Archive for May, 2011


Stay Tuned . . .

Tomorrow I leave for London, which means there might be a slight gap in posts.  As soon as I get settled and figure out the internet situation, I’ll be back in regular posting mode.  Old and new friends alike, I hope you’ll follow along.  Stay tuned for posts inspired by not only London, but also my journey as a curious writer.

Thanks to everyone who left well wishes in the comment sections of previous posts.  One can never have too many positive thoughts coming their way. :-)

c.b.

The Anatomy of My Pen Name

I admit it . . . C.B. Wentworth is a pseudonym. People who know me by my authentic name often ask two questions: 1) Why do you have a pen name? 2) Why did you pick that name?  The answer to one of these questions actually relates to my upcoming adventure to London, so now seems like the perfect time to put the mystery to rest.

There are a few reasons why I decided to take a pen name.  First, I am a very private person.  I prefer to blend into my surroundings and let my words speak for themselves. From a philosophical standpoint, the content of what I write is more important to me than whether anyone knows my real name. However, I will say that I get a kick out of people searching for my pen name on Google, (I love how worpress tells me these things).  My warped sense of accomplishment is digging the possibility that someone is searching for C.B. Wentworth in order to find something I’ve written.  Second, my profession as a teacher plays a large role in my need for a certain degree of anonymity.  The last thing I want is to come to work and have students buzzing about what I wrote on my blog the night before. A pen name gives me more freedom and allows for a division between my professional life and my writing life.   If I ever get published, I want that line to remain in place.  Third, there is something very liberating about choosing what is essentially an alternative identity.  I am still myself, (that part never changes – what you see is what you get!), but its like I get to give a name to the large part of my personality that loves to create and write.  My new name serves as inspiration to be bold.

A lot of thought went into choosing my moniker.  It wasn’t like I opened a phone book and randomly chose a name! Each element has meaning.  The two initials stand for my given first and middle names.  No matter what happens in life those two names will always be mine, so they had to be included in some way.  I didn’t spell them out because I wanted a new incarnation of my “old” names which allows for the preservation my original identity without losing what my parents gave me.  The last name, Wentworth, came about in a much different way.  When I name characters in my stories, I use a baby name book and make a list of names with meanings that match each character’s personality or reflect their journey in the story.  It made sense to do the same thing for myself.  The process was enlightening as it forced me not only to examine myself as a whole, but also my identity as a writer.  After making the list, I attached my initials to each name and eliminated the ones that didn’t sound right.  When three names remained, Wentworth stood out above the rest for the simple reason that it is an English name that means “adventures.”  I have an affinity for all things English and writing has always been the ultimate adventure, so it seemed the perfect fit.  After some more thought, I realized Wentworth is also the surname of a beloved character (at least to me) in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and that pretty much clinched it as my chosen name. Who doesn’t love Captain Wentworth??

As I get ready to embark on my journey to London, my English last name has never been more befitting of my writing adventure.  I’ve used it for almost three years now and as time goes by I’m becoming more convinced that the name chose me instead of the other way around.

c.b. 2011

A Month In London

In a few days, I’ll be heading off to London for a month-long sojourn.  There is no plan beyond a round-trip plane ticket and a place to stay.  I’ve been to London a few times before and have done the tourist thing both in the city and throughout most of Great Britain.  This time around its all about soaking in life as it happens and finding inspiration from different surroundings.  I’m a writer looking for her next story and a novelist looking to finish her second manuscript.  In a sense, this trip is going to be one enormous free-write session where no part of my normal life will be able to interfere.  No day job.  No dogs. No chores.  No routine.

Five journals will be joining me for the ride.  The first is a poetry journal I’ve been keeping since January of this year.  Most of the poems I’ve posted here have come from this journal and I’m anxious to fill it with more experiments.  The second is my brainstorming spiral.  Several short stories have been partially outlined, along with the framework for my second novel.  There are empty pages that need to be filled and I think a visit to the British Museum or the Tate will help fill in the missing pieces.  We’ll see!   The third is totally blank and meant for nothing more than free-writing and random thoughts.  Some of my best work comes from writing without a purpose.  This is the journal that will go everywhere with me because inspiration hardly ever caters to convenience.  With this one in my bag, I’ll be ready to jot something down whether I’m sitting in a park or waiting at the bus stop.  The fourth is my reading journal to keep track of my crazy reading habit.  Not only do I enjoy a good book, but reading is an essential part of my writing process.  My reading journal helps me analyze a book down to its core, which in turn helps me pick apart my own writing.  The last is an art journal where I combine visual components with writing.  It’s a departure from the other four in that it gives me a place to be creative through various mediums.  I’ve always enjoyed creating collages with paper layers, photographs, and sketches.  An artist I am not, but working with my hands has always been a great source of inspiration.  Very often, the visual I’ve created will pull out the words I need to write.

I’m staying in a small suburb in North London in order to avoid the tourist mania that usually engulfs the city center during the summer months.  Muswell Hill is known as a quiet part of  the city that’s filled with green parks and tree lined streets.  The pageantry is left at Buckingham Palace and I won’t hear Big Ben chime, but I will see what real life is like for Londoners when the tourists aren’t watching.  The neighborhood is quaint and filled with little local establishments including a coffee shop and a cute sandwich cafe that will probably feed me many times over.  It’s in this little enclave where I hope to blend in and write until my pens run dry.

During my stay, I will be updating this blog often with experiences, stories, thoughts, and hopefully some new fiction and poetry.  My tagline says “Just following my muse . . .” but in this case I think she’ll be following me.  I hope she’s up for this little adventure!  A long-term visit to London is something I’ve always wanted to do and the timing finally feels right.  My instincts have lead me to this juncture for a reason and its up to me to walk the rest of the path wherever it leads.

c.b. 2011

A few years ago I discovered a remarkable writer while visiting Prague and have yet to find his equal.  Ivan Klima is a renowned writer in the Czech Republic, but relatively unknown in the U.S. as he is often overshadowed by another Czech writer, Milan Kundera.  While Kundera is brilliant in his own right, I find him a bit too cynical.  Klima tends to be a little more optimistic in his exploration of humanity and his prose flows with an unparalleled elegance.  He manages to transform the lives of ordinary people into powerful emotional experiences that often challenge readers to consider a different perspective.  To this day, I cannot fathom why Ivan Klima is not more widely read.

Here is a partial list of Klima’s works along with summaries and some of my favorite quotes:

 No Saints or Angels

A jaded older woman falls for a younger man who renews her faith in love and herself.  At the same time, her teenage daughter lost in the vast fields of growing up learns that love must extend beyond herself.  These two stories intertwine amidst the communist regime of Czechoslovakia wherein Klima creates the bold metaphor that a mundane existence can be just stifling as an oppressive government.

Favorite Quote:

  • What happens to people who spend their lives afraid to voice their opinions?  They stop thinking, most likely.

My Golden Trades

A collection of short stories where each story centers around a different job.  Everyday life is explored through various characters including a book smuggler, an archeologist and a land surveyor.  Each trade offers a not only a unique perspective on the human condition, but also explores city and country life in Czechoslovakia.  While wholly fiction, Klima infuses his own experiences into each story as he worked most of the featured jobs himself at one time or another.  This creates a unique social record of Czech life that is often forgotten or ignored in the Western world.  Furthermore, Klima again brings to light the danger of oppression and the damage it does to the human spirit.  Each trade represents the important of freedom and self-expression no matter the outlet.

Favorite Quotes:

  • People miss opportunities every day.  One can only try not to miss them through laziness or fear.
  • When compassion and the commandment that life should be lived in dignity have been lost, there are no stories, only cries of horror.

My Merry Mornings

Another collection of stories, but they are a slight departure in that they are more cynical and rough around the edges.  Usually, Klima exudes undying hope for humanity to break free no matter the trap, but in this collection it seems as though pessimism is nipping at his heels.  The darker, more poverty stricken aspect of society is explored through a narrator that is never clearly defined.  There is much debate over whether it is one character or several.  There is a story for each morning of the week that showcases life as it exists on the docks, the marketplace, and in other dark corners Prague.  The grittier approach gives Klima the perfect avenue to offer a poignant reminder that life is a short journey that ends much too quickly. 

The Ultimate Intimacy

Often considered one of Klima’s best works, The Ultimate Intimacy follows the story of a pastor who preaches about the importance of love, yet can’t truthfully say he knows the fullest extent of love.  Daniel Vedra’s marriage is one of convenience held together by the need for comfort and the shared responsibility of children.  Part of him does love his wife, but its out of respect more than anything else. While he would never admit it, he craves something deeper.

Daniel is a master of commitment when it comes to faith, the church, and his family.  His world is firmly entrenched in a predictable routine until a new woman begins attending his services.  She is married as well, but is lonely and frightened of her husband. Yet, she will not leave because she is bound to him by her commitment. She is drawn to the pastor because of his genuine belief in love and he to her because she stirs something in him he didn’t know existed: the ability to be intimate with someone on an emotional level. When the two meet, fate pulls them into a realm neither expected. Thus begins an affair that tears at the fabric of faith, loyalty, and truth.

Both characters evolve in surprising and heartbreaking ways. A woman discovers she capable of more love than she ever thought. She finds she has the strength to hold on, even when the rope is very short. She starts to believe in something bigger than herself, and even starts to have faith that her life is worth living. The pastor, so ardent in his faith, finds he has been hiding something from himself for far too long. His doubtless faith in God in which he built his entire life around is really just a security blanket he clung to as a means to experience unconditional love. In fact, he has always doubted the questions that couldn’t be answered by anything but faith. While he gains the exhilarating and intimate feeling of true love, he loses an entire life of faith.

Klima brilliantly leaves it up to the reader to decide if the trade-off was worth it.   He challenges readers to define what love means in every context even when rules are broken or norms defied.

Favorite Quotes:

  • Money, like power, deflects one from the essence of life.  People who think about money tend to forget about the soul.
  • . . . the moment you stop making up your own mind you risk being taken advantage of.
  • The only thing we have to bind another to us is love and understanding.  All other bonds can be broken or feel like shackles.
  • Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future, they explore neither truth nor lies, they gaze at the television.
  • Something is happening to people: they are turning outwards instead of inwards.
  • Whenever the conscious mind is absent, anything can gain a foothold, and mostly it is something bad, not something good.


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While Klima is not easily found in most mainstream bookstores,  his work sometimes shows up in used bookstores and is often readily available on amazon.com. If you can find him, Ivan Klima’s work is well worth the read.

c.b. 2011


A Folded Memory

This afternoon I pulled out a seldom used book and a folded piece of paper slipped out onto the floor.  It turned out to be a poem I wrote when I was probably around ten-years-old.  It’s not half bad so I thought I’d share it.

Where a lone bird flies
and a wind blows lightly
I find my way
Where the sand sparkles
as much as the stars themselves
I make a wish
What a sight atop a mountain peak
I see my home

As tempting as it was, I didn’t edit anything.  This is it how it appears in my scribbly handwriting.  It’s funny that I should find this now as I’ve just recently started writing poetry again.  I guess it’s always been part of me.   :-)

c.b. 2011

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