Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Days 32 to 50 of #100days: Catching up and altering books


I’ve mostly been keeping myself away from the internet. I spent too much time last year just clicking ‘refresh’ a hundred times a day, losing hours of real time. So I’ve cut back, and it’s been good. I’ve got a lot of writing done. I spent a day making a board with timelines and multi-coloured Post-it notes and did lots of “Narrative Arc” playing and planning, and everything with the novel feels more solid now. Yay.

Instead of learning a word a day, I've been working on my Icelandic course a couple of times a week, getting to grips with pronunciation and short conversations. It's harder than reading, but essential if I'm going to learn properly.

Another thing I’ve been doing over the past few days is ‘altering’ pages from books. Not in the way that the crazy borrower does with the Jeffrey Archer books, ‘correcting’ the grammar/Jeff’s word choices/etc, which is highly amusing, but mostly because it’s Jeffrey Archer and not because Library Property is being defaced. Although it is a bit in the same ball park. It does essentially mean destroying a book, which I am dead against normally, but in the case of ‘altered’ books, it can create something that is more than it was. (See above, by the amazing Su Blackwell, for example.)

I am choosy about what I will alter. Old poetry books from charity shops are good. But the books I feel least guilty about using are old deaccessioned Mills & Boons. Not that I have anything against them, but I also have no qualms about painting over things like “lush breasts” and “hot-pink t-shirt” and “impressively muscled thighs” and “skin the colour of cappuccino”. It makes it kind of easy to get my paintbrush out.

I don’t know where I first read about it, but there are lots of artists doing amazing things, (Brian Dettmer does great things with old encyclopaedias. Read an interview with him at Orange Alert) far better than the things I do, which is basically paint gesso primer over most of the words, leaving the ones I like or that feel right. (Similar to this.) Most times a small story appears, or a poem, or a killer line that I’d never have thought of in a hundred years. Sometimes I momentarily get sucked into what “Eduardo” said next, until the paint whitewashes him away. Mostly though, it helps me shut off my left brain, so that when I write straight afterwards, it always seems to flow.


So for the last fifty of the 100 Days, I’m going to do a page a day. Some I think will be the starting point for stories, others might be stories in themselves, and maybe if I put a few together a pattern will emerge. We'll see.

* the photo at the top is from Su Blackwell's blog. She rocks!

5 comments:

Jessica said...

I like this alot - I did a few cut and paste poems once. I used words, snippets and headlines to create poems. Collage poems are the best to create!

green ink said...

I really like these Emma! How fascinating, and what a fun way to play with words and find stories.

I am reading Eric Weiner's "The Geography of Bliss" at the moment, and the chapter on Iceland made me think of you - particularly the poem he includes about the Icelandic language. I'll email it to you, assuming you haven't read it :)

emma said...

Jessica, I might try that - adding text from other sources, to mix it up a little, see what happens.

Philippa, it is fun, I wish I'd remembered it sooner. And thanks for the poem. It's very appreciated.

Thanks ladies, and here's to destroying books!*
xx


*Only old unwanted Mills & Boons, though.

annie clarkson said...

wonderful, ignore the questions on your previous blog, I read them in the wrong order..! Brilliant....!

emma said...

Thanks Annie. xx