Friday, March 8, 2013

A Scalpel Won't Do

I've been listening to an audiobook in my car, San Miguel by T. C. Boyle.  It's set on a small, fictional island off the coast of California.  The closest city is Santa Barbara.  The first two-thirds of the story take place in the late 1800s and focus on a woman and her adopted daughter who, against their wishes, move to this small island where there are none of the comforts of civilization.  There's an outhouse, no indoor plumbing, and few protections against the elements.  The woman suffers from consumption, and the girl struggles with being a teenager, far from peers or any excitement.  The last third of the book jumps forward in time, to the 1930s, as two young newlyweds become caretakers of the island.  The island has modernized, somewhat, and they're thrilled to be on their own.

The writing is good, the characters are interesting, but throughout the narrative I find myself surprised that the story doesn't go deeper.  That plots are neatly resolved.  That minor conflicts don't carry over from one chapter to the next.  I still have a couple of discs left, so I may be surprised still, but right now I judge it as a good story, not a great novel.

That's a bit harsh.  But so much of what I read, now, I analyze what works and what doesn't in order to apply what I learn to my own work.  In revisions, I'm up to the clunky last third of my book.  I say "clunky" because, rereading it, the story feels forced, and the descriptions redundant.  Maybe it's not horrible for a person writing her first novel, but it's not great.  With all my procrastination and with all my distractions the past couple of months, I can look at it more objectively.  I'm not as attached to leaving things as they are, to tinkering at the edges.  A scalpel won't do--I need a hacksaw.    

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Skydiving GIF

This is me jumping out of the plane -- I love how my cheeks and forehead wrinkle as I fall!

What Might Have Been

So I took February off from blogging.  It wasn't something I planned... it just sort of happened.  Maybe March will bring bigger and better things--blog things, that is.

Last weekend we met with the man who's going to officiate our wedding.  We didn't know what do expect, so he went through a generic ceremony: here's the procession, here's the invocation, here's a reading, here are the vows, etc.  Together, we'll fill in the blanks.  Decides how the procession goes, what the invocation is, what the vows are.

He asked how I wanted to get up the "altar" (i.e. spot on the patio): walk with my dad?  walk alone?  walk with both parents?

And at that question--"Do you want to walk with a parent on each side?"--I started crying.  Not heavy tears, but a noticeable stream of water from my eyes.  The idea, the image, of having both my parents with me, apart since I was 8, is almost too much.  I'm close to both my parents and have a separate relationship with each of them.  There's not "my parents" but "my dad" and "my mom." Whenever I think or talk about the idea of one parent on each side, at the same time, I get emotional.  I get a brief glimpse at the life I would have had if they had stayed together.

My dad leads a life that he couldn't, were he married.  He travels back and forth from a third-world country to Ohio.  He often lives in conditions that would be unacceptable to most Americans, used to our comforts of hot running water and reliable electricity.  My mom remarried when I was fourteen, and once I became mature enough to respect and acknowledge this relationship, I realized what a good man she had married, and how lucky she is to have him.

I never had that dream that my parents would get back together, maybe because I was so young when they split.  But now, as an adult, I can wonder what that would have been like.  Would I be more confident, less insecure, less picky?  Regardless, I'm grateful to have two parents in my life to celebrate with me as I move into this next stage.