Monday, December 27, 2010

Be It Resolved

Here we go again--New Year's Resolutions. And the ones I thought of on my own were stale and boring, having to do with girth and guilt. Then I read my friend Margaret's Facebook page and stole her idea: do something new every week, or maybe it was month. I'll say month, because that's easier, less guilt over failure. And I know what my first few months will involve--libraries! I am a big fan of the public library. They trust me to take their books home and keep them for weeks. I wouldn't lend my books like that, except to a few really good friends. I'm a pretty good patron. I rarely miss a due date for returns, don't spill tea on the pages, don't leave books where Duncan the Dog can chew them. (He's often referred to as Destructo Dog, so keeping things out of his reach is important.) I try not to take more home than I can reasonably read at one time. And I often discipline my buying habits--borrow first, then buy if I really need my own copy to write in or refer to in the middle of the night, or the middle of a blizzard like the one my friends and family in Maine are coping with this morning. (Careful on that steep, snowy driveway, Son.)

Here's my resolution: I will visit as many libraries this year as I can. I know my own wonderful Mamie Doud Eisenhower Library in Broomfield, and the College Hill Library in nearby Westminster. I've been in the New York Public Library with its famous and fabulous reading room. I think that years ago I walked into the Library of Congress and right out again, overwhelmed. When I was in New Orleans last spring I visited the city library, a sad place, clearly never fully funded after Katrina, but still, a lively and important part of city life.

When I was a student at Potter Academy, a tiny high school in East Sebago, Maine, I was often sent to the library to listen to tapes of Chaucer. I was the only college prep student in my senior class and the teacher could not find any other way for me to study what the rest of the students would have found impossibly boring. I can still see that "library" aka the principal's office. George Cobb in his gray tweed jacket sat behind me, back to back like bookends, while I listened to poetry that I never quite understood. But the library idea was etched into me, a place of privilege and quiet, a place where I could find the exotic and unusual. Today I'm off to my local to talk to my friends at the reference desk about my tour of libraries. And to pick up Muriel Rukeyser's collected poems. And to sit and marvel at the other riches all within my reach.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pick Me, Pick Me!

Whew! The last scene in the novel is drafted and today--confined as I am for the week by a knee brace and crutch--I begin the major revisions. I think that by the end of the year I will be ready to offer this story to the world. Will the world want it? No way of knowing that in advance. One huge hurdle remains, the agent search. I've had two unsatisfying encounters with agents over the previous novel (still sulking in its ms box), so I'm wary of this process. I've read and talked about the search, but it's making me shake. I feel like a third-grader waving her hand at the teacher, "Pick me, oh, please, pick me! I know the answer." So tired I have to hold the waving arm up with my free hand.

My third grade teacher, Miss Glascow, rarely picked me, except to stay in at recess and finish my arithmetic. (We didn't call it math in those dark days.) Even then I was a word-nerd, giving the numerals personalities, but rarely understanding their sterile, hard-wired interactions. A division sign was a little house with one number hiding inside and another knocking at the door. I never understood those numbers that ended up dancing on the roof. What did they mean? Well, I couldn't tell Miss G. what they meant and she thought that sitting at my desk while the rest of the class played tag outside would enlighten me.

A literary agent might be like her--asking me to explain the inexplicable, holding me back a grade, never picking me or my characters. The book business is about numbers--bottom lines and sales quotas, etc. (That etc. is a weasel word; it means I don't know any other specifics.) I just want to cut loose of the business part of writing. I want to go out and play with my imaginary friends, like Number Nine. She's lively and friendly, a great gal, that Nine. Okay, okay, I'll write the dang query letter: "Dear Miss Glascow, Please, please, pick me."