Monday, February 18, 2008

Babies and Book Agents

Well, Letterlady's tenacity has paid off, and she now has an agent for her book! Yahoo!

Turns out that maternity leave pays off in multiple ways. A little boredom, a little time to surf around and make inquiries, and voila! A contract arrives in the mail!

I'll let her go into detail about everything, but said agent has asked for revisions, so Letterlady is back at the drawing board, nursing baby on one hip. (Did I mention that the source of all those summertime mood swings and reminders to eat made her premier appearance at the beginning of 2008? There is now another reader in the world...and named for a Greek heroine, at that!)

I, on the other hand, still have numerous note cards taped to the walls in my bathroom, but my book doesn't seem to be writing itself... Go figure. My latest literary adventures have consisted largely of professional emails and profiles, the latter of which have been more successful.

Perhaps I need another summer grant and two more weeks in the woods in order to get my characters across the finish line.

Letterlady certainly is an inspiration, though! I'm so proud of her and will be very happy to brag and say that I knew her when!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Going for the jugular

Well, for some unknown reason I started working on the novel again. Perhaps it is all the Halloween and Dia de los Muertos preparations at my house. My daughter and I made our annual altar to our ancestors, decorated with fall fruits and vegetables, and dried flowers. Perhaps all these notions of transformations, death, and disguises have brought me back to the brink of fiction?

This weekend I wrote two new chapters and connected the dots between several others that had been floating around out of order. I had to go down to the bathroom several times to check the wall for sequence and setting details. It's really strange: much of the story is hard for me to remember and when I reread earlier chapters I almost don't remember writing them. I find the early chapters pretty compelling, but I'm not sure if the voice is consistent throughout. I still find myself struggling and hung up on moving characters through the plot. Yet I find the details very satisfying, like when Eydie traces the hexagonal white tiles on the cool bathroom floor with her fingers.

I finished reading another novel this weekend, which may have been one of the reasons I was inspired to write. It's called Jamesland and it's written by a family friend, Michelle Huneven. Reading it, and knowing what I know about Michelle's life, I feel like I glimpsed some of the secrets of novel writing. Autobiography works its way in and out, creating the tension in the threads that hold the story together. When people who know me well read this book, they will see much that is taken directly from my life. Yet it is entirely fiction and completely imaginary. And I suspect some people will see themselves where they do not exist, and others won't recognize themselves at all. Letterlady says I should tape Carly Simon's song lyric "You're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you" on the screen of my computer so that I won't edit myself for fear of readers' reactions. Writing -- or at least, going for Natalie Goldberg's "jugular" -- requires a degree of fearlessness. Sometimes I feel like I should be wearing a helmet.

Given all that, I'm not at all sure that what I have written is worth much. It may quite possibly be garbage, actually. But that doesn't stop me from loving many of my characters and feeling great pleasure at spending time with them again. It is a strange head space that I find myself occupying these days...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Freewoman as Featured Poet

On Thursday night, October 4, I will be the featured poet at the Fall 2007 Open Reading Poetry Series at the Loveland Museum. There is a poetry open mic at 7, followed by me reading at around 8. I would love to see friendly faces, and even better, to hear you read your poetry in the open reading! Click here for more information.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Broken Ice

Blessings on teacher-friend Heather, whose invitation for a writing date finally motivated me to break the ice and spend some time with my book. I had to go down and stand in the guest bathroom for a while to reorient myself with the chronology and sequence. It seems like ages since last I joined my heroines in their fictional situations. But I took the leap and managed to crank out a new page and a half of Eurydice's story. She met Rhea and was directly asked about her family for the first time. Kind of awkward since the mythological original has none that I can find any reference to. Suffice it to say that in my story, her people weren't Catholic, which is all Rhea cared about anyway.

Rhea is a combination of women I grew up around: wealthy Pasadena and San Marino matrons. She's a lot more uptight than my own Pasadena Granny was, but they share a sense of style and, to a degree, a classist elitism. Granny did have a driver named Ed and a family who were often employed to serve holiday dinners, but Rhea has a full-time staff made up of multiple members of the same Hispanic family. As chilly as Rhea can be, she will ultimately be the key to Penny's liberation, so it's hard not to like her despite her many character flaws.

I am hoping that having written again at a lower altitude in a less-than-idyllic setting (only relatively speaking), I will now be able to continue to work on the book more regularly. I really want to finish the plot-draft (that's how I think of this incarnation of the story) so I can get to the revision and the enhancements. Now that we're back in the swing of things at school and the English department is staffed with at least five active writers, perhaps regular writing dates can be an ongoing event. Having a writing partner sit across from me certainly makes writing seem less lonely, even if I am the only one in my story. The challenge of the extrovert engaged in the introverted art form...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Demonic Verses

Here's what George Orwell had to say about writing a book:
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.
I hope I will be able to get back to my demons once the madness of starting school subsides a bit. It's hard to believe that the summer has ended (at least for teachers where we work...)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter as Inspiration

Our family has just emerged from Harry Potter, like miners coming off shift surprised to see the sun in a new position. We spent Saturday morning through Monday in full immersion, barely taking time to eat or fluff our pillows.
And I know we are not alone. How cool is JK Rowling? She went from being no one, from a un-glamourous single-motherhood to being the second richest woman in Britain.
Number one is the queen.
This is the power of writing. This is what being a novelist could possibly accomplish -- making people around the world stop the rhythms of daily life and let themselves be drawn into the imaginative life. On Saturday, our friends Breeann and Rob showed up at 8 in the morning to begin reading with us -- the ten year olds at our house were haggard because they had stayed up WAY past bedtime to attend the midnight Harry Potter party (and win a golden snitch for costumes.) The grown ups were tired because we are old and were also up past midnight. But we made coffee and began to take turns, chapter by chapter. We put our family bets in writing (a combo of who will die and whether or not Snape is evil) before beginning since a cake was at stake.
And we have been reading ever since. Breeann and Rob had to return to their own lives but we kept reading (if you've tried to call and we didn't answer, don't take it personally.) At several points I had to hand the book to my husband as chapters made me cry (I'm a total sap.) Once, he had to hand the book to me, since I married a man who is not afraid to cry.
On the final night, the ten year olds stayed up past midnight again, because once we were that close to the end we just couldn't stop. I wonder how many hours we spend hearing every word that Rowling wrote out loud, or attempting (pathetically) to replicate British accents. Sure, our lives and our housekeeping came to a stop. I didn't write a word, or try to sell myself to any agents.
But talk about inspiring. I won't ruin anything, but I loved this book. My friend Kurt said that I only liked the books because I'm a mom -- I don't think so. Yes, I admit that reading out loud is more intense than reading silently. Someone putting sad things into the air for children makes me far more emotional than I would be reading silently to myself. But really I think I love them because they changed our vocabulary, and our rhythms.
How cool is that?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Plumbing the Depths

I put up all my notecards again (having carefully taken them down off the windows in our cabin.) I started to put them on my sliding glass doors, but they blocked out too much light, so I decided to make the most of the wasted wall space in the family room bathroom! Perhaps it will help me keep things in perspective when I start to feel like my writing is s#*t?

(No comments, please, about the horrible wallpaper. When I moved in almost thirteen years ago, I swore that the faux-Anasazi petroglyph wallpaper was the first thing that had to go. Now here we are in an entirely new century, and I still suffer with it every day. It is, however, at the top of my list of home improvement things to do. I even have the wallpaper steamer in my garage waiting for that slow weekend. Wallpaper removal tips, anyone?)

On another note, now that Letterlady and I are back in the same state, we had lunch and she told me that she has made the revisions that Careful Reader Susan and Lettermama suggested. Then she mailed off manuscripts to four agents who want to see it! She wants to target about ten more, and then she has to sit back and wait two to six months for their responses. Good thing school's starting soon and she has that lower-case Letterbaby to plan for...otherwise she might go a little crazy -- crazier? Strange to think that it takes longer for a book to be published than it does to gestate a human baby...or an elephant baby, for that matter.