Sunday, February 2, 2014

MY WRITING PROCESS

The author Salvatore Buttaci (http://salbuttaci.blogspot.com), author of Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, invited me to participate in this blog hop tour and answer four questions about my writing process.

ALL ABOUT MY WRITING PROCESS

1) What am I working on?
    
Much as I would like my mind to joggle comfortably with a number of projects, this has never worked for me. It's one book at a time, and while it's true that other embryos pull at my sleeve for attention as I focus on the book I'm writing, the most they get is a brief note in an ad hoc folder.

I am finishing a novel titled Men in My Mirror, my most difficult challenge so far. Why? Because although I've written and published five non-fiction books in English, this is my first attempt at fiction in my second language - my mother tongue is Spanish. The other obstacle to overcome is that I've chosen to write in the first person, a point of view that can considerably narrow the narrative scope unless handled with the utmost care. This novel is a fake memoir portraying the men in the life of a woman intent on breaking all boundaries, and will be published by Jorge Pinto Books, New York, NY, like all my previous production since 2005.


2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I refuse to be confined to a genre. To start with, I write novels, self-help, working biographies, and companions to literature. My novels have been called "psychological thrillers", a label that never crossed my mind as I was shaping them.

What I can say in all honesty is that I don't follow recipes and that I am all for the economy of language and for polysemy. My prose is concise, terse, and incisive at times. Aware of the so-called "rules", I break them to enhance meaning and pathos in my fiction. My aim is to pierce through the reader's consciousness and set him thinking beyond the printed word. As long as something changes in the reader's view of the world after finishing any of my books, the differences between my work and that of others matter little. 


3) Why do I write what I do? 

I do not write fiction for the same reasons as I write non-fiction.
My fiction feeds on my life experiences, background, education, observation of others, the humus of my readings and thousands of what-ifs that inhabit me. I am a story-teller, weaving true facts and imaginary developments to shock dormant minds out of their lethargy, or to lure clever readers away from their comfort zone. 

My novels deal with unsavory aspects of human nature; those that many people would rather ignore. I've been often told that the outcome proves healing. It's certainly not my intention, yet this is how the level of enunciation and the level of the enunciated interact. After all, a book is what the reader makes of it, whether or not the author agrees :)

I write non-fiction with the clear purpose of aiding comprehension of subjects that need expert guidance. The best example of this is my guide to Joyce's Ulysses for Spanish-speaking readers. The difference between mine and all others written before is that those others seem to complicate the issue rather than simplify it. Understandably, scholars wish to flaunt their erudition and shine in their own light, but if readers felt discouraged by Joyce before seeking this manner of explanation, they usually end up totally defeated by further enigmatic additions to a baffling text.


4) How does my writing process work?

My fiction may be triggered by practically anything, but only an obsessive idea, one that haunts me day and night, finds its way into realization. 

I construct the whole novel in my mind, give the characters a full biography recorded in files, and sit down to write when the last brick has been put in place. Much of the material does not go into the novel, and much changes as scene follows scene, for the wording cannot mime the thinking and demands a different type of cohesion. However, I find that a solid structure prior to writing prevents incongruity and indecisiveness. 
Other writers get inspired as they type away. I'm afraid inspiration -or the Muse, if you will- does not befriend me.
It goes without saying that all my books go through a number of drafts before I'm satisfied with the result. In order to evaluate each draft and do preliminary editing, I print. For some reason, the work reads clearer on paper. 

My non-fiction takes lots of research and fact-checking, but basically adjusts to the same process. 

A few trusted colleagues read my work as it is in progress and offer valuable comments and suggestions. Writing is indeed a solitary process but, contrary to what many may think, the community of writers is an example of solidarity, so this is as good a place as any to thank them all, beginning by Sal Buttaci, who gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts. 

***

Marta Merajver-Kurlat's complete works can be found on her Amazon Author Page http://www.amazon.com/Marta-Merajver-Kurlat/e/B009TC8C5A
Reviews and interviews on her official website http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/
Announcements about her contributions to other blogs and sites on https://www.facebook.com/martamerajverkurlat

***

I am inviting the following three authors to join our Blog Hop Tour next week:

Joyce (J. F.) Elferdink was born in a small, conservative community but moved to various parts of Michigan (including Detroit), to other states, and to Kazakhstan (as a Peace Corps volunteer) where she learned to look at the world and her purpose in it from a much broader perspective.
She is currently semi-retired and back in her hometown where she teaches Communications at a local university. Her first novel, completed in August of 2012, was a response to a loss that made her ask some deep questions. A sequel will be published later this year.
You can find more about Joyce’s viewpoints and writing style at her blog: http:/harmlessjoyce.wordpress.com 
Her novel, a mystical journey that will make the protagonist capable of the sacrifice love asks of him, is available through amazon.com. Its book trailer can be viewed on her author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Joyce-Elferdink/e/B008ZTCRUY/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Elaine Cougler has written two books of family stories, a cookbook, her children’s book, Where Is Bear?, and The Loyalist’s Wife, her historical novel, published last June. Her lifelong love of reading historical fiction has led her down this path and she is currently writing the sequel, The Loyalist’s Luck, which will be published later this year, with The Loyalist Legacy to follow. On Becoming a Wordsmith is Elaine’s writing blog where she blogs about the journey to publication and beyond, interviews authors, gathers helpful lists and hints to do with writing, and shares the writing road she loves to travel.


Bryan Murphy is a man of Kent who lives in Italy. Since retiring from his most recent job, as a translator within the United Nations system, he has concentrated on his own words, publishing many poems and several e-books. "Houlihan's Wake" is Number 1 in Goodreads' "Books Set in Mexico" Listopia. Bryan is currently working on a novel set in Portugal in the 1970s. He welcomes visitors at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu . You can find his books here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts . His blog is here: http://bit.ly/1cq1yus .



58 comments:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this. I'm curious to find out what Men in My Mirror is all about. It sounds very interesting.

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    1. Dear Kat, so glad you enjoyed it! Your opinion always matters to me. God willing, Men in My Mirror will come out in a couple of months. Thank you!

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  2. Such a wonderful review! Mental formulation of plot is my process, too. Men in My Mirror sounds intriguing.

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    1. Cynthia, your own writing is superb. I'm delighted to share the process with such an author as you. Men in... will surely be a test to pass... or fail :)

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  3. Hi,
    As I sit at my desk and your article on why you write, I had a smile on my face, because I can identify with so much of what you have said. I find it encouraging that you don't narrow yourself down to a genre. I don't either. Some how genre writing reminds me of being locked in, and I want my writing to bring freedom not only to the reader but to myself also. Your writing releases freedom.

    You have mentioned another point that I find extremely important, and that is structuring your manuscript before you write it. In fact, structuring your book, depending on how you want to write it, will give you the freedom to let your characters talk to you as you write out your first draft. I know many beginning writers don't want to hear anything about structuring or outlining your novel, but that is one of the best tools that we as authors have.

    Finally, having read the majority of your books, I see two or three personalities reflected through what you write. Your non-fiction books show your intellect in a non-possessive helping role. You reach out with soft hands to try and massage the soul of the reader, letting him or her know that they are okay.

    Your fiction displays your intellect also, but in a totally different way. As you have said in your reasons for writing above, you want to shake the reality of the reader and get him or her to look at the world differently. You did that wonderfully in Just Tossed The Ashes.

    All the best my dear with your new book. May it be a bestseller for you are in my eyes an author who has something to say and knows how to say it well.

    Shalom,
    Patti

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    1. Dearest Patti, the most wonderful thing about ALL your comments is that you enrich the original content through your analysis. Thank you for that!
      Also, it's most encouraging that we share views about our craft. I very much respect the opinion of a learned colleague that will not let our personal relationship get in the way of her professional evaluation.
      Lastly, that you have read my books and reviewed a couple of them, I think, is a privilege. You see far into my intent, and I trust you implicitly.
      Thank you for your good wishes about my new book. It will need as many as it can get :)

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  4. We are true sisters of the soul, Marta. We have the same writing process. I too, wish I could just go with a "Muse" and lose myself in the flow of the story, but alas, I also formulate the entire story in my head before putting pen to paper.
    I also write (long hand) and then transpose to the computer...redundant, I know, but seeing the written word is easier for me to formulate and improve upon. Plus, I find scratching through a word much easier than highlighting and deleting.

    As always, I'm in awe of your directness and the process by which you share your gift...and it is truly, a gift!

    Bravo, my sister...

    Taylor~

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    1. My dear Taylor, there's nothing redundant about using the computer as a second step in the writing. The reason why I don't write in longhand first is a little problem with my middle finger that cannot hold a pen long enough. I used to do that too in my youth before going to the typewriter (yes, those were the days).
      Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your process here and for your kind words to me, your sister of the soul.

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  5. "My aim is to pierce through the reader's consciousness and set him thinking beyond the printed word." As good a description of the magic and ambition woven into being a writer as you are ever likely to read - all power to you, Marta and we wait a little impatiently now for what 'Men in My Mirror' has to offer us... With Best Wishes Scott www.scotthastie.com

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    1. Dear Scott, the sentence you quote is what your poetry achieves. That's what I feel when I read you.
      "Men in My Mirror" will come out in a few months. It offers a new me, for the language leads me in a totally different direction. The truth is, I'm both thrilled and terrified :)

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  6. Hi Marta!
    Thank you for another slice of the life that is Marta Merajver! And thank you, also, for inviting me to follow in this lovely blog hop.
    All best
    Elaine

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    1. Elaine, I loved the idea of "slice"! You really do read me -I mean the real me, not my books. It's my pleasure to have you join us. You have much to say, and I dare say we're all eager to listen.

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  7. Dear Marta, I look forward to "Men in My Mirror". Keep on "shock[ing] dormant minds out of their lethargy, or lur[ing] clever readers away from their comfort zone"! I still vividly recall those images evoked by 'Just Toss the Ashes', wondering how a woman could find consolation in knowing that she doesn't want to live - and believing it, to my dismay.

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    1. Dear Pim, it's coming. I promise the protagonist of the new book does want to live, but... there's always a but with me. Anyway, no suicides in Men. That should be a step towards a slightly more optimistic view :)

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    3. You don't mean to say that males put an end to themselves for sunnier reasons, dear Marta? :) Anyway, the 'but' is intriguing rather than off-putting. I never expect novels to flood me with sunny views, let alone a vintage novel written by M. Merajver...
      Could this 'but' have anything to do with the transgression of boundaries?

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    4. Although your reference to men's suicide is meant to be a joke (am I right?), let me take in earnest and say that very sensitive, highly-strung men take their own lives out of existential anguish, while the other kind, the machos, tend to do so when cornered by financial scrapes they don't know how to solve. The only different case I knew of a macho suicide was that of a bigamist whose two wives learnt about each other and tried to force him to opt for one of them. Unable to choose, the guy shot himself.
      No; the "but" has to do with the way the character is wired :)

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    5. I meant "let me take it in earnest"

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  8. No matter what Marta is writing about, she never ceases to amaze me with her eloquence, wisdom, and brilliance. Reading her words is always a pure joy.

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    1. Linnea, I'm humbled. I can say the same about your poems. When it seems you've reached the summit of beauty, a new one comes to stand above the previous one. I'm blessed in having such traveling companions.

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  9. Hi Marta,
    Thanks for sharing this process. That was quite interesting. I spread word for you on several Social Platforms.
    All the Best
    Raani

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    1. Raani, thank you for reading this, for spreading the word, and for always being there for me. xo

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  10. I agree with Marta on a great many things, but for my response to this blog entry I will agree with her comments on genre. When exceptional authors like Marta write what comes from the heart and/or a message to make readers think about life-changing topics, how can the writing be labeled just "romance" or "drama" or "fantasy" or whatever? Our lives are not so compartmentalized that one day it's only romance and the next day only drama (at least mine is not!).

    It seems the marketers allow us this tiny little patch of ground that we get to inhabit if we go there meekly and don't run over to the neighbors' territory. Now I know that virtually no stories excite every conceivable audience, but could we please be allowed to stretch beyond our genre confines? I think there are some readers in contiguous patches waving at us...

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    1. Dear Joyce, your thoughts about how the market strives to constrain us into mean compartments should be engraved in gold. Thank you for elaborating so wisely on a subject that bothers me -and many others, probably- when we are asked to "identify" ourselves.
      We are, indeed, writers not caterers. It's fine for some of us to voluntarily choose a genre and remain within it. However, those whose wings fly them over many territories should have the liberty to shake off the manacles of established labels.
      Thank you for enriching this post with your thoughts!

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  11. Your writing is powerful Marta! I know why! Just because you have to write Marta. It is for you as necessary and natural as breathing.

    Yours
    alex @inkalex

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    1. Dear Alex, having you here is a feast! Thank you for visiting and for your kind words. What you say is true... we need to add that it brings joy, but also unbearable pain sometimes. xo

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  12. With each Blog Hop Tour author I read, I learn so much about what makes them the great authors they are! It's a delight learning from one another, ideas we might try in our own writing craft. There's just no community like the one to which writers belong. This is great, Marta!

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    1. Sal, you are an inspiration to many of us. What makes us strong as a community is that we share and that we support each other. I am proud beyond words of my fellow writers!

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  13. The separation from the boundaries that traditional genre labels confine many authors confine themselves to makes your approach to life and writing unique. For a creative process to truly flow I feel like a person must not be constricted in any way and such a liberating approach to creativity is truly magnificent. The best part is that you share your insight so thoughtfully with the rest of us giving us a chance to draw from your wisdom.

    Thank you

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    1. Brian, like so many others here, you have made this post richer and more meaningful through your comment. I thank you with all my heart for taking the time to read and write here. Please remember -and this goes for everyone else- that this is your home, and that you have free use of it.

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  14. Posting for Sarah Mallery, who cannot enter her comment:

    “Having read Marta’s poignant and lyrical “Just Toss The Ashes,” I know what a good writer she is. Case in point: This beautifully expressed article that will undoubtedly stay with me, with phrases such as:

    ...aware of the so-called "rules", I break them to enhance meaning and pathos in my fiction. My aim is to pierce through the reader's consciousness and set him thinking beyond the printed word...

    ...triggered by practically anything, but only an obsessive idea, one that haunts me day and night, finds its way into realization...

    ...to shock dormant minds out of their lethargy...

    Hats off to you, Marta, for not only being such a deep thinker and writer, but also for having such a generous spirit. You are one of a kind...”

    Sarah Mallery (S. R. Mallery)

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    1. The time for blushing has come. Ms. Mallery is an exquisite writer, so her words commit me to persist in search of improvement. It's not about doing what we can, but about rising above ourselves to achieve the unattainable. This sounds like a contradiction in terms, but the unattainable, in this context, is the limit we set on our literary ambition. Let us abolish the idea of limits.

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  15. Hi Marta,

    Thank you for inviting me into your writing process. I love your declaration: "I am a story-teller, weaving true facts and imaginary developments to shock dormant minds out of their lethargy, or to lure clever readers away from their comfort zone."

    And that is why we read, dear Marta, so your goal is a worthy one! Looking forward to seeing your new works. I'm sure they will be exquisite and carry us along to new worlds.

    Penelope

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    1. Dear Penelope, thank you for taking the time at this very special moment. I hope not to disappoint you. You know a writer is her worst enemy and most unforgiving critic :)

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  16. I love the way you describe your process. Your writing is a breath of fresh air; I have no doubt your fiction will be a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing a part of your process—a solitary one yes, but also a very intimate one!

    With admiration,

    Belén

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    1. Dear Belén, thank you for your kind words. I'm looking forward to the time when I can sample your art. You have it in you, so give it all your heart!
      Fondly,
      Marta

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  18. Marta: What a wonderful article. It rings totally through with me, especially that part of shocking "dormant minds out of their lethargy".
    English is my second language as well and I find that I use phrases that aren't quite right in English at times, but that is what editors are for, after all. I'm sure your books will be wonderful.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank YOU for reading and commenting! Please excuse the capitals, but I have no other way to emphasize words here :) You are an extraordinary thinker, and what I've seen of your writing makes me think its power cannot be thwarted by language traps.

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  19. I am intrigued and can't wait to read Men In My Mirror. The title alone beckons thoughts from the sunstruck to the shadows: what is the truth, the illusion, the two sides of things, multiple images, or the parade of images? You go toward those boundaries, because as a writer you are curious. This blog shows how your insight, curiosity, intellect and emotive connection to your characters, and even to ideas, work together.

    There are lines in this that resonate, as Pim has pointed out so well. But the one that caught my attention was:

    My fiction may be triggered by practically anything, but only an obsessive idea, one that haunts me day and night, finds its way into realization.

    I have lived with certain ideas, and certain iconic characters for years. They just won't go away, and I want them to live. And so we write.

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    1. Well, it took me ages to find a title. I'm really bad at that, so I'm delighted that what I finally chose evokes such thoughts in you, a master. It would seem as if many of us have similar processes. "And so we write." What a truthful description of our craving.

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  20. I enjoyed this post very much Marta thank you. You put it all so succinctly - it was a pleasure to read and share in your process in writing.

    I too do not like the idea of genre - though it seems that it's required on the bar code and info on back of the book. I agree, rules are there to be broken and I would add as long as one knows what those 'rules' are ...

    Writing - it is such a wonderful thing to do. Suffice to say that as you say, we all have stories within us. Stories that deserve to be told and heard - and shared. Nobody ever said that writing is easy .. it is a solitary journey for one thing .. but rise above the difficulty of it and remember there are no limits.

    Thank you for highlighting about structure before writing. I must bear this in mind.

    Thank you again for this post. I have gained something of value from it - and from the comments.



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    1. Dear Susan, thank you for sharing your wise views on the matter. It feels good to find that one is not alone in one's struggle and rebellion against established paradigms.

      The issue of rules is often discussed in writers' groups. The one that drives me crazy is the "show don't tell" tenet. Should novelists and poets become playwrights to avoid narrative and figures of speech? I think not.

      With gratitude from an admirer,
      Marta

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  21. Dear Marta,
    I am thrilled to read about your writing process and the distinction between your fiction and nonfiction enterprises. The fact that you create your book world before you begin writing is admirable and noteworthy. I liken it to an actor who studies for a role before going on stage. I very much look forward to Men in My Mirror - the title conjures a multitude of ideas that leave me anticipating. You are truly remarkable.

    Shari

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    1. Dear Shari, Your writer-actor analogy reminds me of something that lay buried in the box of "past lives". In fact, when I was very young, I belonged to an amateur theater group. We sometimes wrote our own plays. Perhaps the practice of play writing bears on my present mode of creation. It's incredible how each of these comments add to the post! I hope you will not be disappointed in the upcoming novel, and thank you for the (undeserved) compliment!

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  22. Marta, I just came across this interview, so I'm a little late in responding.I never want to miss an interview you are a part of. Each time I read your interview, I am more impressed then the one before, and this one is my favorite so far. Why? because of the questions and answers, and your complete honesty of who you are. I have learned so much by your comments and your love for fellow writers. The advice you give has proven to be the most inspiring for me. Like you, I write how I think will work for me and what I know. The language in my book, Before The Rooster Crowed, is unique, however I'm told by some, it reads stuffy in some chapters. Still, it was the way at the time, (1900-1930's), amongst the wealthy southern gentlemen and ladies, and I will not chnge it for a few who do not get it or understand good grammar. I believe a story must be written well in it's place and time. That is a lesson I learned from you as well. Thank you for opening up your interviews to us as they help so many. You're a blessing.
    Pat

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    1. My dear sister, it's not at all late. The post will be up until Sunday night, and the best thing about it are the contributions of all who commented. The questions were devised by Sandra Nachlinger, who started this Blog Hop Tour, so she deserves the praise. Your book is a jewel and those who do not get it should go and read something else. The only way to feel comfortable with our writing is to keep true to our convictions. We will not please everybody... but no matter what we do, we will never please everybody unless we change into literary amoebas, boneless and brainless. Love you!

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    2. Thanks Marta as always for your insight. When I grow up, Itrully want to be just like you. <= o } You're the best. Love you too.

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  23. Excellent article and insight. You have awesome ideas, and your prolific history says it all by itself :) Continue the road your on, you obviously know how to do it "CORRECTLY" :) :)

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    1. Dear Lori, what a pleasure to see you here! Thank you for your encouragement, with much love from one of your many admirers.

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  24. Marta;

    Thanks for your invitation to read your blog. I really enjoyed it, and am particularly impressed by your approach to writing.

    What astounded me was your plan to write in a second language. Most authors have difficulty writing in one.

    Best, Steve.

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    1. Steve, thank you for dropping by and glad you enjoyed it.
      As I mentioned, I've already written and published five non-fiction books in my second language. Fiction is an altogether different cup of tea, but worth the effort. I'm afraid authors who have difficulty writing in their own language are in serious trouble :)

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  25. Marta, I too was struck by your feeling obsessed by an idea. I’m going through a similar experience, writing about a country and a time other than the ones I’m physically living in, and therefore becoming mentally immersed in the other era and place. It can be very disconcerting. Since you are one of the sanest people I know, Marta, I was wondering how you manage to keep your writing obsessions from taking over the rest of your life.

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    1. Bryan, in a way, you are going through the same experience as Joyce, who wrote about an Ireland in which he didn't live and that had changed much since the moment he left, and as Lawrence when he wrote The Plumed Serpent. Joyce's sanity is still under discussion, but no one ever doubted Lawrence's.
      From what I've seen, your own sanity is not impaired :) The body in one place and the mind in another can indeed be disconcerting, but the trick is to travel back and forth with the mind. My present obsession, to go into a book after MIMM is finished, is a second chance for Achilles. Perhaps what prevents my obsessions from taking over the rest of my life is that I'm still working for a living. A distracted teacher/translator/counselor stands no chance, so I need to be on my toes when I'm not writing. What might happen if I were free of worries is anybody's guess.

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  26. Brilliantly written Marta - thank you so much for sharing this delightfully honest rendition of your particular writing process - I have always rather gravitated towards the unsavory element myself in regards to fiction and greatly look forward to reading Men in My Mirror

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  27. Thank you, PJ! I particularly value your opinion, and feel a sisterly bond hearing that you're drawn to similar themes. I still have to bring a couple of men to the mirror, but I'm working as fast as I can :)

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  28. Marta, how honored I feel to be in the midst of such a wonderful writer. Thank you for providing such wonderful insight into your personal writing world!

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  29. Dear Sharla, it's contact with sensitive authors like you, who are such good friends besides, that I find the strength to stay on the road, so to speak. Thank you for reading this sketch of my writing life!

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