Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire

IMG_1394Answer these questions if you dare. David Bowie’s answers are “on-the-spot”, glib. I took some time with mine. I still want to go back, edit and reflect.

 

Here is Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire:

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
  2. What is your greatest fear?
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
  5. Which living person do you most admire?
  6. What is your greatest extravagance?
  7. What is your current state of mind?
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
  9. On what occasion do you lie?
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
  11. Which living person do you most despise?
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
  16. When and where were you happiest?
  17. Which talent would you most like to have?
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
  21. Where would you most like to live?
  22. What is your most treasured possession?
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
  24. What is your favorite occupation?
  25. What is your most marked characteristic?
  26. What do you most value in your friends?
  27. Who are your favorite writers?
  28. Who is your hero of fiction?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
  30. Who are your heroes in real life?
  31. What are your favorite names?
  32. What is it that you most dislike?
  33. What is your greatest regret?
  34. How would you like to die?
  35. What is your motto?

 

Here are my answers to Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire (constantly subject to change):

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

a book and a cup of Earl Grey Tea

  1. What is your greatest fear?

Boredom

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

fear to express myself during an argument…I hate arguments because people expound and get loud and don’t listen to counter arguments. It’s boring and scary.

A quiet debate is so much more productive.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

talking and not listening…disrespect

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Stephen King

  1. What is your greatest extravagance?

generosity toward my children, anyone’s children and my dog, anyone’s dog

  1. What is your current state of mind?

ruminative, imaginative, meditative, almost anything that ends in “-ive”

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

consistency   Like Thoreau said “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

  1. On what occasion do you lie?

to protect someone I care about  (Sometimes that someone is myself.)

  1. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

everything that’s sagging or aging or receding or spreading outward

  1. Which living person do you most despise?

Isis and Donald Trump…anyone who’s powerful but demonstrates no humanity

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

confidence and intelligence, paired with humility and imagination=humor

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

creativity paired with the confidence to express it=humor

  1. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Recently: Into the Valley of Death rode the 600.

In my lifetime: Quintessential  (It’s a bombastic, pretentious and egotistical word.)

  1. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

words

  1. When and where were you happiest?

home, reading and/or writing, conversations with creative people, preferably with a water view

  1. Which talent would you most like to have?

confidence without ego

  1. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d be a better and more respectful listener.

  1. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My children, my teaching, my books – My most important life’s works.

  1. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

A more improved, wiser version of myself.

  1. Where would you most like to live?

a warm (but not hot), tolerant, small city by the ocean, with lots of public parks, forest trails, shoreline

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

a cameo brooch my grandfather gave my grandmother, carved from a single seashell … Something small enough to hold in your hand and carry with you that you hope you never lose.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

feeling frustrated when a situation is impossible and I have no control, no voice

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

the cultivation of hope.. that’s what the editing process is all about, not just editing my writing, but my life. I like do-overs. That’s why conversation makes me feel anxious. You can’t erase and then rewrite something you’ve said. I guess that’s called an apology. Apologies are tough but necessary.

  1. What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m thoughtfully hopeful and optimistic.

  1. What do you most value in your friends?

creativity and humor

  1. Who are your favorite writers?

Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare (for the classics)

Camus (for essays and reflections – nonfiction)

Jeffery Deaver, Thomas Harris (only the first two books), Louise Penny, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – for contemporary. I like mysteries and crime.

  1. Who is your hero of fiction?

Huckleberry Finn – his journey, his logic, his willingness and ability to change his fundamental beliefs about humanity and how this journey mirrored the profound changes the USA went through during his lifetime.

  1. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Joan of Arc, Martha Corey… someone who was executed for the crime of witchcraft

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

Abraham Lincoln

Martin Luther King Jr.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday

Jane Goodall

writers, musicians and artists…so many     Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, Bach, Marvin Gaye, Gauguin, Degas…

  1. What are your favorite names?

Tibalt and Cerulean    

  1. What is it that you most dislike?

People who brag about money and material possessions.

People who exploit their weaknesses to earn sympathy.

Physical and emotional cruelty

  1. What is your greatest regret?

Anytime I’ve ever bragged about anything.

Misrepresenting myself so I appear to be way cooler. (Same thing)

  1. How would you like to die?

quickly and with as little pain as possible… Gunshot to a vital organ, if that fits the aforementioned description.

  1. What is your motto?

“In the depth of winter I found there was within myself an invincible summer.” Camus

 

David Bowie’s answers (His 69th birthday was last week.)

 

 

  • What is your idea of perfect happiness?

 

Reading.

 

  • What is your most marked characteristic?

 

Getting a word in edgewise.

 

  • What do you consider your greatest achievement?

 

Discovering morning.

 

  • What is your greatest fear?

 

Converting kilometers to miles.

 

  • What historical figure do you most identify with?

 

Santa Claus.

  1. Which living person do you most admire?

Elvis.

  1. Who are your heroes in real life?

The consumer.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

While in New York, tolerance.

Outside New York, intolerance.

  1. What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Talent.

  1. What is your favorite journey?

The road of artistic excess.

  1. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Sympathy and originality.

  1. Which word or phrases do you most overuse?

“Chthonic,” “miasma.”

  1. What is your greatest regret?

That I never wore bellbottoms.

  1. What is your current state of mind?

Pregnant.

  1. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

My fear of them (wife and son excluded).

  1. What is your most treasured possession?

A photograph held together by cellophane tape of Little Richard that I bought in 1958, and a pressed and dried chrysanthemum picked on my honeymoon in Kyoto.

  1. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Living in fear.

  1. Where would you like to live?

Northeast Bali or south Java.

  1. What is your favorite occupation?

Squishing paint on a senseless canvas.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a man?

The ability to return books.

  1. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

The ability to burp on command.

  1. What are your favorite names?

Sears & Roebuck.

  1. What is your motto?

“What” is my motto.

Advertisements

Knock on the Window of Opportunity. Break the glass if you feel like it.

Writing fiction is simply a matter of looking through windows. The writer stares out the window to observe setting, time, place, minutes, decades, centuries, seconds, streets, houses, ponds and gardens. Then peeps into windows whose owners forgot to pull the shades, so she can spy on the most private moments of their lives. A voyeur who sneaks peeks into her own mind and finds things she didn’t know were there, monsters and angels, children and octogenarians, large, sloppy dogs and small, timid ambitions, love and new life, illness and death, enthusiasm and ennui, violence and kindness sometimes delivered with one fell stroke from the same well-muscled arm. As in a dream, each character represents the writer (who suffers from multiple personality disorder and delights in it). (And who loves parentheses almost as much as she loves her hound dog with the droopy ears) She experiences the dilemmas of many genders and flies frequent miles, high miles and thousands of them, flapping someone else’s wings, except each set of sun stroked wax appendages truly belong to her. Their owners just have different names and ephemeral bodies. She loves and hates, lives and dies; all from the comfort of her tastefully cluttered home office and the rabbit holes, anthills and eagles’ aeries within her limitless brain. Welcome to her dark and twisted psyche, one of the strangest places on any planet. Enter if you dare. Venom and sticky, liquid honey spit and pour out of her inevitable pen, frigid and balmy, ecstatic and angry flood-waves of both, carrying off the lives of others, without conscience. If she doesn’t shake things up, nothing will come of it. If no one rocks the stormy seas with evil acts then how will she bathe the reader’s ship in the soothing joy of calm water without boring them to death or worse, fail to entice them into turning the page? (Coleridge used the still water to create a tsunami of suspense. Ah, genius.) There’s no intrigue and elegance in the status quo if disaster hasn’t preceded it and threatened to follow it as well. How to dive through the portholes with racing heart, leave the deck games and bingo nights behind and swim past the sharp coral reefs and abandoned treasures, wiggling someone else’s fins? Then resurface without getting the bends. Wait! No! The bends might make things even more fun. The anticipation of a sudden and painful death. The threat of agony for a character she lovingly created with her own morbid dreams!

I suppose I should start a new paragraph if I’m going to enjoy the view from my window in first person, then second, then back to first. No more third. You’re looking out a faraway window now. Past tense window or porthole, or narrow stone aperture in the thick castle wall. Gaze out and peek in. You must look both ways if you want to be a writer. We’re all merely peeping Toms, psychopaths with good grammar.IMG_0328

Interview

I really enjoyed answering these questions. But when I talk about books I tend to gush. As I read the interview, this became very apparent.  http://kaistrand.blogspot.com/2015/02/three-times-charm-with-alyson-larrabee.html

ENTER IF YOU DARE FINAL COVERHerEvilWays

It’s out!

HerEvilWaysHannah Hayward the real woman with two graves

The sequel to Enter If You Dare: Ebook only, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Whiskey Creek Press. Print edition soon to follow. I’m loving the cover art and its uncanny resemblance to the real version of the setting for my second Annabelle Blake novel: Church Street Burial Ground in Easton, MA (photo above). There really is a woman with two headstones and she’s buried right here in Easton. Her name was Hannah Hayward and she has a Puritan style headstone and a reform style headstone because members of her family belonged to two different religions. However, Catherine Littlefield Hayward, the fictional character in my story, has two headstones because no one wanted her to be buried in their family plot. Her husband’s family refused to inter her remains on their side of the cemetery. They put up a marker for her, but there’s no body buried there. She had to be buried on the Littlefields’ side. Even then, they placed seven heavy stones over Catherine’s final resting place, to keep her evil spirit down where it belonged. But now someone has moved the stones and she’s free to wreak havoc once again.

Fear and Confusion: My Two Best Friends

IMG_2050The title of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s book A Guide For the Perplexed could also be the title of my autobiography, except I’m not brilliant and often quoted by the literati. I do, however, reside in the state of Confusion (CI because CO was taken by the state of Colorado) where all of the citizens feel perplexed all of the time. E.B. White called it “chronic perplexity”. I love it here. We have both mountains of discombobulation and oceans of befuddlement. The view’s always spectacular although often foggy. And when you come out of a store, into the parking lot and you can’t find your car, no one else can either. Everyone’s holding out their key fobs, pointing them in random directions and clicking. We’re all smiling at each other’s forgetfulness. We’re not mad, only a little bit frustrated but we’ll get over it.

During life’s dynamic journey, you’ll be holding hands with a big, frightening giant called The Unknown. Make him your best friend. It’s all about failure and resilience. As you’re creating and experimenting, anxiety is your fiercest enemy, your most formidable barrier, your highest wall to climb over, the treacherous rapids, the deepest, darkest, coldest part of the ocean. Don’t let your worries win because then you’ve lost. Fall in love with fear.

Herzog calls his life and career “a never-ending educational experience, a way of discovering in which direction you need to take your own work and ideas”. Vygotsky called it “the zone of proximal development”. If your true state of mind is befuddlement, confusion and flabbergasted-ness, and you’re excited to be there, in that state, then you’ve achieved the status of STUDENT. (I like all caps almost as much as e. e. cummings liked all lower case.) (I also like parentheses.) The learner, the studier, the STUDENT is a seeker who pursues not only knowledge but also truth. They are definitely related, if not the same. This seeker, this student-person, constantly strives to become a better thinker, an improved citizen of our planet.

If you’re not confused, then you’re not learning anything new. You’re stagnating, merely showing off what you already know. Being the smartest person in the room is not only boring; it’s impossible. Each human in that room possesses insights you’ve never thought of before. Your job is to find those insights. Root them out. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Don’t respond with a statement or a judgment. Respond with another question; a related question, one that proves you’ve been listening. Vygotsky believed that true learning was “socially co-constructed between people as they interact”. Listen to the person next to you, observe, remember what you see and hear, process it and make it your own.

Although it’s not a substitute for real-time real-life experience and face-to-face interaction, the internet is here to stay. Celebrate it and use it. Don’t let it use you. Google has taught us that we don’t know everything (And wouldn’t life be boring if we did? It wouldn’t be life at all; it would be death.), but all knowledge, all secrets, all esoteric facts and theories are accessible to us with the click of a mouse. Exciting but also frightening. If you’re not scared, you’re not living. You’re not learning anything. Your journey isn’t even a journey at all; it’s a nice comfortable rest someplace boring. Get up and get going. Free fall into a state of confusion. Climb your way out. And then dive into a mystified state of befogged-ness. You won’t be too scared if you’ve fallen in love with fear.

Grab a flashlight. Let’s go find a ghost.

Here it is! Available on Amazon, in ebook only. The print edition will be ready soon. “Grab a flashlight. Let’s go find a ghost.”

http://www.amazon.com/Enter-You-Dare-Alyson-Larrabee-ebook/dp/B00MBKZHMS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406989226&sr=1-1&keywords=Alyson+Larrabee

cropped-enter-if-you-dare-final-cover1.jpg

 Anthony is so obsessed with Annabelle Blake that he would die for her. Except he’s already dead. He’s the ghost of the legendary Lonesome Boy but he’s not lonesome anymore because now he has Annabelle. He’s with her all the time. Stalking her.  Waking her up in the middle of the night with his constant weeping and his ice cold wordless whispers.

She needs help. Fast. Enter the mysterious new boy in town. Wyatt Silver is an amateur medium, but he doesn’t just see dead people. He becomes them. Anthony takes possession of Wyatt’s body and their terrifying adventure begins.

Why I Love My Day Job

My Fifth Period Class

My Fifth Period Class

larissa d

June 13, 2014 – 9:09 PM (10 hours ago)

to me

Mrs. Larrabee, I would like to inform you that my friend and I are so inspired by your work Enter If You Dare that we decided: why don’t we write a story ourselves? So we’re getting to work! It’s going to be a bit like the format of Nothing But the Truth by Avi, (which our class is reading now) because we are going to change the P.O.V. (Point of View) between the two main characters who are a girl named Ariel and a boy named Edward. Here is basically a summary of our story (We haven’t come up with a title yet.):

“Ariel is one out of three children and having divorced parents isn’t the easiest, especially when you’re the youngest and still living with your parents; or shall I say parent? Ariel moves across the country from a small town in Massachusetts to California with her Dad while her mom and siblings stay in Massachusetts. Ariel meets a boy named Edward who doesn’t have it so easy either. He lives with an alcoholic mother and his father left him when he was just a baby. Edward is considered the “Emo” of the school because he feels hurt by the words of many of the students. Ariel and Edward’s friendship grows closer, as do their feelings for one another, but they make a promise. As much as they love each other they can’t show it because they don’t want their friendship to end. But Ariel smokes and ends up dying and Edward is in great grief and so are Ariel’s parents and siblings. When Ariel was alive he showed his love for her and it grew stronger everyday as she grew weaker 😦 but he couldn’t do anything to tell her but hoped one day they would be together. But now that she’s gone he has no chance, and still loves Ariel and only her. So Edward comes up with an idea to write her letters and read to her at her grave site and he always brings her some sort of gift and tells her he misses her and that he loves her. While Edward knows Ariel’s physical appearance is gone her spiritual one still lingers in the lives of her loved ones. Ariel tries to communicate with Edward but always fails. Ariel also regrets not telling him she loved him while she was still living……” that’s the idea of our book so far. I was wondering if you could give us some tips and stuff because our moms think that we could actually publish this (but with our parents) and people could read it. I came to you because I love your work, Mrs. Larrabee, and I honestly can’t wait to read it in August while I’m in Brazil. But if you could give us some tips about our book that would be great!

Sincerely,

Larissa D and Her Friend Sarah

Alyson Larrabee

8:16 AM (0 minutes ago)

to larissa

Dear Larissa and Sarah,

Number One: The fact that you’re writing to me on a Friday night in June (when many students are not thinking about their English teachers or writing) inspires me beyond anything most people can imagine. Your idea for a story is original and interesting. It has both physical action and an emotional and spiritual message. Mark Twain said that every good book should have action, adventure, romance and a lesson about life. (I’m paraphrasing.) Lesley Fiedler was an American literary critic and we had to read his book Love and Death in the American Novel when I was in college. He basically said, in his book, that all great literature is about Love or Death or both. You two girls seem to understand this, even though you’re not in college, yet.

Number Two: Here are a few words of advice.

Begin your story with an action scene that no one can turn away from. The reader will only want to turn the page to find out what will happen next. Make the stakes high for a character who’s important. Make the readers care about your character immediately by having her/him do something everyone can relate to right away. Something that makes her human (awkward, bumbling, idiotic). You have a great premise (basic inspirational idea) and it’s filled with opportunities for high stakes action. You have an alcoholic on-board, a rocky marriage. People can scream things and throw things. Go for it.

Change the way Ariel dies. I think it usually takes a lot of years for someone to die as a result of smoking cigarettes. You want her to die young, right? Not when she’s fifty or sixty? Also, cancer has been done big and recently, by John Greene in The Fault in Our Stars. Brainstorm some good death ideas: accidents, illnesses, murder Then choose one. I think that you want her to linger? Is that right? Not a sudden death? And that’s cool because then the two main characters can have some emotional scenes together and you can wring some tears out of the readers. People enjoy crying, especially teenage girls, hence the success of The Fault in Our Stars.

I LOVE the Point of View idea. You’re really challenging yourselves with that one, but it’s a great idea. And you can do it. I have confidence in you.

Also, change the guy’s name. The romantic interest in the Twilight series is Edward. Your ideas are unique and exciting, so let’s take out anything derivative (copying other famous, popular books).

I would like to publish your email to me and my response to you in my writer’s blog. Do I have your permission? Let’s get this thing going and keep it going. I’m PUMPED!

Mrs. Larrabee

PS. There are a lot of good blogs, written by writers that might help you. I’ve read some blog articles on co-writing books and I think you’ll find them both helpful and inspirational. I’ll give you some blog web addresses in school next week.