Thursday, January 30, 2014

The charm of short stories

Once upon a time, I used to read a lot of short stories. At the beginning, it helped me to improve my language skills in English, Spanish and French. The more I was reading the more charmed I was by the strength of small stories. The power of words to recreate worlds in only a number of words was immense and I was always dreaming about me writing such stories. But I wasn't successful and I always preferred to get involved in long term, big wording projects. 
For almost 10 years, I focused mostly on novels, and non-fiction books and abandoned the reading of small stories about perfect worlds. I realized that I do not have too much time and I rather prefer to keep myself busy with big lengthy stories. As I have a vivid imagination and I prefer to create long narratives and stories, I did not paid too much attention to improving my skills for a better management of words and a deep knowledge of the special short stories techniques.
A couple of days ago, I discovered how wrong I was. True is that compared to a big novel project - that I haven't started yet to write either - the short stories are more demanding but equally rewarding. You may need more time and a lot of focus, but it is such a beautiful success to recreate so many words. 
Right now, I think it might be possible that one day, I will be able to have my own collection of short stories ready, but till then, I might need to return to the world of reading more short stories. I feel that many of my travel stories can fit very well this format and it can be an easy start as I live for the stories of my journeys and their memories. Before starting it, I need to learn more and be more focused. A mantra that I keep repeating for so many blog posts already.
For someone very active, with many interests and a genetic distributive attention, it is not always easy. I write fast, I read fast and I need a lot of interests in order to keep focused. Otherwise, once the vital energy is lost, I get lost myself too. 
The conclusion of the day is that the short stories are back into my world and this time, I promise to be more faithful. Another big lesson is that all our treasures we gathered during the life journey should be kept somehow and used at the proper moment. This time, I don't want to forget once again the beautiful crafts and art of polishing words. Maybe soon, I will start a new writing project: one story a week, but till then, there are so many priorities waiting for me. This blog post is a testimony that I am interested in bringing more to my writing adventure. 

Book Review: Cut me Loose, by Leah Vincent

Oh, I had so many second thoughts telling me NOT to read this book, from a previous mediocre experience with a memoir written by someone in a similar situation to the precaution of not hurrying up to read a book everyone is excessively talking about in the media. But one single second was enough to start reading it and to continue doing so till the last page.
And what a good decision to spend some late hours in the night it was. The book is beautifully written, with open heart and honesty. An emotional and sensitive person, Leah is looking for her own sense of self. Being one of the 11 children of a Yeshivish family she looks for affection, attention and sense in a world of rules and 'fabricated mask superimposed'. On a side note, I saw recently some mentions regarding the 'Yeshivish sect', which is a misunderstanding. Maybe people are too much used with the exotic Satmer stories and cannot go out of this mind frame.

Honest reporting

She doesn't want revenge or to expose people, and is delicate enough to alter details about her family. She is writing about herself, a young Jewish girl that wants to find her own way. It is not easy to continue living within the limits of your small world nowadays without having even a limited contact with the big world and through those interactions arise the tension and the need of sense and stronger identity. Sometimes, you return to your world as long as you can understand or you are explained. If not, the temptation is to keep going and break the chains of family and obedience.
The first reason of conflict is her natural desire to go to college. But she needs to get married and take care of the family and with a good yichus - her father a rabbi and her mother a descendant of the Vilna Gaon, she had a fair amount of chances to get a good match. 
I'd heard myself more than once that a girl should not be so 'klug' if is looking to marry well. And that Torah learning is only for men. But times changed and her family belongs to the mind set of the second WWII generation trying to cope with more observance and limitation from the overall world. The main line against is: College boys and girls mixed and spent their time studying wasteful and immoral ideas'.
Women, including from good yeshivish and hasidic background are learning as much as men and sometimes even earning more than them. There are some limits of professional achievements and the success doesn't go smoothly. 

Too late

'If they would have negotiated with me, I would have been satisfied. Perhaps I never would have left my faith', she says. This long relationship with loneliness that Leah's choices will bring is the result of the lack of compromise. She wanted to be saved from her rebellion, but with love and affection and a little bit of direction. She did not receive it because the parents were either too busy or simply unable to understand what she was looking for. And why. Her father accused her often she is looking for attention, but it is nothing wrong with it. Wrong was her perfect loneliness: without friends, relatives to take care of her and financial support, she is left with her own choices and she is struggling looking for affection, herself and a new sense in life. 
Despite the nightmare of being raped and neglected and abused, and being hunted by suicidal tendencies she made it to Harvard. The tone of her writing is sincere, far from being pathetic and sweetly ironic: 'A Yeshivish girl who could fall for a Rastafarian drug dealer should be bold enough to go to college'. Once accepted to Harvard, she was finally able to tell to herself: 'nobody can tell me I am worthless'. Of course one can live well without Harvard but for her, it was the final societal confirmation that she is good, and smart and can have her own life. Her bet was successful, but she is among the lucky gifted few who did it. 

Loneliness

And again, there is the loneliness one can hardly cope with, religious or not. Most part of the time she was left alone, with her choices and desperation and lack of alternatives because beyond her capacity of imagination. She doesn't know the language and is unable to find friends. She take a small sign of attention a manifestation of love. And when the 'love' is over, she is again left alone.
'The relief I found in cutting my skin helped me cope as I lived my split life of religion and college, modesty and loneliness, hope and memory'. She never keeps learning though and think back about her experiences, she is making new friends and succeed to marry and have a child. Plus, she finished Harvard and creates good writing. There are not bad children, only inexperienced parents and being able to recognize the mistakes and look for permanent improvement is part of the Yiddishkeit. Those who decided to went frei are not worse than the rest, but individuals looking as much as the rest of us for sense and sensibility. Loneliness is horrible and no one has the right to condemn someone to went through it, as Leah did. Helping when needed is a huge responsibility and burden and no one should be left alone.
I strongly recommend the book to anyone, regardless of the degree of observance; there is a lesson to be learned from everything and this honest story has a lot to teach us all. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

My writing plans

As usual, the events of my life went far ahead of me and I was hardly able to find some time and more inspiration to update this blog. After a couple of unexpected and not always pleasantly surprises into my life that rapidly challenged the last two months of 2013, I started the 2014 - a symbolic event that seems to be more than one month ago - with a lot of expectations and promises to myself. 
Nothing new, as I try to be as organized as possible, and improving my time management achievements is one of my favourite pastimes. However, my latest issue was that I haven't done too many of the things I always wanted to do because not always fast enough to do all those things NOW. For more than one month, I imposed myself a very strict time diet: if I want to do something, I don't wait more than one second before effectively doing it. I am aware that frustrations are not exactly the feelings I want to get used with and I am very careful to avoid unpleasant situations for my brain.
One of the main serious activities I carefully done in the last weeks was not only to intensively read books but to start leaving reviews and taking notes for more posts on the blog. Generally, at the beginning of the year, mostly when the weather is quite bad in my corner of Berlin, I do this but once the spring arrives, I better have my reading outdoors and switch to a new book without bothering to write about. This time will be different, and things are already changing. Today, for instance, I finished reading two small children books - more about that in a post scheduled for the next week - reviewed both on Amazon.com and Goodreads. 
The last year was very important as I did a lot of style improvement, but things should be further developed and I really need to write as much as possible. Being a reviewer will not only helps me in this direction, but can be a good guidance for my own writing as well.
As for the writing, I might say that I did modestly well the last year, with two e-books published on Kindle, and a lot of blog posts and articles. On the other hand, there is not the pace I am expecting from me, and although I write quite fast, I don't do it constantly hence the delay with at least 3 non-fiction book projects that I would love to finish the first half of the year. 
My fiction projects are still waiting to get a certain shape, but the proper writing will be possible only when I will be able to set up for myself a certain portion of words that should be ready daily, regardless of my travel plans or other occurrences. 
For the moment, I am trying to be as optimist as possible, thinking courageously about finishing a very important non-fiction book till the end of the month, while updating my blogs. Hope to keep the same happy smile on my face in more than 12 months from now.
Happy writing everyone!