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Friday, May 13, 2011

Ceres, Then and Now (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!


  1. Dorette,
    O' my gosh, even being a writer, I mistook your writing of the word "entails" (The photograph of a beautiful dish entails many thoughts) for the word "entrails"!! What is it about my brain or heart that can't see the beauty for the body? I'm thinking that we writers play with words for a reason; to intuit such misperceptions to illicit deeper meanings.
    But what does that mean?
    My friend from New Mexico claims that 'I' search therefore I am. I suspect him correct about me. To actually find the meaning "means" I must do something with it. Eat it. Drink it. Be one with it. Or worse, try to understand it. Gosh that's hard. I'm already trying to understand about a million things right now, not to mention why it had to threaten thunderstorms at Atlandic Beach at the same time that I was supposed to be there.
    What has any of this got to do with your book blog? Everything! Meaning Eleone's journey to the City is like everyone's journey to their next place in time. You know? A journey is a journey is a journey. Meaning, really, this time, a load of bread tucked under our arms next to our hearts and our vastly wise hands is about all that we need to get there. Where ever "there" is.

  2. Kitty - thanks for commenting and you've really opened up some intriquing thoughts. Sometimes to understand concepts/words in a deeper way means we have to sit with them for a time; at least that's true for me. But I also like your idea that we are searching, looking for meaning. And maybe that baguette tucked under our arm can point in the direction we need to go! But in either case, I commend your journey!


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