Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 23, 2008

Sneaking Past the Blank Page

I’m coming out of the mire of getting-started to the mire of wrong-beginnings, but I guess that’s something, and thanks for the kind messages. I’ve got words on the page, even if not beautiful words. Just as I was thinking about the varieties of skills we bring to reading, there are so many aspects of writing. And it seems right to notice that it’s staring at a blank page that you want to be a brilliant first page that is so hard, and not to globalize it and say: writing is too hard. So I’m making messy inroads and grumbling, but a little more softly.

Not that I’m ready to leave every mode of procrastination behind. Although, again, maybe it’s good to distinguish between procrastination and the little carrots we dangle for ourselves on sticks. Yesterday was rough, but I told myself, Tomorrow will be better, and I offered myself a trip to the Eric Carle Picture Book Museum if I worked hard through the morning. And I did. I heard the wonderful librarian Betsy Bird, who blogs for School Library Journal as Fuse #8 talk about a variety of picture books and novels, many featuring art of various kinds. Later some gathered for drinks at the Monkey Bar in Amherst, including Megan Lambert, who organized the afternoon at the Carle, illustrator David Costello, writer Jeanne Birdsall, and librarians and professors Nancy, Betty, Mary Ellen, Mia (sorry re missing last names) and Susannah Richards. We talked about some beloved books from childhood – The Phantom Tollbooth, The Borrowers – and things so new only the lucky reviewing sorts among us have gotten their hands. And Susannah, one of those lucky ones, who knows her FedEx deliverer well, spoke of her book filled house where she stores paperbacks in the oven.
–The oven? I repeated.
–Yes, it’s an Aga.
–An Aga? I can’t stop repeating. I’ve seen one in a magazine, think Linda McCartney had one. Big, yes, but with a little fire that keeps burning. So now I’m totally worried about this book packed house though Susannah seemed unconcerned. So oh well. Now it’s another morning and I’m working from yesterday’s notes. Crossing out a lot, but keeping some and trying to find them a place. And my reward for later in the day? Plan to pick another bunch of lilacs and take the big dog up Mt. Sugarloaf.



  1. Sounds like a perfectly lovely time at the Eric Carle Museum! And Jeanne Birdsall (worship her)!
    I toyed with the idea of an AGA when we built this house 9 years ago, but decided the constant “heat on” thing would be too hot for Virginia. Books in the oven? Guess she never bakes!
    First words, first lines, first pages are SO hard. I’m paralyzed until I’m happy with a first sentence. Allen Say said writing is an unnatural act — and he’s spent hours agonizing over a first sentence.
    You’re wise to dangle those carrots. We all need them. Happy writing :), and happy Memorial Day weekend!

  2. Yes, Jeanne is as lovely in person as the spirit in her novels. Though not really Penderwick-ish, so that it shows.
    Yes, a little flame would be nice in January, but not July. Maybe that’s what bothered me, the using the oven thing. I could totally switch on the oven and forget it was already filled pre-brownies.
    Happy writing back to you, Jama, and also a good weekend. With five colleges around, graduations sort of eclipse the parades — I generally try to avoid the traffic as much as I can and just open up the porch.

  3. Keep on grumbling!

  4. I can’t tell you how much it helps me to know you’re also suffering. 🙂 No, not really, I wish and send you lots of rapid, wing-like, magic-writing thoughts! At some point, the boulder is going to rock loose (for both of us) and all we’ll be able to do is get out of the way of our flying keyboard fingers.
    Oh, and, yes, Jeanne Birdsall! Just read the 2nd Penderwicks and loved it.
    OH! Since you mentioned The Phantom Tollbooth, have you read The Facttracker? I hate to make comparisons, and its not “like” the other book, but it definitely brought it to mind for me, and for my son.

  5. Yes, I laughed at Kelly’s keep on grumbling comment.
    We are all in that mode somtimes, and I know you don’t wish me to stay in this awful place nor do I wish it for you …. but it is reassuring to have company. We will plow through. Somehow.
    I’ll look for the Facttracker! And I do love those Penderwicks.. have a good weekend and don’t tear up too much stuff (on paper)!

  6. How could anybody help having fun at a place called the Monkey Bar?
    Love the books in the oven. But oh, my.
    Good luck with the word flowage.

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