Sunday, June 10, 2012
So I disappeared for a while with the something and the somethings that were holding up my creative flow, but behold, I have returned and full of glad tidings. My next novel, Sheep that Stray, is now moving into production. It's the modern Breakfast Club, only instead of being stuck in a gym, the diverse band must do some fleeing--chased by an otherwordly mob. All the while, the group must discover some hard and odd truths about themselves. This book has a couple of interesting quirks for me, and is very near and dear to my heart. The first interest is that in junior high, the saga begins with a dream. Yes, yes, I know that many authors say a book began with a dream. This one included every core character but one, added later, pretty much as they are now. It still started in a classroom. The initiating events were the same. The characters basic attributes from looks to personality still exist in the characters today. Obviously, much of it has been changed by time, since I began writing when I was sixteen. I began this book at the final frustration that I could not figure out how to make the My Little Ponies grow up. There, obviously, time has healed all writing gaps (I must insert here that no one has gone out of their way to win my prize. One original name from the group of characters you saw on Youtube. All you need is one of the many My Little Pony databases). Sheep that Stray is another one of my babies that went fallow. In the end, it also saved my sanity. I fell in love with this book when I first wrote it. More, perhaps, than any book before or since. I sat in my room and hand drafted or later computer edited with one tape playing throughout the entire process. My brother had sent me, from University of Michigan, a tape that had Uh-oh by David Byrnes on one side and Squeeze's Singles and 45's on the other. When I went for walks to think about the book, I brought that tape. (tapes are the things we played music on even before CDs, if you are wondering) Some later critique groups, exchanging their affinity for Last of the Mohicans as writing music, felt my music choice explained some of my offbeat tone. I wrote the book in an obscenely short period of time I could never live up to again. Then I myself went away to the University of Michigan. Nobody but a literary novelist can make the word "genre" drip out of the mouth with such contempt and condescension you would think they spit out a mouthful of crude oil. I hid away my fantasy genre ways. Sure, I pulled them out and looked at them from time to time and even made a half hearted attempt to write another fantasy novel. It was college. I wasn't adjusting well. The freedom that the other new students reveled in as if they had found a new religion--that was my life back home. Now I just lived in an eight by ten room and had to put up with people so entitled they didn't know they were entitled. I spent my energy writing for my advisor Warren Hecht, who I owe a lot of refinement and tightening to, all in a gentle tone. But I worked in my narrative classes not just on short stories, but at first thinly veiled and then not at all veiled accounts of growing up in my artistic liberal house in a prison city town. I set the fantasy aside, and embraced memoir. I couldn't get much farther away. I went on to Mill's College, a small, female only underclass, all in graduate class campus in Oakland, Michigan. It was a beautiful place, and after U of M I reveled in the small class sizes and individual attention. My class mates were finally all people who got it. Some wrote novels, some poetry, some YA, some memoir, and some a mix. But we understood the strange thought processes and ticks of being a writer. The examination of the world all that more closely, because you are secretly all writing about it in their mind. Memoir was a strange place. We were still the red headed step child of the others. One step above genre. We were an odd bunch. We learned each other's most secret pains, greatest humiliations, and the huge joys, all before we learned each others' last names. Turning life to art is a creature with literary demands like no other. We learn different arc methods and ways to represent not what we can completely manipulate, but what we must carry the heart of to truth. I worked hard. My last semester I blew out my back. No worries, however. Mills had a program where you took one credit for one more semester so that you could write your thesis in a concentrated semester, rather than juggle it with every other class. It meant I could finish. It didn't mean I wasn't in pain. It wasn't the best of times. Theses, even creative ones, make decapitating yourself feel like fun even without wanting to rip your spine out of your body as well. One day as I read over my work for the thousandth time to make sure I had my throughlines and motifs correctly arced, I did a weird thing. I hit on my file off my old computer. It stared at me. The folder "Novels". An old drug bubbled through my veins. Two clicks later, and I stared at the last version of Sheep that Stray. I just meant to read a little, to clear my head. Well, then. Maybe this wasn't so bad. I bet that I could fix this. I could turn this into something good. I know. It is insane. My writing was driving me insane. Therefore I found something else to write. But fantasy was balm compared to everything else in my life I dealt with. I worked off paper and in bed or the only chair I could sit in tiny amounts till I finished my thesis. It was my treat between coffee and ice baths. When my thesis was finished, I returned to my first love. I was a fool to think I could ever stay away from it forever. I was amazed I left it alone for eight years. I write poetry. I have long and short memoir in my to do box. But, see, right now I have this trilogy to finish, and another book besides to write, and three other fantasy books to write. You might say for a long time I was like that kid with his finger stuck in the duck (name that quote, choose your book) to keep back the waters of fantasy. Only one day I took my finger away from the dike, and let the damn thing blow.