Monday, April 07, 2008


Posted by Lisa Marnell

“I was in the right place at the right time.” That’s how my father explained two things (good things) that happened to him in his life. He always said those words with a sigh and he seemed to forget where he was during his moments of blind staring afterward. If he was sitting in our kitchen in our suburban home outside of Montreal, he’d study the linoleum floor and not notice how the edges close to the door were peeling. If he was driving at the time, he’d relax his hands on the steering wheel and turn into a cool and collected driver for once.

It was fate, in his mind, that he got hired as a pilot for Eastern Airlines. It was destiny he should meet and marry my mom, a flight attendant, Calendar Girl for the airlines, no less.

There are moments, some small, some huge, that change the direction of our lives in some way, enough to make a difference.

In 2004, I bought the book, Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. I had made the decision to write a novel. I didn't know her book would be the inspiration that would open the door to whatever talents and drive I had to write. It taught me the difference between good writing and bad, and it helped me to strive to improve my own skills.

In 2006, I attended Michael Lowenthal’s session at the Muse & the Marketplace, Boston’s Grub Street conference. Though Michael, alone, was inspiration enough - his enthusiasm and charisma were tangible – his topic, timeline in fiction, helped my writing enormously. Events in the imaginary worlds we write about happen chronologically, but their revelation in a story rarely do. As writers of fiction, we use flashbacks, flashforwards, foreshadowing, reflection. Where do we start a story? At the beginning? Most oftentimes that’s unlikely. As my peers in our writer’s group can attest, timeline and revelation of events is key in my WIP.

As some of you know, I moved in July, to sunny California. Boxes and boxes arrived from Massachusetts. Books were put on shelves, but some ??? were missing. Over the past few months I have turned to my bookshelf for two books I love and rely on for both inspiration and craft. Word Painting and Avoidance. sadly, were missing. Until tonight.

I’ll admit, I was not engaged in anything profound at the time; I was searching for my blow dryer – how mundane – and I reached into a box of winter clothes I had pushed to the back of my closet. I hoped my hand would close around the blow dryer’s cord, instead I felt the spine of a book. As I pulled out the book, I noticed the beige color, the light blue painting: Word Painting. I gasped (really, I did). As I reached into the box again, I wasn’t looking for the wire of my blow dryer. When my fingers touched the smooth cover of a book, I knew it was Michael’s book. It was Avoidance.

It was fate, of course, those books were together, those bound, neatly packaged, symbols of inspiration. Odd, too, I finalized my plot last night: it’s time for the writing, the meat, the revisions.

I never had a sign before though other members of our writing group have. Amy has. Lynne has too, I think. Hannah? Finding these books as I feel good about my story is a sign. Avoidance and Word Painting will sit on my desk, to the right of my laptop. I will read them when I need to remember what good writing sounds like. I will drink in their covers and feel their presence and run my fingers along their well worn pages when I need to know I was meant to finish what I started.


Megan said...

I raise my coffee mug to you. Cheers!

Larramie said...

Definitely a sign, Lisa, that you're on your way!

Trish Ryan said...

That's awesome...great post!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

By the way, yes I have had signs, but never as powerful and expansive as Avoidance. I need to hide my copy, I think!