Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Process, Part II

As promised, here is the second voice that made its way through my mind when I sat down to begin work on My Literary Boyfriends.  In retrospect, perhaps I was channelling the English teacher desire for vengeance.

Chapter One: In which an unsuspecting teenage brat gets his
    I was raised in a bookstore, so I probably had a few books dropped on my head as a baby, which no doubt explains my indecisive nature.  But one aspect of my life upon which I was completely decisive was my choice of career.  I am, indeed, a librarian.
    But lest you click your tongue and shake your head, and start applying all those mundane librarian stereotypes to me, let me stop you.  Yes, I love books.  Yes, I love peace and quiet.  Yes, I wear glasses.  But at least once a day some disheveled middle-aged man (usually in specs himself) will walk up to my circulation desk and ask to speak to a librarian.  Sigh.
    “I am the librarian, sir.  How may I help you?”
    Overly-dramatic shocked look ensues.
    I blink rapidly to avoid rolling my eyes.  “Yes.”
    Overly-dramatic shocked look continues.  And then…inevitably…
    “But you’re too pretty to be a librarian!”
    Now, I suppose I should take this as some kind of a compliment, but I don’t.
    “Sir, are you implying that all librarians are required to look a certain way?”
    Now he’s embarrassed, looking about to see who is listening.
    “No…no, I just thought…”
    I take a deep breath.  “How is it that I may help you, sir?”
    On behalf of all librarians everywhere, I must insist you put your stereotypes aside.  We are not all mousy, timid little people stuck in the fashion world of nineteen sixty-five.  We do not all carry canvas bags and where large, frameless glasses.  And we wear make-up.  Really.  We do.  One of my fellow librarians and I always put our faces on in the bathroom mirrors in the morning after we’ve clocked in, so we won’t be late.  See, we’re street smart too.
    But I will admit that perhaps I’m a little more…how should I put this?  More fashion-conscious than most of the librarians I remember from my youth.   Perhaps it’s because I’m only twenty-six.  I wear heels to work, as the stacks make fabulous private runways, and my glasses might be Kate Spade (except for special days when I wear my D and G’s!).  I see why these men have the reaction they do, but I just don’t understand their need to tell me about it.  It’s a library.  No one goes to the library to pick up women.  And if they do, that is beyond pathetic and they should at least go to the Barnes and Noble.  It’s like a capitalist library.  And when you meet the girl of your dreams, you can take her out for coffee right away.
    Seriously, I’m appalled that they allow drinks and sticky sugar goo so close to their books.  Shame.  Shame on you.
    Now you may be thinking that my job is boring somehow.  All the shelving and scanning and database entering.  So I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  The absolute, bar-none, best part of being a librarian.
    Summer reading.
    Some kids come into the library the first week of June, eager looks on their faces, summer reading lists in hand.  The most excited have usually narrowed down their list to a select few choices, and they ask my opinion about which to choose.
    I love these students.  I see myself in them, excited to read something new, learn about something complete unknown, and get a head start on their homework!
    For these dear children, I take the time to listen to the types of books they like to read and then choose the tome that will most likely please them.  It’s like a puzzle, figuring out which book fits the kid.  And sometimes, when a kid says just the right thing: “Well, I really like the Brontes because I love the setting and the emotions.  And the words are just so beautiful”, I hand her my Thomas.  I’m very protective, of course, as Thomas only deserves to be read by one who can truly appreciate his perfection.  Same with Will.  Oh—did I say that?  William (we’re on a nickname basis, you see).
    But at the end of the summer, with nary two weeks until the start of a brand new school year, the stragglers inevitably show up at my desk.  I find there are three types of procrastinator.
Procrastinator #1: The “Two Much to Read”
    “Can you help me?  I’ve got to choose a book off this list and I have no idea what to do.”
    “Why are you waiting so late to decide?”
    Smile.  “To tell you the truth, I’ve been reading all summer, but I just haven’t read anything off the list.”
    “What have you been reading.”
    Eyes brighten.  “I read the entire Game of Thrones series!  I loved it!  But it took me all summer, you see, and…”  Kid shrugs and hands me the list.
    I like this kid.  Sure, he isn’t reading “high” literature, but at least he’s reading.  I hand him Lord of the Flies and send him on his merry way, with a promise that there will be a pig head on a stick at some point in the book.

Procrastinator #2: Too Busy
    “I’ve been working all summer, and then my family went on vacation to Mexico (poor kid) and the next thing I knew—it’s the end of the summer and I haven’t read a thing.”
    This kid doesn’t bother me.  Sure, he’s read nothing all summer and thus his brain has begun to shut down and beginning to read something now will be like handing a kindergartener Ulysses, but at least he has no aversion to the summer reading assignment.
    “What have you read in school that you liked?”
    He bites his lip and looks at the ceiling.  “I liked The Great Gatsby.  That one was pretty good.”
    The Sun Also Rises it is.

Procrastinator #3: I Hate Books (I need a minute to compose myself here…okay, I’m ready.)
    “Why haven’t you started your summer reading before now?”  
    He narrows his eyes.  “Because it’s stupid.”
    Thoreau.  He gets Thoreau.  And only because Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography isn’t on the list.

    There is a certain satisfaction in handing out these books, doling out justice one tome at a time.  And while you might think that I’ve missed an opportunity with kid three to give him a wonderful book and inspire in him a love of reading so rich that this cynical child will become the next Mark Twain, consider this.  That kid isn’t going to read a lick of that book.  His parents forced him off of his Playstation and into the library, and now he will go home, Spark Notes the book, write a completely crap essay, and assume the teacher’s fool enough to give him a passing grade.  I pray she’s smarter than that.  At least I know that with Thoreau, the Spark Notes will be boring as hell.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

My Process, Part I

When I first begin a project, I have to find the narrative voice. With Sweet Divinity, this was easy. With Miranda, it took months, and let's just say there were a LOT of voices in my head! To find the narrative voice for my new project, tentatively titled My Literary Boyfriends, I started this way...

        I have two literary boyfriends and they haven’t the faintest clue about each other.  My American boyfriend is William.  A Southern gentleman with a lovely pair of melancholy eyes, an insight into the human heart unrivalled by any other, and a genius of language manipulation.  When we first met, I was intimidated by him—he was so confident, so smart, so…Southern.  And yes, maybe he tips the bottle a but too much, but I hardly care.  I’m completely smitten.
But what William doesn’t know is that long, long before I knew he existed, there was another lover.  A poet, a novelist, an observer of human emotion, morality, and candor.  Thomas.  My British beau.  Creator of the moors of Essex, the heart of Churchminster, the beauty of Tess.  He drew from me a sigh of longing that exuded all of my pent-up teenage emotion.  I love him.
These are my literary boyfriends.  The men with whom I fill my life.  My Southern gentleman.  My British beau.  Thornton Wilder wrote that people are meant to live two by two in this world.  I prefer three.  I’ve always been indecisive.  Don’t tell the boys.

This initial piece is narrated by the first voice I heard when I began exploring the concept of My Literary Boyfriends.  To be fair, it sounds a lot like me.  After all, William Faulkner is my literary boyfriend, but Thomas Hardy is in fact my literary husband.  When I think about these writers and my enduring love for them, what you just experienced is the voice I hear.  But the trick in writing in first person is letting the authentic voice of the novel come through your pen (or keyboard).  So while this was the first voice, it wasn't the right voice.  At least not to begin.  In the next post I'll share with you the second voice I encountered on my journey for a narrator.  Spoiler alert: It wasn't "the one" either.  That said, I really like her.  Get excited.

What I'm reading this week:
The Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman (I've only 60 pages to go!)
William Faulkner by Caroline Porter (though I'm skipping sections that contain spoilers of novels I've yet to read)
Absalom!  Absalom!  by Willliam Faulkner (my self-proclaimed "favorite book", though I haven't read it since grad school so I'm reminding myself why I love it)
The Spy by Paulo Coehlo (the cover is beautiful)