Monday, October 24, 2005

Strange New World, or Something

So. I've finished writing a book. I've written that statement several times in the past few days, I think in hopes that one of these times it will feel natural, not clangy and freaky and strange. I have said that sentence before, because I thought I'd finished books before, but this time I really did finish it, I think, because sometime on Saturday night I felt a door close and I have this urge to crawl into the back of my mind, pound on that door and scream, "WAIT A MINUTE!!!!!" I have no idea why I'm doing this. It seems somewhat perverse, though I'm not surprised I found a way to turn a happy moment into a panicked one. When I thought I'd finished a book before I had this immediate urge to shove it on anyone who walked by and then hold them prisoner in a corner until they'd read the whole thing so I could see if I was right, if it was really done. I'm still making my husband read it, and after every session I grill him relentlessly on character, backstory, pacing, setting, his enjoyment. (He's a saint.) But I've only sent it to one other person, and while I'm curious, I'm not exactly wishing her to flood back to me with comments, even good ones. And when I grill my husband, I keep waiting for him to tell me the flaws I know it's got to have, because I can't really be done. It doesn't feel euphoric – it does, but not the sort of rainbows and sunshine and children tossing rose petals euphoria I guess I was expecting. I thought I'd feel all satisfied and proud, that I would stand in some part of my brain and crow, "I have finished a book! I have arrived!" Instead I keep whispering it, or slipping it in so nobody notices. "Oh, and I finished the book." My father-in-law was proud, and wanted to know when I wanted to send it in. You know, I couldn't even feel the panic, I went so numb. It feels good to be done, validating, yes – but somehow this took me somewhere new, and I'm sort of standing in this new place blinking stupidly, unsure of where I am or how I got here or what I am to do now. I didn't bargain for that. I didn't think feeling really finished would make everything change – I thought that would come if I ever got a publishing contract, or if the story voices changed their pitch and I couldn't hear them anymore, or if . . . I dunno, I just never thought it would be that I finished yet another draft, looked back and saw that it was good, and suddenly there it was, done. But I guess it's true – I finished a book. I'll just say it fifty more times this week and see if by Friday I don't want to throw up immediately after I end the sentence.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Today I walked outside the library and smelled leaves. Earlier I'd been driving to an appointment and came down Duff Avenue as gold and orange leaves swayed to the street, and that was pretty, but I decided outside the library there really isn't a substitute to crunchy red maple leaves beneath your feet, with that sharp smell of mild decay to make it truly fall in Iowa. I wonder if fall is so perfect because the holidays are so well-spaced, or because you can go out without coats. Christmas used to be quaint, but now it's such a glut of shopping and lights that it's become gaudy more than anything. Holiday tunes crank up the day after Thanksgiving or before, but there's not much to gear up for in fall. Halloween, I suppose, and it does seem that there are more costumes all the time – ones for dogs, which amuse us because we have cats and know that would never, never happen with a feline. But mostly fall is sharp cold air and crunchy red leaves. The temperature flux in Iowa can drive one batty, like last week when I had the air on in the morning because it was 85 and very muggy and the heat on that night because the overnight low was 40. (Cold air mass moved through.) I think it may be worth the annoyance and resulting colds because the flip side is that I've got great crunchy leaves outside, but my heat is off and the windows are open upstairs. I think my favorite part of fall this year is knitting, though. I made Anna a pumpkin hat, and whenever she wears it I get a little thrill. I've considered making one for myself, but I don't think I could quite pull it off. I do plan to knit myself a hat with a long tail and dinglebobber on the end, because I've always wanted one and now I know how to do it. I've also got scads of great yarn for scarves and socks. I will eventually need to rake these great crunchy leaves, and if I don't catch them before it rains, I will have a not-so-nice kind of rotten leaf smell, but for today, I'm really loving the crunchy red library leaves. No red leaves in my yard. Soon the big maple on the side of the house will turn yellow, brilliant bright yellow, then litter the deck and every square inch of the yard with fat yellow decorations, mingling with the dull brown of the ash and oak who are nearly naked already. I love how that maple just hangs on, green as June until the last breath. It's the last tree in the neighborhood to go. That's what I want for my end, too: to hang on until the last minute, go gold, then just drop.