I’m doing it again. I have a fantastic opportunity in front of me and I have one job to do prior to taking advantage of this opportunity, and I am doing everything in my power to avoid the job.
On September 23rd I discovered that my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT took the Best Adult Novel Award at the Marathon Wrap Up Party. With the honour came a Muskoka chair (Adirondack chair, for my American friends), and an envelope filled with beautiful gushing feedback from the bevy of judges who read the manuscripts and chose mine as the winner.
From that date (Sept 23rd), I had six weeks in order to get the manuscript completed and edited into shape before submitting it to the MNM organization for agent feedback.
Then came a week in which ALL THE THINGS happened…all the things, that is, except the writing of the manuscript I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. You see, I was just too busy to write words. I was hanging with friends at their cottage, I was hanging with the old gang from the Ontario Writers’ Conference–including an entertaining drive from Toronto to Whitby and back with the incomparable Wayson Choy, in which we lambasted Trump as we listened to the candidates’ debate on the CBC, I was schmoozing with the contributors of the upcoming horror anthology Purgatorium, and then I was interviewing said contributors for this blog, and I was visiting my kids and grandkids, and we just HAD to go to the opening weekend of Miss Peregrine! There were a few other things in there, I’m certain. The week flew by and brought me to FIVE WEEKS remaining of the countdown to submission. I now find myself smack dab in the middle of this week and I’m not really motoring through the writing as I should be.
This is WEEK 2! I’m proud to have found yet another distraction!
My latest obsession/distraction – HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE by Jennifer Niven, the lovely writer who also brought us ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES.
This book will be, perhaps, the death of me. Both Libby and Jack are fascinating characters and I am absolutely devouring their story. I never imagined loving a book as much as I loved ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES. Only Jennifer Niven could make me love something more than ATBP! And if this book doesn’t distract me enough to cause me to squander this opportunity, I’m almost certain something else will come up.
If you need me, I’m just going to be over here attempting to write slightly more than half a book in 4 1/2 weeks, while simultaneously editing said book. It’s a difficult task, but it is also one I should not be taking so lightly. Must. Finish. Writing. The. Damn. Book!
I thought I would share a little excerpt of I WILL TELL THE NIGHT here. This is part of an excerpt I read at the Midnight Reading at the Muskoka Novel Marathon on the Sunday night. Every year, partway through the marathon, I get the writers to stop what their doing and gather in the dining room of our venue and read from their works. It builds upon the community spirit of the marathon and it’s always such a wonderful experience to hear these raw just written moments the other writers created right there, just hours before.
Here’s an introduction to Finn Barker and his grandmother, MyImogene:
“Honey, get me those two Vidalia onions over there,” his Imogene said. “The two beside the sink. We’ll cut those up and have ourselves a good cry over the cast iron pan, shall we?”
Finn scrambled from the rocking chair on the other side of the kitchen. He had already given up on trying to pin Oscar’s tail under one of the rockers. He had to give up on his theory that cats were stupid enough, or gullible enough, to fall for that trick. He grabbed up the onions and brought them to the woodstove where his grandmother was preparing their afternoon dinner.
“What’s a Vidalia?” Finn asked.
“If these were peaches, sweet boy, they’d be Georgia peaches,” his Imogene said. She was always one to get to the point of a thing by taking the more circuitous route to it. She was well on her way to telling the boy the answer he would need to know, but she would not take him there too quickly. His Imogene was all about the roundabout.
“How can an onion be a Georgia Peach, my Imogene?”
“Oh, it’s not, my boy. Land-sake’s no. That’d be a horrible peach to bite, now, wouldn’t it?”
Without thinking too much on it, Finn decided to try again. “What’s a Vidalia?”
“Well, hon, you know the red part of a match? The part that makes a fire?”
“Yeah,” he said, finally putting the onions he was holding into his grandmother’s waiting hands. She quickly began to skin them with an intense anger that would put any animal hider to shame. “Sulfur, Daddy said.”
“Right,” my Imogene said. “We’re halfway there, my smart boy. How’d an eight year-old get to be so smart? I swear, I was eighty before I knew that one.”
“You ain’t eighty now, my Imogene.”
“Boy, ain’t ain’t no word. Not yet. We haven’t devolved to that level of grammar deconstruction as of yet. With any luck, I’ll be dead and buried before that happens.”
The cast iron pan was now over the open flame of the old woodstove, and a mound of butter the size of Topeka was frying down to a river as my Imogene slowly dropped her Vidalia pieces into the mix. The onions sizzled to life as they hit the skittering butter on the bottom of the pan.
“What’s a Vidalia, my Imogene?” The boy was persistent in his constant pursuit of knowledge.
“Sulfur, my dear boy, is a chemical element of atomic number sixteen. It’s combustible. Do you know what that means?”
“It explodes or catches fire?”
“That’s near enough to the truth of the matter. Well, sulfur is found in the earth. In the dirt. In the soil. It’s from the land, Finn. And when there’s very little sulfur in the ground, in places such as Vidalia, Georgia, well that Earth does its best to make the sweetest most delectable onions found on the planet.”
“Vidalia? It’s a place?”
“Yes sir, young man. Vidalia, Georgia. In the deep south of the United States of America, the country found on the bum side of Canada. They are famous for some nasty and ugly things down there in the deep South, Finn. Things we’ll talk about, perhaps, at some other time. But they are most famous in Georgia for the glorious Georgia peach and the divine Vidalia onion.”