Recently I was approached by a book club that selected “Good Fortune” as their monthly read. The members inquired if I’d be willing to attend their meeting and of course, I answered I’d be delighted. It had been two years since I’d read my manuscript and I thought it wise for me to refresh my memory. I started reading it again and at once it became apparent how much I loved my characters, but also how much of my own life was revealed on the pages. At the time I started writing “Good Fortune” my father was dying from Alzheimer’s. Once a brilliant author, scholar and teacher, he was deteriorating rapidly and I was experiencing grief at how he’d radically changed. As I read about the conflict between Wu and his father, Tong, I realized I was writing about my yearnings for my father to be well.
The complicated relationship between Wu and Tong as Tong's health declines runs prevalent throughout “Good Fortune,” but there is much more from my life captured on its pages. I've heard it said an author writes about what they know. Chapter 8 tells about a letter that foretells the future. I wrote about an actual letter my husband received from his grandfather while he was anxiously waiting to find out the results of an important state exam relating to his position as pastry chef for a major hotel. Somehow, the letter got tucked inside a book and was forgotten for six years until once again, my husband was waiting to learn if he’d passed his state exam to become a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. Back then things weren’t computerized, so he had to wait three months to learn the outcome. One morning he dreamt about his grandfather with whom he’d had a close relationship. He woke up missing him, wishing he could talk to him one more time. Without knowing about his dream, I watered the plants per my usual weekly routine and noticed a letter protruding from a book. Curious to see what it was because it hadn’t stuck out before or I’d have noticed, I slipped it out and read it. When I saw it was from Grandfather, as a surprise I set it on the reading table for my husband to find next time he sat there to read. At the end of this blog is a photo of the actual letter which predicts my husband is going to pass his exam. The reproduction is small, but it reads: “Your father keeps informing me of your progress. I trust and feel confident that you will pass your state exams with flying colors…” When he read it that morning, he knew he had!
Another example from my life is written about in Chapter 17. The ballerina painting Jenny shares with Michael was the first oil painting I ever attempted. I came across a photograph of a prima ballerina after her final performance and was struck by the beauty of her pose, her long hair flowing down her back. I’d taken many figure drawing classes with live models and I thought the pose so beautiful I wanted to paint her. When I showed the finished painting to a friend they remarked it was “so sad.” Until that moment, I hadn’t seen the sadness, only the beauty that inspired me to paint her. Page 97 Jennie is talking about herself to Michael as they are getting to know each other:
“While I was still in school, an artist friend gave me a beautiful gift. She made an oil painting depicting a ballerina after she danced her final performance…She's seated backstage with her torso bent over and her head resting on folded arms across her knees. Flowing down her back, her long black hair makes a graceful veil…When I hung it on the wall, I only saw the dancer's sadness. My friend viewed it strictly from an artist's perspective. Her eye appreciated the shape and form of the dancer's body draped in the chair and she painted what she saw, but I felt as if I were seeing into a mirror reflecting what could be my future… The painting showed me the depth of the dancer's sadness after her final performance, and every time I looked at her I felt her pain, too. I knew I didn't want to end up like her…Then one day, I found myself looking at the painting in a different way. I realized I was also an artist, and I had the power to paint my future. My life was a canvas and the future my work of art. Once I came to that realization, I was able to take the steps to protect myself from such a heartbreaking fate. That changed everything. Now, whenever I look at the sad ballerina, all I see is a beautiful painting.”
These are just two examples from my life I incorporated into writing “Good Fortune” while attempting to share some personal experiences of synchronicity, wisdom and learning. There are too many to include, so I will only list twelve of them. The names are fictitious, the incidents all true.
1. Discovering how to actually open a fortune cookie without breaking it. My friend described how her daughter received her engagement ring the day before I wrote Chapter 7.
2. Learning about Chinese culture and customs from unexpected sources wherever I went such as the conversation coming from the next table while dining at the commissary at work. A magazine delivered in the mail with an article about Shuikou noodles after I’d just begun writing Chapter 40.
3. Brothers Andy and Michael fighting and ruining their mother’s new lamp.
4. Pretending to be pirates and fighting with swords made of cardboard.
5. Chapter 18 - Michael’s reflections about the hurdy gurdy man in Monterey, CA, how he respects this man for being independent and his own boss.
6 Contemplating the universe while star gazing around the fire pit at Nepenthe. A silver fox appeared and scared the diners.
7. Michael standing all day and being exhausted from working so hard on Valentine’s Day. As a floral designed, I experienced such fatigue.
8. Meditating by the ocean and hearing a voice in the wind.
9. Creating a beach sculpture from driftwood, shells and seaweed.
10. Referring to “A Dictionary of Symbols” after waking up from a dream.
11. Jennie studied ballet and jazz. I took ballet 6 years and lyrical jazz for 25 years.
12. Grieving over the death of my father. The poem Wu tucked into his father’s breast pocket is in the grave with my father tucked inside his breast pocket.
13. Achieving a state of enlightenment during meditation.
I hope you enjoy reading “Good Fortune” as much as I loved living it and writing it.
Yours in good fortune,
Leslie Bratspis, Author
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