1. What I talk about when I talk about editing. (Apologies to Raymond Carver.) Before my first half marathon, I trained for months so I could complete the 13.1 miles without walking any part of the course. Actually my larger goal was to complete the course without going into cardiac arrest. For months, I followed a strict training regimen. I was out there in rain and snow, before work and on weekends, on steep hills and on gravel paths. (This all came in handy because race day saw wind chills in the high 20’s and the start line was on the boardwalk at Coney Island.) So when I reached mile marker 12, I nearly cried. I knew I was going to make it to the finish line. This formerly asthmatic, overweight kid who got a “D” in phys. ed. because she couldn’t make it around the track once was about to finish a half marathon.
I had that same feeling last week. I’ve been making final edits on my 325-page novel in bits and spots. I’ve been getting up before work (5:00 am) and taking pages on my subway commute and spending hours in the coffee shop on weekends (where now everybody really does know my name). For a while, I’d been stuck on page 25, unable to move forward for an inexplicable reason. I had written the whole thing and edited it once already, so clearly I’m dedicated to it. It had nothing to do with the story itself. It was me. This New Year’s Day I decided to create a theme rather than a resolution I could easily break. The theme is focus. Whenever I sat down to watch an hour of t.v. or realized I was surfing the internet mindlessly, I reminded myself to focus and that helped me get back to work. Just like with running, the more I grow my novel, the more it comes back to me and feeds me. So this week, when I reached page 315, I nearly cried. I know I can make it to the finish line. The End.
2. I don’t usually buy coffee table books to display in my living room. I have a very small apartment and I don’t even have a coffee table. But Pilgrimage, by Annie Leibovitz, made me think twice. The acclaimed portrait photographer stepped on out a different path this time, shooting landscapes and objet d’art. She fell into this project quite by accident. She’d taken her children to Niagara Falls on vacation. “I was stunned by the beauty of the water,” she told The New York Times. The picture she took that morning became the cover of the book.
From that auspicious start, she went on pilgrimages around the globe to connect to historical places and people she cared about. We get treated to photos of Emily Dickinson’s only surviving dress, Virginia Woolf’s writing table, a silver tray in Eleanor Roosevelt’s bedroom, Sigmund Freud’s couch, Elvis Presley’s Harley-Davidson, and more. The photos are, of course, stunning and enlightening. (Virginia Woolf’s desk is pretty darn gross, um, well-loved.) But more than that, I love this idea of a pilgrimage which has a religious connotation, but doesn’t have to be to a religious site. I went on one to Walden Pond some years ago and it was a total game-changer for me. (See the header of this blog.)
Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? Where did you go?
3. Up the Down Volcano. I found Sloane Crosley’s Up the Down Volcano featured as an Amazon Kindle Single. I’ve been a fan of her writing ever since her hilarious 2008 essay collection I Was Told There’d Be Cake. (Kindred spirits, we must be.) In this short essay, she tells the tale of her trip to South America to climb that continent’s highest volcano. Based on a recommendation from a friend, which seemed so benign from 4,000 miles away, she is woefully unprepared for altitude sickness, the language barrier and the weather.
I enjoyed reading this though it’s not a traveler’s delight. It won’t make you want to take the next plane to Ecuador in the way that Under the Tuscan Sun makes you want to spend the rest of your life in the Italian countryside. If anything Up the Down Volcano is a cautionary tale. But a really funny one.
Aside: Even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still access these Kindle Singles through the free Kindle app, available for most computers and other devices. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend Ann Patchett’s single The Getaway Car.
4. Kiva Update. One of my favorite ways to give and receive is through donations to charitable organizations. For Christmas a wonderful friend in San Diego sent me a gift card to Kiva. For those of you not familiar, Kiva is a non-profit that connects lenders and borrowers around the world to help alleviate poverty. Through their site, you can find someone in need of a micro-loan and send a donation to fund their dreams. How cool is that!
I’ve helped fund several loans thus far and all borrowers paid back on time, which frees up my donation to lend to another borrower. With my gift card in virtual hand, I searched the Kiva site this week and found an inspiring woman in Paraguay who makes bags from recycled materials.
Here is her story: Fabiana is 26 years old and single. She lives with her brothers in the city of Itá. She was a teacher and now makes bags, purses, flask carriers, etc. from recycled materials such as plastic bottles and small cans, among other items. Currently she is exhibiting her products at handicraft fairs in the cities of Luque, Itá, Argeguá and others. Fabiana works with the municipality and the government to exhibit her wares. She is a very hardworking and creative young woman, as well as a very busy and modest one.
5. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. ~Lao-Tzu
Have a great weekend, everyone!