Monday, June 30, 2008

I'm on You Tube!

Nothing scandalous, thank goodness... just my reading at the open mic night at QRB. Thanks, Stacey!
Click above to view it -- Enjoy!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I demand a recount!

Here's the deal:
All day long I've been thinking about this open mic contest. (The rules: drop your name and a buck in a bowl; if your name is called, you get to read your writing. More bucks means more chances to be called. Best writing wins by popular and secret vote. Wins the money, too.) Practiced my reading. I knew, just knew my name was gonna be called. And I'm gonna win, too, I knew. All day long.

I dolled up. Straightened my hair (the first time since the QRB panel). Even put on a little bit of makeup. (I didn't even do that for Andre!)

The first on line, I slapped five bills on the table and took five name tickets, scribbling my name w/ a shaky hand on each one. As prospective competitors purchased their name tickets, I watched as some put down ten, twenty dollars. Hmmm... this was going to be a challenge. So I listened to my gut and purchased two more. Seven was a lucky number, after all. Especially for me, being the seventh child. But, being a twin, I was also born second. More on that in a moment.

The first two names drawn were the twenty-dollar people. And the reader was an experienced voice-specialist, for lack of a better word. She knew how to use the mic, what to emphasize where, and so on.

And then Stacey called my name.
I laughed. Of course my name was called. I knew it.

I went to the podium and was surprisingly nervous. Thank goodness they couldn't see my ankles shaking. I tried to keep my voice from wavering, but I didn't read as well as I wanted to. Then again, that's me and my perfectionism coming out, probably.

My excerpt was well-received (read an excerpt from my second novel). Four more readers were selected, and no one was bad. I had competition, for sure. If I wasn't voting for me, I'm not sure who I would've voted for. They were all quite impressive.

We voted on slips of blue paper and turned them in. I wasn't so certain anymore, but I knew I still had a good chance.

I didn't win.

Later, when a bunch of us convened at Tripps, Stacey nudged me and congratulated me. "You came in second," he said. "By one vote."

One vote!!! (Well, two, actually. One more would've tied it.)

It felt good, actually. I originally didn't want to know how I ranked for fear that I would've been dead last. It made me feel even better when several came up to me afterwards and said, "I thought you had it locked up."

But here's the thing: I can't help but wonder if that little shade of doubt that crept in had anything to do w/ it. We say our actions follow our thoughts. If I had just kept saying, And I'm gonna win, too, would I have? Years and years ago, when I traced back the patterns of my life, I noticed that I had a lot of seconds: Second violin, first chair. First violin, second chair. Second level and grade, NYSSMA (a music recital from grade school); second place trophies in soccer. Understudy for the lead role in the school play. And so on. And I wondered if this had anything to do w/ my birth pattern, being born second. And I've wanted to break the pattern ever since discovering it. I'm not sure how well I've succeeded, especially after tonight.

Now seriously, I don't want a recount. I'm not bitter. Second place is good -- I mean it, everyone's writing was terrific. Top notch. I'm willing to bet that all the tallies were close. To come in second and so close to winning is awesome. It's affirming. It just also makes me wonder...

Here's the more important thing: tonight I got an even better validation. With each of these events, and each of these opportunities to be a part of this community of writers (and I always say I'll go to Tripps for a minute or two, and wind up staying for a couple of hours, having a great time...), I feel more and more like I belong. Tonight I felt like more than "aspiring writer" -- I felt like an author. Totally rocks. I gave out and collected business cards, announced that Faking It was "coming soon" (gotta get that cover art done!), and met more really great people. It was just so affirming. (The chocolate peanut butter cake wasn't so bad either.) I'm just so grateful to Stacey, who has gone out of his way to be of service not only to me, but other writers, both professional and aspiring, and to QRB-- it's hands down becoming my favorite place to be in NC, the Caribou in Raleigh running a close second (sorry, Caribou -- I feel your pain! haha) and UNCW not far behind.

I can't wait for Faking It to be ready and for sale. My "getting aggressive" campaign is working. Lovingly, peacefully, allowingly. Thank you. Namaste.

But dammit, I really am gonna win next time.

second wind

It all started with the two pages that my writing partner sent me -- a little filler for our novel involving, of all things, scones. But I loved it. LOVED IT.

Of course, I did a tiny bit of tweeking, added in another line or two and sent it back. And then came the google chat. Most of our chats involve us talking about the novel, how it's going, where it's going, and where we're at. Yesterday's chat was about, of course, scones, and the cookie cookbook that we're planning as a spin-off from our novel. Trust me, it's brilliant.

One of our running jokes (and we have many) involves the movie version of our novel. And everyone plays this game, don't they? The who's-going-to-play-me-in-the-movie-version-of-my-life game. We have the movie version of our novel. Well, one thing led to another and we went from the actress from Amelie playing the main supporting character to changing the nationality of said character to French-Canadian to a dish called poutine (don't ask me to pronounce it), which is basically fries smothered in cheese and gravy to what inspired me to write yet another five pages for the novel using the real conversation from the google chat about the poutine. And once again, we passed the draft back and forth, commenting, adding, tweeking, etc.

We loved it. We've missed it.

But I still watched too much tv this past week, yesterday included. And none of it any good, save the usual favorites. But I also looked at my nonfiction book proposal for the first time in a month, and thought, damn, this is pretty good! The next step is to resume working on the rest of the book.

Tonight is the open mic contest at QRB -- it'll be my first time attending. I'm aiming to win! Stay tuned.

Gratitude abounds. I'm grateful for google chat; for my laptop and internet service; for the joy writing and reading brings me and others; for cookies and scones and ice cream; and for someone with whom to share this all.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Don'tcha just love it when things start to come together?

I got a much-needed shot of good energy at the Raleigh Write 2 Publish planning meeting tonight. My good friend Stacey, the coordinator, invited me and others to come together and brainstorm the direction of the group in conjunction w/ Cameron Village Public Library.

Let me backspace for a moment and talk about what a funk I've been in lately, and perhaps you've sensed it. The self-publishing route is slow and I'm feelin' my way through and making mistakes and confronting doubts. The new novel first draft is more or less done and my writing partner needs the break to attend to more pressing priorities. I miss her. I miss the daily exhanges of drafts. I miss writing it. And I haven't touched my nonfiction project in ages. Just got completely sapped when the publishing companies I wanted to send it to did all but slam the door in my face. (I may be exaggerating a bit. Let's just leave it at my getting sapped.) Just last night I wrote about all of this in my private journal.

Well, the universe listened. Tonight I sat in a room with about a dozen motivated, intelligent, creative, funny people, all willing to listen to each other's ideas and support each other, even though we were strangers to each other. I could feel the synergy in the room, and I knew others could as well. Something special was definitely happening. We talked about the business of writing, talked about the craft and creativity, but most importantly we were talking about community, although I don't think anyone even used that word. And while we didn't leave with a concrete plan of action, we left excited. We were juiced. And it turns out that I met someone who is very interested in my nonfiction project, and methinks it may be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She's actually gotten me excited about it and I want to pick it up again.

All I know is that I'm going to be watching a lot less tv the next few days.
Who knows what else will come of it?

namaste :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

going lulu (crazy, that is...)

I'm learning an awful lot from this print-on-demand self-publishing thing, and making some mistakes along the way. Formatting alone is nutty. And I could've saved myself some pages (and pennies) if I'd been a little more patient. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm not doing it for the money, although a part of me wonders why the hell not. At them moment I'm trying to get a cover designed. I've recruited my niece to help me, since she's pretty much a whiz in photoshop, but coming up w/ the photo is a bit more problematic.

As for the manuscript(s), I wonder if I should give it one more go w/ the agents, because dammit, I love these two books; but protocol stops me. That is to say, not knowing the protocol well enough. I've found no answer to the question of querying a novel and its sequel, or re-querying the same novel, albeit new and improved, as they say. The last thing I want to do is get a reputation for either being an inexperienced, unprofessional writer from a business point of view or -- worse still -- an obnoxious one.

So, I have no idea what to do.

God, I love being a writer. I just wish the business of it came a little easier to me.

Monday, June 23, 2008


My business cards arrived today! And I like the way they turned out. Simple. A bit of white space, but the text is located in just the right places so the eye travels from left to lower right and ignores the white space. Good colors. Like I said, simple.

Now, I just need occasions to use them, hand them out...
We're getting there.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

ode to Aaron

Yesterday was about other people's writing. John Taylor's, Andre Dubus's (I'm alittle over 100 pages into The Garden of Last Days), and Aaron Sorkin (mom and I love The West Wing, so we watched a few of those this week, plus I rented and watched Charlie Wilson's War last night -- haven't seen it since it was in the theatre).

A word or more on Aaron Sorkin.
As is the case of so many of my favorites, I was a latecomer to The West Wing. My grad school friends and my mom were hooked on it. I had tried to watch it once, but found it moved a little too fast for me. Besides, I so rarely watch prime time tv anyway. It was always the time for me to get my grading done.

Anyhoo, w/ everyone telling me that I have got to watch The West Wing, I jumped on the chance when Bravo picked up the syndication from episode one. This is when Bravo was good, mind you. And from episode one, I got hooked and quickly adapted to the fast pace.

Then I made the connection that Aaron had written A Few Good Men (which I always loved despite the fact that cable tv played it to death) and The American President (which I didn't care for, more because of casting than anything else). This discovery of Aaron was also around the same time I had started writing my novel. And because I had become such a student of his dialogue and rhythm, it greatly influenced my own. I am proud to say that I get so many compliments on my quick, witty dialogue. And I owe that to Aaron. I even participated in a collaborative short story w/ a writer's group last year, and my contribution definitely echoed a West Wing sit-room scene.

It wasn't long before I watched Sports Night and Studio 60 (both containing plusses and minuses) and became an all-out Aaron Sorkin commentator -- I could easily teach a course on him. More than that, I am a student of his craft. In this case, I like being the student much more than being the teacher. I even tried to attend his play The Farnsworth Invention in NYC while I was on Long Island for Christmas. Didn't work out, unfortunately (caught Charlie Wilson's War instead).
Aaron is one of those writers I want to meet and engage in a conversation about writing, be it his, mine, others', or the craft itself. So Aaron, if you just so happen to have stumbled upon this blog, Elisa says hi and thanks for the inspiration. Keep writing!
p.s. Notice how savvy I've gotten w/ the links and the pictures? The blog's looking much better and feeling much more interactive these days, yes? And it was really quite easy!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

and speaking of...

Click here to read John's birthday message. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who was inspired. Even if you don't like John Taylor, or don't care for his style of writing, or whom (who?) he's writing about, the point is that rhetoric is always in response to something else. It's what makes writing so awesome. And I think, in some ways, that's exactly what John is saying (writing!).

The guy can do more than slap a bass, man!

Happy Birthday, JT

Yesterday was Duran Duran bassist John Taylor's birthday. He turned forty-eight.
And I forgot until just now. Oh, the guilt.

You have to understand that John has been the love of my life since I was thirteen. We're talking twenty-five years! This is a long-term commitment.

Ok, so "love of my life" is a bit strong and makes me sound like Unbalanced Stalker Fan. Not true. But he's definitely been there for me, whether he knows it or not.

John is the same age as one of my brothers, give about four months (ten years older than me). I suppose that's one reason why I always imagined myself having these very down-to-earth conversations w/ the guys --especially musically. Because they're the same age as my brothers, and musicians to boot. I know how to talk to them. I've also read John's writing on the D2 blog -- it's pretty good, actually. I'm sure I could have a good conversation about that, too.
In fact, the aformentioned older brother did meet him at a show in California, when he was playing w/ drummer Matt Soren, a friend of my brother's. At the time, my brother called me and said, "I saw John Taylor last night."
"Cool," I replied.
Years later, I found out he did more than "see" him. Matt Soren introduced the two. They shook hands. Spoke a few words. Exchanged cordial remarks.
"And ya couldn't slip it in somewhere that your sister really digs him? Ya couldn't give him my email address or something?"
I was joking around, of course. Sort of. Make no mistake, I was jealous as hell. To come so close, yet so far away? Argh! My brother used to have an independent record label, and when John was doing a lot of solo projects, I begged my brother to court him, sign him up, give me a chance to pitch the idea of my writing his biography, or something like that.
And yet, there's something really intimidating about meeting someone with whom you've had a one-sided relationship for more than half your life. There's a real fear of fucking up when you finally do have a chance to meet and say something normal and interesting. What would I do in such a moment?

When my best friend and I were fourteen, at the dizzying height of D2's popularity in the mid-80s, we sent birthday cards to John and Nick (keyboardist, also a Gemini). We took our time to make careful selections of the cards, to write something witty in them (god knows what that was), to make the outside envelope as professional as possible (I think we mailed them to the Power Station studio in NY, where John was recording at the time). And I used to dream of actually getting a response from him, a thank you. That somehow he'd see through the fan facade: here's a girl who's not just a teenybopper. Here's someone I could actually talk to. The whole thing sounds silly and perhaps even a tad embarrassing now; and yet, there's something wonderfully young and innocent and imaginative about it. I believed in such possibilities. I still do, actually. Who's to say he couldn't stumble upon my blog today and see something worth responding to?

Anyhoo, the point is that John Taylor is one of the reasons I write. He's one of the inspirations. I wrote about that last month following the Duran Duran concert, but it's worth repeating again. Inspiration is such a key part of why and what we write. We need our muses, our sunny days, our peaceful mornings. We need our quirky characters, our funny stories, our broken hearts. We need the creations and creativity of others to fan the flame of our own. We need the John Taylors of the world, the ones who made our hearts flutter when we were teenage girls, who gave us a portal to escape through, who gave us someone to think about when we had no one else, who makes music and art and writing for us to be a part of, to witness.

And heck, at forty-eight, the guy's still cute as hell.

Happy one-day-belated Birthday, John. Keep making the music.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

what's on my mind

I always enjoy working w/ the teen writing group. They're so much more dedicated to and ambitious about their writing than I was at their age. Then again, I was also a lot more screwed up... I had them do a little brainstorming-freewriting exercise I usually do w/ my students since we talked about their dislike for nonfiction. I told them that nonfiction can be as creative as fiction (their preconceptions of nonfiction has mostly negative academic connotations, understandably). So we did the little exercise, and by the end, each had a subject to write about, both rather interesting. I "assigned" it to them for our next meeting -- will be really cool to see what they come up w/ if they actually do it.

It was a reminder that I'm good at teaching nonfiction, namely creative nonfiction, and need to do more of it.

Yesterday I was able to get something done. I finished reading the manuscript (all but about 20 pages, that is), and took a lot of notes, etc. Felt good to get that done. It's going to need a lot of revision, of course, but I'm surprised at how solid it is in general, considering how quickly we wrote it. And yet, I'm really regretting having turned it over to my writer's group so soon. This is either the perfectionist in me, or the fact that even though some of it is solid, some of it is also a bit raw. I am going to respond to Susan's comment about composition and feedback regarding my previous post after I finish this one. She made some excellent points.

But I'm down today, and it's more hormonal than anything else. I also seem to have hit the wall with my nonfiction project. Haven't looked at that in awhile. And maybe that's a good thing, I don't know. Once June ends, I've got to turn my attention back to school, and God knows I'm not ready to do it yet. I'm just not ready to be and think academically. But maybe it's like jumping into the pool: just jumping in is better than dipping your feet -- once you're in, you're in.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

to show or not to show

There seems to be a debate on when to start letting others read your work. In other words, at what point in the drafting process is it ok to start getting some feedback? It was the question I posed to Andre Dubus at QRB, and he says he doesn't do it at any time during the early drafting stages. Ditto for Stephen King. Their reasoning is one I can certainly understand. To use Andre's metaphor, you don't pull the baby out of the womb mid-gestation just to check up on it.

But here's the thing: I wasn't trained as a creative writer. I was trained in rhetoric and composition. And I was trained to teach the writing process to fledgling student writers. Part of that process is peer review. And it takes place throughout the entire drafting process, first drafts included. Many students don't like peer review because they're sharing their work at the messy stage, when it lacks poise and direction and information and structure. I think they equally don't like to turn in their work before it's final. And yet, few students understand the concept of revision. It's hard, at that level, to re-see if you don't look at others' writing, or let others look at yours, and see what's happening in theirs.

I've just turned our manuscript over to my writers group. And since this discussion came up, I've been second-guessing the decision to do so. By King's standards, it's too soon. Funny enough, when I emailed the manuscript, I made all kinds of apologies for weak spots, underdeveloped scenes, poor transitioning, etc. I had to keep saying, "it's a first draft." As if I was doing the critiquing for them! And yet, I think it's a pretty damn good first draft. I think it could use a little feedback.
Or maybe not yet...

Makes me wonder though... if you take a creative writing class, and your teacher says, don't show your work before it's been revised, then what do you turn in along the way? I remember taking a creative writing class when I was 20. We had an assignment every week, and we took turns sharing our stuff. But I don't remember any revision. I don't remember discussions about audience, purpose, etc. And Lord knows some of those pieces could've used some help along the way.

Maybe creative writing and college writing really are two different beasts when it comes to process and composition. Maybe I just need to reconcile the two? Haven't I already done that? I've married them, really. Are they not compatible? I don't know.

Nevertheless, the manuscript is in their hands, and we're moving forward.

Friday, June 13, 2008

my dinner with Andre

Ok, I'm giddy and hopped up on an Exedrin, so let's see if I can recall every detail of the evening.

But first, backstory.

I remember seeing Andre Dubus III on Oprah way back when, when House of Sand and Fog went on her book club list. What stuck in my mind was his fascination with the conversation taking place. Shortly after that, my sister just so happened to give me the book for my birthday (this was January '01). I read it and liked it very much. It was one of those books that stayed on my shelf, partly because it was a gift from my sister, and partly because it was Andre Dubus III.

So it goes w/out saying (although I'm going to say it right now) that I was pleased as punch to learn that Andre (yes, we're on a first-name basis, as you will soon see) was to appear at Quail Ridge Books today. It also happened to be on the same day my mother flew into town to visit. So, we dined at Whole Foods Wellspring Cafe and then walked over to QRB. I was enthused to see him, but I had no idea what I was really in for.

We arrived at 6:30, the dinner hour, to get decent seats. I had perused his current novel, the one he was promoting, and thought, maybe I'll wait a bit (it was a pricy hardcover). I had brought my Sand and Fog book for signing. And yet, I had a feeling that after he read, I was going to wind up buying this new book.

The first surprise came when I found out he was a professor at UMass Lowell (man, it was like being home, all the New Englanders in the audience!). And from there it kept getting better and better.
First, Andre read from his book, of course. But he made it very clear that he was more interested in the conversation following the reading. Oh yeah. That's why I liked him.

And the conversation was great. He talked about process and language (among other things), and it got to the point that I was nodding my head so much I had caught his attention. He pointed to me: "Yep, she knows -- there's a writer right there," he said, flashing his charismatic smile.
"And I lived in southeastern Massachusetts -- taught at UMass-Dartmouth." Had to establish my credibility right away.
"What's your name?" he asked.
My name!!!!
I told him. Twice, in fact, because I didn't remember that I told him when he asked. I repeated it when I asked him a question.

When someone asked him about revision, he said, "I love what revision is all about, what the word means." He turned to me again. "You know what it means."
"Re-seeing," I replied, beaming.
"Testify, Sistah!" (He has the Massachusetts accent!)

When it came time for the signing, I instructed my mom to "go buy his book" while I waited on line. When I got to the table, he looked at me and smiled.
"Elisa, right?"
He even pronounced it correctly!

I told him that I was "pregnant" with my third novel (a metaphor he used throughout the conversation). He then asked me a barrage of questions about my novels -- titles and all -- all while writing in my (his?) books. I told him I was looking for an agent, and he got quite serious.
"How are you going about that?" he asked.
"Traditional query letters," I stammered. By now I was stammering every answer.
I swear, for a split second I thought he was going to give me the name of his agent ("and tell him that Andre sent you..."). But he offered me this encouragement: "Based on what you told me, you should have any problem landing one. Query letters are a pain in the ass though, aren't they?" (Or something to that effect. Maybe he didn't use the words in the ass.)

I didn't read what he signed in my books until I got into my car. And I'll not share them verbatim. But let's just say that he promised to buy my novels once published.

The man was so genuine, so charismatic, so engaging, so personable. And I totally believe he actually will buy my books. (Note the use of the word will...)

I'm still high as a kite (all the smiling gave me the headache, hence the Excedrin). I don't think I was star-struck (although who knows...), because he didn't feel larger than life, you know, the illusion of that, the way seeing a celebrity sometimes feels. He was another writer and teacher. But there was something. My post title works because he fed me tonight. He fed me quote after quote of other writers. He validated my process, my craft, me. not to mention his own. He made us all laugh quite a bit. He brought me home for an hour. And he remembered my name.

Of course, there was so much I didn't get to say that I would've liked to, but honestly, all his questions about my work threw me off. I wasn't ready to give my pitch, and I could even kick myself for not doing a better job at that. I wanted to validate him right back about process, about language, about letting our characters speak to us, letting it unfold, doing the imagining, having empathy. The whole nine yards. Maybe, hopefully, definitely, I'll have the chance to tell him another day. Preferably at my book-signing.
Thanks, Andre. I'm full tonight. See you soon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

disappearing act

I'm going to apologize to you in advance if you see some lapses in new posts this weekend. My mom is coming to town, so I'll likely be spending time at the pool w/ her, or doing other things.

Menawhile, I had a pretty productive day yesterday, finally (although I did seem to slow down quite a bit later in the afternoon). The collaboration is entering what I'm going to call the google-doc phase. At this point, we've decided to call the first draft "done" (although we still haven't written the ending yet) and are about to start revisions. However, since school has up and gotten slammin' busy for her, and I've got plans and responsibilities looming over the horizon, we've decided to post the draft on google docs -- this way either/both of us can go in at our leisure and work on revisions, and we can see the changes other are making, instead of the constant back and forth. This also relieves the pressure, especially for her, since I still have considerably more time on my hands.

I also activated my personal website, which I'm not ready to officially launch yet because it still needs a bit of work.

And, of course, there's formatting, formatting, and more formatting...

Where does process figure in to all of this productivity? I'm not sure. Maybe I needed a break from process. My twin brother sent me one of his stories (brilliant!), plus I've got writer's group tomorrow, so I've been looking into others' process, I guess. And maybe that's a good thing. Taking a break is part of process for me, really, so long as 'break' doesn't turn into 'block'.

In the meantime, keep writing, folks, and stay tuned. I'm still around.

Monday, June 9, 2008

ebb and flow

I've been feeling uninspired the last few days to write about writing, or to write at all. It may be the heat. It may be because I put too many irons on the fire, so to speak, and I'm starting to feel overwhelmed w/ all my projects. It may be that I just need time to pause and think about all of this stuff. It may be that I've been neglecting to clean my apartment, and certainly a messy home is not condusive to writing.

And yet, I've been up for a half hour and I want to write something... I just don't know what.

I've just sat here for a good three minutes, staring outside my window.

I'm trying to think of something specific to the craft to discuss. Or revision. But I got nuthin' right now. I'm not in the mood to discuss any of my projects in particular. Good grief, what happened to all that wonderful energy in May? I should've known that it doesn't last.

So let me say this, then. A writer's life is paradoxically very routine as it is ever-changing. At least mine is. The momentum ebbs and flows. I get up, I do my things, Iwrite, I go to bed. But sometimes I pace around the house, distract myself, procrastinate. I go places to be an observer or even a participant so that I can write about them in some form at another time. I think.

That's about all I've got in me for today. I think I'll go clean my house now.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

first edition, first printing, first copy

I just got the first copy of my first novel, Faking It (yes, you finally have a title by which to refer!), in the mail.

It's a mixed feelings kind of moment. And that goes with the whole self-publishing thing. On one hand, it really is something to hold your own book in your hands. I've re-written and re-read this thing a hundred gazillion times, and yet I want to open my book and read it page by page, cover to cover, because I can. On the other hand, tt doesn't look professional enough.

Take the cover, for one thing. It came out pretty in front, but it doesn't look like a chick lit book. It looks like a sexy thriller. Here's where impatience may have gotten the best of me. Maybe I should pay someone to do a better cover design. Ditto on the formatting. Also problems in terms of professional grade. Methinks I need professional help there, too.

Bottom line? I don't wanna put this puppy in the window for sale until she's fully groomed and ready. Not even for friends and family. Heck, why not do it right? Or do it as well as I can, at the very least? Because now that I'm holding this book in my hands, I want others to be holding it as well. And I want them to be proud.

It's worthy. So am I. And so are you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

well, I did it

Bought my own web domain, that is.

I've been toying with the idea for a few months now, and had been dismissing it because I didn't think I had much to offer by way of information and/or services. But since my Get Aggressive campaign, that seems to be changing quickly. I'm guessing that by next month my first novel, newly self-published, will be ready for purchase, that I'll be offering a class and/or workshop (if I can find someone to host it), and from there, we'll see. Now that I'm paying for this site, it certainly lights a fire under me to have something to put on it.

Am I being impulsive? Am I moving too fast, too soon? God, I hope not. Who knows, maybe I'm behind schedule. Anyhoo, the site is under construction, thus won't be google-able for a few weeks. I've got to get content, photos, info, etc. set up. It's a lot of work. Hopefully I'll be able to pull it off. I have no other choice now, do I.

Agh, it's hitting me: what have I done!!!!

It can only be a good thing. That's what I'll keep telling myself...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

tipping the scales

I've met a bunch of writers this past year who mull over the issue of balance. In other words, how do we balance our writing life with the other parts of our lives?

Some have family commitments. Some have full-time jobs. Some have full-time school. Some have all three. Most just need to pay the bills. So sometimes I lament, why can't writing be my full-time job? Why can't it pay the bills?

Thus begins the Catch 22. We need to devote more time to writing because we want writing to be our breadwinner. But in order to do that, we have to go without bread. But we need bread to live. Bread means work. Work means time. Time equals money. And so on. If only it could be easier. If only writing could pay the bills as easily as being a computer engineer, or a retail manager, or a writing teacher (and being a writing teacher ain't gonna get me on Cribs anytime soon, let me tell you... perhaps "easily" is a misleading word).

My writing partner and I are facing our first bump in the road of our otherwise smooth collaboration: time. This morning, she told me about all the things that are distracting her from our novel (those "distractions," btw, are the daily goings-on of life -- the normalities, really). And I told her about my sense of urgency to complete this novel because I have no distractions at the moment -- no school, no classes, no kids, etc.

Here's how we resolved it for today: We talked. We shared, we kavetched, commiserated, laughed, and talked about our novel ("I'm still not sure about the ending." "What if...?" "So here's what I'm thinking...") She even quoted our character: "So in the words of Kenny, where does that leave us?" And I think it relieved the pressure, even just a little bit. I decided not to work on the novel today. I read the last thing I wrote. I went back and read over my partner's and my chat. I worked on a short story I'm submitting to a writing contest -- I needed to cut 350 words in order for it to qualify. "Why don't you send it to me," offered my PIC, "I'll take a crack at it." Sometimes distraction works.

Perhaps I was too romantic in my last post. I write because I can't not do it. But sometimes, I really can't do it. When I'm sitting here in my apartment with central air, having just gotten back from a swim, and the dishwasher is running, when I sleep at night knowing I have health insurance just in case... my romantic notion of writing because I can't not do it gives in to the comforts that took me years to acquire. When I remember how it took me two years to pay off one night in the ER, when I remember how on a 98-degree-day exactly like today in Massachusetts, I needed to fill my bathtub with cold water and sit in it every thirty minutes, and sleep with cold compresses on me at night just to keep from job looks pretty damn good.

So what do we do?
Rather than seeking balance, we set out to tip the scales in the opposite direction instead. We get aggressive.
We say we can, and don't give in to the preconceived notion that we can't. We remember that Stephen King was working in a laundromat, that JK Rowling was a single mother, that a record company passed on signing The Beatles, and der Kellar was a seedy dive in Hamburg where they played.
We also know that we don't have to be as big as the Beatles, or Stephen King, or JK Rowling.
We remain patient, allowing ourselves a meltdown every now and then, as well as a swim.
We tend to our daily goings-on. We do what life calls us to do. But we also ask life to use us, use our gifts, for good.

We tip the scales.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

why I write

I read a blog last night (thanks, Mit!) in which a writer shared her (I think it's a her) experiences with being a longtime unpublished writer ("I wrote seven novels over twelve years before I found an agent. It was nearly fourteen years before I eventually sold a book"), and forgetting why she wrote in the first place. It was a very honest, telling post. And it's just what I need for those times when I get impatient, when my friends and others ask me whether I've been published, why it's taking so long, etc. It put things in perspective.

Why I write? Because I can't not do it.
My writing partner felt the same way today. After acing her two exams (you go, girl!), she sat in the frigid library, her fingers like popcicles, and she added her words and insights to yesterday's 50 pages because she couldn't not do it. She needed to get it on the page.

That's what it's all about.
Of course, that's simplifying it, but still. It's one reason. I'm sure I will write about others. Over and over again. It's an eternal love.

And that's good.

Monday, June 2, 2008

zero to fifty

It's amazing how one little piece of dialogue can recharge my battery.

As I've mentioned, my writing partner and I have been in a little bit of a writing funk as of late. We've been talking about upcoming scenes, but when it came to actually doing anything about it, well...

Anyhoo, last night she sent me a piece of dialogue. It's for a key scene, a turning point in the novel. It was roughly drafted, to say the least. But it was enough to give me direction, to take the ball and run with it. And run with it I did. In addition to combining about 30-something pages of previously written scenes that now had a place, I added her approximately 5 pages, plus about 20-ish new pages. A record, I think.

I don't know how good it all is in terms of writing. But it's good enough. It's first draft good. And the key scene, the scene we'd talked about, the scene we dialogued, brought tears to my eyes while I wrote it. So yeah, it's good enough.

Lord knows whether I'll get anymore done tomorrow, but it just astounds me what we've accomplished in one month. We've pretty much written the majority of the first draft of a novel. And I predict we'll finish it by the end of this week, next week the latest. If all goes well, I'll be querying this baby by the end of the summer.

Not bad, eh?

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Some days ya just got nuthin'.

It may be the weather. The summer heat just showed up at our doorsteps this past weekend, in the upper 80s and low 90s. I'm already sluggish (don't even wanna think about the upper 90s!).

Or maybe I miss my PIC. Her classes are in full gear now, including all day on the weekends (what the hell kind of school is this?). At any rate, we've not had much chance to talk, even on the page.

Or maybe I'm suffering from a bit of writers block. I don't know. I'm doin' a lot of thinking about it. But when it comes to getting it on the page, it all goes out the window.

Or maybe it's D: All of the above.
Yeah. I'm shootin' for D.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.