Kate Flora here, on another rainy cold morning. Barely awake and already behind. Spring is my favorite season. I can spend hours just lingering in the flower beds, watching last year’s hopeful little plants springing back and owning their spaces. But not this year. Even if the weather did cooperate and we had more than a day of sun, I have too much homework.
Lately, my joking motto is: I used to be a writer until I got published. Unfortunately, it feels way too true. I am backed up with all of the details of getting ready to launch two fall books. Already behind, without enough events set up, without my PR materials polished, my website redesigned, my new police-related blog posts written and tweaked. I have a book due in July and no time to finish it. I have a lecture to write for class this morning and no time to finish it. I have a manuscript to review before it can become a POD book so the whole Burgess series is available in print and e-book format. I have a writer waiting for feedback on her book. I have a date with Gator the Bedbug Dog to watch him in action. I think I’m getting a headache.
I shouldn’t complain. It is the greatest gift of my life that I get to do what I love. I just wish I had a staff to do the things I don’t love so much, so I could spend more time at the writing. More time teaching aspiring writers to trust themselves and believe in their dream. I really would like to put my winter clothes away. But I’m not sure there is going to be summer this year, so many it isn’t such a bad thing to still have my sweaters at hand.
For small bits of time, I do push away the to do list, the endless homework, the things that belong to the “business” of writing, and the business of living, like laundry and groceries, and go out to the garden.
For longer bits of time, I accept that I will never get my homework done. I push that list away and remember that I’m a writer and do what I tell my students is so critical: writers write. I immerse myself in story and watch my character try and get herself out of the current jam she’s in. I try to imagine what the room looks like, how intense her fear is, what the bad guy’s own narrative is (because we are all the heroes of our own stories), and how I will weave and blend and hide things in plain sight and tell a story that you won’t want want to put down. I try to meet my quota of 1000 words a day.
I’ve said this here before, but it’s something I keep coming back to often. It’s a quote from Philip Gourevich, in his sad, horrifying, and powerful book about the Rwandan massacre, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. Gourevich writes: “This is what fascinates me most in existence: the peculiar necessity of imagining what is, in fact, real.”
Whether I’m writing fiction or nonfiction, imagining it is a necessary part of the job if I am to write the kind of powerful books that will let my readers truly see the stories in their imaginations. And it can be a hard job, going around with such dark characters and images in my mind, hardest of all when the characters are real, but plenty hard when they’re only imagined. When I’ve made up the dusty, spider-filled basement or the snowstorm or the scene where the body is found. It’s also a job I embrace, because when I rise to the challenge and it works, I’ve written the book I set out to write, and hopefully, made you feel the story more deeply.