Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anatomy of a Distraction (or If You Give a Writer a Search Engine...)

Here's why when you're actually trying to get some writing done, you should not open up your web browser. Once the pandora's box is open... Usually I'm really good, but Google Maps shouldn't count, right? I was in the middle of writing a scene set in Eugene, Oregon, and I needed to see a map of the area. No atlas handy to my desk, but the computer is on (though I'm writing by hand). So here's how it goes:

Google map of Eugene. Reminds me that it's not as close to the coast as I thought.

Oh, I think, how odd. There don't seem to be any major cities on the West Coast, between San Francisco and Seattle. This requires a search. In Wikipedia. Turns out there are no good deep water ports that connect to interior agricultural areas. Hence, unlike the East Coast, which is full of cities and harbors, the West Coast is pretty bare.

Which gets me thinking. Hey, wouldn't that be a cool bike ride. Ride along the coastal highway, no big cities. Which leads me to find a blog about a guy who blogged about biking the Oregon coast in 2006. Sounds fun. Turns out it's a pretty busy road, because so many tourists think it's beautiful.

And I get to thinking about big long trips, and his blog just happens to mention, which is a blog by a couple who are bicycling from the top of Canada to the tip of Patagonia. They started in June 2006, and now they're in Peru, having ridden more than 12,000 miles.

I've always had a fascination with long journeys on foot (hence my novel Tornado Siren) or by bike or by canoe. So far, I haven't gotten very far on my bike, but maybe later this summer or next year... Paddling the length of a major river has great appeal. Mississippi anyone? The Charles is close by and short, I guess I could start there. So many possibilities.

All of this led to considerable daydreaming and not prodigious writing, until I got the stupid browser closed. I promise myself I'll be strong (though a little refresher research on gravitational attraction just happened to lead to Einstein's special relativity, which then led to Kepler's Problem, and I'm interested in anything about Kepler, so...)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What I'm Reading: Writers Workshop in a Book

I got Writers Workshop in a Book entirely because I love the Fear of Finishing essay by Mark Childress and wanted to see if the other essays in the book would be as helpful. They were.

I know some readers have been disappointed because they thought this was going to be a sort of step-by-step instruction book about how to write. It's nothing at all like that. Instead, it's a collection of essays by writers who have been around for a while, and are willing to talk about things as specific as point of view or writing historical fiction, or as general as anxiety about writing your second book (from Amy Tan).

For me, this was all like sitting around the couch with a bunch of mentors and just listening to what they had to say. It helped me keep plunging ahead with my own second novel. I have a feeling this will be a book that I'll go back to again.

I'm especially jealous of my friend Jessica, who is planning to attend the workshop in the flesh next month. Maybe someday I'll get there (these things just aren't practical when you've got kids). An added treat for me was the afterword, by Oakley Hall, where he talks about how the workshop actually got started. It's the kind of grassroots venture that I'd love to start myself someday. Maybe on the east coast. With a big huge garden, where the writers and I can plant and pick organic produce, and maybe a theatre for workshopping plays. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good News: Counting Rita to be in Best Ten-Minute Plays

I just heard from Smith & Kraus that they want to include Counting Rita in the upcoming Best Ten-Minute Plays 2009, Two Actors. This will be my third year in a row with a play in one of their anthologies, which feels especially gratifying. I really enjoyed the production in the Boston Marathon earlier this year (the one that made it eligible for the anthology) and I hope the anthology will help make it even more popular.

Anthologies haven't led to many productions for me, but I do have folks from all over the world contact me (rarely) with questions about the plays. And I love the idea of a couple thousand people reading the script.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

update on new novel

I'm still making good progress on the rewrites to my new novel. Getting up at 5am, and making sure I get in a couple hours every day has helped a lot over the past few weeks. In an odd process, I've been handwriting everything, even when that entails copying stuff over from the old draft on the computer. These past few days I've been typing up all the handwritten stuff. Right now, I'm up to 96 pages (about 27,500 words), and it feels pretty good. I was able to cut out a lot of the boring bits in the old first 250 pages of the novel. I think I have a pretty solid first 100 pages of a book now.

We're off on a little mini-vacation (the kids are going to the beach with Grandma in Rhode Island, while Tracy and I get to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary with three nights in Mystic, CT, with just the two of us!). When I get back, it'll be time to dive into Part II of the book, which I think will take most of the rest of the summer.