Monday, February 25, 2019

Baking with a New Recipe

Hello on this sunny Monday here in western Missouri. The sun’s warmth belies the air’s chill, and I may get out for my first walk in over two months. Let’s hope!

Meanwhile, today I want to write a “scone”—my last posting explained that if you are new here—about why I’m going to continue to write yeast bread and cookies. That is, I’ll write them with a new recipe that will reflect my having less energy now that I’m aging.

I also now have less time to devote to book-publication writing for two reasons:
1)    I’ve decided to post and read blogs each week as well as write pancakes—a 250-word pet article and the advice column for the Idaho newspaper I told you about last week.
And . . .
2)    Dr. Ann, the glaucoma specialist, has advised me to sit at the computer to write for only 25-minute sessions, followed by 10 minute intervals of resting my eyes with an eye mask on.  I try then to clear my mind and embrace what is. What I mean by that, is that I want to embrace my life as it is right now. I want to avoid dwelling in the past and what was and has been; I want to live in the present and find the good it offers me. One good is a new recipe for writing.

That new recipes consists not only in writing baked good—yeast bread, cookies, scone, and pancakes. But also in being more flexible about my writing. That is, not setting a schedule and assigning myself deadlines that often, in the past, have been unrealistic. I’m going to simply write until I’m done. I’ll write for as many days, weeks, months a manuscript needs as it goes through its various drafts.

Then and only then will I announce the publication of the book.  

In other words, my new recipe calls for a new baker—one who is gracious to herself and one who stops being her own taskmaster. That’s a recipe for success. The way I’ve been operating in the past two years has become a recipe for burn-out. You and I both know that.

I want to continue baking yeast bread (novels and memoirs) and cookies (gift books for cat lovers) because I already have so many manuscripts done in first draft. They represent writing I’ve done for the last twenty years—writing for which I couldn’t find an agent or publisher.

Here’s what I have ready to work on in the time I have left to write:

Novels/Yeast Bread:

The Reluctant Spy: I need to write three scenes to add to the final draft of this historical novel on which I’ve worked for twenty years.
Three Roads Diverged: Draft 1 of this Bronze-Age Greece historical novel is completed.
Winter Tapestry: Draft 1 of this novel about four ex-nuns in the 20th century is completed.

Memoirs/Yeast Bread:
Ceaseless Chatter: Half of Draft 1 about the years 1967-1977 is completed.
Abandonment: Half of Draft 1 about the years 1936-1958 is completed.

Cat Books/Cookies

Bastet-Net #2—Saints: Half of Draft 1 completed.
Bastet-Net #3—Prayers: More than half of Draft 1 completed.
Cats Speak Out: Final Draft completed; tweaking needed.

Having done work on these manuscripts, I’d like to see them through to publication. That may or may not happen, but I would enjoy discovering their final drafts!


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

My Bakery

Last week, I wrote that the wheat of my life had been ground between millstones into a flour I would use for baking this year. This past week, I’ve thought about flour—rye, whole wheat, white—and all I can bake with it. Through the years, I’ve baked—

·      whole wheat, white, rye, pumpernickel, and potato yeast bread;
·      all sorts of muffins, some with fruit bits in them, many with herbs and cheese, others with spices;
·      stollens and tarts and St. Lucia wreathes as Christmas gifts;
·      scones for myself and for company;
·      quick bread—nut, banana, pumpkin, zucchini, craisins, carrot and pineapple—that I gave as Christmas gifts to neighbors and friends;
·      cookies galore for children who gave me great joy as they devoured them;
·      pistachio and chocolate biscotti for those coffee-drinking friends who enjoy them;
·      pecan as well as cinnamon rolls for breakfast gatherings;
·      rolls for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners;
·      biscuits for company when I’ve served soup;
     cakes and crumbles for birthdays and other celebrations;
·                          pancakes and waffles for breakfast.

During the past week, I thought about all the delicious items one can make with flour. So many; so different in taste and texture; so different in the time needed to prepare and bake them; so different as to when we eat them and how we celebrate with them.

Now for an analogy.

Writing a memoir (circa 75,000 words) or a novel (circa 120,000 words) is like making yeast bread. From cupping the flour to taking the loaves out of the oven takes me four hours. That’s all morning or afternoon. A big job—that’s a novel or memoir.

Writing a gift book (circa 22,000 words) is like making cookies.

Writing a blog (I always try to write no more than 600 words) is like making scones.

I’d like to continue doing all of this—but not on a timetable or schedule because I’ve done that with making the yeast bread of novels and memoirs and what has happened is that writing has ceased to be a joy and has become labor. Something that MUST be done!
So when I feel creative and the right side of my brain “bulges” with ideas, I’ll make “yeast bread.”

The same goes for making the cookies that are gift books.

The scones that are these blog postings remain enjoyable to me when I do them once weekly. I get to read your comments and respond to them; I get to visit your blogs and see what’s happening in your lives. We become a community.

Now here’s some news: I’ll be “baking” something else as well—pancakes!

Last Tuesday, a friend called me. She hadn’t read my Monday blog and so knew nothing about the possibility that I might give up writing. As the managing editor of a newspaper in Idaho that circulates to 35,000 families, she’s in charge of what goes in the paper.

She wanted to add a new weekly 250-word column to the paper for animal lovers and asked if I’d write it. At the same time, she asked would I join with another woman and do an advice column. I’d just need to respond to a couple of reader concerns/questions a week.

Clearly, the Universe had read my posting! I immediately said yes to both opportunities. So weekly I’ll be serving pancakes--in Idaho!

I want to thank all of you for the thoughtful and concerned comments you left last week. Please drop by next week for another “scone.” It will probably be about why I’m choosing to continue to make yeast bread—with a new recipe.