Oprah, do you know Ang Lee?

I went out to lunch with my parents, feeling a touch discouraged by the progression of my book (still waiting to hear back from two interested agents).  My mother, always a cheerleader, suddenly said, “Oprah, do you know Ang Lee?”

We all laughed, even as we wondered who out there, with our six degrees of separation, knows Ang Lee.  So, if you read this, and somehow your cousin once made a tall, skim, extra hot, no water Oprah Chai Latte for Ang Lee’s cousin…well, perhaps you could put in a good word?!?

Here’s my pitch:

“Inside the River,” is a story about carrying the shame of someone else’s wrongdoing and then letting it go.  It’s a story about reclaiming that which is divine and magical within all of us.  My book is an affirmation and a prayer of sorts, in whatever way you believe that to be: Ana grabbed a fist full of dirt with one hand and let the shadows out; Emma burned a bouquet of scents representing Antonio’s life of yearning and misread intentions; Carmen, the large and looming white-haired tambourine playing gypsy declared herself the leader of her tribe; and Eloisa carried the green bag with the magical book inside, believing it her destiny to search for the blue haired girl who made the fish forget their pact of silence and sing for freedom.

Ultimately, it is a story which asks the question: Is our life predetermined, already sketched in a magical book, or can we change what is on the page?

Thank you for reading, sharing, and maybe becoming some degree of separation…

xoxo

Sneak peak at “Inside the River”

As I continue to put the final touches on the restructuring of my book, I thought I would share the new beginning…to tease you all with the story.  I would love to hear your thoughts, but as always, I am grateful just for your readership.

xoxo

Inside the River

©2014

How could drops of water know themselves to be a river? Yet the river flows on.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Part 1: Emma

Chapter 1:

“Miss, can you help me across the street?”  The old man was neatly dressed in clothes tailored to his tall, thin body.  He wore a chocolate brown blazer, tan slacks and a matching tan scarf around his neck.  The brightness of his blue eyes were startling.      

“Sure,” I replied.  I had just dropped, my daughter, Sabrina, off at her pre-school on the Upper East Side and was standing on the corner, waiting for the light to change on a cool Autumn Manhattan morning.       

“Ana.”

“No, my name is Emma,” I said as the light changed. 

He placed my arm above his and walked me across the street. It was a kind gesture, a throw back from a time before mine. “No, I mean you remind me of Ana,” he explained as we crossed the intersection.  “I am Antonio.”  He placed his free hand on his chest. 

“It’s nice to meet you.  Who is Ana?” We were at the other side, but for some reason I didn’t want to unhook myself from this nice, old man. 

“She is the story my father recited to me over the years.  I grew up hearing about Ana and I’d always imagined what she would look like in person.  I have never met anyone who resembled her until today.  Well, that is a slight misstep of the truth, but I cannot give you what I have already returned and you have not yet received.”

“I don’t understand,” I replied.

  “Would you like to hear about Ana?” 

Perhaps I should’ve said good-bye and walked away.  It would’ve been easy to make an excuse, simply claim I’d somewhere to go, to extricate myself from this stranger and his piercing blue eyes, but then I blurted out, “I’d love to hear the story.”  What was I doing? 

“Let’s sit inside and have something hot to drink,” he suggested as we were now standing in front of a cafe. 

Once inside, I got us two coffees and went to sit down beside him.  He stood up and then we sat down together.  I was still uncertain what I was doing with this stranger, but I had hours before it would be time to get Sabrina from her pre-school and was in no rush to return to my empty apartment.  Also, the old man seemed to offer a safe diversion from my dismal thoughts of my husband, Alex.    

“I feel like I wear all the years of my life as layers of skin.”  He began speaking softly.  “I am eighty, but I’ve been carrying my youth for many more years than my aged ones and so I am sometimes shocked when I look in the mirror.  How can I be so old and yet still smell my father’s kiss as he leaned toward me to say goodnight when I was young and crying about my eyes?”

“Your eyes?” I asked.  His piercing blue eyes, like the brightness of a blue sky on a clear day, made me forget that the rest of his face was deeply lined.  His cheeks drooped in surrender to his years, but his eyes were alert and bright.  It was as if they were lit from somewhere else. 

“Yes, the blue scared people.  They called me a demon.” 

I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand. 

“Are you ok?”

“Yes, I haven’t heard that word in quite a while,” I whispered.  My mother’s words echoed loudly in my head.

The reasons why…

I have begun to write about Antonio.  In my book, “Inside the River,” Antonio is an old man, with piercing blue eyes, who mysteriously happens upon Emma.  He tells her about Ana, the story passed down from father to son and to his son and so on. In the first short story of Antonio that I am working on, he is a five year old boy, crying to his father about how mean people are to him because of his eyes.  The title of the story is “The Color, Demon.”

It’s an interesting exercise into the human condition. How much of us do we carry from when we were young? How much do we repeat, over and over, in our patterns of behavior and reaction, believing we could get  a different outcome…the outcome we had wished for when we were little and didn’t receive?  How hard is it to change our patterns, let go of the past, and make decisions and take action solely from our present condition?

As Antonio said:

“If I had understood, Emma.  I would….can I start at the beginning?” His hands trembled. 

And so, for him, I have started at his beginning so he can make sense, so his actions tell a story, so we can fully appreciate what happens when we hold onto what is no longer.  It’s a powerful thing, this ghost of should haves and what ifs and if only…it haunted Antonio.  That’s why I wanted to write his book as a collection of interweaving short stories because we all tend to move forward in circles.

xoxo

Muddy Road

Zen Story: Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”

“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

I am ready to start writing again after a bit of a hiatus.  My intention is to write a collection of interweaving short stories about Antonio, the old man with piercing blue eyes, from “Inside the River.” There is a nagging thought that goes something like this–why write it, why not wait to see how “Inside the River” gets published?

And then I went to the stories I love that swirl around my head, stories that help me reset my brain, so as not to cling to negative thinking.  The above Zen story is what I chose to think about.

What does it mean to me? There are rules all around us, and rules that Tanzan and Ekido follow.  And then life happens and for them, life happened with a lovely girl who needed help.  Tanzan helped her, and then let it go. Ekido did not help her, but chose to hold onto his discomfort that Tanzan broke a rule.  Ekido, therefore, was still carrying her, making it dangerous for him as it clogged his thoughts with perhaps temptation or cravings or the disquiet of the mind.

What do we get attached to and how does that stop us from our pursuits, intentions, ease? If I am waiting for the end result of “Inside the River,” before continuing to write, an action that enlivens me and brings me joy, than aren’t I just like Ekido?  And by clinging to negative thoughts, can I be of service to myself or anyone else?

xoxo

“Inside the River” Query Letter

Thank you readers (and Ang Lee, even though he doesn’t know it yet) from 52 different countries for sharing this journey with me.

I’m seeking representation for my novel, “Inside the River.”  I believe this story will appeal to you because it explores the raw emotions of suffering and forgiveness.  There is also a magical book, a white haired tambourine playing gypsy, and the fish who forgot their pact of silence and sang.  “Inside the River,” bridges Magical Realism with Contemporary Women’s Fiction, and totals 94,000 words.

No life comes without some struggles — the toughest trick in life though is how to heal ourselves and love.  “Inside the River” follows the poignant stories of two women, separated by centuries, but connected by their shared history of having suffered as girls and then struggling to learn how to heal themselves and love years later in their lives.

In an ancient time when magic was still real Ana, a blue haired girl, hears fish singing, and jumps inside the river beside her small village to get away from her suffering.  In modern day New York City, Emma mysteriously hears the same song and responds, also to get away from her own suffering.  But are these two stories intertwined beyond a song from inside the river?

After crossing the river, Ana becomes a fortune teller and meets Eloisa, a red haired gypsy, who has been searching for the blue haired who made the fish forget their pact of silence.  Emma, on her way to a Starbucks in New York City, meets Antonio, an old man who tells Emma how the tinges of blue in her hair remind him of Ana, whose story was passed down through his family for centuries.  Indeed, Ana and Emma’s stories are eventually revealed to not only parallel, but also mysteriously interact and, in the unfolding of their lives, the reader learns how both women are able to heal and break the cycle of suffering.

“Inside the River” will appeal to book clubs — it is “The Shadow of the Wind,” meets anything by Paulo Coelho.  This is my debut novel.  I hold a BA in English Lit and a Masters in English and Writing Education.  The manuscript is complete and available at your request.

Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to the possibility of working together.

Sincerely,

Mindy Levine

 


					

Ang Lee, I haven’t forgotten you!

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted my last blog.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer, or a wonderful season, depending on where you are in the world.

You may not remember from my very first blog, but I had mentioned cleaning my closets as “a promise I’ve consistently broken my entire life.”  Well, I’ve cleaned them this summer…my fight with clutter may have been battled and won for the time being.  I’ve also finished the book, “Inside the River,” and I’m just doing the final cleansing touches on it with my editor extraordinaire, Jacob Miller.  (Still anguishing over the synopsis so any comments or advice is welcome).

I’ve mentioned on my blog before,  my desire to write another novel about the complex and endearing character of Antonio. He is the old man with the blue eyes who tells Emma the story of Ana.  Who is a better vessel of story and wisdom than a person in their eighties driven by an elusive passion and a misguided love? What hit me was the question, why wait Mindy?

So I’ve started my second book about Antonio.  My idea is to have it as a book of short stories, each story self-contained, but grouped together, the stories will be like those water molecules, bumping into each other and connecting for a moment.  Like I have always said to others about myself…I move forward in circles.

My first story is called, “The Color, Demon.”  Antonio is a young boy in a town of superstition and ancient ways. The people had never seen such a color blue as Antonio’s eyes.  They waited for the land to burst forth such a color but no such flat brightness erupted, and so they named the color, demon, and taught it to their children.

As always, I am grateful for the sharing of this process and your viewing.

xoxo

 

Picking a thread

I am inside the fascinating and slightly torturous exercise of writing the synopsis of “Inside the River.” I have to summarize the entire book into one single-spaced page.  My book is over 94,000 painstakingly chosen words and I’ve just spent the last week writing out every scene in the book so I can start paring it down, and cutting out periphery characters and moments.  I need to find the one thread of the story, and let that thread capture the magic and entice the publishing world.

How to pick one thread? If we went through our lives, or even a year of our life, how can we pick the thread that wounds itself around the scenes of our lives propelling our story forward in ways memorable as well as full of mistakes.  Do we ignore the errors (we only get a page) or do we recognize how those choices led us to where we are now?  And what about the minor characters who were fun and exciting or memorable for their reasons…how hard it is to not mention them at all.

The skeleton of our life becomes those moments when we decided to do something or were terrified and did nothing and let others decide. What happens to a story or a life when that thread is not our own?  What happens to the thread when pulled ragged or left slack for so long? What happens if the thread doesn’t make sense by itself or is so complex that it ends up becoming a knot?

Oh, the thread analogy can go on for a long time, and so can this part of the process if I let it.  I guess I just have to trust the story I’ve written, and let the hook speak for itself:

Ana is forced to wear a cap to hide the blue in her hair because her mother believes she is a demon born from the river.  When the fish sing to Ana, she dives in and away from her suffering, washing the blood off her thighs. She becomes Ana the fortune teller, and meets Eloisa, a red-headed gypsy who has been searching for the one who made the fish forget their pact of silence and sing.

Emma lives in today’s world, with a young daughter and an abusive husband.  One day, she meets Antonio, a blue-eyed old man who tells her she looks like Ana, the story passed down through generations of his family –a son of sons, born beside a daughter of many daughters.  Emma becomes enraptured by the story that tickles her memory.  Was their meeting coincidental?  How comes she feels like Ana is real?  And why, upon hearing the story of Ana, does she begin to harness her courage to heal?

“Inside the River,” is the character driven story of two women, set in different times, seductively crossing the line between reality and magic.

So grateful for any advice….xoxo