Snapshots in words through a writer’s lens

Since writing my book,  Casualties of the Recession Depression (A collection of vignettes), I’ve been asked – by people unfamiliar with the genre – to explain the difference between a short story and a vignette, and why I chose to employ the latter, rather than the former. Here are the definitions, followed by my explanation.

Short Story

Syllabification: (short sto·ry)

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun 

— a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Vignette

Syllabification: (vi·gnette)

Pronunciation: /vinˈyet/

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun (in the context of writing)

  1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode.

verb (in the contect of writing)

  1. portray (someone) in the style of a vignette.

Wikipedia’s Definition (this is exactly what a vignette is):

“In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.”

♦ ♦ ♦

Essentially, a vignette is like a snapshot in words.  Through a writer’s lens, a moment/feeling/episode in time is captured and portrayed in such a way that the reader can feel the character’s pain (or joy), understand the character’s mindset, be part of the character’s experience – albeit vicariously.

In the context of my book, I wanted to record real (and sometimes raw) moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year (in the form of an economic and political commentary), the reader can see the transformation and progression of this Recession Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day. The middle class is disappearing below the poverty line. As long as these people continue to be hungry, homeless and jobless, this “recession” is not over.

Below is one (of 39) vignettes from the Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression:

Vignette #13 (2009) ― Young and Hungry

He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye.  He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had.  He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag.  

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.

(PS: This coffee shop actually went out of business and closed its doors for good, just one month later. And the fate of the lady behind the counter?  She joined the ranks of the unemployed.)

The Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression will be coming out soon!

All images, photos and text are the property of Heather Joan Marinos and may not be used, reproduced, or distributed.
 Copyright © 2013-2018 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.

 

Why should writers write?

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Why do writers write?

More importantly, why should writers write?

American author Charles Bukowski  (b. 1920 – d. 1994) tells it like it is:

So You Want to Be a Writer
by Charles Bukowski

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Churchill said it best

“Writing a book is an adventure. 
To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement.
Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant.
The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.”

~  Winston Churchill

(Image via pixabay.com)

In Praise of Cats

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.”
― Hippolyte Taine (French critic and historian)

“I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.”
Jules Verne (French novelist, poet and playwright)


“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
Jean Cocteau (French writer, artist and filmmaker)

“A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
Ernest Hemingway (American novelist)

“I have lived with several Zen masters — all of them cats.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

“If you want to write, keep cats.”
—  Aldous Huxley (English author and screenwriter)

All photos (except the cat with the book) are copyrighted by Heather Joan Marinos and they may not be used or reproduced 

© Copyright 2017 Heather Joan Marinos. All rights reserved.

 

2015 Tribute

Triptic_of_candles

2015

Triptic_of_candles

The Sound of Quiet

quiet water and sunset

 

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.”  ― Eve Ensler

Every so often, I like to take a ‘time out’ … to reflect and to dream and, yes, to write. Not blogs, but books.

There is no better tonic, in my view, for cleansing emotional toxins and for clearing the mind than the sound of quiet.

Some call it meditation.

For me, it doesn’t involve stretching or sitting in the lotus position or chanting “Om” …. it simply means that I spend some solitary time, enjoying my own company – no phone calls, no Skype, no visitors.  My husband, cats and dog respect my solitude and always greet me with a smile, a purr and a wag when I resurface.

Taking the time to breathe and rapture in the sound of quiet is not a luxury.  It’s a necessity, a sanity check.

Yes, we all live hectic and busy lives.  There’s so much noise all around us. However, I cannot stress enough how imperative it is for each of us to take the time (make the time) to be still and quiet. By “still” I don’t necessarily mean sitting still, but being still in oneself.  I do that while gardening, working on a home renovation project, reading, taking a long walk and, of course, writing.

I hope that you will take some time out… just for yourself.  Be still. Rejuvenate. Above all, be well.

And so, I’ll sign off for now.

“Cultivate solitude and quiet and a few sincere friends, rather than mob merriment, noise and thousands of nodding acquaintances.”  William Powell

 

heatherfromthegrove’s New Year’s Revelation No 3 of 7: “Read a person’s eyes… “

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This year, my New Year’s “Revelations” are based on some of the witticisms and words of wisdom that my mother and father imparted to me.

When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.

Or so I thought.

They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.

Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.

I now share them with you.

blueborderMy mother used to say:

“Read a person’s eyes. Eyes don’t lie.”

You’ve heard the Shakespearean quote before. “The eyes are the window to your soul.”  Not only did my mother know this to be true, she made this her yardstick to determine who was honest and who was not, who was a true friend and who was not, and on and on.  She always told me that if a person won’t look you in the eyes, they were most likely dishonest or hiding something.

Additionally, if someone she knew was experiencing some sort of emotional crisis and masking it with smiles, she would look past the facial expression and note the pain or sorrow in his or her eyes.  She saw everything.  Sometimes we look, but we don’t really see.  My mother taught me how to see.  As a writer, this has become one of my most invaluable skills.

My mother’s grey-green eyes were beautiful, moody and expressive. She and I always spoke to each other with our eyes. We could have complete conversations, without ever uttering a word. I have learned that words are sometimes superfluous.

And, one more thing about eyes:  over the years, I’ve gained enough wisdom and experience to know that – at the end of the day (each day) –  it’s important that we (each of us) are able to look ourselves in the mirror, straight in the eye… and not look away.  What this means is that we have done nothing that we regret, nothing that we should be ashamed of.  What this means is that we have conducted ourselves in a manner that is in keeping with our own moral compass.

It is always a good day when we can look ourselves in the eye.

“Look into my eyes and hear what I’m not saying, for my eyes speak louder than my voice ever will.”

~ Author Unknown

 

Image via Sodahead.com.

 

 

Writer’s Motto: Press On

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Calvin Coolidge

And so, it’s time for me to press on…

… the manuscript awaits.

Three Nuggets of Wisdom for Writers

YoungWriter

1a

“The process of writing a book is infinitely more important than the book that is completed as a result of the writing, let alone the success or failure that book may have after it is written . . . the book is merely a symbol of the writing. In writing the book, I am living. I am growing. I am tapping myself. I am changing. The process is the product.”

Theodore Isaac Rubin

 2a

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.

Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.

Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Calvin Coolidge

 3a

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation. So while our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all.”

Ray Bradbury  (Zen in the Art of Writing(1990) Preface)

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 Image Credit: Aliaksei Lasevich/Shutterstock