The Stone Wall

“After we had the pond filled in, I built this wall to separate that spot from the garden..
I found the cherub at a yard sale. It reminded me of him.”

As the year  works its way to a close, our house is littered with the trappings of Christmas just past:  empty boxes, bits of wrapping that eluded the pick up, piles of small items emptied from someone’s stocking, books, coats, boots, and hats. Mittens and gloves everywhere. Grown children and grandchildren spiraling in and out of our house, the nerve center. There is an unending Sisyphean urge to manage the ball of chaos, fully knowing it will roll down the hill quicker than lightning. If I could put a border around the mess I would.  But at this moment,  while the grandchildren are enjoying each other at another location and the house exudes a preternatural silence, I have a little time to think. And write. I imagine I’m wearing a dog cone and wall out the mess, at least metaphorically.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about walls. It’s hard not to. The notion of walls never leaves the news cycle. Walls and fences. Borders and lines. A line in the sand. Beyond a border.

I have written about backyard fences to keep children in,  gates to keep the curious out, a stone wall to help a mother heal from her greatest loss. Characters are walled off from each other by illness, class, desire, temperament, and even magical ability.  But as characters (and real  people) evolve throughout the stories of our lives, we  tend to seek ways to break the barriers down. It is the coming together that soothes us. Our best natures are to grow towards one another, not apart. Despite the brouhaha, everyone, at some point, realizes this.

I have some personal  goals  for the coming year: to finish my PhD, to dance well at our daughter’s wedding, to take more walks with my husband, and to write more stories about Genuine. These are not resolutions, just desires to follow. And while I can hope there will be no barriers to the realization of these goals, I also know I might need to open the gate to other possibilities.

Wishing everyone steps of progress toward your goals in 2019 and a life wide open to  unsolicited surprises.

Happy New Year.

From The Stone Wall

Kate sat, head bowed. Genuine stood and walked up and down the length of the wall. Finally, she stopped in front of her so that Kate had to look up.
“You’re going to be okay,” Genuine said, picking up the cherub.
Kate stood.
“But you need to take down the wall.”

 

 

 

 

 

Origin Stories

I’m often asked how I came to the story of Genuine. Was she a character I’d been thinking about, or was it the idea of healing?

I wrote “Possum Days,” the first story in the collection, in 2009 after a bike ride with my husband. We spend some time in California every year, and I will occasionally go out with him if the ride is not too long and includes lunch. On that particular day, we passed a dead possum in the bike lane. I came home  thinking about the possum, the narrow bike lane, the speed and closeness of the cars. I thought about the devastating Witch Creek fire of 2007, which had been fueled by the abundance of dry eucalyptus trees.

“The idea that kicks off a book is usually slight and circumstantial. So I see something, hear something, think ‘That would make a story,’ and then I find its vast hinterland.”–Hilary Mantel, author of the Wolf Hall series about the life of Thomas Cromwell.

I didn’t know when I started typing that Genuine would appear in the story. This is the way writing works. It’s an associative exercise. One thing leads to another.

After that, it’s all in the editing.

Expectations

With publication day approaching, I am weighing excitement against apprehension. There will undoubtedly be the momentary thrill of opening the small box of books that is allotted to me as part of my publishing contract. A picture worthy moment. I promise an Instagram. But in some moments, anxiety pulls the scale deeper towards the table, because once the box is opened, as in “out in the world,” there is no putting the books back. Ask Pandora.

Best seller or castle in the sand? Writers live with rejection as a part of everyday life. Book contracts or literary prizes come after a long dance with rejection, and the music to that waltz often continues as a nagging  earworm. Despite the advance praise and confidence of the publisher, writers fret. We are fretful people.

But right now, in this moment, I’m swinging to the music of hope. I hope to find readers. I hope that Genuine dances into their hearts. I hope to have endless conversations about her.

Feel free to mosey on over to the tab marked “connect.”