In the kitchen there are too many dirty dishes. In the car there is a bag full of empty coffee cups and a new girl asking about astrology. The wind follows me around as a reminder. I went to throw something in the river, but I ruined the moment on my own accord. I changed directions, then found my way by moonlight. I put up a happy front. I juxtapose my emotions. I say, be brave, when talking to my heart. She’s the decision maker. I’m along for the ride. I don’t even try to backseat drive. If I was paranoid that would be a good excuse to go home. If I was cold/hot/hungry. But instead I scribble notes about secrets. When do I get to reveal myself? When does the seventh skin drop? I look at my calendar for answers. I want a crystal ball and a time machine. Frame a picture of you. Keep that picture of us somewhere deep inside. Pretend not to be disappointed. Notice the lack of fireflies. The dress that hangs from a wire. The shoes that have lost their owner. That’s how I feel. A message flashes on repeat. Even the dogwalkers have gone home.
For those of you who have been following my journey to complete my novel by the end of the year, you know that these two months have long since expired. Still, the sentiment lingers: a full-fledged effort to complete this project once and for all. Because, as the age-old adage goes, it’s one thing to start a novel and another to finish.
I want to be part of the latter.
And, each day I get a bit closer! Some updates:
1. I have finalized Parts I and II. This is the bulk of the novel, and it feels good to have a draft that I feel confident and happy with. Part III, the short and final culmination, is nearing completion as well. A few more edits and a few final touches to the “big finale” and it will be finished as well. Than I can say I have a complete manuscript!
2. I have found several readers who are kind and generous enough to read the manuscript. I have already received some helpful comments, and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow from the input of others. It is important at this stage of the game to make sure to keep focused and not get hurt from constructive criticism. I remind myself constantly, that this information can make me a stronger writer, and always find ways to make the negative into a positive.
3. Yesterday I started the daunting task of writing a query letter. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea behind a query, it is simply this: condensing the entire, complex, multi-faceted world of your novel into a few short paragraphs, while keeping it interesting, dynamic and conveying your unique voice. Whew. Needless to say, it’s an intimidating task, but I am trying to learn as much as I can by reading successful queries online.
4. I look forward, in the next month, to attending several conferences in the area that focus on publishing options. The timing is perfect, and I lam excited to learn more and make contacts. In one such conference, I will get a chance to have a face to face meeting with an agent, who I will be matched with based on the genre of my novel. This is both exciting and terrifying, but I am hopeful that, at the very least, it will be a great learning experience.
As I close in on the last few months of the year, it feels like every moment counts.
My voice is not enough. I have to remove these states to show you the big picture. There is a way out from under this dark cloud. When pleasure is pain and there’s no blood under your nails. I shape you like clay. Like a Barbie doll in an Osprey’s nest. Like love on a sandal. Like too many hawks in the sky. On the side of a mountain. When no one’s looking. We go looking for Jimmys. There is a list of three, but I won’t ever tell. Suck down the cancer. Wearing a backpack is the first sign. A large button is a good way to spend millions. How many seconds between me and you? That was a question. There is an answer. Where is the somebody on the other side of the line? My nerves are shot. My fingernails are frayed. I’m going to Memphis. I’ll walk if I need to. And I don’t wish for peace. There’s a train running through my room. There’s a pile of rubble on your floor. Best to move. Best to keep moving. I need a Camel and a U-Haul. She’ll be bought for five camels. A small price to pay. I work inside of a valentine. I wear black and white. I match the inside. I want red sneakers, a red hoodie, a red heart. I’ll pay for an upgrade. I’ll trade in. I’ll marry up. I’ll space out.
For several months now, I have been experimenting with poetry. My method so far has been fairly simple. When the mood strikes me, I free write in the notebook I always carry with me. I give it a few days, trying not to reflect on what I’ve written till I have a bit of distance. Then, looking back, I’m able to pick out which parts I like and which parts I can scrap.
Once I have pared down the writing, I type it up, officially transforming it into a poem. However, lately I have been a little disappointed with how these poems are looking in a traditional form. So this time, I tried writing it up as a block of text. I feel like it fits better with the prose-poetry which I tend to gravitate to.
Below are both versions, and I would be very curious to hear what you think about the two formats. Is one more effective than the other? Do you have a preference? I look forward to hearing comments and critiques!
The Mayor’s Arm Candy
What is it about leaves turning yellow that makes me want to write a poem? Like counting your tattoos. Today not one person said thank you. I’m a girl among friends. I don’t know his intentions but I know my own. I want to read your words like I want to share your air. Can you lick the gold from my tongue? I know you prefer whiskey but the gold is hot and sweet going down. It cut my throat. The inside. The dark wet inside is lined and cut up with gold. The same color as your sheets. The same notes as my typewriter. I want to hear those keys clack. But I know they’ve been lonely since you met me. Since I met you it’s been nothing but blue skies and downpours. Did you do that? Did you make that rain? This heart? These hands? I want them back. I am their rightful owner. Unnaturally far, separated by five states. I drive through those states, like blood in the veins, making my way back to the heart.
The Mayor’s Arm Candy
What is it about leaves turning yellow that makes me want to write a poem?
Like counting your tattoos.
Today not one person said thank you.
I’m a girl among friends.
I don’t know his intentions but I know my own.
I want to read your words like I want to share your air.
Can you lick the gold from my tongue?
I know you prefer whiskey but the gold is hot and sweet going down.
It cut my throat
The dark wet inside is lined and cut up with gold.
The same color as your sheets.
The same notes as my typewriter.
I want to hear those keys clack
But I know they’ve been lonely since you met me.
Since I met you it’s been nothing but blue skies and downpours.
Did you do that?
Did you make that rain? This heart? These hands?
I want them back.
I am their rightful owner
Separated by five states.
I drive through those states, like blood in the veins,
Two minutes is a short amount of time. But a lot can happen. You can send an important email. You can break a heart. You can change your fate.
You can get stuck in traffic. You can listen to your favorite song on the radio. You can drink half a cup of coffee.
In my weekly writing group, we often end the session with a prompted two-minute free write. While it is far from the main-event of the evening, there is a certain magic about the writing that is produced in that time. The pressure is off. Everyone is relaxed, or wired off too much coffee, or one too many cookies.
I thought it might be fun to share some of the prompts and the pieces I wrote to accompany them. It would be great to hear from other bloggers out there, feel free to write your own responses to the prompts, but remember, it can only take 2 minutes!
Prompt: Make a list of subjects NOT to write about.
Good things not to write about, depends on the audience. If it’s my mother, than anything that is, or could be perceived as violent, destructive, dangerous, sexy, or incestuous. I shared some of my writing with her, and have since stopped. She said to me one day, thoughtfully, after reading a poem of mine, that I was, “intense.” I wasn’t sure how to take that, I mean in regards to compliment, insult, general observation. I don’t like to write about things that are boring. I like to write about weird, messed up, violent, manipulative people, because isn’t that what’s real? No, your emotions, she told me. Your emotions are intense. I don’t think I was ever like that. We’re different, my mother and I. She thinks I write about things that are too intense, I think I write about things that are all too real.
Prompt: If you could have someone else’s bone and why.
I would like no one’s bones but my own. Maybe my body will fall apart. Maybe I’ll fall off a ladder and need to be put back together. And in those moments I will say give me whatever bones you have. But for the time being, I can’t imagine anyone else having bones that would go with mine. It’s not that I think mine are better or bigger or stronger. But they are mine. And the body is something which is so uniquely OUR OWN. I wouldn’t want that to be diluted with spare parts. And if I were to get Mother Theresa’s hip or Ringo Starr’s wrist, how would I live up to that? Would I have to become an excellent drummer? Would I suddenly become selfless? Maybe my bones will turn brittle and break, but I still think I don’t want to be anyone else but me.
Prompt: Group Leader asks for a random noun. One of the group members says “brick.” Group leader says OK, now start with the sentence, “This is not a brick.”
This is not a brick. And my road would certainly not be yellow brick. Black maybe or the rusty red of a typical brick. But then, this is not a brick. My road would be a dirt path maybe. Shady under thick green foliage. Hot summer sun somewhere above. Or a long wooden-planked boardwalk leading over hot sand. The ocean its reward. Or the back alley of a city street, all hot, steamy, stinky asphalt. Dumpsters and cigarette breaks and men sleeping in doorways. My way wouldn’t be brick. It would be leather studded kiss in the sand. It would be shag carpet up to my ankles. There would be no one in sight on this road. Men working. Out of order. Do not pass go. Hopefully I have a get out of jail free card lying around here. This is not a brick road. This is not wonderland. There is no Peter Pan, so I might as well stop waiting for him. I can stay young forever and I can do it on my own time.
When telling people that I am an aspiring writer, I can’t count how many times I have gotten the response, “Isn’t it lonely?”
We are all familiar with the image of the solitary artist: locked up in a cluttered studio, wandering city streets, or scribbling away in a dark bar. And while I have my moments of solitude, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on without the support of my fellow writers.
I have had many wonderful opportunities to share my work. I’ve previously mentioned the writing groups I am in and how beneficial they are. In particular, I have been feeling very fortunate to be a part of Main Street Writers’ Thursday night group. I have been writing with the people in this group since March. Each week I use the time to write a scene from my work-in-progress.
By now, the people in this group have gotten to know the characters and, while they haven’t gotten their information in a linear trajectory, they are able to piece together the main plot points. Their perspective has been incredibly beneficial as I continue to piece together the rest of my manuscript. Seeing them able to make inferences about personality traits and speculations about the plot has been encouraging. It gives me confidence that, one day, my readers will be able to connect the dots in the same way.
While the experience of reading my work in front of an audience is always nerve-racking, I find the benefits to be limitless. I am always surprised and encouraged by the response I get out of audience. Whether it is tense focus or casual laughter, when I get the intended reaction, it feels like I am on the right track.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of the open mics is the feedback I get following a reading. I have had several people approach me afterwards not only to comment on my writing, but also to implore me to keep writing.
“What happens? Do they ever find her?”
“Don’t stop writing, you’re on to something!”
“You’re going to do great things, I can tell.”
I’m human, and just like anyone, these ego-strokes feel great. But more than that, it’s a wonderful to get hints that I am following the right path. Because, at the end of the day, when it’s just you and your computer, sometimes self-doubt comes creeping in. When you feel like one lonely fish in a big, wide, literary sea, our goals and aspirations feel intimidating, if not completely hopeless and far-fetched in the darkest moments.
But when I connect with my peers, it helps me to realize I’m not alone but am really a part of beautiful, colorful, diverse school of fish, I mean, writers (pardon the corny metaphor). Each one wonderfully unique in what they have to offer.
For anyone out there struggling with their writing, I encourage you to find ways to connect! Join writing groups, go listen to other people reading if you don’t have the courage or material to read yourself. Visit the library. Visit a coffee shop. Open yourself up to these connections, and I can bet you will be feeling much less lonely in no time.
As always, Happy Writing, Reading, Sharing, Connecting.
Well, August 1st has come and gone and, alas, I don’t have my finished manuscript.
One would think I should be upset. Disappointed in failing to meet the deadline I’d set for myself. Critical: I should have been working harder, faster, longer.
The funny thing is, I’m not mad at all. In fact, the progress I’ve been making in the last few weeks has been thrilling.
Part II of the novel is gelling in leaps and bounds. I have focused on transforming a lot of the summary into scenes. I am filling in important information gaps. The protagonist, and other important character’s development is coming across strongly.
Part III, the final and shortest part of the book, up until now has had several looming question marks. However, through recent conversations, I have a few new ideas that I am very excited about incorporating.
Perhaps the best part about NOT meeting my deadline: I am still excited and passionate about this project that I have been working on for just over a year. If I had pushed myself beyond reason, I probably would have burned out. Maybe I wouldn’t want look at my manuscript anymore, let alone continue to work on it.
By taking my time, I am happy to say, I am still very much in love with this book-to-be and look forward to my continued progress.
Happy Writing, at your own pace.
The scene was a funky underground bar in the Greenwich Village. Live jazz, pool tables, shuffle board, and other assorted games. The occasion: my brother and his wife’s annual visit from China.
We were enjoying a wonderful evening, full of food, fun and rain-soaked subway journeys. We were in New York, together- a rare and wonderful circumstance.
My sister-in-law is a brave, smart, vivacious woman from Shandong Province in China. On that night, she took it upon herself to introduce me to a young man who was enjoying a game of chess with a friend nearby.
We started communicating and it didn’t take long for us to discover we were both writers. He shared with me the link for the online literary magazine, In Parentheses, which he helped to create and contributes to on a regular basis.
Later, sifting through the content, I found an incredible mix of prose, poetry and essays written by a number of different contributors. The range of material was impressive, but held firm to their belief of ‘intellectual expansion of the masses.’
In the weeks following that random meeting, I was encouraged to submit to the blog, which I did, and they were gracious enough to post the piece. Please check out my submission, and the rest of this awesome blog.
Is it just random chance that we meet other writers? Or is it something more; can we sense a certain camaraderie? Have any of the other bloggers out there had similar chance encounters with fellow writers? I’d love to hear your opinions and personal stories.
Happy Writing, and Happy Mingling!
It has been nearly a month since my last post. No excuses. My emotions in these weeks have run the gambit from frustrated to elated. For a while, I seemed eager to distract myself from my writing with any interesting and fun activity that presented itself.
In the depths of one of my more worried moments, I turned to my Writing Sage, as I have come to think of her. I told her I felt lost, directionless. Having given up so much to pursue writing, I felt like I had not only lost the path, but I had lost the spark.
My Writing Sage just turned to me and smiled. We were sitting on the couch. We had had more than a few glasses of wine. She said to me, writing is so much more than what comes out on the page. It’s more than what we write down on paper; a major part of the creative process is internal.
New experiences, laughing, swimming, being with friends, working, sweating, crying. All of these things do not produce writing in and of themselves, but I do strongly believe that they facilitate good writing and good stories.
That night, my Writing Sage helped me understand than even when I am not producing as much writing as I would like, I am still growing in ways that will one day be reflected on paper. In the meantime, it’s important to realize that all experiences help shape who we are as people and as writers.
I’m not sure about all of you, but as soon as the weather turns nice, I am suddenly uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve being in the sun. This is good for my tan, not good for my writing.
Things I did today instead of writing:
-Mowed the lawn
-Filled the potholes in my driveway
-Hung out laundry on the clothes line
And then I wrote, for about 30 minutes. Needless to say, I am falling behind on my goal to finish my manuscript in two months. I’ve stretched it until the beginning of August, giving myself a few extra weeks, and still, it will be tight.
I haven’t been sticking to the four-hours-a-day policy that I was so enthusiastic and diligent with the first few weeks. I’m procrastinating. I even procrastinated on writing this post.
Healthy body, healthy mind. I’m hoping that by occupying my time with activities that make me happy, it will somehow positively influence my writing.
Anybody up for the lake?