Writing Landscape


“Keeping your fingers crossed makes it difficult to hold a pen, but I must say, it’s worth it.”

-Lorrie Moore

I finished Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories Self-Help recently, which I purchased at The Strand the other week while visiting NYC.

I appreciate Moore’s sense of form, the different lenses she uses to write about memory, and her wit.  I really like how she weaves in photography as a way to flashback then return to the present.  Using the photograph as a captured, still scene to describe, comment on the current moment.  And even though much of her content is serious, she finds a way of using humor successfully in her stories to further complicate her characters, the plot.  I also love how she uses NYC as a character. The city is sometimes the character’s co-conspirator, or enemy, depending on the situation, but it is always used as a way to help tell the truth.

I’ve always loved reading books in the cities, countries they’re set.  Finishing Michael Datcher’s memoir Raising Fences, which takes place in Los Angeles, makes me feel closer to this city somehow.  Like I know it intimately through another life, character.

As I write  poems for my Aswang project, I think about landscape.  About the cities and provinces in the Philippines I visited once.  Maybe not often enough to write about?  St. Louis, where the 1904 World’s Fair took place (I’m stealing some of the imagery, politics, etc. to create my own twisted Fair.)  A city I’ve never visited.

How to make these cities real and intimate for the reader?  And for me, the writer?  This goes back to the question of creating a world and manipulating it as a character who will have a leading role.

On another note, but related to landscape, during my NYC visit, I encountered the Highline, which is a public park that stretches from 14th St. to 20th St. along 10th Avenue.  The story goes, that the old 10th Avenue subway system killed many people on its elevated track, thus earning the title of “Death Avenue.”  It closed sometime in the 1970s, and was vacant for a long time.  For years, private funders and the City of NY have been working on revitalizing the track into a public park.

In the park, on 17th St., there is an ampitheater looking out onto the street.  I have an idea to write a play with this specific ampitheater in mind, using the natural landscape, time of day, as the setting.  Hmm.



Filed under writing process

3 responses to “Writing Landscape

  1. Jessucka!

    i hope you write a play. someday, i’m sure. but you probably have quite enough of your plate right now. 🙂 shall me take a trip to st. louis, or the philipines?

  2. Ruelle Electrique

    Rachelle, Thank you for this lovely piece. Just the inspiration I needed. I recently took a literary pilgrimage to London (and Munich) and have been trying to figure out how to exploit my travels to their full artistic potential. This post is a wonderful exercise that I will undoubtedly use and contemplate over. Cheers!

  3. racruzzo

    Hi Ruelle,

    Thanks for the comment! I’m glad my post could be some help for your writing. Yeah, landscape is tough, but can definitely be used as character. I look forward to reading your work on London and Munich!



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