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Say What You Mean by Veronica Jorge

October 22, 2017 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , , ,

We’ve all heard the saying, “Say what you mean and mean what you say,” but how do you effectively achieve that?

Did you ever relate a hysterical event….that no one got? And you had to end with the lame, “Well, you had to be there.”

Or tell a joke and no one laughed? Awkward.

Yet a comedic master has you laughing before they even reach the punch line. You enjoy it so much that you repeat it over and over again because they made you “get it.” What’s more, they made you feel like it’s your own; like you were there.

At other times you speak clearly; or so you think, but the hearer is offended. You say, “That’s not what I meant,” and are hard-pressed to explain what you were actually trying to convey. The confusion increases. You only make it worse.

Once the words are out, whether verbal or written, there is no edit or undo.

So what is it about language that makes it comprehensible to some but not to others? And how can you ensure that what you say is what will be understood; that the meaning or emotion you intended is the one received?

In the children’s story, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, illustrated by Fritz Seibel, plain language turns a household topsy-turvy.

Amelia is hired as a domestic aide. The homeowners leave her a clear list of the chores she should complete while they are out. She follows the written instructions accurately.

“Draw the curtains.”  Amelia sketches them perfectly.

“Put out the lights.”  She neatly strings the bulbs out on the clothes line.

“Dust the furniture.” She finds the powder puff and chooses a lovely scented dusting powder.

“Dress the chicken.”  I think you can guess what she does with that one.

All the while, Amelia marvels at her employer’s strange ways.

Write from the Heart | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of Orange

Humorous to be sure, but it addresses the need for a higher standard of writing that preserves the integrity of language where words convey what they mean.

In his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell wrote, “Language becomes inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Ouch!

He continues, “The writer has a meaning but can’t express it or inadvertently says something else due to a mixture of vagueness and incompetence.” Double ouch!

Orwell exhorts the writer to first get the meaning clear through pictures and sensations. Then choose the word or phrase that best fits the meaning. (Easy for him to say).

But he does help to answer the question of how to say what we mean and he sums it up in one word, “Sincerity.” Language, he explains, is an instrument for expressing thought therefore, he concludes, the great enemy of clear language is insincerity.

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Orwell’s essay was challenging and biting; a bright light that pointed out my short-comings in prose, (both written and spoken). Yet it affirmed my commitment to write from the heart and validated that I am on the right path.

Now I just have to figure out how to pull it all together!

 

See you next time on November 22nd.

 

Veronica Jorge

Veronica Jorge

Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

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Editing Nightmare

September 22, 2017 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , ,

Editing Nightmare | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of OrangeI think I’m obsessed with editing.

I’ve revised my novel so many times it feels different than what I started with. Maybe that’s a good thing. But sometimes I find that I’m my harshest critic and at night, when I most want to rest, I turn into a berserk editor.

Last night I dreamed I was in a commercial demonstrating a slicing and dicing machine.

I was chopping up words, not food.

The previous night I saw myself seated behind a desk with a plaque that read, ‘Veronica Jorge, Editor, You imagine it, we print it.’ A distinguished looking gentleman cringed before me, chewing on his thick mustache and nervously wiping his spectacles with a white starched handkerchief. My contorted face ridiculed his manuscript.

“O.K. bud, let me get this straight. You’ve got an orphan girl; lonely, bored, misunderstood. She gets whooshed up into a tornado and winds up in a magical realm where they’re ready to worship her. And all she wants to do is go back to her dreary life on a dilapidated farm? You just set up your plot to fail!

Try a different spin. This chick; Dorothy, right?  Have her use her powers to control the munchkins then march them into Oz and take out the Wizard. She rules, hooks up with the scarecrow and they have some off- the -wall kids.

Now, you’ve got a story!”

Write from the Heart | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of Orange

In the third nightmare, I sat behind the editor desk again. This time the plaque read, ‘Home Girl Publications, You dish it out, we can take it.’

I tore into the lovely author. My words curdled her milky complexion.

“No way readers gonna connect or sympathize with these March girls puttin’ on plays, gawkin’ at the lanky shorty next door and mopin’ after poor ole daddy gone off to war.

We got sisters out there dealin’ with real-life issues. Some got husbands serving in Afghanistan or Iraq. Others are strugglin’ as single moms with wannabe men and make-believe daddies sweatin’ ‘em. All of them doin’ it for theirselves; holdin’ down two, sometimes three, jobs just to make ends meet and put food on the table for the kids.

You gotsta keep it real, honey. Nameen?”

 

I wake each time, heart pounding and stressed over getting my novel perfect, and I ask myself whether I should continue writing.

The answer is always a resounding, “Yes”, because the story is the story of me and I must write it, if only just for me. Maybe then the nightmares will cease because it seems that my peace is contained in my novel’s completion.

 

See you next time on October 22nd.

 

Veronica Jorge


Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York.  Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

 

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You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!

August 22, 2017 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , ,

Write from the Heart | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of OrangeYou’ve come a long way, baby!

Have we?

I recently read a debut novel by one of my fellow members in the Historical Novel Society. The book relates the story of a young women struggling against prejudice and hypocrisy in the 1800s, but it equally applies to women today.

As I read the book, I recalled the saying, “But, for the grace of God, there go I,” because indeed, this girl’s life could have been mine… or yours.

This month I would like to share a review I wrote for her book and I hope you will all be inspired to read it.  I’m sure you’ll be as moved as I was, and still am.


Lilli De Jong

Janet Benton

Nan A. Talese
May 2017
ISBN 9780385541459

Picture yourself in a theater. The lights begin to dim and the audience quiets. A paper crinkles as the last candy is unwrapped. Overhead, a beam casts its glow on the stage and illuminates a Quaker woman seated in a plain, high back wooden chair, a baby nestled against her breast.  The woman begins to speak and her soft even tone hypnotizes you. When her eyes find you, it might as well be you in the spotlight because her words expose and reveal the attitudes and prejudices in your heart.

Such is the power of Janet Benton’s novel, Lilli de Jong.

In mesmerizing detail, like a friend relating a most intimate story, we personally hear and are moved by a young woman’s encounter with the realities of her time, while Janet Benton’s tender and elegant prose carry us protectively through the most heart-rending scenes.

“Home” ceases to exist. Men, and women alike, take advantage of her misfortunes. Society has no place or tolerance for “fallen” women. And religion, a refuge for the soul, provides no compassionate haven for women “like her.”

Janet Benton tells a compelling story of the plight of unwed mothers; situations, unfortunately, as real and relevant today as in the 1800s, the time period in which the story unfolds. As far as society has progressed, difficulties still persist, as mothers who are single-parents will attest, in terms of finding employment, child-care, housing, and… honor and respect.

Lilli’s story ends. The audience solemnly exits the theater.

And this reader hopes that each of us will be more inclined toward mercy than judgement, and earnestly look for opportunities to extend a helping hand.

 

See you next time on September 22nd.

 

Veronica Jorge

 


Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York.  Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

 

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The Character Must Die

July 22, 2017 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , ,

That Character Must Die | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of OrangeI killed one of the characters in my novel.

(It was more like two, but I have no qualms about the second one.)

I came up with a death scene I really liked and just had to use it, so someone had to “go.”

I’m still not sure if it was in the best interest of the story, or if I’m just stuck on having to use a particular description.

As I reflect on the sequence of events and the wording, and debate the character’s fate; to live or not to live? I think about language in general and the nuances contained therein.

The English “goodbye”, like the characters in a book, can be so finite. Here today, gone tomorrow.

In contrast, parting words in other languages encompass a world of possibilities of that which is yet to be experienced. Whether it’s, auf wiedersehen in German, arrivederci in Italian, or hasta luego in Spanish, each expresses the probability, and the hope, that we will meet again. Even the Japanese rarely use sayonara, unless it really is “the end.”

Write from the Heart | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of OrangeIn life, as in writing and in reading, I prefer the meanings that other languages provide for that interim we call separation. And I would like to think that the characters we create in our imaginations, that eventually inhabit the pages of a book, continue on, not only in our own minds, but in the minds, and perhaps the hearts, of our readers.

So, if I must terminate one of my characters, I’ll think of them as an old soldier who has faithfully served, and comfort myself with the words of General Douglas MacArthur.

“Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”

And I realize that no matter how wonderful a story may be, as we grow and change, some of the characters we loved best as writers and readers do fade away and/or are replaced by others.

But, they never really die.

We meet them over and over again in the ways they have touched us and changed us, and have made us different and maybe, even better, for having met them.

 

See you next time on August 22nd.

 

Veronica Jorge

Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York.  Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

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Word Count

June 22, 2017 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge tagged as , , , , ,

Word Count | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of Orange

So who established word counts? And when did words become so expensive to print that they require massive cuts, like the U.S. budget?  Does that mean that in today’s market James Joyce’s, Ulysses wouldn’t make it to publication? Or past the word police? Would an agent even get through the first five pages?

I can imagine an editor skimming through Chapter One of Charles Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities. “… it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of unbelief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,…we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way….Yada, yada, yada.” His critique might be, “A rambling paragraph with enough commas to fill an entire chapter. Excessive word count, repetitive and burdensome. Guy probably sent it to me by mistake. I’ll have to let him know that we don’t publish psychiatric diaries.”

The editor would most likely want to limit the count of ‘to be’ verbs. By those standards, I guess Shakespeare wouldn’t make the cut it either, “To be or not to be.”

Write from the Heart | Veronica Jorge | A Slice of OrangeWhen did we get so busy and pressed for time that we gulp down a book so we can get on to the next one? When did our palate become so insipid that we can no longer relish and savor the taste of words making us miss the whole joy of the language journey?

I recall the film, The Agony and the Ecstasy. No, it’s not a sexy romance. Sorry. It depicts the story of Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Several scenes show Pope Sixtus IV impatiently interrupting the artist at work to ask, “When will it be finished?” to which Michelangelo would always reply, “When it is finished.”

Like Michelangelo’s paintbrush, I bristle at the agent mantra to keep it short, be concise. Yes, I know words cost money and time is money. But so did paint back then. What might the Sistine Chapel look like today if Michelangelo had raced to finish it, or had been limited by how many paint colors he could use? “Tone it down. Don’t apply the paint too thickly. Stay on budget.”

Logically, I understand that rules and formats, and word counts must apply. But when I was a teacher I didn’t teach to the test because that’s not good pedagogy. For me, a creative work is finished when it is finished. And as a writer, I don’t want to write to the word count, but I do always want to make every word count.

See you next time on July 22nd.

Veronica


Veronica Jorge

Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York.  Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.

 

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