Sunday, May 31, 2009

Playing God

I'm not comfortable playing God in the garden, thinning the clusters of white peaches and picking off the Asian pears. Which to toss in the white bucket, and which to keep on the branch? The runty, dimpled fruit? The large, perfect orb sacrificed for two smaller, better spaced ones? Eeny, meeny, miney, moe? Who's to say the peach I choose for the compost is not the one that, if left to ripen on the sun-warmed tree, would be the most succulent, perfect peach?

I feel this same tension writing. Which character do I cull? What scene to annihilate? My finger trembles before striking the 'delete' key - am I making a mistake? Is that character or scene or word crucial to my story's integrity? How do I know?

But when it comes to my story, I am God. Some writers say their characters 'have their way' with stories. Certainly my characters appear to me at times much like a secret word appears under the divining planchette of a ouija board. But as God I can - and do - alter their characteristics and motivations in ways significant and small: their sexual orientation, their ethnicity, the placement of their tattoo.

When my laptop died last week, I had the opportunity to clean up my files. My hesitancy in editing and revising BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT is manifest in the 11 gigabytes of notes and revisions and drafts and even documents containing ALL my slices and dices. My first novel may well end up being my 'practice' novel, but this much is true: my confidence as a writer has grown, for no longer to I keep every iteration uttered by my pen for PURE.


<==== Speaking of playing God, google decreed my blog dead. I say: long live my blog. I'm rebuilding my cyber web, so please sign my guestbook.


May was... a month of passages: a favorite uncle died the day after he entered home hospice, several of my students gained doctorates, dead laptop, murdered blog.

Hoping for a quieter June.


THE WRITING... My mind is finally empty enough to write seriously. PURE full-steam ahead, along with two decent shorts and some micro-mini flashes. Have sent several poems out to find homes - fingers crossed.

THE READING... Finished the fourth book of MIDDLEMARCH. Quite enjoying Eliot, though she would've had a very difficult time finding an agent this century: verbose, pedantic and preachy in places, and not sure she 'hooked' me until nearly 100 pages in. Also picked up two Indie debut books from SOHO and OVERLOOK presses, and two more on order from TIN HOUSE and DZANC. Feeling very rich with the stack beside my bed.

Peace, Linda

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Memory - Lost Words Virtual and Cyber

My Dell laptop. Six years of faithful service. This morning booting resulted in nothing but a grey, quiet screen. No signs or symptoms of impending demise, just a peaceful death.

Something nudged at me this Saturday, though; I did a complete backup onto my external hard-drive.

Gotta listen to those gut feelings.

ALSO IN MEMORY - my original blog. Google gobbled it up one day, with no warning. Apparently old code, still lurking in my html and counting away my doomsday unbeknownst to me, was the mal-icious bearer. Reimported much here - looks familiar, hunh? - but lost widgets: lists, followers, contacts, all my creds.

SO PLEASE UPDATE YOUR URL, just add "linda-" before the old name. []

And please - FOLLOW ME again and pass along your links in comments below if I've overlooked you.

Peace, Linda

Friday, May 22, 2009


Great article in defense of distraction, comps of New York Magazine, on the thrills and perils of twitter, Adderal, texting, and all the other multi-tasks we conduct.

The bad news? You can't be happy all the time.

The good news? You can pretty much focus all the time.

The future - 30 minute secular attention workouts, right there along with our daily dose of treadmill.

Happy. Long. Weekend.

Much needed.

Myself, I'm writing for a great Flash Fiction contest with Prizes! Money! Print Potential! over at EDITOR UNLEASHED. And catching up on Middlemarch. And just hanging with the family.

Peace, Linda

Friday, May 15, 2009

Apologize, Apologize!

I grew up on Martha's Vineyard in a house as big and loud as a parade - the clamor resonated along the entire New England coastline. Calliope whistling, batons soaring, trumpets bleating, everything tapping and humming, orchestrated chaos, but we could afford it. My mother was rich, her father's money falling from the sky like ticker tape, gently suppressing the ordinary consequences of all that noise.

Lovely, huh? One phrase best describes May's debut novel pick by Elizabeth Kelly (Twelve) - over the top.

The writing, the characters and story line are among the most flamboyant I've come across in some time. In this story of redemption, young Collie Flanagan serves as the plain vanilla center in the midst of his fabulously wealthy and eccentric family: his adulterous, boozing father, his cruel Commie mother, a pigeon-racing uncle, his morally upright prep-school failure of a younger brother, and the Falcon, Collie's newspaper baron grandfather whose largesse enables them all. In the midst of such a flamboyant family, Collie's only wish is to be ordinary. He manages sane stability until a tragic accident leaves him reeling, forcing him to figure out what it 'means to be a man'.

Apologize, Apologize! is a comi-tragedy, unwieldy in places yet elegaic in others. The first half of the story rips along with humorous alacrity, then takes a sudden turn toward darksome when the tragedy occurs. For me, this fulcrum is when the story comes alive; the first half seems a 'getting to know you' dance filled with anecdotes of growing up Flanagan that left me itchy for substance. My prickliness was enhanced by the somewhat superficial and stereotypical sketches of some characters (must all Irish be rip-roaring drunks?) and the somewhat unbelievable events. But the second half builds empathy for the protagonist who, until then, seemed pallid in comparison to his crazy kin. Indeed, I found Collie upstaged by his more colorful - and likable - brother Bingo. One of the saddest, funny books I've read - the story and the characters haunted me for several days and made me reflect on the graces of being less than superordinary.

The Author... Elizabeth Kelly is a Canadian journalist and former magazine editor. She lives in an old house in a small village in eastern Ontario with her husband, four children, dogs, cats, and fish.

The Press... Eh, I know, as an imprint of the Hatchett Book Group, TWELVE is quasi-Indy press. But I've wanted to read a book published by TWELVE for some time due to their mission of publishing one book a month in order to focus on the editorial and marketing attention such books deserve. APOLOGIZE, APOLOGIZE! is one of its rare fiction offerings.

Take a gander at this fine debut piece o' fiction, if for no other reason than the sheer joy of reading the elegant prose.

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bloody Tuesday

What I saw this morning
on my way to work -
red Rohrshach blotches
splattering the sidewalk
like breadcrumbs I
followed, the drops
trickling smaller,
wetter, trailing four
blocks past Sylvie's
pawn and check cashing,
the bus stop across from
Seven Eleven where my friend,
now dead, once worked,
jaywalking across to Stearns
Fine Jewelry, Starbuck's,
the Hippodrome, past nurses
and docs scrubbed blue
and green, I followed,
hound-hungry, ruby drops
sparkling in fine spatter
to emergency then bought
a latte, went to work...


So what did you see on your way to work?

THE READING... MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot. A dense but fascinating read. Glad I'm reading this with the Project 100 Fill in the Gaps crew - it's tough going in spots. Finished my MAY DEBUT novel pick - look for my review later this week.

THE WRITING... Working on Chapter 2 of PURE. Putting my brain cells through this novel. Also readying shorts and poems for flight into the world.

MISCELLANEOUS... Once reason why those pre-publication reviews are often so vicious - From The CHRONICLE. And HINT FICTION makes history and gets an agent AND a deal. Yoo-hoo!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

You Are What You Write

NATHAN BRANSFORD blogged a provocative post about writers and the way they self-identify as writers. He notes people don't tend to define themselves by their hobbies; rather, people tend to identify themselves by their work.

As he states...

"You can see this in the way people talk about writing: some people compare it to oxygen, i.e. something that they can't live without. They don't say, "I like to write, it's fun, I enjoy it." They say, unequivocally, "I am a writer. It's who I am."

I'm going to be honest here and say that while I don't judge people when they define themselves as writer, whatever their publication status, I find it a little unsettling when they make it an overly intrinsic part of their identity.

First of all, people just don't tend to define themselves by their hobbies. You don't hear anyone shout to the rafters, "I AM STAMP COLLECTOR!" or "I AM A CONNOISSEUR OF REALITY TELEVISION!" And until you're making a living at it, writing is a hobby. It's something you do in your spare time. (Right?)"

Righty-oh. My hobby in my spare time, oh between 5 and 7 am. Every day.

A good friend, one of my writing buddies, received his lay-off notice today. The subject line on his email? POP THE CHAMPAGNE. You see, he's been wanting more time to write, to pursue his 'hobby', but the day job has drained him for years.

I, for one, am rather tired of this culture that emphasis self-identity based upon the position one holds in a paid work-force, that favors the size of the paycheck and the length of the title.

I want to live in a world that values art and craft, meaning and beauty. That treasures the creative spirit that resides in every one of us.

Who Am I? I am what I write. I am writer, mother, wife, sister, lover, reader, singer, gardener, poet, potter, sculptor, jeweler, daughter, photographer, lampworker, mentor, professor.

Who are you?

Peace, Linda

Friday, May 01, 2009

Does Anyone Else Feel that Bittersweet Twinge

Of sadness now that April, month of poetry, is over?

A fabulous 30 days journeyed with fellow poets at POETIC ASIDES. Take time to peruse the more than 25,000 poems posted over the month.

I'm exhausted, from writing and reading.

What will May bring? I sense MIDDLEMARCH, a debut book review, maybe some good publication news, and writing focused on PURE...

Even before the acrid-sweet smell of urine and cedar assaulted me, I knew. No usual scurry and rustle of rodents swarming to greet me, their provider of food, water, and amphetamine. I dropped my bags at the door, cracking it open. My eyes adjusted to the crimson glow bathing the room, intended to keep the animals in a preternatural state of sleepy calm. On the left counter, caged white mice; Deepak’s last four metabolic syndrome controls plump from gorging three times their weight every day, bumped up sleepily against the Plexiglas.

But not my mice. Even in the diffused light, I could see all eight anorexic manic rodents curled into each other, shuddering with shallow exhalations of sleep. But when my gaze traveled to the second cage, I couldn’t discern any shadowy humps or sleeping forms. Just smaller shapes, chunks larger than droppings and food pellets but smaller than animals.

Back to business...

Peace, Linda