The Blog’s Gone Dark

I have not posted here since an outing in February to a wonderful dramatization of the Bronte sisters’ life. I am not keeping up with my reading list  (although I do  so on Goodreads). I started another #100daysofwriting challenge and quickly began forgetting — not to write, I never forget that — but to take a daily picture and post it on Instagram.

Feckless though I am, it struck me it might be fun in retrospect to have had some record here of the progress of the novel I imagine myself to be writing. Though it may come to nothing (the novel-diary plan, I mean — the novel will come to something, though hard to say what), mere risk of failure is not enough of an argument against. So here goes, in hopes that it can encourage others as much as myself.

I got a half-baked notion to write about the Brontes back in 2013, though I did not form any resolve until 2017,  also an alarmingly long time ago. Continue reading


Rabbit or Writer: On Authenticity


I have an agent. I wrote a novel that sold to a Big 5 publisher. I  belong to two writing critique groups, and I live in Brooklyn. Yet when one of my newer writing critique group members asked me if I’d been to any residencies — not in a judging way, but in a friendly, encouraging tone — I froze, as if this were a trick question; a veiled insult; a failure of tact. But only people like you go to those, I thought but could not say. Real writers. Not only have I not gone to one; it would never occur to me to apply! Not that I wouldn’t want to —  just like I’d like to go horse trekking in Mongolia. Equally dreamy, equally improbable.

But later I started to think over this exchange, and to wonder. What would it take for me, like the Velveteen Rabbit, to become real? What does it take for anyone? Continue reading

‘Longbourn’ and Pig Shit Realism



All the time I was reading Jo Baker’s “Longbourn” I had the sensation of not being able to decide if I liked it.  This is unusual;  feckless and tentative as I am in most realms of human activity, I am generally confident in my literary judgments.

The story, in case anyone  missed the large splash it made upon publication in 2014, is “Pride and Prejudice” from the viewpoint of the Bennets’ servants. A brilliant, can’t-miss idea. I like to imagine Ms. Baker, tormented by insomnia and casting around for her next idea for a novel, sitting up in bed.


New Beginnings, Old Problems

I’ve been away from this blog for so long I feel almost obliged to fashion some adroit explanation — picnic, lightning — but the truth is, I was doing other things. Reading, writing, rethinking, rewriting. (When does rewriting have an end? I can only say, not yet.)

After “The Golem and the Jinni” I proceeded to read a string of amazing books I wish I had stopped to write about, for now I cannot do justice to them: Continue reading

Charles Dickens and the Rejection Pile

Inexplicably, I find myself reading “A Tale of Two Cities.” In tandem with “The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile,” which I can’t help wishing Charles Dickens could have read, too. While he had no trouble staying out of the rejection pile, it still could have helped him. For I feel, once again, that the things that make Dickens so annoying are also what make him so unforgettable. Continue reading

Distance and Perspective

When I first started writing this novel, which seems extremely long ago now, the metaphors that struck me most forcefully were architectural. Constructing a plot seemed to me like building a house: I needed to dig a foundation, build a frame to hang my ideas on. Then there were awkward pipes and wires sticking out everywhere and unfinished stairs the unwary might fall down, holes in the plot big enough for rodents to enter through and take up residence inside.

The house is not complete yet, but when I think back to that time in comparison it seems very done. The big holes have been filled in; it’s been insulated with a soft filling of fine words. The tubes that carry in power and water and information have been concealed behind walls, and the walls themselves painted soothing, harmonious colors. Someone has even hung art on those walls!

And that, I find, is currently my operating metaphor. I’m adding a touch here and there, stepping back to gauge the overall effect, marveling at how the addition or subtraction of a single word or phrase can ripple through the entire composition. Line and color.

I think 2/3 of the book is how it needs to be. It’s the last third that is the killer, though, and always has been. Act III is where the plot either thickens or curdles and falls apart, to use a different metaphor. Where the things that people have been becoming and realizing must ripen into action and choice.