Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Process of Dead Ends

Much more reading than writing lately. Although I have been writing. Working on the same first story of my novel-in-stories. After doing about eleven revisions where I was sure that the first two stories needed to be together I finally realized that, in fact, they did not belong together. At all. not even close. A huge lesson in dead ends and process. It really has to be about enjoying the process of dreaming up these characters and becoming completely fascinated by what they will do next even if they lead me on ten wild goose chses so that I end up almost exactly where I started. At one point I had index cards with scenes from both stories spread out all over the floor of my office trying all different sequences. It was then that I ralized tha everytime I hit a wall it was when I tried merging the stories. So I sent them off to their separate corners and feel like i am back on track. Good thing too since I need to submit something to my group this week.

We had a snow day last week and my new "Poets & Writers" showed up. Perfect timing. There is an article in there by Wlater Mosely on the importance of writing every day. All writers have their opinion on this. Some are on board, others scoff and others are militant in their committment. I believe in the theory but do not necessarily practice it. But I do believe it is a huge help. This is why: it keeps you connected to your story. To your characters. To your voice. I know that when I go days without writing my voice feels rusted, stiff, and oh so tentative. And I spend much of my writing time berating myself for falling off the wagon in the first place. Also, it's a matter of effort. Think of how much energy it takes to launch a rocket versus just letting it do its thing out in space. If I keep writing, every day, I don't have to re-launch my voice or story every single time I sit down to write. The other little perk is that once you work on your story that day, and this means actually writing down words, sentences, even paragraphs, then your mind is open to the story even when you aren't at your desk. I find this happens all the time. Once I am in that writing groove then the characters are with me constantly, as I work out, run errands, do the laundry or dishes and most importantly in those in twilight zones between sleep and wakefulness.

Yes. Lots and lots of reading lately. Not only did we have a snow day but we had a four day weekend for President's Day. "The Long Haul" was amazing. I read it in less than a day. We have the girlfriend telling the story of her realtionship with her boyfriend only referred to as "The Alcoholic." They are both lost and broken and try so hard to be together until it becomes impossible.

My youngest daughter is reading historical fiction for a book report so I read that in a day just so I could help her if needed. It was "Lily's Crossing" set in WWII.

I read all three memoirs by Jennifer Lauck. The first two, "Blackbird" and "Still Waters" tell the story of her childhood and the devestating losses she endured. She tells it in the first person, present tense. The last one, "Show Me the Way" is about motherhood and she weaves together her experiences as a mother with her childhood memories. If you want a book about motherhood that tells the truth, then this it. It reminds me of "Operating Instructions' by Anne Lamott.

"Life As We Knew It" is a young adult book about the end of life as we know it. A meteor has hit the moon and knocked it out of orbit causing cataclysmic weather patterns that result in tsunamis that wipe out both coasts, long dormant volcanoes erupt filling the air with a thick gray ash and it goes on from there. Gas is twelve dollars a gallon. School is closed. The story is told in journal entries by 16-year-old Miranda who yearns for normalcy and struggles with her family in this new world wondering if this is a new kind of normal.

"Happiness" (it is trademarked) is a hilarious and astute satire of publishing and the whole self-help industry. The premise began with the question "What if a self-help book finally worked?" Well, in this book, one does and the results are not what you'd expect which leads me to wonder what is the point of all the self-help and self-actualization. What if we do reach whatever vague promise of our best selves is out there, then what? Isn't life all about the process including all the messiness. Especially the messiness? It's ironic that I read this just after reading the latest self-help phenomenon, "The Secret." It's all about the Law of Attractions and how we are all just energy and energy attracts like energy. If you send out good energy you get good stuff back. Bad energy gets you bad stuff. That's a simplistic version but there it is. it's intriguing and the book is filled with examples of people who have literally changed their lives with a new thought pattern, even curing themsleves of disease. The problem I have with that is what about those who don't cure themselves? Does that mean they are weak minded? That they brought it on themselves through their thoughts? Do they really need to blame themselves on top of everything else they are going through? I don't know.... there is something fascinating in the theory but also slightly disturbing.

Katie and I went to Scrap Tales yesterday. I wasn't going to buy anthing but that's like me going into a bookstore and not buying a book. It's happened but not very often. I don't scrapbook but I find lots of supplies for my collages. They had some special paper and gel for doing transfers which I've been trying to do for a year now. Hopefully this technique works. Once I decided to buy that I began looking for more cool stuff and I found it. Lots of beautiful papers and stamps and rub on transfers. So instead of watching TV last night, the girls and I went down to our art studio in the basement and made some art. I pulled out my artist journal and was saddened to see that the last page I did was in October. What I love about it is that I do enjoy the process. Usually, I am not creating these collages for anyone but me. It's interesting to start with nothing and just let my intuition guide me. What I don't like about it is trying to keep track of all my supplies and finding what I need when I need it.

Made a big pot of vegetable soup with Katie. She decided we should add some chicken to it so she sauteed some in olive oil with garlic and seasoned it with smoked paprika, rosemary and just a pinch of cinnamon she said. So cute. And so helpful to have a daughter who likes to cook.

I got into the Kenyon Review Workshop in advanced fiction with Ron Carlson. I am so so excited. He is an amazing writer and teacher. It is for seven days in June.

My story, "You Are Here' is now in the archives at literarymama.com.

Received a rejection from MAR for "Small Gestures of Violence." That is the story that got me into the Carlson workshop. Not sure if I will just send it out again or maybe wait for his comments.

I need to check on the status of a submission at "The Missouri Review."

I leave for Phoenix in eight days. Just me, staying at my best friend's house out there in the sunshine and warmth for about six days. Can't wait!!

My sister is selling beautiful hand made jewelry at etsy.com. Look for her at hiptomylu! I'll have to post a photo of the bracelet she made just for me at Christmas. I told her that if I had seen a thousand bracelets that would have been the one I selected myself.

"I find that I have to write in order to discover my ideas. I think you could allow yourself to never get started if you tried to guess in advance what was going to inspire you." - Jay McInerney

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