Monday, March 25, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Hi friends!  It is spring, yes?  A splendid snowy crust lays over the ground.  It is freezing in Eastern Colorado and elsewhere, I hear.   

The Next Big Thing

J.L. Conrad (friend, sister-in-law, sister-in-the-arts) tagged me for a project called The Next Big Thing, in which writers answer a set of questions and link their posts to other writing friends.  It reminds me of chain-letters from second grade, mixed with newfangled promo just for fun. 

While I want to believe the title of the project refers to me, personally, I think it points to what I'm working on.  Damnit! 

I answered the questions in reference to a book I've started writing: Sut Nam Bonsai The Book.  Just kidding!  It is called something else, which you will see below. 

Like, right now.

1. What is the working title of your book? 
You Are the Song Behind the World, from Alice Water's memoir about her chickens.  (She says this to her chickens, which I think is beyond generous, and possibly true.) 

I wrote more about Alice and her chickens here.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
From where most of my ideas come from: watching people do stuff and thinking, I want to do that!  In this case, it came from watching my friend Amelia go through the process of pitching a food memoir to agents and reading some of her chapters from that process, feeling totally snuggled into them, devouring the stories she was feeding me.  I have always loved memoirs, and I have been writing a series of personal essays for the past five years.  I finally realized I have been circling the same stories over and over, stories that want to be pinned down somehow.  One essay in particular has been dogging me forever, and I think it is because I've been trying to cram a book-length story into one essay. 

We'll see, when I write the full-length work, if that is true or not. 

Finally, I had a couple of dreams signaling me to work some of the themes I blog about into a full-length book. And while that sounds positively Joseph Smith-ish, taking directions from visions and dreams, that's sometimes how I roll.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?
Memoir and personal essay.  While I am always interested in matters of the spirit, my work takes the form of story-telling more than inspiration or religious inquiry.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I think about this question all the time for a novel I wrote, but I've never thought about it for this book. Hmm. I want to say Emma Stone, because who doesn't want Emma Stone to play them in something?  Blythe Danner is too advanced in years to play my mother but maybe she could cameo in my grandmother's role.  Tim would be played by my newest crush Joel Kinnaman from Lola Versus.  And a more obedient dog would have to play Bear. 

I'd also like Lauren Ambrose to play my sister-in-law Jenny, because they just might be the only women in the world with such voluptuous facial features and striking red hair.  But so far Jenny doesn't have any scenes in my book - which I'm sure relieves her - so that part is pure fantasy.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Woman faces adulthood, realizes she's shit out of luck.

But, since that's the kind of synopsis that gets your proposal rejected, how about:

Cancer, poverty, and estrangement conspire to teach one woman who she is, and restore her life to a balance she found impossible before those visitors arrived. 

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I hope it will be represented by an agency.  That's the aim, anyway.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I will report back on this.  I am gathering the material now - I haven't even started writing yet.  Posting this makes me feel like Miranda July in her film The Future, where she announces plans for an ambitious 30-day video series and then is overcome by crushing doubt and disgust with the process.  I have announced twice before that I was writing a book - one was a book about my grandmother, the other was a novel.  I wrote the novel, but the book about my grandmother stalled out when I realized I couldn't say everything I needed to say in a form she was going to read and also because my interview subject proved taciturn.  (On the topic of why my grandfather was passionate about his post with the Navy, for instance, my grandmother replied, "He just liked it." She then got up to stir her oatmeal - question answered.) Who knows, maybe some of that material will make it into this project but a lot of it, I eventually realized, belonged left at a kitchen table.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I like to think of this as Just Kids without the hunger pangs, drafty studios, abortion, or abundance of famous people.  In other words, they are nothing alike, except that I am mining the events that shaped me as an artist.

I would also compare this to Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life, Elizabeth J Andrew's On the Threshold, and Cheryl Strayed's Wild - in that it combines stories of the writing life with an exploration of family, what it means to be a woman in an increasingly busy world, and how creating things can literally save a life. 

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
All the authors mentioned above plus Amelia Morris, the author Laura Munson, and especially my boss, who is a great inspiration and friend to me. 

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
There will be nudity in this book.  Lots and lots of nudity. 

this book is a love story.  I find it increasingly important to create spaces where people can explore their fears and settle into their skins.  Telling the story of how I have been able to do that is the best way I know to open people's hearts to this possibility. 

I tagged Amelia, obviously.

Who Gives A Sh*t - Feminism for the New World Order
Speaking of what it means to be a woman in an increasingly busy world, Roxane Gay wrote a reaction to a New York Magazine story about feminism, post-feminism, and women who like to sew things.  I like Roxane and think you should, too.  (Incidentally, I also like sewing things.) 

Click here to read her beautiful rant, in which she says, "Stay at home, work outside the home, take your husband’s name or don’t, shave your legs or don’t, wear make up and high heels or don’t, but for the love of god, let’s advance the conversation. We can do it."

Also, whoever you are, thank you for reading this.  I wish for your exceptional happiness.  And while I am overjoyed that you have visited this site, I would have wished that for you anyway.

With love,



Friday, March 8, 2013


Good morning little birds!  It is one of Homer's classic rosy-fingered dawns over here today (except, do not say rosy-fingered anything, am I right?). 

I just wanted to say hello.  I have been on February's sweet roller coaster which passed through and by Valentine's, my 35th birthday, many cakes and flowers and chocolate bon bons, and a surgery and teeth cleaning for my old pup who sadly did not get to share in any of the chocolate treats.  I realized yesterday that it is March and I am still in my February pajamas.  Do you know what I mean?  I don't have pajamas for every month of the year, but I dunno, maybe we all should. 

What I'm trying to say is, I've been sleeping a lot.  And eating cheese and bread, and drinking tea with Tim and going to work and writing letters and listening to the same cd in my car for a week and reading in bed. The stuff of February pajamas.  But now it's March and even though it's supposed to snow up to a foot tonight, I swear I feel Spring in the air.  This week, I opened the back door and found a fat robin pecking the needles under our backyard pine.  The robin looked at me.  I looked at the robin, a quizzical pause for everyone. 

Speaking of birds, I am newly obsessed with geese.  I love their perfect glossed bodies and pitch-black necks, their impending attacks and fearsome size.  I kind of want to throw a net around one and put it in the oven, fairy tale style, you know?  Even though I won't because I think it's illegal to do that.  But when a gaggle of them crosses the gas station parking lot while I pump gas, I can't believe people just go about the business of buying their Twix and cigarettes and Gatorade and Lotto tickets without stopping and watching the waddling parade. 

I was swimming in the Poudre last year, which occurs to me now, after a summer of wildfires and ashy run-off maybe that wasn't such a great idea, and a great blue heron circled the trees above my head, cawing and crackling with such prehistoric awesomeness my teeth might have fallen out of my head for a second.  My jaw certainly dropped to the river rocks below. 

What I'm saying here is, miracles abound, and go about their wild, wind-filled business all around us poor suckers on the ground. 

What I'm saying here is, I like birds.

In other news, I wrote a guest post on the blog of a hero of mine!  It was a total honor to be part of Laura Munson's wintertime project, where she goes into the woods to write and hands over her blog space to guest posts centered around a collective theme.  You can find my post, about my husband's bout with cancer and my long-overdue pact with myself, here

Also, do yourself a favor and read Laura's book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is - A Season of Unlikely Happiness.  It is stunning, and I won't stop talking about it until you read it, okay?

Finally, yesterday I re-watched a Ted Talk by Brene Brown that adrenalized my heart.  You can watch it here, where she says such gems as: 

Connection is why we're here 
What are we doing with vulnerability?  Why do we struggle with it so much?
To feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.

Sending big love from the feet of big mountains