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Writerly resolutions: July status

Draft two is DONE! I managed to trim A global look at six years’ work on the novel. The draft two progress looks much smoother since I had a decent idea of what was happening most of the time.about 5,000 words in the process, despite adding a new chapter in the middle, so that’s a good sign. I will need to print this puppy up to be able to read and edit for the revision stage and I’m planning on doing some significant research reading before diving in to make sure I’ve got historical and cultural details right. I just placed a library hold request on seventeen books, have seven more that the library has in ebook format that I’ll read along the way, plus ordered a bunch more that neither the Oak Park nor Chicago libraries have to fill out the rest of my research needs. A trio of books sitting on my to-read pile are also migrating to my being-read pile. Then there are the survivor testimonies I’ve found on the Yad Vashem website that I need to translate and find the useful details. I’m not sure that I’ll be getting into actual editing until maybe November or so, depending on how long these books and other materials take to read.

The new story made it to an unsatisfactory conclusion and re-reading what I’ve cobbled together over the last nine months has turned up a better sense of the middle that might get me to a valid ending.

Progress on story revision still slow.

Beautiful Sentences: Isabel Allende

En algos momentos tengo la sensación de que esto ya lo he vivido y que he escrito estas mismas palabras, pero comprendo que no soy yo, sino otra mujer, que anotó en sus cuadernos para que yo me sirviera de ellos.

Isabel Allende, La casa de los espíritus

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Writerly resolutions: June status

Back on track this month June progress, a few flattish spots but mostly a good diagonal linewith the novel. I missed writing a few days and had a few days of very low word counts, but for the last week and a half, I’ve made a point of advancing at least two pages a day through the printed first draft manuscript in the revision process which has helped me move along at a decent pace. I’ve set a goal of finishing this draft by the end of July so that when I go on vacation in August, I can leave my laptop behind.

Not a whole lot of work done on either the new story or the one that I’m revising, but I’m doing a mini-retreat this afternoon and I hope to get a bunch of work done on both at that point.

Writerly resolutions: May status

No good reason Progress in May. A few fits and starts not all so greatfor this month’s poor progress on the novel other than life intervening. In theory, I can finish this rewrite still by the end of June, but I suspect it will be July when it happens. Once that’s done, I end up diving into some heavy-duty research to make sure that I can fill in details and fix errors in the text

Story revision continues slowly.

The procrastination story is up for workshopping tomorrow which means I’ll be back on to the new story which I had optimistically thought was going to be done back in October.

“Place de Stalingrad”: The story behind the story

n Paris and Brussels, there are metro Image of the rotunde at Place de Stalingrad with a fountain in frontstops called “Stalingrad,” a fact I found fascinating, especially since the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in the wave of de-Stalinization under Nikita Krushchev. On my last visit to Paris, I decided I had to see what was at the stop with this name so one evening while my pregnant wife convalesced in our AirBnB I headed out to the 19ᵉ arrondissement to see for myself.

The immediate environs of the metro stop are not particularly interesting. It’s a nondescript neighborhood of shops and Hauptmann apartment blocks. But turn a corner and you find yourself at the actual plaza that gives the station its name. Situated at the southern end of the Bassin de la Villette, and far from the tourists who congregate in the lower-numbered arrondissements, it’s a place of tranquil beauty with movie theaters and restaurants facing the water.

With this place in mind, I started wondering what sort of story might come out of the place and thinking about the artists selling their wares out of stalls at the top of Montmartre, I came up with my characters and their mysterious and absent classmate. It took a fair amount of rewriting and reorganizing to get the story in the shape that it finally took, but I am pretty happy with the end result. You can read it here.

Feedback on drafts of the story came from Barbara Richstone, Gerald Winter, Robyn Ringler, Steven Thomas Howell, Travis Kiger, Maaza Mengiste, Monica Zarazua, Dan Portincaso, Davy McNell and Lori Barrett, 

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Writerly resolutions: April status

Another interesting graph month. Graph of progress in April. Things slowed down on April 8th while I was writing the new chapter, plus life intervened. I did get the first draft of the new chapter plus a rewrite done this month.This time the odd shapes are because I added a new chapter to the book (and life intervened a bit more than usual). I got a bit stuck on the new chapter since I wanted it to be about more than the chapter title and historical event that I was relating and I needed to figure out how it affected the characters and the story. I still have to do a revision round on the chapter, but it’s overall in a good place.

Story revision is going slowly as I realize that the story at the top of the pile needs a lot of work.It will probably end up going back to workshop before it goes on submission as I’m doing some major surgery on the piece.

News about a new publication tomorrow.

The new story is plodding along although I’ve taken another procrastination break from it to write something very short and strange. I think it has a chance of not being bad.

Sonnet 18 after much machine translation

Do I cut your summer?
You are very beautiful and very sweet.
Can change by a strong wind.
And put the summer in a short time.
It’s hot in the eyes of the sky,
It’s a gold weight.
The best time of this time is correct
Activity or change
But all the summer never passes.
To lose damage;
His garden not dead when the time
If time is over for permanent calling,
Men can take breath or water,
That’s why it’s a long life, and gives.

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Writerly resolutions: March status

Sometimes a graph doesn’t tell the My progress for March. Steadyish progress from abour 40,000 words to about 47,000 words then it looks like I stall out for a week and a half before more progress but this is why there's a blog post and not just a picturewhole story. My graph looks like for about a third of the month I didn’t make much progress but in fact, even though my word count didn’t move around much (and even dropped a bit), that was a result of wrestling with a troublesome passage in the first draft and making it much better on the rewrite. I feel a bit like the flat bits on the graph show more work happening than the steep slopes.

Got two more story revisions kicked out the door, one of which is a chapter in the novel, the other was accepted for publication fairly quickly so there will be more news about that soonish.

The new story is gaining more clarity as I get more of a sense of what it’s about. I was to have workshopped this Thursday but a bout of Covid in the family is keeping me out of the rotation but I’ll be getting a new slot in two weeks and maybe it will be ready then?

Writerly resolutions: February status

Even though there was one less day and I Progress on the novel in February. An almost straight diagonal line upmissed a day of writing, I managed to get more words rewritten for the novel this month than last. I’ve also been in a bit of a research binge of late with even more books added to my list and more books read. Israel Joseph Singer’s¹ novel The Brothers Ashkenazi was a wonderful read.

On the revision front, I finished revising one story and got it into submissions. Another story is in progress and being a bit shorter and perhaps in somewhat better shape, should be quicker to get kicked out the door

On the new story front, I ended up, in procrastination over this story, writing a whole other piece which got workshopped in February. The procrastination may have worked a little because I think I‘m a bit unblocked on the new story. There’s a lot that will need to be cut as I figure out what the story is about.


  1. Yes, this is the older brother of the better-known Isaac Bashevis Singer. And perhaps a more rewarding author to read as well.
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Writerly resolutions: January Status

I succeeded in Graph showing generally steady progress on the novel from 12680 words to 24614 wordsgetting at least a little bit of writing done on the novel every day this month. At the current pace I’ll have draft two finished in mid-July. Of course there are always bits of research digressions which can throw me off (like I wanted to know what the name of the railroad tracks that divide Lawndale from the Near West Side was in the 1930s. Talking with my dad was not especially helpful, although I did manage to find a historic map which identified them as “C.T.T. R.R.” and further research turned up that this was the Chicago Terminal Transfer Railroad which was absorbed by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, so I’m referring to them as the B&O tracks unless I get better information than that.¹

The revision work on workshopped stories continues. I’m currently doing a complete rewrite of a piece which was originally written in an invented pidgin² which I’m retaining for some of the dialog, but not for the whole piece like in the previous drafts. It will need at least one more revision round after the rewrite, but that should be less time-consuming. I’ve also found a number of problems with the mechanics of the story in the course of the rewrite (mostly minor inconsistencies in action or characterization) which I think the pidgin made harder to find.

The new story, which I had thought I’d be able to knock out in a month or less continues to challenge me. I’ve been creating a growing deleted text file from the story. I have realized that these things tend to be more aspirational than practical (sort of like those beautiful hardcover notebooks that so many of us will buy, write on the first 5–10 pages and then never use again) but it does make it emotionally easier to jettison stuff that needs to go. 


  1. To complicate matters, it’s not uncommon for Chicagoans to refer to things by long-changed names. There’s the obvious case of the Sears Tower, but there’s also things like Crawford/Pulaski or Northwestern Station, which was torn down and renamed twice and even the conductors on the Metra trains going into it still called it Northwestern Station.
  2. I can overindulge myself in linguistic things like this.