Tag Archives: novel

Intensity. Immersion. Whoa.


Ever wake up and wonder how you got yourself into this situation?! You know you brought it on yourself, you chose deliberately, your instinct led and you followed, and yet here you are, overwhelmed and blown away and crazed.

10 days to go on the novel edit. 40? 50? pages more. 3 weeks in the new house. 20+ boxes still unpacked. Zero contractors booked for the reno.

There’s part of me that LOVES the hormone rush of too much: too many piled-up deadlines, too many amazing choices, too much to do. But, then there’s the moment of breath, the little break, and I remember the loveliness of just contemplating. Allowing a little space.

How awesome is it that I can have both?!

I’m in the final push of an 8 week editing stint with the incisive and brilliant Joshua Mohr. Since January 4th, I’ve revised 150+ pages of the nascent novel about two sisters. The last section begins today. This is my few hour break.

Revising a novel is like directing your huge, extended family of cats—squiggling, hungry, demanding, petulant, joyful. The calico just turned up his nose at the canned food, the kittens are tearing up your favorite down comforter, the mangy one won’t stop his damned yowling (hisss, stop!) the siamese winks in silent judge-y condemnation.

Live, sleep, eat, breathe, dream Jenn and Polly. (Well, not much sleep, actually.) And then, every now and again, the cats all lift up their faces, the sun shines, and the chorus sings. The story hums. The words coalesce.

And then there’s the move. Smack dab in the middle of what requires intense concentration, 24/7 focus, we close on a complicated escrow, extract ourselves from faculty housing, retrieve belongings packed in May from storage (oh, that’s why one should copiously label the boxes…) and then proceed directly, don’t pass Go, to the Move From Hell. “It’s a 45 minute drive from Palo Alto to Moss Beach. It’s been 3 hours. Where the f*%K are YOU?!” “No, man, the beach is west. west. Not east.” “It’s been 4 hours. What the hell are you doing in Richmond?!”

David thinks they’re selling our belongings out of the back of the truck. I’m noodling on how I’m gonna get Jenn and Polly to do what I want. Trying to get David to stay calm.

Five and half hours later, as the movers arrived with our stuff in the pitch dark, the power went out.

Oh, did I mention the 45 mile an hour wind gusts?

When the lights flickered back on soon after, the entire neighborhood’s bundle of communication cables lies over our driveway and across the moving truck. The already tearful driver completely freaks out. Jenn and Polly gotta wait. PG&E is “aware of the problem.”

So, it’s the end because it all works out. The GPS-inept driver doesn’t get a tip, but he gets a hug, our stuff is safe and sound, and I live in the most amazing place in the entire Bay area. We’ve bonded with the neighbors over the Comcast cable re-wiring week long debacle. David loves having a commute again, and the drive “over the hill” to Palo Alto is one of the most beautiful on this earth. The weather ranges from sunny to foggy to rainy to windy and back again. The ocean and El Nino produced “big waves” and Mavericks surfing dudes converged about a mile from us.

Every day here has the potential for intensity. Eyes wide open.

So, I have both: an intense emotional and intellectual immersion in writing a novel, and a physical and spiritual intensity in my real world.  Yep, I choose this!


OWC Endings and Beginnings, Happy and Sad…

I graduated!

As thrilled as I am to say that I’m now the proud owner of a Certificate in Novel Writing from the Stanford online writing program, more than any other graduation in my life I’ve much sadness, too.

My fellow cohort members are remarkable artists, friends, supporters.  These few dozen women (and Roy!) cheered my move across country, gave impeccable critical feedback, understood like no one else the tribulations of being “writer.”

Our teacher/mentors created a rigorous yet warm environment, full of craft and aha’s! and intellectual stimulation and holy cow’s.  I’m still drop-dead amazed.  How do you do that online (with a few in person meetups?)  The whole of academia needs to take a lesson from this program.

So, that leaves me a bit bereft.  Done.  A year of saying goodbyes, I guess:  home, work, friends, now OWC.

But…all is not lost!!

We’ve formed at least two writing groups (the Happy Quartet below–online video chatting weekly; and the Bay Area Meetup—in person monthly.) And, Stanford has provided us a chat room to continue on for another while.

And that will be the legacy of OWC, that life goes on, that writing community once found is worth nuturing, that we are all writers, ass-in-the-chair artists with something to say worth saying.  What a friggin’ transformation (as my main novel character, Polly, would say!)

Yip, yip, yip, hoorah. Choice and such.

The downstairs neighbor quit her law practice because the two little ones couldn’t be without her (her words), over-coddled into an anxiety disorder (my diagnosis), so now I walk up the stairs past them when she dare go out and hear Yip!YIP!YIP!, close my door YIP!YIP!, cough YIP!YIP!, car drives by YIP!YIP!, any tiny noise or movement, you got it: YIP!YIP!YIIP!YIIIIIP!

Did I mention I work from home? Writing? Love quiet and silence and…quiet? 

I love Kim-Kim, Pauline’s exuberant and happy-to-be-alive, delighted-it’s-you Peke, but not many other d.o.g.s.  Especially not chiwowhays (sp intentional) whose every little yip says: no one else should exist but mom. 

grrrrrrr. Ruff.

But, these small irritations probably blown out of proportion by Sharon’s wise observation that I have my own wish to be blissfully alone on this planet for some hours of the day and my own resentment that I’ve not yet settled into a permanent place.  Why not take it out on what anyone (even dog luvahs) would find exquisitely over the top annoying. YIP, indeed. Distract myself from the real discomfort.

BUT!  David and I have narrowed the search.  Stanford West was never going to be the landing spot, despite it’s awesome proximity to his work.  We want Ocean.  It’ll be a commute for him, but we think the tradeoffs worth it.  Another Cliff Dive in the works! Relief on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Jenn and Polly, my novelistic sisters, live alongside me in the crisises of an unwanted pregnancy from rape, in all their flawed complexity.  All everything fades when I open that laptop.  I’m too superstitious to say too much more about how it’s going (because then it won’t.)  Thanks to Rachel from my Stanford writing group, I’ve clued into the social media stuff around abortion and Planned Parenthood, which confirms one of the several major motivations for writing this particular book. 

While I have a mad, driving desire to  introduce Respect for opposite passionate beliefs into the mix, I have an equally mad desire to represent our common belief in the very core of our existence as a culture, a country, a democracy, a human race:  individual determination.  Choice, man.

Which brings me back to yip! yip!  I’ll not call the Management office, not bang angrily on her door, not slyly offer dog treats filled with Xanax, not make any (more) secretly snide remarks to their mom (“Oh! they don’t bother me, I just feel bad for them!” ha, ha.)  Those little guys don’t act the way I want them to.  If it were my choice, they’d be in dog therapy, on dog anti-depressants and my neighbor would be in mom-dog training school.  But it’s not MY choice!  My choices are many (headphones, um, moving…hey, let’s move to the beach!) but key among them is not to tell her what or how to do it.  Unless she asks.  Which she won’t.

It’s a flawed argument on both sides, I suppose.  Where do we draw the line? How can I believe in a woman’s right to choose, but not believe in a person’s right to choose to own a gun?  How can they believe in carrying a gun and/or capital punishment and the “sanctity of life?”  

It’s a conversation worth having, but I’ll acknowlege right up front that my particular baggage comes along with me, if you’ll do the same.  And that’s the extremely cool thing about writing a novel, the discovery of the complexities of two women with opposing viewpoints on the world and what’s underneath the surface, and then below that layer, and the next and the next.  

The fun stuff, now!  Drop dead amazing, right?! I want to live there!  Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, CA.