Or how I rediscovered that I CAN take my life with me wherever I go
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In this issue:
Big questions with no answers
Bracing for disruption only to find I can write anywhere
Great reads, ways to find more, and another chance to adopt a practically new novel: Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s Good Company
Some of the things I am thinking about (but not going to write about, at least not this week):
What if the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops realized how few of us care what they think and do?
What if we lived in a country where voting was universally encouraged and owning a gun wasn’t?
Can anyone think of a movie based on a book that was better than the book?
Thoughts? Additions? Fire away. Meanwhile, here’s something really important:
This is one of the loved faces I’ve gotten to see each morning this week. Kind of makes it all worth it.
Location matters but other things matter more
When I am pulled out of my routine I realize how wedded to it I’ve become. I don’t have to think about where I will write, or where I will walk. I don’t have to don real clothes if I am not in the mood. I know when I’ll have my coffee, when I’ll sneak my chocolate, when I’ll look at the list of 10-20 tasks I set for myself this week and I know I’ll do only one of two of them. I’ll live with that because that’s what tomorrow is for.
When I am involved in a project, everything -- even going to the bathroom - feels like a distraction, a disruption. So when we took off this week to spend time with two people we love very much, part of me worried about how much time I might lose now that I’m just beginning to feel renewed momentum on my novel. Turns out, I’m more flexible than I gave myself credit for.
This week I wrote in a hospital. I wrote in bed. I wrote here:
Not bad, huh? Even better, I am happy with what I’m writing. All the spade work, all the scenes and free writing that I’ve done to get here are coalescing into opening chapters that seem to be working. Fingers crossed.
When I am bracing for disruption I forget how freeing it is to be away from the familiar. Here, I look up and see a garden that is not mine to tend, a house that is not mine to worry about. There are only the most important things to do here: be as present as possible for the people I love and, when they are busy or napping, writing my heart out in their backyard.
I’m not sure I want to go home. Here’s my week in pictures:
Best short reads I’ve found lately…
For writers: The darling-relocation program from Austin Kleon. Instead of murdering those sentences, paragraphs, or pages that filled you with delight when you wrote them but left your editor underwhelmed, just relocate them. I’ve been doing this all along because I’m afraid I’ll throw away something I will need later. I’ve got an entire folder labeled “Scratch” where everything I cut goes. I may never use them. But then again, I might.
For those who have ever wondered how to read Ulysses...Bloomsday has passed and James Joyce’s Ulysses is not the first book on anyone’s summer reading list but if you’ve ever thought about picking up the book, here’s “Dogsbody,” a funny and instructive essay by Jim Ruland that you ought to read first. Then keep it handy when you finally tackle the great book itself. Or, just read the essay and enjoy yourself.
Just started reading…
Home Baked by Alia Volz. I’m only about a quarter of the way into this memoir by a woman whose mother pioneered and grew the edible marijuana business in San Francisco beginning in 1975 but I’m committed. It’s a fun read and an educational one. Volz’s mother’s career played out against a backdrop of changing drug laws and political swings that affected so many people, including people I know and love. I’ll be sharing a fuller review of the book in the next few weeks.
Author I’ve not yet read and now I wonder why: Louise Erdrich
A friend of mine posted a photo of Pulitzer Prize winning author Louise Erdrich with this quote and a few words of her own:
"You are here to risk your heart."
If you haven't read her work, treat yourself. Often luminescent, always insightful, from a brilliant and essential writer and woman.
I’ve read a few of Erdrich’s poems but I have never read any of her novels, something I’d like to rectify beginning this month. If you’ve read her books, tell me where to start -- at the beginning or with a particular novel of hers that has stayed with you?
If, like me, you are new to Erdrich, here are a couple of interviews with her that can get us all started:
PBS: Conversation with Louise Erdrich, Author of The Round House
In Case You Missed it...
Every Tuesday new books hit the shelves of bookstores, new rounds of author interviews are launched, and writers whose books are now in the world are riding the highs and lows that come with finally, actually publishing. It is overwhelming for authors and it can be overwhelming for readers too. Here are a couple of sources to keep handy when you want to check out what’s new, what you may have missed, and just to hear some new voices.
Podcast: Crime Writers of Color
“I was young and my writing was young. I transitioned from writing into healthcare because I wanted to eat.” - John Vercher, author of Three Fifths, from his interview with Robert Justice for Crime Writers of Color.
The Crime Writers of Color podcast is great. Host and author Robert Justice is a terrific interviewer. He knows how to tee up an insightful question quickly and concisely, then let the author talk. This is a rarity in the few podcasts I’ve listened to. So many interviewers get lost in their own questions that it can be irritating. You’ll find names familiar to Sparkers like John Vercher and Nikki Dolson as well as others such as author of the Hustler Justice heist novels Aya DeLeon , and Alyssa Cole, author of the Runaway Royals series of romances and the thriller When No One is Watching billed as “Rear Window meets Get Out”. If you’re looking for our next summer read, check out this site.
A Mighty Blaze
The YouTube channel for the site A Mighty Blaze is a treasure trove of fun discussions with authors, a great thing to listen to next time you’re on your stationary bike. Here’s their list of playlists. My favorites: The Thoughtful Bro, The Ziegeist, and my absolute favorite: Authors Read Bad Reviews of Their Own Books which, oddly, made me insanely interested in reading those books just to see if I agreed.
Adopt This Book: Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
I’m looking to re-home a practically new copy of Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. It’s her second novel, following the spectacularly successful launch of The Nest. To enter to win this copy, just hit the “like” button, comment, or send me an email by replying to this one. I’ll draw a winner next Thursday.
Good Company, Sweeney she said in a recent interview, is about “when you have to reconcile the dreams of your adult life with what it actually is.” Sweeney is a wonderful writer and the story opens with one of those first lines that pulls you in right away. Good Company explores the bounds of friendship, the impact of secrets we keep when we love someone and how a marriage evolves over time. For me, it was a quieter book compared to The Nest, a story that is a big, rich, funny, empathetic, wise, and page turner. There, she took on class, money, love, parenting, motherhood with wit and depth and perspective. She brought the reader into the world of the central family: the Plumbs who must figure out how to get what they want when the nest egg each adult child has been counting on, fails to come through. Here is a very good interview with Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney from The Mighty Blaze.
The cannabis conundrum or what I think I want for my big birthday
Stories about women who walk away
More from the new and suddenly popular Spark interview series, “The Writer’s Dog”
That’s it for this week. Let me know how you are and what you’re reading. Keep those Zen moments rolling in - we all need them. And if you are looking for a new book, browse away on the Spark Community Recommendations page at bookshop.org where every purchase helps independent bookstores. The commission I earn on that page will go entirely to supporting a literacy program we will choose together when we have raised enough. Right now, we have just over $6 in the account.
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Until next week, ciao, with love and gratitude,
P.S And now, your moment of Zen...ZZZZZ’s
Calling for Your Contribution to “Moment of Zen”
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