November 28, 2010

The book, launched; others read, friend visited

Yesterday the book launch for Out To Lunch happened, in the local Paekakariki Hall. Fifty or so friends and a few relations came, many bought books. Jobs had been shared around, so it wasn’t a big preparation-stress for anyone, I think. 

We each read from our own selection for a couple of minutes, with the partner of, our member who died last year, reading for her. People ate the food, 

prepared by the same partner — her wish — with help from one of us writers and drank the punch and wine, overseen by the partner of another writer, and milled about talking to each other and bought books and had us all sign them. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and the new side doors of the hall were open, looking out to a bank of flowers and the freshly-painted white church, and it was all lovely.

The whole group project, from critiquing each others’ work, to the publication process, to the launch itself has been great. Next year we will meet in late January and continue to critique each others’ writing. As the costs of producing the book were covered, we are banking the money from sales and in a couple of years will think about another project. If anyone is keen to buy a copy of the book (178 pages, $20.00) email me at pat dot rosier at xtra dot co dot nz.

Reading Cynthia Ozick has its challenges. 

She prefers “classic feminism” to what she calls “new feminism.” She’s writing in the 1970s when she says this. If I’m reading her correctly, she endorses feminism as women gaining “access to the great world of thinking, being and doing.” She does NOT go along with any idea of “’male’ and ‘female’ states of intellect and feeling.” She doesn’t, in what I have read so far, address the “how to” of women getting the access she refers to, or being taken seriously and judged fairly when they do. I have a 1993 collection of her essays from the library and am interested to find out what else she has to say about feminism. I’ll look out for her 2010 novel Foreign Bodies, which is a reinvention of a Henry James novel. (Oh dear, do I have to read Henry James?)

Other reading includes Marianne Wiggins’ Evidence of Things Unseen

As this is current reading for my book group, I won’t talk about it in detail, just say that I love the science in it and the detail of time and place. I am learning about the Tennessee Valley Authority, which is fascinating.

My friend in Auckland liked the-story-known-as-Ann and gave me some excellent feedback on it. I’m still unsatisfied with the end of this novel and her comments about it losing emotional drive in the last couple of chapters have given me an idea to strengthen it in a way I like. It will be another week before I get to actually work seriously on this.

The friend I visit who has Altzheimers has read a couple of my short stories and given me wonderful feedback on them. She has read them several times, she told me, and they get better every time. Do I have more? A collection? When am I publishing them? She had made a few notes on the printouts, perceptive and useful comments. We had a great conversation about these stories for more than ten minutes. As I was leaving an hour later, she picked up the pages and said, “Did we talk about these?” My appreciation of her appreciation of my stories was undiminished, but it was all I could do not to cry, as I said something like, “Yes, we did and I’m so pleased that you like them,” and she looked confused and put down the papers. She wanted to read more of my stories, so today I posted two to her address at the rest home where she lives and talks often of getting back to her home and garden, in the country, several kilometres from the nearest town.  What she misses most, she says, is being able to practise her "domestic arts" — her phrase — which include growing flowers and picking and arranging them in her house, cooking, entertaining, spinning and weaving. The one she can do, and does constantly in the rest home, is knitting. She says it is soothing.

She knitted me a scarf. "With love," she said.

We are having this run of sunny, calm weather which is a delight. (Last summer I remember constant wind.) So our decision to spend the summer at home — after all, we do live at the beach — feels like a good one. Any day soon I may even scrub up the barbecue that sat out on our wind-exposed deck all last summer and never got lit once. 

I notice that today is 28 November. It is my sister's birthday. She killed herself at age 56. Today she would have been 73. I am remembering you, Ngaire.

November 11, 2010

Editing again, more reading & Out To Lunch

I printed out the ms of the-novel-known-as-Ann and right away I’m editing again. Those damned sentences keep jumping out at me demanding a tweak. This time, though, I’m starting from the final chapter and working forward a chapter at a time. I figure the early chapters have had much more attention - apart from anything else they’ve been around longer - so this time I’m walking backwards for (not christmas, never!) - well, page 1 guess. It’s way beyond me to work backwards at a page level, so I’m starting at the first page of each chapter and working to the end of that chapter, then starting the first page of the previous chapter. Never done this before. I wouldn’t try it if I didn’t by now know the story really well. 

The reason I printed it was for reading by some Auckland friends we are visiting soon. These friends read the short story this novel/novella arose from, over a year ago. At 52,000 words it’s short for a novel and long for a novella, so I don’t know which to call it. What I do know is that it’s the right length for the story that it is, so will not be messing about with that.  I’m still thinking about the pieces of writing that might go with it I referred to in my last post and whether I can assemble a book from them plus Ann.

I read about Japanese writer Kenzaburo Oe somewhere and have forgotten where, but I got one of his many novels from the Wellington Public Library. It's title is Rouse Up O Young Men of the New Age! and it's about a writer and a son who was brain damaged at birth. The protagonist is also studying the poet William Blake and using Blake to interpret his world, although he, the protagonist, is not christian like Blake. The title is a quote from Blake.  I found it strangely fascinating. Lately I seem to be coming across a lot of books with a protagonist who is kind of the author and kind of not. For example, in the acknowledgements to The Shadow Catcher Marianne Wiggins thanks her sister for, “permission to decorate our shared history.” And there are whole books written about Marcel in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time and The Narrator and Proust himself and how separate they are, or not.

We took A Cynthia Osick Reader to Australia last year and never got to read it. Stimulated by news of a new novel from her, Foreign Bodies, I have started it. Issues around being classified as “a Jewish writer” — and hence of interest only to Jewish readers and a standard-bearer for Jewish culture— are a feature of her career, and the editor of this collection from her writings, Elaine M Kauvar, says of this, “No imaginative writer, whether or not she is Jewish, sets out to write a novel to become a spokesperson for a group of people or to become responsible for its culture.” As a lesbian who writes fiction, often with lesbian characters, I heartily agree with this.

Out To Lunch, the book of writings by the writing group I am in, is being printed as I write. We’ve seen a proof copy and everyone in the group is happy with how it is. It’s a good project to be involved with. Here’s an extract from the introduction.

Our meetings are long chatty affairs where we workshop our writing. There's praise and encouragement and many helpful suggestions, and a shared lunch. Food brought to share reflects the bringer just as the writing offered reflects the writer.
Writing without the endpoint of publication becomes unsatisfying after a while. You need an audience, to complete the act of communication. At one of our meetings, we talked about publishing.
“It’s nice,” said Annabel, “to put something out there, not just write into a vacuum.”
“We can give lesbians something about themselves to read,” said Kate.
“It’s good to have things for women who haven’t come out,” Terry added.
Pat thought it would be good for everyone to be involved in a project doing the nuts and bolts of publishing. Judith agreed with all of this. Kate applied to the Armstrong Arthur Trust for some money on our behalf and we were successful.