Forward Motion

This morning's breakfast, at 6am: homemade oatmeal topped with a few cranberries and walnuts, with a bit of Fage yogurt on the side, and a copy of the 1947 textbook MAKERS OF THE AMERICAS.

This book broke it open for me yesterday... I am cautiously saying this, because who knows (I know you know what I mean), I have a new chapter one (for the third time in as many years) and I think it may be The One. But I've thought this before.

Yesterday, as I committed to my 15 uninterrupted minutes and then another and another 15, I did indeed sink right down into story... and you know, that break every 15 minutes (or hour, or however it works for you/me each day -- and each day is different)... that break makes all the difference.

In my breaks I toted some of our two cords of firewood to the various covered resting places it will occupy this winter. (We did not beat the rain, but we're over halfway done, and everything is tarped... and the rain on my tin roof sounds like drizzle this morning, not a downpour, which would seriously impede our efforts.)

I made pumpkin muffins for Hannah (her request) and will try to box them up and send them to Ohio today, where she is putting in long hours working for the Obama campaign (oh, the stories!). I'll include something Halloweenish in the box, and I'll stick her mail in there, too, and a surprise.

I stuck close to home and close to story yesterday, and my reward for those focused writing times followed by the release of the puppy-mind to go play/exercise was the magical gift of a new beginning for this novel. I read through my pitiful "what does Franny want?" list that I posted yesterday, I wrestled with how to put something to represent that in the first chapter in a real-life, action-oriented way, and as I sat there, word-wrestling, a phrase came to me: I am invisible. I wrote it down. It came to me in the way that Comfort's words in LITTLE BIRD came: I come from a family with a lot of dead people.

From that sentence came the rest of the chapter. Where did it come from? I wrote for two hours with every window and door around me open. The muffins cooled, the firewood waited, the tiny morning fire died, and the October breeze set up a whooshing through the trees and around my shoulders with a clear sign of a front coming in.

When I looked up, I had to put myself back in 2008. I had sunk deep down into 1962 and I had a brand-new scene, a brand-new beginning, and a way to look ahead. I took a break -- moved wood for an hour and figured out next steps in my head... was excited to get back to the page.

Here's how the rest of the day went:

Read the new chapter out loud, heard the holes. Revised. Took a break. Read the chapter out loud, saw how this new first chapter is really chapters one and three. I can use my current (as of the last revision) chapter two between the brand-new chapters one and three. Shuffle. Revise. I think this will work.

I ate little supper (leftovers)-- my mind is not in my stomach. Called it a day and watched the debate (save me -- us). Couldn't resist one more read-through, so read the new material out loud, in bed, to Jim (very romantic - not). He asked great questions and gave wonderful encouragement, which I need so much right now. Slept on everything.

When I woke at 5:30, I was eager to get back to it -- this hasn't happened in so very long. For so long this novel has been a complete and utter slog, and today, voila, it's a pleasure, a real pleasure. I began reading yesterday's new chapter before the coffee was ready, and I made my oatmeal (I'm finding that carbs in the morning help) while scribbling in my notebook all my new discoveries, my new questions, my wonderings... because that's what I do best -- wonder. And then explore.

Heavens to Murgatroyd, I think I may be finally moving forward again. So, so much to do in this month ahead. I can't look at that. I need to keep blinders on and just move forward. Trust. Make a mess if I have to -- remember the rules of The Magic Schoolbus? I put them, front and center, at the top of my syllabus for ECED422, "Writing Techniques for Teachers" when I taught at Towson University:

Take Chances.
Make Mistakes.
Get Messy.


C'mon -- let's write today.

I'm so eager to be back in Franny's world again this morning and I'm psyched about moving forward -- what will I discover? I hope you'll indulge me and wait on my post about the new picture book... it's coming, I promise. I need to ride the white heat I'm in with this novel -- who knew it would come? I try to trust the process, I do, but probably, deep down, I'm not sure I truly believe a story will crack open again for me, I'm never sure the white heat will be here again, and then... voila.

And I never know how long it will last. To work.

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