Monthly Archives: December 2011

I’ve never liked those year-that-was lists that are everywhere right now.  I need my closure as much as anybody, but it feels kind of depressing, with the bright star of a new year just about to rise, to peer back at disaster, destruction, death and devilment.   I mull over these things daily, all year long, and I really don’t need the media piling it all up in one big, glossy, undigestible heap, thank you. 

Instead, as the countdown for 2012 begins, I want to think about what might be.  What I’m wishing all my friends, writers and non, is discovery.  Of something–or one–totally new, or of the new within the familiar.  Happy accidents, sudden insights, sneaky surprises. 

And for those of us who can’t help but look back and rue mistakes (and of course this includes me, all protests to the contrary), I wish the kind of genius James Joyce celebrates in Ulysses:  “A man of genius makes no mistakes.  His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”

Happy New Year!

On the next to next to longest night of the year…

Two days ago Cleveland had its first big, glorious snowfall.  Today the temperature was in the high 40’s, and when I went for my after-writing-walk, all the snowmen had shrunken heads, and the branches of the trees were once more bare,  the little nests lodged there like secret thoughts revealed.  Today when I went for my walk I was looking up, and around, for what felt like the first time in many, many months, because today I finished what–I hope–is a good draft of my new novel.  Larry Walnut and Fern Fife, old Jack Tinkiss and Minerva the two-legged-wonder-dog, were along for the walk, as usual, but today they didn’t bedevil me.  Today they were quite satisfied, even jaunty.  It was a wonderful walk!

For the next ten days or so, my family will be here and this computer–and my characters–will get a nice long winter’s nap.  Tidings of comfort and joy!

I’d like to think that it’s because I’m nearing the end of my new novel, which means keeping SO many narrative strands from getting frazzled or knotted but at the same time not tying them up TOO neatly, and not that my attention span is headed the same place as my memory, which is to say the Planet Nada, BUT…somehow this journal/blog has evolved into entries with many little bits and PERHAPS  not a lot of continuity.  Here I go again…

***Speaking of evolving, did you know that trilobites–you know, those prehistoric creatures who resembled a cross between cockroaches and toy tanks–were the first animals to become sighted?  This and other amazing facts can be found in the gripping (I’m not kidding) book, TRILOBITES, EYE WITNESS TO EVOLUTION by the wonderful and witty writer Richard Fortey.  I have drawn on it often for my new book.

***And speaking of my new book, I have a new favorite piece of writing advice.  It is that, like mules, Sisyphean boulders, and our old red station wagon, a novel is something that can be pushed but never pulled (come to think of it, pushing a mule probably isn’t all that good an idea, either).

***Speaking of pushing boulders up mountains, the very wise and sophisticated fourth graders I’ve been working with recently introduced me to the concept of a Story Mountain.  The action keeps narrowing to a scary and magnificent peak, otherwise known as the climax, when things teeter and tumble and we have the falling action and finally, whew, the conclusion.  This is such a useful and simple paradigm, and I am very grateful to my ten-year-old mentors for giving it to me.

***Speaking of…well, just speaking, we had a wild and wonderful time in San Francisco, which is kind of like Eden only with insane hills and really good coffee (okay, wine too)  In a single day of walking we saw wild parrots  squawking in sidewalk trees, brilliantly pink and red vines growing three stories high, seemingly out of a crack in the sidewalk,  and, in a Japanese garden, a silver and gold koi who parted his pale, plump lips and spoke to me (or did I imagine that?)  I also discovered both MO books in two different bookstores, which delighted me through and through, partly because Mo Wren is no traveler and yet she beat me to the west coast.

*** More soon…