Give it Time

Big news, readers. I’m excited (but also a little apprehensive) to report that this week I wrote the last few scenes of my novel this week. It doesn’t mean I’m done — in fact, far from it. I can already think of a few scenes that I know are missing, and there are several places where I’ve simply written MORE HERE to remind myself that more is needed.

But still, there’s something momentous about putting that final image, the one you’ve been barreling and sometimes crawling toward, for more than a year. When I wrote the last lines, I sat back and waited for something enormous to happen — for it to feel like all the pieces had now magically shifted into place and now the piece was perfect. Of course, my first feeling was one of disappointment — when I thought about the piece, I realized all the old weaknesses and failings of my writing had crept in. There remained much too much wrong with it.

After I got over that initial realization, my impulse was to leap right back into the fray, to start picking and prodding and teasing and pulling. I wanted to start right away, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to GIVE IT TIME. If you’re finishing a long project, you’ve been walking through the forest for a long time. It’s like being underwater, or sitting in a darkened movie theater. You’ve lost all sense of perspective; you’ve fallen under the spell of your own writing, and you’re no longer able to judge what works and what doesn’t.

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Accepted in Open to Interpretation

Good news — a very short piece of mine has been accepted in Open to Interpretation‘s latest collaborative photo and writing book, Intimate Landscape. This innovative project chooses provocative photographs and accepts writing submissions that interpret or create a story from the photos. When I saw one photo in particular, of a dark forest of trees seemingly lit by car headlights, I knew it would fit well with a little excerpt from my novel. So if you’re interested in seeing a small chunk of the novel, head on over to Open two Interpretation’s site and consider ordering the book, which is sure to be beautiful.

We All Need a Kick in the Pants Sometime

This past month, I’ve been taking my novel Very Seriously. It’s been long enough of playing around with one page or another, or writing two pages a week; so I’ve stepped up the pace and I’m very proud of my progress. I’ve just about finished the drafts of two brand-new chapters, and significantly revised two others. That pushes me over the halfway mark, well into about 175 pages and the thirteenth (or fourteenth) chapter out of about twenty. Exciting!

What really got me going recently, though, was being able to see one of my former teachers. She came to town for a reading of her new novel and we got a chance to say hello, and she encouraged me to keep going on my own work. It made me feel just a bit accountable to someone for the first time in ages, and it was just the kick in the pants that I needed. So my suggestion to all of you is to find what person in your life is your kicker-in-the-pants, so to speak. Who are you accountable to? Who keeps you honest, and won’t put up with your B.S.? Who are you waiting to show your finished product to, and push the manuscript breathlessly into his or her arms?

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New Look for the Profile

I’m a little tired of the old profile page, which was a little buggy, so I’m happy to unveil a new design for the site today. Let me know if you like it and whether you have suggestions for changes. I’m also proud to be featuring my little pen-and-ink drawing of a typewriter. That’s about the limit of my drawing ability!

More updates about the novel and its progress will be forthcoming as I kick it into high gear with the arrival of Spring. I’m glad not to be waking up in the cold anymore, and it’s given me a new energy for my work. I’m nearing a pivotal point in the story, a crucial halfway marker, and I’m dreading writing the scene I’ve been picturing for months. But the sooner it gets on the page, the sooner I can think of it as real.

New Year, New Writing Goals

Happy New Year!  I’ve allowed my writing to slip by the wayside a little during the holiday season, but now that the holidays are behind me I’ve been tearing up the old word processor lately, writing about two pages a day.  Some of that writing is typing up what I’ve written by hand, but at the very least I’m editing and refining it as I go, and usually adding whole paragraphs or pages.  I’m beginning to come up against some limitations, though, and that’s my lack of knowledge about my topic.  That’s why one of my big writing goals for the coming month is to research.  I’ve gotten some excellent books about Buddhism and I’m planning to go over them with a fine-tooth comb, as well as re-read some of my favorite college books on Buddhism.

 

What are my other writing goals?  To get back to my routine or either writing, editing, or taking notes every single day.  I’m back to feeling excited about the novel’s potential and to getting lost in thought about it over breakfast or while doing other things.  Luckily, I’m a college instructor, so I have most of January off.  Hurrah for the academic calendar!

 

A reading I gave of an early chapter of the novel at the excellent KGB bar in New York got a mention from Electric Literature’s blog!  Check it out and stay tuned for more news as the novel develops.

The Novel Continues

I’m hard at work at the novel, having crossed roughly the 120-page mark this past week, and I hope to complete it in this next year (by next summer, if all goes well).  The novel combines my own experiences of growing up in the suburbs of Boston with a more spiritual quest; my main character is a convert to Zen Buddhism, and must struggle with the emotional fallout of that decision as well as her family’s surprise and disappointment.

 

I’m very grateful to have received an emerging writers’ fellowship from The Writer’s Room of Boston, which has given me a year’s membership in this terrific organization, allowing me to have a place to escape and focus entirely on my writing.  I try to go there at least once or twice a week and pound out some pages.

Honorable Mention in Fiction Contest

I’m pleased to announce that a story I wrote last year, “Enjoy Our Fair City”, has been shortlisted as an honorable mention in one of New Millennium Writings’ Fiction contests. It’s nice to be recognized, and I’m especially happy for this story; I worked hard on this one, and it was a bit of a departure, with a theme and tone verging on magic realism.  For those who are interested, it’s about an old woman who arrives by bus in the wrong city — but can’t seem to figure out what city she’s in.