A Book of Beginnings, Blog, Fiction, writer's group resources

A Book of Beginnings: Currants

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Green Currant Book by mwri

You are fiddling with the small currant branch I brought in from my morning walk. Something broke it. I noticed and twisted it the rest of the way, brought it in and made an impromptu centerpiece. It has currants, but they are still bright green pearls with a kiss of brown where the blooms were.

“Can you start too soon?” you ask.

“I think you can.”

A currant pops off and rolls to the edge of the table. You catch it with a look of triumph, start rolling it around in your palm.

“But I thought you could start anywhere. Tahini. A roller skate.”

“Well, yes,” I say. “You could even start with tahini in the roller skate, but it could still be too soon.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Sure you get it.” I pinch the currant from your palm. “Open your mouth.”

You are all too willing to let me order you around like Westley, so you open your mouth. “Go ahead, bite it,” I say. You do, and now you are squinting and wrinkling your nose and looking for a place to spit the currant.

“Blech!”

“I’m sorry,” I smile.

“You are not sorry. Blech! I trusted you!”

“Well, I appreciate that,” I say. Verlyn reminds that our readers want to trust us. They want to grant authority to a writer. But you have to earn it. I mean, a writer can lose a reader’s trust pretty darn quick if she goes around handing out green currants in the guise of edible fruit.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“You do,” I say. “What did the currant do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest.” I wink.

“It was too hard. Watery in the wrong way. Bitter. Sour. Put my teeth on edge. Made me want to spit. You are going to have to make up for this.”

I tip my head down a little, blink sweetly, then hand you a blueberry to soothe. You give me a look of minor forgiveness in return.

“It’s like with the currant berry. You can start too soon. Or take the tahini. You can open your jar and go nowhere with it. Or you can forget to add the chickpeas, salt, garlic, olive oil. It will be bitter, off-putting, not ‘ready’ to serve.”

“So then what? Is a writer supposed to wait around until someone dumps chickpeas and garlic at her back door?”

“Not at all. A writer can go hunting. With a mind map. Free writing. Guided writing. I’m especially partial to guided writing if a person is dealing with deep stuff that requires a lot of processing before it can take shape.”

“So I am going to have to work on getting shapely?”

“Heh. Just do this, once a week, until you feel like you’ve begun repeating yourself for lack of memories: Use the leading phrase ‘I remember’ and write 5-10 pages of memories. That’s it.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it. Make sure you handwrite, because that’ll help take you into your body, where memories are first made. You can try to get shapely later on.”

I pluck another currant berry and put it in your palm, so you’ll remember to remember.

“And this works for any book?”

“It can,” I say.

You hold your berry to the light, look at it like you’re trying to look through it. “And it’s okay if it tastes like green currant berries?”

“It is,” I smile. “Because I am not going to eat it.”

Photo by mwri. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Story by L.L. Barkat, author of The Novelist: A Novella.

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Your Comments

20 Comments so far

  1. Donna says:

    Love this :) …. beginnings are not exactly as they seem (and maybe that’s only because our culture seems to want them to be more… we WANT them to have ENDINGS…. NOW or don’t bother, immediately if not sooner) ….because sometimes they grow beyond their own skin and sometimes not so much, and why they do not require themselves to be more than they are… because later they will evolve if they are meant to evolve… and if they don’t evolve on paper they have already served to evolve the mind or heart or soul or all in some way… so no step is ever wasted. Even biting a currant that is not ready for the tongue tells us something about the currant and the tongue.

    Now, I just remembered something and I hear that’s a good start … off I go.

    • L. L. Barkat says:

      I absolutely agree that no step is ever wasted. That’s why we should be bold to “Just begin.”

      Whether that is something we roll into a book project or even an article or a poem right away (one we hope to get published or hope to share with others on a wide scale) is another matter.

      I have, at times, counseled people not to do the book just quite yet :)

      • Donna says:

        It’s good advice… great advice… I am finding tons of validation for that as I wade through old words strung together. I didn’t know they were waiting for something. I didn’t know they were the beginning of anything… but maybe they are. I think, for a book, I have to clear out that ‘maybe’, and that takes time and slogging around … ? Yes. I think so.

        • L. L. Barkat says:

          One could write a book without the aim to get it published. I think that is worth doing. My girls have done that over and again.

          If trying to get published, there are a few important things: that it have a marketable angle, that the writing display a strong voice, and that it has been “processed” a bit in different ways before it is put in a book.

  2. Another good thing to do with currants–dry them. Then timing is not so much of an issue.

  3. Can’t help it, but reading that one part just kind of sets my teeth on edge. Like I can feel the sour currant.

    And something tells me you are not going to be sorry about that. ;-)

  4. Deep Stuff

    I noticed you take
    into your body

    the light kiss of morning
    and look where it blooms:

    in your palm as pearls, fruit
    sweetly rolling in your mouth,

    forgiveness for the bitter
    and the sour brought in

    through the broke back door.

    I pluck and pinch and shape
    but don’t get the deep stuff

    you made your centerpiece
    of trust. Still, I’m willing to

    open a little, not too soon,
    wanting to start anywhere

    an impromptu walk with you.

    • Donna says:

      Maureen… this is great. I love it – it has such a feel to it… fresh and deep and bright and intimate. This is so tender. One of my favs of yours I think….

  5. Love, love, love every piece in your Book of Beginnings, Laura. And, Maureen, how do you do write such wonderful poems so fast?

    Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands.

  6. I am fascinated by the dialogue, the revealing in this form of writing, Laura. I have said this before (prone to repeating myself) but I love the intimate nature of the speaker processing, revealing, and testing the waters with fruit. Is there anything more tender than a mind making itself up, or a mind making up itself…:) I love that we hear the thoughts/decisions being born out and played out. I feel I am in the red velvet chair and the curtain has been pulled back.
    Well, I believe you might be deemed silly not to write the book since you have already written the book here :) That’s just one man’s opinion…well in this case one woman’s.

    • L. L. Barkat says:

      testing the waters with fruit. How fun. Hadn’t thought of it quite like that.

      I wonder what decisions are being born out? You may have a better GPS for this book than I do ;-)

  7. Laura Brown says:

    “Make sure you handwrite, because that’ll help take you into your body, where memories are first made.”

    I’m just now coming across this, and that stands out to me. I wonder whether speaking aloud, beginning “I remember,” would perform a similar embodying.


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