Friday, June 29, 2012
Dear Two-legged one,
Oh how you have betrayed me.
For years we have shared our morning rituals. First you give me my breakfast (which, by the way, is never enough). Then we watch the pigeons prancing along the roof across the street.
Recently I found out the real reason that you have been studying the particular way they bobble their heads as they walk. You are writing about them! In your new novel! Which apparently is full of birds––including the hero, an African grey parrot named Zeno. If you can call a parrot a hero.
Why would you elevate an animal who isn’t a cat to such a lofty position? Just because he can talk your language? That is very arrogant––even for a human.
As a writer, you should be paying attention to all kinds of communication. Especially the non-verbal type. Isn’t that the real meaning of show don’t tell?
I can tell by your pacing that you are doing rewrites. You have been muttering that you can’t find the exact right ending for your novel. You need a final image that will resonate with the reader, long after she has shut the book.
I have a suggestion. Maybe your parrot should encounter a strong, wise, beautiful black cat.
Blackberry THE CAT
Friday, June 8, 2012
On May 5, 2012, I walked around the island of Manhattan with my friend Nancy Johnson and about a thousand other members of the Shorewalkers Hiking Club.
See our smiling faces? This photo was taken when we had completed about a third of our journey. We’re under the George Washington Bridge -- right by the little red light house of children’s book fame.
A few miles after this photo was taken, sauntering ceased. (According to the dictionary, to saunter means to walk in a slow, relaxed manner without hurry or effort.) A few more miles later, our hike felt more like a forced march. During the last third of the 32 miles, we didn’t dare sit down. The effort to resume our slog far outweighed however welcome the rest would have been.
WHY oh WHY would I subject my feet and my psyche to such an ordeal?
When Nancy first suggested that we “saunter” 32 miles, it didn’t sound that difficult. I felt confident that I could do it. I had walked plenty of miles in Manhattan before. But at the 20 mile mark, I was ready to quit. My joints ached. My feet seemed to be one big blister. At the 25 mile mark, when we were on city streets, a few yellow cabs followed our straggling group. If Nancy hadn’t been there, I might very well have succumbed to temptation and yelled, “Taxi!”
The sun was setting as we reached South Street Seaport, the point at which we began. People in sombreros were out celebrating Cinco de Mayo. The contrast would have made me smile if I had the energy to move one extraneous muscle.
So why oh why DID I do it?
I wanted to see if I could. And I am extremely proud that I did. Yes writing a novel requires a huge amount of stamina. Any long term creative project demands energy, mental tricks, motivational techniques--and lots of coffee. This was the first time I had ever pushed myself to do anything physically strenuous. Now I have a deeper respect for people who put themselves to physical tests.
There’s one other reason I (why not say it again) walked 32 miles in 12 and 1/2 hours. I wanted to know if I could accomplish what I made my poor character Megan do in my novel Nature Girl. Well, could I?
Yes––but just barely.