Friday, October 14, 2011

Chapter 4 Finished! Now a New Idea...

Chapter 4 is finally finished and posted. See the sidebar if you still have any interest in my snail’s progress through antiquity to the shores of America, and the backwoods of RI where fact and fiction meld in a tandem drift, moment to moment, day to day, month to month, memory to make-believe.

I have had a new idea, thanks to Niamh Boyce, a writer who blogs at Words A Day. She wrote a piece about her intent to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It is a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in the month of November. I was so excited … what a wonderful plan for procrastinators like me! The caveat to which you are asked to agree, however, is that you must start a novel from scratch at the beginning of the month, although outlines are OK. Hmmm…a problem.

Well, maybe not. I have learned in my side trips into the world of poetry that sometimes poems are made better by deleting even favorite lines…nothing should be sacred. So, what if I start a novel from the juncture I have reached at the end of Chapter 4 of Written In Stone, a working title I had already intended to change anyway. I have been feeling that I am patiently filling in background details to get to the real story. Rationalization perhaps, but I’ll give it some more thought and decide if I want to accept this new challenge of frantic writing every day, at least 1,667 words each day, or five to six pages (double/triple that if you have a life on the side, need to feed people, do the laundry and so forth.) I have two weeks to decide for sure.

Here is the link to the NaNoWriMo website. I have already optimistically established my account! Leave a comment here if you decide to try it yourself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Words and Music

The Writing Game
at Bishop FM Radio, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, UK 

Many thanks

to authors Wendy Robertson and Avril Joy for spotlighting my poetry and novel on Wendy's community radio program, The Writing Game, a monthly, hour long, radio program aimed at both writers and readers, broadcast on community radio station 105.9 Bishop FM, County Durham, UK.

I met Avril online in January, 2011 as we participated in "The River of Stones" project on our respective blogs. Avril, author of The Sweet Track, presents writing workshops in Durham County, England and is co-hostess on Wendy's community radio program. I was thrilled when she proposed reading some of my work on The Writing Game. If you'd like to listen to Avril's reading, the podcast of the program can be heard here at :

Episode 13 of The Writing Game*

* Avril's reading of my poetry is the last item on the podcast:
she has chosen "Capture" and "A Place Apart"
and from Notes on my blog, The English Laundress,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

So Far Away

I'm so far away from the Laundress in these early, snowy days of spring in Rhode Island that I fear I can never return here. I have strayed into the deep waters of poetry in Knot-In-Line. I think I'm drowning. I don't know what I'm doing, or why I'm pressing forward on a path I never intended to take. It's a detour that threatens to suck me into a tunnel of no return.

How is it that a novel seems to have become a confessional. What is there to tell? That is truly the question here. I am stuck in my own laundry room today, washing for others, listening to the drone of the huge wood chipper outside - the grind and spit of the trunks that met their death to bring us light, relieve the heavy darkness of our white pine canopy.

I tap my fingers so quick and lightly across the keyboard, back and forth, unthinking, yet perhaps praying the letters to tell me a story on their own - like a song on piano keys. No, they don't know her any better than I do. The best I can promise myself now is to keep her name in the side-bar of Knot-In-Line --- for now --- until ---

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chapter 1 Revision

It has now been more than six weeks since I have heard myself here when I begged off on a completed Chapter 4, The Laundress. I have done much more work on her behalf but something is missing. So I went back to the beginning of the novel and began a revision of Chapter 1 (now posted). It had started tapping me on the shoulder at night, joining all the other voices: “Should you really have put me out here? Do you really want the whole world to see me, to read this?” It is a bit intimidating to look at a blog’s statistical report and find that there have been viewers from Russia, Africa, Kuwait and several other countries; small numbers certainly, but even one is an unexpected surprise. I questioned my sanity.

I took courage in setting up this public format for a novel in progress from a poet who has become an unsuspecting mentor with a blog in which drafts of poetry are presented again and again with rewrites intact. I don’t think the technique is meant as a deliberate teaching tool - it is rather quirky but real - but I have made use of it as such for its many faceted inspirational qualities. Since a long narrative does not lend itself to showing all the revisions, I have posted Chapter 1 in a complete revised version.

I am thankful to Google for the opportunity to create this personal web log of my new learning experience at this late stage of my life; an intellectual hobby, solitary pursuit, fulfilling in the extreme.

All comments or questions are welcome.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Chapter 4 Progress

I am deafened by my own silence here. I am glad to have set a goal of a month for completion of Chapter 4, but I now feel guilt in having allowed six weeks to pass without a word. I think I am making headway, if not ready yet to pour the elements of my alchemical brew into the mold I want.

One would think that it should not take much doing to introduce a laundress after all. How much interest can she generate? Where is the drama? My progress is dismally slow. Perhaps I should forget this chapter---; I know I won’t. The more I read about the lives of young women in service in Victorian England the more appalling I find their lot. How did they stand up to the conditions they worked in, particularly in one servant, middle-class households?

So I am still collecting and compiling background information, forming a wooden laundress puppet, a bit like Geppetto; but breathing in that something, which will turn her into a “real girl”, remains illusive. I feel that I am just waiting for the picture to come into focus, for the fog to clear; that she is standing right there, just out of my reach. I have faith.
Here is a list of the material I am reading/researching to create Susannah:
Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England, Judith Flanders, 2003
English Laundresses: A Social History, 1850-1930, Patricia E. Malcolmson, 1986
 “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World”, poem by Richard Wilbur, from The Things of This World, 1956
Anna, washing, poems by Ted Genoways, 2008
 “Sea Tongue”, poem by Kevin Crossley-Holland, 1991
The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Poetry, Joseph Bristow, 2000
 "Maud", a monodrama by Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1855

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Written In Stone is a working title for the novel I have been writing since 2008. Although I have done a great deal of expository writing in the past, making a case for one thing or another, poetry and fiction are a new adventure .

I have completed a prologue and three chapters of the novel. I started the fourth, but life stepped in --- full stop --- and I stalled. I briefly harbored the hope of publishing the novel until a bit of research into the industry clearly showed that to be a flight of fancy higher and farther than any I might board. So I see it off into cyberspace from this platform like Dorothy's ride to Oz or Alice's tumble into the rabbit hole. Perhaps I believe the guilt of seeing my offspring out there alone will fuel my imagination, jumpstart my pen, and carry me on wings to the last word.

Serial novels were a nineteenth century publishing phenomenon. Authors the likes of Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Mark Twain submitted periodic chapters to Harper's Magazine among others. There is apparently a current buzz about reviving the practice within the context of our heavenly/ hellish internet. Stephen King has published an online serial novel and you can find others simply by searching "serial novels online". As with just about everything these days its acceptable to toss the rule book out the window ---

I might include notes like this on my struggles along the way, I'll see. I'd like to say I'll post a chapter each month; that will be my goal. Chime in if you are writing and would like to share your own thoughts about the process, yet I expect to be talking to myself here --- to which I have grown comfortably accustomed.

Chapter 4 Notes

I'm stuck here. I need inspiritation to breathe life into the laundress, the great grandmother of the narrator. I saw her in the dim light of her bedroom for just a few moments but I'm afraid to follow her into the day--- into the hot water and steam and smell of other people's dirty linen ---what does she think as she sorts and soaks and scrubs and wrings --- the invisible/critical work, the drudgery, the pain---

These notes might help, I already want to follow her downstairs ---