A big thanks to this spectacular book club in Boise, Idaho! I Skyped in for a wonderful discussion about The Art of Floating. Nothing like a glass of wine and good book talk. (It was my first book club visit in Boise, Idaho!)
“No mud, no lotus”
This is my mantra as I write this new novel, continue sharing THE ART OF FLOATING, and shift into 2015.
The necklace is a Christmas gift from my hubs. The wisdom on writing (& life) comes from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk I’ve been following for years.
Happy New Year, all!
This morning while working on the new novel I remembered a music class I took in college. Part of our final exam was to keep 6 beats going at the same time using different parts of our body, for example, whole note beat with right foot / half note beat with left foot / quarter note with right hand / eighth note with left hand, etc.
6 beats at the same time. For an entire minute.
It was f’in hard, but weirdly centering, too. I remember sitting outside the student union on the stone bridge in Bloomington, Indiana, practicing and practicing.
Left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot, head, mouth. Keep it all going. At the same time.
I was studying poetry then with Lynda Hull and Yusef Komunyakaa so all this rhythm and all these beats blended with the poetry I was writing and reading and made this crazy kind of sense. Eventually. After many hours. After many days.
And I realized this morning that writing this novel, which takes place in Shanghai and is pulling me places I didn’t know I was going to go and is demanding multiple rhythms and beats…maybe even more than 6, is so much like that experience. I’m out there again, on the stone bridge outside the student union in my beloved Bloomington, with my eyes closed and one hand tapping 8th notes and my head nodding 16th notes and my mouth creating some syncopated rhythm that sounds crazy right now but will, fingers crossed, eventually make sense and be beautiful and express this blossoming story.
And then I’m so grateful for those class dinners at Lynda Hull’s house when she slowly pulled me out of my insane shyness and helped me believe in me. And that day when I heard of her death, which shattered me. Still shatters me. One of those voices I can still hear—will always hear—when I close my eyes.
So on I go with this novel. Informed by all this.
Tap, tap, tap. Tappity, tap-tap.
Crazy busy, wonderful week for me and THE ART OF FLOATING! Three book club visits and today, a reading at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, MA. I’m a bit hoarse from all the talking, but happy, happy that so many wonderful readers want to talk about Sia and Toad and floating and sorrow and things lost/found and love. And oh, yes, plovers!
A big thanks to the book clubs who hosted me this week! Y’all made me laugh and think. Great combo.
Earlier this week, I had a terrific discussion about THE ART OF FLOATING with another marvelous book club! The host, Maria, put together a delicious spread (beach themed, of course)! And offered a perfect wine for the occasion (Plum Island wine, to honor the setting of THE ART OF FLOATING).
Since most of the book clubs I’ve met with have been made up of women, it was fun and informative to have a couple of men in this conversation. All in the book club were smart, thoughtful readers with great senses of humor. Thanks for hosting me!
Live near Webster, Massachusetts? Come on out on Saturday, September 20, to Booklovers’ Gourmet for an afternoon of crazy booklove!
Author Holly Robinson and I will be reading from our novels (mine THE ART OF FLOATING, hers BEACH PLUM ISLAND), answering questions about writing and life, talking about Plum Island (the setting for both of our novels!), and much more.
When: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Place: Booklovers Gourmet in Webster, MA
- You’re an insatiable reader.
- You love to discover new authors.
- You read our novels and can’t wait to talk with me and Holly.
- You are a writer.
- What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon?
- You want to know why the heck plovers (see photo at right) are relevant to this conversation.
- So, so, so many reasons!
See you there!
I’m oh-so-thankful for this beautiful review of THE ART OF FLOATING. There’s more, and if you’re compelled to read the entire review, click here:
“…What is so beautiful, haunting, and even bewildering, about this novel is the way in which Bair O’Keeffe can first introduce us to a story we think we know, and twist it into something symbolic, surreal and highly-bodily, which immediately removes The Art of Floating from the common “beach read” section and propels it to the realm of literary fiction—and presents it as a gorgeous example of literary fiction, at that.
“When I was first introduced to this title, I did the unthinkable thing—something that I am very guilty of doing on a regular basis, despite my extreme dislike for spoilers: I read the back cover. And I knew, deep in my gut (perhaps in the same place where Sia finds her flopping fish), that this book was different. In the first line of the synopsis, it summarizes, “When her beloved husband, Jackson, disappeared without a trace, popular novelist Sia Dane stopped writing, closed down her house, stuffed her heart into a cage, and started floating.” I read that line over and over, gushing with excitement, at the sheer potential of the novel being refreshing and different. When the book arrived at my home, I wanted so badly to break the reading order of books I had “scheduled” before this one, but I held my ground, clenched my teeth, and waited until it was Bair O’Keeffe’s turn—and, boy, was it worth the wait.
“It was more than I could have bargained for, expected, or dreamed of. The events detailed on the back cover do indeed happen, for real, within the context of this novel. This reality is created and made acceptable—made beautiful and strange and heart-felt—within the first several pages of the book, when Sia discovers the man on the beach (who she names “Toad”) and feels a literal wave of his sadness enter her body—as well as a large, flopping fish in her stomach, which she feels move whenever she feels empathy for another person. Obviously, this is outside the operational realm of our bodies and the abilities of them; but that, in the end, is what makes these surreal moves so beautiful and true, when we are given that image that is, at once, strange and capable of retelling those emotions that we otherwise feel are beyond the reach of description. In their surreal nature, they apply truth….”
So yesterday, while I was sitting in a meeting at my day job, the note below arrived via email. It’s from someone who just read The Art of Floating. And although I’m not known for tearing up during work meetings, yesterday I did. In fact, I was so moved, I could have collapsed into an all-out ugly cry. Thankfully I somehow managed to hold it together, but, oh man, you should have seen my ugly-cry last night. Hearing from readers who read and love this book melts me. Thank you.
Aug 28th, 12:05pm
Dear Kristin, I have never written an author before, although I have read many books that have affected me greatly. Many things I absolutely loved in your story, The Art of Floating. Most especially, the unfailing love between the characters. Husband and wife, mother and daughter, father and daughter. I was encouraged by the respect shown for humanity and nature. My favorite part was when M and Stuart were outside watching the sky in hopes of seeing Sia floating. I loved that after Stuart carried the sleeping M into the house, he went back out into the yard to continue watching for their daughter. Either he loved his wife so much that he supported her even if he did not believe in floating, or he loved his daughter so much that he would do anything to bring her close. Maybe both. You must have a great capacity to love deeply. I long for a relationship like this. Thank you for this gift. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Sob. (ugly cry for happy reasons) Sob.
Yesterday I did a “meet & greet” at Barnes & Noble in Salem, NH. The setup?
Me. A small table with a lot of copies of THE ART OF FLOATING at the entrance to the store. Goal? Talk to folks & sell those books!
At 2:00 pm, this:
At 3:45 pm, this:
Huzzah! So much fun there. Awesome customers/readers, great staff and managers, and so many wonderful books! Big thanks to all!