The Novelist by L. L. Barkat

tea2Concise? Even the word concise is too long to describe this novella –but only at first glance. Coming in at a mere one hundred pages a reader can handle this during an afternoon tea. And some might do just that. Read it. Drink tea. Move on. The English teacher in me couldn’t do that.

At first read I kept growling because the main character just wasn’t delivering for me. She wasn’t writing the novel a fellow Twitter acquaintance had challenged her to write. All she managed to type was “The End” and then freaked out. She dances around it so many ways that for a bit you get nauseous. She infuriates you with her choice of men to the point of wanting to reach into the fibers of the paper and thrash her into some semblance of self-respect. Then there is the on-going search for the elusive tea basket which only serves to remind you of things you have misplaced and yet to find. And let’s not forget the influx of family and their stories. Or the poetry and I am an English teacher but some of this poetry is far beyond my synapses to process. To top it off she tosses in a bunch of well-known authors, some of which you have read and some of which you know you should have read but haven’t, all sharing tidbits of advice. All of which only serves to feed her doubts about being able to write the damn novel in the first place.

When I finished the first read I simply put the book down and was ready to move on. I had three more books ready for my attention. But the cover stayed open. I had bent it around the book as I read and now it just didn’t want to close. My mind couldn’t close it off either. I was just so unsatisfied and I knew I was missing something. So I dove back in. This time with my colored pens. It’s what we English teachers do, color coordinate things. One color for all the authors mentioned and their advice; one for Geoffrey the pompous “boyfriend”; one for anything tea related; one for family; one for poetry; and one for her doubts. There were less than five pages unmarked and that was because they were end of chapter pages with next to nothing on them.

Finishing the subsequent reads I was mesmerized. How the hell did she fit all that into one hundred pages. Not only that but the weaving and intricacies of meshing those stories together to YES end up with a novella that could very well turn into many novels. I don’t want to read the one about Geoffery. First I just had to call him Jeff all the way through because he pissed me off so. Second, she deserved so much better in the way of a relationship. Really, 28 motel rooms? In two years? Bite me! As for the tea and poetry my tastes are not refined enough. I love tea and know what I like and don’t and imagine having no trouble experimenting with more flavors but that would be a learning process I wouldn’t mind. The poetry was just like the tea. Some of it was right up my alley and some was way beyond where my passport credentials could take me. A sestina? I can’t back down from that and I wasn’t even the one challenged with it but I can see it being on the to do list for summer. And the family stories were delightful and terrifying but real as they come.

But the part I really want to share with you (in case you aren’t compelled to read this novella multiple times for yourself) is some of the interplay of author advice and writer doubt. See if you can find anything useful in the author advice or yourself in the writer doubts.

Writer Doubt: A novelist would remember these things.

Author Advice: “Being a writer is like having an insatiable parasite inside you.” Thomas Wolfe

Writer Doubt: Her laptop was plugged in, though, and the Word file was still open on the desktop—a single page of a novel she had never started, with the words “The End” typed smack in its center. As she sank to the floor, she managed a laugh. “The End”. They‘d think it was a suicide note, wouldn’t they?

Author Advice: “Pull your chair to the edge of the precipice and I will tell you a story.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

Writer Doubt: Laura did not like heights, or precipices, or conflicts. This felt ridiculously problematic.

Author Advice: Writing stories is an exercise in freedom and quarreling. Mario Vargas Llosa

Writer Doubt: Writing like Pynchon was an option. (Not trusting her own voice)

Author Advice: The main character must be booted through the doorway, into “the great unknown “ or the novel would get boring. James Scott Bell

Writer Doubt: It had probably been a mistake to start her relationship with Geoffrey via a sestina. Yeah that was the problem in that relationship; a sestina!

Author Advice: Stories have the power to make things present; make it possible for a person to look at things never looked at. Tim O’Brien

Writer Doubt: If she was going to write a novel, she felt defeated before she began, because someone might be coming along to pick it apart, looking for symbols.

tea

There are many more for you to discover as you read this magnificent novella that will exercise your brain as if it were a series of interlinking novels. Don’t let it sneak up on you like it did me. You have been warned, there is a lot of material packed like loose tea leaves for a long journey; physical sustenance and good for the soul.

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Writer Voyeurism

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Voyeurism is a problem for some people; for others not so much.  True voyeurs may want to move on now.  Nerd voyeurs keep reading.

Get a group of writers, lovers of language, and one brave author chatting on Twitter and suddenly you have a new reality tv show.  WriteTv aired today with author Ksenia Anske opening her sacred writing time to all her Beta Readers and writing friends interested in watching her work her craft. All in all there were 217 views over the four-five hour writing session.  People popped in and out; wrote their own texts while hanging out with Ksenia writing her novel; tossed Bless Yous; asked about the ambient music; and listened to Ksenia sing along –no talk aloud her thinking/writing process as it formed. 

All in all it seemed just like anyone’s writing session.  It had all the accoutrements a writer depends on for the comfort it takes to open one’s self so completely in order to fill the page.  There was a visibly comfortable sweatshirt/sweater sans elbow patches, hell sans elbow fabric.  No doubt from countless sessions of this author’s elbows firmly planted on the edges of sanity, or a desk, holding a head full of ideas in two hands trying to wring out cohesive thoughts.  I know that is what happens to the patches on the flannel shirts I wear as I toggle the edge of sanity scouring for that elusive word.  You know the one on the tip of your tongue synapse that won’t fire across to your fingertip synapse so you can put it down in the midst of that sentence glaring at you with the big hole in it? Grrrr with me people!  There was that mug of liquid jolt juice, for Ksenia-coffee, for me never coffee.  No one wants to see me on coffee.  So apple cinnamon water for me or sweet tea.  And there was ambient music.  Something to massage one side of the brain while the other cerebrates and the third, yes I said third, while the third writes.  There used to be a theory about right-brain/left-brain; one side as the creative side and the other as the analytical/mathematical side.  It has changed over the years to a triune format to signify the more complex interplay between our various intelligences.  No wonder we drive ourselves silly?  So much malleable mayhem up there. 

The best part about watching another writer write were the numerous ‘best practices’, as we teachers call them, that were confirmed.  Check, check, check; I’m doing it right.  First, there is the one I learned as a National Writing Project Fellow.  Writing conferences work.  In any format they work.  Everybody present in one learns and grows as a writer.  Today’s was unique because for the most part there was one writer writing and an audience of cyber passive observers.  We didn’t do anything more than watch and listen but she knew we were there watching and listening.  IF she wanted interaction she could have it but this wasn’t a ‘conference’ set up.  It was just writing.  And writing she did.  Beyond the initial distraction and discomfort of doing something new for the first time, I don’t think we got in her way.  I hope not. 

Other confirmations included writers’ quirks.  Well at least Ksenia and I share them lol not sure about the rest of you.  There was the head turning to the right as if just over there was the rest of the thought, rest of the sentence, figment of the character spurring you on, or vision of the setting or conflict unfolding as you watched to get all the details.  There was the hair issue.  The loose strands that need to go back behind the ear or back in the ponytail or back around the fingers to be twisted into releasing the next idea.  Don’t have hair?  I got nothing for ya except you shouldn’t have twisted so tightly!  There was the brow action; creasing, raising, furrowing, scrunching, all of it happening and then those fingertips massaging the creases up and out into the hairline.  And last but not least was the lip action.  The pursing, pouting, pressing, and for me pulling and biting.  All in an effort to get out what brews inside of us be it story or poem or song. 

Ksenia Asanke, author of Siren Suicides, thank you so much for letting us in today.  It was a blast to connect and observe, watch and learn, listen and write with you!  That hug is for you!

Photo Prompt #2 12.8.12

What intrigues me most about reading is the way the title sometimes, not always, but sometimes, sneaks into the fiber of the paper on which the words lay in the book. water fountain It is the same way with music lyrics—for me anyway.  L.L. Barkat’s book Rumors of Water is one such title.

The author is at a picnic conversing with someone about her difficulties with writing and the elusiveness of creativity all while Barkat’s young daughter is hovering and eavesdropping.  Once you read this book you will see that the daughter is just trying to soak up the knowledge her author mother has to give as evidenced in how Barkat fosters writing in the lives of her daughters’ daily routines.  Nevertheless, Barkat sends her daughter on an errand for a cup of water in hopes of continuing the conversation in private. Her daughter returns quicker than expected without water but the simple declaration that, “there are rumors of water”.

How delightful is that? Barkat is having difficulty writing and with her creativity and things blocking her way and what is the result?  A simply fabulous book for writers seeping with sage signals directing the path to ink filled pages.  All from the inspirational precocious statement from a child chiding her mom for leaving her out of the angst writers face.

So, today’s prompt?  What comes first for you as a writer?   The story or the title?  Has a title ever dropped in your lap in such a delightful way as Barkat’s?  Whatever your response, read Rumors of Water; you deserve the treat!