I was surprised by the creative energy of my co-workers at textbook publisher McDougal Littell back in the mid-2000’s in Evanston, Illinois. Why, I don’t know. We all had English degrees but theirs were from the University of Illinois or Loyola or other big-name schools. They were a lively bunch of Gen Xers: mostly single, no kids, no cars, apartments in the city. They commuted reversely up to Evanston every day. They were conneseurs of niche pop culture and Tivo-ed the best TV shows. They had ipods when they first came out–when they were advertised with brightly colored posters of U2 band members in silhouette in the El stations. They did hot yoga and drum lessons after work and did Masters Degree semesters abroad programs at Oxford on the company’s dime. They were knitters and drinkers and spouses of playwrights. They saw all the good movies and swapped all the good songs on company servers. They went to Comicon and created comic books (sometimes at their desks) and podcasts and wrote and filmed pilot TV episodes. And they wrote novels during NaNoWriMo and actually completed them in 30 days. It was incredibly inspiring and humbling. I thought of myself as a creative person, as a writer. But these people were the real deal.
And me? I was the youngest and married and the most poorly dressed (and not in a cute nerdy way) and sang in the Presbyterian church choir. I think they might have all thought I was like Angela from The Office (a show they adored). I ran the lakefront after work with my husband who dropped me off and picked me up after work each day. We rode our bikes out to eat rarely and rode our bikes to the library much more often. That’s why I was amazed at these people. I liked to watch them and listen to them like they were exotic birds at the zoo. They made me laugh and wonder and calmed my nerves about this new job in a new town with a new marriage.
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Until now I’ve dismissed myself as too young and too untrained in fiction to write a novel. But mostly I’ve been a writer paralized by the idea of writing plot. Plot is the worst. I could write forever on aesthetic, on setting, on description, on ambiance, current events, historical fact, opinion, impression, look and feel, even dialogue. But all of that fluff does not a novel make.
Although now I’ve read enough novels, seen enough author interviews, attended enough author talks to glean that a novel can be crafted another way. I can develop characters and make a web of their relationships and then come up with scenarios for these characters and watch what happens when they interact. Now that could be fun to play around with for a decade or so. It won’t come together in 30 days or even a few years. But if I just tinker with it long enough I could someday have something worth reading, a story worth telling.
So here’s the skinny: this blog ends at 100 posts (this is 71) And then novel writing begins.