Process Letter to My Advisor 3.2February 29, 2008
How have you been? I’m feeling better about the writing endeavor, so thanks. Your feedback helped. Did you write my letter on Valentine’s Day? Aw Shucks. My birthday is the day after Valentine’s, so I’ve always had a special fondness/aversion to the day… lots of day-old pink heart cakes from grocery stores as a child. And they wonder why I turned out gay? Did you know that pink was considered a masculine color and blue was feminine before World War II? I can’t remember why it changed, but pink was an aggressive color and blue was supposed to be feminized and calm. Then for some reason it flipped and boy babies no longer wore pink (except the fancy ones). Too bad Chromophobia didn’t use that as an example. I should probably go back and research why, because I can’t remember… My brother was born on the Fourth of July and always had sparklers on his cake… which burnt all the frosting, but my mom continued to do it every year. I guess I got the better end of the deal with non-singed heart cakes. My friend Bridget Irish was born on St Pat’s day, thus her name. Ah, parents and birthdays.
Your ideas about darkness in writing are great. Did you write that for me or is it something that you give students who are exploring this issue and need some insight? Either way it good food for thought and relevant to what I’m trying to do, so thanks. Ideally I would like my manuscript to be something that goes into dark and difficult places, but also elevates. I think that if you can pull this marriage off, that’s what beauty is. The play between these two drives is definitely what makes all this interesting. I think what I’m doing gets darker later… but I also think that while trying at both, it is neither at the moment. Later the kids ideas about sex get darker with his obsessive notion that people are having sex in the train bathroom and he wants to catch them… to know what sex is. This kid is always on the outside trying to get in and he’s stalking an idea or an understanding, but he doesn’t know it.
I have questions about logistics… This story is becoming more about Home and later about the Harmonites. Some of the stories are real people. What do I need to worry about? (Most of my work has been purely fiction of critical, so the blending leaves me unsure) Also, a lot of the Home stuff comes from my interviews, but some of the new supplemental stuff comes from historian Charles LeWarne and his body of research… but then some of it is just fictionalized. Do I need to worry about anything with that?
I’ve been trying to really figure out what my manuscript is really about. Let’s see, I’ve been writing this for at least a year and have about 150 pages… but the elements that are really necessary for me are that it is a journey from mundane life into dream-reality and then back again. He goes from a place of mediation to one of direct experience/engagement, but the essential part is that he MUST return to daily life, although he’s learned something (even if we don’t know what that something is).
The idea of Plato’s cave fits into all of this. I know that he gets off of the train mid-journey and goes out and observes some slightly has-been actress who breeds horses in the middle of nowhere. It’s not about her, it’s about him. Maybe he is just disillusioned about celebrity, but who knows… but that sort of sets him off on his dream-reality journey. I just picked up a copy of Celebrity that is from the same series as Chromophobia, so maybe that will give me some insight into hero worship or stalking tendencies. I also want to explore the idea of utopia. We have a history of this drive in our country. Hell, weren’t the puritans looking for their vision of religious utopia? Utopias misfire and veer off course, because, well they are made up of living individuals, but this idea of a utopian drive is so essential to our group story. It is the very striving for something better out of what we have, but I also feel it’s being erased.
I’m talking about things that I haven’t written yet. XXXXX would only let me talk about the writing that was in hand, but I don’t know how to truly block or map a novel. This seems like it is part of that process, right?
Chromophobia was a great read. I really enjoyed it and will annotate it for next packet. I also just finished the Chasidic tales book that was on my list. I enjoy the tangential/horizontal structure of this type of story telling, and the way that they present little asides from the future or past that don’t necessarily go with the main narrative, but sort of rhyme with ideas that come later. I also really like the imagery, although I suspect a lot of it is the mystical or Kabbalah stuff that I don’t really grasp. I like the poetry and imagery of it. This packet is big, so I’m leaving those annotations for next time, but the ideas are having a nice resonance with what I’m currently thinking and working on. I feel like I never gut to fully dive into my manuscript, so for this packet I put everything else on hold and focused purely on it.
For this packet I am sending you the first three consecutive chapters. Normally I wouldn’t resend the chapter we just worked on last packet, but once I got into it and started cutting and changing the order around, I ended up adding a fair amount and cutting more. I need to know if it works flow-wise and if the new parts work. I feel like this is the seed that the novel grows out of, so I need to get it right. If this is more than you can handle load-wise, I made minor notes in the margin to let you see the most obvious changes. It didn’t seem to make sense to just send the new stuff, because my main concern is with flow and how the elements work together.
Chapter two is a chapter I worked on some last semester. I completely reworked the approach. It introduces the Claire character. She has a storyline that comes in several times, but it is always from the kid’s perspective. It’s sort of his vicarious connection to fame and figures into the conclusion. I tweaked it and reworked it extensively for this packet, but was originally planning on just sending the kid’s storylinee to develop that story with you… but realized that I am most concerned with momentum and the overall gelling, so it was important to work the three chapters together. I feel like I’ve been writing all these separate things that sometimes fit together, but other times don’t at all. Some of that is what I’m looking for, but I need to look at is as a whole and less like stand alone elements.
Chapter three is very much a rough draft, but I could use some guidance. The chapter is somewhat static, and is supposed to be in some ways (that kind of liminal space of a train). I completely cut three chapters that come after, so this chapter contains plot elements that were there. Those chapters focused more on the TV show and on other characters besides Claire. I’ve decided to pretty much focus on Claire, and if I need to flesh in more with others, I can… but I don’t think I will. There was also a chapter that focused on laying out the premise of the TV show, but it was a total clunker of a rock. I worked that setup into the conversation the kid has with the woman. I left it a lot more sketched-in than it originally appeared. The other portion of the chapter is structured around the overheard conversation that becomes an important element. Originally I had planned on having the two conversations overlap and bleed into one another in certain places… but it seemed too confusing (I wanted some confusion/ambiguity, but not confusion just to make the reader confused… I guess a blurring is a better term), but it seemed too messy when I sat down to do it. Right now they are pretty separate and just sort of plopped down. Any ideas for structure/approach that might help? The final story in the chapter is about the housewarming gift of the cremated ashes. It originally fit more in the chapter, but now after all the cuts, it is thematically just sitting there. It needs to be rewritten and worked into the ideas, but it’s kind of an important story for me.
Thanks again for your support in my last packet. I’m starting to feel healthier about it. I hope you are well and I’ll talk to you soon. Next packet I will be focusing on my critical paper, so hopefully it won’t be so much to go through on your end!