An update on SHAHIDA is long overdue, and like most things novelists say, requires context.
The short of it is that I plan to have a complete draft by the end of March, and am hauling away loads of scaffolding–that is, what the Portland Dangerous Writers call those tedious passages of first-draft writing in which the novelist explains the story to herself. The only thing SHAHIDA lacks is its ending, which lies somewhere beneath the final load of scaffolding. You can’t find clarity until you’ve piled a lot of chaos on top of it, and let it germinate.
The long of it is that while I am finishing this novel, E. and I will be uprooting ourselves again and moving to San Antonio. I’m getting better at chaos–at searching for houses from afar, checking walk scores, finding the right glassware (e.g., the margarita glasses) on the other side, and most of all, stepping back from routines, favorite streets, new friends, and whatever lens on the world is local to the current city. Except for the friends, it’s scaffolding. It doesn’t travel well. Unless it someday appears in a novel, reshaped or cleverly distorted, it’s gone.
What travels is the habit of writing; the love of my work; the long e-mails with friends (it has been a joy to discover a sharper premise in tandem with my friend Laura Stanfill‘s own journeys into her novel, for instance); and the whole complex inner city that is a relationship with another human being. Maybe language, too–the most personal lens on the world, our voice.
There seems to be a chicken-and-egg question with regard to adaptation, travel, and growth. What doesn’t travel cannot learn to adapt. Yet what doesn’t grow doesn’t travel well, either.