Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Mermaid bridges or gates are found in seaports all over the world, marking a half way point between this world and the next, the world of the sea and myth. I found this mermaid "gate" at Paris, Paris in Las Vegas at a friend's wedding; it made me think of the old neighborhoods in Paris, with small, crooked, winding streets where a turn opens up to a small square with a fountain or a bakery or a mermaid gate.
Efforts to track down the inspiration for these two mermen led me to a bridge built in 1846, now torn down in St. Petersburg, and then to Karen Valentine's blog and her just published novel, The Old Mermaid's Inn, which looks like a fascinating read well grounded in Gloucester's seafaring history, Breton myth, and solid writing -- and self-published through her own press.

One comment that keeps surfacing over and over again in my readings about writers is how we must persevere. The workday begins with some sort of writing, some sort of commitment to time and focus, even if the writer has no real direction. The casting about, the writing itself is its own reward. And most writers confront doubt. Maybe not every day, but real doubt entertwined with a sense of accomplishment.
I just finished my first real draft of "Rusalka," a short story set in the pale of Russia, drawing from the myth of Rusalka and the pogroms of the late 19th Century. Rachel read it and said, "Mother, why are your stories so sad? Think about audience." So I've been pondering the reality of mermaids -- that they symbolize generally both destructive and seductive forces. For me, though, mermaids suggest sheer freedom, the luxury of "life" in the sea, its storms and its vastness. And I find the connection between mermaids and humans fascinating -- even in story form. Perhaps her request for a "happy" story leads me to confront this wall of starting the next story. I have no easy resolution. But finding a mermaid bridge in an old French quarter may be a beginning. Beth

3 comments:

Kathleen Valentine said...

Hi Beth,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your nice comments about my book, "The Old Mermaid's Tale"> I hope you will consider reading it --- I think you will enjoy it.

Best of luck with your books!

Kathleen

Anonymous said...

Hi Beth,

My name is Ben Estens, and I took a research writing class from you, probably spring of '02. The subject was American Sign Language and the Deaf. Anyhow, I saw that you were leaving, and I just wanted to wish you the best!

Since then, I've had to write several lengthy papers (mainly on art history or art theory as I am a fine arts major), and every time without fail, I am reminded of your class and how much it helped.

Thank you for your contribution to my life, and I hope you enjoy retirement!!

~Ben Estens :)

Beth said...

Thanks for saying hello, Ben. I wish you well in your creative endeavors. I'm now drawing and writing -- and realize every day that discipline and perseverance help me reach my goals. In many ways it's hard to walk away from the classroom and the energy of ideas that takes place there, but you'll do your share of "teaching" in the years ahead. Good luck! Beth