Mother Ghost

I’ve been doing a lot of writing, but very little writing here on the blog. I have been shy about discussing my writing career because I haven’t really known the rules about what you should say and shouldn’t say. Having never had any rules at all in writing this blog, it’s really shut me up to think there might be some rules I don’t know anything about.

This morning, I e-mailed my agent to ask him if there WERE any such rules. So, we’ll see what he says. I’d like to talk about The Secret War and the loooooong road to getting that book ready. And maybe I will. (I mean, how much of a surprise is it to know that it’s been a looooong road to finishing that book?)

For now though, I wanted to say that I’ve been reading a really fun book about creativity — it’s by Lynda Barry, the cartoonist, and it’s called What Is It. (Or is that what it is?) Because she is fun, she has invented a fun exercise for doing some image-based writing that I’ve really enjoyed. It goes like this: pick a word(don’t worry — she has plenty of words)/flesh out the word (asking the famous who/what/where/when/why questions you learned before you knew you didn’t want to be a journalist)/orient yourself in the word  by doing a very cool thing:  asking what was below you, above you, to the right, to the left, and behind you? Got all that down?   Well, then, write for seven minutes about the word.

I did this.  I did it mostly because I was so sick of typing and the instant I realized you could do this on notebook paper in a three ring binder, my heart was full of love for Lynda Barry.  Plus, you can use colored pencils if you want.

I figured out how to use our scanner (who knew we even HAD one? — but we did). And because it’s almost mother’s day, I’m going to start posting Mother pieces, because the word I used was “other peoples’ mothers”). Okay, it was a phrase.  Shoot me.  It’s about the mother of a boy I loved once. Don’t worry, though, this is not about to become a blog where I post my seven minute writing exercises. I wouldn’t like to read that (well, I would, actually, if the pieces were short and illustrated).

PS:  That first line begins “I was in her dining room.”  It might be mistaken for a sentence that suggests I was in some kind of herding room.  I was not.


17 thoughts on “Mother Ghost

  1. Lily: I love this! The lines that struck me most were:

    “But mothers were never happy otherwise. They were stressed, judgmental, unhappy, frustrated, drugged, too kind to be believable, busy, angry.

    Why did I ever want to join their ranks?”

    Fascinating. I want to hear more.

  2. Krist — My favorite thing about Lynda Barry is that she makes me feel like it’s okay to use color and doodles while I work. All of a sudden, I’m actually looking forward to sitting down to writing my second novel. Why shouldn’t I draw a picture of the lake my character walks around? It’s not like anyone but me has to see it.

    C(h)ristine: Oh the power of a three ring binder, a bunch of binder paper and your favorite drawing supplies!

  3. I adore La Barry, and have been a fan since the days of her strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek”, and the book “Poodle With a Mohawk” (Don’t call her Fifi). And because you love her, I’m a fan of yours too.

  4. hello Mikey — I have always liked her too — but the autobiographical writing she does in this book (and in a sort of companion book about drawing) is so moving and inspiring.

    Claire! As I may have mentioned (Okay, I mentioned it today to you), blogging is going to be my go-to substitute for when I get anxious and weirded out and think maybe I should go on ebay and buy six pairs of shoes. Scary. Can the world TAKE that much blogging?

    Marie, Thank you. I am glad to be here. I miss this conversation.

  5. I love reading your posts. Please don’t go away again for too long.

    Your handwriting is lovely. I show my handwriting as infrequently as I can, and sometimes can not read my own when I revisit journals. Whether handwritten or not, I love reading your blog and am hopeful that if that agent has any rules, they are ones that won’t keep you away from here.

  6. Cam — Thank you. I love writing in my blog and the unexpected appearance of so many really kind, smart and funny people — like you — who read it. And now I’m going to go find a word and write about it. xoxo

  7. Oh my goodness, BL, how I’ve missed your blogging! I am going to order Lynda Barry’s book right this minute…and I love what you wrote about the other mothers. (I love everything you write, is the truth of it!)
    And I also love your handwriting!

  8. Pauline — That’s so kind. This subject of mothers — our own, the mothers of our friends, and our own role as mother is an interesting one, isn’t it?

    Sandi Shelton — I miss blogging too. And you. xo

  9. Actually, the first thing that struck me was the wonderful sentence “The dining room shocks me” which tells us so much about narrator and setting all at once. Intimidating.
    Then there’s the lack of crossings out – equally intimidating. A scan of a page of my handwriting would look like two spiders had attacked a page with leaking Lameys.

    There’s a meme here, you know – “Scan a page of your writing”. But we don’t do memes 🙂

    I might copy this, though. If I can get our scanner working. Who knew scanners still existed?

    • Uberdad — I think you should do just that. I just bought a good scanner (one that doesn’t weigh very much and and works really fast, unlike the scanner attached to my husband’s printer, which somehow managed to destroy the memory card thing i stuck in it). I love this new thing. It promises something more personal and human — a drawing, a picture of your friend as a child, the scrawl of someone you’ve just met. So yes, please. Scan away. I want to see those spiders.

  10. Hiya,

    Check out Jeff VanderMeer’s BookLife…He’s got great tips on dos and don’ts for writer’s and their blogs.



  11. I’d love to read your seven minute writing exercises. You always have something interesting to say. Case in point. – And you do have lovely handwriting – it did look like herding room to me but I’m a sloppy reader! I await news of The Secret War, hopefully not so secret for much longer.

    • Thank you Lokesh! That’s so encouraging to hear. In a way, it was a kind of herding room, one in which ladies who all looked sort of the same got together to BE sort of the same.

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