I love the chapters in which Robin is rearing Lark, alone, in their first NYC apartment.
As I turned on the lamps, I thought about how much I loved our little home. Since that first hectic year, I’d papered the kitchen in a cheerful yellow geometric pattern and put up crisp white café curtains. I’d had the old, worn green linoleum ripped up and replaced with a classic black-and-white square pattern. I sorted through the mail and then stuck a finger in the soil of the jade plant that spilled like a weeping willow by the front window.
“Lark, please come water the jade.” I opened a cabinet, thinking about what to make for dinner. Lark chattered to the plant as she watered it with the little brass can.
“You have such a green thumb,” I said, pulling out a can of tomatoes.
She studied her hand. “A green thumb! That’s hilarious, Mama.”
I laughed at her vocabulary and thought wistfully about how not that long ago she had said “fumb” for thumb. As I explained the idiom, Lark began setting our table for two with pretty, old, mismatched dishes, the ones that had spoken to me in a village thrift shop. I had displayed a few special ones on a wooden shelf on the wall. It was fun to speculate on families who had eaten from them. “Who did that one belong to?” I asked Lark as she centered a pink one on her placemat.
She traced the flowers on the plate with a finger. “I think it belonged to a little girl. Named Rosie … with curly black hair and a little dog named Tippy.”
Later that night, Lark and I snuggled in her bed to read. We took turns reading pages. As Lark read, I regarded her sweet room. The alphabet poster I’d bought in Paris hung above the bed. We’d found a dusty old gum ball machine at a junk shop for six dollars. I’d had it made into a bedside lamp with a smart paper shade and had kept it filled with gum balls. On Saturdays, I allowed Lark to insert coins for a special treat. An impressive dollhouse that Grandpa Hank had constructed from a kit squatted in a corner, little dolls strewn around it like confetti. “Mama, it’s your turn!” Lark said . . .
From left to write. Yes, I meant to say that. Strunk and White. I’ve been hanging with these wise guys since college. The Elements of Style has lived on the desk of every classroom in which I hung out my shingle, and helped me fix 4,912 comma mistakes. If I slipped the poor little thing out, you’d witness the ugliness–the turned down, dog-eared pages, the defilement by highlighter, pen and pencil.
So I’ll move on to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird gifted me by my brilliant writer cousin, Greg. He and Lamott changed my perspective by granting me permission to let my hair down, to find my own voice. And that Lamott’s funnier than a rooster in socks is something to write home about.
Then there’s Annie Dillard, master of her domain–ecclesiastical prose–not what you were thinking. Reading her stuff makes me want to slit my writing throat in hopeless despair.
Next up, Stephen King. Well, he’s . . . the. King. Not only of horror, but of the brilliant metaphor. I curtsey to him for those gems alone. He bares his soul unflinchingly in On Writing. And you love him all the more for it.
Rubbing right elbows with his highness is prolific young K.M. Weiland, new find and Twitter friend who is kind and generous and a Christian to boot. Her authoritative voice in Structuring Your Novel forced me to look at my third book baby in scenes and sequels and resolutions, oh my!
And at last, Writetight, William Brohaugh’s masterpiece on precision. I’d yank the curtain closed and zap the vote button for anyone who can identify 16 types of flabby writing alone. Actually the library police are probably hunting me down for the desecration of Brohaugh’s pages as well.
Don’t tell them where I live.
A tease from A Faculty Daughter, chapter three. Not sure which character I love more, Ronnie or Miss Foxie.
“Oh, this old thing! I look like third base today.” Miss Foxie sniffed the breeze. “Thought I might as well keep these geraniums alive, although the first frost will take them soon enough.” Miss Foxy was the faculty meteorologist, more reliable than the radio or television. Folks said she had predicted the blizzard of ’59 when the radio people were still in diapers.
Ronnie sprang up. “Can I help, Miss Foxie?” We watched him make a dozen valiant trips to the spigot with the watering can, staggering under the weight of the water, back and forth, back and forth, sloshing about half the water each time, and beaming at Miss Foxie who spoke softly to him.
for my first book baby, In Robin’s Nest, I thought it would be fun to share a couple of excerpts from Robin’s story.
Do you remember this part?
” . . . do you remember?” he said. The wind played through the dark, dark branches of the tree overhead. A yellow leaf drifted to my chest. Dean’s proximity– red and blue checked shirtsleeve rolled up a brown forearm, the meter of his breath– I found I had read the same passage on constitutional law about four times. “But I was kissing you then,” he said.
Tears pricked behind my lids. “I was thinking the same thing.” Laying his book facedown on the grass, Dean rolled onto his elbow and gazed down at me. I looked up into his clear gray eyes. He traced my mouth with a finger. Top lip. Bottom lip. It had been so long. I twined my arms around his neck, steel to his magnet.”
Another excerpt from one of my fave scenes in A Faculty Daughter.
Tom St. James rang the bell at 7:05. Karen had asked her parents if she could meet him in the parking lot, but Mr. Howard had said nothing doing. Tom wore a collared sweater and a pair of striped bell-bottoms like Greg Brady on the Brady Bunch. But unlike Greg, this man—no way you could look at him and think boy—smoldered with carnality the likes of which we’d never seen. Tom’s collar afforded us two open snaps worth of chest hair. Lacey and I stood like a pair of ventriloquist’s dummies, gazing at his high planed handsome face, his eyes the color of the sherry my parents sometimes drank. The air around Tom seemed to shimmer with charge. “Is Karen ready?” he asked, his lazy smile the essence of cool.
See the place that inspired me in creating Dean’s world, Villeneuve.
And here’s the real Kirby, the inspiration for Dean’s horse. Isn’t he a beauty?
Here’s one of my favorite snippets from chapter six of A Faculty Daughter.
From across the room came the cacophony of breaking dishes—to which all heads turned—and in the second of ensuing silence a trio of silverware pinged off the floor as though its thunder had been stolen by the china. The boys broke into raucous applause, wolf whistles of appreciation. This was the Browning practice when a student slipped and fell on the greasy tiles by the dish window. The faculty frowned on the tradition, and blustered, Quiet now, boys, or That’s enough now, but no one bothered to do anything about it. The poor boy—sensitive Andrew Gold who had sat at our table the year before—struggled gamely to his feet, but the tips of his ears blazed. His blue Oxford shirt, dark with liquid, clung to his stomach. Andrew stood regarding the mess. Louis had clapped and whistled along with the others, except Frank who had jerked at the noise and knocked his milk over. He and Phillip pushed at the widening flow on the table with their napkins.
I was honored to talk with Laura Seeber of Emerald Musings today about In Robin’s Nest.