Tags: Blue Thread

World Building Meets the Real World

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: October 4, 2013
Comments: No Comments

Florrie-crop-lo-resThe woman in this photograph had a real name and lived a real life that I have yet to learn. In my enthusiasm to build the world behind my historical novel, Blue Thread, I named her Florence Steinbacher (“Florrie”) and made her the never-seen best friend of Miriam Josefsohn, the main character in the story.

When the Blue Thread story was over, Miriam was ready to melt back into my brain, but Florrie was not. Maybe it was because I still had her photograph. Maybe it was because she was part of the backstory for a companion novel, The Ninth Day, which is told by Miriam’s granddaughter. Maybe it was because I didn’t have the creative energy to jump into writing the next book, but I wanted to keep crafting narrative.

Whatever the reason, Florrie sprang to life. She took over my blog on July 11 this past summer and posted four times a week through Sept. 27. Florrie continued to tell us about her best friend “Mim” from 1912 (when Blue Thread ended) through 1950 (14 years before the start of The Ninth Day). Florrie’s blog posts turned into about 36,000 words. You can download her story as a free e-book or a pdf when you sign up for my mailing list (with no obligation to actually read my infrequent newsletters!). Florrie would like all that attention.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the process of letting Florrie have her head (or mine):

  • Following a character through several decades, in memoir style, is easier than building an entire world for a particular era. The real world of events gives us plenty of material to supplement the fictional world of the characters’ lives.
  • World building tools work on the macro level as well as the micro level. In a post about world building, Cat Winters suggested giving your character a birthday party. What gifts would (s)he get? What would be served? How would (s)he react? In my world building, I gave Florrie (and, through Florrie’s eyes, Miriam) World Wars I and II, and the Russian Revolution, and the Berkeley fire of 1923, and chronicled their reactions.
  • The real world seems ready to embrace the fictional world we writers craft for our characters. At least one blogger, for example, “interviewed” Mary Shelley Black, the fictional protagonist of Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds. In Istanbul, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has constructed a real museum to house artifacts from his novel, The Museum of Innocence. Go see all 4,213 cigarette butts touched by a fictional character. And Florrie, I must admit, still has a Twitter account.

What will come of all this world building within the real world? Will technology and imagination conspire to inextricably entwine reality and fiction? Does anybody care? Hello, out there….

While I wait for an answer, Florrie is content with her compilation of blog posts, and I’ve started to build the backstory and world for my next full-length narrative.





Karen Cushman and To-Do Tips

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: February 28, 2012
Comments: 3 Comments


I’ll start with the backstory: Once upon a time, the folks at Ooligan Press asked me for a list of potential reviewers for Blue Thread. Reaching for the stars, I included Karen Cushman. Much to my amazement, Karen gave Ooligan a blurb, such a great blurb, in fact, that it landed on the front cover of the book. Yes!

Karen Cushman

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I sent Karen an email about Blue Thread and thanked her again. In reply, she wrote, in part: “I wish you great success with the book and all the to-do that comes after.” All the to-do that comes after. Oh, Karen, you are so right!

There’s the celebratory kind of “to-do,” the recent launch of Blue Thread. Exciting and kinda scary. I’m not comfortable being in the spotlight.

Then there’s the so-much-to-do kind of “to-do,” which involves thoughtful, gracious, and time-consuming attention to spreading the word about the new book. Not so exciting. Not so scary. But, in fairness to Blue Thread, necessary and important.

Finally, there’s the big item that’s not on the Blue Thread “to-do” list, and that’s writing the next book.

I’ve learned a lot in the past few weeks, since Blue Thread appeared on the scene. Here are my “to-do” tips for you:

  • Give yourself time, permission, and encouragement to enjoy your moment in the spotlight, even if it’s scary. Relax! No one’s going to remember if your hair wilted or there’s a quaver in your voice. They will remember your enthusiasm and your smile.
  • Eat well, exercise, rest.
  • Say “yes” to nearly everything, but remember that it’s OK to say “no,” too.
  • Commit to bringing spirit to your audience, whether there are two hundred people attending or two. Give them what in Hebrew is called ru-ach, a soulful, zesty, uplifting experience. Good for your audience; good for you.
  • Find your balance between doing right by the new book and “doing write” with the book-to-be. You might decide to stop working on your manuscript entirely for a few weeks, or you might decide to write 250 words on your manuscript every day. Your call.
  • Thank people. Thank your critique group, your editor, your publisher, your friends, your family, your audience, your muse.

So, with that it mind, I’ll end this post by saying, “Thank you!”



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