Tuesday, March 31, 2009

and then there were crepes.

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.—Annie Dillard

Remember that list of resolutions I made? I finally made crepes from scratch last night—why oh why didn’t I do this sooner? They’re every bit as easy as pancakes, but are 100 times more fun. (Sorry, pancakes. You know we’re still friends.)

And I’ve only ever had crepes with my closest friends and always under the best circumstances. Not a bad crepe memory in the bunch. So, cheers for reminiscing, for a fantastic dinner, for the first strawberries of the year, and steaming hot crepes.

how lovely are we?


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/31 at 09:48 AM
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Monday, March 30, 2009

“verrrrrry nice weather we’re having…”

Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?—Friedrich Nietzsche

The other day, out running errands. Waiting for the cashier to print up a receipt, and he looks at me and my dad. Says in that good-cashier voice [I know, because I can whip out that same voice], “SO, how about this weather? Yeah?” Great small talk starter, the weather. It’s probably the single thing that you know you have in common with a stranger.

So why am I mentioning it? Because I was suffering from blog-neglect, and thought hey, it’s turning spring-like, and then it snowed the other day, and then it’s beautiful again today, I can talk about the craziness of spring… And then got a grip, laughed at myself for a moment, and realized that 1) this blog is not a stranger. 2) I am not a good cashier; I’m a writer. 3) So why on earth would I talk to you about the weather, as if you’re a great-great-aunt of mine that I’d never met before, or some customer I was never going to see again?

I wouldn’t! So I’m not. (Though it is gorrrgeous outside.) Will come back when I’m not going to say something trite.—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/30 at 04:11 PM
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

what a week’s absence means

1) That the newly revised character never did stop talking.
2) That he rallied two more characters to his cause, and along with the protagonist, my head has been filled with chatter.
3) That two long days devoted to setting resulted in an enormous map now covering my bed.
4) That a familiar itch set in on Thursday. A very familiar itch.

5) That I decided to finish my outline one week sooner ...
6) I start writing on MONDAY and not a week from ...
7) I am panicking and feeling a bit overworked and resenting myself (as my sister pointed out: You’re your own boss, you decide when to do things, you don’t have to rush like this) ...
8) but the characters are still talking and pulling at my sleeves, and so maybe I can do this? Maybe I must?

Maybe I can be ready a week early after all? It seems that they always know better than I do when to take the plunge.

And the last things I want are characters who have spent all their words already. Others might know how to write fascinating novels about mutes: not I.

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/21 at 10:38 AM
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Saturday, March 14, 2009

the pound cake philosopher

Two weeks until my outline is “due,” and I’m feeling better. About everything.

After some quality time yesterday with my main characters, I’ve realized how different Part Two needs to be. (And Part Three. I’m not philosophical about that yet. It hurts, plain and simple. So we won’t think about it.)

Part Two’s enormous changes make sense—you can’t shift the roots of a story without those changes shaking their way out. And all the characters (and the writer!) are pulled along with the shockwaves. Well, that’s okay. That’s how it goes. No one said writing a novel would be easy; in fact, everyone said it would be hard.

Yesterday, though, was brilliant. The character I had to work with? He woke up for Part Two completely changed from who he used to be. Changed for the better. Much better.

Talking so fast, and being so darn funny, and I know my heroine is going to hate him. Perfect. All I have to do is bring the two of them onto the same page in my Word document, and I can’t type fast enough. (Oh, they argue about everything!)

So maybe it will be okay, maybe Part Two will come together quickly. Maybe I can be philosophical with this after all.

It doesn’t hurt that I found a recipe for a cardamom vanilla bean pound cake. That’s where my afternoon’s going, then: to the kitchen. I’ll put my characters to work measuring flour and scraping mixing bowls, and I’ll write down everything they say (or shout, as the case may be).—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/14 at 05:21 PM
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

does anyone really know what time it is?

I’m a little disappointed with spring—yesterday it was 82 degrees, and today it’s 34. What? We’re rocketing between summer and winter, and I was hoping for a string of days in the sixties…

The birds are undaunted, though, and they’ve set about filling up their dance cards. I watch them as I make my coffee. The males are all strutting around, their beaks in the air, and then they pause and puff themselves up. I bust out laughing every time—inflatable birds!

And I can’t help thinking: wouldn’t that have saved us ladies some trouble back in the dining halls? It would take some of the guesswork out of social interactions…

“Hey, hey I think that guy is trying to get your attention.” “Yeah? How do you know?” “Well, his face just went to twice its usual size.”

Oh, what could have been.


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/11 at 11:17 AM
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Monday, March 09, 2009

i don’t have words yet

I heard about this in Bible class Sunday morning. These things usually happen so far away… this was a mere six miles down the road. I think our whole congregation was stunned… I certainly am.

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/09 at 02:10 PM
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Saturday, March 07, 2009

my last barista was a prophet.

I just got back from a ladies’ event at my church—a fun time, but it had an early start. So after lunch, I did something I once promised myself I would never do: I actually sought out church-basement coffee.

Ever since first smelling church coffee, I knew I’d never drink any. I was in seventh grade, and it was before my conversion to coffee, but even I could tell that this wasn’t the good stuff. Church-basement coffee smells more like shoes and tiles and pipework, less like something you should drink. More Boiler Room, less Bean of Earth. I would look at the people drinking it, and wonder if they had any tastebuds left to rebel against it. I didn’t want to become one of them…

But today, I had no choice. My younger sister was presenting a talk at an afternoon session, and I wasn’t going to doze off while she was speaking.

Pushed to my limits and blinking sleepily, I groped my way over to the brown folding table in the corner. The man behind it leaned forward. “Regular or decaf?”

For the love of goodness, it had better have caffeine. “Regular, please!”

He lifted the Styrofoam cup full of brown liquid. “Last cup,” he said darkly. At the time, I thought he meant the last cup of regular coffee.

After tasting it, I knew better: he doubted I would survive.—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/07 at 05:41 PM
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Thursday, March 05, 2009

white knuckles, red capes, and the next phase of revision

Events conspired to overtake our heroes, as events often do.—Peter David, Tigerheart

Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic. —the unbelievably brilliant Leif Enger

Well. It was a lovely break, a wonderful few days off. There was tea, there was knitting (a gorgeous blue scarf with cables! oh I’m so proud of me!), there was reading.

I am pleased to report that The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was every bit as fantastic as I had hoped. It’s so good—please do drop everything and read it. It made me want to write a dozen letters, to run away to the Channel Islands, and to be Juliet (the plucky writerly heroine). Basically, I would like to fall into this book and not come out.


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 03/05 at 09:59 PM
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

recruit me. no, really: recruit me.

Dear Department of Literature Appreciation,

You must have received my application for your police/enforcement division, and I am begging you to process it quickly, as I have an arrest I need to make.

On Thursday, I went to the library to retrieve a stack of books I had ordered. (You see! I love inter-library loan, I love it. I would be so perfect for your department—you just have no idea what you’re missing.) Amidst them was Joanne Harris‘s book Chocolat. (Perfect reading for Lent, yes? I thought so.)

The girl at the library—they pay her, for goodness’ sake!!—looks at the book and looks at me. “Have you seen this movie?” she asks, pushing up her glasses.


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/28 at 01:51 PM
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the gifts of february

Come see the things that February has done for me…

1) finished the Part One rewrites, yes I did, last night. (It did not kill me. Though it tried.) Amazing!! I feel like a balloon cut loose. I ended up writing over 9000 words yesterday to make it to the finish line, but no regrets after all. And now I’m on break! I’ll be sidling over to that stack of novels now…

2) I finally (finally) discovered the Coldplay album Viva la Vida, which I adore. Where have I been, while everyone else has been enjoying such awesome music? Oh yeah. Buried in my novel. (My poor family. Guess what they’ve been listening to. A lot.) But oh, it’s music that actually makes me want summer to come.

3) blonde-ness. A bit of gold is in my hair. It’s lovely.

4) made Brussels sprouts for the first time: this recipe. I am not exaggerating: it has changed my life. (Make it. Go. Sprouts are cheap, and you’ll have the ingredients at hand already. You just might be a different person after eating these.)

5) a week with my younger sister! Yes! Adrienne will be moving away, most likely, at the end of summer. (And: I haven’t leaked this yet: she is pregnant. I will be an aunt by the end of August. Hooray!!) She’s spending the week here while her husband is out of town, and while we all miss him, it’s fun to pamper her a bit and have late (late) night chats.

6) caramel apple pecan pie. I made it Wednesday night. Oh… my. There is caramel between the bottom crust and the apples. A lot of apples. Then a pecan-brown sugar crumb topping. And over it all, thirty melted caramels with a ton of pecans chopped fine. It’s sweet enough to make your heart stop, but you couldn’t end on a better note.—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/28 at 01:29 PM
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

ashes, ashes (we all fall down.)

She hoped to be wise and reasonable in time; but alas! alas! She must confess to herself that she was not wise yet.—Jane Austen

Nothing is more frightening than a fear you cannot name.—Cornelia Funke

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.—Annie Dillard

And now it is Lent, a name I always thought was funny as a kid. It was like having a season called “Borrowed.”

There must be some intriguing and brilliant metaphor about what is lent to us during this time before Easter, but I don’t have the mental stamina to puzzle it out. Fill in the blanks as you choose.

Lent always surprises me by coming earlier than I expect. When I can catch it in time, I try to give up something.


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/26 at 07:16 PM
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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

regretting the mission impossible

The truth is this: It was a tragically boring escape. Our apologies.—Peter David, Tigerheart

Okay. I knew this “three-weeks’-work-in-one!” was a stupid idea. I knew it was crazy. I knew it was going to hurt, a lot.

That’s all proving to be true. My mind is numb after logging 8759 words this week so far.

And all my teams are failing me: the characters have showed up on Stage One, but none of them know their lines. My reliably funny characters are out of quips, the scary ones just look abashed, and the heroine has a headache. My set design crew is woefully behind. (“Could we just use cardboard cutouts and stand-ins?” they ask, wanting a smoking break. No, I tell them. No, we can’t.) And my plot think tank—well. They’ve scattered, driven to Mexico the moment I told them we were cramming this week full.

The only team with me heart and soul is the catering crew. I have a date with some fine pie crust in one hour.

So what keeps me clinging to Monday’s decision (despite common sense and plain exhaustion)? I still can’t bear the thought of taking three weeks for the rest of Part One. So there’s no going back, is there?

I stacked my reward books in a pile on my desk, the Guernsey Potato book, and Billy Collins’ latest, as well as five travelogues. (And my ears are straining for the library’s phone call, to say that the ten ordered books are in…)

Between promised books and coffee and sheer bullheadedness, I should get this thing written. It won’t be pretty. But hey—that’s what revision is for.—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/25 at 03:48 PM
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

what if my insanity ISN’T temporary?

Her only asset was her momentum—but that she had in abundance, and she let it determine her career.—K.P. Bath, The Secret of Castle Cant

I was restless yesterday. Verrry restless. Is it because the weather is considering warmth again? And our maple tree is about to explode with buds? (I dearly love the little helicopter seeds it will eventually shed…) Is it because I haven’t been on a road trip in who-knows-how-long and need to see New Places again?

Whatever’s happening, it brews a deep-down itch in me that is difficult to reach. Slightly assuaged by getting blonde highlights (hooray!), ordering ten books from the library (I don’t have time to read any of them), and running around in 30 degree weather with short sleeves (reminding me of college day madness).

But I finally got a grip and escorted myself to my writing desk and took a hard look at everything. All my plans for the draftwork, all the scenes I’ve listed, the progress I’ve made since February 1 (24,500 words).

And then I quietly lost my mind, and made a very ridiculous decision.


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/24 at 02:24 PM
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Friday, February 20, 2009

in which: i am alive, well, and killing my characters.

I’m not a mass murderer, I’m a writer!—Cornelia Funke, Inkheart, of course!

Well, then. Here I am at last—more technical difficulties yesterday… actually, if you knew me, you’d realize it’s a small miracle that I don’t have more technical difficulties than I already do. (I get lost dealing with my sister’s iPod. Yes. Really.)

So after my brief skirmish with stomach flu, and a rotten writing week (last week, no energy, very few words), I rounded the corner into Monday. Cleared my schedule, just to focus on writing, to get back on track… and it was terrible. Not a good thought in my head.

(Note to self: when you make all your characters smile and laugh and turn slowly and you bloat their speech with adverbs? You’re stalling. And you don’t know what the scene is about.)


Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/20 at 01:09 PM
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

miss langefeld regrets

Dear Blog,

I wrote something for you today. I was witty and funny and exuberant, and everything a blogger is supposed to be. (Maybe. It seemed that way. But was it just the coffee singing? Probable. Likely. ... Yes.)

And then the Internet connection failed, just after I clicked the “Submit” button. My lovely post swallowed up by the ether… and I lacked the heart and the genius to try again. (My coffee cup was low.)

Courage, Blog. I will try again tomorrow. But this is just to say: I haven’t forgotten you. (And the stomach flu did not kill me after all.)—jl

Posted by Jenn Langefeld on 02/18 at 11:45 PM
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