Thursday, May 07, 2009

work work scribble scribble

Only 31 pages that look like this, for this revision.

Reminder to self: PAPER copies and COLORED PENCIL. It helps. It's more fun to revise on paper than on the silly old necessary-blessed laptop.

Here's where I am-- turned in a complete rewrite of the Karen stories, two weeks ago, and these 51 pages of stories are the ones in search of a narrator. (If you have a narrator I can borrow, let me know.) For next Monday's deadline, I am revising On a Halcyon Day, 31 pages. After letting this story "rest" for nearly a year, I'm excited to dig into it once again, with a fresh ear. Then I need to revise a story about learning to cook from a theology book, and two other short pieces that make a total of 100 pages.

Sorry about the backwards-photo-- it's my laptop photo-booth and I am zipping along to more work now...

Monday, May 04, 2009

Early May, revising thesis while waiting for the rain

My printer is churning out 51 pages of my thesis, for me to carry and examine and color-code in the revision process—the stories of my year working with Karen, The Not-So-Blind. Next I will assess the other 49 pages of my thesis and see what needs to be done before the next due-date in a week. Then three weeks more of revision brings me to the June due-date and the end of my kids’ school schedule, and I’d better be done with my 100 page creative writing thesis by then.

After the thesis, I develop my “craft lecture” for a presentation in July, and finish up my reading. Five or six more books to read and annotate.

And afterwards I will find a house for us, find a job for me, change my family’s fortune, and read long and irrelevant novels that have NOTHING to do with nonfiction or memoir or magazines or how to write. That’s my dream for now: Dostoyevsky. More David James Duncan and Annie Dillard. I will help my kids make scrapbooks, tend the garden, and be amazing.

In this amazing life to come, post-graduation, I’m trying to figure out what my blog needs to be. I will likely craft some sort of website using my full name, with links to my current publications. It might be awhile before I “write casually” again: "writing seriously" requires more time and effort, and I like the results much more. But I miss the “whipping off a note” experience, and I see that people are faithfully dropping by to check in on me.

I’ve been posting more two-line blips on Facebook and one-line blips on Twitter, to keep from spending a whole morning writing a blog-post. I can’t really say what will happen after my graduation. Much depends on job-finding and freelance opportunity. And housing and kid-schedules.

Weigh in with your ideas, if you wish. My blog has been “my on-going letter to friends and family,” and I’ve written much less to you in the past few months, by necessity. Maybe you should write me a letter back? Or tell me what you miss? And I’ll take that into account as I decide what role my blog plays for me, as a writer.

Now: off to revise.

the revision game

Today’s task: Find the Narrator of Twelve Sections of Karen-Stories

What keeps this story from gelling into ONE story? Excuses:

1. The narrator is fuzzy because I was an innocent bystander and I was dumb, during the action of the story. (Not likely.)

2. Each section of this larger set of pieces has a different narrator, different tone, different tense for writing because I am Just That Many People. It is fragmented because I am fragmented. (Hmmm. Excuse. That's definitely an excuse that lets me off the hook of working at this project.)

3. There is no consistent narrator because I am such a wallflower that I simply disappear into the scenery. (Fun idea. But not reality.)

4. The narrator is all over the place in the 51 pages because I don’t yet know what I need to know. In Vivian Gornick’s terms, I’ve described and developed the situation: I worked with a magnificent and magnificently-broken woman for one year. But I don’t yet know the whole story: what happened, back there? What happened to me? What part of the story is ultimately mine?

Already I’ve learned while writing: she was more savage than she appeared, more self-serving and furious than I could’ve known at the time. This new knowledge doesn’t diminish how generous and warm Karen was, nor her strange ability to be both demanding and endearing, intensely, at the same time. I know the odd circumstances that brought us together, but what really drew us together? What did I need from her that she fulfilled so well?

The blind woman saw me, and took me seriously—I know that. I need to know more. Will I know more before this section of my thesis is due? Probably not. I’m just beginning to understand how long it takes for the writing process to work me over—it really is “the story” working on me, as I allow it. I turn the puzzle pieces over and over, for months, for a year, for more than a year. The story bothers me and nags at me and makes no sense whatsoever. Again.

What a beautiful hassle this is.