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?

Reflections on a life among words

OUT TAKES from this novelist's cutting room floor...bits and pieces of story, research, and process

Take 1 in a New Blog Series from Aimee Liu

October 27, 2014

Tags: Aimee Liu, creative process, Andaman Islands, 21 Club, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Coming of Age in Samoa, Columbia, Barnard, China Weekly Review, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Gauguin, La Orana Maria, British India

Pieces it pains me to cut
Like most writers I know, I tend to edit out about half -- or more -- of the original material I compose, and many of those cuts are made reluctantly. Some cuts, of course, go deservedly straight to the trash bin, but others are sacrifices for the greater good of a piece that needs to be ever tighter, faster, more to the point, and more urgent. Tangents, characters, subplots, and extraneous scenes can all wind up on the chopping block. Some of these out-takes will get re-worked in the same piece or re-tooled for another. And some are like sketches in a painter's atelier, valuable and interesting in their own right as a reflection of one phase of the artistic process. Indeed, the idea for this blog series was suggested by my dear friend, the brilliant artist Carolyn Hall Young. "Why not share your sketches?" she asked. And it's true; I have the equivalent of many portfolios stuffed with what I call "salvage sections." Consider these as sketches of work in progress, or early takes of a film; every detail is subject to change -- and, it goes without saying,be VASTLY improved! -- in the final product. As we go along, I may also post some of the fascinating research that inspires me.

The first series of out-takes will come from a novel I've been working on for several years, set primarily in British India circa World War II. But it begins (in this out-take) in 1936 with the whirlwind courtship in New York City of a young American and aspiring anthropologist named Thea March and an only slightly older British doctor named Sheppard Durrell.

Take 1:

Their courtship began in May, 1936, with a chance introduction at the 21 Club. Thea March, Sheppard Durrell. The student and the surgeon. Theaís first impressions: a boyish mop of gingery hair, devastating sea-glass green eyes, a veil of freckles stretched palely across patrician cheekbones to bridge a delicate nose. He had lanky height, square shoulders, and that worldly British accent, plus a twist of humor tucked inside his smile that promised to keep her hopping. Love at first sight? Not by a yard, but he'd make for a welcome shift from the braggards and drones that had dominated her campus years. (more…)

WRITING NOW AND THEN

December 8, 2009

Tags: book publicity, writing life, cloud mountain, flash house

Waiting for the Call

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…)

ORIGINAL SINNERS!

November 29, 2009

Tags: ORIGINAL SINNERS, JOHN COATS, BENNINGTON MFA, RELIGION

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…)

WHAT'S IN A TITLE?

November 9, 2009

Tags: titles, writing life, novel, Flash House

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…)

Ghost World (By Anonymous)

October 31, 2009

Tags: ghost writing, publishing industry, false memoirs

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.
(more…)

Accidental Art

October 23, 2009

Tags: CREATIVITY, FLOW, PAINTING, WRITING, ACCIDENT IN ART

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…)

WHY WRITE?

October 13, 2009

Tags: literature, new media, anna politkovskaya, seneca, PEN USA

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…)

If You Give a Friend a Sample

October 10, 2009

Tags: writing partners, writer's block, editorial feedback, showing work

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…)

Hello Today

October 4, 2009

Tags: family communicatiions, email, aging parents

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.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-liu4-2009oct04,0,97946.story
Opinion
Hello Today
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…)

Research Rapture

October 2, 2009

Tags: research, oakley hall, india, xinjiang, cloud mountain, flash house, china

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…)

CLICK ON THE TITLES
below for more about Aimee's books & work.

Novels
a suspenseful novel of rescue and redemption set in Central Asia at the start of the Cold War, featuring two unforgettable heroines whose fates are irrevocably intertwined.
The unforgettable tale of star-crossed love that spans four decades and two continents.
A young photographer wrestles with her repressed past and identity as an Amerasian in New York's Chinatown. Now back in print after more than a decade, FACE is Aimee's first novel.
Craft & Criticism
Resources and suggestions for students and fellow writers
Aimee's latest book reviews
Work on Eating Disorders
How do anorexia and bulimia impact life AFTER recovery? GAINING is one of the first books about eating disorders to connect the latest scientific insights to the personal truth of life before, during, and especially after anorexia and bulimia.
America's first memoir of anorexia, and one of the earliest books about eating disorders, originally published in 1979
While there are numerous memoirs available chronicling individual womenís struggles with anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, this is the first book to bring together many peopleís stories to create a complete and candid picture of the recovery process. Aimee Liu has skillfully brought together firsthand accounts of recovery to create a realistic roadmap for the journey. This book also includes informational sidebars, written by professionals in the field, on topics including treatment options, choosing the right therapist, the pros and cons of medication, how parents and spouses can help, and much more.
Recent Essays
Love springs from an improbable meeting on the Great Wall of China.
Beverly Hills from the inside out. All sales from this anthology benefit the California Arts Council.
Short Story
Aimee's short story "The Other Side" appears in this anthology of stories inspired by Bruce Springsteen's song "Meeting Across the River."