A Day in the Life

People ask me sometimes how I find time to write. A good question. With rare exceptions, I’ve never been able to get into a routine. I read about Trollope tossing off a thousand words before going of to his work at a government office and I wish I could do that. Somehow it never works out. Take today, for example:

Up at 6:30 to do exercises and say Morning Prayer. Wash, brush, and breakfast at 8 – but part of breakfast goes with me in the car when I leave the house at 8:45 to drive to Hartford to do research. It’s my first visit to the Connecticut State Library in the middle of downtown Hartford. I have pages of Yrfa’s Tale (the paraquel to Beyond Beowulf) beside me in the car to meditate on new lines and add them as possible at stop lights.

I locate the Library, park in a lot six blocks away, and walk back in a sub-zero breeze. There are guards at the entrance and a scanner to walk through while they check my lunch box for bombs. The helpful Librarian directs me to the appropriate stacks to find one book I had identified on line. I find it – and next to it a book of equal interest. You can find a book you know about on line, but you have to go to the stacks to find the books you don’t know about!

I take the books to a desk, identify the pages of interest, go to a copy machine, buy a copy card and put five dollars on it, and copy the relevant pages.

Now to look for the Congressional Record. I’m researching an anthology of “American prayers” and want to find prayers said in the Senate or House at significant points in American history. They direct me to the third level where a helpful librarian escorts me to the racks of volumes of the Congressional Record and leaves saying vaguely that she’ll “do some further research.”

I hunt around and find some relevant prayers offered on significant occasions: a self-confident prayer from the early 20th century, a worried prayer a few days before Roosevelt’s inauguration, an eloquent prayer at the end of World War II. Now to find the copier. Now to find the way out! I can only find doors marked “Emergency Exit Only.” Visions of sirens and gongs if I try that, but otherwise there are only stairs going down. We came in through a door, but there is no door. I circumnavigate the floor feeling like a trapped rat. No exit. No alternative. I lug the books down the stairs and come out three flights down where I first came in. I copy the relevant pages and go back up the stairs I used first. The librarian I spoke with is gone but the man there now knows about me and has some possibly useful reference numbers. He offers to show me where they are.

This time I resolve to scatter bread crumbs, or at least to watch carefully what doors we go through. The first one is marked “Emergency Exit Only” on the inside. Ha! The nice man finds the book and it is useful. I exit through the emergency exit, make more copies, and decide to call it a day. It’s almost 2 pm and my lunch is uneaten.

Back to the car. I eat lunch and study the map to see where I am and how to get to Bloomfield. I’ve been there before so that’s not too hard. Bloomfield is home to St. Thomas Seminary, once serving as seminary to the Diocese of Hartford but now, lacking seminarians, being used for other programs. The Librarian had been helpful in compiling the Year with American Saints and had suggested scheduling a date for a reading.

2:30. I find the Librarian and sell her a copy of the Saints book at a reduced price. She shows me dark corners of the library where there may be useful books. I come away with one on Cardinal Newman. I’m writing an essay on him for an Encyclopedia of Theologians. We schedule a reading for mid-May and she gives me a phone number for a consortium of Connecticut Libraries that may be helpful in scheduling more readings.

After 3 pm, back in the car and heading home with Yrfa’s Tale still beside me. I stop in Canton at the Barnes and Noble. iUniverse had promised that Beyond Beowulf would be on the new book table there beginning on February 14. I should stop by and autograph books. It’s February 13.

I find the B & N and am referred to the person who knows about new book displays. She is puzzled. Never heard of my book. She goes to her computer; “How do you spell it?” But there it is. “It says, ‘No returns.’ We don’t handle books with ‘No returns.’” I tell her that iUniverse has that policy but has arranged nonetheless with B & N to promote my book. She sends someone off who comes back with 12 copies for me to sign. I ask about scheduling a reading. The person who does that isn’t in but they will give her my information. Shall I check back? No, she will call me. I leave without total confidence in the program.

Home by 5:30 pm with another fifteen lines for Yrfa’s Tale and time to check my e-mail before dinner. A request to speak about marriage at St. James Danbury. Sure, I can offer Beyond Beowulf and American Saints on the side.

Trollope’s Day: a thousand words before work.
My Day: 115 miles on the car, two new dates to do readings, xeroxes of prayers to feed into my OCR and collate to the growing American Prayer Book, another book to read for my Newman essay, fifteen new lines for Yrfa’s Tale. I feel unfocussed.

Would I trade my car, computers, copiers, scanners for Trollpe’s peaceful pen? It’s sometimes tempting, but No.

p.s. The above ramble is 1002 words. Trollope could have done it before breakfast. I’ll have it posted on the internet before bed. The weather people are promising a foot or more of snow for the next day. Great! A snowbound author is a productive author.


CarolineFebruary 15th, 2007 at 8:59 pm

wow, that’s a busy day!
I do enjoy reading posts like this, though. And you got a lot done!!

jennie hFebruary 21st, 2007 at 10:41 am

Hi Chris,

I see things haven’t changed 🙂 Glad to hear there is a sequel in the works! Happy trails~

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