Category Archives: Writing

She’s back! (Maybe she never left.)

Me and my Ur dog Ughy at about the time I temporarily ran away from home

Me and my Ur dog Ughy at about the time I temporarily ran away from home

I ran away from home only once in my life; generally speaking, I have always been a fan of home.  On this occasion, however, I took umbrage at something my mother had said and announced that I was out of there.  For good.  Never coming back.

Pursuant of this, I stomped off down the block and around the bend and crept under a voluminous forsythia bush, settling in to  see if anyone would come after me.  Before my mother could put down her coffee cup and untie her apron, however,  a truck drove by and liberally sprayed the bush with one of those chemicals that have subsequently been found to render entire populations of certain frog species extinct.  Needing no more proof that the world was a dangerous place,  I crept out from under the bush and made a beeline for home. It seemed the sensible thing to do.

Which is to say: I change course.

This brings me to the subject of my last post: All She Wrote, in which I announced that I was going to stop writing the blog and, indeed, writing.    I didn’t last an entire weekend.  I tried the whole not writing thing on and it felt . . . well, unsettling.  I can’t just not write.  Dogs with nothing on their stomachs often throw up foaming yellow bile of a morning.  I should know;I’ve stepped in it enough times.  Was that what was going to happen to me if my brain had nothing to munch on?  And how to deal with the inevitable run-off, the effluvia — all those notes to myself and bon mots and felicitous phrasings scrawled on scraps of paper and stashed away either to be tossed out or revisited, fluffed up and dispatched unto the aether?

In the dark hours following the publication of my last blog, I even considered coming full circle and finishing my long-abandoned dissertation on Athanasius of Alexandria and his cynical exploitation, for his own ends, of St. Anthony, who, I’m pretty sure, was someone whom we would today recognize as a homeless schizophrenic off his meds.

Only this time, I could make shit up because. . . .  You know: fiction.

Alas, the first, hand-written chapters of my dissertation and all my notes for it perished twenty five years ago in a flood:  errant tree roots hacked the pipe leading from the main sewer line to my ex’s benighted house, causing sewage to back up and flood the basement where they were stored.   I say ‘hacked’ because it seems to me that God took  out my dissertation much like the U.S. and Israel took out those Iranian nuclear facilities, only using a large and gnarly maple tree as opposed to code.  The result was the same:  all that painstaking research, destroyed. I would have to do it all again.  And did I really want to? Really?

Then there’s my age to consider.  Every morning I read the “Area Deaths” portion of the paper and, much to my continued alarm, people my age die. In fact, people younger than me die. (I know. Shocking.)  I spent the best part of this year finishing, for once and for all, the manuscript I abandoned my thesis for because I was too embarrassed to die with it unfinished given the fact that I’d been working on it, off and on, for forty years.   What  if I were to embark upon my research and, midway through it, drop dead — perhaps from having had a DDT shower at the age of eight? Then I would have to be embarrassed because I never finished my dissertation and I’m already embarrassed that I didn’t finish the dissertation … so what’s the point?

So that’s it.  I’m back.  And, really, you shouldn’t be surprised.  I might not have foreseen that I was going to relent, but I did foresee that I was likely to.

I am nothing if not inconstant.

All she wrote

Fairie nookI have been writing fiction more or less seriously since I was sixteen. Oh, I did other things. I got as far as ABD for a PhD in Neoclassical History before a little foray into the seductive world of Marian visions turned into the proverbial garden path and, utterly obsessed, I abandoned my nearly completed studies for a novel that has only just been finished forty years later.

That was a bone-headed move.

I raised children who grew up to be pretty amazing despite my being a very flawed mother. I took a day job, at which I still work, though no longer full time. I rose at 5:30 in the morning so as to gain some writing time before work. I wrote after work. I wrote in fits and starts and bits and pieces and, in this way, managed to publish two collections of short stories, four novels and numerous short stories, including some that were published in quite prestigious magazines and anthologized in best-of publications. I won some prizes, got some good reviews, and made nobody, especially myself, much in the way of money. There are, at present, two novels yet to be “sold”. I am hopeful, but I’ve been at this too long to be overly sanguine about my prospects.

And that’s it. All she wrote.

So what I’m trying to figure out now is: what do I do next? I have been writing this blog for some years now, turning myself inside out like a pocket and shaking out all the loose change and lint-furred hard candies and half-crumbled Milkbone mini biscuits and biodegradable poop bags. There’s not much left that I have not at some point touched on and now I just seem to be getting cranky. So before I start CAPITALIZING EVERY DAMN THING, I think I’m going to stop and do . . . what?

I don’t know.

My father, William Hardy, published seven novels and then . . . that was it. In his later years he began a novel entitled Harry, the Dog That Bit Me, the story of a man saved by a dog, in a way his life’s story. It’s perhaps two chapters long and charming. At the age of 93 he still expresses wistfulness about not having finished it and has several times suggested that I take up his mantle. But I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Our voices are very different and it’s not my story.

For my entire adult life I have drawn up a daily To Do List, on which Write has always prominently figured; Write refers to novel, short story or blog – whatever’s on the boards. Shall I now drop that from the list? What will I do in the howling vortex created by its omission? Am I really written out? Not Writer’s Block but Writer’s Barren Wasteland? I don’t know. I guess I’m about to find out.

So this is it for this blog. At least for now. Or maybe not. After all, I have been known to change my mind.