The Hermeneutic Circle and My Writing Process

Snow day - Guenette photo

(View from my writing desk this morning – stunning!)

Definition: The hermeneutic circle (German: hermeneutischer Zirkel) describes the process of understanding a text hermeneutically. It refers to the idea that one’s understanding of the text as a whole is established by reference to the individual parts and one’s understanding of each individual part by reference to the whole.

As I write furiously on the first draft of the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – 43,000 words so far and going strong – I am struck by how appropriate the above definition of the hermeneutic circle is to my writing process.

I can list many of the parts: character and setting sketches, research notes, outlining, storyboarding, scene blocking, quiet time for visioning and listening to character voices, to name just a few.

A description of the whole is a more slippery. At some point in the process, the parts begin to coalesce. Waiting for that moment, a moment I have never been able to plan for or anticipate, is agonizing. Embarking on this journey for the fifth time doesn’t mean it’s any less agonizing. But I have learned this – when the moment comes there is no stopping the story from moving forward.

It’s the moving forward that fits the definition of the hermeneutic circle. All the parts are in my head and I work and work for hours on end; the words pile up; the page count rises and it all seems unstoppable. But it isn’t. I reach a saturation point. I jump from my chair, leave the computer and run out the door for a walk or a ride on the stationary bike.

When I return, I pick up at a different spot on the circle. It is time for the whole to feed back into the parts. I might write snippet setting descriptions, review character sketches, update my chapter-by-chapter outline, revisit my storyboard. Then I reread everything I have of the first draft. Only then am I ready to move forward with the parts all tuned up to inform the whole.

So it goes. I must say, I do love what I’m doing. Let me know if any of this resonates. Maybe you have a completely different take on nailing that all important first draft. Feel free to share. I’m always open to tweaking my process.

Snowy Feb Hellebore

A Week in Photos

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer – Albert Camus

Hellebore 2017

Hellebore – I am in love with this new addition to our garden – a rose like blossoms that comes to life in the dead of winter.

Multi-level solar greenhouse

Our solar greenhouse-guest room-tool shed is coming along. The colours are especially pleasing to me.

Taking a breather

A bright, blue sky day, frost on the ground … caught the builder taking a break.

Ice Sculpture 2017

Ice sculpture BC style. No, we don’t have broken pipes. We just need to leave the water running so we don’t end up with frozen pipes.

Ice Sculpture 2017 - 2

 

Snow at the lake

And then came the snow. Not exactly #snowpocolypse but very pretty.

Snowy view from my desk

The view from my desk makes it hard to keep working. I want to go out and play in the snow.

FREE–Jan. 27-29–Disappearing in Plain Sight

My books - Guenette photo

First promotional offer of 2017 – Disappearing in Plain Sight – book one in the Crater Lake Series – FREE!

To whet your appetite, a couple of recent five-star review:

I was deeply moved on so many levels while reading this richly rewarding book. The characters were fleshed out in perfectly timed increments through the progress of the story. Ms. Guenette demonstrates comprehensive understanding of the varied troubles and traumas that plague people from toddler to adulthood, and she treats them compassionately in their resolution in this novel. I look forward to reading more in the Crater Lake Series.

This book was exceptional in that I was so drawn into the people (it’s funny but it’s strange to call them just “characters”) that, for once, I didn’t really care about the plot. The beautiful thing about this story was the way it made me examine my own core being along with the core beings of others. It made me pause my reading several times to re-evaluate some traumatic events from my past. Few stories have made me review those things with the sense of hope, compassion and peace that came from this particular book.

Amazon.com – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Amazon.ca – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Amazon.co.uk – Disappearing in Plain Sight

Enjoy Smile 

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

Who Has Seen the Wind

W.O. Mitchell - High River, Alberta

And all about him was the wind now, a pervasive sighing trough, a great emptiness, as though the prairie itself was breathing in long gusting breaths, unhampered by the buildings of town, warm and living against his face and in his hair. (W. O. Mitchell – Who Has Seen The Wind)

I remember being profoundly affected by reading W.O. Mitchell’s novel, Who Has Seen the Wind. I was in my thirties and I had a deep curiosity about the various landscapes mapped out across this huge country I call home … Canada. The way in which Mitchell so artfully described the prairie stayed with me. I had never experienced such a landscape and Mitchell’s words sparked my imagination and engendered a desire to hear the wind hum and twang in the telephone wires, to walk to the edge of a town and feel the prairie all around me. Because the book is set in Saskatchewan, I just carelessly assumed that W.O. Mitchell lived his life in Saskatchewan.

Museum of the High Wood - High River, Alberta

Imagine my surprise when Bruce and I visited the Museum of the Highwood in High River, Alberta and discovered their wonderfully constructed W.O. Mitchell exhibit. I learned that Mitchell had lived for years in High River. That he raised his family in the community and that, in fact, he and his wife were buried in the High River Cemetery.

High River Cemetery

For some background, I’ll turn this over to an article by Kevin Rushworth that appeared in the High River Times in 2014 to celebrate the opening of the exhibit.

By Kevin Rushworth ( http://www.highrivertimes.com/2014/03/10/museum-exhibit-to-celebrate-high-rivers-wo-mitchell ) High River Times, March 9th, 2014

MULTIMEDIA EDITOR

Who Has Seen the Wind, written by late Canadian author and broadcaster W.O. Mitchell in 1947, and his other literary works might have made him a national icon, but a new exhibit at the Museum of the Highwood will shed light on one of High River’s most prominent citizens 100 years after his birth.

William Ormond Mitchell—more commonly known as W.0. Mitchell or Bill to his friends—was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on March 13, 1914.

Canada would come to welcome this literary figure with open arms, ultimately providing him with the Order of Canada and the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, but Mitchell’s 20 years spent in High River started simply—he arrived in the community by bus in 1943.

By 1945, he fell in love with the community, brought his wife Merna to High River and his first and arguably most famous book, Who Has Seen the Wind was published in 1947.

W.O. Mitchell exhibit at the Museum of the High Wood

Irene Kerr, curator and director of the Museum of the Highwood, has found herself laughing out loud during research for the exhibit. The exhibit focuses on the years Mitchell spent in High River. “It’s so Canadian, so prairie and it’s so small town,” she said. “His humour was brilliant. He tells all these stories that we often tell at the museum, but he tells them in a little skewed, more humorous way.”

Mitchell drew inspiration for many of his characters from real people he met living in High River. His three children were born and raised in the community. While going about his daily routine, Mitchell would jot down notes about the people he met. Many of them became the so called ‘salty characters’ in his novels.

While being interviewed, Mitchell himself once said much of the inspiration for the town of Crocus—as seen in his Jake and the Kid novel and the CBC radio show—came from High River.

Mitchell wrote that High River was always a special place, “She’s a town with a conservative personality which makes you love her and lose patience with her, but she’s still a cowtown that takes her rhythms with the seasons,”

Rocky Mountains as seen from outskirts of High River, Alberta, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

We thoroughly enjoyed our time exploring the Museum of the Highwood. The curator – I didn’t get her name and sure wish I had – responded to our questions about the flood in 2013 by sitting us down at a table and bringing out several books with graphic photos. She regaled us with stories that made the whole event come to life and that, I must say, was a scary experience!

Have you ever discovered something previously unknown about a favourite author? Was there ever an author or book that made you want to experience a certain landscape?

Britney, Grandma & Emma at W.O.Mitchell's headstone in High River cemetary, Jan. 4, 2017 - bruce witzl photo

When I visit High River in the summer, I want to walk to the end of a street and have a W.O. Mitchell experience of prairie:

I would walk to the end of the street and over the prairie with the clickety grasshoppers bunging in arcs ahead of me, and I could hear the hum and twang of wind in the great prairie harp of telephone wires. Standing there with the total thrust of prairie sun on my vulnerable head, I guess I learned — at a very young age — that I was mortal.

Outside of High River - Guenette photo

Report Card Time

 

Brit - Guenette photo

I’ve been thinking a lot about report cards and the whole assessment dimension of sending our kids and grandkids off to school. I came across these great quotes.

Friendship … it’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t learning anything. (Muhammad Ali)

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one learned in school. (Albert Einstein)

What makes a child gifted and talented may not always be good grades in school, but a different way of looking at the world and learning. (Chuck Grassley)

00773HSAS458 Britney Keeley005

Our beautiful granddaughter, Britney – just look at that Mona Lisa smile! – got her first kindergarten report card yesterday. Five-years-old and already in the assessment mill of school. Heavy sigh! All her kindergarten academics are strong but on the scale of C = consistent, O = occasionally and S = seldom, she is C for talking out in circle time and rushing through her fine motor skill work so she can get busy with the next activity.

As someone who has never taken educational assessment all that seriously, I was tempted to laugh. I remember my son’s surprised face when one year he came home from school and told me, in dramatic teen fashion, how his dad was going to kill him because of a failing grade in math. I shrugged and said, “Hardly. Your dad and I know how smart you are. It’s just a grade.”

To know Britney, is to know she is a force to contend with. Even as a baby, she was a hard child to move and I mean that literally as well as figuratively. She has a low centre of gravity. She would make a great protester. When the police drag her to the paddy wagon, she won’t make it easy. It’s who she is. She has all those second child characteristics – one of which is the constant feeling that she is missing out on something and must hurry along. No wonder she rushes through fine motor skill activities!

Brit doing math - Guenette photo

But I didn’t laugh. A child’s first kindergarten report card is a big deal – to the parents and the child. I listened to my daughter’s concern and the disappointment in her voice tugged at my heart. We all want our kids to be top of the class with all their C’s, O’s and S’s in the right spots.

The best thing a parent can do is put things in perspective and this continues between grown children and their parents. I listened, then said, “Reminds me of someone else’s report cards.” My daughter paused and then laughed. Yes, I meant her. We looked at her kindergarten report card a few years ago and one comment stood out. “Less chatter and more paying attention would certainly help her progress.”

Brit and Kristen

This parenting thing – never easy, for sure.

Writers Never Surrender When it Comes to Love

White Flag cover - Dido - google images

“I know you think that I shouldn’t still love you,

But what’s the sense in that?”

Do you ever listen to Dido’s song White Flag and feel like sitting down in a chair and sobbing an over indulgence of emotion for the time you carried a torch and felt like the pain of lost love would never end?

As we get older and jaded about the cost of going down with the ship of unrequited love, we forget the emotion. Writers don’t have that option. We create characters that love and lose and hang on. We have to dig deep and remember. A song like White Flag aids in the process.

I’ll let you be the judge. Listen to this song and see if it doesn’t plunge you into nostalgia for the days of believing that hanging on forever could make a difference. You can just shrink the video and come back to read the lyrics here while you listen.

White Flag

I know you think that I shouldn’t still love you,

Or tell you that.

But if I didn’t say it, well I’d still have felt it

Where’s the sense in that?

I promise I’m not trying to make your life harder

Or return to where we were

I will go down with this ship

And I won’t put my hands up and surrender

There will be no white flag above my door

I’m in love and always will be.

I know I left too much mess and

Destruction to come back again

And I caused nothing but trouble

I understand if you can’t talk to me again

And if you live by the rules of “it’s over”

Then I’m sure that that makes sense.

I will go down with the ship

And I won’t put my hands up and surrender

There will be no white flag above my door

I’m in love and always will be.

And when we meet, which I’m sure we will

All that was there, will be there still

I’ll let it pass and hold my tongue

And you will think that I’ve moved on . . .

Popular culture – and we writers are part of that or at least we want to be – promotes a love that is unrealistic but it’s an ideal that takes hold of our lives, for better or worse. There is something about never putting up that white flag of surrender, that appeals to us.

We want to believe that there is a man or woman out there who would go the distance. Never mind that we probably know ourselves to be incapable of such a thing.

Snape and Lily Potter - google images

A man like Professor Snape, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. He loved Lily Potter right up to the bitter end. He died to protect her son. A son she had with his most hated rival. Is his behaviour not the popular personification of true love?

Or maybe the French heroine of Sergeanne Golan’s books, Angelique. She rushed through a dozen historical novels, sleeping with and marrying other men, though she never stopped pining for her lost love, Joffrey de’Pyrec. True to the romantic ideal, he never stopped looking for her. This is the stuff of great literary romance.

Though James Bond is portrayed as the master of love affairs in a host of Hollywood movies, in Ian Fleming’s novels, Bond never got over the woman he lost.

Our every day lives are not peopled with the likes of Professor Snape, or Angelique, or James Bond. The men and women we know are fickle and who could blame them. No one wants to be alone and as you get older the concept of true love becomes quite nuanced. What is true might end up being what is comfortable and familiar, or convenient, or self-serving, or a host of other things. Luckily for us writers, part of us clings to that ideal – why else flop in a chair and feel teary when listening to a song like White Flag?

IMG_9793-2

Honouring Our Lost Sisters

Red Dress Project

This week the government of Canada launches a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Many wait with mixed feelings – we are good at inquires in Canada. Less proficient at implementation when it comes to complex issues that challenge systemic racism and misogyny. I read a tweet that said – let’s not let the good be obscured by our desire for the perfect. Maybe we are on the right track, maybe this time we’ll get it right.

Listening to CBC’s The Current, this morning, the podcast ended with a snippet of Amanda Rheaume’s song, Red Dress. I had to hear more. I write this post with her haunting words in my ears and tears in my eyes.

The song Red Dress is meant to honour the over 1180 Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada and raise awareness for this tragic and ongoing issue.

After hearing the song in it’s early stages, award-winning artist Chantal Kreviazuk was compelled to lend her voice to the song and the cause.

The title “Red Dress” and the concept for video were derived from artist Jaime Black’s REDress Project where 600 red dresses were donated and installed in public spaces throughout Winnipeg and across Canada as a visual reminder of the staggering number of women who are no longer with us. The hope for the installation was to draw attention to the gendered and racialized nature of violent crimes against Aboriginal women and to evoke a presence through the marking of absence.

red-drss-image - google images

You Tube link to Amanda Rheaume singing Red Dress. Please pop over and watch this video and then review the lyrics.

Red Dress

I see the line of all the broken hearts

Lining up to tell their side to an already one-sided story

Years of cycles in my mind

Seems to be the ones we love

Somewhere, I learned to say I’m sorry

Chorus: Take me down to the river

City lights are in my eyes

I have got my red dress on tonight

(Repeat)

I never wanted to be a drifter

I am a woman with no worth

Somewhere I learned to say I was sorry

Every day I learn to say I’m sorry. I hope with all my heart this is the moment for the long-awaited justice that Indigenous women and girls cry out for – the justice that so many of us demand of ourselves, our policing community and our government. I want to believe this is the time to redress the wrongs.

I long to see all the beautiful sisters – free of all fear –  dancing in their red dresses.

Maranda - Dancing with Butterflies in Spirit