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 ---