What I've Been Working On

Ever since we’ve been back from France, it’s been hot. Really, really hot. We left Athens a few days ago because the city was empty anyway and we’ve been cooling our heels in Agistri, swimming twice a day, drinking a lot of icy drinks and getting stuff done. So, just what have I been working on in Greece? Not just swimming and drinking, promise. I spent some time finalizing things for Bats or Swallows, but mostly I’ve been working on other projects.

It’s funny how words accumulate, how slow and painful it can be, but how one day you look at the Excel file you use to track your word count (you do that too, right?) and you realize it’s a higher number than you expected it would be. Most of the words need to be rewritten or reordered or resomethinged, but at least you have material to work with, clay to mold. You have ideas that have actually been put on paper.

I’m working on a novel. I was anticipating a breakdown point with what I’m working on now, for it to implode, but it’s August and it hasn’t happened yet. Which means, I think, that I’m doing a better job than I have in the past.

I haven’t shared much of the writing from this project – it’s very first drafty and sometimes doesn’t make sense and every page or so there’s something in the writing that makes me cringe. I get self-conscious when even Andrew looks over my shoulder as I’m typing. For awhile I was calling the book Living Expenses, but that title doesn’t fit anymore. I have another title in mind now, but maybe it will change too. Not-Living Expenses is about a family. A small one. It’s about marriage and roadtrips and the Greek shipping industry, which sounds more ambitious than it really is. It’s an internal book, I think. Maybe the first novel you write has to be internal.

I can tell you the names of the characters in the book. There’s Zoe and Anna and Nicholas. I have a good handle on Zoe and Nicholas. Actually, you’ll be able to read a little bit about Zoe in Bats or Swallows in a story called “Swimming Lessons”, and you’ll probably be able to tell that her story belongs to something larger. She was the one that started everything. I think I know Nicholas pretty well too because I’ve been writing him for the past month. Actually, I call him Niko now that we’re on better terms with each other. I’m not going to share any writing about him yet, but if he had a soundtrack, it would include these songs (excuse the crappy You Tube links; I don’t have an Internet connection and I don’t want to use all of Rosy’s bandwith uploading MP3s):

(Okay, enough vaguely creepy talk about my characters as if they were real people. You do that too, right?)

I’ve also been writing a zine. I can tell you the name of the zine because I had to submit a bio for a reading I’m doing in the fall and I included it, so now I really have to finish it. The zine will be called Places and Things. The last zine I made was a few years ago and I keep thinking I won’t make any more, but then I get it in my mind that I really, really want to make one, so I do. I like zines because they’re forgiving like that, and also private.

When I first discovered the Internet as a teenager, it felt like a private space. Hardly anyone I knew used the Internet, and the concept of Googling someone’s name didn’t really exist. Most people didn’t have websites (“homepages”) and I actually shared an email address with my parents until I finally signed up for Hotmail a year- maybe more than year! – later. My zine, on the other hand, felt really public. It was being distro-ed by zine distros that no longer exist, I had reviews in magazines like Broken Pencil. I got mail. Now it’s the other way around. Blogs and websites are the norm, I’m all over the place online, and I rarely get letters (and when I do I’m horrible at responding to them, argh). I may not keep up with zines much anymore, but the zine world feels like a small, private place I still like to visit from time to time.

None of these things are finished yet, but they’re getting there, and with some patience and luck (on my side, and I guess yours too depending on whether or not you want to read them), they’ll eventually see the light of day, some sooner than others.

6 thoughts on “What I've Been Working On

  1. 1. You are not the only one who uses an excel file to track your word count!

    2. I feel the exact same way about internet vs. zines, and I have had the same experience with them as well. I remember being on the internet back in the days when no one had email addresses, and how it felt like this thing that me and two other people knew about. Now everyone is on Facebook and everything you ever write – and attach your actual name to – is stored forever on Google’s servers and the wayback machine, and anyone in the world can read it.

    But the other thing is that it just doesn’t feel as personal anymore. The entire point of writing – for me anyway – is that it is this way of sharing part of yourself across distance but without losing that sensory, tactile experience of it, which I think many pro-internet, anti-paper people fail to take into consideration when doing their analysis of this sort of thing.

    3. I’m very excited that you are putting out a zine! Did you know Elissa Nelson is putting one out as well? And so is Ciara Xyerra? It’s like all of the old Pander ladies jumped on the same kind of unconscious “make a zine” vibe at the same time! Anyway, maybe we could trade? Let me know if you’d like to do that instead of sending me $$$.

  2. Caitlin -

    I would love to trade if you don’t mind waiting another month or two!

    I didn’t realize Elissa and Ciara were putting out new zines, but that’s awesome. And Marissa has been releasing stuff, and Amanda (Vortex) just came out with a new one too, so I like whatever’s in the air and I hope more zines come out over the next few months. There’s been a bit of a livejournal resurgence too…. I guess we’re all getting old and nostalgic? :)

  3. How much do I love that your characters (well, Niko) have soundtracks — and such excellent ones?! I do that too. Oh yeah, and talk about them like they’re real people. Carry on.

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed the mini-soundtrack, Vicky! Although, honestly, Niko is the kind of character who would scoff at the idea of having a soundtrack, especially one with Rufus Wainwright on it.

  5. Teri! I can hardly wait to read you. And since I found the listing for Bats or Swallows on Amazon.com today, I’ll be able to stalk the book until it’s ready for pre-order. Beautiful cover, btw. And then begins the wait for the novel!

  6. Pingback: What’s next « Bibliographic

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