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

The Empty Boat

There’s a wonderful Zen story about a man who is out on the lake in his boat.  I have read many translations of this story but basically while enjoying his time on the water, he looks over to see another boat on the lake.  He thinks to himself how the other person on the boat must be enjoying the lake like himself.  Then he notices how the boat is heading straight for his boat.  He screams out, “watch out,” but the boat is still moving fast.  He stands up and waves his hands and screams even louder, but the other boat is coming right towards him. Inevitably, the boat slams into his boat.  With rage, he looks inside the boat, wanting to unleash his anger all over the person who did not heed his warnings before crashing into him, but the boat is empty.

He couldn’t unleash his anger on an empty that just happened to be on course to hit his boat. It was then he realized the empty boat was his teacher.

When people, situations, boats full of doubt and sadness and anger head straight for us, there is something soothing about saying the mantra, “empty boat.”  Perhaps those people are in boats out of their control, without any rudders, and although they are heading towards us, perhaps their own wounds are steering them instead of their higher selves? The empty boat is our whole life really and we get to choose how we react to all that is not in our control.  Even when people are unkind to us, they are showing their pain, as if saying, “I am an empty boat.”

In a way, that is what my book, “Inside the River” is about…the way in which Emma and Ana learn to let go of that empty boat crashing into them (with the help of some magic and the singing fish).

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.

Find the Funny Friday: Rework

It’s time for find the funny Friday.  I haven’t written a blog in a bit because I’ve been busy with “Inside the River.” I got some amazing advice about the book.  The simple version is that if it’s ultimately Emma’s story, then Emma and not Ana has to be the beginning part.

So I’m in the midst of a restructure.  It feels good.  And the funny is that when you think you’re done, it may only be the beginning.  There’s no end game.

xoxo

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

“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