Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Notes from Italy, 11/15/11

I'm at Spannocchia (a 900-year-old farmhouse near Siena), sitting outside on a cool, sunny day at a rickety round table, about the size of a large pizza, on the lawn overlooking the hills of Tuscany.

They took the lemon trees inside yesterday.  Winter is coming.  The two cypress trees and bench that I woodblock printed with Sabra Field five years ago are to my left.  I have such fondness for that time in my life.  The last time I came to this magical place, I'd just finished STILL ALICE.  And here I am again, this time in the middle of writing my third book.

I can smell lunch cooking.  Onions and garlic.  And fennel?  Not sure.  It smells delicious.  People are chatting behind me on the terrace where we drank wine every evening five years ago.  We don't drink there now because it's November and too cold (last time I was here, it was June).

A man is picking something from a tree and dropping it into a ceramic bowl.  Something for dinner maybe.  I love how connected Italians are to their land, the earth, their food.  Back at home, my yard is a place where my kids play or ground that I walk over to get to the car.  Here, it is tended to and touched daily.  It is eaten.  I like that.  It's what we should be doing.  Connection to the earth and what we eat, nourishing our environment and ourselves.  At home, we go to the grocery store.  We're disconnected from this process.

Connection and disconnection.  LOVE ANTHONY is about this.  Faith and loss of faith.  Communication and silence.  Connection and isolation.  How do we love?  What do we need in order to experience love?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Notes from My LOVE ANTHONY Writing Journal, 11/30/11

Just realized I'm on chapter 20.  Sounds substantial, doesn't it?  I'm at about 46,000 words and 200 pages, so it's getting there, baby.  I go back and forth lately between thinking it's brilliant to thinking it's an absolute mess.  I'm worried that Beth's story doesn't tie in strongly enough to Olivia's, that it's like--SO WHAT?  Why not just tell Olivia's and Anthony's story?

I think because their story is too internal.  Beth's story provides the movement, the action and immediacy.  But why not tell Olivia's story in that way--tell the story of this mother who has a son with autism, how she first suspects it, then the diagnosis, living with it, etc--and make it linear?  Because that's too predictable.  It's been done.  Mother has a child, expects a "normal" life, then there is a diagnosis and a deviated development, a deviated life. This mother's point of view has been told.

I'm hoping that this story offers something new and unexpected, that readers will learn about the experience of autism from the more severely affected end of the spectrum without feeling like they're reading a clinical manual, without being hit directly over the head with it.  I want to tell a great story and give a voice to this voiceless child.  How does he experience the world, emotions, relationships?  How does his life matter?  I want readers to experience what it might feel like to have this kind of autism.  I think a straightforward, linear story of only Olivia and Anthony without Beth doesn't hold as much power somehow.

So finish the first draft, Lisa, and if there are ways that you can tighten Beth's ties to autism in metaphor, do it then.  You've planted the seeds.  Make sure that elements from each Anthony and Olivia chapter tie in to elements of Beths' chapters--illustrate that the spectrum is long and wide, and we're all on it.  And then it will be brilliant, my dear.  And when the first draft is done, have Tracey read it, and listen with an open heart to her feedback.

For now though, you are writing chapter 20.  So what happens next?