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Preview: my novel on toast

my novel on toast





Updated: 2014-10-04T19:46:44.329-04:00

 



new novel, new blog

2008-11-08T22:22:59.666-05:00

I started a new novel, and somehow this demanded that I start a new blog.
Check it out--here.



stories are short--

2008-06-10T12:16:30.188-04:00

but it takes a long time to write them. Not as long as a novel, oh no, but it's not proportionate to their size. Sometimes it's a matter of stopping, because you don't know where to go. I've had stories that stretched over years, because I couldn't figure out how to get beyond the 1st 3 pages. Sometimes you just keep slogging, doing a little bit and a little bit more, not seeing the end, or even how you're going to fit in the dead husband on the 2nd floor into the so-called plot.
That's where I am now, struggling with the dead husband (who is also nameless, and maybe that's his problem), and trying to figure out if I want this story to have two points of view or only one. Having multiple POVs is convenient--you can say things from more than one place, put in events that are invisible to the single POV. But convenience isn't all in a story--you can't just keep putting things in like discount appliances that you thought you might like, but now they're cluttering up the counters of your kitchen (I wanted that juicer, but it's so big!).
Anyway, today is a day of not much writing, since I have to go to campus and do various things, and also tonight is my writers group night (ironic: writers group = no writing). Which is why, in this scrap of time before I go and write reference letters and xerox things, I'm thinking about writing instead.



off to novel land

2008-05-29T10:40:44.419-04:00

I'm going to visit the home of my ghost novel--Logan, Ohio--not any longer for research. It's like visiting the homeplace of a long-gone relative--I'll walk around and say, yes, here Carl and Nancy got a sandwich while they discussed whether or not they'd perform an exorcism; and here, Jason ran down to the river while Sierra watched him fondly from the porch of the canoe livery; and so on.
Sorry, I'll say to the novel, I'd like to stay and chat, but I've got some business with a couple of stories--I'll give you a call some time.



summer writing

2008-05-29T10:28:14.269-04:00

Just as we used to have summer reading, either for school, or to win a modest prize from the public library, I've instituted summer writing. I've finished (for now at least) working on my novel (I'd like to think it's totally finished, but it's probably not). I have another novel I want to revise, but I don't want to work on that for a while. And I don't want to start a new novel (plus I don't have any novel-size ideas as yet).
So my summer writing is going to be stories. I spent a week on a writing retreat, and assigned myself to come up with a new story beginning every day (6 in all). And now I'm working on one that has the working title of "Yuma," since it's set there and I couldn't think of anything else. It has 6 characters so far--an old woman, the young woman who lives across the street from her, the girl's baby and the girl's husband, the old woman's dead husband, and a man down the street with whom the dead husband used to feud. How will it go? We'll see, as I used to tell my kids when they asked me questions I couldn't or didn't want to answer.



snowed in, sort of

2008-02-27T12:51:03.186-05:00

(image) And snow is good for revision, but today I don't need it, since I've finished this draft, which means that I can put Carl and Nancy and Isabel out of my head for a while.
It's not that I don't like them, but I've been prodding them with the cursor for a month, and they're a little sullen by now, wanting to know why they can't keep that perfectly good line of dialogue, or why I took the china swans out of Carl's booth at the antique mall.
I have my reasons! But of course all writers say this, don't they?



still revising

2008-02-25T12:53:11.107-05:00

I'm now on part 3, about 1/3 of the way through. So far I've cut abt 30 pp., which I would have said was impossible, but apparently not. It amazes me and shames me a little that I'm finding so much dead wood.
There are several kinds of cutting that I'm doing:
--finding a shorter (better) way to say something, just the most basic kind of cutting
--the parts where someone is getting into the car or opening a door or moving across the room, and the movement itself isn't necessary or significant
--bits where I was interested in something, but it didn't really do anything for the book; hence I've cut back judiciously on Carl's raptures about Ohio history. I did a fair amount of research, and my subconscious writer must have felt it should not go to waste.
--little tangents that I took in the first draft; these narrative tangents sometimes led me to great stuff--the discovery of Lily's next door neighbor Emma, who aims a shotgun at Carl, but then goes with him to find Lily, for instance. But others were dead ends.
--when I repeat myself, which happens especially in dialogue, I've noticed, which is probably because real speakers are often repetitive, saying the same thing in different ways, even with totally different words, but the underlying message is still the same.
This is the 5th draft, I believe, and I'm feeling humbled by how much I found to do.



snow is good for revision

2008-01-20T14:27:53.491-05:00

I set myself to cut 10% from the first section of my novel (on my 2nd reader's advice {thanks Isaurine}), and I managed to cut 9.85878%, which is as close as a clamshell,* so I'm feeling pleased.
The other part of the planned revision is harder, i.e., to make Carl a little more substantial, get him to stop hiding out between the lines.
I ought to thank the snow and the cold, because they made it easier to stay in front of the computer. Every time I looked out the window and saw the giant icicle hanging from my across-the-street neighbor's porch, I'd shiver, and turn back to get some heat and friction going with the keyboard.
My plan for Carl is to give him a failed relationship--a loss in love is always good copy. And maybe something else, something minor, like a passion for trains or a history of thumbsucking (hey, some very brilliant people used to suck their thumbs--not saying who).
*I've decided to start making up my own future cliche similes.



4 Comments

2008-01-15T13:02:38.704-05:00

(image) Outside, it's snowing in a lazy way, and inside my mind is lagging and drifting along with the snow. I've been brainstorming new projects, and nothing is catching me, or catching my interest. My interest is lying somnolent on the bottom of the River of Consciousness, not interested in taking the bait. Or it's hiding in the Jungle of Consciousness, camoflaged by light/shade patterns.
I have time off in which to write write write, and as always at the beginning of that time, I'm floundering. Usually it takes a couple of weeks before I can pull up my socks and start to be productive. If I was smart, I'd build this into my plans:
1/5-1/10: flounder and whine
1/11-1/15: mope and read a mystery you've already read twice
1/16-1/20: decide to redo the dining room and learn how to make strudel
1/21: pull up socks and begin on new novel/novella/story
I've already read the twice-read mystery, so maybe I'm ready to get out the Austrian cookbooks.
Postcript to Nanowrimo: I didn't get anywhere near 50,000 words, but I did come out of it with about 20 pp of a possible novella, sort of alternate-future-ish.



nano-writing

2007-11-01T20:03:53.150-04:00

I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I might not make it to 50,000, but I like the idea of writing along with all the thousands of others who are going to be trying, too. I've already written 1200 words! only 48,800 to go.
The thing I'll be writing is not any of the things I've been working on: something different, a writing vacation.
If you don't know about National Novel Writing Month, click here. It's not too late to sign up.



a fever of words

2007-10-27T19:37:23.644-04:00

Do you write when you're sick?
I find it depends on what kind of disease I have. Writing is perfectly possible with a low nausea or a pain in the knee, but anything that involves the head is right out for me. Whatever is wrong with my head--sinus troubles, aches of the ear or head or teeth, dizziness--fills up all the space in my brain and nothing much can go on up there besides.
Writing when there's something else going on inside your head is asking for trouble. If you manage to squeeze out anything at all, the words will be crabbed and misshapen, the sentences warped, which will make you imagine the inside of your head, the lumps and misshapes of your brain, which even when everything is fine is a squeamish-looking object. Who wants to know how the bones of the inner ear are misaligned when you've had a bout of vertigo? A game of pick-up sticks that no one has bothered to pick up.
All of which is to say that I have a bad cold, with a kind of sinusy feeling of my head being swollen 50% beyond its happy norm, and some disquiet in my ears, and so I am not writing today.
I had my hair done instead, and listened to the phone conversation of the woman who was sitting near me while our various dyes and streaks were being timed. She got 3 calls on her cell, which she stacked up with call waiting, and she told each of them the same thing: "I am so pissed off," which was because she had had $600 stolen "plus other things" which she perhaps didn't want to mention in front of a staid-looking middle-aged woman having her roots dyed golden-brown (me), but which which this woman (me) thought might be drugs.



russian: nyet

2007-10-26T17:02:34.830-04:00

Three and a half months is a long blog vacation, and I regret to say that I didn't spend it learning Russian or waterskiing or crocheting. (Confession: although I'd love to learn Russian, the very idea of crocheting makes my fingers tangle up; and it's way too late for water sports unless they involve a blow-up raft).
But I have a new novel project, while I'm waiting to see what happens with the ghost novel, which is actually an old novel that I mean to revise. So here I am again, trying to think about how a book works, and getting intimate with reluctant characters. I dropped this novel several years ago, because I couldn't solve two problems: 1) what to do about a character who didn't have enough substance, and whose backstory I could never settle on; 2) whether or not to keep in the subplot about finding a cave with archaeological finds in it, and what to replace it if I didn't keep it, or if it should be replaced at all.
Oh, and I guess there were 3 problems, because I didn't know how to end it, even though I wrote my way right up to the end, or where the end was supposed to be 3 times--3 unsatisfactory, annoying, not-in-any-way-good endings.
But I had a feeling that I could tackle it more effectively now, so I pulled it out and we're having another go-round.
In honor of starting another novel revision, I'm taking up the 5 writing strengths meme that Jadepark tagged me for (here is her own post on that) weeks ago.
1. I'm good at dialogue. I like writing it, and I've got a pretty good ear. I'm not bad at making speech sound like the character who's saying it. There's a small flaw inherent in this strength though, because I often write whole scenes where people do nothing but talk, because I like it and because it's so easy.
2. I can do a very good 1st person voice. I like getting into someone else's head and speaking from behind his or her face--it's a form of writer escapism, I guess. I especially like to write 1st person characters who are feisty and maybe a little difficult, which is a way of getting out of my nice-girl role (Catholic school alumni: unite).
3. I can write funny, although I can't do humor, by which I mean that I can be funny if it's the coming-from-the-side, unexpected kind of funny, but not on-purpose funny. Sometimes though I've written something which I think is quite funny and other people think it's depressing (e.g., my 1st novel).
4. I'm good at coming up with what's-next, although only if I'm actually writing. It doesn't work if I'm thinking about writing, only if I'm fingertips-to-the-keyboard, plowing through a chapter. But it's so much better anyway to be writing than thinking abt writing or planning to write, right?
5. I have never given up.

If anyone's interested and hasn't done this yet, I tag Plan B, Madame X, The Cleveland Brawler, Book of Marvels, and the Alternate Side Parker.



the novel as cannibal

2007-07-08T12:06:07.298-04:00

From a review of a book on Bakhtin:
...the novel, that mongrelised genre which--unlike epic, pastoral or tragedy--is entirely without rules, and which in Bakhtin's eyes is less a definable form than a deconstructive force. The novel lives purely in its dialogic modes, cannibalising and parodying them. It is a maverick anti-genre, deviantand non-canonical, a secular scripture which shows up all discourse as partial and provisional.
I once audited a course in the theory of the novel--Bakhtin was on the reading list, and I don't remember anything as interesting as this. Obviously, I needed Terry Eagleton (the reviewer) to explain it to me.
In the excavation of my office, I have reached the layer wherein my unfinished novel (the one I abandoned to write the ghost novel) lies, dismembered, its skeleton flattened by the weight of years and notebooks. Shall I brush the accumulated dust away and retrieve it from its burial place? Maybe.



visiting the past

2007-07-06T10:52:24.775-04:00

I've been living all day long in 1979 and 1982 and 1984--reading my journals and notebooks. Not what you're supposed to be doing when you clean, but I couldn't help but stop to read how I felt in 1977 when I was leaving my 1st marriage, or a list of things to do in 1983. Make pumpkin bread, take raincoat to cleaners, call mother, type plot summary. I had a raincoat then? My mother was alive. I used a typewriter! It's like visiting a foreign country where I used to live, the past as exotic to me as Brazil, a place where I was younger and more interested in shaving my legs (it shows up on many lists).
Here is what I wrote (somewhat later) about my writing classes:
The 1st creative writing class I took--Alberta with her birdlike turning of the head, her twittering, her steely, glinting eye. I wouldn't read my story to the class, so she did. She read it, and I felt stunned, and horrified to hear my words in her mouth.
I remember sitting in class, listening and waiting to say something clever, judging the teacher, my sometimes arrogance. I remember the university as a series of caves--cave-rooms where I studied, flirted, read, talked; and paths--English dept. to the library, library to the Cage, cafeteria to the pool, pool to bookstore. The campus a miniature world, a diorama set in the larger world of the city, places marked by my vision of myself, my long legs in tight jeans coming toward me in the dark glass of Rhodes Tower.



notes and plans

2007-07-04T12:58:49.822-04:00

(image) Still in the office, still surrounded by paper, although some of it has been thrown away (so far, one large garbage bag, plus one Bed Bath and Beyond bag, and one Target bag); and some has been confined to folders. Quite a lot is still sitting around in piles though, with cryptic post-it notes so I'll keep them straight.
All this sounds onerous, perhaps, but I find that I'm having fun. I've come across all sorts of things: old letters; a Christmas card hand written and drawn in pencil by my younger daughter (then abt 7, I think); some ancient poems of my sister's; a sheaf of song lyrics written by my 2nd husband; a list of the people who were in my 1st writing group; and so on. The most fun thing I've done is to weigh the materials, drafts, folders, sources, etc., for the novel I just finished--it comes out to 26 pounds on my admittedly faulty bathroom scale. The current part of this project: entering in all the stray idea notes I've found, on torn-out pages, subscription blanks, post-its, backs of envelopes, etc. Thanks to a helpful commenter on Jadepark's brilliant blog, I've discovered Google Notebooks, where my deathless ideas will be available from any computer and preserved for eternity or as long as Google lasts, whichever comes first.
Random list of notes I found:
--title: "The School for Disembodied Stories"
--the writing group list: MB, MJ, Erieblue, Peggy, Jackie, Joe, Cory, Lisa, Michael (and Ronnie), Paige, Dale. A sunny hi to you all, wherever you are!
--a dream about climbing a rock face scored like corduroy
--a character who makes a living writing (and making up) books of prophecies
--sleeping in a room with birds in cages
--the boy who fell off the bus in Yuma
Now surely I can do something with that...



notebooks

2007-06-29T16:18:27.618-04:00

(image) I like legal pads. I have a habit of starting a list or a string of thoughts or a brainstorming on a legal pad, and using up 1-5 pp. of it, and then putting it aside. Because the next time I want to make a list (the Big List of Everything I Have to Do, for instance) I want a new surface. I don't like rolling the pages back to get at a new one. Hence, the pile of legal pads above, each of which had a few pages used, but which are now fresh (more or less) and ready to be used again.
All this makes me feel as if I'm getting organized, but it may be part of a vast illusion that I succumb to time and again.
Meanwhile, I have revised a story and sent it out--"Bring Sheaves of Corn and Poppies," which is a pretty pretentious title, but I was stuck. I sent it to the Missouri Review, which accepts online submissions. They charge you a fee ($3, I think) but it's well worth it, if you consider postage and the general annoyance of dealing with printing a copy and postage and going to the post office where Len the guy behind the counter looks at you knowingly (why doesn't this woman give up already?).



archaeology at home

2007-06-25T12:34:41.057-04:00

(image)
I'm still at it, although the only actual cleaning done was my kleenex dusting as I moved the piles. I've been sifting down through the layers, and according to the sophisticated dating methods I'm using I can put the beginning of the Look at Later Pile at 10/3/2005 or thereabouts, using the note attached to the notebook I left at CVS as a guide.This was thoughtfully mailed back to me by the conscientious clerk, and it was on the pile because I was going to write her a note to thank her, but I left it go so long that I just did it when I went in to get a Snickers bar several weeks later.
The notebook was almost empty--it had a number of coupons stuffed into it (for Chico's, Origins, etc.), a ruler thanking me for giving money to the Knights of Columbus, a student schedule for Fall 05, and a handy list of produce highest and lowest in pesticide residue (pineapples good, peaches not). The only thing written inside was a cryptic note: "Leo Burdette's farm"--don't know Leo, or why I wanted to remember his farm.
I have two stacks of books: the Pile of Books I Want to Re-read
(image)
and the Pile of Books That Have Been Thoroughly Read and Need to be Put Away
(image)
But it's been so long since I read these last that I might read some of them again--you can't read To the Lighthouse too many times--and it's such a summer kind of book.



cleaning up

2007-06-24T22:39:12.099-04:00

(image) All the long time I've been writing and revising my novel I haven't cleaned my desk, or the long table (formerly my mother's dining room table). I cleaned the office a bit, because my office is also a guest bedroom, but on the desk and the table I only pushed the piles of stuff farther away from the edge so they wouldn't be a temptation to Z and C when they're visiting.
But now I'm more or less finished, for now at least (note all those qualifiers!), so I'm cleaning. Some discoveries are good--a book I'd been looking for midway down the Pile of Things I Should Do But Not Right Now; some bad--in the Pile of Things I Should Look at Some Time or Other, I found a bill I hadn't paid.
I also found
-- a recipe for melon soup
--3 NY Times Book Reviews (old, older, and ancient)
--some copies of a story with comments from my writers group
--an envelope with a list that adjured me to clean up my email and decide something about the undergrad meeting
--reminder from my dentist
--one of my sister's poems, with the great title of "Sugar Off, Daddy"
--an envelope with the address of someone I intended to write to 6 months ago: sorry, Theresa
And I found a poem I'd clipped from the NYer by W.S. Merwin, called "To the Book":
Go on then
in your own time
this is far as I will take you
A kind of farewell and elegy for a book which has been written, but not finished:
of course you are not finished
how can you be finished
Merwin asks. Which was a good thing to find just now, after all this long time, although I don't know the answer.





done/undone

2007-06-05T11:32:53.763-04:00

Amazingly, I've managed to cut more than 40,000 words. Who knew I was so good at hacking and burning? I give credit to the lifelong tutelage of S, my 1st and best critic: please take a bow.
Now onto last part, which has 2 components:
--fixing the fixy-up things, listed on legal pad; also should check old revising notes to see if I’ve missed anything.
--writing the new ghost sections; which includes deciding how many more and who they should be; also moving the one I took out of LT’s chapter.
Here’s the list:
Done:
--cut some more: tighten it up until it’s squeaky (it squeaks like a rusty gate; although somehow that is not a pleasing simile in connection with the work of one's heart)
--renumber chapters
--did I cut the Rose Lake chapter??? (no)
--backlight some of the stuff that shows up later (Isabel's money-making plans, eg)
--clean up little stuff

--do I need to cut some minor characters? (no; the only characters I cut was one of the 2 dogs)
Undone:
---put in some more ghost voices
--new names for some chapters
--print it out and send to V
--ditto to S
--send to my agent



cut from the novel, redux

2007-05-30T15:08:36.035-04:00

(image)
6 more chapters done. I’ve cut 150 pp (total). Which is good. My shoulders hurt. Apparently my brain can only produce short sentences.
Here's something I cut. But I might put it back elsewhere:

What they would say
The air is thicker than water isn’t that a saying? Air is thicker than water and that’s how we know something. That’s how we do something. When we had hands. The air falls down the steps like water smelling of breath and words. We wanted to leave but the air is always too thick, we wanted to. Now we go from one room to the next with never a way to settle down and do anything. If we stand at the open spaces, the boxes of light, what’s the name of those, you can see that the air is thinner out there. We used to go out there. If someone would call. If someone would put out a hand. The light from that place out there is bright and sometimes a movement sweeps through it. What was that called? It moves the trees, yes the trees. Did we love the trees? did we cut them down? If someone would call. If we had a name.



cut from the novel

2007-05-26T12:48:51.302-04:00

Cut from Chapter 5:
The thing about a cemetery was that it was eventless, Carl thought. You could put flowers down or plant an ornamental bush, but this was only a change in the landscape. He’d spent some time in cemeteries, even before he became interested in the afterlife, because of their importance to a historian, and he’d noticed the tendency of some families, to want to furnish the gravesite as if it were truly a house, or at least a room. Flowers, stuffed animals, photos, flags.
Once in a cemetery in Columbus he’d come across a woman sleeping on a man’s grave, her arm draped around the flat-to-the-ground headstone. Her husband’s or her lover’s. The grave was not too old, for the sod lines still showed in the grass. The woman’s eyelids flickered, and she breathed slowly and regularly. At the time, it had seemed to him extreme, and pitiful. He’d backed away, afraid that she’d awake and he’d have to face her bizarre grief.
Some of the old graves in the Logan Cemetery, behind the Logan High School, were like tiny stone houses, family enclosures. The doors of these were always locked, of course, and so he’d never seen inside. But who knew what might be in there—an armchair, a barbecue grill, a photo album, a set of Dickens.
A classic case of Carl thinking too much.



doing the numbers

2007-05-23T14:53:11.279-04:00

Revision log entry:
5/23/07
went through 2nd chapter—cut out 1024 words (yay!)
Total now: 30,878; 123 pp. Plus took off 6 TNR pp. (total 11 TNR)
Edited 63 pp. Total pp 117;
All of which means that I now have

702 (original pp)
-123 (total cut so far)
579
-11 (TNR pp)
568

Anal? Yes; but it works for me.



re-re-revision

2007-05-21T12:14:57.924-04:00

(image)
My metaphorical pencils are sharpened. The toast is crisp, the novel slightly underdone. Time for the 3rd revision, which I hope will be the last, but then maybe you always hope a revision will be the last.

The vision I had of the novel, years ago now, has come down to this piece of worked stone, this crisped and nibbled pile of pages. The question is always--does it come close? how close can it come?

You get tired of it, you feel fond of it, you hate it, you fall in love with it again: blah blah blah.



short story countdown

2007-05-10T19:46:33.525-04:00

I just found out that May is short story month: who knew? And like some others, I'm moved to list, in no particular order, my favorite short stories of all time (with the understanding that "of all time" is a flexible term, and that the list may in future change according to a wild new enthusiasm, or if I take a violent and inexplicable dislike to any of these, although I probably won't)."The Death of Ivan Ilyich," Tolstoy. I'm always trying to talk people into reading and loving this story, which truth be told is hardly a story, more of a novella. But whatever it is, it's brilliant. Ivan dies, and then lives in back story, and then dies again in slightly slow motion--simple, yes, but it's Tolstoy who's telling this, and he is the master of rendering daily life in high relief, and also of making you see that even characters you thought were contemptible have something else to them, and further that in some ways you are just like they are, with the contemptible and the glorious generously and chaotically mixed. If you don't believe me, read it--I'd love to argue about it.Quote: "Having told his wife at dinner-time of Ivan Ilych's death, and of his conjecture that it might be possible to get her brother transferred to their circuit, Peter Ivanovich sacrificed his usual nap, put on his evening clothes and drove to Ivan Ilych's house. At the entrance stood a carriage and two cabs. Leaning against the wall in the hall downstairs near the cloakstand was a coffin-lid covered with cloth of gold, ornamented with gold cord and tassels, that had been polished up with metal powder. Two ladies in black were taking off their fur cloaks.""A Good Man is Hard to Find," Flannery O'Connor. No matter how many times I read this, it hits me with the same well-aimed jab. Unpleasant family goes on a road trip and meet the Misfit, a brutal criminal, with not entirely unforseen results. O'Connor is so unsentimentally sharp you wonder how she lived with herself, but at the same time the characters are shown in detail that is so well observed that it's almost loving. Also it's funny. And has one of the best endings ever.Quote: "'Now look here, Bailey,' she said, 'see here, read this,' and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. 'Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn't take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it.'" "The New Atlantis," Ursula K. Le Guin. (I'm pretty sure this is the title.) This is a surreal story, part of which takes place in a tired somewhat future world, where resources are scarce, and people aren't allowed to marry or do anything so useless as play music or make art. The other part is a poetic evocation of the awakening of a longdead land that might be Atlantis--the 2 parts of the story comment on each other, layering and overlapping. A haunting story. (Couldn't find a quote for this on-line, and my copy is not to be found.)"A Wilderness Station," and "Meneseteung,"Alice Munro. I could have chosen a dozen other Munro stories, because I love her work inordinately, but these 2 go together nicely, because both use "documentary" material to write stories that are alternate histories. "Meneseteung," a fictional bio of an obscure (fictional) 19th century poetess and spinster, collages it up with newspaper articles, poetry[...]



over but not yet

2007-05-01T12:07:52.501-04:00

School is over in the sense that classes are done, but also not over because there is the grading to get through, and last stray appointments, and paperwork (which is always noxious). I've set a date for going back into the novel one more time (one last time, I hope)--in about 10 days. Going back in, which makes it sound like a country, or a jungle, or the sea floor, and it is like all of these: foreign, tangled, deep.But I'm looking forward to it.In the meantime, I'm taking up the gauntlet of Isaurine's post on little annoyances.My Top 10 Little Annoyances:1. Yellow highlighter in books. I used to be very purist about books and couldn't stand anything written in them at all, but now when I'm reading a book I am mostly charmed to see what someone else thought about a scene or a concept. And sometimes people write mysterious things in books, as if they are sending coded messages. Once I got a book out of the library, a mystery novel, and someone had written on one of the last pages: "you know Bill." Had Bill also killed someone with poison tea stewed from the leaves of rhubarb (as in the book)? Or what?But I still can't stand highlighter: too disfiguring, no interesting content; too neon-ish.2. Running out of chocolate. Maybe this isn't a little annoyance though? more catastrophic?3. Having to return phone messages. I don't know why, but I hate to have to call people back who have left messages on the answering machine. The smart thing to do would be to turn it off; or to always answer the phone (which I almost never do; I also hate answering the phone).4. Having to get dressed up in something other than a nice pair of pants and a top. Any occasion which requires more means that I will be trying on everything I own and leaving clothes strewn across 2 bedrooms while I try to find the right thing to wear to the English Awards banquet, for instance, or a cousin's 1st communion party.5. Students' papers which are enrobed in plastic covers: hate them. Too slippery, so you can't stack them; also hard to hold open while reading.6. The mail, because it is always so boring. This is because of email probably--I get a fair amount of interesting email. But my mail almost entirely consists of advertising flyers and offers from my credit card to pay off my other credit cards and (last week) the offer of an easy-pay plan to buy a spot in a mausoleum.7. Losing my place in a book and then having to read back and forth (so to speak) to find the spot I stopped. Using a bookmark would take care of this, but I also hate bookmarks.8. When my sister says she's going to call me back in 2 minutes, and then she doesn't.9. When my pen runs out of ink. How can this happen so often?10. Having to buy a new purse. I always put this off as long as possible because I like consistency in my accessories. The purse has to be large enough to put a book into it, and it has to have a shoulder strap, and a zippered pocket, and it has to be not ugly. This doesn't seem like much to ask, but it always takes me months to find a new purse. I could probably do a life of myself by what purse I was carrying at the time: the years of the giant leather backpack-like purse, the canvas sack era, the purchase of the Coach bag (signifying full-time employment), and so on. But I won't.How about you? what are your top ten?[...]



buswoman's holiday

2007-04-14T22:12:44.043-04:00

On hiatus from writing, what's a writer to do? Write, but something else.
Virginia Woolf liked always to have one or more projects going, something to take up when a novel got slow or difficult. In her honor, and more practically, because why not, I've been working on a story while I let the novel steep and stew.
Excerpt from a no-name story:
Janine unfolded one of the lawn chairs, extending the footrest, and sat on it, leaning back to look up into the night sky. She got out her cigarettes and lit one, the rasp of the match muted, the sound was sucked up into the air. She had claimed not to remembe the man's name, the man in the motel in Arkansas, but it was Geoffrey. And it was actually Oklahoma, a brand-new Days Inn where she stopped on her way to Kansas City. Geoffrey had been married, that was true, and she'd met him in the motel bar. But he wasn't, as she'd implied, a businessman. He'd been camping out by some tiny lake, and the wind, that house-lifting, wicked-witch killing Midwestern plains wind, had been so strong that his tent had started to move along the ground. Even with him and all his gear inside, he said, laughing, and it was going toward the lake.