Susan: Linda, your story “The Golden Moment” is a little gem. In five short paragraphs, which is the totality of the story, you manage to give a complete life, plus the hole that exists in every life. Do you agree with my take on this?
Linda: Thank you Susan. I love this particular little story, it’s one I spent a lot of time with. I think your observation is close to my intention. I wouldn’t say hole so much as space. It seems so much of life (my life, at least) is spent rushing from moment to moment. We juggle the work meetings with the packed lunches and bus departures and arrivals, the grocery store and dry cleaner trips, the band concerts and soccer games. But in the end, in our end, what do we remember? I’d like to think (and hope) it’s those spaces in between the moments. I think of music, the golden moment between the last note still trembling in the air, and then the appreciation of the whole, and it’s that space I recall most as a performer, that anticipation mixed with relief and satisfaction of a song well-played, of imparting something of beauty.
At the same time I wrote this, I was reviewing a critique from an author I very much respect. I had sent him the first 20 pages or so of my second novel, all for a good cause (The DZANC Creative Writing Sessions). He gave me wonderful stuff to ponder, but the take home for me was to make more white space between the scenes. Keep what was essential. The essence. And I keep coming back to that suggestion in my writing, and in my life in general. Space is a tough thing to achieve, though.
Susan: I believe I have stumbled upon one of life’s true optimists. What I have seen as holes, you see as spaces. I base my observation on having read many of your stories here and on the groups. Even when you write about the most serious topics, there is a certain level of buoyancy. As if you are telling the reader: It’s going to be OK. Yet it doesn’t diminish the impact of your stories at all.
Your first paragraph, last line of “The Golden Moment,” you write: I lower the bow, and the hall thunders.
Wow! It doesn’t get more positive than that! When writing this story were you consciously aware of how that line segued into the sensibility of the next (rather dark) paragraph?
Linda: An optimist? Hmm… that’s interesting – my husband calls me a worrywart. Which I am about all the stuff I can’t control. But those things which I can control, I guess I am pretty optimistic, largely because I have a choice: operate out of fear or love. I try to make choices that align with love but, of course, I’m human and stumble all the time. But when I have some control (or think I do), I tend to operate on a cup-half-full basis.
I love your comment about buoyancy. I could stop writing now and feel I’ve accomplished something, so thank you! Life is so blasted hard and complicated, and the tangles get worse as we age, but there’s so much beauty, too. So much to live for. I believe when you’ve been at the spot when you think life is not worthwhile, and then you find your way back, you tend to have that experience shimmer throughout your outlook and your writings. To be an optimist is really hard work – it is so much easier to slide into dark spaces. I fight the demons of negativity all the time, and I think it reflects in my writing.
Your observation about the last line of the first paragraph doing a segue into the second paragraph interests me, because I did not consciously think through the placement of those first two paragraphs. I mucked around with the positions of the remaining three, but not those two (and I actually at one time had 7 drafts). So your observation excites me (yay for the subconscious – it works, it really, really works!). What strikes me about the musical golden moment and September 11 is that on that tragic day, the silence in the sky deafened. I live 40 miles from DC and the same from Camp David, and I remember standing alone in my backyard, staring at the perfect brilliant sky, and waiting for a jet to explode that very extended golden moment. There was a grace that day about the sky’s silence, a sort of prayer.
Susan: A sort of prayer is what hit me also throughout the piece. There is a hush over each part, despite the intense energy, and a musical quality that ebbs and flows. In the second part you write: Planes careen into fields and skyscrapers, a cacophony of metal and fire.
It brought to mind Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves.” Not in content, but the way the energy of this piece works. Did you have any sense or physical sensation of water, the ocean, perhaps, when writing “The Golden Moment?”
Linda: Ah, once again the subconscious kicks in. To answer your question – no, I was not conscious of water, the lilt of the sea, when writing this story. But while writing, I did experience the sensation of being submerged, of all these events muffled, the way sensations of hearing and feeling distort and go quiet while under water.
I’ve been told much of my prose has a poetic movement to it. I love the rhythm of words, alone and in combination, and perhaps that is what you perceive here. Which is fine for short pieces, I guess, but deadly for novels (or so I’m told!). In my longer writings, I’m striving for transparency, and sparseness. Purity, I guess.
Susan: Well from my experience with the commercial publishing industry, everything is deadly for novels. So I wouldn’t even give that a thought. You have to do what feels right intuitively, I believe, and then use your craft and just let the novel rip out of you the way you, Linda, let the child come into the world in your third paragraph: The surgeon reaches into my abdomen and your head crowns, waxed with blood.
“Waxed with blood” is an astonishing phrase. It conjures up a waxed apple, perfect and beautiful. Definite purity.