Where Gillian Whispers to Trees

Today is one of my favourite Jewish holidays. It’s the birthday of trees. When I was a child, we planted a tree in the backyard. I used to find a really nice tree and hug it and wish it happy birthday. This latter wasn’t due to any religious proclivities – I loved hugging trees when I was little and this was the perfect excuse. If I had time and could find a good paperbark, I’d take a bit of the paperlike bark and write a poem to trees, on their birthday. Luckily for the world, none of these poems survive. I don’t think I showed them to anyone, either. They were between me and the birthday celebrants. I once made a magazine using paperbark, but that had nothing to do with the birthday of trees.

These days, I donate a sum of money that has symbolic significance and someone plants trees for me, in a place that really needs them. Every year I do a bit of an internet search to decide on which organisation should get my money. I donate, then promptly forget how much money and which organisation. The trees will be planted, that’s the important thing. I may, however, quietly whisper a “Happy birthday’ when I press the ‘donate’ button.

Because the old Jewish way of counting used the alphabet, every word in Hebrew has a numerical value. The word I chose for trees today was “Life.” I didn’t have enough money to plant that many trees, but I had enough to spend that amount of money on planting trees somewhere they were needed. I forgot, however, to whisper that happy birthday. If I were still that tree-hugging five year old, I’d wonder if they missed me. (Let me make up for dereliction and whisper right now…)

I’m back. I even sang trees the birthday song this year, because it’s midnight and midsummer in Australia and it seemed appropriate.

One of the small mysteries of my life is that so many people tell me how important Chanukah is. I know this is because it’s closeish to Christmas so it’s considered an acceptable festival by many non-Jews. Tu B’Shvat (today) is only a little further away, and it’s all about trees. Why can’t the secular world choose it, instead?

I may never truly understand why the non-Jewish world favours the festival when we gamble above the festival when we plant trees.

Our next important festival is the one where it’s obligatory to get drunk. I have my own version of the Purim story. If any of you are interested in it, let me know and I’ll put it up here when the time comes.

Watching Old Movies and Asking Questions

I watched The Sting the other night, not for the first time, but for the first time in a long time.

It’s a 50-year-old movie set in 1936, but given the power of the myths and stories that it’s built on, it doesn’t feel particularly dated, unlike a number of other movies that I enjoyed in the 1970s but find unwatchable now.

I always did like Paul Newman/Robert Redford movies, though I tried to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid awhile back and found I couldn’t get into it. I’m not sure why The Sting still works for me and Butch Cassidy doesn’t, since they’re similar stories based on Anglo American mythology. Might just be that I can handle gangster stories better than westerns.

There are some reasonable criticisms of it. Robert Earl Jones (James Earl Jones’s father) plays a magical Negro role — the mentor to Redford’s young white grifter. He is, of course, murdered early on, setting up the reason for the revenge sting.

He and his family and one other guy are the only Black people in the movie, but they are portrayed well and treated with respect by the good guy white people (all grifters). It could have been worse.

Still, this is very much a movie about white men. There are a couple of women in key supporting roles, but this movie does not pass the Bechdel Test. That said, and in spite of the fact that one of those women is a madam as well as Newman’s lover, it doesn’t feel directly misogynist. Women are just mostly irrelevant in this world, even women who themselves are grifters.

I enjoyed myself, but since I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat — it’s a movie with a lot of twists and surprises, but I knew what they all were — I found myself thinking a lot about the underlying mythology and the various stories we’ve all been fed that purport to tell us our history.

To start with, this is a story about grifters with a heart of gold. After suffering through a grifter in the White House for four years, I’m not as inclined to believe good things about grifters as I used to be. Continue reading “Watching Old Movies and Asking Questions”

It Can Happen Here

I used to read–or re-read–Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here every few years. Lewis is one of my guilty pleasures: he’s an astute observer, but can be a crank. His satire can be way over-blown. Like Dorothy Parker, he’s at his worst when he really likes and admires something or someone. But let him loose on hypocrisy or cruelty and he can have the pin-point accuracy of a targeted missile.

Then the 2016 elections happened and I couldn’t read the damned book at all. Haven’t been able to go back to it since. Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here after a trip to Europe in the mid-1930s, when fascism was getting its teeth into Germany and looking hungrily around the continent. He came back to the US urgently talking about the danger, and was told “It can’t happen here.” America was too folksy, too smart to fall for demagoguery. Wouldn’t happen. So Lewis did what writers do: he wrote a book where an apparently clownish politician plays on the worst impulses of the citizenry, wields division and prejudice, and gets himself elected President. Then things get really bad, all within the first 100 days of Berzelius Windrip’s election. Yes, concentration camps, ginned up wars with neighboring countries, the wholesale overtaking of not just state education but private colleges to bring them in line with the “corporate” mindset.

Okay, so we’re seven years past 2016, but even without a man in the White House, “It” just keeps rolling. Continue reading “It Can Happen Here”

The Lost Past and the SF Writer

I wrote about lost culture for The History Girls  last week, and I’d like to continue the conversation with myself today, here.

Our lost past is often the past as experienced by cultural and religious minorities in lands ruled by someone else. My personal quest for lost pasts is currently the European Jewish past. I want to know what my ancestors ceded, culturally and religiously, in order to survive. I want to find out what’s missing. I also want to write more novels that use it.

The vast majority of English-language novels are informed (often very quietly) by Christianity. If writers depart too much from this, then most readers won’t have an expected set of understanding to start from and will have to work much harder to get into the novel. The cultural and religious minorities do the heavy lifting to make multiculturalism work. For the whole of my life I’ve had to do cultural outreach because most people can’t or won’t. This is not a wonderful thing for the everyday, and it also has an uncomfortable effect on our fiction. If the vast, vast majority of readers expect to see an historical world that refers to Christian heritage, then they need to be given a clear path into anything different. Creating that clear path while avoiding tropes and racist constructs can be … difficult.

I’ve got a bit of a history of looking into these things. My academic research examines what we do as writers to construct the worlds for our novels and to narrate the stories set in those worlds. I look into what we see when we build that novel… and what we don’t see. When I started publishing my research, I started with examining how writers use history in fiction, and moved onto cultural encoding. Right now, I’m beginning to have a much more precise understanding of how important genre is as a pathway that readers travel into story.

The novel I’m currently (slowly) working on is set on Earth but in the same universe as Poison and Light and after that same catastrophic war. It’s about lost culture.

The trick will be to welcome readers into a very strange land and to make them want to stay a while. The town at the centre of the story, where everything happens, is almost all Jewish. This was not historically so very odd, the capital city of seventeenth century Lithuania was at least 40% Jewish, for example, and many of the nearby towns were almost 100% Jewish. The history was destroyed when almost all the Jews in these towns were murdered and the English language world was left with some really odd views of that time and place. Christianity informs those views, and so does antisemitism. Moreover, since the Holocaust, most people have forgotten that there were wholly Jewish towns in Europe, that being Jewish was perfectly normative for millions and millions of people. It’s easier, storywise, to describe us as perpetual outcasts.

A Jewish strange land where Jews are safe, however well I can back it up historically, is surprisingly difficult to write. It’s not that Jewish history is lachrymose, it’s that we focus (in popular culture) on the hate and the loss and the tears. It’s easy to do. It’s easier to focus on tears than to to discover lost people and their interesting lives.

What’s important right now is that I think I’ve found a way of building the town so that it contains actual Jewish history (reconstructed with some glaring errors 300 years from now, since future historians and world makers are human, too, and will have their own preconceived notions) while keeping it interesting to the reader. It all comes down, as so many things do in fiction, to the opening.

I could spend another 300 words explaining my theories and how I apply them to create the first words of the novel. Or I could simply give you my draft first words and you can ask yourself, “Would I read this novel?” All the explanations in the world don’t make an opening tempting. Let me give you the words:

Space and boundaries fascinate me. Take, for example, the street I walked through this morning. To most people, it was just a street. A very wide street. Once upon a time it was set up for horse and carriage. In the old, old, old world. Then it was used by motor cars and grew wider. That was the old, old world. It became so wide that, in the difficult days of the old world, there were wooden houses down the middle. They lacked plumbing and almost any other amenity. They became the place where refuse was thrown. The people that society couldn’t accept. Wouldn’t accept. Hated for no good reason. That time didn’t last long. It wasn’t because the bad attitude towards other humans failed. It was because someone in power noticed the value of wide streets. They bought it up, turned it into a market zone and all the rickety houses were knocked down.

It’s ironic, isn’t it, that half the people who live in this town are descended from the poor souls who were thrown out of their homes, like dirty dishwater. Their work brings the tourists in. Their work creates my work. Even walking down this street feels insolent.

Auntie Deborah’s New Writing Advice

 It’s a new year, and aspiring writers have questions!


Q: Dear Auntie Deborah, I just got the rights for my novel back from my now-defunct publisher. Will I be able to sell it to another publisher?
 
A: It’s a wretched situation and I’m so sorry you find yourself in it. If it helps, you’re not alone. Not only are publishers going under but mergers are resulting in the cancellation of contracts for not-yet-delivered books, even for long-running series by established authors.

The short but brutal answer is, probably not. The exception might be if your book sold brilliantly, as in NYTimes Bestseller List, but even then it’s unlikely to attract interest because it’s “old news.” Publishers today are extremely conservative in the books they acquire; editors are reluctant to take chances; alas, your book now falls into the category of out-of-print/poor sales figures, regardless of whether it’s the fault of the book or not. The sales numbers might be low because the book was only available for two days, but that doesn’t matter. The other possibility is the few specialty small presses that occasionally acquire previously published books by authors with huge readerships, books that for one reason or another got dropped (as in your case, where the publisher ceased business). Your agent should be able to advise you whether this is a possibility for you.

Your best bet is to get a new, professionally designed cover and ISBN and self-publish the novel yourself. If you do this, I encourage you to go “wide,” that is, hit multiple vendors, not just Amazon Kindle. Draft 2 Digital will allow you to place a book in many markets, including those providing library loans, or you could do it individually. You could also put out an audio version of your book.
Q: Is it better to use names or numbers for chapter titles?
 
A: There is no “better.” There are conventions that change with time. Do what you love. Just as titles vs numbers cannot sell a book, neither will they sink a sale. If your editor or publisher has a house style, they’ll tell you and then you can argue with them.

That said, as a reader I love chapter titles. As an author, I sometimes come up with brilliant titles but I haven’t managed to do so for an entire novel, so I default to numbers. One of these years, I’ll ditch consistency and mix and match them. Won’t that be fun!

 

Q: Can I make changes to my self-published book once it’s released?

A: Of course, you can. If they’re minor changes, like fixing typos, just upload the corrected file. If the changes are more substantial, like a revision, it’s best to indicate that so your readers don’t think it’s a different book. “Author’s Revised Edition” is one way of indicating this.

The same goes for changing cover art. Traditional publishers and indie authors do this all the time, as styles in cover art and design evolve. Just make it clear it’s a new cover, not a new book. Otoh, fanatical collectors of your work will grab the new-cover edition just to be complete.

 

Q: What’s the best way to collaborate on a novel?

A: There is no best way, there’s only what works for you and your partner. One can draft and the other revise; you can alternate scenes or even chapters; one can dictate and the other edit while transcribing. Or whatever.

The hard and fast rule is: GET YOUR AGREEMENT IN WRITING, including how you will handle a break-up. Consider it an ironclad literary pre-nup. You will save yourselves a world of hurt if you rely on your memory of an oral agreement once money is involved.

Publication in the time of COVID – another anecdote

I want to introduce you to Poison and Light, but I have no idea how to do this. It was released during the first year of COVID and so most bookshops have not been interested in it: it’s available from online stores, mainly. It was a finalist for an award, but there was no ceremony for that award, so no-one noticed it there, either.

This is all ironic, because it’s the book I wrote for people who wanted this history with the panoply and the danger. It has a Code Duello, and costume drama, and hot air balloons, and tentacled aliens, and secretive printers, and evil conspiracies, and the main protagonist is the last refugee from old Earth.

There’s one special character in it who was going to get their own novel if this took off, because they are just so very cool. I say ‘they,’ because even though they publicly identified as male, they didn’t always privately identify as male. It’s their idealism and their amazing clothes’ sense and their even more amazing rapier skills that made me want to know more.

I’m not the only person to want more of Fabian. Instead of summarising my novel, then, I’m going to send you to a review of it. That way you can see what both the novel and Fabian look like to someone other than me: https://performativeutterance.wordpress.com/2021/03/03/poison-and-light-gillian-polack-shooting-star-press-2020/

Me, I wrote Poison and Light because I wanted to explore a world that wanted to hide its head in the sand by pretending it was in the eighteenth century. Some residents of New Ceres thought they were in a world where nobles ruled, gloriously. Others thought they were in a world with decadence they could enjoy. Still others are planning a revolution. You get some of all of this in the novel, but it was going to be a series if it sold well enough, and there was far more excitement in store in those later volumes that will now never happen. There are issues that would have emerged concerning failed terraforming, for instance (we need more novels about failed terraforming, given what we’re doing to our own planet right now), and of slavery, and of how much New Ceres could remain its independent and dangerous quirky self when the rest of the galaxy had recovered from the war. How does the dream of history hold up against reality?

The novel I’m working on now is set in that same universe, but back on Earth. Only one character overlaps. I’m sorry, but that character is not Fabian.

I used actual 18th century texts and ideas and stories to build the world of the novel. That novel was part of the research project into how fiction writers use history, and testing the concepts other fiction writers presented me with gave me far more insight into what they did than if I’d simply collated my interview notes. It doesn’t come up in History and Fiction, and nor should it. When I use novels to test ideas, those ideas become part of the novel. I still have to check those ideas against my research for my academic side.

This means you can read Poison and Light without caring a jot about Gillian-the-researcher. You can enter it for the strange future world and for the people. In a perfect world, my readers do this. They look at my characters and pick the actors they would love to be playing them. Which leaves my second last thought as, “I have no idea who would play Fabian.”

My last thought is that I need to write more about Poison and Light. It deserves to be seen.

Dream Cars and Dreams of No Cars

When I was sixteen, I developed a passion for a yellow Lincoln Continental convertible with a black leather interior. Not a Corvette, which was the hot car of my youth (why, yes, I did watch Route 66), or one of the adorable tiny English sports cars of the ’60s. A Lincoln Continental, the ultimate land yacht.

In my dreams, I would have this car by my mid-20s, when I’d be living in Kemah, Texas (on Galveston Bay), and working at some job or another (the details of employment were not part of this fantasy, though it must have been well-paid). I would also have a shrimp boat, though I wouldn’t be working shrimper.

Why a shrimp boat, you may ask? Possibly because I really, really liked (and like) to eat shrimp. But also because it wasn’t the sort of boat the wealthy acquired. That is, I wanted a rich person’s car, but a working person’s boat.

It should go without saying that I never achieved this dream. In my mid-20s I was finishing law school and pretty much broke. The car I did have – a Plymouth Valiant – had bit the dust and I was commuting around Austin by bicycle.

Even if I’d had the money, I didn’t want that car or that lifestyle by that time. Kemah was no longer a sleepy bay town but a bustling suburb and I had developed my life-long allergy to commuting. And I had other dreams, few of which involved cars. Continue reading “Dream Cars and Dreams of No Cars”

So Much of a Good Thing

Map of California indicating drought status as of January 13, 2023
Image from U.S. Drought Monitor https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/Current Map/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?CA

I have rain fatigue.

This is the rainy season in San Francisco. We know to expect that December through February will be wet–although this year the procession of atmospheric rivers, cyclone bombs (WTF?) and their accompanying sequelae–floods, mudslides, property damage, even loss of life–seems to be overdoing it. The mantra, in California, is “We need the rain.” And we do. The unrelenting rain of the last month has been a soggy, cold, disastrous blessing. If you’ll look at the map, you’ll note that there is no where in the state that isn’t “abnormally dry.” Currently a little less than half the state (46%) is in a state of severe drought,. Sounds pretty awful. But wait, what about all that heavy rainfall in the last month? Hasn’t that helped at all?

In fact, it has. A lot. Three months ago 94% of the state was in a state of severe drought (41% was actually in extreme drought). Three months ago 16% of the state was in a state of exceptional drought–and exceptional, in this situation, is not a good thing. So that last month of rain has been a godsend. And given how far the state still has to go in order to be out of a state of drought, I should not complain if we get another month or two of deluge.

Sadly, I almost certainly will. Continue reading “So Much of a Good Thing”

How we understand the past ‑ from three directions

I’m a bit late because things are suddenly very busy. I also have no time to write anything new. Let me give you something old…

This was first published on 11 December 2011 BiblioBuffet. I wrote for BiblioBuffet for 3 years, once a fortnight, and it was such a joy. You can still find all the pieces on the Wayback Machine.

One of the recurring tasks of the Medievalist who does other things (like write here, or teach, or write fiction, or even go to dinner parties) is to deal with the popular idiocies that abound about the Middle Ages. Flat earths, rotten food, chastity belts: popular ideas that have little or no grounding in actual history sometimes appear unending.

A little while ago, I reviewed a book about classical science. This book (unintentionally) reinforced one of those odd views about the Middle Ages. It assumed that there wasn’t much in the way of scientific progress or scientists during the period. James Hannam read my review and emailed me, suggesting I read his book on Medieval science, God’s Philosophers. How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science,which addresses precisely this issue. He kindly sent me a copy and he was right ‑ I needed to read his book. If you have an interest in what actually happened in science in the Middle Ages then you might also need to read his book. I don’t agree with all of it, but I’m very glad it exists.

The writer’s choice of form is shaped by the nature of their caring about history. Hannam cares passionately about science in the Middle Ages and he faced some of the same dilemmas as I do concerning popular misconceptions. This is why he wrote what he wrote.

In his introduction, Hannam lists many of the less-intelligent things, of the kind I listed in my first paragraph those I gave above, that I’ve found people think about Medieval science. His list gave me an immediate sense of not being alone. Hannam points to sources such as Richard of Wallingford and Thomas Aquinas and quotes Voltaire and others deriding the darkness of the mind in the Middle Ages. Through these quotations he demonstrates, passionately, where our rather negative view of Medieval science comes from. I shall refer to this introduction in class next time the subject comes up, because Hannam has all too obviously encountered the same sets of attitudes I have. He looks at those attitudes, and deals with them succinctly and clearly.

His views are not mine. They exclude women’s science, for instance, and I would have liked a better coverage of the science behind the spanking new technologies of the time, of distillations and spirits and advanced optics and more. I would especially have liked a close look at how the different religions of Europe combined to achieve major cultural transformation.

Hannam’s book is a popular history. It targets some widely-held misunderstandings about the Middle Ages and the role of the era in modern science. It carries its own burden of understanding, however. What do I mean by ‘burden of understanding’? We all interpret the world around us. We all carry a whole raft of material we use to help us in this interpretation, from assumptions right through to careful analysis. Hannam’s material is carried by his passion for the Middle Ages and the shape of his understanding of the Middle Ages. His Middle Ages isn’t mine: it is, however, still powerful.

These interpretations are linked to the form we choose to write in, the subjects we choose to write about and the approach we take to these subjects. Hannam chose popular history. There are other choices.

Not so long ago I looked at a scholarly writer whose passion led him into the life of Benedetto Blanis. The result was a book, Jews and Magic in Medici Florence: The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis, that was written from an expert (academic) vantage point but that is accessible to the wider public. It contains fascinating insights into Jewish life in Medici Florence. Because Edward Goldberg’s passion was more scholarly, the overview of Blanis’ life and times was not enough. His new book, A Jew at the Medici Court. The Letters of Benedetto Blanis Hebreo (1615-1621), contains the letters of Benedetto Blanis. Unlike the first book, this is not really for the wider public. It’s a critical edition of the letters, with English summaries and rather good notes. Unlike the popular book, we can see directly into Blanis’ life.

The wonder of a good scholarly edition is that the notes and the index and the scholarly apparatus (I am in love with the phrase ‘scholarly apparatus’) serve as tools to help the reader see something more clearly. In this case, it’s Benedetto Blanis and his world.

It’s a terrific companion volume to the first book and the summaries of the letters give the key information in each (which is good for readers who have insufficient Italian). Goldberg’s passion for the past is expressed through his wish for us to see Blanis and understand his life, and he gives us all the tools we need. The letters themselves are the pure magic. Goldberg was clever to realise this and facilitate the transit between them and the reader.

They’re a door opening to give us a peek into something amazing. Opening the volume at random, I read that Blanis has received his patron’s last letter. He’s extremely polite to his patron ‑ his language is full of courteous superlatives. He uses phrases like “deo gratia” ‑ this shows to me that the Christian and Jewish communities had common language. And all of this is to ask if he can send a package of clothing and some silk to Venice under Don Giovanni’s seal. It makes me think that the patronage relationship can be like that of a child at boarding school towards the family back home. “Send money.” Send food.” “Can I do this, please?”

A good history will give you a considered overview. A good critical edition of primary sources allows you to think differently and explore byways. here, the focus changes according to the life of the letter writer, not the thesis of the modern author ‑ this means that letters can throw up the most extraordinary bits of information. At this point I should give you an interesting tidbit to lure you into yearning after the book. Three times have I opened this volume to find something and three times I’ve found myself absorbed in the stuff of Blanis’ life, when he was trying to make a living, when he was trying to get out of prison, when he was describing a suicide, when he was carefully manoeuvring around politics that were bigger than he was. It’s an addictive, fascinating book.

In this instance, the first book illuminates the second ‑ Goldberg’s passion for history has given us a pair of volumes that work marvellously together.

A third book that’s led first and foremost by the writer’s passion for the (historical) subject is different again. It’s fiction, for one thing. Suzy Witten, in The Afflicted Girls shows her passion for communicating the horrid events of Salem in 1692.

This kind of book is harder for the historian to evaluate. I can read the letters presented by Goldberg and I can analyse Hannam’s approach to science, but the measure of success for history in a novel is how much the reader cares. And the historian as a reader of historical fiction or fantasy is a very difficult reader indeed. It’s not that I don’t read historical fiction: it’s that I’m a fussy audience for historical fiction.

Witten has been dutiful in her research, and it shows in the fine detail that colours the novel. What is missing for me is that (especially near the beginning) the fine detail is uncoloured by emotion. I don’t know whether to be impressed or disgusted at the Porter family’s “roll-top bright painted calash.” It’s not something that I know from my own frame of reference and Witten doesn’t always give enough information for me to interpret it within the frame of reference of the novel. It must be important, for the description occurs at the beginning of a chapter, but I don’t know the way in which it’s important. Is it presumptuous of the Porter family to paint in bright colours, or is it an entirely everyday thing? Are they rich, or struggling poor? Without any knowledge of how much it costs to buy and run a calash, I don’t know where it fits in the society of the novel. This means that, while the society of the novel is full of detail, I don’t always have the tools to assess that detail and Witten herself doesn’t always give me the tools. I can see Witten’s passion for the past and for brining readers the lives of this town at this time, and I hurt when they hurt (for it’s a strong narrative) but I do it from the vantage point of the present. It’s a distant viewing, not a close one. When Witten brings us close in (as she does on the very next page, when we learn that the use of a Boston dressmaker has social and emotional consequences) the past is far more alive.

By the time we reach the harrowing events of the witch trials, the past is more fully alive and the novel is powerful. Still, it’s interesting that Witten carries with her the baggage of description. Its excessive detail is her way into understanding what the past looks like and feels like. It’s her way of carefully documenting it. Documenting, however, works best in a book such as Hannam’s and fine documentation of detail works best of all in a book such as Goldberg’s. In a novel, that documentation works better when it has an emotive aspect. It is a path into the past for the reader and it’s important that this path show us how the specifics of the place and time were viewed.

Telling detail is, in fact, the reader’s link to the normative past, the typical day. Those small bits of information concerning daily life show how that normal everyday moment is seen by those who live in the world of the novel. When this small world all falls apart, we then have a frame of reference from which we can understand the emotional depths. This link between the apparently trivial and the narrative is something that’s much more difficult for nonfiction to achieve. It can bring us into the past and make us feel for the history of individual and to cry for the loss of their lives.

All three of these books-the popular history, the letters, the historical novel, carry us into the past. They use different methods and have different reasons for the journey, but they are how we, as readers, begin to understand the people who have gone before.

Books mentioned in this column:

A Jew at the Medici Court. The Letters of Benedetto Blanis Hebreo (1615-1621) by Edward Goldberg (University of Toronto Press, 2011) 9781442643833

Jews and Magic in Medici Florence: The Secret World of Benedetto Blanis by Edward L. Goldberg (University of Toronto Press, 2011) 9781442613331

God’s Philosophers. How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science by James Hannam (Icon Books, 2009) 9781848311503

The Afflicted Girls. A Novel of Salem. By Suzy Witten (Dreamwand, 2009) 97800615323138


My To-Do List

Every morning my sweetheart asks me “What do you have today?” And every morning it irritates me, because it means — or I take it to mean — “What tasks are you going to do today?”

Many of those tasks are things that must get done but that I don’t particularly want to do, like managing money or cleaning things or making my tech work better. I make lists of those tasks but they’re not really what I’m going to do today.

The real answer to the question of what am I going to do today is think, because thinking is all I ever want or intend to do.

The answer does not change. It is the same every day. I get up, do my morning toiletries, do some physical therapy, feed the cat, and make coffee all with the goal of sitting down to think and maybe write.

My whole goal in life is to have the things I don’t want to do simplified enough that they become routine and don’t take much time so that all I really need to do is think. Continue reading “My To-Do List”