Good morning, and happy Monday. Can you believe Christmas is less than two weeks away?

(Sorry if that panicked you, if you haven’t even started shopping, if you just sat down for a calm moment and then just spit coffee everywhere. It’s okay, really. You’re fine.)

The truth is, even with all my preparation, I am still running behind, so I’m off today to do some serious shopping. Wish me luck.

The perfect remedy for holiday stress? Movies. Yesterday, I went to see the new Pride and Prejudice, which I thought was really good. I had no real expectations (the best way to go into any movie, I’ve found) and I really was pleasantly surprised. It was a great escape. And then I came home, made chili and put in Love, Actually, which is a great way to get in the holiday spirit, if you’re looking for a way to do so. I love love love that movie. So it was a kind of Keira Knightley two-fer. Maybe I’ll watch Bend it Like Beckham (one of my top ten movies of all time) and go for three. We’ll see.

The other thing I did this weekend was read through the typeset pages of my new book, always very exciting, as it’s when it starts to feel real, like, yes, this is a BOOK and not just a stack of pages. Of course, you also see all the little mistakes, like lines you’ve read at this point a MILLION times, so why didn’t you notice that word repeated before? Or that sentence is clunky? I have no idea, but it makes me NUTS. But anyway.

I read over the last hundred or so pages in a coffee shop, and as I was finishing up, I realized that it was the exact same place, at the exact same TABLE, where I’d come back in May with my huge, entirely too long first draft, then got all caffeinated and read through it, pretty much winding myself up into a massive panic attack. (I do this every book: like the typeset pages and clunky sentence discoveries, it’s part of the process.) So it was a nice bit of closure, or something, to see the book as it is now, shorter and tighter and, I think, so much better. So I am very grateful for that.

Finally, another nod to the Writer’s Almanac, which let me know that today is the birthday of Flaubert, and also provided this very timely quote about him and the writing of Madame Bovary:

It took Flaubert five years to write the novel. As he worked, he became so
obsessed with the style of his prose that he could barely finish a sentence. In
letters to his lover, he wrote, “I write at the rate of five hundred
irreproachable words a week… sentences keep itching without coming to a
head… What a heavy oar the pen is!” At one point, he spent five days working
on a single page. Part of what made the writing so difficult was that he wanted
to describe even the most ordinary things in a new way. He said, “It is so easy
to [write] about the beautiful, but it takes more genius to say, in proper
style, ‘close the door.'”

As someone who, at this time last year, was struggling daily with just having characters walk across the room, I can relate. Big time.

Now, off to shop. Have a good day, everyone!
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