Tuesday, February 17, 2015

HALF-PAST MAY: LITERARY TRIVIA FOR MY AMUSEMENT

post by Lynn

As I lean against the wall in my bedroom, my hair gloms on to the surface in a static-charged frenzy.

When I step outside, the “active air” of Wyoming wallops me in the face, and when I throw the ball for Luna, it does a boomerang spin and drops at my feet.

It’s February.

It’s Wyoming.

February is the month when I get antsy, in a general way. Antsy for more light, less wind, and for, I don’t know--something different.

It’s a month when I must amuse myself or I get horribly irritable.  

So, my friends, let us amuse ourselves today with some literary trivia, with a few facts on some writers with connections to our beloved state of Wyoming:

VLADIMIR NABOKOV

First thing that comes to mind when you hear that name, I’m gonna bet, is a naughty little book he wrote. Well, he actually wrote quite a few books.


"Stack o' Nabokov" by Martin Kalfatovic
via Flickr Creative Commons
AND he was a lepidopterologist. Say that five times fast. In case you don’t know (I didn’t), a lepidopterologist is an entomologist (studier of bugs) who specializes in the collection and study of butterflies and moths. 

Nabokov and his wife Vera traveled throughout the western U.S. and visited Wyoming in the 1950s, all for the sake of chasing butterflies. During these trips, the author reportedly gathered small town details that ended up in Lolita.

Hmm… I’m from Lusk and back in the 50s and 60s we had these funny little hotels... I wonder?

Here’s something from good old Vlad’s writing process that you might find interesting.

He kept a stack of 3 X 5 note cards under his pillow so he could jot down things during his nocturnal ramblings (apparently he was a bit of an insomniac).

He originally started using the notecards for his lepidopterological studies, then adapted their use to creative writing. It’s said that the book Lolita started out with a pile of these note cards. 

In an interview with Playboy magazine, Nabokov said that he gathered observations on notecards and then waited for all the information to come together in some way. He called the notes “…known materials for an unknown structure.” He arranged and re-arranged the notecards compulsively to find the form of the story.

PATRICIA MACLACHLAN
This writer was born Patricia Pritzkau on March 3rd, 1938 in Cheyenne. She was an only child, raised in Minnesota by parents who were teachers.

You might know her best as the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, a story about a mail-order bride who comes out west. That little book won her the coveted Newbery Medal, and quite a few other awards.

MacLachlan wrote lots of stories for middle-grade readers, all of which bring to life quirky, lovable-in-spite-of-themselves characters. Most of the stories are centered around the family.

MacLachlan was an avid reader, but didn’t start writing until age 35, after her children were older. Take that, all you writers who think you have to start early!

I like how MacLachlan describes the birth of Sarah, Plain and Tall, in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech:
“My mother told me early on about the real Sarah who came from the coast of Maine to the prairie to become a wife and mother to a close family member… So the fact of Sarah was there for years, though the book began as books often do, when the past stepped on the heels of the present; or backward, when something now tapped something then.”
Wow! That’s quite an image on how the past and present interact and mingle and become story. Food for thought, eh?

GEORGE CLAYTON JOHNSON

Ever heard of this fellow?

He’s another Wyoming native, born in Cheyenne on July 10, 1929: Science fiction and fantasy writer, screenwriter (television and film) and actor. Oh, and coffee house proprietor.

If you’re not familiar with the name, I’m betting you are with his work. He wrote and co-wrote episodes for Twilight Zone, Kung Fu and Star Trek.

He even wrote “The Man Trap”-- the episode that became the premiere for the first Star Trek series.

Here’s an excerpt
Photo by Wil Wheaton, via Flickr Creative Commons
“Okay, you three, let’s see you petrify.” 
“Sir, would you mind explaining that statement, please?” 
“I want to see you turn to stone. Put your hands over your head, or you ain’t going to have no head to put your hands over.” 
-          Kalo and Spock, as Kirk, Spock and McCoy arrive on Sigma lotia II
Johnson also wrote (with William F. Nolan) the classic science fiction novel, Logan’s Run, which was made into a movie.

As if that wasn’t enough, he wrote the story which was the basis of the 1960 and 2001 films Oceans Eleven, and co-created (with cartoonist Jay Allen Sanford) Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology, a comic book series.

This guy is all over the place! And what an imagination! He also obviously likes to collaborate with people.

In the late fifties and early sixties, Johnson and his buddies, Burt Shonberg and Doug Myres (both artists), ran a coffee house in Laguna Beach called Café Frankenstein. The place got quite a reputation for being a hang out for beatniks, surfers, folkies and druggies. It is reported that over a two year period, undercover cops frequented Café Frankenstein, attempting to get evidence for a bust. Instead they ended up being fans of the place.

 I think I like this guy.

ARE YOU AMUSED YET? DIVERTED FROM THE WEATHER?

Well, I am. Now I can go on with my life and my writing. I can face the wind again.

Thanks for coming along on my self-amusement ride. The good news is that the month of May will be here before we know it. 

As if that means the wind will stop :-)


Sources for these amusements:

Odd Type Writers: From Joyce and Dickens to Wharton and Welty, the Obsessive Habits and Quirky Techniques of Great Authors, by Celia Blue Johnson

Wyoming Almanac, 7th Edition by Phil Roberts, David L. Roberts, and Steven L. Roberts





10 comments:

  1. That's way cool, Lynn. Thanks for the trivia. You mention the wind and Wyoming winter. My son was transferred to DC from Casper after living up there for 6 or 7 years. When he and Les pulled into DC, they towed in a U-Haul and a winter storm. Now they are buffeted by 35 mph winds and whiteouts. Wyoming really sticks to people, doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the Nabokov info! I had no idea he was a... lepidopterist? lepidopterologist? Whatever. No idea.
    And I use notecards the same way, jotting down essential scenes, then putting them in various forms of order until I find the right arc. Then I write connecting scenes if necessary, and that's the spine of the story.
    AND I go to small towns in Wyoming for inspiration. So you see, I'm just like Vladimir. Separated at birth!
    Thanks for the entertainment. I read it over breakfast. It's so cold and windy outside that the birds are flapping at the windows, trying to get in!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm partial to sticky notes, myself. I started using them when I was designing trainings - and now I use them for my creative writing. Yeah, you and Vlad - separated at birth. Only I think he's a tad bit older... :-)

      Delete
  3. Oh, I know I shouldn't complain. The east coast is getting hammered! I may whine a bit, but one of the first things I told Mike when we got married was, "Don't ever ask me to spend winters in Phoenix. It ain't happenin'!" :-) I actually love it here. I just seem to hit a mid-winter antsy thing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Loved your self-amusement ride, Lynn. Did you notice that two of the writers you mentioned were FROM Wyoming? The wind must have blown them away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I left Wyoming for 25 years and then returned. Must have been the wind that blew me back :-)

      Delete
  5. Lynn this is fascinating. I remember reading Sarah Plain and Tall and I'm also a huge fan of Star Trek and Twilight Zone. A very enjoyable post to break up the winter doldrums.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to help out! Spring is just around the corner... I keep telling myself :-)

      Delete
  6. Fun information! I really enjoyed it! Last winter was tougher for me than this one has been, but I know what you mean. By May of last year I never ever wanted to see snow again. Ever. I like the wind, though. Definitely living in the right state for that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, wind lovers should all move here!

      Delete

Writing Wyoming blog comments are moderated--yours will be posted shortly. Thanks for joining in the conversation!