The face of a dog

I’m tiptoeing into a new project. And because I haven’t added anything to the draft in two days, I’m experiencing that panicked sensation of “what if the words don’t come today?”

What if I fail? What if today’s the day I’m exposed as the imposter I am?

Well, those feelings are exactly why I must get to work in order to disrupt that fear and show it to the door. To quote (in translation) Gabriel García Márquez:

“Necessity has the face of a dog.”

I must do what needs to be done. But, don’t worry, Emma. I’m fairly confident neither of us will be harmed during the writing of those words.

Sunday Confessional: I, too, dislike the synopsis

I find myself without literary representation after nearly five years working with my former agent. We parted ways in August because her list has changed and she no longer feels well-connected with children’s lit editors and publishers. She worked very hard on behalf of me and my stories, but now I’m agentless. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have a brand-new, shiny middle grade manuscript ready to query other agents. Unfortunately, the querying process often requires the inclusion of a one-page synopsis of the entire work.

Have you ever tried distilling a 48,000-word novel down to 500 words? It ain’t easy.

However, a writer friend reminded me of Susan Dennard’s 2012 post on the Pub(lishing) Crawl site: How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis so I’m using that format. Still, it’s not fun and I keep finding other stuff to do instead. Such as writing this blog post which is basically me complaining about how I’d really rather not have to write a synopsis! And searching for a fun goat photo to make me smile!

So, aside from announcing I share the near-universal dislike for writing a synopsis,  what’s my confession here? Well, it’s that I keep learning and relearning how different my writing brain is from many other writers. I don’t think in Three Acts or even Beginning, Middle, and End. I write more on an instinctual level. That’s fine, but it also means it takes me longer to pinpoint my novel’s Plot Points and the story’s Midpoint (which doesn’t refer to whatever happens on the exact middle page of the manuscript). No doubt I’ll figure it out as soon as I stop procrastinating. After all, I’ve written synopses before and can do it again.  Still, it’s kinda a bummer to realize after all this time that it’s still a struggle to write the darn things.

Recycled memories

Years ago, I used to begin each day writing three pages in longhand,  per Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages.” It was stream of consciousness writing done via a fountain pen and legal pad that usually morphed from scribblings about my life to the plot and characters of the novel (my very first) I was working on. I loved that ritual and don’t remember why I stopped in the early 2000s. But because I struggle to throw out “documentation” of my life (in large part because my parents saved very few items from my childhood), I stored those years of legal pads in a filing cabinet in our basement where they remained until today when I took an empty cardboard box into the storage room and began emptying the contents of that file drawer.

Image by Dmitriy Gutarev from Pixabay

At first, I averted my gaze, knowing how easy it would be for me to get lost in my words. Instead, I focused on tearing sections of paper away from the cardboard backing. Pad after pad was disassembled before my gaze somehow landed on the bottom of a page where I’d written about Wildebeest’s last day in soccer the day before. Apparently, in addition to ordering a team photo we’d also ordered a trophy for him despite misgivings about participation trophies. I wrote how Wildebeest was so thankful for the trophy he nearly cried as he said, “it makes me so happy.” Or maybe he said “it’s perfect.”

I’ve already forgotten the exact wording.

And that’s what panicked me as I stood this morning in the storage room next to the half-filled box of loose Morning Pages: the knowledge that I was about to recycle so many memories. For a moment, I considered going back through all those pages to extract every one that offered glimpses into my life with Zippy and our two sons. Such as the (May 1999) pages written the morning I’d gotten up at 5:00 a.m. in order to go to the Fillmore Auditorium to get in line for Bob Dylan concert tickets, and the next day’s pages in which I recounted how Zippy and the boys brought me croissants to where I waited in line and that it was Bob Dylan’s 58th birthday which I was celebrating by happily gazing upon the tickets I’d just scored. All those pieces of my life there on those legal pads.

But it wasn’t only highlights I came across as I tore paper from pads. I also read some angry words about Zippy. A scathing unsent letter to my father. And a shame-filled accounting of how I’d temporarily kept our sick dog, who was wet and muddy, outside our tent before coming to my senses and bringing her inside. Those Morning Pages also had the power to pull me back into places I didn’t need to revisit. Deep down, I knew there was no need to reopen wounds.

It’s all a moot point because as I write this, Zippy returned from the recycling center. Those six or so years of documentation are now officially gone from my life. I’m mostly at peace with my decision to let it all go, but admit to still having some twinges of regret. Undoubtedly, I’d documented some funny things the kids said. Fortunately, I don’t need those Morning Pages to remember Zebu pulling off his socks and saying “Mell my dinky toes.”

Snacks all around!

I spent the afternoon reading through my middle grade manuscript after a ten-day break and am very pleased. There are a few tiny continuity issues to clean up, but that’s it. I am really proud of this novel in which I shine a light on the prison industrial complex via a story of friendship set in a little town called Grapple.

None of us is free until we are all free. Abolition, yo.

July 13, 2022

I’ll say it again . . . I love this book.
Snacks on me!

Intentional peace

Yesterday, we drove Moby the Great White Campervan to the mountains for some rest and relaxation. Our intention was a few hours of peace and rejuvenation. We’d never been there before and were thrilled to claim a small parking area next to Buffalo Creek. I explored with the camera and captured some nice shots. This is where I sat to work on my novel revisions.

Buffalo Creek. June 22, 2022

I sat in a chair on the little patch of beach at the bottom of the photo and revised a chapter on my laptop as Zippy and Emma napped in the van. Rushing water. Clean air. A shiny, green hummingbird buzzing in for a visit.

The entire experience soothed my spirit and, as I type these words, I’m already looking forward to a return visit. May each of us experience peace and rejuvenation in these very difficult days.