Work-in-Progress: “Residents of the Deep”

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Map of Oceania

Self began this story on her very first visit to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig and has added to it, bit by bit, over the years. She was in Unit # 4 and there was an old maritime book in one of the cupboards.

She doesn’t worry about finishing this story. It will always be “in progress” — it will always exist in middle time, like her visits to this part of Ireland and beautiful Annaghmakerrig.

Here are the opening sentences:

There is something singularly impressive and affecting to the imagination when, in a perfectly calm tropical sea, under a vertical sun, one is able to look down through a depth of thousands of fathoms of clear water and see on the ocean bottom glimpses of the City and all its strange and wonderful objects. The discovery of a populous City existing under fathoms of ocean is an occurrence with no precedent in the annals of exploration, one that overshadows even the discovery of the Americas by Columbus.

Self’s stories are always birthed this way: with the opening sentences. No matter how many drafts her stories go through, the opening sentences never change. If the sentence is strong, it is like a fine, big engine that can power her through — even 20 or 25 pages later — all the way to the end. See the interview she gave to Bellingham Review, the Contributor Spotlight that accompanied their publication of self’s story, Ice. (The first four or five paragraphs of Ice were unchanged from first draft)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Early Draft: Matias, 1746

Self found an old chapter of her novel-in-progress (which is right now 310 pages; it used to be 323 pages)

This chapter is titled “Education, 1746” and begins:

The Bishop schooled Matias carefully. He gave Matias instruction on the governance of the Islands, and the manner in which the archipelago had come under the tutelage of Spain.

And then the history of the Islands unfolds, from Magellan’s voyage to the succeeding century, and all is told in dialogue.

“I must rest,” the Bishop said. “We shall continue on this topic tomorrow.”

Matias returned to his room and lay, restless and wakeful, far into the night.

Self loves, loves, loves these early drafts. That is fine writing, even if it was done by herself (lol). There is almost no backstory. Matias, the young priest, is being schooled by the Bishop. And it is only the two of them, chapter after chapter. There is a garden, and an old house, and birds, and heat, and the Bishop sometimes takes middle-of-the-night walks in just his nightshirt, and Matias catches him, and there’s light from a thin moon. And then nothing.

The parts self added, she doesn’t really like that they spell out so much history. In fact, the only new parts self likes are the parts during the ship voyage from Cadiz to Manila. And the introduction of four soldiers who escort Matias to the island. But these soldiers serve absolutely no plot. They simply take Matias and leave him there, on the beach. Then an old woman emerges from the forest and dances for Matias, and leaves again. And Matias lives in a swamp with another old woman. And finally he meets a half-breed named Diego.

That’s it! There are no big, dramatic scenes. But maybe that’s the story self wanted to write. Maybe that’s the real story: colonization in a hypnotic state, with no drama.

Ugh, writing in long form is truly difficult. She has to get the words down, but those words mean nothing. It’s only after, when she has to carve them into some kind of meaning. She’s not talking about plot, she’s talking about meaning. Her kind of writing is truly writing without a safety net, for she never has a road map.

She has a friend, Caroline (a member of her writers group, and a fine, fine writer herself) who read her short story collection. Last week, Caroline and self met in a café and Caroline told her which stories in the collection could/should be expanded. Caroline is the mother of three young children (all still in grade school) and has just started a graduate program at St. Mary’s, yet she read almost 300 pages of self’s work. That kind of generosity is priceless. These stories are not new, but because of Caroline, self knows which ones she has to try and work on some more.

She hopes she can do all this work in Annaghmakerrig. If she can just. Get. There. Without. Falling. Apart.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

My Cousin Rachel, The Door

Almost to the end of Jenny Allen’s Would Everybody Please Stop?

It’s been a very enjoyable read. Humor — don’t we all need it?

Self was supposed to read My Cousin Rachel right after she finished Jamaica Inn but Jamaica Inn left her nerves in tatters, so she decided to go for light reading, then return to My Cousin Rachel.

After My Cousin Rachel is The Door, by Magda Szabo. Self knows almost nothing about this book, so she decided to look up some reviews on goodreads. And here’s a sentence about what The Door is about:

  • A stylishly told tale which recounts a strange relationship built up over 20 years between a writer and her housekeeper.

My goodness! Magda Szabo got away with writing about that? It could almost be a du Maurier, except that The Door doesn’t sound as if there are any men in it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#currentlyreading: MANDERLEY FOREVER: A BIOGRAPHY OF DAPHNE DU MAURIER, p. 17

Cannon Hall, Hampstead, London

November 2013

As I emerge from Hampstead tube station, in the north of London, the first thing that comes to my mind is that I have been here before: I came when I was a teenager, to visit the house of the poet John Keats, on Primrose Hill.


In self’s mind, memories of 2015 (or could it have been 2016?) when she met Emily in Chez Nous on Hanway Place off Tottenham, just before Emily moved from the Bloomsbury Hotel to Hampstead Heath, and offered to show self around, in a bid to get self to move from Russell Square to Hampstead, where Emily rented a room from a woman who lived in a big, old house not far from Benedict Cumberbatch’s.

Fun times.

In the end, self listened to her old Assumption Convent classmate who advised her to stay put. She’s lived in Russell Square every year now for five years, when she comes to London.

Stay tuned.

Message from the National Democratic Redistricting Committee

  • The Supreme Court won’t fix gerrymandering soon, so it’s up to voters.

Charlotte Observer

Half of the officials who will take part in redistricting in 2021 will be elected this year, including governors who will have veto power over rigged maps.

This year, the National Democratic Committee is targeting:

  • 12 states
  • 10 governor’s races
  • 275 state legislative seats

Many of these elections are taking place in districts that are already gerrymandered, so Democrats are facing an uphill battle.

But the electoral fight IS winnable. It happened in Virginia and Wisconsin.

What do we want? We want “to see voters picking their politicians instead of politicians picking their voters.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Piles and Stacks

Hooray! Self thought of something she could post for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Piles and Stacks

Of course it’s book-related. This first shot shows the books self checked out of her local library, a month or so ago:

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Self’s “To Read” Pile: 8 June 2018

And here’s the stack of books currently checked out from her local library:

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Self’s “To Read” Pile: 5 July 2018

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Travels with Charley, p. 58

Steinbeck heads for the Connecticut River:

It is very strange that when you set a goal for yourself, it is hard not to hold toward it even if it is inconvenient and not even desirable.

This is very true. Human beings are SO confused.

First Day of San Francisco Refugee Food Festival

In honor of World Refugee Day, June 20, San Francisco this week is hosting the Refugee Food Festival.

The festival kicks off today in one of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite San Francisco restaurants, the Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building.

The chef, Pa Wah, from Burma, “spent the majority of her life in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand.”

The other participating chefs are from Bhutan, Iraq, Myanmar, Senegal, and Syria.

More information on the festival, here.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Freedom! Thinks the 21-Year-Old Narrator

And then Tim O’Brien says, Not so fast.

The border with Canada is so close, all the narrator has to do is get to the other side of a river.

  • My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me. Not my parents, not my brother and sister, not even the folks down at the Gobbler Café.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien

At some point in mid-July I began thinking seriously about Canada.

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