Sunday, November 22, 2009

News from the noveling world

NaNoWriMo is in full swing, which means I'm working on my November novel and there is so little time left over for things like eating, sleeping, thinking, seeing people . . . and blogging.

In fact there was a wonderful ten-day (twelve-day?) trip to California, with time with my family, a glorious all-family get-together and a celebration of my father's 80th birthday, and time with dear old friends in Berkeley, and time with much, much older friends even in southern California. I want to write about all of that but in the meantime I just wrote my sister an answer to a nice e-mail message and question, and I thought I wanted to share it with you as well.

She asked me: "Are you allowed (or do you feel comfortable) to tell me the rough theme of this year's novel? I don't think you ever told me last year's."

And much later, I wrote her back. So here is my news of my novels!

Hi sister, you are already going into school week mode now I'm sure, sorry I didn't write you back sooner [sis is a schoolteacher]. But I was desperately trying to catch up a little on my word count for my novel while at the same time keeping my editorial work going (I have still a bunch of stuff to do before we leave on Wednesday for Chicago to go to David and Claudia's).

You asked about the novel(s). I'm allowed to tell whatever I want! I tried to not talk about last year's while I was doing it because it felt easier to me then. I told Felix about it before and during, and at some point told Max, and much later told hubby. Not because it was so fabulous, I just felt vulnerable and fragile.

Long story short it was about a mother and daughter and mother-in-law who together run a matchmaking agency, and they live in the studio building out behind my friends L & K's house in Berkeley (I asked L's permission to set it there), and the mother also has two little boys like 1 and 3 who are tandem nursing (the daughter is about 12), and the 12-year-old and the little boys have different fathers, both of whom are AWOL in different ways, and the mother-in-law is the long-lost mother of the only temporarily missing father of the little boys, and at some point the whole family, including also the 11-year-old boy who lives down the street from them and is the 12-year-old girl's buddy, fly to Berlin to find a wife for one of the matchmaking clients, and they find her on the top of a double-decker bus where she is singing in German a lullaby to her little girl, and the client (who if I remember correctly was originally from South America) had some childhood connection of his own to that particular lullaby, and so how could they resist, and the connection is made and the singer (conveniently enough a single mother) and the client are connected up and all is good. Also the 3-year-old belatedly starts speaking and the 11-year-old gets the cast off his leg. But the novelist's guilt at creating a straight-people-only agency in her lesbian friends' house while California was undoing gay marriage never got fixed, and the AWOL father of the little boys never got discovered, and various other things were imperfect.

And on a whole other level of course the book was about many other things, it was about the 12-year-old not wanting to be alone, and about tandem nursing, and about connections and love and marriage, and about my sentences.

This year my book is about me feeling more confident about my writing, and it's still about my sentences but it's also about me having some sense of being able to write dialogue, and a little more mastery of how to make plot move forward, and a lot more flexibility and looseness in sitting down to write. It feels more fun and less strained and cramped and forced, so I hope it might read that way too.

On the level of plot it is about three different women who live/are in Bloomington (I say it that way because one is plopped down here for a month while the others have lived here long-term). One is 25 and one is 55-ish and one is about 40, and the 40-year-old one is a little bit modeled physically on GE, with whom I am corresponding on Facebook [GE: you know who you are!], and the 25-year-old is physically modeled on Michal Rose, and all of them are in some way me but not me also, and the 25-year-old has three older brothers who live at her father's house and 4 younger brothers who live at her mother's, and the 40-year-old has 2 young children who are sometimes sons and sometimes daughters in my mind, I'd better decide.

And the plot is emerging as I write it but the structure of the book is based on two things, the poetic form of the ghazal, which is in some ways unrelated couplets having to do with love and the desert, where the last line of each couplet has repeating and rhyming parts, and I spent some time thinking about how to translate that poetic form into prose, and I don't think I succeeded perfectly, I can imagine doing it better and differently maybe in the future, but it was an interesting exercise. The other structural piece is the braid, I set up a braid of these three women through the book.


End of letter to sister. It occurs to me I should have said that I think the novel this year is also about men and women: relationships between, differences between. Me being a person who has known and liked and connected with women for so many years, trying to think about men in a more rounded way. But it still, of course, comes back to women.

More blogging later I hope! Novel news in the numerical mode: I'm way behind because of my travels to California and my editorial responsibilities, but I'm catching up. As of today, I'm at 28,314 words (wrote more than 3,000 today) - I have to average a little over 2,700 words every day for the rest of the month to make it to 50,000. But I can do that!

Love to you all, and Lisa, thank you so much for your comment and thoughts last time, sorry I never wrote back!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why blog from the doldrums?

On this beautiful November day, with a sky that, when we were walking in the park before, was the deepest, most saturated blue you could imagine, and making a background to a few trees that still had their yellow stories and stories of branches on . . .

On this beautiful November day, I did want to come back to the question of: why blog from the doldrums?

A faithful reader was asking, as a follow-up to my last post (what she said was, "So why do you want to blog from the depths of your frustration?"). And I thought: this is something I want to blog about!


Why blog from the doldrums?

First and foremost, I think, because at that moment when I am there, that is the only place I can possibly blog from, because that is the only place I am. And I do want to blog, I want to be writing and thinking and forming my thoughts into words and my words into thoughts, possibly even more the latter than the former, so if I allow the doldrums to silence me, they have defeated me even more than they were defeating me before.

And because I spend so much of my time trying to impose control on my world and my days and my eating and my writing and my happiness, and I write about that, and I am trying to be honest about that, then it seems as though to understand how that works, and how far it is possible (creating order and discipline and happiness and productivity all the time) then I need to look clearly at the flip side as well.

And because I am in some ways preaching to others (in my weight loss coaching, in my writing coaching, or in daily life and parenting [children, are you reading this?]), then there too, to be honest and true about what I say and think, I need to look at what the doldrums are like or the frustration or whatever we choose to call it: the times when I am not the person who gets up i the morning with bustle and energy and carries out her plans.

And because I have given up something in my weight loss efforts, particularly (given up a carefree happy way of socializing with others; given up a guiltfree way of creating happiness, however fleeting, at any given moment; given up a certain kind of rebellion against the prevailing norms of female appearance), but also just in my efforts to impose order on my life overall, for that reason too I feel as though I need to look clearly at what is going on in those times when I am drifting, and think about what is happening. (It is also a therapeutic thing: aside from the fact that blogging itself is therapeutic, there is the fact that the doldrums are self-replicating and the guilt and the blahs and the sense of non-self-worth just feed on each other, and if I could look at all of that critically in that moment then I think it would be likely I would be climbing out right there.)

And then, my dear faithful blog reader who asked me, there is the oh-so-human component. I don't want to be too much of a Pollyanna in my efforts at self-improvement, and I don't want to become a robot, and in fact it turns out some of my other readers had immediate aha! reactions to the few things I did say about the doldrums, so it's a way to swap stories and experiences and find out I am so not alone!

(And finally, in my attempts to be various kinds of a writer including possibly a novelist, I guess I need to be able to write about all sorts of human experience, and the doldrums qualify for that!)

Love to y'all
- the blog lady
(whose self-improving, productive version wrote 2,759 words of her November NaNoWriMo novel this morning - 47, 241 to go!)