To submit or to live- must it be a choice?

Another thread from my novel in progress.  .

Love this writing thing!

 

It was all too much to consider and answer here, sitting on a blanket with Frederika.   Still, Oslo wasn’t that far from Hvitsten.  How could she make sure that if she took the leap, she would still have at least a few visits permitted her in order to see her family each year?  Like Fred had from Halvor, allowing her permission to take off now and then to see Nina.  The truth is she was afraid of losing herself to someone else, like Frederika had lost herself to Halvor.   She was afraid of putting herself on the shelf for someone else, of having to ask for permission for things.  It seemed odd as an adult that she would not have authority over her own life.  Her thoughts shifted to her Tante Liv whose marriage, she was told, had begun as the romance of the decade only to end up in an abusive power hungry struggle filled with misery.

 

 

As a young girl, Nina had witnessed Tante Liv and Oncle Bjarte’s strained marriage, the sharpness of tongue that Bjarte threw upon Liv when he was displeased with her.  She never got any story right.  He would correct her and interrupt her at every turn.  Nina watched as Liv lost her voice over the years and ended up rarely vocalizing any opinion.  The playfulness that she remembered of Liv as a young woman when Nina was just a little girl, had all but vanished.  In its place was a pale woman that mostly obeyed her husband’s every whim and wish.   She knew Liv was this way in order to keep the peace at home.  Liv detested conflict.  It made Nina sad to watch Liv transform from this vibrant young woman with the most amazing smile and laugh, into a silent soul in the background of their lives.   It was a rare moment to hear her laugh anymore or to see her eyes twinkle as they had when they played and rode the horses together when she was a young girl.  Bjarte and Liv never had children and Nina wondered if maybe this was a part of the displeasure and irritation that accompanied Oncle Bjarte everywhere he went.

 

 

She wondered what life might have been like if Liv had been blessed with a child or two.  At least she would have a vessel into which she could direct her love.  As it was, she knew that Liv primarily focused on raising the pigs and making a clean home for Bjarte.  Their house was always immaculate and she wasn’t sure whether this was driven by Bjarte’s stern demeanor and demands or if this had been a natural inclination for Liv, perhaps a way for her to simply push forward and make life bearable.  Bjarte walked around as if the world was against him and that his fate was to endure it rather than enjoy the many instances of beauty one finds when each dawn breaks.

 

 

Nina did not understand people who couldn’t see how amazing nature was and all that was within it.  One only had to stop moving, look around and listen.  Become aware of  one’s surroundings.   These experiences placed a struggle within Nina whenever she considered a life shared with another soul.  If she committed herself to someone else, would that someone drain her of her own soul and energy?

 

 

At her age, she should be thinking mostly of the excitement of romance and the thrill of love.   But unlike some of her contemporaries, she had an observant tendency and when she expressed those observations out loud, particularly at school, she would be chastised.   She kept most of it to herself but was keenly aware of the downfalls of being partnered with a mismatched suitor.  So she wanted to pace herself when it came to marriage and hoped that she would see signs of danger before it was too late for her.  Until she found someone who seemed to share in her passions, she knew deep down that a partnership with the wrong person would be a life sentence of loneliness.

 

 

 

 

Ginger Curls

The unforgiving wind whipped her grey toned skin as she lay bare under the chill of a February sky.  Her body tangled up in layers of seaweed. Her ginger curls had lost their spring, long soaked by the waves lapping up from the shore.  It could still be quite a while before someone happened upon her in this isolated bay in the middle of winter.  Perhaps a hardcore fisherman who ignored the harshness of the season.  This abandonment had been well planned to give plenty of time for the elements to do their thing.  There would be little left of her by the time the authorities became involved.

Who is she? How did she end up lying on the shores of the majestic Oslofjorden, lodged between a few hefty boulders and covered in seaweed. Wrong place at the wrong time? What was her involvement with “The Group”? Was she followed and then eliminated by a master plan? Did she know too much? Was she inappropriately inquisitive with the wrong people?

Anita generally asked too many questions. She needed to know every detail. Her discernment meter could be a bit off when it came to certain people. She trusted too much. Martin had been leery of her ability to follow orders when it came to discretion. He questioned Otto’s judgment in bringing her into The Group in the first place. During her training, Martin would call out instances of weaknesses in her approach to various assignments to the higher ups, only to find his opinions batted away. They liked her. More importantly, Otto liked her. They all wanted to believe in her. Martin worried about her safety and the safety of his comrades. Would she end up being their worst vulnerability? Could her personality and innocence result in harm to the team, or worse yet- a disastrous end to a vital assignment? Otto was unconvinced that she had been a mistake. He kept repeating over and over again that she could be the Ace up their sleeve, the honey to draw the bees. With her supple body, brilliant red curls and sultry ruby red smile, she could be useful in uncovering hidden plots through the plying of her charms to the enemy. It was risky, but he felt she could be that sweetheart that softened a Nazi soldier into giving away secrets. It had perhaps been a naive proposal.

At any rate, she had not received enough training and they had not allowed enough time to fully ensure that she had the full understanding and scope of her difficult assignments; that she had the right appreciation for the necessary precautions that she must take. They had needed more time to hone her instinct. They had likely sent her out into enemy lines way too early. But time was not something for which they had a surplus. Each day and each month deepened the hold the Nazis had on Norway. Letting time pass was not something Martin or any of the leaders of the Group wanted to nurture without some progress in thwarting the Nazi master plan. So they pushed her out of the nest early, and hoped she could fly. And she flew like the best of them for a time. What they had not counted on was that her heart would get tangled up in a romance with one of the Nazis. They had not fully considered that she was a feeling young woman with hungers and hopes for a future that included full fledged romance and belonging. And, poor sweet Anita had trusted the wrong man. While her parents had no idea where Anita ended up, The Group had a strong suspicion that her disappearance had something to do with Helmut. She had not returned from that last assignment, and that assignment had everything to do with Helmut. He had been the key to advancing their project, to gaining better insight into the next steps.

Was this her fate,then? Lying in a pool of seawater, her eyes staring up at the heavens as if asking for help a bit too late. Her face was void of any meaningful expression, her soft green eyes offering only a blank stare up at the sky, as if to say: “look there, a fluffy cloud”. The innocence of her death would break anyone’s heart, even the coldest enemy couldn’t take this scene in without knowing that on both sides, people – human beings, were casualties of this war. Regular citizens trying to make a difference, becoming involved in the layers of intelligence that in a normal healthy world, would never have been necessary. These civilians would have led simple lives with regular jobs and marriages and children. But in these years of occupation, people stepped up. Ordinary people. And in some cases, these ordinary people did not have the skills or insights to properly navigate the traitorous waters of war.

As Anita lay in this agitated pool of seawater, one could not see any trace of a final fear or any strain in her soft face. There was no detection of tragedy to mark her final moments of life. It was as if her death had been a soft and simple comma in a long string of hopeful words. There was no exclamation point to be found here. This was a fade to black moment on an otherwise beautiful sun drenched horizon which invited the waters into a soothing embrace of her body, leaving behind dark green moist ribbons of seaweed to cover her up from peering eyes.

 

No one in her personal circle missed her because she had been absent for so long. It had been years since her parents and sister had seen her. Thinking back, her family might say she had been gone almost since the moment that those u-boats headed up the Oslofjorden in the Spring of 1939. But it wasn’t quite that long ago. It was actually just over a year into the conflict and occupation that Anita had found her way into a friendship with Otto, and it had made all the difference in her world. Her parents had never met Otto, but they knew of him. Anita had mentioned Otto to them early on in her friendship with him, but then just as suddenly, she stopped talking of him. Her parents did not know this, but her silence came along once she had been officially recruited into The Group. When her parents would ask about him, she would offer vague responses and then change the subject. In fact, on most topics, her usual bubbly and energetic responses were lacking. She had become more and more secretive. She had changed.

 

When she disappeared on that day in late August of 1940, they were not that surprised. They had a feeling she had gotten involved in something to do with the underground, but they were not sure of the exact details. They missed their sweet Anita. She was one of those people that commanded an audience. She always entered a room with a full voice and lifted people out of the doldrums. She was a mood booster. She enjoyed people and they enjoyed her. Her absence was definitely felt. The world was not the same without her. As with most people, Anita’s mother hated the war, but she despised it all the more because it had taken Anita from her.

NaNoWriMo 2015- the adventure begins!

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the written word. My bookshelves carry dozens of books on how to write, what to write, when to write and reasons why I should write, along with piles of magazines to motivate me to write. I have had a user ID for NaNoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month)  since 2012, and I believe back then, when I signed up, I had full intentions of carrying out my first full blown writing challenge. But something got in the way.. and looking back, I am not even sure what the culprit might have been. It could have been work, other family commitments or simply my lack of passion and discipline. And, I have not looked at the site since.  A couple of days ago, I picked up yet another Writer’s Digest magazine volume, this one a special edition “Yearbook Issue” presenting the Writer’s Workbook. Initially, I leafed through it and then put it back on the shelf at the bookstore. In its place, I picked up a Publisher’s Weekly and another magazine that claimed its focus was the novel. I brought these back to my spot in the cafe inside the bookstore to enjoy a latte and some glances through these periodicals, a possible help in inching me along to the next stage. The one magazine on novel writing had this really large font and every article had the same layout. It felt as if this was a self-publish magazine. The content blurred through my vision, for some reason, absolutely nothing about it captured me. The Publisher’s Weekly was completely focused on children’s literature; almost every page had cartoon images of children playing, dogs frolicking, monkey’s in trees, dogs barking, frogs jumping. I push this edition aside. I return the magazines to the shelf and find myself picking up the Writer’s Digest issue once again. Opening to the index, I spot the first offering has to do with writing a novel in a month. Sounds familiar, could this be about NaNoWriMo? I flip to the page indicated and sure enough, a section completely dedicated to throwing oneself into the challenge. Steps, inspirations… and I realize, this is the perfect timing. It’s mid-October, I still have time to figure this out before the challenge begins! Plotting, planning, brain storming- these are steps I must do before the actual day. I am a planner. Of course there are those who skip this step and according to NaNoWriMo, these folks are called pantsers (aka: people who wing it).
The NaNoWriMo site has come a really long way since I last set eyes on it. I had to send myself a password reset since it had been so long, and as I finally accessed the site I was blown away. Amazing amounts of energy went into creating that site and they must have quite the crew behind it. There are some workbooks that one can download that they have created for the purpose of bringing the concept to school children of all ages. The site invites me to take a look and download one of the workbooks. I choose the high school one and save it to my iPhone and send it to myself so that I can access it later on my iPad. The document is 93 pages long and contains everything one needs for the basics to novel writing, an essential novel writing 101. And it’s awesome because while I have been writing for years, the truth is I have not really written anything of substance. I love writing but have never had any focus on plot, characters, purpose, or point. It’s just a lot of journal drivel that I enjoy for the purpose of allowing my thoughts and feelings to have a place where they can land. It’s back to that whole discussion about having no one really to rely on for discussion. I do not have a close friend in my life to whom I can share everything anytime I need to – nor whom I offer the same in return. I do have friends – but they are the occasional once a month encounters or long distance support and texts. I don’t have a best bud that I can go to for my personal shares and needs. I wish I did have one of those but that just has not been my fate – to date. Anyhow, so this writing thing, the journaling, has been a way for me to stream my thoughts and line them up so that I can look at them, and make sense of things. It’s been useful. These moments have been my friendship with myself. I actually enjoy my own company and writing and readng what I write, has been an interesting form of dialogue.
What if? What if I could be a writer in the more traditional sense? What if I could write and create something worth publication? Something others wanted to read and once they read it, they wanted more? How do I go about making that happen? And, more importantly, what story do I have to tell? What characters can I develop to help unfold a tale that is worth telling?
I am excited because even though I don’t have the answers to those questions right now, I feel certain that I will in time. Write what you know. That’s a piece of advice I have read in so many of my magazines and books. There are so many threads I can go back to from my journaling days to mine a story line .. a character, a feeling or an opinion. Good story needs conflict and resolution. Well, I have plenty of that in the store room. No need to go out and find those ingredients. I just have to figure out how I take real life experiences and shake them up into a fictitious piece that will make sense and flow and keep the reader’s attention. Back to the workbook: there are great exercises in there. Not to mention all those books I have on writing. Everything from genre, to character, dialogue and pace. Maybe… just maybe, this is finally my year to move myself up a rung from dreamer to doer.
In less than a week, I leave on an Western Caribbean Cruise journey – a work trip.  This is a chance for me to experience a MegaShip that holds 5400 passengers.  My good friend from very far away is flying in to the port city to join me. I love this person like a sister. I am so grateful for her and her personality and her values. She and I will do well on this trip because of our mutual in advance understanding of what will make this cruise a great cruise for each of us. She has liberty to hang out at the pool for hours at a time without worrying about me. And, I will be spending time on the iPad typing away. She knows I am not a pool or beach person and she’s ok with that. And we are both OK with doing our own thing during the day (on some days) and then coming back together to enjoy the evenings. No pressure to have to bend to each other’s agenda. Yay. I am not even bringing a bathing suit because I hate them, hate wearing them, and uncomfortable all the way around in this arena. I have declared it, and claimed it and will be spending my time doing those things I love most: writing and knitting. During several evenings, we have scheduled shows that are included in the cost of our cruise- can’t wait to see the production: Cats. We have a superior balcony cabin which means a large balcony. I can imagine myself hanging out there with tea and books and iPad or yarn & sticks. Thoroughly kicking back to my own version of complete and thorough bliss.  Throw in complete awareness of the cruise experience for future clients… the “work” part of the trip.    Write down those impressions to record on my work place blog when I return, to help colleagues learn from my experiences as well.  I can hardly believe that I have this blocked week for this purpose and I am getting truly excited about it. I had considered bringing my actual laptop but it is so heavy and so I am hoping that my iPad holds out and stores all my writing without problems; this is one of the original iPads that came out so long ago and it’s still chugging along but at times, it does not cooperate so I need to make sure to send all writings to myself by email to ensure that I have a copy of everything. I will bring several notebooks and really good pens in case I have to resort to the handwritten method.

This morning, on one of the local public TV stations, there was an interview with a creative writing professor from the U of M. She had just published a book that was written from the basis of letters of recommendations. I did not catch her name but the interviewer, Kathy Wurzer, commended her for only writing by hand. The professor responded that this was the only way she could write. That, while she has a computer, the computer is like this eye watching her, waiting to criticize her. All that I could think of in that moment was that my writing flows so much better when I type. Partly because my hand seems to cramp because my hand can’t keep up with the speed of my mind. I end up with these very hard to understand written pages that are chicken scratch at best. What also struck me about this professor is that her personality seemed so dry and dead pan- perhaps she was nervous. The interviewers were both so delighted with her product, praising her writing as one that would definitely garner her more requests from publishers for new novels. This delighted the professor of course and for a moment, she brightened with her face softening, a smile displaying as she agreed this would be lovely if it were to happen. It was marvelous that this morning, amongst the political news of the day, that the show had featured a writer since on this day in particular, I am preparing to meet with a friend at a local coffee shop to have our monthly “writer’s meeting.”   When I enter the world of writing, my awareness of life and people and ideas is heightened. I feel that there are signs all around me that I am doing the right thing. That I am pursuing my passion and moving forward with the plan. That I am following my bliss. That I am doing what I was meant to be doing on this planet during my lifetime. And, rather than worry about wasted time or allowing my inner critic to take over to suggest I can’t do it, or that I don’t have it in me, I push forward and reach for my inner victorious self and urge myself to give it a shot. I have nothing to lose… and everthing to gain.
NaNoWriMo suggests 1667 words a day. Today, I have managed to type around 1950. These were merely journal threads on writing and the idea of diving into the 30 day challenge. Still, what I know is that I don’t have a problem these days with getting words onto the page. My focus right now will need to be unearthing a viable direction. The plan. Plotting my course and providing myself with a compass for the challenge. What is my final destination? I have read somewhere that authors at times will write the ending first.. so that they know where they are headed… then, they plot their way backwards in time to create the moment that lead up to that ending- that might work for me. One thing I know from reading other NaNoWriMo participants encouragements- if this is the first challenge, just jump in – don’t worry about it, see what happens. Don’t create a huge expectation, just do it. And, that sounds marvelous to me! I will dive in and see where the journey takes me- how very exciting. The NaNoWriMo prep counselors suggest creating the name of my novel … I am not there yet. But, it’s October 18th …and exactly 14 days from now- the challenge begins. I have two weeks to prep- so grateful for that valuable time.