Writing and Place: Sniffing out the story
People who know that I am in Istanbul and know that I have begun a blog would reasonably expect a posting replete with my impressions of Istanbul, and there are many, but I think I need to take my time to bring something forward about what I really see here. I keep remembering Froudacity; West Indian fables by James Anthony Froude; Explained by J. J. Thomas, the response of a Trinidadian to the presumptuous and racist “guide” written by an Englishman perusing the Caribbean.
And, clearly, Turkey is in the news these days for many reasons, including massive demonstrations in support of the secular state in a country that is 99% Muslim. So do check the following, if you are interested: “The Real Challenge for U.S.-Turkish Relations: Turkish Kurds“, by Handan T. Satiroglu; check Beatrice Vanni’s blog-she is a longtime resident in Turkey; and, this article from the Guardian on the May Day demonstration in Istanbul.
As for writing and place, I wrote most of More Than The Wind, which takes place in Minnesota, while I was living in New Mexico, and I expect a great deal to surface about New Mexico now that I will be living in Minnesota. Indeed, New Mexico has taken on a vividness which has become profound for me. The visual impressions were immediate, but I had little language for them. And since I have left for now, the social truths, the cultural subtleties, the personal connections and dailiness of the beauty and the barrenness, are entering my storytelling voice, and my narrative vision, and my song.
So what can you expect of me, 3 and a half weeks into Istanbul, stunned at the remains of the Ottoman Empire and the infinite crossings of this place and the call to prayer and the women covered and uncovered, in colors and in black, the children running up and down the hills of streets, the merchants and the reverent in prayer, the constant story of the full acceptance of all peoples in Ottoman times, and the private stories of historians saying that was a rewrite and it was never exactly this way; the security at the Jewish Museum (which I could barely find, but did, by way of the help of a gentleman at the Tailors’ art gallery, and the vendor at one corner with a stack of xeroxed directions in English). And the merchant at the Grand Bazaar who was relieved I was not a real customer, so he wouldn’t need to sell, who instead sat and talked for a long time of his family and his beliefs. The sea, and the constant ferry crossings. And, hey, the ice cream that is stretchy, with mastic in it. Can you believe it? And the Haghia Sophia, the Ayasofya, with mosaics of Christ and St. John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary, all with my nose-now, there’s an answer to Gogol’s story, “The Nose,” about a man who wakes up in the morning and realizes his nose is gone, and looks out his window and sees his own nose smack in the middle of the face of some man walking down the street. And the dear friend who showed me in her fotos the Turkish noses I have a strong relationship to.
I’ve got a story or two, in other words, about the places I leave.
Don’t we all?
So, on the run, let me mention a useful website where they have just posted something I wrote in answer to some very interesting questions. I was asked to respond by Jeff Davis, Director of the Center to Page Team, a national workshop leader, writer, editor, and yoga teacher, author of The Journey from the Center to the Page: Yoga Philosophies and Practices as Muse for Authentic Writing (Penguin 2004) and City Reservoir (1998), whose essays, articles, short stories, and poems have appeared in publications around the country and in London, and who is currently researching for his next nonfiction book and completing his next poetry collection, Woman Burning Another Woman.
Here are the questions from the Center To Page website:
“What do you do to remind yourself as a writer or artist to connect to the natural world? How does the natural world inform your creativity even if you spend most of your days in subways and offices? What yoga tools connect you and your creativity to the natural world? Send us your musings, anecdotes, and suggestions.”
I urge my readers to explore this interesting website, and if you like, respond to these questions as well and send what you have written to firstname.lastname@example.org
Now, I am looking for YOUR questions about the craft, concepts, and issues of writing, whether story or poem, fiction or nonfiction. Send them on to email@example.com