Lessons from Raking

imagesWe have two large red oak trees in our front yard. I am the designated raker. Nobody is jockeying to take this post from me so I have plenty of time to muse while raking each fall. As in, “I could a) learn Chinese or b) write another novel if I wasn’t raking. ” Or I think about life lessons and/or writing lessons. As in:
Abundance: Estimates on the number of leaves on a mature oak tree vary from (by my quick Google search), 63,000 to 200,000. So, a lot. In my genre of literary historical fiction, there are typically 100,000 words. Multiply this by the literally dozens of passes over each sentence (for me anyway–other writers may be quicker). So that’s a lot. Lesson: pace yourself.
Patience: Leaves eventually all fall down. Books get written, word by word. I should remember this when leaf cover on the grass is thick or a the writing gets rough and one is tempted to give up.
Gratitude: The leaves produce oxygen for us and literature is good. Banal point, but worth remembering.
Endurance: I rake and rake and look up and there are still thousands more leaves to come down, but I think: someday I’ll rake the last one of the season. Persistence will win out. The book will be written.
Progress not perfection: A valuable 12-step motto. I rake and look behind me where more leaves are falling. But the pile by the side of the road is growing. I edit chapter 8, which reveals changes to be made in chapters 2 to 8, but we are moving forward.
And finally, these fall days are beautiful. No lesson here, just pleasure.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Workshop on Point of View for the Knoxville Writers Guild, Sat. Feb. 18, 2017, 10am to noon

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Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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