Archive for August, 2007

Still showing up daily to my story. Some days it is a sentence or two but still, it is me showing up and that’s something in this crazy busy summer. A big something actually.

“Beach Music” by Pat Conroy.
It came highly recommended by a member of my writing group which can always be awkward. What if I hate it? I once recommended one of my fave books at the time to a friend (“Anywhere But Here” by Mona Simpson- it still is one of my favorites of all time and shouldn’t she have a new book coming out soon?) and she hated it. Anyway, not the case with “Beach Music”. I can’t imagine rereading it but it was an amazing story. A sweeping saga of a book which is perfect for summer. The dialogue is just perfect. And I must say that I fell in love with a paranoid schizophrenic- John Hardin. One thing I really admire is the way Conroy eventually has you feeling empathy for every single character even General Elliot, even Jack’s father. The one thing that seemed a little forced was the first person POV when he had to relay all the characters’ histories. It didn’t feel natural the way it had to come through Jack. And the content of those stories involving wife and child abuse, poverty, the Holocaust- well… it just all became a little too much to bear at times. I found myself skimming certain sections trying to bypass the true horrors. But still, such a great summer book to sink into and lose yourself.

“Practically Perfect in Every Way- My Misadventures Through the World of Self-Help and Back” by Jennifer Niesslein
I so enjoyed this book and not just because she once wrote me a very encouraging rejection for her magazine “Brain, Child”. Once I got past the fact that once again someone came up with yet another great format for a memoir (see list below for others) I flew through the book. The gist of it is that she embarks on a two year selp-help escapade in order to become a better, happier, thinner, richer, organized version of herself. She’s funny, honest, vulnerable. I laughed out loud in spots and groaned with recognition in others since I was familiar with just about every self-help tome/guru she experimented with. My latest addition is an audio program that promises unconditional acceptance with the premise that if selp-improvement programs really worked there wouldn’t be this proliferation of them clogging shelves in bookstores. I’ll keep you posted.

More memoirs with unique structures that I love and wish I had thought of first:
“Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (Laugh out loud funny.)

“Things to Bring, S#!T to Do- My Life in Lists” by Karen Rizzo (Who knew lists could be so revealing?)

“Give it Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less” by Mary Carlomagno (Each month for a year she gives up something from chocolate and alcohol to televison, taxis, and dining out. Such an interesting premise and I wish I had the willpower to attempt it myself without the carrot of a book contract dangling in front of me.)

“So Many books, So Little Time- A Year of Passionate Reading” by Sara Neslon (Need I say more- the title alone is the bumper sticker of my life.)


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Ebb and flow

I’m back. Kind of. Sort of. It’s been a weird long summer. I feel like I lived out of a suitcase more than not. And if you know me, well, I’m quite a homebody. My intention in starting this blog was to make myself accountable when I wrote my novel-in-a-month last September. I also thought that it would be a place to document and observe my creative process. Well. The first part went smoothly enough. I finished a draft of my novel. But the second part, the whole observing the process aspect- not so smoothly. It’s been a little one-sided. I’ve noticed that I really only document the good parts. The light parts. The productive parts. I don’t really delve into the darker aspects of my creativity. Mainly I just drop off the radar. Thus, the big black holes in my blog. But reading Nova’s blog (distraction no. 99) has encouraged me to not shy away from the dark spots. It’s all part of the same process. So I’m not sure if I’m in a funk because I haven’t been writing as much as usual or if I’m not writing as much because I’m in a funk. Funk is my word for it. I know there are others but since the “D” word runs in my family I like to keep it at bay by not using it with me. It’s easy for me to spin way way out there so I try to catch myself. I know I have to eat healthy, exercise and write. I’ve known this for years. It’s my little triangle that keeps my energy moving. Keep me from getting and staying stuck. From getting mired in phsical, mental and psychic muck.

So I attended this amazing workshop at Kenyon, came home, wrote for the first four days then went on vacation and it all kind of slipped away from me. I was embarassed. And a little ashamed. I mean, there I had spent a good chunk of money and had very little carry over into my real life after the conference had ended. So. Now what? Thus began my descent into the funk. Instead of reaching for my steady traingle of tools I did the exact opposite: ice cream, wine, lots of really bad TV and no writing. There I went, slipping further away. Then I picked up two books by Heather Sellers- “Page after Page” and “Chapter After Chapter” – and I highly recommend both. The one thing that finally pierced through was that I had to write everyday- even on vacation. I kind of chuckled at that. Yeah, right. Like that’s gonna happen. I had two more trips coming up. One at my sister’s on the other side of the state and one at Disney World. And guess, what? I wrote. Every day. And not just stream of consciousness morning pages. No. I worked on my story. Every day since July 24. I told myself even if it’s just one line, it’s something. I don’t think I ever wrote just one line. Some days were light and I managed three or four sentneces but for the most part it was a half to two pages. The key moment came last night. I was in bed. Lights off and had just drifted to sleep when I remembered that I had not written that day at all. I lay there. In the dark. Snug in bed. So easy to just stay there. It was my Ron Carlson moment. He did the exact same thing at some point in his career. He hauled himself out of bed and went downstairs, turned on his computer and wrote at least one sentence. He said that was a turning point. That in that choice, he became a writer. So I hauled myself out of bed, downstairs, turned on a light, opened my notebook and wrote a one page scene.

In that moment I was a writer. Hopefully I’ll have many more of those moments. But I know I’ll also have darker moments when picking up a pen feels like lifting an anvil over my head- and letting it drop there. It’s that whole ebb and flow, baby. Ebb and flow. It’s just that when I’m ebbing there’s very little of me to draw upon. I feel thin. Fragile. So I may not write while in the middle of ebbing but I won’t ignore it either. That would be shortchanging the whole process.

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