I've got a new piece of micro-fiction out this week in The Monarch Review. http://www.themonarchreview.org/a-swimming-lesson-e-m-hubscher/ The story was inspired by an actual swimming hole near my mother's childhood home in rural Pennsylvania. Whenever she would describe it to me, I always had the most disquieting sensation. Recently, I found a video of this spot. It wasn't quite what I had expected, or even close to what I imagined for the setting for Cora's story, but it is interesting to see nonetheless.
As a parent, I think a lot about swimming. Where we live in North Carolina, it gets so hot in the summer that the pool feels like the only reasonable place to pass time--until it turns the temperature of bathwater, of course--and my children love to play in the water. Still, it seems that as soon as the pools open, so do the floodgates that held back stories of drownings, dry drownings, rip tides, etc. It strikes me how water has such a duality, so beautiful, refreshing, cleansing, and yet also so threatening.
I am so lucky to belong to an amazing book club that combines our mutual love of reading and eating. Not only do these ladies pick amazing books to read and discuss, but we generally discuss the books over a themed potluck. For example, when we read Ruth Reichl's memoir "Tender at the Bone", we each chose one of her recipes to share. I made her Artpark Brownies (totally recommend btw).
I'm reading Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave this month, and the description of the various wines got me thinking. I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I thought it would be amazing to do a book club with various grape and wine-themed dishes.
If I were to host this one, here's what I would make:
Eight Hundred Grapes-inspired Caviar You need: Variety of grape juices 4.25 oz juice 1g sodium alginate 9 oz water 1.25 g calcium chloride
Mix calcium chloride and water in a deep container. Combine juice and sodium alginate. An immersion blender works well. Suck up juice mixture in a medicine dropper. Let drops fall into the calcium chloride/water bath. Leave for a minute while drops morph into spheres and then remove with a spoon or strainer. Repeat for other flavors. This would be delicious on top of some kind of creamy pudding, as part of a dessert sushi, or by itself.
Embarrassing confession: I never listened to a podcast before this spring. But a few of my wonderful friends recommended some podcasts to me, and now I am hooked. I love listening and learning when I'm driving or cleaning my house.
Here are a couple of my current favorites in the writer's life department.
I love our local library. There's something so fulfilling about being surrounded by so many brilliant ideas and such hard work in physical form. My little guy sits at the end of each aisle and looks at his picture books (JAMPIRES by Sarah McIntyre and David O'Connell was a big hit this week) while I take too long trying to decide what I want.
This time I was looking for HOT MILK by Deborah Levy, but all the copies were checked out, so I went hunting. And oh, did I find some wonderful novels. My two picks, SURFACING by Margaret Atwood and THE HEART IS A MUSCLE THE SIZE OF A FIST by Sunil Yapa, are engrossing and immersive, but very different. I'm enjoying alternating between them.
When I was in college, a professor told me my emulation of style poem was trite. I didn't write much poetry after that, but prior to it, writing poems had been an outlet for me to sort out my feelings. And as an INF person, I have a lot of feelings. This morning I wrote a poem I thought I would share. I can't promise that it is good. It might even be trite. But it is something, an untangling of threads and feelings, maybe. And for me, today, that's enough.
There is a confession box on the sidewalk. Someone used a razor to cut out a slot. I want to crawl past its rough cardboard edges, Lie safe in the dark inside Amongst those paper secrets we're trying to hide. And I would whisper, I’m lonely. And they would reply, So am I. So am I. So am I.
As a priest's kid, I used to take romance novels from rummage sales. I like to think I write them as penance. But that's not the whole truth. A happy ending keeps me in balance. The world is hard. Adulting is hard. Relationships...you guessed it, hard. And there's just something so wonderful about losing yourself in a really great romance novel, with characters who have real issues and appealing butts. Low slung jeans too, thank you very much Ms. Jill Shalvis. I love getting invested in two individuals (and the couple they become) and going through all the angst (and let's face it, the hotness too) with them, knowing that it will all work out okay somehow.
I love a happy ending. Who doesn't?
In fact, I love happy endings so much that for a while, I photographed them. So I thought just for fun, I would share a few of my pictures with you. I took these photos of some truly wonderful couples. And they inspire me every time I sit down and try to write true love. Not the steamy business, because that would be weird, but the emotional part, the soulmate part, the happily ever after part.
So Amy Poehler got this shit right. I've never been much of a risk taker, and in some ways, it has gotten harder as I've aged. As a kid, I climbed trees and introduced myself to new people, now I don't even like calling to order pizza. Seriously. The invention of online ordering was a gamechanger for me. Our household is now deep in pizza on the regular.
And that's just ordering food from someone who's got some pies and wants to take your money. Not hard. There are harder things. Like putting your work out into the world for others to judge. Querying agents. Trying a new sport. Or even donning a spandex unitard and standing on a platform in front of an audience. I tried all these things in the last year. True story. I still don't really like talking about the singlet. It was a powerlifting thing.
We always seem to to imagine the downsides: disappointment, embarrassment, rejection, hurt feelings (or body parts), looking and feeling badly, but the upsides can be wonderful and unexpected. Landing an awesome agent. Finding your new favorite hobby. Making friends. Winning a medal.
You never know what could happen.
I watched tv-titan Shonda Rhimes' Ted Talk the other day, in which she talked about a year of saying yes to everything and how it changed her life and saved her career from creative burnout. It was a phenomenal talk--truly inspiring. I highly recommend checking it out below. And it got me thinking about taking risks as a way of saying yes to ourselves and our dreams.
A few days ago, I took another big risk (for me) and emailed a scientist whose work I admire to ask for his expert opinion about a part of my work in progress. After I hit send, my hands shook for a moment. I prepared myself for no response. Or even a rejection. But instead, he wrote back. Not only was he kind and encouraging, he shared some great information with me that I never would have found on my own. It was exactly what I needed. And I never would have received it, if I hadn't put myself out there and asked for help.
I took a risk. I said yes to myself.
Maybe you should too. Just make it a good one. So finish that novel. Submit a story. Query agents. Try something new. Follow your passion. Face your fear. I can't really recommend the spandex. Only maybe two people at the meet looked good in theirs. But don't let that keep you from your dreams. Don't let anything keep you from your dreams.
The beginning of January was very busy for me. I was working on a super secret special project and also revising an early draft of my next book (still going with that), but I did find some time to read several standout books.
Jenny Offill's Dept of Speculation is absolutely sensational. It is a book I could read again and again. It takes some work, but the reward is well worth it. The sensitivity and subtlety really struck me. And it felt so authentic. A very unique book, but beautiful.
Coming Plague is an amazing non-fiction book. Hands down, my favorite non-fiction of all time. I had to reread for research. But two chapters led to four and then I was captivated once again and read the whole thing.
I loved We are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It was my book club pick, and it was a hit. It gave us a lot to talk about...half my notes I didn't even get a chance to bring up. I think this is Fowler's best. The way she captures this sense of otherness is uncanny.
I raced through the Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (also a bit of research), but I really enjoyed it. It was a wonderful story in which many of the characters dealt very difficult issues, but it was done so respectfully and even though it was heavy, it had a lightness to it that I appreciated.
I've just started The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud and The Arsonist by Sue Miller. I will admit I was drawn to the latter because it takes place in New Hampshire, where I spent much of my life before moving to North Carolina. I will say, it starts in just the right place, with just the right energy, and has me full of lots of questions already.