Writing the Body of the Book

Every morning I brew Folgers-nothing-fancy in my headboard bookcase so that I can begin writing fresh from my dreams. Pajamas or nearly naked, depending on the season. Darkness or daylight, depending on the moon. Before I feed my dog and cats. Before I rummage in the pantry for breakfast in bed. Before the bald eagle flies low over the water outside my window… and he just this moment did...right on schedule. The white of his head and tail feathers so purely bright bright bright. I sigh. Every time.

For the past five weeks, I have written nothing new, other than a few watered down Facebook posts and I’ve not shared the reason. Till now.

At some point a writer needs to leave one’s nest and face criticism. Critique criticism, not you-bad-bad-girl criticism.

During the summer, I subscribed to Lidia Yuknavitch’s mailing list and, heck—I couldn’t believe it—that very same day I received a message that applications were open for her The Body of the Book workshop, where eight writers with unpublished manuscripts would meet for twelve Tuesday evenings to provide feedback and support. Not trite feedback-and-support but real, committed, feedback-that-feeds-support.

Omigosh. I began work on my application immediately. Cut to the chase. I was accepted.

I’ve been taking the train to Portland every Tuesday, booking into a wonderful little hotel that began as a sailors’ lodge in 1881. I’m loving the fifty-bucks-a-night coed hostel-style bunkroom. On the first day, the twenty-something clerk asked if I wanted her to show me how the key card worked. (WTF. Exclamation point. Yeah. I blanched. I blinked. But I simply said “no”. Ageism?? God bless me when I finally let my hair go grey. But nevermind. It’s a great place and at some point I guess I have to share that our brain cells don’t blink out like fireflies once we turn 65.)

The class is all positive good stuff, all inspiration, all writerly comradery. Warm, hot, winey, and most of all, a safe space and politics aside, although we all share the same politics. Politics: the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group.

When we were accepted, we committed to bringing everything we’ve got to the other members in the group. Feedback and opportunity. Ninety new pages to think hard on each week. Pure responses.

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

We’re midway through the process.

I’m going to miss these brilliant woman and their stories when it’s over, but for now, I’m going to continue to respond with the same fervor that I appreciate from others.

As if that isn’t enough good stuff, it’s harvest season. When I return home, it’s blackberry jam, pickled beets, zucchini relish, homemade blackberry brandy fermenting in the downstairs closet, tomato sauce simmering on the stove, a lovely chunk of brisket brining in the refrigerator for my homemade pastrami.

It doesn’t get any better. Growing, nurturing and harvesting stories. Feeding our souls and our bodies.


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