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My Jane Austen Summer
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Category Archives: The art of writing…
I have been telling my husband: if I had one week of total isolation I could finish my novel. Well, I got my chance to prove it. As of 8:00 am last Monday morning, I was HOME ALONE. For five days it was just me and my novel.
Day T-1: I wanted to hit the ground running so I cleaned my office (for the first time since 2013) and cleared my desk of everything not related to the novel-in-progress. The result was exhilarating and I decided I should do that more often.
Previously published on Girlfriends Book Club
Since we are discussing setting I will reluctantly work past my discomfort to share, not only how I obtained realistic details to create the manor house in my novel, but also how a sense of poetic entitlement caused me to behave badly. Ahem. (Sound of me clearing throat). I avoided arrest and have purposely omitted names in this post in order to protect myself.
This post was recently published in Girlfriends Book Club
Since I don’t have an MFA, my learning curve offers a unique perspective on the subject of writing instruction including several less conventional resources. Here are five sources for important lessons I didn’t learn in a formal program:
- Gossip: Understanding how individuals operate under pressure is a prerequisite for creating empathetic characters and a grasp of the complex world of human psychology is expected from the get-go. Fortunately, my grandmother, a professional counselor, shared her expertise with me–her oddly attentive granddaughter–from an early age. We lingered at the table long after meals, solving the the problems of in-laws and outlaws, leaving no unseen pressure under-analyzed. If you don’t have a professionally trained grandmother, an observant girlfriend will do. And if the term gossip bothers you, just call it material.
Last weekend I drove to Oklahoma City to cheer my son’s crew team. I went alone. What this really means is: I left my personal fraternity house (on Pizza Friday) for the absolute solitude of a remote hotel room. Husband felt sorry to cancel on me, but I pulled out of the driveway before he or anyone could reshuffle their schedules and get in my car. For three hours I drove, imagining a block of time in a silent hotel room to work on my novel. No dog jumping on the bed, no boys arguing over TV controllers, no husband expecting ducks in a row. I was so excited I nearly missed my exit.
Summer ended today as the last of my four sons surrendered his Xbox controller, packed up his summer reading files, and entered Middle School peacefully. Structure, discipline, and progress for all. But before completely buttoning up starry nights and car trips, I want to confess my summer reading affairs and relive the attribute that made me fall in love each time.
And then I will move on.
While adjusting to the freedom of no homework and children who sleep all morning, I had a fling with literature. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman was indeed original, perspective-altering, and a teensy bit heartbreaking for an old-fashioned reader like me. (Italy was great). Walks With Men by Ann Beattie was edgy for my appetite, but her photo-realistic characters taught me things a writer can use. Solar by Ian McEwan was way better than the NYTBR led me to expect, the potato chip scene alone was worth the read.