Writing Lemons and the Waning Moon

I’m writing Lemons and the Waning Moon at the moment, part three of the memoir trilogy, for publication in 2017/18. Lemon trees are pruned when the moon is waning so that the sap doesn’t rise, and this ensures that the tree will produce a bumper crop. I felt the title was a good metaphor for where I’ve arrived at in my life: there’s some pruning going on at various levels, but I’m determined that there’ll be abundant fruit! And in the book I deal with retirement from the RTE newsroom, but also where I was able to take my broadcasting abilities, both onto the afternoon television Today Show, and also through the “Stories, Poetry and Dreams” show which is based on my published writings. With RTE colleagues, we toured it around Ireland, and through the patronage of the Breslin brothers from Meath, we brought it the Irish Arts Center in New York, where we got a “recommended” from the New York Times.

Despite the pigeon-holing of critics, I’ve regarded the two published prose works At Five in the Afternoon and The House of Pure Being as explorations of the novel form, which is so flexible in terms of structure and style. While this new book will continue tell the developing stories of my friends, it will also incorporate the languages of non-fictional elements: indeed, “stories from the heart” is a possible byname for this encounter with truth. One of the difficulties I’m experiencing is how tell the full truth without getting sued! I recall the advice of a wise Chief Sub-Editor on the RTE radio desk: “Michael, you can say anything, it just depends on how you say it!”

Most of the book was written in Spain last summer, a place where I’m able to devote all of my attention to writing by getting up in the cool of the very early morning. Here in Dublin, I choose to be careful of my psychoanalytic clients. That soul-work demands great attention and ongoing study, so that writing of necessity has to fall into second place. For the first time in our lives, neither Terry nor I have familial commitments this Christmas. Recently, there’s been a sorrowful winnowing of the older generation: my mother died last year, and her sister, my aunt, died this year, so that it’s Terry and I who have been volunteered for the frontline, and we no longer have to cater for those we now miss. We’d decided to spend the Christmas holidays in Spain in order to get away from the memories, and to finish some chapters of the new book. It would also afford an opportunity and to renew acquaintance with our loving chocolate Labrador Toga, who by her presence has taught us about the importance of remaining hopeful. But now I have to have surgery before Christmas for very painful rotator-cuff injuries to both shoulders, and if I’m able to type post-operatively, the literary work will have to be completed here in Dublin. I hope it’ll be possible to infuse the writing with the joy that the bright sun light in Spain gives to a depleted Irish spirit. To that end, the Christmas tree here is already throwing back reflections from shiny baubles, the led lights are glowing over the windows, and there are red candles scattered throughout the apartment. Whoever is going to be able to take down those decorations with two gammy shoulders is a matter for another day!

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