I’m a writin’ fool

So I’ve been working on my second book for a while now, the backwards story I’ve been babbling about off and on. Today I think I completed the second draft, which I believe to be phenomenally better than the first draft. The funny thing about this is that when I got back from the conference and the Lins, I had about 40 pages of the second draft written, and it’s completed length is now 163 pages. I wrote all of that in a little less than a month. Don’t ask me how that happened, because I honestly don’t know. God asked me to give up some things which has made my depression worse, but apparently worked wonders for my writing. In my life I have never written this much this quickly, and I don’t even think it’s crappy. Open to opinion, of course, but it’s not complete slag in any case. On the few occasions when I’ve had a week or so where I’ve written anything close to this much volume, I’ve been awake for several days at a time and been holed up in my room living on saltines and peanut butter. Now I’m participating in lots of other parts of life, am sleeping a normal schedule, and have cooked a good meal every night. All this to say, whoever’s praying for me, keep it up!

Also, if you would like to read the second draft of this book, please let me know. This is not a free reading though, I expect feedback. ‘it’s good’ or ‘it’s bad’ does not count. 🙂

My sonnet

My love lies soft upon my breast and waits
for morning light to wrest his sleep from eyes
weary, heavy, with labor that creates
distance from him to me and makes me cry.
Not long until the sun will break embrace
so sweet night-long when darkness hides our fate
I cannot see but feel his lovely face
our bodies sense our loyal hearts vibrate.
Oh sun, do slow your course this day and leave
my love and I to take subsistence from
smooth skin, strong arms, and willing lips to cleave
to one another while you wait to come.
Yet even when your rays do break sweet time
You cannot lie and say my love’s not mine.

How great writers haunt me

So I’m working on a rewrite of the backwards story you might have heard me talking about. It’s a decent story right now, it uses the tricks that good writers use that piss me off. In reviewing my pirate novel I realized that this new story can’t stand up to that novel. It’s sharp, chopy, and somewhat lacking in air. But in trying to rewrite it I feel like I’m losing it. Clarice suddenly lost all the gumption she had to do the things she has to do to move the plot along. I miss the vacuum effect I had going; it’s not great writing, but I like that feeling.

Today I read the first page of Swan’s Way by Marcel Proust. That might have been a mistake. There was no story, no scene, no setting, no dialogue, no characters, no plot, and it was one of the most amazing pieces I have ever read. For one page there was someone in the world saying that they had been where I have been, and where I have been could mean that I could be great. There’s something enlivening and overwhelming in being challenged to be better than I can see my way to be.

My Sister’s Keeper

Another book review. This book was written by Jodi Picoult, whom I’ve never heard of before, but on the back of the book it says she’s had ten books on the New York Times Bestseller list. Now, I personally think that particlar list is stupid, but ten books? And she looks like 30 in her picture. Little jealousy going on here.

This book is about a family with three kids, a son and two daughters. The daughter in the middle has leukemia, and the second daughter was genetically engineered to be a donor match for her sister. When the parents first decided to do this, they were only planning on using the blood from the umbilical cord for their older daughter, but when she relapsed five years later, they used their youngest daughter again. And again, and again. On and on, so every time the sick sister ends up in the hospital, the well one does too. Whent the younger daughter is 13, her sister needs a kidney transplant, and she sues her parents for medical emancipation. In other words, she can make her own decisions about her medical care.

The whole scenario is fascinating, and all the characters are beloved by their author, and thus by the reader as well. It’s fun and interesting and scary to watch the mother be such a good mother and then make such freaky choices, although you can track with her frame of mind. The interactions between the characters is priceless, and highly enjoyable. Even with a very serious subject, this book managed to make me smile and laugh and feel good about life in the world of the book.

I only had a few complaints, none of which would have stopped me from reading the book if I had known about them beforehand. One is that the book is written from multiple points of view, which is a hard thing to do and Picoult handles it very well. Accept that all the characters have the same voice, they sound or think differently from any of the other characters, which makes them all sort of mush together. The book is about 400 pages long and could probably be about 300 without breaking a sweat; it gets a little redundant before all the fun surprise stuff at the very end.

Yay! Maybe…

I got a not rejection letter. I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but it’s not a bad thing. A literary agent in San Fransico responded to my query by requesting my full manuscript and a 2 page synopsis. It may not end up in anything, but it’s not a rejection letter. 🙂 There was a little smiley face next to the request for the manuscript, and at the end they wrote in their own handwriting “Thanks”. Not “No Thanks”, they said “Thanks”. Someone out there doesn’t think I suck. I am stoked. 🙂

Pray that it turns out to be something.


I’m entirely unsure if I spelled that right. I just finished a book titled “Deafening” by Frances Itani. I picked this up in the bargain fiction section at Barnes and Nobel, so no one should feel like they should have heard of that author. And just in case you’re wondering, I have read other books since The Handmaid’s Tale, but none of them were worth commenting on.

So this book is about a Canadian girl who lost her hearing to scarlet fever when she was five. It’s historical, taking place between 1900 and 1920, and encapsulates WWI. The first half is this very tender rendering of a little girl’s life, detailing her learning process as a deaf girl in a hearing world. Itani makes great use of sensory details, which I’m a sucker for. Then in the middle of the book the whole thing shifts over to an extremely gory rendition of the war. Then it ends.

The second half of the book reads like a fairly interesting anti-war pamphlet. This author makes at least one major mistake in the war half of the book by using the same gross-out tool twice in a row, which is not only disgusting, it’s lazy. I don’t actually know what WWI was fought over, and I still don’t know. This book focuses only on the atrocities, the body count, the poor women waiting at home. As far as this little world goes, there was no reason for that war at all, which I don’t quite buy.

So, all in all, the first half is wonderful, a very beautiful piece of fiction. The second half was gross and didn’t make it’s point very well. It seems clear that facts were left out to make the point more convincing, which isn’t going to convince the intelligent audience the book is appealing to. It ends rather abruptly, which was disapointing for such a delicate book.

The Handmaid’s Tale

So I have finished the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I’ll tell you about it.

This is another dystropia, which is a negetive view of the future. In this book a Christian version of Islam has taken over the US, which forbids women to work, own property, read, or write. Another factor is that the birth rate has been declining, such that the human race (or so I thought, later I found out it was just caucasians) is becoming desperate. The government uses an obscure passage from Genesis, taken wildly out of context to build a system of ‘handmaids’. These are women who are forced to have sex and hopefully become pregnant by the husband of a woman who hasn’t had children for him. The passage they use is when Sarah tells her husband Abraham to take her servant girl and have children with her so that their line will continue. In the Bible this does not turn out well. In the Handmaid’s Tale, things get even worse. This is the story of one of the Handmaids, told in her own voice.

She talks about a kind of brainwashing process the handmaids go through at the beginning. The children they had before the regime are taken away from them. Handmaids are women who are viable for pregnancy, but have something negative in their past. Like being divorced, having an affair, or being a nun. After this period of ‘training’ they’re assigned to a household, where the handmaid lives with the family she’s trying to have children for, has sex with in a weird religious ceremony, and hopefully gets pregnant. She stays in each home for two years, and has three such assignments. If in those six years she fails to produce a healthy baby, she’s declared an Unwoman and mysteriously disappears.

This book is haunting, hypnotic, graphic, and very compelling. However, I didn’t catch Atwood’s point, if she was trying to make one. Unless it was that fighting abortion and pornography might not be taking us in a direction we want to go. I have heard feminists talk about this book as being, “A logical progression from our present circumstance”. This I do not agree with. In order to make this happen the regime had to simultaneously shoot the President and mow down Congress with machine guns, after which they quickly suspended the constitution and shot protesters on sight. Atwood talks about being slowly boiled alive without realizing it, but this story does not take place that way. A hostile take-over is not a logical progression, it’s a possible tragedy.

While this sounds like a sordid piece of anti-christian propaganda, on closer inspection is doesn’t stand up that way. The factions you hear about the ruling regime fighting are baptists, quakers, and catholics, along with gays, pro-lifers, pornographers, divorcees, and feminists. Atwood clearly points out where they have contorted the bible to say what they want, and elimated parts that don’t agree with their system. Since women aren’t allowed to read they can’t find out for themselves, and Bibles are kept locked up and are only to be read by high officials of the government. She does not point out the context of the original scripture about the handmaids, which I really wished she had. The only part that really worried me was at a women’s rally when an official reads the passages from Paul that women don’t like too much. Sadly, these were not taken out of context, but they were enacted to an extreme without any consideration for other passages that would temper the message. Still, it was freaky.

I enjoy reading good writing like this, but I can’t help wishing that someone with that much talent would write something beautiful.

Some book thoughts

I think because I’m excited about going to school, I’ve also been excited about reading some really smart books lately. I have some thoughts.

A little while ago I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I did this in three weeks, and let me tell you, that is a feat. It’s 1100 pages long, with teeny tiny print. This is an interesting story and written in a compelling fashion, but does boil down to being a piece of objectiviest propaganda. The theory set forth in this dystropia is that the best thing you can do for humanity is to be as selfish and self-seeking as you can. That by doing that you will work hard, acheive great things, and humanity will benefit. I have heard it said that after reading Atlas Shrugged you become a complete jerk for about three weeks. This is not entirely inaccurate.

I was glad that not long after reading Atlas Shrugged I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (possibly misspelling his last name). While Atlas Shrugged comes at the world from the point of view of the great industrial giants, The Jungle comes at if from the point of view of the lowliest laborer in the industrial factories, the immigrant. The Jungle sets forth the ugliest consequences of unrestricted captalism. From house-buying swindles to adulterated, poisoned food, to deadly working conditions and unrestrained sexual harrassment, The Jungle hits almost everything you could imagine going wrong for a working-man, and many you couldn’t. In the last tenth of the book the Sinclaire decides that his story is pretty much over and he might as well use this extra time to write some socialist propaganda. While it is easier to agree with Sinclaire, I have to admit that Rand makes her point better. While I could see why the protagonist became a socialist, I never considered becoming one myself. Sadly, Sinclaire is far more greatly based in reality.

Now I am reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. So far Margaret Atwood reminds me of Toni Morrison; she’s hypnotic, but she uses her powers for evil. After this I’ll have to read something a bit less political.