Split-Screens—Contemporary Dualism

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Social networks, the structure of some of today’s blockbuster novels, and experiments in original content for television and movies have given us a world that is a split-screen reality. Plot has merged with multiple points-of-view (POV) more than ever.

Pushing further, there is no one reality but a gradient of realities, in flux, and based upon the beholder. A split-screen reality.  No black and white, but seemingly infinite shades of gray. Our individual reality, in truth, is a fiction emotionally true and relevant but not absolute.

TV series like the award-winning “The Affair” or Netflix’s “Bloodlines” , present a number of points of view, with the audience unsure about the truthfulness of any given character as the drama moves forward. Other examples of split-screen reality include the blockbuster novel and movie Gone Girl, and Celeste Ng’s exceptional novel, “Everything We Never Told You”. The authors dive into a range of point-of-view characters whose retelling of scenes often is head-spinning. But that’s the point.

Characters we love can also be unlovable. The dualism pulls us in more. Just watch as the point-of-view shifts in Gone Girl. Amy is a demon (from her husband, Nick’s, point of view) until we hear her side of events. While not a sympathetic character, we soon realize the two main characters both have different realities, revealing only what they wish to reveal: what novelists call “unreliable narrators” who can’t share a single narrative.

Multiple witnesses of events recall the Rashomon effect (named after the classic 1950 Kurosawa film). We as viewers watch the same story, only from a different character’s point of view. Each character’s viewpoint seems like the truth until we hear the next version. We end up unable to make sense of the contradictory stories: to connect the dots and reveal the truth. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? The answer may be “both”. The viewer’s (or reader’s) sympathies switch from account to another. At the conclusion, all versions remain equally plausible and equally suspect.

Still, why does it amaze us when intelligent folks can diverge so much in their opinions and perceptions of exactly the same thing? We want to know more about that divergence. No matter what we read, no matter what we hear or see on TV, YouTube, or Facebook we are confronted with someone else’s interpretation, created from their own experiences and background… experiences and background which may be completely different from our own.

The split-screen reality of drama, literature, and the Internet reinforces the notion of multiple realities, of contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. Memories are already being replaced  not only by the stories we tell, but also by the posts we read, the blogs, the “data”– so that all that remains is a memory of a memory of a memory of what is fact and what is truth. Some details are reinforced with each telling while others fade, lost forever. Which version will I tell to whom? And why? Which do I believe is real?

 

Step into Nature—Patrice Vecchione

 

Step into Nature

Recently I attended Patrice Vecchione’s Monterey book launch for Step into Nature, a personal journal of solitary walks in and their influence on her art (as a collage artist and painter) and on her poetry. Step into Nature invites the reader to join her on a quiet and unassuming spiritual journey, a discovery of the symbiosis we share with plants and animals as thinking, feeling creatures. Her book soothes the imagination and brings a Zen-like equilibrium to the reader.

The book launch was jointly sponsored by the Carmel Art Association and Pilgrim’s Way Bookstore and Secret Garden. Vecchione read excerpts dealing with a world of surprising relationships: with a rat, a fox, a puma, an owl, a hive of bees.   Her reading exuded her enjoyment and connection with the sheer beauty of mother earth. As Patrice states on her website blog:  “I think of collage as a visual poem. Poetry distills experience into language. Often disparate ideas and emotions coalesce. Collage unites images from varied sources to tell a new story….—we retain a ribbon of memory from that day and another from years before. There in that mix are the stories of our lives.”

I look forward to co-authoring an article with Patrice over the summer on the symbol of the rat in Buddhism and evoking empathy.

 

 

 

“Shadow Dad”– Flash Fiction in “The Story Shack”

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“Shadow Dad” was just published in the online literary journal, The Story Shack.  The inspiration for the work came to me during a creative writers’ group exercise involving writing within a 15-minute time period.  It was fun and revealed how sometimes “over thinking” can detract from the power  of the original thought.

Go to The Story Shack online to read “Shadow Dad”. Let me know your comments!

 

Profile in Scribbles–“All About Me”

I will be reviewing some movies from the upcoming Napa Valley Film Festival in the next few weeks.  But in the meantime, I am posting a recent interview  profiling my background  writing “scribbles” in the newsletter by the same name distributed by my writers’ group, Central Coast Writers.  Some of you have been asking for more information about my future writing plans.  Here it is–“All about me”.

MEMBER PROFILE in the October issue of Scribbles, the newsletter for Central Coast Writers

 From semiconductors to Buddhism, Diana Paul’s writing subjects reflect a diversity that is evident in her employment history.  With a B.A. in psychology, an M.A. in philosophy and a Ph.D. in world religion (Buddhism), it’s no surprise that Diana would write three academic books on Buddhism— books she wrote while a professor at Stanford University (1974 to 1985). Likewise, when she was CEO of OCL Technology Center, “a think-tank US-Japan trading corporation backed by Japanese banks and high-tech companies,” Diana also wrote guest columns for the San Jose Mercury News, the San Jose Business Journal and the Christian Science Monitor “during the ‘semiconductor wars’ era in Silicon Valley (1988-1994) when trade relations were tense,” Diana says.

Though her foray into fiction writing spans only the past three years or so, Diana, also an artist and printmaker, has big plans for her writing future. She hopes to find an agent by the end of 2011, publish Unhealed Wound, a tale about three siblings growing up in the Midwest during the 1960s, in 2012, and have her novel optioned for a movie.

“The worldview of Buddhism has subtly permeated my novel with underlying themes of karma and recovery from injury,” Diana says. “The narrator/main character is a married woman who wishes her mother would die, while reflecting on her family, their past and their wounds. All have injured and scarred each other. The parenting effects they endured are now moving on to their own children’s lives.”

Excerpts from Unhealed Wound have already been published as two short stories, testimony to Diana’s ambition and dedication to her writing pursuits. As one who practices what she preaches, Diana says it’s important to “read and write every day and as much as possible. I also think movies are a great way to refine one’s storytelling skills. . . . And don’t be a harsh critic of your own work. Leave that to others. Just get the story down on paper and polish it afterwards.”

Though she declares herself a night owl, Diana says her best writing time is in the afternoon. “Since I get up around 10:30 a.m., that means I eat my first meal of the day around 11:00 and don’t start writing until around 1:00.”

An avid blogger known for her storytelling ability and movie plot revisions, Diana was inspired by the abundance of talent in CCW’s membership and enrolled in last year’s blog workshop, which changed her life, she says. Posts to her website (http://unhealeadwound.com) include movie reviews as well as commentaries on food, wine and art, “all the discoveries that make life worth living!”

 

[This article was written by Michelle Smith, who publishes for a wide variety of magazines.  Her website is: http://theebonyquill.com.]

 

 

Eleven Tips for Women’s Memoirs on 1/11/11

Thousands of us love reading of all kinds:  fiction, history, memoir.  Sometimes all three are combined into one glorious book. We all know someone who is writing:  a novel, a blog, a series of poems, a mystery, children’s book, cookbook, screenplay and more.  And everyone knows someone in a readers’ or writers’ group.  Now there is one website which can fulfill the function of writers’ group, readers’ group, and how to get published in one URL.   The website womensmemoirs.com is for everyone who is a writer and/or a reader!

Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler, the authors of the award-winning collective memoir called Rosie’s Daughters: The “First Woman To” Generation Tells Its Story, have gathered all the information needed for how to write, edit, promote and publish all in one place! Tools and online support are provided. They have essays, excerpts from ongoing manuscripts, book and movie reviews.

I personally am intrigued by memoir, which necessarily has to deal with “coming of age”:  writing down and publishing one’s deepest personal experiences without camouflage or embellishment. Why not write memoir as fiction? What has changed since, say, the 90’s to make people expose themselves, their wounds, their banal thoughts, for perfect strangers to enjoy? Why the hunger, perhaps obsession, to hear about a woman’s terminal cancer, or a youngster’s frightening abusive parents?  There is social networking which touches upon too much information, but there is also the brutal honesty of memoir.

The process of writing is an arcane one, capturing a story that is compelling, pulling the reader in to care about what is being retold.  The same can be said about a great movie, or a play, or even an entrepreneurial idea for the next Facebook. For some, writing is a  process of healing and recovery. For others it is also a work of art, not dissimilar from a painting or sculpture.  All sorts of skills are required to put words onto paper, and www.womensmemoirs.com provides all the tips to getting you where you want to go.  Check out this website today:  for the eleventh of eleven writing tips for the first eleven days of the New Year.  They are wonderful to read!  Check out “Eleven Memoir Predictions for 2011” published on January 1 but read (or re-read) today, 1/11/11!

Blogger Nube—What’s Up with That?!

This Friday, November 19, will be my blog’s two-week anniversary.  So, for those of you out there who have been contemplating writing a blog, here are my Top Ten tips from my past two weeks’ blogging experience.  Obviously, I need to do a lot more blogging to give advice to non-nubes.  But what I learned in my first two weeks is very fresh, so I want to pass it on to those of you in the midst of what can be a rather scary process! As my experience grows, I will be adding more suggestions.  If you’re a nube at this too, by all means send me your comments!

1)    Read others’ blogs to get a lay of the land. Blogging is a time suck!

2)    Set aside time to write at least two times a week. The week goes by quickly! Blogging is a labor of love. One of my friends with an award-winning blog takes her laptop on vacation to make sure she gets her new posts uploaded on time!

3)    Use a simple, free version of WordPress or Blogspot for your “beta site” (Silicon Valley jargon for “testing site”) to see if you like it. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice—lots of it! The upside to a free blogging site: less time to get accustomed to the templates and software.  The downside:  WordPress is sandwiched in between the blog title and “.com”.   My blog had the middle name “wordpress” (www.unhealedwound.wordpress.com) until I hosted my own website.

4)    When you graduate to wanting a blog without the word “wordpress” or “blogspot” or whatever blog hosting site you are on, then you have to go to the trouble of re-entering all the information onto your own hosted site.  I use www.godaddy.com because their customer service is outstanding.  This costs money: about three times as much for a two-year contract.  So, make sure you want to do this!

5)    On your own website, make sure you look at it frequently to see if the appearance and content are what you like.  Again, read more blogs by others.  See what you like and ask yourself why.

6)    Set your “comments” section to  “needs approval” first.  I was so excited when I got comments from people who were not my friends. However…

7)    Comments need to be screened! I received requests to be guest bloggers.  When I tried to respond by email with follow-up questions, my email bounced back—a bogus email address!  What’s up with that?!

8)    Some comments from strangers seem really nice, even complimentary.  Go to their URL address (if given) to check the commenter’s background.  I did. One was a porn site!

9)    For possible strategic alliances read blogs and links you may want to be associated with.  Be careful out there in cyberspace.

10)  Most of the blogging tips online are still too technical for me. For additional tips here is one website I found that’s down to earth and really helpful: www.toptenblogtips.com.