Posted by: Sarah | June 2, 2010

Literary Blogs: Dear Diary…

The Paris Review just launched their first blog The Paris Review Daily. Being one of the most highly regarded literary magazines in the biz, it’s interesting to witness the evolving nature of the literary magazine. Back in January, Ted Genoways of the Virginia Quarterly Review caused quite the uproar with his essay “The Death of Fiction?” on Mother Jones. In it, he discussed the dwindling livelihood of the traditional literary magazine. If you haven’t checked out the debate, I encourage you to do so.

In the age of Kindles, Droid phones, and online everything, I wonder if the literary magazine isn’t so much dying as undergoing a metamorphosis, changing in response to the available mediums of readership. This seems to be the case for The Paris Review, and I’m thrilled to find I can now retrieve daily snippets with a point and click.

The Review’s paper publication releases quarterly. But let’s face it, we live in an ADD society where every three months might as well be every three years—so much can and does occur in that vast gully of time. Three months ago, we were iPad-less and Tinkers hadn’t won the Pulitzer. The world was a different animal then. And so, the editors of the Review have expanded their connection to the reader with a daily blog.

In its first post, a letter to the reader, editor Lorin Stein explains, “…there is plenty to interest us in the writing of our moment, and not only in the writing. Everywhere we look, whether it’s the new painting, film, or YouTube clip, we find beauty sufficient unto the present day, the only one we’ve got.”

Cheers to that!

This morning I clicked on The Paris Review Daily and found a wonderful segment entitled “The Cultural Diaries” by Sarah Crichton, an editor and publisher at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Such a simple format: a timeline diary. It’s not breaking new literary ground, yet I was completely captivated. It’s reality TV the old-school way, in writing. With the popularity of Facebook, Twitter, and reality shows, we seem to have a global fascination with the ins and outs of other people’s lives. This isn’t surprising. Isn’t it the basis of every good novel? Every good book? Real and imagined characters with interesting stories.

Crichton’s post prompted me to do my own “Cultural Diary.” Though the hours of a common writer are far less charming, this was an interesting exercise documenting how a single day in my life unfolded. To read it back, your own life begins to take on storytelling form, and it reminded me of the diaries I kept as a young girl. A practice that perhaps deems resumption, not so much for the public eye as for my own.

Yours truly, Sarah

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

8:30 a.m. Wake up. It’s sticky hot under the covers. El Paso is hot. The sun is shining on my pillow. I can’t sleep when I’m hot. Up, up, up. My husband woke me at 5 a.m. to say goodbye. I can still smell his soap on my cheek. Three days ago he returned from a 4-month Army station in Utah. So after five years of marriage, we’re in a kind of honeymoon phase again.

8:45 a.m. Reading in bed. I keep a revolving book bedmate on the nightstand. Today it’s Sandra Dallas’s Prayers for Sale.

9:15 a.m. I hear Gatsby on the stairs, scratching himself, kicking the wall. I debate staying in the sheets with my book versus letting him out to pee.

9:20 a.m. I’m still debating. The angel on my right shoulder calls me a selfish pup momma and I wrench myself up.

9:30 a.m. Gatsby’s morning tummy rub and song, outdoor romp, and breakfast bowl. It’s staggering hot in the desert, even in the morning. I feel the skin on my nose scorch after five minutes in the sun—and I’ve got Hispanic skin.

9:40 a.m. Munching and making morning tea: 1 bag Pekoe + 1 bag Matcha green. My husband balks at this caffeine double-dose. I ration it’s “healthier” than coffee, though I have no idea if that’s true or not. I figure it must be—antioxidants and such. I pop a caramel candy while I’m waiting for my tea to brew. I know, candy in the morning? My mother would be so disappointed. Aw, the luxury of being a grown up (i.e. Old).

9:50 a.m. Booting up my MacBook. I’m a new Mac owner so I have to specify that I turned on my “Mac” not just my laptop. (Mac users are such vain creatures.) Checking emails after the long weekend. Bing, bing, bing, bing, my inbox list grows. I skim the Barnes & Noble discount ads, the Rue La La list, a handful of Facebook comments and new Twitter followings, then turn my attention to the business emails.

11 a.m. Still in email-land. Reading, responding. Reading, responding. Swear to stop in five minutes and work on my book manuscript.

11:15 a.m. Click close my inbox and open manuscript Word document. “I need another cup of tea,” says the devil on my left shoulder. No, I really don’t. I’m procrastinating. Get. To. Work.

1:40 p.m. Lunch time! I reward my uninterrupted work by making a Giada de Laurentiis recipe and eat standing up over the stove. Delish. Afterwards, I play ball with Gatsby. He’s a champ at fetch. Before going back to work, I throw some ingredients in the Crock Pot. One of my best friends recently introduced me to the blog “A Year of Slow Cooking.” The blogger was on the Rachel Ray Show. Who can argue with dinner that cooks itself?

2:55 p.m. Back at my laptop, pounding at the keys.

5:01 p.m. I really need another cup of tea, and this time, it’s true. I brew up a double bag, grab a snack, and give Gatsby an ice cube treat. He loves crunching them to bits. I return to my desk and decide a little Internet surfing would be an excellent amusement break. I check out the oodles of updates on Facebook, scanning my friend’s mini-dramas: little Billy’s chickenpox, Donna’s new job, Jennifer’s diatribe against the local drivers, Tom’s breakup, Janice’s latest ultra sound of baby X. I giggle and balk at some of the most intimate details people put online. But then, I write books and a blog, so who am I to talk.

5:25 p.m. Caffeine kicks in. Back to work.

7:00 p.m. Husband calls to say he’s on his way home. I smell the Crock Pot fixings and know the chicken is falling off the bone. My mouth waters. I go down and swear I’m only going to “test” dinner. Fork by fork, I eat half the pot, again, standing up at the kitchen counter.

7:30 p.m. Husband walks in the door. I’ve transferred his dinner portion onto a plate to make it look prettier—less picked over. I sit and listen to his day while he eats and shows me emails and surgical photos on his Droid phone.

8 p.m. I go up to my writing office and auto-save my work to my external hard drive—a lesson hard learned through two computer meltdowns. Check emails one last time with no intention of writing any replies. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

9 p.m. On the couch with the hubs and pup. This is our brainless time. Our “let’s watch TV that we would rather die than tell our friends we watch” time. These mostly consist of DVR-ed reality TV shows with teen protagonists.

10 p.m. My husband looks like a raccoon. Dark-eyed and whiskered. We say goodnight and he goes up to bed. I stay up watching stuff that bores him—the History and Biography Channels. I contemplate reading my book, but it’s up by my bedside and I don’t want to wake him.

11:30 p.m. I let Gatsby out before bed, turn off the lights, and make my way up the stairs in the dark.

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Responses

  1. Sarah, I’m so delighted you made your own culture diary! This is marvelous!!

  2. Thank you for sharing a day in the life of an author! I have gotten use to drinking a cup of coffee in the morning and afternoon to keep me awake. I still hit the bed at 8:00 and sleeping by 8:30 PM!


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