I think it is very important that NaNoWriMo endeavours made possible for all of us, the people in Bucharest interested in writing and in challenging ourselves to at least 1,667 words daily to meet. Our paths wouldn’t have crossed otherwise, given that we come from different generations and academic backgrounds and we are writing in various genres – some of us in Romanian, some of us in English. And I am glad and grateful we have met with this opportunity!
Many thanks to Raluca, our local municipal leader, for organising everything and making it possible! (She is the one who drew the portrait above too). She kept the group united and in permanent communication, so that we keep meeting regularly even when NaNoWriMo isn’t eating our souls anymore. Which means that our connections will deepen.
Yes, we are the five winners of a group of initially 8 or more Bucharest fans of writing. And I am missing from this photo below.
You may assume that I was taking it (even if I don’t really like appropriating credits which aren’t mine, for things someone else had actually done). And I like them portrayed as the castle ladies of a literary tower of dreams… (No, I don’t intend to confine them to the tower until they finish the actual novels, though, making them ready for publishing. Because if I did it, I would have to share their fate too…).
Congratulations for having persevered and having won NaNoWriMo! Congratulations for haing a story to tell and the patience and determination to actually tell it. We all know it was not easy, and we all have been there for each other in moments when feeling like giving up, or merely feeling tired and demoralised by the too little progress, or stuck with the plot in a point.
From this photo below, however, I am not missing.
This is a scene at one of our weekly meetings in a cozy tea house, peppered with writing right there and catching up with missing words, as the present laptops may witness, as well as with discussions about writing methods, resources, inspiration sources, about our stories, characters, about publishing our stories when they will be ready and so on.
We have found a way to support each other and to forge new connections. Georgiana and Veronica are already classmates at Uni and writing together their story, so this is an older connection. But just after NaNoWriMo ended, Bianca invited Raluca to a TV show, where I am honoured to have been mentioned too. Another new connection. Bianca is my new friend and beta reader, and I invited her to literary events in my group of mature writers. Raluca told us all about a writing workshop to be organised, and Bianca and I attended it, in order to open up to new literary challenges.
Also I’d mention within the category of the Bucharest NaNoWriMo group that we have also given each other prizes for having won NaNoWriMo. I received, therefore, besides the group portraits above, including the drawn one, a pirate -themed room decoration set,
a pirate polar bear to hang in my Christmas tree, a Christmas card with an inspiring quote…
…and an audio cd with music to listen to while writing. Pirate-themed too, since I am the pirate of the group, Bianca the baby elf, Raluca the immortal mystery queen, while Georgiana is the Devil’s daughter and Veronica …just is (given that her novel is titled “I am“, definitely otherwise I couldn’t make such a statement).
We could and did turn it into a celebration that the official NaNoWriMo, too far from us and focusing more on receiving donations than on anything else, wouldn’t have granted. Next year I might be in charge of the trophies, making them even more meaningful than this year – but I loved everything this year too, and we had trophies somewhere too.
I think I have always been looking for a group of friends to write a story together, and discuss it, and get inspired about it. Not more social than other RPGs; some are more social than I would have wished, as in mindlessly gossipping and socializing instead of writing. I can also accept and I don’t mind being a small writing community. It happens. What saddens me is when people stop talking one with the other, stop saying “Happy birthday!“, stop plotting together the next steps of the story. I am mostly disappointed in the lack of involvement, of interest, of enthusiasm, of a real writing community. This means that the community spirit is lost, and it makes me think that what I actually wanted for the community doesn’t exist and I failed. I have been living in a dream, or maybe in denial.
It seems that when people are involved in your own goals and they aren’t for yourself alone, the outcomes tend to turn out differently than you imagined, if at all. It also means reassessing what is possible to happen (and making it happen), while keeping everything else as my dream of an utopic group of friends which doesn’t exist in reality. I know other sites have this community: people who actually communicate, discuss plots, twists, play games, see movies together… I achieve partially this – I am talking to all those who want to talk at least a little, but no others actually do, and the feeling of a community doesn’t exist. This is exactly what I am missing and longing for.
Each of us has a different personality and a different life. But instead of looking at each other as extraterrestrial beings, we should focus on what unites us, then expand our knowledge about the other aspects which are less familiar to us.
“Why would I care about someone else except myself?” some may ask. “Why should I be interested in building a community?”
Just because you are human, and this is what humans do. Loneliness is not good. We have been designed to live in groups/ packs since early Stone Age. And community is good. It means all these (and much more):
“Why should I be interested in making friends with the other writers? I am here just to write. I have friends by my side, from school/ work/ neighbourhood. I had friends who backstabbed me and I am shy about making new ones.”
It is possible to have bad experiences; but if you aren’t trying (with caution, of course), you will never find good ones. And if you already have friends by your side, what harm is it in having some in various corners of the world as well? They can offer you a different kind of support and sounding board than the ones who are closer to you, just because their life experiences might be radically different. You can discuss with them about different subjects than the ones usually discussed with your friends from school/ work/ neighbourhood. How many of your friends who are so close are into writing and can understand you in discussing characters and plots?
Moreover, you are a writer. And writers do care about other people’s lives, details and circumstances in order to find later inspiration for the most diverse characters. (Even when writing in genres totally different than contemporary life, they can still be adapted and twisted to fit).
And we all are writers too. This is what unites us into forming a community and what should give us enough subjects to talk about, even if some of us aren’t exactly twin souls. A writing community has as purpose writing a story together. When this purpose doesn’t exist, and when the people don’t talk as much either, aren’t much of a community.
A writing community has as purpose writing a story together. When this purpose doesn’t exist, and when the people don’t talk as much either, aren’t much of a community. Writing with others has a social aspect, and it needs communication even for those who don’t become best friends (even if it is nothing bad with making friends, but not everyone is compatible with everyone), at least in the writing field: from plotting and synchronizing ideas, to getting inspiration, headcannons, exchange experience on research and on different aspects of the writing process. Until now, this has functioned with most people… and exactly when they stopped communicating, misunderstandings arose, because nobody is a mind reader. They just fill in the blanks with what they would have thought/ done./… and they aren’t the other person, to think identically.
Yes, we are here to write, and writing together means planning together, analysing possible outcomes for various options and choosing the best one, not only for one character, but for the whole story. And by planning together we are getting further involved in the whole story, not only in one character’s life. We are also mobilizing ourselves to to progress steadily the story towards the next episodes, instead of waiting passively to be entertained by reading others’ stories.
I wish for a dedicated community of writers – as many or as few as they happen to be. The activity, the involvement (including the community feeling) and the number of characters actively written when they are needed, instead of being left to pickle somewhere in silence, are more important than the number of members.
I wish the members to be involved in the story they are writing together. To be willing to write THE STORY, seeing the whole picture, beyond a character or two. To share characters freely (be they NPCs or other shared custody characters) and to discuss in groups plots and twists, planning the next stories, agreeing on outcomes by meeting half-way after listening to the reasons why a thing should happen or not and how. To discuss literary resources and aspects of the writing craft, to actively exchange experience. Maybe also to read books or watch movies in the same field like the story and to discuss them together, including from the perspective of enriching our story (without plagiarising, of course. Borrowing basic ideas only, especially if twisted and spinned of, is NOT plagiarism!).
A writing community should have been like NaNoWriMo all the time – in respect to the community atmosphere, not in number of words/ competition, neither in number of members. In the smaller sense of a community group of writers, who actually talk about their characters, plots, support each other. And I know RPGs which are a community too, smaller or bigger. I hope to find a way to enhance community spirit on mine too.
NaNoWriMo ended ten days ago. I had time to rest, to think, to decide what I learnt from the experience of fully participating in it.
Last years, while I knew about it, I didn’t register on the site and I had no novel to announce. I was a rebel, counting for myself the words I was writing for Before the Mast and other RPGs I might have been a member of in one or another year. Usually they amounted to a little over 40,000 words. I was availing myself of the opportunity of the writing sprints and prompts organised by RPG-Directory and they helped me further the story we were writing interactively. In November it was time to catch up with character journals, to write those threads between my own characters I had never time for in the previous months, and the story went on.
This year I have been an official NaNoWriMo participant, starting a novel in my mother tongue with the characters I have Before the Mast. The setting is the same – the West Indies – just 2 years before the site’s, and the story is not exactly the same. For being only my characters, the pirate crew of the “Arrow” has components who had belonged to the privateers Before the Mast, as here we have no privateer ship to follow. Other characters’ roles and allegiances were changed too.
This is good, because the story is different, but still circumscribed to the setting I had researched a lot for. The alternative would have been to have written the sequel of my already published book, but that hadn’t been researched enough yet, and this would have blocked my productivity.
So, what have I learnt by doing NaNoWriMo in high conditions of stress, working overtime for 3 weeks, with the week-ends between them included and being confronted also with health problems?
- If in those given conditions I succeeded, anybody can succeed, with some ambition, determination and writing discipline.
- Writing in your mother tongue isn’t any easier than writing in English, especially when you have written more in English about certain subjects and you realize you are lacking the appropriate terminology in your mother tongue. Dictionaries are suddenly your best friends…
- The local NaNoWriMo team’s support is essential, and also the forum’s general support. One can ask a question and find answers to get unstuck and go further, one can find the lost determination to finish and to win.
- The support of the family and friends to whom you have confessed your goal is also needed. Warmest thanks to my husband and my mother, who had accepted my goal and had actively helped me by relinquishing most household duties from me and asking stimulating questions. I thank my work colleagues too, who rooted for me and let me write during the last days, when things were quieter on the office front, and who celebrated winning with me. I thank also to my writing partners Before the Mast, who encouraged me and supported me in this endeavour.
- Word sprints and prompts are helpful too. This year I got only 2 days of writing sprints on RPG-Directory. I could do none on the NaNoWriMo site, since they were timed always for USA only. And it showed in the less productive days than last years, when sprints were common every day.
There is only one more NaNoWriMo aspect to be mentioned in another post, maybe tomorrow, maybe another day next week…
(Avertisment: fragmentul se referă la aspecte din Santeria) :
Bătrâna pregăti o baie rituală, adăugând salvie, rozmarin, busuioc, gălbenele și petale de trandafiri – plante aromatice pe care le preferau Oggun, Ochun și Yemaya. Unul dintre ucenicii ei, un carteron doar un pic mai mare decât Andrea, a fost rugat să o asiste.
– Ai de gând să îl inițiezi? întrebă tânărul, intrigat de faptul că subiectul discuției, cel care avea să beneficieze de baia rituală de purificare, era alb.
Doar Concha și toți ceilalți santeros repetaseră de atâtea ori, în cursul anilor, că nimeni care nu are sânge african nu poate afla numele africane ale sfinților și ce se ascunde în spatele a ceea ce vedea oricine cu ochiul liber, interpretând în spirit catolic. Lui Goyo i se părea că tocmai Concha cea respectată se pregătea să facă o greșeală gravă. Ori spiritele îi revelaseră ceva deosebit în legătură cu acest tânăr, menit să fie excepția care confirmă regula? Și merita riscul?
– Nu în felul în care ai fost tu inițiat, Goyo, îi explică ea cu răbdare. Nu ar înțelege asta. Spiritele l-au ales, însă nu ca să ne urmeze calea; capul lui nu va primi binecuvântarea pe care au primit-o ale noastre, și tu nu ești aici ca naș. De fapt, știi că ai fi încă prea tânăr pentru o astfel de responsabilitate. Tu ești doar ajutorul meu, să înveți ce este de făcut când sufletul are mai mare nevoie de purificare decât trupul.
Continuă, alegându-și cu grijă cuvintele:
– Mă vei asista și vei recunoaște diferențele dintre ritualurile folosite la cele două inițieri de care ai avut parte și cele pe care le vei vedea acum, menite doar să vindece, să curețe, să purifice, și să îi facă pe Oggun, Ochun și Yemaya să își recunoască fiul și să îl ajute mai mult de acum înainte.
Cidrul a venit primul și a fost turnat frățește în patru pahare.
– Pentru viață, și pentru ca marea să dea înapoi ce i se încredințează! toastă cel cu cercelul, iar ceilalți ciocniră cu el imediat.
– Și pentru frumoasele sirene care îi salvează pe naufragiați, răspunse Andrea în franceză, ciocnind prima dată cu Fiona, apoi și cu ceilalți.
Doar gândurile lui știau că primul toast nu era doar pentru ea, ci în primul rând pentru Gorgona. Și înainte de a sorbi, vărsă trei stropi pentru sufletele camarazilor de pe “Marie Gallante”. Era și aceasta o formă de a o include pe Gorgona în mulțumiri și urări de bine.
Fiona roși la auzul toastului neașteptat. Andrea se întrebă ce îl atrăgea la ea, fiindcă multe femei erau frumoase, și totuși îl lăsau rece. Cucerirea femeilor nu era sportul lui preferat, așa cum fusese al unor prieteni de pe nava scufundată. Tânărul venețian nu era afemeiat, și îi lipseau îndrăzneala și siguranța de sine pe care le aveau aceia cu femeile pe care le întâlneau în porturi.
Și acum, un fragment despre botezul unei corăbii:
Preotul binecuvântă moneda de argint și o așeză sub cârmă. Hurricane Thad rânji, puțin disprețuitor. Tradiții prostești, o monedă irosită. Și corabia mai avea una sub marele catarg, tot spaniolă, fără îndoială, pusă la ceremonia de numire și lansare la apă, de către primul proprietar, să îi poarte noroc și ca nava să știe că va fi îngrijită și respectată. Dacă Sol Picador era atât de înfumurat încât să creadă că, prin faptul că i s-a acordat comanda și partea cuvenită, corabia era un pic și a lui, vrând să adauge propriul ban odată cu numele ales de el, treaba lui. Asta nu schimba lucrurile cu nimic.
Părintele Jacques Bonnet continuă netulburat rugăciunea, știind că moneda de aur e a bisericii și a lui. În asemenea condiții, să tot faci sfeștanie de corabie! O pereche mai săracă nu dădea atât la o nuntă.
– Ne rugăm Sfintei Fecioare și sfinților Mihail, Nicolae, Petre, Clement, protectorii marinarilor, să îi dea tărie acestei corăbii să meargă înainte, învingând furtuni și dușmani, și să se întoarcă cu bine în port. În numele tuturor celor care au navigat la bordul ei în trecut și în numele celor care vor naviga la bordul ei în viitor, le oferim mulțumirile noastre pentru protecția acordată goeletei până acum, suntem recunoscători că întotdeauna ea a găsit adăpost de furtuni, întorcându-se cu bine în port, și fie ca întotdeauna să se întâmple așa!
Nu s-a terminat încă luna. Chiar dacă astăzi este ultima zi, și, fiind ocupată cu NaNoWriMo nu am avut timp pentru scris în blog (nu vă lăsați păcăliți de rebloguri și posturi programate de dinainte pentru noiembrie – că și pentru decembrie am câteva gata programate), pe Facebook, unde am atât pagina de scriitor cât și un grup NaNoWriMo București, am mai scris din când în când, iar acum voi da rezumate de acolo.
15.11.: Nu mi-a mers prea bine pana acum incercarea mea de a cuceri NaNoWriMo. Se poate sa pierd la numar de cuvinte, avand in vedere probleme de sanatate si de serviciu care nu m-au lasat sa scriu cam multe zile (si se mai poate sa se intample), dar cu siguranta nu voi pierde prin abandon. Voi continua . Si week-end-urile ma vor ajuta, sper, sa mai castig din “scorul” pe care il am de recuperat.
Inspiratia? ” Caminante, no hay camino” de Joan Manuel Serrat, dupa versurile lui Antonio Machado: Calatorule, nu exista drum, cararea o fac pasii tai!
21.11.:Owly ma inspira ca de obicei. Sunt tot in urma, dar am trecut de jumatate (am deja 25.600 cuvinte) si mai am o sansa sa castig NaNoWriMo anul acesta, in ciuda tuturor dificultatilor…
26.11.: Aproape 40.000 de cuvinte – și încă au mai rămas destule zile din NaNoWriMo ca să am încredere că pot să termin cu succes!
Un personaj de-al meu ajunge în pelerinaj la Santa Virgen de la Regla, în Cuba. Iată un fragment (și statuia descrisă):
Intră în schitul modest cu smerenie, făcându-și semnul crucii. Interiorul nu era scăldat în aur, ca în Havana și în alte părți. Semăna mai mult cu bisericile de pe insulele copilăriei lui, deși erau, desigur, și diferențe importante. Nici statuia Sfintei Fecioare ocrotitoare a marinarilor, așezată pe tronul celest, nu era ostentativă, înălțimea ei nedepășind un cot și jumătate . Era făcută din lemn de cedru, dintr-o singură bucată, figura neagră a madonei cu coroană și aureolă abia văzându-se dintre faldurile albastre ale rochiei cu broderii de dantelă albă și mantiei din același material. Pruncul pe care îl ținea în brațe, în picioare, pe pulpa stângă, avea chipul de culoare deschisă, spre deosebire de al ei, făcându-l să se gândească la o mulatră cu un prunc carteron cum văzuse destule prin colonii.
Îngenunche în fața ei și se rugă fierbinte:
“Preasfântă Fecioară a Regulii, robul tău Andrea se roagă pentru odihna sufletului Fionei, moartă nespovedită și fără lumânare, de moarte violentă, Dumnezeu să o ierte. Să mă ierte și pe mine, prin mila Ta, dacă am contribuit cu nechibzuința mea, făcându-mă vinovat de moartea ei. De asemenea, mă rog pentru sănătate, prosperitate, pentru vindecarea sufletului meu chinuit, pentru puterea de a accepta moartea Fionei și de a-mi continua viața spre împlinirea rostului vieții mele… un rost despre care încă nu știu care este. Ajută-mă, ocrotește-mă și arată-mi ce trebuie să fac în continuare, cum să Te cinstesc și care este voința lui Dumnezeu pentru mine, căci numai prin Tine toți aflăm leac și alinare.”
The city of charming Danube
Braila is a beautiful city located on the shore of the river-maritime Danube. This meant, especially a while ago, that ships which went to sea could enter the Danube at Sulina, where it runs into the sea, and sail up to Braila; and it made the city an important trading center for the whole South-Eastern Europe, as the goods loaded there 500 years ago went to Istanbul, farther into the Ottoman Empire, or, why not, to Venice or to Vienna – to the latest, on the Danube itself. A city full of history and legends, and having a so mixed population and an unique architecture – what is not to love about it?
The streets are drawing half a circle, leaving from the Danube, rounding the city and arriving back to the Danube on the opposite side. The old buildings reflect their former owners – rich merchants of Turkish, Jewish, Greek, Armenian, Russian or German origins – and a part of the city’s history. There is blue and green everywhere – little parks, the big Public garden, another big garden, Monument, to the outskirts… Outskirts where a Salt Lake is still pouring his spa-blessings to all people in pain all round the year…
My words are not enough to describe its beauty – but for the present visitor, this beauty can be seen a bit less. It is there, under the dust, in the historical houses which the wolf from the three piglets story can blow down at the third breath, because their ownership is discussed in courts or because neither the mayor, nor the present owner have money to invest in their rehabilitation. However, several writers have immortalized it in their prose and verses – Panait Istrati being the most known for the prose. He enchanted my early teen years, and given that I had the opportunity to spend enough summer holidays there, with my cousins, I started discovering the city step by step, with its beauty and legends.
The bandits had hidden in the swamps and on the corners of the Danube where we were bathing and eating roasted corn. The ship crews were still competing on Saint Mary’s feast, having as prizes ducklings and a piglet. The songs, Romanian, Greek, Lipovan, sometimes Turkish, were resounding here and there, a sign of the multi-culturalism of the city. We were discovering with delight each place which had been written about before.
Meanwhile, years have passed. The Great Island opposite the city became an important agro-industrial center, getting cultivated with corn and vegetables, some swamps had been drained and given back to agriculture, and the legendary charm is starting to fade away. The city has changed too, and the shadows of my youth can be seldom found in the old neighbourhoods or on the falaise… It’s just a shadow of what once had been, taking with it the tumultuous life of a joyful, multicoloured city with an unique personality, nicknamed once “a leg of Paris”.
Where is the hustle and bustle and the boiling joy of the holidays of the cosmopolitan city of a while ago, sung by the writers ? Where are the Greek and Lipovan songs – but where is the city’s life? The words have died, the teen age and the souls together with them. None of the characters I loved in Panait Istrati’s and Theodor Constantin’s books could recognize anymore the places they had lived in – not because of the new buildings, but because the soul of the city doesn’t exist anymore; neither the Danube seem to be the same…
The doors of history are shut, and I try to open them every time I visit the town of my youthful dreams, with songs and memories. Why it’s only me, out of the little crew of a while ago, who gather pieces of life, not lived or even rejected by those around me, in order to bring them alive again in my heart and in my stories, with dances and songs, with the memories of my ancestors? Who can understand the thirst of far away distances which is burning me for a long time, bridging fraternity with Panait Istrati and his heroes, the insatiable desire of other horizons? No matter how changed, I still love the city of charming Danube-related legends, my Braila of an eternal teen age…
My friend and my cousin were born in Braila. My cousin was part of the youthful crew exploring the city with me during our summer holidays, my friend wasn’t, but their stories are the same. Living there, feeling the prison of the dying city, which has lost its traditional attraction. For them, it is the prison of their lives: first the industry declined, the big factories closing one by one. They don’t see the beauty of the old city, they see the challenges of the new one: first, pollution, while the factories were still working; now that they aren’t anymore working, the Danube comes black anyway from oil leaks from the ships or from a shipyard, once the fame of the city, now working barely at half volume.
Happy it’s still working, as the big paper mill factory and the big chemical processing plant which gave nylon fibers and other things to all the country aren’t anymore. The big machine tool plant isn’t working anymore. One of the biggest clothing factory, famous abroad too, is slowly shutting down section by section. Even the spa at the outskirts of the city, built on a healing salt lake, is diminishing its activity. Hotels are closing, letting people unemployed, and those who could benefit of a better health, now are deprived of this spa.
Braila is the city of poverty shadows. My friend and my cousin had studied to have a career on a certain path – this was no longer possible, a few years after they graduated the vocational high-schools qualifying them in that field. Then, they went on the path of professional reconversion – but with this flimsy economy, this hasn’t helped much either. Lives get wasted, hopes get wasted, poverty reigns.
The bandits of the legends have reincarnated now in futureless youth, full of violence against the whole society, and choosing to let it out in neighbourhood gangs. Some places, including in the neighbourhood where I spent my teen years, are no longer safe, as I heard. The unemployed men are drowning their sorrows in liquor, which makes them poorer and more violent. Who could, among the younger generations, went away to work in other countries. What to do in a dying city? My cousin’s husband is working in Spain, after having tried other countries as well; my friend’s ex husband is working in Italy, while she, having four or five different qualifications, has lost her latest job, and nobody is hiring. How to raise a high-school child in these conditions? And there are people in worse situation than them…
My friend and my cousin are looking towards the capital with envious eyes, seeing that we managed better. It’s the fear of surviving day by day, it’s the despair of losing another job, it’s the long, strangling hand of poverty which makes them hate the dying city they have been born in.
– THE END –