Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Out of Here

So, nearly two years after we "finished" our mom lit novel (we're calling it mom lit now; my agent friend Mike said chick lit has been dead for years) we are nearing the end a major round of rewrites based on some great advice from an editor at Hachette. And who knows, maybe two years from now we'll be finishing up another round of changes. These things take time, even light, entertaining fare like what used to pass for chick lit (no shopping in it, though, except for a brief trip to Whole Foods). 

This mom friend, co-writer of the novel, has a blog called Potatoes in the Mist. I went over there just now as part of my usual procrastination routine and found this haiku she wrote: 

I hate winter so
Snow, cold, frost, rain, and shivers
They dampen your soul

That reminded me of a haiku I wrote several winters years ago when I sent Alex out with a shopping list that left too much open to interpretation. One of the items on the list simply said "fruit". Before I knew that he had never heard of crudités and didn't know about different seasons for different kinds of produce, I thought he would know to get like bananas, oranges, apples, maybe pears. Instead he came back instead with rock-hard juiceless peaches. A huge bag of them. 

Peaches in winter,
Not very tasty. Warning:
Men should not buy fruit. 

Maybe instead of novels for the time-being I should stick with something doable, like haikus. Dream big novel dreams but stick with modest syllable counts-- 5-7-5. Meanwhile I do like winter. I love hibernating -- making tea, baking cookies, reading books, writing letters, and listening to the radio. (Although you learn right away once you have kids that you can't actually read with kids in the house. You can read to them, or let them read to you eventually. But you can't read Peter Carey's The Chemistry of Tears or anything else you have piled up in a ridiculous 5-year backlog to read. We have tried to get this thing SQUIRT off the ground, and idea from a Simple Living book - Super Quiet Uninterrupted Reading Time. We can do the last two but never the first three.) I love being outside in the cold, too. Snow, of course, but also the fierce gray freezing days. It's another thing that's hard with kids because you have to walk so much more slowly with them in tow. That makes the cold harder to bear. 

But I don't have to bear it now, I'm inside where it's cozy. We don't even need the heat, just our fleeces. Tea or hot chocolate. A rock-hard nectarine. The willingness to stay small, because if I'm not willing, I won't get anything done at all. I have to be willing to pick up the entire house and know I'll do it again tomorrow. To write one little piece of one scene and accept that the whole thing may get thrown out. To write one letter to Aunt Helen and not even have the energy to address it. I'll put a stamp on the envelope in the morning. Very small, but something.

And yet in the small details there is so much. Just in a word, or even tone of voice. I was re-reading my first entry to this blog recently and noticed a typo. I was describing the first two days of Wally's life and wrote that they were "the two of the best days" of mine. Which word was the mistake? The extra "the" or the word "of"? Two of the best days? That's what I think I must have meant. Or was a delusional, hallucinating, love-soaked, pain-wracked, feverish enough to say the two best

Something else, so very tiny. When someone says something and you don't hear them the "What?" you use to respond is subtly different from the "What?" you'd use if you did hear and you're just prompting for the next part of what they're going to say. Like if someone said, "Want to know what happens to Brody on the last episode of Homeland?" and you say "What?" meaning, yeah, I do want to know, what happens? Your voice is mainly flat but tilts slightly down. But if you didn't hear the question, you'd say "What?" with your voice going up, as is typical for a question. If the acoustics were bad or if there was a lot of background noise the second "What?" could be mistaken for the first, with catastrophic results if you hadn't yet seen the season finale of Homeland

Here is another. A friend who's brother is trans (was a girl as a child) was describing how her brother used to annoy her all the time when they were kids. She used to complain about him to her mom. "I would shout," she started to say, "Get..." but here she tripped up and couldn't get the pronoun in there. She was okay calling her once sister her brother. She had even adjusted to calling the historical person a boy and using the pronoun "him" when describing him, even thought she had known him as a girl. But to rewrite her own experience so much that she would change her own ancient words in the retelling, that was too much. To her mother decades earlier she had shouted, "Get her out of here". Get "her". The her that is gone. That's what she'd said then. Memory speaks. 

I've been thinking about these tiny things, a pronoun, a word here or there, a voice that's slightly raised or slightly turned down. I hang on this stuff, which is why I have to write. But in fiction, you don't write about it, you just let it seep into the scenes. 

The news is on behind me. I'll turn to it soon. Away from the virtual page, into the world, and soon to sleep. Another arctic front tomorrow. Light snow possible on Saturday. It's 10 degrees now in Point Pleasant, wherever that is. 




4 comments:

  1. ah..you have two of the best reasons to stay small...for now...and who knows...who is measuring what you do?

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  2. Thank you Jeanette. Wise words and very helpful.

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  3. Love the peach haiku - haha :) I think Point Pleasant is on the Jersey Shore.

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  4. Love the peach haiku - haha :) I think point pleasant is on the jersey shore.

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