I know. It's been so so long since I added a new entry to this blog. Readers probably suspected that Creating Van Gogh had gone belly up. Not to worry. CVG is alive and well. But certainly much has happened out there since last I posted five months ago. Where to begin: NWP is still up in the air; Republicans are still angling to blow up the federal government figuring that Obama will be blamed for it; the last space shuttle flight is over and done (are you really sure you want to do that NASA?); March Madness happened and the College World Series, the French Open and Wimbledon; and the annual Tour de France--I hope to see it live someday--is almost finished. But what about me you ask? Well, not surprisingly, I've been busy as well. I finished a novel I started last fall; I traveled with my colleague Garry Craig Powell and five UCA students to Lawrence, KS to participate in a faculty and student readings exchange with the University of Kansas; I successfully completed a French 1320 class that I sat in on during the spring semester (much thanks to instructor Veronique Odekirk); I started and finished a great summer 1 Forms of Fiction class at UCA; I wrote a proposal for a Forms of Fiction textbook; I drove my oldest son to Durham, NC so he can participate once again in the wonderful Duke-TIP program; I've taken up some duties as the new Associate Editor of the journal Toad Suck Review (formerly The Exquisite Corpse); I've listened to Await Your Reply (Dan Chaon) and Miss New India (Bharati Mukherjee) and Selected Shorts (NPR) and Coffee Break French Season 3 (members version) on my iPod during my daily sweatfests, and I've spent the last week trying to endure the mind-numbing Arkansas summer heat with my youngest son--i.e., fighting with him to get off my computer and take the dog out to pee--while my wife is away at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow finishing up the novel she has worked on for so long. (Congrats, sweetie.)
Of more interest to readers of this blog, however, will be some quiet but important developments in the life of my Van Gogh novel Yellow. No earth-shattering announcements yet. But there has been progress. I've been working closely with a kind and wise literary agent who has pushed me to sharpen and improve the book in important ways. What in its first typed form was 1250 ungainly manuscript pages is now a tight, focused 550 and includes some relevant and hopefully useful appendices, namely a chronology of the life of the real Van Gogh (my Van Gogh sure feels real to me, of course) and a detailed explanation of what sources I used and how I used them. The most obvious change is that my book now has a new title. I have to admit that this decision was a hard one for me. Since I first conceived of the book some ten years ago, I've only ever had one title in mind: Yellow. Not only is that the color most typically associated with Van Gogh's paintings, especially the paintings he created during what I consider his finest, most luminous period--when he worked in Arles, France--and not only did color and colors become a crucial stylistic element and organizing principle to the novel, but "yellow" seemed to speak to an important psychological tendency in Van Gogh: his eager pursuit of extremes. And I must say that I also like the title's directness. Easy to say; easy to remember. Long story short, it was actually quite hard to think of any other title being attached to my novel. Literally for months I remained stymied--and stumped. What else could I call this thing? Finally, at the end of May, after much sturm und drang, I came up with something: Days on Fire. The agent I'm working with likes it, and I must say that I do too. I like it a lot, actually. It keeps some of the same associations as Yellow, but with more linguistic and imagistic energy. What do you think, dear readers? How does the new title work for you? Does anyone out there have title-changing stories of their own?
From this date forward I will now refer to my novel as Days on Fire. Yellow is now officially kaput. And I promise not to be so long in updating the blog next time. I am going away on vacation at the end of next week, but I have a few entries in mind to put up before then or even while I travel!