Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I promise I don't want to steal your chickens

The other day I was telling my husband the plot of a book I'm reading and he was nodding and making seemingly interested Hmm sounds, when it suddenly occurred to me that most of our marriage has involved me telling him the plots of the books I'm reading and him nodding.  

When I told him my realization, he said:  Does that bother you? 

The real question, I said, is: Does that bother YOU?

He laughed. But now that I think about it, he never answered the question. 

We were having this conversation out on the deck of a cabin in Hocking Hills, the same place we'd retreated to several weeks ago and loved so much we decided to go back. We could see the restful-looking pond in the distance and we were snacking on olives and fancy cheeses and sipping wine from coffee mugs. 

In addition to talking about the book I was reading, we also talked about the signs we saw on a chicken coop down the road. The signs basically said, WE WILL KILL YOU IF YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT STEALING OUR CHICKENS.**

We'd seen these signs the last time we stayed here. Next door to the cabin property is a farm. The chicken coop is close to the road. The signs, which include pictures of guns, are aimed toward the road where we took our daily walks. 

I was fascinated by the warnings on the signs. Would the chicken owners really kill people who tried to steal their chickens? Was chicken theft a big problem in this part of Ohio? I kept meaning to take a picture of the signs but I chickened out. What if the paranoid chicken owner caught me and thought I was casing her coop, so to speak? 

I once heard a comedian say that there are two kinds of people in the world. People who laugh at fart jokes and people who don't laugh at fart jokes. I believe this is true. For the record, I admit that I do laugh at fart jokes. But hear me out. Do you think we can extend our understanding of humanity by grouping people into

a. People who thinks it's perfectly okay to kill someone if they try to steal your chickens


b. People who think that's... weird

(FYI I am in Category B.)

Take two at the cabin, and I was determined to snap a picture of the shoot to kill warnings on the chicken coops. My husband came with me for moral and possibly physical protection. No one was around so we took a very long look at the chickens and decided that they actually might be roosters. 

And then we walked back to the cabins and I told him more about the book I was reading.  


  ("I'd rather have a gun in my hand than a cop on the phone. 2nd Amendment")

("Prayer is the best way to meet the Lord. A gun is faster.")

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Fall Gifts

My son sent me a picture of the sky outside his apartment. Smoky white and a small orange sun. Another picture of his girlfriend sitting out on their balcony. She’s wearing a purple flowered mask, the sky behind her orange. I am thinking about the end of the world, 

or what feels like the end of the world. 

How we keep going, even during plague and fire. Only a few months ago we browsed in stores and sat together in darkened movie theaters and ate in crowded restaurants. Now we order what we need online and stream movies and pick up takeout. 

I’ve been sending books to friends. Stories I liked that I think they might too. Sort of a Pay-It-Forward Amazon book club. The other day someone sent me a book and it made me absurdly happy. The book is about the restorative power of nature. I believe in this. 

Six months ago we had an overgrown patch of ragged ornamental grass in our backyard. I spent most of the early part of lockdown yanking it out. Another week literally jumping up and down on a shovel digging up the matted root clumps. The dirt left behind was rocky and probably not right for a vegetable garden, but I planted one anyway. Lettuce. Spinach. Beets. A few weeks later, tomato plants and zucchini. My daughter, who’d fled London and quarantined in our house for two weeks, ventured outside and planted marigold seeds. 

Now the marigolds are thigh high, the garden still producing so many tomatoes and zucchini that we are giving them away. 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, and I didn’t cry. Distraught friends reached out and my daughter cried on and off all day. But I had used up my tears four years ago after Trump won the election and then surprised myself by crying again two years later during the Kavanaugh hearings, both times a stark reminder that there are some men who see women as lesser, who give no thought at all about hurting us. 

An old self has resurfaced, the eight-year-old who figured out fast that the people in charge either don’t know what they are doing or don’t care or are actively trying to harm me. If I want to survive, that is on me.  

I did. 

And then I went with my daughter to a candlelight vigil in front of the Ohio Supreme Court for Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Mostly women there, of course, moms with their daughters, a little masked three-year-old dancing around the fountain. A woman offered my daughter candles, and we lit them and walked over to where people were signing their names and writing about Justice Ginsberg and what her work and her life had meant to them. We are Ruth-less, one of the signs said. Today we mourn, tomorrow we fight for your legacy. 

My son told me the smoke is better out where he lives. The heat broke so he and his girlfriend can open the windows. This week we passed 200,000 Americans dead from Covid 19 and the Republicans are gleefully rushing to confirm a justice to fill Ginsberg’s seat, a person who will likely work to overturn everything she fought for. 

Do the people at the end of the world know they are living at the end of the world? Or do they just keep going 

one gift of a candle 

one tomato

one book at a time? 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Do You Remember Places?

like this place? 

Remember how this was a place?

Ah, so place-y

The good news is these places still exist. 




*For greater enjoyment, click here


Saturday, September 5, 2020

On Broken Books and Possibly Dead or Maybe Not Dead Cats

Last year I finished writing a book I called Broken and it almost broke me. I had worked on the book for two years. But it was actually just another revision of an earlier book I’d worked on for two years fifteen years earlier. What I'm saying is I spent a good four years of my life working on this book. 

The idea started with a girl from a broken family. I kept thinking about the word broken and what it meant to be broken. In the later versions the story morphed into a fantasy of sorts about a girl who could break things with her mind. It happened whenever she was angry or upset. She couldn't control her power and it scared her. 

Because this was a book for children, I worked hard on the little girl's voice. I wanted to show her grappling with her power. She made rules. Came up with tips and tricks. That became the title of the book. How Not to Break. 

Anyway, I finished writing the book, and it still didn't really work, in the sense that it will never be a published book read by others. Realizing that was upsetting to me, to put it mildly. There were a few weeks where I seriously considered quitting writing.

A tip and trick I've learned over the years for dealing with the grief over a book that doesn't quite work is to start another book. When you're writing a book, you're not thinking about old books. You're too absorbed with the one in front of you. The big questions like voice and structure and character development and motivation. All the way down to the sentences on the page, the individual words. 

The book I started was pretty much the opposite of Broken. It's for adults. It's a Rom/Com, a genre I hadn't tried writing before; although, I did write a few rom/com-like stories for teenagers that were published many years ago. Interestingly enough, some aspects of the broken book wormed their way into the new story. In Romance you are always working with broken people. They have a hole in their lives and love fills it. 

It's a very hopeful, life-affirming genre. When I started working on the story last year I had no idea how much the world would change by the time I got to the end of it. I also had no idea how much writing the book would help me grapple with this new world. If nothing else, it was the perfect escape. 

This week I finished it, in the sense that I wrote a first draft and then I revised it completely and sent it off to my agent. Now I'm at the Schrödinger's Cat part of the writing process where the book is somehow both 

a Thing that will eventually go out into the world and be read by others 


a File on my computer that represents Time and Work and Thought. 

Either way, I know what I will be doing in the coming months.