Saturday, March 07, 2009

Twenty Lines A Day

I guess I didn't do a very good job of sticking to my memoir action plan, which was to write an essay about something interesting in each year of my life. I worked backward from 2008 and got stuck on 2005, when my mother died and Hurricane Katrina wiped out my home town of New Orleans. Those two events happened within a few days of each other, in fact my mother's funeral was originally scheduled for the exact day that Katrina blew into town, which was Aug 29, 2005.

I had in mind some kind of great profound essay about losing one's mother and the trouble New Orleans has had recovering from Katrina, and why those two are related in a way. My mother's family has a long history in New Orleans (about 10 generations) and it would have been painful for her to witness what has happened since then. But, when I started to write about all of that I found that I couldn't exactly get at what I was trying to say without writing an epic novel. So, I stalled on that effort and began some other writing projects.

My latest literary effort is based on a piece of writing advice that goes like this: "twenty lines a day, genius or not." It comes from the 19th century French writer, Stendhal (a pen name for Henri-Marie Beyle). I picked it up from an interview with novelist Harry Mathews in a back issue of The Paris Review. Mathews wrote a book called Twenty Lines a Day, published in 1988, based on following Stendhal's advice for a year.

Now, you probably think that I am going to start posting my twenty lines a day on this blog. No. I've already learned that I no longer have the discipline, or even sufficient interest, to make frequent blog postings. But, I have been writing twenty lines a day by hand in my notebook on the morning ferry ride to work. Yes, I still ride the 5:20 a.m. sailing from Bainbridge Island to Seattle, which was the setting for my novel, Sea Changes.

Without my even trying, my twenty lines a day has transformed into a story about a woman who murders her husband and serves time in prison and then gets out and tries to start life over again. Don't ask me where that idea came from. I'm not trying to write it in an organized way, there's no outline, no plot, no plan of any kind. Yet, a very definite story is emerging, along with an interesting cast of characters: her son, her late husband's lover, her best friend in prison, her son's wife, her son's boyfriend. Yes, he has a wife and boyfriend. This is a family that pushes the limits of convention.

Perhaps one day I will share some excerpts of my twenty lines a day story on this blog. But that means I will have to type what I've written.

Good luck. I'll be back one day.


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At 11:54 AM, Blogger Jason Prowell said...

Hey Uncle Bill. I was posting a video on my new blog and remembered Mom saying something about you haveing a blog. I don't have a current e-mail or phone number for you so I searched and found you through here. I am in Chicago and just did a three day trip up The Great River Road on my motorcycle. I am visiting friends and then plan to head west through the Dakotas and Idaho. I wanted to stop by and say hello and maybe go for a weekend ride up the the San Juan Islands or on one of you local day rides around Seattle. My number is 504-390-7251 and my e-mail is I just started a blog if you are interested in following my trip. Hope to hear from you soon.


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