Digging It Up: Notebook For a Novel

I spent an hour this morning reading my old journals. I was looking for the account of a specific trip, but almost immediately I was sucked into a time warp that spit me out in a cozy little Dutch bakery in Ballard, circa 1999. In rushed the drizzly Seattle autumn, its golden October roses, ships coming and going in the city’s many canals, and the essence of my old neighborhood with its docks and cobbled streets, and, always, that Seattle overcast warmed by the lights of a thousand coffeeshops twinkling in the distance…okay, perhaps nostalgia waxes a bit poetic…but all of it came back to me through my untidy scrawl, and with it came a profound appreciation for that time in my life, when I carried my journal with me most days, and I made time to scribble and dream in its pages. Usually tucked into a comfortable armchair in one of those coffeeshops, and espresso fueled, I chronicled daily life, sure, but also the process of writing my first novel, the unpublished Crescent. Everything about that book was rooted in the northwest, my ancestral home, and for a period of four years or so I dug into that fertile soil, read oral histories, spent weeks in the Skagit Valley, where the mythical town of Crescent lay, and pioneered my way through my first book-length manuscript.

In 2006, excerpts of some of my journals from that time were published by Impassio Press in In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, under the title “Digging It Up: Notebook For a Novel.” Although the journal excerpts are now more than ten years old, I still recognize the voice, excited and daunted by the prospect of writing a novel, fascinated by craft and the flow of imagination. I have grown and evolved as a writer since then, of course, and I do not spend as much time in coffeeshops as I used to. I find that I produce fewer pages of journals, and more pages of fiction. This is fine, but I miss the intimacy of those old journals, and I’m grateful that a glimpse of that world is visible for anyone who might wish to dig into it. If you’d like to read “Digging It Up,” it’s available at Google Books. Just go here. If you love fragmentary writing, please purchase In Pieces here.