Monday, May 13, 2013
The Next Big Thing is a blog hop, a chance for writers all over the world to talk about what they're working on. When you’re tagged, you answer ten questions about your next book or story, link to the person who tagged you, then tag 3-5 other writers. I was tagged by Barb Shoup, writer and advocate extraordinaire. I like to refer to her as my literary fairy godmother. (Read her Next Big Thing post here.) And while you're at it, read An American Tune, Barb's new novel from IU Press. Great stuff. Stay tuned for posts from other writers. I'll link to them here soon. Now, the questions... What is your working title of your book? Sleeping Woman Where did the idea come from for the book? When I started my MFA program at Purdue University, I knew I wanted to try to write a novel for my thesis, though I didn't know yet what I'd write about. In my second semester, I began a very short story told in second person, a "you" who becomes very sick while traveling abroad and is sent home. That short piece became a chapter, and ultimately the "you," once a man, turned into a she: Carey Halpern, the main character. Her physical ailments were revised out in later drafts, and it turned out that her real sickness was grief over her boyfriend's murder. What genre does your book fall under? Literary fiction. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? When my sister read a draft a few years ago, she pictured James Franco as Ben. And look, if this is fantasy, I'll just go ahead and cast Jennifer Lawrence as Carey. Now that she's done blockbusters, perhaps she'll be looking for some indie work. For Mike: Matt Damon circa Good Will Hunting. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Indianapolis native Carey Halpern buries her grief and guilt deep inside when her boyfriend is murdered in Mexico during her junior year abroad; seven years later, her new job among recent immigrants, a familiar stranger online, and a break in the murder case force her to confront the role Ben played in her life – and the role she played in his death. Do you have a publisher for your book yet? Not yet. It has come close a few times at places both big and small, which by turns gives me dyspepsia and encourages me to keep trying. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? About 2 1/2 years. I estimate that I've written about six or seven more drafts since then. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Trick question. My work is completely original! But, if you like X, you will love Sleeping Woman! How's this: some books I found helpful while working on this novel were The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Don Quixote by Cervantes, Birds of America by Lorrie Moore, You Shall Know Our Velocity! by Dave Eggers, and Child of My Heart by Alice McDermott. Also, Susan Minot’s Evening, Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog and Case Histories. For starters. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I studied in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. It was life-changing, as these experiences are, and I often found myself returning in memory to that trip, particularly a side visit we made to the medieval city of Guanajuato. When I moved back to Indiana for my MFA, I was amazed at how much the Hispanic population had grown in Indianapolis. My study abroad experience came back to me instantly, though my Spanish was a little rusty. The changes in Indy -- and the way memory changes as you look back -- became topics I was interested in exploring. A few of us from the exchange program recently reunited, and I found myself caught again between the memory of things that happened, and how other people remembered the same events. Small things, small differences, but still important ones. I returned to Mexico in 2005 to research the novel; much had changed, but there were some things I was surprised to remember wholly. They're in the book. Guanajuato, GTO, Mexico What else about your book might pique the reader's interest? There's a lot that people might relate to. Things like coping with a senseless death. Understanding yourself and your place in the world. Navigating language and cultural barriers, both at home and abroad. The electronic miscommunications that occurred in the mid-1990s -- the early days of the Internet and e-mail. Tourism, photography, and being socially aware. Immigration and all its risks. The issues of immigration, forged documents, and illegal drugs are woven into the novel. Last October, The Indianapolis Star reported a record marijuana bust of more than 5.25 tons in an Indianapolis warehouse. The drugs came from a Mexican cartel. Immigration continues to be a hot-button topic, both locally and nationally, as Latinos are the fastest-growing group in the United States. Indianapolis’s Latino population (based on the city’s West side, the setting in the novel) grew 70 percent from 2000-2005; that’s more than any other group. American tourism in Mexico has plummeted, largely due to fears of drug-related violence. These are current problems, and there are also evergreen themes: loss, grief, regret, and what to do with love when one’s intended will not or cannot accept it.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
1. Living in a surveilled society usually puts me on edge, on guard, at the very least wishing I'd employed a comb before leaving the house; I see cameras and screens and think that we are trapped, and we are, on monitors in color or black and white, depending. 2. Today I looked at surveillance video from Monday's Boston Marathon bombing, the two suspects who looked young, like kids (8 year old among the dead, and I can't even let my brain visit that subject, no, I can't, the gap-toothed smile, the birthday hat), wearing caps and backpacks and loping lankily down the sidewalk, and me and my husband speculating on their story, their reason, their M.O., the stories upon stories we are creating from what we see on this screen, the one in our house that shows people from another place on another screen. 3. The cameras did what they were supposed to do, but not in time to prevent. Only to punish. 4. When I enter the grocery store, I look up and see myself on the security camera's screen. I always make eye contact with myself. I imagine this footage of me needing to be released, because this is the footage we see of people, sometimes. Smiling or unaware or sniffing kumquats, being ordinary, being alive. We are being watched, but I want it to be known, now and later if it becomes necessary: I'm watching, too. You, whoever you are, viewing from another location: I cannot see you but I know you're there. 5. Forget obsolete videotape in the digital world: now what we waste is time. How much footage have we sifted through, how many moments must we relive only to discard them? We rewind and fast-forward and make judgement calls about what these images are worth, these images as people were and no longer are, soaked in dumb beauty and exaggerated humanity, o the lives we will never get back.
Posted by Sarah at 11:20 PM
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Which is like Lisztomania, as well as Lisztomania. I would like someone to make a list/liszt out of any of the items on this list, in the style of an Onion infographic. Please and thank you. 1. Who's Hiding the Travel Coffee Mug Lids? 2. What Happened to the Leftover Birthday Cake? 3. Why Are We So Angry? 4. Snow in March: Lament of the Crocuses 5. It is Spring, and Other Lies 6. What Bodily Fluids Are We Wearing this Season on Our Unwashed Fleece Sweatshirts? 7. Who Are We Running Into While Wearing Our Fleece Sweatshirts to the Chinese Takeout Place? 8. Sweatshirts: A Love Affair 9. Who Are We Rooting For? 10. If I Could Eat Lunch All Over Again, I'd Order Breakfast
Posted by Sarah at 10:51 PM
Thursday, February 14, 2013
...Or as the film is more commonly known, Return to Me. Driver, Duchovny, yeah? A bunch of us were out at The Red Key ages ago and I couldn't remember the title and instead came up with that: Your Wife's Heart is in My Chest Cavity. "Is that the foreign translation?" a friend asked. Kinda. It also popped into my head today as people responded to the essay I have in the March issue of Ladies' Home Journal, about going through IVF, and what that was like for me and my husband. (Photo by the truly nice and truly talented Brian Sorg.) I'd been really nervous to share this story. It's personal. I wasn't sure how people would respond. For a long time, I couldn't talk about going through infertility. I couldn't write about it. Reading other people's stories helped, reading blogs helped, and I kept hoping that would be the case for someone else if I shared our story. Today, friends and family gave me so much support I felt like my heart was beating out of my own chest cavity. From my thumping heart to yours, Valentines. xoxo sl
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
When the calendar flips, you have another chance to be better. It is 2013. You can be better than ever in this year, you learn, in terms of losing weight, exercising more, publishing your novel, landing your dream job, raising your children, being a good spouse, keeping an organized household, mending your own clothes, tending your free range chickens, changing the car's oil in a timely fashion (and mess-free in the driveway, using a funnel made from upcycled dried coffee filters reinforced with papier mache, accented with cruelty-free raffia, as seen on Pinterest), walking three times a day, doing sun salutations between laundry loads, brushing your hair more regularly, creating activities appropriate to your child's developmental level in order to maximize his/her learning potential, boiling down a homemade version of sidewalk de-icing salt that's less corrosive to city cement and better for environmental runoff, handmaking peanut butter birdseed bells for the cardinals and the woodpeckers, and the squirrels, because they also are hungry, albeit obnoxious, and you've already mentioned squirrels a few times in this venue and are beginning to look a little nutty. A-corny. C'mon. Let's try, here. Let's at least put in an effort. Put up appearances. New Year, New You. The calendar flips with or without you. There you are, on your way to library story time with the kids, and Dunkin' Donuts is not on the way but does have a drive-thru, and it might not the best idea to feed a two-year-old half a glazed donut before story time, but what the hey, he does fine, he likes it, and how about a Boston cream for you? And another cup of coffee? Yes. That third cup of coffee puts you in the zone. Turns you from mediocre to SUPER IDEA PERSON. Clearly caffeine is a drug, and you are going to get all you can before it is outlawed. You went to the gym the other day and burned off last week's pastries along with the intermittent anxiety over cobbling together multiple part-time jobs, returning to work after baby, taking baby to daycare for first time (avoid that thought), of job applications labored over and spinning aimlessly into black holes, the sorting of modern life, the emails that disappear into dusty e-folders, overstuffed and never to be seen again, the sorting and storage of toys with one million parts moved daily in and out of bins, parts that you trip over each day. You did sun salutations for the first week of the new year, until you forgot or your wrists started aching, or both, wrists that flare with carpal tunnel and the usage of the technology of modern life, that ache from the lifting and nursing and buttoning and caring for two small people dependent largely on you for their survival. The older one turns off the computer with five browser tabs on the screen and three documents-in-progress, an unsubtle opposition to the end of the tractor video on YouTube. (That weirdly passionate song about excavators: rock on, 1988, with your badass synthesizers. This song will be in your head all day.) Everyone says, "Time goes so fast. Cherish this age!" And you do. Or you try. Because you have learned that the months and years go fast. It is the days that are slow. You wonder how it possibly could be just 12:30 p.m. when it feels like you've done enough work for three weeks. This complaining! Do you think you work in a sweatshop? (No.) Do you think you are paid cruel wages? (Well. Adjunct pay minus the cost of daycare equals No Benefits in most senses of the phrase. It equals anchors aweigh on the S.S. Explore Your Options). Sorting emails, toys, employment, wah wah wah. Complain less in the new year by writing in a handcrafted-by-you gratitude journal, with deckle-edged paper and French flaps. Iron on a tree decal to the 100-percent cloth cover, as a reminder that trees give, just as in the children's book, and you are a tree, sturdy of trunk and long of limb, and your reach extends over many. Do not think about the fact that the tree winds up being a stump, and is all like, I've given, and you've taken and taken, and I would love it if you just sat on me some more! (You are missing the point of the story. The point is selflessness. But that book has always made you sad in the wrong way. Or maybe the right one.) Forget where you put the gratitude journal. Pledge to make a new one. Or not. While the kids nap, dig out a cruddy notebook
Posted by Sarah at 9:42 AM
Monday, December 31, 2012
Wet snowfalls like this one currently out my window are excellent, because that means it's a little warmer out, perfect for playing and romping like puppies. The bigger pup, the 2-year-old, will have much fun when he wakes from his latest fake nap. Recent google search terms: "2 year old nap problems." The 4-month-old is napping, too, which is how I find myself here, uninterrupted, communing with the Internet. Little pup is too small for snowplay, and too big for his snowsuit besides. (I am talking about actual children, by the way. Please do not tell me how much sleep dogs do or do not need. I do not have a dog. And plus it would probably break my heart to know that puppies sleep better than 2-year-olds.) Internet, you've been a portal to too much information lately. You always are, yes, but lately it seems especially so. Would news carry better via telephone wires? Does anyone accidentally dial the wrong number and start sharing private information meant for other recipients? No, and no. Maybe it is best, Internet, if we spent a little time apart. Even if you are also a portal to people who are not babies, people who remind me of who I was and will be again. The identity question of parenthood: I am pursuing it. Working and parenthood. Semi-working. Whatever. An essay forms in the mind, disappears without pen to trap it. I will it to come back. Eventually. No official resolutions for me, nosiree, but I wish you well with any and all of yours, even the outlandish ones. I don't hate on resolutioneers. Haters gonna hate. I'm a liker, and Likers gonna like. And I'm going to like being in bed by maybe 11ish after a cozy night at home with the family. Big dinner and some wine and ahhh. Joy for you in the new year. For us all.
Posted by Sarah at 2:31 PM
Monday, October 22, 2012
If you missed Another Earth when it was in theaters, check out my latest essay in The Humanist's November/December issue for a preview on this excellent film: "Another Earth deserves another chance, especially for readers, writers, and dreamers—bonus if you’re all three. The film offers up a wholly unique look at reconciliation, with related lessons we can absorb about the art of storytelling." Read the rest here.
Posted by Sarah at 10:14 AM
Thursday, October 11, 2012
But there you have it. Fall is for mums and pumpkins and candy corn. For lovers. For The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons and other familial outfits that rock the banjo. You heard that right, man.
Posted by Sarah at 2:07 PM
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Both babies are napping! At the same time! And what should I do before they're up again (any minute? any hour?), what should I get done, how should I use my time to its best advantage when my head is still comprised of The Fog, the lack-of-sleep delirium fog, no doubt made worse by my postpartum affection for sugar in all its sugary sugared goodness? I have 55 million emails to respond to and all sorts of thank you notes to write and then there are the baby books to fill out and look! a hummingbird! Which is how my heart feels, now that I am reunited with coffee and Coke (more, please, that is, as I only managed to cut back while pregnant, not give up entirely) and of course the sugar in all its sugary sugared goodness. After you have a baby, it is customary for people to bring you cookies and candy and bread and cake. The people who bring you food are the best kind of people there are. The people who bring you books are a really close second. Maybe a tie. I am not one to share all the gory details in a public fashion, but I will say this: when darling dear Baby #2 was on his way the last weekend in August, a week early, we were a little late in getting to the hospital. I was having contractions -- pretty bad ones -- but my water hadn't broken, and I was pretty sure that if we went in, I'd just get sent home again. But no. Things moved quickly. We checked in at 11:40 p.m. on Saturday night, and baby boy was born at 12:43 a.m. Sunday morning. Really, really grateful that I didn't give birth on the side of Binford Boulevard. Reallyreallygrateful. Especially because then I'd be obligated to name the baby Binford. And we like our names a little more Irish around here. (cue one crying child. Naptime OVER. Just remembered seven more things I was supposed to be doing. Layden OUT.) (But I shall return. Depend upon it!)
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
1. I once applied for a job at Chick-Fil-A, in the mall, and I did not get the job, likely because I wore shorts and a t-shirt to the interview (I was maybe 15), and I think I balked when the interviewer mentioned God. 2. What a relief, not to get that job. 3. This round of revision involves cutting mercilessly, reducing a big thing by a percentage, and some days it is easy to see what needs hacking. 4. Other days, I turn instead to the Internet to look up images of Hadley Richardson Hemingway, star of The Paris Wife, which I just read. 5. This summer has been awesome fantastic groovy jazzy funky, with lots of reading, writing, and spending time with my hilarious and sweet toddler. 6. He is slightly less sweet when looking you in the eye, throwing a handful of food, and declaring (taunting?) "TIME OUT!" 7. But still hilarious: yeah, I get mad, sure I do, but other times it takes advanced effort not to laugh out loud.
Posted by Sarah at 10:33 PM