I am glad to report I began work on my Dick and Jani (grandmothers) book again today. I remembered that it is meant to be written in dumb notebooks in pen so I don't get intimidated, that a lot of the writing can be crap and the point is to keep going. And in doing it this way, I think I hit on a way to do what David Shields was suggesting of keeping in the forefront the questions about authenticity, truth, etc. This includes talking about the process of finding my grandmothers as well as writing from their POV, so that there is no attempt at seamlessness or hiding what/how I am doing this. Somehow this seems very important, as it does allow for all the questions about the project to emerge and about autobiography and biography to have their place, not to mention the thin line between fiction and non-fiction. Just one incident of one of the Bukoskis telling me my grandmother (Dickie)'s father was a train conductor spawned pages of writing, because the census form shows him doing 'telegraphy' for the railroad, which presumably meant he was sending telegrams. Or maybe not, as I write that now, I realize I need to check this. Or the census could be wrong....and on and on it goes, and that's just one tiny so-called fact.
What I re-discovered today is that I write my way through issues rather than think through them. Somehow, if I let it flow solutions arise. Of course when I go to type all this stuff up, a lot is going to end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor, but that's OK. This is so exciting, because I was getting depressed about it and afraid all the research and the dark emotions it brought up was going to stall the project out, but it looks like no, it does not have to do that, and I am really relieved.
Also, I discovered through the fictional/memoir bits, wherein I am writing from my grandmothers' points of view as children that I was somehow channeling photos I had seen but did not remember when I was writing. I found them again when I looked through the albums for Jani's age and what she was wearing (in 1919 for example, her father and her, age 3, standing next to their first Ford - one of those glorious old-fashioned looking cars that I can't believe anyone actually had - they seem like they should just be in movies). This proves to me that everything I see is somewhere in my brain and when I just let it rip with the writing, it comes out. This is really exciting.
I'm happy, too, because I wrote in the middle of the afternoon after walking across Central Park, dealing with stupid banking stuff and walking around my old neighborhood on East 83rd Street. And you know what I discovered - or more accurately remembered - I do not like that neighborhood very much. It's loud, noisy, full of stupid stores and just basically annoying. I was surprised to have this response, as usually I feel quite nostalgic, especially since I lost a rent-stabilized apartment that I had loved. And I do miss that apartment, but not that neighborhood.
This was a good thing to remember, because I realized that the nostalgia I feel for it is just that - nostalgia, memory glossed over with cotton candy. And for the first time I forgave myself for telling the truth when the landlord asked if I was coming back soon to NYC from London in 2006, and I said no, which was true, but lost me the apartment. I forgave myself because I see very clearly now - I don't want this new adventure to be about going back to old things but instead about moving forward.
However, I am also disappointed tonight because an opportunity that looked like it might solve a lot of problems in terms of housing and finance does not look like it will happen. I was so excited about it because it looked so good and felt so right, but the person who is making the decision has someone else in mind who is probably a better fit. I found myself wanting to cry after that phone call, but did not because I talked myself out of it, which was dumb. I should have just let myself cry and then be done with it. Now, the emotions will gnaw around the edges of me for a while when they could have just cleanly moved through. Sigh.
I am hoping this means there is something better around the corner, but of course I just now spent hours pouring over apartment ads instead of letting it go (another reaction provoked doubtless by not letting myself cry and be done with it) and now I am bleary eyed and light-headed. I was also light-headed contemplating the possibility of the job/housing situation that most likely fell through, however, so I think perhaps this is anxiety and tension coming from wanting something a lot and being afraid I won't get it.
There are also some concrete steps I need to take to pursue ways of making money, some of which I have taken but many of which I have not. Partly, this is due to seeing friends and finding out things that way, but also part of it is bad planning on my part and too much time checking emails and whatnot.
Having said that, I did accomplish a lot today and also managed to walk around in a gorgeous Central Park during another sunny blue sky day, so I think it's time to get ready for bed, finally have the little cry I need to have and sleep well.
Oh and I am so excited to know I am writing again - hooray! When I am engaged creatively I feel this profound sense that every dinky stupid ass thing I have ever experienced, thought, read or felt will be somehow turned into art and that is such a great feeling. It's like the great cosmic recycling project. And thank God for that. As Louise Bourgeois said on a documentary about her life (when she was scolding another artist for complaining that being an artist was hard), "being an artist is a privilege!" I remember an alumna of my high-school writing that for her being an artist meant living with a sense of constant insecurity but also the greatest freedom. That is a paraphrase but it stuck with me, and the older I get the truer it becomes.
So thank you God/dess for the privilege. And help me continue to vacuum (Brits: Hoover) up my life and turn it into something for others. And please, please, please, help me finish this book and don't let it be the fourth one that almost gets finished and sits on a shelf. This is my humble prayer. Sort of (humble)... And anyone reading this who wants to encourage me in that direction and pester me until the thing is finished, I hereby give you rights (and privileges!) in that regard.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.