I am deeply honored that THE MAPMAKER’S DAUGHTER has been chosen by the Jewish Book Council to be one of only a dozen or so books they are specifically recommending for the coming year to book clubs that are members of the National Jewish Book Club. If you are coming to my site as a result of hearing about it from the Jewish Book Council (or even if you’re not), I’d like you to know that I do my best to reach out to book clubs by personal visits in the San Diego area, or by phone if your group lives elsewhere. Just follow the link below to contact me!
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Four years back, after the death of my beloved husband Jim, when I told people I was wasn’t writing anything, I was a little puzzled by the most common reaction. “Well, well, people said. “Just wait. You’ll be back to it again.” I guess what they meant was that it was just a matter of time until I was ready to behave like “myself.”
I know they were well meaning, but so are people who say off-base things at funerals about better places and the healing power of time, when there is no place or time but the terrible, awful now.
I wasn’t frozen in place. I had the months of his decline and inevitable death to ponder the post-Jim me, and when he died, I had far more important work to do than bury myself in the products of my imagination. It’s taken a long time to figure out why very nice, sweet people expressing confidence in me made me so angry. Really, it’s taken the work on the screenplay of my novel Penelope’s Daughter to bring this four-year hiatus into focus.
People seemed to think it would be comforting to reassure me that I would once again return to the familiar, the trusted, the tried-and-true. I could keep writing one, or a half-dozen more (who knows?) historical novels, and I certainly should, because after all, I’d gotten so good at it, no?
What? I used to think. Did they think I was somehow obligated to keep going, that I owed the world the fruition of every last idea I ever had for a book? (BTW, as a bit of advice for readers, don’t express disappointment about there being no book in progress unless you have read everything else the author has ever written. If not, there’s something that’s still new to you.)
But I digress….I didn’t have writer’s block. I never stopped loving writing. I still came up every week with great new ideas for another historical novel. But it turned out that “been there, done that” was my problem, even though it might have been what others thought was the solution.
When my son Ivan and I started collaborating on screenwriting, my synapses started tingling with the excitement of “never been there, never done that.” Figuring out how to write with only screen direction and dialogue (no thoughts, little description) was a challenge, as was distilling the story to 120 pages with lots of white space, as opposed to 333 more densely packed pages. And then, as I learned, there’s this thing in screenwriting called a “beat,” and though I’m still not sure exactly what it is, it has to do with keeping the kind of pace and tension that keeps moviegoers from thinking about the snack bar and the toilets. Novels can be a lot more leisurely.
Wow! What a learning curve this has been, and I haven’t been happier in a long time. Plus, it’s always a good sign when, after more revisions than I can count, I still LOVE my flying fingers, and wouldn’t at all mind doing one or ten (well maybe not ten) more revisions. And then, really, it’s just beginning. If we are lucky to sell the option, I’ll have more to learn, and if we actually get to production, even more.
It’s the learning curve. There just isn’t anything more exciting! Hope your lives are staying curvy too.
Four years ago today, my life was up-ended by the death of my beloved partner and husband, Jim. I haven’t written a page of original fiction since then. It’s not that I’ve been dysfunctional (far from it), but more like a river that changes course after an earthquake.
It’s been a new life, and an exciting one.
I retired two years ago, and I have been getting better at play, although daily productivity seems to be pretty deeply wired in me. My big project has been traveling the world as a cruise lecturer, which sounds like heaps of fun–and absolutely is–but researching and preparing professional-quality lectures about which, in most cases, I start out knowing little more than it’s an interesting topic for a clientele that is both 1) intellectually curious, and 2) on vacation, is a massive amount of work. (Try diagramming that sentence!) Once on board, though, it’s champagne and first-class dining, and cool shore excursions, with just a little work now and again. The picture below is of me looking over my next lecture before heading out for a shore excursion on my Amazon cruise last November.
Figuring out how to hit a drive fairly consistently about 160 yards has been a pretty good accomplishment as well particularly since I had never swung a golf club until age 63, but with golf it always seems to be the case that a stride in one area is matched by humbling experiences in another. If I could just pull together the drive, fairway shots, short game and putting all in one hole….
And then there’s tennis, the best fun with girlfriends around, especially when there are mimosas afterwards!
But I know one thing for certain: I am happier when I have a project, and truthfully happier when I am juggling a few at a time. Which brings me to the subject of my title here.
It isn’t true that I have been doing no writing. I just am not inspired to start a new book, and kind of think I may not be for a good long while. But hey, I already have a number of books that not nearly enough people have read. And I have a son, Ivan Corona, who is a budding director, screenwriter and producer now working in partnership with a successful Hollywood producer. We’d already gotten most of the way to a polished screenplay for THE FOUR SEASONS, but turned our attention to PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER as our debut project at the beginning of this year. I wrote the screenplay on my own, and we are collaborating on the production. Now, within a few weeks, if all goes well, we will be ready to pitch it and, if all goes well, get it optioned and green-lighted for production later this year.
So yes, I have been writing, and it feels great! I think I’m going to like this latest reinvention of myself, and this beautiful, starstruck Muse who hovers above my desk. I’ll keep you all posted more often, now that there’s a writing me again to tell you about.
“Musing” is a funny word. At first it could be pictured as a stroke of the chin, or staring at–well, nothing, really. And then there’s
that lovely little creature, the Muse. Just as we can say we’re walking, cooking, writing, or whatever, it seems we should be able to say we are “musing” in that far more active sense of really inviting the Muse in, or more correctly, merging the rest of what we are with that force that compels us to create.
I am enjoying some of the former in this photo, taken in September in Greenland on a Silversea cruise where I was the enrichment lecturer. Two months later, for the first time in several years, I am doing a little bit of the latter, which I will honor with a capital “M” from now on. Specifically, I am feeling energized to dust off and rework the screenplay for The Four Seasons that my son Ivan and I worked on for a while about three years ago, before drifting off into other pursuits.
I expect that by the time we are all having to scratch out 2015 and change it to 2016 every time we have to date something, I will be actively, energetically Musing, not with a new novel, but with an exciting new outlet for creativity. My long-absent friend, the Muse, is beckoning me to come in to her world and stay a while.
Hello to returning website visitors and new! For those of you who don’t know, I have been taking a break from writing historical fiction, and am enjoying retirement with a new gig as a cruise lecturer. Here I am on the Prince Christian Sound in Greenland on a transit between Southampton and Montreal. Next up, a return to the Amazon, then a break for a few months until next summer. Writing soon? Maybe. Finding other forms of inspiration for the present.