Make the Scales Fall

The world does not look the same. Of course, the world hasn’t changed at all, really. We’re facing the same problems we’ve always faced. What’s changed, I suppose, is that my faith in humanity has deflated a bit.

To be honest, everything seems flat and a little pointless. Updating a blog to track the developments of my writing seems… I lack the word. However, I do not want to add to “the chorus of despair.”

So here’s the thing. I’m taking a step back. I need to regroup. I need to look at this world and find the work that needs doing. I will still write. I will always write. But personal platforms seem silly now, in light of everything else.

What I need, what the world needs, is less focus on the self. Less internet. More books, which I believe broaden our perspectives, challenge our thoughts, and teach us empathy and compassion. So I’m going to read and write and survive and pray and do the best I can to do the work that needs doing.

For me, it is creating. But perhaps now I turn my efforts not solely to the creation of written words, but to the creation of relationships, to the forging of empathy.

I leave you with this excerpt from this post on The Paris Review.

Friends, I am off to write something to make the scales fall from our eyes. I am off to love someone fiercely. I am off to be quiet and listen, that my perspective may be broad and my empathy unending.

~Teresa

Blogging for Books Review — “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Besides reading and writing, baking is my passion. In my book, you haven’t really mastered baking until you’ve mastered bread. It’s a simple staple, and yet iconic. Nothing else in the world calls up quite so many warm feelings, does it?

Of course, it’s not entirely fair to say you can only master baking after you’ve mastered bread, since there are so many types of bread. Over the years, I’ve gotten better and better at making bread — but coming across The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was another turning point.

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In addition to recipes and step-by-step process pictures, the book, written by Peter Reinhart (a leader in the artisan bread movement) includes very important tips that typical home bakers might not come across. For instance, I’ve read hundreds of bread recipes and baked dozens, and not until this book had it been pointed out to me that the surface tension of the loaf is important. Ever since taking in this fact, it seems obvious–but still, many of my loaves in the past have suffered from a lack of surface tension.

The recipes in this book range wildly, and it’s completely appropriate for novice or expert bread bakers. I definitely wish I had been in possession of this when I started making bread.

Reinhart includes descriptions of the distinctions of different loaves, instructions on how to contort bread dough into different shapes, fascinating anecdotes as to how he learned these recipes and techniques, and in-depth insights for each of the 12 stages of baking bread. I love the insight and history given for each type of bread–for instance, the varying butter ratios in brioche recipes.

A note on edition: Reinhart reiterates that he is constantly honing and improving these recipes as he goes along. To my understanding, most of the recipes (or formulas, as he calls them) remain the same. Still, I would recommend getting this latest 15th anniversary edition if you want the most up-to-date recipes with any recent tweaks and changes he has made.

This is not a book to miss if you’re looking for an extremely well-rounded book on bread. Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice belongs on the cookbook shelves of every home.

~Teresa

**I was provided a copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

10.18.2016

I’m experiencing a writer’s high. That sense that you can just do anything.

(Also I’m feeling just generally joyous about my writing and I credit autumn. You the real MVP.)

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Typically, I get this feeling when I’m writing first drafts. The anything goes, throw-it-on-the-page-and-worry-about-it-later, first-drafts-are-crap-anyway freedom to just do whatever you want, writing a check for your future self to cash. You might be creating something very broken, but you’re creating it–and you can fix it later.

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First drafts are exhilarating for that reason, but exhausting. It’s incredibly exciting to create something entirely from scratch. The only problem is actually, you know, writing the thing.

October has been a big revision month (3-5 hours every day spent staring, reading, re-reading, typing, deleting, typing more, etc). I am now (by yesterday’s calculation) 67% finished with this revision.

I feel (mostly/tentatively) good about this revision. I’ve been sticking to my revision plan and keeping myself from getting distracted when I find other ENORMOUS GLARING PROBLEMS. But if an issue wasn’t listed on my revision plan, I’m ignoring it until the next round.

Over the last week or so, I’ve been focusing on major structural overhaul. The first half of the novel (Part One and Two in the MS) were in pretty decent shape because I’d already done a few rounds of revision there. I’d combed through them, rearranged elements, rewritten or scrapped entire scenes before now.

Since then, I’ve been shifting things around. Taking huge chunks (scenes, speeches, even big plot points) and moving them to somewhere completely different in the text. A lot of that is hugely experimental–gut feelings at the time that I won’t know work until I go back and read this from start to finish. (In my Scrivener project, I have chapters titled “Structure Experiment.”) But hey, if I feel like it might work… might as well go for it, right?

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So I’m pretty deep into this anything goes freedom, but in revision it’s different, in my opinion. You can still do whatever you want, but in a way it’s safer. No matter what you do in draft two or three or eight or fifteen, you can always go back. You can always revert to the draft before. And that knowledge is really empowering me to make every change my writer’s gut is telling me to.

Anyway, I’m just really enjoying revising this book, and that’s a bit different for me because I love drafting. I’ve written a handful of manuscripts in roughly two years because I love that messy first draft stage, and I’ve just jumped from project to project.

And in the past, my revisions have typically included drafting new scenes to fill holes or just rewriting. I’ve never juggled so many pieces around before, because I’ve never felt that the book really needed it. But this one is doing a much better job of showing me what it needs.

And after I finish this revision and get some other eyes on it (because sweet heavens I cannot do another revision without other opinions) I’ll be right back to start it again.

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We sure can, Pooh. And we will.

~Teresa