>Working the Dough of the Draft

>Today as I make pie crust for a quiche, I’m pausing between steps to work through novel revisions. My current favorite pie crust recipe is somewhat laborious, even for a pie crust. A multi-step process, there are three separate times you must chill the dough: first right after mixing the ingredients, next after you roll it out, and finally right before baking. Between the various chilling phases, you incorporate, press, mold, roll out. The crust takes many shapes — first it’s crumbled, then shaped into a disk, then flattened to a crust. Not having the precise measurements of ingredients — including accurate amounts of butter, shortening, flour and ice water — can lead to a tasteless failure.

I hadn’t realized how much baking pie is like revising. I’m struck by the amount of molding, and resting, the material requires, whether it’s that of my mystery or that of the quiche crust. Years of experience are required for both — I know when I can work with — or repair — what I have. I’ve quit on my work, sometimes for years at a time because it’s frankly too hard and when the result is so uninspiring to a reader, I wonder why I write. I’ve tossed out more than a few uneatable pie crusts in my day.

I often read about unpublished writers laboring for years on manuscripts, sometimes not even publishing until later in life, if ever. The laborious work of being molded and shaped by experienced hands– is writing in a nutshell. It takes longer than I ever imagined — at least for me it does. I’m long past the possibility of being discovered — as an ingenue. Any younger writer I know who is published usually has been worked by tragic circumstances, and by the grace of being able to write, survived to tell the tale. While I could tell tales about my early years, I chose not to; instead I make up stories and hope that a reader finds an afternoon or two of escape, and enjoys the work of my imagination.

My personal story of writing is different, more nuanced, quieter, yes maybe even boring. It’s composed of nothing more than persistence, hard work, and imagination, and I hope my books reach an appreciative audience one day. When a reader turns to the book jacket to see my picture, he or she won’t be seeing some sweet young thing tinged with sadness, and still impossibly attractive. My face has wrinkles, my roots (when I let them go) go gray, I have a hint of jowls and lines in my neck (made for a turtleneck). I hope that my work will speak for itself. That’s my goal.

Back to my dough — now chilling in the refrigerator and almost ready for its filling of eggs, bacon, and gruyere.

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