Joni Mitchell’s Blues

Joni Mitchell’s Blues

I was at an Arists’ Residency, far from home, and things weren’t going well. There was lots of chatter about people you knew in New York, and I didn’t know anybody in New York unless you count my college roommate who lives in Harlem and my cousin who lives in New Jersey. The people I knew were “people I loved,” but they weren’t “people you knew in New York.” I mean, I don’t think they went to the same parties. So, over dinner, I stayed mute. People didn’t want to know about my small town friends, my cousins, my community organizing extravaganzas for towns of 1,500 people. My towns were not New York.

So, I was blue. Also, the writing wasn’t going well. I’d look out my window, watch antelope zoom like shape-shifters over the dry hills, and think, “Well, this is going nowhere.” My novel was so long, I couldn’t even remember what was in it. I had so many characters, I didn’t remember who they were. And I couldn’t find things.  Read more

A Field, A Quilt, A Novel

A Field, A Quilt, A Novel
AJ’s Quilt

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “a stone, a leaf, A door”

in his seminal novel Look Homeward, Angel.

I was inspired in part by Wolfe’s  sense of place to write a novel about a Field. A Field so full of layers of history and mystery, plants and animals, people and hauntings, that it shimmers with life.

Over the many years of drafting, my talented friend AJ Coutu has been listening to my frustrations, my wine-infused rhapsodies, my struggles and triumphs on the page. We go on regular retreats together, where I tear out my hair and write, and she calmly quilts, draws, makes other kinds of art. Read more

Hemingway in Pittsboro

Hemingway in Pittsboro

Hemingway - youngI used to think that as a writer I had to hole up in my little room and write and write, and never come out until I was done.

But it dawned on me that unlike in journalism, with creative work nobody really cared if I ever finished something. That gets a little weird after a while. It turns out that’s a bad idea for me to hole up that way, and a bad idea for most writers. Think about it. Even in those first days in Paris, Hemingway got out of his little room and went out drinking, got great coffee in cafes, hung out with a writing group at Gertrude Stein’s place, and got into fights for fun and exercise from time to time. Read more

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