Tag Archives: Family

Modern Meaning Making

I’m thrilled to welcome Magdalena Ball, who recently published Black Cow, a book of fiction  which explores themes of family, relationships and the meaning of life.  Enjoy her post below.  

Every piece of literature ultimately is involved in the process of meaning making. That is, by using text and literary devices we create a story of conflict and resolution.  When everything is working well good stories take on the character of mythology–elevating the struggle between expectation and reality to something universal and powerful.  Our protagonists find truth through this conflict while our readers become active participants, synthesising their own stories in response to the text.   Good literature provides the opportunity to deepen our knowledge of who we are even as we lose ourselves in a fictive universe.  Following are a few key elements of storytelling that lead to modern meaning making – what I’m always aiming towards when I write and what I’m always looking for when I read.

Changing frame of reference

Good fiction encourages the reader to see the familiar in new ways. This can change mental models and open the way to further discovery, perception, and changing understanding based on what the reader experiences. The reading becomes a cooperative experience between the reader and writer as they collaborate on the “performance”of the reading.  It’s at that point where the fictive dream, as John Gardiner put it, becomes encompassing, and the experience of reading becomes a real experience for the reader, where the way in which we think and perceive is expanded and enriched.

Viewpoint and narration

The viewpoint and narration are not as simple as choosing which person to write in and which character’s perspective to view the action.  It’s also about creating a strong, rich facade that drives the story. The narrator can be a character, or can be simply the overall form in which the story is described. A strong narrative voice is the backbone of any good novel and perhaps one of the earliest, and most important decisions a writer has to make.

Symbolism

Great art is always transcendent. It goes beyond the personal and immediate and hints at something broader, beyond the immediacy of its story. To do this often takes subtle symbolism, picking up names, objects, allegory, cultural indicators, parallels, and situations to draw on the reader’s own cache of meanings and expand the work.

Of course not all stories will be elevated to mythic levels, nor will they necessarily create new meaning in the reading. Sometimes a book is light, enjoyable and instantly forgetable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However,  if you’re the sort of writer or reader who is always looking for something of depth in your reading – feeling, emotion, and a new way to describe, and understand what had previously not been understood or recognised – then meaning making is what the writing process is all about.

Magdalena Ball is the author of the newly released novel Black Cow. Grab a free mini e-book brochure here:  http://www.bewritebooks.com/mb/BlackCow/BlackCow.html

For more about Magdalena visit: http://www.magdalenaball.com

Leave  comments, shares, or retweets to be entered in the BLACK COW book tour drawing for some great prizes. 

Achieve your goals: find a goal buddy

Yesterday, I received this email from my son.  He was home on semester break, sitting in the basement, when he sent it to me with a copy to his dad and brother. We’ve done “family challenges” before (see a holiday challenge) and often use emails to get it started.

Family,

For a handful of reasons including the fact that I would like my parents to live past the age of 65, Jack to suck in that gut and so I can put on a little weight as well as run more than a mile without my lungs collapsing, I think we should have a family workout competition.  What I’m thinking is that on a week to week basis we would have a workout requirement of 3 days.  Your workout could be anything of your choosing, swimming, running, soccer, weights, yoga.  But there will have to be approval from the other family members (sorry mom walking around the block does not count).  The consequence for not meeting the weekly quota will be a $5 penalty that will go into a pot.  This is obviously on the honor system of the parties involved so mom and dad no cheating.  I think the best method would be to set goals for ourselves to reach in 4-5 months from now and the person(s) who reach those goals will split the pot.  Just a thought, let me know what you guys think about it.

Billy

The thing is each of us already started to set personal goals, but it’s so easy to make excuses to oneself.  It’s much harder to come up with an excuse when you have a “Goal Buddy”. We’ve all agreed to start the challenge next Monday.

Last weekend, I met Pat Schmatz, award winning author of Bluefish, who shared her interesting twist on having a goal buddy.  As a writer, she’s developed a number of strategies to keep herself on track. My favorite is her Sunday night phone calls from her writing goal buddy.  On the call, they set their goals for the week and review their goals from the previous. No excuses are allowed.  I suspect they are both pretty political because if they don’t meet their goal, they need to send $5 to the political party they do not support. It’s working for them.  They’ve never had to ante up the $5.  When setting their weekly goals, they also question each other if they seem unrealistic.

Making sure your goals are achievable is an essential part of the process.  Success will help keep you working and moving forward. Everyone in my family has until Monday to tweak their goals.

I think mine will have something to do with weight loss… muscle strength….maybe chocolate.     I try and work chocolate into everything I do.

This Week:  Find a goal buddy to help you keep those New Year’s resolutions.

A Holiday Challenge

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” — Jean Baptiste Massieu

When my children were little as a way to embrace the spirit of the season, each day, we would all share three things we were thankful for and tie three red bows.  Eventually these bows adorned our Christmas tree. Not having young children at home anymore I called my college students in the beginning of November and asked them to email three things each day.  When I asked my husband, he agreed but balked about doing it every day.  His protesting didn’t last long.  Everyone emailed three things each day to each other.  It gave us all a window into each other’s lives that we don’t always get to see.  I went to the computer each morning excited to see what would be revealed.  Here’s a small sample of some of our thanks.

  1. Dad putting me in dance
  2. The Rockies
  3. Being with Freckles during her last season.
  4. Putting on the winter scarf
  5. A mother who wants to keep a family scattered across the country together via email
  6. My new rollerblades that I got for five dollars at the thrift store
  7. Playing hockey tonight
  8. Blackhawks on TV
  9. The smell of fall in the air
  10. 70 degrees in November
  11. The kids on the block
  12. Billy’s stint selling Cutco – without it I would never have owned Cutco knives!
  13. I actually like my classes
  14. Potato leek soup in about an hour and the new potato peeler
  15. Hot cider
  16. Visits and scrabble with Granny

This month, I asked my family to email each other acts of kindness.  This also is similar to something we did when they were younger that produced more bows on our Christmas tree.  I’ve challenged my college students to email their acts of kindness and my husband and I will do the same.   My challenge to my readers is to record or acknowledge each day an act of kindness.  Small acts are welcome and sometimes have a greater impact than you will ever know.  I kind word, a smile, opening the door for a stranger…these things all can make a difference.   If you take the challenge, come back here and comment and let me know how it goes.

This week:  Join the Holiday Kindness Challenge

 

Peace and Blessings,

Mary Jo