At the start of every semester of my first year writing classes, I share my writing process with my students. I begin by discussing the writing seduction--that is, how to create a mood in which writing will flourish. Then, I talk about the myriad steps and missteps I take en route to a finished work.
Today I tried to apply my own lessons, as I attempted to write a presentation that I will give next Saturday in New Orleans. I brewed coffee. I lit incense. I played mellow CD's: Ray LaMontagne, The Decemberists, Sarah McLachlan, and, because the characters in the novel I'm writing about listen to them, the Dixie Chicks. And, I shut out all thoughts of the 16 rough drafts needing my responses, and the 130 pages of The Bluest Eye needing reading, all before class tomorrow.
I took a look at the novel again, dug up a few more sources, and then plotted out my main points. Since this is a conference presentation and not a published article (yet), it can be light on secondary sources and heavy on personal interpretation. Eight hours later, I have 12 decent pages.
Here's my Intro. If I've done my work, I'll have hooked you and you'll be begging for more:)
We might say that romance novels are a lot like wedding cakes--sturdy of foundation, and delectably adorned on the outside, draped in frosting and embellished with flowers or pearls or fountains or any number of fanciful gewgaws. In Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s adventure romance Agnes and the Hitman, heroine Agnes Crandall spends the entire novel attempting to write her column on wedding cakes, searching for the right words to engage readers and speak truthfully to the symbolic power that wedding cakes wield. Agnes’ inspiration comes from a complex marriage of nurturing and violence, emanating from her very own “kitchen of doom.” While food is often used in romance novels to provide handy tongue-in-cheek metaphors for sex, to substitute for sex, or to reinforce traditional gender roles, Crusie and Mayer, not surprisingly, take a different turn. In Agnes and the Hitman, food and its associations are as liable to be a weapon of destruction as of seduction, a means of forming unconventional families, and a medium for challenging traditional formulas. Crusie and Mayer effectively deploy the food-romance-sex trope, but subvert the traditional associations and show readers how to re-write their own recipe for romance by using radical improvisation.