The short and long of it: on blogging, book writing, and persevering

10 Mar

Graham Greene

Novelist Graham Greene

Hello there. I’ve been off writing a kids chapter book. I’m back, at least for today. Book writing is a different speed. Whereas a blogger must deliver with every word, a novelist is at liberty to meander and subject the reader to mundane details. A good blog post is like a slice of chocolate mousse pie: rich and satisfying up until the final bite. A book? I’m still figuring that out, but so far I’d say it’s like watching someone drive to the grocery store and back, make purchases, prepare a meal, and host a dinner party. There are moving parts and parts to slough through. I’m learning to make space for the everyday and to resist forced majesty. A book requires more patience and less perfectionism; more consistency and less brilliancy. I must give the story breathing room, letting it develop slowly over time.

In an article titled “How Writers Write,” William Landay quotes Graham Green: “So much of a novelist’s writing…takes place in the unconscious; in those depths the last word is written before the first word appears on paper. We remember the details of our story, we do not invent them.”  Indeed, my book’s characters are but an amalgamation of personalities I’ve known or encountered in my actual life. Everyday, I try to build a different scene based on someone familiar: the mom who cleans obsessively, or the dad who can’t tolerate cereal being slurped at the breakfast table, or the kid whose guilty pleasure is reading with a flashlight under the covers well past bedtime.

My story line, however, is unfamiliar: it’s about an experience that, as a kid, I would have wanted to read about. Here, I am attempting to engage in a form of escapism that children seem to effortlessly partake in with their imaginations. I want kids to experience reading my book as I did Julie Andrew’s “Mandy,” in which the heroine escapes from an orphanage to an abandoned cottage that she then spruces up. I relished each description of Mandy’s cottage renovations, from planting flowers to securing and arranging cutlery, and envisioned how I would fix up a cottage given the opportunity.

It’s the intertwining of the humdrum into something extraordinary that I’m after. It seems like a wholly new thing to be chasing, but when I think about it, I’m always after the remarkable within the ordinary. I want each day to be significant and become unhappy when it turns out boring or same-old. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, strings of routine days turn into pretty significant accomplishments. For me, hours of practicing Kreutzer’s etudes and Barbara Barber’s advanced scales led to a spot as a second violinist in Pennsylvania’s All State Orchestra. I am reminded, too, when I look back on my very first blog post, how my writing has developed just by making a habit of it. Think: isn’t the same true for you in something you’ve slugged through for weeks, months, years, perhaps even decades?

In the same vein, guess which food I’m going to point you to today? Yep, that’s right: oatmeal, my constant work-in-progress.

OVERNIGHT OATS 

 

yogurt 2

INGREDIENTS (makes 1 serving):

1/3 cup quick oats

1/3 cup 1% milk (or other low-fat milk of your choice)

1/4 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

Drizzle honey (~1/2 Tbs.)

Berries: any combination of blueberries, blackberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries

Salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Layer oats, milk, yogurt, and honey in a tight-seal plastic container. Top with berries. Place lid on container and store in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge the following morning, fully mix ingredients together, and salt to taste prior to eating.

CALORIES: ~200

yogurt 1

 

 

 

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