Monday, April 4, 2016

Still Thinking About It

Wrecked is due for release on October 4, 2016.
Last night I was on the phone with my hilarious friend, Mary. This is my college friend who challenges me in more ways than I can count, whether she’s handing me a book I’ve yet to read, questioning my political assumptions, shoving my canoe down a class three rapid or asking me to taste some hairy concoction out of Ottolenghi. Mary keeps you moving forward. There’s no standing on a hill of sand when she’s around.

So when I told her the galleys for my latest novel have just gone out and reactions/reviews trickling in, her comment was, “So it’s done, right? That book is finished? Yay, you can think about something else now!” I paused.  I mean, yeah, it is time to start a new project (and I have, the tiniest of baby steps have been taken) but her comment startled me. And I realize that while I’m done writing this book, I may never be finished thinking about, and learning about, and talking about, the issues it explores.

Wrecked is the story of an accusation of sexual assault on a college campus. It is narrated by Haley (the roommate of the accuser) and Richard (the housemate of the accused.) In between their alternating chapters is an ongoing, omniscient retelling of the night and the events in question, so unlike the characters in the book, who must rely on what they are told by a variety of sources, the reader sees.  Point-of-view in the novel is not merely a narrative device: it’s a theme.

You can understand Mary’s desire for me to move on. This is not a happy topic. Actually, this is a wrenching, painful, horrible topic, and I’ve been existing in this imaginative world for years. Some of the “research” I’ve needed to do has been emotionally excruciating.

But if anything, I’m still all in on this one. And while I’m done writing the story I needed to write, I’m far from done learning and processing. I’m actually hungry for the next step, which is not only hearing from readers, but also talking, listening, learning. Some of that will no doubt emerge organically, from school visits to readings to simply chatting with friends. But I’m hoping this blog might also be a place where I can keep the conversation going.

So for starters: let me toss out three things (a book, an article, an op-ed) which have been percolating in my head this week, which also happens to be the week the galleys for Wrecked are flying out into the world. Take a look, tell me what you think:
  •        Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex launched last Friday and landed on my doorstep that afternoon, (well done, Harper!) I’m halfway through and 1. It has already sparked some really important conversations between me and my daughter, and 2. Every woman needs to read this. Then talk about it. I’m still reading, so more on this book later …. 
  •        Among the many ways I “researched” Wrecked was reading current students’ writing about sex, sexual assault, and the hookup culture on campus. This piece in the April 2, 2016 issue of The Bowdoin Orient was remarkable to me not only in light of what I’m reading in Orenstein’s book, but also for the rage expressed by the writer. Take a look at "Male Entitlement Promotes a Hierarchy in Bowdoin's Hookup Culture.
  •       Writing instructors tell us to ask the question: What does my character want? I have found that to be an excellent guide as I develop a character, and throughout my writing process I’ll keep checking in on that question and expanding/honing the answer. It’s something that came to mind when I was reading a thought provoking article by Middlebury College graduate Leah Fessler ’15, who wrote her thesis about relationships on campus. I think Leah is on to something important here, particularly her observations about hookup culture, what young women want, and feminism. Check out Modern Love. 

This is what I’m reading/thinking about this week. And that doesn’t begin to approach the stack on my night table. Maybe I can convince Mary to read some of it for me and summarize …

Stay tuned.

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