26 September 2009

horizontal and vertical

I finished The Great Gatsby this morning. Overall, it was an enjoyable read, and I was touched by the tragic longing for that which is past. I can relate. No sense analyzing it, though, because I'm sure there is enough of that out there.

I did love the language. It is the combination of image and language that I find most appealing, carries more weight. Horizontal and vertical, terms from Stevan and Joanna. Scene plus introspection or assessment. My favorite pieces are like that. Here's some of my personal favorites:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour before we melted indistinguishably into it again. [p 184]

If that was true, he must have felt like he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. [p 169]

The track curved and now it was going away from the sun which, as it sank lower, seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing city where she had drawn her breath. He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. [p 160]

And finally, one of my most favorite:

I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn't sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard someone murmur, "Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on," and then the owl-eyed man said, "Amen to that," in a brave voice. [p 183]

Here's one from the Wildish Boys:

We walked together on the wide, cement sidewalk in the fading light, the street going on down the hill to the freeway ramp and Lake Washington. As far as you could see out past the unnatural squared off building tops of north Seattle, there was a fading pink above the Olympics, the reflection of light and water, and over Mercer Island, a glittering line of headlights cut through the black trees and the regular lives of other people that we could almost imagine were just like us.

Need a new book to read now. Suggestions?


11 September 2009

chocolates and bagels

It has been over a year since I sat in workshop with Joanna Rose and Stevan Allred, so I thought I would be out of practice to start again. Instead it was a remembered comfort like visiting family (those ones who like you). Weds evening started a new session, and I was there with 11 other writers. It was all very exciting - the reading, the writing, the chocolates and bagels.

My breath still locks up in my chest when I start to read. Nerves. But by about page 5, I was fine. By the last page, I was already satisfied with my experience - even before the comments. The feedback was just gravy.

It's a good group. I am looking forward to next Weds. We'll see how well I'll be able to read, if at all, what with the emergency oral surgery I had on my jaw today (ice and Advil are my friends. But I digress...)

Launching into Chapter 5 and 6 this weekend to refine voice of the narrator, Jude Wildish.

Speaking of Wildish, I drove out of my neighborhood a couple weeks ago, and where there was a building the night before, there was nothing but a pile of rubble and some uprooted Redwood trees. It was shocking. Worst of all, gone was the big blue sign with a mountain tops and in big lettering: Wildish. I am crushed that the inspiration for my family name is gone. There is renewed construction on the lot, but for now, the Wildish family saga will have to go on without the sign.

Ah, well. Things change. Buildings go away. Screws fall out.


08 September 2009


I have been known to almost miss the turning of a red light as I head down the road in front of my house, my attention drawn off by an interesting tree or a dog near the road. Or a chicken - there's chickens by the red barn up the street. It's just how my brain works, in a random, distractable way.

Mary Milstead is not any of those things. She is a wonderful writer and a dear friend. She has also been a long-standing reader of my work in progress and has given many thoughtful and constructive reviews, for which I remain grateful.

Last Wednesday, we met at one of our latest usual places - Coffeetime on NW 21st. Mary listened as I read both sets of my current revisions, each from a different point of narration.

Then, in a nutshell, she advised me to stop distracting myself and get on with my writing.

It seems my trees or chickens of late are of my own making, the questioning of my ability and perhaps a bump in self-confidence. Along the path of self-examination, there is a point where it becomes flailing. After gaining all the positive effects of re-evaluating the direction of my novel, I suppose I have done a bit of flailing.

But Mary was right, and it's time to move on. Outside of my over-analytical evaluation, my instincts tell me which direction to take this piece. There will always be different ways to approach each scene, options for character and narrator and description. But this is this character and this piece.

"Get back to work," she said. "And do what you do best."

Everyone needs a friend like Mary.