The Schnee(belis) of Kilimanjaro

I got “The Schneebelis Go to America” back yesterday from my editor, Beth Bruno. I must be getting a little better because she didn’t send a truck-load of proofing corrections!

It’s funny how we are. I don’t know if I’m confident in my writing or not, but I’m not confident in my proofreading, so in her comments — email and comment tracking on my manuscript — that’s what I looked for. I fixed some sentences that didn’t make sense to her (that thing of writing for people inside your mind again…) and heard her remarks about a shift in pacing that, ultimately, hadn’t bothered her and even made sense.

I didn’t see the overall remarks about my writing and the story. The good stuff. I think this is because — in my mind — the book is a project I’m refining and trying to get right. It’s not finished.

To my editor, the manuscript came through as a finished story. I woke up this morning understanding what ELSE she’d said and I am very happy.

She asked what my plans are for the book. I told her I planned to give it a shot at conventional publication, and I was grateful for any advice she had. She had some advice, “I just think with the level of sophistication and specialty of your writing, you’d be best served by someone with solid experience in publishing.” Something I never thought of.

This time last year I picked up the manuscript again, my Aunt Dickie’s words calling out to me from a letter I have taped to the wall in my studio, “Please continue writing the story of my mother’s family.” I didn’t like this book at the time. It was hard going and the characters didn’t speak to me, but I loved my Aunt Dickie and that she loved my novels. I had hoped at that moment last fall to finish before Christmas last year so I could, at least, send her a manuscript to read. I was in a lot of pain from my hip at the time, and writing has always been, for me, a good ladder out of a hole. My Aunt Dickie was 93, and that number has a very clear meaning even though she was still independent and fit, walking a mile a day with her dog, driving herself to church and fully involved in life. She died last November, pretty suddenly, from a very aggressive cancer. All I can do is dedicate the book to her — which I have done/will do.

All of this brought home the message of “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” We’re never ready to write the story but write it anyway.

He had never written any of that because, at first, he never wanted to hurt any one and then it seemed as though there was enough to write without it. But he had always thought that he would write it finally. There was so much to write. He had seen the world change; not just the events; although he had seen many of them and had watched the people, but he had seen the subtler change and he could remember how the people were at different times. He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would. Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”

So, I will take another break from my blog to work on the novel some more and figure out how my writing is “sophisticated.”

Addendum: I “Googled” “sophisticated writing” and what it means is that the writer does some stuff like avoids the passive voice, uses a varied vocabulary, allows the characters to carry the story. That’s cool. I’m honored if that’s the case. I worked hard for that, and I owe a lot to Truman Capote.

Fish of the Day

Because the Night Are you a night owl or are you the early bird? What’s your most productive time of day? When do you do your best work?

There was a time when I loved the nightlife, I loved to boogie, and I could boogie-oogie-oogie till I just couldn’t boogie no more (all night) but one Saturday morning I woke up at 11:00 and thought, “Damn! I’m missing the weekend, and I live for the weekend! I’m not doing this any more. I’m getting up at 8 on Saturday and Sunday from now on!” But even then I didn’t know why.  It was a couple of years before I realized I wanted to get up early on Saturday mornings and write. This discovery was aided by two factors. First, my boogie partner went to teach in Saudi Arabia and, two, I hated my job.

My best work, you ask? Apparently I don’t teach well from 5:30 to 6:40 pm because those classes are always dogs. I wish they were dogs, but usually they’re unmotivated students. Since I’m the ONE consistent element in this 5:30 nightmare, it has to be me. Godnose the world could not be FILLED with disaffected post-adolescents who only — wait, I remember now. One of them (a good one, a motivated one) told me last week that he isn’t even UP before 2 pm. OMIGOD, for some of them that could be an early morning class!!! From 1:00 – 3:00 pm my brain doesn’t work well and I can write words on the board with the letters completely out of order. So…

I’ve not had the luxury of choosing a time to work. I’ve wrapped my writing around my gainful employment. One idyllic summer I wrote in the morning, stopped at 1 or 2. Maybe took a nap, did chores and then headed up to the Lagunas for a hike as the afternoon cooled and the evening approached. It was wonderful. How good was my work? Pretty good, actually. Good enough that I was able to return to it five years later and finish it.

So here it is, 5 o’clock and morning has broken, and I’m trying to throw my arms around the world wordpress daily prompt. A nice looking heifer is grazing in the pasture across the road. My dogs snore at my feet. The sun is rising and soon I’ll be getting into teacher clothes and heading down the mountain for a very long day of teaching.