the next writer in the series: july 1, 2015

81EabYucNRL

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with … Continue reading

the next writer in the series: april 1, 2015

IMG_2261

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with … Continue reading

the next writer in the series: july 1, 2014

fenton johnson

In  The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote, I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we … Continue reading

the next writer in the series: may 1, 2014

The Pat Boone Fan Club

In  The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote, I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we … Continue reading

the next writer in the series: october 1, 2013

the saddest music ever written

In  The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote, I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we … Continue reading

writing by writers

writing by writers

Some of my favorite writers will be teaching workshops this coming October at Tomales Bay–Pam Houston, Ron Carlson, Antonya Nelson, Cheryl Strayed, Fenton Johnson, and Carl Phillips. Writing By Writers is hosting six workshops October 16-20, 2013 at the Marconi … Continue reading

the chronology of water

The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch. Wow. Some book. One reviewer admits to considering throwing it across the room.

It’s a memoir, and the writing is uneven. But that fits the life it mirrors. Like the story out of which it grew, it’s

About fathers and swimming and fucking and dead babies and drowning. Written entirely in random fragments–how I understood my entire life. In the language–image and fragments and non-linear lyric passages–that seemed most precise.

A striking chapter tells the story of a hot pink Schwinn bike “with a banana seat and streamers coming out of the handlebars.” Her father brought it home to cheer her up after her sister left. She was ten and thought “it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever seen…”

But she didn’t know how to ride a bike.

So when I came outside to touch the hot pink ride, beautiful as she was, all I felt was terror.

Besides being a hell of a story, this is a living, breathing object lesson. How a beautiful pink bike can also be an object of terror. How in a fictional world a bicycle could be beautiful to one character and terrifying to another.

She writes: “In water, like in books–you can leave your life.”

About the breakup of her second marriage:

I would have done anything for him. A love unto death. And…

Goddamn it.

I’m already lying. I’m making it all sound literary.

It was messier than that. A lot.

At the end of the book is an interview. Yuknavitch writes:

I do know that when I’m inside writing I don’t want to be anywhere else. It’s like being inside a song or a painting.

The Chronology of Water

Cross-posted at the Contrary Blog

brief

Julian Barnes wrote Nothing To Be Frightened Of, a memoir about death, “in order to make the fear familiar.” I’m not sure he succeeds, but he does write with a compelling “matter-of-factness” about the subject:

I suspect that if I get any sort of decent dying time…

Because of the How We Spend Our Days series, I wanted to share this story that he recounts. A biographer friend of Barnes’ wanted to write about his life. The biographer’s husband joked that it would be a short book because all of JB’s days were the same:

Got up. Wrote book. Went out, bought bottle of wine. Came home, cooked dinner. Drank wine.

some saturday morning fun

A one-year subscription to Quick Fiction is $13.50.

with new pages!

#1: What’s in it for me?

#2: What’s happening?

#3: What’s in a cover?

A one-year subscription to Conjunctions is $18.00.

I’ve subscribed to One Story since 2004. Plus, I try to subscribe to 3-4 other literary journals. And I mix it up from year to year.

If we don’t subscribe to the journals where we want to see our writing, who will?

For lunch today or tomorrow, make a pb&j and spend your $ on a subscription to the journal of your choice.

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devotion

“Yogis use a beautiful Sanskrit word samskara, to describe the knots of energy that are locked in the hips, the heart, the jaw, the lungs. Each knot tells a story–a narrative rich with emotional detail. Release a samskara and you release the story. Release your stories, and suddenly there is more room to breathe, to feel, to experience the world.”

Devotion, Dani Shapiro’s new memoir, is a beautiful book both inside and out. Her son Jacob is “the beating heart” of this journey, yet there is something about this book that felt necessary to me, that I’m guessing will feel necessary to each of us.

“To pause. To be still–not leaning forward, not falling back. Steady in the present–not even waiting. Just being.”

And with the stillness, she writes, “I was starting to see what was there.

In the best book trailer I’ve seen, Dani talks about Devotion:

Dani has described the form of this book as “puzzle-like.” In Devotion, she quotes Virginia Woolf, “Arrange the pieces as they come,” a quote I also have on my desk. “Is there any other way to live than arranging the pieces as they come?” Dani writes. Some of those pieces: her search for meaning, her son’s illness, their post 9/11 move from New York City to Connecticut, her relationship with her mother and her ties to her father.

Yesterday I asked Dani why 102 pieces: “The book ended on 102 simply because that’s where the story ended–and I did like the number, and the roundness, the symmetry, the evenness of it–but really the arc of the story had come to an end.” The story of Devotion may be complete, but on her new website, Dani recently began a Devotion blog, where she continues beyond the book, a concrete manifestation that the journey is never over.

As I read Devotion, it was as Mary Oliver wrote in her poem, “I Want to Write Something So Simply“:

…by the end
you will think–
no, you will realize–
that it was all the while
yourself arranging the words,
that it was all the time
words that you yourself,
out of your own heart
had been saying.

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send in the elves

My desk this morning, instead of being covered with books and manuscript pages, is covered with Christmas lists. I want to write, but it’s hard to draw my mind away from the unanswered questions and undone errands on my list–with the clock ticking.

I wondered how other writers managed to focus at this time of the year. So I reached for May Sarton‘s Journal of a Solitude, written from September to September–1970 to 1971, I think. And guess what? As far as December, there’s an entry for the 2nd and then nothing until January.

It’s like falling into a black hole. In December, most of all, it’s a struggle to claw through the must-do’s, the should-do’s, and the do-nows to find something real. In December, it definitely takes both hands to catch a day. So I’m going to aim for a minute here and there. Maybe an hour. I’m not going to give in. I’m going to take a deep breath. Read a few words. Write a sentence.

In her January 2nd entry, May Sarton writes,

“Iimg_1190 can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become even for those, like me, without children. Everyone must feel revolt as I do about the middle of December when I am buried under the necessity of finding presents, the immense effort of wrapping and sending, and the never-ended guilt about unsent cards…”

In an attempt at a real thought for today, I leave you with this. In her last entry in the book, she suggests that writing is a “messenger of growth,” that from where we are, “we write toward what we will become…”

[Something about my desk this morning felt familiar, hence this re-post from December 19, 2008.]

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the ordinary day

My husband just forwarded me an email, sent to him by a law school and golfing buddy, with a YouTube video of Katrina Kenison, the long-time editor of the Best American Short Story series, reading a seven-minute excerpt from her new memoir.

As an antidote to these list-oriented days, I am passing on The Gift of an Ordinary Day:

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