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Friday, November 18, 2016

Day 18 of National Novel Writing Month - Not Yet Halfway

It's a marathon: 50,000 words of prose, the majority of words for an 80,000-word standard mainstream novel. I'm at a little over 24,000 words this morning.

Why am I doing this? Because writing is bliss and marketing a book is hell. Undergoing the process of trying to get a literary agent, who then tries to get your book a publisher, who then takes more than a year to publish it -- that's anyone's definition of hell. It would fit Hieronymous Bosch's picture of hell. And I've been in it for more than two years with a completed novel I'm marketing. It involves extravagant amounts of waiting, laced with copious rejection. It takes persistence and faith beyond what you think you have.

But working on a new story is heaven. It makes hope, inspiration, and excitement surge. Every act of storytelling is a new adventure. It unfolds one day at a time, in the company of people I'm gradually getting to feel are boon companions, my characters. Like the Fellowship of the Ring, we have a purpose. We have a story to tell. We must sustain hope above all. It's exhilarating, like climbing to an impossibly high peak and standing there to survey all the lands of the earth.

Also, running my marathon has been a way to write myself through the dark woods of grief over my brother's death a little more than a month ago. I would adapt the cliché and say that when things get tough, the tough writer gets writing. I know so many poets and writers who write their way forward, especially in difficulty. It's how we learned to cope with our fatal flaws and the curveballs life throws, such as death, poverty, illness, divorce. I'm telling a new story involving all those.

Here's an excerpt from my spirit guide, Lisa Cron's book Story Genius:

"Only by knowing your protagonist's defining misbelief can you craft a story that will test it to the max, opening his eyes along the way." Those are the best stories, the inward adventures that may be occasioned by outward ones, but always lead to new levels of understanding yourself, other people, and the world.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Finding Peace in Uncertain Times: Poetry Reaches Deep

As a woman in a time when the recently elected leader of our country has expressed such raw misogyny, I definitely feel as uncertain of my future as Matisse's "Woman with Hat" looks. So I was honored to have my poem "Wings Clipped" featured by WordPress Discover in an article about poetry in uncertain times: Chaos, Control: Four Poems for Uncertain Times. Four good poems you will want to read.

And speaking of the woman with hat, I'm delighted to announce that my book Femme au Chapeau is now on Kindle for $2.99 --- complete with a Look Inside the Book!

Another of my books, Gods of Water and Air, is on a Goodreads Giveaway. Click that link to enter and possibly win one of five print copies I'm giving away by December 12. "Poems to unravel love, grief, and joy" -- my Amazon subtitle seems right, right now. I think many of us have experienced these feelings in the last couple of weeks, going through the most intense election I've ever experienced.

Added to that intensity was one far more powerful to me personally: the death of my brother on October 10. It put a lot of things in perspective, a very large one being that I am mortal too. Life is incredibly short -- shorter for some than it might be -- and much longer than had been imagined for others, like my 93-year-old mother. These poems and essays -- and even a short play on the imagined afterlife of dogs -- speak to mortality too, and how important it is to cherish all the love, grief, and joy we're given in a life.

As I think about giving thanks in a couple weeks at a family feast where there will be one empty chair, I'm thankful for it all. Here's an excerpt from one of the poems in Gods, "Accept the Invitation":
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The million volatile impressions
you are today strung together
on the ribbon of your name
are not enough for me.

I want no careless window-shopping
around your vicinity, but to plumb
the void, make a hair-raising journey
behind personality. To stand together
in the light that streams
from a hidden source in this world
whenever being meets.