Archive | Book Matters

Diving Into the Wreck

16 at 48.

My eldest goddaughter calls me a “method writer.” By this she means that I experience everything as I write about it and materialize in real-life whatever I author on page. As is often the case, she is absolutely right.

I’ve been thinking about this because I spent the first half of this day writing a scene I’ve desperately avoided writing for two years. It’s about all the stuff I don’t like to think about, let alone read about. And yet the scene demanded to be written.

At heart my book is about post-traumatic growth–the magic that’s conferred when we rise from our own ashes– and you can’t write about such an ascent without first describing the fire.

After I sent in the day’s work I spent an hour curled up in a ball. I was worrying about the impact of these pages on my reader and overwhelmed by the sadness and rage and fear I’d had to unleash. I do not know how to write about pain without experiencing it anew.

For me the the worst thing about writing isn’t the writer’s block (I rarely have it) nor the poverty (though it’s becoming devastating) but that crazy, out-of-control feeling of diving into the biggest and hardest places without someone or something to pull me back out. There I sat in the late afternoon sunlight crying like a Child who had never been rescued. Continue Reading →

More Lipstick for the Wolf

Lately, I spend my Saturdays reading.

I have read five books by Ruth Reichl, wonderful stories of travel and food and champagne and love. I have read all three of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon books, which, as Natasha Lyonne avers, are better if grimmer than the Anne of Green Gable series: more honest, higher stakes. Also I have reread Eve Babitz’s Sex and Rage and Black Swans. And of course all of MFK Fisher.

Especially How to Cook a Wolf.

It does not escape me that all these books are by and about women writers who found love and literary success.

For the moment, both evade me. I say “for the moment” because I am relentlessly hopeful in my own way. Though my romances have conferred as much pain as pleasure, I still look forward to the next one.

And though I have yet to sell my book–yet to finish it, even–I see its cover before I go to sleep at night. Sometimes on someone else’s night table.

In the meantime I keep my scale very, very small. Frankly, I’m too broke to go out. I have no money to spend and though an affordable New York still lurks beneath the city’s Instagram ops and best-of lists, I find myself weary and wary when faced with the prospect of restaurants and bars. Friends invariably pick up the checks and it hurts to burden them. This is not how I like to live. This is not how I like to treat my people.

In my home I can take care of business. I rise early and write as long as my brain will let me, then go for a long walk, the neighborhood quiet in the mid-afternoon. I shop the grocery sales and cook slowly as the sun ripens in the horizon. I cook because it is cheaper than eating or ordering out but also because the rhythm of stirring, chopping, stirring–knife thumping, oil sizzling, sauce thickening– feels elegant and serene. The way I felt before the Legend smiled at me and I smiled back. Continue Reading →

Back in Book, Back in Book

Do you remember that scene in All of Me when Steve Martin is trying to convince Richard Libertini as Prahka Lasa to put Lily Tomlin’s spirit back into a bowl? BACK IN BOWL, BACK IN BOWL, the two men kept shouting. In retrospect, the depiction of an Indian mystic by an Italian-American was irrevocably offensive but in 1984 we all just laughed uproariously at the portrayal, coached as it was by the great Carl Reiner. Well. Today, I can’t get that scene out of my head. Because I’m in my writers space for the first time in three weeks–a lot went down that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to describe here; Mercury Retrograde in space-age Pisces is addling me like there’s no tomorrow (literally)—and I just keep hearing a variation of that phrase in the same (totally offensive) intonation: BACK IN BOOK, BACK IN BOOK. Send light and whiskey; I’ll send it right back to anyone who can bear it.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy