Saturday, February 28, 2009

Elisa at QRB -- see the event!

For those of you who weren't able to attend the event at QRB last week, here's the video of it.

I think everyone did a great job!

your feedback, please

I'm putting together a Q&A for a book promotion blog tour for the spring. What kinds of questions would be of interest to you?

Friday, February 27, 2009


I've already let MitMoi know that I intended to steal the theme (and title, roughly) of her post for my own -- it's about re-reading books. Mit mentioned on her post that she's not one to re-read books, and posed the question to her readers: Do you re-read books? Why or why not?

I replied Yes, and tried to explain as best and quickly as I could (I was in between classes) why. I'll try to elaborate here, although I honestly don't think I'll do a better job.

For one thing, I'm a creature of habit. I don't only re-read my books, but I listen to the same CDs, watch the same movies and tv shows, and even return to the same websites over and over and over again. I don't know if it's the comfort of familiarity that keeps me engaged in this ritual, or if some fear of change is at work, or if these things simply bring me so much pleasure that I see no reason to stop. Maybe it's D, all of the above.

I suppose there's some nostalgia attached, too, in some cases. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example, makes me think of my college days because that's when I read it. Richard Russo's Straight Man always takes me back to Uncle Jon's cafe. But Straight Man is one of my favorites because it makes me laugh, and because of the familiarity not of the book, but of its people and places. My Name is Asher Lev is just painfully beautiful, and it always makes me want to take up painting again.

And do I need to gush on about The West Wing? Every year Mom and I watch what has become part of our Christmas ritual: "In Excelcious Deo," and "Noel." It's the same every time: as the show fades to black, I am left, hand on chest, sniffling back tears. And mom and I talk about it as if it's the first time we've ever seen it.

Sometimes I re-read because I want to re-experience it in a different time and place. For example, I just finished reading (it was an audiobook, actually) Animal Farm. I haven't read this book since junior high school, and it was one of the few books that I read in school that I actually liked. It was cool to listen to again, and I appreciated it even more, now. I got it w/out having to try to get it. I enjoyed the story of it. I enjoyed having it read to me. I can't think of a situation of reading a book from my past and not liking it years later (although that has been the case w/ certain shows and movies), but it would be fun to read someone like Judy Blume, for instance, 30 years later, and see what I now think of those books that had ushered me into puberty. Heck, I'd even like to re-read Hitchhiker's because it was one of my ex's favorite books and I wonder how much of an influence that had on my liking it.

Ultimately, it's about the words, I think. There is something about these texts that are simply symphonic in their style. They have rhythm and timber and harmony and melody and they mean something. I don't mean that in the "literary" sense, the way scholars talk about these texts and apply their theories of reading and criticism. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'm not a lit girl; I'm a rhet-comp girl. I'm a 21st century sophist. I like when words make compositions. I like word pictures. Most of all, I like stories, I think. I love the what-if.

But maybe I'm overstating for the sake of being meaningful here. Maybe I re-read 'em because I like 'em, period.

So, I'll open the question to my readers as well: Do you re-read books? Why or why not?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

aimless intent

I stumbled across this review ("Stacey Cochran Hosts Authors at Quail Ridge Books," posted on Sunday, Feb 22) on the blog Round About Apex. Nicely done! Incidentally, I found it during a google search of various names, including my own. I'm impulsively looking for ways not only to enhance traffic for Kairos Calling, but also to see what else is "out there."

Such brainstorming sessions can be productive albeit thoroughly unorganized. I don't sit on my couch (yes, my laptop is literally in my lap at the moment) w/ the intention of making my site better, or more profitable, or more visible, etc. It comes at the end of a train of thought that might have began somewhere at avoiding getting any work done and wanting to take a nap, then plopping on my bed and seeing my Huffington Post's Complete Guide to Blogging book on the desk beside me, and I open it up and start reading it and I get to thinking that my blog is not better, more profitable, more visible, etc., so I move from my bed to my couch and turn on my laptop, yada yada yada...

I seriously, seriously need to get more organized.

And now, on to Facebook...

a view from the back

Cool, huh?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

peaceful news

I've got a blog-column on the new site Peaceful News. Right now I only have the one post ("Love the One You Are"), but the second one should be appearing in a few days. Peaceful News is a nice little oasis from all the gloom and doom headlines. My posts are appoximately 500 words, and I'm keeping it pretty light. Check it out.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Last night's event at Quail Ridge Books was a smashing success. As always, the turnout was excellent, and I was especially touched to see those friends and colleagues who came out to support me.

Stacey, as always, was an excellent moderator. I especially liked the statistics he found on self-publishing and integrated with the conversation, some seemingly contradictory to each other. The numbers of PODs and authors opting for PODs seems to be climbing every day. The average number of POD-published books sold, not so much -- an average of 150 (although I didn't get to ask Stacey to clarify the number -- is this per year? per run of one title?).

I have hope, though. Exhibit A: Adam Shepard. Those who don't know Adam Shepard (sitting to my right) need to check him out, and see his interview w/ Stacey on The Artist's Craft, featured on the website How To Publish a Book. He's quite impressive, and very gracious regarding his success. Adam is the perfect example of someone w/ an intention, clear focus, and a plan. And he didn't let anyone tell him that self-publishing was a bad way to go. Adam's book Scratch Beginnings has since been picked up by a traditional publisher. Woohoo, Adam!

The panel was an excellent balance of ingenuity and experience, I think, as well as genre. Best of all, I got to read an excerpt from Faking It (my favorite scene in the book), which was well-received, and I sold out all but two or three of QRB's total stock (about ten)! Perhaps most thrilling for me was when strangers came up to me w/ my book in tow and asked me to sign it for them. I've signed a bunch for family and friends, but it's not the same. My hand shook the whole time; thus my signature was reduced to a childish scribble, more like Elsa than Elisa. Of course, I want them to like it (the novel, not my autograph). I hope they like it. I hope they don't write to me and demand their money back.

Afterwards, a bunch of people, including our panel, met across the parking lot at Tripps and continued the conversation. At the end of the night, I went home feeling validated that I'm on the right track, and that what I've accomplished in the three months since Faking It's release really is something to be proud of.

But it also makes me restless. There's so much more I can and want to do, starting w/ Kairos Calling. So much untapped potential! Perhaps one of the hardest parts about self-publishing is the need to wear so many hats. I need to be the idea-guy and the executor of said ideas. Sometimes that doesn't bode so well. But the great thing about these events is that you get to meet people who can help w/ that. Networking, baby. I loves da networking.

And I've been complaining about this forever, but I need to get disciplined, dammit. This stuff isn't going to get done by itself. As I told an attendee after the session, the way to maintain the balance is to give your writing and your intention the attention it deserves. You have to treat it like a second job (or even your *first* job, if you're *really* serious), one you have to clock in and be accountable for, one that you get a paycheck for. You have to schedule it in shifts. (I say "you," but I'm thinking "I"...)

What fun, though, man! I'm a published author! And I wanna stay on this road for as long as I can. I hope this is only the first of many gigs like this.

I need to close by offering my deepest thanks and appreciation to/for Stacey Cochran, Carol and everyone at Quail Ridge Books, and the Write2Publish group members who faithfully show up each month. Keep writing, folks! And thank you, of course, to my Faking It Fans! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

I'll be at QRB this Saturday!

Just want to remind everyone that I'll be appearing at Quail Ridge Books and Music this Saturday, February 21, at 6:30PM. I'll be part of a panel discussion (with Adam Shepard and moderator Stacey Cochran) on self publishing. Additionally, I'll read a little bit from my novel, Faking It, and will sign some books afterward.

Come! Bring friends!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


There's a sort of chain letter going around Facebook called 25 Random Things About Me. If you've been "tagged" in the note by its author, the point is to read that person's 25 random things, then respond by writing one of your own, and tagging another 25 people.

Interestingly enough, Slate magazine took a little online survey in attempts to find the origin of the note (which seems to have morphed from a similar chain of 16 Random Things). The origin was never found, but they did discover that there was a spike in activity in late January. Hmmm, just about the time I did my own list. And following my own list, I must have read at least a dozen more.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this list, and the hard part for me was limiting it to 25 things. (I've been toying w/ the idea of posting a new note called 25 More Random Things About Me, but I wonder if anyone other than me will really care -- the magic has worn off by now, I'm guessing.) Of course, writer that I am, I revised my list a couple of times, changed the wording, etc. In the end, I was happy w/ what I produced, w/ the exception of one item that I want to delete. It just didn't sit right w/ me.

What I found most fascinating was that these 25 Random Things were, in fact, the seedlings of 25 essays, or 25 memoirs. And I found the same to be true of others. Each one, by crafting 25 mini-stories, was crafting a much larger story. It was incredibly expressivist and incredibly socially constructed at the same time. By "tagging" others, we were inviting others to shape the story, become part of the writing experience whether it was by commenting on any item ("I'm terrified of spiders too!" or "dude, that's whacked") or simply continuing the conversation by contributing our own lists. This is what I love about rhetoric: it's always in response to something else (because some items were inspired by others'-- Donald Murray: "As we read someone else's story, we write our own"). And narrative is simply regenerative. It evolves as we do. It changes meaning as we change.

And so, it has just sparked an idea for a new writing project (like I don't have enough already!): what if I compile a collection of essays entitled 25 Random Things About Me (I wonder if that title is intellectual property?) It would be a book of 25 essays, all personal in some form or another. I think it would be most fun, definitely challenging, and probably time-consuming.

I'm putting it on the back burner anyway. You never know.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

on the back burner

A couple of nights ago I was thumbing through the Huffington Post Guide to Blogging book (I've got the title wrong, and I'm too lazy to get off my couch and double-check, so google it if you prefer accuracy, please). I've decided that one of my summer projects is to seriously re-think how I'm using my blog and whether it can better serve my business interests as opposed to sole self-expression, and then make any changes that result from this assessment. I don't want to lose my readers, and I still enjoy talking about the craft, but I feel like there's some untapped potential here, and I'd like to tap it good.

For one thing, I'm thinking of directly linking it to my website. For another thing, I'm thinking about shifting the focus of topics a bit. We'll see. In the meantime, my posts in the next couple of weeks might be spread out a little farther. It's grading season, followed by Spring Break, followed by mid-semester. I'll tell you, that back burner is getting crowded. I've also got to get the Faking It sequel formatted (although I dropped what I was doing earlier today and wrote a page's worth of new text for that novel, which has been finished for over a year) for a possible summer release, not to mention my nonfiction manuscript, which is finally coming along, and another little writing gig...

Oy vey! I am soooooo behind the 8-ball this semester!

Didn't I post something recently about balance being a choice? Looks like I'm gonna have to assess that, too...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

grounds for inspiration: an ode

I'm sitting in Caribou Coffee, listening to a John Mayer song that is playing. I call this particular Caribou "my NC Mirasol's, formerly known as Uncle Jon's." The former UJs was my MA hangout. In fact, I was there so much that one time, when a student was looking for me, a faculty member joked to try there, and sure enough, he found me... (I asked my colleagues to refrain from giving up my oasis in the future...)

I used to take my stacks of student essays, stake out one of the comfy purple-fabric reading chairs, and, w/ vanilla chai latte (iced or warm) and choc chip muffin in tow (I haven't a decent vanilla chai since), would spend hours there, immersed in grading. I somehow could get more done there than my office (still can), despite the background music and chatter and grinding. When I wasn't grading, I was reading Richard Russo's Straight Man and laughing out loud, or entertaining my friends by reciting a David Sedaris essay. UJs was a place to be enjoyed in numbers as much as in solitude. There was even a period of time when I had organized a gathering every other Friday -- we'd have ten-fifteen TAs, adjuncts, and tenured professors from the English department taking over three or four tables w/ raucous laughter.

I had first dates there. I had last dates there. I ran into present and former students there, sometimes awkward, sometimes not. I ran into my ex. The staff knew me, knew my order by heart. I knew all their names as well. I discovered John Mayer at UJs. I wrote most of Faking It there, too. Or, rather, revised much of it there.

One day I spent eight hours there. Eight hours. It started w/ a stack of papers, likely, then turned into one friend after another, walking in, staying at my table for a lengthy visit, and my inability to leave simply because that day it was the only place I belonged. Did I have no life otherwise? Was I pathetic? Perhaps. But I didn't want another life. I loved my habitat.

I don't know what it is about coffeeshops that foster such reading and writing atmospheres, such grounds for inspiration and creativity and community. The kicker is that I don't drink coffee! Never have. And at one time, I hated the smell that lingered on my clothes and in my hair. It takes a special place, a place that has a certain something. Starbucks never had it for me. And not many Caribous have it either. And I've never found an equivalent on Long Island. And, truth be told, even this Caribou doesn't fully hold up to my former place.

If there's anything I miss about MA, though, it's my place, my Mirasol's, formerly my UJs. Right now, I miss it dearly. I'm sure that I'd be writing this post from there right now otherwise. Or working on my manuscript. Or running into old friends and loves. I'd be writing. I'd be reading. I'd be home.

Friday, February 6, 2009

apply as needed

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” - Rumi.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the writer at gunpoint

I enjoy the time between classes, when one group of students are filing out and another are filing in, especially when I have back-to-back classes in the same room. It gives me a chance to casually chat, answer their questions, and/or gauge what kind of energy level I'm going to be up against. Today, because the first class ended slightly earlier than usual, I had extra time to chat w/ a couple of students.

"Great reading," said a student in regards to the excerpt I assigned from Stephen King's On Writing ("Toolbox"). "I read it three times!"

You have no idea the kind of happy dance I wanna do when a student tells me he willingly, enthusiastically read an assigned text more than once.

"Isn't it great?" I gushed. We then proceeded to have our own little discussion about the text.

"What got to me was King's discussion about fear being at the root of bad writing. He's so right. I can see it in my own writing, when I have a paper due and I don't know what the hell I'm doing. My writing sucks."
"Of course!" I replied. "It happens to me, too!"

And so the conversation went-- the more they talked, the more juiced I became. And then another student chimed in: "It's like being held at gunpoint," he said.
"Oh yeah," said the other, "and you're constantly staring down the barrel."

What a metaphor! And I couldn't agree more w/ them, in the context of being a student writer challenged to write at this academic level full of abstractions and complexities, writing for an audience who invaribly knows more than they do. The teacher is often the one packing heat, at least as seen from the doe-eyed student.

And so I invited them to unburden their fears: fear of not being understood; fear the teacher won't like their style; fear of failing; fear of getting it wrong; fear of not getting it at all; etc. It's a tremendous opportunity to be reminded of what they go through, and King helps me disarm myself as teacher (as judge) as well give them a bit of armour to wear -- or, the tools to deflect the bullet -- when facing the barrel of the gun. There's a way out of this, I say to them. There's language. There's choice. There's grammar as a means of clarity vs. correctness.

There's hope.

And is this the appropriate metaphor for us more seasoned writers? Are we held at gunpoint by our readers, agents, editors, and critics? Are we pointing the gun at ourselves?

It's hard for me to apply so violent a metaphor to myself (the pacifist in me can't take it), but lord knows I get the fear.

And I hope my students know I'm just like them as a result.