Sarah Wrote That

Wires dip along the road home from summers in which I traveled more. (Syntax—the code to the soul, or a code to a soul in a September mood. The paragraph ends with the time machine diagrammed, good for a few uses before it seems a formula: noun + verb + adverbial phrase(s) + adverbial phrase with temporally slipped modifier.)

I have been letting revision take all the attention I can shift to it. The command line program top (run, where else, in the Mac terminal setting named ‘novel’) would show one process spawning multiple threads, other processes stuck or sleeping, network down, little time idle.

This past weekend I moved the last of the chapters drawn from my MFA thesis out of my ‘current’ folder. Not done. But settled for now. I’m happy with them, happy to think mostly about chapters with fewer drafts behind them. Along with relief and the unfamiliar pleasure of reading them without wanting to noodle (much), I have a strangely solid, entirely erroneous sense of the ‘finished’ sections as finally approaching what I wanted all along. Maybe they do, in the roughest outline of an arc. The first draft was a mess, the second tidier about its false starts and thin relationships and leaden scenes, the third a muddle of logistics. How I believed in those mistakes.

I have become much more patient with, interested in events not only as engines or catalysts for fictional motion but as solids texturing the pages they’re on, and reverberating, no day only itself.

In Burger’s Daughter Nadine Gordimer signals the novel’s final direction not with Rosa Burger’s decision (that comes later, reasoned in retrospect), but by, in four words, shifting the time from which the narration comes. Rosa has a late night phone argument with her adopted brother:

Because Rosa Burger had once cried for joy she came out of the bathroom and stalked about the flat, turning on all the lights as she went, sobbing and clenching her jaw, ugly, soiled, stuffing her fist in her mouth. She slept until the middle of the next day: it was another perfect noon. This spell of weather continued for some short time yet. So for Rosa Burger England will always be like that; tiers of shade all down the sunny street…

“Some short time yet”—what a heart breaker. Because we know, from previous events, what the rest of the time will be.

Novel revisions. I’ve been thinking about the photo of half-finished Grand Central Terminal that was recently on the Tumblr radar, the façade already clad in stone, the lower tracks and platforms and the loop for trains to turn around on still exposed, and how the terminal’s circulatory system justified the expense, indeed the existence of the façade and concourse. The second half of my manuscript is color-coded with edits, mine in red, my thesis committee’s in blue and green, but it’s looking over the first half where the tracks are covered over, the new text unmarked, that I fret: does it work?

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In And To And From And After #AWP13

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Back Bay roofs from the Hynes Convention Center

I attended five panels. Two I left early. Two I would have gladly sat through for another hour, or reconvened. Two I overslept. In a panel titled “Argumentative Fiction,” Marlon James asked why Katie Roiphe discusses only the Davids and Jonathans, and not Junot Diaz, and why she does not compare Portnoy to Yunior. Two panels that I wanted to attend were Friday morning while we shoveled snow and snow fell so fast that in the ten minutes we took to change from our shoveling clothes a quarter inch had covered my car. On the Mass Pike braking was impossible, one lane entirely snowed over. We arrived, parked underground, found the narrowness of our spot and the florist’s truck next to it hilarious.

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Old drop-leaf table -> new desk!

Old drop-leaf table -> new desk!

“A bend in the road, and the whole place disappeared.”

- Katherine Mansfield, "The Woman At The Store" (1911)

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2012 was a marathon for me (lit festival; novel; MFA; my last year in 3 MFA-affiliated jobs), and bittersweet, personally, as it’s likely my last year in Amherst, but exhilarating, and dissonant to have that against the persistently nasty tone of political news, and the periodic horrors outside the Valley.

The corner of the Internet I know best has changed a lot this year; many people are blogging less, and finishing or soon to publish books; many writers already with books have joined Tumblr. It seems to me that a year ago one was more likely to find people who favored Tumblr or Twitter; now—and I find myself posting this way—there’s more platform jumping, depending on posts. More sustainable for both platforms, probably; more resilient against blogger fatigue. For community, different.

I’m really curious what the long-term consensus, and, hopefully, verifiable findings, will be on social media’s influence on Obama’s reelection. It seemed to me, live-tweeting, watching spin room falsehoods fall, at least in the echo chamber I was in, that the difference from previous elections was seismic.

Just this last week I started writing short stories again for the first time in nearly a year. I find my sentences breaking, my sense of stories’ shapes shadowing out differently than they have before.

2012 arrived with so many ridiculous associations (#mayans), so many real hopes and fears (#election2012). 2013? Likely, it’s only the wind at my back of personal endings, and relief at the election outcome, but I feel hopeful, generally, as I haven’t since starting this Tumblr. Fingers crossed. Happy 2013!

Today’s squalls passed early enough for me to run 7 miles before dark. I don’t remember the last time I was so glad of mundane preoccupations, sidestepping puddles, making sure I landed without turning an ankle, judging if turf was firm.

I have a piece forthcoming elsewhere with my thoughts post-Newtown. Even when I’m not thinking about Newtown, and now today’s execrable NRA “press conference,” sad things seem sadder. Everything is dampened. Something must be done. If not now, when Obama has the election at his back and Boehner has failed to keep his crew in line, then when?

Yesterday I drove east on U.S. 20, past Monson, through Brimfield and the path of the June 2011 tornadoes. I had no sense of what to expect. The best pictures I’ve found, aerials from right after the storms, are copyrighted, but worth clicking through to. Standing and ripped up trees have had a long time now to be dead. There are still miles of them; in areas away from houses, clearing has barely begun. Houses that must have been summer camps by ponds and streams stand intact in the newly bald valleys, still with the stains of having been too long and close under overhanging branches. Around them trunks are downed in grey whorls and roots and bare branches are snapped off.

This was my last week at UMass. I suppose I should have more to say about that (Fine Arts, mastered!) but it seems a small thing, now that it’s done, next to polishing my novel, getting it out there, starting the next thing. I don’t know where I’ll be living in a month, or what I’ll be doing, other than revising, and I feel relieved, right now, not knowing.

MFA Thesis, Defended

Committee Member:So, except for ______ and ____, these [characters] are all terrible people.
Me:Yeah, pretty much.
It’s done! 75,781 words, 309 pages double spaced in 12 pt Baskerville (because, you know—trusty!)
I want to sleep for a month…

It’s done! 75,781 words, 309 pages double spaced in 12 pt Baskerville (because, you know—trusty!)

I want to sleep for a month…

Novel revisions with stout and Hurricane Sandy.
We’re getting house-shaking gusts and are under a town-wide state of emergency, with the kind of intermittent power hits that make me think branches are on a wire somewhere, but the sky is brighter than it was for most of last week’s glum calm. I’ve definitely been in much stronger winds, but never at such a distance from the brunt of the storm.

Novel revisions with stout and Hurricane Sandy.

We’re getting house-shaking gusts and are under a town-wide state of emergency, with the kind of intermittent power hits that make me think branches are on a wire somewhere, but the sky is brighter than it was for most of last week’s glum calm. I’ve definitely been in much stronger winds, but never at such a distance from the brunt of the storm.

Amherst, from a run this weekend. As they did last year, leaves seem to be changing on diverging timetables, a few maples in full color, and higher ground soon to be bare, while most streets are as green as mid September would have been a decade ago; a patchy, piecemeal autumn. I miss all the colors peaking at once, the thrill of the season turning in a day.
I’ve been only sporadically online recently, robbing all the time I can for my novel. Through most of it, other writing seemed to feed back into it, like stretching out midway on a long run, but now in the homestretch I’m good for little else but keeping on.

Amherst, from a run this weekend. As they did last year, leaves seem to be changing on diverging timetables, a few maples in full color, and higher ground soon to be bare, while most streets are as green as mid September would have been a decade ago; a patchy, piecemeal autumn. I miss all the colors peaking at once, the thrill of the season turning in a day.

I’ve been only sporadically online recently, robbing all the time I can for my novel. Through most of it, other writing seemed to feed back into it, like stretching out midway on a long run, but now in the homestretch I’m good for little else but keeping on.