Friday, July 7, 2017

Food for Thought

I’ve been given some excellent ideas for my next book in the last few weeks.

First up was Kali VanBaale’s workshop at last month’s David R. Collins Writers’ Conference. Kali was going over the importance of setting and to drive her point home she gave us an exercise to work on for the next day. She asked us to “destroy what you love.” It could be by fire, flood, the ravages of weather, abandonment, overpopulation, or the erosion of poverty.

The more I thought about this assignment the more I liked it, but what to destroy and how.

Of course, it would be in Bishop Hill, and it would be tricky. I didn’t feel comfortable damaging an 1846 Colony-era building, because they’re too important and too few to start with. But I saw her point. By destroying an old building, I could show, not just describe, the real value of preservation—one of my main themes.

In Clouds Over Bishop Hill I talked about implementing the adaptive reuse of old structures by replacing damaged roof trusses and by physically relocating smaller buildings. I had my woodworker repairing old chairs by taking them apart, cleaning them, and using better glue. I discussed the fragility of old photos and paintings. But I was never quite sure if I had gotten my preservation message across.

The second idea came to me at a Thursday night lecture at the Figge Art Museum. I was listening to Laleňa Vellanoweth talk about art conservation. One of her slides showed a crumpled flag from 9/11. It had not been humidified and pressed out for display. It was left wadded up. Laleňa told us, “It would have lost its significance if flattened.”

That example rang true for me, and it would help me solve a timeline continuity problem for the next book.

For those who’ve read Clouds Over Bishop Hill, you’ll probably know what I’m thinking of. For everyone else, you’ll have to read the book clear to the end.

I think it just goes to show how important getting out of your comfort zone AND getting out of the house can help overcome a little case of writer’s block.

No comments:

Post a Comment