What I’m writing

What I’m writing – January 15th

I had the lovely fortune to have dinner with two dear former students at a taqueria in my old neighborhood this weekend. They made googly eyes at each other and I cracked jokes- it was a grand time. The conversation came around (as always) to what I do besides teaching, and I mentioned that I’ve been writing a lot. She asked me to send her some poetry, he said 12 words was his limit for reading, and I brought up THE NOVEL that I am writing. He insisted that he be put into the book, but we had to think for a moment to decide what role he could play in a 19th century Western.

“How could you exist in a time without cars? What would you be?”

“A farmer!” he said eagerly. His girlfriend laughed.

“I think —  a blacksmith.”

We decided that he’ll play a minor role, that my main character will go to town and casually remark, “Why is the blacksmith so fucking skinny?” and that will be that.


So when I came home that night, naturally I had to write. And since so far the novel lives in fragments that have come to me at random times, I had to actually decide on a place to start and on where I would go next. After re-reading my first page, I decided to have my narrator go back to what she sees as the beginning of her story:

We met in the Spring, Alfie and I, when the magnolias were throwing blossoms up like excited praise at the sky. I was a slip of a thing at 15 and he was already his broad farm boy self. I remember the first time that he came to call for me. It were somehow different than all the hundreds of times he’d come from his Daddy’s farm to mine to help with haying or raise our new barn or borrow a horseshoe.

I didn’t think I’d start this quite so linearly, but one of the hesitations I’m facing is that I need to make a lot of fabric for this story. It can’t be sparse like poetry, made of twisted strands and beads. It needs to be woven, thickly, so it can stand up to all the important embroidery with which I intend to embellish it. I think that I’ve been writing poetry with such focus for a while now that I need to reconsider the demands of volume that prose presents. In a way, this takes the pressure off a little. I don’t need to make each word perfect (yet!) and instead can just focus on putting them together on the loom and building something.


Other writing notes:

  • I’ve been looking at the number of submissions for each poem in my basket, and I’m surprised by how few times each one has gone out. That makes the fact of my non-publication a little easier, because it means that each poem has not really had its full chance to shine yet. Many of my best poems are recent, so they’ve only been traveling the world for a few months or a few weeks. There’s hope! I’ll be working on getting those numbers up in the next couple of months.
  • Have been following some great writing blogs and sites these days:
  • My freshmen will be writing “This I Believe” Essays this week, and I’m thinking of writing one, too, but I’m so unsure of what I’d write about! Maybe something about how it’s essential to show people you care, but since that’s born of a very recent personal story of someone NOT caring, I’m not sure I’ll choose to expose that part of my tender soul right now. I’ll keep you posted if I do.


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