Workers of the world, grill your burgers! This past Monday I was off work (and in a nice change, had work to be off from) to celebrate Labor Day. There is dispute as to which of two labor union leaders proposed the day, but it clearly was a member of a labor union who suggested a day to celebrate workers, and the first Labor Day was in 1882. Today it would be impossible to create such a holiday, which would be denounced as a socialist idea. But now it exists, and we don’t have to spend two seconds thinking of where it came from or what it was supposed to mean, because there are burgers on the grill.
With my day off, I decided to begin exploring the area where I live. Long ago when I lived in Pennsylvania, I drove around to different places for fun, and I was looking forward to doing that in a new location. This time I went down the coast of Maryland, to where the Patuxent River runs into the Chesapeake Bay, to a village called Solomon’s Island or just Solomons. I couldn’t figure that out. There is also a wonderful marine museum down there. All the necessary ingredients came together for a completely lovely afternoon: (1) science, (2) history, (3) good food, (4) beer. Actually, it had even more, like sitting for a while beside a quiet shore pond watching birds fly overhead. And I ate a delicious crabcake that was—I ain’t making this up—about as big as a softball. How many crabs are in that bay anyway?
Most days my leisure time consists of two hours, if I’m lucky and if I already ironed a shirt and made lunch, or sometimes just an hour. Normal people look for ways to pass free time, but writers are looking for free time to pass on to later generations in the form of words. So in those precious few minutes of unencumbered time, I sit here on the couch with the radio playing classical music, a cushion on my lap and the computer on the cushion, feeling for the first time all day that I’m doing what I really want.
I’m now deeply into revising the novel, officially called Benedict and Miramar. I guess. The first time through the book is probably the slowest, because I’m thinking about everything—should I turn one line of dialogue into a full conversation or expand a description of something into a paragraph; should I cut out an entire chapter or reword a sentence to stop sounding as if it just fell out of my mouth like an item on a grocery list; should I add a comma to a sentence?
Three times now I have taken chapters from the book to read to the people in my writing group. The first two times I came away from the meeting growing angel wings, as people were very positive about it. The third time, two days ago, I had a chapter that I was sure was a great crowd pleaser, so I was surprised to get a more critical reaction. You see how we writers are, like little children, we just want to be hugged and told how fast we rode that tricycle. “And you’re such a big boy, aren’t you?”
Uh huh, yes I am. Anyhow, let me climb back up onto the adult chair and continue. After the last meeting there was also one person in the group who afterward expressed a more serious interest in the book and asked to read the entire thing. I had also just offered to read her poetry outside the group, as I think I could do a better job that way, so perhaps we’ll trade.
Back in Pennsylvania, I was lucky to have two people who were willing to seriously read the book and give me feedback. That’s a hell of a lot of work, and I’m grateful when I can find it from someone who can be helpful. It’s a very generous thing for people to do, and at the moment I’m working through the comments from both readers as I make revisions.
While I’m quite optimistic about the possibility with Benedict and Miramar, and while I’m enjoying the revision (so far), what I really want is to start writing another novel. I’ve got notes made, ideas for the next book come to me every day, and in reality, I’ve already started writing a couple of bits to use in that book. The main protagonist is named Leola Summer Daye, and her little sister, who plays violin, is Dacia.
But what am I doing blathering away here when there’s a novel to be revised. It ain’t gonna fix itself.