Thursday, October 08, 2009

all of my children are not here and other lovely burnt eavesdrops

Tom Spanbauer calls it "burnt tongue" when you say it wrong on purpose, to bring the prose closer to the heart. The actual metaphor, burnt tongue, has something to do talking to the gods--and the punishment for the hubris. Or maybe I got that wrong. Maybe that's an example of burnt ear--or a similar post office type game gone awry.

Anyway, with SOL (not, sigh out loud, no, that would be Stairway of Love, of course) in the can, awaiting comments from my trusted writing group, I'm naturally consumed with the next thing. I have a few characters and a "situation" squirming around my brain--a most delicious time in the cycle of novel-writing. All the possibilities--none of the commitment. My ear is especially tuned for appropriation during this stage. I'm looking to steal a voice I can sustain. I want that lyrical sound in my head. I want a certain type of burnt tongue to guide me into this story, this new one. To actually chant the story to me--but lyrically. Of course.

The other evening during that bewitching 90 minutes of soccer mom-dom, my boy installed in the OES playing field under the watchful eye of his coach, I stole off to indulge in my usual double espresso with foam and one packet of turbinado sugar (which, btw, is only ONE DOLLAR at the otherwise pricey New Seasons Market). I had my notebook (well, okay, it was a parking receipt folded into a pocket), and Lorrie Moore's new book (more on that in another post), and I curled up in one of the comfy chairs and pretended to read (I'm getting more and more like my 10-yr-old boy each day).

In the New Seasons lounge and food-consuming section, there were a smattering of moms who knew one another, and they were engrossed in casual conversation. This one mom had a particularly fetching accent. She may have haled from New Zealand, or perhaps she was Scottish. At one point, her three children (one in a wheelchair even!) vanished. She was clearing the table post-snack, and sort of talking to one of the other mothers--a nurse, who was described her three 12's as they call it when they pull those shifts, and she suddenly jerked her head up and looked about and exclaimed, "All of my children are not here." And they weren't. Not one. But she said it in this musing, sort of ponderish tone that I tried to rehear and rehear for its musicality and wrongness.

I'm not sure if I can steal this stranger's voice and plunk it in as a main character, but she might be perfect in a supporting role--especially valuable is the covetous energy such a secondary character might generate in the protagonist. Whoever she will end up being.


  1. That's what it is all about, isn't it. Love it!

  2. Hey Patty, where's your blog????


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