Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Novel Writing

So I'm writing a novel called "The Letter Carrier." Actually, I've been attempting to write this particular novel for the past two and a half years.
"The Letter Carrier" is a young adult novel about a family whose father leaves for one year to serve in Iraq. The protagonist, Sadie, makes a promise with her Dad that they will exchange hand written letters that contain only the 'good stuff'. The promise turns out to be more difficult to fulfill than either of them anticipate. But with the help of a new (tree-climbing, poetry reciting) friend Sadie finds 'good stuff' in unlikely places. Her first letter is about boots and garbage bags, her second is about an abandoned house, her third is about a cemetery (you get the idea). She learns that 'good' isn't always found on outside/initial appearances, but that it can be found in anything depending on your perspective and how willing you are to work to find it--a lesson that proves absolutely crucial to her and her family when they recieve heartwrenching news about their soldier father.

My friend, Shelley, is also writing her first novel and a recent post from her prompted me to write, not so much about my novel, but about the writing process. Can I just say--writing is excruciating! My first draft was in the third person with half of the story line dealing with Sadie's Mom. After some extremely helpful (and generous and kind and HONEST) feedback from friends and my parents (and mother-in-law), I decided to completely rewrite the story from the first person. Yikes. What a task!

Sometimes I feel like a giant radio receptor as I try to pick out the genuine, worthwhile parts of the story from all the static mishmash that swirls in my brain. And I have a very hard time turning off the voices, dialogue, and words that arrange and rearrange as they jostle about noisily while I carry on with my daily tasks.

Then there's something else about novel writing that is perhaps a bit unique to my situation. Because I am a fulltime Mom of five lively, young children, I have to write in catnap portions. I sometimes sneak in an hour of writing before getting the children up and ready for school. I can squeeze in a half an hour of writing when Baby C watches Curious George. And when the fates combine in my favor, I can steal an hour when Baby C goes down for her nap before the twins come home from AM kindergarten. Rarely do I get all these moments all in the same day. And I find myself longing for more solitude--or at least a really good babysitter :).

But then again, that time will come (in two and a half years, but who's counting?). And so for now, I write a paragraph at a time...sometimes only a sentence at a time. Sometimes my writing is quite terrible (resembling a 6th grader's half-hearted essay attempt). And sometimes I turn off the computer with a smile, quite satisfied. My hope is that someday all the work will produce something of value.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

February Sun

There are some days where everything combines to create a perfect moment--a rare moment that feels like a deep breath, a pause from the everyday clutter and noise of demanding to-do lists and mundane domestic duties. This Saturday, on a blue-skied February afternoon, the ground still bright with crusted snow drifts, I had one of those moments. Madi and I drove to DC to explore the National Museum of Art. The outing was planned in celebration of our dual February birthdays and counted as our mother-daughter-date for the month. We walked hand-in-hand from the parking garage to the museum, chatting through our shivers.

As I have with each preceding visit to the museum, when I entered those palatial doors, climbed the marble staircase, and strained my neck to stare at the coffered ceiling, I was in awe--by the scale, by the grandness, and by the reverence.

With unhurried steps, we walked from room to room, and with hushed voices, we talked about the paintings. We lingered at the four corners of the small room that houses the "stage of life" paintings. We pressed with the crowds through the impressionists gallery. We discovered a new gem amongst the still-lifes: a small oil painting of humming birds in mid-flight, their feathers glistening. We made the necessary pilgrimage to visit Vermeer (which I was surprised to find had been moved to the other end of the room!). And then we found a new favorite...

In the basement, in a quiet room, far from the impressionists and the Degas sculptures, we found a girl reading. And on her cheek, a tear--so subtle, we would have missed it, if we hadn't read the inscription.
And we stopped. Together. While the February sun spilled from the window, warming the reading girl's shoulders.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Moments

In our home, Valentine's Day is about my hubby and I--but it's also about celebrating our family. Here are some of my favorite moments from today. An early morning snuggle on Madi's bed (love the cutie bums!!)
Love notes from the kids on my pillow.
Traditional "Family Love" Valentine's Dinner
(notice-we used the china!)
Red Roses from him
A chocolate bunt cake (heart shaped) from me

"The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in."
Happy Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Gift of Time

Still snowed in and grateful for this gift of time.

With no school, no work, no projects, no schedule, no lessons, no commute, (and today-no driving), we have been blessed with time to simply be together.

When else do I have the opportunity to snuggle with Madi and Leasie--way past their bedtime--and watch the entire new PBS Emma series?

When else do we have daily fires in the fireplace and nightly smores?

When else do we enjoy three meals a day all together...five days in a row?

When else is our yard transformed into a winter playground equiped with slides, tunnels, and chutes (and the children play outside for HOURS)?

When else do board games take precedence over laundry?

When else can I invite friends over, at the last minute, on a weekday evening, for homemade chili and a movie?

When else do we have the daily opportunity to help out neighbors?

When else do we drop everything and sit down at the table, in the middle of the afternoon, to devour a delivery of steaming homemade rolls?

When else can we watch the storm rage, the snow drifts climb higher than the cars, and the trees disappear--and feel so very blessed?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blizzard 2010

These pictures were taken at 10 AM Saturday morning (with six more hours of accumulation to go!) Every time I look out the windows I say, "Really!?"
The girls and I traversed the back yard to the shed on a mission to feed the rabbits. I seriously felt like I was making an ascent on Mt. Everest. I kept yelling, "We can make it girls!"
Some more memorable moments:
Talking to Karen on the phone and planning our strategy if the power goes out.
Making homemade cinnamon rolls (Aunt Connie's recipe) and eating them by the fire.
Baby C running with her coat and boots and banging on the front door to be let out!
The lost snow shovel--burried under feet of snow in the backyard.
My dear, brave husband shoveling out our driveway with a garden spade.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Peace Like A River

"A test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter." - Thomas Helm

I'm not a book reviewer. But every once in a while I feel compelled to write about my experience with a book. It took me two months to read "Peace Like a River"- not because it is excessively long, or because I was slowed by boredom. Quite the contrary. The prose were so beautiful, the verbs and descriptions so original and intelligent, I slowed down (more than usual) to relish the writing. I took notes. I read with a pen in my hand ready to underline sentences and phrases. The story and characters--so real and engaging--became my companions, part of my daily thoughts.
I postponed reading the final chapter for three days (something I've only done two other times). I just wasn't ready for the book to end. When I finally finished, locked in my bedroom, the ending did not disappoint. I closed the book feeling genuinely sad and achingly happy.
It is one of the few books I will read again.