Sunday, November 21, 2010

Chapter Sixteen Holy Toast, Suddenly I Am Writing a DIFFERENT "Novel"

By Claudia Ricci

It has happened. I am officially switching gears here. I apologize in advance to anybody who is angry. I apologize if you clicked onto this site, SWITCH!!, and suddenly you went, hey what the hey happened to that author Gina Morrison who was writing this book, SWITCH!!?

You don't see author Gina Morrison's name here on this blog because she never existed. Well, she existed, but only as a "writerly" self inside me. In other words, I made her up.

Gina, in the company of her friend Xandra, had just arrived in a kind of spooky redwood forest in northern California and was just about to meet a healer in one of those fairy rings -- where the redwood sprouts grow in circles. It was a lovely setting for her, and I myself miss it a bit, and who knows, I may get back to it!

Just not now.

Now I'm writing another book and I have only 40 days to do it. Forty days, wow. That number is downright BIBLICAL.

Anyway, I have agreed to finish my new book as part of the Albany Times Union's Writing in Motion project, organized by my good friend Lori Cullen, herself a fabulous writer. Lori has challenged me and a handful of other writers to finish our books by year's end.

I am determined to meet my friend Lori's goal, for a whole host of reasons you will understand if you just read the new book, called Sister Mysteries. Try starting with Chapter One.

It's hard to explain exactly how I switched gears here. Let's just say it finally dawned on me about a week ago, after 16 years of trying to write this book as fiction, that I absolutely had to write it as the "truth." But you can also give Lori Cullen credit, for setting me and my writing in motion. (Lately, it's been a spin!) What is most ironic, I think, is that the character Xandra, in SWITCH!!, a brilliant, beautiful and highly creative woman living in California, was loosely inspired by no other than LORI CULLEN, my brilliant, beautiful and highly creative friend, and a writer who has read much of my nun story over the last decade!

Curiously, it was Lori who served as inspiration for my character Xandra; it was also Lori who had the inspiration to launch the Writing in Motion project back in October, which then got me writing my new true story.

It makes sense that I write this book as a true story. For 16 years I kept saying that I had to write Sister Renata's true story. Her diaries, rescued by her best friend Sister Teresa and released to the press, revealed the truth about her relationship with her crazy cousin Antonie.

Antonie had written all these crazy but very lyrical stories about Renata. Stories that got her into deep, deep trouble. First he portrayed her as an exotic, and erotic, flamenco dancer, who was always seducing him. In scene after scene, Renata would slip out of her nun's garb and dress in the flame-colored flamenco dress, and then fulfill all of his greatest fantasies.

Those fantasies of Antonie's -- as much as I loved them -- landed Renata in prison, falsely accused of murder. (More on that part of the story later.)

Meanwhile, Renata had her diaries, and they reveal the true story of what happened.

So all these years I've been trying to write the TRUTH about Renata. I kept saying that the truth would set her free. What I didn't realize until LAST WEEK is that writing the truth about MY LIFE, would SET ME FREE TOO.

I tried for sixteen years to write a fictional "outer story" that didn't want to be. I wrote at least three or four completely different versions of the story. I had different sets of characters, first, Heather Richochet, a rock star turned nun, and her buffoon of a sister, Malvina. I created another religious nut, Lucy, and her uptight academic sister, Christina.

And now, here, in SWITCH!!, I invented Gina Morrison, and Xandra (short for Alexandra), her best friend from college. As readers of this blog know, Xandra is a high-powered DNA researcher out in San Jose, California. She also happens to be an African dancer, and the daughter of an African healer.

When Gina's marriage starts to fall apart, and her husband Dave forbids her to write her story in an on-line blog, Gina flees to California, where Xandra takes her to a healer who lives in the middle of a redwood forest in northern California.

I can see that forest now. I myself was waiting to discover how EXACTLY that healer was going to help Gina. At some point I will go forward with Gina's story.  Meanwhile, I have been swept up into this new book, Sister Mysteries, within which the nun story is contained on a blog called Castenata.

OK, so now on with CHAPTER TWO of Sister Mysteries. Here you will meet my best writing buddy, Peg, who has over the last 16 years read every single draft of the nun story that I've been trying to write. For years, Peg has told me that I had to write the "true" story that I was living.

Well, so, here you go, Peg. This new book, and especially this upcoming "true" chapter, is dedicated to YOU!

Sister Mysteries started as part of the Albany Times Union's Writing In Motion project, in which several authors committed themselves to completing their books by the end of 2010. Sister Mysteries is contained in a set of interconnected blogs, one of which, Castenata, is the story of a nun, Sister Renata, who in 1883 is falsely accused of murdering her cousin Antonie.

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