Confession: I have not written a word in almost three weeks. I have reasons, good reasons for this, but nonetheless, I’m aching to go back to the manuscript. I was about to say that I’m aching to revisit my characters, for them to tell me what happens next, but that’s kind of baloney. That will be fun, yes, but really, I’m aching to escape back into the writing zone—where the stresses of life thin out into a white noise and I get to lose myself for a little while.
Life has been a bit busy as of late: a few weeks without childcare, a visit from my Dad (which was great), an impending move, and all of us—baby included—knocked out with the stomach flu (not so great.) So my working life—my manuscript, this blog, too, actually—had to be put aside for a while. I hope to be back in partial force next week, and in full force in about two weeks, after our entire lives are boxed up and put in storage, and we go to camp at my in-laws for a while. But that’s a long story for another day.
In the meantime, instead of working-working, I have been doing a bit of reading. Not as much as I would like—in my pre-Elili life, I would read at least two or three books a week, and now it seems I read about that many a month. But since I don’t have an MFA and didn’t study English as an undergraduate, I’ve always used reading as my way of learning how to become a writer, or I guess these days, how to become a better writer. When I read now, it is always
critically: if I’m enjoying a book (or not), I stop to ask myself why. I recently read THE SLAP by Christos Tsolkias, which I thought did a great job of being one of those “how we live now” kind of books, and I really felt transported to life in the Melbourne suburbs. I didn’t love the novel, but that’s mostly my fault. I have a weird squeamishness about drugs—actually, I’m not squeamish about drugs per se, but I can’t stomach hearing about the different ways they are ingested—and in this book, pretty much every character indulges at one point or another. But yeah, Tsiolkas taught me a lot about how important time and place—getting the details, and even more than that the feel, the atmosphere, the temperature of a place just right. Next up, I read Emma Donoghue’s THE ROOM, which is one of those books that if you haven’t heard of it yet, I promise you will. I have no doubt this one will top the bestseller lists for months to come, as it should. I’m not going to ruin it by telling you what it’s about, but it’s brilliant. And in my opinion, it’s a perfect example of how much voice trumps all in fiction writing. The story is a gruesome one (again, I don’t want to give anything away), but it’s narrated by a five year old boy named Jack, who is so engaging and so charming you can’t help but keep reading. What would ordinarily be a story filled with horror, becomes one stuffed with wonder. The pacing is also perfect: just when you think the plot has been fully unfolded, that there can’t be anything else to come, bam, she smacks you right across the face.
So, in summation: THE ROOM is awesome. The stomach flu is not.
PS–Congrats to Carol Thompson who won OUT OF THE SHADOWS.