June 16-18, 2010:

The writing was going well. I had gotten to over 15,000 words done on the novel. Though to be honest, most of the last work was not actually moving forward. I was back-filling, interweaving, deepening characters, putting in small scenes to sharpen motive, etc. Taking stuff out and adding only a very few new things in.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I was stuck. Where to go next? Well, actually, I have the overarching plot already. The novel is based on a published short story of mine. And the short story is based on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. The original story, not Disney.

But where to go next in the novel?

Yeah, I was stuck.

So I did what I always do when I am stuck. (This reminds me of my father-in-law who was a great hunter in the West Virginia woods who liked to boast, “I’ve never been lost. I’ve been bothered for two or three days at a time, but never lost.”) I turned to something else, something like a palate cleanser, an “amuse bouche” in cooking terms. I turned to a different project, something smaller, that was broken into tinier pieces. A book of poems.

I turned to An Alligator’s Day. Now this is to be a companion to the recently published An Egret’s Day (Boyds Mills) with photographs by my son Jason. The format is established, but we wanted to do a book proposal. Jason had already sent me about 20 photographs. So I began. Worked on about a half dozen poems. None, of course in final form. Worked on some of the nonfictional pieces, sketches really. Wrote, rewrote, rewrote again. But this project, at least, was moving forward. Forward is good.

Then I began to think about what sort of “amuse bouches” I had done before. I realized that in the past they were often short stories. But for some reason I hadn’t written any short stories in several years. (The last was probably “The Tsar’s Dragons” which I did with Adam.) Not because I find short fiction difficult or boring. Well, maybe difficult, but I adore writing them. Not because I haven’t been invited into many anthologies. (I get invited to at least a dozen anthologies a year.) Not because I don’t have ideas. (Don’t be silly–I ALWAYS have ideas. Ideas are the common coin of writers. It’s what one does with the idea that is important.) So the answer to my own question was: I don’t know why I have written so few short stories in the last two or three years. You expect wisdom? Buy a crystal ball.

Other stuff: I gave a tea party at Wayside for 12 visiting college students and their two teachers. . Bob Harris and I spoke about history, Scotland, and writing historical novels and they seemed interested enough.

Had tea with Debby and another member of the University English Lit department at Nora’s house. Lots of book and movie talk ensued.

Dinner out with Claire and two of her friends, one a potter and her daughter a first grade teacher, so I showed off. (I hate when I do that.)

Did a bit of gardening. Enjoyed the sunshine. Walked. Exercised. Read.

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