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Month: June 2014

Dogs and the Dead

Dogs don’t visit the dead. Lord knows, I’ve tried to get them interested. When we lost Lucy, I yanked Atticus and Providence down to the river bank where I stood gazing at her grave. They mostly sniffed and peed. When only Providence remained, she telegraphed her boredom loud and clear, even when I told her she would be lying next to them one day. (Yeah, right—that would’ve convinced me this was a fun place to visit).

I wasn’t traveling far on these missions of (torture) mercy. The final resting place of my three Yorkies is right outside my door.
across the street
beyond the green space
and on the river bank

Death, as it were, is always close at hand.

Despite my frequent visits, I’ve struggled to give the pups a proper marker. I’ve used driftwood crosses (they rot) and scavenged riprap (it breaks.) The longest-lived memorial is a stone for Lucy my husband entitled (“Lucy”) with a Sharpie.

I kept thinking I would be out shopping at a flea market and spy the perfect iron crosses. Jubilant, I’d cart the crosses home and finally honor the pups properly—these dogs were in my life for 19 years. This dream kept me from going on-line and actually buying the perfect iron crosses.

No more.

This morning, on a rainy day reminiscent of last August when we took a shovel to the ground and buried my dad’s urn in the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, I staked out three iron crosses. As I worked, Evangeline ran in crazy circles around me. She was so glad to be out in the rain and the mud. Briefly, I coaxed her into sitting.

It’s good to take someone as full of life as possible with you when you visit the dead. Otherwise, the spirits of the dead might recognize you as one of their own and claim you right then and there. For this protection, I am grateful to all living dogs, and most particularly Evangeline Prewitt.

Rest in peace, Atticus, Lucy Gardenia and Providence.
Live in joy, Evangeline


How Have Your Dreams Changed?

(Written today at Door of Hope Writing Group)
When I was in junior high, I wanted to be a Viking. A Viking wife, actually, who stood on the deserted beach and threw logs on a blazing bonfire as I gazed out to sea, awaiting the return of the long-unseen ship.
In high school, I dreamed of moving to Maine and living on the pounding coastline where waves crashed and snow fell so thick I had to trudge through the knee-high drifts just to get a carton of milk from the grocery store.
I didn’t do either of these things—obviously, I couldn’t go back in time and as I grew up, my more rational side took me to college, law school, marriage, and a mainstream law firm where the biggest excitement I faced was the time I thought a client was calling me into the lobby to shoot me (he didn’t).
Now when I dream, I see what is already in front of me: the lush ferns waving in my yard, my husband’s smile when his eyes meet mine, the grandbaby’s taking me by the hand because he knows his Gogi will play with him.
The only remnant of my childhood dreams appears when I stand transfixed by the barges plying the river, the seagulls pestering the air above them, the heavy thump of the engines traveling from the island’s soil into my adventurous heart.

How have your dreams changed? What were they when you were younger (we had a 14-year-old write today about her dreams when she was 6)? What are they like now?

I Can’t Blame the Agent

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I spent about fourteen months attempting to rewrite my manuscript, Train Trip: Lucinda Mae’s Quest for Love, Honor, and the Chickens, into a novel a particular agent could successfully represent. At the end of this process, the agent declined representation.
This is not her fault.
Every step I made along the way—to submit, to analyze her comments and conclude the manuscript could be transformed as she desired, to try and try again—all of it was the result of decisions I made. I knew what I was doing, and I chose to take this route. I do not blame the agent, who has 100% discretion in the manuscripts she chooses to rep, just as I have 100% discretion in the agent I choose to sign with.
In the end, the truism is true: it’s a matter of fit. What I want from an agent is a good fit. Sometimes it takes a while to discover you’re not as good a fit as you thought you were. That’s disheartening, frustrating, makes-you-wanna-holler upsetting. But I have to trust that, ultimately, agents know what they’re doing. They know what they can and cannot sell in the marketplace. That’s the business they’re in.
I’m in the business of writing.
Hopefully, at some point, I will write something an agent somewhere feels he or she can sell. Who knows, I may have already done this with Train Trip—the agent is out there, waiting to discover my manuscript made amazing by a fourteen month rewrite. If that happens, I’ll be glad. If it doesn’t, well, sooner or later, I’ll decide how to best get my work out there. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing what I do, which is writing.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

The Spinning Plates are Real

For those of you concerned about me after my Great Public Failure (I didn’t get an agent, to put this in perspective), here’s my current game plan:

* send the Train Trip query to the paid-editor for tweaking: STATUS: DONE

* send Model for Detective (When her model partner disappears, a Memphis fashion model uses her “clothes whisperer” skills to investigate the case, only to discover clues to the murder of her long-lost favorite cousin) to the paid-editor for a reader’s review: STATUS: AWAITING PRICE QUOTE

* continue revising In the Name of Mississippi (A young documentarian returns to the South to film a historic civil rights reparations lawsuit, but when the case begins to fall apart, the mixed-race young man questions his own place in the world.) STATUS: IN PROCESS

* use breaks in revising In the Name of Mississippi to send out Train Trip queries in batches of 20: STATUS: JUST AS SOON AS I GET THE QUERY BACK (or sooner if I can’t wait on her)

* send the Train Trip query to my old agent (yes, I once had an agent when this novel was so grossly unfinished as to be embarrassing) to see if he wants to get back on board with a new, polished manuscript STATUS: IN THE MAIL TOMORROW

* decide whether a hybrid publisher (manuscript review/project acceptance/paid publication) might be the answer for me (moves me off square one; gets the work out there; puts me in control of the order of publication, offers me agent introductions if appropriate to the work; offers publication to manuscripts trad pubs would probably never touch, such as The Bone Trench (A controversial private prison project brings Mother Mary and her son Jesus back to modern-day Memphis where Mother Mary is determined—this time—to protect her son from harm.) STATUS: INQUIRY DRAFTED; MULLING SENDING

And, yes, I’m continuing to promote my audible short story collection by securing publicity, tweeting out developments, tracking downloads on podiobooks, and posting fairly ineffectively on the Facebook page

On my other blog, I posted a mocku-resume (“Holder of the French Legion of Honor”—after all, who can say what actually happens in France?”). One of my created talents was plate spinning. You know, that thing they do in the circus involving a long pole and frantically scurrying women in white bodysuits.

All I can say is, the subconscious is an amazing thing.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

As It Is Written

I have failed, utterly and totally. Yet I feel irrationally exhilarated.

The agent I’ve been trying to please with a rewrite for the last year and a half (!), just sent me a final rejection, door shut, not even opened a crack. Instead of feeling stomped on, I feel relief.

This is so strange.

As a result of the revision process she triggered, I have a better manuscript. She wanted a more commercial book; I added more commercial focus by bringing the plot front and center, cutting literary flourishes, adding a “ticking clock” feature for urgency, etc. I didn’t add enough for her (or maybe subtract enough for her), but I like this version of the story. I like it a lot.

This saga could read like this:
Agent discovers stand-out writer (“gifted” “literary star” “master of detail and description”), but writer is unable to produce marketable book.
Or like this:
Agent flatters writer (“gifted” “literary star” “master of detail and description”), causing writer to strive for too long to turn a manuscript into something it was never going to be.

In all honesty, I think it’s the latter.

Either way, I sally forth to discover a new agent, carrying with me the benefit of the paces she put me through, but hoping to find an agent who reads the book as it is written and sees the beauty of the story as it is written and takes on representation of the project as it is written.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Dedications to Suffering

Those I love suffer. Their pain is not something I can resolve. After all, it’s their pain, not mine.

So here’s what I do: I dedicate.

I go to church, and as I kneel on the pew, I tell God: “This service is dedicated to her. Every prayer I say, every gesture I make, every note I sing—let it go to her safe-keeping.”

I begin my day gazing into the trees outside the window, and I tell God: “This day is dedicated to him. Let every good thing I do today, every right turn I take, every moment of realizing your glory in the world–let it all go to relieving his sorrow.”

I have no idea why I do this. I have never read anything that says this type of prayer “works.” If you believe prayer primarily changes the prayer, this long-distance prayer—pray it then go about your life as usual—is nonsense.

But today I kneel in the dappled light of the living room. I look between the branches of the trees into the white sky, and I pray: “Take all the beauty of this day, take the creativity that worms its way into your universe, take the complexity of light and shadow, and give it all to her healing.”

The dog wanders into the living room, curious about what I’m doing on the floor. I pet her coat, the fur as soft as a duckling’s.

I give that to her healing as well.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

Understanding a Definition

3:30. 4:00. 5:30. 4:00.

Q: What are these numbers?

A: My wake-up times over the last four days.

Important information: my normal wake up time is 8:30.

Please note: no naps.

This, as I understand it, is the effect of jet lag. “Jet lag” obviously means sleep deprivation. I thought jet lag meant you arrived in a foreign country and your body thought it was still on the time of your own country which made you want to go to sleep really badly but you stayed awake so you could go sightseeing. I had no idea it meant you never, ever were going to get a normal night’s sleep again.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

© 2017 - Ellen Morris Prewitt |