Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Writer Checks In

My Friday writing check in with a friend happened this morning, Saturday, which seems appropriate. A week has gone by since I pulled in my driveway, last Saturday, after a month at the VCCA, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Looking  back, this has been a week of re entry, a week of missing terribly that immersion I had at the VCCA, and so I've felt scattered as if I'm not sure where I need to be and what I need to be doing. My mother in law used to describe this feeling as being at sixes and sevens. I have no idea what that means or where it comes from, but it describes accurately how I feel, neither here nor there, neither good nor bad, more uncomfortable than comfortable. So work has been slow. I managed to go over "Surfacing," an essay I read from at the VCCA. At home, I read the piece aloud over and over. I changed the last sentence at least five times. I took out short paragraphs that interfered with flow. I researched literary magazines- an ongoing project every time I send a piece out-- checking deadlines and money. I decided I'd send only to magazines that pay—at least something—this first round. I don't like working for free. Nobody else works for free. So I've sent this essay off to four places. I usually like to hit at least  5 in one shot. But a lot of the good ones have closed to submissions for the summer. 

For this coming week, I'd like finish one of two essays that are nearly ready. I'd like to start a folder I'll call The Book where I gather my musings for an introduction. I think an introduction will help me focus on what I'm doing. I'd like to begin a second essay about Yvonne which will center on her life right after the Second World War when she is 15 or 16, then end that piece when she marries and moves to Paris. "Surfacing" is about her life during the War. She was nine when her father handed her over to his sister at the French/ German border. I know I don't have enough information for the next piece, but beginning will let me know what I need. 

What's bothering me? Angst about finding an agent, angst about finding a way to publish this book that is not self-publishing, angst about taking what I have and throwing it all down on the floor and seeing if I can find a way to bring the essays together, angst about whether I should wait a while before I do that, angst, angst, angst. Welcome to the writing life.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Leaving VCCA-- but not quite

I am leaving the soft Virginia air, the nearly constant bird song, blue birds, mourning doves, the muffled sounds of horses, sightings of rabbits and ground hogs-- who knew I would learn to love a ground hog-- outside my studio window. I am leaving evenings filled with art, music and literature, artists' open studios, composers' music, writers' words. I am leaving my long walks past an old cottage that I love, past goats in a field, past trailers, small houses, crowds sitting and talking on porches, children playing in yards. I am leaving my studio, the long hours, the work taking hold. I dove down into its depths and stayed there. That is a good thing. But I'm not finished. Yet, I must leave, say goodbye to the VCCA-- until next time.

But wait, another day, I can stay one more day to complete this piece I'm working on, a piece that grips me. And I can celebrate, afterwards with all of the artists, composers and writers here at Pat Oleszko's and Krin Fleisher's  fĂȘte galante tomorrow afternoon.

See, we do have fun.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Notes From The Writing Life

Here at the VCCA, a pattern has evolved. Mornings, when at home, I write; here I read history, memoir, essays. I particularly like the voice of Phillip Lopate in my head before I write whether he's writing about his childhood in Brooklyn or Stendhal. I've also grown fond of the voice of Joachim Fest in his memoir about his father, Not I, Memoirs of a German Childhood. For the sheer detail of the end of that War, I'm reading Year Zero: A History of 1945 by Ian Buruma.  

And so I read. I scribble notes. I take an essay I'm working on, read aloud, telling myself I will read to the end, then mark it. I can't get farther than three pages before I'm revising, thinking, marking. When I can't follow my own script, I go to my computer. And so it goes, the dance of writing which is so much more than writing. I write when I walk, write when I sleep, waking at three in the morning, turning on my light, scribbling thoughts, then falling down into sleep again. Back in my study the next day or days later, when finally, I can force myself to read that essay to the end, I know I have a viable draft.

Twenty-four/ seven, total immersion. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Notes From The Writing Life

At the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, walking to dinner, talking with my husband on the phone, I listen as he tells me of a visit with his sister and brother in law. A friend called inviting them all over to see her new TV. It's huge, of course, and 3D. "You wear these glasses," my husband says. 

And on the path, passing a gazebo, a flower bed where violets bloom, a stone statue of a cherub, a hedge of fragrant boxwood, I see them all, three overweight, old people with white hair or no hair, slumping on a couch or in chairs, all wearing those ridiculous glasses and watching. 

"Oh, please," I say.

At dinner that evening with artists, writers and composers, our talk turns to our second discipline. If we have one, what would it be? Or if we don't what would we like it to be? For example, if you are a writer, would your second discipline be art or music? Do you tend to be more visual or musical in your prose or your poetry? And what of the artists and musicians? What would they choose?

An artist, a colorist, among us, says she's working with the color red. She wants to find true reds, not purple reds, not orange reds. She wants to open her studio, display her reds and ask everyone who visits to tell her what emotion they experience seeing each version of the color red. She wants her red to evoke feeling. 

I understand. Feeling, connection, empathy, compassion are the road to what is best in each of us, and no matter how idealistic, elusive or foolish that may sound, this what we work toward-- for ourselves and for you.