Changing the collar or New Year's Tea

This weekend I had a chance to go to a formal Japanese style New Year's banquet. There was delicious food, all traditionally served at Japanese feasts like this. I finally wore a full kimono for the first time (with a LOT of help from a fellow tea student who took formal lessons in kimono wearing - yes, it's that involved you need a class)
The hearth, where the symbolic laying of new charcoal happened.

No tea is complete without this area, displaying a poem that matches the season and seasonal flowers/ fruit. Yep, some times of year you can even use bare branches, but the orange was more auspicious for the lucky new year's symbolism

There are certain rules about kimonos and kimono wearing (hence why some people, like my classmate, go and take a series of classes on it). The idea shape for kimono wearing is perfectly cylindrical, so if, ahem, one's natural form isn't disposed that way, you have to try to make it so. Ladies with generous endowments on top can wear a sports bra and padding around the middle (yep, you read that right - it's OK to make yourself bigger around the middle to get it to lay right). All the various strings holding the thing together are tied very tight around the middle, with the corset, I mean obi, securing and concealing it all. 

I thought the trouble with getting through the ceremony would be dealing with my knees while kneeling. Nope. It was the top of my feet that hurt most when I was in proper position, with my breathing feeling less than optimal while wearing the tight obi when I shifted to sit side saddle.

There are also rules about what sort of kimonos and obis are right for which occasions. I found it was best to run things past the more experienced students first or  have buyer's remorse later. For instance, I fell in love with and bought a gorgeous obi, only to find it was really not suited for a tea student, but for a geisha. (I may display it in my home in some way - it's too pretty not to).

 The other thing I learned was about the collars on the under kimono. White is more appropriate for tea (white with embroidery is OK). The under kimono I got a good deal on? Black collar - only appropriate for a funeral.

Fortunately that was an easy fix. Collars are made to be removable and therefore easily washable. Considering the year I just finished up, there seemed to me to be something very symbolic about removing a collar meant for mourning to add one on to go to a celebration of new beginnings. There's so very much I had to leave behind last year, so many endings to mourn.

But the new collar went on easily. I got complimented on my kimono and I had a very lovely time discussing pottery, tea and even Magic the Gathering. And the food was amazing.

Here's to the New Year. It's gonna a be a bright sunshiny one, despite the damn polar vortex.

Writers Read (An Insecure Writer's Support Group Post)

Part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group group posting

I had a relaxing but productive holiday break. After making myself accountable to a serious writing buddy (thank you Magaly - I hope you are having a fabulous vacation) I am pleased to report I am making slow but steady progress. I have a minimum word count I try to reach every day. It's such a ridiculously small number, I'm embarrassed to share it. But it's usually enough to prime the pump to get ideas flowing and there are plenty of days I exceed it. Of course, I've had plenty of days when I barely make it as well, but I suppose that's to be expected. If I waited for conditions to be super perfect I'd never write anything, and that just isn't acceptable.

The other thing I've been doing is researching, aka reading books in the genre I'm writing. That's been a help in getting a feel for world building, a pretty crucial thing when writing fantasy. I started off with The Belgariad (Volume 1. Thankfully, a friend of mine owns Volume 2, because the end was driving me nuts) and am now re-reading an old favorite Magician: Apprentice by Raymond Feist.

As fun as this research is there are a couple of dangers here. The most obvious one is getting so caught up in the story I forget to write! The second is comparing my style to other writers and finding it wanting. My style is different from those, most notably in the dialog. I'm trying to keep the high fantasy tone without making it sound too stilted or silly. I think some of my humor comes across in the characters' words but I also need to make sure it fits with the world I've built, and not the world of the Northeast US in 2014.

Please gods, don't let me create the literary equivalent of this

I've got smart people's whose opinions I trust giving me feedback on these baby steps (another chapter almost done, woot!) But it's still a bit nerve wracking. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn't have stuck with something easier for my first attempt at a novel, but the idea for this story was picking at me too much - I had to explore it.

I'll leave you all with a song inspired by another fantasy series I loved when I was a little girl. I think I may re-read some of these too.