Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I patted myself on the back yesterday, because, frankly, there was no one else to do it. When I write not to a deadline set by another, but to a self-imposed discipline that is its own reward, I am alone to raise the virtual glass and say, “done!”

I am referring to the first draft of my new novel for middle grades. Nothing is really “done” here, except that I have a story with beginning, middle and end. The ever-present doubts that threaten to creep in every single day while working on very first preliminary drafts (whether the shortest picture book texts, chapter books or novels) were kept at bay. I “brought it home.”
It’s a very good feeling.

For the next week I won’t even look at it, though I have already jotted down a few thoughts to consider when revising. In a week I will do an once-over revision. It is not ready for anyone else’s eyes yet, but it won’t be that long.

A first draft is also the time I don’t read any fiction. Just a habit I formed that works for me- I need to “clean out the voices,” if that makes sense. So I celebrated last night by starting to read a new book. The other narrative voices are not an issue for me when revising.

This is my way of communicating with you as to “where I am,” (how California.) and what I've been up to. I‘ll spend the morning having coffee with a longtime friend who has moved to the city. (Here this means San Francisco.) I have two other coffee dates this week with neglected friends. All this caffeine-, which I happen to think is perfectly fine BTW- and re-connection, makes me feel like I’m on vacation. Funny. The laundry is still there and I will have to get up at 6:00 AM everyday to drive DD. But my inner-world is different.

‘Nuff about me. Tell me about you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Writing Place

Waist-deep in first drafting mode now, I pause  just long enough to share this memory here.

I recall a dear friend’s question when I first told her I was writing. That was a few years ago, and until then I had not shared this with anyone. But I needed my mornings free and didn't want her to think I was spending them doing something illegal or, worse, avoiding her. So I came out and told her my mornings were for writing.

“Oh, wow,” she said. “Do you have a special retreat to do your writing?”
In the popular imagination, writers go on retreats. I know some real writers do. These are rich writers. Others are retired people who have romanticized about being writers, and can finally afford to live out this image. There are whole operations ready to offer these retreats, usually for a good $$$ fee.

There are paintings, and now movies, that re-enforce this^ accepted wisdom.

“Oh, I said. “ My desk in the basement.”
Because reality is a lot closer to this^.

I’m happy to report that I have since graduated to a small desk in the corner of my bedroom, gratis of DH making my computer wireless. But it is still not a Victorian dream.

Or is it? In my mind, the “space” I go to is, pretty much, well,-

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Yawn… Snooze… WAKE UP!

How do I know if what I’m writing is interesting?
I don’t.
But as I strive to offer a riveting-can’t-put-it-down story, I must use the best clues I have. This is at the pre-beta reader stage, when my work-in-progress is still between me and me.

Clue No. #1-
Not good. ^

If I’m yawning, the reader would probably also. No excuses. (Maybe the coffee I made was the decaffeinated kind… I did stay up too late… it’s gray and gloomy outside….) Just make sure, at the very least, that the first reader (you) is like-
---And that you are the fish in this scenario, not the feline.
{And for goodness sake, don’t have the first word of the chapter/post be yawn  and the second snooze. Oops.}

This pretty much describes my struggles today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

To the Perfectionists Out There…

Nope. I’m not one of you. Perfectionism is one of the afflictions I have not been burdened with.

 It’s evident not only from my occasional typos on this blog and my disrespect for conventional writing-rules, but from the blatant joy I seem to take in putting less than polished posts on chat boards without hiding my identity. I’m just happy to be there and to put myself out there. It’s FINE.

I had a friend years ago who made the most elegant ceramics. She would not allow the flawed ones to be displayed. By “flawed” I mean the tiniest imperfections you’d need a microscope to see.

Another old friend made exquisite textiles. Few of her pieces were ever completed. There was always something wrong with each. A stitch out of place the size of a microbe, and the piece was relegated to the shredded heap of dusting cloths.

I also have a relative who has been working on the same first half of her first book for thirteen years. By now the text is barely coherent from all the critical surgeries it had endured.

Now you understand why I see this not as a search for excellence, something I understand, admire and participate in. Perfectionism is a serious affliction.

There is a saying attributed to the Muslim mystic Ibn Arabi: “The universe’s imperfection is part of its perfection.” More than seven hundred years later Leonard Cohen said it this way: “…Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything- that’s how the light gets in.
^^^Celebrating the cracks and imperfections.^^^ Come dance with me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dastardly Distractions at the Door

Drat! Not another one…

Sitting down to write a first draft has become a ritual-filled routine. I begin with shutting down all the likely distractions. Cell phone- Off. Landline set on Do Not Disturb mode, and turned around so I won’t even see the orange light that tells of a message left. Silent headphones on so if anyone dares talk to me, I can point at then frantically- not now!

And then my ever-friendly mail-carrier honks his horn to let me know he’s got a package. How can I ignore Louis, who will climb up the gazillion rickety stairs to our house rather than leave a package by the garage as his predecessors used to?

Friendly Louis gone, I’m back to hunker-down mode. The words begin to flow again. I ignore my cat, the Honorable Stella Marbles, as she decides to meow at the door. Miss Marbles doesn’t give up. She gets louder and I begin to wonder why my family members call her The Quiet One. None of them let her in- too busy. She wins.

All settled again, when there’s a tap at the window. My neighbor is dropping her Thank-You Bundt cake for my watching her cats all last week. She didn’t want to leave it on the porch, you see, and well- no one was answering the door.

The real challenge, it seems, should be finding le mot juste. Instead it is a dance between keeping the words streaming in, and the door-knockers out.
I’m determined. So is the raven. Let me get in a day’s work- only this, and nothing more.