Gazing from above

I'm sitting in the coffee house upstairs at the legendary Prairie Lights bookstore, gazing down at the folks meandering up and down Dubuque. I've just perused a good 18 feet of literary journals and reviews, some I've heard of but never held and others I've never known. A bunch of Reviews, all titularly tied to their origin - Virginia Quarterly, Michigan Quarterly, Massachusetts, Chicago. Others like Granta, Story Quarterly, Terminus, etc. Based on what I've seen in book shops in St. Louis and other places, I would never believe there were this many of these little engines, quietly dedicated to churning out Good Writing. They bring me comfort. I've ordered a decaf latte, although I'm not really in the mood. I just love the way the barista makes a fern leaf pattern in the foam on the surface. $3 doesn't seem too much to ask for that little pleasure.

I've got about half an hour to kill before today's class starts. I spent most of last night doing homework in my hotel room and, truly, loving it. I struggled through Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants for about the zillionth time in my life, no more enchanted by it than the first time. But my new eyes -- and new instructions -- have me searching for emotional beats, characters' objectives and understanding when those things change. Or trying to understand.

I have been, and am, a lazy writer, my friends. I've always taken ease with a sentence for granted, something of a genetic imprint in a family that valued a well-turned phrase above a group hike or team sport. But the more I peek back into the world of fiction, the more I'm overwhelmed by the work of it, the planning and plotting, the understanding, the knowledge, the scenes, the dialogue, the elements and tools.

It doesn't make me want to run, though. It makes me want to study it and study it until I know what the hell we're talking about.