To Stay Forever
I send out a monthly-ish newsletter (more like bi-monthly-ish). This is the the seventh 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!
An Auspicious Day
I like to think of January 28th as an auspicious day. It’s the day the kid was born, and now, holy cow, he’s five! There we are (bottom left) a couple days after he was born, because I’m too vain to show you the pictures of us in the hospital. Exactly three years later, entirely coincidentally, I Shall Be Near To You hit bookstores. There we are (bottom right) celebrating with party horns (the kid’s idea) at our local Barnes & Noble.
Both times January 28th changed my life, most notably by bringing new people into it. One of the greatest surprises about I Shall Be Near To You making its way out into the world has been all the lovely people I’ve met or re-established connections with because of it, including many of you. All those years I dreamed of the book being at Barnes & Noble, I never dared to imagine that I might make new friends, or share intensely personal conversations, or chat on Twitter, or sit down for coffee with actual readers. It’s a marvel really, how a book can create a community, and I feel incredibly grateful every day (but especially January 28th) for the way you readers have taken Rosetta into your hearts and let me be a part of your lives.
A Little Novel News
Since January 28th feels so auspicious already, and I didn’t quite hit my goal of having a draft of my new novel ready in 2015, I made it my goal to send it to my agent on January 28th. You all are among the very very first to know that Josie is now officially in Agent Dan’s hands. I wish I could say that I feel amazing about this, but in truth I feel nauseous. It happens every time I send something to Agent Dan, because what he thinks of this manuscript is hugely important– crucial, really. I keep telling myself it’s actually a good thing I feel sick every time I think about him reading it, because it means I truly care about these characters and this story. I very much want them to have a life beyond the printed pages in a three-ring binder you see above.
An Invitation to Distraction
Now that Josie is out of my hands, my best cure for nausea is keeping busy in other ways. One thing I’m doing is buckling down on researching my next next novel (some of which is that pile of books pictured above). It’s a relief to know I have something else to work on and I’m excited about making room in my head for some new voices (does that sound too creepy?). I’m also binge-reading a bunch of novels I’ve had on my To-Be-Read pile, because most of the time I seem to only be able to find time to write OR read. I’ve been posting pictures of some of those books over on Instagram and Facebook and reviews over on Goodreads, if you’re curious. (Spoiler: I really loved Vengeance Road and I think Rosetta fans will too. Also, that cover!)
I’m also gearing up for #BookClubFix, a new book club I’ve launched with two of my favorite book bloggers (wonderful friends I’ve made thanks to I Shall), Ellice and Leah. We’ve chosen our first book, The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi, by Alyssa Palombo and I just started reading my Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of it last night (the actual cover is much prettier than the one in the photo above!). If you’re passionate about anything creative (especially music), curious about Vivaldi, or in love with 1700s Venice, this might be just the book for you. You can learn more about how #BookClubFix came to be here, some of our future plans, and how you can join us here. I really hope you’ll put February 24th on your calendar and help distract me while I wait for Dan’s verdict on Josie.
Meanwhile, I’ll be crossing my fingers a lot and wondering what 2016 has in store.
Here’s to the New Year, new books, and new ways to connect!
P.S. As always, if you’d like to reply to this email, it’ll go straight to my inbox. I’d love to hear if you plan to read The Violinist of Venice!
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.
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,
I send out a monthly-ish newsletter. This is the the fourth one, from May 2015, sans photos that accompany it when it goes straight to your inbox. If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, sign up here!
Mama Goat is Capacious! or, Waiting is rewarded!
I promised I’d send the next newsletter when I had an announcement, either about baby goats or the next novel draft. I had high hopes I’d beat Mama Goat on my end of the bargain, but alas, no. I also had hoped Mama Goat would deliver on her promise on Mother’s Day, but alas, she waited until the day after. But never mind that! The (human) Kid and I spent all afternoon sitting with Mama Goat while she labored, petting her, giving her compliments, and waiting. The wait was worth it.
It’s really hard to get a good picture of so many moving targets (because, wow, are they already bouncing around a lot), but here are Mama Goat’s five (5!!) baby girls, at almost exactly 24 hours old. I’m having a hard time getting much of anything done (uh oh) because they’re just so fun to watch. And it’s also fun to watch this other kid… petting a still-wet baby, and in the next picture, a day-old baby (“I’m holding my first baby!” he said), boinging along with the goaties as they test out their acrobatic abilities.
Inspiration: It comes from so many places
While we were waiting for Mama Goat’s babies, The Kid and I put to use some things we learned while reading Kate DiCamillo’s book Leroy Ninker Saddles Up last week. Oh my goodness, what a sweet, funny, adorable book! We both loved it. In it, Maybelline the horse “enjoys the heck out of a compliment” and “is the kind of horse who gets lonesome quick.” We tried to make sure Mama Goat wasn’t lonely during her hours of labor (we sat with her from 2:30 PM until 9 PM, until everyone was dry and fed), and we complimented the heck out of her. She rewarded us with lots of licks (until the babies arrived and then she was really busy licking them) and lots of talking to us when we had to leave for water breaks from the hose.
Last week, I also watched Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery-Caldecott Award acceptance speech for her book Flora & Ulysses, which we haven’t read yet but which I at least am really looking forward to. (The Kid is a teensy bit worried about the pants-eating and squirrel-sucking vacuum). What a lovely, inspiring tribute to the capaciousness of a mother and daughter’s love. I hope you’ll get the chance to watch the video (the goods start at almost 3 minutes), but be forewarned– it will make you laugh and tear up.
Mama Goat and her babies have been making us all feel more capacious– “lifted up by surprise and gratitude and joy,” as Kate DiCamillo says. I hope your Spring too is full of such wonder and openness.
I send out a monthly-ish newsletter. This is the the third one, sans photos that accompany it when it goes straight to your inbox. If you’d like to see the whole thing, pictures and all, sign up here!
In which 5 becomes 2
I thought I knew what it meant to be henpecked. But in the span of two days, the Kid and I learned the hard way that chickens don’t just peck bugs (and maybe the occasional lizard) to death. The first casualty was one of our 5 baby chicks. On their first day out of the nursery coop– a gorgeous, sunny day, too lovely to be locked in– our Little Red Hen took her babies to join the flock for dinner. Head rooster Richard The Interloper, (who conveniently migrated over from our neighbor’s after our first neighbor-rooster Henry, got eaten by a coyote), pecked one of the babies. I thought this was the usual “pecking order” stuff. But when Richard (The Wretch) pecked the poor chick again, I swooped in, amid mama hen’s clucking, and whisked the baby away to the coop. No more of that! Unfortunately, when I put the chick back in the coop, I noticed blood on my hand. Upon closer inspection, the chick had a small puncture near its leg. It looked a bit odd, but it was small and the chick seemed mostly OK, although a bit limpy and flustered. I made sure it nestled under mama hen and hoped that come morning things would look better. Alas, in the morning, the chick was dead. We were sad.
The very next morning a mouse that made the ill-timed decision to come out of hiding as the kid and I fed the Little Red Hen and her four remaining chicks. Mama hen attacked the mouse, even as it scurried about trying to escape. I am probably not a very good chicken farmer because I couldn’t turn my back. By the time I managed to get the poor mouse out of the coop (in the feed scoop), it was bleeding from its eye. I explained to the Kid that even though it was alive, things did not look good. We found what we hoped was a safe, peaceful spot. When we checked later, the mouse was gone.
(Since then we’ve lost two more chicks– both of whom drowned in the goats’ water trough, that blurry black thing in the picture above. Two more sad days that a chicken enclosure might have prevented.)
My Caveat to Goal Setting
Sometimes goals are elusive
Last month, I shared my goal of having a revised draft of the new novel (I call it “Josie”, after the main character, but it’s working title is actually To Stay Forever) by April. There’s my “workstation” above. Oh, and that’s the Kid tackling a Lego project at the top of the screen there. We build (with varying degrees of success) at the same time, sometimes.
Anyway, April 1st is still the goal and I’m making headway, but…. Well, good news first! I was surprised by how much I liked the first half of the book when I read it in early February (I confess, it’s been hard letting go of Rosetta–she was so easy to love!– and allowing myself to fall for Josie). The bad news is right now April seems ridiculously optimistic– I’ve still got several new scenes to write and 150 more pages to rework and somehow it’s already already mid-March! Sometimes finishing this novel (any novel!) seems so overwhelming. Lately I find myself walking a tightrope between holding myself accountable and allowing myself slack.
Which, combined with a question Rachel (hi Rachel!) asked after my last missive, made me think maybe I ought to say something about how I screw my courage to the sticking point (to quote Lady Macbeth) on the days when I feel daunted. Since agonizing over my first never-to-be-seen-in-public attempt at a novel (which my very tactful father [hi Dad!] called “workmanlike”), I’ve adopted a mantra, thanks to some wise words from my college roommate and artist Michelle (hi Michelle!) who melds gorgeous, melancholy photos with poems: The important thing about art is the doing of it.
Just the act of creating– even if it’s terrible, even if it doesn’t seem remotely like art– is progress. I knew that first novel wasn’t good enough; as Ira Glass puts it here (or in this cool video representation here), there was a gap between my taste and my skill. But writing it was still important. It proved to me that I could write something novel length. It taught me what my process looks like so I don’t get quite as dismayed now when I hit the middle of a project and suddenly I’m convinced the story has turned into a terrible, muddled mess (I really wish it didn’t, but it happens every time).
Lately my mantra has a corollary, thanks to the wise words of my friend Andrea (hi Andrea!). She was one of the very first people to read scenes from I Shall Be Near To You (she also recently told me she likes Josie better than Rosetta– can you believe that?!) and her first story collection How To Pose For Hustler was just released the Tuesday before last. And she has two young children. The corollary? Lower the bar.
This means not henpecking myself when life intrudes (birthday parties and preschool board meetings and book events and a cold that won’t quit). It means not berating myself if I don’t hit my daily word count goal (500-1000 words– these days I like having a window). It means just writing one sentence. Or working for ten minutes (an idea I stole from Aimee Bender– it’s about 8 minutes into this interview, scroll down to #49). Or trying not to worry too much if a scene isn’t right yet because I can always fix it in the next draft (or try again in the one after that). Even if all I do is write one sentence, I feel better. Less disappointed in myself for not living up to my own expectations. And it’s a great way to trick myself, because many times, one sentence turns into two, turns into three… The trick is making it seem easy. Who couldn’t write just one sentence?
As for those other goals I told you about last time? Well… There was a camera/operator malfunction with the first roll of film from the 100 year old camera. Time to try, try again. As for the chicken enclosure, a site has been selected and approved by our neighbors and landlady alike. Time to break out the post pounder. But I did manage to build a goat feeder, which wasn’t even on my list! Better add it and promptly cross it off!
Is She Kidding?
It’s hard to wait (for baby goats)!
Meanwhile, here’s a picture of someone else who’s been doing a lot of work. Mama Goat is looking very pregnant these days, but she’s only just over halfway to her May 12 due date. Poor thing. On the right there is her 3 year old daughter Tricksy. She’s due to have her first kids June 1, but she’s still looking so svelte, I’m starting to wonder…
It’s hard to wait, but to give myself a little more time– to be a little less peckish with myself about this “monthly-isn” newsletter– I’ve decided to write you next when I have an announcement– a new draft or new baby goats, whichever comes first. Maybe that explains why this newsletter got so long– it might be awhile til next time (but I hope not)!
What started as the one-time (so I thought) #IShall TwitterChat about all things historical fiction, has now (because it was so fun and people asked for more!) morphed into the #HistoricalFix TwitterChat.
What is the #HistoricalFix TwitterChat?
It’s a one-hour (more or less) discussion of historical fiction: topics, trends, time periods, research, characters and of course BOOKS. Co-hosted by some of my favorite bloggers and featuring a new line-up of guest authors each time, the chat gives historical fiction lovers (readers, bloggers, librarians, editors, agents, authors) a chance to respond to questions, participate in giveaways, recommend books, and just generally enjoy talking about the genre we all love.
When’s the next #HistoricalFix TwitterChat happening?
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
5:30-6:30 PM PST/8:30-9:30 PM EST
With a Cameo Appearance by:
Kelly of Belle of the Literati
Guest Authors and Giveaways:
Stacy Carlson author of Among the Wonderful (3 copies up for grabs!)
Tracy Guzeman author of The Gravity of Birds (5 copies up for grabs!)
Kelli Stanley author of City of Ghosts; City of Secrets; City of Dragons; Nox Dormienda; The Curse Maker (2 copies of a Miranda Corbie book AND 3 audio versions of Nox Dormienda up for grabs!)
What’s the best way to participate?
Add your tweets to the deluge! As long as you have a Twitter handle and remember to add our hashtag (#HistoricalFix), you’re in! It’s a bit easier to track the conversation if you use a website like Tweetchat—just log in using your Twitter account and search for #HistoricalFix. The entire conversation should load, and it will automatically include #HistoricalFix in all your tweets (because truly, remembering the hashtag is the hardest part. Well, and keeping up with all the tweets)
The best thing to do is tweet me with any questions that aren’t answered here: @ErinLindsMcCabe (and feel free to use the hashtag so others can see your question too)
What was the #IShall TwitterChat?
Inspired by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s #BSWT TwitterChat, I teamed up with four fabulously supportive and dedicated bloggers to celebrate the paperback release of I Shall Be Near To You and have a great time. Five historical fiction authors joined us and I think I can safely say that what transpired exceeded any of our wildest imaginings. I laugh now to think how nervous I was that no one would “show up.”
You can read pretty much everything about the #IShall TwitterChat experience in Hannah’s recap which includes a link to the list of the over 114 recommended books that came up in the course of the discussion.
#IShall Featured Authors:
Ariel Lawhon author of The Wife The Maid The Mistress
Alex Myers author of Revolutionary
Ariel MacArran author of Another Man’s Bride
Mary Volmer author of Crown of Dust
Lois Leveen author of Juliet’s Nurse; The Secrets of Mary Bowser
Some of you have signed up for my newsletter, but for those of you who haven’t (or for those curious about what you may have missed), here’s my very first newsletter. The original version has photos, which I haven’t quite figured out how to get to show up here. I guess for now that’s one of the perks of actually getting the newsletter delivered right to your inbox (psssst! You can sign up here). Ready? Here it is!
So, I’ve never written a newsletter before, but I thought I’d like to give it a try. I’m thinking of it as a little letter from me to you. It’ll be fun, like penpal letters back when I was 13. You can write me back if you’d like.
One of the great things about December is I start making things. I love being able to start and finish a little project, all in one day (so unlike writing a book!). Yesterday I made candied pecans (yum) and mixed up some loose leaf Chai Tea as gifts for our neighbors (they are so nice–they never complain about our chickens wandering over to forage in their yard). Today I might make some goat’s milk fudge, if I can overcome memories of last year’s fudge-tastrophe. Earlier this week I embroidered three hankies, two for the wonderful women who play with and teach and comfort and entertain my kid while I’m writing. Here’s one of the hankies. I love how it turned out!
I’m not sure I *love* embroidering, but Josie, the main character in the new novel I’m working on does (she makes really pretty stuff). Sitting down to stitch helps me connect with her in a deeper way. There’s just something about physically doing that binds me to my characters and helps me find images that express how they see their world. With Rosetta, I milked and made soap and marched battlefields. With Josie, I’m embroidering and riding bareback.
I’ve also been squeezing in time to work on that new novel. My goal, which seemed daunting (impossible, actually) when I set it at the end of the summer, was to finish a draft of the novel this year. But now the New Year is 12 (!!) days away, and the great thing is I’m fewer than 2000 words away from my goal. I kind of can’t believe it. Something about setting a goal, writing it down, and telling people about it (eep!), really motivates and focuses me. It always has (have you seen my list from 1987?).
The third great thing about December (this week!), was we started planning for spring baby goaties! I’m so excited about hopefully having two mama goats this year. The kids are just too much fun– the ones below are two of ours from spring 2014.
I hope you are able to spend cozy time with your loved ones as 2014 brings itself to a close. Come the New Year, I’ll be choosing some dreams to write down. Do you have any burning desires that you might want to put to paper and make official?
With Warmest Wishes and Gratitude,