Writing Life 6

I met with my editor in D.C. not long ago (we were there for ALA), and I promised Wendy I'd have a completed manuscript (a novel on AD and adoption) by summer's end. That was a month ago, and since then I've added at most five more pages of story to the 20 (+/-) pages I already had. Now I've got what? 100-150 pages to go in the next couple of weeks, maybe a month? What's been keeping me from writing? I'll tell you: two things: first, I'm teaching two classes this second summer session, way busier than I could imagine; second, I grabbed a ton of reading material walking up and down the aisles at ALA and have been reading almost non-stop since. Sure, busy as it is, I'm loving the teaching. I've got some awesome grad students who are making the few weeks' worth of classes go by so very quickly; and sure, reading is so useful to me as a writer (I tell young would-be writers that reading the work of others, both good and bad, is part of the writing process; mentor texts is what I've heard people call these titles), but man, if I pick up a great book, I can't stop. I've got to finish it. And in so doing I sacrifice my own writing time. Oh well. But I have promised my good friend at Random House, Adrienne Waintraub, that I will finish reading Kirby Larson's Hattie Big Sky and that'll be that for reading, then I'll hit the blank page hard, both fists grabbing hold tight to pencils. Okay, pens. I have gotten used to working on the computer, but this morning, during my run/walk/pick up aluminum (to sell at a recyle place for, what I'm calling, The Boys' College Fund (and my brother jokes: "So, they'll be on the slow track? The old 12-year 4-year degree?--funny, my brother)) I heard Annie Dillard on NPR talking about the process for her, and she convinced me to go at it sans computer. She says on the computer we tend to go overboard with words, too prolific, we type too fast. We overtype our stories. We waste words. We don't take the time necessary to go over the language, the story, the characters, etc. I'm paraphrasing very loosely there, but that's what I took from her interview. So I found me a blank journal in a box in the garage, and I plan on picking up on page one of the journal where I've left off on the computer. Maybe I should even write longhand in the journal what's already typed onto the hard-drive? I'll reread it at least. More on the progress later.

Larson, I feel, should've won the Newbery. Nothing bad about Patron's book, but I think Larson's is on the heftier side. And if you liked Zusak's The Book Thief, you've got to pick up Fighting Ruben Wolfe. Don't think you'll read the same story or even similar writing technique and form. This guy, as I've said before to a few folks, is a writer's writer. Never the same thing twice. Fighting is slow-going at the outset, but when you get maybe a couple chapters into it, the story takes you on a wild ride.

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