(you wouldn't like me when i'm) green with envy

Working hard to find a home for a story that's got crooked bones and a thin layer of downy white hair.

Used to be, I would only send work to markets I knew. But this strange little tale grew up funny, bled over into genre, so I went wandering outside my sphere and into the dazzling rave of genre mags.

Some fine work being done there. Seems steep competition ups the ante on innovation while still holding its hand out for the basics: skilled writing that has been carefully and completely edited before submission.

We'll see if my little goose finds a nest. Any road, I'm heartened by what I saw of the genre markets, and a little jealous: with some notable exceptions, mainstream literary fiction mags don't have the same POP, the same persistent beating heart beneath the floorboards.

Shame, too, because even though they have dragons and scythes and man eating babies, I think we could take them down. Or at least hold them down, and make them tell us their secrets.


novelution: fighting for it

The first riffs of panic are reverbing inside me.

With the onslaught of a new semester, time to write the novel is slipping away. My schedule is still forming, and as it does I'm fighting for a time I can set aside to write.

No suprise: time to write must be built in to my schedule, a permanent block that I attend without question or fail. Any writer will tell you that otherwise, it doesn't get done. On-the-fly doesn't cut it.

I'm still having flashes, making notes, writing dialog in my little b.b. It doesn't feel delicate, elusive. But if I don't get back to it, I'm afraid I'll lose my fluency in the language of the idea.

So I'm pushing, massaging, bullying my time until it says Uncle, says Uncle.


novelution: i'm telling

I'm not sure why, but I'm telling a lot of people about this novel. This is a departure from my usual highly furtive writing stance. In the past, people would ask, "Are you writing anything?" and I'd produce a hybrid nod/shrug/frown and slink off. Even my closest readers wouldn't hear boo until the first draft was done.

Possible Reason #1: The need to gather the troops, get support, hear people say, "Oh, that's wonderful." One of the first people I told, a teacher I know, said, "Now every time I see you I'm going to ask about it. Every time."

Possible Reason #2: I had to make it real to people who don't live inside my head, to make it exist in the world, even as an unfulfilled idea. Seems a little less like making something from nothing that way.

Saying the phrase "I'm working on a novel" still feels a little like a lie. Feels like a lie although it's not: the novel first draft is already longer than anything I've written in years, and I haven't filled in half of the draft content I have notes for. It's happening.

Being married in the first months, and saying to people, "This is my husband," has much the same effect. You feel like giggling after, because you half expect people to say, "Please, be serious."

I still suprise myself a little every time I say it. I still surprise myself every time I do it, too--every time I leave the office having added pages to the document.

Say it, do it. Say it, do it. A new way of working, perhaps fitting for a new territory like this one I'm in.


novelution: the invasion

On the way to begin writing the novel for the first time, I waved at a neighbor standing in front of his house. He hopped in the car and I gave him a ride downtown.

The conversation I had with him confirmed my suspicions about the conclusion of the novel I was about to begin. It had to do with miracles, and mitochondria, and Christmas stockings, and the poor standing of crows in the order of the universe.

Today as I ordered at the drive-thru coffee stand, I glanced down at the front page of the local paper. Novel connection on the front page.

Today as I glanced through the week's newspapers before recycling them, one article stood out. Novel connection.

The other day, browsing in a used bookstore during some brief and unexpected free time, I found two books that could help with the novel.

Maybe it's just my imagination. In fact, that's exactly it--my imagination. Not "just". It is thrilling to be inside this idea, and to see connections to it on the outside, like little encouragements, like seeds for the tiny bird of my writer's confidence. I gather these seeds so that when (not if) I get stuck, and the bird stops singing, I can use these seeds to perk it up.

That bird is cousin to another--Emily Dickinson's.

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul –
and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all."


novelution: im in it and its in me

In it: With the start of this novel, which began its life in a pool, I feel myself slipping beneath the surface of the idea, proceeding cautiously to explore the primordial ooze of the thing. It's dark in here, and not a little smelly, as the beginnings of new life tend to be. As I write in the character's voice, I come to some dead ends, where the idea gets small and cramped and the liquid tepid. So I stretch out to what I came for, the big somethings that brought me to begin at all. Touching back to these solids is a glimpse of light in the dark. For example:

For the novel, I've been reading about Poe. He had this to say about focus and intention in prose:

"In the whole composition, there should be no word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the preestablished design."


In me: I feel the novel's presence almost constantly--it's the room to which my mind returns whenever possible. I'm even sneaking through the door at unexpected times (see: the five miles I cycled while reading Proust today). These short visits are to ensure my smooth entry to the novel when I can get back to the room where I'm writing it.

At least for a little while, I do have a room of my own, luckily. But, VW also said that in order for a woman to succeed as a writer, she must not have family or work obligations, that she must not have the demands of domestic life to attend to.

Hope she was wrong on that score.


amen, i say amen sister Margaret

This from the NYT obit on the great and sorely to be missed writer Tillie Olsen: "Margaret Atwood attributed Ms. Olsen’s relatively small output to her full life as a wife and mother, a “grueling obstacle course” experienced by many writers."


the high dive

During the warm months, I swim laps at a local pool. To take my mind off the pain while doing so last summer, I started batting around an idea for a novel. The idea was exciting. Each time I swam, I put my mind to the idea, like dialing in to a staticy radio station that occasionally plays great songs. Damp and chlorinated, I made notes in the changing room or sitting in the empty parking lot. The notes became pages of bullet points and arrows, smudged and dappled with drips.

Today, I began it in earnest.

Terrifying and thrilling, the start of a novel is the high dive for writers--I feel the chilly breeze of anticipation as I grip the cold rungs of the ladder leading upward, knowing that at the top, only my balance and will can bring me into the air.