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Monday, March 25, 2013

Picture Words

It took me until the end of March to realize the lovely calendar my husband gave me for Christmas to tack on the door of the cubby serving as my desk, offers more than front porch photographs I want to step into.  The stunning monthly pictures are accompanied by quotes from literature, each snippet a word-match for the vision above.  Once I discovered this, I had to stop and page through, feeling like a cheat as I exposed future months, swallowing the words in great gulps then writing down the books they were excerpted from to add to my reading list.

Beneath January’s photo of a white cotton hammock and a driftwood grey table situated on cement slab overlooking the flat, teal ocean, I read: 

Every birthday I’ve ever had has been here, in this house.  There are pictures of my mother sitting on the porch pregnant, with a glass of iced tea and a wide brimmed hat, and there’s me, insider her belly.  There are pictures of the four of us, Conrad, Steven, Jeremiah and me, running around on the beach—I was naked except for my birthday hat, chasing after them.  My mother didn’t put me in a bathing suit until I was four year’s old.  She just let me run around wild.  From The Summer I turned Pretty, by Jenny Han.

In February’s offering, cushioned white wicker chairs circle a screened gazebo.  The worn painted bench sitting in front of a pillowed loveseat, hosts a pitcher of pink roses, a stack of porcelain plates, a full glass of lemonade and a ceramic bowl mounded with plump blueberries.   Below it:

I toted tubs full of roses to the back porch.  Drew buckets and buckets of well water to pour over them.  And about the time the first rays of sunlight hit the back steps, I sat down out there with my grandfather…While I trimmed off the lower leaves and thorns, Grandpa took a big split-open croker sack and poked each rose stem into the loose burlap, weaving it in and out, then in again, like a pin being stuck into cloth.  In no time at all, he had him a solid blanket of roses.  It was beautiful.  From Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns. 

For August, two solid Adirondack chairs sit atop a wood planked deck, just short of a picket railing suggesting a resting place for sandy feet.  Beyond the fence an offshore breeze pushes white clouds and ocean toward the horizon, where they meet at the apex of blue and aqua, grey and white.  Underneath the image, this paragraph, from Empire Falls by Richard Russo.

What Grace liked best about the cottage was that in the early morning when the wind shifted, they awoke to the sound of pounding surf.  Miles knew how far away the water was, but the waves crashed so hard that every morning he went to the front window to make sure the world hadn’t tilted during the night. He half expected to look out and see the waves foaming right up to the front porch steps. 

I could go on, but I’ll spare you.  I’m just delighted with another example of the power of language.  While brilliant photographs produce images that draw us in, my calendar delivers proof that well-crafted words trigger visuals that can be equally as effective. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March Morning

We wake to snow
grey light and
worsted wool suiting
draped across an outside table.

Plump pillows cushion
Adirondack chairs
while white climbs a ladder,
left outside from weekend chores.

Birdhouses pose in caps
knitted by a grandmother,

and all around,
tired bushes bend at the waist
grouped men on mats bowing,
invoking forgiveness,
seeking pardon
from this winter's God.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Storm Chasers

We are making up for the lack of winter last year.

When a whopper snowstorm threatened again this week, the worst of which was to coincide with the arrival of our daughter on spring break, I’ll tell you, I chewed a few fingernails.  But I’m glass-half-fulling it here. It stopped snowing north of here first and our daughter arrived safely.  After a 3.5 hour commute in the morning, hubby made it home at night in under two hours.  The three of us went out to breakfast Saturday and after eggs and pancakes, we took a ride to the ocean.  I'm not sure I will ever get used to the awesome power of the sea. 

The first picture was taken by our daughter with her IPhone.  The second two with a digital camera.  How is it the camera phone does a better job?

While we were scoping out the pounding surf, we drove by a guy standing in front of a tripod with a huge telephoto lens, clicking away.  I'm guessing he may have taken this.  If you do one thing today, click on this link.  Trust me, you'll be glad that you did.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Second Guessing

Four weeks into the querying process, I am feeling fairly confident that no news is NOT good news.  The longer I wait the more I fault my query.  It’s too long.  It’s too much like a synopsis.  I didn’t personalize it enough.  I trust my instincts on this one, and I’m writing it…YET again.  

It's hard to imagine one crummy letter has such clout.

I know.  It is what it is, and I am nothing but a rule follower.  So I’m revising the query.  I’m taking out extraneous details, worried that the one I remove would have been the one to elicit interest.  Why is it I can write a 250 word blog post that’s lyrical, visual, and makes a point that leaves the reader wanting more…but a simple query letter kills me?

I have a dream.  Somewhere out there, there’s an agent who has read so many queries she hates them as much as I do, so she skips them and goes right to the first 10 pages of the manuscript.


I'll get back to working on that letter now.

And because what's written above is a rant, and not particularly helpful to anyone, here's an article from Writer's Digest by Elan Barnehama called Why you Should Write What you Don't know which shares a unique perspective. Enjoy.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Hi all.  Yvonne at TheOrganic Writer  tagged me for The Next Big Thing.  Yvonne is currently working on Black River, which she calls a crossover between literary, commercial and contemporary NA and if you ask me, it looks amazing.  She asked me to share some details about my newest project.  I’m excited, because even this little exercise helped me to pull it into better focus.  Here are my answers...

What is the title of your current work? 

Working title: Marnie I-don’t-know.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It was my turn to present my work in progress at my local writing group.  They’d just finished reading a draft of my previous novel, so it was time to start something new.  I wanted to touch on a challenging topic, one in which I had to dig down to my own emotional core to address.  Once I gave myself those parameters, I sat down at the computer and started typing. 

What genre does your book fall under?

Adult fiction/Woman’s fiction

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m lacking in pop culture-expertise, so this is hard for me, but when I think of Marnie, I imagine Ashley Judd.  Vinnie is George Clooney, ten years younger. 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When Marnie St. Marie sees images of a boy from the nineteenth century in her apple tree, she can’t decide whether she’s going off the deep end, or if her son who’s been missing for years is trying to communicate with her.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’d love for it to be represented by an agency…I'm not sure I have the patience or fortitude to do it any other way.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m still writing it, and I have a long way to go.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Since I’m not even close to being done yet, I’m struggling here, but I’ll go with Anita Shreve, Light on Snow (A girl can dream, can’t she?).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had 20K of Marnie complete when I read a book this fall, written by a college classmate of mine (Cascade, by Maryanne O’Hara).  Her book is a fictionalized account of the building of the Quabbin Reservoir in western Massachusetts, a topic that always intrigued me…but she got there so well, and so very…first.  This made me realize I shouldn’t hesitate to go after another idea that’s been churning around my brain for years.  I’ve been captivated by the story of an Irish immigrant ship that hit ledge and sunk off our coast in 1849.  When I began writing about Marnie I thought of including something related to that in her story, but wasn’t sure how well it would tie in with the rest of the tale. 

Cascade gave me the inspiration to scrap about 14K of the manuscript and write about what I wanted to all along.  As expected, it is hard, and it’s making the going slow.  But I don’t want someone beating me out this this time.  Now, if only I could write as well as Maryanne O’Hara.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Well, when I get the thing written, there may or may not be supernatural images, and there’s probably going to be some forensic stuff, but in all, it is a book about discovering the strength to survive and embrace life in spite of unbearable misfortune.  

Other participants have posted a snippet...so here's mine...

He sat above the spot where a blizzard had hacked a huge branch from the tree Thomas’s parents had planted when they were first married.  The remaining limb splayed out like a crooked wire and to hold it up, Marnie had fashioned a crutch out of two-by-fours and forced it underneath.  With his back to her, the boy’s feet dangled.  Bare calves reflected below pants that ended mid-shin.  Raising a hand to her heart, she pressed her chest, trying to still the rapid beating.  After ten years, she still dreamed Trevor might return…but this child had blond hair, not dark curls, and he wore cloth cap.  She couldn’t be sure, but she thought he wore leather shoes.