12.13.18

When Writing Was Everything

Posted in On writing, Writers at 2:36 pm by Marion

This phrase came from another writer; how I wish I created it. This phrase served as the title of Alfred Kazin’s autobiography (1915-1998), his stories of editing during the times of Ginsberg, Hart Crane, George Orwell, Flannery O’Connor, Hannah Arendt.

For me the phrase captures my years in Prague, Czech Republic, when writing was everything. I woke up to write before teaching English at 8 a.m.; wrote all day many Saturday and Sundays; and spent holidays writing.

I would sit and dream for hours, writing those stories, about the people whose lives took place in this disconnected time.

To continue yesterday’s post, this dreaming place explains why fiction writing is not for the weak; it requires hours spent dangling in a non-world, capturing unreal, shimmering people, places, and actions that exist in this demi-world between our tangible present, and the unconscious night world.

I left that world behind when my husband and I divorced, mostly for the practical reason that I had to earn double my previous income to keep my house, support my animals, and do the repairs, buy the groceries, and pay race entry fees for marathons twice a year.

So I largely left behind my dream world. I earned a Master of Public Administration, and embraced my love of politics.

Today that’s the work I do … but I am also returning to the novel, The Curing Season, to see if I have enough dream time available in a day to pick it back up.

12.12.18

More on Writing

Posted in Life in general, On writing at 4:05 pm by Marion

Writers share many traits but if I had to guess … I would say losing track of time is high on their list of commonalities.

How do writers lose time, and why? It’s nearly an occupational hazard for writers. That’s because writing – especially a novel – requires us to sit down and genuinely work at disconnecting from the world around us. Indeed, it’s necessary if we are to write.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve worked on my novel. That’s because to start means to lose about four hours. Yes, to review my notes, read what I’ve written so far, review my plot outlines, characters, and motivations … well that’s a couple of hours. Then to have their next actions come to me, along with the weather that day, other people and their actions, dialogue, and feelings, clothing, colors, landscapes … that’s several more hours.

And like all other writers, we labor under the need to publish. That’s for the basic reason that we need income, but most of all, we like finishing a beautiful project.

So for me, it’s been better and more accessible to wrap up an analysis, presentation, or freelance project, rather than pick up my novel.

It’s coming though. I’ll take those four hours to get back in the bath. Then I’ll race against time and my own impatient nature to get a few chapters written.

Thanks for tuning into Fiction Daily.

05.11.10

‘The Curing Season’ – excerpt

Posted in Novel excerpts at 1:46 pm by Marion

I began work on this novel in 2002. I was often coming up with short stories then, and wrote this sentence thinking it would be one. Yet once I looked at it, I realized that sentence held a novel. I became bound to uncovering all the sentence held. You may also download a pdf here.

The Curing Season
Novel excerpt

August came as usual that year, but the tobacco trucks — with their tall mounds of honey-brown sheaves, the lingering sweet fragrant trails and the bumpity sound of rickety old wheels going to the warehouses — did not.

I had been away for some time and despite regular visits, until that spring, had sloughed off the gray, silty dirt that once held me. My sister, Nina, had stayed at Winterhaven and became its caretaker, the job I was supposed to have, but when Mother died I left for boarding school, college and then my work abroad, and as I would say with some pride but also sadness to my friends at the Universite where I taught, I had at last escaped those backward eastern North Carolina fields and woods and would never again see a tractor in spring, nor feel the dripping sweat of an August afternoon around my neck. So my life, while solitary, was busy and I enjoyed my English students and the research I’d started years earlier.

Nina called just before Christmas and left a message with the English Department. Since I didn’t have a telephone, by the time I finally got word it was too close to the holidays to book a flight. Her sentences, short and ghost-like, told me a curtain was drawing closed and I’d better get home soon before whole chapters of my life ended there. Likewise, that meant the curtains were closing here and I would never wander through the streets of this city again the same way. I gave notice to the dean, finished what I could of the academic year and packed my belongings into cardboard boxes for shipment to Winterhaven. I flew home on New Year’s Day.

When the plane set down in Raleigh, even that renovated airport had a worn-down feeling, and before I got out of Wake County, I was met by the familiar tired fields and tumble-down barns to my left and right. Driving along the familiar highway, the only one connecting east and west, I fell through the circles of distance and time. A few counties beyond, the fields, trailers, exhausted sheds and broken fences consumed the landscape and I knew I was getting close to home.

Soon I existed the highway in my rented car and drove along N.C. 33, where I took the curves without thinking, the same curves I drove so many times with Mother and Grandmother and Nina, the curves that separated and defined my world, slowing at the Battles’s pasture for the sharp turn, then pausing at the Mosley house, where Ann and Cecil raised their boys, and coming to a full stop for the sign, the only one for miles, I took the last stretch not seeing another car, just the large open fields and rows of faun-colored crops.

At last I saw Winterhaven. From far off, the second story appeared as I rounded a high place in the road, then I pieced together the driveway and the porch. The gate posts grayed with lichen nevertheless stood firm; the trees along the driveway were black and barren this time of year, their spidery arms grasping at each other above me. It must have rained, because there wasn’t any dust, but the crunch of the sandy dirt road beneath was familiar, like the hug of a relative you see differently with age.

I parked in the horseshoe driveway before the front porch, left my bags and walked up the large stone steps.

c 2010 by Marion Blackburn