Sometimes, we need to hear something said again in a different way before it really sinks in. This happened to me recently. A conversation with a writing friend reminded me that I had both of Lisa Cron’s writing craft books, Wired for Story and Story Genius on my bookshelf. I had started reading the first book before we moved last year, then never finished it.
That conversation prompted me to read both books. I am so glad I did! First, because I was fascinated by her explanation of how humans are still biologically wired not just to learn through stories, but to actually crave them. I always like to learn the “how” and “why” of things, so I found this to be a captivating read.
More importantly, the associated tips for writing stronger stories truly resonated for me. The sad thing is that, if you get right down to it, she did not say anything I haven’t heard before. But something about the way she said it – the way she told her story – forced me to really listen this time.
I guess we have all had something similar happen at some point. How often have we heard something (maybe from a coworker instead of a parent or spouse) and instead of rolling our eyes because we’ve heard it before, we stop and pay attention this time?
Maybe we give more weight to words spoken by people we don’t know as well or need to hear the words phrased in a different way. Or perhaps this person is simply a better storyteller. Whatever the reason, the result is the same. Suddenly, light bulbs are going off, brightening our world in literal and figurative ways.
In my case, I am glad I listened to my friend and read Lisa Cron’s books. I am in the process of applying her techniques to my current manuscript, and am excited to see if they improve my writing as I think they will. I’ll keep you posted on my results. If you are a writer who would like to learn more about Lisa’s techniques, you can find her at http://wiredforstory.com/ .
In the meantime, if crazy old Uncle Henry starts telling you something, don’t just use the time to check messages on your phone – pay attention. He just might have something worthwhile to tell you!
Ahhh, summer. Remember those long, lazy days when we were out of school and the days stretched before us, full of promise? Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time know that every now and then, I like to include a fun trivia quiz. Here is one to celebrate the last bit of summer. All of the questions are about songs with the word "summer" in the title. Enjoy!
#1 – What word completes the title of 1985's "Summer of _____" by Bryan Adams?
I hope you enjoyed this musical summer quiz. The answers are below. I also included a link ( https://www.braingle.com/trivia/27741/summer-songs.html ) to the website where I found it, in case you want to click the buttons online.
Mata Hari, arguably the most well-known femme fatale in history, was born 143 years ago this week.
Her life started quite conventionally. She was born August 7, 1876 as Margaretha (“Gretha”) Zelle to solidly Dutch parents in the Netherlands. Her father owned a hat shop, invested in oil, and provided a very affluent lifestyle until he went bankrupt in 1889.
Her life was a series of tumultuous events after that, which may explain how she ended up as a reputed spy. Her mother died when she was 15 and her father remarried two years later. Gretha did not get along with her new stepmother, so went to live with her godfather. She attended a teacher’s school until the school’s headmaster began to pursue her and she left the school. A few months later, she moved to her uncle’s home, for reasons unknown.
Gretha was only 18 when she answered a newspaper ad for a bride. She married a Dutch army officer in 1895 and went with him to Java. However, her husband, who was 21 years older than her, was a violently abusive alcoholic and openly kept a mistress. Gretha found escape from her unhappy marriage by studying Indonesian culture, especially the dances. This is when she chose the name “Mata Hari” which was the word for “sun” in a local language. Gretha and her husband divorced after their return to the Netherlands.
She moved to Paris in 1903, and by 1905 she had established herself as an exotic dancer. She claimed to be a Javanese princess and performed what was essentially a strip tease. Mata Hari was instantly and wildly successful. She was blatantly flirtatious and provocative, and seemed to enjoy flaunting her body. She was in high demand as a courtesan, known to have relationships with millionaires, politicians, and high-ranking military officers. These liaisons caused her to travel frequently across Europe.
After WWI started, Mata Hari fell deeply in love with a Russian officer. After he was severely injured, she begged a French officer for permission to visit him near the front lines. This seems to be when her career as a spy began. There is some speculation that the French officer only allowed the visit after she agreed to spy for France. French intelligence then offered her one million francs if she would seduce the German crown prince to gain military information.
During a meeting with a German officer, she offered to sell them French secrets. It is unclear if she genuinely wanted the money, or if it was part of a larger ploy. The Germans hired her, but soon realized Mata Hari had no information other than social gossip to provide them. Wanting to get rid of her, they sent a message, using a code they knew the Allies had already broken, naming her as a German spy. The French, as expected, intercepted the message and arrested Mata Hari in February 1917.
Her arrest seems to have been a useful tool for the French government, and her trial was not a fair one. The French military had had some severe failures, the country was on the verge of collapse, and the new government desperately needed a scapegoat. Her reputation as a well-traveled courtesan made it easy to paint her as a foreign spy. Through it all, Mata Hari steadfastly denied spying for Germany against her adopted country. She is reputed to have said, “A courtesan, I admit it. A spy, never!”
As expected, she was found guilty and was executed by a firing squad on October 15, 1917. Accounts from the day say she refused the blindfold and stood calmly until the shots rang out. Then she slowly sank to her knees, still silent, and eventually fell backward.
History has treated Mata Hari a little more kindly than she was during her life. Did she spy for Germany during WWI? No one really knows. But whether spy or patriot, her life was not an easy one. Looking back, one can see a pattern of adverse events which led her down a sad and unhappy path.
Though it is difficult to know who Mata Hari really was, I wonder what she would say if she learned that 100 years later her name still lives on as a byword for a seductive female spy.
We made the trip back to Wisconsin to visit family and friends last weekend, just returning this week. It was a great visit, but too short.
Along the way, I made a few observations. To wit:
Traveling with two small children for ten hours doesn’t have to be painful. Since my husband was already in Wisconsin, I made the drive with my son and his family. I’ll be honest, I have never made a long road trip like that with small children before, and I wondered how it would go. But it was pleasant, and did not feel long at all. I sat in the third row, behind the two girls, and spent a large portion of my time helping to keep them entertained. Their parents had brought along a stash of toys for them for the trip, so it wasn’t too hard to do. The biggest issue was the one-year-old’s tendency to drop whatever she was holding down in the gap between her car seat and the car door – on the far side where none of us could reach it, of course!
Sometimes, it pays to reserve hotel rooms way in advance. When we arrived at our hotel, we learned that it (and the others in town) was fully booked for the weekend. And no wonder, given all of the events occurring in the area. There was an air & water show in Milwaukee, the always-popular Germanfest was happening down at the lakefront, the Brewers were hosting the Cubs (always a big rivalry,) there was a bike festival nearby, and probably other things which I’ve since forgotten. While our rooms were not ideally located, I was glad we had reserved the rooms we wanted. The gentleman behind us who tried to get a room was out of luck.
The best family members are always willing to help. Because we were holding a family birthday party for the one-year-old while in Wisconsin, we had to work out the logistics of holding a party in a location where we no longer lived. Thankfully, my husband’s sisters stepped in to help when we had a couple of last-minute issues. When we learned the park where we were holding the party was not providing as many tables as we expected, one sister offered to bring a bunch from her employer. And when we learned the weather would be hotter than we expected, another sister offered to bring a couple fans to help move the air. Both also stayed afterward to help with cleanup. It is amazing how much people will help, if you ask.
It is always good to return home. As much as I loved being back in Wisconsin, it was nice to return to our current house. After sleeping in a somewhat noisy hotel for a bunch of nights, I was really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again. And to just having the stress of the trip logistics behind us. Life can return to normal now.
All-in-all, I really enjoyed our trip back to Wisconsin. While I am glad we could move closer to our son and his family, I also very much appreciate return visits to our home state. And with each trip, I learn something which makes the next trip a little easier. What are your favorite travel tips?
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.