Right now I’m crashing around doing revisions on Innisfree. You know that thing where you’re all “Oh this will be so easy!” and then actually even when you have good thoughts and a fairly decent idea of what needs to be done you’re still all “Whut?”
This is the GIF for that.
I know the mouse is under the snow, and I know I want the mouse. But figuring out just where? Right.
I found it here, at title2come.tumblr.com, which is a new favorite place.
Anyway. Back to Innisfree now. Wyatt awaits.
Somehow it’s gone and turned January, and I’m not sure how.
In 2012, I read 88 books and finished (?) writing one. I am hopeful to maintain that ratio, or even improve it, for 2013. Sometime soon I will write more about writing Innisfree, and about what’s going on with it right now (Wyatt Ransom FTW, by the way), but today I want to focus on the other side of my 2012.
Out on the interwebz there are 9 zillion Best of Things lists, as well as many lists that are the Best Lists lists.
Because I like to feel included, and yet tend to read things that aren’t only what the NYT describes as Best Of, I decided to present unto you my list of the 10 best things I read in 2012, which may or may not have been published in 2012, but mostly were.
These are in no particular order except for the order in which they occurred to me:
- Nalo Hopkinson’s short story “Ours is the Prettiest,” in Welcome to Bordertown. I tend to like Bordertown books a lot, so I was biased here, but I loved that this story was more than Faerie. Plus, more people should be reading Nalo Hopkinson, on account of she is superb.
- Jami Attenberg’s novel The Middlesteins. The Middlesteins made me nervous on many levels, but it also felt more real than most of what I read this year. I was not especially fond of most of the characters – but I thought Attenberg did a dandy job of making them. It was a little odd to find myself in the neighborhoods around Chicagoland in which I used to live and work (O hai, Northbrook and Skokie…), but I’m not sure whether that helped me love the book or hindered me from loving it perfectly.
- Lauren Groff’s novel Arcadia, which is a clinic on time and setting in fiction. It’s much less trippy than I expected, despite the cover, and protagonist Bit is going to stay with me for a VERY long time. It is a much grimmer, and yet more hopeful, book than I thought it would be.
- Any number of devastating essays on The Rumpus, but especially anything by Roxane Gay, who truthtells more beautifully (and often more truthfully) than many other writers, and most especially this piece from Saeed Jones, How Men Fight For Their Lives.
- Railsea, by China Miéville. This might be my favorite book I’ve read in a very, very long time. It’s an homage of sorts to Moby Dick, only about moles. The language is invented and inventive. I loved and wholly believed the characters. Sometimes Miéville doesn’t quite work for me…and then sometimes he really does. I’ve seen comparisons of this book with Dune, but in my mind, the only significant points of comparison are the young male protagonist and the visual we have in our minds of the spiceworms billowing out of the sand. The moles are not like the worms, but they are quite like Melville’s whales.
- Jeet Thayil’s marvelous, swirling Narcopolis, which I reviewed here for Cobalt Review.
- Elizabeth Wein’s YA novel Code Name Verity, which is a tour de force of plotting and detail. Also, it broke my heart (me and thousands of other weeping readers). I would love to review it, but I can’t figure out how without all the spoilers. Here is the short version: World War II, England, young women who are spies and pilots, go read it now.
- Zadie Smith’s profile of Jay-Z and her New Yorker essay about Joni Mitchell (I know this is two things, but it’s my list, and eleven is my favorite number).
- Megan Mayhew Bergman’s story “Housewifely Arts,” in her collection Birds of a Lesser Paradise. This story, which is about a woman traveling to find the parrot who speaks in her mother’s voice, but is also about a lot of other unsurfaced things, unsettled and surprised me, and now it won’t leave me alone.
- Close to the Knives, David Wojnaworicz’s amazing book about AIDS & art & queer & life & death. I read it the first time back in the early 1990s, shortly after it came out, and then went back into it in 2012 whilst writing a piece about the queering (and re-queering) of public space. It still resonates, and it still hurts.
I read scores of other books, stories, articles, essays, and other pieces in 2012… Most of them were pretty damn good. One or two of them were terrible. I also encountered plenty of books that I am still not sure how to categorize in my head – good or bad? loathed or loved? – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. All of these books are available at Powell’s or your local indie store (plus those other places, yes).
To see all the books I read in 2012 (that I remembered to add to the list), you can check me out on Goodreads.
Today I am having one of those days in which I am completely immersed in revision, which happens to be a Thing I Like. I got bogged down around lunch time by a) my great longing for a sandwich and b) character names. You know that place in a book where you’ve been working and working and you keep changing this one guy’s name but he’s still too much like X, or not enough like Y, and his name just irritates you, and you think OMG I WILL JUST DELETE YOU, AWFUL DUMB CHARACTER I HATE YOU and then you remember he’s integral to the point so you can’t?
I had that with several characters in Innisfree, and it was making me loopy.
Today I solved all of them. I renamed FOUR people today, and suddenly the whole manuscript just looks prettier. I am completely re-energized about revising and rewriting and getting deeply into all of it. Line breaks change when you go from, say, Deb to Michal, or Kovalenko to Kassin. The patterns in each sentence change. It feels gorgeous when you find the right names, because then suddenly you can hear what those people are saying while you tell their stories.
Of course, this also meant that I got to have a nice frolic in the land of research, which I consider one of the writing life’s great pleasures. Today I learned many things, including the history of Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community, career paths for mechanical engineers, Division I college hockey teams, and some things about the Coast Guard.
It was a good day.
So today is Thanksgiving, which is a confusing holiday in some ways, but also kind of a nifty one. I like it that I have somehow surrounded myself with people who use Thanksgiving as a day for making a point of giving thanks, and not so much for drawing Pilgrims and generic Native Americans all over everything. I am grateful for those people.
I’m grateful for my friends (some of you have been around forever!) and my chosen family. Although some of you will scoff (such a good word…sigh), I am very grateful for Twitter, without which I would be much lonelier.
I am also grateful for my kids, who are made of awesome, and for my family of origin. I am grateful that I am one of the people who is fortunate enough to be able to say that and mean it. I am super grateful for my Person, who is superb in any number of ways.
I am very grateful for the storytellers, and for the stories. Without them – and I mean all of them – I would not be inspired, and I would be alone when things get dark.
Speaking of stories, I’m grateful that I finished a really good draft of Innisfree, and that revisions have been going super well. I’ve incorporated several rounds of reader feedback, and am Getting Close. So that’s exciting.
I would also like to shout out YA author Victoria Schwab, who is using her gratitude for good. If you go to her blog and tell her what you’re grateful for, she’ll make a donation to one of three charities. Plus, you might win books! Here’s a link to her website, which has more information about her and about her books, and here’s a link to her blog, with details about the giveaways, donations, and so on.
Finally, don’t forget that all proceeds from sales of my book, The Book of Broken Hymns, are still going to the Ali Forney Center in NYC, which was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Because I am incredibly grateful that places like the Center exist, this is a cause that’s particularly dear to me.
Anyway. Thanks, everyone. Very much.
Still crashing around on the Work In Progress. I like it, I really do. And I’m glad that I revise so much while I’m writing. I mean, I’m not one of those people who won’t leave a sentence behind until it’s perfect (I wish I were, sometimes), but I do a lot of moving things around and fixing words, and all that good stuff, as I go along. So while this draft is an early draft, it’s not as early as it sometimes seems. It’s just the first draft with all the pieces in the right order. And they ARE in the right order – I’ve moved so many chapters from here to there, or there to here…
So right now, my Beta readers are Beta reading (most of them. Some of them are doing whatever else they do when I think they’re reading). I’m looking at their notes and comments. And I’m gradually cobbling together something really good.
Here’s the first sentence of Innisfree, as it currently stands:
In the beginning, my brother was a bee whisperer, and I was a girl.
Anyway. Back I go.
Last week, Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy destroyed a large swathe of the northeast coast. One of the terrible things that happened during the storm was the destruction of the Ali Forney Drop-In Center, which existed for the sole purpose of providing shelter and resources for LGBTQ kids. I am sure that people are making donations to them, but I want to do what I can to help them also, and while I don’t have cash, I do have books.
To that end:
EVERY CENT OF EVERY COPY OF THE BOOK OF BROKEN HYMNS that I sell between now and Dec. 1 will go to the Ali Forney Center as a donation.
Every cent. Not x% of profits, or x% of proceeds. Everything.
Right now the book is $0.99 for Kindle, Nook, and iBookstore, and you can download it into your Whatever You Read Things On from those stores. (I am not aware right now of an eBook version available through independent stores, although I am working on it.) Here are links.
So. If readers buy three copies, the Ali Forney center gets $3.00. If readers buy 50 copies, the center gets $50.00. And so on. (You will notice that I am rounding up, because, y’know, math.)
The book is also available as a paperback, although not at the moment in most bookstores (I am still working on that). Shipping the book costs me $2.00. The cover price is $5.00. SO. If you order the book directly from me as a paperback, I will charge you $7.00, of which $5 will go directly to the center. If you want to buy the paperback for a lot more money, all but that $2 for shipping will be donated.
ALL THE PROCEEDS WILL GO TO ALI FORNEY CENTER.
The book is nice and small, with seven really good stories. There are a lot of LGBTQ people in the stories, and some of them would have benefited greatly from having a place like the Ali Forney Center in their lives. I would have also, which is why it’s so important to me to help them right now.
So do what you can, okay? Go download THE BOOK OF BROKEN HYMNS, or order it directly through me (via my paniskoi at gmail etc at paypal, or message me on Twitter or FB), and let’s help some kids. You are also obviously more than welcome to skip the book and donate directly to the Center, here.
Today I finished the draft of Innisfree. I don’t say “first draft” because as I write I tend to play with the sentences and move things around and do a lot of revision as I go. So it’s not exactly a shitty first draft. On the other hand it’s not a perfect final draft either. There is definitely still work to be done, and so I shall do it.
First, though, I shall celebrate.
I’m sorry about the long absence. I’ve been around the internet in lots of other ways – Twitter, of course, but also now tumblr, but somehow even though I keep meaning to dive in here I keep not quite managing.
But here I am!
No new news, exactly, although I am thisclose to finishing this draft of the Work in Progress. I will let you know when that happens (it could be tomorrow, will definitely be in the next few days). I feel great about the progress the book has made, or that I have made on it (or both).
Anyway, I’ll check in soon.
Best wishes to everyone, especially those of you affected by Sandy. I don’t even know what to do with that storm in my head.
As you have probably gleaned, I am Hard at Work on the next project, a super excellent novel called, at the moment, Innisfree.
Right now I’m working on scenes in which our protagonist Wyatt, a high school history teacher, has taken a bunch of students on a spring break trip to visit some of the major battlefields of the Civil War. I like battlefields at history, so I am enjoying this, but also I am secretly very pleased to be thrown into researching all of this.
Here’s a picture of a house at Fredericksburg that took an enormous amount of fire:
I took the picture a while back, from up on the bluffs of Marye’s Heights. During the battle itself, this landscape was full of dying men and artillery fire, so the picture is kind of misleading in its tranquility. But it’s also one of the few places on the Fredericksburg battlefield from which you get a solid perspective on the landscape, so it’s valuable that way.
Anyway. The book has about 30K words right now, but I’m hoping to have a solid draft ready by summer’s end.
I’ll keep you posted.
Remember, if you want to keep better track of me, you can either subscribe to this OR you can follow me on Twitter at @ponyonabalcony.