writing NOW & THEN: Entries from an author's life
December 8, 2009
A new old entry! Sweet memory. September 22, 1997. The interview in question is about Cloud Mountain, published the previous spring. The novel-in-waiting is Flash House, then in the earliest stages of gestation. Disaster will indeed strike in the course of writing this novel, and it won't see publication for another five long hard years. Sigh.
I'm expecting a call from a radio interviewer this morning, to discuss the novel I published last spring, publicized last summer, and have half forgotten in the wind-up for the new novel I'm trying to start writing. This is the twilight zone period in writing. (more…)
November 29, 2009
Several years ago I screwed up my courage and did something I'd imagined I could not do. I went to graduate school and earned an MFA in creative writing. I was over 50, and to my surprise, about a third of my class at Bennington also were mid-lifers. We had a lot of living under our collective belt and wanted to hone our writing to better give voice to our experience.
Many of us were already published authors. Since graduation, many of our other classmates have been published in literary journals, small press novels, and chapbooks. In this economy, it's been harder than ever for new authors to get picked up by major houses. But one of the lucky ones is my classmate John Coats.
I am delighted to tell you that John's first book ORIGINAL SINNERS has just been published by the Free Press imprint of Simon & Schuster. (more…)
November 9, 2009
NOW HERE'S A BITTERSWEET ENTRY FROM September 26, 1997, WHEN I WAS STILL A GOOD 3 YEARS FROM A SOLID FULL-LENGTH DRAFT OF MY THIRD NOVEL...WHICH WOULD BE TITLED "FLASH HOUSE" IN THE END -- BUT ONLY AT THE VERY END! WHAT MAKES THESE MUSINGS BITTERSWEET IS THAT I HAVE YET TO GET ANOTHER NOVEL TO LIFT-OFF -- SO I LOOK BACK WITH SOME NOSTALGIA TO THE QUEST FOR THIS NOVEL'S TITLE!
I need a title for my new book. In the usual, and probably ultimate, way of things I would find this title upon reflection and rereading of a finished manuscript. (more…)
October 31, 2009
I feel a bit transparent this Halloween. You see, for the past six months Iíve been a ghost. That means no habeus corpus, no credit, no identity. Iím so insubstantial I canít tell you whether Iím writing a kiss-and-tell or a how-to or a what-if, or all of the above. I canít name the author of the book Iím writing. I canít even name myself! But worst of all, from my new vantage point I can see that todayís publishing business is riddled with spectral writers Ė some of whom donít even know theyíre ghosts.
October 23, 2009
WHEN I WROTE THIS MINI ESSAY 11 YEARS AGO, I'D NEVER HEARD OF THE TERM "FLOW" -- THAT MAGICAL STATE IN WHICH CREATIVITY THRIVES. BUT HERE ARE SOME PRETTY SPOT-ON DESCRIPTIONS OF FLOW...
Long ago and far away, when I used to paint, I found that my best paintings were blessed by accident. A line would wobble, Iíd use the wrong color, Iíd rub up against the canvas. The undercoat of gesso would go on rough, causing the colors that came on top of it to catch and build in unexpected textures. I would paint what I saw Ė the surface of an enamel sugar bowl Ė and discover myself in its reflection. Unhappiness, too, produced useful effects, and if not accidental, this certainly was unintended. (more…)
October 13, 2009
HERE'S ANOTHER CURRENT POST!
THE OTHER NIGHT I WAS HONORED TO RECEIVE THE ALGONQUIN WEST HOLLYWOOD LITERARY AWARD. I'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU THE THOUGHTS THAT THIS AWARD PROMPTED IN ME...
It seems to me that literature is teetering on the brink of obsolescence. Youtube and twitter, and facebook, and 900 cable channels are only part of the problem. I am part of the problem, I think. Iím not doing nearly enough to defend good writing.
So I thought Iíd take a few minutes to remind myself why quality writing still deserves defending.
To my mind, the most compelling virtue of literature is that, short of telepathy, itís our only means of inhabiting someone elseís thoughts word for word. (more…)
October 10, 2009
I WISH I COULD SAY MY BEHAVIOR AFTER SENDING OUT MY WRITING TODAY IS MORE MATURE OR ASSURED THAN IT WAS ON Thursday, July 25, 2002 WHEN THIS ENTRY WAS WRITTEN. ALAS, WITH SOME MORTIFICATION, I CONFESS THAT IT IS NOT.
Half a decade ago, when my bedtime reading was skewed to my young sonís, one of our favorite books led off with, "If you give a mouse a cookie... he will ask for a glass of milk," and followed through pages of acts and consequences to the inevitable conclusion, "if he asks for a glass of milk, he's going to want a cookie to go with it." I find myself adapting this classic as I await the reaction of a friend to a sample section of my new novel... (more…)
October 4, 2009
We interrupt this blog to post a CURRENT piece!
THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IN TODAY'S LOS ANGELES TIMES, ON THE OP-ED PAGE.
One family finds that a daily e-mail chain keeps everyone connected.
By Aimee Liu
October 4, 2009
Two years ago, following my father's death, my mother found herself living alone for the first time in six decades. The situation, to her children and grandkids, was fraught with peril. (more…)
October 2, 2009
I WROTE THIS ON October 22, 1997, WHILE WORKING ON MY LAST NOVEL, FLASH HOUSE. PERHAPS THIS ENTRY EXPLAINS WHY I HAVE NOT PRODUCED ANOTHER RESEARCH-BASED NOVEL SINCE?
A couple of years ago I heard Oakley Hall, writer and director of the Squaw Valley Writers' Conference, talk about "research rapture," that great black hole that looms over the writing process and too often swallows both writer and work. I knew precisely what he meant. (more…)
September 28, 2009
THIS PIECE, WRITTEN IN October 21, 1997 MAKES ME SMILE. I SO VIVIDLY REMEMBER THIS REUNION, AND I'M STILL PLAGUED BY THE FEELINGS OF IRRELEVANCE THAT SILENCED ME THAT DAY. GETTING AN MFA IN 2006 DID HELP QUELL SOME OF THE HESITATIONS DESCRIBED HERE, HOWEVER. AND, SINCE THEN, I'VE ACTUALLY COME TO ENJOY WRITING PERSONAL ESSAYS!
Not long ago I had coffee in NYC with two very talented writers. Chip Brown, a high school friend, has traveled around the world writing for such publications as Esquire, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair, and only a few years back he told me proudly, "I think I finally write like a grown up." (more…)
writing NOW & THEN: entries from an author's life is a bit of personal time travel that I hope will also be of interest to you.
My mission is to excavate and extract entries from old journals that still resonate and perhaps even offer wisdom or insight into the life of writers today. What changes, and what remains the same? Isn't this a curious question that haunts us all?