“I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one.”
Nora Roberts

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

the problem of Mondays
Mon 2014-04-14 23:25:19 (single post)

Today was a big day! Today was my first Monday back at McCauley Family Farm for the 2014 season.

For several years now, for a value of "several" I can't precisely pinpoint anymore, Monday mornings have meant several hours of volunteer farm work in Longmont. That can mean many things. I do whatever they need extra hands on doing: planting seeds, thinning seedlings, transplanting seedlings, weeding furrows, harvesting and processing vegetables, harvesting and processing seeds, spreading compost, moving irrigation pipe, whatever. It tends to mean one other thing for sure: I come home sometime between 1:00 and 2:00 PM simultaneously ravenous and exhausted.

So today I got home, made soup, ate vast quantities of said soup, and collapsed in bed. (I also met the technician from Glass America who fixed a chip in our windshield. The car got a rock in the face on the way to the VNV Nation concert.) It's questionable whether collapsing in bed was precisely necessary when the only physically taxing things I did today were (1) dropping tiny seeds into seedling trays, and (2) trying to ignore how freakin' cold it was (come on, Colorado, I know April is your snowiest month, but that's no excuse). However, I can confidently say that staying in bed until darn near 8:00 PM was a tad excessive.

Reconciling farm-work Mondays with my new ambitious writing schedule this year is going to be tricky. On the one hand, days like today make me feel guilty for using "I went to the farm today" as an excuse to sleep all afternoon and into the evening. On the other, I know there will be days when the farm work will genuinely leave me done in for the day. I suspect I won't be able to apply a single overarching expectation, even as simple an expectation as "at least one hour's solid writing, OK?"

I know this, though: The uncertainty of Mondays points to the absolute necessity of sticking to my writing schedule Tuesdays through Fridays. Not just because I have one less day to get things done in a week, either. I do actually hope to get something done on Monday afternoons. And good writing habits when I'm tired from some amount of farm work won't happen unless I solidify good writing habits when I've got nothing else to do but write.

For now, my Monday intention will be to keep up the morning pages and the evening blogging at the very least. (If I have no writing progress to blog about, hell, I'll blog about the day at the farm.) The rest will have to be a work in progress. We'll find out how it goes together.

papier et plume in less than ideal combination
Tue 2014-04-08 10:48:43 (single post)

And now for a brief public service announcement:

Recycled paper notebooks and fountain pens do not go together. Yes, recycled paper is ecologically sound, pleasant to the touch, and often results in a cheaper notebook. But writing three pages of a recycled paper notebook with a fountain pen means A) using up half your ink cartridge B) while only being able to write on one side of each page C) because the results look like you did your Morning Pages with a Sharpie or a Marks-a-lot.

And now you know.

(And for my next trick, fountain pen on recycled paper on a moving train...)

musing on hours allotment at the late-night office
Wed 2014-03-26 21:35:47 (single post)

Today's blog post comes to you live from Breaker's Grill in downtown Longmont. Breaker's Grill supports the Boulder County Bombers, so we support them back. At this late hour, all the activity is centering around the bar and the many billiards tables. The table seating area is entirely deserted. It is also separated from the bar-and-billiards area by an opaque partition. So although I can hear loud voices and pool balls going click, I'm effectively isolated: all alone in a room full of empty tables, just me and my laptop and what's left of my dinner.

It's perfect. I've spent two hours finishing up the rewrite of the snow-glue-from-space story ("Anything For a Laugh" isn't quite right, but I haven't come up with a new title yet), and now here I am writing this blog post.

As anticipated, today was totally a Wednesday. Which is to say, in addition to being Wednesday, it suffered from all the distractions and delays to which a Wednesday workday is prone. Only I can't blame roller derby practice or volunteer reading. I sort of overslept. By sort of a lot. (Why? I don't know. It can't possibly have to do with staying up until 2:30 playing 2048.) Thus my late start in the afternoon. Thus my needing to log another two and a half hours of writing after roller derby practice.

Now that I'm reaching the five-hour mark more regularly, I'm beginning to feel that five hours isn't enough. But I'm not quite trusting that feeling. On the one hand, I don't think it should have taken three days to rewrite a 2,300-word story. That it's taken me so long has to do with splitting my five hours each day between short story revision, content writing, and the "scales and arpeggios" stuff like freewriting and morning pages and so on. On the other hand, I know I don't actually function well when I do the same thing for five hours straight. I work best when I vary my tasks throughout the day.

What's to do? Experiment, I guess. Try spending more time tomorrow on short story revision ("Snowflakes" is waiting for me to return to it) and defer Examiner or Demand Media Studios to another day--like I did today, I guess. Definitely get started earlier in the day--especially considering Thursday is another day that ends in roller derby practice. Maybe log extra time beyond the five hours, breaking it up into reasonable chunks, and see how that feels.

The simultaneous advantage and drawback of working for yourself on your own schedule is that there's no one forcing you into a particular work-a-day rhythm. You get to work at the pace that serves you best. But first you have to figure out what pace serves you best.

In any case, one sure conclusion is this: don't wait until the week the story is due to start its rewrite! Right? Right. For what it does me now, anyway.

Poster for this Saturday's roller derby double header. Also, the Roller Derby 20XX sprite needs to be my new HabitRPG avatar.
mildly guilted into (almost) perfect productivity
Tue 2014-03-25 21:11:24 (single post)

Today's report comes to you live from the wilds of Habitica, where Vortexae's party faces the inexplicable rage of a being made of fog, magic, and the spirit of springtime. The Ghost Stag charges! One warrior of the party raises her axe, doing 10.2 damage to the Stag. The Stag attacks back! It misses. The round continues--


So. One of my friends who's playing HabitRPG, they got ahold of a quest. They formed a party. I accepted their invitation.

This changes things.

It's no longer, "Eh, I can take a few hit points of damage tonight. Big whoop. I'll level up before it catches up with me."

Oh no. Now, it's, "I have to do all my Dailies! Or else I'll be responsible for everyone taking damage! That is so not OK!"

The happy effect of this benign and silent friend-on-friend pressure has been two "perfect" weekdays in a row. I'm logging my five or more writing hours without pulling weird late-night tricks out of my magic hat. They're good, solid hours spent on short story revision (making progress on the snow glue apocalypse from space), new story drafts (the ongoing portfolio of drabbles), blogging and content writing (Examiner as well as this blog here), and of course the daily morning pages about which I had so much to say the other day. And, as "5 hours of writing" is not my only daily task, I'm also exercising a little, both on- and off-skates, on my own time; writing down every dream memory I can get my hands on; catching up with the dreaded Box of the Doing of the Books (of Doom); and being more meticulous than ever about household and personal chores.

It would appear that, through all these years of inconsistency and struggle, all I've really needed is a gaming environment in which someone other than me suffers pretend injuries for my failures. Huh. Who knew? Thanks, Habit RPG!

I'm still not done with revising the space snow-glue apocalypse story, mind you. This is somewhat distressing to me, since I'd hoped for otherwise.

And I still have Wednesday ahead of me. Wednesday starts with an hour and change of reading employment ads for AINC. It ends with roller derby practice. In between, Wednesday is not very tolerant of random delays, interruptions, or travel time.

That's the bad news. The good news is this: If I can manage a "perfect" Wednesday, I can manage anything.

Although this particular Saturday might be a challenge... but how about we worry about Saturday when it gets here? Indeed. Sounds like a plan.

Fri 2014-03-21 23:11:02 (single post)

I have begun composing drabbles during my daily freewriting time. Drabbles are stories that are exactly 100 words long. Apparently there are a handful of online markets, some as blogs and some as podcasts, that publish them. So it's a multiply useful venture.

Drabbles, like certain forms of poetry, impose rules and restrictions. Restrictions make for very effective writing exercises. They exert a pressure under which the writer discovers what she's really capable of.

If nothing else, you learn to be very choosy about the right word in the right place. You only get one hundred of 'em, after all.

three pages of longhand navel-gazing with a fountain pen: totally worth it
Tue 2014-03-18 23:31:33 (single post)

So what's the point of doing something called "morning pages" when it's nine o'clock at night, anyway? This is something I ask myself when I have days like yesterday. I also periodically ask myself why I still do Morning Pages at all. It's good to reevaluate a long-standing daily ritual, the way you might reevaluate whether some keepsake still belongs on the mantelpiece after all these years. Is it still there for a reason, or is it just there because no one's taken it down? Is this habit still useful, or am I just doing it because I've always done it?

A quick review: Morning Pages is a practice popularized by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. The book is a twelve-week course in creativity and identity. As the reader works their way through the chapters, they gradually build a new toolbox full of tips, tricks, exercises and inspiration. Morning Pages is the very first tool that Cameron puts in the reader's hand.

Simply put, it's three pages of longhand writing which you do all at once, without pausing for interruption or thought. You just splat your brain down on the page. Whatever thought crosses your mind, deep or petty, banal or beautiful, you write it down from beginning to end. Then you move on to the next thought.

Cameron has a particular warning for writers: Don't "write" your Morning Pages. Just do them. This is not meant to be an act of deathless or even competent prose.

When my kind and generous husband first agreed that I could leave the nine-to-five world and take my writing full time, I made gleeful plans for what my writing day would look like. I would start with Morning Pages, of course. I would then do timed writing exercises, at least three sessions of fifteen minutes each, to really get the juices flowing for the day. And then--

"And how much of your day will be left after you've done all this noodling around?" said one of the self-assigned gurus in the online writing community I frequented at that time. "My advice to you is, don't waste your time. Just write."

This was ten years ago. I was, well, younger and more impressionable and more easily made to feel ashamed then than I am now. Admittedly, we're not talking "college freshman" levels of young and impressionable--I quit my full time job just before my 28th birthday--but "young and impressionable" comes in waves. It's amazing how easy it can be to poison someone else's innocent enthusiasm, no matter what their age.

So I bowed to my unasked-for advisor's wisdom and did the newsgroup version of shuffling my feet in embarrassment, and I shut my mouth. And I abandoned for a while the activities that he disparaged, because every time I thought about doing them, I heard his words in my head again: "How much of your time are you willing to waste with these things?" For months I couldn't even pick up Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones without feeling ashamed.

Oddly enough, the daily routine my correspondent shamed me into abandoning then is very similar to the one I try to adhere to now. I begin with Morning Pages, and I try to include a 25-minute freewriting session early in the working day. These two things combined take up about an hour, tops, and it's an hour well-spent.

More about freewriting another time, I think. Suffice it to say that my unasked-for advisor might as usefully have told a pianist not to waste her precious time with scales and arpeggios, or a roller derby player not to waste her time warming up and stretching.

"My advice to you is, just play."

How about no?

Anyway. One reason I still do Morning Pages is because they help me focus my mind on the day ahead. I tend to describe to myself what I want to do with my writing time. I also mention other to-do items I don't want to forget. It helps me keep from floating passively from whim to whim. It gives me direction.

More generally, Morning Pages is where I meet myself on the page. I take stock of what's in my head. Maybe I don't want to actually face everything that's in my head, maybe I'm not going to write the crappy stuff down, maybe I'm just going to say, "There's a thing that came up yesterday that I don't want to think about and so I'm not gonna," but even that much is more "facing it" than I'd do without the pen moving across the page.

If I've got a story revision in progress, I sometimes end up brainstorming on it during Morning Pages. "Brainstorming" might be overstating things. I talk to myself on the page. I ask myself questions. I don't always have answers, but it helps to know what the questions are. As previously observed, "How do I find space to include Backstory Point A in this scene?" is much more useful than "How do I get started when rewrites are clearly IMPOSSIBLE?"

Midway through Morning Pages, I sometimes surprise myself by remembering a piece of the previous night's dream. When that happens, I'll pause whatever thought I'm on, maybe start a new paragraph or make a free-floating text block off to the side, and I'll write down whatever dream memory just occurred to me. Then I'll draw a little crescent moon in the margin so I can find it later when I've got a moment to put it into my dream journal.

Morning Pages is where I practice my handwriting. I would like to have nice handwriting.

Morning Pages is a chance to play with fountain pens filled with ink in fun colors. I like Sheaffer pens with fine-tipped nibs and refillable converters. I like saffron orange, peacock blue, foggy gray, purple. Sometimes the ink gets all over my fingers, an indelible reminder all the rest of that day that I Am A Writer.

Morning Pages, even when I don't get to them until nine o'clock at night, is a task I know I can accomplish. There is no question of not being able to finish. And on a day when I get nothing done until that late at night, I need to experience achievement. I need to remind myself that I am capable of finishing a thing I start. You know how one of the benefits of short story writing is that it lets you practice story endings more frequently than novel writing does? Morning Pages lets me practice feeling accomplished.

In the end, there's a sort of faithfulness that happens in Morning Pages. That rendezvous with myself on the page is a matter of trust and self-care. Doing it every day, no matter how late, is a way of reinforcing the assertion that I'm worth trusting, I'm worth treating well, I'm not a lost cause to give up on. (These are assertions I need reaffirmed from time to time. I sometimes catch myself doubting them.) Also that my brain's a worthwhile place to spend time in.

Doing Morning Pages even when it's gone nine o'clock at night is a way of holding that faith up against all the disparagements of the world, the rejection letters we all must face and the dismissiveness we shouldn't have to, all the naysaying, all the temptation to hopelessness, and saying, "No. It's never too late to begin."

So that's why I still do it after all these years.

the hoped-for thing occurs in the space one makes for it
Tue 2014-03-11 21:59:51 (single post)

I have good news! I have sold a story! For publication! Where you can see it--or, at least, hear it! Not yet, but soon!

That's the short story. Now, clear the way, 'cause here comes the long version.

This year I set out to be a more reliably productive writer. I set myself daily goals both in terms of a checklist of particular writing projects and hours spent writing at all. Thus far, at least overall, I've succeeded.

Now, success for a working writer can be tricky to measure. The stuff that's visible to people who aren't me tends to be beyond my control. Getting a story published, for instance, requires the cooperation of an editor who wants to pay me for the rights to print my story. And then there's the matter of my improvement as a writer, which is totally within my control but, to a large extent, not really mine to judge. Not reliably, anyway. Not objectively. So I have to measure my success in terms of those things I can both control and objectively measure: time spent writing, projects in which I make tangible progress, pieces finished and ready to send out into the world.

One of the items that's on my daily checklist and which counts towards hours spent on the clock is submissions procedures--activities surrounding what might be termed the "business end" of this gig. Sending a piece to a market, for instance, or logging a market's response to the submission. Rediscovering something of mine published during college and considering whether it has reprint potential, and, if so, where at. Something along those lines needs to happen every day.

This has resulted in greater success than I've enjoyed for some years now in terms of a particular objective metric: the number of individual pieces of short fiction that are out on submission, i.e. in slush, a.k.a. marked "Pending Response" over at the Submissions Grinder, at a single time. At one point that number was seven. That's small beans compared with some writers, but for me it's personal high.

The amount of stories I currently have out on submission is a number I can control. The amount of stories I have sold for publication is not. But these two numbers are not without causal connection. Even the most cynical writer must agree that your chances at publication go up based on your frequency of manuscript submissions--well, assuming a certain base-level quality of manuscript, of course, and a certain amount of common sense in deciding where to submit what.

Which is taking the long way around to announcing that, attributable at least in part to being determined this year to increase the number and frequency of my manuscript submissions, I've made my first sale of 2014. My sad, sisterly science fiction short-short story "Other Theories of Relativity" will be read aloud during an upcoming episode of Tina Connolly's podcast Toasted Cake.

I'm just tickled all rose-hued about it. I've never had a story of mine podcast before. I've never had a story of mine read aloud to the public by anyone other than myself. I'm excited and also, truth by told, kind of scared about it. There is no rational reason for being scared about it, but I am, a little. It's related to the same mild terror I experience from the time a send a story out to be workshopped right up until the moment I get the critiques back. And, just like I do after I've heard all the critiques, I know I'll feel all glowy and happy after I've finally heard the podcast with my story in it. So I guess what I'm mainly looking forward to is that moment after hearing it for the first time.

I'm also excited because this is my first sale of a Weekend Warrior (WW) story. WW is one of the annual contests hosted in the private online writers' community Codex (which you should check out--if you qualify, if you even think you qualify, do not hesitate to apply, because Codex is awesome). The contest lasts for five weeks. Each Friday, a handful of prompts is posted. You spend the weekend writing a short story from one of those prompts. It must be no longer than 750 words. Winners are determined by averaging all of the contest participants' ratings of each others' stories. Participants also give mini-critiques of each story. (Participation is anonymous until The Big Reveal after the contest is over.)

Between the half-formed stories that came from noodling around on the prompts and the actual stories I ended up submitting, there's a wealth of material from my participation in WW 2012. "Other Theories of Relativity" and, in a roundabout way, "When the Bottom Dropped Out of the Soul Market" are the only pieces from that supply that I have submitted anywhere. (On the same day Tina got back to me offering to buy "Other Theories," I also got the form rejection from the Flash Fiction Chronicles contest for "Soul Market"--not one of the finalists, alas.) There is a hell of a lot more story potential waiting for me in that same pocket of my hard drive. All I have to do is dig it up, revise it, polish it, and send it out.

I hope to have happy reports along those lines later on in the year. Later in the year. My plate is already full to overflowing for the month of March. About that, more later. Probably tomorrow.

but setting up the dominoes is haaaaaaard
Fri 2014-03-07 22:56:28 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

I've been avoiding my short story rewrite of late. That is because short story rewrites tend to terrify me. They loom like giants, towering with the hugeness of the work to be done. But at the same time, they are nebulous, ill-defined. You can't stick a sword in 'em anymore than you can in a cloud. You can't see through 'em, either. Basically, it's a huge mass of blinding, suffocating fog.

My emotional reaction tends to go something like this: "Oh, Gods, there is so much work to do to make this story into a real and functioning story, and I don't have a clue what that work is going to look like, how do I even start?"

As always, the only way out is through. Through the fog, through the cloud, out to the other side. It's rough going, but if you keep putting one foot in front of the other you get somewhere. It might not be the final somewhere, but it will at least be a somewhere from which you can aim yourself at the next somewhere.

I know this stuff. But it's very easy to forget that I know it when I'm facing an impenetrable fog giant.

Yesterday, happily, I was forced to rediscover it.

You know how writers talk about setting a timer for a period during which you can either stare at the page or type on it, one or the other? And eventually you do the latter because the former is boring? That's kind of the position I put myself in last night. I sat myself down in that restaurant booth, and I told myself, "You don't leave here until you've completed your day's writing. Yes, that means revising 'Snowflakes'." And I opened the project file, and I read and reread and re-reread the first scene and all the notes accompanying it, and eventually that got boring, so I started typing just to give myself something else to read.

By the end of the night, the fog had begun to coalesce into a recognizable shape. Instead of just sitting there wibbling, I was asking myself, "How do I get this scene to convey all this information (which I've listed in this handy linked note over here) without making things awkward and clunky?"

I didn't have answers yet, but at least I finally had an answerable question.

My job today was to try to answer that question. I think I might even have done so. But again, it required me to stop simply dreading it and just effin' do it.

If I can only convince myself to sit down and stick my eyeballs on the story that needs revising, revising becomes... well, not easy, definitely not easy. It becomes, I suppose, inevitable. Kind of like if you just push the little train to the top of that first hill, it becomes inevitable that it'll travel through the rest of the roller coaster ride. Like that, only not all at once. Bit by bit, each day. But it's the same principle. You only have to make the decision to knock over the first domino. The rest happens more or less on its own. At least, it does if you've set the dominoes up correctly. If you haven't, at least now you can see what needs fixing.

So that's where I'm at: kind of between dominoes three and four, wondering what it will take to get dominoes five, six, seven & etc. to follow. Hopefully my backbrain will be able to munch away at things over the weekend so that they'll flow more smoothly on Monday.

losing hit points and slumping under pressure
Thu 2014-03-06 23:56:01 (single post)

Yesterday was day 2 of using HabitRPG to help improve my dailiness. And I was really, really enthusiastic about it. Mainly I was impressed with the way it reshapes and repurposes that classic gamer urge to "do stuff to get stuff." I have a weakness for doing in-game things to get in-game rewards, resulting in a lot of fun but very little daily productivity. HabitRPG offers those tantalizing in-game rewards in exchange for doing real-life things, resulting in increased daily productivity. This is very cool. It means I'm not just looking forward to finishing each task on my writing list for its own sake and for the sake of getting it over; I'm also looking forward to these accomplishments for the sake of earning experience points and virtual coins.

Well, today I discovered a certain downside of HabitRPG. For me, that is. It's absolutely not a general downside that every user will encounter. It's just my downside, because I am a basket case.

That downside is this: It's yet another way for me to expect perfection of myself and punish myself for failing to achieve it.

You know what that means: Pressure, and freezing up in the face of pressure.

So this morning I woke up and failed to immediately write down what I'd dreamed. No big deal. It happens. But because dream journaling is a thing I try to do every morning, I'd had the bright idea to code it into my HabitRPG task list. (More details than you really need: I made it a Daily when I set up my account, but I changed it to a Habit yesterday.) Which means that I wasn't just disappointed in myself for letting the dream memory slip away. I was also dreading having to admit my failure by clicking that little minus button next to my dream journaling Habit and losing hit points over it.

So what did I do next? I went back to sleep. Because I'd already tangibly failed, so why even try?

Stupid I know. I told you, I'm a basket case about this. But that's how I never got out of bed until 12:30 and didn't actually start writing until 4:00 PM.

The good news is, I did snap out of it in time to start writing at 4:00 PM. I snapped out of it, did a little math, and became suddenly determined to do what I hadn't managed to do since first setting up my HabitRPG account: achieve a 5-hour writing day.

Tonight was a scrimmage night. It would be very close. But it was possible. It just meant getting back to work immediately after scrimmage and keeping at it until midnight or a little bit thereafter.

Which is why this blog post comes to you from the Old Chicago in Longmont. I know me, see. I know that if I drive home from derby with all the best intentions, they will nevertheless evaporate the moment collapsing in bed looks like an option. So I decided that collapsing in bed simply wouldn't be an option.

And now it is midnight and my timesheet shows a total of five hours for today. Take that, evildoers! I have achieved a perfect day!

Next up: Driving home without falling asleep on the road. Also the more difficult challenge of falling asleep in bed despite all the coffee I just put into my system. (Arrrrgh.)

accidental literary conversations
Fri 2014-02-07 23:43:08 (single post)

Writing at Fuse again today, which makes it three times this week. I think we've finally succeeded in making it a routine, John and I. Either that, or the prospect of a free beer during "Friday happy hour" is sufficient temptation to overcome all resistance.

I'm liking our Fuse workdays, but I find I like them best when we get there before ten o'clock. When we get there later than ten, then we have breakfast upstairs, there there's the inevitable settling-in period downstairs, and what with one thing and another I don't get to my first "real writing" task until about eleven-thirty. Momentum is lost and never truly regained.

But today John had a 9:30 AM meeting to "go" to, which is to say to be present on the phone for, so we made sure to be there by then. Suddenly the day stretched long and full of possibility, and I was able to do all the things with teeny breaks for Puzzle Pirates in between and still not feel I'd left anything undone by the time beer-o'clock rolled around.

One thing I had time for was a lunch-hour walk to the library, just three blocks away, for some short story research. Here's the thing: I'm beginning to realize that "Other Theories of Relativity" appears to have entered into a three-way conversation with Katherine Paterson's novel Jacob Have I Loved and Ray Bradbury's short story "The Kaleidoscope" on the other. So I've checked them out of the library to refresh my memory because these sorts of conversations should be held deliberately.

The Bradbury connection became obvious rather quickly. I mean, you've got some number of astronauts stranded in space and contemplating their inevitable demise--how do you miss that? Unless you hadn't read the story, of course. I had, and it stuck with me in the same menacing, unpleasant way as "A Sound of Thunder" and (I think) "The Rocket Man." Only I couldn't remember which collection it was in nor its name, so I spent some time in the library flipping to each story's first page and reading the first line.

"The first concussion cut the rocket ship up the side with a giant can opener." Yep. That's the one. And on an unrelated note, a story critique note: A line like that, I'm expecting the next line to start with something about the second concussion. But no, Bradbury left me hanging. I also find the story's ending to be slightly off-pitch and missing its rhythm; the little boy's line should be "cried," not "screamed"; and the mother only needs to say her line once.

Why yes I am critiquing a Ray Bradbury story. There's no chutzpa about it. I critique everything to do with story. I critique movies, and video games, and occasionally friends' conversations. It's a writer thing. (At least, it's this writer's thing.) Deal with it.

The nod to the Paterson novel only became clear to me once I'd got some vague idea of the sisters' relationship. The reflection isn't exact, but it falls along similar lines. The main character is very clearly the Louise of this pair, all her life resenting her sister's successes even as she's proud of them; yearning for a deeper connection and, in scrambling after her sister to try to regain it, constantly stepping into emotional bear-traps.

I'm really not looking forward to rereading Jacob Have I Loved. I remember it as being a beautiful, haunting novel, but I also remember how angry it made me. Every injustice visited upon Louise, every callousness committed by Caroline, every circumstance that made utter futility out of Louise's attempts to be her own person--argh. And there's no use being angry on behalf of a fictional character! There is nothing constructive to do with that anger! So I go through my days grumpy and cranky and I take it out on people and then I realize why and I feel stupid!

I think the only book that has come close to having that effect on me since has been Jane Eyre. I was not pleasant to be around while I was reading Jane Eyre.

For now, I might not so much reread Jacob Have I Loved as simply open it to random pages and see if I get an "a-ha!" out of it. I may save actually rereading that book for when John goes out of town in May. Then there'll be no danger of the book making me inappropriately cranky at him.