Thursday, December 31, 2009

what dreaming means . . .

I just finished reading an excellent novel, Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann. Not only impressively incandescent writing, but a truly moving meditation on love and loss. He sets much of it in 1974, the frame focuses on Petit's high wire act between the Twin Towers. I too write about the past, trying to tap into a more innocent time. Perhaps it's because the older I get the messier things are.

And then there are the brave people of Iran. Those who walk out into the streets to defy their government knowing what it may/will mean. I can't even imagine where their courage comes from, but it starts with a dream.

I return to 1980 in my novel because it was a time when New York City was still a city I recognized. Every corner on the Upper West Side held memories for me, some good, some bad, some indifferent. All gone now, but then the city was gritty and vibrant, still the city of my childhood and my adolescence, still a place where anything was possible, all you had to do was try.

Amelia dreamed, her dreams draw us in even now. Of course, change is incremental, still did I think we'd elect an African American president in our lifetime in 1980? There are reasons to weep, and reasons to be joyful. . .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

leaving home and second chances

I think of how it felt, leaving home for the first time. Imbued with a sense of what was possible, but always aware of how easily one could get caught. If Amelia got to choose to live her life again, would she do what she'd done before? Would she believe that this was her best opportunity to complete that task, to finish that journey, to circumvent the globe again? Would she regret too much, or too little? We all have regrets, they're what comes to us when we first wake, the echo of the dream that we can't quite recall, the things we should have said to those we've lost or have lost touch with, the harsh words we've spoken that should have been held back. I think about Amelia and about her regrets and I think about how life unfolds. Here, not in my usual perch but on the other side of the Atlantic, in the city where she was feted so many years ago, I wonder about regret, about the road not taken. Amelia looking down from above, sees in such a different way from the rest of us. We are caught in our own lives, we are in awe of the smaller things, the way the sun slants in the afternoon as I look out the door of my kitchen at my children, so much smaller, racing each other across the hot summer grass. The smell of summer comes back to me. And that time too. Moments of happiness like snapshots, all that we get down below. Above the world is a map and you ride on, oblivious. Down here it is all about the moment, when he first kissed me, when he first let down his guard and when I let down mine, life is filled with things one doesn't expect, for Amelia too I believe that would come. She would think she was meant to go on as before, but then she'd realize, second chances come for a reason.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Traveling the world

Once when I was young I thought I would like to travel the world. I imagined myself the kind of person who could do that. I didn't know myself too well, instead I promptly fell in love, and committed myself to stability and a routine. I forced myself to write on a daily basis, worked hard on my writing and on making a living. My husband and I traveled a bit, though we were always pinching pennies. Once we had children, it took us a while to realize that we wanted to take them on an adventure. Ironically it was my children who forced me to travel again. And they're fine companions.

Amelia never felt that she wanted children, she assumed that having them meant being tied down. She was certainly correct in that assumption, she could hardly have risked life and limb with the same alacrity. For her home and hearth was counter-intuitive. She chose 'the journey.' As she wrote, "It may not be all plain sailing, of course, if one chooses to step out informally over strange country visiting unfamiliar landing fields. But the fun of it is worth the price."

I see her as someone who was both self possessed and driven. She was always careful when she wrote, choosing her words, choosing how to describe everything. She saw writing as a way to explain her choices, but not as a way to expose her inner workings. I imagine that she would find all of the self exposure that is the art of memoir today, incomprehensible.

I think for her flying was art. When she did it, she was completely in the moment. She was as engaged as any writer, or sculptor, or painter or musician. She was in touch and in tune. It wasn't traveling that mattered, not in the way we think of it anyhow. When she landed, she was like anyone else, touring the sights. But in midair, she was something altogether different.

It's her artistry that draws me in. Her passion for flying is the same as any other passion one has, if you give yourself to something you are transported. It's just that in her case the word had both literal and figurative meanings.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Music and Amelia

I'm a contemporary music fan. One of my son's is a musician, both listen to alternative rock. Some of the bands aren't exactly to my taste, a little too loud, a little too intense, but others are incredible. They remind me that there's still life in this old gal. The Ipod ad works so well precisely because my generation has been brought up with their own personal soundtrack. Mine began with the Beatles, from there I graduated to Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. Later on there was time for the Incredible String Band and Joni Mitchell's first two albums. I didn't go to Woodstock, my parents wouldn't let me to my eternal regret. But I did spend a lot of time at the Fillmore East, my hearing has never recovered from a certain Jefferson Airplane concert, the amps were piled so high they reached to where I sat, in the first row of the balcony.

Music has always mattered, it mattered when my husband to be took me to see Sonny Rollins on our first date, and introduced me to jazz in all its incarnations. It mattered when I discovered Otis and Aretha. It mattered every time I felt miserable or elated, because there was a song that came to mind and I played it over and over and over again. When my father was dying, I listened to Warren Zevon's haunting Keep Me In Your Heart.

I think of Amelia and her friend Louise enjoying free concerts on the stairs outside of Carnegie Hall.I believe she would have adored Bessie Smith and Jelly Roll Morton. That she would have danced to Cole Porter and sung the lyrics softly to herself, no one wrote better. That she was partial to Louis Armstrong's version of St. James Infirmary, that music was also her soundtrack.

When she returns in 1980, much has been transformed. Would she even tolerate rock music? Would she think it was music at all? Amelia is about to listen to a whole lot of Grateful Dead when she hitches a ride with some strangers. Yes, the name is meant to be ironic in this fictional case.

I saw the Dead in their heyday, they were a band that was so involved in making music, the original jam band. Will she find anything in this, or will she think what my parents thought . . ."God in heaven, what is that horrible noise?"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

first meal?

Okay, it's a strange premise but go with it. If Amelia was alive in 1980, say if she came to life and had to do it over again, what choices would she make. Number one, what would her first meal be. Think about that, and think about food. Food is what makes my day go round and I'm assuming if you'd been starving for a while, it would make yours as well. So I offer Amelia a few dozen choices, granted she doesn't have money in her pockets but she won't notice that yet. What she will notice is how desperately hungry she is and how much there is to eat and how hard it is to choose. Not your last meal, but your first, your first that might be your last, so that makes it doubly hard. Do you choose comfort food? Do you opt for a gourmet's delight? Do you go ethnic? Do you pick something that harkens back to childhood or steers clear?

I pose that to you oh noble readers. What would your first meal be if you were allowed a first meal knowing all you know? What fabulous feast would you choose? Would it be the best slice of pizza you'd ever had with all the toppings? Would it be dinner at Babbo? Or in Amelia's case Delmonico's? What is food for you? Is eating something you do to go on living, or is eating one of the greatest pleasures in life?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Socialized medicine

Amelia Earhart attended at least one I.W.W. meeting back when. She agreed with many of the views aired. Her sister Muriel writes "Amelia staunchly upheld her ideas of fair play especially in regard to the rights of those less fortunate." My own ninety six year old mother's dream was that there be universal health insurance in this country. Now, this morning I read that Senator Joe Lieberman, an abrasive and insincere man who might have been our vice president, (imagine!) is going to filibuster to make sure a watered down reform bill is never even brought to a vote. Americans apparently don't deserve medical care. Only members of congress do.

Every poll, every single poll supports a public option. People know what they want, and more to the point, know what they need. I am self employed and my own premiums went up thirty percent this year. Who can afford that? Meanwhile the insurance I buy doesn't cover anything. I find it astonishing and depressing that we are still fighting for something that is a basic human right. It is a right Amelia Earhart believed in, back in 1920. I find it appalling that my mother will not live to see even the most rudimentary change in a broken system. And that profit is all people like Joe Lieberman care about.

Friday, December 11, 2009

managing fame


A friend posted a query to Facebook, to paraphrase, she wondered why she was the only woman who hadn't slept with Tiger Woods. Perhaps by now she has. Certainly this man was both arrogant and incredibly stupid. Had he never turned on a TV set? He must have, considering how many commercials he was featured in.

We follow our celebrities' indiscretions with a compulsive and obsessive national glee. We're so pleased to note how far the great have fallen! Human beings are all about elevating their idols, then shattering them and history is filled with the wrecks. Yet Amelia avoided this fate. It had something to do with the times, you could control your image and she did that with impeccable grace and style. But it was more than her stringency. Reading her biographies, I'm always struck by what's missing. Her core is always absent, even as the details are there. Each biographer has a theory; she was a pawn in her husband's publicity game. Or she was the one in charge, aggressive and impulsive. As for her sexuality? There is no proof she was a lesbian, though there are those who are certain she hid that side of herself away. What there is proof of, is that she slept with other men, particularly with Gene Vidal. We have Gore Vidal's testimony. And that hairbrush he saw with her initials on it in his father's hotel room.

I believe it isn't just how she died that draws us in, it's how she lived. She managed to stay above the fray always. She managed that trick that almost no one can, she was elusive, her personal life and personality always masked. Only certain iconic figures today are able to pull that one off. I think Amelia started practicing for escape early on. Her father's alcoholism, her mother's anger, their endlessly compromised living situation, the slide into instability and poverty, all were lessons. She wanted a private life, and she needed to be solvent. But she didn't crave safety, perhaps she saw the cost that came from demanding it, the blame that was leveled at those who couldn't provide. Or perhaps she was just born with that special spark, the one that makes us willing to try what can be tried, to push herself further because she saw what might happen if she succeeded, the rewards were too great. She understood that life can be bitter, and maybe that's the point. If the worst can happen, then you might as well attempt the best. Even if you fail, you've failed nobly. Non, je ne regrette rien.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

John Lennon and Amelia, or I'm more famous than Jesus


Yesterday was the anniversary of John Lennon's murder. I remember the night he died, my husband and I held each other, and we cried and cried and cried. John was my favorite. Did it matter? There were some wonderful articles written after the fact, and one horrible one that went on about how they wished it had been Paul instead. I lived on 105th Street then, and we huddled inside the house for a week overcome with grief. But we went out on the day of the memorial service to Central Park. It was a perfectly clear day but at the exact moment the service took place, the sky filled with snow.

So many people had been murdered by then; Malcolm X, both Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jr. Why did this upset me more? Not that the other deaths didn't stun me, or change my world in larger ways. Imagine if all of these seminal figures had lived? It would be a better world, I really have no question about that. Would John Lennon have changed the larger world as much as any of them? I think it's possible, I think cultural change is as important as political change. Last night I watched old footage of John being interviewed by Gloria Emerson, a brilliant journalist who rightly told him that his idea of protest was solopsistic. I remember listening to him and Yoko singing at the biggest protest march I ever attended in D.C. the Moratorium and thinking how naive they were. I was a jaded New Yorker, and a jaded American. Yet now I find their optimism wonderful.

When he died, I felt as if I'd been robbed of all that I could have been, and all I'd hoped to believe in. We'd lost our innocence so many times, but that day it mattered more than ever.

We invest those who are famous with so much. They become a piece of us. We think we know them, and worse we think we own them. It's a great burden to carry, one which they can't possibly understand when they set out, full of ambition. In her time Amelia was equally famous. She chose privacy early on. John went after it later, he withdrew from the public eye and when he was murdered was just returning to the limelight, having taken time off to care for his son, to be a private citizen and walk through Central Park with the rest of us.

This one's for him.

Monday, December 7, 2009

girls and guns

Which sister was guilty of murder? Each one blames the other. In Amelia's autobiography, The Fun of It, she writes about that Christmas. "Sister also triumphantly produced a little .22 popgun which she had wheedled on her own. . . after a few short days of popping bottles off the back fence, it mysteriously disappeared. When it was hauled out of a secret hiding place some time later, the explanation that little girls should not go around shooting was given as sufficient reason for its seizure. As soon as my sister regained possession, she used it for shooting rats in a particularly well inhabited barn. . ." In Muriel's book Courage is the Price, she begs to differ."Amelia's crusade against bubonic plague led to a decimatinon of the rat population of the barn . . ."

When there's a gun in a story, I've been told it has to go off. I love the disparity here, each sister claiming the other is the one responsible for killing the rats.

Memory is a slippery thing, you're certain you know what happened and then someone who was there with you says you're entirely mistaken. As I write about Muriel and Amelia I try to think of how they each would have viewed their shared history. In the end, what happened becomes less important than how it's remembered by each of them, and how strongly they cling to their version of truth.

Friday, December 4, 2009

amy and edwin earhart

fathers and daughters

Last night I dreamed I was in the small cottage in Westport where I spent the happiest days of my childhood. This is the house I was married in, the house I consider my true home. I was there surrounded by my family, and by cousins. One cousin showed me a tattoo she'd had done, a remarkable piece of work as much video as two dimensional art. I'm pretty sure this is because my son is getting his first tattoo next week as a birthday present. And because tattoos have come to represent something else, but once they were the province of sailors, true adventurers. My cousin is from the former Soviet Union. She's traveled the world over.

In the dream, my mother was around but I didn't see her, and my father was clearly gone. It will be six years since his death, six long brutal years of mourning. I never knew it would take me this long to accept losing him. Or that it would hurt this much. So this is for you dad.

Amelia's father was clearly a vivid presence in her childhood. She writes about the letters he sent her, his love of language, the stories he invented that became dramatic plays. Every child in the neighborhood was an active part, chasing down the bad guy, (Mr. Earhart) and surrounding him. He'd turn, fake six guns blazing, giving them a thrill as he died a thousand brilliant deaths. Both Muriel and Amelia make it clear that when they were children, he was a vivid presence, but then he began to drink. He ended up changing their lives, ruining his marriage, and offering his daughters the freedom to pursue a different course. His failures predicated their successes.

By the time he discovered religion and sobered up, his marriage was over. He'd made a new life in Los Angeles, had a new wife as well. When Amelia made her fortune, she bought him a house, and when he died, his new wife lived there, but the deed was in Muriel's name. Perhaps we all have to learn that our fathers aren't superhuman. We all do have to grow up. At least some of us do, because in my own family, my siblings still imagine our father was perfect. I saw him differently. He was a mix of many things, stringent, and demanding, loving and seductive. He was my father, I loved him dearly and I wish I'd had an opportunity to carve out a place that was mine in his heart.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Earhart the Pacifist and Afghanistan in the now

Amelia worked as a nurse in Toronto after the First World War. She got to see the aftermath firsthand. “I realized what world war meant, instead of new uniforms and brass bands I saw only the results of a four years’ desperate struggle; men without arms and legs, men who were paralyzed and men who were blind.” She became an ardent pacifist, yet she was also a strong supporter of a woman’s right to serve. She had the idea that in leveling the playing field, she would be able to do away with war completely. That was na├»ve, she was wrong in “feeling men would rather vacate the arena of war altogether than share it with women.” War seems to be a constant human condition.

Today the president has announced a plan to add thirty plus thousand troops to bolster our presence in Afghanistan. I can see no good outcome here. Am I surprised? No. Am I saddened? Yes. Do I think this will lead to an end in our imperial purpose? Likely. We will spend money and lose good men and women and in the end gain nothing for it. That’s what war is; loss. Some wars are necessary, but this one clearly isn’t. It’s a mess and a muddle. Do I know what Amelia would have felt about it? I think so. She would have opposed this so called “surge.” She would have spoken out against it. She would have done now, what she did then, and listened to her conscience.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Amelia and the right to choose


Amelia spent one year at Columbia doing pre-med work. During that time, she managed to conduct experiments and kill quite a few white lab rats. She also made a best friend, Louise de Schweinitz who chose to continue on and become a doctor. I thought about the two of them yesterday, while waiting for the result of my yearly mammogram. Much has changed in the years since, women are no longer forced into pediatrics because they're good with children. There are now female surgeons (though obviously not as many as men). And medicine is no longer the glamorous or lucrative career choice it once was. These days women aren't denied places at medical school. Back then it was quite different. My mother who applied to graduate school a few years after de Schweinitz was admitted to Boston University. She was one of only three women in the entire class. She'd was denied admission to NYU because they'd already filled their quote for Jews and women.

My mother was one of the first doctors to fight for abortion rights, a fight that is never over. In this week's New York magazine a feature article tells chillingly of many young women who are fervently anti abortion. I know which side Amelia was on. It wasn't an accident that she never had children, it's obvious she used birth control. If she had gotten pregnant, I seriously doubt she would have had the child. Children were not something she wanted. She wanted a place in a world full of men.

Yesterday I waited with the women, curiously quiet. Usually there's talk when women are together but not when we're waiting for results that will change our lives. My mother had breast cancer, and she chose surgery. She has lived cancer free for thirty years. Was she lucky? Was her cancer the sort that would never have killed her? These are questions that we're still asking, there are new arguments about the validity of these exams. I wonder if men were being exposed to radiation on a yearly basis if we would know so little. But then I think women's health has always come second to men's.

Amelia dressed like a man. She claimed it was easier to manage in the cockpit. I have worn pants most of my life. I believe it's easier to navigate the world and control the input. No male hands can work their way up through a pair of jeans. Sometimes you have to wear armor to make it through. Or be taken seriously. Amelia owned her body. And in all these years I have to wonder what has changed. So much, yet so little. We still fight over what should be a personal decision. Every woman should have the right to choose.

Friday, November 27, 2009

working, not shopping


Old fashioned thanksgiving celebrations I've had very few. My original memories of this holiday center around screaming fights at the dinner table, with me as the youngest, least pivotal character, choosing to disappear to the TV room way in the back. There, I learned everything I ever needed to know about Star Trek, The Addams Family and Gilligan's Island. Why are families so hard to get along with? At least one's birth families. In the novel, Amelia has long left her parent's dysfunctional marriage behind. Yet there are references to her father's descent into alcoholism and the impact it had on his wife and daughters. This was all in the early nineteen hundreds. Now they'd be writing memoirs. Amelia's mother would likely focus on her unusual escape, divorce wasn't common back then. Muriel's on choosing the safer course, teacher, mother, and ultimately family spokeswoman. Amelia's would point out what she learned best, that there's no point in sticking to something that makes you miserable. Her marriage pact accompanies this post, a cut and dried agreement that had its roots in what she witnessed growing up. And also, one has to believe, in the complications that arose from marrying someone she wasn't sure she was sexually attracted to. It wasn't purely a marriage of convenience, but surely a marriage of persistence. Putnam asked her countless times before she agreed to it. She was stating her ground-rules, ones she likely wished her own mother had written.

Apparently her husband and mother didn't see eye to eye, at one point the elder Earhart was shipped back east from Amelia's house to live with Muriel. I'd have been curious to sit in on some of those Thanksgiving celebrations and see just where the friction came from. But it's more fun imagining two people with strong opinions fighting over someone who had long ago figured out how to free herself from both of them. That's an elusive target for sure.

Anyhow, I give thanks for my own family and for Amelia who is currently teaching me how to see the world new, no matter your circumstance. She's sending me to 1980, a pivotal year for me to be sure, and I get to remember it through her eyes, to see all the changes that time has wrought, and to get a second chance with her. It's why I write . . . because I can still be surprised even this late in the game.

Monday, November 23, 2009

theories on the Last Flight of Earhart


One has Amelia going down at sea. Another overshooting Howland Island and landing at Nikimaroro, three hundred and fifty miles away, then starving to death. A third crashing and dying in New Guinea. A fourth, captured by the Japanese. In this scenario Amelia is either repatriated, executed or falling sick and dying; choose one. People want an ending. They want resolution. They don't want a mystery, they want to understand what death is. Why it happens. They want endings, even as they struggle against them. Why else do we call it battling cancer? My father did. And right up to the end, he was bemused. "I don't understand where this came from?" Like death had snuck up on him when he wasn't looking out for it. Like he could have prevented it in some way.

There are plenty of families who don't know the ending, their children disappearing, their loved ones vanished, there are conflicts burning the world over. We want to know. We need to know. When we don't it aches. So Amelia is a symbol of all that we can't control. She's our grief writ large. And even though I begin the novel with the news her remains have been found, I don't want that to happen. I want this mystery to endure. I know that her family probably wanted closure at the time. As a parent, I think I would too. The grief would be too much to bear and so it would be the most I could hope for, other than a miraculous resurrection. But if I couldn't have that, if I couldn't put an answer the question then I'd hope for the gift of not knowing. It's the gateway to every theory. Because human imagination is capable of great things. And one of them is this, each theory a different ending. Each ending, the beginning of a different story, each story ours to remake, each revision giving life to someone's fertile imagination. . . so that she continues to inspire, continues to offer us insight into how we can break away, how each one of us can learn to fly. . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

outlining a life


How do you make the mundane dramatic? That's a writer's job. A story must have an arc, we demand that of fiction. We want the protagonist to face danger and overcome it, to face internal demons and best them, to grab hold of their lives and transform themselves, we expect them to act in ways we don't. Our daily lives are filled with extremely modest twists and turns. When we sit down to dinner to share what's gone on, much of it is referential. I talked to this friend. I had this frustrating experience. We get to live vicariously when we read about someone whose life moves more quickly.

Yet my son is reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Now there's a writer who was obsessed with minutiae. Incredibly written and maddening for most readers today who want more plot please! Put that book against the shallow characterizations and completely vapid Dan Brown style. I'm impressed that my son is willing to lose himself in a book that is all about texture and detail. He tells me he's interested in memory and how it works.

I am too, I find myself trying to remember the city in 1980, the body of the novel is set then, and I don't think I'm giving away too much to say that Amelia is there. There in 1980, but you'll have to read the book to see how she manages that trick. Meanwhile, I strain to make sure the details are precise, and as I do I discover the city I once loved so much, the one that's disappeared in the interim. I am trying to do justice to that time, to the New York that was funky and filled with kinetic energy. Back then, when I was young and attending Columbia, much like Amelia did years and years before, I was naive enough to believe that my life would have an arc, that there would be some dramatic moment where everything would be revealed. God was I young!

What's wonderful is that I get to give my character's lives the logic mine has lacked. Mine is filled with small moments. Those are what I treasure, sitting on my back steps watching my children play a game of catch, the summer sun warming me, twilight coming on . . .a familiar moment for so many of us, but perhaps Proust was on to something, our lives are really all in the details.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Muriel and her/their mother

heroism

What does it mean to be a hero? And what does it mean to be a heroine? Why do we have two words to define us? Woman versus man... what are heroic acts that men value? Courage under fire. Courage against all odds. And women? We value all sorts of courageous acts. We protect those we love, would do anything to help them. To defend them. To keep them safe. We'd die for them. Where does Amelia fit into this? This is something I'm grappling with. I think of Muriel, her sister and how she lived her life. A model citizen, a teacher, a mother, a wife . . . and I think of Amelia. How she left all those strictures behind. Why is one choice more valued than the other? Because men define who we are. Men create the values for us. Men make us think that being heroic in daily life is less important. Am I a jaded feminist? I suppose so. I'm at home with being at home. But I'm also in awe of the choices Amelia made. How she bucked the common wisdom and dared to do more.

Amelia was a great proponent of women being as good as men at being whatever they wanted to be . . . doctors, pilots, you name it. It's what makes her so engaging even now. We want to understand what it took for her to be so convinced of your own abilities. We want to be that woman, we all want to be Amelia. Yet what of Muriel? She's as admirable in her own way. What if two roads diverged and you were tempted by both at once.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

try and try and try again

I've begun to write the novel for what I assume will be the final time. One of my three protagonists Sam is the frame. She begins with the news that Amelia's final destination has been discovered. This is entirely possible, after all there's an expensive expedition designed to solve the mystery that's currently in the news. Of course they may find nothing. We may never know what happened to Amelia. Judge Crater anyone?

Sam is middle aged, she has a full life with children and a career. She looks back on a moment when she feels decisions were made, her life was transformed forever. Of course real life is more messy, but there are those moments out there that we all examine. In Sam's case, she was seventeen and in her first year of college. She met a girl who rocked her world and helped her know herself better. Sam isn't famous. And she doesn't become famous in the novel. She lives a life that is imperfect and much like the rest of our lives because we all grow incrementally, our lives shaped by the people we love and the work we do.

Amelia wasn't really all that much different, she was by turns a nurse, a pre med student, and a social worker. Then she became the most famous woman in the world. She took the opportunity when it presented itself and she was certainly ready for it. And why not, from above the world is a stage. And you're not forced to play on it. All that mattered in those days when you were a pilot was being present, and ready. There were so many less bells and whistles, to fly meant to live in the moment. How many of us ever do that for more than a few minutes?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

children and Amelia

In Muriel's book, she talks about Amelia's visit. How she says her work has left her no time for children. This fits in neatly with the concept of choice. Women had to make one. Were they going to focus on career or raising a family. That was then, this is now right? Yet why is it that so many women I know still feel pulled in both directions? Because in this world you can't have it all? Because there just isn't enough time or energy to do both well, or even at all?

Amelia flew away. When I think of her I think of her soaring, and leaving. I imagine Muriel left behind. Muriel whose life was demanding enough; a schoolteacher, a civic minded citizen, a wife and mother. That in itself is more than enough for most of us to juggle. I wonder about regrets. Did Amelia really regret not having children, or was that her sister's construct?

That's the thing, when someone dies they can't tell you what they thought. They can't defend themselves or revise their history. Biographers and writers, yes like myself, get to have a shot.

I look at my children and think they're the best thing I've done. When I was in my twenties I thought career was everything. Then I had my first child and realized how wrong that was. Career is wonderful, getting published is wonderful, writing is what saves me, but my children . . . well they're astonishing. I'm glad I didn't have to choose, but I wonder if I did choose. Choose to be a mother first, a writer second. Choose to focus on them because it was what was necessary. And because I wanted them to have a better chance than I did.

If so, I don't regret it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

why we all need to fly


Amelia defied her father's wishes and took lessons from Neta Snook. Now there's a name. She had discovered her passion, but what drew her to it? I think it was the same sensation I used to have when I'd jump a horse and we'd be suspended in midair. Yes I know, girls and their horses, but that wasn't what it was about. No Freudian imagery please, it was incredible. Simply incredible. A rush, and not the kind you get when you've taken drugs. Not that one at all. Aloft, without anyone or anything holding you back. Of course then the horse landed, and off we went to prepare for the next man made barrier.

Flying used to be fun. It was when I was a kid. Amelia did it for The Fun of It, right? It used to be a way to escape, now it's just drudgery. They stick you in seats that press you up against your companions. They ignore you when you ask for refills and charge you for a bag of stale peanuts, the airlines cut costs and make the experience miserable. But when I was growing up it was glamorous. And when I went off to college in Madison, I'd get into that plane and imagine my whole life was about to be different. Taking off I'd look back at New York City, at the way the boroughs were laid out, at the water curving between all that land and then it would be gone and I'd be gone and the world was filled with possibilities. Life was too.

That's what Amelia must have felt when she went up in a plane for the first time. Imagine controlling that, having that always as an option. You could always escape to a place where no one held onto you. Where you were truly free.

Monday, November 9, 2009

fathers and daughters

Amelia writes of her father. "At one time I thought that (he) must have read everything and, of course, therefore, knew everything." In my family, I thought my mother was the font of all knowledge. This was likely because she contradicted my father at every turn and her voice was several decibels louder.

I grew up in the sixties, Amelia in the teens, a span of years separated our childhood experience, but I found similarities. Her mother was open minde3d, she let her daughters wear bloomers instead of skirts. My mother dressed me in overalls and work boots. Amelia's mother chose to divorce her husband after a long and difficult marriage. It was hardly the norm back then. My mother was one of three women in her medical school class, a Jew who was barred from attending most undergraduate and graduate programs. She later worked on family planning and was central to both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. We were both raised by women who thought outside the box.


I have imagined what Amelia and Muriel must have felt, watching their parent's marriage unravel as their father lost his way and became addicted to alcohol. I've thought about this father, and his unmasking. I've thought about what lessons were learned, how it impacted Amelia's decision to do what she had to do regardless, while Muriel chose a different path.

As we grow older, we learn to narrow our horizons, life presses in, we learn we can't all be Amelia. But we need her, all the same.

Friday, November 6, 2009

the things we lost


My son is interested in memory, in how it works. Why certain images matter, why they stick with us. I think about memory all too much, my mother's is shot. She asks you the same question again and again, at ninety five she has her health and is losing her mind. Where does a mind go, once lost. Where do all the people go who you've keep alive by dint of remembering their faces, their names, the things you shared? My mother refuses to talk about her husband, my father, she keeps that part of her life, the part that matters most to me hidden. She talks thematically, for the entire month of January and February she reminded me that we were entering the next Great Depression, she knew, she'd been there before. It was, obviously, less than comforting.

My father has been dead for five years, and she's never once willingly brought him up. Has she forgotten that much about him? Or is it unbearable to remember? I'm sure a little of both. Aging is so lonely. I bear witness to how her life has gotten smaller and smaller, now I can cup my hand round it. If I close my fingers, then open them I find there's nothing much left. That's what my mother has . . .

Muriel lived to ninety eight. I thought of my mother as I wrote about her, but I knew that she'd lived long enough to lose her sister, her mother, her husband and her son. My mother used to say "It's horrible being a survivor." I couldn't argue with that. You can either fight against the reality, or give in to it. A lot depends on your innate reserves. I have no idea what mine are. But I hope that they'll be like those I imagined for Muriel. I wanted to believe she was like her sister, ferocious, a fighter. As life constricts there has to be a moment of taking joy in it. Of finding something to laugh at, even as it fells us. If not, we're done for.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

who will you be when you grow up?

It's a question isn't it? Here I am shepherding my younger son through his junior year and on to college. I know what he'd love most, to be up on stage with a band . . . well who wouldn't? It's a powerful position, serenading a crowd of hyped up fans. To be admired and beloved. I try to remember what it was I wanted, what I imagined myself as . . . I told my parents I would be a doctor, but that wasn't happening. I was miserable at science, let my fruit flies escape and cribbed the results. When I read about Amelia trying out the idea herself, I thought of that first year of college when I was pre med. I knew even as I was doing it, just how wrong it was for me. I gave it a chance, then gave it up. I've never regretted it, not for a moment.

Regret is beside the point. Amelia's life teaches us that. She tried to be good, to do the right thing, to be a doctor, a social worker, but then she got the chance to do something for herself. Yes, she also spoke about the role of women and how she was blazing a path, but was that what she was thinking of when G.P. Putnam offered her a chance to be the first woman to fly across the Atlantic? I don't believe it. I think she would have given anything to try. She spent the rest of her life trying things out, she never settled for safe, she never wanted ordinary, she wanted to live like most of us live only when we're young. She was foolish and spectacular.

Of course the question of what one wants to be when you grow up, offers a different sort of answer. It requires a child to pick a career. Basketball player, rock star, rocket scientist . . .writer. All these require dealing with reality; you may not play basketball that well, or be seven foot four, you may have talent but not as much as Jack White, as for rockets, who knows how they fly. And writing isn't for the faint of heart, it's a world of hurt and rejection. There's bliss sometimes, but even that feels different from what you'd expected.

I used to have this recurring dream when I was a child, I'd take off from the roof of my parent's house and fly over the city. The sensation was remarkable, freed from all restraint . . . I haven't dreamed it in years and years. But I think Amelia always had that dream, she was always able to convince herself that anything was possible.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

what's so great about "nice" or damned with faint praise


Women are raised to believe that "nice" is good. But what does being nice entail? Does it mean that you never intentionally hurt anyone or express a negative opinion in public. Does it mean you worry over them, and cater to them and make sure their every need is taken care of. Does it mean that you're the fairer, duller sex? How does nice play out in the real world? And is it even possible?

I don't hail from the land of nice. My family values are fight first, fight second, fight third, and imagine that's love.

But this isn't about me, it's about Amelia. Was she "nice?" Or was she playing nice for the crowd. In an interesting interview, Hilary Swank says pretty much the opposite of what she's quoted as saying in Town and Country. "I think Amelia was a very private person. So, you know, what she was expressing out in the world might not necessarily have been what her true thoughts were." Good luck finding those true thoughts in The Fun of It,. Amelia writes about her first solo flight across the Atlantic. "The first place I encountered was Londonderry, and I circled it hoping to locate a landing field but found lovely pastures instead. I succeeded in frightening all the cattle in the county . . . there ended the flight and my happy adventure. Beyond it lay further adventures of hospitality and kindness at the hands of my friends in England, France, Italy, Belgium and America."

Her authorial voice is always courteous and respectful. Forget emotion. No fear. No anxiety. No sadness. It's all of a piece. When she describes her childhood she covers the years where her father's alcoholism lost him job after job with this. "What we missed in continuous contacts over a long period, we gained by becoming adapted to new surroundings quickly."

The hidden Amelia is the one that fascinates me. I don't care how she died. I don't care where her plane went down. I care how she lived. I want to know what she felt and who she was. . . to me the smile's a dare.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Hilary Swank in Town and Country


First, what is this magazine exactly? Who subscribes to it? I'm guessing people who live both in town and in the country? Do those people still actually exist? Well yes but are they interested in Amelia Earhart . . . my guess is no. They're interested in Hilary Swank though and she is quite striking looking. But don't read this expecting to gain any insight into either Swank or the real life character she portrays."Before I started, I only knew the textbook version of Amelia, so that was helpful because if you know a lot about a person, you're wondering why isn't that included?" True that I guess on the other hand, it seemed from this piece that Swank could have used a little more in the way of historical preparation. Don't get me wrong, given the right material I think she's a wonderful actress. Perhaps the interview suffers from the same fault as the movie, it's almost purposely vague. Not to mention extremely light reading, when the interviewer asks what Swank thinks about her subject's sexuality she responds, "She was a tomboy. Later she thought it inconvenient to wear dresses while jumping in and out of planes. It made her ahead of her time. Look how great her clothes were!" My favorite part of the interview is when she claims "I don't think Amelia and I look anything alike," adding, "that was a big challenge for me." Oh come on. When a friend said they'd cast someone as Amelia, I didn't even think, just said "Hilary Swank?" The best thing about the interview are the photos, in them Swank is swanky. The rest? I'll let you be the judge.

Friday, October 30, 2009

amelia and babe didrikson . . .

does thinking it make it so

Best friends. The ones you shared everything with. I was thinking what that was like and remembering how it was leaving home for the first time, how much friendship mattered. And who I was drawn to. I thought about S. I met her my first year in college, she wasn't my only friend by any means. But she was someone I was devoted to. She was incredibly beautiful, and totally different from anyone else I'd ever known. From the deep South, daughter of a conservative family, we roomed next door to each other and shared an interest in pot. I think I remember her asking me if I wanted to get high. I always did. I was sixteen. It was the early seventies. I'd left home to come to this women's college, and was desperate to lose my virginity. I couldn't imagine how that would happen, where I'd meet an appropriate man. We were stuck on this pristine campus, surrounded by girls who'd gone to finishing school.
And suddenly there she was. We became fast friends. Hitched into Boston. Spent our days wandering round, looking for fun in all the wrong places . . . we found a riding stable and took off down some trails wearing the horses out to nothing, we found a guy and slept with him one night because it was too late to go back to school, we talked and talked and sometimes didn't talk, we went to see Leonard Cohen and listened to Dylan, the Band, talked about everything and nothing.We were about as different as you could get, I blurted out everything I felt, she kept it all hidden. I thought her mysterious and powerful . . . It was a certain kind of love. Then I transferred and we fell out of touch. I saw her once in my twenties and never again. Had no idea what happened to her, but when I started thinking about this book, I spent every day thinking about that time. About her. I wanted to fold her and what it felt like to have that sort of friend into my novel. I wanted a character who had her sort of power and grace. A modern day version of Amelia. Then out of nowhere an email.

So does thinking make it so? Is there some odd web of interconnected thought that wraps round the world? This was before Facebook became a way of life for my generation. Her contacting me came out of nowhere. Or did it?

I wondered how Muriel stood the endless round of questions, the same ones posed about her sister, speeches given, interviews granted. In real life everyone said how kind she was, how affable. I wondered what she would have wanted to say to Amelia. And what Amelia would have said to her. I thought about sisters, and best friends, and how age shows us so much . . . but we still miss that time when we were able to imagine the future was ours. That all we had to do was reach out and try.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

amelia and plane

confidence

Do I have what it takes? There's a question. Did Amelia ask herself that? Undoubtedly. And she answered in the affirmative. It's her self confidence that resonates. I admire it. I was raised differently. I doubt myself more than a little. I worry and worry and worry some more. But there was a time when I felt differently. Once I used to love to fly. Every time the plane took off I'd feel such elation. My first flight was to St. Paul for my sister's graduation. I was ecstatic, not just because I was going to see her, the sister I idolized, but because I was in a plane, it seemed truly miraculous. I had a window seat and watched the world slip by. There was turbulence and I actually enjoyed it, compare that to my white knuckled grip now.

I trusted the pilot would land the plane safely. But also I believed that life was open ended. I knew that anything was possible. . .where did that girl go? She grew up and realized that life was surprising. Even when you got what you wanted, it wasn't at all what you expected it to be. I became a fearful flier for a while. But then I realized, I wanted to see too much of the world, I was only hurting myself. So I adjusted. It's the destination that matters most. I want to go somewhere else . . . I want that freedom.

"The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward."

How on earth did she convince herself of that. Or, put in terms that make more sense to me these days, "I want some."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

so sayeth Amelia

Here are two quotes from Amelia.

"Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

"[Women] must pay for everything.... They do get more glory than men for comparable feats. But, also, women get more notoriety when they crash."

This morning I spent my time reading acrimonious discussions, their focus what happened to Amelia? Was she captured by the Japanese and freed, living out the rest of her life under an assumed name? Did she crash at sea and die on impact? Did she and Fred make land and starve to death waiting for rescue? Did her plane go down in Papua New Guinea, the wreckage hidden by the jungle all these years? These and other theories have their proponents. All are concerned with what went so wrong and where the wreckage got to. It was timing that made her famous. And her partnership with Putnam helped make her notoriety last. Certainly Amelia wasn't the best female pilot around, or even the first to do much of what she did. Bessie Coleman faced many more obstacles, years earlier. Bessie was the first African American to become a licensed pilot and the first American to hold an international pilot's license. She died when her plane went into a stall, a mechanic had left a wrench inside the engine.

If the mystery of Amelia's disappearance is solved, will she fade from public consciousness? Is this the only reason we care about her, the not knowing? I certainly hope there's more to it than this . . .there is for me. We all die. It's how we live that matters.

Monday, October 26, 2009

muriel amelia and mark otis

making real life into fiction

It's not for the faint of heart. Or for those who worry they're going to offend. You'll surely offend someone. But if you don't take the leap and try to re-imagine the person, you're doing your work a disservice. And you'll find no audience. Of course, thinking that you can create a full blown character who is based on a real person is one thing. Doing it is quite another.

Amelia was fair game, but Muriel. I knew she'd put herself in the public eye and written two books. But she was really a much more private person. Yet I felt certain that was the story I wanted to tell. I have an older sister who I once idolized. I thought her courageous and brilliant. I believed her to be perfect. Of course real life intervened. You might say I lost that version of my sister.

I thought of Muriel growing old and losing so many people she loved. How she continued to talk about Amelia. How she kept the faith. I wondered how that would really feel. I told myself that she was human, as was Amelia. Human beings aren't saintly. They're full of all sorts of interesting flaws. It's the imperfections that charm us. And gall us.

Amelia might have seemed saintly to the world, but not to Muriel. Muriel knew her better than anyone.

Thinking that, I began to write . . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

she does look like her . . . but

women dare not enter

I often disagree with the New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis. I think she's a snob when it comes to commercial movies. But she's right on target with her review of Amelia. Why on earth did they tag this biopic to a romantic story line? I guess because Hollywood thinks women will only go see a romance. Hey, I see bromances all the time. I must be a teenage boy because I'm there for any superhero movie, and loved Inglourious Basterds. So what do I get when they make a movie about one of my heroines? Treacle. Whatever happened to the idea of making a movie like Silkwood, or god forgive me even Norma Rae. According to Dargis "The film “Amelia” subscribes to the Great Woman Theory of history, which . . . largely involves the great woman and the men in her life." She thinks Amelia "presented too confusing a vision of modern womanhood for filmmakers chasing what Hollywood types see as a fickle female audience."

Of course Amelia Earhart has confounded biographers, screenwriters and novelists for years. The only work of fiction to really break out was I Was Amelia Earhart. And it depended on a fictitious romance; Earhart and Noonan as cast away lovers. I guess the filmmakers might have found themselves thinking of this.

The difficulty lies in the disconnect between her public and private personae. In 1937 Amelia claimed she was looking forward to retirement. "I think I have just one more long flight in my system, after that? My lovely home in North Hollywood-California sunshine-books-friends-leisurely travel-many things!" This was the woman she presented for public view; someone who was ready to give up everything she'd achieved for the pleasures of hearth and home. Would Amelia Earhart have retired? Nothing in her life story points to that. So why did she feel compelled to pretend? Because it fit with the public view, the idea that a woman couldn't just be intrepid, she also had to be demure, charming, discreet, and traditional. Even though she dressed in pants, set flying records, lived with her husband before he divorced, and after they married took a lover, she was still Lady Lindy. The emphasis on Lady. Quite impressive that she pulled it off.

So who was the real Amelia?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

lockheed and amelia

Muriel the plane

A press release from San Diego Air and Space Museum.

"San Diego, CA - On Saturday September 5th, The San Diego Air & Space Museum is scheduled to receive "Muriel," a sister airplane to the one Amelia Earhart flew on her final flight 72 years ago. The Museum will assist with assembly and restoration of the Lockheed Electra L10-E for Grace McGuire, an aviator with hopes of completing Amelia's dream of flying around the world.

McGuire is the proud and passionate owner of "Muriel" one of only 15 L10-Es made and the only remaining one. She purchased the neglected remains of the vintage airplane in the 1980's and began to restore it to original condition. Once "Muriel" is ready to fly, McGuire plans to attempt the only complete duplication of Amelia's trip around the world. There have been several commemorative flights but never an exact duplication using the same type of aircraft, equipment and crew. . ."

You really have to wonder what Muriel would say about this, or at least I have to wonder.

Friday, October 23, 2009

the reviews are in

The Times this morning was scathing.Here's one take "a boring movie full of mockable dialogue, dreadful acting and long, supposedly poetic narration which could induce a coma if you don't have enough caffeine flowing through your veins." Please don't make me have to see it. Actually I could tell from the trailer, too many sweeping shots, and a voice over! Ugh. Another critic thought the movie was basically a trailer . . . I think I know why there's this reverence towards her. It's the filter she created still working in her favor, screening the real Amelia, keeping her at arm's length. Odd that in this confessional era, where everyone is willing to bare their navels, their souls, their sex lives, basically till you want to run screaming from them, she remains elusive. I'm sure that the boredom comes from the thinness of the characterization. Reverence can be incredibly dull. Yet I've spent three years with Amelia and I can tell you that she's intelligent, opinionated, driven, often generous and always selfish. But of course that's my take. Not Mira Nair's.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

where did she get to? part one. . .

So many theories, so little time.
After her plane vanished, there were those who believed Amelia faked her own death to escape her loveless marriage. Now why would she go to so much trouble? Her own parents divorced. Did she really have to fly almost all the way around the world to leave a man? I think this theory was popular because it played into the idea of a different Amelia. In reality she was someone who did exactly what she wanted, both romantically and professionally. She was forthright and opinionated. So once she was no longer around to protest, there were those who offered her up as the battered wife of a svengali. One biography follows this theory to its natural conclusion, making much of Putnam's control over her life. Apparently it was hard for some to believe a woman was capable of being this ambitious without a man controlling her every move.

One flaw in this theory is in imagining the planning. All the careful payoffs, the secret landing strip in the middle of nowhere . . . another is Amelia's supposed lack of conscience. There was the expense the government then went to, a quarter of a million dollars a day for search and rescue efforts.

Post feminist thinking has handily revised our image of what a woman can do or be, could we have come this far without Amelia? I wonder.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why was she smiling?

Some biographers claim Amelia's smile was calculating, not a matter of personality but vanity. She wanted to hide her teeth, so she never smiled fully. Was she vain? A funny question when you consider how she dressed, button down men's shirts and slacks, a leather jacket, and often enough a leather flying cap. She looked like a boy and one of the boys. Yet, of course that made her quite unique. And she always smiled to and for the camera. Amelia calculated her progress, she may not have predicted or planned her fame, but she clearly enjoyed it. It gave her the opportunity to do what she wanted. And be who she wanted.

Our views of her have changed, at first much was made of her husband Putnam's part in molding her and promoting her. It seems odd to me that anyone ever doubted she had the upper hand. All you had to do was read the contract she drew up with him when she married him to see that she was in charge."You must know again my reluctance to marry, my feeling that I shatter thereby chances in work which means most to me. I feel the move just now as foolish as anything I could do. I know there may be compensations but have no heart to look ahead. On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any medieval code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly... Please let us not interfere with the others' work or play, nor let the world see our private joys or disagreements." Back then, the world didn't have to know, there was no twenty four hour news cycle, no long lens bearing paparazzi. Amelia got to control her image. How powerful that must be, to show the world only what you want . . . to be able to pretend to be exactly who you want to be and have millions of fans believing it.

No wonder she was always smiling.

Monday, October 19, 2009

amelia muriel and lamb

real life versus fiction

When I first had the idea for this book, I didn't realize how difficult it would be to use an historical figure as a major character. It sounded great, hey, what about a book with Amelia Earhart in it. There had already been a best seller, though it had nothing to do with my concept. I was writing a novel that, like The Hours, had threaded narratives. Amelia's childhood was one. Sam's life in New York in 1980 was another. Out of nowhere, this middle aged Navy wife Alma appeared. Then I discovered Muriel, Amelia's sister who was alive in 1980. I decided to write from her point of view instead of Amelia's.

I was unsure how to write about a real person who was really only famous because of her sister. I worried over this. How could I do her justice? Was it fair? Yes, she'd put herself in the public domain by writing about her sister and publishing a book, but still . . .I thought a lot about aging, and about my own parents, particularly my mother. I thought about how it felt being the survivor. In the end, I decided I needed both sister's points of view. I needed Amelia alive.

Of course everyone has their particular version of Amelia Earhart. Intrepid explorer. Feminist. Sexually indeterminate icon. I needed to be sure she was mine. The bond between sisters is decidedly complicated, and these two were careful writers, yet I found a subtext. Amelia's insistence on making a grand entrance to Muriel's rehearsal dinner, flying up in stormy weather, then having to cancel, everyone worrying about her instead of celebrating her sister's big moment. It seemed at best thoughtless, at worst, selfish, why was the grand entrance so important? There were other stories where these sisters had a different take. Of course eyewitness accounts are generally unreliable and often differ. That's what makes them intriguing. With this as my jumping off point, I began to write . . .

Sunday, October 18, 2009

amelia amelia amelia

Some people are telling me what great timing, look, there's a movie coming out about Amelia. Of course, I'm not really sure that it's good for me, bad for me, indifferent . . . the trailer for the movie has these sweepings shots that remind me of "I had a farm in Africa." Yes, I loved that movie, but somehow I don't think Amelia Earhart's real life story works in the same way, I think Hilary Swank is a terrific actress and a no brainer, she looks like Amelia Earhart. But Amelia's books aren't exactly literary masterpieces. She was reticent to a fault. Hilary isn't Meryl. And Richard Gere, definitely not Robert Redford in his prime. It opens this week. Who knows, maybe it will be fantastic but is that going to matter when I've written a novel where Amelia is one of four characters, and goes from being a ghost to being alive in 1980, mainly through the force of her need to put some things to rest. People are fascinated with her, I do know that, because I was and still am and there are always books and articles and obsessive pursuits of how she died . . . those same people might even be offended by my take on who she was, I definitely take liberties. Lots of them, both with her and with her family. Wait, if they're offended then I'll actually have a chance to sell a few books. Glory be.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Setting Amelia Free at Last

This book has been three years in the making. It's about loss and love and friendship and being oh so young. When I started it, back in the fall of 2006, I thought it would be about Amelia Earhart and these two college freshmen who were just starting off . . . I wasn't sure where it would be set or what would happen in it. Just that idea. Then the story morphed, suddenly I was wondering how to stick Amelia into a book set in 1980-81 (not coincidentally when I attended Columbia Graduate School and lived on the Upper West Side). I did some research and discovered her sister was alive and then I did more research, got her sister's book, and suddenly another character appeared, Amelia's real life sister, Muriel. I spent so much time worrying how to write about someone who was real, but not famous. I felt I would hurt her, or that her family would come after me for it, but that of course presumes a lot, first and foremost that this novel is published. I know how hard it is to be published, after all in my former incarnation it took me years to sell my first novel. So that was one presumption, the other was that they would care. The fact is, she wrote her own book about her sister, and it was interesting to me, as much for what it left out as for what it described. I started thinking about sisters and best friends and how the two relationships connect. And then out of nowhere this middle aged mother from the midwest appeared in my narrative. Year one . . .
From that first draft, so many years ago, a new book emerged. One where Amelia comes to life in 1980 . . . it's become a novel that's so deeply personal, a novel about loss and missed opportunities. This blog is going to be about the process of writing, about editing and changing and transforming and selling. Acceptance and rejection. . . so out it goes to my agent.