Welcome to my blog, Ground One!
Ground Zero : Function: noun; Date: 1946 ~ 1: the point directly above, below, or at which a nuclear explosion occurs; 2: the center or origin of rapid, intense, or violent activity or change; 3: the very beginning .
Ground One: Function: verb; Date: 2008 ~ 1: to create a new beginning from an ending, starting from the ground up; 2: to use one’s life beliefs and values to break new ground; 3: to ground oneself; i.e., to become one with the earth or universal whole; 4: to journey within to find new solutions to ancient problems; 5: to use one’s unique individual gifts to improve the whole; 6: to find common ground among a diversity of cultures, philosophies, and ideas.
A friend asked once what I would do if I had no fear. I know I’d get on the next plane for Gaza. But until that’s possible, writing can transport me there.
Most of my life has been lived out on a blank white sheet of paper. I’ve fought it, tried to run from it, but it’s what I do best, and most of the time, I’ve succumbed to destiny.
I used to say I could and would write about anything and everything. I wrote about snow shovels and retro-running, pet hotels and insulated tubing. Eventually I graduated to writing about things that meant more to me—famine in Ethiopia, AIDS programs in Iowa, and psychosocial outreach for caregivers. Big ideas read by a relatively small audience. So I decided to write a novel—a second novel, in fact, as my first novel Moments on the Edge won the Hollins (University) Fiction Award, and then life took over and I never tried to get it published.
Most of my writing is about connection, the threads that bind us together. My first novel was about the interconnections between a woman who came of age during the Industrial Revolution and a much younger woman living through the Sexual Revolution. In writing Moments I found, though I was masterful at characterization, I was much less so with plot. I put the novel aside and wrote about radon and slow lorises instead. I read, and I took more writing classes.
Until I was 40 with two children. Until 9/11 occurred. This time would be different, I convinced myself. I finished the novel. I revised the novel. I revised the novel yet again, and again. I submitted, and I earned my “permissions slips to proceed” (what I call “rejection slips.”) Now I call on you to decide if Incongruent can see the light of a broad readership. The novel has been called “a work of importance” by my peers. I tell the students at Career Day that publishing isn’t everything, that it’s the process that reaps the real personal benefits. Yet, writing is meant to be read.
Writing is meant to be read.
Incongruent brought together my personal and professional desires. It was all mine. I was able to speak in a way that I was unable to in non-fiction, to say things in a way I hope will stimulate lively discussion and thought. Incongruent is a novel of social justice, a genre I knew I wanted to join the first time I read Steinbeck. The novel took me to Lebanon, to confirm what I’d always fantasized it would be like. I arrived six weeks before the Israeli/Hezbollah War. I left a changed person.
As the taxi took me to the airport, I was filled with tremendous grief that I might not see the Middle East again. I had never been anywhere that felt so right, so much like home to me, other than Paris. I didn’t have any reason to think I wouldn’t return at the time, other than it had taken me so long to visit it once. In the Beirut airport, I dismissed my sense of foreboding as merely lingering energy from all the violence those runways have seen. Soon enough, though, the violence returned, and I wonder now if I will ever see Petra or Jerusalem or drive along the Damascus Road again.
I miss the beauty of the landscape and the bustling Lebanese streets. I miss the young grocery clerk who told me not to fish for extra change for a purchase and then took the change from her own pocket. I miss the vendor in the mountains where Khalil Gibran was born, who told me I had beautiful eyes. I miss the elegant lady who gave me directions in French, Arabic, and what might have been Portuguese. I miss the taxi drivers. I miss the restaurants. I even miss the noise—the lack of traffic lights, the abundance of beeping.
“I have no place in my life for things and people without passion. I want my life to burn like a thousand suns.”
Hermann Hesse wrote, “I have no place in my life for things and people without passion. I want my life to burn like a thousand suns.” That describes Lebanon to me. I have attempted to live by that principle, too. I do my best to take all the risks presented on my path. I am also a woman who meets her responsibilities head-on, without regret. There is no place I’d rather be right now than in the Middle East, making a difference. But for now, I’ll raise my children, and I’ll spin my stories of others, hoping to use everything God gave me to make a difference from exactly where I am ow.
I hope you’ll enjoy Incongruent. I hope it will transport its readers as much as it transported its author. Please do let me know what you think, and if you feel moved do so, I’d appreciate your vote in this year’s Next Best Fiction Author contest. You have my heartfelt gratitude!
Hesse also said, “Our mind is capable of passing beyond the dividing line we have drawn for it. Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists, other, new insights begin.” Life, Writing. Writing, Life. Maybe they aren’t incongruent after all.