Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The New York Times recently featured a wonderful essay by Mark Dow, No Choice About the Terminology, in their new Happy Days blog (which explores what happiness means during times of economic downturn.) The essay made me happy indeed; it delves into people's quirky and precise relationships with language, and it helped me fall in love with words all over again. I especially appreciated these lines:
We write things down, and hold on to them, for many different reasons. To stop time and keep the “edge of marveling” honed, or at least handy. To create pockets of order. To prove to ourselves that we exist. To be able to immerse ourselves in whatever matters to us but is gone.
I love how both reading and writing can keep the "edge of marveling" alive in our lives; this essay certainly did that for me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

While I wrote about my wedding over at Mama, Redux yesterday, I thought this would be the right place to share the poetry we used during the ceremony.

Our four "chuppah sisters"--my sister Elizabeth, Michael's sister Mette, and our symbolic sisters, Nancy and Jenn, each stood at a corner of the chuppah (the ceremonial Jewish wedding canopy) and read this poem. I included their initials so you can see who read what part; it was so lovely having their four voices chiming all around us, at times joining in chorus:
The Chuppah
by Marge Piercy

E The chuppah stands on four poles.
M The home has its four corners.
J The chuppah stands on four poles.
N The marriage stands on four legs.
ALL Four points loose the winds
that blow on the walls of the house,
M the south wind that brings the warm rain,
N the east wind that brings the cold rain,
E the north wind that brings the cold sun
J and the snow, the long west wind
bringing the weather off the far plains.

ALL Here we live open to the seasons.
M Here the winds caress and cuff us
contrary and fierce as bears.
N Here the winds are caught and snarling
in the pines, a cat in a net clawing
breaking twigs to fight loose.
J Here the winds brush your face
soft in the morning as feathers
that float down from a dove’s breast

E Here the moon sails up out of the ocean
dripping like a just washed apple.
Here the sun wakes us like a baby.
ALL Therefore the chuppah has no sides.

M It is not a box.
N It is not a coffin.
J It is not a dead end.
ALL Therefore the chuppah has no walls.
M We have made a home together
open to the weather of our time.
We are mills that turn in the winds of struggle
converting fierce energy into bread.

J The canopy is the cloth of our table
where we share fruit and vegetables
of our labor, where our care for the earth
comes back and we take its body in ours.

N The canopy is the cover of our bed
where our bodies open their portals wide,
where we eat and drink the blood
of our love, where the skin shines red
as a swallowed sunrise and we burn
in one furnace of joy molten as steel
and the dream is flesh and flower.

E O my love O my love we dance
under the chuppah standing over us
like an animal on its four legs,
like a table on which we set our love
as a feast, like a tent
under which we work
not safe but no longer solitary
in the searing heat of our time.
Later in the ceremony, my anam cara, Catherine, read this poem:
Honey Locust, by Mary Oliver

Who can tell how lovely in June is the
honey locust tree, or why
a tree should be so sweet and live
in this world? Each white blossom
on a dangle of white flowers holds one green seed—
a new life. Also each blossom on a dangle of flowers
holds a flask
of fragrance called Heaven, which is never sealed.
The bees circle the tree and dive into it. They are crazy
with gratitude. They are working like farmers. They are as
happy as saints. After awhile the flowers begin to
wilt and drop down into the grass. Welcome
shines in the grass.

Every year I gather
handfuls of blossoms and eat of their mealiness; the honey
melts in my mouth, the seeds make me strong,
both when they are crisp and ripe, and even at the end
when their petals have turned dull yellow.

So it is
if the heart has devoted itself to love, there is
not a single inch of emptiness. Gladness gleams
all the way to the grave.
Marge Piercy and Mary Oliver are two of my very favorite poets, so it was wonderful to be able to incorporate their rich, wise words into the ceremony, and to have them read by such beloved friends and family.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I just posted a bunch of personal news over at Mama, Redux (a boy! a wedding!), but thought I'd share some writerly news here. I recently found out that My Life with the Lincolns, my first YA novel, is going to be released as an audio book when the book comes out in February! I'm so excited--none of my other books have been recorded in this format before. I can't wait to see who they'll choose to give voice to my character Mina. You can actually pre-order the audio book already on Amazon, which is so cool. I hope to see potential covers for the book soon--I will keep you posted.

Still no news on the Pears-title front, but I'll keep you posted on that, as well. Thanks again for all of your great suggestions and support!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hi everyone! Sorry for my long absence--between the Antioch residency (amazing), wedding planning (fun but hectic), starting the summer session at UCR and other various life-related distractions, I haven't had time to blog. I hope you are having a wonderful summer!

I heard from my PEARS editor yesterday. I guess I can't really call her my PEARS editor anymore because Ballantine wants me to change the name of the novel. I'd grown very attached to PEARS (I'm even going to have marzipan pears on my wedding cake), but I know how important it is to have a resonant title, so I've been listing potential alternatives, and would love some input. I am hoping the title will speak, even subtly, to both threads of the story--those following the mother and daughter who end up at a pear orchard in the Sacramento Delta, as well as the pairs figure skating team bound for the Olympics. And of course I want something that will inspire people to pick up the book (Ballantine thought that PEARS wasn't evocative enough.) These are my top picks so far:

--How to Pick the Perfect Pear
--Compulsory Moves
--Picking Pears
--Pear Season
--Pears on Ice
--Ripening (or maybe Ripeness or Ripe)

Let me know what you think, or if you have any other suggestions. If I come up with other top picks, I'll let you know

I have a pub date now, which is exciting--July 10, 2010, almost exactly one year away. The book will be released as an original trade paperback instead of in hardcover first. With the economy the way it is, this makes a lot of sense to me (USA Today featured an article titled Trade paperbacks thrive in tough times earlier this year.) Most readers I know tend to wait until a paperback is released to buy a book, so hopefully this will bode well for the novel; my editor told me that if a hardcover doesn't do well (and none of mine have), bookstores are less likely to order many copies when the paperback comes out a year later--original trade paperbacks have more of a clean slate. So we shall see how this goes!

Thanks in advance for your help--I love the idea of this being a collective experience...