Monday, April 7, 2014

a poem

ZENO & ALYA

by Belinda Diepenheim


Zeno's
perched in splendour
in a Brooklyn oak
calling, Kathekon!
Liberated from one
servant, in that space
where "I"
does not include
friend.

Gray can be all corners
and mood,
it can be the lost spot
beneath unfinished blue
sky. Alya lies
in the path of gray,
betrayed by her own
body.

Zeno, brilliant, beautiful
bird wisely self improves
as Alya tries after all trying
has furled inside her.

Who is "I" if it is alone?
A fragment of gray
to paint with the colour
and music of another
calling, you're the friend!
Yes, yes, yes.

Friday, March 7, 2014

INSIDE A YURT

 


As a writer, I travel to fascinating places. I've been on top of Mt. Greylock, in an attic full of bats, battling a storm over the Atlantic Ocean––in my imagination.

I also get to visit bookstores, classrooms and libraries all across the country. Last Sunday, I went someplace I have never been. Inside a yurt.

This yurt is the special place for the youth group at the Universalist Unitarian Church in Hartland, Vermont. I was fortunate enough to be invited inside to speak with them.

I read the section from The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya in which Zeno first meets the homing pigeons. Zeno knows 127 words, but he isn't quite clear on the meaning of  “friend” or “home.” He has heard that a friend is "another I," so he thinks his friends should also be African grey parrots.

The kids were much wiser. They knew the Golden Rule says we should treat our friends as if they were ourselves. They knew it would be boring if we were all the same. They knew that they can learn from having friends who are different. They knew the distinction between a house and a home.

It was fitting that we discussed those ideas in the yurt. The word "yurt" means "home" in  Mongolian. The kids were of different ages and had different experiences. Several had moved quite a lot. I could tell that belonging to this youth group means a great deal to them.



Nomadic people carry their homes with them. We may not have such beautiful portable structures or any camels to help lug them. But we can still bring our friends and families with us wherever we go. As well as a few books!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Snow hushes the city

Blackberry is wondering what happened to the world.

 
New York City has been transformed by snow.  This most recent precipitation clung to the branches. The snow turned everything it touched into a Winter Wonderland.
The change isn't just visual. All that white adds an abundance of light. It softens the harsh edges of the city. It hushes the sounds. The dogs are almost beside themselves with joy. The people smile.
It really is like magic.
Now I love to read books in which there are dragons and wizards. But the books I write aren't usually about creating brand new worlds. 
I like to find some kind of magic in this one.  Rainbows, meteors, people doing what they thought was impossible, birds finding their way home. 
 I like to make magic too. Storytelling can do that. 
So can listening to a friend or sharing a smile.

photo by L. M. Lucius

Friday, January 24, 2014

TAKING THE PLUNGE



My husband Lee was just as crazy as I was!

I rarely blog about my non-writing life. Usually it doesn’t seem very exciting. But I make an exception for this entry.  Because, as the pictures prove, there I am running across the snow to jump in the Atlantic Ocean!

What?????

First, a little background. My mom Virginia Carson Kelley will be turning 90 in a month. Since her descendants live all over the country, we decided to gather on New Year’s weekend. We rented a house right on the shore in Stonington, Connecticut. We picked the house for its lovely views of the ocean. As we hoped, there were beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Watching the snowstorm from inside was wonderful. I felt as if I were sailing on a ship – only a lot warmer. But one of the main considerations in selecting this house would be that we could easily swim.

Why oh why oh why would anyone want to leave a warm house, dressed in only a swimming suit, and voluntarily jump in water so cold that chunks of ice are floating on its surface?

I had to. My brother did it first.  

In truth, the worst part was while I was still inside the house, looking out at the snow. As I ran across the snow, toward the water, I felt exhilarated. One thing about the cold, it doesn’t allow hesitation. As soon as I got near the water, I jumped in.





And out. I believe that I was so quick that the fibers of my swimming suit barely got wet.

But I did it. And I’m very glad I did.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Comments from my cat

 
Dear Two-Legged One---

There was a lot of commotion in my habitat.

Strangers came to visit. One used to live here permanently. Now she has been captured by something called "College." But why, after going to all the trouble of escaping, has she returned to it? Especially if, as she complains, there are no cats there. 

I haven’t written to you in a while. I’ve been hoping that some of the fuss about that parrot Zeno would die down. Alas, just the other day, a human named K T Horning wrote:

“Zeno is egotistical, entertaining, and poignant as he learns about the meaning of words he knew but never understood, like friend and home.”

I already know the meanings of those words. Home is where the cans are opened. Friends are those who pet me when I ask them. But only when I ask them.

I sense that you are beginning a brand new book. You have not been sitting at that contraption. You’ve been writing in a notebook. 

It's a time of great excitement. You have entered the woods. Your nose quivers. There are so many scents. Which trail should you pursue? Don't go after what others have discarded. Find your own prey. Remember to dig deep.

Happy hunting!

--Blackberry


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friends

One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with friends. (I'm lucky––I consider my family members to be friends.) We exchange gifts. We share delicious food. We do our best to light up the long evenings.

I have other friends who have done a great deal to keep the darkness at bay. They've been such an important part of my life. I love them dearly––but sometimes I ignore them for years. They don't mind. They wait patiently on the shelf. Then my daughter needs something to read, and I run to the bookcase, eager to introduce her to one of my literary friends.

 My publisher has a motto.

I love that sentiment. I'm so proud that they considered Zeno & Alya to be that kind of book.

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the books who have given me wonderful companions.



Wilbur the pig.  I know, Charlotte the spider gets that lovely bit of praise at the end. But  Wilbur is the one with enthusiasms. You have to love a pig who tries to spin a web!



Mary Lennox.  She’s so disagreeable, I had to love her. She works so hard to bring the garden back to life.


Jo March. I suppose I identified most strongly with her – but not because she wanted to be a writer. I was every bit as clumsy as she was. And my older sister was as perfect as Meg.
My list could go on and on. But I think I'll go spend some time with dear old friends.

I hope that you all found time this holiday season to spend time with yours – and make new ones.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Just Name It

 
My nephew Alex recently started a job with a company called Catchword. It's a naming agency. Their clients are corporations who are launching new products or rethinking their existence, but I think they could start a whole division to help people like me. 





Writers have to name things all the time. Characters, cities, streets, pets, just to mention a few. In historical fiction, names must be changed to protect the innocent. If you’re writing a book that involves any world building, you’ll have to name all the creatures, the clothing, the food, the transportation, and whatever screen device they watch or watches them. No wonder I stick to my version of realistic fiction. I know I could never come up with all those names!
I haven’t even mentioned the most important thing that needs a name––the book itself . 


I don’t remember having a Eureka moment when I thought of this title. It seems pretty straightforward. Half of it is comprised of the names of the two main characters––Zeno (the African grey parrot) and Alya (the girl). The squiggle of an ampersand that links them promises a closer connection than an ordinary "and."

 I’ve already blogged about how the parrot was named after the Greek philosopher Zeno who was one of the early Stoics. The parrot Zeno is a curmudgeon, so it makes sense that his name ends in “no.” 
The girl's name had to start with the letter A. I liked how "Alya" sounds strong, without being harsh. The syllable at the end is kind of like a cheer or the noise tennis players make when they smash the ball cross-court. “Yah!” Sounds in words are like a little bit of hidden music.
But what about the rest? What about Desperate Adventures? Why not reckless quests? Serious escapades? Overwhelming exploits?   

 
Desperate has despair. Overcoming despair is often what I write about––even though most of my readers are years from being adults. If you want to observe true courage, watch a kid walk down the hall of her middle school. 

Adventure has advent––the start, the beginning, the arrival of something important, like a brand new story.

Aren’t words wonderful?