Fat Stacks (of paper)

January 6th, 2020 — 9:10pm

I’m finally back to work after my long, fantastic Christmas vacation and recovery from that vacation. The job is the almost-final round of edits on the novel due out in a year or so. A big undertaking. Sometimes tedious. Always satisfying. In many ways it’s the best part of a project. I’m done being scared and unsure; now I polish. Exchange passive verbs for active ones. Coax characters into more interesting moves than shrugging, smiling, and sighing. Eradicate scores of adverbs and adjectives. Sand transitions smoother.

Yesterday I cleaned my loft office in preparation for printing the book and reading it out loud. (Softly.)

Here’s a portion of the acres of paper I’ve produced in regard to this story:

Fat Stacks of Paper

There is more where that came from.

If I ponder all the iterations, the stops and restarts and angst, my shoulders droop. At the same time, I’m filled with contentment. I sat in front of the wood stove just over there, following my character to the local tavern in her search for a place to rent. Here, the fire crackled; in the story, the juke box played Warren Zevon and and an old friend showed up and rubbed her shoulders. I rode the ferry to Beaver Island listening to Of a Revolution sing “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” through my ear buds; the sun shone, the lake chopped, a chummy mahogany-colored lab wandered about the boat deck, and then right into the manuscript.

One night in the winter of 2015, I lay on my couch, itchy with panic. I phoned my late brother, Matt. Words tumbled; I stared wide-eyed into the dark as I scratched around for a way to make this book work. I asked his advice for a section of the action. As a man and as a middle school principal, he knew a lot about a great many things.

My panic receded as we talked; I slept better that night than I had in a while. It bloomed again many times, but what a treasure that bleak evening is now. And there near the end of the third quarter of the story–there’s where I was working. Matt is gone but his help lives on.

On another day that winter, he gave me a bit of input I jotted down on a one-inch Post-it. It turned up in the cleaning yesterday. I nodded at it, smiling. I’ll keep it, and the paper, close.

"I think you should focus on why they did do something, rather than why they didn't," Matt said.

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January 2nd, 2020 — 2:05pm

I love New Year’s Resolutions. At this point in life, I’m also leery of them. Chary, almost. Should I resolve once again? But–why not? At least they show what I’m thinking about and what I intend, in what realms I mean well.

This year, this rounded and mirrored, balanced–what is the word?!–symmeterical!–2020, among other things, I mean to blog more. But about what? Maybe a structure would help me keep to it?

What about “What I’m reading”? What I’m reading & baking & photographing. Something short and not in so many words as this, because words I edit and consider, & then it takes time I don’t have, time & writing energy that must be so carefully budgeted, or at least I believe that.



(Too much? But at least there’s always something to do, see, think about.)


There never seems to be enough of it. A conundrum I’ve pondered for years. Who hasn’t?


I get caught up in playing. Time disappears, I disappear, there’s only the movement of your fingers and the music. And you have to practice music, have to keep your calluses, your stretchy fingers, your muscle memory. Writing also requires that. Everything does. So…. (casts a longing glance upward to loft where guitar sits quiet in case)….

At any rate, for today, What I’m Reading.

*Hunter’s Moon, A Novel in Stories, by Philip Caputo.

*Life Without a Recipe, a Memoir, by Diana Abu-Jabar.

It dawns on me as I fiddle with this post, re-learning how to create a link, that maybe I’d better set a time limit when I write a blog. i.e., When the kitchen timer dings, I’m done, go, POST already, no matter how unfinished. I’m not sure I could adhere to that intention, but there’s promise in it. And what I would tell you as the minutes wind down–I like both of these books a lot.

Caputo’s metaphors make me grab my pen to copy them into my journal. Golden leaves tremble like candle flames, the sun chops a pine’s shadow into lengths. Also I admire his insight. “Adolescence is a condition no one recovers from completely.” Yes, I nod. And his characters are alive on the page: real, sympathetic, being honest with themselves and you, the reader, even if not always with others.

Abu-Jabar is balletic with language. I admire her creative way of using words, especially verbs.  I love her involvement with food, with family, with memory. As with Caputo, I like her thoughtfulness, insight, and honesty. Here’s a quote that made me grin: “Advice is offered like food from the hand- a loving, unwanted gift.”

The kitchen timer dings–so, okay, I’m posting.

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