New Cat in the House

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I was going to write something generic here. About writers and pets, with maybe a few quotes scattered about. But the fact is, after being without a cat for three years, there’s a new guy in the house and I want to write about him. Bear with me.

He’s about five years old and what’s called a Lynx Point Siamese. I had no idea what he was, just that he was friendly, with an unusual coat and blue eyes that blinked a hello through the cage bars. And, unwilling though I was to consider it, he entered inside my home, already named Frankie. (Ole Blue Eyes, although his tone is less melodious.)

For the first few days, I wrote and edited while he found a hidey hole to make himself comfortable. It was as though there wasn’t a cat in the house; very odd.

It’s been a week, though. He’s not yet comfortable with the idea of sitting in my lap as I write. But he sleeps nearby on the couch, sprawled out on his back in a way that comforts me. I know he wouldn’t be sleeping so unrestrained if he didn’t feel safe.

There will be two cats entering my characters’ lives in my next novel and the demanding tone in Frankie’s voice reminds me how individual he is—and to make sure my fiction-cats offer their own voices on the page.

(There—I connected my cat to writing.)

He’s a little too serious and well-behaved but I hope, as he realizes he’s here to stay, that that little streak of devilry I see when he plays with a toy comes out. Though not while I’m correcting proofs. (Yes, I know he’ll lie down right on the spot I’m trying to read, but I can dream, can’t I?)

 

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Writing Rut? Stretch Yourself

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It happens. The writing hits a wall. Or the ideas are there but you don’t feel like writing them. The sun is out or the air is cooler, and everyone else seems to be going and doing, leaving you at the keyboard (even if you are sitting in a café with a laptop and your favorite drink). Everyone seems to be moving, and you’re not.

Maybe it’s seasonal. Autumn is the season of a new school year, and after decades of going, I believe that’s imprinted on us. At least, I look outside and see students on their way and the memories make me both glad and wistful that I’m not one of them.

 

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But why not take a class? A single, solitary out-of-the-comfort-zone class? It has a lot to recommend it.

 

1. It gets us away from the familiar.

 

A teacher can bring us ideas and merge them with different viewpoints—all in one space. Interaction with other students can bounce those ideas higher. And, depending on your topic, new avenues can enrich your writing.

 

2. It gives us a new skill.

 

It can be knowledge or a physical skill. Something that our body will react to and yes, once again, that gives us information we can’t get any other way. When I took a tap dance class this summer for the first time, I was suddenly aware of the muscles and balance needed to not scrape the floor.

 

3. It’s good for us.

 

In the way of eating vegetables we detest. Learning something that’s unfamiliar puts us in the category of beginner. We may think we’re prepared, but in an area we know nothing about, it’s a humbling experience. And that can make us return to our writing with a deeper appreciation and thankfulness of what we do and do well.

So, what do I have planned? Five years ago I took a beginner piano class and hoped to do that again, but unfortunately I waited too long. All the beginner classes were filled. While that means I’ll need to wait until next semester, at the same time, I wonder how many of those classes are filled with writers.

 

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* Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

** Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*** Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Writing and 9/11

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Writing fiction in a post-9/11 city makes for some difficult choices.

There’s no doubt that my beloved city is still scarred. When other places offer a brief news item on the day, we air the entire reading of the names of the dead, about four hours’ worth. We have a museum that walks people through what happened and how we coped. And are coping. There are thousands of people still receiving medical help (physical and mental) from the aftereffects.

But in writing terms, it’s a problem everyone faces. Do we mention a specific event? On the plus side, it gives our story a sense of time and place. On the minus side, it dates it. And for some people, mention of a real tragedy inside a fantasy novel might take them out of the escape they wanted.

 

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A fellow writer once asked if any mention of it should be made in her novel. Her book had been started long before that tragic event and a group of us told her not to change a thing. Fortunately, the area she placed her characters in and the events that she created did not require it. Including it would have been a distraction. So she left it alone.

My own soon-to-be-released novel takes place on Long Island. I chose not to bring in any mention of 9/11. And when my main character needed to go into the city, she went to a different area.

I don’t know if future books will have my characters referring to anything or pointing to a landmark or if they’ll just continue walking to sit in Battery Park with no mention of the recovered globe that is there. Or whether I’ll make sure there’s no reason for them to go to the area at all. It’s a hard call, but it’s a call required of every writer who uses a real place, not just because a horrific tragedy occurred in their backyard.

 

 

* Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the U.S., a holiday that celebrates workers. I’m going to do both today, finish editing a cookbook and take time off from blogging this week.

Happy Holiday!

 

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