Saturday, January 26, 2013

What I Can Say About Writing a Novel

First, I am writing this on my iPhone so I am forced to be brief.

I hit a milestone last week. I finished reading 400 double spaced pages of a first draft of a novel about love and obsession. I edited and made marks and comments. I printed out every chapter separately and stabled each chapter together. I have three stacks: a beginning, a middle, and an end, sort of.

Now I am ready to:

--think about the best order of the chapters (this is VERY hard)
--see where there are gaps or omissions or overkill and write at least a few 'bridge' chapters and probably chop out some sections
--get rid of all unnecessary wordiness
--change some names and some locations and some descriptions so no one I care about gets hurt or mad at me
-- check the verbs and make sure they are as strong as possible
--reread it all and judge it: is it any good?  Is the character Casey transformed? What's the lesson?

I would have given examples but I'm posting on my cellphone for the first time ever. Forgive my typos.

The stage I am at now with this novel is a lot of fun.



Monday, January 21, 2013

Thoughts on a Quiet Night

Do you believe in coincidence? Or more to the point, do you believe in synchronicity? 

One by one I took the bulbs, the ornaments, the lights off this Christmas tree. I checked and double checked. It was not until JB arrived home that night that she pointed to this one tin heart. How could I have possibly missed it? And what did it mean, of all the ornaments on the tree, that this one, this little  heart, was hidden to me and then lickity-split in plain view?

JB has a new friend. Her name is Peaches and she dances. She also steals cookies. If you don't know already, there is this remarkable talented woman named Pam who also goes by the name of Yoborobo --whose plushies like Peaches make a person sing. Ms. Yoborobo has become a dear friend to me and many, with damn good reason.

JB lost her sister twelve years ago to $#@*& cancer. This week her brother-in-law died too. Unexpected and so sad, we traveled to the desert, arriving no more than forty minutes before he died, at home, aided and cared for by his two daughters. To be orphaned before you turn thirty years old? What universe dares to think that is fair? I look at this chair and I am reminded how fleeting and fragile life is. 

Don't Postpone Joy. I know this is trite and it is also true. He could be sitting in this chair. Two weeks ago he was. The line is so thin. Be kind, yes, but while you can, be outrageous too. Love outrageously. That's my free advice.

What incredible patterns in the land below. Where do all these squares and circles come from? I can't fathom it.

The Arizona desert is so different from my New England. There is a stark simplicity to it all. 

And there is authentic Mexican food. My heart flutters. There is no meal I like more. Except my orgasmic Mr. Sushi. 

I traveled home alone. JB has stayed another week to help her nieces. The day after Christmas, I got sick and I stayed sick for two plus weeks. Before that the holidays were lovely and hectic. So here I am now, home alone, gratefully, in a quiet place, just our dog and me. It is a silence I have needed. I've been able to write, to fall in and out of bed when I wish. I made beef stew in the crock pot. I've watched the Presidential Inauguration. I called friends. Wrote some cards. Prayed that fucking cancer starts losing the battle every time.

I've been thinking. It's taken me four years to get over a hurt that I couldn't seem to let go of. Four years; it might even be five. I wonder what that says about me? Here's one conclusion I've come to: there's no helpful fault line. There's nothing wrong with me. I'm not perfect, but I lean on the side of kind and vibrant. I like me that way, Maybe I chose the wrong person, maybe I had some lessons to learn. Maybe even some gifts were given and taken. Maybe whatever happened happened because kicking and screaming I've been enriched by it. 

Our human condition... 

Don't Postpone Joy.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Little Man

Little Man

I will not know your children; 
And even if that may not be so
they will not know me
As I run to you,
holding your hand
walking beside you with the camera
we bought for you on my birthday.
They will not know how content
when I rub your head and back,
Mr. video child who colors in the lines
as calm as a baby bird,
patient and prepared
with intensity that wraps around resilience.

I told your mother
I could not love her children 
as much as I loved her;
then, I couldn’t imagine anyone able to stretch love
beyond that loyal vast place. 
I was right but also wrong
because the lives I will lie down for--
your father and brothers too--
I would not equivocate, 
my clear decision so all of you
may all hold steady.

In the kitchen 
just before we reached the table
you came quickly, and wrapped your arms around my legs 
from nowhere, and we acknowledged. 
I will remember that moment that cannot be altered, 
our affirmation to the last breath.

I tell you I love you
and you tell me you know. 
I tell you it’s okay
and you tell me no:
you should have known the ornament was glass,
you say, not the wood you expected when you bit into it.
I tell you six years is not long enough
to know all that 
but I stop from adding that even sixty years
is sometimes not long enough.
Even Adam bit the wrong apple 
And even your Grandmother's lost a gamble.

I can’t protect you, little man.
But I will be your audience forever 
and I will applaud every achievement,
every misstep, every mistake.
I will hold you in my arms even when 
embrace is at a distance.
It means everything to come first sometimes
and I and your family will show you that.
You are six years old today; 
You, a poet, a gamer, a Patriot, a colorer, 
a child who will watch me age,
understanding how easily I bend 
to love all that you love too. 

Happy Birthday Ryan,
love Gram

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Big Deal

Hard to explain,
Harder still to make sense
Some things go wrong
Want a wing, get a fence.
World's a mess
Yes I know
I can see
What is so.
But I can't bring myself
To neglect all this shine
People and places
That make my life mine

I don't know why I find myself creating this gooey post. I could be sad about many things beyond my control. But I was carrying my apple laptop into the living room today--I get such joy from it--remembering that it took me almost a year to finally decide to buy it, and I started thinking about little deals that are big deals. 

If I died tomorrow, honest to god, I don't think I would have regrets. I'm surprised by that, and even thinking it  is one big deal.

Rotterdam Germany. I've stood here (thanks joss)
 Sedona Arizona. I've stood here too
 My parents' yard for 63 years
Back of an elementary school stage when I counseled a little boy
when Mr. Ryan was born 
 New York with my two brightest stars
Mr. Sushi (orgasm)
97 years old this week
barely a two hour trip to the city that never sleeps
breakfasts (lo! marianne! lori!)
after 100 begs,  a friend relinquishes this special box
to be able to love animals
my father's popsicle rocking chair
You must have some big deals too, yes?...


Sunday, January 06, 2013


I am too busy to take the time. I am not unkind, but if I try to work out a wrong, yours or mine, and you skate away on thin ice, I won't stand there freezing by myself; for what purpose?

I wasn't always like this. For many years I worked hard, very hard, to be liked, to charm, to nuzzle in. Hell, I was voted Personality Plus in my high school of 660 kids. That took work on my part. Only once did I clearly screw up: I made a joke in history class that embarrassed Ingrid I don't remember her last name, because she was overweight and I called attention to that. No, I screwed up a second time too: I hurt my fragile friend because I wanted her to work harder but in the end I suffered because she said no and goodbye. I miss her to this day.

I am seeing all kinds of words and resolutions and affirmations for the new year. Maybe because I've welcomed the new year with the grumble of a temperature and a cough, but I can't seem to box myself in that way, even if it might inspire me. Because I think it won't.

This is going to be a transition year for me. I am going to stop working the way I've worked for my whole adult career. I am going to have and use time differently. I think too my heart, which has suffered for what I must face as unworthy reasons, may finally flutter free; and if I'm lucky, maybe even with no twinge of anything bitter. And I will know children: four who look to me in an inner circle they and I  know is family.

There are parts of my life that are so uncomplicated even my breathing has the right rhythm. My daughter for one: how much I love her. How easily I would sacrifice for her. How proud I am to witness who she is, what she does, how she lives. She is a Mother now. She loves her husband. I am in awe of her. How could anything feel better than that?

And JB. She is making me cappuccino right now. We have one more house in us, I tell her. I may have one more job in me, perhaps, not counting writing which has transcended work and is just what I do, what I have to do, what I am privileged to do.

A word for the new year? I have no idea. Oh, maybe this: don't expect me to waste my time. I want no false friends and I will step away from them. I carry no false pride and I am comfortably defiant. I will not tolerate and I will rail against abuse of animals or children or a mean spiritedness by politicians who should know better. Some things I'm just clear about. 

No bullshit. Not this year. That's it! That's my word!


Thursday, January 03, 2013

Old poem, same perspective

 I used to write a poem or two a week. Now my thoughts seem too private. I hope that will change sooner than later.

This one I liked it then and I like now. I like what it reminds me.

Happy New Year,

Cooking Up Trouble

Sneaking up the walkway
And through the back door
Carrying a recipe filled with lessons
From the great books, 

You mix together ingredients
That can be separated
Only once
And even then you take your chances.

You start with young hope
Sifted through intent and 
Measured nicely by honest hands
Hoping that alone will suffice.

But of course it can’t.
So from the back cabinet
You reach for promises
Waiting to be made and kept

And add them with fanfare,
Simply because they must be mixed
With integrity
Otherwise they curdle at the first neglect.

This bowl can hold whatever you throw at it,
But not neglect. 
And that is because some recipes
When they’re fudged or forsaken

Fall into a million pieces
So even the great godess cannot reconstruct them,
And least of all you with your limited skills.. 
Better to take your time and measure 
Well enough, really well enough

So that when the rising’s done
You become whole
From those ingredients 
You cooked up yourself. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Advice for the New Year

Be Yourself. No one else can be you as well as you can.

Happy happy new year.


Emily Plush
Fiona (Emily Rabbit's stuck up cousin)