The Basil and Josephine Stories

I’m not usually a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I’ve admitted I have a love/hate relationship with him, which meant I loved to hate him. I felt this way because I did not believe Fitzgerald deserved the acclaim he received, and still receives, for repeatedly producing the same work.

You may read my opinion of the author and his writings here: Under the Influence; Dear Scott, Sincerely, HL; and F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Short Stories.

Recently, I read The Basil and Josephine Stories, a compilation of Fitzgerald’s two previously published series from The Saturday Evening Post, and I honestly enjoyed them. I think they are some of his best writings.

Fitzgerald grabbed my interest by digging deep into the compost pile of this own youth. He transferred specific details and events to fashion Basil’s stories. While I formerly complained that he put too much of himself into his writing, the Basil stories were fresh in that they read like an attempt at self-analyzation, which I found intriguing.

I believe a mature perspective enabled the author to write about the humiliating details while at the same time stepping back and processing them. In doing so, the reader was treated to Basil’s growth and maturity, whereas in Fitzgerald’s own life, one does not see such amazing growth as experienced by his character.

One detail in Basil’s life that shocked me was the absence of his father, who had died in an unspecified manner. I recall reading that Fitzgerald was ashamed of his own father’s lack of success, and I wondered if removing Basil’s father from the stories was a subconscious method of dealing with this shame.

Now, factor in Josephine, a girl who repeatedly brought to mind “Charm is deceitful and beauty fades . . .” She is so shallow and self-absorbed that she never learns or grows throughout her stories until “Emotional Bankruptcy” wherein she is just becoming self-aware. There is more of Fitzgerald written into the character of Josephine than was initially apparent, maybe more than he intended, and she represents a warning of what not to become. Again, look at the author’s own life for evidence.

And she is most definitely a picture of the great lost love of his life, Ginevra King.

My conclusion is that Fitzgerald was crafting his version of the perfect ending to his relationship with Ginevra, a what-could-have-been scenario. I believe this because the author intended for Basil and Josephine to meet when he combined the series at some point.

I know that a book of Basil’s tales was proposed (and discarded for the flimsy reason of not wanting the story to detract from Fitzgerald’s more serious writing, i.e., his novels, in any way) but I’m not sure if the intended meeting between Basil and Josephine was supposed to happen in said book.

Whether as a novel or continuation of the series, I wonder if Fitzgerald began to fear the transparency of the story and/or accept that he could never make it right. The author depended on money earned from the stories to support his and Zelda’s lavish lifestyle between novels. Could the beautiful, troubled Zelda have seen what her wayward husband was attempting to accomplish thus forcing Fitzgerald to abandon the project?

Further, would Fitzgerald have had Basil snub Josephine, a literary comeuppance for Ginevra King, or would he have written a happily-ever-after ending bringing the pair together in a way that would show Ginevra, her father, the rich, and the world in general that a middleclass boy could marry a rich girl and make all her dreams come true? Would love have conquered riches?

We’ll never know, and while I would have liked to read that ending, all I’m left with is speculation. Still, I’m leaning more toward a comeuppance for Ginevra/Josephine because Basil/F. Scott was in the process of outgrowing her. Then again, Fitzgerald’s own lifelong pursuit of wealth and fame may have spelled doom for Basil and Josephine if they, as a couple, failed to overcome their worldly desires as Fitzgerald and Zelda did. Then there is the possibility that Basil would have led Josephine to a higher understanding of true happiness beyond money and reputation.

The whole ball of questions sound like something that would be a fabulous project for a writer of fan fiction, don’t you think?

I’m still itching to vent my usual complaints against Fitzgerald, but I’ll finish by saying that I felt more hope for him after reading The Basil and Josephine Stories. It’s obvious that he was better when writing short stories that built upon certain themes with the intention of having the characters intersect at some point. Perhaps I would like his novels better if he had written them as a collection of short stories. It certainly would have assisted with his inability to focus on longer works because of all he had going on in life.

Unfortunately, my hope for F. Scott Fitzgerald comes too late for an author who showed great potential and squandered much of it.

Writing Exercises

Writing books are replete with exercises meant to jumpstart your creativity. Even authors who write their memoirs can’t seem to resist mentioning the exercise that helped them. Whether the exercise is meant to focus your concentration or crowbar you out of a slump, I find writing exercises to be, well . . . tedious and annoying.

I remember a daily exercise where for one minute I wrote down the first ten things that came to mind. Then, no matter what the third thing was (or maybe it was the seventh), I spent another ten minutes writing about it.

I don’t know about you, but first thing in the morning my mind is creating a to-do list for the rest of the day, sometimes the week. My list often included thoughts such as take something out of the freezer for dinner, clean the litter box, and wash a load of jeans. Not exactly ideas worthy of ten minutes elucidation.

Needless to say, and yet I’m going to, I quickly tired of the exercise and abandoned it faster than a Spanx bodysuit in the women’s dressing room.

Now this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try an exercise or two, and maybe they really have worked for someone, in which case I’d love to hear from you about the exercise and who suggested it. Don’t forget to include your results.

I have chosen a different approach to keep myself writing while larger works, like my novels and blog posts, swirl about my mind waiting to crystalize into something I can put on the page. For example, yesterday I left the laptop, pencils, and notebooks behind to spend the day with my grandbaby, Jacob. My writing flourished from the exercise.

I started by creating memories that don’t have to be edited because they’re already perfect, and now I can accurately describe a four-year-old’s laughter. It is pure sunshine. Then there are his little hands, more delicate than a bird’s wing and softer than a baby rabbit. Don’t forget his rubber band arms that he throws around my neck and noodle legs that he uses to run like a frisky colt.

And then there are his eyes, the color of melted chocolate; his eyebrows, pencil-thin and able to move independently of each other to express an array of emotions; or his knees, dappled blue and purple with a plethora of bruises.

His voice babbles like a little stream and makes about as much sense, his toes look like pink corn niblets, and his sweet head smells like warm grass.

So you see, I did write yesterday. I worked on description because there was way too much dialog to capture and most of it was delivered between fits of giggles and squealing. We do love a good game of tickle. Maybe I’ll recall this and use it in a story someday, maybe not. It really doesn’t matter as long as I keep at my writing.

Today, when Jacob is en route to his home in another state, I’ll return to the laptop, pencils, and notebooks. If I’m lucky, what I write then will be as perfect as what I wrote when I was with him.

Welcome Back

It’s been a while since I posted, but please don’t believe that I haven’t been busy because I have. I took the plunge some time ago and pulled back from social media. What an amazing advantage that proved to be when I shook off the fear of walking away. I realized quite quickly that my life wouldn’t implode if I wasn’t connected to social media twenty-four hours a day. Furthermore, my value as a person and a writer didn’t diminish in the least. The best part about that whole endeavor was when I connected with real people in real time. Go figure.

I may sound as if I’m welcoming you back, which I am, but I’m hopeful this will be an opportunity for you to welcome me back into your life. There’s a lot out there on the Internet and choosing to read what I create and post is appreciated more than words can say. But I’ll say it anyhow. Thank you!

However, this post is not an apology. As mentioned above, I needed the time away to craft better fiction of which I am extremely proud. I trust you will be, too, as I work to get it into the hands of my followers, whether I publish traditionally or independently.

As you come to know me better through my blog, one thing you’ll probably notice is that it’s different from other writing blogs out there. There’s a heavy personal touch to my posts. I did this in an effort to create openness and honesty. You’ll see the real me.

I’ve left everything intact since I started my blog, so please don’t hesitate to poke around. The first reason I did so is because I haven’t discounted the other novels I’ve written. They may still be published someday.

The second reason is because I’m not afraid to show a progression of growth in all aspects of my life on my blog. There are some things I posted that make me cringe but being vulnerable doesn’t compromise my strength. I’m open to discussion, so let’s have a conversation.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments about the creative endeavors are you pursuing. All artists are welcome here but kindly refrain from marketing and selling.

~HL Gibson

God Gives Us Teenagers Because He Loves Us

I have a theory. I’ve been sitting on it for about six years, keeping it to myself as I mulled it over and tested it. I experience it in daily life especially when interacting with my teenager. It goes like this: I ask Joshua to do something, and he responds with “Oh joy, oh rapture” to let me know that he is not going to enjoy what I’ve asked him to do. I already knew that what I requested of him wasn’t meant to produce pleasure, but nevertheless, it needs to be done. A voice in my head whispers, “Kind of like I told you (insert request here) needs to be done.”

Another example is when Joshua asks me for something, and the answer is no.  I usually follow up with a tactfully pointed out, “Why would I spend money on (insert desired objection) when you don’t appreciate what I’ve already given you?” And the gentle voice in my heart says, “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”

Then there are the times when I give Joshua instructions for completing a task, and he does it wrong because he doesn’t listen and/or doesn’t care about the outcome. It takes him twice as long to finish (insert task here) and often things end up broken. I say, “Why didn’t you do it the way I told you the first time?” and the loving but firm voice speaking to my will sighs, “Exactly, beloved.”

My theory: God gives us teenagers to let us know what it’s like for Him when dealing with us. If I hadn’t heard His voice every single time I corrected Joshua, I would never have come to this conclusion. And because I’m the adult, the parent, the smart one who has lived more than twice as long as my child, I have it all together and nailed it the first time, right? Wrong.

I’ve grumbled, complained, whined, begged, pleaded, made deals, and sulked my way through life just like a teenager. God—being the great parent that He is—never backed down. Discipline and guidance came my way whether I wanted it or not. The lessons flowed from God to me to Josh, and still I didn’t catch on.

Until one day last week when I had a moment of brilliant insight. I had been moping because I received my first rejection notice concerning the novel I’m currently querying. Instead up getting right back up in the saddle and sending out another query, I sat in a chair at the kitchen table and sulked. It was a most unproductive day until my teenager came home. While Joshua may be a sluggard when it comes to picking up the dirty socks on his bedroom floor, he’s a drill sergeant when it comes to my writing.

“How many queries did you send out?” he asked. No “Hello, Mother, how are you? It sure is wonderful to see you.”

“None,” I replied.

“Get up.”

“What?”

“Get over to the laptop and send out a query letter.”

“I don’t want to.”

Without further comment, Joshua pulled out the chair with me in it, used a karate hold on me that put my arm behind my back, and led me to the computer at the other end of the table. Before you become upset thinking that he hurt me, please be assured that we laughed throughout the whole process. No bullying was involved as my son strong-armed me out of the doldrums and into positive energies. It worked.

Here’s the key: I knew better than to resist the karate hold because it was a real one he learned on his way to becoming a red belt. It didn’t hurt at all when Joshua helped me from the chair and gave the instruction to get back to work. If I had pushed or leaned in any direction against the hold, it would have been painful, and that’s when it hit me. God’s instructions only hurt when I resist them.

Finally, I’ve learned my lesson. Will I always apply it to my life perfectly? Probably not, but that doesn’t let me off the hook from trying. Just as I expect Joshua to strive for new levels of maturity in his life so, too, am I expected to stop behaving like a child, grow up, and pass the lesson forward.

Quotation Station

Shabbat Shalom to all my friends.

May your weekend be peaceful and productive.

My mother and I recently had a conversation on this very subject. I have found that I am happiest when I’m writing. Sometimes, even the dream of publication can suck the soul out of my love to create stories. I am no less a writer whether I’m published or not. The passion of writing is the flame I choose to keep burning.

Quotation Station

Shabbat Shalom to all my friends!

May your weekend be peaceful, productive, and worth writing about.

Whenever I am unable to write on my current work in progress, I find that journaling helps ease my frustration. It’s a great tool to overcome writer’s block and jump start one’s mind back into the process of writing. I’d be lost without my journals.

Baring My Writer’s Soul – Part 26

It’s time to take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for one of my least favorite challenges in my writing life: querying. I remember the first time I queried my novel. I labored over my letter, presenting it to members of my writing groups and submitting it for a paid critique, as if I was writing the Declaration of Independence. Every word had to be perfect. Nothing less than exceptional would do as I crafted this key to unlock the doors to the world of publishing. But never mind the doors; I must first get past the gatekeepers.

Researching agents is a full-time job unto itself. I found literary agencies that represented my genre, and then I located specific agents within the agency. After choosing an agent, I looked to see which authors they had worked with and which titles they represented, hoping to find a title comparable with my novel. Using tips I’d picked up from webinars, I hunted for any connection between myself and the agent. (Did we have similar hobbies and interests, did we grow up in the same state, do they have pets?) All this was before I even sent the letter. Crazy, isn’t it?

Just today my husband wished for me the kind of writing life where I didn’t have to worry about publishing. And what is the concern, really? Can I not create art for the sake of art? Trying to have my work published was my idea. No one forced me to do it. But then I struggle with the question of why write if I’m not going to try to publish, and I start thinking maybe I should find a job. I hate the way money always pops up in my thoughts.

The truth is, I have a supportive husband who isn’t insisting that I find work or publish to bring in a paycheck. When combined with the abundant amount of free time I have, you may wonder what my complaint actually is. Sometimes, I do, too.

There are days I wish I’d never sought publication because I remember how it felt to write freely without that pressure hanging over my head. Don’t think for one minute, though, that I don’t want to be published. Because I do. I’ve invested in my blog and I maintain social media toward the endeavor of publication. My problem is that my two desires are at war in my mind and my heart.

There are also days when I wonder if I’m creating this drama for myself, and I laugh thinking at least I’ll get a good blog post out of it. Because really, it’s better to let this stuff out than it is to hold it in. So again, deep breath.

I am aware of the emotional toll querying can take on a writer, but I’m not ready to abandon my dream. I’ll balance it by realizing how good I have it in that while I’m waiting for replies, I can write freely to my heart’s content. I’ll fill notebook after notebook with words the world will never see. Writing just for me. And once again I’ll…

…Write Happy!

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