Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Little Death, Anyone?

I am currently putting one more revision on my favorite book (so far), and it occurred to me that among all these ghosts and even a small pile of dead bodies, there is no actual funeral anywhere. Yes, I kill off the poor sots and leave them rotting somewhere outside the pages. That doesn't really seem fair, does it?

Yes, I'm in the "kill your darlings" stage (how ironic), so I don't want to load up my manuscript with another mountain of words. But there are some things missing. So it's time to weed out the blah and add a little more "gotcha!" Perhaps some up close and personal time with a corpse is the ticket. There are some good questions in this quest, though. Do I stay true to a regional 19th century funeral rite or branch out into something more experimental to suit the avant-garde community I've created? Or something to suit the ill-fated character in particular? How specific should I be? These are the things that make writing so fun!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Love is an Action

As a writer, you hear it all the time: "Show don't tell." Think about that when you consider what love is, in your book or in your life. Last weekend, I was away at a fabulous writers' retreat. Of course the only date we could get this time around happened to fall on my 16th wedding anniversary. I thought about Ghost Hunk a lot and missed having our "date night," but he knows I love him. And I know he loves me.

Sure, he tells me a lot and I tell him, but that's not what really convinces me. It's the way he never complained about the fact that the retreat was scheduled on that day. It's how he went ahead and moved us into the new house while I was gone, kids in tow and all. It's the little bits of dark chocolate he snags for me just because he happened to be at Walmart. It's the 4 oz. of my favorite tea from my favorite cafe that he bought as he headed out of East Petersburg for the last time.

But it is so much more, this love thing. 15 months ago, he told me he would have to look for a new job (please don't ask me to explain why). That we would almost definitely have to leave our home in Central PA. That he might even have to leave academia, for which we sacrificed more than a little. Did I cry? Of course. But in that moment, it was less about my loss and everything about what that meant to him. What would he be losing? It broke my heart to think of it.

Was I angry? Absolutely. At him, at his boss, at the whole situation. But that wasn't going to make things right. Somehow, I knew what I had to do. There was a certain unexpected grace that kept me from crumbling, that spared us from feelings of resentment and bitterness (and believe me, I was no stranger to those dark friends). When a job finally came, it meant six months as a single mom, dealing with the kids' separation issues, mourning, and immeasurable sense of loss all by myself while he tried to concentrate on his work and continued to hunt for a decent place for us to live 600 miles away.

Through it all, there was a sense of us. No matter how desperate it got, there was no question. It surprised even me—a little. This grace, this larger than life drive that carried us through some of the scariest moments of our married life. Forget the fluttery feelings, the wild sexual tension, the stumbling around for the right words because you're so afraid of the wrong ones. None of that means squat. Love is an action. It's when you can do things you never thought you could do, without question, without resentment. You DO them. Show, don't tell.

After my grandfather died, my grandma used to wear his watch all the time. And when it got chilly, she would fold herself into his sweater. There was no maudlin display. She never thought about what she was doing or even why. She just did it. She just loved him...all day long.