Saturday, November 17, 2018

Weekend Guest C. Michele Dorsey

We're delighted to welcome C. "Michele" Dorsey to Type M. Michele is the author of No Virgin Island and Permanent Sunset in the Sabrina Salter mystery series set on St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Michele is a lawyer, mediator and adjunct professor of law, who finds inspiration and serenity on St. John and on Cape Cod. She is co-chair of New England Crime Bake, Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, New England, and served on the board of Sisters in Crime, New England.

The Seeds of Story

I heard Walter Mosley use the term “unconscious writing” several times during this past weekend at the New England Crime Bake, where he was guest of honor. I haven’t been able to shake it. He talked about connecting with your unconscious mind. I think that is where the seeds of a story begin before the writer ever knows it. What follows is an evolution that can take years, even decades to root and grow.

Twenty years ago, my husband and I went on a trip to Ireland to visit our daughter who was attending Trinity College for her junior year. They waited in line to kiss the Blarney Stone, but I felt restless. I admitted to already being too full of blarney and walked through the grounds of the Blarney castle where a ground fog had risen and sent shivers throughout me, but not from the damp. Something intangible, visceral filled and excited me. Later, while visiting monk huts and other stone formations, I felt stirred by something close to being spiritual I still haven’t quite identified. But it remained with me.

During the intermittent years as I wrote more and more, I discovered myself using language that was not part of my daily vernacular, but had been used by my Irish grandmother. When I traveled to Mexico, I commented that a woman “hangs a nice wash” when I observed her colorful and orderly laundry drying on a clothesline, a phrase I later remembered my grandmother using. The more I wrote, the more her words surfaced.

Fast forward to June 2017 when I returned to Ireland for a five-day stopover on my way to Provence. A friend recommended a tour of Newgrange, a monument that is a thousand years older than the Pyramids, where historian Mary Gibbons leads you inside the oldest astronomical observatory in the world. Outside, on a cool misty day I looked out at fields of green that seem to extend forever, and I felt it again. But this time, I knew I felt like I had come home. Later as I stood on the Hill of Tara, the ancient royal site of the High Kings of Ireland, I could see twenty-three of Ireland’s thirty-two counties. While I had never been there before, it felt familiar.

By the time I arrived at the Dublin Writer’s Museum, I was relieved to be inside looking at concrete images in photos and at books and journals of Joyce, Wilde, and Yeats. I wondered why I hadn’t read more of them. But my TBR pile was already so high.

This September, I wandered onto an announcement for a course on James Joyce’s Dubliners at my local Open University, which I didn’t know existed. (To be fair, I’m new to the community.) The inner rumblings could no longer be disregarded. I enrolled and was ignited by the images of fictional people created by Joyce a hundred years ago that I felt I knew.

It was inevitable. The seeds had been planted long ago, maybe forever. I have an Irish story sitting inside of me now that is now screaming to be let out. The geographical images are there. The people are there. And the stirring from my unconscious mind can no longer be ignored. Now I must go write it.


Tom Burns said...

I know what you mean, Michele. I visited Ireland in 2010 and 2011. On the last trip, I reconnected with my Irish family in County Galway, whom no one in my American family had had any contact with for more than a hundred years. But people drove form two and three hours away just to meet us. The whole time I was in Ireland, I felt a tremendous sense of belonging there - this was very different that the feelings i had when traveling to other unfamiliar places both abroad and in the US. Recent advances in epigenetics have shown that one's environment can actually introduce heritable changes, so I think it's entirely possible that my body remembered Ireland as my homeland even though my mind did not. And therein lies the seed of a story...

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks for posting this weekend, Michele. Really interesting post.

Tom, I had the same thing happen to me when we toured in North Wales. My family background has nothing remotely Welsh in it, but I could navigate us around without using a map. It was very strange. I just knew how to get where we were going. Guess I was Welsh in previous life or something…

Traveling is just good for the soul, isn't it?