friends this way - not looking for how they've changed, but searching instead for what it was about them that made me like them in the first place. I want to be understanding of the trials that have battered them, grateful for the joys in their lives, and hopeful that their presence in my life will be ongoing. 

Jo Taylor

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Since my new job will involve lots and lots of data, I thought I would get into the swing with a little data of my own.

About my writing . . .

Never fear, I will not share work or life data here. (Hey, that rhymes!)

Anyway. The new revision process I am using had me go through my manuscript (MS) and write down things that are not right for various reasons. The data that came out of this exercise was interesting. I think its interesting although I may lose many of you right about now. now. now.

My MS is 191 pages. I have 17 pages of things that are not right. That makes about 9% of my MS. I'm really pretty happy with that. I went into it thinking at least half of what I wrote back in the fog of November would be complete dredge. So, with a fear of 50% to do over, 9% is rather spiffy.

Loving words as I do, over the years I've attached certain words I find interesting to facts and data that just seem to hang around in my head, useless, until I have my very own blog and I can write what I want. Here are some of my favorite words and their data.

Humans and armadillos are the only animals who can get leprosy. I'm not sure what this says about humans or armadillos, but leprosy is a very cool word.

The indentation in the bottom of a wine bottle is called the "punt."

A sixty-fourth note is writen out as a hemidemisemiquaver.

Antidisestablishmentarianism used to be the longest word in the dictionary when I was in second grade. Oh wait, it still is! Either I am younger than I previously thought, or the wordsmiths of the world have been on vacation. Get to work people! We need more long words!

Speaking of getting to work, that is what I should be doing. Homework, work-work, housework, writing-work. . . I think blogging needs a more serious nomenclature to represent the effort involved. How about Blork (pronounced Blerk). Blogging-work. Or perhaps I just need another nap.

Jo Taylor

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Direction and Focus

I know I said I would post a few resolutions in the new year, but I think we are all bored with that already. Nothing major to change, so no hoopla about changing it. Instead, I've had a little lesson recently in direction and focus and how they are not exactly the same.

I stumbled upon a program by a writer about how to go about revising a novel systematically. I love systems. Give me a structure to work in and I am a-okay. Finding this so-far-very-good system when I am starting the FIRST revision of my FIRST novel may save me decades of wandering in the "working on my novel" labryinth. 

What I've learned in this very short time is that I can be incredibly focused, yet have no clear direction or desired end result. If I have a clear direction, then I can focus on the details as they come into view. I never thought of writing in these terms before and it feels a bit like a revelation. Perhaps not so much for the creative, writing part of writing, but definitely for the revising part of writing which takes eons longer.

All that time saving and being efficient is very important to me for the next few months as I finish up with my Bachelor's Degree, revise the novel, and start a new job. I have clear ideas of the general direction for these components of my life and hopefully, with that in place, I can switch my focus back and forth without losing my way.

Jo Taylor