Tuesday, September 21, 2010


73504902.JPG, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

Imagine you had the power to name a holiday, one that celebrated rising, tenacity, the resilience and generosity of the human spirit.

What might you call it?

How about Up From the Blue Day? On that day, just for one twenty-four hour period, everyone would rise out of whatever blue mood, or blue music or blue funk that might engulf them and celebrate. The next day, if you want to go back to being miserable, or if you need to--well, I understand. But just for one day, the blues of all kinds would be banished.

People would sing. And shimmy. Maybe drink blue martinis in cool bars in New York. Or wine in blue glasses on their decks on Cape Cod. Or wherever they might be. On Up from the Blue Day, no one would listen to the scary old news, or give in to envy or utter a single mean word about anyone.

I know it sounds tough, but come on. It's a holiday! Get into the spirit.

As it turns out, three lovely friends beat me to it. Jessica Keener, Tish Cohen, and Robin Slick already named this day in honor of Susan Henderson's debut novel of the same title.

I haven't had the pleasure of reading it yet, but I've seen the reviews, and people I trust have been raving about UP FROM THE BLUE since the early drafts.

But what really makes me eager to read this novel is my belief that wise, generous people produce wise generous work. It just a law of nature. And I've read enough of Susan's short fiction, to know she proves the law.

If you've been here before, you might remember a couple of years when I blogged about little besides IV poles, and johnnies, and endless waits for lab results. Two ugly words that seemed flash constantly in red neon before my eyes, no matter how hard I tried to escape them: aggressive cancer.

It was the most difficult time in my life, but right there in the middle of it, someone created a holiday just for me. It was a day when I wept almost all day--not from fear, not from grief, not even from happiness, but from sheer awe at the goodness of people. The kindness of my fellow writers and bloggers. A lot of amazing friends were involved and I will always be grateful to each and every one of them, but Sue was the driving force behind The Liar's Diary blog day.

So you know I don't often sell stuff here. I don't even push my own work (much to the chagrin of publishers and agent.) But if you like good fiction, today would be a great day to buy Up From the Blue.

And if not, then go out and something for someone else. It's what Susan would want you to do.

That's just the kind of person she is.

P.S. Since the procrastinator is getting this up kind of late in the day, we just might have to extend the holiday into tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Take a good look at this pie. This is what procrastination looks like. My friend Susan Messer and I planned to bake our annual pie in honor of the muse back in July. Wasting no time, Susan produced her usual superb pie and an equally superb blog post about the process. I promised to do the same, and of course, I meant it! I even planned to do it right this time--just like Susan does--with organic locally grown blueberries and a buttery home made crust. This particular promise/delusion and its inevitable failure has been repeated so many times that it's become part of the tradition.

It was mid-August before I found myself staring guiltily at the chemically laced blueberries at Stop and Shop, and I didn't actually bake the pie until a week later, when around 1 a.m., I looked at the slightly shriveled berries and realized it was now or never. Now, sigh, it's September--okay, late September, and I'm completing the process. (A photograph of the pie posted on Facebook, however, did bring Diana Guerrero and her amazing writing group, and Karen DeGroot Carter on board.)

the judges at work
(The judges decided it was still good.)

So yes, I admit it. My name is Patry and I am a procrastinator. Big time. In my defense, let me say two things:

1. I was born this way.

2. I'm beginning to think it works for me. See, while I'm putting off what I should do, I'm sometimes dreaming, percolating, or just allowing the muse to do her mysterious subconscious work.

Or maybe that's just an excuse. I don't know. These days most writers tend to name their muse Hard Work. The airy fairy in her gossamer gown who provides inspiration when she will has been kicked to the curb and replaced by the goddess of self-discipline by most productive writers. I admire them more than I can say. But as hard as I try, I'm not one of them.

Sure, I can put on my work boots, pack my lunch and write every day. Same place. Same time. I can set page quotas, word quotas and time quotas, and yeah, I can produce. But if the airy fairy hasn't spoken, if the story isn't ready to tell itself through me, or whatever the process is, then one morning, I wake up and realize, I've run a hundred mile marathon--in the wrong direction. Sometimes that's good. It gives you something to work with, as the conventional wisdom goes. But other times, it's just a long way back, there's a whole lot of mud on my shoes, and I'm exhausted.

Meanwhile, as I've put off making pies and writing about them and countless other things, a group of characters have been whispering to me, and then speaking loudly and finally shouting: This way! This way! Sometimes I think they are the muse, these mysterious "people" who appear from nowhere and demand to be heard, demand to be felt. Other times, it seems that time itself is the muse, and that the procrastination and endless daydreaming I've been fighting all my life just might serve a productive purpose.

So yes, I believe that hard work may be the muse's best friend, but at least for me, it's not the thing itself. For that reason, I will continue to bake my imperfect, belated pies, and sing the praises of capricious fairies everywhere.