Story Journal

Warning: Spoilers!

What is a Story Journal?

When I am writing, I have to have an “off stage” place where I can think through the book, make outlines, develop characters and sometimes just vent. That place is my story journal. Here, I have excerpted from that journal to give you some idea of the process of writing THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS. At the end, I have included the email from my agent when she had decided she wanted the book (but I didn’t know that), some rewrite emails, and my welcome email from the editor who finally bought the book. There were many agents and many editors who considered and then rejected the manuscript before that, but when things finally fell together, these two were exactly the right people. A number of things changed by the time I wrote the final draft:

  • Cherrywood was originally called “Fern Hill” after the Dylan Thomas poem. Cherrywood, which was a real place, felt too personal to me to use at first.
  • Originally, Natalie was going to get pregnant at acting camp and have a miscarriage in the treehouse! Glad I dumped THAT idea.
  • Cheryl and Tarah played a much larger role in the earlier drafts.
  • Luke was originally going to be attacked by a bear.

You’ll notice other differences, as well.
My actual story journal for this book is 800 pages—over two and a half times the length of the book. So this is just a little bit. If you are a writer, I hope it will encourage you. There were many times I considered giving up. But I’m glad I didn’t.

3-20-05 I Am So Frustrated With This

I am so frustrated with this!! Why can’t I get beyond journaling? Why can I tell other people how to write their books, but I am so dazzled by my own? I stand in the middle of the book and look and there are all these storylines growing tentacles. I have to establish one before I can write the other. At least, I tell myself that. I know it’s not true. “That’s what drafts are for,” I tell my students.
What would I tell myself if I was my student? “Katherine, you have your latest outline and it’s the most complete one yet. Either go on to the next chapter, or go back to the chapter you feel you must have different to get things moving again. I know you can do this. Here’s your creative hero’s journey. It’s okay if it’s a mess for awhile. Think of how much of a mess Thomas’s room was. In a few hours you got it sorted out. Now, this is not the time to write emails to people, or look things up on the Internet or in writing books. You have a little time, maybe 90 minutes, to work on your novel. Just do a little bit. If you write a scene, you will probably feel better. You like scenes. You can have a cookie, now.”
I love that line of Anne Lamott’s where she says, “I’m writing a book and it’s going very badly. And I’m exhilarated.”

4-13-05 Mallory’s Apology

I can read or take a break when I have finished the chapter. I need to write about Mallory apologizing and I probably need to thread more “friend” gossip through the blog.
Mallory apologizes to Brigitta. How does Brigitta feel about this? Suspicious? Sympathetic? Speechless? How mad was Brigitta at Mallory? Was she only annoyed with her? She has had a close relationship with her, I think, but has been rather dependent on her in the past. Now she’s feeling more independent because Mallory is not in the house.
Okay. Write until 5:40 or finish the chapter and then I can take a break or read.

WHY IS THIS GOING NOWHERE? I want to do ANYTHING but write. Why is this so FREAKING HARD!!!
It’s like all the power has gone out of this scene. I’m going to write on the couch.
6:00. I will write until 6:00 since I took a chai tea break.
Brigitta needs to have been humiliated in some public way. A talent show? A school play? Something she was good at, but not appreciated? The retreat center?.

Will these characters ever gel? Brigitta has this basic mistrust issue. Where can I find that? Am I having a hard time finding this since I never had to be the “new kid?”
Tonight, if I get enough done, I get to watch a movie. Maybe two movies. I want to watch Paparazzi and then maybe Camp.
But I have to write.

4-16-05 Why Can’t I Write?

Many glorious hours are stretched out before me and I am telling myself I can’t write. This is ridiculous. I am psyching myself out. Why, why, why am I doing this? If I give up all plans for submitting this book, will that allow me to write it? It seems that’s the only thing motivating me to write it. But I’m writing drafts for readers. What is wrong with me?
I’m creating my own distractions so that I won’t have to face the work and face destroying the beautiful dream. That’s what it is. It’s the beautiful dream. I must tear down the beautiful dream so that I can build a real and solid book. No one can read it in my head.
I suppose I could tour the country telling people my story concept and allowing them to ask questions about the characters. I’d show them the pictures of Luke that I downloaded from the Internet and I’d tell them all about Brigitta and I’d read them the chapters I have so far, assuring them that they were only drafts and would get much, much better. These people would believe me. They’d believe me because I’d read them my other work, my finished work, the stuff I really like and they would say “Ooh, ahh. We hope you write the novel soon. We can’t wait to read it on the page.” I would reassure myself that I could write it, but I never actually would. I’d just keep traveling with my computer, pulling up chapter drafts and bits of the story journal, putting on my storyteller’s hat to tell the story out loud. It’s an intriguing story. One that my listener’s would like to read, but I would deprive them of that experience for fear they’d be disappointed.
“Until the meanness crept into my skin, too.”

Might be an important line. Keep track of it.

4-17-05 More Than Anything I Want Courage

More than anything I want courage. I want to be able to write this thing and I lack the courage to do so.
Every time I write a chapter or part of a chapter I think about how critique group will react to it. I think about reading it to them because they encourage me and that’s the only thing that could potentially move the story forward, or at least, so I think. So if I write scenes with no transitions or write a bunch of flashbacks I’m not going to use or whatever, they will nail me and I feel like it’s got to be perfect the first time because critique group is my only hope to get this thing published.
Really, they’re very good to me and I critique their manuscripts with a certain amount of brutality. I just want to be so knowledgeable and I’m feeling my way here, folks, really I am.

6-29-05 Yowza

Yowza. How will I get this all together in my head? Grandparents, Devon, Mallory, cougar, Trent, The Center, and don’t forget Natalie. I guess I’ll just shake it up and see how it settles.

6-23-05 Why Does Brigitta Want Religion?

I’m sitting here in this craziness, with the dog ringing her bell and Thomas making corndogs and the kids watching television.
I have to find out why Brigitta wants a religion so badly. I think her grandparents died. And I’m not sure when this happened, but it came to me that they died and that her dads’ older sister argued with him about their care so that they were mostly out of the loop in it and that they lived in Indiana. Dad lived in the PNW in order to get away from his parents, but Brigitta used to go visit them at a place very much like Cherrywood. This is why it was important for her to wear the coat Nonni made her. I think it was the last thing Nonni made her before she had her stroke.
So that once Brigitta went into Middle School, Nonni… had died? I’m thinking that they used the proceeds of the will to build The Center. But maybe it was the proceeds that allowed them to finish the Center or allowed her dad to stop working. They were working on The Center the whole time, but when the Grandparents died, Dad quit his job and started exploring Shamanism. He never healed his rift with them. It left Brigitta confused because she had always had a good relationship with them.
Did they both die about the same time? I think so. It left Dad and orphan. And Clare is already an orphan, I think. So the orphaned kittens have their own significance.

7-6-05 If I Can Get a Certain Amount of Writing Done, I Can Have Some Ice Cream

I don’t know if I’m trying to write chapter ten or just if there are certain parts of the book I want to get down. Maybe it isn’t so important that I have everything in chronological order. It isn’t anyway. Maybe it’s okay if I just write a blog entry or write the story of Brigitta and Luke and the cougar kittens or just the Natalie parts. Maybe I need to actually separate those all out just so I can write them, and then thread them together later. Is that my problem?

7-30-05 Threads

Woke up from dreaming about the story. A good sign, though I don’t remember what I dreamed. Now I’m in this weird space of just wanting to write, not keeping track of the “important” things I have to do. Started these poems called The Suicide Letters which are not poems at all at this point – only observations that are rather surface.
Okay, so here are the threads I need to cover in the book

  1. Nonni and Opa’s deaths
  2. Brigitta’s search for a religion
  3. Relationship with Natalie
  4. Middle School experience
  5. cougar kittens
  6. Luke’s identity and personal journey
  7. blog
  8. fan fiction
  9. relationship with Mallory
  10. relationship with parents

Overarching theme: What is it to be known?
I also want to put in a scene where Brigitta goes to church with Tarah. Parts of it are distressing to her because while it is like what Nonni believed, it’s not really the same. And she still has that same discomfort about being put into a box. The snotty girls ruin the whole thing anyway.
I do wonder whether I want to put a version of Christianity in here that is closer to my own. I don’t know if I want Brigitta to come to that one in the end because that’s just contrived. But I wonder if I want something in there. Maybe a character from Eastern Europe or something. Would it be good if she could be exposed to Orthodoxy? If I’m presenting Christianity shouldn’t I present a version that’s a little closer to what I believe? What am I about here?
The thing is, this isn’t about Brigitta actually finding a religion, but finding herself. She herself has been lost in all this. It’s Brigitta connecting with her own authentic self and integrating that as best she can at sixteen years old. She’s not going to have it all figured out by the end of the book. Maybe there’s an old Alaskan woman or something. That would be cool. I could definitely tie that in with the shamans, since her dad is one. It could be someone who comes on a retreat – but probably not. This would have to be someone Brigitta meets on her own. A new “grandma?” Where would she live? Why would Brigitta meet her? She could be kind of cranky. I wonder if she might be a cougar expert?
There was also something about Luke I was thinking about. What was it? Oh, yeah. It has to do with emotions. Luke may have learned to be detached because he has learned to produce emotions for the camera. It may be that crying on cue is a trick he’s had to learn. It does take things out of him emotionally and perhaps in that moment on camera, he is really being real. But it means that he must protect himself even more carefully at other times. He can’t reveal himself in front of millions of people and then be the same person off camera. He has to have some kind of hiding place. At the moment, he has no confidant and probably hasn’t for quite some time. His relationships have been transitory. Perhaps he has had grandparents he was close with. His mom has escaped more and more into her drinking. His dad, who he has always admired, is now leaving. He has no siblings. He has in the past formed transitory relationships with other actors, but when the shoot ends or the season is over, they all go away.
I will need to develop a backstory of Luke. Where is he going during his long absences? What is he experiencing? I need to know exactly what is happening to him and also to Natalie and to Mallory and perhaps to Mom and Dad as well.
I think I’d like to follow all these threads all the way up to Chapter 10 and then go from there.

8-4-05 Reflections on Tarot

In Tarot love is a tool, rather than the basis of all things. That’s the tone I am getting from my research: We use Tarot to find out how to make things go well for us, to empower us. Magick in this sense is not about love, but about power. In Magick, I think the person’s desires are at the center, rather than the rather counter-intuitive idea of emptying oneself. So while love takes a role in Magick, it is not the center. It is love as it benefits or does not benefit me. In this way we all function as independent and empowered units, moving towards our own destinies. We do not hinder our destinies by selflessness. The idea is to be completely full of self.
That is why reading about Tarot is becoming flavorless to me. I want to be a light unto something other than myself. This is difficult to do, because I must know myself well and be moving within my giftings to be most effective. I must go deep within myself to love effectively. But in the process of divinization, we do not become more, but less, and as we become less, we actually become more.

8-18-05 Blog

Now I want Brigitta to blog. Blog, Brigitta, blog. What will you say?
It’s so hard not to write on the story each day. It makes me feel pressed. I’d like to turn in a chapter to Lauren [Barnholdt] tomorrow by her deadline, though if I can’t I’ll just make it next week’s assignment. It’s not the end of the world if I miss one.
Still, it’s been such a crazy, uncentered week and I want to write. I want to keep going on this thing because I love it and don’t really want to be away from it. I resent it like crazy when I can’t write on it because of something so seemingly peripheral as a writing workshop or a French class. But I sit down at the computer and the first thing I do is turn on my email. Even before I start to write I’m trying to write to everyone else or hear from the world. It’s because I think I’ll get to writing and get lost in time and then not get to the email at all. I’ve got this workshop next week and it’s going to take four of my days and I don’t know if there’ll be time to write at all.
I’m sick enough with this that I’ll make time, I think. It’s like I have to do it. I make time to read the newspaper headlines at the post office and to read my recommended reading on Amazon. I’m in a groove where I’ll make time to write on this book because I just have to.

10-22-05 Ch 11 Goals (Cougar Kittens)

Chapter 11, the goal is to keep the cougar kits from starving. Luke has a little bit of an attitude here and I can’t quite nail it down. I need more tension. Mallory will show up in the woods with her boyfriend. They can be making out under a tree or at the treehouse. Maybe under the treehouse since Webster doesn’t want to climb up there. He’s too old.

There could be some tension with L & B trying to hide the kittens.
I can write this, such as it is, and revise in a few chapters. I can go back every three or four chapters and revise. That would be okay. The last three chapters have been especially lame, and it discourages me, but I’m just finding my way. The complexity and layers will come. It I only write two pages a day, it will make a big, big difference. If I write two pages a day for four chapters and then go back and revise – or not – I’ll get it done.
I need to make sure I bring her friends back because it is they who she betrays. I also need to make sure I’m putting the blog in regularly.
Even if I wrote one sentence a day, it would be better than no sentences a day.

11-6-05 Submersion

Every time I sit down to write this, I’m distracted by things around me. The distraction is a cover for what is really going on. What is really going on is that I’m overwhelmed by the sense that working on this novel is time wasted. That it is a profound waste of time during a period of my life when my family needs me and I should be doing things that are more immediate: calling my father, creating a livable environment, making money, spending time with my children.
Whenever I am working on a novel that will probably never be published, I am stealing time from them. To have faith that this novel will be published is to believe that I can finish it, that it will be good when I finish it, that it will be accurate and that it will be bought.
To write a novel is to believe in an illusion. It is to spend months or years in a period of suspended uncertainty. It is, after that, to expose oneself to ridicule.
I am using the fact that I am a professional writer as a way to gain respect in the world and to feel that I am contributing something worthwhile to humanity. At the same time, those things I do or need to do that are not noteworthy: cleaning, raising children, earning an income are depleted by the time I spend writing. At least it seems that way.
I don’t make up stories in order to be noteworthy, however. I do it because I’ve always done it, since I was a child. It’s a way for me to hang onto that child in me – the one I don’t want to let die. I can see her fading already when my kids ask me to play and I do not want to play, when I’m annoyed that my son makes the voices on the Lord of the Rings DVD sound funny with the remote, when I say grim things about his desire for more toys. I see her leaving when the storyteller in me takes a back seat to… whom? Whom does she take a back seat to? It’s not like I’m being particularly effective when I’m not writing.
I read the novel and then I close the document. I read it and I think how bad it is. I read it and I think I need to do more research. I think the characters aren’t realized. I want them to be realized the moment I put them down. Sometimes they are and that’s what’s deceptive. I want it to be that way all the time or not at all.
But I don’t want it to be not at all. I don’t want to give up writing or the idea that I can write a book. I feel like I’m on the edge of understanding something and yet it eludes me.

I am afraid to write a book because… I don’t think I can do it.
Is it true that I don’t think I can write a book?

No. What’s true is that I don’t think I can write a book well.

Is it true that I think I can’t write a book well?
Okay, here’s what’s stopping me: It’s the process itself. It’s perfectionism. I believe that I’m able to take a bad draft and make it into a better draft and maybe even a good draft. I’ve written good stories before. I’ve written stories I really love, even now, years later. And I’ve written stories I sent in that I thought were so-so when I sent them in.
What I expect to be able to do with a book is my very best writing. I don’t expect my very best writing out of a story for the Inspirational market. I don’t expect that because I know that those publishers will have a litmus test: I will be trying to promote a message: theirs. It must pass the theological gateway before it can be published. In sending my book out to a press that does not have a theological gateway, I am able to write from my own unique heart. At least that’s what I tell myself and can continue to tell myself. It could be that I’ll write things that would be censored at the editorial level, but I’m less concerned about that now.

I stop when I’m right on the verge of something. Sarah wants to know when we’re going to go to Staples and the boys are arguing over Lego.
It is so hard for me to submerge. Everything pulls me back up again and then when I do submerge I am needed. At least that’s what I think. I want to go onto the next distraction. It’s very hard for me to stay centered enough to actually get to the writing.
When I write (on the book) and it comes out awkward or melodramatic or inconsistent or clichéd I look at that and I doubt myself. It is painful to see it. I’m embarrassed by it. Why? Because I know that it isn’t there yet. I want to say, “This isn’t me! I’m capable of much better writing!” I’m capable of it, but am I capable of sustaining it?
No. Not on a rough draft. I’m not capable of sustaining really sharp, strong writing on the first draft of a novel because it takes place over a long, long period of time. I have writing days where I am focused and writing days where I am not focused. I have parts of the book I understand and parts I do not yet understand. I have characters with a clear motivation and those I do not know very well yet. Putting them down on paper I’m afraid will make them somehow permanent in that state. If I write a dialogue and it’s not quite there, I’m afraid I’ve cast a spell, created something that now must stay. I’m afraid I won’t be able to change it or that I’ll get so far in that there will be no turning back with a false character. What if I have a character that is simply not coming through for the entire book? Will I be able to go back and rewrite them?
Why wouldn’t I be able to?
I just don’t like that “awkward age.” It undermines my confidence. So because of that I don’t write. I tell myself that I need to take a completed chapter to critique group. But I don’t really. I don’t need to take anything to critique group until they could be helpful to me. If I take the roughest of the rough drafts, when I’m still in the ideas phase, then I get too much feedback and the other writers are kind of writing the book for me. I lose my confidence and feel like I need to go with their ideas. They seem so sure of them. And I may write in a particular direction simply to please the group. I do this without realizing it or even intending to.
If, instead, I can be in the story every day and simply play with it, the way Peggy is playing with her novel… I don’t let myself do that because it seems like it would be a patchwork and I wouldn’t be able to stitch it together. What if I did that novel in a month thing again? Would it help? Maybe I should check it out.

11-16-05 Cougar Kittens Change

Will Natalie’s miscarriage be anticlimactic at this point? If I focus on the cougar kittens, how will I handle Natalie’s miscarriage? That needs to be a big crisis. It needs to be a moment when Brigitta finds some real authenticity.
That means things need to go rather badly with the cougar kittens. It means things can’t wrap up neatly in that situation. Perhaps she isn’t able to prevent their being euthanized.

11-30-05 Luke Midpoint Change

Luke’s character arc is tricky. If the midpoint is a change and he’s exposed at that point, then maybe his decision is to quit acting entirely. Then what would he do? Go to Indiana? Yes! He’d go to his dad. Would Brigitta try to follow him? Would she go to her aunt’s? Yowza. That would change the story a lot. She’s going to have this unfinished business with her aunt and maybe she’d go back there and back to Fern Hill and finish grieving. She and Luke both have unfinished business in Indiana. Natalie’s miscarriage is beginning to sound more and more like a tag-on.
How far could a minor get unaccompanied on an airplane?

12-28-05 Natalie subplot

I especially need to wrap up the Natalie subplot because I start with her. Also, since Brigitta ends up friendless because they discover the secret blog, I’ve got to resolve that somehow.
The problem is that she is in Indiana when the story ends. So I have to find a way to wrap this up with her friends that makes sense. It could happen in the blog or through IM or a phone call. I’m especially going to have to work things out with Natalie. Or Brigitta is going to need to be willing to work things through with Natalie.
Maybe part of what Brigitta needs to understand is that to be spiritual is to be in relationship: with ourselves, with others and with God. So it doesn’t always matter what mystical ideas you have if you’ve been treating others with a lack of love.
Okay, here’s the scoop, which I figured out while napping. Natalie will keep appearing in the woods and trying to find out about Luke. She may even see him once, returning from the direction of Brigitta’s house or from the treehouse.
After Natalie figures out about the secret blog, which she will do by doing a lot of googling on Trent Yves, her replies will be seen in the blog, along with everyone else, whom she has alerted. But the one conversation she’ll have with Brigitta after this, which should probably be on scene will include the line “I don’t even know who you are, really. After all these years.” This will be a kind of “final straw” scene for Natalie, who has really been feeling extraneous, after having been a pretty supportive friend to Brigitta.

12-30-05 Luke and Rocket

I think this subplot scares me because I don’t know if I’m up for writing the screenplay to Rocket. I know I don’t have to do that, but it just doesn’t seem like the kind of screenplay I’d be qualified to write.
Luke has played this character, Rocket who runs away from his wealthy father and lives on the street. When he discovers a plot to murder his father, he has to figure out whether to return or end up being complicit in the murder. He has certainly wished his father dead many times, but when it comes down to an actual plot, Rocket knows instinctively that he should go back, but finds himself in a genuine struggle.
Rereading my Rocket synopsis from earlier, it actually looks like a fine screenplay. Okay, Muse, work with me here.
What I need to do for purposes of this outline is to figure out where and how to thread the Rocket story through the book, such that the reader can experience some of its emotional impact and that we can also see where it parallels aspects of Luke’s own life. It’s possible that I could have her blog bits of the actual script. Her “favorite parts.” I’ve based the fantasy on references to Imlandria, which plot is completely unknown to me – some kind of hero’s quest. But the Rocket story is actually more fascinating to me. And I could potentially have her writing a fanfic that incorporates more of Rocket than of Imlandria. I think I do need to figure out what Imlandria is about if I’m going to reference it, but I think that Brigitta herself is more fascinated with the Rocket story. Rocket is gritty and very, very different from her own life.

5-1-06 Too Many Subplots?

I think this novel may be as cluttered as my life is. After the SCBWI retreat I am wondering about subplots. I crammed so much into the first chapter that it was not understandable. Pete Hautman’s GODLESS, the YA I’m reading now, is much more streamlined: Boy doesn’t like church, creates religion–it unfolds linearly from there. He doesn’t touch much on Mom and Dad–in fact, they are caricatures, but that might not be a bad thing. 
So I have a couple of choices now. I can continue writing it the way I have it planned, or I can take out some subplots–the most likely one being the cougars.
I think I put in the cougars because they are cool and also because it gives Luke and Brigitta something to do. They will take over the story, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They provide the catalysts I need for the deeper story – the story of life and death and how to come to terms with them.
It’s just that they are such big things: cougar attack; raising cougar kits – I could write a whole book just about that with rather ordinary, boring kids.
Or maybe I can streamline what I have so that that the heart of the story comes out. It’s me who is thinking of these things as all big. Maybe I just write big books.

5-31-06 Writing: Finding a Way to Focus

I am having a hard time finding focus. I am distracted by the written word – whether in the books around me or on the Internet or in things I’ve already written that are on my computer. I’m distracted by writing about writing instead of being in the story moment.
Sometimes I am in the story moment and the writing just takes off. At least it feels like it does. Then I get it to critique group and I see all the flaws and I feel discouraged. It’s not that I don’t believe I can improve the writing–it’s that I’m afraid I’ll never find the concentration to do so.
I write on the couch. I write in coffee shops and libraries. I write on retreat–and that’s when I really get going. When everything is silent and I don’t feel an obligation to talk. I am craving silence–that deep inner silence that brings me to the page. That deep inner silence I often find on the page. I can dive into the well, but I come up too soon. I want to stay there and find all the silence I can.
If I could write anywhere, I’d write in a little glass-enclosed gazebo in the woods. There would be a river running by and no people. Lots of trees. Or I’d write from an upstairs room overlooking the woods or the river.
Outside I have the distraction of wind and the glare of the sun off my computer screen. I wonder if there’s a way to fix that?
Now that I’m out in the middle of the woods, it’s better. Mosquitoes are a reality. I want to identify those birdcalls. Must take an Audubon class and a Wilderness Awareness tracking class or classes. Check into this summer for that.
Who is mowing their lawn on and on and on?
I’ve escaped from everybody, though. They’ll have to go to some effort to find me here. Brigitta must like that. Heck, my kids must like it. I almost never come out here. How sad. I want to start hiking this summer. Why have I always believed some kind of expertise is required; that I’m “not really a real hiker.” What the heck is a “real” hiker?

8-2-06 Cut Fan Fiction? Notes on Luke’s Return

I think I need a new rule. The rule will be that I am aloud to muse about self-sabotage and not having time to write and needing to meet everyone else’s needs any time I want–except for my designated writing time. Wednesday mornings are a designated writing time when I have at least 90 minutes to work on the novel. I will establish other “fret-free zones” as well.
So. I’m wondering about this fan fiction. On the one hand I want to keep it because I just love the schmaltzy writing. I love the last line about a rushing filling his ears. It’s so adolescent and it’s the type of thing I used to write. But I think the fan fiction may make the story redundant– take away its punch. Luke actually is somewhat in the situation Brigitta places him in according to her story. He really is trying to escape Hollywood, though Brigitta has a romanticized idea of that. And I do too.
I can actually lift the fan fiction out directly and it will have absolutely no impact on the structure of the story. The thing is that we have no real contrast between the public Brigitta and the hidden Brigitta because the reader is exposed to the hidden one. She needs to be hiding somewhat from herself as well. This isn’t a movie–we really do see Brigitta from the inside. (I’d love to do a novel-writing workshop on the difference between novels and movies.)
You know, in the blog I think her issue is not that she’s nasty and disdainful of her friends–I think it’s that she’s transparent in her blog in a way she won’t be with her friends–which means she betrays Natalie by saying something slighting about her in the blog. I don’t know that she necessarily loses all her friends. I think the conflict may be with Natalie, who represents, in a way, Brigitta’s playful, hidden self.
The thing is, Natalie may not be able to meet her true friendship needs. Brigitta needs to love Brigitta before that can happen. She needs to forgive herself for abandoning her grandmother.
Did she? Hmm.
Caring for the kittens is caring for something–keeping it from dying. She did not keep her grandmother from dying. And she did not “pick” a religion. Even though she felt affinity for Nonni’s faith–it was the faith itself she felt affinity for, whatever underlay it. Her mother believes in things mysterious, too, but she is somewhat quiet about it. She doesn’t have a strong, vocal “belief.” Paul has been strong and vocal about his unbelief and rationality. Brigitta has wanted that, too–to be smart, though she longs for things fanciful. She thinks she can find that in a religion–in which the belief itself is the knowledge, the belief itself is the encyclopedia.
I’m starting a new draft of “Luke’s Return” which is now chapter 12. I’m saving it in my draft file rather than dropping it into the document immediately.
Okay. So Luke’s back after disappearing after the cougar attack. I could put in a dog whose been ripped in half. That’ll get people nervous. Would wildlife officials/media work harder to find Luke?

8-6-07 Shape-shifting/Nonni Fight

Shape shifting–give B more motivation to be embarrassed when she sees her dad doing this ritual. She sees something that for her is relatively normal, but sees it through the eyes of another and feels embarrassed.
Tie the Nonni fight into her feelings about Dad.
Okay, I’ve got to get ahold of this. She has seen her dad do shamanic things before. She is tolerant about it–in fact, she is understanding. She, too, believes there is a spirit world and that the animals have spirits who can speak to us. For Brigitta, she often senses the animals without having to do any kind of ritual. She doesn’t necessarily think of them as great teachers–she thinks of them more as kin. She is relatively comfortable with the animals.
It was her dad who taught her to track and her mom who taught her to listen. Now Dad is beginning to listen, too. Brigitta thinks this is a good thing, though she wouldn’t go about it the same way. She is, in many ways, proud of her dad.
But she feels left out of his circle. He does his sweatlodges without a thought of inviting her, his shamanic learning without teaching her much of anything. It is still new to him and he is still feeling his way. He may share things at the dinner table–especially with Clare, but he is not truly including Brigitta in this journey. He is undertaking it alone.
And then there is the matter of Nonni. Brigitta loved Nonni’s God. She felt secure with him. She loved Jesus, who seemed so approachable. She loved that he could walk on water and multiply loaves and that he healed the little girl. Nonni told her these stories in such a loving way that Brigitta was entirely comfortable with them.
But every time she came back home, she found herself in internal conflict. Dad thought all of that supernatural stuff was ridiculous and that Christianity was oppressive and abusive and ignorant. To become a Christian would have meant to betray her dad. And she couldn’t find, in her church experiences, anything to account for the kinship she felt with nature. Going to church seemed to have to do with getting dressed up and going to a building and being inside. And Brigitta is a woods child.
Mom was always so private about her beliefs. Tolerant of everyone and quiet about her own practice. She did yoga and she read books on fairies. Occasionally, Brigitta would find a bowl of milk out in the grass after a full-moon night. She taught Brigitta to listen in the woods, but she didn’t tell her what she would hear.
As for her dad, there is this part of him she has never been allowed near. And seeing him do his shamanic rituals is like looking into something very private. She is uneasy seeing her dad so raw and exposed. It’s not that she believes Luke will think he’s crazy–though that does cross her mind–but that it’s just something so intimate and different. Like if her dad was wandering around naked in the woods (which he practically is–this is actually worse than that.)
There is also something else she feels–something she won’t let herself express. It’s a kind of “how dare he.” After ridiculing things spiritual and supernatural and calling them fairy tales, how-dare-he now, after Nonni’s death, suddenly acknowledge that there is more to the universe than he had ever acknowledged before. And at the same time, he won’t let her talk about Nonni and Opa and he changes the subject and shuts her down every time she tries. It’s as if he’s trying to erase them–take everything that was theirs and make it over in his own image.
So her feelings at his display are both embarrassment and an anger she can’t explain. His own transformation seems without humility. He seems unwilling to acknowledge how hard he was before. It’s as if he’s drawn a curtain on that person and doesn’t want to look at him ever again. Mallory can speak to this, but Brigitta can’t. Because Brigitta does believe in the spirit world and Mallory does not. Mallory wants dad to be something like the way he was–though “healthier” and less angry. She thinks he’s become deluded.

11-18-07 Cherrywood: Emotional Core of the Story

Here I am at Cherrywood and if it is to be the emotional core of the story, then Brigitta needs to respond to it–not at the end and not privately, away from the reader, but with the reader fully involved.
She is grieving several losses: the cougars, Nonni and Opa, Luke and her dad. I think that once she hits Indianapolis, it will be hard not to feel emotional–the air feels the same, the things she is seeing are the same. When she gets to Cherrywood and it is dark and it seems a little different she will have strong, strong emotion. She is finally there–at the place she has been longing to be all this time. She is finally at Eden and yet she will discover that this is not Eden.
That is the heart of the story. She is looking for Eden, but Eden is elusive. Here, in this life, things die. Eden does not stay in the same place. She has to reach for something beyond that place to even begin to find it. Once she is in the woods, in her secret spot, she will find that grief is so palpable she is no longer able to contain it. It will not matter how sleep-deprived she is, she will enter into soul-time here. She will find the veil between her and Nonni too thick to penetrate. It is no small thing to be on this side of death. Between Brigitta and the real Eden, there is an angel with a flaming sword. And in order to get back she would have to be a sword herself and enter the flame.
She will be there and her barriers will be down completely. She will be down to her animal-self–her soul-self in this moment.
I think I will have to listen to the tapes finally. I don’t know whether I can even find them, but I think I will need to listen to them for the first time.
The tapes took my morning and afternoon–Grampy, Uncle Andy, and finally me twelve years ago. It evoked emotion, but I am so self-conscious on those tapes that they are hard to hear. It’s uncomfortable. I wonder whether I could have written the scene just fine without them. And now I have only ten minutes until I have to leave for the dentist. Frustrating. I wish I didn’t have to go to the dentist. This scene is so important.

12-17-07 Nearing the End

Or not. I’ve got those two small scenes at the end, but then the entire journal, and now it seems like it’s going to take so long and involve tons of rewrite–More rewrite that is–before I can ever get it to an agent. I’ve lost the entire day, the house is a mess, nobody’s talking to each other and I’m on hold with the freaking phone company because we’re not getting any incoming calls.
Thomas has no clean laundry, nobody is working on dinner, we need to update the finances.
All I need to do is the journal and those two little scenes. But if I have my dates all mixed up on the Academy Awards/People’s Choice Awards/Emmy’s–and I know that I do. How much reworking is it going to take to create a believable scenario about this movie? I’ve put it off until now and now I really have to deal with it.

2-11-10 Email from Agent

Hi Katherine- I am so sorry for how long I have had this! I love so much about it, but I also think there are areas that need work, and I have been too swamped to put all my thoughts together. I am very attached to Brigitta, though–I think her voice is perfect, and can’t seem to get her out of my mind, which is a good thing. If it is still available, could we set up a time to talk next week, before which I will get my editorial thoughts together?

Let me know where things are, and thank you for considering me and for letting me read it!

3-21-10 Email to Agent after Rewrite

Here it is! This was my most fun rewrite ever. Very little head-banging and lots of laughter. Loved your notes, and am even reconciled with cutting/diminishing some characters because it truly did make it a better book.
Talk soon!


3-21-10 Email from Agent

Katherine, AWESOME! So excited to read Brigitta’s story again! Can you resend as a .doc? Also–I will be leaving Saturday for a week’s vacation, and will most likely be reading this then, as this week is already looking crazy. BUT I will try to send any notes before I go, as I am sure they will be small, and then we could get it right out on my return after Easter.

Thank you for all of your work and talk soon!


3-31-11 Email from My Editor at Sourcebooks

Dear Katherine,
I wanted to pop you a note and let you know how incredibly excited we all are at Sourcebooks to have your book on our list. In fact, we’re gearing up for launch—presenting it to the entire staff—so you’ll likely soon be hearing from our assistant to request some information. I can’t wait until Sales, Publicity, Marketing and the whole team gets a chance to read this. I was captivated throughout and I think you render so poignantly the feeling of loss between youth and young adulthood—all under a beautiful commercial hook with the celebrity angle. I think this book is going to make a wonderful summer read.
All best,