we the animals of prey

Today I went to the library to write, a new library, which I like much better than my local one. This new one has many staircases and little nooks with desks and comfortable chairs, and windows with trees and light on the other side, and a fireplace. And it was quiet. I wrote so well. I’m working on a story that has a teenage boy as the protagonist and I love him so much, I love the story so much.

When I came home I Skyped with my friend who is in her ninth week of traveling around Europe. She was in a hostel in the French Alps, and her face was very pixelated but she was there, my oldest friend, and we talked for so long. We email each other several times a day most days, but absolutely nothing can replace seeing a face in motion, hearing the voice. I get so wrapped up in reading her emails and her stories that I forget how much her absence is affecting me here, back home.

As she plans out her Amsterdam visit, I tell her how my new favourite thing is climbing into bed after Coronation Street to read until bedtime, and I laugh at how homely and boring that sounds. She sighs and says she kind of envies me.

PS The entry title is from this song, which has been in my head all day, as I walked under trees, as I rode the streetcar, as I made tea.

slow progress

me, writing

After an hour and a half of reading my novel draft, making notes, and doing research, my eyes look like that. I take breaks to look out of the window of the coffee place, noticing how many people seem to mutter to themselves on their way to the subway. I try not to audibly exclaim over how good my chai latte is. Sometimes I feel weird about things like writing “chai latte” on my blog, but you know. Life.

I’ve been scribbling corrections and notes in my little novel printout, but not as many as I was expecting. If I’m being honest, I find it a little strange. This is my first novel – everything I’ve heard has made me believe I’m supposed to think it’s junk, put it away and never look at it again, shudder when I think about it. I mean, I know it needs work. I need to develop certain characters and delve more deeply into some things. But I actually like it. I don’t feel I need to forget it ever happened.

Life!

my novel, printed

I got my novel printed out today – not printed printed, but just printed. Clear as mud?

In truth, I’ve been sort of avoiding working on it since December. I’ve peeked in here and there and made some tweaks, but what I really need is to hold it in my hands and read it cover to cover. And as much as my Kindle-loving husband has convinced me e-books have merit, I need to read my work printed out to fully understand it. I’m a bit terrified of reading it, but I’m also excited to get in there and start scrawling all over the place.

I picked it up from the print shop and carried it home in a brown paper bag, protecting it from the falling snow. The guy at the print shop read my mind and side-stitched it (it’s been years since I’ve had to use binding terminology, so I wasn’t able to tell him what I meant over the phone). I walked home and clutched the bag to my chest and emitted a low “Eeeeee!” squeal to get it out of my system. Someone saw me, but you know. This is Toronto. People squeal to themselves sometimes.

so i’ve finished nanowrimo

nano_10_winnerIt’s a humble PNG image, but to me it’s the most exciting one I’ve seen in a very long time. Today I finished NaNoWriMo. I wrote a novel. I almost want to put an exclamation mark on the end of that last sentence, but I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. To me, my novel is just 28 little documents living in my computer and in my brain, nothing more.

I might have mentioned here that I’ve written two “novels” before, when I was a teenager, but they were short and awful and one basically ripped off The Outsiders (which I was obsessed with in Grade Eight). I don’t mention it to show off, but only to hopefully illustrate how different, how real, this novel feels. The other two will never see the light of day, but I put so much into this one. So much thought and consideration. And I even kind of fell in love with every single character and thought about them as I was falling asleep. This novel was hard and frustrating and exhilarating and fun. At first, I didn’t think much would come of it, but over the past few days I’ve decided I’m going to continue working on it in the following months, to make it into something that I hope people other than my mother will enjoy reading.

Mostly, it feels strange to be released from the constant, internet-tracked obligation to write at least 1,667 words a day. It feels strange that tomorrow, nobody will know how many words I’ve written, or if I’ve written anything at all. It feels strange to be able to work on other things. I had coffee with my friend Amy today, when I had 999 words to go, and was telling her about a short story I’d started in October, before NaNoWriMo. It feels like years ago that I was thinking of these three characters in this wee situation they were in. Oh my god, I just realized that I can go back to writing short stories, where 5,000 words is considered close to the limit. Will it be strange to write short stories again? Will I still love it? Will I write another novel, ever?

For now, I’m going to watch Walking Dead with my husband (who has supported me incredibly during this process and has always believed I could do it, even when I wanted to give up) and wash some of these dishes. Maybe I’ll write a novel about it when I’m done. ;)

retreat

Visiting my parents is often so much like a ready-made writing retreat. The house is quiet, softly lit, often sleepy. The TV returns seven channels and there is not much in the way of distraction. I sit straight up, I do crosswords from the paper, I write hundreds of words at the kitchen table I carved my name into at age eight.

Lindsey has an amazingly good story in the new issue of Storychord, and check out this great blog post I randomly found: What Star Trek Can Teach Us About Writing.

where i write

istanbul_lampAn oil lamp from Istanbul, a present from my brother. In the background are buttons with the Berlin “walk/don’t walk” symbols.

blackandwhiteMy old Goose on a Moose print and various old photos of my mother and Finland.

doris lessingI’m not really a fan of Doris Lessing’s fiction, but I love her as a writer. If she catches me not writing, she shakes her finger at me and tells me to get moving.

plant_purpleA dusty plant given to us by friends, and an old monster made by Suzen a long time ago.

george_vi pennyThis 1945 penny was in my change from the grocery store a few months ago. I’m not really a monarchist, but I love history and I like to imagine the way the world was when this coin was new. It’s also fascinating to me to have a coin with a different monarch on it (it’s been just one all my life). Remind me to bore you one day with the story of why George VI is facing left.

Until I took these pictures, I never noticed how I’d unconsciously grouped things together – items that remind me of traveling; items with the same colours; items from friends. I also feel a small amount of shame at how sparse my writing area is, especially my four corkboards. The fourth one has just one thing on it! I need some inspiration, I think. So many of the blogs I read are by people who produce tangible things – illustrators, artists, photographers – so their spaces are always so obviously visual. I suppose I could put up things that evoke feelings or ideas – and to some degree I have, but I’m wary of things ending up corny.

Any suggestions?