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.
~Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how they spend the day.
October 1, 2022: Therese Walsh
Therese Walsh was one of the lucky ones—a major two-book deal back in 2008 with a Big Five publisher. This past January she kicked off the new year with a truth-telling. “My debut,” she wrote, The Last Will of Moira Leahy published in 2009, “the one I’d worked on for ~five years, was a sales dud.” Still, her second novel, The Moon Sisters, was published in 2014 to starred reviews, But then Random House decided not to publish it in paperback. Which, she wrote in January, “translated into “something that felt an awful lot like shame.”
When I read Therese’s essay, I recognized this feeling. It had been hitting me about the same time it hit Therese, only it was hitting me because I’d been writing for fifteen years and still didn’t have a published book. Therese wrote,
[I]t strikes me that maybe this is my first real step toward recovery–to be public here with all my broken parts glued back together, to let you see me with all of the visible battle scars that I usually hide.
Therese and I each discovered the same antidote—TRUTH. Lots of it. Therese with her January essay “Recovery From (Something That Tastes an Awful Lot Like) Shame,” and me with a yearlong project where I wrote one true thing about myself each day.
But back to Therese’s second novel, The Moon Sisters, which was named one of the Best Books of 2014 by Library Journal and Book Riot—I loved it. Loved falling into the world of Jazz and Olivia Moon who alternate telling the story. Jazz is the older sister. Olivia, who is almost eighteen, tells us about their mother.
She’d been working on a fairy tale called A Foolish Fire nearly my entire life but had yet to finish it.
And Olivia has synesthesia. Her sister Jazz describes her.
My sister’s reality had always been bizarre, though, with her ability to taste words and see sounds and smell a person on the sun…She’d never been the poster child for sense.
And here’s Olivia on Jazz.
I knew better than to bother with Jazz, especially when everything down to her clothing choice of gray shorts and a black T-shirt revealed her storm-cloud mood. She was driving us to the glades against her will and better judgment, she’d said, which meant I would get the mostly silent treatment from her for the duration…
Olivia talks about emotions in ways that we can see and smell and taste:
“[A]lthough the sky was as blue as ever, it smelled like failure.”
“I plunged my fork into the lemon meringue, then took a bite…It tasted, I thought, like second chances.”
As I read, I could see this novel happening like a movie—the colorful characters, the train, the woods, the letters… Therese tells the story of the Moon sisters with writing that makes the story alive. (The Moon Sisters would make a great movie too.)
In 2006, before any book deal, Therese co-founded Writer Unboxed—with the box being ‘literary dead-ends.” It started as a wonderful site to help writers navigate the craft and business of fiction and turned into an entire community. And Writer Unboxed is gearing up for its first online event—two weeks full of 18 sessions on the craft of writing and the writing life. The Writer Unboxed OnConference starts tomorrow with tickets still available as I write this. Therese is also the brains and primary editor of Author in Progress (Writer’s Digest, 2016), a book written by the team at Writer Unboxed about the key milestones a writer hits as they write a novel, including practical tips on how to actually reach those milestones “while clearing psychological hurdles along the way.”
Come back on OCTOBER 1st to read how THERESE WALSH spends her days.