Thursday, June 30, 2005


It's time. I've finally started the excruciating task of not only recognizing the book's flaws but actually trying to fix them. Last night I tried to write a new first page. Painful. It's almost easier to write a first page when you don't know what is going to happen next than when you know everything that happens. It's too much retrospect. The vantage point shifts from a very limited one (full of promise and surprise) to a sort of terrible omniscience.

There's something I've been avoiding the whole time, and that is the fact that Harper needs to at least acknowledge the racial element of his crime. It's certainly not the impetus for what he does, but he also has to know that it would appear to be so to anyone else. It's completely inauthentic for him to pretend that he doesn't even consider the man's race. But it's a slippery slope. I have to tread lightly here...this is dangerous terrain for Harper, and for me as the author. I'm not sure this acknowledgment belongs on the first page, but then, last night, there it was. I feel rusty.

I am so worried that my writing is taking the back seat (the way back) to everything else (my editorial stuff, teaching, housework, etc...). I'm starting to feel resentful of all of my other obligations. We're going to be spending $10/hr. on a nanny so I can teach this fall, but I wouldn't dream of hiring someone to watch the girls so I could write. It's almost like writing has become the hobby I just don't have time for instead of my occupation. I fantasize about having a few hours to really focus on my work. I am hoping that being at the pond will give me what I need to finish. We leave in one month.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Words from the new sage

29. Phew. It doesn't feel much different than 29 did last year. Had a lovely, though relatively uneventful birthday. The girls and I met Patrick at The Diner in Adams Morgan for lunch. As Esmee downed her first ever milkshake, I devoured a Philly cheesesteak and fries smothered in gravy. That alone made the day worthwhile (and life-threatening!). Later, Lon, Jonathan and Jason came up for fajitas and fireflies. Lon made a chocolate frosting-ed lemon cake. Mmmmm. Slept like an infant and woke up feeling not much older than I did before.

I've selected the books I'm going to use for the GW class. It's incredible how difficult the decision was. I was suddenly so self-conscious. I know it's silly, but really, I want these kids to like me. I also want them to like what they're reading. So, the choices have as much to do with gaining their trust as it does with want I want to teach them. I am using the Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction (all post-1970 stuff). It's a good selection of some of my favorites. I'm also using a book which outlines all of the elements of fiction...important for an intro class. For the poetry portion, I found a book of exercises created by poet/teachers and an anthology called From Totems to Hip-Hop which is a sort of canon-blaster, including Tupac alongside Plath. It's got an angry introduction from the editor which if I don't assign, I'm fairly certain they won't read. Anyway, I am more drawn to the poetry than to the multi-cultural message it's trying to send...we'll see how it goes. It's always fun to add a new stack of books to my shelves. I also got several B & N and Borders gift cards to extend the Greenwood Lending Library.

I finished The Collector (John Fowles) today...the end was completely creepy for cheapy. It actually made the hair on my arms stand up. Next is The Known World by local yokle Edward P. Jones. Patrick gave it to me for my birthday (along with a gorgeous necklace and two citronella tiki torches). Anybody who is getting compared to Toni Morrison on a fairly regular basis deserves a try as far as I'm concerned.

Today was the street fair in Ocean Beach. We got calls all day. It made me homesick. The street fair is my favorite OB event. P's mom is in town, lavishing the girls with gifts and love. We had a crabfest tonight; the house still smells of salt, Old Bay, and newspaper ink. Tomorrow is the 3rd Annual Princess and the Pea party. I stayed up late last night prepping the art project -- magic wands which, unbeknownst to the princesses -- will glow in the dark. We're having strawberry shortcake, a pea hunt, and (for the mamas) sangria. I think there will be ten girls under five here tomorrow. All vying for the coveted tiara that the "real princess" (the one who finds the pea) wins. There just may be some tears.

Haven't touched the novel in almost a week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Another year (older and wiser?)

Tomorrow I will be turning 29 (again). I am so ambivalent about birthdays lately. It seems like no matter how hard I try not to, I always have great expectations, and I am almost always disappointed. I'm not sure what it is that I expect. Waking up to a barbershop quartet singing "Happy Birthday" at my bedside? Mimosas and nothing to do all day but read and soak up sun? Non-stop phone calls wishing me a happy day? Maybe. Reality is, I'll wake up the way I always wake up: Kicky whispering loud enough to wake up Esmee, "Mom, is it morning yet?" Then Esmee's morning cry. Coffee, if I remember. A flurry of craziness until P leaves for work and then hours upon hours of PBS kid's shows (if it rains) or (if there's sun) grass-stained knees, mosquito bites, temper-tantrums (mine and theirs), and maybe a stolen chapter read during a nap. Birthdays used to be so crazy...on my 25th I started drinking shots at noon and wound up with three marines in my living room at 1:00 a.m. (long story, not nearly as risque as it sounds). I have got some old champagne in the fridge...maybe a swig of orange juice left in the carton. Patrick has invited some friends over (God, we just don't have friends here yet...I haven't had time to lament my lack of a social life) for a barbeque. I am so hungry for a social event. We used to always throw parties in San Diego...every few weeks. The last time we had people over was for Easter brunch.

Anyway, another year has passed and what have I done? Finished the first draft of the novel, celebrated the girls' first and third birthdays, moved cross-country, bought our first house, started a new teaching job, secured another one, spent the rest of the NEA money, and lost all of the baby weight. Not too bad for a year.

Now that I have the girls, I always think of my mother on my birthday. This day really belongs to her. I think about what she must have been feeling thirty - ahumph years ago. She was so young...eighteen. The doctor didn't allow my dad in the room. They gave her ether for Christ's sake. I was born in the early evening. My mother said I had so much black hair the nurses were able to make a little cupie-doll swirl on top of my head. She said she counted my fingers and toes. The first pictures of me are in a plastic laundry basket. Eighteen. She had just graduated from high school. What on earth was I doing at eighteen?

I digress. And digress. (That's what old folks do, right?) The outline is done. 31 pages. Exactly one tenth of the whole novel. I have some work to do.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


For weeks now, thousands of fireflies have been congregating in our front yard at dusk. Kicky and Esmee go to bed before dark, so about a week ago I captured one, hoping to show them its magical green belly. But once inside the jar, it just refused to glow. It was like it knew it had been caught and was punishing me. I kept it a whole day, and not a single flicker. So last night I convinced Patrick that we should let Kicky stay up well past her bedtime to see them. I have never seen her so excited. "Flitter-flies, flitterlfies!" I wish I could capture that in a mason jar.

We all went to bed last night happily tired from. But despite the blissful weather...only 6o something. . .I couldn't sleep. I was up half the night writing in my head. I think I've finally figure out what this book is about. All this time, I've thought it was about forgiveness. Truly, I thought that the whole point, it's very raison d'etre was to illustrate the necessity and power of forgiveness. Of course, atonement and such do play a major part, but freedom. That's it. And you know what? It came back to those damn flitterflies. Harper does this to Betsy. He captures her in this pretty little jar. And no matter how hard he tries, she just won't, can't glow. He only wants to hold on to her, to contain her, but without her freedom, she loses everything about her that he loves. This isn't in the book yet. Not fully anyway. But now, at least, I understand.

I woke up feeling full of purpose. I met with the director of creative writing at George Washington. It was such a pleasant interview. And, he offered me a class this fall. I am so thrilled. I love teaching adults, but there is something so exciting about teaching kids again. Kids at the brink of their futures. I remember how desperately sad and happy and anticipatory I was at that age. It was like every moment belonged to me. I can't wait to surround myself with that again. I feel so lucky.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I finally finished "The History of Love" yesterday. Hmmm. It's likely that I just don't have the necessary concentration, but all of the tangled mysteries, complexities of the plot left me a little confused. It's sort of like a knot I'm just too lazy to untie right now. I did, however, love much of it. Particulary the last moments of the story. I'm reading "The Collector" now by John Fowles. It was written in 1963 or something like that...I feel like it's a book Harper might have liked. It's got a trashy feel to it, though I suppose it's literary. Regardless, nice for summertime

I've mapped 169 pages of my novel. I try to give myself little encouragements along the way to counteract all of the "Crap, crap, crap" comments. Nice! Good transition to the next chapter! I should buy some of those metallic stars I loved back when I was teacher's pet. I think the root of the problem is that I don't know Betsy outside of Harper's eyes. I'm beginning to think she didn't love him nearly as much as he loved her. This could be critical.

I started teaching a new workshop last night...a characterization class. It's large (15 students registered), but the dynamic seems quite good. It's also SO late (7:30 - 10:00). I'm on my third wind by then. I had to stay up until nearly midnight to wind down. Wound up watching the first hour or so of "The Big Chill" on cable. I like the idea of a story which revolves around a character who is dead. Hmmm. I am also meeting with the director of creative writing at George Washington U. this weekend to discuss the possibility of an adjunct position this fall.

This weekend is Father's Day. Today I mailed off the gifts to my dad: an electronic golf score keeper and "On Bullshit" (a sweet little book by a Princeton philosopher). Patrick already got his gift -- a glorious monstrosity of a gas grill. The backyard is starting to be a little piece of heaven. We bought a playhouse the other day, put it together at dusk as the fireflies came out. It was the most beautiful twilight time. I didn't even mind the mosquitoes feeding on my calves.

Back to the book. Still calling it "Two Rivers" because no one has suggested otherwise.

Backyard Paradise. Posted by Hello

Friday, June 10, 2005

Revision madness. (The anal outlines of a dangerous mind.) Posted by Hello

It's come to this...good old obsessive compulsive me is back with a vengeance. Above is a screenshot of the outline I am creating of every single scene/paragraph in the novel. I have, indeed, created a spreadsheet which details not only what is in the novel, but what needs to be in the novel. The point of every scene, sentence, word.


I bought a used laptop yesterday to bring with me to Vermont. It's slow as sap, but at least I'll have something to write on.

The heat has descended upon us. Misery. Today it's only 78 degrees (as opposed to the 90 degree days earlier this week), but the humidity is 72%. The only good news is that there are fireflies at night. One even made its way into our bedroom during a thunderstorm earlier this week. And blueberries. That's another great thing. $2.00 a pint. yesterday I let Esmee eat a whole basket all by herself.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


My publisher doesn't want my new book. I just got the call today. The editor loved the writing but not the story. And, apparently, not the sales of the previous books. Funny, this ridiculous business. They bought the books. They did nothing to promote the books. The books didn't sell. And now they're passing on the best book yet because they don't think it will sell either. Where do I fit into this?

I feel simultaneously disgusted, bruised, pissed off, and elated. I'm free.

I also have tremendous resolve now. This book will get all of my love and attention this summer. By fall, it will be like the fat girl who loses weight over the summer and turns all the boys heads when school starts in the fall.

Maybe I should change my pen name so that my miserable sales record won't haunt me. Sort of like bad credit, isn't it?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Trompe L'Oeil

The door. Posted by Hello

So here is the fruit of my procrastination. One glorious phony panelled door and a colorwashed tomato soup dining room. It actually looks pretty fantastic...making me wonder (again) if I misheard my calling. Painter, writer, painter, writer?

Patrick came home from San Diego yesterday afternoon. I forgot my cell phone and didn't realize it until I was already hurling along 95 toward Baltimore. I figured I would just call him from a pay phone at the airport and tell him where to meet us. No such luck. Verizon payphones will only allow you to call a cell number with a non-Visa credit card. You can't use coins. JUST Mastercard. So, I parked by the first baggage carousel, figuring he'd find us. I even managed to borrow someone's cell phone and leave a message for him. The moniter said the flight was landing, so we waited. I told Kicky she'd have to hold it because I didn't want him to miss us. Well, that was bright. By the time Patrick called back on the borrowed cell phone to let me know his flight had gotten in 40 minutes early and he was about ready to catch a shuttle because he couldn't find us anywhere, Kicky had started to pee all over the floor. Gallons. Smack dab in the middle of the Baggage Claim. Fortunately, I had three remarkably absorbent diapers with me which I used to sop up the mess. I used the Zip-lock bag I had put a snack of carrots in to hold her panties and the diapers. I could have wept. By the time Patrick found us, the evidence was gone, and he was ready to explode. Lesson: don't ever leave your cell phone at home. But above that, if your three and a half year old says she needs to pee, chances are, she needs to pee. And lastly, have no sympathy for people who've just been basking at the beach for five days while you've been home with two kids and a massive remodeling project when their flight comes in EARLY (for Christ's sake, when has that ever happened?).

Oh yeah...the cocoon hatched. Out came one ugly brown Gypsy Moth. We set her free yesterday. Kicky mourned her freedom with a good long cry.

Today I started reading my manuscript from start to finish. So far, the beginning is a big fat mess.