On January 30th, I left my home and family to spend an entire month by myself on the south rim of the Grand Canyon as an Artist In Residence. The National Park Service chooses twelve people a year to revel in a month of solitude and solid work. I plan to drive the 1400 miles to Arizona so that I can have my easel, computer, and books, guitar and hiking boots. Everything else, will get left behind.
These are what I think of as my taffy years. Pulled in one direction by the needs of my soon to be teen-age son, and the other direction by the needs of my aging father and mother-in-law. In the middle is menopausal-me, all too aware I am not accomplishing all I want, or need.
So the Grand Canyon.
The sky. The moods of winter. The wind. The stars and stones and sculpted crevasses deep and wide and old. And hope. Hope as immense as those crags that in that space I will find the small voice that fills the void and gives meaning and joy.
The Grand Canyon is my "soulspot." A place I have rafted and hiked. A place I dream of when I am not there.
The last time I went to Paris it was spring, and flower petals fell onto the sidewalks and streets making them pink and white and slick, waiting to be crushed beneath Italian Leather Boots and German sports cars and the bicycle tires of boys carrying bags of baguettes. English humor was in, and brooding French musicians sat on sidewalks in Montartre playing brooding French music while the sky dimmed and lights sparked and sparkled on La Seine and glittered in puddles—green and blue and yellow and orange. There are always puddles in Paris, right? They were there that day, and every day since. Puddles and puddles for lovers to walk by and through and dance in if need be, and why not? Why not need be? It is Paris. It is spring, and petals are falling, even in the night, the pink and the white. And the music is still there, like the silk of a spider gliding on a breeze, and everywhere is the smell of old. Old buildings, old bridges, old stones and stories. Old dreams. There are old clothes strung over old streets, and they look like prayer flags, each petal of cloth waving a wish into the breeze.
Each petal of cloth waving a wish into the breeze.
Sharon Ford has posted an interview with Naseem about her process for writing the best selling novel: The Crying Tree.
FORD: When you decided to write a novel, did you find your background in journalism helpful, or was the transition to fiction difficult?
RAKHA: First off, I was not a print journalist – I was in broadcast, and more specifically, I was a broadcast journalist for public radio. There is a big difference between writing for the radio, and writing for a newspaper, and much of that lies in the word story. The majority of newspaper articles tend to convey a straightforward plot – who, what, where, when and why – in a clinical fashion, devoid of emotional content. This isn’t always true, and a good investigative piece can read like a good piece of fiction, but for the most part journalists tend to train themselves to focus on just the most overt setting details and character traits, and thus miss the nuance that brings life and heart to a story.
Two days ago I received an overnight package. It was my book. Hardback edition, signed, sealed and delivered.
It was a surreal experience, mostly because it felt so quiet. No fanfare, no adrenaline rush. Just a package I'd been expecting and, yes, there it was, and didn't it look nice? And look there is my name on my book, my baby, my child.
My nine year old son was home, so was a friend of his. Together we opened the envelope. We each handled the book. Touched its cover, opened it. Closed it. Someone sniffed it. Maybe it was the dog. But really it should have been me. Instead, I simply put it on the coffee table and then went back to my computer as Elijah and his friend went off to explore the woods.
An hour later, we went to the pool, and I finished reading Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, and thought of books and authors and all they do to put their words in front of others hoping someone will pick it up and read and understand.
Maybe that why I am so subdued. The act of writing is an act of faith, hoping beyond hope that someone somewhere will pick up what you wrote and say, yes -- I feel this. I am touched. I am changed. That is what good books do for me, and it seems like an incredibly steep and scary slope to hope that that is what I will do for others. But it can't be denied
It can, however, be ignored -- in spurts. So I take my son to the pool and then out for ice-cream and then we climb the hill back home, and eat our dinner on the deck and watch a deer trot across the field, and do not mention reading or writing or my brand new book sitting on the coffee table -- waiting for me to give it a good sniff.
Because so many people have been asking "what is it like to have your novel coming out?" I thought I would keep a daily blog for at least the next thirty-two days...maybe longer, we'll see.
Don't expect much in literary merit in these quick, and very frank updates. But do expect to get a realistic picture of what is it is like to be a debut novelist.
So today, Saturday.
I ran early morning, as sun was rising. I saw deers. I came home and then updated my web site www.naseemrakha.com for the next FOUR hours. (I am still in the learning curve.) I tried to find a way to get a pdf of a great interview that appeared in the Library publication McNaughton Adult Fiction. I received a copy of the publication yesterday and was pleased to see that The Crying Tree is listed as one of just TWO novels that are "Not to be missed." The other is SO HAPPY TOGETHER by Maryann McFadden.
After this I cleaned up the yard from the terrific storm we had on Thursday. And now, finally, I will close the computer, take a shower and make food for a party this evening.