Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Driving With The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

I will do my best to tie in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest into my Lit.Life post tonight, but I think I shall fail spectacularly. (I am no Lisbeth Salander.) Having just moved from the "city" to the "country", I am both over and underwhelmed. OVER the chaos of boxes, paint, dust and demolition, UNDER the not-having-a-routine, the need-to-make-friends, etcetera. But therein lies the great adventure, hmmm?

Two mind bogglers pour moi today (besides Lisbeth Salander):

1) I walked my skippy daughter half a mile to camp, enjoying time with her listening to all of the different bird sounds, wondering at the different trees and flowers along the road, and excited at the prospect of meeting some other parents, building community, yes? Culture shock: ALL of the parents stayed in their cars and the counselors were in charge of getting their loved ones out of their car seats and escorting them to the gym! I think that's so awesome of the camp to do that for parents, but I couldn't help feeling disappointed as I walked back home, strangely bereft to be on the outside, with so many people on the inside . . . even though they were alone in their cars.

2) I DROVE a car. (The metaphors here are ENDLESS. I won't bore you with them, but this is where maybe I can tie in Lisbeth? I DID have the book next to me . . .)

"But you don't drive!" Many people said to me upon hearing that I was leaving the dirty streets for greener pastures.

"I'll just have to learn to say I DO," was my response. The husband is the seasoned driver in the family, hailing from North Dakota. I grew up in NYC, and only learned how to drive in Moab, Utah (yes, the setting for EDGES!) when I was 28 years old. But I was only there for a year, and then lived in cities where I didn't need to drive.

The boys needed to get to camp in Bedford Village, about fifteen minutes away. The husband was in the middle of helping the plumber pull up the kitchen floor.

If Lisbeth can have a dragon tattoo, play with fire and kick a hornet's nest, then I should certainly be able to drive my kids to camp on some country roads. We're not talking the Saw Mill, or 684 or anything crazy like that.

I grabbed the car keys, surprising myself and teasing the boys about their worried looks - "You're driving?" Oh, the shock! I had my laptop on the passenger seat with directions and I got us there lickety-split.

It was on the way home that I got turned around, calling the husband at one point to tell him not to worry, only of course he started worrying and I had to say with vehemence: "Let me figure this out myself!" He laughed. I found Katonah Village, and was able to pull into a parking spot and celebrated with a café au lait from the local coffee shop.

I ended up driving a lot more today. And reading about Lisbeth here and there. Where will I drive next? Where will you? (Oh golly, I guess I can't get away from using DRIVING as a metaphor, can I?)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Writing is Deer

There was just a deer in the backyard. If you look closely, she is a blurry figure in the lower middle . . . can you see her? This is how I feel about my writing at this moment. I know it is there, but I just can't make it out . . . can't focus as I wade through boxes, looking for sheets, towels, a toothbrush! (Make that 5) But I know that it will come back as I find my footsteps again, get some sleep and start feeling at "home", appreciating the moments in between . . . my daughter and I having breakfast outside, looking at this view and her telling me with wonder, "I feel like I'm in a story . . ."

"Tell me the story!" I encouraged.

"I need paper!" She insisted, and for the next while I searched for paper until she was distracted by something else, and unfortunately, I was too.

Oh, that deer! She'll be back. For both of us!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Farewell UWS, Farewell Again to Gran

Our last night as residents of the Upper West Side in New York City. And not just any Upper West Side, but a neighborhood that was passed down to me by my grandmother.

How, you may ask, can a neighborhood be passed down? How can a life?

We went to Henry's restaurant for dinner tonight, a TREAT and an ode to my Gran because it was her favorite place. It styles itself as a modern American Bistro, beautifully decorated with dark wood stains and Arts and Crafts lighting. It feels very masculine. It is on the Northwest corner of 105th and Broadway, in the same building as the Clebourne where my grandmother lived in a grand apartment on the ninth floor. Memories flooded through me. Going to Henry's was the high point of her day, week, month for years. She was able to bask in her celebrity, and not be lost in her inability to care for herself.

In the early days of Henry's, it was decorated with old French prints, such as the one above. This elephant was her favorite, and she constantly admired it. When the owners changed the decor, they presented her with this huge framed print. Was it the irony of an elephant, an animal of the wild, pimping for cigarettes that captivated her so? She thought that it looked like the elephant was laughing. Je ne fume que le nil . . . I only smoke le nil . . . was it a big cosmic joke?

I was shocked to remember that Henry's has only been open for the past ten years - it is the same age as my oldest son.

My grandmother represented community, family, the arts, and the place to be was the Upper West Side.

My parents met through her, when my father was chaplain at St Hilda's and St. Hugh's where my grandmother taught creative writing and my mother was a freshman at Smith College. I grew up in Chelsea at General Theological Seminary, but the UWS was never far, and my sister and I were often seen with her at the Cathedral Library, at V&T's Pizzeria, and the Hungarian Pastry Shop, all places that have longevity in a fickle market.

I went to Barnard College, and although I flitted from coast to coast, and sometimes another continent, I always found myself back on the UWS. As an adult, I chose to live near her Clebourne apartment, growing with my own family. Each apartment represents the addition of another child: 114th and Riverside, 106th and Columbus, and now we're leaving 106th and Broadway, now that my daughter is five, and the other two are eight and ten.

Now I think I get it: je ne fume que le nil, said with irony. Things change baby. Nothing stays the same. You can't step in the same river twice, blah, blah, blah. I can imagine Gran smiling, laughing. je ne fume que le nil. It's time to move on from the Upper West Side. Write your own life.

Here we come, Katonah!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving and Blogging

What day is it? Monday, nay, almost Tuesday already? I am floating in and out of that transitional state, with literally one foot in one place, and one in another. Moving from Manhattan, sixty miles up north to Katonah, boxes everywhere, and wondering how we're going to get everything done. Is it all worth it?

How are we going to move two adults, three kids, an elderly cat and four African water-frogs through physical and psycho-spiritual space?

And should I blog if I don't really have much to say? There is debate afoot about this - not me - but blogs in general. Is it good for everything to be instantaneous? Is it grand to be unedited? Questions to ponder as I go about blogging, because, what's the harm anyway? My blogging is not going to take away the value of anyone more worthy, or dare-we-say less. Those distinctions are meaningless. The internet is infinite, or at the very least HUMONGOUS, and people can get lost and found here too.

Is it worth it to try new things, to stretch yourself, to grow - as in moving, or blogging . . . I say yes! Yes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Girls Write Now: ANTHOLOGY

Can't tell what I'm holding up? I'm so excited, I just had to post this anyway, even if I can't figure out how to do a reverse mirror image. I am holding up my copy of the Girls Write Now Anthology: Where We Live. It was for sale yesterday at the last GWN event of the 2009-2010 year, the final CHAPTERS reading.

We had a packed house last night. Meg and I got to the Center for Fiction on East 47th Street early, impressed with the oncoming slew of people. We were very happy to be there as audience members, having read our own piece at the May event. We could sit back and enjoy. Meg was effervescent and glowing - finished with her high school classes, her prom, voted as salutatorian at her graduation next week, and soon-to-be college-bound.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie read from her new collection of stories, The Thing Around Your Neck. Her West African accent was as musical and captivating as her prose. I could have listened to her all night, but I had to settle for buying her book. The mentee/mentor pieces were beautiful and thought-provoking. Inspiring.

I snuck downstairs to buy my books (whose proceeds will support GWN) and am still marveling at how well the Anthology is put together. I have a short memoir piece that apears near the beginning of the book, and Meg wrote A History of Widges, the pre-story to the piece we wrote for our reading in May. The only faux pas is in my bio, which I had written last summer, with the wrong pub date and the wrong title for EDGES!

Tomorrow is my birthday and father's day. I would like to have time to reflect on both, so hope to see you then!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Meeting The Publicist

She was waiting outside on the corner, looking at ease in the glamorous FlatIron District, home to modeling agencies and publishing houses, shopping and art. She was wearing a black pencil skirt with impossibly high heels and a light blue summer blouse. Pale skin, dark eyes and hair. Young.

"Jessica?" I asked. "Jessica Zimmerman?" Her eyes lit up and nodded. I was five minutes late, having rushed downtown from work to get there. We found a table inside the Ben Venuto Cafe and spent the next-almost-two-hours getting to know each other. She is new to Macmillan as of February, having come from St. Martin's Press.

"I'm an extrovert," I told her. "I'm willing to do almost anything. I love people." I know that authors have to do A TON of self-marketing and promoting. "Oh. But I might be shy talking about my book." Yeah, I have to get over that one!

There were no surprises, like "Oh yes, we are planning a HUGE book tour for you," or "Guess what - we sent Oprah the ARC and she wants to be your best friend!" But it's okay to dream big. If I didn't dream about being published after all, I never would be!

Mostly we talked about our lives and being passionate about what we do.

Then she talked about the "crossover" appeal of EDGES because it's not "fluffy", (meaning that adults will warm to it too.) Oh Jessica, I love you already! She wants to get magazine coverage for January issues, which come out mid-December. (If we go for December issues that come out in mid-November, people won't be able to by the book yet.) That would be crazy in the adult fiction world where buzz is king and the first week of release is crucial, but YA books "have longer legs."

Longer legs! I need me some of those to run down to meet Meg (my mentee) and get to the final CHAPTERS event for Girls Write Now! More on that tomorrow . . .

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Place Where We Are Right

What! Another blog post? Don't you have anything else to do with your life, lady? Aren't you supposed to be packing, moving . . .writing a novel . . .??? And what's with the silly pic of Einstein?

Well yes my friends, I do have a lot going on, but this is my writing for now. And my teens are writing their novellas so . . .

I am thinking more about my visit down to General Seminary with Heather the other day. We were talking about some of our insecurities in our choice to live an artist's life, about how it has taken us longer to accept who we are, comparing ourselves to others who are successful in a more conventional way. Is it the "right" way? As a child, teen, and young adult, I often felt "wrong" about so many things. But I didn't use language or approach the world in the same way the people around me did.

I think in abstracts and stare at things from peculiar angles. I've often looked at my ability to see all sides of a situation or an argument as a weakness, rather than a strength, because then I have a difficult time "winning".

But do I really want to "win"?

We were talking about how people who are CERTAIN that their point of view is "right", have intimidated us into thinking then, that our point of view must be "wrong".

That's on me, giving my power away, not on others taking it from me.

Heather shared a story about a famous argument between Einstein and Bohr that I haven't been able to stop thinking about, and she JUST sent me the source, prompting this post! It is from QUANTUM: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality, By Manjit Kumar

In the late 1970s, I had the pleasure of talking with John Bell about the Bohr- Einstein debates during a train journey from Oxford to London. Every seat was taken, so we had to stand. Pressed against me by sullen commuters, Bell summarized his apparently reluctant conclusion as we pulled into Paddington station: “Bohr was inconsistent, unclear, willfully obscure and right. Einstein was consistent, clear, down-to-earth and wrong.

And then I think of the poem that my dad sent me when I was in a painful place: In the place where we are right, no flowers grow . . . and thanks to the internet, I've found the poem!

The Place Where We Are Right

by Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

'Nuff said.

Oh wait! Heather, my wise friend, just sent me another jewel: Your task, is not to seek for love but merely to find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. Rumi

See you tomorrow, when I promise to blog about the meeting I'm having with my publicist after work!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tighter Writing

I am sitting in a workshop at Writopia with four amazing fifteen year old girls. We have all kicked off our shoes, and are settled in to work on some serious fiction and memoir.

We are mid-way through our week of writing "camp". By Friday and after fifteen hours together, they will all have polished pieces. The girls are tapping furiously away on their laptops, after our first hour of workshopping - reading each others pieces and commenting on structure, narrative and character, always on the watch-out for compliance with the initial objective.

They are all writing, so I have a few minutes to write too, to BLOG, which is something that I don't have time to do with my younger groups, who need/want more hand holding through the process. (And I love them too!)

These girls are all inspiring, aspiring authors - one is writing a beautiful memoir piece off of a prompt that I gave her when we began - all about image and cultural dissonance. Another is writing an elaborate fantasy that will one day turn into a trilogy no doubt, but for now, her task is to focus on a complete stand-alone piece. The other two are working on two very different realistic fiction stories.

Teaching helps me to become a better writer - a tighter writer, to focus on all of the things that I ask them to develop an awareness of. Objectives, rising action, "crisis" and resolution: keeping it simple. My habit is to throw everything I care about, all sorts of psychological complexities into whatever novel I'm working on. Too many issues! The good thing is that I have a lot to write about, and no shortage of ideas for novels. EDGES at first could have been two or three novels. I had to cut out so much, and it is a much better book because of that.

And now I must get back to my beauties, tearing them away soon from their own work so that they can get and give feedback, all the while learning themselves how to be a tighter writer.

And tomorrow after workshop . . . I finally get to meet my publicist/marketing person for EDGES at a cafe in the FlatIron District! Yay! More later . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning . . . I have had a hankering to return to Chelsea and the General Theological Seminary on the square block between 9th and 10th Avenues and 20th and 21st streets for years, but had heard that the grounds were difficult to penetrate. The fact that I had lived there from 1973 to 1985 would be meaningless in the face of security guards taking their jobs seriously.

I needed to get there, because I have a manuscript gathering dust that features the seminary, but a seminary circa 1978. Some of the scenes I had imagined would now be impossibilities. We want to be as authentic as possible in our fiction, don't we?

So when I heard that one of my childhood friends was now a student at said seminary, I asked her for a playdate.

Heather is a sculptor and a theologian, and also a PK (Preacher's Kid.) We hadn't really hung out since we were kids, but found that we have much in common. The fact that she is marrying a kind of artistic meditation and ministry together is very cool in my book!

We took the C train down to 23rd Street together, and walked over to 9th Avenue. The first thing that struck me was that they had torn down the squat, gray building that was known as the "the front", where people entered, and where I sometimes worked at the front desk when I was a teen. It is a much nicer building now, red brick to be in architectural congruity with the rest of the seminary, and is now the library.

Heather and I walked down 20th street and we came in through the gate between 9th and 10th Avenues. The Seminary is far more lush than I had remembered! Flowers and an abundance of green everywhere - in fact, the seminary is an historic New York landmark, undergoing continuous restoration and is committed to incorporating green technology.

Memories came flooding back as we walked around this magical place. Heather showed me the refectory where we ate dinner at least once a week with students and faculty. It is a huge Hogwarts-esque room that had been beautifully restored. (I did take lots of pictures with my sassy new Droid phone folks, but as I am technologically challenged . . . give me another month to figure this stuff out!)

Our best adventure was after we had gone into the Church of the Good Shepherd . . . (somehow I took a picture and successfully emailed my dad, asking him to guess where I was! He "got it" immediately! Good job dad - I sure wouldn't have!) . . . we sneaked up to the bell tower . . . I was never allowed up there without an adult (although of course I went!) and so I felt naughty and excited. The stairs have not been restored! They were very rickety, adding to our excitement and nerves.

Heather had an appointment, and so I befriended Frank, one of the maintenance workers wearing dark brown pants and a khaki shirt and cap. (The uniforms used to be blue.) He was very proud of the seminary's beauty, and thrilled to be learning so much about landscaping. And he told me that I could come back any time between 10AM and 3PM. Go figure, the Seminary is penetrable by civilians!

I was loath to leave, but I had to check and see which street and which building the characters in my WIP lived in. Two childhood friends, one PK, one not, can see in each others bedrooms across the street . . . they look out their windows . . .

I tried to write in my journal, but found I didn't have language. Perhaps I need to channel my sense memory into my fiction.

And I can't end this post without a shout out to one of the vocal goddesses of the 70's - Joni Mitchell. I've been singing Chelsea Morning all day. My favorite verse is the third one. Sing with me!

Woke up, it was a Chelsea morning, and
the first thing that I knew
There was milk and toast and honey
and a bowl of oranges, too
And the sun poured in like butterscotch
and stuck to all my senses
Oh, won't you stay
We'll put on the day
And we'll talk in present tenses

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Writopia State of Mind

I was in the paper! No, not the coveted New York Times, but I was ecstatic to give Writopia a shout out in The Mt. Kisco Examiner last week as the husband and I are initiating a Writopia community in Mt. Kisco this summer! Mt. Kisco is about ten minutes away from Katonah, and both a commercial and artistic hub for the area. I will be teaching, and the husband will be dealing with everything else. (Anything to do with computers!)

I've been in a Writopia state of mind all year, ever since I met my boss and soul sister, Rebecca Wallace-Segall. How was I going to leave Writopia, Rebecca and NYC? Could I take that state of mind with me? Fortunately, Rebecca gave me two thumbs up last March when I proposed to bring her awesome program up to Northern Westchester, as long as I promised that I would come back into the city once in a while to teach as well. (It's so nice to be wanted and valued!)

In the Examiner, there was a picture of me (the one from this blog) AND a photo of the book jacket of EDGES displayed at a jaunty angle. So exciting!

Writopia is growing. There is a thriving community in Washington DC and Brooklyn, and ones are starting up in Los Angeles and Southern Westchester in Mamaroneck as well. I would love to be able to say that kids and teens had access to Writopia everywhere!

It is exactly what I wished for when I was a kid, although I didn't have the words to express that desire. A kid/teen centered community, with published authors as enthusiasts and guides. I've always had a community-minded spirit, and struggle with being an extrovert in an introverted profession. Isn't this the perfect job for me to go along with my writing career?

And I give my Gran credit for this in my bio: Lena's inspiration and touchstone is her late grandmother, author Madeleine L’Engle, who was able to transform the solitary nature of writing into a sacred sense of community where her art and the art of others could flourish.

Thank you to both my Gran and Rebecca, for inspiring me!

So, would you light a candle, say a prayer for us and our endeavors? Thank YOU!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Anyone Can Cook, Er, Write . . . if they want to . . .

It is a small group at Writopia today, even though classes have ended in preparation for the summer program, three of my Saturday girls wanted to come for another session. I've been with them every Saturday afternoon this school year. I've brought brownies, and they all want to play "hot laptop", insisting that I play with them. Yay! (This is just like the game hot notebook I play with my Girls Write Now mentee Meg, only with more people and on (obviously) laptops.) We will have four stories by three o'clock.

As a creative writing teacher, I passionately believe that everyone is capable of deep creative expression. Whether you have a desire or "calling" to do it, is a completely different thing.

Kristi commented and posed a provocative question on a quote I put on yesterday's blog:

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
- Emile Zola (1840-1902)

How would you define the artist's gift? Is it the urge to create or is it talent? Do you think that artists (including writers) are born with a gift? Or can we create it and/or cultivate it through all that work?

The movie Ratatouille comes to mind, with the overt message: Anyone can cook. But the more interesting message for me is that anyone can do anything with an attitude of perseverance, practice, and desire.

Is talent what you are good at, or what your soul feels called to? Are these mutually exclusive? My soul feels "called" to writing fiction - I recognize that "calling" as a gift, but not necessarily a talent. So in order to serve that gift, I need to practice writing. When my fingers flow easily and quickly over the laptop, it is the gift of inspiration. Most of the time though, I have to sit down, roll up my sleeves, and "work".

So it's not the gift versus the work, is it? What do you think? There are genius writers out there - I however, am not one of them. For me, it's that old adage of 5% inspiration, 95% perspiration - that's what I have to focus on.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Lit Life

Okay, I'll admit it. I've been trolling for quotes again, something to light a blogging fire in me, because what is a girl to blog about every other day?

True, I've surprised myself and been able to keep it up with some thought. However, this isn't a writing-advice-blog or a book review blog, (I'm not going to get reposted or retweeted or written up as an amazing blogger) but it is instead a forum for me to look at life through the lens of "lit". I can even take "lit" a bit farther, and say that it represents my metaphysical obsessions.

There are many ways and many other roles from which I can look at my life, but I like having the focus be on writing. Doesn't whatever we focus on become bigger? So if I blog about my life as a writer, does this mean that I am becoming the writer I want to be? And doesn't writing help me understand the world, light it up? Doesn't it light me up and give my life shape and meaning?

So the quotes: the amazing thing is, people - it didn't take me long to find ones that fit in with today's lunch with my friend/mentor Sandra Jordan. Our lunches always leave me well fed both literally and mentally (we both had the chicken souvlaki platter, if you must know).

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
- Emile Zola (1840-1902)

We talked about how much work craft takes, and how we are never done. I confessed that I was just starting to really understand that on a whole new level. Maybe I'm finally growing up!

And . . .

"I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart."
- e e cummings (1894-1962)

Oh e e - you crack me up! Do I even need to explain this one? This is why I avoided the writing life for so long!

Have a great weekend everyone - thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Companion book to EDGES

I did it. Yesterday I sent off my manuscript to my agent. I dolled her up in PDF format with chapters, titles and page breaks. Oooh. Aaahh. Am I allowed to tell you what the working title is? I don't know - I'm feeling shy. (My working title for EDGES was different, but I'll save those details for another blog!)

It's supposed to be a weight off of my shoulders so I can focus on moving, right? WRONG. I am still thinking about my characters, thinking about whether or not I got it right, whether I cut too much here, or added too much there, whether I SHOW enough character development making the arc beautiful, taking my characters on a psychological, metaphysical journey.

The husband challenged me, and you can bet the agent will too. So, I wait.

And while I wait, I am reading again, finally. I am deep into my friend Stephanie's latest book, Claude & Camille, about the life of Monet and the rise of Impressionism as an artistic movement. I keep returning to the opening quote by Monet: I had so much fire in me and so many plans. I always want the impossible. Take clear water with grass waving at the bottom. It's wonderful to look at, but to try to paint it is enough to make one insane.

So that's what is going on with me! And maybe it strikes you too, and it's not just the royal "we" who struggle with our imaginations and the yearning to express ourselves, wanting to capture certain emotions, the nuances of a situation and our character's flaws without being preachy, redundant or trite. Indeed, it is enough to make one insane.

I wish that I had the genius and discipline of Monet, but what I do have is the urge to communicate with the world through writing. And Monet's quote leads my thoughts to the young, earnest writers I work with at Writopia and Girls Write Now with their "fire" and their "plans". Has aging made me any different? I hope not!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time and the Oil Spill

I've had a very difficult time wrapping my head around the scope of this oil spill in the Gulf, and what it's reverberations will be.

"Better eat fish now," my friend Elizabeth said at lunch the other day. "We won't be able to get any soon."

I look at the pictures, at wildlife stuck in the muck, and the mass destruction of ecology and life that is a holocaust. You can visualize how big the impact of the BP oil disaster on your home-town area here. A big, dark spot, huh?

And then yesterday I get an email from a young woman - Cathy DePasquale - who I met on a wintry evening at Books of Wonder three years ago, commemorating the life and work of my Gran.

She writes: I was thinking about the oil slick and a memory of your grandmother's wrinkle in time came to me. I haven't read it in a long time so I can't be very specific. I remember the good witches telling Meg to look at the Earth and when she did she saw these dark spots on the Earth which were caused by IT. And now we have that dark spot. Just a thought, sometimes writing, which is aimed a larger issues like Madeleine's is prophetic.

Cathy, you blew me away. We have a physical, visual manifestation of IT right now, and, like the threat of nuclear bombs in the 1950's, we feel afraid and powerless. At least I do. Can we take comfort in the message of A Wrinkle in Time? Is faith enough? Is being true to our creative selves enough?

"Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.
“Oh, you must know them, dear,” Mrs Whatsit said.
Mrs. Who’s spectacles Shone out at them triumphantly, “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.”
“Jesus!” Charles Wallace said. “Why of course, Jesus!”
“Of course!” Mrs Whatsit said. “Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They’ve been lights for us to see by.”
“Leonardo da Vinci?” Calvin suggested tentatively. “And Michelangelo?”
“And Shakespeare,” Charles Wallace called out, “And Bach! And Pasteur, and Madame Curie, and Einstein!”
Now Calvin’s voice rang out with confidence. “And Schweitzer, and Ghandi, and Buddha and Beethoven, and Rembrandt and St.Francis!”

It has to be enough. Our creative selves keep away the demons of apathy, and if we succumb to that wet, cold, blanket, no change will happen, no lights will shine, there is no solution, and nothing will ever get done.

But I'm preaching to the choir here, n'est ce pas?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Easy Reading is Damn Hard Writing

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." Tell it like it is, Mr. Hawthorne. I came back home from a long day of running errands (and too exhausted to worry about my manuscript one iota) to open my laptop and see this quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne floating on the screen. Brilliant. You get it Nate, you totally get it.

I immediately posted it on Facebook and Twitter, and then my thoughts drifted toward my grandmother. She always used to say stuff like this, as she wrote books that appealed to such a wide audience which ranges in age from 3 to 103. There is an attitude that writing for children is "easy," and she would bristle at this, offended for both children and for all of the work she had put into her craft of writing.

Indeed, her books are effortless to read, as are many other wonderful authors' books, authors who help you to become lost in their world, to identify with their characters and co-create the experience of "story" - it's a very intimate relationship, that between author and reader.

I hope that my "damn hard writing" will come across with "easy reading", and I need to remind myself of this as I continue to practice my craft, and hopefully improve on a daily basis. Thank you to the late Nathaniel Hawthorne and Madeleine L'Engle, who have made me feel a little less alone today, by thinking of them and their struggles with craft - are not so different from mine.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Armed with a Red Pen

I've been in a state. A frenzied up-until-2AM-ordering-Chinese-food-letting-the-TV-babysit-the-kids writing state.

I think I have a book, folks. The companion to EDGES.

So why am I blogging? Well . . . I've just allowed myself the pleasure of printing out another draft of my WIP, and I didn't think I could do it, not after I had the husband read my manuscript on Monday and KICKED MY ASS!

I thought that I was almost ready to send it to my agent, but the husband was tough on me. The pacing was too slow, and in order to make one of my characters more likable, his character arc was weak.

Then at 10PM Monday night, after much discussion, I knew what I had to do. I had to rewrite and restructure the ENTIRE first half. Introducing an important secondary character earlier, would change the pacing of the story.

I also had to start with the first scene that I ever wrote, which somehow gotten stuck in the middle. (How did that happen?)

Jaw clenched too tightly, I started working, well into the night, not wanting to lose my energy and focus. I worked all day and evening yesterday, (in between some Writopia office work) drenched in my manuscript, lost in that world - the desert of Southeastern Utah - vaguely remembering that I have to pack up an entire house and move to the suburbs in three weeks. I was up until 2AM, fixing the first half. Then this morning, I reworked the second half, and I'm sorry trees, but I just had to use more paper!

I will arm myself with a red pen and get back to work: I can't promise that this will be the one I send to my agent, or even that it will be published, but I can promise that I won't give up and that there will be more revisions!

Writing is hard work, but we wouldn't have it any other way, would we? Perseverence is how we get better. Read and write on!