Friday, June 14, 2013

Journey West - DONE (!) [6/15/13]

June 15th, 2013. 19:44 -To-day Saturday:
The first 'Journey' of the Journal of Rudd - is done! 
Completed ! 
It has been years and years in the stewing. At 19:45 I clicked <SEND> and into the ether, on it's way to a 'First Reader' editor, went all 50 pages of what has been a very long slog - held up by my inability to get the voice right. We'll see!

Now? Now, the 'Journey South'. But first sleep.

Grandpa was crimped in SF back in the 1890's. That is shanghaied. When, as I sat on the old man's knee, I used to believe it was all fiction, as any civilized American, as far as my understanding of it went, did not go lacing other people's drinks at a birthday party on-board a ship, and then... force them into, what can only amount to slave labour..., or did they?

I approach John, a librarian at my library around the corner: "John I have a (self-imposed deadline) for to-night. I need from one of your books, a description of a 'crimp'." Well, (after a rather curious look) says John, " could type wiki-pedia. See they even say that Portland, OR was the crimping capital of the 1890's and there is a section on 'notable crimps'."

Thank you John, you are hereby promoted to Head Librarian of whatever ship Grandpa got shanghaied to. Let's hear it for librarians who know how to find information !

Deadline approaches - writing this is pure procrastination.  

Jack OUT (for now.)

June 14th, 2013
Yes, The Journey West is a work in progress... but not for long. It is nearly written. Nearly complete. Nearly.

It seems like ages have passed, but for some reason, the voice issue has clicked, the Pima Writer's Workshop I attended gave me the proverbial kick in you-know-whatsit, and I am hours away from completing the Journey West - Grandpa's arrival in San Franscisco back in 1897.

I caution myself repeatedly, that the research for this 'Journey' was the easiest, and I am bracing myself for the next two 'Journeys.' The immediate, Journey South, is, at the moment formidable. Having no criminal record (touch wood), having never been in a jail cell, nor, for that matter a brig aboard any ship, let alone a clipper out of the late 1800's, I must now figure a way to describe Frank Bybee's incarceration for two-to-three weeks, as they cleared the coast, and eventually allowed him on deck aboard the clipper he was shanghaied onto.
Then comes The Journey East. That Journey, I will tackle, when I tackle it.
After which, comes the easy part again. The Journey North, into Africa.

The decent bit of writing, achieved this morning (Friday) after meeting with a friend for coffee, merely emphasized one thing. Carrying a  notebook with me all the time, allows for writing after coffee, writing while waiting for the bus, etc. etc. But, a peer, Nancy Mair's is correct. Nancy spoke at the Writer's Workshop (above). Says Ms. Mairs: "I re-write every sentence 3-5 times, often five times. I analyze every word carefully." Well, I can honestly say, I enjoyed re-writing the ending of The Journey West 5 times, until now, I do believe it works. To-morrow, if I return for an edit - rewrite number 6. Who knows? Problem? Now to go back, and re-write all 48 pages of this missive. And do that 3-5 times. And analyze every word? Well, the re-writes I agree with. It worked for the ending, it is working for the beginning (in media res) now all that is need, is to re-write the entire middle 3-5 times. Phew!

The lot of the historical fiction writer. But so far, I am loving the research and the writing. How can I not? What else is left?

So, stay tuned. The next few hours should produce a finality that I have been striving for since 2005. At least it is the end of the first Journey. Now, comes the true life changing events for Frank Rudd Bybee.

June 8th, 2013.

                The Journal of Rudd is a fictitious journal based largely on fact, of my grandfather, Frank Rudd Bybee, and his rather unwilling journey away from the farm in Paradise, Iowa to eventually land in Cape Town, South Africa.

I have modeled this Journal on These is My Words by award winning author, Nancy Turner. Thank you for the encouragement, Nancy.

The Journal of Rudd, is divided into four separate "journeys" per se. The Journey West (from Iowa); The Journey South (after being shanghaiied); The Journey East (Across the South Atlantic and encountering  'the big swell'); The Journey North (into Africa).

Where is the current work in progress?

The Journey West has been stalled for many years as I have searched for a voice in which to pen the Journal. Regrettably (sic?) I speak English, and have a reasonable vocabulary - Grandpa did not. He could barely write, although he enjoyed sketching. But a voice had to be found. A voice from a farm on the terribly flat plains of Iowa, in the 1890's. Steinbeck? Maybe - too cultured. Willa Cather? Closer, she lived and wrote from Red Cloud, Nebraska - still not Grandpa's voice, she was educated - well educated. So... Grandpa will 'write' his Journal as simply as possible, with a dose of regional grammatical 'mistakes' thrown in for flavor.

Anyone help with the issue of voice?

Excerpt from Journey West as an example of voice issues:
April, 21st, 1898. Arion Depot (Early morning.) 

It’s not that I know Ol’ Jebb that well, but seeing the gleam in Ol’ Jebb’s  eye, I reckon he has one of those ‘good for you, son’ half-smiles that Ma sometimes has too.  I know he likes me. I show him the sketches I’ve done so far, as I sit there sketching his coffee mug – he gets up, he says, “I’ll trade you a mug, that you can keep, with hot coffee now, until you leave – and I’ll give you warm supper to-night.”

“You will?”
“Sure,” Ol’ Jebb says, “…in fact Frank, you can keep that old cream mug, it is chipped and dented – you want it, it’s yours.”
“But, Jebb, you say you’ll trade me. Trade me what?”
“Frank…,  boy, you’ve got talent. I don’t think you realize how good you are. I want that sketch of my coffee mug. And I want you to sign it too. Will you do that for me boy? I’m going to make a wooden frame for it – hang it on my wall. You come see it when you get back, all right?”

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“Really! You’ll do that?” I nearly shout. “I’ve never signed any of my sketches. Sure I’ll sign it. And you gonna frame it? Gee – wait till Ma hears this! Y’know…, it’s not that good, I’ve done some in ink, that are better, far better, this here, is in charcoal. You know that, right, Jebb?”
“I still want it. I love the look and feel. I can feel the warmth of the coffee coming through.”

“Gee whiz. Gee whiz!” That’s all I can say. GEE WHIZZIKERS!”


Brief Backgrounder:

Frank Rudd Bybee - a sad, confused, sullen man, only wanting to "... go back to the farm" and find Hunter (his dog).. and Ma... and, of course, his first love, Clarissa.

The Hex River Valley in the Western Cape of South Africa where Frank eventually settled. His cottage (much like the little white thatch roofed dot in the middle of the image) lay up the valley to the right hand side of the image. This is where Frank Rudd Bybee's three sons (Jack, Leland,  and Ellis [my father and uncles]) earned their mountaineering stripes. BTW - Frank worked for many years for the Cape Orchard Company, a concern storing deciduous fruit for export. The yellows, reds and browns are autumn leaves on the vines. Right at this moment (May - July) that scene is probably playing out in the Hex River Valley. All this is in The Journey North and is quite a long (writing) schlep away - as it physically was, as well.

Searching for images of the North Platte River from ground level.

Is there anyone out there reading this who has traveled the North Platte River out of Omaha, Nebraska. and who is willing, for research purposes, to share those images with me? I'll credit you in the title.

I have been to Google Earth, and have a few "Street Level" views from the banks of the river. Looking for more, from "higher up" in the passes.

The Brig

"Please... please officer, I'm a writer, and I need to experience what it is like in a ships brig (jail)... please officer, lock me up. " (Yup! Got another looney here. Send the cruiser.") It's a bit drastic, but how else, can I get a sense of what being confined to a brig in a clipper going around Cape Horn is like? I'm talking about smells, sights, sounds, lights, fixtures etc. etc. Help!

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