Books -- reading and writing.
Home, cooking, the weather.
And whatever connections I can make between these chapters of my life.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dreaded Plot

Just for fun (ha!), I thought I'd try to write a short story. OK, actually I'd like to apply to the Writers in Paradise conference for next January and needed something other than my short essays and long mid-grade manuscript to submit with the application. So I started to write. And write. And write. And the story was really getting boring.

I decided to clean out my stacks of Writer Magazine dating back a few, well a lot, of years. And as usual, found some excellent advice. I think I'll tack this one on my closest empty surface:

In an article on plot by Jillian Abbott (Writer Magazine, May 2004) that includes quotes from Stuart Woods, Dennis Lehane, and Gayle Lynds, Stuart Woods writes

"Plotting is a process akin to a jazz improvisation: You establish a theme, then improvise on it. I do this on a chapter-by-chapter basis, planning the events that take place, then improvising the writing. I begin this improvisation with a situation (i.e. protagonist discovers skeleton) and build from there."

Great advice, though I'll have to ponder whether it will help me with this dreaded story. Now, off to discover some literary skeletons.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The last time I saw Paris...

I keep hoping somebody will take me to Paris. It's one of my favorite cities in the world, OK my favorite. But until I get there again, I can dream. And read. And write about eating there. Here's the book review that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor this week.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Reading and Writing

Today I hid in my basement, pretending to get organized. It was cool and restful and I unpacked a box or two. You know the type- boxes you never should have moved, the ones that have been sitting in a corner for two years. We needed the space so I promised to clear out the boxes. But I kept going back to a book I was reading. At first I needed to know if Sabine and Puck would be OK. It was an adventure story, a mystery. Then the rest of Kathi Appelt's new book, The Underneath, grabbed me and wouldn't let go. As I said, it was cool and restful in my basement, a perfect place to read. I finished it tonight and can't get it out of my head.

I'm really more of a dog person, if we have to take sides. But I know exactly what Appelt means when she writes Purring is not so different from praying. To a tree, a cat's purr is one of the purest of all prayers, for in it lies a whole mixture of gratitude and longing, the twin ingredients of every prayer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Writing about Fathers

For a long time, when Father's Day rolled around, I missed my dad. I was just out of college when he died, suddenly and sadly. I missed him on Father's Day. I missed him on Election Days (because he loved to debate local politics with me). I missed him on my wedding day. But that whole time heals all wounds has a bit of truth to it and now I just like thinking about him. So Father's Day seems the perfect time to remember my dad.

He was quite a character- a small town doctor who, it seemed, had set every broken arm and delivered most of the babies in our county. My brother and sister, who live closer to "home" than I do, still meet people who tell them about the time Daddy made a housecall at 3 in the morning, letting himself in the unlocked porch door, just to check on one of his patients. He loved to fish, his only escape from the telephone, and I wrote about the Christmas he surprised us (and tickled himself) with a blindfolded circuitous car trip to a cabin on the lake where he loved to fish. When that essay appeared in Delta Magazine , perfect strangers tracked down my email address to share stories about him. Some of the stories are quite colorful, not to be repeated in polite company. Yes, he was quite a character.

I'm working on another essay, one that started out being about the house I grew up in. We had a store room attached to our carport, filled with all sorts of exotic stuff. The more I wrote, the more I realized that it was really an essay about my father. A few years ago I spent a day with my Writing Group in a workshop led by Phyllis Theroux. In a corner of her notes about "Voice and the Personal Essay," I scribbled Small examples enable you to see the large idea. That's what this essay is turning into. Tiny memories of fish smells and rusty keys hanging on nails are turning into a piece that shows a father's devotion to his family. Now isn't that what Dad's Day should be all about?