“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
~ Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Despite the briskly falling snow in New Hampshire, the new year brought temperate weather
uncharacteristic of most January firsts. In Sugar Hill, there was not enough fluffly ground cover for the tread of our cross country skis and, certainly not, for our snow shoes. Our cargo carrier remained unopen the entire weekend—all the winter sports apparatus untouched.
Rain fell on Saturday concocting a mud-slush, so we drove into Littleton, had lunch and poked around in Main Street's shops. It was there, in just L, an intriguing little shop that sells vintage-mod furnishings and accessories, that I found a collection of pastel linen-covered children's novels, like Little Women, The Heart of Dog, Kim and The Water Babies, that charmed me for some time. I wanted to pull them from the antique bookshelf, but they were all so delicately pretty that all of them, all of them, spoke to me so, reminded me of the children's book I'd always wanted to write, and I fell into a gentle trance that precluded the stroke of my fingers upon their spines.
* * *
On our route from Rhode Island to New Hampshire, a portion of the highway we travel cuts just below Lowell, MA—an old mill city where Jack Kerouac was born. Each time we drive below Lowell, I think of Kerouac. I wonder what he may have written had he lived more than his too short forty-seven years. I think about his travels, his search for the Absolute Being, for God. And as I write this passage, I think how I may never, ever, remove from my writing literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition,* and how I often feel that what I'm writing may never, ever, be as original or unique as anything Kerouac put out for the world, and wonder why I can't stop fretting over perfection of sentence and paragraph, all too aware that it threatens every work on which I embark.
Except for one piece: the children's book I'd always wanted to write, which I wrote (the project I mentioned here), finally, and which my son illustrated in one crazed month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Hence, my long absence.) I didn't, per se, have a specific story I wanted to write, but I had a long standing vision that I would, at some point in my life, get to a children's story. Christmas, and my young nephew, gave me the impetus—and those of you who read me know I work better (or shall I say, work with more discipline?) with looming deadlines.
And I think the words are fairly simple! (To get there, though, my son had to drop a few hints about some of my word choices.) Though the process of writing this book, the research, the illustration work, the water colors over Max's illustrations by myself and my dear friend Linda—whose water color over Max's pencil sketches is shown above on the cover and on the second and third photo (you can see the difference in her skill level versus mine)—consumed a multitude of hours, and was much more work than I had anticipated. There were a few mistakes, setbacks and frustrations, like technical glitches converting the project to a printed book, and not using the proper paper for water color. Learning how to water color, alone, was quite an undertaking, and I owe Linda more than just a few paint brushes for her kind tutelage and expertise. I was not only surprised by the sheer amount of work that was required, but also, by how much I enjoyed the process. I have to admit, too, that I was surprised that the book was finished in time (by the skin of my teeth) for Max and me to give it to my nephew as a Christmas present.
Who knows, I may just attempt it again. But perhaps I'll give myself more than a month's time.
Anyway, that Kerouac quote above, that's my resolution for 2012. I'd like to make it stick.
Happy New Year!
* Jack Kerouc, “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials” from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, published in Heaven & Other Poems, copyright © 1958, 1977, 1983. Grey Fox Press.
The accompanying Klute doll, made from an old sweater and felt scraps. A (very) limited edition. ;)
Hi Jayne, what a lovely gift - and all the better for the effort that went into it.ReplyDelete
It's a great quote...and resolution.ReplyDelete
Happy New Year, Jayne!
Wow, Jayne, congratulations on writing and illustrating and finishing "Klute and the River Flute'. Astounding that you got it all done in little more than a month. You must feel like a dynamo--tired but full of a deep, rich energy. How great that you've done it at last! Such wonderful news. Happiest of New Year's, Jayne. xoReplyDelete
A wonderful quote and a wonderful book. You are already on the road to your new year's resolution.ReplyDelete
what a very cool present.ReplyDelete
So that's what you've been up to the last month, pretty cool i must say...ReplyDelete
i don't think i've ever had a problem with literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibitions, but maybe i'm a special case, lol, also why i don't take writing classes... and for the record i loved Jack when i was young and we share one trait, we're both trying to rip off Celine but then again so were most of the Beats were...
excellent quote and book.ReplyDelete
i predict you're going to have fabulous 2012.
Very well done, Jayne! I am impressed not only with the unveiling but the manner in which you chose to build up to it a bit.ReplyDelete
Time extremely well spent during your absence. And thank you for your words on Kerouac's search for 'Absolute Being.' It sinks into the pores. (Excellent intro quote for the payoff. Just a great post, altogether.)
Happy New Year!
wow, Jayne, what a wonderful gift for your nephew and a great way to spend time with your son. You did a magnificent job. I'd love you to be my aunt!ReplyDelete
Happy New Year! Keep up the Awesome!
Great Kerouac quote (I read the Darma Bums many years ago). Unfortunately, I've never been to New England, but plan to visit next time I go to USA for vacation >:)ReplyDelete
Cold As Heaven
Aaah J girl...you're already halfway there, so no more of this second guessing...seriously...ReplyDelete
the word you put down is always the right word and over-editing can be a killer...as we all know..
anyway congrats on the lil tome you have put together...you must be as proud as punch!
anyway hope that serious tone made sense....welcome to 2012...whilst you are frolicking in snow us poor folk in kill city are sweltering our collective arses off...
keep on writing ;)
Dang what a feat! I would have been gone awhile too! The book looks wonderful so great big congrats!!! :)ReplyDelete
Oh and happy new year!
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow
Sharon- Thank you! I made a little companion Klute doll to go along with the book (which really sent me over the edge), but he didn't make the cut here. ;ReplyDelete
Loree- Resolve, resolve. Another year... I'm going to keep my eye on it. ;)ReplyDelete
Melissa- Thanks so much. It was a marathon of long days and late nights, and I was exhausted at the end, but, much like you said, it was well worth it. It's the kind of exhaustion that feels good!ReplyDelete
A very happy New Year to you, too. :)
Bill- I hope so--resolutions haven't always been my strength. But I've declared it here, and words do carry strength, now don't they? ;)ReplyDelete
Ellen- Thank you! Merry New Year. :DReplyDelete
Kono- Vive la France! Long live the French writers (that includes Canadian ones, too). Celine influenced many of my favorite authors.ReplyDelete
It helps to have a solid foundation in grammar, but damn, rules are made to be broken. My father having been an English teacher, I still feel rebellious when I write a sentence that I know is not a "complete" sentence. But sometimes incomplete sentences are much more effective. Oh, if I could be as uninhibited as you... ;)
Billy- I'm hoping so! For all of us. Hoping the Mayans were clueless. Ha. ;xReplyDelete
Suze- so glad you enjoyed this post. I was half asleep when I wrote it last night (after we returned from our weekend retreat).ReplyDelete
Kids return to school tomorrow, and I'm looking forward to getting back to at least a semi-routine of writing.
Wishing you lots of smiles in 2012. :)
Nessa- Well I'm almost old enough! I have twenty (20!) nieces and nephews, and I doubt I could have done this 20 times over. I guess I saved it for the last little one. But it was fun. Wait, did I just say fun? Oh yes, that's right, I did enjoy it! ;)ReplyDelete
Cold- I would have guessed you read Dharma Bums. I actually never read it, but obviously like the quote (is that cheating?). Despite its negative reviews, I think I should get a hold of it.ReplyDelete
You'd like New England. Lots of magnificent mountains and great skiing--have to be careful for ice, though. :)
Dan- can we over-edit? Really? (Kiiidding.) One of my professors liked to remind me that I couldn't edit enough. Meh. She ought read some Kerouac. ;)ReplyDelete
Hope you've got plenty of a/c to cool you this winter--er, summer. But I know you don't need my to tell you to stay cool. Thanks for your enthusiasm, Dan. I am pretty happy that I completed the book. :)
Jules- Now you see, if I were to actually get myself into writing a novel, I wonder if I'd blog at all! Maybe I should give it a whirl and see what happens?ReplyDelete
Happy, happy New Year, Jules. :D
Jayne, what an amazing job you did with this book. I love the words and illustrations, and the vibe the book gives off. It's charming!!!ReplyDelete
Now that you've broken the ice you can dive into the water. You have everything that you need to follow your dreams.
What a happy New Year Jayne!
I'm very impressed with your ingenuity and the energy you put into this. How enterprising and what a lovely result!ReplyDelete
I like your resolution and I'll adopt it, if I may.
Leah- Oh, but the water's so cold it's scary! I suppose I should be used to cold waters, living and New England and all. Speaking of water... the book has a bit of an environmental message concerning our waters, and I included a link to the Natural Resources Defense Council on the last page of the book.ReplyDelete
Thanks for your kind, supportive words, Leah. And just for you (since we talked about this earlier) I'm going to add a photo of the Klute doll I made from an old sweater and felt scraps.
Happy New Year! :D
Nance- It was well worth it just to see the smile on my nephew's face. Now I wonder if I can write one for publication?? But I think I've much to learn before pursuing that.ReplyDelete
Oh yes, please adopt the resolution! A group effort--fortifies our resolve. :)
oh wow - sounds great - the illustrations look lovely..and love the kerouac quote..ReplyDelete
Jayne! I've missed reading your writings while you were away...writing!ReplyDelete
Children's books are so important. I think they leave such as lasting impression on children. Congratulations on your addition to posterity. Very cool that your son illustrated this. I especially like the drawing of the blue heron.
Claudia- Thank you--Max will be happy to hear you like his art work. I think, though, the next time (should there be one) my son will pass on the illustrations. He enjoyed the work, but he's too pressed for time and worked for a peanuts--quite literally. ;)ReplyDelete
Leonora- And thanks so much for dropping by! I feel the same way about children's literature. Even picture books. And it's funny how some of the best are some of the simplest stories. I had to keep reminding myself of that as I wrote the book. ;)ReplyDelete
Wow - I am so very impressed. I agree with Sharon. That took a lot of dedication and what an excellent and original gift. I would love to read the words to that story.ReplyDelete
PS the doll is adorable, and what a nice touch to add after all the work you had already put in.
one word, whoa. very impressive!!!ReplyDelete
I love your book. Awesome. It's so rich with color. And the title is so clever. Yay!ReplyDelete
Hillary- Thank you kindly. I think the book would need to be reworked a bit to be fit for mass consumption, never mind publication. If I can ever figure out how to publish it on Blurb (my scans didn't fit the format), though, I may do that.ReplyDelete
Max did publish an illustrated book on Blurb some years ago, but I just can't seem to make it work for this one. Maybe it's the new Mac?? Vay.
Had fun making the doll. :)
Marge- Bien merci! Je suis fatigué...ReplyDelete
JW- Drenched with color indeed. Literally. Very soggy paper! The drying process, alone, took some time. Next project, we use water color paper. You'd think that would have been obvious, eh? ;)ReplyDelete
Congratulations! As to Kerouac, maybe he wouldn't have written anything more. As I recall, he was having his usual beer and whiskey for breakfast the morning his esophageal varices bled out. I too think of him though, but his life ended so sadly that it gets in my way of enjoying his writing.ReplyDelete
you're children's book looks great Jayne - best of luck with that.ReplyDelete
Is there anything you can't do? The book is simply beautiful...the writing and the illustrations. You've raised a son who is both willing and talented! And then you whip up a darling little doll. Propped up, I see, against a Kitchen Aid which tells me the woman bakes when she's not coming up with gorgeous prose...or more likely, while she's coming up with it...
I love everything about this. Happy, Happy New Year!
That is so, so cool that you got that written/illustrated. It looks amazing and is such a great gift.ReplyDelete
Also, fun fact: My so-called agent holds Jack Kerouac's estate. Apparently it's easier to manage a dead man's money than it is to try to sell a client's novel.
Snowbrush- From what I've read, it was a pretty horrible death. But I'd be willing to bet, had he lived longer, he would have cranked out more brilliant spontaneous prose. Nevertheless, he gave us one the very best novels of the twentieth century. :)ReplyDelete
David- Thank you. It's success can only be measured by the joy my nephew finds in it. ;)ReplyDelete
Oh Seré - There's plenty I can't do, trust me! But my grandmother was a seamstress and crafter, and passed on her love of handmade things to me.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for your enthusiasm. Now if only I could find an an agent. ;)
(Ha! I won't pretend--the book would need a lot of work before I could even dream about that. ;/)
Beer- Are you kidding? Now that is cool! I think Kerouac would have really liked the Beer team, too.ReplyDelete
And I'm guessing that you are one client whose book will sell! They love you, B! (Me too.) ;)
One loves the Dharma BUmsReplyDelete
Kerouac was a voracious editor, he wanted it to look off the cuff but he wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote like a madman, i fell out of love with Jack along time ago but the memories of sitting in those roominghouses and reading On the Road, Dharma Bums, the Subterraneans (my personal favorite)at the tender age of 20 will never fade, then of course i found Celine a year or so later and nothing has been the same since.ReplyDelete
How the hell did I miss this post? Didn't you fire the flare gun we agreed on?!?ReplyDelete
Being free of "literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition" is, I think, a little overrated. I mean, you may very well have inhibitions of one sort or another keeping you away from the keyboard (who doesn't?), or maybe just from reaching "The End" of work X, Y, or Z. But those are probably human inhibitions (fear of exposure or embarrassment, insecurity, all that), not writerly ones. Writerly Inhibitions Are Our Friends -- much more than all the anarchists would have us believe. (Gratuitous opinion offered free of charge.)
Love the Klute project, although of course -- of course -- I can't help thinking of Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. Which wouldn't be a very nice gift for a young nephew, at least (I assume!) in his parents' eyes. Was it received as well as you'd hoped (both by nephew and sibling)???
A worthy resolution indeed, Jayne.ReplyDelete
Congratulations, excellent book. I trust your nephew was suitably impressed?
Happy New Year!
Laoch- One does love the Dharma Bums! Doesn't one? I don't know, I didn't read it. ;)ReplyDelete
Kono- I think I really ought to read more Celine. I wish I hadn't two stacks of books half way up my bedroom wall in queue. Oh, what the hell, might as well add more. ;)ReplyDelete
And I still think that as Kerouac matured (had he let go of the drink) he would have put out some quality reads.
JES- I took Nance's test and it turns out I'm an HSP, so firing flare guns would have sent me crawling to a trench. So... I thought if better to sneak it in here and see of anyone caught on. ;)ReplyDelete
"Writerly Inhibitions Are Our Friends." Is that a JES original? Oh my gosh, I'm going to print that out and post it on the wall above my laptop! (Head's a-spinnin'--inhibit/don't inhibit... aaarrrggghhh!) Problem is, I have the Hemingway syndrome (I think it was Papa) -- I have a deep seeded need to edit every line, and then paragraphs as I'm writing the story! Now is that just a human inhibition?
Oh, I chuckled a little thinking about Fonda and Sutherland in Klute as I wrote this book. (My son, of course, has no idea.) I just loved that movie, and well, Klute, how cool can a name be (even if it's a surname)? I think the little nephew may appreciate it in the distant future. And yes, it was very well received! :)
Ms. Mask- The little guy loved it, thank you. He'll probably grow out of the little doll, though, before he does the book. (I think my brother hopes, anyway. Ha!)ReplyDelete
What a beautiful gift. Just lovely!ReplyDelete
The opening of this post read like a book Jayne - I really loved it. I'm sure you have many more (books) to come.
A very Happy New Year to you!
SF- Or shall I say, Lucy! Of course, I just love your name, and wonder if if you might also go by "Lu" or Lulu"??ReplyDelete
So glad you liked what you saw of the book. I do feel encouraged, from your support and everyone else who left such kind words, to produce more little books. Or, who know, maybe something a bit larger. Hmm...
Congratulations, "Klute and the River Flute" looks fantastic.ReplyDelete
Happy New Year, Jayne!
Wonderful! You'd think that writing a children's book would be easy and simple. It's a faux pas! Kids aren't easy and simple so why should their literature be so? What a great labour of love to be gifted. What a treasure of an aunt! Here's to keeping it simple.ReplyDelete
Paul- Thank you. And Happy New Year to you, too. I hope we see you back blogging soon. :DReplyDelete
LW- Those little sprites are certainly NOT easy and simple! Therein lies the complexities of inking children's literature (not to say Klute is literature.ReplyDelete
I have in hand Rhode Island College's new Spring Courses catalog , and thinking about taking a Children's Literature class. I think it'd be quite interesting. :)