Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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A birthday and a first time at budokon yoga

I’ve been bogged down by edits this last while, and I’m feeling a little expressive this morning, so here goes a little free flow:

 

mom baby yoga

Today I lay flat on my belly and wiggle myself across the wooden floor like a caterpillar.

My muscles strain, my lungs expand, and I giggle as I finish the movement, feeling like a child. Feeling like you.

Seven years ago you came and have inhabited my focus ever since, imprinted on my soul. Today, I take the day to contemplate me. For a birthdate is as important for the bearer as to the one being born. I wonder —  what metamorphosis have I undergone in this time?

Seven years ago I walked until me feet bled, readying my body to release you, and two hours later you were here.

Today, I wiggle, ready to release myself. What will I be? Will my wings be red, emerald, turquoise, fuchsia? Perhaps they will never settle into one colour, but will shift and tremble with each passing mood.

My metamorphosis would have been very different had you not come into my life. Your smile, laughter, they are contagious, seeds scattered in the wind, spreading wide. Your endless thrive for experience, for life, your desire to share, your interpretations and wonder. You. All of you. Thank you for you teaching me, for showing me, how full of joy life can be, how much fun it can be.

Happy birthday, daughter.


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A full circle

I’ve been re-writing, re-plotting, and re-drafting, the majority of a novel I wrote eight years ago. Shocking when I think it was that long ago that this project came into my thoughts and I began to write it. It took me one year to write that first draft. It was the first idea that spurred me into being a writer.

My grandmother’s death at the time was the inspiration for the premise. While that hasn’t changed at all, the story line has a lot. As have some characters. And motivations. And arcs. When I returned to this particular work last October, I thought it was an easy fix, and I thought it was basically done. Silly me. But once I’d ripped it apart, I realized I’d gone to far in to turn back or give up on it.

But, that didn’t mean I didn’t want to. Especially as I have another novel I put on hold to whip this one into perfection (ya right! lol), and as I have ideas aplenty, I often wondered why I’m trying to fix something so broken when I can just start fresh. Well, the thing is, I think I just want to prove to myself that I can do my very best with it rather than dump it, and another part of me thinks it’s a great novel, one that many people can relate to. It’s a novel about death, or rather about how the living cope with death. And it’s a novel about stories, and how we each have one, and the choices we make as we travel down the road of that story.

I’m never steady in my belief in my own work. Sometimes I think it’s terrific, other moment I think it really sucks. The last few weeks I’d been thinking, okay, I’d better give up on this novel, the premise stinks, there’s too many characters, and it’s not plausible. Normally, I push through these moments, but this time I came very close to throwing in the towel.

And then three weeks ago my family and I buried my paternal grandmother. I was very close with her, all of my childhood, and even much of my adult life was in a shared residence with her. We even shared the same house during the pregnancy and birth of my first two children. The topic of my novel became too close, not something I was able to revisit during her illness and death.

About two weeks ago I sat down to work, and still, I questioned the story. This was a first–normally distance gave perspective, it allowed me to see flaws and solutions, not just garbage as I was seeing this time.

Yesterday, we buried my maternal grandfather. It was a swift death for him, a quick service. In three weeks, my two last living grandparents died, and I saw vast reactions to death. I saw my own different reactions to their deaths. Those around me responded differently. My parents come from different backgrounds, and I witnessed traditions that were quite different in each of the services and funerals. And it made me reflect on my grandmother’s death all those years ago, and how I felt at the time, and the story my mind created to cope with it. And I thought, “here I am again.”

I’ve come full circle, and yet, I’m a different person I was then. A lot has happened in these eight years, a heck of a lot, some wonderful, some terrible, and I’ve been thinking about this novel on and off during these last forty-eight hours since my grandfather’s death. Maybe this too is a coping mechanism, an avoidance technique. But it doesn’t feel like it. Because in thinking about these deaths, I’m thinking about my emotions, and I’m thinking that I really want to finish this novel after all. Right now there’s a sureness in me I haven’t felt since its creation. A sureness that I know the story I have to tell, and that I’ll be able to do it just right. Maybe I just had to live a little more before I was able to figure it.

As a side, this blog has been a little quieter than usual, a little more down than usual. Here’s hoping for a steady gait over the next while. And I hope all is well with all of you.


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A better way to tell the story

Every time I lament (which is quite often!) about how long a process writing a novel is, my father, if he’s around to hear me, will say, “you know, Jen, for some authors it takes them ten years.

I cringe, curl in, and say “it better not take me ten years.”

I am not a literary writer. Once, I aspired to be one, but I’m not. I’m also not a genre writer. I suppose I’m somewhere in the middle. As a reader, I like my fancy prose, I like lyrical, and I like to think about what I’m reading. I love story, external action, drive. I am thrilled that more and more novels that are released are kind of this hybrid genre-literary style. And as a writer, I strive to emulate them.

Some time ago, I saw an author interviewed on tv (I can’t remember who), and she said it takes her forever to write a novel because she’s continually finding new ways to tell the story.

I didn’t quite understand what she meant at the time. It’s only after I began playing with structure that I really got it. Before that my editing consisted of prose, clarification, characterization, tension, stuff like that. Now, it’s about story. As I begin to re-write my opening for the Nth time, I think back to this author, always finding a better way to tell her story, and I’m reassured that there is an end to this road, there really is a grand finale, where the story is told as it should be.

 


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Am I doing something wrong?

Last night I had a temper tantrum.

I realized it was going to be summer vacation in three weeks! I was supposed to be just about done my WIP at this point! The summer was going to be for beta readers and then a final round of adjustments. The thing is, you see, I’m nowhere close. I mean I’m so far from the final product that I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever make it to the end.

“I must be doing something wrong!” I yelled. “How can I be working on the same novel for so long and still be editing the beginning?”

The problem is I keep having new story, and when you have new story you have to go back to the beginning and write in this new story. 

The result is that I’m still editing Part 1. Then of course I have Parts 2 & 3 to tackle, right?

I’m often frustrated lately, I feel stuck. I’m not blocked, I’m working every moment I have, but I keep re-working things until they will be to my liking and I’m at the point where I feel this will never happen. I’m scared that the new story situation will never end, and although I fundamentally know this is not true, it still feels like it. In addition, like most of us, I feel that I just don’t have the necessary hours of work time to bring this WIP to its completion.

I ask you, are you resigned to the fact that writing a novel requires time?

I tell you that I’m not. I still fight it, giving myself unrealistic deadlines, thinking that there must be a way to do things more efficiently. And every so often I do wonder, Am I doing something wrong?

 


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From city to suburbia

I grew up in the city, where wildlife was pretty much restricted to pigeons and crows and squirrels. And these creatures kept a distance, and certainly never ventured near or in our home.

It’s been four and a half years since we’ve moved to the suburbs, and to date we’ve had a raccoon make a home in our back porch, a squirrel nibbled a hole in our kitchen screen and help himself repeatedly to snacks in our pantry, a skunk decided to make nightly visits to our back porch as well for one whole summer, a bat cuddled up with my daughter on the couch to watch The Wizard of Oz with her when she was four, the trees and shrubs in our yard has been filled with birds nests, and on one occasion we pulled into our driveway to find a grey fox sitting by the garage door. Infiltration!

It’s been quite amazing, although I admit I would prefer if the animals stay outside.

The summer before last a duck got lazy and didn’t make it to the lakeshore–she had to travel all of about five more blocks to get there–and made a nest under our holly bush at the base of our front steps.

Every morning we left the house, and there she was sitting on her nest. Once in a while she would leave, and we would get all stressed, but she always came back. When she was gone we counted fourteen eggs!

After many days–we don’t remember how many, but those ducklings were about ready to hatch–she must have wandered too long. We stepped out in the morning and found a haze of bugs swirling in the air. There was debris all over the place, shells, blood, feathers. My husband is certain the raccoons got to them. The mommy duck was nowhere to be found.

After I dropped the littles ones of at preschool and elementary school, I returned home. Not long after the mommy duck returned. She waddled around our front lawn (which is quite high up on a hill) for what felt like hours, squawking and calling–I just stood in the window and watched her.

So far there have been more ground nests–thankfully!

A few days ago we found a nest in a dead potted plant on a table on our front porch–we were about to toss it in the garbage. It’s a chickadee nest, and hopefully this time the eggs will hatch. It will be fun to have baby birds calling right outside our front door.

How about you: Any backyard tales to share?

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