April 7, 2004
Just call me Zombie Girl. I can’t even type straight. I can barely sit up. Everything aches.
But it’s a good thing. Really.
Today, I wrote, rewrote, edited, rewrote, edited again and sent off two episodes of the mystery serial and four episodes of the western. I still have to work on the horror – I’m behind a few episodes on that.
Especially with the western, I find as I get into the groove of it, I want to keep going. If I can clear some deadlines off my desk this weekend, I want to write a good chunk of it – maybe twenty or thirty pages. I’ve got some more business to take care of in the Nashville section, and then I want to get them on that packet boat and on the Mississippi River.
I’ve got to dig up my research on steamboats, and I hope to get some second hand books next week up in Maine.
I want to get the characters down to New Orleans and really get into the meat of the piece.
The Widow’s Chamber is a dream come true for me. I proved that I can write a western, and I love the serial format. I’m committed to all three serials up through next February. Then we’ll see where we are. If something is tired, we can end it and start something else.
Of course, with all this lighthouse/pirate research, I’m getting the itch to write a pirate serial. But I think three serials are enough. What I need to do is a lot more research and then formulate the idea. Or, instead of pirates, maybe something to do with whaling. Moby Dick is always thought of as the penultimate whaling piece, but there’s so much more to the industry than that. Provincetown, New Bedford, Sag Harbor, Portland – all those seagoing cities – there are many, many stories to be told about that place and time.
And so much of my research is in storage! It’s driving me nuts!
I can’t wait to buy my house so that I can create my library/office and have all my books handy. I’ve accumulated an eclectic and wonderful library through the years, and now I need to be able to use it.
Got a nice e-mail from my editor at Rose and Thorn about the summer piece. She’s going to send me some suggestions over the weekend. I think I will enjoy working with her. I think – hope – I’m pretty easy to edit. The only thing that’s not open to negotiation is the spelling of “theatre”. In my world, it must be spelled with the “re”. You can tell an amateur from a professional by the way the word is spelled. Professionals use “re” – in spite of so many regionals switching to “er” in order to soothe their funders. “RE” is correct, and “re” it will be for me.
Yesterday, I spent the entire day on the lighthouse article. I felt like I was building a house. I wrote through with as much info as I had, then stopped to check facts. I’d read through my information before I sat down to write, but I wanted to make sure I remembered correctly. I wanted accuracy. I elaborated where necessary. I cut and tweaked where necessary. Sometimes I eliminated where necessary. And then I moved onto the next section. I let it build itself, and then I rearranged parts of it for a better flow.
Chronological order didn’t seem to work with this piece, but certain information led naturally to other information, and I think I’ve hit something good with it. I like the rhythm. I will go over it again to tighten it, but I’m talking about the topics involved in the lighthouse that intrigue me.
I’m happy with it, whether or not that final person ever deigns to return my phone calls/faxes/e-mails. I know the quote from said person is important to my editor, and I want to please the editor, but I’ve written what I feel is a strong piece that can stand without that final bit of info. I will persist, and if I can get it in before deadline, I can tweak the very end of the piece to include it. Otherwise, the piece has some interesting and unusual information. It feels right, unlike the first go-round, where I was worried about giving the editor what I thought she wanted and sticking to the pre-ordained word count. Now that the word count was lifted and she encouraged me to go after the unusual, it’s a better piece. And I don’t mind if she has to cut it down to fit in with space and budget constraints. It finally feels good.
I’m tackling the ranch piece, but that’s still like putting together puzzle pieces. I’m not quite there yet. But it’s coming together. I want to communicate their commitment to the land and to the animals. It’s less about the words they say than the actions they take and they way they light up when they talk about the animals or when they’re physically interacting with them. If I can find the right way to communicate that passion and that dedication, I will have done my job properly.
The Captain Kidd book had some interesting and helpful tidbits – it deserves a good review, and I will give it to the book. And a book of women’s diaries I picked up on impulse in a second hand bookshop in Sag Harbor had a diary of a local resident that pertained to something in the lighthouse article. Love that synchronicity!
I removed myself from the negative writers’ board and stated my position much more gently than originally envisioned on the second board. Things continue to spiral on the first board in a vindictive and dangerous way towards several people on the second board. More people are coming to the conclusion that leaving is the only way to stop the abuse. Although, some of them, who are being attacked at home and at work, have to take more drastic steps. Hopefully, getting the authorities involved will resolve the problems. And quitting cold turkey is the best thing anyone can do. I’m holding to my position and no longer responding to posts about the first board, or even reading most of them. It’s an unhealthy situation and I won’t feed it.
I sent out a couple of queries. I have the opportunity to submit some plays, and I’m debating whether or not I should. I have my doubt as to the quality of the venues. Guess I should do the research, then go with my gut.
I also turned down theatre work in order to do the magazine work, and it was the right thing to do. It was difficult; it was scary – feeling I was letting people down, fear that I wouldn’t get called again for work. But if I don’t put the writing first, it will never be first. And I’m determined to make this leap. Fear or no fear, this is what I have to do.
Everything aches. Last week at the theatre took an enormous physical as well as mental toll, and six hours in the car on Monday didn’t help, either. Neither do all the hours at the computer. I’m not eighteen anymore, and I have to take good care of my body. Then my body can support my mind, instead of my mind having to overcome my body all the time. I’d rather they worked in tandem than in opposition.
What a great day on Monday, though! It was awesome in the traditional sense of the word – you stand on a bluff looking out over the choppy blue-green sea and feel a sense of awe and joy in being a part of this magnificent world. There is so MUCH for which to be grateful. We’ve been given custodianship of a magnificent planet – and nature will win out, being much stronger than even the most ego-driven technology. If the human race has to be extinguished in order for the planet to survive, I have no doubt that will happen.
I just hope it won’t happen in my lifetime, and hope I can make some small contribution in caring for the earth while I’m here. Regarding each small piece of recycling as a joyful bit of care taking, I hope, is part of that, rather than self-righteously saying, “Oh, I’m doing my part. I’m recycling.” I think we need to look at custodianship as an honor instead of as a chore or something forced upon us. I have to explore these ideas further – I’m not articulating the emotion well yet, and I need to back it up with facts and statistics.
To stand on Turtle Hill and look out over the water, imagining the lighthouse at Land’s End in Cornwall, is rather magnificent.
Sitting in the sun-dappled Montauk Library, hunting through the files of articles on the Lighthouse, the Ranch, Third House, Shipwrecks, etc., was an exercise in joy. A sentence that might be a throw-away in someone else’s article can lead me down an exciting line of inquiry.
Sometimes, I wish I’d studied archaeology!