Cruelty to Characters (on writing)

I woke up this morning, after a night of violent dreams, with a new idea for the short story I've been working on, "Asleep, Awake," excerpts of which appear below. It involves throwing a cruel little curveball to the main character, who is also the narrator. As if she doesn't already have enough to deal with. I want to protect her. But you can't always do that and also have a good story. I needed something to move the action forward and I think this is it. So I'll be working on that today.

"Writing can be lonely, and you wonder if anyone besides you even cares about the
end result."

I'm also working on a poem about violent dreams. Lately I've been dreaming about slashing throats and other unspeakable acts. Also witnessing violent acts, failing to prevent suicide, and being chased by knife-wielding maniacs. I'm a very peaceful person in my waking life. So I wonder what prompts that. That's what I want to explore in the new poem. This site claims dreaming about murder is a warning that you must keep in control of your temper and emotions at all times and not get enraged to the point of murderous intent. This one says dreams with violent themes suggest that the dreamer has unconscious negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, and anger. I'm not sure, though. Maybe writing about it will help me figure it out.

An interesting aside: The other night I dreamed that I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. And it worked. I didn't feel the pinch, so I knew that I was dreaming. Go figure.

Hey, I got a really nice comment on my poem "Analogy." It is so great to get some positive feedback from someone who is not related to you. Writing can be lonely, and you wonder if anyone besides you even cares about the end result. Which is OK--I write for myself first. But writing also needs an audience. I need an audience. Hence, this blog. And my other blog. So feel free to leave a comment, if the mood strikes you, by clicking on the "comments" link below any post.


On revision (quote)

"Revision is like wrestling with a demon, for almost anyone can write; but only writers know how to rewrite. It is this ability alone that turns the amateur into a professional."

-- William Knott

Ranting and Writing

A quick note: My other Web log more closely resembles the Harvard Law School definition of a blog. If you're not interested in writing, or don't want to slog through the long posts on "Gienna Writes," you can go to "Gienna Rants" instead.

The Bitten Word (poem)

Your bitter words
So citrus pithy

Like biting into
Lemon skins

Costume Jewelry (digital photo)

Gienna Writes (on writing)

Gienna Writes

It is early Sunday morning. I have posted two pictures (three if you count my profile pic), a poem, and excerpts from a short story I've been writing for about 30 years. OK, an exaggeration. But only a slight one.

A note on the poem Analogy: I had a really hard time with the narration and point of view. I know it is confusing because of the pronouns. But it didn't work in first or third person. I never write in second person. This is not the 1980s and I'm no Jay McInerney. But in this case it seemed right. If anyone has a suggestion as to how to ease the readability, or if that is even necessary, I'm open to it.

I don't usually write poetry. And when I do, I don't care so much if it is good or it is bad, or if it doesn't follow the "rules." My poems are very personal -- a way to get some emotion or idea out onto the page quickly. Often, they stem from ideas that are too limited for a short story.

"I never write in second person.
This is not the 1980s
and I'm no Jay McInerney."

A note on the excerpts from the short story, Asleep, Awake: I chose these sections because there's something about them that I like. The language, the mood, the images. But the story itself, although it is about loss and grief, is not as sad as these excerpts suggest. There's a lot more to it. It doesn't exactly have a happy ending. But there is a resolution to the conflict between the girl and her mother. I'm not posting the whole thing because I plan to send it out when it is done. I just hope it doesn't take me another 30 years.

OK, and now the photos. I'm currently shooting digital, although in the past I have used vintage Nikons/Nikkormats. I like the early F series. I like the heft of them. The fact that you have to think about the technical side while shooting. But I find the digital freeing. I didn't think I would like the size, but it turns out not to be a factor. I thought I would miss film, but of course with a decent-sized memory card I can shoot something 100 different ways if I want to, and I'm not "wasting" anything but time. And getting to see the results right away is great. Not to mention being able to share them quickly and easily.

I like doing self-portraits that are distorted or partially hidden. Similarly, I like to do closeups or details of ordinary objects, such as the piece of vintage costume jewelry, or a piece of pottery. If you look carefully, you can see the extraordinary in the ordinary and find flaws in beauty. But is that real? I'll let you decide.

So welcome to the first installment of my blog, be you friend or stranger. I plan to post photographs, short stories, poems, and personal essays throughout the week and then comment on the writing process and the writing life once a week. Feel free to add your two cents. I'm inured to criticism, having worked at newspapers with some really mean copy editors for many years. Not all of them, mind you. Most were really nice, and taught me more about writing than I ever learned in school at any grade level.

So far, one person has commented on my posts. In Spanish. It sounds lovely, though. To comment, simply click on the word "comments" under the entry. If there are no comments, you can add one. If there are one or more comments you can read the previous comments and add your own.


ANALOGY (poem)

He says, It is like
You two are in a pool
And the water is emotion.

You (he nods at you)
Are up to your neck,
Saying please come in.

You (he nods at him)
Are outside the pool,
Saying please get out.

After, you have coffee,
And share a cookie.
And agree you liked the analogy.

And he says,
I like how he said
You (he nods at you)
Have gone off the deep end.

ASLEEP, AWAKE (exerpts from a short story)

Asleep in my bed, dreaming that the world is on fire. Awake in the dark, sticky with fear and the thick summer air, taste of burnt metal in my mouth. The sound of adult voices downstairs, urgent and hushed, drawing me from my dream world.

Perched atop the stairs on the second floor landing, looking down through the banister posts at my mother and my uncle Victor in the hall below.

My mother’s voice, questioning, uncertain: “Should I wake her?”

“No,” he says. “Just go.”

I want to say something, want to speak out. I’m here, I’m awake. But I can not find my voice.

My mother slips away without saying goodbye.


I choose a kelly green dress, with pink flower buds woven into the smocked top, to wear to my grandfather’s funeral. It is one of my favorite dresses.

At the end of the day, I roll it up in a ball and shove it way in the darkest part of my closet. I will never wear that dress again.


I stand outside my mother’s bedroom door. I listen to her soft sobbing. The floorboards creak beneath my feet, loud enough for her to hear them. I imagine her shades shut against the bright summer sun. My mother lying alone in her big bed. I do not call to her. She does not call for me.