Saturday, September 30, 2006

Iowa Writers' Workshop

Lately I've become somewhat obsessed with the Iowa Writers' Workshop. It all started with my reading of Kim Edwards The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I found a great article on the workshop at Wikipedia that includes a list of notable graduates. I'm now completely absorded by Jennifer Haigh's Mrs. Kimble, for which she won the PEN/Hemingway Award.

In Mrs. Kimble, readers discover the not very likable Ken Kimble through the three very different women he married. It is tragic and beautifully written. Highly recommended!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Writing a Book

My manuscript is due to the publisher in 3 months and 3 weeks. My first book.

When I think of it, I feel a bit sick in my stomach. I have approximately 63,000 words of the 75,000 required and still need to do final editing, organization, and write captions for all of my husband's photographs to include. Let me just say that once you reach 50,000 words you know you have written a hell of a lot.

In my yoga class this past week, we were given the assignment of writing down an intention - something we hope to accomplish over the next few months or so. My intention:

I will remain calm and focused as I enter the final stages of my book project.

Joyce Carol Oates

I just finished Joyce Carol Oates' Missing Mom, a recent novel published in 2005. I simply don't understand how someone can write so amazingly well and be incredibly prolific at the same time.
In Missing Mom, we meet Gwen Eaton through her 31 year old daughter Nikki Eaton. Within the first 30 pages or so, Gwen Eaton is found murdered. The 400+pages follow Nikki through the first year after her mother's murder. The depth of the characters and Oates' craft make it definitely worth reading. I read it in one week, which is saying a lot, considering my busy work schedule this time of year.

The edition of Missing Mom I read is one of those Harper Perennial P.S. books that includes several pages in the back with things such as an author interview, etc. In response to the interviewer's question of a guilty pleasure or "favorite trashy read," Oates says, "I never read, watch, or listen to anything remotely 'trashy,' for life is too short." No wonder she is so prolific.

I was also very surprised to read that she writes the first draft of all of her books in longhand and then continues her work on a typewriter. She does not own a computer.

I think reading Missing Mom created a desire in me to write something different from the book I'm currently writing on California libraries. I wrote (in pencil!) an outline and the beginnings of several short semi-autobiographical pieces. It felt so good to write something completely creative.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Wise & Kind Dr. Massey

I found out earlier this week that one of my former English professors, Dr. Tom Massey, passed away. He taught at Chapman University. He was the first professor I had for an early American literature course when I started my M.A. I later had him for a critical theory course and contemporary American literature. He was also one of three professors on my oral exam committee.

There are a few professors that I shared memorable moments with. He is one of them.

I would often encounter Dr. Massey on the stairwell. There were several flights of stairs leading to classrooms and faculty offices. Perhaps it is because a stairwell is such an archetypal image that my encounters with him either ascending or descending carry such meaning.

Dr. Massey had a great love and passion for literature. At the time I was taking the American literature course, I was working as a counselor along with my good friend Deanna. I especially recall the discussions of Thoreau and Emerson in the class. Each morning after the class met, I would share my experiences with Deanna while we were supposed to be working. There were days where we spent hours talking about my class and related topics that came up instead of working. This started a love affair for both of us of early American literature.

Dr. Massey was always so kind and offered me great support. He continues to be an influential person in my life.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I came across Kim Edwards' The Memory Keeper's Daughter at the bookstore Saturday evening. I refrained from buying it, since my goal is to spend less and save. True to my addiction, however, I kept seeing the book in my mind all night and into the next day. I then took the next step and looked up the author online and the book on Amazon.

Sunday afternoon I decided to go back to the bookstore and read the first chapter while drinking some coffee. If I felt like I had to keep reading, I told myself, I would give in and buy it. So, there I sat and found myself immediately under the trance of Edwards' excellently crafted story.

The story begins in March 1964 when an orthopedic doctor finds himself in an emergency created by a snow storm. His wife is about to give birth and he must deliver the baby. After his son is delivered, his wife continues to act as if she is in labor. He discovers there is a second baby. His wife is gassed and unaware of what is to follow.

After delivering the second baby, the doctor discovers the baby girl has Down's syndrome. He asks the nurse to take the baby away to the Home for the Feebleminded. Once his wife awakens, he tells her she had twins, but the baby daughter died. The drama only begins here. The nurse, as instructed, takes the baby away, but ends up leaving town and taking the baby with her to raise.

I'm on p. 112 of 401 pages. This book cannot be put down.