Tag Archives: Sorche Fairbank

Writers Anonymous

It’s my writing day.

I woke up at 6:15 AM.

I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my 16-year-old because every day she rolls out of bed to get ready and makes it to the bus without a second to spare and she doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch but will eat this sandwich behind her Spanish book or in Advisory where no one cares what you do.

My 12-year-old has been up since 5:00 AM, walked on the treadmill, showered and dressed and is eating a bowl of Kashi cereal watching the Fairly OddParents on Nick. I wonder how it’s possible they both came from the same womb. After making coffee from Keurg’s miracle machine (French Roast, Dark, Ahhh) I sit with her trying to wake up, feeling like a Fairly Odd Parent myself. The little dog jumps up at me. She has her scuzzy toy mitten and wants me to throw it so she can get it, bring it back, and pretend she won’t let me get it. I get it. I throw it again. The beagle jumps up and sniffs my coffee. I take it black so she’s not interested. She looks at the little dog. What a pest, she thinks, and curls into a ball by my side.

My spouse asks me to fix her cufflinks before she leaves for work. She’s wearing a gorgeous stripped Brooks Brothers shirt and smells good. I’m wearing a terry cloth coral robe that covers an oversized grey paint stained t-shirt. My hair is snarled and unruly from a restless nights sleep. Even my eyebrows have snarls. My breath could kill crabgrass.

The 12-year-old gets ready for the bus. She pulls on a hat, a scarf, a winter coat. The oldest left in a fleece sweatshirt.

I switch to a cooking channel, watching Mario Molto make soup from little fishes, their heads still intact, their eyes rolled to the heavens. I click to see what Al Roker is up to but he’s not there. Instead, one of the hosts interviews Lindsay Lohan. They ask if she is sober. She says, of course. They ask how long. She says she doesn’t know but a long time. They ask what she thought about Whitney’s death. She stares blankly. I don’t know anything about Lindsay Lohan, but even I can tell she’s going to fall again. She may already be slipping.

I decide to start writing before I shower. Not always a good strategy but I go with it. In the basement, I turn on the computer. The Internet won’t work and my virus protection has expired. Immediately I have to go to the bathroom. So I shuffle back up the stairs. I really need Naprosyn but keep forgetting to call for the refill. I groan dramatically for the sake of the dogs but barely get a raised ear.

Upstairs I unplug and plug-in a wire, turn off and turn on a few buttons, shuffle to the bathroom, then to the Miracle Machine for more French Roast. I read an essay about writing by Carolyn Chute who I haven’t thought of in years (remember The Beans of Egypt, Maine?). She’s still out there writing. In fact, she could be out there writing today, just like me. Except I’m not really writing yet. So I limp downstairs again and get the Internet working and make it to my blog by 8:45. And I start writing this. And I feel it. The hum and buzz of the others. Sitting in their basements, their screend-in porches, their highrise or ocean view offices, their workshops or classes or libraries. Writing. The Carolyn Chutes and the Toni Morrisons and the Michael Cunninghams and the Stephen Kings and the MFA students in Iowa and the off-off Broadway playwrights and the highschool kid in the back of their math notebook and the secretary during her lunch hour and S. and W. and K. and M. and J. and E. all humming and buzzing with words and ideas and characters and writing.

Be a writer, said Sorche Fairbank in a recent workshop. Don’t think you have one novel or movie in you. Write essays and blogs and lists and short stories and ideas and novels and anything at all as long as you are writing.

Be a writer.

So I am. In my coral bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. My eyeglasses spotted with toothpaste and slipping down my nose. My French Roast in a big orange mug and my books piled high and the cobwebs and the dogs snoring above me and my family off in the world, I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer for a long time.

And you?

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You Only Tell Me You Love Me When You’re Drunk

A few weekends ago I took a writing workshop at Grub Street in Boston called “The First Five Pages.” There were 12 of us crammed into a tiny conference room with an overcompensating table, literally putting our backs against the wall. We were an eclectic bunch, from courtroom thrillers to YA to feminist literature to Sci Fi to spiritual awakening to Parisian love story to plain ol’ novel (that would be me).

The instructor–an agent–not as in secret (although they are a mysterious bunch, eh?), read our first pages prior to the class and gave us feedback, out loud, in front of the group. This brought about considerable squirming, nervous twittering, fluttering of eyelids, gnashing of teeth, nail biting, stunned silence from some and borderline belligerence from others. And I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.

Afterwards we were paired with someone to review our feedback and rewrite our beginning as much as we could possibly bear. My person was the Parisian love story. She hated her feedback and promptly took off after lunch.

I think the instructor felt a little bad. She Freddy Kruegered my pages. Pointed out the boring, stereotypical writing, the deadly opening sentence, the distracting jump in time, the superfluous language. Then after a ridiculously meager lunch (I was rushed and barely got a cup of soup in me) where I lost my person, I was alone, treading water, trying to maintain my dignity. Trying to ignore my dried up contacts and my growling stomach and the stale air wheezing in and out of me like an ancient Hoover. Trying to figure out what the hell to do with these 5 pages.

It’s hard to let people read my writing. I’m terrified they’ll think it’s crap and then certain they’re lying or drunk if they like it. Usually feedback paralyzes me. I stop writing for weeks or months at a time, even when the feedback is positive. It exhausts me, makes me feel like I had a quadruple bypass and I need to be in ICU for a while.

But this time I got it. Immediately. I knew exactly what I had to do and I believed it would make my novel better. And it did. I wrote a new opening line that day. I started in the middle of the action and stopped meandering my way into the story. And the instructor liked it–said she was proud of me. Like Mrs. Kleeman in 5th grade when I finally figured out how to use there and their correctly.

We all need feedback. What are we doing that’s fabulous, how are we screwing up? But it kind of sucks. It has to come in the right way, from the right person at the right time. A word, a tone of voice, even a raised eyebrow, can make the difference between having it soak into your skin like a good lotion or having it tear the skin right off of you (sorry, it’s that Freddy Krueger thing again).

For me, writing feedback is like personal feedback. I usually forget the good stuff but I never ever forget the bad stuff. That’s probably why I’ve never tried to get published. I’m not ready for the feedback. But I think it’s time to deal with it. To accept some of it as just the stuff you need. The stuff that gets you thinking, makes you better, actually helps. So thank you Sorche Fairbank. You are a damn good teacher and I bet a hell of an agent.

I plan on getting more feedback. Taking other workshops, sticking with my Writers Group, listening to my blog readers, and maybe one of these days, actually sending out some writing. How about you?

 

 

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