Monday, March 23, 2009
Working on copy edits. Almost done. I keep trying to remember the advice of my mentor: "Start with the easy ones." Then, you either find out that they're all easy ones, or you find yourself tackling the harder ones without actually intending to. I think of this as sneaking up on yourself.
You can sneak up on yourself in the composing phase too. I'm just gonna nonchalantly peruse what I wrote yesterday, not even feeling like writing (whistling)...whoops, three hours went by and all these pages wrote themselves. Love that.
Having a deadline always means self-imposed exile for me. No fooling around, no socializing. In fact, it is almost noon and I FORGOT to even open Facebook. Hardcore!
Now, if you live in my neighborhood, and you have seen me running...that doesn't count. That is important for focus. Also, if you live in my neighborhood, and you have seen me running, get yourself into therapy---the sight of me running in my parka could be permanently damaging! I know I'll warm up eventually---I just can't bear to start out that cold. And let me tell you it is cold today. It actually made my teeth hurt when I breathed. Oh, and also, my feet were numb before I got to the end of my driveway. Especially the left one.
Well, the day of copy edits reckoning is upon us. I must get the ms. in the mail soon soon very soon. Then commence celebrating. If I'm not too tired. In which case, I'll probably take a nap in my parka. (Not even joking.)
Let's look ahead to spring: Reviews on here? Yes! Interviews on here? Yes! And my ARC is scheduled for June or July!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I do know that my grandmother loved for anyone to make her a bread, St. Pat's day or any day.
My neighbor hides surprises in the bread in foil. (We did St. Pat's at my house this year---my first time making corned beef and colcannon.) Her husband got the button for general luck, my husband got the ring for luck in love (I hope its me!) and I can't remember the other one. I hope nobody swallowed it!!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
preheat: 375 degrees
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ cup soft butter or margarine
1 and 1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. light cream (we use vanilla ice cream)
Mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
Mix until a coarse meal.
Get another bowl.
Stir buttermilk, egg, baking soda together.
Add to flour mixture all at once.
Blend until moistened.
Place in a greased pie plate.
Make a cross on top.
Brush with cream (slather with ice cream).
Bake at 375 for between 1 hour and 1 hour 15 minutes.
(Check on it every 15. The bottom usually browns ahead, so put a baking sheet under when you see it’s brown. The crown will brown next, so put a loose foil over it, usually around 30 minutes.)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
There are so many great verse novels to choose from, but these are my favorites: some influenced me to start writing in verse; others just affirmed how beautiful an art form it can be.
1. Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse: Your mother’s on fire. You reach for a bucket of water, not stopping to think of the drought—not a drop of water for hundreds of miles around. You’ve drenched her with a different clear liquid: kerosene.
Now your mother and unborn brother are dead, your father’s burying himself in the bottle and your hands are too burned to play the piano you love. What do you do now? And with the rest of your life?
2. Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse: Natives of the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska were “protected” in internment camps during World War II. Elegant, spare, haunting—amazing how Hesse carves out a berth in your heart for the main character in so few words. And you also get a sense of place, one many of us probably never knew existed.
3. The Weight of the Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell: An American girl spends the summer in Israel on a kibbutz—sounded kinda esoteric to me when I first heard of it, but the first page injects you right into the story with sensory experience and a character that couldn’t be more alive!
4. Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell: Who needs another thick volume added to the tonnage of Arthurian legends? We all do, if it’s this one. From the point of view of Elaine of Ascolat, the Lady of Shalott, this book has it all: Language, imagery, romance, rivalry, war, healing...all wrapped up in a coming-of-age story.
5. Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy: The Lodz ghetto of Poland, a waiting room of sorts for the concentration camps: 270,000 Jews were confined there; only 800 survived, 12 of them children. Based on the real life experience of one of the 12 children, Syvia Perlmutter, and told from her p.o.v. This book will live inside you forever.
6. Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson: In the style of main characters told by benevolent teachers to write journals/poems/feelings...Lonnie has been separated from everyone he loves and put in foster care. You get to see the world through his eyes, including his own view of himself. (The sequel Peace, Locomotion is out now.)
7. Heartbeat by Sharon Creech: This was my introduction to Creech, so it remains my favorite...even after bawling my eyes out over Love That Dog (and, to some degree, the sequel Hate That Cat). You can feel a pulse—each footfall as the main character runs—giving the story a subtle structure and momentum.
8. Pieces of Georgia by Jennifer Bryant: A guidance counselor, this time, asks Georgia to write in a journal. An artist, she receives an anonymous gift of membership to the Brandywine River Museum. Through these outlets, she deals with her mother’s absence and her own grief, and learns to nurture her stilted relationship with her father.
9. John Brown’s Body by Stephen Vincent Benet: A high-school English teacher rescued boxes of moldy decrepit books from the incinerator for one last hurrah. My copy had underlining and margin notes in dozens of different handwritings. By the time we finished the unit, its binding was replaced by a rubber band. The teacher held out a garbage can and students gleefully slam dunked the books (recycling didn’t exist yet), but I couldn’t let mine go. Do you know what it feels like to have a relationship with a book? You have this experience with it...and evidence of other people’s energy and experience just makes it more layered.
10. Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Epic story of searching for a lost love. Best read when young and preferably in a window seat. (Not technically a novel, I guess, more of a long poem.) This poem inspired one of the storylines in my own novel: my forbidden lovers were to be separated by the Johnstown Flood. In the actual execution of it, though, I liked seeing them together more, so the epic search became only a few pages. Oh well. How about a modern-day Evangeline...hmm....
Wow, from the Dust Bowl to the Holocaust, and the Civil War to the loss of loved ones...we poetic types sure are a serious bunch. Will anyone ever write a funny verse novel? Do you know of one?
So what do you think? Will you give verse novels a chance? Have you already? What are your favorites? Most are quick reads and, once you start, you’ll want another one and another one (like salty snacks), though I recommend savoring every carefully chosen word.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
It reminds me of the flat parts of our country: you can see hundreds of miles in any direction. This is overwhelming and panic inducing for those of us coastal dwellers, especially a mountain girl like me. Too many choices! Too much ground to cover! No place to hide!
That's how it feels to travel from cover to cover. How do you make the trip? What you need is
A practice? Isn't practice a verb? Unless you're a doctor. Hardy har: Don't try to wise guy your way out of it---you gotta write every day, or darn near. You can freewrite with Natalie Goldberg, do morning pages with Julia Cameron, go for two pages a day like my mentor PRG, or even go for 25 words a day like Wabi Sabi Knitter. (My husband has subscribed to the latter, and is writing every day again for the first time in years.) And it goes without saying that we'll all write 85 pages a day like Stephen King when we can roll around in a bathtub full of gold dubloons.
Your subconscious will send up all kinds of junk to try to weasel out of it. Excuses. My husband and I have a shorthand for this: we met a guy who raved about how funny he is, what a genius he is, how he is the world's funniest undiscovered comedian, and he is seriously gonna start writing down his material just as soon as he saves up enough for a laptop (because he has all his ideas on the fly). We whispered to each other, "Pencil? Notebook? Paper napkin?" So, now, when one of us is making excuses, we just say, "Yeah, as soon as I get a laptop..."
You'll push through the excuses. You're in the trenches now and it is messy. But you're gonna apply yourself to it, and reapply, and rinse and repeat...and muck around and get your hands dirty. And when you finally bring it on home and mentally type "The End. Amen," it's only the beginning of the end. You have a first draft. And revising is messy, too.
Writing a longer work can be like a puzzle, a labrynth, a generator of unanswered questions...but it isn't hard. Digging ditches is hard. Rescuing half-frozen mountain climbers is hard. Leading a nation out of war and economic devastation is hard. Writing is easy. Writing is what we love. Some days are easier than others---like a bad hair day, you can have a bad writing day. But you don't quit (any more than you shave your head).
Your story can only be told by you. Your story needs you. And it will haunt you for the rest of your life if you don't tell it.