I actually wrote yesterday! Went to the cafe and finished third draft revisions to Chapter 1 of the novel. I'm feeling a bit uncertain about it -- the last draft was in some ways 'happy happy poly book,' which was just fun to write. This draft is getting darker, more tense and emotionally fraught. I still think there'll be some good poly stuff, but in a more complicated way than in the previous version. None of these characters are naturally poly, I think -- they didn't go out looking for poly. They got into this situation, some of them for pretty bad reasons, but then just ended up falling in love, and had to find ways to deal with the complexities. It's not as much of a wish-fulfillment book as I thought I might like to write, but it's starting to feel more like my kind of book, the kind I do write. My poor characters; they suffer so much, twisting down and down into the darkness, haunted by their histories...
Yesterday evening I read at Women & Children First, a great bookstore and a very welcoming space. Nina the booklady gave me a lovely introduction, saying that while she could use all kinds of adjectives like 'poignant' and the like to describe my book, she'd rather use a verb, and said that the book 'aches.' I like that. That seems right. Sometimes we ache because life is so difficult and hard to bear, sometimes because life is so marvellous, and we know it can't last.
I had a bit of trouble deciding what to read -- I didn't want to just repeat "Monsoon Day" or "The Princess in the Forest" which I had just read in Chicago, and I think "Mint in Your Throat" really needs two voices to do it right, and most of the other stories are too long for a 20-25 minute reading. I could have done part of one, but instead I ended up reading one of the saddest stories in the book, "Sins of the Father," which went reasonably well, I think. I haven't read it out loud before, and in retrospect, I think it's a bit over-written. Oh, it's in character for the protagonist to beat his breast and lament his fate, but I'm not sure he needed to do so quite so much. Ah well. I still like it, and some people said it made them cry. (The only story that makes me cry in the book is Nalan's story, but oddly enough, it does so every time I read it. And I wrote it! Writing is strange.)
Afterwards answered questions, and told people about DesiLit and Kriti, and sold a few tickets, and then went out for yummy Korean with Venu and Aparna and Satya. (Quick intro: Venu's been the total bastion of the S. Asian arts scene in Chicago, even though she isn't an artist herself, serving on boards, helping us out in a myriad of ways. Aparna is deeply involved with SAPAC, and will be coordinating some politics and writing discussions at Kriti, which will be cool. And Satya's kindly doing beautiful graphic design for DesiLit; she's an engineer by day and a jazz-Indian-fusion singer by night, with the Matt Garrity Quartet.) Ate steamed beef mandoo and kim chee mandoo and veggie tempura and crab and cucumber salad and it was good, but killed yesterday's diet. Ah well.
This morning, I've been moving slowly. Spent a few hours up on my deck, lying in the shade (on bare boards -- we really do have to get some kind of furniture up there, or at least a waterproof mattress), drinking tea and reading Shauna Singh Baldwin's What the Body Remembers. I'll be meeting her next week at my reading in Milwaukee, so I thought now would be a good time to read something of hers; I've been meaning to for a while. Aparna loved the book and loaned it to me, so I knew it was likely to be a pleasurable read, and it is. Two women, one a first wife who can't have children, the other a second wife, very young. Both heartbreaking, in their own ways -- and so far, the men aren't just painted as sexist villains either, which is a relief. And I'm learning about Sikhs in the process, which I knew almost nothing about, so that's particularly cool.
This afternoon, paperwork and writing.