Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Missing in Action

The fact of the matter is I stink. I really do. What kind of rotten knitting writer/writing knitter would just disappear into the wilderness like that and not even drop in long enough to say Happy Thanksgiving?


It's not that I haven't thought about you because I have. Lots. Every time I pick up my knitting needles or thumb through the gorgeous new Harmony guides or sit here (literally) beating my head against the laptop, praying for the right words to finally FINALLY appear on the screen. It's been a long tough grind to reach the place where the story finally has a life of its own, a life separate from me.

For some reason I had a wicked time shedding the characters from my last book and slipping into the hearts of the new characters. I've been alternately overwhelmed, intimidated, terrified, uncertain, anxious, ready to grab my AmEx and race to the airport, ready to board a plane for anywhere but here.Poor Dallas and Poor Nancy have heard all about it in email. At length and ad nauseum, I'm afraid. (Nobody on the planet can whine more effectively and endlessly than a writer on a killer deadline.) The clock keeps ticking. Those calendar pages flip faster than I can register. And I waited and waited for the paragraphs and pages to mount.

There's a weird syndrome common to working writers that I call The Butt Springs Syndrome. I was telling Goldisox about it this afternoon and, brilliant thought he is, he just didn't get it.Me: It's like the second the writing starts going well I spring up from my chair and run as far away from it as I can get.

Him: I do that too when I'm procrastinating.

Me: No! No! It's not that. I said it happens when it starts to get good.

Him: You mean the words are flowing and you know what's going to happen next?

Me: Yes! That's it! All of a sudden the words are there and they're flowing from my brain to the keyboard without human intervention and something comes over me and next thing you know I'm at Shop Rite.

Him: (very long pause) That's just weird.

And it is. And also extremely common. I mean, I could understand running for the hills when the going gets tough. That's just good sense. But when it's good, when it's there, when you're finally in the zone: what the hell is that all about anyway? I mean, you'll never see me put down the needles when the cables are forming effortlessly. So what is it about writing that sometimes makes me want to flee the country?

crossposted to Romancing The Yarn

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shopaholic Shelf Life

I'm reading Sophie Kinsella's current Shopaholic book - Shopaholic & Baby - and quite frankly I don't know if I'm having a good time or not.

I'll admit to being a huge admirer of Kinsella's work under her other name, Madeleine Wickham. The Gatecrasher remains one of my all-time favorite pleasure reads: witty, subversive, moving and unpleasant and everything in between. She has a way of taking you by the hand, leading you down the garden path, then pushing you off a cliff you didn't even know was there.
But back to the Sophie Kinsellas. I'm beginning to think I'm a wee bit shopped out. There is, quite frankly, just so much dumb I can take and Becky Bloomwood Brandon may have crossed the line in this one. (Although I seem to remember saying the same thing after reading the one before this one.)
Which proves a thesis I've been formulating: the shelf life for series books is surprisingly short. Robert B. Parker and Sue Grafton notwithstanding, I'm not sure if any series (no matter how wonderful) is meant to last beyond five books. Sure there are exceptions to every rule, but I find my interest begins to wane around book four or five. The eccentricities stop being quite so charming. The set pieces feel contrived. The thrill is gone and it's unlikely book six is gonna bring it back.
It's a rare author who can keep it going past that point and keep it surprising. Kinsella (who is a truly gifted writer) is working with especially difficult constraints: if Becky Bloomwood Brandon ever gets a handle on her shopaholic ways, the series is over. Nobody wants to read about BBB clipping coupons or waiting for the yearly sale at Harrod's to stock up on cashmere scarves.
Maybe it's me. Maybe my attention span is growing shorter with age. Or maybe it's the problem that seems to affect most writers I know: The Oz Syndrome. Remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sees beyond the special effects and realizes the Great and Terrible Oz is nothing more than a failed snake-oil salesman from Kansas?
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Reading for pleasure is much more fun if a writer can manage to do that.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

I'm In Love With Robert B. Parker

There. I've said it. I'm in love with Robert B. Parker and I don't care who knows it. You can keep Brad Pitt and George Clooney. If I'm ever going to run away and make a fool of myself over some man who isn't my husband, it's going to be the aforementioned brilliant author of the Spenser and Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series of books, among others.

I can't think of another author who can grab my attention with the first line and hold it straight through to the last. Parker is instantly readable. He captures you immediately and doesn't let go until the story's been told.

If you've ever tried to write a book of your own, you'll understand what a gift that is. Elmore Leonard said the secret of his own success was the fact that he "skipped the parts people don't read" when he wrote his books. It seems to me Parker follows a similar format, although quite frankly I can't imagine RBP is capable of writing words I don't want to read.

I love the guy, okay? I can't help it. In my youth it was Paul McCartney. In my non-youth, it's Robert B. Parker. If they made Spenser bubblegum cards, I'd have the full collection. I'd wear a Hawk t-shirt and buy Susan Silverman vitamins.

What brought about this attack of fan-girlitis is the fact that I just finished his latest Spenser novel Now and Then and it's Parker at the top of his game. This is slightly more melancholy than the usual Spenser, more deeply romantic (in a very adult way), a game played with stakes set higher than this devoted reader was comfortable with. There's something thrilling about watching an artist perform at the top of his game, something exciting. This is Parker at his best and that's saying a lot.
I know how books get written. I know that even the most gifted writer, the most successful, still has to face the empty screen each day and hope the words will come. I know there are no shortcuts, no magic spells or potions, no secrets beyond showing up.
But when I read someone like Robert B. Parker (who makes it all look so damn easy) I have to wonder . . .

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Back again

The thing is, I've been too busy writing to write. I've also been too busy knitting and writing about knitting to write about writing over here.

Which clearly means I have a problem. Do I write about life on the knitting blog? Do I write about knitting on the writing blog? We all know what happens when worlds collide, but when it comes to blogging maybe that's not a bad thing.

I wish I had more time. I wish I were more organized. I wish I could write, read, type, and knit simultaneously. (I also wish I could have my 28 year old body, my 57 year old brain, and access to Bill Gates's ATM card for twenty-four hours but that's just me.)

So here I am. I don't blame you if there you aren't. I hope you'll find me again and that I'll be better about keeping the content fresher than two months old but I'm not making any promises.

GOOD READ: Wonderful Tonight - an autobiography written by Pattie Boyd, who was married to George Harrison and to Eric Clapton. A fascinating look at what it was like to be at the epicenter of all that was new and thrilling and dangerous in London in the 60s. Wildly romantic, funny, bittersweet: a terrific read. Worth reading if only for her descriptions of growing up in Africa.

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