Fifth Newsletter: Summer Epistle (with seeds!)

I send out a monthly-ish newsletter (more like bi-monthly-ish). This is the the fifth one, sans photos that accompany it when it goes straight to your inbox (apparently copying them from the original newsletter is technologically beyond me). If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, sign up here!

The More Things Change… the more they stay the same (or, I am dogged by the same problem…)
Ten days after my last letter, two new baby goats were born to mama Tricksy. Aren’t they adorable? And not tooooo long after (OK, on June 3rd), I finished the second draft of To Stay Forever. Only 2 months behind (my) schedule. It feels good to have “finished” even though I also know there is still a lot of work to be done. To paraphrase fellow author Lois Leveen: if you know how many drafts you’ve done, the novel isn’t ready yet.

Sigh. The novel isn’t ready yet. But I knew it wouldn’t be. I’m trying something new for the third draft: Outlining! I’m usually a by-the-seat-of-my-pants, write-out-of-order kind of gal, but I did use a fairly detailed outline (based on this book) to get me unstuck early on. I can’t say I actually relied on that outline, but it was useful. So I’ve outlined what I actually *have* written (some of you may have seen pictures on Instagram and Facebook of the 3×5 card outline, laid out on the bed in our “friends’ roomy” as The Kid calls it). I’ve never done this before (the more things change…). But as I’ve been working on and with the outline, I’ve had some realizations (the more things stay the same…). After I Shall Be Near To You, I vowed I would never use flashbacks again because they were so tricky to organize. I mostly
stayed true to that vow. But this outline is highlighting how my frustrations with structuring continues to be a challenge. It wasn’t the flashbacks’ fault– curses! On the one hand, it was a relief to realize that this is not a new problem I’m struggling with. On the other hand: darn it!

On Inspiration: One plant, many flowers

Through one of my former penpals (hi Erin!), I recently learned about persona poet Susan J. Erickson, who wrote a poem from “real” Rosetta’s perspective. I’d never heard of persona poems before (and I took a poetry forms class as part of my MFA– wherein I learned that I really am not a poet), but I admire them and the variety of women they represent. I love the Rosetta poem. If you read it, you’ll see some of the lines that come from real Rosetta’s actual letters– lines that inspired me and found their way into I Shall Be Near To You too. I love how one source can provide so much inspiration. And I thoroughly enjoyed Erickson’s discussion of Emily Dickinson in this interview (where you can find links to her other persona poems). As much as I like that Lady Macbeth line I mentioned in an earlier newsletter (“screw your courage to the sticking point”), I think I adore Dickinson’s rejoinder “if your nerve, deny you– go above your nerve–” even more. I think of the women I like to write about as the kind who go above their nerve, which always helps me press onward when the writing gets tricky and the outline feels like a snarl.

Summer: I love it

The last two months, I’ve been enjoying two of my favorite summer-time things (in between watching baby goat antics, which is fast becoming my third favorite summer-time thing). Another thing that just never changes is how nothing spells summer to me like being in a creek or river (and yes, just like in I Shall Be Near To You, a creek plays a big role in To Stay Forever). My other favorite summer-time thing? Being outside at night in shorts and a tank top. Since May, I’ve spent many nights under the stars, listening to our resident owl hooting, and being a baby goat jungle gym while doing 1 AM feedings for one of our baby goats (because Mama Goat decided five babies were too many to feed). Sometimes I don’t bother turning on the barn lights, just so I can enjoy the starry sky even more. At that time of night, if I look in just the right direction, I can almost imagine what it might have looked like here 100 years ago.

And yes, that owl has found his way to the pages of the new novel. I just couldn’t help but include him.

An Invitation
If you’re on Goodreads or Twitter, I have two events coming up that I’d love to invite you to join.

The first is a chat about I Shall Be Near To You with the Book Addicts on Goodreads, this Sunday, 7/19 at 4 PM EST/1 PM PST. You’ll have to join the group to participate, but it’s painless, I promise! If you have a burning question and don’t want to join the Book Addicts, you can always use the “Ask the Author” feature on my Goodreads profile.

The second virtual event is the #HistoricalFix Twitterchat on Tues. 7/21, at 8 PM EST/5 PM PST. Co-hosted by yours truly, some of my favorite book bloggers, and featuring guest authors Sarah McCoy (The Mapmaker’s Children, The Baker’s Daughter) and Jennifer Laam (The Secret Daughter of the Tsar), this is your chance to discuss all things historical fiction. You can learn all about the details and how to participate here, but all you really need to know is it will be a blast (and there will be giveaways)!

A Giveaway: Or, speaking of flowers…
I have some to share!

Our hollyhocks have gone to seed. The Kid and I have collected SO MANY seeds. Too many to plant ourselves. We’d love to share some with you. I promise they’re easy– that’s the only kind of plant I grow! If you’d like some, just reply to this email (your email will go straight to my inbox) and let me know where to send them. They’re perfect to plant this Fall, and by the time they start blooming, hopefully To Stay Forever will be well on its way to being a book you can hold in your hands.

Here’s to planting seeds to enjoy next Spring and enjoying the long days and the warm nights of this Summer!

All my Best,

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