Haiku by Sonia Sanchez

These two haiku are from her book Homegirls and Handgrenades. 

your love was a port

of call where many ships docked

until morning came

 

I also love this one: 

let me where the day

well so when it reaches you

you will enjoy it

 

Her poems inspire me. I highly recommend this book as well as Morning Haiku (which I love even more!)

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The Shoemaker’s Wife

Cover art for Trigiani’s novel.

Writers are readers, and I love a good book. I decided to read Adriana Trigiani’s latest novel The Shoemaker’s Wife simply because it is historical fiction, and (ta-da) I’m writing an historical fiction novel as well. The book is the love story of two young Italians – Ciro, a poor orphan boy raised by nuns, and Enza, a young girl determined to keep her family together.

As I sit here writing about this blog, I’m finding myself at a loss for words (which hardly ever happens to me!) I liked the book. I read it as a tool to sharpen my own writing, which I think it did. Usually, when I read for that purpose, I find myself lost in the story and the emotion of being invited into the lives of the characters. I can’t say that happened too often in this book. By all means, Trigiani is a talented writer and a deft storyteller. The characters were likable, and the setting, both in Italy and America, proved to be ripe with opportunity and adventure. In fact, I wish I could say that I loved this book, and not just because I paid full hard cover price to receive it the day it came out, but I didn’t . I liked it.

What was most valuable about the book, though, was feeling a kinship with Trigiani. She appeared on a morning show to publicize the book and spoke about the process of writing it, and how long it took her. After reading the book, and seeing all the detail she poured into it, I understand why it took her so long. Everything has to be researched. What were the fashions then? How did one travel? What technology existed? What edifices? What medical treatments were available? What streets existed? What was the nature of industry then? So often I spend my days researching even the smallest thing. Can my character say that? How do they travel? What were the politics of that time? Is it a phrase based on something that came about much later. I think about my friend’s mother who wrote a story that took place during slavery. Her publisher immediately sent back the manuscript and told her to take out every “okay” because that phrase wouldn’t come about until much, much later.

I came away from this book with a healthy respect for Trigiani’s work, and a reassurance that my novel, though slow-going, can be completed with historical accuracy.

Literary License

I have posted on more than one occasion how much I hate Chapter 2 of my book. The fact that I am still posting about this particular chapter after many, many, many months speaks to my unique level of aversion. I’m aware that I shouldn’t feel like this about any chapter I’m writing, and in fact, seriously considered throwing it out all together. I brainstormed on creating different characters and pushing them through different trials, but inevitably, the truth came out. It wasn’t about the characters.

It was about me. I don’t hate myself. Not today anyway.

I was uncomfortable with the character because he is Judas. I have a pretty staunch religious background, and while I am not currently practicing, it still made me uncomfortable to play around with religious cannon.

I called my mentor to ask him about it, and he joked that I was going to hell. But in the end, it comes down to literary license. What that means in the eyes of God, who knows. I’m not turning Judas into a saint, but I’m not painting him as unforgivable either. I want to humanize him.

This chapter is indicative of much of the reconciliation I have had to make in my life. Gay and Christian (and Democrat). Do the three have to be mutually exclusive? This chapter became a symbol of my struggles over the last decade. (And here I thought I was just writing a novel.)

I had a productive conversation with a friend, and she made me feel much more comfortable with the chapter, which I hope will help me to move through it more smoothly. Opening up my black and white perception of individuals in the Bible, including Judas, and allowing for their humanity to be seen (or my interpretation of their humanity) has only helped me to understand myself better. I know that sounds cheesy, but with everything we write, we should learn a little bit more about ourselves. After all, we can only write what we know – even when it’s fiction – so seeing a piece of me in this character I’m creating is not wholly evil.

The point is, I am working on the chapter now, and hopefully it will be a little easier.