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Monday, November 9, 2009

Time is the Great Thief

This summer I put on a bathing suit to take my granddaughter swimming. When I looked in the mirror I was astonished at what a few months had done to my body. First, if you look at my picture, you know I like to eat, but what you don't know is I have a few metal parts and am working on being the next bionic woman. The scar from my hip replacement has healed nicely, but what I hadn't figured on was the cleavage the replacement left. It took about a second last May with a hand mirror to realize that my left and right sides no longer matched, and my bathing suit from the year before was hanging loosely where my derriere had filled it in the year before. So here's the dilemma - do I have the other hip done or figure out some way to fill in the space on the other side? In my aggravation I also noticed that my buttocks, which have never been very large compared to other parts of me, had shifted in a most distinctive way to the top of my thighs and now looked exactly like my mother's the last twenty years or so of her life. I wasn't sure whether to cry or laugh, but being an Erma Bombeck fan, I opted for laughter. My granddaughter came to find out why I was laughing hysterically, and, of course, at ten, she thought I was totally crazy. "But why is that funny?" she kept asking. "Well, just take a look," I giggled. And finally we were both cracking up. The moral of this story is don't wait too long to go swimming between operations or your body parts may shift and leave your bathing suit limp in places.

No seriously, the reason I tell this compelling story {I'm sure you agree} is that life and your buttocks will get away from you if you don't stay on top of it. I'm supposed to be revising my novel, and yet, I've been so busy assisting to edit a new Christmas anthology and editing several mss for others, making holiday gifts, and doing yard work, painting the house, etc. etc. etc. that I've almost stayed away from my novel too long. But as it turned out in this case, I think that's been a truly good thing. As I'm re-reading it now, I'm amazed at how I can see the bulging spots and the gaping holes. I'm amazed at what I wrote in places. Amazed at how well some of the words flowed to the page, amazed at how MANY adjectives I used to try and make a point, and amazed at how many empty spaces I now see. Sometimes, a break is just what we need to spur us onward and develop our creativity. I've spent these few months reading books on writing, which is what Darnell Arnoult, a good Southern author, and my friend, Linda Busby-Parker, also a good Southern author and editor, keep telling me and other writers to do after we finish our masterpiece and before we start to dissect it. And guess what, Darnell and Linda, I think it's working!

A few suggestions on books of craft that I've found especially helpful are:
Writing Fiction: the touchstone for MFA programs around the country and dreadfully boring in some sections, but on how-to-structure basics, can't be beat

Creating Fiction: with insights from a large number of writers that I admire, including Richard Russo, Jane Smiley, John Barth (whose article on incremental perturbations perturbed the h- e- double hockey sticks out of me at first, but now I get it!, Alyce Miller on first person narrative which is what my novel is.

How I write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author: straight forward and simple to understand. While I adore literary style and read it often, I absolutely! absolutely! want to sell my book.

I wonder if I could use one of those baster kits you can buy at the grocery store for turkeys to stuff my hip? Nah! I like my whopsided look. It gives me that eclectic character I've always admired in others.

Never commit to memory what you can find in a book. Albert Einstein

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