Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Back to business. School is out in a week, and I am going to cuddle up (burrow in, tackle) Two Rivers. I have one month of freedom to get all of the new edits done.
Tomorrow night I'm doing my first public event in D.C. I am nervous and excited. The faculty is taking me out to dinner first, which I am simply thrilled about after all of the cooking I've been doing...
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I am tumbling through this new book like some wild animal, ripping off pieces o fthis and that with my teeth, gnawing on them a while and then scurrying off into some other dark place.
Good-ish news, a benevolent agent is combing through Two Rivers with me, offering so much valuable criticism. I am hoping that after revisioning the book again, he'll be captivated enough to take it on. Right now, it's not ready. I knew this, but I needed help. I am so, so grateful for this. I feel like the novel will have a new life soon...
Anyway, back to my beautiful diversion:
After she was gone, a certain peace descended on our house. It was like those soft moments in movies, a montage, a sort of collage of happy snippets set against an upbeat soundtrack.
When I remember those first few days, I still remember music instead of words. My father and mother smiling, holding hands. We got a real Christmas tree for the first time that year. Here is my father throwing the white limbed metal one in the trashcan. Here is my mother pricking her finger on a needle as we sat together in the kitchen stringing cranberries and popcorn onto an invisible thread. Here I am, standing knee deep in fresh snow in a new pair of boots that I saw and wanted and my mother bought and gave to me later wrapped in a green tissue paper. These moments are strung together in my memory on a thread that sang Bob Denver carols. The Carpenters. Each red berry against the whiteness of popcorn, the whiteness of snow.
But at the movies we know that the montage is never at the end of the movie. It always comes right before everything falls apart.
The string, pulled too tight. All of the berries spilled onto the floor.
On Christmas Eve, Tara walked into a diner on _________ Street, ordered a slice of pumpkin pie, a cup of coffee. Before she had even finished the coffee, she went to the restroom, sat down on the toilet, and swallowed three red capsules: a Christmas gift from her boyfriend. She returned to the counter where her coffee had grown cold and the waitress had taken away her plate. She sipped the coffee, felt the capsule hard in her throat. And then, she her fingers disappeared. Then her wrists, her elbows, her arms. She threw off her coat, expecting that he arms had dissolved; she couldn’t feel them anymore. Her waist, her hips, her legs. She tried to get the waitress’s attention, tried to let someone know that she was the invisible woman, that soon, the only thing left would be the clothes that hung on her transparent bones. Neck. Face. Eyes.
We got the call that Tara had overdosed on PCP on Christmas Day. She’d been admitted into Bellevue after she wandered out into the middle of the street. She’d been struck by a car but not hurt. She was convinced it was because she had no body anymore. That she’d left her body on that red vinyl stool at the diner.
My father didn’t say much to the doctor on the other end of the line; he only nodded, his head like a toy, bobbing on his shoulders. I felt sorry for him, in his Christmas tree sweater my mother had given to him. I can still remember that feeling; it was like chewing on tinsel.
“Tell them she’s emancipated,” my mother said. She was holding a pair of Santa and Mrs. Claus candleholders. It looked like she was strangling them. “She’s not our responsibility anymore.”
My mother took the tree down the day after Christmas, dragged it out to the trash all by herself. She vacuumed up the needles, muttering that we’d never get a real tree again. But even after the tree was gone, after every needle had been removed, the scent of pine lingered.
My parents did not go to get Tara from the hospital. She was released and fined for possession of an illegal substance.
A month later, I saw her picture on a cover of a magazine, and I didn’t recognize her face.
Friday, November 11, 2005
First, white. His hands were fat and freckled, the wedding ring cutting into his finger like a fishing line. His skin was like the inside of a shell, but freckled. He was only a mussel. A gritty, slimy mussel. He told me he loved my face, but I knew he was lying. He couldn’t look at me when he said that, and the whole time, I thought, Look at you, you ugly oyster. What have you got on me? But I let him slip his tongue in my mouth. Other things.
Then, blue. Blue was kind. Thin, just a boy, a heartsick boy my own age who carried Rose around on his shoulders, piggy-back. His mother and father both died before he was grown all the way up. He had no family. He stuttered, and I could feel his want in every one of his words, even the small ones. You. Today. Kiss.
Last, black. Under the boardwalk, he ripped the skin between my legs with his teeth. The saltwater came in after and burned the places that he had torn. I let him, and didn’t even cry. I wondered if this is what it felt like to have a child. He had a long scar from where someone tried to gut him like a fish. I never asked why someone would want to do that to him; it was obvious.
I don’t remember the ones in between. They blur together now like a gasoline rainbow on pavement.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
I have almost 20,000 words of the new book which is nothing short of a miracle what with all the racket here.
Here's another passage from my madness:
This is Tara.
She is a box. She is a dirty, wet box I found in my parents’ basement. The picture on the outside is supposed to show us what’s inside, but the picture is destroyed by water. It’s too damaged to tell what’s supposed to be inside. But inside. Inside there are beautiful things. Trinkets. Scraps of paper with beautiful words. Shimmering things, loose glitter.
She is the girl who smeared her ear wax on the white headboard behind her bed.
She is a coy animal, playing like a child and then biting. Rabid.
She is the girl who pressed her finger so deep into my belly button, I felt like she was touching the inside of me. The girl who wouldn’t stop until I was crying.
She is the shimmering scales of a dead fish washed ashore.
She is a word. A series of words, each one with more syllables than the last. She is a villanelle. A sestina. A haiku. She is a raunchy limerick. She is the tumbling line that falls off the page. I have made her this, done this to her, because keeping her inside the margins of a piece of paper, inside the pages of a book is the only way I know how to keep her safe.
Monday, November 07, 2005
This is the strangest thing I have ever written. I am having a blast. killing myself. 60 pages in seven days. I think it took a year to write the first 60 pages of Two Rivers.
Anyway, here's a snippet:
Rose doesn’t know the details of her mother’s death. She’s a smart girl though; I’m sure she has an idea.
When she was very small, I used to tell her a story about the night she was born. Some of what I told her was true. Some was not. She did come early. A whole month before she was supposed to arrive. She wasn’t due until March, but on Valentine’s day, Tara woke up and knew that she would arrive that day. Tara told me the story once, not long before she died, told me that she’d been shooting up all night, and when her water broke she thought she’d simply pissed herself. I told Rose that Tara spent the day walking in the Village, waiting until the pain was too much to bear before she took a taxi to the hospital. I told her that she bought flowers, candy for herself. That she was wearing a red scarf that day that blew out behind her in the cold February air. The only color in the grey, sunless, bitter day. I told her that finally, when she knew it was time, she hailed a taxi and not but an hour later Rose arrived in the world. That the first thing Tara asked for after she was born was a cup of hot chocolate. That she was her mother’s only Valentine. I spared her the unnecssary details: the fact that she stole the flowers from a Farmer’s Market and was chased down by the vendor who spat in her face and called her a dirty whore. I left out the benevolent taxi driver found her crying on a curb and took her to the hospital, where she was taken to the psych ward before they realized that she was in labor. That she was too doped up to notcie that the baby was crowning between her legs. She did ask for hot chocolate. And she told me that when she saw Rose’s face, her lapis colored eyes peering up at her, it was the first time anyone had ever loved her.
Rose. I didn’t know what I was doing, still don’t. But I’m doing my best.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I knew that Tara was more beautiful than I from the time we were old enough to share a tub. It was in the bathtub that I studied her, the intricacies of her face and body. The nature of her gestures. All of her exquisite mannerisms. Even at four years old, there was something eerily captivating about Tara’s face. Her eyes, heavy-lidded, and too large for her face made most people turn away. Great beauty has the power to do that. To embarrass. To frighten. Two years younger, I watched my sister with both fascination and desire. I wanted to be near her. I wanted to be her.
I also learned from early on that Tara hated the world. Perhaps for someone of such terrifying beauty, the world could only be ugly place in comparison. In the bathtub, she pulled my mother’s hair from the drain and draped it across the smooth expanse of her chest. She dug the mold out of the grout with her fingernails and held it under my nose to smell. Even at four years old, Tara knew that under every perfect stone there were worms. Maggots. Roaches. Germs.
I, on the other hand, have always been a poet. Not beautiful like Tara. Not captivating to anyone’s eye. But I know how to find grace in the hideous. It’s a skill only the plain and ugly tend to hone. I made beauty because it was not given to me.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Here's the first paragraph:
There must be word for the moment in which fall acquiesces to winter. It can’t possibly be as subtle a surrender as it appears. I like to think that it’s a kind of quickdeath, a gunshot to the head. No long suffering illness. It is not a cancer but a precise stab. Of course, you argue that autumn (fall, fall) tumbles headlong and sure into the certainty of winter, but even the suicide, who knows exactly what’s coming, has a moment in which his life ceases and his death begins. It’s that moment I’d like a name for. That single second in which autumn dies, it’s soul rising into the cloudless sky. I might call it Tara. She’d like that.
This is fun. It's so liberating to worry only about quantity and not quality for a change.
Monday, October 24, 2005
I haven't talked much about the girls lately...perhaps because they are so everpresent in my life, there's no room left in my writing? The fairy costumes are almost done. I have sewn battery-operated Christmas lights into the wings, bought sparkly shoes, and sewn tu-tu's filled with silk flowers. Kicky is beside herself in anticipation of Halloween and Esmee is, as she almost always is, blissfully oblivious.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
I am reading a terrific book called "The Forest for the Trees" by Betsy Lerner. She's a former editor, turned agent, and this book is the most honest look at the publishing industry I have ever read. She is so acutely sensitive to the precarious ego of the writer as well as the temperament of both established and fledgling authors. I so rarely pick up books like these, but the timing seemed serendipitous.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
My agent finally got back to me after five weeks (six months if you count the month before she went on maternity leave, the four months out, and the one month since she's gotten back), and the verdict is not good. Despite her earlier (May) enthusiasm (Very excited to have a new one to work on together esp one with so much promise....), now she seems to think the book needs to be turned on its ass, spun around and sent flying into outerspace. At least that's how I interpreted her comments. Actually, it just suddenly seems that she wants it to be a different book than it is or should be. She wants it to be about the civil rights movement, about Harper's mother's experience in Mississippi. Suddenly, everything that I see as peripheral to the story, she sees as potentially integral and vice-versa. She sees it as a woman's book that doesn't appeal to women. Figure that one out. And here's the kicker, she thinks the changes required are so enormous that there is no way she could possibly handle them. Argh. Initially, before all of the work I did this summer, she thought the changes needed were entirely manageable. It's like some terrible Twilight Zone episode, though not nearly as entertaining.
Anyway, we went back and forth a few times...sparring and bruising. And ultimately, essentially, we broke up. Call it the seven year itch...but what I believe is going on, is that now, with a new baby at home, there isn't the time she feels she needs to give to her lesser clients (read, the ones whose book sales are as miserable as mine). I have no idea what caused her to change her mind about the book itself; I'll probably never know.
However, I have what I believe is a terrific novel in need of some minor editing. It's been seven years since I've written a query letter, and I am rusty, but I'm jumping right back on this dang bicycle. So...if anyone out there knows a hot shot agent who would like to take this challenge on....you know where to find me :)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
However, returning to DC was also exciting. Kicky has started school again. We've had our kitchen gutted and are "camping" urban-style. We're hoping the re-do will be done by the end of the month. Meanwhile, we've learned to live with the drywall/cabinet guy...it's like having a houseguest overstay their welcome -- a really loud houseguest. I am teaching two classes...one at GW and one at The Writer's Center. The two groups couldn't be more different, but I think I am learning much from both.
Anyway, just checking in. Christy has the book now and hopefully will appreciate the tremendous efforts that went into the revisions.
While I was on the pond, I dreamed that I was Harper...waiting for Betsy to come to a school dance. My knees were weak with love for her. Boy, lines between fiction and reality get fuzzy near the end...
Friday, July 29, 2005
Saturday, July 23, 2005
We're leaving in one week for Vermont. I am so excited to vacate this oppressive humidity. I am also excited to have a whole month to work on the book. I am hoping it will be enough time to get a really, really good draft done by Labor Day when Christy should be returning after her maternity leave. I am grateful now for her baby's early arrival...it send me into a sort of revision whirlwind I've never experienced before. I have learned great patience in so many ways this summer.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Here is the chapter's opening paragraph:
Betsy broke my heart a thousand times. She didn’t mean to; she was never deliberately unkind. But the moments (disappointments both small and fantastic) are still like tender scars: each one a tiny but certain fissure. And like anything that has been broken and then mended over and over again, I was weakened by her. And she didn’t even know it.
Saturday, July 16, 2005
I bought John Irving's new brick, I mean book, "Until I Find You" (800 some-odd pages). It's coming to Vermont with me. It's gotten relatively bad reviews, but I'm always optimistic which is surprising since I was so put off when I saw him speak that one time in Seattle. He was on tour for "A Son of the Circus" -- he refused to sign any books. Now, isn't that sort of your bonus gift to your fans after they spend $25 on your book? He was also not at all what I expected (wanted) him to be. Hard to explain...I just remember feeling incredibly disappointed. I think I've always made a pretty big attempt to be much more approachable and accessible to my readers (all six of them!).
This afternoon I am interviewing Nanny #1. Mary Poppins should be landing at around 1:00.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
KK has left, but we have a new houseguest: Ella the Caterpella. Apparently (based on extensive research on the web) she will eventually become a Tiger Moth. Kicky caught about twenty fireflies to keep her company the other night. She put them by her bed and stayed up well into the night watching them. We set them free in the morning. (They certainly are sluggish creatures in the wee hours.) It's getting hotter everyday; the girls have spent more time under the sprinkler than not.
Back to revising after KK's departure yesterday. . . still struggling with the first chapter. It's so convoluted. I feel like I'm trying to cram too much in such a small space. The chronology and tense are all messed up. I'm beginning to realize that Christy's maternity leave has been a gigantic Godsend...I would never have been this scrupulous if I'd rushed to get it submitted this summer. It doesn't feel leisurely exactly, but thorough. I do want to submit this section for the Maryland State Arts Council grant application (due 7/28), so I need to make some progress soon.
Thursday, June 30, 2005
There's something I've been avoiding the whole time, and that is the fact that Harper needs to at least acknowledge the racial element of his crime. It's certainly not the impetus for what he does, but he also has to know that it would appear to be so to anyone else. It's completely inauthentic for him to pretend that he doesn't even consider the man's race. But it's a slippery slope. I have to tread lightly here...this is dangerous terrain for Harper, and for me as the author. I'm not sure this acknowledgment belongs on the first page, but then, last night, there it was. I feel rusty.
I am so worried that my writing is taking the back seat (the way back) to everything else (my editorial stuff, teaching, housework, etc...). I'm starting to feel resentful of all of my other obligations. We're going to be spending $10/hr. on a nanny so I can teach this fall, but I wouldn't dream of hiring someone to watch the girls so I could write. It's almost like writing has become the hobby I just don't have time for instead of my occupation. I fantasize about having a few hours to really focus on my work. I am hoping that being at the pond will give me what I need to finish. We leave in one month.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Saturday, June 25, 2005
I've selected the books I'm going to use for the GW class. It's incredible how difficult the decision was. I was suddenly so self-conscious. I know it's silly, but really, I want these kids to like me. I also want them to like what they're reading. So, the choices have as much to do with gaining their trust as it does with want I want to teach them. I am using the Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction (all post-1970 stuff). It's a good selection of some of my favorites. I'm also using a book which outlines all of the elements of fiction...important for an intro class. For the poetry portion, I found a book of exercises created by poet/teachers and an anthology called From Totems to Hip-Hop which is a sort of canon-blaster, including Tupac alongside Plath. It's got an angry introduction from the editor which if I don't assign, I'm fairly certain they won't read. Anyway, I am more drawn to the poetry than to the multi-cultural message it's trying to send...we'll see how it goes. It's always fun to add a new stack of books to my shelves. I also got several B & N and Borders gift cards to extend the Greenwood Lending Library.
I finished The Collector (John Fowles) today...the end was completely creepy for cheapy. It actually made the hair on my arms stand up. Next is The Known World by local yokle Edward P. Jones. Patrick gave it to me for my birthday (along with a gorgeous necklace and two citronella tiki torches). Anybody who is getting compared to Toni Morrison on a fairly regular basis deserves a try as far as I'm concerned.
Today was the street fair in Ocean Beach. We got calls all day. It made me homesick. The street fair is my favorite OB event. P's mom is in town, lavishing the girls with gifts and love. We had a crabfest tonight; the house still smells of salt, Old Bay, and newspaper ink. Tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Princess and the Pea party. I stayed up late last night prepping the art project -- magic wands which, unbeknownst to the princesses -- will glow in the dark. We're having strawberry shortcake, a pea hunt, and (for the mamas) sangria. I think there will be ten girls under five here tomorrow. All vying for the coveted tiara that the "real princess" (the one who finds the pea) wins. There just may be some tears.
Haven't touched the novel in almost a week.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Anyway, another year has passed and what have I done? Finished the first draft of the novel, celebrated the girls' first and third birthdays, moved cross-country, bought our first house, started a new teaching job, secured another one, spent the rest of the NEA money, and lost all of the baby weight. Not too bad for a year.
Now that I have the girls, I always think of my mother on my birthday. This day really belongs to her. I think about what she must have been feeling thirty - ahumph years ago. She was so young...eighteen. The doctor didn't allow my dad in the room. They gave her ether for Christ's sake. I was born in the early evening. My mother said I had so much black hair the nurses were able to make a little cupie-doll swirl on top of my head. She said she counted my fingers and toes. The first pictures of me are in a plastic laundry basket. Eighteen. She had just graduated from high school. What on earth was I doing at eighteen?
I digress. And digress. (That's what old folks do, right?) The outline is done. 31 pages. Exactly one tenth of the whole novel. I have some work to do.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
We all went to bed last night happily tired from. But despite the blissful weather...only 6o something. . .I couldn't sleep. I was up half the night writing in my head. I think I've finally figure out what this book is about. All this time, I've thought it was about forgiveness. Truly, I thought that the whole point, it's very raison d'etre was to illustrate the necessity and power of forgiveness. Of course, atonement and such do play a major part, but freedom. That's it. And you know what? It came back to those damn flitterflies. Harper does this to Betsy. He captures her in this pretty little jar. And no matter how hard he tries, she just won't, can't glow. He only wants to hold on to her, to contain her, but without her freedom, she loses everything about her that he loves. This isn't in the book yet. Not fully anyway. But now, at least, I understand.
I woke up feeling full of purpose. I met with the director of creative writing at George Washington. It was such a pleasant interview. And, he offered me a class this fall. I am so thrilled. I love teaching adults, but there is something so exciting about teaching kids again. Kids at the brink of their futures. I remember how desperately sad and happy and anticipatory I was at that age. It was like every moment belonged to me. I can't wait to surround myself with that again. I feel so lucky.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
I've mapped 169 pages of my novel. I try to give myself little encouragements along the way to counteract all of the "Crap, crap, crap" comments. Nice! Good transition to the next chapter! I should buy some of those metallic stars I loved back when I was teacher's pet. I think the root of the problem is that I don't know Betsy outside of Harper's eyes. I'm beginning to think she didn't love him nearly as much as he loved her. This could be critical.
I started teaching a new workshop last night...a characterization class. It's large (15 students registered), but the dynamic seems quite good. It's also SO late (7:30 - 10:00). I'm on my third wind by then. I had to stay up until nearly midnight to wind down. Wound up watching the first hour or so of "The Big Chill" on cable. I like the idea of a story which revolves around a character who is dead. Hmmm. I am also meeting with the director of creative writing at George Washington U. this weekend to discuss the possibility of an adjunct position this fall.
This weekend is Father's Day. Today I mailed off the gifts to my dad: an electronic golf score keeper and "On Bullshit" (a sweet little book by a Princeton philosopher). Patrick already got his gift -- a glorious monstrosity of a gas grill. The backyard is starting to be a little piece of heaven. We bought a playhouse the other day, put it together at dusk as the fireflies came out. It was the most beautiful twilight time. I didn't even mind the mosquitoes feeding on my calves.
Back to the book. Still calling it "Two Rivers" because no one has suggested otherwise.
Friday, June 10, 2005
Revision madness. (The anal outlines of a dangerous mind.)
It's come to this...good old obsessive compulsive me is back with a vengeance. Above is a screenshot of the outline I am creating of every single scene/paragraph in the novel. I have, indeed, created a spreadsheet which details not only what is in the novel, but what needs to be in the novel. The point of every scene, sentence, word.
I bought a used laptop yesterday to bring with me to Vermont. It's slow as sap, but at least I'll have something to write on.
The heat has descended upon us. Misery. Today it's only 78 degrees (as opposed to the 90 degree days earlier this week), but the humidity is 72%. The only good news is that there are fireflies at night. One even made its way into our bedroom during a thunderstorm earlier this week. And blueberries. That's another great thing. $2.00 a pint. yesterday I let Esmee eat a whole basket all by herself.
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
I feel simultaneously disgusted, bruised, pissed off, and elated. I'm free.
I also have tremendous resolve now. This book will get all of my love and attention this summer. By fall, it will be like the fat girl who loses weight over the summer and turns all the boys heads when school starts in the fall.
Maybe I should change my pen name so that my miserable sales record won't haunt me. Sort of like bad credit, isn't it?
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
So here is the fruit of my procrastination. One glorious phony panelled door and a colorwashed tomato soup dining room. It actually looks pretty fantastic...making me wonder (again) if I misheard my calling. Painter, writer, painter, writer?
Patrick came home from San Diego yesterday afternoon. I forgot my cell phone and didn't realize it until I was already hurling along 95 toward Baltimore. I figured I would just call him from a pay phone at the airport and tell him where to meet us. No such luck. Verizon payphones will only allow you to call a cell number with a non-Visa credit card. You can't use coins. JUST Mastercard. So, I parked by the first baggage carousel, figuring he'd find us. I even managed to borrow someone's cell phone and leave a message for him. The moniter said the flight was landing, so we waited. I told Kicky she'd have to hold it because I didn't want him to miss us. Well, that was bright. By the time Patrick called back on the borrowed cell phone to let me know his flight had gotten in 40 minutes early and he was about ready to catch a shuttle because he couldn't find us anywhere, Kicky had started to pee all over the floor. Gallons. Smack dab in the middle of the Baggage Claim. Fortunately, I had three remarkably absorbent diapers with me which I used to sop up the mess. I used the Zip-lock bag I had put a snack of carrots in to hold her panties and the diapers. I could have wept. By the time Patrick found us, the evidence was gone, and he was ready to explode. Lesson: don't ever leave your cell phone at home. But above that, if your three and a half year old says she needs to pee, chances are, she needs to pee. And lastly, have no sympathy for people who've just been basking at the beach for five days while you've been home with two kids and a massive remodeling project when their flight comes in EARLY (for Christ's sake, when has that ever happened?).
Oh yeah...the cocoon hatched. Out came one ugly brown Gypsy Moth. We set her free yesterday. Kicky mourned her freedom with a good long cry.
Today I started reading my manuscript from start to finish. So far, the beginning is a big fat mess.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
Someone's been reading my mama's blog!
What a lovely surprise to see a comment in response to one of my posts. Thank you, Avid Reader. You must truly read avidly if you've managed to find my work.
Patrick is off today to San Diego for five days; the ride to and from BWI early this morning went alarmingly well. The girls were patient and good. As soon as we got home I began to dismantle the diningroom in preparation for its transformation. No small task: I had to disassemble the table as well as take a hundred pount ugly mirror off the wall (which despite falling three feet to the ground did not break -- does this mean seven years of good luck??). Tonight I'm going to paint the base...a sort of scary tomato soup color. On Friday and Saturday I will paint the tinted glaze over it (a more benign brick). Am I avoiding the novel? Let's just say I've figured out how to faux finish the ugly door to the basement to look like natural wood.
I've had a headache for two days now that isn't responding to anything. When I'm not worrying about brain tumors (thank you, "House"), I'm in blinding pain. I'm sure the paint fumes and five days alone with the kids will help make it go away...
Sunday, May 22, 2005
A lot of what got me thinking about this is the book/signing event I went to at Politics and Prose the other night. Nicole Krauss ("The History of Love") seems to be enjoying the antithesis of what I have experienced with the publishing industry. She's on a huge book tour. Barnes and Noble just named her book one of the Discover New Writers books. THOL is the #1 Booksense pick for May, and The Today Show picked her book for this month's Book Club selection. Though she was articulate, bright, and (goddamnit) nice, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of envy. How much of my slumpy bumpy career is simply due to bad luck and bad business?
SO...I plan to revise like mad all summer so that the book will be waiting for Christy when she comes back. Patience. Patience.
In the meantime, we're enjoying this amazing spring. Today we're going to have a picnic at the Mall. The caterpillar should be emerging any day now from it's cocoon. Roses, irises, and peonies are in bloom. Patience.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Last night, for a few hours, my father was a multi-millionaire. His bank notified him that a significant wire transfer had been made into his savings account. They wouldn't disclose the amount. When he checked his statement online (after much sleuthing to figure out his own password), he found a balance of $110 million dollars. Needless to say, we had it spent within hours (in our imaginations anyway, as there was a hold on the funds). We had foundations built, debts paid off, convertible Jaguars in the driveway, and houses built all over the country (including a custom designed lighthouse playhouse in our backyard). We tried to think of the multi-millionaires in our lives who would have felt suddenly consumed with generosity toward my parents. We also tried to figure out what kind of lawyers we would need. Then, this morning, the money was gone. And my dad was charged $38.00 for the wire transfers. My sister went to work. My dad went golfing. And I tried to figure out how it is that this sort of thing always, and I mean always, happens to my father. This is the same man who once got five out of six numbers right on a lottery ticket (which is, surprisingly, worth only about $1000). I also sighed a little sigh of relief. Really. What kind of dangers would come along with that kind of loot? Now, if somebody wants to make a slightly more modest deposit into my account...say maybe a million?
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Today we captured ladybugs and are housing them in a temporary Tupperware shelter. They took to their new environs right away and have been making love like mad since this morning as their inch worm buddy blushes.
We also read Eric Carle's "The Grouchy Ladybug." Now Kicky keeps saying, "Hey you, wanna fight?"
Just ordered "The History of Love" by Nicole Krauss. Again, always a sucker for lit-hype. She's reading at Politics and Prose this month. If nothing else, I'm building quite a library of signed first editions.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
I also came back to an e-mail from my agent that she's excited about the book, though she has some fairly major revisions she'd like to see made. And then, yesterday (before the notes/comments arrived), her baby made an early arrival. Now it may very well be until Labor Day before I can proceed. I am frustrated and anxious. I feel like I'm waiting for something huge to happen, and someone just told me I had to hold my breath until it does.
So I'm filling my time. I just signed up to teach an additional class this summer. I also put my feelers out again for the murals. A few bites today. I've got a request for some safari animals in a basement stairwell. I'm thinking elephants and giraffes. Maybe a baby gorilla.
Anyway, all that aside. Here's a recap of the trip: I had a chimichanga the size of a small child. I also had my favorite pizza, hot pastrami sandwiches, and more beer than I should have. I got to meet little Bella, my friend, Heather's new baby. I also napped. NAPPED. It truly was a much-needed respite from the real world.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
And I also got some fantastic news yesterday that I plan to carry with me...Christy (my agent) wrote that she really likes the book thus far. A tremendous relief. Is it possible to third-guess yourself? Anyway, I trust her absolutely, and so it means a lot when the words are kind. She plans to finish this weekend and come up with a game plan next week. This is the thrilling part...
More after the trip.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
You wouldn't believe the things that are blooming in our yard. After this winter, I was fairly convinced that nothing would ever WANT to grow in our barren little patch of the world. But now the rhododendrons, tulips (in every shade of red, orange, and yellow), and argh...just as I'm waxing poetic here with what's blooming P called to tell me it's going to cost $800 to fix the breaks in his car. Nothing like a little acid rain on my parade here.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
This trip should also give me a good chance to get my mind off the book which sits, still, with my agent. She's due to have her baby in just over a month. I can't imagine that she'll be able to tackle this project before she goes, but I have high hopes.
I bought a new book for the trip: "Prep" by Curtis Sittenfeld. I'll admit it -- I got sucked in by the hype, otherwise I would have waited or the paperback. I'm typically a wait for the video kind of girl (read, cheap). But I am drawn to the books with acknowledgements thanking the author's publicity team. TEAM? That's Random House for you.
I am close to finishing the Bohjalian book whose pace slows down considerably after the accident scene. Still quite good, though. I am looking forward to five hours of time -- alone -- to read on the plane.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
I've been reading...what a treat...a lot since I finished the book. Right now I'm half-way through "Before You Know Kindness" by Chris Bohjalian. He's a fellow Vermont writer, and (despite the fact that he once never returned a request for a blurb) I really respect his work. This novel is meticulous. Every time I read someone who spends so much time on each detail, I feel like I hurry through scenes in my own writing. I don't know whether I am afraid of rambling or just lazy, but there's a certain economy to my dialogue, description, etc...
I've also had time to spend in basking in the sunshine while Patrick plants and tills. We've got a vegetable garden in the backyard and a lilac bush out front. I feel like we live in the country, instead of just a few miles to the White House. We have squirrels, cardinals, and a bird that sings, "Right here, right here."
Friday, April 08, 2005
I think of the days after letting the book go more like the grieving process:
1) Denial/Shock: It's done?! It can't be done. How did I manage to do this?
2) Anger: Four years of graduate school, student loans that could have bought me a brand new Lexus, and instead all I get is this?
3) Bargaining: If this one gets picked by Oprah, I'll never cuss, drink, scream at my kids again.
4) Guilt: I really suck. There are much better writers out there.
5) Depression: I really, really suck. There are much, much better writers out there.
6) Loneliness: So I choose to spend most of my time alone manufacturing make-believe people living in make-believe places. What kind of loser am I?
7) Acceptance: Well, this is what I do. Maybe they'll like it, maybe they won't. Doesn't matter.
8) Hope: Maybe they'll like it...maybe they'll really, really like it??
I think the last dud of a novel (the one I spent nearly a year of my life writing) has really shattered me for this one. I am second-guessing almost every word. Every punctuation mark. Since the manuscript made it's cyber journey northward to New York, I have felt nothing even remotely akin to relief or excitement. Just anxiety. Sheer fear. Nevermind the coincidental and ironic recent e-mail onslaught from readers who want to know when the next book is coming out. How do you say that it may not? That there may never, ever, ever be a publishable book again?
On a lighter note: we took the girls to see Debbie Allen's "Dancing in the Wings" (based on the children's book) at The Kennedy Center last night. My eyes and throat swelled up with joy at the ants dancing ( a sort of drumline dance of about fifty kids dressed up like ants). The strangest things are moving me lately (did I mention the pile of blue glass on the street the other day? the man sitting in a kitchen chair in front of his row house on 15th St., listening to jazz on a portable record player?).
At least it's spring. Kicky plucked three brilliant dandelions from the yard yesterday.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Today was the first truly beautiful day since we moved here. Seventy wonderful degrees (I love each and every one of them) and sunny. I took the girls to the park in the wagon (which still has some sand from OB in it), had a picnic, and then came home and basked on the front lawn while Kicky played "hopstock" with sidewalk chalk. Still feeling at the periphery of this bug, I wound up crashed out during Esmee's afternoon nap as Kicky watched God only knows what on tv.
I'm making plans for the Weeki Wachee research trip. My wheels are spinning. I suspect I'll be ready for a bit of Florida sunshine by next winter. I'm thinking old school family roadtrip. Too bad I ditched the Volvo wagon.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The novel went out about five minutes ago to my agent.
Think good thoughts.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Anyway...SO in the last week, our little family has endured simultaneous chest colds, stomach flus, and mysterious high-fever achey-body-shakey complaints. I have never cleaned up so much vomit in my life. The girls are better now, thankfully, and Patrick has recovered as well. I, on the other hand, have managed to teeter on the edge of this in a way I've mastered since becoming a mother...who has the time to languish sickly with two kids? It's lurking, though (in the depths of my throat, chest, gut).
I finished the novel on my grampa's birthday...last word, "arms." I cried a little bit, drank a mini-bottle of champagne and saved the cork to join the five others (another hoody-goody compulsive habit). Now I'm revising madly. I want to get it off to Christy tomorrow or Tuesday. I need it out of my house, head.
I painted two murals this week...the biggest hit was the ballerina for a little girl down the street yesterday. I like being able to finish a project in a day. I should never have become a novelist. I have a poet's attention span.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
I started painting the murals for my first client yesterday. Frogs. Lily pads. Three birds on a branch. It was amazing how nervous I was painting someone else's walls. Perhaps the fact that she no longer has any of the base coat paint left...sort of like writing in pen instead of pencil.
Tomorrow we're throwing a brunch/Easter egg hunt...very small. This damn cold wet March weather is not abating, so I think the Easter Bunny will likely leave eggs only inside.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
On Friday I'll be painting frogs and snails for a 15 month old. I met with his mom today, to discuss said frogs, and ended up staying to chat for over an hour. I'm finding the other moms here is so bright (this one a lawyer who has decided to stay home -- a Harvard grad, no less). Tomorrow is another Purim party at Kicky's school. And this weekend we hunt for eggs. This poor child is going to be so confused.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Remember this show? It was on Saturday mornings in 1976/77, part of the Krofft Supershow (along with "Sigmund and the Seamonster" and "Dr. Shrinker"). Electra Woman (Deidre Hall from Days of Our Lives) and her sidekick, Dyna Girl were writers by vocation, crimefighters by necessity. I always identified more with Dyna Girl (being a brunette and all). Today I had a Dyna-Kinda-Day, exhibiting some pretty serious superheroics...not fighting crime per say, but exercising my superhuman ability to multi-task. I managed to write another chapter, do two loads of laundry, secure a new mural client (frogs and ladybugs), knit about four rows of a baby blanket, file three months worth of paperwork, do two days worth of scungy dishes, feed the kids three almost-square meals, and bathe them both simultaneously without anyone drowning. Of course, they were stuck in front of the TV most of the day, prompting Kicky to announce (to no one in particular), "I'm a PBS kid!" Probably better than whatever I learned from Sid and Marty Krofft.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Today I wrote the climactic scene of the novel...and it was the most shivery, fantastic writing moment that I have had since the pond scene in Undressing the Moon. And here I was, with no one in this time zone to share the sheer crazy of being almost done (and it working, working). Patrick wasn't answering his cell. And really, I'm not sure who this really matters to anyway. How do you describe the ridiculous elation of telling a 293 page (thus far) lie?
Still buzzing with it all, I picked Kicky up from school and took her to her best friend, Ella's house for an impromptu playdate. Esmee infected every toy in the playroom with her own special recipe of snot, drool, and dribbled milk. No one seemed to mind. And now the girls are screetching and chasing each other around the house -- a pre-bedtime pagan toddler ritual.
Tomorrow begins the wind-down. The slow spiraling. The denouement. It's all downhill from here.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
On the mommyfront: last night we almost took Kicky to the emergency room when I realized that she wasn't trying to get out of dinner but was actually very, very sick. After I managed to teach her how to put the thermometer under her tongue, we discovered that she had a fever of nearly 104. Not to worry, the doctor said (after I had already played out in mind a diagnosis of meningitis, acute lymphoma), they aren't typically concerned about a fever until it exceeds 107. 107??!! As it was, you could practically see the heat rising off of her...wavy little desert highway aura. I brought her to the doctor this morning, and after having to trick her into allowing the doctor to "tickle" her throat with a Q-tip, the diagnosis wasn't even Strep, but a "virus." And because we have a deductible, this little virus will cost us around $80. And the saddest part is that doctor's orders were to stay home, missing the Purim party at her school. We did our best to replicate the festivities in the living room. Patrick and I donned costumes from the dress-up box and banged on instruments as we listened to the Big Band station on our digital cable. Afterwards we made a lemon cake covered in jellybeans. Tonight she went to bed feverless. But alas, Esmee was dripping from eyes and nose, and I feel that certain little tickle in my throat...
Friday, March 18, 2005
I put the book aside to pick Kicky up from school. Ella couldn't go for milkshakes today (or unofficial Friday ritual), so I did the lazy thing and got a frosty from the Wendy's drive-thru. Feeling high from the book and a double cheeseburger, I gave in to Kicky's pleas to go to the park. It was a gorgeous day, and there were about six thousand kids at the park. I have no idea what happened, but as I struggled to keep Esmee from eating a fistful of wood chips, I became "that mom"...you know, the one with the bossy kid. The one whose child is screaming at all of the other kids, barking orders at the slide, chasing kids off of their tricycles. All of the neighborhood moms...most of them seemed to know each other...silently watching their children being terrorized by my monster. Huddled and whispering. Conspiring, I'm certain, to ban us from the park.
So...in an effort to save face, I called Kicky over, said that it was time for Esmee's nap. Like it would be that easy. Within seconds, I'm scooping her off the slide (Madelyne Toogood, I feel for you honey) and carrying her, kicking and screaming, away from her victims.
And so, like the library (a whole other story), the park has become one of those places we can't go.
This weekend I am meeting with one of the neighborhood moms about painting a mural on her daughter's wall. Maybe I can ingratiate myself this way. Mama Frankenstein.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Today Kicky starts dance class at The Atlas. It's called "Creative Movement," and I suspect that's a good thing. Patrick is excited to give me a tour of the facility. It's the reason we're here. The dance studios are open now, and The Joy of Motion has moved in.
This morning was devoted to the book...I neglected both children (am ignoring Kicky's request for "two pink ribbons" as I write) all morning, opting instead to work on a Betsy chapter (just before she dies). The whole book is sort of spiraling toward the end. All of the small pieces are starting to fit together into a cohesive whole. All of these crazy tidbits and characters that didn't seem to matter are suddenly integral to the whole story. This is the magic. This is why I do this.
It's like dancing...all those steps (first position, jete, tendu) coming together into one glorious piece.