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Friday, May 13, 2011

Write With Me: A Tale of Two Manuscripts

Recently, my manuscript of City of Ladies reached its final phrase. There is some last work to do, but it is finished after all these years. Now I look down the path of my second manuscript, A Hundred Years of Becasse. It is daunting to say the least.



                                             Half-timbered houses of Nerac, but in which century?

In shifting towards a new NIP (novel-in-progress), the connection between City of Ladies and A Hundred Years of Becasse is still France and the fictive village so close to my heart, Ceres. But A Hundred Years of Becasse is set in a different time in history.

The sense of time and place in this hypothetical 16th century village was one of City of Ladies' driving forces. Afterward I fretted: Would I ever find another compelling “place?” Of course my anxiety was more than that. I had to recoup. Gather up and search again. Review past works and try them on again. Sit with them. It has really taken me the better part of two months (and sailing through a project on the cuisine of the ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean for World Encyclopedia) to reset my writing brain.



                                      Seaside in Bonaire, Snorkeling Days and Goat Stew Nights

I am happy to report I have found an intriguing locale – different and changed. The village of Ceres vaulted ahead to contemporary times. It exists in the now, and the past has left behind secrets for us to discover. Now, don’t you fret either, this is quite a determined and different contemporary story and cast of characters.

Still, with this old/new companion story to the City of Ladies, anything is possible at this stage of the game.  Old names from City of Ladies may rise from the pages and take a new leaf, for instance. And while there has been some early writing, if I have learned anything, I learned it from my friends, Dawn and Kim -  whisperings: Outline and Arc.

Yes, Dawn--I won't be in a rush to write 500 pages, only to be whittled and pared.

Kim, you taught me that the structure is imperative.

If I may take some liberties with the definitions of these two "novel" considerations may I suggest that the outline of the novel is akin to pulling the veins from a luscious lobe of foie gras? And making decisions follow an arc that is like a French relative; a bit quirky but with a very basic purpose. The photograph of a beautiful dish entails many thoughts put into motion long before the camera is set up. Considered are such questions as:  How much light? Natural light? Artificial? And just how much sauce is needed?


                                               
                                                           Specialtie of La Belle Gasconne

One thing is certain--the story is that of a food stylist in France. So much has changed in the world since I started (then stopped) drafting this tale. For one, there was not the Web. There was la telephone. Whereas now, behold Google. But in mulling over and rereading this companion story, I have gone back in time when I didn't know my culinary personality. I was freshly graduated from the CIA and enthralled to discover a "new" culinary field: food styling. How little did I know!And now I find myself in memory mode, recalling my first adventures in this strange field. Come back on Monday to travel down memory lane with me. It will be fun!

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