(Photo)journaling as inspiration

When I was around thirteen years old, like many teenagers, I went through a period of journal writing. I wasn’t very good at it. I never knew quite what to write, and it went very quickly from something I thought of as fun, to something I considered a chore. If I didn’t write in my journal at least every other night, I considered I was failing at journaling.

I guess I felt like I didn’t have much to say. I wasn’t a typical angst-ridden teen. I had a great life, and I knew it. My biggest complaint was having to do housework on the weekends. I didn’t really like boys at that point, thanks to having two relentless older brothers who teased me mercilessly. Why would I voluntarily add another boy into the mix?

Drawing came much easier to me than writing words. I spent hours in my room, listening to my stereo, sprawled out on the floor with sketchbooks and pencils.

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Mostly I used pictures in books or on album covers as my inspiration. I drew Dennis DeYoung, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, Frank Sinatra. I copied an album cover onto the back of my brother’s denim jacket, and painted it (New Riders of the Purple Sage). I drew my feet, my hands, my dog, a self-portrait.

Drawing is a great hobby for a writer. It forces you to really observe. I soon went from drawing in my room, to getting outside and drawing from nature. It’s amazing what you see when you lie on your stomach in the grass. There’s a whole new world down there. Once I turned seventeen and got my driver’s license, I headed down to the beach, sketching everything from lighthouses, to fishermen baiting hooks, to windsurfers preparing to hop on their boards. The Jersey Shore has its own culture, and it has always fascinated me.

It was about that time that I became friends with a guy I worked with. Tony Gonzalez was (and still is) a photographer (see http://tonygonzalezartist.com), and I soon added photography to my list of journaling tools. Tony and I would head down to Long Branch and shoot under the boardwalks, using black and white film.

 

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I love the nuances in grey scale. It makes the subject’s details obvious to the eye, adding light and shade, highlight and depth, texture and mood. Take, for example, this photo of an ant on a daisy.

 

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The color photo’s story is cheerful, a happy little ant tooling along on a daisy stem, the yellow of the daisy’s center like a ray of sunshine. The black and white photo, however, tells a different story. The wilted flower now looks harshly dead, and the ant appears more sinister. It’s as if he sucked the life out of the flower, and is marching on to attack his next victim.

Whoever said “A picture is worth a thousand words” was a wise person, indeed. Not only do my photos remind me of details upon which I can draw in my writing, they are also the jumping-off points for stories. Take this photo of the Duomo in Milan.

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If you don’t know the Duomo, it is the second largest Catholic cathedral in the world, and it took nearly four hundred years to complete. That last fact, alone, is fodder for a writer. Imagine the lives of the cathedral builders, artisans, craftspeople! In fact, Ken Follett did, in his amazing novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

I love to take photos of people, as well as places. Aren’t you just dying to know the story behind this violin player on the streets of Rome? Or to make one up for him?002

 

Is he really a poor man looking to make a few euros to get him through the day? Or is he laughing behind that big smile, rolling in dough and just enjoying his retirement, playing a part? Is he married? How many children does he have? Grandchildren? What is his house like? Since my stories always start from the human element, often my photos give me ideas for stories I want to write in the future.

Whenever I travel, my camera goes with me, along with a little notebook to record details about certain photos, or tactile experiences. What was the air like on that day when the mist hung over the water? Did my skin taste salty after walking in the fog at the shore? Did I twist my ankle walking down that winding cobblestone road in Orvieto? How cool was it to use only a golf cart for transportation in Costa Rica?

If my pictures are good enough, every little detail of my experiences, including tactile ones, can be recorded with a click of a button, to use at a later date when I’m back in the confines of my office, working on my next story. They help flesh out the people, places and things. For me, characters and settings rich in details are what make a story worth reading.

Do you journal, with words or pictures? What do you get out of it? Dish with me.  🙂

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Chat and Giveaway from RoseAnn DeFranco

This week, the Femmes are happy to celebrate the release of our very own RoseAnn DeFranco’s debut novel, RETURN TO AUDUBON SPRINGS. It’s a fun read that will have you laughing out loud. It’s available now as a Kindle exclusive from The Wild Rose Press. It will be available world-wide January 3, 2014.

ReturntoAudubonSprings_8071_750 VF: Congratulations, RoseAnn, on the release of your first novel, RETURN TO AUDUBON SPRINGS. I enjoyed the characters and their story. What are 3 of the most important qualities of Rafe and Emma?

RD: Thank you for interviewing me, Maria. It was fun answering your questions and sharing more about my book. Rafe and Emma are true soul mates, having forged a special friendship in childhood on the beach over summer vacations in his home town. That friendship bloomed into love in their teens which they kept on simmer for a long time. There is a class distinction, something Rafe feels more strongly than Emma. Her family is dripping in money and he comes from a solid working class family. They are stubborn and will never be happy until they learn to set aside pride.

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When Disaster Strikes

We’re back! Thanks to Sandy, and lack of internet access, the Femmes took an unplanned break from blogging. Did you miss us? We missed you!

Don’t forget to enter our anniversary contest. There’s good news…because we’ve been on hiatus, we’ve decided to extend the entry period until the end of the month!  We can’t wait to award one of you a brand new NOOK SIMPLE TOUCH! To enter, click on the link below.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c70/

 

Surf already pounding the day before Sandy

 

Not too long ago, two Harlequin editors tweeted that they were looking for stories built around natural disasters. Having just been through a 7.6 magnitude earthquake while vacationing in Costa Rica, my thoughts immediately turned to how I could craft a story around an event such as that. Not once did I think a disaster right in my own backyard would give me fuel for a story. Things like that just don’t happen in New Jersey. When you think of New Jersey, you think of humid summers, sometimes nasty winters, glorious springs, sunny beaches and breathtaking fall foliage, but not natural disasters.

If you live on this planet, you can’t be unaware of the happenings in the northeast US over the past two weeks. Superstorm Sandy slammed the tri-state region, and our perspectives on life, weather, and the people of our area got knocked on their butts. Whoever would have thought a storm, creating damage of such epic proportions, could happen here?

Well, it did, and many of the citizens of the Garden State, as well as the neighboring states of New York, Connecticut and Delaware, will be brushing themselves off, cleaning up, and rebuilding for years to come. Living near the shore myself, I was without power for nearly two weeks. I am in a position to view, firsthand, the devastation in our area: the wrecked beaches and boardwalks, the destruction of some of my favorite restaurants, the washed-away homes, the depleted dunes and nesting grounds of various endangered bird species. Luckily, I can also help some of my unfortunate neighbors, people of all ages, races, and economic circumstances, to just get through one day at a time. Family and friends have endured such tremendous destruction, loss, and heartbreak, it is unimaginable, and yet, they persevere.

As I grumbled about not having power, my very helpful friend next-door said, “Just think. As a writer, now you have some inspiration for a story.”  She’s right. As I interact with the people around me, I am amazed to see the grace with which they are handling the adversity handed to them by Mother Nature.

In the grocery store yesterday, I thoughtlessly said to the cashier, “Can you believe I’ve been calling JCP&L every day for over a week, and they only just fixed my power today? All of my neighbors got their power back last week!”

She commiserated with me for a bit. Then I asked, “So, how did you make out in the storm?”

“Well,” she replied, “All the houses around me are condemned, but ours is okay. We have to gut the bottom floor, so we’re all crammed upstairs right now. Luckily, my dad is a contractor, so he can rebuild our house himself.”

Facepalm! Here I was, complaining about having to rough it without power for two weeks, and this young girl, who, I later found out, lives in one of the hardest-hit towns, was living in half her house!

I’ve seen and heard stories of people heroically coming from all over the country to help us. Then there are the stories of the looters, the criminals, the beating of a police officer at a local gas station when tensions got high, the stabbing of a clerk at a 7-Eleven. Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. They exaggerate the human condition, in both positive and negative ways. And they provide tremendous fodder for us as authors.

The story I would have written about an earthquake is much different from the story I would write about a hurricane. Now, I have the firsthand memories of what it looks like, sounds like, feels like and smells like to live it. Before, anything I would have written would be based on research and imagination. Now, experience can inform my story. We are lucky as writers to have this kind of catharsis for our pain, and to be able to glorify the fortitude of the human spirit, so that perhaps others may have hope and begin to heal.

I leave you with a photo of the real Jersey Shore, the one that will soon be restored.

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Least terns on Sandy Hook

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