I hope the season finds you well. It’s sixty degrees and December in New England. Is this the new normal? The angle of the sun coming into the window doesn’t match the weather and I feel dislocated. The forsythia outside my window has leaves on it. You have to appreciate the forsythia’s effort–I stood outside and heard it say, “Hmm, seems a little weird, but I’m game. Let’s process some CO2 while we can.”
And yet. We light the tree in the darkness and huddle closer to each other and dream about what could be. I wish you all a happy holiday season.
The Writing Life
I’ve been working on a novel for young people about storytelling for the past year and a half. It is has become a monster. It won’t go away. At this point, I have no distance on its quality or worth. I had no idea when the writing would end. Every day there was just this rock, and this hill to push it up. I knew where it was supposed to go, but then no idea when it would get there.
Sometimes I like what I write; sometimes I don’t. Most times, I just don’t know. As confusing as this is, after years of years of creating stuff – songs, stories, poems, books, whatever – I also understand that this is exactly what I should be doing and feeling. I’m reminded of two quotes from great writers about their work. They aren’t exactly cheery. Annie Dillard said writing a book was like sitting up with a sick friend and hoping they don’t die. E.L. Doctorow said it was like driving across the country at night at twenty miles an hour with the headlights only able to show fifty feet ahead of you. (Hopefully, no deer…)
So, pushing the rock up the hill, or sitting with a sick friend, or driving the car – that’s where I’ve been. Forever. No end in sight. Then, three days ago, I sat down and wrote about three hundred words, leaned back in my chair, looked at the screen and saw the end. I was standing on top of a mountain, looking down at the rest of the landscape before me. There was a trail leading off the peak (just one trail!) and I knew I could follow the path downward to where it ended.
There’s still several five or six thousand words to go – maybe more, maybe less, but I can see the end, and am pretty happy about that
Then, the edit. Oh yeah, there’s that. No problem!
Deer in the Headlights
While visiting our son Noah at his new (very old) house in upstate New York, I hit a deer at night on the New York State Thruway. There it was. Bang. (The deer in the headlights is a very real thing…) We’re all right – the car is banged up quite a bit but can get fixed. We don’t know where the deer went, but it could not have survived. And so, while it’s all okay on one level, I’ve had a very slow-motion experience with trauma, and neither Debbie nor I can get the deer out of our minds. Yes, there are too many deer, yes, it happens all the time. But it was a large, sentient being, and I’m thinking about how the way we live impacts everything around us. Some responsibility is required; some attention must be paid.
I’ll be performing “Stickeen” by John Muir at the Ark Storytelling Festival in Ann Arbor in February, and am getting it back in shape. If there are any libraries in my nearby area, or environmental groups that would like to sponsor a performance, I’d love to do it, and can be pretty flexible in what I need to be paid. House concerts are fine, too. “Stickeen” is one of the great stories of nature, about the relationship between Muir and a very feisty dog on a glacier in the middle of a blizzard. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell – if you’re within driving distance of my home in southeastern Massachusetts and are interested, please let me know.
What are we reading?
Did I mention Claire Keegan’s book Small Things Like These last time you heard from me? It is a just-about-perfect short novel about a working guy in Ireland in the nineteen eighties who makes a horrible discovery about the Magdalena laundries and does the right thing. It’s beautiful. And I’m happy to report that her book Foster is equally wonderful and moving. I’ve bought copies of each for a number of friends.
On a different tack, I read The Chaos Machine by Max Fisher, with horror and growing anger. The book takes a detailed look about how the large internet platforms – Facebook, Twitter, and Google (especially Youtube) have encouraged the destruction of democracy, social unrest and sectarian violence in their quest to increase the number of engagements they get. It’s about money and power and we are beholden to them. I left the book thinking that these platforms were not value free – as they are, they are evil and immoral. And that’s a very confusing thing to think, since we seem so dependent on them. I highly recommend the book.
Let us know what you’re reading. We love to hear, and it influences our own reading.
Sale at the Bill Harley Store
From now until New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2022) you can get 20% off anything $5.00 and up at the Bill Harley Store.
DVD? Of course.
Do you need a code? NO. Nope. Nada. The discount is applied automatically.
We just found out that “Night of the Spadefoot Toads” and “Now You Say Yes” are going to be available as audiobooks. We don’t have the release date, but we received promos and they look fantastic.
We’ll let you know as soon as we know their release date!