joni abilene

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Month: June, 2013

a pause in production

Something is wrong with me. I was working steady, trying so hard to write the best damn book I could after years of writing a few other best damn books that anyone could attempt to write, and now—I don’t know what it is—I’ve realized I completely suck at this and should just give it a rest. Maybe it’s pressure. My goal was to have something publishable by the fall so that I could justify pursuing this while the kids were both at school full time, but that seems really selfish to me now. No one’s telling me I’m any good, I’m not getting published—all signs point to me getting a full time job.

Very sad right now, but again, I can’t justify this anymore.

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A bit about me

I just realized that I’ve never really introduced myself here. I merely started writing in hopes the world would get a good idea of my inner workings through my outer workings.

Hi, my name is Joni.

Sometimes I have strawberry blonde hair, sometimes I have auburn hair. It goes back and forth and drives my mother crazy. But that’s not why I do it. I do it for the same reason I read two, sometimes three, books at a time: I’m restless and easy to boredom. But I do like that it drives my mother crazy.

But I don’t live with my mother. I’m an a-dult. The thing that makes me so adultish is that I have two kids. But I guess anyone could do that. What really makes me a certified grown up is that I drink coffee.

I write books. And stories. It’s fun. It’d be even more fun if I could get an agent and make money. Someday that will happen, but I’m determined to have fun now instead of waiting.

I live in Kansas. It’s hot.

Here’s a little interview that I did by myself taken from a fellow writer whose name shall remain nameless. I hope you like it. After this, I will set the blog into robot mode, so consider yourself lucky that I opened up for this brief, beautiful moment. Peace, Joni.

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When did you first start writing? I wrote many stories throughout junior high and high school, mainly for my own entertainment. There were a lot of copycat attempts, fan fiction I guess, for things like The Babysitter’s Club, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables and fanciful teen writing like that. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my twenties, but even then I figured publication was a long way from what I could accomplish.

Who are your favorite authors? I love Jack Finney. He had the ability to write detail like no one on this earth, and he could make the impossible come to life. He was also very funny. Go read Good Neighbor Sam and tell me that that isn’t brilliant satire. Of course there was Jean Shepherd whose book of short stories about his childhood in Hammond, IN led to the movie, A Christmas Story. He was a great satirist as well, and I think it’s important to note that satire isn’t merely about being funny, true satire is about bringing the mundane everyday occurrences to life and making us look at them in a shared, sometimes painfully lighthearted way. Also, I love James Thurber. His satire was subtle yet, elegant. What I love about him was the way he captured the male-female relationship. Perhaps if he were still alive he’d be writing about same-sex relationships and finding quaint little idiosyncrasies in that. And then there’s Twain, who I need to read more of. Perhaps this summer.

For those I look up to, Carson McCullers would be top of my list. I feel close to her on an emotional level, yet I am humbled by my inability to ever reach her technical greatness. She was extraordinarily gifted with, not only writing, but an understanding of the human psyche that no one else on this world can possibly touch. At the pinnacle of my work, I’d like to be able to capture some small essence of her talent, but it isn’t likely.

Then there’s Steinbeck and McMurtry, and I have a happy glowy love for 70’s teen writers like Paul Zindel and S.E. Hinton, both of whom were (are) great at capturing voice and the human condition, with enormous amounts of epiphanies in their work.

Any difficulties being a writer in the Midwest? There probably is, but how can I make comparisons when I’m here and not somewhere else? The real difficulty is being me in the Midwest. It’s not the Midwest trying to get published, writing every day, trying to find support. It’s me.

Describe your current project—A mother and son split POV set to the 1976 Bicentennial. It’s coming–of-age by every definition: the mother has recently abandoned a bad marriage and must find a way to support herself and her son. There are events from her childhood that she’s never dealt with, and so she must do that as well as accept a new love that, by society’s standards, is immoral. As for the son, his journey is to go from boy to man without losing too much of his dignity, which I think is probably a very hard thing to do. I think a boy wants to be a man so bad and if he isn’t shown how he has to figure it out himself, but there’s a lot of risk in the process—choices that could corrupt him for life. In this case, he falls in love with his mother’s best friend, a forty-year-old mother of two. He wants so badly to be taken seriously, but I think we’d all agree that that kind of love wouldn’t be right.

What’s your most favorite character you’ve written so far? That’s a hard question, especially since I’ve quite a few with my short stories. But the one I keep coming back to as the strongest is Pepper Rollins, a housewife who wants just a bit more than she’s getting in life. There’s that fine line, you know, of wanting more. It can destroy everything. She pleads, she pushes and her husband Val tells her ‘No’ every time. I think what I like about Pepper is she maintains a sense of humor through it all; she’s the kind of woman who can survive anything because there’s a strength inside of her that is unbreakable. But you do see her get very close to losing it and it’s rather heartbreaking. No one should ever have to beg that hard for a simple human right.

Do you tell people you’re a writer? If they ask. I’m not going to volunteer the information because it usually brings the additional question of, “What do you write?” or “Have you been published?” Tell them what you write and their ears fall off from boredom. Tell them you’ve been published and they stop talking to you. And then there’s the: “I always wanted to write a book.” Everybody on this planet, apparently, has an unwritten book inside of them waiting to come out.

What goals do you have for your books? I want them to go through the wonderful, cleansing experience of being professionally edited and then published to great acclaim. Then I can sit back and tell the world to ‘suck it’ for at least ten minutes before I start working on the next one.

For the love of blood

I speak occasionally of my mother and our sometimes stunted relationship. I love the idea of being around her, but the actuality of it is not the same as my ephemeral envisionings. I long for her, and yet when we meet up I experience the same fear of rejection and judgement as I did as a child. Example: I can look in the mirror one day and be mildly satisfied with myself, but on a day my mother is coming for a visit, I labor in the mirror for hours without finding any real satisfaction. I see myself through her eyes, and her vision is fine-point and exclusive. Impossible to please. I sweat and shake. Meeting my mother is never an easy process, and yet as I said, I love her too much to stay away for too long.

But I do see the humor in our relationship, one that is akin to a Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fischer—if you want to make comparisons. I could write a book about it and relish in the material that was once fodder for tears but now—with time and space easing the pain—a venue of satire. But then I see it falling into my mother’s hands and the vision closes down like a guillotine. It would hurt her, because she has her own ephemeral envisionings.

Did I ever tell you my mother writes too? Funny stories, romantic stories. Novels about crime and espionage. Nothing on the New York Times best seller list, but books all the same. She pushes me to write publishable work so that I can escape the financial woes of motherhood. You should write for Avon. Take all your little essays and put them in a book. What about your lyrics? Those would make good material for poetry contests. I tell her Im writing a quirky lit about the 1976 Bicentennial. She seems deflated. That will never sell.

Write a romance and call me in the morning.

If I ever do break through this market and get published, she’ll be in for a shock. The loud, profane voice of a fourteen-year-old boy on the verge of sexual exploration. His mother, also on the verge of sexual exploration—will push my mother to denial. You didn’t write that. Someone else wrote that. Or. Why did you write that? That is, perhaps, the hardest question to asnwer, becasue . . . I don’t know why. I just write. It’s saved me many, many times as of late, to just write. To not think. To purge and allow. So seldom have I been able to release in my life, but I am able to in fiction. There are voices inside me that I don’t always understand. Sometimes I am of the male persuasion, cussing and hitting at things; othertimes I am soft and ride a wave of gentility that is overtly feminine. Both are inside me. Both demand release.

The other day my mother came over to babysit for an hour or so while I ran an errand. I had forgotten that one of my favorite books All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers was on the coffee table, atop various magazine and newspapers. My mother looks through, and reads, everything—including mail. When I came back and saw the book had been flipped through, I frantically read the first page, because an itch of a worry had been inside my brain at seeing it lying there. The first page was about Godwin and his ‘fuckist’ theory. Damn. Mother must’ve had a nice shock with that one. Then I started to laugh. Welcome to my brain, mother. I love vulgar and vile as much as beautiful and sometimes I find the former in the latter. Sometimes not. If she would have read the rest of the book she’d find a journey of a man with one of the most intense narratives I’ve ever come across in any book. Most likely she got to Godwin and put it down.

When—one day—my book comes out, I will hesitate before showing it to the one person I’ve been dying to impress my entire life. I may not show it to her at all. Haven’t figured it out yet. Truth is, that one last speck of love she has for me dangles over my head like a carrot and I fear its demise. My glory could be the death of the carrot.