In which Mysterious Things are observed in the forest.

Today, I took a long, sweaty run along the creek, past the falls, along the upper lip of the Mississippi gorge and onto the forested trail that leads to Fort Snelling. It’s one of my favorite runs and it was marvelous. Along the way, I saw two coyotes, fifteen wood ducks, three bald eagles, several turkeys, a raccoon and…..

a pair of shoes.

So I stopped. I’ve never seen a pair of shoes sitting by the side of the trail. Nothing else – no keys, no socks, no discarded bag. Nothing. Just a pair of shoes.

And they were nice shoes. Italian, by the look of them. They were square-toed, slim men’s shoes. Nice leather. Polished. Sitting side by side, slightly pigeon-toed, in the scrubby grass next to the trail. They looked like they might take a notion to walk away, un-footed.  They were shoes with attitude, shoes with purpose. Shoes that were going places.

“Anybody lose some shoes?” I called out.

The wind answered, the sky answered, the rushing river answered. The birds overhead. The scurrying rodents in the crinkling masses of last year’s leaves. They all answered, though not in any language I could speak.

There was nothing for it. I kept running until I reached that old Fort looking over the confluence of the rivers – where the milky Minnesota meets the wild Mississippi. When I turned back, I ran straight for the shoes.

Because the shoes, to my mind, seemed like some sort of sign. They were shoes with answers. These shoes – they meant something, you know? They belonged to a man with delicate feet. A man unused to walking on a ragged path. They belonged to a man who stopped to give his shoes a buff in the middle of a forest trail, before he took wing, lifted up, flew away.

I imagined him launching skyward, his long coat and loose pants flapping around his narrow body like feathers until he disappeared in the clouds.

This is what I believed as I pounded up the path.

This is what I believed as I approached the spot.

But the shoes – along with their flying, winged, magical owner -were gone.

Theories?

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

Dearest Readers,

Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately? I have noticed and I am sorry. I am, right now, engaged in the process of novel revision, which means that I have lined my pockets with lead and have covered myself with post-it notes and have dangled baubles from every conceivable extremity, and then set out to run a marathon.

Or, I have engaged in the total reconstruction of a many-gabled house, with only my hammer, my hand-saw, a bucket of nails, and my own strong back, and I have to thread a new support system all on my own self.

Or I am trying to balance a boulder on the tip of a toothpick.

Or I am digging for treasure using an infant’s spoon.

Or something.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some snippets of pieces that are currently on the desktop (because, of course, I am also writing short stories. I love extra work. And punishments.) And it occurs to me that I would very much like to see what you are working on. Because why should I be the only sharer here?

I’ll tell you what: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. In the comments section, copy out a paragraph or two of something you’re working on. Pretty please? I’d love to see it.

Here. I’ll start.

From “The Invisible Dog”

My name is Jackson Marks and I have an invisible dog.
 I know what you’re thinking.
But it isn’t like that, I swear.
I’ve had him now for six years. I don’t know how old he was when he showed up, but he hasn’t grown. The top of his head reaches my knee. He’s got wiry fur and skinny legs and a tail that whips me in the face when he jumps in my bed and turns around and around until he finds a comfortable spot. And good god. He reeks. I suppose he’d smell better if I washed him – and believe me, I’ve tried. But he’s invisible. And he doesn’t like baths. So.

And then, from “The Unlicensed Magician”:

The junk man’s only daughter slides along the back of the low, one-roomed building that houses the constable’s office. The alley lights are out again – energy crisis. It is always an energy crisis. She appreciates the dark. She presses her hands against the wall, curling her fingers into the bricks. The sun is down and the moon isn’t up yet. The night air is a puckering cold, but the wall is still warm, and so are her hands. She can hear the constable inside, explaining things to the Inquisitor.
“I don’t care what you think you’ve heard, sonny,” she hears the old man say, “there ain’t been a whiff of magic anywhere in the county, nigh on fifteen years. Not a drop. Now you can write that down on your report and send it on up to your superiors. You got bad information is all. And not the first time, neither.”
  A scribble of pen on paper.
 An old man’s harrumph.

And then, from “Mrs. Sorensen and the Sasquatch”:

The day she buried her husband – a good man, by all accounts, though shy, not given to drink orfoolishness; not one for speeding tickets or illegal parking or cheating on his taxes; not one for carousing at the county fair, or tomcatting with the other men from the glass factory; which is to say, he was utterly unknown in town: a cipher; a cold, blank space – Agnes Sorensen arrived at the front steps of Our Lady of the Snows. The priest had been waiting for her at the open door.  The air was wet and sweet with autumn rot, and though it had rained earlier, the day was starting to brighten, and would surely be lovely in an hour or two. Mrs. Sorensen greeted the priest with a sad smile. She wore a smart black hat, sensible black shoes, and a black silk dress belted at the waist. Two white mice peeked out of her left breast pocket – each one tiny shock of fur, with pink, quivering noses and red, red tongues.

So what’s on your computer right now? Or your notebooks or scratch paper or napkins? Share, please! 🙂

Love,

Kelly

Round these here parts, you can’t throw a stick into a bar without hitting a writer.

Or, in my experience today, a coffee shop.

I live in a land lousy with writers. We are not just the land of 10,000 lakes: we are the land of 10,000 novelists.

Indeed, just in my random little neighborhood, I know of seven whose houses are in walking distance, and another twenty who are within a five minute driving distance. And these are just the people I know and enjoy hanging out with.

The other day, I met up with a bunch of kidlit author-types from the greater Twin Cities area at a pretty cool bar in Saint Paul. I love these people, I really do. They are funny and sassy and salty-mouthed, three things that I always appreciate in a person. They are also quick-witted and furiously smart, which  means, of course, that I’m always about nine steps behind in any given conversation (childbirth, alas, has significantly impacted my IQ), but I love it anyway.

At this particular bar night, the always-lovely Erin Downing (author of Kiss It and Prom Crashers) informed me that the Caribou Coffee near my house has magical powers.

Well, that’s not how she put it. She just said that she got a lot of work done there while her two youngest kids were at preschool. This, of course, I interpreted as having magical powers. Because right now, getting work done seems magical.

And you know what? I went over there, sat down, installed the good old Mac Freedom to keep my sorry self off the shiny, shiny Internets, and know what I discovered? That coffee shop is magic. MAGIC I TELL YOU! I’ve gotten more done in the last three days than I have in the last month. I think I may go there every day, if I don’t destroy my stomach lining in the process from so much dang coffee.

Today, when I arrived at the coffee shop, I ran into Ms. Downing, and of course it was wonderful.

“I’m so glad you told me about this coffee shop,” I said to her. “It has magical powers. This Caribou is MAGIC.”

The girl who was ringing me up stared at me, open mouthed. “It is?” she said. “I work in a magical Caribou? I had no idea.”

And I think I made her day.

One of the things about this weird job of writing books and selling books and hoping people like your books, is that it can be tricky to find colleagues. And so we work alone in our insufferable insecurities and annoying neuroses. This, alas, is attractive to no one.

When I was writing The Mostly True Story Of Jack I had no writing group (except for during one, small bit of it, but I couldn’t keep it going) and I really didn’t know any writers very well. And the ones I did  know, I was too shy to reach out to. And so I worked alone, writing only during the hours of four and six in the morning, and showing my work to no one, until I finally got an agent.

There were times, after my book sold, that my work as a writer was so divorced from my everyday life – none of my friends were writers, it was hard to talk about at playgroups or at the park – that I started to wonder if I had secretly made the whole thing up.

After all, I’m pretty good at making things up.

One of the things that I’ve tried to do over the last year is to forge stronger bonds with the writers of this community – both my physical community of the Twin Cities, as well as the tribes of cool writers who form little bands online. Because this work is hard, and because we need colleagues, and we need to blow off steam after work sometimes, and we need the support of caring co-workers.

And sometimes, someone needs to tell us about magical coffee shops. Because something needs to give us a little kick in the pants every once in a while. And  magical coffee shops are as good a kick as any.