Tag Archives: Leonardo da Vinci

Stalking Leonardo in America

On the hunt for Leonardo da Vinci ever since starting on the novelization of my time travel novel, but it seems, instead, he’s been stalking me.

The genius is very much alive. A few of the most notable Leo sightings, up-close-and-personal. The Da Vinci Machines exhibit, currently on display in Bradenton, Florida. Artisans from Florence, Italy, have constructed life-sized models of a series of Leonardo’s inventions found in his writings and jottings and sketches found in more than 13,000-known pages of Leonardo’s codices (definition: notebooks; singular, codex. From the Latin. Think Renaissance blog). There are an additional 20,000 or so pages from codices that scholars suspect lay hidden and molding in unsuspecting people’s attics and musty shoe boxes throughout Europe.

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Da Vinci Museums Exhibit

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Da Vinci’s glider

Here is material evidence of Leonardo’s genius in plain sight for the throngs of kids, teachers and adults visiting the exhibition. A creative thinker who could design a modern tank from observing turtles, whose glider emerged from hundreds of hours watching and sketching hawks in flight, the first working robot, and myriad seemingly modern inventions–all from the mind of a 15th-century man.

Of course, there is another, perhaps more famous side to Leonardo: his art. Which took me to Williamsburg, Virginia, recently, to see an exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty,” at the Muscarelle Museum of Art on the campus of William and Mary. While, still today, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper get most of the press, observing the master’s drawing skills at close hand is a thrill.

Leonardo and Beauty

Leonardo and the Idea of Beauty

I felt the hand of the artist on my shoulder as I stepped up to each new piece on display. On display: attributes of left-handedness — shadowing and drawing lines diagonally from up left to down right to avoid smudging and see the trajectory of each line — that make him unique among Renaissance masters. To breathe in the antiquity emanating from these 500-year-old papers and parchments. To feel the aura of the artist in the room, looking out from the shadows and into my eyes even as my eyes took him in.

In the introduction to the exhibition, in a book of the same title, Dr. Aaron H. De Groft, the museum’s director and CEO, writes, “Leonardo’s notebooks are filled with quick short notes on what he saw, how he felt, things to remember to do and many other pronouncements, statements, and fully worked out thoughts…and so much of it was illustrated. We see him living his life literally day by day and week by week documented on the page in many ways like the modern day equivalents of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. […]…he wrote in one of his last recorded lines, ‘I must go now…because the soup is getting cold.'”

How  fitting to see this inveterate doodler through the eyes of twenty-first century technology. And how like Charley, the protagonist of Out of Time, to want to record what she sees, things to remember and the many other pronouncements of her own curious, creative and inventive mind in a blog and on social media.

Auratic tweet

Charley’s Notebooks: Tweet Storytelling Out of Time

Next stop on my quest to discover Leonardo in America? The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Salvador Dali draws on the inspiration of Freud’s meanderings on the great Renaissance master to celebrate “Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.”

Dali Museum Leo

Where Minds, Machines and Masterpieces Meet.

Seeing yet another side of Leonardo’s genius up-close-and-personal? Can’t wait!

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Mona and me

The Out of Time Backstory

Creating a Story Tweeting Adventure

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I am a consultant in social marketing specializing in education and health. I am also parent to three great kids. I drove a lot of carpools back in the day and relished spying on the candid conversations playing out in the back of the car.

My passion is storytelling and, because moms are invisible, I relished jotting down the backseat banter. As my kids grew up, I marveled at how their language, ideas and attitudes transformed along with their bodies and brains. It was a complete anthropology lesson in teen social psychology that, as a mom, I found exasperating, but as a writer and science interpreter: priceless.

The result was a flight of fancy from childhood—out of time. I crafted a screenplay, Out of Time, whose protagonist, Charley, is a 13-year old middle school girl and self-styled Renaissance Genius, à la her Florentine Idol, Leonardo da Vinci. Through the marvels of her science fair invention, Leonardo’s plans for a time machine, Charley hurtles back 500 years to meet the Master and becomes stuck, a Washington Nationals Fan in the Duke di Medici’s Court.

Social media makes the element of storytelling more intriguing, so when a friend suggested I take my screenplay public, anticipated Hollywood agents and directors lining up to option the story notwithstanding, the idea of tweeting it and incorporating followers’ voices into the storyline seemed intriguing.

The result is @OutofTimeMovie, a new social experiment to encourage friends and followers on Twitter to interact and direct Charley M. & Friends on adventures through time.

We’ve set up a profile on Twitter where Charley has already begun narrating her tale.

Charley’s adventures with friends and frenemies in multiple “time zones” over half a millennium was seeded by a decade or so of those aforementioned carpool conversations. What happens next will grow out of your participation in the tweet-adventure.

Screenplay Storyline

A couple of too-smart teens get carried away while doing a school science fair project: constructing a time machine. Charley Morton and Billy Vincenzo’s detective work engineers a time machine using modern technology and science to create a working model–and then, are stunned when it works. Armed with nothing more than an iPad, cell phone, rigged up solar battery, Legobot pieces and sour gummy worms, Charley finds herself in a strange world where nothing follows the rules of life as she knows it.

In the process, this posse of 21st century teens learn more than they bargained for, jumping into a time of social, intellectual and religious ferment in contrast to their modern lives, and shocking early Renaissance sensibilities with their relaxed attitudes towards authority, religion, and women’s place in the world.

Charley finds herself continually censored for pursuing her passions—culinary, scientific, technological and musical (ranging from a search for the best spaghetti pomodoro (tomatoes not yet having made it to Florence from the New World-Columbus just circling),  to playing Words with Friends on her iPhone to playing violin with Lorenzo di Medici’s orchestra)—while Leonardo discovers a girl with learning far in advance of his own discoveries, but Charley is endangered by forces beyond her understanding, including the Dominican Friar Savonarola, originator of the famed bonfires of the vanities who deems Charley and her “magic-possessed” friends a threat to the minds, hearts and souls of the people of Florence.

Making it social: drop a Tweet

That’s the foundation; now we want you to get involved. Please follow along in the adventure or, better still, jump in and “Drop a Tweet”!

How? Simply tweet questions, replies, instructions or twists to their adventures to the characters (listed below). Or ask them to describe what they see, hear or smell along the way. Charley has already consulted a pediatrician who’s joined in the tweet chat (@jackmaypole) by asking him whether time travel might bring on motion sickness. Check out Dr. Jack’s response.

She’d love advice from technology mavens on how to stay connected to the present with her iPad or iPhone, since satellites obviously weren’t circling the planet in 1492 (in fact, Columbus was…barely).

And, teachers in every subject area from science to art to music could suggest a rubric for Charley and Billy’s science fair report, how discovery of the Higgs Boson has implications for time travel, whether Charley’s talent on the violin would match the abilities of a professional orchestra in Lorenzo di Medici’s court, or sharing historical context for Leonardo da Vinci’s role under the di Medici’s, or whether advance knowledge of the future (gravity, flying) might change da Vinci’s legacy.

I plan to post a series of short video updates (aka: serial story tweets) to recap the story for new followers, and as catch up for those who may have missed episodes.

Five simple story rules for driving Twitter action:

1.    Tweet as yourself; the characters will respond or change action if, and at the time, your direction fits into the narrative.

2.    Please use only these fictional characters to anchor the story. Will consider introducing a new character if it makes sense as the story develops

3.    Will work on developing only one storyline at a time (past, present or future) to have time to experience the scene, create a narrative line (setup-hook-inciting incident-plot point(s)-challenge-resolution). Will jump into new adventures after these criteria have been satisfied in the time/place involved.

4.    Strive for historical accuracy (please research the time period): consider actions, interactions and dialog suited to time place, and historically accurate figures.

5.    Appropriate use of technology (time travel and other) is encouraged.

 Characters

Charley Morton, 13-year old girl, dreamer, violin player and self-styled modern day Renaissance genius who loves all things Italy and Leonardo da Vinci.

Billy Vincenzo, 13, Charley’s science fair partner, class “nerd”, crush on Charley.

Beth Jacobs, 13, social butterfly, smart but would rather be popular, Charley’s BFF (not!) and rival for Lex Campbell’s attention.

Lex Campbell, “hot” new guy at school, plays on baseball team and dreams of being recruited for major league team out of high school, major crush.

Kairos, 15-year old who appears mysteriously at Charley’s Dad’s office on Take Your Child to Work Day. He can travel across time to show up anywhere, any time. Origins unknown. In 1492, he is Leonardo’s apprentice, and sits to model for his art.

Elisabetta, 13-year old in 1492 Florence. Works in di Medici palace and takes the impetuous Charley under her wing to protect from palace intrigue.

Gwen Morton, Charley’s mom, concert violinist with National Symphony Orchestra and music teacher.

Jerry Morton, Charley’s dad, contractor for Homeland Security, and clueless about teenage girls.

Mrs. Schreiber, science teacher at Da Vinci Middle School

Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance genius, needs no further introduction.

Lorenzo di Medici, Duke of the Republic of Florence and part of the powerful family that includes Popes, Bishops, arts patrons, military innovators and enlightened citizen-politicians

Giralamo Savonarola, Dominican friar, preacher, and self-ordained prophet. Originated the bonfire of the vanities to burn as “sin” all art, wealth, books and religious tracts. Repeatedly denounced Lorenzo’s “despotic” rule and pursues any sign of “idolatry” or “witchery”.

Settings: Home/School, the present

Takoma Park, Maryland – Suburban Washington, D.C., Da Vinci Middle School, Takoma Park Public Library

Renaissance Italy, 1492, Carnival time

A rural field outside Florence, Italy, di Medici Palace, Pitti Palace and Piazza Signoria, the central square of Florence

Here’s some of what’s happening on Twitter:

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When Words Count

Baby there's snow outside - When Words Count

37,166. That’s how many words Word tells me I have written, sweated over, researched and edited so far writing Out of Time. My guess–I’m a little about one-third of the way through the storytelling.

I choose the words carefully, inspired by some master storytellers: Mark Twain for time travel, humor and social satire (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)…Irving Stone for describing the artistic process and the life of the artist, Michelangelo, his life and times, so artfully (The Agony and the Ecstasy)…Tom Wolfe for a more modern-day take on that anti-Medici sport known, then and now, as The Bonfire of the Vanities…Suzanne Collins for authentic young adult fantasy (The Hunger Games)…Madeleine L’Engle for science fiction and beautiful language.

I don’t dare place myself in their lofty company; these are aspirational peers.

Daring to reach so high is daunting–a mission I couldn’t possibly accomplish without support and encouragement.

When Words Count then becomes more than a number. Whether the story can (and should) be told in 5,000 words or 50,000 is not a matter of quantity, but quality. And it takes a village.

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SO…I’ve come to a writers retreat center in Vermont during the Blizzard of 2014 for a shot of confidence. It is fittingly called When Words Count Retreat.

Its proprietors, Steve Eisner and Jon Reisfeld, might be considered the modern-day equivalent of patrons for writers–the di Medici’s of our day–with a bit of a commercial twist.

Steve and Jon have started a writers competition culminating in a Pitch Week at their retreat in September. Phase 1 is a boot camp and one-on-one coaching sessions, preparation for Pitch Week and the luxury of time, unstructured and uninterrupted, to write. The Grand Prize: a book contract with a New York publisher, an agent and a publicist. Runners up (6 out of 25 finalists in the latest go-round) get exposure with senior decision-makers in New York’s publishing pantheon.

I am here for Pitch Week prep. What better place to be snuggled up to Charley, Leonardo and friends both real and fictional, with snow swirling outside: no place to go. No phones to answer. No distractions. Someone else to cook, clean and take care of everything. Inspiration from Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Arthur Miller, Ralph Ellison, Pappa Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, and other muses of American fiction whose works, artifacts and images grace the walls and pantries of the retreat center’s thoughtfully furnished rooms, library and salons.

This weekend, I am inhabiting Emily Dickinson.

When Words Count Retreat

Emily Dickinson Room

For now, with snow drifts deeper than four feet embanking this restored farm house, there is no better place to be than in front of the fire, fresh coffee replenished throughout the day, in the company of writers, writing. We’re all sharing our stories.

This is When Words Count.