Monday, August 30, 2004

I'm Thirty today. Happy birthday to me. This poem best sums up my writing life (though I don't argue that all writers are really like this...)

so you want to be a writer? Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I'm writing on the eve of turning 30. Some of you might think, so what, another year, big whoop, we all have birthdays. To you I say: how sad. I admit, I am a lover of rituals since, in the kettle of my childhood, there was no religion to flavor things (or spoil them, depending on how you look at it). I admit I often settle for the pre-packaged templates, the hallmark-inspired models, though I am beginning to look at branching out. This year I get a big party. At first I was too ashamed to ask for it, even though my mother dearly wanted to plan such an event (We are, in fact, of a lineage of women who like rituals). Then I decided, well, let me plan my own party. Then I get what I want and don't have to burden anyone with my silly little needs. And then, thanks to...yes...therapy with mom, we made the shift and she took it out of my hands.

Thirty is big for me. At some point in my twenties I had this experience that I would be twenty-something for-ev-er. It seemed like a kind of prison-in-disguise-as-paradise from which I would never be free. You know, at twenty-something you still have a kind of indubitable cuteness and effervesence that charms people; your idealism is precious; your tendency to spend more than you make is excusable, your lack of a distinct path in life is just a passing phase. I was terrified as this decade stretched on and on that I would eternally be doomed to be treated as if I had no life experience, as if I would "one day" understand myself, and as if I shouldn't bother my sweet little head with anything more taxing than creating a suitable wardrobe and spitting out progeny.

Not like I ever listened to these culturally imposed attitudes, though occasionally they got in deep enough to rankle.

At thirty, with freedom from all that ingratiating condescension also comes a lot of disappointment from outside sources--this is the decade of "why don't you have a steady, corporate job? When are the babies coming? You don't own a house!?, but that I can handle. I'm well-equipped to defend my life because I'm no longer attached to the model that if what you do does not have an end in a paycheck, you should take your slacker ass to Mexico until your artistic notions are good and drowned in Tequila and sunburn. I like my artistic notions. I'm keeping them. I find them reinforced in people and literature that I continue to stumble across.
30 is the decade where, when you ask me what I do, I will tell you: "I'm a writer" and I will not qualify it with "but you know, not like a published writer" or "but it's only a hobby." Because let's face it, it 'aint just a hobby anymore. Not only does it pay in the absolute reward of the act, it's starting to pay in cold, hard cash.

So I must tip my cap to the first three decades of my life. Really, we can credit the writer in me to the first decade of my life, the last two have just been carrying out the directive.

To thirty I bow, step back into line, raise my pen and say: "Bring it on."

And now...a snippet of a short story I'm writing called "Books for the Shut-ins."

Millie sweet Millie has just finished reading Chekov's plays. I haven't read anything more meaningful than the back of cereal boxes since I arrived in Betty's Cove.

"Do you know where I was when this play was written?" Millie can blow my mind on any given day, so guessing is hard.Her hands, gripping the white book, remind me of tissue paper my grandma wrapped Christmas presents in, pink and just the tiniest bit wrinkled.

"I was entering the world, honey. It was my birthday."

The date on that Chekov volume is 1904. Today is June 6, 2004.

It's hard to get used to the centenarians. Their faces are no more lined than someone in a really bad
mood. They can rise from chairs as fast as 65 year olds. They don't like it when I let myself in or suggest in any respect that there is something they cannot do for themselves.

"Wow Millie, the world has changed a lot since then, eh?"

"Out there it has," she says, pointing through her window at the sparkling harbor where a cluster of seagulls has just touched down. Millie's husband died nearly thirty years ago. Four of her five brothers drowned in separate fishing accidents. Her only daughter died last year at the age of 80 from a heart attack. The thought boggles my mind.

"Oona," she says after I have declined tea and made sure she got the nicer copy of Madame Bovary.

"Yes Millie?" The water outside her window is hypnotic under the reflection of the sun. I have come to imagine that the inside of Robert's head is like this placid flush of water, an eternal cove off the ocean where he rows in circles, waiting to awake.

"Do you know that unmarried women are statistically proven to live longer?"

I regret having told her about Robert, about the Robert who existed before the accident.

"I didn't know that, Millie." I find myself saying her name often. I like the feeling of it in my mouth. For someone who is used to having people cock their heads curiously at me when I offer mine, these wonderful hundred year-old names are a pleasure to me. I have Effie, Cora and Percy on my list today too.

"Well, my daughter was married five times. Five! Can you imagine so many weddings? I only went to three of them myself," says Millie, her delicate salon-given white curls jiggling as she shrugs in broad gesture. "And I never knew an unhappier woman. Lived her whole live serving those men. I only ever had one, and though I wouldn't trade the child I got from it, I would have been just fine without a single one."

I am at the door, which is when Millie gets talkative, to keep me hostage just a little bit longer. I glance back at her regal posture in the large floral chair she is always sitting in. She wears little pink ballet slippers that, on her diminutive legs, look as though they have the power to pull her up into a pirouette, a graceful jete across her living room. Around her house are little clay figurines of ballerinas. I have only been on the bookmobile for a month and haven't had the courage yet to ask if Millie was a dancer. I am reluctant to call attention to things they might not be able to do any longer.

"Maybe you could stay here in Nova Scotia," she says then, braiding her fingers together. "I think it would be good for your health."

"Good idea Millie," I say. "See you next Saturday!"

Millie smiles at me and I close her door behind me, comforted by the bite of fishy-salt air. If she only knew how much I wanted to leave Robert behind me. My sister who has no love for him, not even now that he is as harmless as a corpse, refers to him as "dope-on-a-rope" and I am just too tired to tell her how mean that is. Sometimes, I even laugh. He's hooked to an IV that feeds him those life-giving vitamins and nutrients. Some tired night nurse gets the task of coming in and moving his limbs around to stave off permanent atrophy. Some tired doctor calls me every week to report that his stats are all the same, brain activity seems to indicate that he could snap out of his coma any second. Or not.

My sister Lulu convinced me to come up here. She got a federal grant to study the unusually high numbers of centenarians in Betty's Cove, Halifax. And I have the fine job of delivering books to the shut-ins rather than sitting around all day, hypnotized by the water's suggestion that I dive in, never to resurface. LuLu hates it when I call them the shut-ins, but this is what they call themselves.


It only took three days of him lying there, immobile and pale, for me to realize that I had rarely gotten to take such a good look at my husband's face and body. He was always in motion, bustling around the house or out in the wood shop with such determined action that I didn't dare try to get close to him. And of course, there were all those other times when I was trying to get away from his fists or just the sheer bulk of his body which, when thrust against me, had the force of three men. He was good at knocking me down, and only because my fear kept me on the plump side did I keep from breaking ribs or wrists or any of the other delicate bones that are Lulu and my heritage. Looking at him in his simulacrum of sleep there in the hospital I quickly began to notice things about his features I'd never noticed before. He has a star shaped mole at the top of his right temple for instance, just under the hairline so you can barely see it. I think about that mole a lot because it's kind of beautiful. When you spend time with old people you see a lot of moles. The body itself starts to shrink, but all the extended bits and excess seem to expand. One of the delusions that keeps taking me over is that inside those skin tags and dark, bumpy spots on their century-old bodies, a tiny formula of life remains, and that if I were to carve them off and preserve them they could become the base for youth serums and elixirs that visionaries and alchemists have been seeking forever.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

I know this quote has been bandied about by hallmark and writer's support groups for a long time, but I love's only part of a letter by Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille:

"Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction;a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

Now, something I wrote for McSweeney's "Open Letter" series which the editor told me he was "tempted by" but ultimately wanted to opt for more variety, since they'd published a few on publishing.

Open Letter to the publishers who didn't "fall in love" with my book:

Jesus, who's talking about love? We haven't even met! I mean, just because you think you know me now that you've read 328 pages of the millions that are still burning inside me doesn't give you the right to assume all this intimacy crap between us. I'm no fool. I know how hard it is to really fall in love. I've only actually ever been in love once. The first “fake” time I thought I was in love was, you know, that bizarre college kind where you mistake sex for love because your self-esteem is so low that you don't have the skills yet to really distinguish between having calls returned and lifelong, undying commitment. Oh yes, I've been there my friends, and I don't need your chintzy reminders to keep me from stumbling over that cow-patty again.

While we're on this topic, what even qualifies you to fall in love with my book? I would've settled for inspiring a strong pleasant feeling, or a kind of benevolence that made you feel hopeful about the future of things. Because I feel for you in your job where it's mostly long hours and bad news—people are always talking about how publishing is really in a crisis this time, and I'm thinking to myself, shit, it sucks to work in crisis mode. I speak from experience, believe me. A writer's life is all about crisis, you know. You draw from life in order to write, in fact, like those days where all the appliances in your house quit on you at once, or like when you write a check to Office Depot for a package of those colorful gel pens and another ream of paper only to find out that your account is overdrawn. Or like in my book, the one that’s put this strain between us, there's a major crisis at the heart of my book, a really rather good crisis, I think, that is a fairly ingenious variation on one of the five or six main storylines that exist, and then there are little mini-crises along the way that build up to the major crisis. So, while I am not so certain you are qualified to be talking about love, I'm pretty certain I can claim to be an expert on crisis.

But back to the issue of falling in love. I certainly appreciated your ideas, I mean, insofar as they were your opinions and you know, my mother always told me you can't argue with opinions because they're just what people think and feel. So I'll file away your opinion about how the premise isn't plausible—even though the book is, you know, fiction, meaning I made it up and didn't borrow it from reality or anything, and I'll certainly stay open to the idea that my book sort of straddles genres that you don't have the imprints for if you'll do me just one little favor. I mean, I figure if you're willing to address a topic as weighty as love, you won't mind my opinion on this whole matter: falling in love is for people with hearts.

So thanks for listening; I hope I didn’t get too harsh and I hope you get this issue all sorted out soon. I know this really great therapist if you have further trouble. I’m sure you’ll find a really great book that will skyrocket to the bestseller list and get you that promotion you totally deserve. And maybe then, when you’re in your new penthouse office with your cute assistant and your planner all booked full of appointments with up and coming authors, you won’t need love anymore.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Five days to the big 3-0 party. This will be the first party I have not thrown for myself since I was seventeen. In this decade I hope to bid ever more of my controlling tendencies toot-a-loo. I have few bad habits in the way of substances to thrust out the wind (such a GOOD ACA), so we'll start with those of a psychological nature.

You're out there! Thanks to a lovely and talented writer named Joy (first names only), I feel as though for the first time in a long while I’m not just writing to myself, like all the other journal entries I’ve composed life-long (the journal count is hitting the 70s now, by which I mean number of, not decade). Because of Joy, I feel inclined to approach today’s leg of the heretofore despair-filled road to publishing with a more golden attitude, that is to say, to look on the bright side, or, since most of the cynics (read=writers) out there would say there is no bright side, the slightly less dark side. Gosh, I’m already doing a poor job. Here’s the thing: Don’t be like me. Don’t believe that the first agent who bites is the one you should sign with. Don’t assume that having an agent is some kind of sign of your worth as a writer. Don’t let said agent slack on the job because you are scared of being dumped as a client even before your two year contract is up. Oh yeah, and don’t sign a two year contract unless you can bank on a book sale. And who can bank on that except, perhaps, T.C. Boyle or Amy Tan? A few more don’ts: Don’t give up on your book first. Let the agent give up. Let the publishers not fall in love. But please, learn from me, stand behind your own work, and if you find it needs to be pushed, push it, but stand behind it. Mother it, love it, trust it. It needs you, believe me. In today’s market it needs you more than ever.

Many writers, I have come to discover, have had multiple agents. There’s the shotgun-agent, where you are pregnant with possibility and too naïve to know everything. And heck, who wants to turn down the validation of one of these New York heavyweights saying your work is WORTHY OF PUBLICATION?? Well, sometimes you really do. Especially if you were really paying attention and noticed that your agent-to-be repped everything from political thrillers to chick-lit.

With that said, at 1.5 years along the path with my first agent I am hitting the sad place I hoped not to reach…deciding to end the relationship. He’s had BOTH my novels, a foolish trust on my part. I should have pushed novel #1 harder, I should not have believed him when he thought number two had “greater commercial appeal after a rewrite.” Yes, the rewrite is a hell of a lot better. But it still falls between market niches like those funky fruit hybrids that are not really a pear and not really an apple. But I want someone who pushes publishers, who says: “You’ve got a one week exclusive on this puppy and that’s that.” I want an agent who believes I have it in me and encourages me to rewrite based on a very strong literary background, not the whims of the marketplace. I understand the whims must be obeyed at some point, but non-commercial books sell all the time because there are still people who want to read great literature.

I am in a bit of a bind over this dissolution I’d like to reach. Number one: BOTH my babies have been shown to publishers. Number one did pretty well. Harper Collins gave me an “almost” citing a similar book just purchased in their catalogue. Pocket books was enthusiastic about my first three chapters but then we never heard back from them (hint: agent’s job is to nudge these people!), and there were some adjectives used like “rollicking read, colorful characters” alongside “didn’t fall in love with it.” When one’s book has already been shown to agents it’s sort of like it has lost its virginity. And agents are of that weird ilk where they want virgins only. They don’t like to know that your book has been bandied about promiscuously to “all those other” editors out there. Which means, you have a more difficult time getting a second agent to accept you based on this soiled work. Which means…I gotta write a third novel? Or keep going with the non-fiction idea, but don’t give it to the agent that I am trying to get out of relationship with.

Oh yeah, back to that subject: I’ve got six months of contract left with agentie-pie. So I sent him an email today designed to raise his hackles. A “so, what’s your game plan now, toots?” and we’ll see what kind of tenor of response I get back. I am likely to ask him if we can dissolve our contract and I will throw myself back into the lava of querying. It’s just part of the process. I know so much more than I did. And I’m not depressed. No more depressed than having two novels go nowhere. I’m invigorated. I have another shot. I can shoot for primo agents instead of mid-line agents. I can work it and push it further, even if it means that temporarily my postage/paper/ink budget skyrockets upward. I don’t know why, but I’m dedicated to this process, and as far as I can tell thus far, dedication is the number one criteria for the job of being a serious writer.

More to come on this.Oh, and if you’re interested, I’m teaching "Novel Writing for the Commitment Shy" on September 20th (7-9pm) and “The Art of The Query Letter” at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts on November 6th, 11-2 (a Saturday).

Email me for more info: Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Official countdown to becoming 30 years old? Seven days! Having essentially felt 30 since about the age of 12, it's a relief to be catching up. Now I can begin to age appropriately.

So...I made a commitment to begin working on the non-fiction book proposal. I can't say much more about it until I have a better idea myself, but I am feeling positive. I even began the arduous (not to mention tedious) work of researching the competition...and I am delighted to say there's very little out there doing exactly what I intend to do. Plus, I got Mom on board to help with it, which will give it the necessary texture and levity that it requires. And even though it will still be a desperate labor of love (oh who am I kidding: a desperate labor to get published), it won't be the same as writing a 300 page novel, then rewriting it, then hoping your agent likes it, then discovering that it has all these flaws that you really would have appreciated knowing about before he went gushing about how good your rewrite was.

I am starting to understand just what a long road it really really is to publishing and trying not to deflate in the face of the odds. I'm happy with some of the publications I've made it into lately, with a 90% ratio of paid to not paid.

I bailed out of the Reporter job application process for two reasons: #1, they kept telling me they'd have an answer and then pushing the date out and after the intensity of the interview I started to feel that what they expected me to put out vs. what they were willing to offer was inequitable and their communication with me, unprofessional. Second, I received another potential lead for a magazine-in-process (it is being started by pros in the business who already created and sold a similar magazine in Southern California) which would consider paying me a liveable salary compared to what I've been making to do what I love. I had an intriguing interview that got me very excited about the other possibilities out there for me with my bizarre jumble of skills. It would be either an Editor position or a staff writer position. At any rate, I realized that there was something wrong with waiting around to find out if this Newspaper, albeit a great paper and a very short commute, whose pay is less than I've made in at least five years, would approve of me. I'm starting to really favor the attitude that if you believe you deserve more (and you're not totally nuts) there's no good reason not to keep looking.

As for my novels, I keep having the urge to submit it myself to small presses on my own, but I think that would be foolish...or would it?

Hope you're well out there.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Quote of the Blog:

"Fiction can deal with all the world's objects and ideas together, with the breadth of human experience in time and space; it can deal with things the limited disciplines of thought either ignore completely or destroy by methodological caution, our most pressing concerns: personality, family, death, love, time, spirit, goodness,evil, destiny, beauty, will." --Annie Dillard, Living by Fiction's a good, strange morning let me tell you.

The good? Truthfully, counter to my nature,I ought to be in an anxious, foul mood. I just have to say I hope my dear agent doesn't read his clients' blogs. Because right now, I'm not feeling so great about our relationship. I know agents get a bum rap for a variety of hodge-podge reasons. They don't work hard enough. They charge too much in fees. They don't know their markets. They were over-confident...blah blah blah. I think my agent has just recently come into a realization of what he really likes to represent...and it isn't fiction, and even if it was fiction, it isn't my kind of fiction. Just like other areas in my life that have always fallen into a middle area (my bra size, my shoe size, my High School grade point average...) apparently now my fiction is a hybrid beast that doesn't quite fit any existing niche out there in what is being termed, yet again a "bad market." You know that line you get from a boy/girlfriend about three months before they dump you? "It's not you, it's just's hard times..." Yeah, well that's how "It's not your writing,it's the market" feels.

The problem is, dear agent was SUPER CONFIDENT that I had done such a super stellar amazing good rewrite. Why didn't he anticipate any of the problems that the publisher responses are garnering? What he is now, suddenly calling, "The fundamental problems with the manuscript." Here are its problems, in "his" own words (I suspect these are the words of publishers, known for their warm, fuzzy thoughts):

"I think the problem with this ms. is more fundamental than just making the age change. The problem is it undercuts itself in two ways: it's a very realist manuscript in style, yet has a more fantastical premise at its core;yet also the premise suggests a more upbeat, chick lit type novel but the texture in reality is quite serious and the story is mostly about substance abuse. So what should be a commercial read is too dark in tone to compete with the high-concept chick lit books yet it doesn't quite fit in the with the more serious literary fiction either. I don't know how to get around this, honestly."

Here's the rub. He told me when he read my rewrite (eight months in the making) that he thought it was great because nothing had been really written about substance abuse in this format. He thought it was well-balanced, not too dark, not too fluffy. So all I can say is AAAAARRRRGGGGG. I'm not holding it against him personally, entirely, I know at this moment I am a non money-maker for him. In fact, if this goes the same route I'll be owing him some copying fees shortly. But hey, there's always Pocket Books, which also expressed interest in my first novel, but just sort of never got back to us...Why doesn't he push?? Of all my agented friends in process with their agent submitting their manuscripts, only one of us has gotten a bite, and even she is still waiting for it to maybe it's true that the market really is bad, and that we're all brilliant and undiscovered, diamonds in the rough, who can laugh at these hard times ten years from now.

For now I'm just refusing to let the agent news get me down. I have plenty more novels inside me, Simon & Schuster and Pocket Books are still holding the manuscript and well, it will happen when it happens.

Okay, so now for some good news. NFG Magazine has finally accepted my short story, "Who Are You, Really?" after NINE months plucked from the slush. THAT is patience, my friends. I withheld simultaneously submitting that one because NFG has an unusual process that keeps you slavering and at their mercy like a dog. They have an online upload website whereby, once it makes it through the gatekeepers, editors log on and post their comments with a "yea" or "nay" approach to your story. You need at least 5 editors to yea it before the Senior editor, Shar, will buy it or not. So from December of last year on I've logged into that site probably two or three times a day (the truth is ugly, I know). It's a paying print mag, so YIPPEE.

The question of the Reporter position will be answered later this week. I had quite the grueling interview, I feel. I think I handled myself quite well, articulately and with conviction. But I hate, hate, hate interviews. I think I even hate informal interviews that are about me for press of any kind. I did pretty well, but it was exhausting and then you come away not knowing. But I have decided that, in truth I have a very good job with very good people currently, and whatever happens, I will be okay.

COUNTDOWN: 19 days until My Birthday about some stats? Keep in mind that some of the accepts/rejects may not have actually been subbed in the month of July...

  • July Submissions: 23
  • July Acceptances: 4 (this is quite a high number, statistically!)
  • July Rejections: 9

Monday, August 09, 2004

Have you ever looked inside your keyboard? It's disgusting. It's like a whole miniature version of me has fallen away, particle by particle, waiting to be reconstituted from its innards.

Well, then…thanks Jordan for that.

Yesterday Erik and my mom and I took a walk at the illustrious Shollenberger Park which has become our favorite place to walk (sans Mom usually; this was her first time). The salt ponds were low and drying up with the August heat, the birds hanging out on the river instead of clustering happily in crowds. But it was still lovely. Near the end of the walk Erik suggested we peel off (mom and I) to take the extended river walk, another half mile, and he would walk to the car and drive around to the end and pick me up. When we got to the end, he was red in the face. Turns out some jerk smashed in our car window (driver's side). Rotten luck! Nothing was taken except for a pack of batteries in the glovebox. The hood had been popped and we think he might have been about to hotwire the sucker…(is that a real term??). Erik talked to a guy on a bike wearing a heavy black coat in the heat, but didn't force the guy to empty his pockets. At any rate, Erik is livid, but I find it interesting that he had an instinct to get back to the car. Perhaps the vandal would have taken the car otherwise.

That stunk majorly. We are cash poor at the present, and this was not good news on the heels of Erik's other not good news, in which he was juked out of hours by his pre-doctoral internship.

But mom made us burgers and for the first time in ages I don't have Sunday night anxiety I'm really not sure why, except that I think it might have to do with the interview for the Reporter position at the Argus on Tuesday. Maybe just the thought of getting to put down the chaos of SEC, of not having to be the one carrying the burden of trying to save it somehow lightens my load. And the idea of working in my community, at what I love, not commuting and generally writing for a living really gets me excited. I know better than to think I have it in the bag, and I know better than to jeopardize my job at SEC over the promise of this, but it sure makes me feel happy when I think about it, not anxious.

However I had the worst case of insomnia ever. I think I stayed awake until 1am. And I rose at 6 am still and I will pay for that today. Though I will likely be exhausted by evening and that will be good. Because I'll need my sleep tonight.

What keeps me up at night? Oh, just my entire writing career. I start envisioning all the things I want to come to fruition, and the ways in which they aren't, and the plans to make them, and I pretty well go a little bonkers. My nighttime herbs didn't even help (yes, legal herbs!).

So there you have it. To be a writer one must be persistent, stubborn, poor and insomniac.


Sunday, August 08, 2004

Memory is a very funny thing. Sometimes not funny at all.

My Oma is 88 years old, soon to be 89, two days after my own birthday (I am August 30th, she September 1st). Since we moved Oma & Opa out to California from New York last January a significant and overwhelming change has occurred to her. She has lost all memory of significant family connections with the exception of her eldest son Joaf(Joe), my uncle, and her husband, my Opa. Gone are my father, me, my siblings and the ways in which we are all connected. We have simply become friends who she met out here in California despite some disturbing "coincidences" in her mind. She often wonders how we could possibly know certain details even though we have only "known" her less than a year. It is a painful situation. Actually, we've all handled it very well because before we moved them, she was suicidal. This life here has been an improvement. My father claims that he never really felt he had a mother, because she was so emotionally clenched up when he was a kid, and because he moved away from them when he was still a his sadness is more remote.

Last night, we visited them again. She knows who I am "My Jordie" she calls me. But she has forgotten all the summers I spent with them on Shelter Island, all the crafts we did together. She's forgotten, in essence, all the things that make our relationship to one another meaningful. It finally hit me last night that I had lost her, or she had lost me, and it was more painful than I expected. I've been writing a lot about this. One piece was published in the St. Petersburg Times and expresses the sentiment more in terms of my relationship to my father. But it's all hitting me lately. How much is and can be lost. How our very identity is shaped by what we remember, and how remembering is in and of itself a sketchy area, defined by so many things, from our brain synapses to our body's movements to the things around us. How many times have you wondered if you truly remember something or if it's because of photographs, or stories your parents told you? Perhaps some inkling of this has always spurred me to write. I write things down sometimes frantically, as if I am taking word-photographs of events, as if I fear that they will be gone from me almost before I have time to remember them.

I've long wanted to write a novel about memory, and I think that this is now upon me. I think this is the novel that is brewing in me next. It's not a particularly original theme, but its effects are with me now more than ever.

Quote of the day: (Still on Camus)
"Every artist is undoubtedly pursuing his truth. If he is a great artist, each work brings him nearer to it,or, at least, swings still closer toward this center, this buried sun where everything must one day burn." From the essay "The Enigma,"1950.

Do you know that Camus died in an automobile accident at the age of 47? Just think of all that was left inside him that we never got to know...It pains me.