Pushcart Prize nomination!

Many thanks to Brenda Mann Hammock and everyone at Glint for nominating Lamia for a Pushcart. I couldn’t be more tickled!

NaNoWriMo: Week Two

  • Halfway point.
  • Getting really, really tired of the appeals for donations. Sorry NaNoWriMo, I blew my discretionary budget on sweaters and half-priced cocktails.
  • But I am unapologetically a fan of this month of novel writing. I’m inclined to think most people would benefit from having to spend some vast amount of time doing something that rewards focus and introspection. But maybe not. I don’t know.
  • My intention was to participate more fully in the discourse this week, but I don’t care and I don’t have time and I am too boring. Sitting in a chair again, typing!
  • I hate sitting in chairs. Sitting in chairs, looking at computers is the worst thing about writing. I’ve sat on couches and on exercise balls and I’ve jury-rigged a standing desk, but inevitably, inexorably my ass is drawn back to the chair, back to the computer. It’s awful.

NaNoWriMo Week One in Review

  • I kept to my targets without much difficulty. Consequently what I’ve written isn’t very good. Word count: approximately 13,000. I took yesterday off to draw a diagram and clean the bathroom. Also, writing every single day of the week is hellish. I intend to keep the sabbath for the remaining weeks and  have adjusted my targets accordingly.
  • This draft might be vulgar and the POV ineffectual, but I’ve been working shit out and getting some kind of idea of what a subsequent (better) draft might look like. So that’s okay.
  • I left out the part where I bought a frumpy skirt from a charity shop and stuck in in a tote bag full of cat food because this is the person I have become.
  • I did not live-tweet because of banality. This week I intend to break down that wall. I tell myself that I keep my thoughts to myself because of my carbon footprint, but that is absurd. Yesterday I bought tights at Primark. Please don’t tell.
  • Over the weekend I attended a local write-in. Someone was talking about staying up all night to work on their piece. I think this is admirable, but insane. Why risk your health for fiction? And during cold and flu season! Madness.
  • I received emails and updates from the NaNoWriMo website. I read them. The pep talks and the appeals for money. Honey I am dirt poor, and I hate to say it, but if I had money to spare, I would probably not donate it to writing programs. Isn’t that awful? I have several uncharitable views on writing. Such as: the world does not need your novel and not everybody has a story to share. It’s better to divest yourself of all your illusions regarding the nature of writing. Fiction matters, but that doesn’t mean yours does. What you are writing is probably shit. Steel yourself for rejection and anguish, and be free. This is life. It’s not so bad. Christmas is coming! They are selling mulled wine outside of the shopping center now.
  • Last night I google-hungout with my friends in America. One asked me what my day looks like. It looks like sitting in rooms.

Perseverance

I used to date a guy who had a friend who was very mentally unwell. The mentally unwell friend wrote one page of fiction everyday and at the end of a year he had 365 pages of fiction: a novel.

My boyfriend read his friend’s novel; he derided its lack of focus. It was all over the place, he said. It was random and chaotic. Its author hadn’t made a plan at all, he just wrote and wrote. The resulting novel evidently didn’t make a lot of sense. But I think for a first draft maybe that’s not so bad. I would rather carve a novel out of 365 pages of chaos than have to start again.

My boyfriend also wanted to be a writer. He wrote short stories for creative writing classes, which in retrospect weren’t terrible, only he couldn’t take criticism. From me.

I have written one novel. It took me nearly four years. I didn’t have a very good plan. The final draft is very different from the first. And now I am writing another novel, and although it may be premature to say this: I hate it. I HATE IT. I HATE EVERYTHING. If this were the nineteenth century, I would throw the pages into the fireplace and weep. But the pages aren’t even pages and our fireplace doesn’t work.

Whenever I feel down, I try to think of the worst case scenario: my writing is derided by people who are close to me and I am revealed to be a loser in the end. I am so afraid that I am going to fail. Or worse: become bitter and despised.

How do you keep your dreams from making you into a monster?

Writing Publicly

To really get the NaNoWriMo experience, I will be live-blogging or tweeting my antics because the thought of doing so makes me uncomfortable, but isn’t that always an opportunity for growth? But it does feel lame and I hate to be cute. Doesn’t talking about ones writing always devolve into cuteness?

No.

Unfortunately the truth is more like: I’m uncomfortable with transparency. I’m uncomfortable with talking about what I do. The truth about me isn’t very nice and it’s not something I feel proud of. I have behaved in utterly selfish ways to make my life conducive to writing. Moreover, I’m a sketchy person. When I try to elide the truth, I sound like a criminal. But it’s awful to have to say at dinners and parties and to people I’ve just met, Yeah, I quit a part-time job so I would have more time to write. I’m not really interested in looking for work – frankly I would rather be poor. Yes, I did drop out of an MFA program, but I had really good marks! No, but none of this would be possible without a husband who believes in me; none of this would be possible if my husband weren’t a hard-ass who hates to see me slacking off; none of this would be possible if my mother hadn’t died.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I have done the following:

1. Reread a draft of an old, unfinished novel that I’ve had on the shelf since 2008. It is not good.

2. Read the following: The Devil’s Tramping Ground and Other North Carolina Mystery Stories, Growing Up with Chapel Hill, Life of Braxton Craven, History of Davie County, Historic Architecture of Davie County, Many Excellent People, and such.

3. Failed to look for paid employment

Number 3 was obviously the most crucial step.

In preparation for NanoWriMo I have not:

1. Written up detailed character bios. The bone structure as it were.

2. Made anything resembling an outline.

3. Given any thought to plot whatsoever.

 

Is writing boring? Are novels relevant? Are our attention spans too short because of internet?

This year I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo because I have no discipline and I thought I should get some. Many internet articles have been written about this most popular month of novel writing, but I will not link to any of them. It should be enough to observe that writers who make their process public are irritating, not because the writing process is irritating, but rather: it is irritating to talk too much about oneself. Many future internet articles will conflate these issues, but that is because people who write articles for the internet seldom have time to think deeply about the subjects on which they write.

Yesterday I dropped a computer on my toe. It was excruciating for about five minutes.

Lice

When I was nine or ten years old, I was sent to a posh summer camp in the mountains. I was sent to this camp because my mother had gone to it and because my grandfather was paying for it. For reasons I didn’t entirely understand, there was a lot to do with King Arthur and Camelot and chivalry in the camp’s remarkably arcane mythos, and at the close of each season there was a pageant to this effect. The older girls would dress as knights and there were songs and a torch and a bonfire and faces wet with tears: another summer dead, and every one of us in drag.

My first year there, I was placed in a cabin with a cadre of cruel girls from New Orleans. They wore thick scrunchy socks and Daisy Dukes when they could get away with it, and they talked about beignets, Hard Candy nail polish, and the multitude of ways in which I was inferior to them. They played mean pranks and got suntans; I cried a lot, had to wear vastly more sunscreen than any of the other girls, generally failed at all outdoor pursuits, and got no help or sympathy from grown ups. I think I must have been an awful, strange, peevish, truculent kid because I almost never got any sympathy or help from grown ups. I think I must not have been very likable at all.

The following year I was sent back to the posh camp in the mountains, and this time I was placed in a cabin with other weird girls. I had a better time; I was left alone. I took advantage of this and found places to hide from other people because I didn’t feel like the other people there. My enthusiasm was always misplaced, there were frequent accusations of lesbianism among the campers and I wished very much to avoid being made the subject of these, my athleticism was in no way improving, I hated every song in the camp’s songbook, and I was obviously never going to get a tan. I felt essentially locked out of the camp’s esprit de corps and I was utterly unable to muster a sense of belonging, so I hid along the lakeshore, and I hid in the mossy hollows behind the cabins, and I hid among the blackberries by the stables, and I hid in the camp’s library, where I read a huge amount of terrible fiction and spent a lot of time staring into space.

I’ve spent the past decade trying to replicate the experience of being in that library, at that camp. The smell of damp paper and wood and mildew, the dusty rugs and musty cushions and the isolation — the library was in an attic that could only be reached by ascending the hill behind the building and crossing a short bridge. Up high, surrounded by trees, totally alone, with music in the distance and the rain falling on the laurels beyond the unscreened windows. In a place where I’d almost figured out how to deal with feeling like a stranger. I don’t think I’ll ever get it right.

 

My third year at camp, I was placed with the same weirdos because by then we were friends and had put in requests to be stuck together. The extra bed in the cabin was given to an even weirder girl. We were mean to her, just like the girls from New Orleans had been mean to me. But she was odd-looking and dull, a little cross-eyed, and she didn’t bathe very often, so obviously she deserved to be censured. Anyway, she got lice. Or we did. But we believed the lice had come from her, and that was what mattered.

I don’t remember whether or not I actually had lice – a few of us didn’t, but we were all sent to the nurse’s station and our scalps were inspected and we were each sent away with a bottle of RID, which we spent the afternoon applying outside of the bathhouse. Our clothes and bedding were all taken from us to be laundered. We were left with only our nit-white Sunday uniforms (this camp had uniforms) that signified in their deviance from the weekday grey and green, our stigma and our shame.

Without bedding, without pajamas, we slept in our clothes on undressed vinyl cots, with only our plastic rain ponchos to keep us warm when the night turned cold and damp. Why were we not given blankets? That year I was the color Yellow in the Rainbow Chorus, in the camp’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The girl who gave us lice was the color Yellow too. I was repulsed by the idea that we were equals. I never wondered whether she ever hid from us, and where did she go. But I am inclined to think that there is a lie at the heart of every song sung around a campfire by girls dressed up like boys: you cannot ever know these people. False feelings are abundant in the world.