New Year, New Novel
Happy 2016! I’m watching the snowy view out the window while I’m working on a new book. Here’s what our back porch looked like on Sunday after the blizzard:
And a stream nearby:
I can’t quite believe it’s 2016. 2015 was quite a year—we moved across the country, left our old lives in Texas and started over near Philadelphia; we bought our first home; I published Kissing in America, which I’d worked on for many years, and for a long time wasn’t certain whether it would ever see the light of day; we’ve made new friends and settled in to our new home. (Well, almost settled in. I’m pretending that all those unpacked boxes in the basement aren’t there.)
Kissing in America received an honor recently that really meant a lot to me: it was selected for the Amelia Bloomer Project list of recommended feminist literature. I loved writing the feminist aspects of Eva’s character and her discovery of female poets, such as Elizabeth Bishop, Nikki Giovanni, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove, and Marie Howe. That part of Eva’s life is based on my own discovery of feminism and poetry when I was in my teens: I felt like the wool had been pulled off my eyes, and I began to see the world in a whole new way. Feminsim made me understand, for the first time, how many of my thoughts, dreams, ambitions, self-doubt, hopes and expectations were a product of our society and its constrictions, and how much was actually me. Discovering feminism was like discovering the universe was limitless, with so much to be learned and made sense of—it made me yearn to try to make sense of it, and I knew that the way I wanted to do that was to become a writer.
I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about this quote from Martha Graham, as told to Agnes de Mille:
“I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but had no faith that I could be.
Martha said to me, very quietly: ‘There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent.’
‘But,’ I said, ‘when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied.’
‘No artist is pleased.’
‘But then there is no satisfaction?’
‘No satisfaction whatever at any time,’ she cried out passionately. ‘There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.'”
–Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham from Martha: the Life and Work of Martha Graham
And here’s an Agnes de Mille quote I love:
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how…The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.” –Agnes de Mille
Wishing you a productive and creative winter!