Poets, Colors, and Surprises

I love words! Words combined by skillful writers pile together in unexpected combinations that glow brilliantly and wake up the reader’s vision. They are like colors, the tools of art.

Watercolors glide and puddle, merging in ways that surprise the artist and change the plot. Acrylics clump one glob upon another – lavender, orange, green – bringing life to a rock that seemed only gray before the artist delved its truth. Great writers do the same.

I’m reading George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw was enamored of Ellen Terry, a beautiful, intelligent actress in the late 1800s. He writes that when, one day, her personal correspondence is collected and published, “It will then, I believe, be discovered that every famous man of the last quarter of the nineteenth century – provided he were a playgoer – has been in love with Ellen Terry, and that many of them have found in her friendship the utmost consolation one can hope for from a wise, witty, and beautiful woman whose love is already engaged elsewhere, and whose heart has withstood a thousand attempts to capture it. To me – for I am one of the unsuccessful lovers – Ellen Terry’s skill as an actress is the least interesting thing about her.”

That might lead you to want to read more or to at least see what she looked like. Here’s a good link with my favorite picture, taken when she was 16 and already married:

Or here, where John Singer Sargent painted her as Lady Macbeth. What a stunning performance that must have been!

Words are being abandoned in cyberspace. Evolution of language is as natural as in everything else, but so is devolution is. Conversation is giving way to quick tweets and hasty email messages. I know this is not my original idea. You’ve thought it, too. In fact, it’s a cliché by now. But nevertheless, it’s true.

When my children were young in the 70s, I wrote a letter each week to their grandparents who lived far away. I stamped and mailed these letters. My mother-in-law kept every one so now I have evidence of what my family life was like and can share it with my children, proving to them that their memories may not be entirely accurate – nor mine. Cyber notes will never be historical because they are lost as soon as we hit “archive” or “delete.” How many archived messages are ever retrieved? One of my future chores will be to glean the best of the thousands of emails written over the last 15 years.

Meanwhile, I have re-edited chapters 1-38 or so of the new book. It’s really good, I’m happy to say! I never know when I go back to the early drafts how I will feel about it. It’s terrifying in a way, knowing that what I spent months on may turn out to be claptrap. But it didn’t! Reading it again, straightening it up, smoothing it out, trimming and curling here and there, I was excited by the story and worried about my two main characters as they head into some hard times. Now I must get back to it. Cheers!


Author: Victoria Paulsen

I'm writing the second of two YA novels about the Roman empire just before Septimius Severus became emperor, and just after. My background is in theater. At UCLA and Univ. of Colorado, I studied Greek and Roman drama as well as Latin. That was awhile ago. My new research is even more fascinating, thanks to the Internet. I want to share the fun stuff!

3 thoughts on “Poets, Colors, and Surprises”

    1. Well booo to that. I wonder why they didn’t show up. I guess you can just google Ellen Terry and see them there under images.

  1. Really enjoyed your writing. I agree with your comments of the age we live in. How’s that for good grammar. I have kept all the letters written to me over the years.

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