Well, the holidays are behind us, fireside moments etched in our minds for eternity, family disturbances calmed for the time being, and the promise of tighter stomachs and smoother butts are yet to be broken. All best wishes for the new year ahead! Now let’s get down to it.

Resort cove


The wedding of our son Miles to Jaymie was truly a remarkable occasion. I could gush a bit and let you imagine the idyllic days and nights at the luxurious Esperanza resort on the pristine coast of Mexico with three days of partying and boat-cruising and gourmet food-eating, and of course, the elegantly casual pool-side wedding and the spectacular sunset dinner on a cascading terrace perched above an impossibly crystalline sea where our son Graham emceed the evening and gave a memorable, funny, and endearing Best Man Speech. When the photographer sends pictures, I’ll pick one or two hundred to post (just kidding!).

For Jaymie and Miles, a new life together is beginning. It’s a life they will create together, fashioned from the elements of the life they’ve lived separately. It’s a creative process, an ongoing process, a challenging process of ups and downs of twists and turns of push and pull of give and take. It’s a never-ending process with a thousand ways to reinvent and reimagine the life they’re living.

Unlike novel writing. And novel editing. Was that too heavy-handed of a transition for you? I could rewrite it but what the hell, that would take too long and you’d likely drift away before I fine tuned it. So, let’s just go with it, okay?

Writing and editing reduce the number of choices that remain to be chosen. If the story is about a man and woman, then it isn’t about two men and a woman or two women and a man. If the narrative is propelled by the robbery of a jewlry store, then it doesn’t include a circus elephant and a lion tamer. Unless of course, the lion tamer happens to be in the jewlry store buying a tiara for his favorite elephant, which is an entirely different kind of story.

Do you see what I mean? Maybe I’m confusing you. What I mean is this. When the creative process starts, whether you’re writing a novel or painting a picture or scoring a symphony, the world of the creation is wide-open. Anything can happen. Anything can be included. Any direction can be taken. But once you get started, each choice you make limits the next choices you can make. In fact, that’s the point of the creative act. It brings order from chaos. The creator selects some things and necessarily throws out other things as a result of a previous choice.

close up 2hbAnd that’s why I’ve been thinking lately of pencils. Not just any pencils, but the Ticonderoga No. 2 HB pencil. This was my tool of choice years ago for writing the first draft of everything from poems to a libretto for the opera Ode to Phaedra I wrote when I was twenty-six. I also wrote the first draft of my novel High Pocket with a No. 2 HB pencil on yellow legal pads, another favorite of mine, when I was thirty-one.

eraser headThe wonderful thing about the writing process beginning with the No. 2 HB was the fact that you were at the beginning of the creative act. For me, the pencil was the sword I used to carve out the new world of my imagination. With the pencil…and its eraser…all choices were still available. It was the first draft after all and anything goes with a first draft. I could select, reject, embrace or banish any idea or word or sentence or paragraph I liked. Everything was fluid and changeable with the Ticonderoga in my hand.

sharpenerI used to luxuriate in the sharpening of that pencil on my trusty pencil sharpener, getting the point just right so that the scratch of the pencil lead on the yellow pad of delicate blue lines resonated comfortably to my senses, not just my ears, but my fingertips, as the almost insensate sensation traveled along the whorl of my finger pads. The touch of a keyboard can never compete with that and in fact seems rather brutal by comparison…the banging of the keys on a click-clacky keyboard.

Pencil closeup tipThe Ticonderoga got the process going, and kept it going draft after draft until the piece I was working on felt ready to be transferred to pen on white paper, and from pen to typewriter on onion skin, which had its own charm, but was really nothing more than a recording device of choices already made, of decisions that had been weighed and valued and set in stone days, weeks, or months before.

ipad 1I saw an ad recently for the iPad mini, comparing its thickness to a pencil. The iPad is a wonderful device. I have one. But I’d never consider trading my years of Ticonderoga’s for it. Never!

As I wrote in my last blog of 2013 in October, A Quiet Interlude, I’ve been editing the novel I’ve been working on and I’m proud to say I worked dilligently during my time off from these blogs and finished the edit this week. Last night I printed a copy to proof and make any last minute fixes by hand and by candlelight. Well not candle light, maybe, but certainly by hand. For this last step, I’ll use a red pen. My favorite is the Sanford uni-ball fine. It scratches like a Ticonderoga. It’s sharp like a Ticonderoga. And the red ink is easy to see against the black print and white paper.

The book is now called In The Shade Of The Freeway. It begins with a friend’s dying request and revolves around two love stories of mature lovers and young lovers, of parents and their children, love stories that trace a similar range of passions and betrayals, of abandonments and recommitments, love stories that interweave the promise and upheaval of the counter-culture Sixties with the cross-cultural challenges and hopes of this new century, love stories that are forged in tumultous times that both strengthen and threaten their love, and by the lovers themselves, who struggle to overcome their deepest fears and desperate desires.

As I said in my October post, my next step is searching for the illusive literary agent who can help bring this novel out of the shade of my study and into the light of day. Wish me luck….and if you happen to have a literary agent in your back pocket or your contact data base, just let me know.

close up 2hb with cap


8 Responses to Ticonderoga Number 2 HB Pencil

  1. Frank Z says:

    Thanks for the comments everyone and for the emails you sent. I’m delighted you’re delighted and energized for the year ahead. Cheers, fz

  2. Peter says:

    Frank, one of the most amazing reasons I am drawn to your writing is that you always tell it the way it is. Very raw and very priceless. Your account of the wedding brought tears to my eyes. Bless you for sharing… Laurei and Peter

  3. How wonderful and so beautifully written
    As always Frank. A delightful wedding
    And years of joy and happiness ahead for
    Them. Can’t wait for the pictures. My mind flashes back
    To the two little ones across the street as
    They grew into such fine young men. It’s
    Like a second ago.
    Hugs. Norma and Charles

  4. Mary says:

    Happy New Year to you and Annette, great to hear from you again – I missed your weekly blogs! Can’t wait for your new book, it sounds right up my street – hope you find an agent soon! Any advance on a trip ‘Down Under’? Would love to see you guys. Send me an e-mail address so we can chat. Love to the family, huge congrats to Miles and Jaymie. Mary

  5. Frank Z says:

    Happy New Year back to y’all. Good wishes, good fun, good times.

  6. Mark says:

    Happy New Year to you and ‘Nettie!
    All the best.
    M, C, J & M

  7. Beverly Pine says:

    Happy New Year to you and Annette and good to read your blog again. Re the pencil — my strongest memory is chewing them to the bone. (It’s a wonder I didn’t get lead poisoning!)

  8. nathalie says:

    happy new year to you and Annette! so glad to see a new posting from you today. looking forward to the new book! sounds great!

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