Going Boldly Through Circles

Writing The Red Shoes By Hand





Four consecutive pages of THE RED SHOES—The narrator meets the boy with the red shoes for the first time.


I am a café writer.

On my homepage you’ll notice me at the Café Reggio on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. I often start my writing journey there. Everybody knows me and yet they don’t know me. Perfect for an author. Social anonymity. Breakfast and coffee and pages. Then on to Café Dante just down the street in the afternoon for more coffee and a salad and backtrack to La Lanterna in the evening. I ask for an extra candle as the lighting is dim. These are the cafés where I’m writing my novel THE RED SHOES. In longhand.

I don’t have a laptop with me so I can’t get on the Internet, I didn’t bring my cell phone, I can’t check my e-mails like the other café hounds around me. No distractions. Only the chatter of customers and their intriguing forms and faces to watch as I linger, and music, always music. None of which I try to block out but use as my chosen visual/aural landscape against which I write real pages in a wireless Neatbook. 180 sheet/college ruled.

Of course there is a precedent for such things. Think 19th Century. Or 18th Century. Incredible. The quill dipped in ink and touched down on crisp, snowy paper. And me with two ballpoints, one black and one blue. And lined paper. Slightly faded. On which I write a novel that turns out to be 428 pages when finally printed. Why did I do it?

Like a painter who likes the feel of a brush to palette, I love the visceral feel of writing down words by hand. And my method I call Boldly Going Through Circles as I sometimes enclose my pages in a circle of words that spill into the margins and frame the text in the center like a protective honeycomb.

I like to study what each page looks like. The texture. The haphazard puzzle that comes into focus and makes sense. The words I’ve crossed out and written better choices over. The changes and choices I’ve made. Perusing them again and again before I commit the first draft to a word processor. Which waits patiently for me until I’ve sorted it all out in my notebooks. And, of course, which I’m glad is there for me at the end of the road as I bid MacDougal Street goodnight.