Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers

MY BLOG POSTS COMMENT ON SOME ASPECT OF WRITING & READING.

The Ripening
The Ripening:
A Canadian Girl Grows Up

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Tillie’s grit and ability to face life’s challenges are inspiring, the seeds for later discovering her artist self. Tillie takes readers on a wild ride. Join her if you dare! "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Curva Peligrosa
Curva Peligrosa

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

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FLING!
Fling!

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

"Fling! is both hilarious and touching. Every page is a surprise, and the characters! I especially loved Bubbles, one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction. A scintillating read."

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
Freefall
Freefall :
A Divine Comedy

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" These fascinating characters will fill your imagination, defying expectations about aging, art, and what truly matters in life. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
All This
All This

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" Indicative of the title, the poems in All This range from the conventional lyric/narrative that captures an intense moment of emotion, an epiphany glimpsed briefly out of the corner of the eye, to the more experimental. "

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
No More Kings
No More Kings

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

" A wildly inventive, consistently engaging, and amusing comic novel, but under its bright exterior lurk darker undertones and truths.... "

Each finely crafted poem in this powerful collection comes alive on the page while she traces the days’ journeys with a painter’s eye, a musician’s ear, and the deft pen of a poet.

Lily Iona MacKenzie Books
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Tag: prose

The Mystery of Language

I see a relationship between impressionism, some kinds of abstract paintings, and the poetry I want to write—of just suggesting something. Giving only enough information/detail to set the readers’ imagination working. I don’t want everything spelled out. I want mystery in my poems (and my prose)—new worlds.

Here’s an example:

Where Inner and Outer Worlds Meet

I didn’t fall asleep till 1 AM this morning. I got involved in a fascinating article about Joseph Cornell, the American artist and sculptor who made such mysterious and gorgeous assemblages in various found and constructed boxes. It makes me want to haunt junk shops for interesting memorabilia that I can make things with, to start a collection I can draw from.

Before going to sleep, I had an image of turning an old radio into a Joseph Cornell box. I even thought of taking over our room in the garage for artwork so I could spread out more, cataloguing items I find.

That way of working is still very appealing to me. Poet Charles Simic, who wrote the article I read, described Cornell’s boxes as stages where inner and outer worlds met. I would like such a place to give concrete expression to my dialogue with the unconscious. Of course, I already do some of that in my watercolors and collages. And my writing does it to a certain degree. But I believe the visual arts draw on another facet. It’s just so difficult finding enough time to do everything!

I also felt inspired by what Cornell did with 16 mm film, cutting up old ones and taking from them what he wanted in order to make a new statement. It’s what I’ve been doing with appropriating certain things from books in some of my poems. I’d like to do more—and be more conscious of the act. It also seems time to get back to poetry, to let go of the prose for a while. Let poetry feed me.

 

The Writer as Magician

Fiction writers have been called many things, but magician seems to me the best description.  They dip into the black hat of their imagination and produce an endless variety of characters, situations, images, genres, events, and styles.  The effect on readers is nothing less than magical, the reader also becoming a magician, assisting in making visible what wasn’t there before.

Writers and magicians depend on their skillful fingers for their art.  Slight of hand has considerable value in a writer’s bag of tricks—the ability to juggle numerous characters, settings, scenes, and themes simultaneously, rivaling the most accomplished conjurer.  The reader’s willing suspension of disbelief is sometimes necessary for the writer’s art to be fully realized.

But trusting in these magician’s skills also requires that the writer suspend her disbelief, and that isn’t easy.  Each time I start a new story, a new chapter, a new novel, I must trust that the seeds of words take root in the soil of the page and continue to grow, watered and fertilized whenever I open my computer and put fingers to keyboard.  I must trust each work I create will grow within my imagination as I write, that I’ll read and experience things that will feed the book, just as a child grows in the womb.  Slowly.  Stage by stage.  If I can trust this, I can have the confidence to proceed.

So much of writing fiction is searching for the right tone, the correct voice.  I probe the prose I’ve written over and over to try and find what the passage needs, what’s hidden between syllables, under words.  It’s an ongoing search for the story, for the meaning, letting the imagination lead.  Something clicks within me, as with an emotionally accurate dream interpretation.  I can sense when I’ve hit the vein, when the path becomes clearer.  It must be similar for a musician who can hear when a pitch is off.  There’s a physical reaction when something doesn’t sound right.  So I constantly reread what I’ve already written until the material shifts and something new comes into view.  But the process itself can be agonizing.  Each day I have to prove to myself again that I can do it—that my imagination will come through.

I fondle, tussle with, twist, and stroke the words, willing them into action, like a magician looking into a crystal ball.  I approach them contritely, humbly, realizing that they have all the power, the authority here.  I’m merely a handmaiden, doing their will.  I’m their instrument.  The story makes me become more visible as I tease out the strands of plot, image, character.  It works on me as much if not more than I work on it.

This is so much like sculpting, reminding me of when I worked on the elephant that emerged from the rock I chiseled for months.  I had to concentrate on the stone and nothing else, letting it become my guide, like language.  The stone was my language.  Writing is like painting too.  First I sketch in foreground.  Then I have to spend a long time filling in background, working the shadows, a touch of color here, one that will stand out like yellow or red.  A deeper tone there so it will recede.  Burnt umber or sienna.  A moody deep blue.  Oh yes and the moods, the way color shapes that part of a scene or passage.

This reminds me of Jacob wrestling with the angel, and it seems to me each time I sit down to work on a novel or story I feel like Jacob.  That’s one reason why it’s harder to write fiction.  It takes extra effort and I resist it more.  Writing essays—travel articles, personal narratives, whatever—comes easy.  No problem.  But the other, the invention, takes much more from me.  It requires a heroic effort.

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