And the living is … busy.
As you can probably tell from the silence here, there’s been much going on at Chez Art and Words. Quick rundown:
1. I’ve been traveling with my family a fair amount. (Exhibit A, above photo.) Next up: a trip to Italy. I’m excited to reveal to Thea the beauties of Venice for her first time.
2. I also traveled to Denver for this year’s Historical Novel Society conference. It was wonderful, as always. My only disappointment: Between my packed schedule and the hotel location, I didn’t get to explore Denver very much. The last day I ended up climbing to the top of a parking garage to view the Rockies before my departure (Exhibit B, photo below). Ah well!
3. In between packings and unpackings of suitcases and sundries, I finally finished revising the first section of the Next Novel, which is now in my literary agent’s able hands. I am very pleased with how it came together.
4. If that’s not enough busy-ness, I also revised a long aborning Top Sekret nonfiction book proposal, which is also now off my desk and into the world.
5. Plus gardening! Summer is prime time for the Blue House garden, which is small but densely packed with much vegetation and flowers. This year I managed to harvest poppies for the first time. (Exhibit C below. Aren’t they pretty?) No water lilies this year though. Perhaps next year, when I have more energy to battle the raccoons of Brooklyn.
6. I played tourist in my home town. I visited the Hunger Games exhibition in Times Square and Leighton’s Flaming June at the Frick Collection. (Thea and I are big fans of Katniss and Crew, and are counting the days until Mockingjay Part 2 releases.) While at the Frick with my comrade-in-words Heather Webb, I made certain to say hello to the Holbein portraits of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell. Both men played important roles during the reign of Henry VIII, and lost their heads during this same reign. Thanks to the wonders of paint and museums, the two Thomases have been restored to glare at each other from across the gallery.
7. Last but decidedly not least, THE LOVER’S PATH has been decidedly launched into the digital world. I am delighted by the reviews, which have been universally glowing. (Don’t have your copy yet? Learn more here.)
So, what’s ahead for me on this warm, breezy day in August? Right now, I’m focused on my upcoming trip to Italy: Italian lessons, household preparation, travel itineraries. Come September, real life will begin anew: back to school for Thea, and back to a regular studio schedule for me. I suspect by then I will be ready for it.
And how about you, dear Reader? How’s your summer going? I hope it is filled with all good things!
Aaaannnd I’m back from my writer’s residency fellowship at the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts. My goal at the VCCA: to finish up a draft of the Next Novel. The good news: I met my goal—I now have a completed draft of about 400 pages. Even better news: I returned to Brooklyn inspired and excited about my work. Nothing like two weeks at an artist colony to invigorate the creative process!
My little studio in the woods.
Though I’ve gone to plenty of writer’s retreats and conferences, the VCCA was my first experience at an artist colony. I truly loved it.
The view from my room in the residence hall.
Imagine a place where everything you need as an artist and writer is provided to you and then some: you’re given a private studio to work in, delicious meals to eat, beautiful private gardens and woods to explore. If that’s not wonderful enough, you’re surrounded by like-minded souls—writers, composers, and visual artists—all who respect your process and are creating fascinating work.
View of the studio complex.
This is the VCCA.
Private path amid the private gardens of the VCCA.
I hope to return one day.
The famed VCCA cows. Their grazing field was across from the studio complex.
Already 2015 is shaping up to be a better year than 2014 on the author travel front. Besides my upcoming residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be traveling to Denver for the Historical Novel Society Conference this June, where I’m on a panel entitled “The Art of Book Cover Design for Historical Fiction.”
My co-panelists are Sourcebooks editor Anna Michels, Emily Victorson of Allium Press, HNS’s own Sarah Johnson, and book cover designer Jenny Quinlan. I guess you could say I’m the author representative who just also happens to be a designer. I plan to expand upon my presentation on the semiotics of book cover design, which was a hit at 2013′s conference.
The Historical Novel Society Conference is one of my favorite author events of the year. I’ve attended every one since 2011 save for last year’s in London—alas, the timing didn’t work because of family obligations. So glad that 2015 will be different!
Photos from HNS 2013: Me with my critique partner Teralyn Pilgrim dressed for the costume dinner—Teralyn’s pregnant vestal virgin brought down the house. Below, author friends Stephanie Lehmann (ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE), Mary Sharratt (ILLUMINATIONS), and Margaret George (who needs no introduction). Happy times!
Now that we’re three-quarters of the way through November (aka National Novel Writing Month), I thought I’d give a quick update as to my progress. If you’re not in the know, National Novel Writing Month, known more colloquially as NaNoWriMo, sets writers the challenge of writing 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days. These 50,000 words can be for a new novel, or added to a novel-in-progress. In 2009, I wrote the first 50,000 word draft of the novel that would become A GATHERING OF SHADOWS; this year, I chose to add 50,000 words to the first draft of my Next Novel to help bring it to completion in time for my January 2015 fellowship residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Here’s where I’m at right now:
1. As of this morning, I’ve written just under 36,000 words of the Next Novel this month.
2. This has brought me up to a total of 85,000 words for for my draft.
3. I’m intending to do all I can to hit my goal of 50,000 words this month, though I know it will be tricky with Thanksgiving close at hand.
4. The major difference between my 2009 NaNoWriMo experience and my 2014? I totally pantsed it in 2009, which made much of that draft exploratory in nature. I had no idea how my story would end; I only had a basic idea based on a fragment of a dream I’d had two nights before beginning. Even so, it astonishes me how many of the characters emerged fully formed from my imagination. They didn’t change very much from my first draft through my last, just became more rounded and realized.
5. This year, because I’ve already written and researched much of the Next Novel, I’m working from a detailed outline. In other words, I know how my story is going to end.
6. That written, despite having a detailed outline for this year, I still find the process of writing to be a process of discovery: my characters are surprising me with their histories and peccadillos and unexpected connections. That makes me very happy—I love that my subconscious is working in unexpected ways.
7. Even if I write 50,ooo words this month, will NaNoWriMo leave me with a completed first-chapter-to-last draft of the Next Novel? I’m uncertain. While I’m working my way through my outline, I’m finding places where I’m probably writing more than I need. I suspect I will be cutting or condensing in future drafts.
8. But that’s okay. I understand that this superfluous writing is part of the process of discovering the world of my new novel in all its rich and messy glory. It will also leave me 50,000 words closer to completion than I was on October 31st. For these reasons alone, I am so glad I participated in NaNoWriMo.