|Me, slightly filtered, last month|
on my 54th birthday
Dearest Teachers Write campers,
< - - - This is me. Here I am. The two -- or more -- of us together once again.
As I noted on my Friday Feedback facebook page, this will be the last Friday Feedback that is part of the #TeachersWrite program.
This was not my decision. In fact, I'm a rather loyal sort, and have loved every minute of Teachers Write, and so this particular ending has left me a tad bit heartbroken.
In my original draft of this post, I shared my version of what happened, but on second thought decided real life is the only proper place for these conversations.
Suffice it to say, that Friday Feedback existed before Teachers Write, and if I choose -- and you all beg accordingly ;) -- I could always continue it.
Meanwhile, I move forward with deep gratitude for the last six summers with Teachers Write. Being part of this endeavor that grew and grew, and meeting all of you, many IRL through the years, has been one of the greatest highlights of my published life.
And, now -- hooray!! -- on with FRIDAY FEEDBACK. If you haven't participated before, please make sure you read the RULES.
So, since today is sort of an ending, I thought, "Hmmm, what if I went back to the beginning. . ." So I went to the archives of my blog searching for my first Friday Feedback post from 2010 (!!!)
What I wrote back then about why I decided to start such a feature on my blog, still holds true for me today:
"Why am I so excited about this? Writers often write in a vacuum. As such, you’ll often hear us commenting that we have no idea if something we’ve written is great, or if it’s crap. I mean, you’d think we’d know, but sometimes, honestly, we just don’t. Sometimes, the chasm of doubt we stare down is that gaping and wide.
If you don’t believe me, here’s a quote I love from an interview with one of my all-time favorite authors William Goldman . . . :
“One of the things I love to do when I work with young writers is to disabuse them of the notion that I know what I'm doing. I don't know what I'm doing. . . as we are speaking, I am looking at my computer, tearing out my hair, thinking, well, is this horrible, or is this going to work? I don't know. Storytelling is always tricky."
And guess what, folks, nearly eight years and three more books -- almost four -- later, and, yeah, I still don't know what I'm doing. I mean there's a gut thing, sure, and some skill honed, but in the end, for me, it's mostly the knowledge I can write, the understanding that I will have to dig down and revise over and over again, and one giant leap of faith.
Now for those who follow me on twitter or facebook, you may know I've been steeped in a pretty rough round of revisions for my next book JACK KEROUAC IS DEAD TO ME (St. Martins/Wednesday Books 2020).
So imagine my humor and delight when I opened that 8-year-old post to see that the very excerpt I had shared for feedback was none other than the then-opening of a manuscript I stated, "bears the working title, Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me."
And imagine my fading humor and delight as I read my old words and suddenly wondered if I liked them way better than the opening I've been working with for years now.**
Here was that opening. YOU may be the judge when I share today's opening below:
"The butterflies arrived on a Saturday, but I waited till Sunday to open them since I needed Max’s help with the greenhouse. It was late April, and I had been dating Max Gordon a few weeks by then, but that particular day stuck with me because of how he built the greenhouse, and also because of what Aubrey had said. "
Here's the thing, the reasons I started Friday Feedback back then, still hold relevant today. We write in a vacuum. We overwrite. We over-revise. We get too close. We have no idea.
It helps to have someone chime in.
|My beautiful, kind, talented friend, Nora|
who I'd be lost without. . .
"I have no perspective anymore," I whined to her.
"It's this business," she said. "A writer friend once told me early on, 'Once you've been published, you never write the same again.' This always stuck with me. The trick is to write like you're never going to be published."
We both sighed. Of course we're both so grateful to be published, but for better or worse, it's a freedom neither of us has anymore. At least not without working hard to find our way back there. . .
But you do, friends. And so often it's viewed only as a hurdle, but not a freedom -- to write without constraints, perceived notions. To write within fear of the boxes you feel you must fit into.
To simply explore your own voice.
To trust your instincts, and write forward.
And right now, you do.
So, enjoy the process and write forward.
All of those glorious things.
And now, my excerpt. The current opening of JACK KEROUAC:
I’ve started this letter three times now, but each place I begin feels wrong. I get lost in the memories and my thoughts lose their way, and I have to start over again.
As hard as it is to find my way in, I know I need to try. I have to figure out why things happened the way they did between us, how we ended up hating each other so much. How we hurt each other the way we did.
Sometimes, I miss you so badly I can’t breathe, then I break down in tears, or get so mad at you I wonder why I even care if you hear me out, or understand. But, in my heart, I know why. It’s this simple: I need you to understand because you were the one person who always did.
So, maybe I’ll start a few months ago, in early spring, when the tropical butterflies arrived. That’s when everything changed, when things really went downhill.
I promise you this, Aubrey, everything I write is the truth, to the best of my ability to recount things. Both the good and the bad that led up to me leaving in the middle of the night. There’s so much you don’t know -- both the best parts, and the ugliest parts of what happened.
The last brutal part that nobody can ever know, except you, now, here.
Ugh, I was about to rip this up again and start over, or maybe scrap it altogether, but a butterfly just landed on the railing in front of me: Pontia Protodice, Common Checkered White, subtropical. We don’t get them there in New York.
It’s not that it’s such a special butterfly, rather just a small white thing
with two black squares on the back of its wings. “False eyes,” they call them.
They’re there to trick predators away. But, that’s the thing, Aubrey: think
what you want, I don’t have false eyes. I did the best I could with Max, with
Mom, with everything.
People think butterflies are solitary creatures by nature, because we see them so often on their own, flitting over a meadow, stopping to steal nectar from the throat of a flower, before moving on. Even this one, here, now, on this railing, is all alone.
But the truth is different. Butterflies are social by nature. They cluster when they are able to because they know there is safety in numbers.
You were always my best friend, Aubrey. My safety.
I hope you will understand.
With much love,
** p.s. In a panic, I wrote Nora with the blog post and the two beginnings. . . and I'll reveal what she wrote -- her "Friday Feedback" -- on Sunday in the comments. ;)
***p.p.s. I have two different giveaways going on on my facebook author page for IN SIGHT OF STARS. Check them out HERE!
***p.p.p.s And on 8/12 Nora, Tom Rogers and I will be hosting a facebook event, called Teaching 9/11: Bringing Our Shared History to Young(er) Readers. Join us! There will be "Lit Circle" giveaways there, too!