Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Silver Linings

Written By: Jessica Morrell - May• 15•20

The sky is still full  of gloom here, but it’s not supposed to rain today and the birds have lots to say. It’s getting late to plant dahlia bulbs so I might nestle some into the ground today and then attend a socially distanced, backyard dinner later.  Yesterday while I ate lunch (scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and mozzarella) I turned on CSPAN. It was a hearing on the US coronavirus response by the Energy & Commerce  Subcommittee. The silver lining is that US manufacturing of needed medical supplies might return more fully to this country. There could also be more coordinated efforts to stockpile needed supplies in the future, maybe before the next pandemic strikes.

I’m wondering if like me, you’ve found silver linings to our situation. If you’re seeing everyday kindnesses big and small demonstrated around you. If you’re cooking and baking more, gardening more, reading more, cherishing friends more, and spending more time with your kids. I hope you’re enjoying quiet streets and drivable rush hours. I hope spring is lending its usual promise of renewal.

I also hope you’re writing and noticing how downtime is creating some ease in your daily routines. However, I realize that people with children home from school might not have that luxury. But if you’re not homeschooling and turning your house into an all-day diner, maybe you’ve felt the sweet relief of downtime. Maybe you’ve realized that when you’re not multi-tasking and staying busy all the time that your creativity is enhanced. Maybe you’re even napping without guilt.

And I hope you’re filling or restocking your creative well. Returning to beloved pastimes and hobbies along with learning new skills or information. Pulling in inspiration from a variety of sources–online museum tours, podcasts, reading, watching great dramas or fascinating documentaries. Because as everyone knows, a well should never run dry and good writing comes from an interesting mind.

What I’m reading: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund    (warning: you will be struck by writer’s envy, especially since this is her debut novel.) The story follows the teen narrator Linda who lives with her parents  on a lake shore in an abandoned commune in Minnesota. I was transported to the familiar scenes of  lake country and freezing winters and the miseries of adolescence. It’s a story twisted around secrets and tragedy spun with Gothic echoes.  She’s the kind of writer where you’re struck again and again by artful language and unexpected imagery.  I filled two notebook pages with her phrases and word magic.

What I’m listening to: Sugar Calling with Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl is phoning authors over 60 to discuss their perspectives on the way we live now. Her guests so far have included Billy Collins, Amy Tan, Margaret Atwood, and  George Saunders. Their conversations are delightful and listening in will make you feel more connected to the literary community and humanity.

Unlocking Us with Brene Brown is another worthwhile podcast because Brown is simply wise and has years of research to back up her advice about how to cope in our sometimes-harrowing times.. Here’s a link to an episode about keeping calm and dealing with anxiety.

What I’m watching: Becoming, on Netflix based on Michelle Obama’s book tour  It’s simply heartening to watch genuineness, normality, and compassion. (warning it might make you cry and want to travel back in time) Here is more info.

I cannot lie, but I love watch people cook and geek out over delicious flavors. The Chef Show on Netflix currently is satisfying that need. It’s a takeoff of sorts on the delightful film, Chef and reunites Jon Favreau the actor in the lead roll and chef Roy Choi his mentor. They cook with celebrities and chefs and their mouthwatering creations will make you hungry so consider watching with a full stomach.

As someone who once worked in restaurants I also enjoy the diversion afforded by Restaurants On the Edge. In the second season the cast travels to far-flung restaurants in need of help. I’m now convinced I want to visit Solvenia and finally learn to gather wild mushrooms. In Oregon, that is.

Then for Downton Abby and Julian Fellowes fans there is Belgravia a period drama that begins on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. Full of scandals, scheming villains, elegant drawing rooms, and upstairs-downstairs contrasts, I promise you’ll be sucked in. I especially like how Fellowes manages to depict class differences that should make us all think about how they’re replicated today. It is shown on EPIX, but you can also stream it.

Keep writing, keep stocking your well, have heart.

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  1. Dan Newland says:

    Lovely writing and uplifting thoughts as usual, Jessica.
    Thanks you!

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