Friday, December 28, 2007

From Such Vicissitudes Ma Moses Became Grand

Did you miss me?

I spent the week doing just what I said I would- writing a silly middle group book. Alas, what I hadn't counted on was writing a bad silly middle group book.

It's possible if I'd given the idea some more time to germinate, it might have been better. It's equally possible I never would have written anything,which I think was my concern (all this was over a week ago, so my memory has faded).

I wrote from Friday until Thursday, taking Sunday off to watch football and figure out the chapter sequence. I don't think I resented having to work until Monday, but once resistance hit, it hit big time. I practically had to force myself to write. The actual writing wasn't painful (it wasn't good, but it wasn't painful), but there was no joy, no anticipation, no delight at the end of a good day's work.

I finished Thursday morning, setting a record for fastest two chapters ever written. Also shortest two chapters ever written. The book ended up being about 25 pages shorter than I'd planned. The only problems the manuscript had were characterizations and plot,both of which were missing. Oh yeah, and structure. That was a problem too. Poor thing never even got a title.

I don't mind writing something that fails. I fail regularly in life. And devoting ten days of my life to a manuscript that stinks, well, ten days can shake the world, but that's the exception, not the rule. No, what makes me sad is my realization that the manuscript stinks. I always think what I write is fabulous. Forty years of professional criticism and rejection have never changed that. My ego remains robust regardless. But some critical self-awareness must have snuck in, for me to know what I was writing was crap even while I was writing it. Waaa!

Therefore I've decided to retire and devote myself to my art. It is clearly my true calling. I can see now the only thing that was holding me back from taking my place with Petrus Christus and the Master Of The Female Half-Lengths was my palate. All us great artists need more than black and red to make our masterpieces stand out from everyone else's masterpieces. So yesterday, I went to Staples and bought a fourpack of Sharpies, just the kind Dierck Bouts used to favor. I then stared at myself in the mirror long enough to start weeping over what my hair looked like, and painted a self portrait. Note, in particular, how I captured the teary green of my eyes.

Someday art historians will look back at this self-portrait and declare it the start of my legendary Plaid Period. They'll comment on the influence I had on Matisse, even more stunning because he was dead before I ever began painting. "Oh, what she could have taught the grand masters," they'll murmur (ideally on the internet, so I can find them via Google). "To think she wasted decades writing Kid Power The Year Without Michael, Life As We Knew It, and the soon to be published the dead & the gone, not to mention the seventy one other amazingly wonderful books she graced all humanity with, when she could have been painting such artistic masterworks of complex simplicity or simple complexity or something."

Say, wait? Is that my robust ego knocking at the door? It missed me. And just like me, it looks fabulous in plaid!


Anonymous said...

completely unrelated to this post, but this is interesting:

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I just wrote 46,000 words in three weeks then realized I had no ending; or at least not the ending I had hoped for. I'm going to take a couple of days off and then go back to it and see if salvation is possible. I think two or three characters fading into oblivion will help.

I was going to write a short story tonight, but I just coached a 5th grade volleyball game and I am old and tired.


Alice said...

Hello, Sue! It's Alice, errant daughter of Marci. I finally got to this blog of yours, though I've only read the last four entries or so.

That said, I'm appalled you've hidden your talent from the world for so long. Allow me, if you will, to critique your masterpiece.

The colors are naturally what first catches my eye. The purple of your shoes is especially vibrant--it hints at the passion that people have for their footwear, and draws attention to the connection between our souls and our soles.

In particular, I would like to note the skirt, the proportions of which play on our ideas of femininity--slender, wisplike arms and legs sharply contrasted by the wide flare of the skirt. It speaks of the importance society plays on the childbearing aspects of women, the complex plaid of the skirt adding a layer of depth mimicked in the depth of a woman and her psyche.

It is the face, truly, that speaks to me the most. Three tears, reminiscent of the trinity of Christian ideology, trickle down the woman's--your--face, breaking free of the boundaries set around your eyes (The windows to the soul, naturally) by your glasses. The asymmetry of their descent--two on the left, one on the right--suggests an imbalance in the inner torment that causes this outer expression of grief. It causes the viewer to question what is causing this unhappiness. Does the slightly awkward stance, arms askew, indicate loneliness? Is that what the tears are shed for?

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the face is the mouth. A delicate, passionately red curve--the vertical reflection of a smile. Is this meant to represent the smile, or the frown? Are you (the painter and subject) speaking of your own reflection, or that which the outside world sees? Do you present the happiness or the sadness? This ambiguity lends edge to the work, rounding out its wholesomeness.

In conclusion, little artwork does so well as to speak volumes of its subject with such minimalist strokes. For this, Sue, I salute you.

And that is what I've learned so far in art school.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi anonymous bearer of bad news about Mars (well, for Martians it's worrisome) and anonymous Glen, and all grown up Alice-

I am, as always, awestruck by the catholic nature of the comments here-science, literature, art, all being reported upon and analyzed. With good grammar and the occasional reference to volleyball.

I am the luckiest person ever, and if I didn't know it before, having this blog has shown that to me.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This morn I went to the library and saw LAWKI amongst the new books in the teen section. (It has only taken several months of berating the knucklehead who works there in order for this classic work to arrive.) Of course, I moved this fine novel into a place where it could be readily snapped up by young purveyors of good taste.

Hopefully, all in my neighborhood will soon be enjoying this, your second to last novel before your great art career.

With the expanded minds of teenagers in my area, I will expect great works of wonder from them, thus energizing and revitilizing the area and bringing on a Rennaissance Period heretofore unknown to mankind. I suspect that, shortly, my home town will become a Mecca to young talents and will soon be world renowned as a Utopian Paradise!

Thank you, Susan, thank you!

(Of course, living on Long Island, if an asteroid does hit the moon, we will be one of the first places gone in the tsunami, but these things are minor.)


Marci said...

I have NEVER seen you wear a skirt. Plaid or otherwise.

Keep up the good artwork. Sharpies come in a myriad of colors, in case you want to branch out.

Anonymous said...

It would surely be fun to see a book about you, with your fabulous Sharpie illustrations, going back in time to teach and critique the Grand Masters, moving forward to present day with such other noteworthy's as the NY Yankees, and Stars on Ice.

What the world has lacked, and will need all the more in 2008, is 'Susan Beth Pfeffer's Views of the World.' We'd all be happier.

Paige Y. said...

Your artwork is fabulous, but there is one thing that I don't understand. Is your publisher uninterested in a sequel to LAWKI? If so, they're crazy. I for one am dying to know what happened next.

Anonymous said...

I think booming sales of the paperback will call for a rush order of a sequel.


Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi anonymous and paige y. and anonymous Glen-

Happy New Year to one and all.

I think Harcourt is waiting to see how well the dead & the gone does before agreeing to a third book. My editor said they should know within a couple of months of d&g's publication. In the meantime I'm retired.

Of course it's possible my offer to do the third book as a graphic novel is what's putting a damper on Harcourt's enthusiasm.

Some people just don't appreciate great art!