Category Archives: Writers Write

Visiting BookPeople in Austin, TX

BookPeople4Last month, we trekked to Austin where we made a side trip to a favorite independent bookstore.  If you’ve never been to BookPeople, it’s worth your time.  The store makes you want to pull a book off the shelf, sit criss-cross applesauce on the floor, and spend the day.

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If you aren’t close to Austin, then check out BookPeople’s blog, here on WordPress.  The store employees make the best recommendations.

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It’s a great feeling to walk around a corner and find your own kid, engrossed in good book. BookPeople was recipient of a James Patterson Grant.

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I couldn’t resist a little daydreaming. Wouldn’t Crisp fit well between Crichton and Cronin?

 

Without a Pit Stop

NotebookEntryYesterday, I faced a crisis. My beloved Waterman fountain pen disappeared. Actually, it happened earlier in the week. Yesterday morning was the first time I went looking for it. This, in itself, is the real problem.  I hadn’t used the pen since March 27.  I remember holding it in my hand at the pool. My kids swim endless laps while I sit on a hard metal bench. I take my notebook to fill in the gaps.  Only, I was distracted by conversation. I capped the pen and put it back in my bag with my notebook.

Fast-forward to April 3. The pen wasn’t where I’d left it. Some place between that hard bleacher and my soft living room sofa, the Waterman now resides.  I searched the car, the house, my bag. Panicked. I’ve lost it before. The last time, I blamed every breathing thing in range for thievery. To which Coco, my youngest, responded with “HMMMPH.” She found it by retracing my steps. Yesterday, I wasn’t so lucky.

Why hadn’t I written in those eight days? I could blame my kids’ crazy activity schedule or the new responsibilities I’ve taken on or the endless chores that fill my time, but I’d be lying. This week, my children labeled me “Candor.” Divergent is the book of the moment in our domicile. I tell the truth. Like it or not.

The truth is I’ve been in more than a rut. I’ve lost heart. My irresponsibility with the fountain pen was inevitable. Use it or lose it. I hate that the cliché is so literal. Writing novels is a hard gig.  E. L. Doctorow said, “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” He failed to say, the trip is long and scary and there are no gas stations for hundreds of miles.

The fountain pen, archaic and artistic, is my symbol. It’s not an implement for grocery lists or check writing. It’s for real work. Butt-in-the-chair, miles-to-go-before-I-sleep, deer-in-the-headlights work. Losing the Waterman meant I had to choose. Do I keep writing or dump everything on the dining room table into the recycle bin?  Should I fill those white boards with notes or replace them with the Renoir prints that are more House Beautiful appropriate?

At 2:13 in the afternoon, I had to decide. Should I drive to an office supply store for a new instrument or wait out the hour before time to pick up the girls from school? I must want to keep torturing myself because with very little time left, I jumped in the mini-van and drove to two office supply stores, miles apart. I couldn’t find a duplicate, but the Parker Urban with the refillable converter curves comfortably over my fingers. The slender implement has weight. It’s ink glides like a spider between the lines. I was able to exhale.

I discovered this. The real punishment isn’t writing. It’s not writing. Instead of trying to keep my head above water, writing is being able to breathe with my feet firmly planted on the bottom of the ocean.

Master Class

Masterclass1 Bacon and I took the girls out of school last week to attend a few sessions of the Menuhin Competition, a violin competition for prodigies from all over the world. This is the first time it’s ever been held in North America. Our good luck landed the competition a short trip up the road in Austin. I’m not sure who got the most out of the day. Coco is a musician, but we were all inspired.

Masterclass2We listened to a fantastic chamber orchestra made up of grad students, college professors, and one visiting scholar. David Kim is the Concertmaster for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Later, we watched him give a master class to young musicians competing in the competition.

Masterclass3This was supposed to be boring stuff to those of us not schooled in strings. It started out to be. Cherry read a book. Bacon slumped in his chair. I studied Coco, our violinist, and tried to measure the benefit of this educational experience by how she perched on the edge of her chair. Then, the Master said something that made us all sit up.

After listening to a brilliant thirteen-year-old, he advised him to practice living. Get out of the rehearsal hall. Read great books. See great art. Fall in love. Travel. He was already a good violinist, but these things would make him a brilliant musician.

Face palm. Head desk. Whatever the catchphrase for epiphany is this week. The words slayed me. This was why we skipped school, to find a way to be better at life.

Later at home, Bacon and the girls dove into books, but I’m stubborn and somewhat obtuse. I slipped back into the habit of  reading the news on the web, so much minutia that’s been chopped, filtered, and homogenized. Instead of chunking up my creative juices by reading something solid, I ran my brain through a whirling blender of nothing. I liquified the good I’d done for myself.

I’ve been watching, reading, and imitating everyone else’s reaction to the world instead of searching out primary sources and drawing my own conclusions. Why read about life on Huffington Post when I can listen to Vivaldi or study a sculpture by Rodin, or watch my children read great books in my own living room?

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