Skip to main content


I had a recurring dream as a teenager, about getting ready for the day. I have worn rigid contact lenses since the age of 13, and when I would sit down in this dream to put them in, I'd open my drawer to find a big, messy collection of contact lens cases. When I'd open the cases, inside I'd find a variety of lenses: different sizes, different colors, and even different numbers of lenses in each matching set. I'd start to panic in my confusion over figuring out which set of lenses was "mine" or "the correct one," and until I figured it out, I'd be effectively blind--and then I'd wake up.

When I was about 16, I created this monster collage, above, with hundreds of magazines and a glue stick. It was one of those artworks I felt compelled to create even though, like my recurring dream about contact lenses, I had no idea what it meant.

In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious. I was trying to figure out my own perspective while growing up in a community full of irreconcilable contradictions. This is how I felt: immensely strange and powerful with the ability to see from a thousand angles at once, but also as vulnerable as a creature made of lidless eyeballs lost in a bleak outer space / deep sea scenario.

As a novelist, I now understand how important it is to hone that ability to see things from different perspectives--and also to have a strong sense of my own views. Gluing down those issues of perspective is essential to forming different fictional characters and a strong narrative voice.

In my 30s, I'm still working on perspective and voice. I expect I'll never be finished.

But! I will be finished with my novel this summer. (That's a pinkie swear.) I have solicited feedback from beta readers, who offered perspectives on my work that I could not imagine from my own proximity to the work (as is true for any creation), compiled the feedback, and written out a plan to rewrite the beginning and revise the rest. This weekend, I dive in.

One change I need to make is choosing a new working title that people can pronounce / remember. So, Matka Danu Miklagarth is henceforth dubbed Hollow Charm.

I am pleased to report that the feedback I have received so far has been surprisingly (to me) positive, and I am also pleased that a couple of my readers didn't hold back and gave me some very useful suggestions to work with.

While I gathered and sorted through beta feedback these past couple of weeks (while hosting family on the theatre / carnival sideshow branch of the tree... OMG...) I also had a hair makeover experience that made a good metaphor for how I'd like my novel revision to go. Behold:

On the left is a "good hair day" before I tried a new thing at the salon. My friends and loved ones like me, so they like my hair the way it springs directly out of my head. It has character and personality. It's wild and free and fun. Okay. That's nice.

On the right is my hair several days later, after I've had a split ends trim, a refreshment of highlights over the grays, and a new air-dry product that defined my curls as I drove home with the windows down. It's still my hair. I still look like me. It still has character and a bit of wildness to it, but now it is, how shall I say... marketable? Like, if I were selling my hair to other people as a wig, would strangers most likely buy wig A or wig B?

More importantly, I feel like my "best hair self" in the second picture. I have preserved the general idea and my vision of myself. I've tried radically different looks in the past--unnatural colors, high-maintenance short cuts, flat-ironed or hot curled styles, etc., and liked them very much, but I didn't feel "like me." This way, I feel put-together enough to be work-appropriate and "done" enough to go out with friends, but the natural personality of my hair hasn't been processed into oblivion.

And that is what I'm setting out to do with my novel, for-now called Hollow Charm. I want to keep it weird and wild and also make it professional and the best that it can be. Here are two articles from Literary Hub that I've been soaking in this week:

"Arundhati Roy: Stories 'Must Not Lose Their Wilderness'" by Siddhartha Deb

 "The Problem of Neoliberal Realism in Contemporary Fiction" by Madeline ffitch


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be:
You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")  35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't waste time o…

The Tiny Tweens

Girls really do grow up faster than they used to! My baby has just started third grade. Here she is looking like a tiny tween. Some of the girls in her class are bigger, taller, and older looking than she is. This is the new reality of girls in elementary school.

My daughter has given away nearly all of her toys and set up a neat and tidy homework desk stocked with notebooks and pens. She's more interested in Minecraft than My Little Pony now, but she still prefers to run around and play with other kids outside than to sit with a device.

Sometimes people ask me if I'm sad that my child is growing up so quickly. So far, not really. She was a very cute baby, but every year older is easier and more fun for me! We haven't yet hit peak enjoy-it-while-it-lasts.

She gets herself ready for the day. She can help with more chores. She sleeps in until about 7:00 a.m. (It used to be 5:00.) She still wants me to read to her at bedtime, but now it's horror chapter books rather than…

Sometimes Progress Sounds Like This

Chapters 2 and 3 are tidied up and cut down. So is my large backyard.

Meanwhile, one of my husband's friends died, not very unexpectedly, but not at a very old age either--the same day that Toni Morrison died. Converging ripples of loss.

Life goes on in the yard, and I have to work at every opportunity to keep it from taking over.

Death keeps happening, and I'm trying to use sadness and grief and fear of mortality to fertilize my creativity and push me to get it done. Flying Lotus used this kind of fuel to create his transcendent jazz fusion album YOU'RE DEAD. It sure isn't a recipe for guaranteed success, but then, nothing is.

So next I need to walk the perimeter of the whole property, trimming shrubs and trees here and there--not too much, not enough to spoil the wild and rustic nature of this place--and before August ends, I'll be ready for late-summer bonfires and one last beta read.