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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

Bridge of San Luis Rey – Plans in the Universe

 For what human ill does not dawn seem to be an alleviation?
– Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thorton Wilder (62)

In the Pulitzer prize winning novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, American author, Thorton Wilder, explores the circumstances leading up to the collapse of an Inca rope bridge in Lima, Peru on July 20, 1714 which hurled five unassuming bridge-crossers to their immediate deaths.

A friar who witnesses the bridge collapse and the last moment of life of the five people crossing sets out to prove through their deaths that life has a greater plan:

If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in human life, surely it could be discovered, mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident or live by plan and die by plan. (Wilder 9).

I read the entire book in a day.

The simplicity of the story and characters’ lives heightened the significance of deeper more pressing questions about life and its greater meaning.

Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God. (Wilder 12)

Thorton Wilder’s gift for language is still evident, decades after the book was first published in 1927.

It was the hour when the father returns home from the fields and plays for a moment in the yard with the dog that jumps upon him, holding his muzzle closed or throwing him upon his back. The young girls look about for the first star to wish upon it, and the boys grow restless of supper.

With an almost romantic surrender, characters are forced to recognize that perhaps a life plan is nothing more than a hopeful illusion, and in the end, we are not nor ever can be fate’s director – instead we are just actors playing a role on a greater stage with no say in when we enter, when we leave and what will happen once we’re gone.

There would be no one to enlarge her work; it would relapse into the indolence and indifference of her colleagues. (Wilder 118).

But perhaps the most beautiful passage of the entire book is the last sentence, which is poetically true, but is missing the fact, that not only love, but Wilder’s written word, is capable of building bridges of survival between the lands of the living (today’s readers) and the land of the dead (the author, the book’s characters).

There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. (Wilder 124)

Annapurna Circuit Album

Annapurna Circuit Album

The book was first published in 1927 and I am thankful I didn’t get my hands on it till years after I had hiked the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

Hours of hiking in tropical heat and Alpine freezing temperatures, the weight of my pack cutting into the skin of my waist and shoulders, the cold water bucket showers, the blood sucking leeches, the soggy socks and boots that never dried or the back-to-the-basics outhouses – no problem. My problem was something else…

(Entry from my journal) Bamboo contraptions suspending rivers prove slippery and difficult to walk on – especially with a pack. If you manage to get past these without falling through or slipping off then there are still the suspension bridges. These architectural wonders dangle high above torrential rapids. They have been fashioned from rotting wood, skillfully saving the precious resource by only placing every second plank. Handrails, of course, have not made their way to Nepal. Who has the hands to hold on the handrails when you are lugging 5 times your weight across the bridges? Every time I place my first foot on one of these bridges, I say a silent prayer that no porters will get on the bridge from the opposite direction. All along the way we encounter these agile Sherpas practically skipping across the bridges hauling wooden cases loaded with bottles of Coca Cola or whole trees destined for firewood. Their weight invariably sets the bridge, my heart, and my stomach into a swinging pendulum back-and-forth number. So once I convince myself all is safe (relatively) I get up the guts to step on. But then I make the mistake of looking further down the river. Remnants of previous bridges that had probably given up just as a trekker was crossing, taunt me. What really are the chances of this thing caving in at the exact moment I am crossing, I repeat to myself as I go. I unbuckle my backpack. If I go down, I want a fighting chance and not to be swept to the bottom of the river by the weight of my pack. But a second more reassuring voice inside my head robs me of this illusion entirely. If the drop doesn’t kill you, the rocks will. If you manage that, you’ll freeze to death of hypothermia anyway. And if by some freak accident of nature you survive all that, the rapids will pull you under and drown you. So stop sweating it. If you drop, there’s nothing you can do anyway.

“We do what we can. We push on … as best we can. It isn’t for long, you know. Time keeps going by. You’ll be surprised at the way time passes.” (Wilder 74)

Read the Bride of San Luis Rey.The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Perennial Classics)
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Print This Post


Writing, wine and great people – the 2014 Women’s Fiction Conference in Matera, Italy

Sitting on the patio of my hotel room in Matera, Italy this past weekend, the following notions filled my mind. The first was, “What a view, looks just like the Tower of Babel.” The second, “They’re all so friendly here.” And the third, “I got this.”

Print This Post A day after returning to Vienna, though the warm pleasant tingles of Monticello Vino Rosso have subsided, nothing will erode my now ironclad conviction that I am writer capable of controlling my own destiny.

Pure liberation.

Women's FIction Conference 2014, Matera, Italy

Women’s FIction Conference 2014, Matera, Italy

I’ve been writing stories since I could hold a pencil. The first real money I ever made came from mowing grass in 100 degree heat an entire summer long so I could purchase a typewriter so advanced, it could store an entire line of words and magically erase them all at the touch of a button.

So I wrote and after some time resisted the urge to erase all the lines. And keenly aware that to get from Once-Upon-A-Time to The-End, I’d have to be disciplined, so I was. And once I managed that, after saving money from years of working a non-writer’s job, I completed an MFA writing program to improve my craft. There I learned that to sell my book, I’d need an agent and to get an agent I’d need the perfect pitch. And even if I managed to successfully sell its irresistible traits in this speed dating equivalency game of the publishing industry, there were still no guarantees that my novel would ever glimpse the whites of a reader’s avid eyes.

Oh, and, don’t forget the eight percent. Yep. Eight percent is what I could expect to garner from each copy sold. So if a book cost about 10 USD, I could buy myself one packet of a Vienna McDonald’s ketchup for every sale.

Shocked? So was I.

Matera, Italy, view over the Sassi

Matera, Italy, view over the Sassi

Something seemed wrong in the world (besides the fact that I was eating at McDonald’s). Something needed to change. And thanks to the advent of digital media, it has.

And that’s why the Women’s Fiction Conference proved to be a wealth of indispensable information. Agents, publishers, and authors spent Wednesday to Sunday openly discussing everything related to writing, publishing and selling books. Topics included digital productions, promotion tips, translations, audiobooks, and more. Top selling indie authors like Bella Andre, Tina Folsom and Debra Holland graciously shared their personal self-publishing experiences. Meanwhile gurus like historical fiction writer, David Gaughran, offered one-on-one sessions to help writers interested in self-publishing. British agent, Andrew Lownie, and US St. Martin’s editor, Monique Patterson, sat down with writers to listen to pitches and share their views. Sessions like “United We Stand: Helping Each Other” and “Indie Unconference” provided writers with an extensive overview about the challenges and rewards that lie ahead for writers who self-publish.

Besides vino rosso, tiramisu (oh the things you discover about name origins), freshly brewed cappuccinos, enlightening after-hours discussions and funky silent street discos, what made Matera such a great conference, was the people. Attendees and speakers alike united in the common language of book lovers and storytellers to open up and cut through the current industry tower of babel to tell it like it is.

So I think I got this now. My future holds more than just a packet of ketchup.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Jennings for all her hard work in putting together a conference like none other of its kind in Europe, and to my former professor, Shelley Adina, for suggesting I attend.

Women’s Fiction Conference Website: Print This Post

Brueghel's Tower of Babel. Vienna Museum of Art History

Brueghel’s Tower of Babel. Vienna Museum of Art History

The view from my hotel balcony in Matera, Italy

The view from my hotel balcony in Matera, Italy


Freud and Freudian Slips

“The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and fall back into the great subterranean pool of the subconscious from which it rises.”
(Sigmund Freud)

How will you ever live this down? You honestly meant to say one thing and blurted out something embarrassingly different. Something you would have never said in your wildest dreams. And deep down you have to admit that your little faux pas was exactly what you were really thinking. But to publicly say such a thing? And you only had one sip of the Vetliner. Truly!

Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men’s actions.” (Sigmund Freud)

Freud's Couch

Freud’s Couch

Silence spreads through the room faster than a super virus. All faces land on you. Their eyes flash expectancy mixed with Schadenfreude and a slight tinge of pity. After all, they were all thinking the exact same thing that you oh so audaciously blurted out! Unglaublich! Who will utter the witty remark to save you? The large gentleman in the cheap suit with the red nose and striped button down shirt two sizes too small?

“What in the world ever possessed me to say such a thing, Herr Dr. Freud?” You ask curled up in the Berggasse 19 in Vienna’s 9th district on his cozy divan looking out onto the shady quiet courtyard.

First you had run to his favorite hang out, Café Landtmann , but the Oberkellner Johann informed you that the Herr Dr. doesn’t usually arrive until later. So you dodged the trams around the Ring, by-passed the university, onward past the Votiv Cathedral, and then turned down the Berggasse where a carriage almost ended your misery until finally, out of breath with reddened cheeks and an anxious disposition, reached his house and office. You rang the bell, rushed up the beautifully tiled Jugendstil stairs and then pressed the buzzer of the first floor apartment.

“Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” (S. Freud)

“What’s wrong with me, Herr Doktor?” you ask.

Nichts, mein Kind,” he explains. “You are perfectly normal.”

Freud Postcard and Musings

Freud Postcard in which he writes his regret that he hadn’t invented something useful like toilet paper and that it was too late to change careers

He reveals the secrets of the little devil residing in your subconscious. That rascal finally managed to get the upper hand at the most inopportune moment and blurt out what you were really thinking but knew, deep down inside, you could never, would never, say, wish, or openly believe. Oh but that little devil of yours couldn’t resist a little fun. Splash some life into another yawn-invoking Viennese Jour fixe soiree. ‘Not another evening of society socializing and trying to out intellectualize one another!’ That little devil inside of you thought and he really made you pay.

Austrian medical doctor, Sigmund Freud, knows what he’s telling you.

Sigmund Freud's reading glasses and fountain pen.

Sigmund Freud’s reading glasses and fountain pen.

He wondered about the exact same kind of things over a hundred years ago and in 1901 published a book about it entitled The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. And his theories on the subconscious and repression have since become so widely acclaimed that Freud is now known as the Father of Psychoanalysis (the ultimate “lay on the couch and tell me what you’re thinking” guy) and what you did at that party is now called a Freudian slip.

“Everywhere I go, I find that a poet has been there before me.” (S. Freud)

A Freudian Slip when your subconscious (the thinking going on that you are not aware of but is still taking place under the surface) takes the steering wheel of your actions (speaking, writing) and shows the world in big bold letters what you are really thinking but don’t want to admit –publicly and to yourself. Those slips occur when you are repressing often times unacceptable thoughts, beliefs or wishes, keeping them at bay from conscious awareness. But no worries, you are not alone. Some studies show that slips occur twice every 1000 words and in conversations, people slip up between 7 and 22 times each day.

“Properly speaking, the unconscious is the real psychic; its inner nature is just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and it is just as imperfectly reported to us through the data of consciousness as is the external world through the indications of our sensory organs.”
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams)

Freud Waiting Room

Freud Waiting Room

Famous Freudian Slips:

In 2012, David Cameron meant to tell the House of Commons they were raising more money for the poor when he responded to a question about tax cuts for the wealthy. Instead he said, “We are raising more money for the rich.”

Former US President George Bush, when talking about growing up in Midland, Texas, said: “It was just inebriating what Midland was all about then.” Yep. That’s how it seems if the bottles stack up.

Prince William, in a speech referring to the US news channel CBS meant to call the channel “the Duke of Cambridge” but instead referred to it as, “the douche of Cambridge.”

Freud Photos - cigar and family

Freud Photos – cigar and family

Mayor Richard Delany of Chicago during civil unrest in the US in the 1960s stated, “The police are not here to create disorder, they’re here to preserve disorder.”

Former US Vice-President (1969 -1973) , Spiro Theodore Agnes resigned from office as a result of tax evasion accusations. During his resignation he said, “I apologize for lying to you. I promise I won’t deceive you except in matters of this sort.”

Where id was, there ego shall be.” (S. Freud) Print This Post

This has to be one of the best all time Freudian slips, Thank you George Bush. Have a look at the video:

One of Freud's books - "Beyond the Please Principle" published in 1920.

Maybe George Bush had just read one of Freud’s books – “Beyond the Please Principle” published in 1920.

Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna
(a short walk from Shottenring or Schottentor (U2) subway stations)

Freud Museum Vienna

More interesting reading on Freudian Slips

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.” (S. Freud)

Entrance to the Freud Museum in Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna, Austria.

Entrance to the Freud Museum in Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna, Austria.

Apartment and office of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Berggasse 19, Vienna's 9th District. Austria. "Professor Sigmund Freud lived in this house from 1891 - 1938. The creator and found of psychoanalysis."

Apartment and office of Dr. Sigmund Freud. Berggasse 19, Vienna’s 9th District. Austria. “Professor Sigmund Freud lived in this house from 1891 – 1938. The creator and founder of psychoanalysis.”

Entrance to Courtyard of Berggasse 19, Sigmund Freud's residence in Vienna.

Entrance to Courtyard of Berggasse 19, Sigmund Freud’s residence in Vienna.



A Valentine’s Day Attempt

It’s madness, says reason, It is what it is, says Love
(Es ist Unsinn, sagt die Vernunft, Es ist was es ist, sagt die Liebe) – Erich Fried, Was es ist

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Two Red HeartsA drastic decrease in heart-shaped Milka boxes at Merkur combined with a sharp increase in the amount of debonair gentlemen bearing bouquets of fresh flowers throughout Vienna’s streets on the 14th of February can only mean one thing. After years of stead-fast resistance, the Austrians have finally caved in to cupid.

Ahh yes, opened up their hearts to let the sunshine in.

"It is what it is" poem from Erich Fried dedicated to a loved one on a rose bush in Vienna's Volksgarten

“It is what it is” poem from Erich Fried dedicated to a loved one on a rose bush in Vienna’s Volksgarten

And nothings says Ich liebe dich, like reciting a few of Vienna-born, Erich Fried’s poems over the candlelight dinner for two. Not a German native speaker? No worries, you can apparently get them in English (more info at the end of post).

But I know you. You’re a risk taker. And nothing says manly man like reading a love poem to your Herzilein in the original language. As my Australian friend would say – Well, good on ya! But you are still a bit worried about the accent? Don’t. Short, simple with a goo-goo eye (and hopefully ear) guarantee. She’ll be so smitten, she won’t notice your over-pronounced r’s and mix up of the i and the e. And if all else fails, remember, the more she drinks, the better you’ll sound.

But Box of Chocolateswhich poem, you ask. No worries. With Fried, you just can’t go wrong.

Just don’t forget Es ist, was es ist (It is what it is).

And as a Valentine’s present from KC to you, beloved reader, I have translated one of the poems from his book entitled, Es ist, was es ist to help you get started:

An Attempt
I tried to try

while I had to work

to think of my work

and not of you

and I am happy

that the attempt

did not succeed

Translation: KC Blau

Ein Versuch
Ich habe versucht zu versuchen  

während ich arbeiten muß

an meine Arbeit zu denken

und nicht an dich

Und ich bin glücklich

daß der Versuch

nicht geglückt ist

Who was Erich Fried?

Sadly, Erich Fried’s Vienna years ended quite suddenly and tragically. Born on May 6, 1921, Fried lived at Alserstrasse 11 in the 9th district of Vienna as a child. When he was 16 and a student at a Gymnasium in the Wasagasse, German troops occupied Austria and arrested his parents for transferring money abroad. The Nazis closed his school and separated the Jewish children. Shortly after Erich Fried’s 17th birthday, his father was released from prison but died the next day from the injuries the Gestapo inflicted on him during captivity. Two months later, in July, Fried’s family was evicted from their apartment and in August, they fled to England where they lived in exile and Erich Fried eventually adopted British citizenship.

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Romantic that you are, you don’t give just give your lady a bouquet, you give her her very own rose bush: Here’s how to dedicate a rose bush to her in Vienna’s Volksgarten, you sly devil you.

Valentine's Bouquet of Roses

Valentine’s Bouquet of Roses

More Info about Erich Fried

Publisher’s website:


Delve into one of his books:

Fried, Erich. Es ist was es ist:

Fried, Erich. Liebesgedichte

I haven’t read this book so I can’t vouch for Stuart Hood’s English translation – whatever you do, don’t judge the book by its cheesy cover: