Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New, used, ineffable

I'm enough of a curmudgeon that I still grouse now and then about those qualified-yet-unqualified "quality products"-- do they mean high quality? Fair-to-middling? Nothing to write home about? And I do enjoy a good sign. So imagine my delight, strolling with my family on Sunday afternoon, toward the end of a day of beach walking and sunshine and yes-it's-still-summer, when we came upon this lovely painted sign, offering not just quality, but quality new and used.

Looks like a warehouse, doesn't it? I bet they have lots.
Or maybe slightly used? Gently used? Still has some wear in it, too good to throw out, a (quality) solution in search of a problem, deserving of a second chance, an oldie but a goodie, don't knock it if you haven't tried it? Tarnished, but worthy of a little polish and elbow grease. Hot off the presses, brand-spankin'-new, old as the hills, down at heels, wet behind the ears, dog-earred, slightly foxed, fine condition, classic, pride of ownership, in need of TLC, great potential, a find at any scratch and dent sale, an opportunity not to be missed.

I wonder if they sold clichés, set phrases, proverbs, sayings, idiomatic tags impossible to translate, improbable promises? Sadly (or happily) it was Sunday afternoon. The shop was closed. We drove home empty-handed--on the quality front--but full-bellied and laden with beach agates, shell fragments, sand between our toes and in our jeans cuffs and still all over the back of the car, two days later.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Observer in the Frame

We spent the last days of August backpacking in the Three Sisters Wilderness, one of my favorite places on earth. Camped on a mini-ridge above Camp Lake, we watched the moon rise--fast!--and then the sunset and then, just barely (hurling myself out of the tent toward the pink glow, tangled in tent flaps and sleeping children and boots that wouldn't find my feet) the sunrise. Pink, and then bright yellow light, and then sharp shadows. And lots of photographs.

Two images from that trip in particular seem to focus my current revision preoccupations.  

I have been amply persuaded that the manuscript I'm working on (a novel I had fondly believed was finished, and beautiful, and ready to greet the world) is in need of major revision. I even have some ideas about the form that revision will take. But I'm caught between planning the revision--mapping out what I intend to do--and just jumping in. And how much will be enough--is it a matter of cutting or of adding, or more properly of replacing? It's a question, too, of framing and motivation: I know what the story is, but why is the narrator telling it? And just how far should the territory of that story extend?

Sunrise, then, above the lake, trying to arrest its different colors against the trees, and finding my own shadow contaminating the frame. Lean back, then, lean away, move the camera a bit. . . until I thought, here's my point of view picture, the narrator just off stage. But not all the way off. Whether visible or not, choosing what to include.

Framing the story just right is part of the problem. There isn't a story without a frame, something to give it shape--beginning, ending, even words trailing off at the end of the page or when the ink runs out, a de facto border, no less real for being accidental.

Other times the borders of story or observation become less and less clear. Heading up the hill above Demaris Lake, I almost walked into this spider and its home. And here's the story again, but the frame's disappearing, the web that barely shows up once I have the spider well in focus.

I don't know what kind of spider it is. That's one of the story's unknowns.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Some Detours Thanks

Detours has been out for about a month now, and I want to say thank you! to a few people:

To Karen McPherson (Sketching Elise), for poem-caching me in her Poetry Box-- and how cool is a poetry box, right? Are there poetry boxes in your town? Check out the scheme here: http://www.utteredchaos.org/.

To Ruth Horowitz (Giving Up the Ghost) for reading #32 aloud at home.

To my agent Linda Epstein (The Blabbermouth) for saying she was savoring Detours like a box of chocolates.

To Scott Landfield at Tsunami Books for carrying the chapbook.

To Sid Miller, editor of the Burnside Review; Shira Richman for chapbook design; Sarah Grew for sharing her piece "Asters" for the cover (I know I've said it before, but it's worth repeating); to Blake Butler, final judge for the 2011 Fiction Chapbook Contest.

And to the impromptu sign-makers who keep me on the lookout for detour signs, even when I thought I was over that. And to my family, waiting almost patiently at the sushi place, while I took more photos.