In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard wrote,
I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.
On the first of each month, a guest writer shares how he or she spends the day.
April 1, 2014: Kathryn Craft
You have to love this story: Kathryn Craft worked on her novel for nine years. She received 112 rejections before signing with an agent, Katie Shea Boutillier at Donald Maass Literary Agency (also my agent, I’m happy to say). Nine months later Kathryn received a call from Katie–she had a book deal. Check out the moments of that exciting call (complete with photos) in a blog post Kathryn wrote for the The Blood-Red Pencil.
Now Kathryn is a debut novelist. Her book, The Art of Falling, was published in January by Sourcebooks.
The Art of Falling is Penny’s story. All her life she’s wanted to dance. But she doesn’t have the typical dancer’s body–she is larger. Still, after many years of practices and auditions, Dmitri chooses her for his company. “Right then I wanted to savor the notion that dreams really could come true.”
Later, when Penny passes on a suggestion from her mother, Dmitri tells Penny:
“My mother was the most famous ballerina, and she cannot tell me how to be an artist. Critics cannot tell me how to be an artist. Ideas must come from here.” He put his fingertips low on his chest. “True artists must listen for the voice inside, not for the words of others.”
Still later, when Penny must deal with loss, an old teacher tells her:
Use it! It’s what artists do. Life has wisdom of its own. It dumps shit on you and stirs you up until your soil is fertile. Accept the challenge and plant some seeds. This is how artists grow.
Penny’s mother is heavy. She likes to eat. When Penny’s friend Kandelbaum visits, Penny’s mother prepares a tray of grape juice, sugar cookies, and Goldfish. Together they look at the posters on the wall of Penny’s childhood home:
When Kandelbaum and I joined her, the flawless ballet bodies of Edward Villella, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Fernando Bujones, and Julio Bocca invited us down the hall. A museum–she was right. Each dancer on display, frozen in time, limited by frame, trapped behind glass. Each taunting the viewer with photographic perfection from a distant, untouchable place. Not one moment of messy, glorious, immediate movement to be experienced. It was the opposite of dance.
The Art of Falling opens with Penny recovering from a serious fall. And yet it seems the only way she knows how to relate to the world is through movement. The further you read into the book, the more you become invested in the lives of these characters and whether Penny will be able to put her life back together.
–photo credit: Betty Wofford
Come back on APRIL 1st to read how KATHRYN CRAFT spends her days.
Congratulations to Kathryn! Her story to publication is inspiring. As much as enjoy watching ballet, I wish it didn’t have so many body issues. I worry about it with my tween niece going to a serious ballet camp this summer.
Yes, congratulations to Kathryn! It’s interesting, with The Art of Falling in the first person, the reader learns about Penny’s body issues more from others’ reactions than from Penny herself. Thanks, Sarah.
Every time I hear of an author having taken so many years—and SO many rejections, then finally finding success with an agent, then publication, I feel happy for the author and inspired for myself, so…thank you for that, Kathryn (and Cynthia)! 🙂
I went to dance school throughout my childhood, but gave it up once we moved out of the Bronx. The dance school in the new town just didn’t measure up, so I quit after the first year : / I tried to get back into it as a young adult, but health issues made it impossible; I got dizzy when I spun. I didn’t know it was health-related at the time though. Dancing is something I really miss, for sure.
All that said, this book sounds very inspiring, too, and I’m looking forward to Kathryn’s “day” 🙂
Donna, my mother made me take dancing. I’ll just say I don’t miss it : ) I love Kathryn’s story too.
Ah, so the movement you are passionate about is more the “neurotransmission” kind 🙂
What a story of courage and persistence. I hope her sales go sky rocket!
Me too, Carol. Thanks for reading!