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posted March 5, 2015

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Karl Wallinger and Our Midwest Tour

Music has a power that I don’t understand. I feel it sometimes when I experience the loyalty of our own following. But it took Karl’s death for me to remember its sway on me. Lately, I’ve avoided listening to music. Why? Music makes me feel. I can’t have it playing in the background. It’s distracting––not so much to my mind but to my heart. Listening to music, I become a sea creature, at the mercy of the waves. When I get fearful, I pull myself out of the water and sit on a rock, my knees to my chest, glowering at the fickle ocean.

How to Think About Writing Prompts

I use several kinds of prompts. Most often, I use an entire poem. I see poems as secular prayer, a way of borrowing a bit of genius when I myself feel depleted. Reading a poem, or hearing it, puts me in a literary mind, a new state. I think of it as kindling; a little bit of torched wood tossed onto my log. Or the way, at a peace vigil, we hold candles and pass the flame to our neighbor.

How to Get Through Horrifying Process of Literary Agent Submissions

I have reached a critical point in the list of orderly steps in the long march to publication which I have been given by others and have dutifully written down. They are/were as follows:

1.     Write the shitty first draft
2.     Read it and make less shitty
3.     Send it to Kind & Wise Mentory Editor Who Has Read James Joyce
4.     Laugh and cry as you read her Kind & Wise suggestions; take 99% of them. Redraft.
5.     Send new draft to 28-Year-Old Editor Who Doesn’t Remember President Nixon But Is Much Smarter Than I
6.     Enjoy life with no novel to think about and write songs and poems while 28 y-o reads and edits draft.
7.     Receive edits from 28-y-o and cry for a month. Decide you are not a novelist. Pick yourself up off the carpet and have a Zoom call with her in which she tells you she had a very hard time editing your novel because it was practically perfect.
8.     Wonder if you are crazy.
9.     Take 69% of her suggestions and finish the draft.
10.  Write a synopsis which is harder than writing the novel
11.  Write the query letter which is harder than writing the synopsis
12.  Make a list of agents you’d love to work with by finding names in the acknowledgements pages of your favorite novels. Cross off the dead ones.

On Point of View

Practically the first thing you need to decide when writing fiction is “who is telling this story?” Historically, we novelists have had many options. When novel-writing in English began in…

The Road and The Vaster Wilds: Anti-Odysseys (Part 3 in an ongoing series)

By happenstance, I read Cormac McCarthy’s 2007 apocalyptic novel The Road and followed it with Lauren Groff’s latest, The Vaster Wilds. It was September, technically still summer, but both of these novels take place in life-threateningly cold weather, and each author made me feel that cold, that terror of being consumed by the natural world, an awareness of the scarcity of essential resources, the distrust of other human beings–even our intimates. As I revisit these novels today, fittingly on Halloween, when the air in Massachusetts has grown chill and my body continues to fight against that novel corona virus, I find myself sharing some of these primal fears. When the terrain is unknown and the enemy invisible, who and what can we trust?

River Roads

Here’s the strange thing about me: I can completely forget I’m a musician until I arrive at the gig. It’s as though that part of me is a set of clothes for another season, kept in a moth-proof box in the attic, out of mind until the weather changes.

How to Clear Your Clutter, De-Squirrel Your Attic and Find the Inner Architecture of Your Novel

We have squirrels in our house. I didn’t want to tell you this, as it creeps some people out and many of you reading this blog have actually come to my…

FAWM Day #2 One down

I wrote my song! It took me all day, but it’s finished, or close to. It’s called “Dave Hayes the Weather Guy.” I know he’s Dave Hayes the Weather Nut,…

Antidote to Pain

I am journaling for Lent with a friend of mine who is a minister and a mom. We are using as inspiration a book called 40 Days with Kathleen Norris….