kill your darlings image

I had my final memoir draft call today with my writing coach. I’d sent her the last 5 chapters to review before she gets married next week. It went well, even when she asked me to cut one of my favorite episodes. Faulkner is the one who initially stated, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

Willingly, I capitulated, even though it was a favorite story of mine. I wanted to show a bit of my boyfriend’s character and had a lot of backstory to wade through to get to my point.

Because it’s a hot summer day and you’re reading this, I’m going to share the cut copy with you–a sneak preview to one of my chapters.

Before meeting Dave, I had kept my calendar full on the weekends to avoid feeling lonely and dateless. Even though we both looked forward to seeing each other, it was a couple of weeks before I could fit him into my schedule. We arranged to see each other on Sunday, mid-afternoon, subsequent to my son Rob’s running the New York City Half Marathon and hosting a brunch at this TriBeCa apartment.

Rob’s apartment was not far from the finish line, so it was only a short wait between cheering him on as he sped by on the streets of lower Manhattan and his return home. Before my son arrived back, I came upstairs and joined the other guests who’d already gotten there including his father-in-law, Jim. There was another male named James (unrelated) in attendance, an adorable two-year old who was there with his dad, a friend of Rob’s.

Jim was comfortably seated on the black leather couch opposite the widescreen TV in the living room. He was wearing an Irish fisherman knit pullover sweater with three leather buttons at the neck. I only mention this because, coincidentally, the toddler James had on a miniature version of the identical top. Maybe it was the matching  apparel that drew the young child to Jim. who sidled over, extended his arms to be lifted up and sat on Jim’s lap for the next hour. Everyone in the living room noticed this delightful coupling. I snapped a picture. Something about this moment tickled me.

The point I wanted to make about Dave in my chapter was…well, you’ll have to wait until my book comes out.

A moment of silence, please, for this deceased segment.

Jim Healy and little James

 

The EndWhen I returned back to New York City after my Semester at Sea in May, 2014, I recognized that I wanted to tell a bigger story, more than simply a travelogue.

I took my first writing course the following month at Kripalu, led by the inspirational writer/performer Ann Randolph. From there, I hired my first writing coach, signed up for classes at Gotham Writers Workshop and the Iowa Writers Festival. I formed a writer’s group with three other women and got more serious about creating a narrative. Now, two years later, I’m close to completing what I began nearly 2 1/2 years ago.

After adding the 111 pages I set down while away for two weeks in Vermont in July, I had over 200 pps all together which propelled me toward the finish line which is now in sight. I’m about to write the last chapter: my travel around the world. There will be an epilogue, but I want to conclude the book with coming home, like Dorothy…

I can feel myself slowing down and savoring the process these last few days. There’ll be weeks of editing and getting the manuscript into shape to pitch, but the light at the end of that cliched tunnel is burning bright.

I wanted to share this with you because so often you hear about books-in-progress and then they fade into oblivion. Saying it out loud, via print (not to mix metaphors or anything) is my way of holding myself accountable. I also have a September 15 deadline with my Visions Group to keep me moving forward. I’d be happy to receive any words of encouragement you might have to someone completing a marathon like this.

I’m not picking out my book-signing pen yet, but with that visualization in mind, I’m continuing towards that goal.

 

Client Appreciation Power Shuffle Exercise

Before I left on my two-week writing retreat I held a client appreciation event for the remarkably amazing women I’ve worked with over the years. Nearly 50 women joined me on Thursday, July 13 at the Westport Woman’s Club for networking, a revealing group activity, and lunch.

I wanted it to be special, so designed an invitation with everyone’s name on it, had my assistant print out the envelopes and mailed them with actual stamps.

The invitation I designed for the occasion

Remember those days?

I have to throw in an age-related challenge that came up during lunch. Kim DeYoung, who looked beyond gorgeous, said her cool outfit was doing double-duty as she’d be attending a camp reunion later in the day. “I even remember our camp’s zip code,” she said reciting it rapidly.

“I went to sleepaway camp before there were zip codes,” I reminisced.

Every other woman at the table looked at me blankly. “There was a time before zip codes?”

“Yes, the dinosaurs and I found each other without google maps or zip codes back in the day.”

Other than that (hee hee), it was a totally delightful day.

I’ve always loved bringing remarkable women together. Magic happens when you set the stage for connections. And who doesn’t appreciate knowing they’re appreciated?

Here are just a few of the Remarkable Women who came:

Cristin J and Malene BDiane Rip and Beverley MarrJoanne K and Lynne Marinolouise albin

Martha and goats

Martha, a co-owner of my AirBnB retreat

I know everyone says this, but I can’t believe how quickly these two weeks have gone!

I arrived 13 days ago, and I leave tomorrow afternoon. I’m completely satisfied with the experience and am also eager to go back home.

I wrote 12 pages today, and if I complete 8 more tomorrow, as committed, I’ll have hit my target of 100 new pages of my draft.

To break up the day today I started out early this morning to try that cafe again in Norwich, the one that was closed on Monday, using only main roads this time. Their coffee and granola were delicious, and I bought the housemade Tuscan tuna salad from their deli cabinet to take home for lunch.

Needing a few more veggies, I checked out a general store kind of place, Dan & Whit’s, a short walk away. They displayed beautiful fresh veggies with the name of the nearby farm they came from on the bags they were packaged in. When I mentioned this shop to Alex, one of the owners here, she said, “Their motto is, if we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

What I’ll miss when I leave here is the stillness, the well-behaved and gentle animals (there are goats, ducks, chickens, a cat and several dogs) on this property, and the ease and simplicity of being just a writer.

What I look forward to getting back to, other than the people I love most, is a flush toilet, exercising regularly, and a greater variety of foods than what I can prepare on one burner.

I’ve always known I’m in introvert, but having this prolonged time away has substantiated it beyond any doubt. Wayne Dyer always said, “you won’t feel lonely if you like who you’re alone with.” I can say, unequivocally, I loved being alone.

This doesn’t mean I ‘vant to be alone’ from now on. I absolutely don’t. I do want to repeat it annually (or in some capacity) as a way to complement the intensity of my life and as a place to restore my soul.

 

Vermont Page OutputWith only one full day left to go after today on my writing retreat, I wanted to keep my output up. I hit the keyboard at 8am and finished printing out the first 10 pages of Chapter 8 by 2pm. I knew that I’d be driving to Stowe later in the afternoon to meet good friends who just bought a place there.

My hosts here at the AirBnB recommended a restaurant called Hen of the Wood which is where we made an early dinner reservation. After seeing Sharon’s new place, she gave me a driving tour of ‘her mountain’ and the town of Stowe, then headed to Waterbury.

The maitre’d asked if we wanted to be seated inside or out. It was a spectacular day with temps in the mid-70’s, but we still wanted to be inside, though opted for a quick tour of the patio. We didn’t change our minds in spite of the beauty and rushing waterfalls. But got Stan to take our picture in this beautiful location.

I was treated to the best meal I’ve had since I arrived, much to my surprise and delight, as a belated birthday gift. Humbled, I accepted the generosity of good friends. Jane and Sharon in VT

A Road Less Traveled

A Road Less Traveled

With no plans at all on my calendar today, I wanted to break up my writing hours with an outing at lunchtime. I’d read positive reviews of the Norwich Square Cafe on TripAdvisor, so put it into googlemaps and had to pick from three alternate routes. Since they were each within a minute of the others, I opted for what I figured to be the most scenic route, the one furthest off the main drag, VT Route 14.

Off the main drag in Vermont is not the same as off the main drag in Manhattan. When I turned right on Tigertown Road, it became dirt all the way. Narrow dirt. Trees-leaning-every-which-way, narrow, dirt. I felt frightened. If anything happened on that road, I would have no way of signaling someone. I started sending out foxhole prayers. And, you guessed it, they worked!

Fortunately, I had copied the turn-by-turn instructions onto a slip of paper because my WAZE app was nowhere to be found until the end of the journey.

Unfortunately, the cafe was closed today. I refilled my gas tank at a nearby pump and went back to White River Junction where I’d had a delicious meal at Tuckerbox a few days before. They were open, and it was good.

Got my ten pages done and may top it off tonight with a few more as I’m into a juicy part that is flowing well.

Yvonne Cassidy - Writer

Yvonne Cassidy – Writer

Wow, double digits for my time here in VT, which means I have only a few more days left in my two week rental. I’ve gotten great traction on my page count and am feeling satisfied regarding my output. I love the writing life as well as being completely independent up here.

I wake up when I wake up, go to sleep on my body’s clock. Meals, picking up groceries, exploring–all based on my desire of the moment. It’s a spectacular change of pace from my work and world. I’ll be very happy to resume my ‘real’ life in NYC. I believe it’s the contrast that makes this country lifestyle so enjoyable. I would not like a steady diet of this, but as a balance to the other 50 weeks of the year, bring it on!

Before I came away on this journey I paid a visit to my friend Yvonne Cassidy, a writer I’ve met since moving to New York. She recently had surgery and has been laid up at her apartment. I’ve been over to keep her company a number of times, but only this last time did we get into a discussion about writing. Her next book’s timeline caught my eye in her bedroom. When I asked her about it, she showed me her wall map of her as well as the printed version of her novel in progress, a thick spiral bound volume with multiple highlights in varying colors to indicate which character it’s following. I was inspired and loved seeing how another author organizes her work. It’s an amorphous project, hard to see all at once, and I’m a visual person. Yvonne’s model will be very helpful to me.

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne's next book

Timeline with Post-Its for Yvonne’s next book

I had considered imitating her chapter by chapter timeline while on retreat, but the walls of my cabin are uneven, and attaching a wide enough roll of paper would be more challenging than I’m willing to attempt. But when I get back to my apartment, I fully intend to imitate Yvonne’s creative lead. I have a large blank wall in my living room awaiting an eventual art purchase. But until that day, I can see my own arrangement of colorful sticky notes to map out my book’s arc and characters.

I’ll post the photos of Yvonne and her wall pieces tomorrow. My iPhone isn’t getting a strong enough signal to send the images to my computer tonight. I’ll post them in the morning, but wanted to stay on track with my blogging.

 

 

Do you know who this is a monument to?

Do you know who this is a monument to?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

In the spirit of that quote, I took a good part of today off. There was an Al-Anon convention in Brattleboro that I thought I’d check out. It was well attended, and I stayed for two of the breakout sessions.

Then, as I was driving back towards my cabin, I had a brainstorm. I’d seen signs for a monument of a well-known American a few miles from where I’m staying. I was curious and went to check it out. The weather was gorgeous, but hot. I hoped the grounds around the memorial would be tree-lined and provide good shade for a walk, which they did. Walking is the one thing I’ve missed since arriving in this mountainous state.

I’ll send the first person who can identify this landmark $1. Email me your entry at jane@janepollak.com. If you’ve been reading my blogs, you have a good idea of where I’m staying. I was surprised that this birthplace was on the map.

After being out till nearly 4pm, I still logged several pages today. I’m mostly revising and adding to Chapter 7, but its page count is now nearly 20pps, and I think I only had 10 – 12 yesterday.

Early this evening there was a brief rainstorm and a warning by my host of a possible power outage. I realized that even though my laptop is charged up, without the internet, I wouldn’t be able to continue writing in google docs. Fortunately, there was only a flickering of the electricity and the writing has continued.

Just in case, I knew I had a paperback copy of Answered Prayers, a novel (aka fictionalized memoir) by Truman Capote that got him into lots of trouble when it was published. I knew I could use my phone’s flashlight and read if the place went completely dark.

 

Melissa Petro - Writer/Coach

Melissa Petro – Writer/Coach

If you’re currently working on a writing project or are considering this art form in the future, I highly recommend that you find a great coach to work with. After several days of working on my revisions for Chapters 4 and 5, I met with my coach, Melissa Petro, today via zoom.us, a platform similar to, but preferable (for me, anyway) to Skype.

I’m able to record our calls and go through them a second at a time to scoop up each suggestion and comment Melissa has made. That way I can edit page by page specifically what Melissa has explained would improve my work. I used to take notes during our coaching sessions, but knowing that they’re being recorded now keeps me fully present while Melissa speaks.

To get ready for our time together today, I had reserved the tutorial room at the Kilton Library in Lebanon, VT. I wanted to be sure we had a perfect internet connection, which we did. I got there early to set up. Once ready, I simply continued working on the next chapter until it was time for us to speak.

I’ve now been in my cabin at the end of a dirt road here in VT for a week. I’ve written at least 50 pages so far including the revisions and additions to the pieces we reviewed today. With nothing to distract me, like a convention or something, I’m pedal to the metal all day. I have one more week to go. I set a goal with my accountability team to come home with 100 pages. I don’t think that’ll be a problem. I’m going to take most of tomorrow off, but I’ve got plenty of momentum, and a complete change of scenery will make me all the more excited to get back to work.

During meals, although I know it’s better to just sit, chew and enjoy my food, I’ve been reading, either the news or one of two biographies I’ve got on my devices. I’m almost finished with the Charles Schulz biography (the creator of Peanuts) which accompanied me on the trip here via audible. Before I fall asleep I set the timer for 30 minutes and listen some more. Intrigued by his life, I checked YouTube to see if there was a video clip of an Emmy presentation they described. Instead, I discovered a full-length documentary of his life which put faces on all the players and illustrated many points with strips of Peanuts characters emotionally acting out what Schulz was unable to express personally.

I’ve also got Brooke Shields memoir on my iPhone to keep me occupied at meals out. Totally enjoyable!

Even though it was over 90 degrees today, it’s not unpleasant. I used the owner’s outdoor shower before heading to the library late this morning which felt fantastic. No one was on the property then, and I felt like Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

deer carcassMaybe I’m going a little stir crazy, but my eyes definitely deceived me when I took a walk tonight after dinner. Writing is so sedentary, and not having errands to do or subways to catch, I’m on my derriere for great lengths of time here in Vermont.

I wanted to add some steps to my daily count, so headed out to the dirt road my B&B is at the end of, and set my timer for 10 minutes. I’d walk in one direction for that amount of time, then head back. It’s very hilly here, and I didn’t want to find myself at the bottom of a mile-long climb back up.

As I walked away from the cabin I’m staying it, I spotted what looked like a perfectly petrified carcass of a deer. Can you see it? I continued walking and glanced back to see what it looked like from another angle. Oh, well…deer carcass from other side

The road to the property where I’m staying crosses the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t expecting to see any humanity on this 20-minute walk, so was completely startled and delighted to catch a genuine hiker coming out of the woods looking for his next blaze. I asked if I could take his photo to document my stay. “Sure. I just hope I don’t break the camera,” he humbly replied. appalachian trail guy

I’m well into Chapter 7 which focuses on my path to being able to say ‘no’ in my life. I took an Assertiveness Training course in my late 20’s that launched my lifelong personal development curriculum.

Tomorrow I have a Skype meeting (I actually use zoom.us) with my writing coach to review what I’ve sent her over the last week. The internet in my cabin is unreliable which is fine for writing, but not fine for a streaming conversation. My host here told me about the brand new Kilton Library about 5 miles down Route 14. I stopped by there today to see the facility and found a small conference room where I could talk privately. The librarian sitting at the information desk with a sign saying “Please interrupt me,” signed me up for a time slot tomorrow. When I went online later, I saw that I could have that space FREE for up to 4 hours. All I could think of was what a similar space costs me in New York, if I could even find one that had availability.

Meals have been extremely simple during my stay. I love the space I’m in, but running water is not part of the deal. The stove consists of a single burner induction cooktop, and the sink is as simple as it gets. A three-gallon container of water with a gray water receptacle under the drain pipe. I bring my dirty dishes to the main house each night, and they’re ready for me to pick up in the morning.

In keeping with my mantra as I’ve pared down my life’s possessions, the less I have, the happier I am, life this week has been bliss.

My Vermont Stove

…and sink

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