Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My poem "About Eric"

I had a poem published in an anthology, Memory and Loss. Unfortunately for me, the editor left out the last four lines.  Here is the poem as I wrote and submitted it:

ABOUT ERIC
by Ruth Latta

We left him in the common room
clapping to the rhythm of a country band.

She'd warned us not to say goodbye.

"It's best if we just slip away.
If he knows I'm leaving he gets upset."

On the hour-long return to her place
I pictured her driving alone
through sleet and snow
three times a week.

"You're a wonderful wife to him," I blurted.

"It's my job," she said calmly.
"The staff know a lot about Alzheimers
but I'm the one who knows the most
about Eric."

***

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Santa Taking out the Trash

Santa Taking Out the Trash

Photo by Roger Latta.  Observed in our neighbourhood Monday August 15, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun exhibition

Yesterday Roger and I and a friend saw the Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. Vigee Le Brun was born in France in 1755 and became the most important woman painter of the late 1700s. Self-taught, she became the portraitist of Queen Marie Antoinette. She left France during the Revolution of 1789 and went to Italy, then to Russia, where she painted portraits of the rich and famous. She eventually returned to France, where she died in 1842.

Although I am certainly not an art historian, I've learned a little over the years about great painters of the past, and in none of the courses I've taken was Vigee Le Brun ever mentioned. It's a pity how women's achievements have been erased from official history until recently.  The ninety paintings are beautiful and each makes you feel that you are glimpsing the unique personality of the sitter.  And, as the description on the National Gallery website says, "This must-see exhibition demonstrates both Vigee Le Brun's immense talent and her extraordinary ability to carve out a significant career in a man's world."

We also enjoyed a dress-up aspect of the exhibition. In a gallery decorated like Marie Antoinette's bedroom, a guide talked about the fashions of the period, and asked for a volunteer to put on the layers of clothing that constituted proper attire in which to appear at the royal court.  The young woman who volunteered was completely transformed - except for her sneakers, which showed below her skirts.

For more information visit the National Gallery of Canada website.  The exhibition is on until September 11th. I would like to go again.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Obsessed, possessed

I'm obsessed, or possessed, maybe both.  I've extricated my central character from a love affair that shook her self-esteem. Being in a foreign country freed her to fall in love, away from the friendly observation of family, but it also meant that she was far from the anchors that affirmed her sense of self.  After a "dark night of the soul" that lasted for a year and a half, she found a job to throw herself into, one which suited her talents. There, to her surprise, she found the love of her life.

Anyone caught up in a compelling writing project knows how addictive it can be.  Up at 6:30 most mornings, I'm soon making corrections on my very rough draft or retyping new and improved chapters.

My central character is based on a real person, now deceased,  who made her journals and letters available in archives, so, presumably, wanted someone to make use of them in a biography, or even a novel.  My challenge is to get away from the "telling" (the narrative form) of letters and diaries, and to "show" her (dramatize her) in scenes.  The time frame is 1928-1932 so I must use the social mores and vocabulary of that era and at the same time make the story  understandable to readers in 2016.  The standard set by Paula MacLean in The Paris Wife and Laura Moriarity, with The Chaperone,  is a high one and I have read these and other novels based on real people to see the authors' approaches.

Why am I writing this novel, when it is so demanding ,and when I don't have a publisher for it?  My reasons will make perfect sense to many Canadian Stories writers.  First, I think the real woman behind my protagonist would want me to.  Secondly, she learned lessons from her experiences and drew on them later in life to help others, and I want to show that. Also, the real-life events lend themselves to a novel with a certain shape, and, having recognized that, I feel an urge to sculpt it in that form. As well, I want to get the novel written as best I can while I still have the wits and the eyesight to do so.

This morning I intended to have a lazy breakfast and watch the news. But when my husband got up around 7:30 he found me scribbling away on a revision to pages 118 and 119.  He didn't mind. He understands, and  approves of these endless revisions of the manuscript, because he knows that soon I 'm going to ask him to read it.