Imagination doesn't just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving [problems] or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. [Some people] would call this escapism, but they would be be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful branch of writing there is.
--Diana Wynne Jones

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Just in time for the holidays...

Hubby put the Christmas lights up


I mailed off Hepzibah to my agent at last.

I expect to do some more revisions before we send her out into the publishing world, but I feel a little bit like I've just sent my baby to her first day of Kindergarten. Except I couldn't cry. I did laugh aloud.

There's a little story behind all this. It begins
Once upon a time, H was my first novel ever, and I worked on it non-stop for about a year, all the while attending conferences and reading like a mad-woman, but I never found a beginning I liked,


after about 35 *&%$#! beginnings,

I got sick of it and set it aside for a couple of years. Meanwhile, I wrote a second novel--the novel which got me an agent--and began three others.

I learned a lot in those three years of writing and reading every day and studying novel-writing. When I picked H up again, I realized she needed a complete overhaul, poor girl. I kept getting her out and tinkering, and then I'd get distracted and pick up one of my other projects, and she got a little lost in the shuffle. Because it's so much easier to do something new and get it basically right the first time, than to fix what seems like a big, fat mess.

I finally got down to business when my friend, Jamie, started a One-Page-a-Day blog where we commit to write at least one page every day and then report on the blog if we've done it or not and make our sorry excuses if we fail. I decided then to force myself to work on H every single day, whether I felt like it or not and set aside my other projects for awhile. Thanks, Jamie. What a great idea. If you're a writer (or would like to be) and want to join us, feel free to check out the rules (for example, you have to prove you're not an axe-murderer, and it really helps if you know one of us) on the blog at

Once I got my head in the story again, it took off, and I decided to finish her up for National Novel-Writing Month. Which I did last Saturday, and sent her off to the agency that night (er, Sunday morning, I guess) at 1:30 am.

The end.

And we lived happily ever after. For a few days, anyway.


for Thanksgiving, one of the things I'm thankful for is that Hepzibah is out of my hands for the moment, after nagging at me for three years to finish her up. I really like her. I do. I'm just glad to get her out the door for a bit.

My family is thankful, as well.
I cooked dinner yesterday for the first time in I-can't-remember how long.
I have time to think about Christmas presents and such things.
No more witch girl hovering over my head and haunting me: finish me up, finish me up.

A couple of other random thankfulnesses:

I'm thankful for my sisters.
And my poor, neglected children and husband. I'll be seeing more of you now.
And the amazing mountains by my house.
And the smell of cinnamon.
For fresh thyme still growing in the garden.
For happy moments
And music.

Happy Thanksgiving, all! I'm baking rolls--real, homemade, five-hour butter rolls. Mmm.

Monday, November 23, 2009

We (Writers) Are Transmitters

I cringe whenever I hear an author say, "I don't write for an audience; I write for myself."

Well, of course she writes for herself. So does probably every other writer, including me. Writing keeps us sane.  But I have three teenage girls, and when they pick up a book, that story isn't just the author's anymore, it belongs to my daughter; it's in her head and how she responds to it could change a lot about the way she thinks.

If you're published, you're writing for an audience.
If other people read your stuff, you're writing for an audience.
Anyone who takes their manuscript out of its drawer and hands it off to someone else has written for an audience.

And there's a certain amount of responsibility that comes with that, like it or not.

Words have power to change lives, and that's something you've got to take into account when your work goes out into the world. As John Gardner points out in The Art of Fiction, somebody who reads your book may be desperate, or suicidal, or otherwise in trouble, and your book may be the tipper, one way or the other. Especially when you write for young people that's true, because kids actually listen, unlike adults.

Your words are power; what are you going to do with that?

There's this poem by D.H. Lawrence that's been in my head for about twenty years. I've removed one politically incorrect line, so nobody rises up in outrage and threatens to beat me with a stick, but when read it, I can't help thinking about writing, since that's what I spend my hours doing.

We Are Transmitters

As we live, we are transmitters of life.
And when we fail to transmit life, life fails to flow through us.

That is part of the mystery of sex, it is a flow onwards...

And if, as we work, we can transmit life into our work,
life, still more life, rushes into us to compensate, to be ready
and we ripple with life through the days.

Even if it is a woman making an apple dumpling, or a man a stool,
if life goes into the pudding, good is the pudding,
good is the stool,
content is the woman, with fresh life rippling in to her,
content is the man.

Give, and it shall be given unto you
is still the truth about life.
But giving life is not so easy.
It doesn't mean handing it out to some mean fool, or letting the living dead eat you up.
It means kindling the life-quality where it was not,
even if it's only in the whiteness of a washed pocket-handkerchief.

Even it's only a book I wrote.

Writing is a happy thing for me. It's fun. I do it for myself, because I like it, and some of my work will never see the light of day, because it really is just mine. But once I consider letting it leave my hands, D.H. Lawrence and John Gardner start talking in my head, and that changes everything.

I hope they talk to you, too.

Playing High and Dry with Sourdough

Lately I've been playing with dough. It's become a sort of a compulsion. Maybe because I'm tired of driving all the way to som...