These past 1 months have been difficult ones for some reason. They say that when too many extremely happy or tragic events happen in your life in a very short span of time it’s not good for your heart…or soul.
This past year has been just that. Extremely GREAT things happening and the tragic death of our beloved Molly almost a year ago. She would have been 9 years old today.
In an attempt to keep from sliding back into the depths of despair and depression I gave myself permission to let go of a couple projects and to do something I love doing more than anything else—writing. Just writing.
After having made the decision to ease up a bit with two book projects and allowing myself to read and work on Wythe’s End I am feeling happier than I have in a long time. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy. I’ve just not been happy.
I allow myself 3-4 hours each afternoon to write, edit, revise parts of Wythe’s End just to stay connected to this project that I am absolutely obsessed with. If nothing else it gives me the sense that I’m being productive at least.
I work on picture deadlines all night in the studio as usual. So, writing during the daylight hours and painting and drawing in the nighttime hours. I really am a vampire.
I had posted one of my favorite chapters from Wythe’s End so I thought it only fair to show the chart/family trees of the eccentric families that I am writing about: the Wythes and Braithewaites. These two families have been close friends since 1621 when Josiah Thomas Wythe and Thomas Josiah Braithwaite met onboard the Sunflower and discovered that their names were reversals of one another. The two men became best friends and their families have remained best friends for 373 years.
You have to remember that the novel, Wythe’s End, is set in 1994, not 2016.
I chose 1994 because it was the last year before I got a computer and connected to the Internet. For me, it was the last “innocent year” year being off-the-grid. Nowadays I am more connected than I like to think or ever thought I would be.
Here is the family trees for both the Wythes and Braithewaites:
This chart/family trees work brilliantly for me as a writer because I can see at a glance who is who and in which family and how they are connected. I didn’t plan this Family Tree I simply laid it out not thinking that I might want to add photos later. NOW that i see how useful this technique is I will draw another chart/ family trees allowing for inclusion of photos and more notes on each character—key traits that I need to keep in mind while I’m writing.
These family trees for each family go back to 1575 but in my notes for the novel I have actually worked out the families’ history to the 7th century. Just for my own knowledge (it might come in handy at some future point in time).
When I used to teach writing workshops I always told the story about my fourth grade teacher who used to like to say: “Today we’re going to write a story! Start writing!”
Everyone in the class would immediately start scribbling like mad on their paper andI would simply sit there, staring at the blank piece of paper, having no clue as to where to begin.
NOW…if my teacher had said “Draw a picture and then write a story about it.” I would have had no problem whatsoever in getting started.
Today I don’t need this ‘prompt’ to start writing. But in that I am a visual person it does make it easier when I have a drawing or photograph to look at and start imagining a story from there.
For Wythe’s End I scoured the Internet and photos of friends and families to find photos of people that looked like how I imagined the characters and members of each family would look. Each photo that I chose to represent a character/family member captures the essence of their personality and style. It’s a great springboard to have these photos to look at and imagine exactly what each character is like, how they , talk, how they dress, even how they walk.
Some back story about how I got my start in publishing as both a writer and illustrator: When I first ventured to NYC in 1979 to show my portfolio, meet art directors and editors, there was ONE very small 4″x6″ pen and ink sketch that every single editor and art director commented on and liked.
Here is that sketch:
It’s a simple sketch but you can easily see its promise. Is the chicken talking to the girl or is the girl talking to the chicken? This is the first question that comes to my mind when I look at this picture. I have used this picture to demonstrate where to begin writing when I used to do school visits. Children almost always scream out: THE CHICKEN IS TALKING TO THE GIRL! And that always prompted me to say “Now…wouldn’t you like to know WHAT that chicken is saying to the girl?”
And from there we would start writing.
All these years later I am following my own writer workshop advice and started writing Wythe’s End by looking at pictures. Pictures of the house that I imagined a wildly wealthy and eccentric family would live in. Pictures of the people that I imagined would be a part of this eccentric family and live in the house. I even went on to use Google Earth to find the exact location where the house would be located between Boston and Plymouth.
I went on to draw maps of the fictional peninsula that Wythe’s End stood, where theta Flying Arcadian railroad tracks would be, where Grebe’s Rest and Gull Cottage would be located; where the Old Cemetery is; where the Salt Marshes are; and so on.
I now know the world of Wythe’s End as well as I do the world of Henwoodie, where I live.
As I write each chapter it’s easy for me to hear the voices of the characters and visualize exactly where they are at any given time.
Yes, I’m back to writing because it keeps me balanced.
Yes, I’m back to drawing and painting because I do love it.