Where to buy Traci Robison's books

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March 26, 2010

Who Do You Think You Are?

A few days ago my dad and I got into a conversation about genealogy, a topic I've been interested in since I was a little girl thumbing through the family history written by my great-aunt Maryellen Robison Hinrichs.  My grandpa gave each grandchild a copy of Maryellen's book, Cashin of Patrick, and mine was well-worn by the time I was in high school.  In part, my interest in history grew from those early glimspes--imagining my ancestors' personal lives, the places and events that were important to them, the larger world around them.

Family history is one of the few interests Dad and I share, and once we'd started on the subject, we kept on until my phone died.  Caught up in the spirit of our conversation, I watched an episode of Who do You Think You Are on Hulu that night.  NBC has partnered with Ancestry.com on the series, which explores the family trees of  various celebrities.  The episode I watched traced a branch of Sarah Jessica Parker's family tree back to the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

I can't say I loved the show, but I didn't hate it, either.  Like most of reality TV, it was vaguely interesting.  I wish the show would have delved more deeply into the research involved in genealogy or the historical events Parker's ancestors took part in and spent less time focusing on her awed reactions.  The show's likely to create some unreasonable expectations about the ease of researching one's roots, but it also might excite people to investigate their own heritage--and that, to me, is a good thing.

March 22, 2010

Around the Block

I've had days where I've struggled, but until Friday I honestly hadn't faced a day where I felt so completely blank.  It scared me.  I had visions of never writing another meaningful word.

I grabbed my copy of Bonnie Goldberg's Room to Write  and deserted my laptop for the comfort of the couch.  Unable to settle on a writing exercise, I opened my notebook and just started writing.  Appropriately enough, I ended up writing a scene where my main character wandered, lost, through a city's streets and wound up at an unexpected destination.

Will I ultimately use much of that work?  Probably not.  But pushing forward kept me from a sense of failure and even gave me a few ideas for moving on.  Saturday's work went well, and today I wrote twice as much as usual in half the time. 

I'm not one to quote the Bible, but I've had a handwritten notecard of Proverbs 14:23 tacked to my bulletin board since I was a college student:  "All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty."  I truly believe the work of writing in itself is a reward.  Even on difficult days, I love what I'm doing, and without that work, I would feel impoverished.

March 15, 2010

Creatures of Habit

I've just discovered my dog has a Pavlovian response to the whir of the coffee grinder.  I started the kettle boiling, dumped some beans in the grinder, and Sadie jumped up, smiling at me and glancing at her treat bag.  You might think dogs don't smile, but trust me, when she's happy, her whole body communicates the pleasure.

Now Sadie's crashing on the couch with a biscuit in her belly while I'm about to eat another peanut cluster and drink a second pot of coffee (a mistake I'll regret later).  I'm working on piecing together some scenes in my current manuscript Gates the Hours Keep and experiencing restless munchiness.  All in all I'm happy with how the manuscript is coming along.  I have almost 400 pages written, about 300 of which I've combined into chapters and put in some semblance of order.

With each manuscript I've created,  I've used a different writing process.  The first, I wrote by hand in numerous notebooks and on scraps of paper, which I typed, chapter by chapter, as the story grew.  Often I edited as I typed. My second novel was composed almost entirely on the computer, and my work moved fairly rigidly from one plot point to another.

With Gates the Hours Keep, I'm combining elements of both approaches--writing by hand when inspiration hits or when I feel stymied; following a general outline but writing whatever scene comes to mind when I start a day's work; and organizing that raw material into the novel's chapters.  Right now, I'm at a major turning point in the story, and I don't feel the plot can move forward until I have the preceding events nailed down. 

I'm amazed when I realize how much of the rough draft is complete.  It's been a little over a year since I began working on it during those in-between hours when I'm not at the archives or otherwise occupied (hanging with my hubby, eating, sleeping, wasting time on facebook . . .)  That said, I better get back to work.

Before I go, though, I'd like to know what techniques you find most useful in creating a rough draft.  Do you closely follow an outline?  Wing it day to day?  Are your approaches constantly evolving?

March 13, 2010

Lazy Saturday

For the past couple years, Jim and I have been buying season tickets to the Lied Center and the university's theater department.  About half of the performances we chose to attend fell in February or March, so for the past month we've been getting our cultural fix. 

The Lied Center presents a mix of programs, and it's always hard to choose which shows to see.  Last fall we especially enjoyed the Paul Taylor Dance Company.  (Possessing all the grace of a lumbering buffalo, I'm always impressed by dancers.) 

During our recent spree, we attended South PacificGaelic Storm , and Abraham, Inc., which just edged out the others as my favorite.  The blend of funk, jazz, hip-hop, and klezmer (a completely unfamiliar musical genre for me) transported me to beaches, villages, and urban alleys.  Having played the trombone as a kid, I'd expected to enjoy Fred Wesley's trombone solos, but David Krakaur's clarinet sang out with intensity and emotion I honestly didn't know a clarinet could produce.  I left wanting more! 

At the university theater we watched a student performance of Tartuffe, which was a bit of a disappointment after the fabulous King Lear the students put on this fall.  Many of the undergrad cast members, whom I'd only seen as extras in past produtions, showed promise, and I'll enjoy watching their work mature in the seasons to come.

After three straight weeks of going out, I'm looking forward to a lazy Saturday night.  Beer, nachos, and a movie from Netflix sound just my speed.   

March 1, 2010

Hello, Sunshine

After a long dismal winter, we've finally had a few days of sunshine and above freezing temps, and I'm as restless as a kid on the last day of school.  One peek at blue sky has me dreaming of daffodils and robins and baby bunnies eating everything in my flowerbed. 

Spring's coming!  I can feel it.  I remember it looks something like this: