Monday, July 11, 2011

You can't miss it

You are sitting in Cafe Luna at breakfast, minding your own business, which is to say eavesdropping on interesting conversations until they stop being interesting, when a writer friend comes in, sees you, then switches his coffee order from to-go, thinking to drink fast here.  You both grow animated about things you have recently read, your conversation being drawn inexorably to the subject of point-of-view.  Your strongest point of agreement centers on the importance of the author staying out.

Writer friend finishes her coffee, leaves.  It is now time to check out news and politics on your Android cell phone, which you are in the act of doing when you are approached by a by no means unattractive lady, possibly in her forties or early fifties, with a hint about her of New Age that you are trying to pinpoint in order to be able to use her in a story, suggesting her look of New Age without--author keep out--saying she looks New Age.  She introduces herself, complements you on your introduction of the novelist/short story writer Simon Van Booy at the recent Santa Barbara Writers' Conference, then gets down to the business at hand.

She is, it seems, the current chairperson/moderator of a writing group.  The job is passed around, she explains, to keep things democratic, which sounds more or less all right until it develops that no one in the group has any experience in actual editorial work, much less is published (with the exception of one in the group, who has "published a few book reviews on Amazon").  Her request of you has you, for once, momentarily speechless.  You are a serious bombast; for you to be rendered speechless is an accomplishment.  The lady is, as you noted, attractive and kindly.  "I was wondering,"  she'd asked, "if you'd be kind enough to share one or two of your writing prompts for our writing group."

You ask her what she means by "writing prompts."

"You know," she assures you,"things you use to get started."

When you explain that you use characters, events, and situations, and that you use those not to get started but to continue, she regards you with the blank fear of having heard a foreign language in a foreign country.  "Don't you have some, you know, set of triggers?  Some words, some--some catalysts?"

"Ah,"  you say, thinking you now see the light.  "You mean feelings.  Emotions."

From the way she backs up a step or two, then frowns, you realize you could just as well have said "French kiss," or perhaps even "foreplay" to have achieved her response.  Not that either of these terms are remotely offensive things to say to a stranger, nor do you mean to imply you thought her prudish, rather the meeting before your eyes of two dissimilar responses to a process.

Your visitor did not remain at your corner table much beyond that exchange.  She thanked you for your time, wished you well.  You wished her well, all the while wishing she'd not seemed to bewildered.
She had in metaphor asked you directions to get from Summerland to Carpinteria, a relatively short distance; you'd replied with directions to get from thought to emotion, a distance it has taken you years to achieve.

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