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
how he or she spends the day.

photo of abby in hat

April 1, 2016: Abby Frucht

In 1967 I was riding bikes, and while waiting for my friend to catch up, I opened the mailbox I was leaning against whose little red flag was up. But there was no letter inside. Come on, I yelled to my friend. I have an idea. For weeks afterwards, we alternated writing chapters of The Mystery of the Missing Letter that our fourth grade buddies were eventually able to check out of our classroom as if it were a real book.

In 2010 Abby Frucht, one of my workshop leaders at VCFA, read a newspaper article about old people with dementia who wandered. As she wrote on Caroline Leavitt‘s blog, “I thought of a daughter following around her dad who was wandering and learning things about his and her past, and what haunted me was the idea of him leading her toward evidence of wrongs he had done, wrongs in which she herself was in a way complicit.” Then Abby phoned a friend–Laurie Alberts, also a member of the faculty at VCFA but who lives on the other side of the country. I’m not sure if they alternated writing all the chapters, but they did alternate writing the first two, early versions of which you can read at Numero Cinq, the first chapter written by Abby with Laurie’s advice and editorial input, the second by Laurie with Abby’s advice and editorial input.

IMG_1990The result of their collaboration is the novel A Well-Made Bed, which was recently published by Red Hen Press. It is a wild ride on roller-coaster sentences. Take a look at these:

After making this embarrassing admission, Jaycee toyed with the idea of pretending to need to go to the bathroom and finding an empty seat in the rear of the plane, maybe next to the screaming baby or the deaf man she’d stood near in line, since what was the point of having your first adventure if all you did was talk about the life you’d left behind? Since this trip really was her first adventure, marking her first time away from Hillwinds and her parents, she really didn’t know if having an adventure meant you kept jumping from one place to another whenever you felt like it or bore things out a while to see what became of you wherever chance put you.

She’d told them only she was taking the bus to Burlington to attend a costume making class, and then she really did go to a costume shop and purchased a bonnet so as not to have been lying, but after that she got a cab to the airport and ate oatmeal at the friendly little diner-type place overlooking the runways, which was what her parents would want her to eat, especially since she was buying it on their debit card.

Add Noor to the story and you have the “Thelma and Louise of the 21st century.” If you like plot, you’ll love the ups and downs of these two. And on top of the reading pleasure, it’s a fascinating look at process. You can compare the early chapters at Numero Cinq with the published versions, and you can read some of Abby and Laurie’s emails back and forth during the writing of the book.

Switching gears for a minute but still speaking of reading pleasure, I highly recommend an essay Abby wrote in 2014,”Abominable.” Here are two excerpts I bet will send you right over to Numero Cinq to read the whole thing.

The younger sister never saw the abominable snowman, since instead of trekking out to the potato fields with the other kids that day, she stayed behind to sit on the curbside and cry, pretending to be a lonely girl who had no friends, not even a sister, which was her favorite thing to do before she learned how to read. 

When the girl who liked to sit on the curbside and cry before she learned how to read turned fifty six, she phoned the older sister to ask if it was true she had seen the abominable snowman or had she only been toying with the younger sister, like playing her as if she were a xylophone by banging the wooden mallet on the crown of her head or hiding her dirty socks in the babysitter’s pocketbook.

Abby has written seven other books–a first novel I have a soft spot for, as well as other novels and story collections. On her website she writes a little bit about each of her books and not just a New York Times summary but some interesting tidbit about writing the book. This is the way she describes that first novel Snap:

This was my first novel, a look at six people, many of them strangers to each other, whose paths cross during the separation and rejuvenation of a marriage. The world of SNAP is skewed, oddball, surreal, and I remember that to write it felt playful and strange, as if I had entered an intricate hall of mirrors.

*NOTE FROM ABBY: We didn’t actually alternate on a chapter basis, rather we each took one of the principal characters, shared the other characters, and edited and revised ALL of it so much that we no longer know who wrote what. You can read more about our collaborative process and other aspects of a well/made bed at our website.

Come back on APRIL 1st to read how ABBY FRUCHT spends her days.