Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day THREE of Five

When I was asked to host this wonderful blog, so many thoughts passed through my head. What do readers want to know? Are there subjects that fascinate...or are those the subjects that actually turn readers away? I contacted my dear friend, author Caroline Leavitt, and asked for her input. "Write about fear in writing," she told me. "Write about letting go to find the deeper truth." She triggered a memory of all the messages I've posted to my writing students, those deeply personal words reminding them that writing is often painful, difficult, frightening. And that's what I'm going to share with you today.

When I wrote my first novel, The Bone Weaver, I explored loneliness from the viewpoint of a woman who had never married. Readers learned about her isolation, both physical and emotional, and her unwillingness...as well as her inability...to allow herself to be loved. Was she me? I had married, was the mother of two adults, and I certainly understood what it was to be alone. Unlike Mimi, that main character, I most often enjoyed that time alone. As I wrote her story, it was sometimes frightening to breathe life into her because she took on a life of her own, sometimes going in directions I had not expected...or planned. I watched with fascination and occasional discomfort as she charted her own path, almost demanding what I write....as if she knew before I did and my job was to put her into words. Was this the fear writers talked about? And then stumbled into the realm of personal essay, and that's when I learned what fear really was. In my first anthology, The Other Woman, I struggled with my essay. I had never been unfaithful and I had never suffered the other woman, so when I wrote about my experience with infidelity, I was able to hold it at some distance. After all, I had been long divorced, as was the man I loved, but he had never put to rest old issues with his ex-wife; all that unfinished business hung over us. It was an interesting essay to write, but the subject was no longer painful, certainly not a memory that elicited fear. It was the next anthology, For Keeps, that changed everything. As I began to write, I realized with some terror that I could no longer hide. I was asking twenty-six women to reveal themselves, to dig deep and write from a place of profound truth and sometimes profound pain... and they did. Could I ask any less of myself? So I wrote. I wrote about the pain of racism and overweight, the wanting so much to be loved and accepted that I created distance; I confronted parts of my history that had never been honestly viewed...except in the privacy of a therapist's office. And suddenly, here it was, on the page for many to see. But that's not the real story here. I'm about to admit to something that few know. The day before the final manuscript went to the printer, I called my editor and begged her to let me revise. I had given too much, revealed beyond my safety zone, and I had to renege. Did my mother need to read what would certainly jeopardize my already fragile relationship with her, now a woman in her eighties? Did my friends and family need to know? So I removed perhaps ten words; I chickened out. Do I feel guilty? Yes. Do I regret having done it? No.

Here are a few new books from authors whose work is always a pleasure to read. Julia Glass, recipient of the National Book Award for Three Junes, is on tour for the paperback edition of I See You Everywhere http://www.keplers.com/book/9781400075775.
International bestseller Sandra Gulland, author of several remarkable French historical novels, has just launched the paperback version of Mistress of the Sun http://www.keplers.com/book/9780743298926
Clea Simon is enjoying that rush of pleasure because her newest novel, Shades of Grey, the first in her new Dulcie Schwartz feline-filled mystery series, has hit the bookstores. http://www.keplers.com/book/9780727867810

Thanks for visiting, and please post your comments. It you post questions directed at me or any of the authors mentioned in this blog, they'll be answered. Until tomorrow!

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