Events, General, Journal

Dreamers is gone….to the Printer

Dreamers, a novelI did it. I finally sent my novel, Dreamers, to the printer.

Today, Tuesday, April 5th, 2011, at 12:44 PM. ( I couldn’t help looking at the time, embed it in my memory.) I felt like crying then and do now as I write this. Why?  I’m happy, that’s why. It’s such a big deal.

Okay, it’s not the final-final, just the preview advance copy, and I’m printing only a few books to send to book reviewers to ask,  to respectfully request, their endorsements to add to the final.  “Advance Copy–Not for Sale” it reads on the back cover.

When I say I sent, I really mean “uploaded”; here in the electronic stratosphere of Northern California, I can send my brilliant blue cover file and my 374 page text file electronically to Kentucky where the printer does her magic. The printer’s a huge corporation, not a “she”, but hey, the Supreme Court ruled last year by  5-4 (Citizens United v. FEC ) that corporations are people with feelings and rights, so I think of my printer as a “she”.

So I sent my book to Kentucky with a click of my keyboard. But this techno-miracle is nothing to the miracle of Dreamers itself. I don’t want to talk  too much about this as I’ll lose it here tonight, and have to stop writing here at the computer. Like with the cryingg – Look at that, I just misspelled a word. So what, you say? Spelling matters in the book world. It’s like dropping off a high wire if you’re a squirrel. It’s like this feat of Dreamers at the printer.

You see, Dreamers is a novel that took too long to write.

Yeah, that’s right. I started it in 1969 in New York where I was teaching 6th grade at a private school in the East Village. One weekend or another, I wrote a few pages in my studio walkup on West 96th Street. It wasn’t called Dreamers then. I don’t think it had a name but it had a trolley  (remember trolleys?) that crashed into a brand new Impala during a snowstorm in Pittsburgh, PA the town where I was born. And that’s still the way the story begins, more or less.

I was twenty-four and dreaming of becoming a great female writer, a combination of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, or maybe James Joyce and Tolstoy depending on who I was reading at the time. I have to add “female” because it didn’t escape me then or now that all my writing heroes were men.

This would be my second novel. My first, “Hobbyhorse”,  was written in college, and I had 5 copies typed out on onionskin, one I had left on a toilet in an art gallery on Waikiki Beach.

A little later, I was reading the New York Sunday Times book reviews when I saw a small boxed notice of a winter Writer’s Workshop at the Provincetown Fine Arts Center on the tip of Cape Cod. Norman Mailer was one of the participant mentors. Reading that, I applied, sending in my few beginning pages in right away. Norman Mailer was shocking, prolific, a rebel, and a successful literary bad boy. I wanted to be part of whatever he was doing.

It’s still 1969. Come the 3rd of August and I’m in San Francisco now, having migrated out of New York on a romantic whim, when I get a telegram saying I’ve been accepted at the Provincetown Fine Arts Writing Workshop and what’s more, have been offered a full scholarship from the American Federation of the Arts to go there.

What a miracle! It’s out of this magic that Dreamers was seeded. I had an Alice-in-Wonderland kind of experience that winter in Provincetown and left the following spring with a seedling, half of a first draft. “Momma’s Old Clothes” was the title, after the dirty laundry that fell out of the Impala when the trolley crashed into it.

But oh, how long it took for that seed to bear fruit. I’m too exhausted to think about it. I need a rest after conjuring up these old stories. You can imagine how much more there is to tell.  It’s too much for one night–how long it’s been, 42 years from then till now. I’ll write about it some another time. Tonight I’m going to watch an old movie and forget about it. But tomorrow I’ll be checking my email to see if the printer got the files and if they’re alright–as in, all right. Oh my god. What if it all disappeared? Oh, sure I have backups. That’s not what I meant. You get it, don’t you? Disappeared, as in dreams that are lost forever.

Events, General, Journal

New! WriteWords Press is Expanding

NEW!  WriteWords Press is set to launch two more books in 2011!  In addition to Sundagger.net, WriteWords Press will publish:

Dreamers, an interracial romance of the ’60s, by  Margaret C. Murray

Floating Point, Endlessly Rocking Off Silicon Valley, a memoir by Shelley Buck

WriteWords Press began on a gray day four years ago.  It was January 19, 2007 and I was in Martinez, CA. I had just walked into a small old brick one-story office to register the fictitious business name of WriteWord Press at the County Clerk Recorder’s office.

The quaint town of Martinez lies on the water’s edge where the Sacramento River meets the San Francisco Bay. In the goldrush days, it was a ferryboat transit point across the Carquinez Straits on the way to the gold fields.

There were many birds in the wetlands near where I had parked my car. A few gulls followed screeching as I walked the two blocks down Main Street to the County Building.

It was a new moon in the sign of Capricorn, signifying a goat who climbs mountains.  I had the planets of Mercury (mind) and Mars (energy) in the sign of Capricorn when I was born and I was going to need that mountain goat energy now.

Ahead of me were two couples applying for marriage licenses. One couple was young with both sets of parents as witnesses, the other couple  past middle-age, like myself. We all stood in a straggling line that ended at a glass-windowed linoleum countertop.  On the other side of the glass, a harried clerk with touseled hair sat hunched over her computer.

I felt focused, clear-headed and resolute. Why was I taking on this Olympian task of launching WriteWords Press? Simply put, I was ready. I was ready to put my novels into the world.

You might say I’ve been addicted to good books since I was seven and could read. I had studied the great works of English and American literature as an undergraduate and graduate English major.

I practice the art of fiction reading and writing as a way of seeing beyond myself, into the meaning of my life, the way one might practice meditation to gain awareness. I had written at least five unpublished novels.

What’s more, I was sick and tired of hoping I’d write the perfect query letter to the understanding publisher. I was sick and tired of mailing out novel manuscripts with the accompanying SASE (for Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope).

No, I was finished with all that. No more did I want to spend my time frightened of the big, brown, stuffed envelope with my returned manuscript that sooner or later would appear in my mailbox.

No more did I want to spend my time praying for the agent who would recognize my work and take me on despite the overwhelming odds. The truth is I HAD that agent decades ago, a famous agent from New York City.

All that long ago, water under the bridge, and I was not looking back.

But neither the couples to be married at the registrar’s office, my planets in Capricorn, my publishing hard knocks or my literary expertise would have kept me in that line I was standing in. No, I owed my courage to more.

A lot of it had to do with my children, especially my oldest son who complained loudly in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want to have an failed novelist as a mother!” I couldn’t let him down! I deserved to give Chris a better image of his mother than that.

Then there was an educational program I had begun a year before.  I did it to come to terms with myself as a writer. But an amazing thing happened. The terms I assigned to myself disappeared. Instead I was coached to strike out into uncharted (and up till then unacceptable to me) territory.

But was it really unknown–this new independent publishing world? From my years as a technical writer, I knew well the nuts and bolts of writing, editing and putting a book together. With each contract job, the documentation, user manuals, white papers, and procedures I was hired to write took shape and direction on my watch.

I would not wait any longer for someone else to take me by the hand. I would make it happen myself. Why not take a leap into a new land and birth a small press? Yes, I was ready to become a small press publisher.

And now, four years later, WriteWords Press is expanding!

Events, Journal

Once upon a time we were in Yosemite

My solstice writing workshop at Yosemite was sweet! We sat on huge granite boulders outside the Sierra Club’s Le Conte lodge, beneath the hot afternoon sun. I began by drumming, mimicking the sun. (Did you know the sun’s center acts like a huge pulsing drum? See the recent KQED special, Journey into the Sun.)

The participants and I conjured up images, words, phrases and paragraphs about the sun, the earth, and we humans who measure and make meaning from the solstice and the heavens itself. Our imaginations flowed like the Merced River across the road.

As the sun crossed the sky and the wind came up, we moved from the wooded, rocky hillside behind the lodge to the river’s edge and then back to where we began. I ended by drumming. We all had written something we wanted to tell.

Two high points for me were the creative writing skills of the participants and the opportunity of having my books for sale at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village. As I told one of their cheery employees, I am honored to have my novel in a gallery named for the great nature photographer and friend of John Muir. Plus the place is jumping!

GREAT NEWS! Now you can buy Sundagger.net to download to your computer, Kindle, iPhone or any other e-reader.
Buy my book for $4.95

Events

Solstice Writing in Yosemite Valley

Where we begin our journey
Where we begin our journey

At the beginning of summer, when the sun is at its highest point and the day is longest, I’ll be leading a Solstice Writing event in Yosemite Valley, California.

At the solstice writing event, you will have the opportunity to write a story or a poem, and we will all be there to listen.

We will leave from Le Conte Lodge, built by the Sierra Club in 1904 to honor Joseph Le Conte, Sierra Club founder and friend of John Muir.

We’ll hike to a spot where we can be comfortable and make a circle, calling in the four directions and the four elements, accompanied by drumming.

Our focus begins with the sun, source of all our power. We’ll listen to a story and together we’ll conjure up words used  to describe the sun. You’ll talk about your experiences and view images that ancient artists carved and painted. You’ll draw a sun, claiming it for yourself, and write words and phrases to describe it. You’ll share your work with other partipants.

Now we turn to the earth, for the sun shining alone in the universe is meaningless.There is no solstice without the receiver, the earth. I will read a poem or story featuring the earth.We’ll talk about how we see the earth. You’ll make your own image of the earth, write down words to describe it and share with others.

Now we’ll focus on the human characters who give the solstice meaning and significance, who measure the moment when the day is longest and record those differences through time. What is their story? We will explore together. You will use your notes to write a story in prose or poetry. You’ll focus on what matters to you, writing close to your heart.

As with the spiral, half-hidden on Fajada Butte and pictured on the cover of my novel, Sundagger.net, you too have secret access to the sun’s energy at the summer solstice. Taking on that power, you become like the prehistoric Anasazi man who carved the spiral, thus recording a precious moment in time.

In this workshop, you’ll harness meaning through self-expression.

Why not make plans to come on this journey with me?  It’s an opportunity to listen, write, and have your work be appreciated.

What: Solstice Writing Workshop
Where: Le Conte Lodge, Yosemite Valley, CA
When: Sunday, June 27th, 2010. 2-4 pm
Cost: Free

Sundagger.net, “a mystery in another dimension”–Tony Hillerman.

Events, Readings

Celebrate the Summer Sun! Bring Your Drum!

sun dagger by Michael Goslow

Summer Solstice Reading
June 14th, 2010, 7PM
Hercules Library
Hercules, CA  94547

You’re invited to a book reading I’m having of my novel, Sundagger.net, “a mystery in another dimension”, at the brand new Hercules Library. Please come! It will be held on a bright Monday evening, one week before the actual solstice on June 21st.

What is a summer solstice? It is the longest day of the year and occurs when the earth is tilted closest to the sun.

My novel begins and ends with a solstice ceremony. The title is based on an actual phenomenon that occurs at the solstices. In Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, the sun “pierces” a spiral petroglyph carved by the Anasazi at the top of a butte. The stone slabs through which the sun shines shape the light into dagger(s). One dagger shines down the center of the spiral at the summer solstice and two flank the rim at the winter solstice.

The reading will also include drumming and Native American ceremony. It will be held in a beautiful large white room in the Hercules Library with all the latest electronic equipment one might ever need. I’ll be showing slides of the amazing and colossal Chaco Canyon ruins.

As we approach the summer solstice, our energies will be high and our intention strong. Together we will manifest ourselves. Come celebrate. Bring your drum!

Sun Dagger Piercing Spiral Petroglyph, Chaco Canyon, NM
Sun Dagger Piercing Spiral Petroglyph, Chaco Canyon, NM
Events, Journal

Why didn’t I ask Sherman Alexie to endorse my book?

When I showed my friend, Josh, Sherman Alexie’s new novel, War Dances,and explained the nationally recognized Native American author had signed his latest book for me at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, Josh wanted to know if I asked him to endorse my book, Sundagger.net. I was amazed to realize the question never entered my mind.

Not then, not in October, 2009. But the truth is three years ago when I was finishing my novel, Sherman Alexie was the first writer I thought of to review it. I admired his work and had read it all. He is a master craftsman of  language, excelling in hauntingly vulnerable, funny, appealing characters, a unique, authentic writer who takes chances. Three years I checked out his website, looking for a way to reach him but got discouraged. There was no point in contacting him I decided, indulging in self-pity. He would not be interested in a white woman writing magical stories of prehistoric mysterious indigenous tribes entangled with hi-tech netcom capitalists.

Yet here I was at the NCIBA holding my novel as I forced myself to walk over to the long table where Sherman Alexie was signing copies of War Dances. There was a lady in front of me who had been at his overflow reading in an Oakland church the night before and was telling him how much she loved it. Sherman was smiling up at her. I was enjoying her too, imagining how exciting that experience had been and how great it was to hear such positive feedback.

When it was my turn, Sherman Alexie had already opened up one of his brand new bright blue hard cover books to sign. But I was holding out my book, bent on presenting it. I blurted how Sundagger.net was a story of magic realism with a Native American theme, set in the Southwest of the ancient Anasazi and in post-9/11 Silicon Valley. I talked about my book cover, the electric digitalized shot of Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon framed by two flying silhouettes. I talked about myself. I told him how much I admired his work.

He took up his pen.  “Good luck, Margaret, with your book,” he wrote. That was when I should have asked him to endorse it! But I was bemused with my own satisfaction. I’ll definitely ask Sherman Alexie for his endorsement to the prequel to Sundagger.net. I promise.

Events, Readings

Video interview with the author

I’m outside the Pinole Library. I’ve just finished my “Event with the Author,”  reading from my novel and showing slides of Chaco Canyon World Heritage Center in New Mexico.  Looking at myself is humbling and yet–can you tell?–I’m proud too. Ha!  Life is wonderful. Everything comes to pass. I’ve started writing my next book. I’m 25 pages into the unknown that is the prequel to Sundagger.net. My working title is Center of the World—that’s what the Anasazi must have felt. It’s where we’re all at, don’t you think?

Events, Journal

The Author in her Author’s Booth at the California Expo State Fair

Look at the great poster too!
Look at the great poster too!

The Author in her Author’s Booth at the California Expo State Fair

Around Labor Day I appeared twice at California Expo State Fair Author’s Booth in Sacramento, CA. There were 38 of us writers scheduled to appear over the two-week period. I was thrilled because a year before I had been on the other side of the booth, listening to other writers talk about their books. And now I had the chance to be one of them.

The booth was in the center of the first floor of a building overflowing with enticing displays from all the California counties. It was an old barn of a warehouse in fact, without lighting, wireless access, enough electrical outlets or sound insulation. I sat with four other writers looking out long picnic tables where fairgoers devoured chocolate-covered berries, sticky cinnamon buns, thick pizza, sourdough chowder bowls and funnel cakes. Our job was to talk to people, sell our books, and read our work if we chose.

I learned from the other authors how to take charge no matter what the environment. The engaging journalist-historian and a children’s writer on either side of me wooed the crowd in different ways, using their passion for their books to fuel one-time intimate conversations. When not talking, the journalist took copious notes from an old book about Sacramento, his next history project. In a very soft voice, the children’s writer prompted passers-by to lean over the table to better hear her.

The experience of carrying on conversations with strangers about my book or any book was fascinating, if nebulous. The second time I appeared was a Thursday and a slow day for the fair. Some people stopped to look, some to talk. I met a man who worked for the National Park Service and was the planner for Chaco Canyon National Park during the 1980s. He actually got the rare chance to go to the top of Fajada Butte and see the sun dagger during the solstices. After our enthusiastic conversation about the primitive terrain into the canyon, he bought my book.

Unlike opening day when there had been no microphone, this time there was one and I was determined to read. I had signed up to appear at 3:15 PM, allotting a little over a quarter hour for my appearance. My young friend, Josh, was there to accompany me with his Native American singing and drumming. Still I felt challenged, knowing my audience was hit-or-miss, random folk milling about. Would I be able to attract their interest enough to stop and sit down on the folding chairs and be caught up in my story?

I did find an audience. There was one family of four, including children, who sat near the front. The father listened intently as I read about the Navajo and Hopi views of a vision quest. I remember a few single people sitting at the end. There was at least one couple toward the back. An intent young man near the center. Who else? My good friend, Rose, from Concord was there to support me. I felt so grateful.

I had practiced all the previous week, talking into my tape recorder, writing out an outline. But looking out at the people wandering by, only vaguely aware of me on the stage, I became distracted. Rushing past my own confusion, I started reading from Chapter 16, Vision Quest, where a group of people from a San Francisco Bay Area sweat lodge ends up in Chaco Canyon.

I held the microphone to my lips as Josh drummed four different times while the scenes changed and then finished by singing a Sundance song. His song was great. But there was so much noise in that cavernous building! So many distractions; for example, a rock climbing demonstration area was located right next to the stage.

Time flew by. From my proceeds, I wrote a check for California Sales Tax to Naida West, the Author’s Booth organizer and an outstanding novelist of California history with a Native American point of view. I won’t forget those people who talked with me, who listened to my story, and I to theirs. My spirits were high when I drove home.

Events

Meet me in the Author’s Booth

Margaret Murray appearing at California State Fair,

Cal Expo, Sacramento.

August 21st, Friday, 4:00 – 10:00PM

September 3rd, Thursday, 12:00 – 5:00PM

Weird, Wild and Wacky is the theme of the 2009 California State Fair.
I’ll be there with Sundagger.net, a magic novel of the ancient Anasazi and post-9/11 Silicon Valley. Weird? Wild? Wacky? You tell me.

I’ll show slides of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, where the old and new stories collide.

For more, go to: http://www.bigfun.org/