I am one happy character today. My author, L, has reopened my file and taken up writing about me again. It’s been a long, long time. She had a cartload of excuses. She was teaching. She was writer-in residence for a retreat at a Benedictine abbey. She had meetings, bureaucracies to deal with. She’s been mentoring. She sat on a panel for which the topic was Secrets to Great Fiction. (She told the grad students in the room that such a topic almost demanded its own Zen koan, something in the order of, If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Or, Do not confuse the pointing finger with the moon. She told the students she was tempted to say, If, in your travels, you encounter a Secret to Great Fiction, turn and walk away. Because it cannot possibly be so simple. Because maybe, if what you’re after are Secrets, you should look inside yourself.)
Fine for her, fine for the students, but I have grown weaker by the day. I apologize for not having shown up here in almost a month, but I was suffering my own version of Tinkerbell Syndrome. You remember the scene: Tinkerbell has drunk poison, and she’s dying, and she tells Peter Pan that if every boy and girl who believed in fairies were to clap their hands, she would live. Certainly no one would mistake me for a fairy, and I haven’t swallowed poison, but L did leave me to languish for weeks on end. She didn’t call, she didn’t write. It would be one thing if I were between covers, or in a downloadable ebook; then I would have readers to keep me alive. But aside from the first thirteen hundred words under the tab About the Novel at the top of this site, my story so far is a secret to all but L and me. Even we’re guessing at parts of it. The new attention she’s directed my way in the last twenty-four hours has indeed brought me back to life.
Today it was chapter two all over again. For months now, chapter two has troubled her almost as much as the slightly stagey encounter three-quarters of the way through the novel. It’s bothered me too. I’ve tried my various ways of telling her the chapter is working too hard. Too much heavy lifting! I groused, dropping the dumbbells onto the grey matter, phump, and served her right if that gave her a headache. I’ve tried music: contrite about causing pain, wishing to soothe her, I took up my harp. (Why are you laughing? Does it strike you that I’m not the sort to play the harp?) Chapter two, I said gently to L through the strings of my harp—does it take its note from the planet Mercury, or does it take its note from the moon? Every other chapter in the novel orbits a single, heavenly body, and yet this chapter has two at once. That’s two separate songs.
Well, she listened, L did. Clap your hands, everyone! What used to be chapter two is now chapters two and three. She has moved enormous blocks of text from here to there and around a corner and inserted a tidy page break. Before the break, the moon shines over my sister Pen and me, and it lights up one dark corner and throws another into shadow. After the page break, in chapter three, there is space to listen to what the messenger god Mercury and his emissaries on Earth are trying to tell my nephew Billy and me as we set out on our adventures. If that sounds mystical, let me assure you we remain very down to Earth, all three of us.