Why I’m Burning My Bra

Why I'm Burning My Bra

In 1968 a group of feminists known as the New York Radical Women gathered outside of the Atlantic City convention center to protest the Miss America contest. They felt that the contest  demeaned women and held them to an unreasonable and oppressive standard for beauty that was damaging to all women.

In those days, the Miss America contest attracted millions of TV viewers, and was a perfect platform for making a political statement and being heard.

With fervor, these women flung their bras onto a bonfire.

Or so the story goes.

Guess what? That never happened.

Bra burning is an urban legend.

Although draft card burning took place for realz, bras were only symbolically tossed into the flames that day in 1968. Since the Boardwalk was made of wood, police would not allow any fires to be set.

Instead, bras, girdles, cosmetics, high-heeled shoes, Playboy magazines – all derided as instruments of female torture — were thrown into a “freedom trash can” making a perfect photo opp for the swarming paparazzi on the Boardwalk.

But someone coined the phrase bra burners, referring to women perceived as militant in the struggle for women’s rights, and it stuck.

My personal act of women’s liberation comes not from a tirade against male oppression, but a thunderbolt of news that, at my advanced age, I’ve been wearing the wrong bra size all my life.

I was fitted for a bra when I was 12 and I still remember the humiliation of being naked in front of my mother plus a total stranger at Pomeroy’s Department Store who tried to show me how to position the girls into a Maidenform 30A.

I would not subject myself to that ever again, I vowed.

As I got older my body changed, of course, and my bra size along with it. Shopping for bras was such agony that I did it as infrequently as I could get away with. Quickly gathering a few different brands from the rack, I would scuttle into the dressing room and get it over with stat.

This week I happened to be in a department store, along with my best friend Elise, trying on a dress that was form fitting.  The saleswoman stood behind me, evaluating me in the three-way mirror. She cocked her head. She observed me from all angles, fiddled with the ruching on the bodice, and sighed. “I don’t think your bra is doing you any favors,” she said. “Is it OK if I bring our foundations person in?”

I was trapped. What could I say?

“Sure.”

Well. The foundations lady almost fainted when I confided my bra size.

Without giving out too much information, I will share that I was four sizes off in the band size and two in the cup size.

OMG.

She disappeared for a few minutes and came back with several bras in my size. When I slipped them on (and yes, she also showed me how to position the now much bigger girls) I instantly realized what a well-fitting bra can do for a figure. And your self-confidence.

Pricey? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.

Women should be measured every couple of years, the foundations lady told me. Most women do not know their true size if they haven’t been fitted. Also, if you are wearing your bra on the tightest setting, it is not the right size for you.

While we were there, Elise figured she may as well get measured. And guess what? She had been wearing the wrong size, too.

So that smoke that’s coming from my backyard? It’s just the two of us tossing our old stretched-out, ill-fitting bras on the bonfire. And roasting marshmallows at the same time.

Care to join us?

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Book Buzz: The Ecliptic

Writer’s block. The two words that can make a writer shudder. Or any creative person who produces, produces, produces and then — bump — hits a wall.

Book Buzz: The Ecliptic

I suspect we’ve all encountered this at some point or another. For promising artists on the rise, however, who have achieved some level of success, the public scrutiny can only exacerbate the problem, creating a vicious cycle of self-doubt and creative paralysis.

The Ecliptic

In Benjamin Wood’s novel The Ecliptic, a group of gifted but stalled artists is voluntarily sequestered on the Turkish island of Portmantle to have the time and space to be inspired to complete their work.

To become a part of this artist’s colony is actually a gift; one needs to be sponsored by a wealthy benefactor to even apply. Once there, the artist is free to stay as long as it takes, as long as the benefactor continues to provide support. In exchange, the artists agree to give up all ties to the outside world, including their own names;  they are assigned new names upon their arrival. They also surrender their passports.

The story is narrated by Elspeth Conroy, or Knell as she is named, a talented but insecure, even tortured Scottish painter who has achieved some renown in the London art world. She struggles to finish a mural featuring the ecliptic – the sun’s journey through the heavens as seen from Earth. She has been on the island for ten years. Her companions are Quickman, who was struck with writer’s block when his only novel became a classic, MacKinney, a playwright, and Pettifer, an architect who obsesses over the cathedral he has yet to create.

The setting shuttles back and forth between the isolated island and the London art scene, where we see Elspeth establish herself as an artist of promise, only to fall into despair when her creativity dries up.

The book is divided into four parts: the first, an introduction to life on Portmantle. The second section reveals Elspeth’s backstory, her rise in the art world and the concomitant struggles, internally, romantically and commercially. In the third part we return to Portmantle where mysteries  begin to unfold and there are rumblings of discontent following the untimely death of a newcomer to the island. Elspeth is becoming disenchanted with her stay and contemplates leaving. In the last section, well, I can’t say too much because of spoilers, but there are plot twists that will surprise or possibly disappoint you. But I’m not going to give it away!

Part fantasy, part mystery, part expose, The Ecliptic is a compelling read about the life of an artist, the day in, day out struggle to maintain one’s creative muse. Wood is a skillful, imaginative writer who brings these likeable, conflicted characters to life and gives us a bird’s eye view into their world.

 

One lucky reader will receive a copy of The Ecliptic. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

 

I received a copy of The Ecliptic from Penguin for a honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Doggone it, It’s Mother’s Day

Doggone it, It's Mother's Day

A few weeks ago Pete and I went out to dinner with our friends Linda and Bill.

I called Linda to make arrangements. “We’ll pick you up,” I offered. “Six forty-five okay?”

“Sounds good,” Linda answered. “I can feed Greta, Parker and Charlie before we leave.”

“You think we’ll be done by 8:30-ish?” I asked. “Max and Wyatt should be fine, but I worry about them being alone for too long.”

“Totally get it,” Linda said.  “I want to get home to our guys too.”

A mother’s job is 24/7.

At the restaurant we met up with two other couples. It was a lively scene, a boisterous atmosphere, and the eight of us had to practically yell to be heard.

Of course we all pulled out our cell phones to share the latest photos of our families.

“Look how big Max is getting!” Susan exclaimed as she peered at my phone. “How much does he weigh now?”

“Last time we checked he was 41 pounds,” I said, as Pete nodded in affirmation. “He’s going to be a big boy.”

“He did the cutest thing today,” I added.

Mimi cupped her hand to her ear. “Who did the cutest thing? Your daughter?”

“No, Max,” I shouted. “Look at this photo. Adorable, right?”

Mimi smiled. “Awww. Look at his face. Such a handsome boy.”

Bill pulled up a photo on his phone and shared it with me. “Look at them! They are all so precious,” I crooned as I scrolled through photo after photo of his three darlings. “Are they still sleeping in your room every night?”

“At least two of them,” he answered. “I keep telling Linda to move over and make room.”

Linda acknowledged that this was true.

“We hardly go out anymore,” she confided. “We’d rather just stay home on a Saturday night and cuddle with our guys. There’s nothing better, right?”

Pete nodded vigorously. “Why go out when we’ve got everything at home? Netflix has changed our lives.”

“Speaking of which,” I said, tapping my watch, “where are our drinks?” I searched the restaurant for our waiter. “Geez, they’re slow here.”

“I hope Max and Wyatt won’t be upset if we’re late,” Pete said. “Maybe we should bring them a doggie bag to make up for it.”

 

Doggone it, It's Mother's Day

Doggone it, It's Mother's Day

Mother’s Day is on Sunday, and there is still time to find something special to let the mother in your life know how much she is appreciated. What, you forgot haven’t gotten to it yet? With the lovely Mother’s Day selection at Hallmark, there is no need to look further. Check out these adorable Mother’s Day gifts that you can find at any Hallmark Gold Crown store or Hallmark.com.

 

Doggone it, It's Mother's Day

Thanks to Hallmark, one of my lucky readers will receive this giveaway pack including a “Some Things We Hold Onto Forever” pillow and “Love Only Grows” framed print as well as Signature and Kim Mallory greeting cards. Simply leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, no matter who it is you mother!

I received this giveaway box from Hallmark but received no other compensation.

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Book Buzz: Mothering Sunday

Mothering Sunday

How much do I love the feeling of turning the last page of a book and sitting for a moment, a lump in my throat, unwilling to break the spell the story has cast on me?

I love it so much and I wish it happened all the time. But we readers know that this visceral response is special, often unexpected, and something to cherish.

Mothering Sunday had this effect on me.

Mothering SundayMothering Sunday is written by Graham Swift, winner of the Booker Prize for Last Orders and author of many other novels. Unfolding as languidly as honey dripping off a teaspoon, it is a mesmerizing  tale of an illicit romance from the point of view of the mistress.

It is 1924, in rural Berkshire, England, after the war has ravaged the lives of families both rich and poor.  The wealthy Nivens family of Beechwood lost both sons in the war and reduced its household staff to just two. Jane is the servant girl and Milly is the cook.

The story opens on an unusually warm day in March — Mothering Sunday, it happens to be, a day the wealthy allow their servants a half day off to visit their mothers. Delighting in the gift of a sunny day, the Nivens family departs for lunch with their friends, the Sheringhams. Milly leaves to visit her mother, and Jane, an orphan and therefore having no mother to visit, bicycles over to the Sheringham estate, Upleigh, to meet Paul Sheringham, with whom she has been having a clandestine affair for six years.

Paul is the heir to the estate since he is the only son left in his family. His two brothers were also killed in the war.

And this is how the novel begins, with just-after rapturous sex on a lazy and languorous day, in a still house, with beams of sunlight streaming in the open window dancing on the naked bodies in bed.  Neither one of them wants to move, but Paul eventually gets up to dress. He is running late to meet his fiancee for lunch. As he heads out, he tells Jane to lock the door behind her when she is ready to go. She hears his sports car motor off down the road, scattering stones in its wake. Before she gets dressed, she pads around the house, still naked, observing each room, especially the library.

The pleasant reverie we readers have been lulled into is suddenly punctuated by a sentence that made me gasp. Something awful happens, a tragedy, that has far reaching repercussions for everyone and changes the trajectory of Jane’s life.

Recounted from Jane’s perspective as an old woman, we see how fate and resilience altered the life of a woman and freed her from the servant destiny she would have expected. In spite of deprivation and loss, a woman’s spirit prevails and leads to profound self-discovery.

Throughout this slim novel, under 200 pages, the tapestry of language is woven so exquisitely that nearly every sentence is a wonder into itself. Every detail has its place and special meaning, whether it is the race horse owned by the Sheringhams or the works of Joseph Conrad discovered by Jane.

Mothering Sunday is spare but intensely emotional, a work of perfection and bliss.

 

I am delighted to give one of my readers a copy of Mothering Sunday. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected.

 

I received a copy of Mothering Sunday from Knopf for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Sweating to the Oldies: My Boomer Playlist

Sweating to the Oldies: My Boomer PlaylistAfter thinking about it, stressing about it, complaining about it and certainly boring everyone who politely listened to me blather about it, I finally did it.

I rejoined the gym.

My membership had lapsed about a year two years three years a long time ago, so for me this was a major event. I will  never be a gym junkie, but I know it is good for helping my boomer body function as well as it can.

This boomer body finds the gym routine much more palatable with headphones tuned to the oldies station. Remember on American Bandstand the dancers would pronounce a song as having “a good beat?” The songs with good beats definitely help while the treadmill time away.

As my boomer heart rate races I distract myself from this torture by  thinking of how to adapt these songs from my youth to my present day age. Apparently my wandering mind enjoys this, because I blogged about my boomer mix tape before.

So, once again, here for your listening pleasure are 25 new songs from my boomer playlist. This is Casey Not Kasem, counting down …

Disclaimer: This is all in fun. No offense intended!

My Boomer Playlist

25. I Fell Down On the Corner, Creedence Clearwater Revival

24. Sister Golden Hair Thank You Clairol, America

23. Walking Slowly Jack Flash, Rolling Stones

22. I Think We’re Alone Now so Let’s Binge on Netflix, Tommy James and the Shondells

21. Spandex Helps You Tighten Up, Archie Bell and the Drells

20. Sugar Substitute, Sugar Substitute, The Archies

19. I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better After a Deep Tissue Massage, The Byrds

18. I Hear a Symphony But That’s My Ringtone, The Supremes

17. These Boots are Made for Walkin’ But Ow Ow Ow My Feet, Nancy Sinatra

16. (I Had an MRI of) A Piece of My Heart, Big Brother and the Holding Company

15. Silence is Golden So I Tossed My Hearing Aids, The Tremeloes

14. Tonight’s The Night I Take a Xanax, Rod Stewart

13. Ain’t Nothing But a House Party But Please Leave by 9, Showstoppers

12. Venus in Elastic Waistband Blue Jeans, Mark Wynter

11. Chances Are I’ve Forgotten Why I Walked into the Room, Johnny Mathis

10. Give Me Just a Little More Time to Get Out of Bed, Chairmen of the Board

9.  Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is? Me Neither, Chicago

8.  Afternoon Delight Means a Nap, Starland Vocal Band

7.  Come a Little Bit Closer My Hearing’s Not So Good, Jay and the Americans

6.  Black is Black Because It Makes You Look 10 Pounds Thinner, Los Bravos

5.  We’re Downsizing and Selling Our Brick House, The Commodores

4.  Cat’s in the Cradle and The Dog’s in our Bed, Harry Chapin

3.  I Believe In Miracles aka Botox, You Sexy Thing

2.  With My New Prescription I Can See Clearly Now, Johnny Nash

1.  She’s Not There, Did I Get My Dates Wrong, The Zombies

 

What are your suggestions? Would love to hear them!

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Book Buzz: Written on My Heart

Written on My Heart

Those of us who enjoy reminiscing about “the good old days” will find them in the new novel by Morgan Callan Rogers, Written on My Heart. Set in a tiny fishing village in the early 1970s, it hearkens back to a time when things were so much simpler. At least in retrospect it seems that way.

Written on My Heart

Florine and Bud, the young married couple and protagonists, live in a small community called The Point on the coast of Maine. This is a place where everyone knows everyone (and their business). People keep their doors unlocked and visitors show up unannounced. It is precisely the kind of village referred to in “it takes a village to raise a child,” because the residents all love children and look out for them. Friends and family are ready and willing to help at any time, whether it’s babysitting, car repairs or a comforting shoulder to lean on.

It seems almost idyllic. Communication happens face-to-face. Small town pleasures like picnics, birthday parties and backyard weddings provide the entertainment. The village seems untouched by events taking place in the rest of the world, and except for one character who serves time in Viet Nam, The Point seems untouched by the political and social upheaval of those times.

Which is just the way they liked it.

Lest you think this is a remake of The Waltons, let me assure you it is not. There is sinful behavior (by Walton standards, anyway). There is cussing and drinking and wrongdoing. More significantly, there is the underlying tension of Florine’s missing mother, whose mysterious disappearance years ago has never been solved, as well as friction with a wealthy family that lives on “the better side” of town.

I found myself caught up in the story. The characters are so well drawn that you connect with them instantly, and wonder about them when you’ve finished the book. Florine is scrappy and blunt and can drop the f-bomb with the best of them. But she is a tender mother and has so much love in her heart for her family, her friends and her little corner of the world. She and Bud are so likeable that I found myself cheering them on.

Written on My Heart is a sequel to Rogers’ first book, Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, which I have not read but will put it on my TBR list now. Fortunately, you don’t need to read the books consecutively to understand what is going on.

I hope there will be a sequel, because I really want to see what happens with Florine and Bud next.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of Written on My Heart. Please leave a message below and a winner will be randomly selected.

I received a copy of Written on My Heart from Plume for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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How to Help Hamantaschen in Distress

How to Help Hamantaschen

How to Help Hamantaschen

I’ll be honest. I do not have a great success rate at making hamantaschen. Try as I might, year after year, they come out looking pretty mediocre.

What are hamantaschen?

Hamantaschen (ha-men-tosh-en) are cookies that are eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which is tomorrow. Shaped like three-cornered hats, they are filled with preserves, chocolate, poppy seeds or other concoctions. This year I made apricot, raspberry and nutella hamantaschen.

The trick is to make them look uniform, which mine do before they go in the oven. See?

But all too often they spread while baking and come out like this:

How to Help Hamantaschen

Grr! Even Max is sympathetic.

haman max

I have tried many different recipes with varying success. I have tried freezing the unbaked cookies for 10 minutes and then baking. I have tried using an egg wash to hold the sides of the dough together. No matter what I do, chances are about 50-50 that they will come out the way I want them to.

Maybe my hamantaschen-baking readers will have some tips to share.

But this year, thanks to inspiration from My Jewish Learning, I have found the perfect solution to forlorn, misshapen hamantaschen. Melt chocolate, dip the cookies, and then coat with sprinkles. Voila! No one will notice the flaws and who wouldn’t bite into one of these?

How to Help Hamantaschen

This hamantaschen recipe was given to me by my friend Myra and it is my favorite.

Myra Wolpert’s Hamantaschen 

1 cup butter, softened
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 t. vanilla extract
approx.. 2 – 3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder

Combine butter and sugar. Add egg and beat together. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Sift flour and baking powder together and add to butter mixture. Dough should be pliable and not sticky. Form dough into a flat disk and wrap in wax paper. Chill one hour or longer.

Roll onto floured surface, about 1/4″ thick.

How to Help Hamantaschen

Cut in circles. I used a 3″ round cutter but they can be larger. You can also use the top of a drinking glass to cut the circles. Add filling to center of circle and pinch sides together.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

Cool on rack.

To finish off with chocolate, melt 1 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet for half of the batch and white for the others) in the microwave, being careful not to burn. Add 1/2 T. vegetable oil and stir to blend.

Dip side of hamantaschen in chocolate and shake off the excess. Dip in sprinkles or other topping (coconut, chopped nuts, crushed candies, e.g.) Let dry on rack. Keep at room temperature for a day or freeze.

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Book Buzz: Start at the Beginning

Although my child bearing days are long over, I remember my pregnancies as being a time of intense happiness and dizzying anticipation.

I was lucky, very lucky.  I had an easy time of it, from the very beginning to the end.

I still count my blessings, because for many women, it’s not easy at all.

In my 20s and 30s, when my friends and I were starting our families, there was plenty of joy to go around. With each announcement of the good news, we would squeal with delight for the new mama-to-be. Our conversations were all about pregnancy, obstetricians, baby names and where to find Mommy and Me classes.

But there were a few friends who were dealing with infertility issues, and our hearts broke for them. Out of respect, we kept our baby talk to a minimum when they were around. We cheered them on through fertility treatments and shared their anguish when the treatments failed.

Infertility was a strain on their relationships with their husbands, family and friends, including those of us either pregnant or already mothers. Some chose to be open about it; others preferred not to. Either way, their preferences had to be respected. As close as we were, I’m sure we didn’t understand the extent of the sadness they were going through.

I thought of this while reading Judy Mollen Walters’ absorbing new novel, Start at the Beginning, the story of how infertility can affect a friendship and continue to reverberate for years after.

Start at the Beginning

Robin is struggling with infertility when she meets Sarah, a young mother who just moved to the neighborhood with her husband and baby daughter. Robin and Sarah become good friends, in spite of the fact that Robin is unwillingly childless. Each time Robin gets pregnant, Sarah is sure everything will finally turn out well for her friend.

However, heartbreak strikes again and again, as Robin goes through several miscarriages. How does this affect her friendship with Sarah? Sarah, wanting to support her friend, is hurt when Robin pulls away. But she understands that Robin needs her space, and eventually they will resume their friendship. At the same time, she is overburdened with her daughter’s special needs and her husband’s business travels that keep him away most of the week.

Having exhausted all their options, Robin and her husband have almost given up. Then one day a solution appears, which seems to provide the happy ending both Robin and Sarah desire. Unbeknownst to them, this solution, couched in layers of secrecy, will have a ripple effect on their families and themselves for many years to come, changing lives beyond their comprehension.

Walters deftly describes the close but precarious friendship between these women as they both deal with wanting what they can’t have. Start From the Beginning is an honest, heartrending look into a couple’s quest to become parents and an aftermath they never could have imagined.

 

Walters will be speaking this Saturday, March 19, at the New Jersey ASJA in Cranford, New Jersey. For details and information about future events, plus her other novels, check out her website.

I received a copy of Start at the Beginning for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Book Buzz: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

I grew up in a weight-obsessed culture. So did you.

Things have not changed since I was a girl on a grapefruit diet. If anything, they’re worse.

Haven’t we all complained about being fat?

Most of us women have bought into that obsession at one time or another: the way you glance in the mirror and then quickly away in disgust … diet by consuming a ridiculously low number of calories a day and/or work out at the gym for hours … salivate over cooking shows and dessert recipes while denying  yourself everything … and most importantly, think that becoming thin will solve all your problems. If so,  you will sigh with recognition at Lizzie, the protagonist in 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

This searing debut novel by Mona Awad is a series of vignettes about a girl coming of age. It takes a poke at our judgmental culture and the quest for perfection, but it is also about the struggle for self-acceptance and the role our friends and family play in that process.

Lizzie is an overweight, awkward teenager, full of self-loathing. She yearns to have a boyfriend and seeks out the wrong men, men who just use her, so she tries online chat rooms where her body can be obscured.  One of the men she meets online invites her for a visit, and it goes well. They enjoy a love of music and feel comfortable with each other. After several visits, they decide to get married.

But marriage isn’t enough to satisfy her. Hungry for the validation that eludes her as a fat person, she embarks on a killer diet and exercise regime and transforms her body. How does that affect her husband, who fell in love with her when she was fat? And does the outcome really make her happy?

Awad’s descriptions are razor sharp. I think most of us can relate to the agony of trying on an ill-fitting dress in a store dressing room. I loved this scene between Lizzie, coveting a Diane von Furstenberg dress, and the imperious saleswoman.

“How are we doing in here?”

We. She means me and the von Furstenberg. the von Furstenberg and I. She saw me out of the corner of her exquisitely lined eye going to the back of the store to retrieve it between the frigid Eileen Fishers and the smug Max Azrias and she disapproves. She knows the von Furstenerg is a separate entity, that it and I will never be one.

I’m just thinking how I’ll wear it out of the store. Picturing how I’ll pull back the curtain in the von Furstenberg, turn my zippered, von Furstenberged back to her and say, all casual, over my shoulder, Cut the tag, please?

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a novel of dark humor and heart tugging pathos, a stunning portrait of the diet driven, image conscience culture we can’t seem to change. I adore this book and am thrilled to find this fresh and exciting new author.

No surprise, 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl was named in February’s Top Ten Library Reads Pick, Bustle’s Most Anticipated Books of 2016, and ELLE’s Novels by Women Everyone Will Be Talking About in 2016.

My crazy days of cabbage soup diets and grapefruit diets and so many others are long over, but it all came back to me reading this book.  I started dieting in high school and have yo-yo’ed through life ever since.

One of my lucky readers will receive a copy of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl. Please leave a comment below and a winner will be selected randomly. USA addresses only, please.

I received a copy of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl from Penguin for an honest review,
which is the only kind of review I write.

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Get Me Rewrite! Starting the Third Draft

Get Me Rewrite! Starting the Third Draft

I am writing a novel.

These five words have become my mantra, something I repeat silently to convince myself it is real. Not a dream, not a figment of my imagination. Not something I began and never finished.

This time I am getting ‘er done.

By putting it out there I am also making myself accountable. When “How is the book coming along?” is asked I don’t have to flounder around for a lame excuse.

It’s coming. I’m getting there. It’s moving forward.

“So after the second draft,” a friend asked me the other day, “your book is pretty much done, right?”

If only. But not by a long shot.

Get me rewrite.

Last fall I attended BinderCon, a writing conference for women. Among the many valuable sessions was a panel of four freelance editors, each of whom had worked in publishing for years. I was impressed with their knowledge and approach to helping writers make their book the best it can be. So after the conference I contacted one of them and I am working with her now.

I submitted my second draft to her and waited anxiously for feedback. Would she love it? Hate it? Biting fingernails, chewing the inside of my mouth, binge snacking: I engaged in every nervous habit I could think of.

Well, we had a phone call last week to discuss the book. There was good news and bad news.

Good news: she liked the story, thought the characters were well drawn, enjoyed the historical setting of the novel, and thought it would ultimately fare well with readers.

Bad news: a major rewrite is necessary.

Good news again: The rewrite is going to make it SO much better.

Before this feedback, I was having trouble seeing the forest for the trees. I was too close to the content. It was impossible for me to be objective.

With a few brushstrokes of her vision, she gave me clarity that I was unable to find on my own.  As I rewrite the second draft, I will:

  • Take a swipe at the number of characters. There were too many. “Beyond four or five major characters,” the editor told me, “people start getting confused. And it is really hard to make their voices unique.”
  • Narrow the time frame. The expanse was too wide, too Belva Plain. Instead of 50 or so years, now it will be five. And that’s enough.
  • Focus on the motivations of the characters. This has to be credible.
  • Intensify the drama. Make the precipice higher. This will make the reader want to keep turning the pages.
  • Be careful with the historical events. This is not a history lesson. Make the events part of the narrative but only in the context of their impact on the characters.
  • In each chapter, define where we are in time, what is going on with the family, and what significant event takes place that propels the story forward

These simple suggestions will eliminate many of the problems I had with the plot line and the development of the main characters. Instead of feeling angst, I feel a huge sense of relief – and excitement.

I will be deleting a huge chunk of my work, maybe even 50%. Perhaps some of it will return in another novel another time. A sequel, perhaps. Doesn’t that sound nice?

Onward.

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Start