Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Book Child

Friends! I haven't been here for a while because I have been: flabbergasted, consumed, amazed, altered, hard at work. The last time I was here I talked about sending my "book child" out into the world. That week turned out to be, to my utter surprise, a whirlwind, that ended with my collection of short stories, HALF WILD, being purchased by Ecco Books, an imprint of Harper Collins. I'm now working with my dream editor on that book, and on a novel, too, which I'm hoping to have a first draft of by early next summer. (HALF WILD will be published in August of 2016.)

My life has, overnight, become, something radically different than what it was before. Who knew that such things happened? I've written a fair amount about here on this blog about the struggle between parenting and artistry, and with transparency and honesty about the struggle to make a living doing what we do. My husband and I have struggled, a fair amount, up to this point, to make a living, as (caveat/clarification) artists. We're artistically inclined. Artistically driven. Uncompromising on many fronts. It means that we've lived in this unfinished house for many years, and have each been working at least three jobs at once. (Of various, part-time natures.)

But that all just shifted.

I know it's considered tactless and taboo to talk about money. But I think those taboos and restrictions are mostly set up by those with money, who are embarrassed to talk about the fact that they have it, or (gasp) acknowledge just how much it is.

I'm not going to say how much my advance was, because that feels like a private negotiation between me and my publisher, but I will say this: I am, this year and next year, making a living as a writer.

My husband and I just installed solar panels in the field next to our house, so that we can generate all of the electricity we use, from here on out, from the sun.

My short stories bought those panels.

And those funky, beloved, green doors and windows pictured above and below? Those were salvaged when we first built our cabin. Two of them don't open. The one that does open is rotting and lacks a screen. They're all single-paned and require duct-tape, plastic, and fiberglass insulation to keep the drafts out in winter. Which means...those windows are on their way. This Thursday they'll be replaced by double-paned glass, that opens and closes, with screens to keep the bugs out in the heart of summer.

They represent a lot to me, those windows. My youth. My aesthetic sense. My chosen poverty. Those windows belong in the stories in HALF WILD, and to the characters of HALF WILD. And yet. I'm also delighted. Honored. Unbelievably grateful. To be able to make my house better, tighter, more livable. To support my family. With words. Who would have thought such a thing possible? Not me, the daughter of a carpenter and a bus driver and farmers.

Every day seems a little miracle of sorts. Every day I'm grateful. And face the page with...well...as much humility and reverence as I can muster.

Be well, loves. May the fall bring its sweet and particular blessings, and your dreams manifest in one way or another.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

room, book-child

A beautiful, early May morning, sunshine already touching the budding branches of the peach tree, the seedlings in the cold frame (spinach, arugula, cilantro, carrots, kale) rising higher. Soon I'll put on my sunhat and go out into the day with Owen Cricket, but right now I'm at my desk. My desk! For those of you who have followed woodbird at all, you know this spot has been a long time coming. We began building this addition when I was pregnant with O-Cricket, who will be three at the end of the month. We poured the foundation the week before he was born. We have picked away at it (with help) in the pockets of time when we had time and/or money. And now: here it is. A room of my own. A desk of my own. A place where I go in the mornings, when I can, with a cup of tea.  I haven't built shelves yet: the books line up in piles around the room, comforting me with their presence. Oh, what effort goes into these things! What a miracle that the good ones actually get published, and into our hands. My own book will be sent off to publishers next week, in search of a home, in search of love, and so I'm comforted by such reminders. Sending your book-child off is a bit like sending your real-child off, to Florida, to the ocean where she will look for seashells and dally in the sand. Except the real-child comes home—sun-kissed, smelling of salt, and throws her arms around you. But the book-child? The book-child could go drifting out there for months, years, and never write home. Oh, book-child! The hours that are inside you. The hopes and the love that I have placed there. But enough of this...the morning is so lovely. I have an essay to write. I have a garden to water. If you're looking for books to read, I recommend these spring beauties. May your days be bright, dear ones. 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

them mornings

Hello, dear friends. It's been a while. But this morning there is a steaming cup of tea on my sunlit (new) desk, and my children have left the house. In other words: freedom. In other words: time to make the last few changes to my book before I call it officially, and finally, done.

There's volatility in Baltimore today...and wreckage in Nepal...things are broken. May you find your way towards fixing and towards healing, with the tools you have at hand.

Also: a poem for you, by Ross Gay, here, sent to me by the always-spot-on Jennifer Bowen Hicks. I think I'll be reading it for a long time.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Today's Menu::Munro

I seem to be mightily attentive to my female writing heroes these days.

I can't wait to read "Home" in Munro's new collection, Family Furnishings, which you can read about here.

Or the story where this line lives:

"And such a long time it takes for today to be over. For the long reach of sunlight and stretched shadows to give out and the monumental heat to stir a little, opening sweet cool cracks. Then all of a sudden the stars are out in clusters and the trees are enlarging themselves like clouds, shaking down peace."

Ah, Alice. Happy sunlight, tea, snow....

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Today's Menu:: Ruth Stone

Regarding darkness and light, from one of my favorite poets...

How It Came to Be

a bear who couldn't sleep through the winter
fished the full moon out of a lake
and hung it in her cave.
"There," she said, "in essence,
can there be another like me?"
Echo came back, "Incandescence."
"That's it, bulb," she cried,
"You turn me on!"
And she went right out and got lit.
Edison obtained wind of this
and stole the whole thing,
and that's why it isn't dark any more.

-Ruth Stone

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Her Story

Here is the back of my great-great-grandmother Frances Gillingham's sketch pad from when she was  sixteen. These sketches are from a few years before she married a gold miner and infamous gambler in a mining town in British Columbia. She took in laundry to support his gambling habit while raising their two girls, Louise (my great-grandmother) and Mae, and died during childbirth with their third. 

In these sketches: her artistry, her solitude, her dreams.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Today's Menu:: CD Wright

Drinking: black tea. honey. milk.

Reading: this

Nothing to Declare

When I lived here
the zinnias were brilliant,
spring passed in walks.
One winter I wasn't so young.
I rented a house with Anne Grey
where she wrote a book and I could not.
Cold as we were on the mountain
we wouldn't be moved to the plain.
Afternoons with no sun
a blanket is left on the line.
Hearts go bad
like something open on a shelf.
If you came to hear about roosters,
iron beds, cabinets of ruby glass—
those things are long gone;
deepscreen porches and Sunday's buffet.
This was the school
where they taught us
the Russians send their old
to be melted down for candles.
If I had a daughter I'd tell her
Go far, travel lightly.
If I had a son he'd go to war
over my hard body.
Don't tell me it isn't worth the trouble
carrying on campaigns
for the good and the dead.
The ones I would vote for
never run. I want each and every one
to rejoice in the clotheslines
of the colored peoples of the earth.
Try living where you don't have to see
the sun go down.
If the hunter turns his dogs loose
on your dreams
Start early, tell no one
get rid of the scent.

-CD Wright, from Further Adventures with You, Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 1986.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Today's Menu:: Megan Mayhew Bergman

Reading: Megan Mayhew Bergman's Almost Famous Women

Drinking: Russian Caravan with milk & honey

Thinking: Damn, it's ten degrees out there but the sun is blasting through my southwest facing windows making it a truly balmy 75 at my kitchen table. Add that to the fact that the kids have momentarily been swept up by their grandpa to go plow some driveways and I am sitting at said 75 degree table reading Megan Mayhew Bergman's delicious and titillating and inspiring new collection of stories, and you have a very happy inhabitant of winter. 

Which is not always the case. 

May you all be warmed by such bright things. 


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

vermont public radio

Peeps: I was interviewed on Vermont Public Radio this morning about Contemporary Vermont Fiction. Mitch Wertlieb asked the most thoughtful questions, which made my job easy. You can listen and/or read the story here. I got to talk about Wallace Stegner, and Peter Gould's fabulous story, and my badass mama.

Also, I believe this is now the 9th time I've been interviewed on public radio. Which is utterly crazy, considering I'm a stay at home mom and far from famous and terrified every time it happens and reluctant to listen to my own voice coming through the car speakers (thank goodness for distracting children). But I will say this: I spent many hours as a child walking in the woods behind my house pretending I was being interviewed on NPR.  Which makes me strangely happy for that child and her (weird) dreams, and grateful for these woods, which have seen and sheltered and heard it all.

Enjoy if you happen to listen!