Manhattan Calling...

by Kathleen

Whatever your perspective regarding The View from Here, you couldn’t possibly mistake me for The Clash. I never was nor will be an angry young man you really must listen to, let alone the legendary Clash. No fooling about my NYC address, however.

All told, from my downtown apartment overlooking a boisterous 24-hour Dunkin Donuts, I fit all too well the person Mike French was warned against becoming: I am an isolated writer.

As a young mother, I wrote fiction while my children napped. I had always wanted to write fiction, but fought it, not wanting to fail, until they were born whereupon: no kidding and no escape—my adult self was a chronic fiction writer.

My children grew into their own lives and I kept writing. Some short stories were published. A few collections won honorable mentions. One novel, like those of so very many writers, almost made it into print.

Before long, then, I reached a plateau where I was rewriting more than writing. Before, I might spend a month on thirty pages and after the story drew to its conclusion, I’d rewrite the whole thing two or three times. After a few of these efforts, unfortunately, I began spending months on the same ten to twenty pages. My remedy for this illness turned out to be the confines of a blog.

To keep myself from rewriting everything to death, I resolved to post online fiction Monday through Friday. I wrote it and of course rewrote it, until just before falling asleep, I’d post it. I still do, imagining my fiction posts as a performance: I do my best and put it up. These episodes have developed, as if organically, into serial stories. When I rewrite them, off line, they equal one hundred manuscript pages, more or less.

Don’t know about elsewhere, but here in the states, novellas are pitifully unpopular. One agent I tried had never heard the term: Did I mean a lite-novel or a long short story?

Nonetheless, I’m proud of my blog novellas and have found a special freedom within a blog’s limits.

Since my few attempts blogging non-fiction have always embarrassed me, Mike has generously agreed to let me try my hand at short stand-alone fiction posts. I’m not sure what to expect. The idea looms like yet another daredevil stunt. But that's the way I work. Even when I burn and crash, I’m happier than when I must struggle with real life.

Please, comment if you don’t like or understand what I do, or if you do. Honestly, I’m as eager to learn as to perform. Next time you read a post by me, however, remember it’s fiction. That first person or third is never me. Fiction exists separately.

29 comments:

theamateurbookblogger said...

Kathleen - I for one am looking frwd to reading. I might actually resolve to keep my New Year's resolution to read more, by making it to read your posts . I love Novellas - tell that agent, Thomas Mann, Death in Venice. Now that was another view on life as an isolated artist.

Mike French said...

Kathleen - We have walked similar paths - I role swapped with my wife when the kids were born and became a "home" Dad to look after the kids. To keep my mind active I tried a few things whilst they had their afternoon nap and finally (to my surprise) stumbled across writing. Now they are all full time at school I am totally hooked - it's like a drug - perhaps we should check into a clinic together! Anyone want to join us!

Paul Burman said...

Didn't know what a novella was! For an agent, that's terrible. He should be 'struck off', de-barred, excommunicated or burnt at the stake. Seriously, this is literary blasphemy, an absolute profanity. Usually I'm all for heretics, Kathleen, as I can see you are, but ... well, words have failed me (which might not be a bad thing).

I'm with you on novellas: I think it's a lovely form and I wish there were more of them. Have recently finished re-reading D.H.Lawrence's three novellas ('The Fox', 'The Ladybird', 'The Captain's Doll') and Ian McEwan's 'On Chesil Beach' not so very long ago, and there's something very rewarding about them: quicker than a novel, significantly more substantial than a short story. All the very best to you, Kathleen, and long live the novella.

kathleenmaher said...

theamateurbookblogger: hello! I love Death in Venice so much, I might wish mine could compare. Truth be told, though, I'm grateful for the chance to write like myself.

Mike: the writer/blogger John Baker http://johnbakersblog.co.uk/
says there is no cure. How lucky your children are, though: they benefit almost as much you.

Oh Paul, I know. But my bet is that agent will make big money. I almost mentioned that a novella was about the length of a screenplay. The word didn't escape me; I chose not to go there.

Stella said...

Kathleen, for me blogging has also been an exercise to simply force myself to write every single day.

Don't be embarrassed about writing non-fiction. It's really not very different from fiction - you're just not supposed to write any dialogue. ;)

kathleenmaher said...

Stella, how right you are! So right, I need to question: what am I doing? Could it be non-fiction embarrasses me, because people just might read it?

Stella said...

Pretty much, yes. And I think it's strange because it's you saying something directly to the reader rather than a fictional character.

kathleenmaher said...

Last year, I attempted a series of non-fiction "life takes." One involved opposing emotions while growing up: despair, euphoria, love, hate. My family (of origin), who never reads what I write, read those--the stories involved them. "How could I?" An ex-regular reader asked the same thing.
The second series chronicled what a terrible driver I am, beginning with my first lesson and ending with an ugly run-in with a cop. I used the cop's real name--it was non-fiction!--and "someone" has googled the officer every month, to find the whole sad story, again and again.

Bosco said...

Remember the expression: "The names have been changed to protect the innocent"?
It's a wonderfully composed sentence-- great mouth-feel. But it has such ominous undertones ... It seems to say, "We wanted to use real names to punish the guilty, but changed the names for the sake of those poor innocents who can't defend themselves." ...Who's really that innocent, anyway?

kathleenmaher said...

Bosco, You know me too well. And yet--anyone here old enough to recall the roman-a-clef?
Used to be, people presumed a novel was the writer's life story.

gary davison said...

No novellas? Must be mad. I only write nouvellas now, and if I can, I only read novellas. In and out, enjoy and finish nice and quick. And there's definately a market for a Kathleen - you've got me for one!

Ma T said...

Why am I not surprised that a literary agent was unfamiliar with the term novella! I swear the inmates ARE running the asylum. I'm looking forward to reading more of you. :)

kathleenmaher said...

gary and ma t: thanks so much for the affirmation. I attempted, after the agent who'd never heard of the form, to pitch them as "blogvellas." A whole new form, everybody!
So far, it hasn't opened the lock, but no one's dismissed the key.
Hat tip to Manictastic, who coined the term.
http://manictastic.blogspot.com

i*maginate said...

Nice one, Kathleen! I'll be sure to revisit this blog. Ciao for now x

kathleenmaher said...

I*maginate, Thanks. I'm off to peek at yours before a new post and, with luck, some sleep.

Manictastic said...

I heard of novellas, but I thought it was just the Spanish word for novels. Their shortness shouldn't pose a problem. Many younger readers prefer small books because it's easier during the commute. Anyhow, you should keep on writing because basically it's fun.

Thanks for mentioning me here, btw :D

kathleenmaher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kathleenmaher said...

See above: I removed the comment because of a typo. Everyone makes mistakes.
Hey Manictastic, good to hear from you here.
Readers need to know that while Manic commented that he thought "novellas" meant novel in Spanish, he's a native of Belgium. He writes his blog in better English than many of us in the US speak or write it (imo).

aussiecynic said...

G'Day Kathleen
Must say I can Identify with your struggle. doubt and creativity seem to go hand in hand.
Cant wait to see story/s take shape.
well done
Aussie
G'Day Mike
Just starting reading Jullians Arthur and George interesting will let you know what its like...

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi Kathleen,
The novella is a misuderstood art form as as wrongfully categorized as the "short-short" story which I practiced early on in my un-distinguished writing life.

Now, I have three unpublished novels to my credit, and a blog where I too have non-fiction posted. Do not be embarrassed by the nonfiction you write as you have proven yourself worthy here (though I am not one to judge).

Speaking only for myself, I am a writer merely because I call myself one. I look to no one for approval. My blog has afforded me the license to stae whatever I want with an artificial authority of my own making. If I post a news worthy article, I am a journalist. If I write an opinion piece, then I am then a pundit. With fiction, I become an accomplished author. The idea is that in order to produce authentic works, I have to put myself in that role. If I can commincate real tension, emotion, and b rutal, hardcore action between my characters, then I must be able to concvince my blog readers that I am a capable, and worthy writer, and somehow not come off as cocky. Am I cocky? I'd better cool down.

By the way, it seems that you and I are neighbors, of some distance though. I'm on Long Island, on the north shore. In the old days, in my former career, I worked in upper Manhattan, yet I have am familiar the downtown area. My current job sends me to Herald Aquare every once in a while on business (the office of one of vendors is there). It takes the internt, blogging, and a desire to write to bring folks who live nearby together, if not for the common cause of discussing our craft. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing, and for sharing your experiences. -Mike.

P.S. "Next time you read a post by me, however, remember it’s fiction. That first person or third is never me. Fiction exists separately."

I have to remind readers as well that I write fiction, and my characters are not me, and I am not a murderer, or criminal, etc. It's funny how readers often pervcieve a character's traits or desires as being yours.

Mr. Grudge said...

Hi again, forgive my typos as I am not nearly as careful with commenting as I am with my actual writing. BTW, I meant Herald Square, he he.

kathleenmaher said...

Happy to meet you, Mr. Grudge. Do let me know (should you want) next time you're downtown.
Blog fiction, which I started writing after many years of a adhering to a strict schedule for regular fiction, has not only improved my discipline (which I was surprised could be improved upon), but shows me new directions to take, whether I later decide the novella's worth rewriting or not. By not rewriting as much as writing every day, i.e, focusing on the writing first, some unplanned framework quickly determines--it feels organic--whether I'm free to change p.o.v.and how many years the tale must cover. I can't get away with letting pace and structure slide if I'm posting each night.

kathleenmaher said...

aussicynic, Thanks for introducing yourself and giving props to the struggle, which is, as you say, every artist's struggle.
I stopped by your place and am keen to make Pav. The connection between writers and cooks is another big artery.

Mike French said...

AussieCynic : Arh Julian Barnes' Arthur & George - Brilliant book - have you worked out who Arthur is yet?

Bosco said...

Mike:
elementary, my dear watson.

Mike French said...

Correct my dear Bosco! Have you read the book?

kathleenmaher said...

I haven't read it yet. But I would've guessed the same as Bosco. Now I must read it.
Since I started blogging, I've read few novels in favor of nonstop novellas and short stories. No one should miss Barnes' "The Lemon Table," btw.
Orna? Talk about clarity! The stories in that collection are its epitome.

Bosco said...

Mike - Yes, I read Arthur & George a year ago. I enjoyed it, but frankly it was not my favorite Julian Barnes. I think the historical conceit of the book strait-jacketed him a bit. While it was certainly a good yarn, it didn't move me emotionally.
Speaking of novellas, I am going to look for Alan Gurganus' The Practical Heart (Four Novellas). Gurganus is a fine American writer,who just wrote an op-ed in the NY Times today. His byline mentioned the book as his most recent. Should be a treat.

Mike French said...

Bosco: Yep - I would prob agree with you on Arthur & George - it didn't grab hold of me emotionally and shake me upside down like Talking it Over did.