Years ago, a friend of mine gave me a photograph of wolves howling in the snow. With a blue ink pen, she'd written beneath it: a thousand howls in silver air.
Puzzled, I thanked her.
"This is what it's going to take," she tried to explain.
"To do what?" I asked.
"I don't know exactly, but it's important."
I didn't ask any more questions. My friend was a mysterious woman. I trusted her.
Now, as I've completed my first novel, A Thousand Howls in Silver Air, I know that her words predicted the title and the work it would take to finish it.
To write this book, I had listen. Often I didn't know where howls were coming from, but they were out there, pulling me toward a dizzy, beautiful echoing. I heard the first line while living alone in Tampa. From there, I walked around with characters in my head, writing messily in journals, trying to find my voice. Prose, or writing horizontally, was new to me. Of course I had written essays in school, so I knew how to do it, but I wanted my novel to sound poetic, so I focused on the descriptive, snapshot quality of the vignette, and this was perfect. I chased each sensory detail, each leap into a dense forest. Sometimes the calls and prints were clear and I wrote for hours. In other moments, the trail led nowhere, there was too much silence, I needed more.
Enter the inspiring setting of North Carolina and a workshop on minute poems. A fellow poet hosted, and he said that due to their strict syllabic meter, minute poems were great for writers' block. These poems force us to choose precise words, freeing us from the cacophony of choices that spin in our word-loving brains. I loved this form and immediately started to play with it, making my own extended version, loosening it up a bit, dropping some of the rhyme but keeping the meter. And I found the second voice I needed for Howls.
With the two voices in place, a plot arc began to develop. I organized scenes and chapters onto flash cards, so I could see the shape of the whole thing. Once I did this, I had a path to follow and the words flowed again. I wrote for hours every day. Thanks to my supportive husband, I was finally able to treat writing like a full-time job, and while it took years, it was the most gratifying work of my life.
I was sitting in a café in the East Village when I wrote the last word (well, the last word of the first draft). I texted a poet friend, and she immediately shared my joy with a party gif of ballons and confetti. I knew then that I needed an editor, so I reached out to friends in my Berlin writers' group, and one of them connected me to the lovely, Athene Dilke. Thanks to her support and experise, I took Howls through structural revisions, fleshing out any holes in the plot, tightening the language, and sharpening the dialogue (my personal Achilles' heel). I am deeply grateful for Athene’s guidance and friendship, because now I have a draft ready for (fingers crossed) an agent and publisher.
Here's a synopsis of A Thousand Howls in Silver Air:
Love held out her hands like two balancing scales as she tried to explain, "In order for something to be created, something else needs to be destroyed."
One afternoon in an undergraduate literature class, Poetry meets Love, the woman who will change her life forever. Drawn to each other's voices, they dream of living their lives as writers. As their relationship deepens, so do the questions they must ask: Are we meant to go on wild adventures together, or clothe ourselves in ourselves, solo and strong? What do we do with our hollowed out spaces? If we're not writers, what are we? Can we love each other in a new language?
Set in the 1990s, A Thousand Howls in Silver Air meanders across Florida, the swamp green state that dips like a hook in two bodies of salt, and the paper gray Midwest with its geese sighing over hills scattered in snow. This novel is the first in a series of character-driven, multi-layered stories where women follow the echoes of literature, art, music, nature and dreams on journeys of self-discovery.