Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Island of Lost Books

Mine isn't even a book. I think it's a short story that I've lost. I don't know when I read it but I think I was an adult. Maybe. Okay, here's what I do remember. There's a boy and he lives in a place where names are magical. Everyone gets a name when they're born, but they also get a secret name that no one else knows (haven't worked out the logistics of an infant with a name that no one knows, but I digress). If someone learns your secret name, they have power over you. It's a riff on Rumplestiltskin, I think. Then adventure happens to the boy and it may have to do with a dragon or underground or both. Or neither.

That's all I have. I wish I knew what this story was. I've gone over the fragment I remember so many times that I'm sure I'm distorting it. Or maybe this isn't the main part of the story at all, but only the set up. It may have just been the most interesting part to me. The idea of a secret name still intrigues me and whenever I think about naming characters I think of this story.

My husband remembers a book that his czech grandma gave him as a kid. It had chalk drawings that came to life - but in a more sinister way than Harold and the Purple Crayon. There was danger and adventure. He remembers one of the illustrations. And that the main character, a young adult, lit a cigarette. He thinks it might have been european or czech, but can't figure out why he thinks so. That's all he has.

Memory is such a bastard. It's nothing at all like reality most of the time, but it's all you have, so it becomes your reality. If we find our lost books my husband and I will probably be disappointed. It won't match up, won't feel the same, even if the elements are the same as we remember them.

Loganberry Books in Cleveland Ohio has an online resource where you can post your 'lost' book and see if other people can chime in with suggestions/titles for the book. It looks like a cool bookstore to visit too, if you are in the area. They might even be able to reunite you with a lost book.

So, do you have any half remembered books you wish you could find?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

John Cusack Ate my Homework

Here are my thoughts about staying up until midnight to watch arguably one of the worst movies of the last decade - 2012 (alternate title - Oh! What a Merry Apocalypse!)

John Cusak, I used to crush hard on you. What happened?
Doesn't Thandie Newton have better things to do?
Woody Harrelson playing the crazy because Randy Quaid was unavailable.
Oliver Platt needs to learn to close his mouth, end of the world flies may get in.
The Russian oligarch reminds me of Dumbledore and the swede playing the Russian pilot looks like a cross between Dolph Lundrgen and my brother in law.
Did they really have to hire a look a like Queen and haver her leading corgis into the ark? Was the visual joke worth it?

I lost 158 minutes of my life and the will to write a proper post. More later, after I recover.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Don't Judge a Book by its Book Club

I can smile about it now but at the time it was terrible, to quote from the Smiths. I started a book club once. I cajoled, begged and bullied my co-workers into meeting once a month and discussing a book. We'd do it at work during lunch and we'd order book-themed food. This hooked most people as food is a sacred business to an office full of women. But the trouble with coercion, even nice, smiley friendly coercion, is that people will say yes, finally, but their hearts won't be into it. This lead, unfortunately, to me picking the first book we'd read. I picked Stiff by Mary Roach. I find this book fascinating and funny and poignant. The other girls did not. They found it gross and creepy and wondered what the hell I'd order in for lunch to go with a book about the science and history of cadavers. I admit, I was at a loss and ordered pizza. They voted not to let me pick again.

Next we read that book. The one they made into a movie. The one with Kumar in it...Right, The Namesake. It was a fine book. I liked that the kid was named Gogol. I liked lots of things about it. I especially liked that we ordered indian food for lunch. But I couldn't get people to talk about the book. Two of the women had not finished it and another said that she hated indian food. She brought her own egg salad sandwich.

This depressed me and since I was the only one keeping the book club ship afloat, it sank down to Davey Jones' locker, where it probably still sits. But it taught me something valuable. I don't like book clubs. I like talking about books with friends and I love grandstanding about books here (ya think?) but book clubs seem to be about the LCD of books. That's lowest common denominator. What will all the group like? What will everyone enjoy? What will please and not offend everyone? Well, I don't want to read something that everyone will like. I don't mean to say that I won't read something that's popular but I certainly won't read it because it's popular. Don't understand the Da Vinci code and can't get past page 10 of the GWTDT. Book Clubs are not for me.

After the dissolution of the book club, my boss at the time told me that she'd just read a book she loved and I should read it. That same Christmas my brother in law gave us the same book. The Time Traveler's Wife. My old boss is classic book club material. She's been going to a fancy moderated one for years. It's perfect for her and she has a great time. My brother in law is a musician from Chicago. He has awesome taste of an edgy and interesting bent. I was getting seriously mixed signals on this book. I could have just cracked the sucker open and made up my own mind, but I had (and always have) a serious book-debt, a waist high stack of books I am 'just about to start reading'. I put Audrey Niffenegger's book on the shelf where other books go that may or may make the cut.

Then Her Fearful Symmetry came out and the plot hooked me immediately. I love Highgate Cemetery, even though I only saw from the top of the double decker bus on my way to the northern london outskirts to visit friends. I love the book - twins, ghosts, London - what could be bad? I got a cold/hot feeling while reading it, like I had already read and loved it before, only I'd forgotten. I lent it to a friend, who belongs to the same book club as my old boss and who loved The Time Traveler's Wife. She hated Her Fearful Symmetry. I say again I am not book club material.

Audrey Niffenegger has a new book out called The Night Bookmobile. It is in essence a graphic novel. She's an artist as well as a writer and I've been looking at her artwork for years and never knew it - she illustrated the cover of Andre Bird's Music of Hair. It's been in our CD collection since my brother in law, Kevin, sent it to us. He plays on that album and lots of others. He's kind of a genius. I digress.

I haven't read Night Bookmobile yet, but I will love it. I know this because, even before I've read it, I've imagined it in my head. The premise is about a woman who stumbles upon a bookmobile containing every book she's ever read. As soon as I hear that, I'm in the bookmobile, running my hands over the books I've read, the ones that changed me and the ones that make me remember good times and awful times. Books contain my whole life and always will because I find myself in them. God I wish that bookmobile were real, as terrible as it would probably be.

So here's my new year's resolution: Keep a log of every book I read and why. Just a few sentences. I think I'll be surprised at the end of the year at some of the things that I chose to read or re-read. January 1st, I dust off The Time Traveler's Wife.

What's your New Year's book resolution?

By the way, you can see some of Audrey Niffenegger's amazing art here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

That's Obscene

You may not know this for sure, but I'm not a sex pervert. So imagine my shock when I got a letter advising me that my mail had been confiscated by Royal Mail for being obscene. This was more than ten years ago when I was living in England, but I can still remember the feeling of heat rising to my face as I stood at the door to my flat. I remember I looked around and down the street to see if the postman was still there and if he were looking at me, disapproving.

What had been confiscated by Royal Mail for, in their words, violating obscenity laws was an art book. Stands to reason as I was an art student. Did it contain erotic pictures? Damn skippy. But nothing that I would ever imagine could be construed as obscene. I was confused and weirdly, I felt ashamed, though I knew, intellectually, that I had nothing to be ashamed of. The notice said that my 'obscene' property was being held in a RM warehouse somewhere in the outskirts of London (Dagenham? Deptford? I can't remember) and that if I wanted to contest the claim and attempt to retrieve my property I had only to show up, prove that I was not a sex pervert and probably have a scarlet letter sewn on to my jumper.

Censorship is the devil. It's the Royal Mail sticking it's clammy fingers all over your stuff and saying 'For Shame'. It's someone who thinks they know more than you do about God, sex and right and wrong telling you that you are smutty - literally a particle of soot, too dirty to ever completely come clean. Censorship is for your own good and for your children's own good and for all the good of all the people who don't know enough to figure out when something is clearly unwholesome.

I don't believe in censorship for adults. I know saying this sometimes leads to a discussion that devolves into a version of 'Would You Rather?" where the person who believes in censorship posits that I'd probably think it would be okay to show Faces of Death* to a toddler. I do believe in self-censorship. I know there are things I don't want to read, I shouldn't watch and that would be harmful for me to listen to. I believe in censorship for children - society needs to help me keep inappropriate things from reaching my kids and I'm cool with there being a societal norm for what's appropriate for children. It's when we're talking about censoring what an adult can have access to that I get hinky. I can't imagine anyone else in the whole world knowing the answer to that better than me.

I never did go down to wherever the heck it was to pick up my smutty art book. The book was imported all the way from San Francisco, so I felt the bitter tears of being out ££. I just couldn't bring myself to do down there and, even after all these years, that's something I am a little ashamed of.

*Full Disclosure: I have never seen Faces of Death, and don't recommend it. It seems to me a prime example of how to desensitize yourself to other people's suffering, basically Sociopath 101. When I was in high school it was considered 'cool' to have watched it and I was invited to do so lots of times. I was also invited to sleep with many boys and girls, do drugs and steal things, but never thought it was right for me. See? The self-censorship thing can work.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writing May Induce Sleeplessness

I used to sleep really well. I used to put on my sympathetic face when listening to insomnia stricken friends (I'm looking at you, Rebecca), all the while thinking "Like what's the deal-y-o? How can you not sleep? It's like not breathing." I'd throw in a commiserating 'Ummm. Yeah. I know' and I'd be done.

Karma is a bitch.

Of course insomnia started for me with panic right about the time the hardcore child birth drugs wore off. Could have been the narcotic side effects that gave me auditory hallucinations but I was jerked out of sleep, again and again convinced that I could hear my daughter not breathing. This kind of insomnia, anxiety insomnia trails off after they start looking less like blobs and more like people. Then, the little so and so's engineer an enforced insomnia where you can't sleep because they won't let you.

All this passed. And while I understood how debilitating no sleep is, I didn't understand how my un-childrened friends could not be able to sleep when a child wasn't to blame.

Until I started to write. The stories don't leave you alone. They take any opportunity, a sleep-walking night pee, a plumping of a pillow, a trip to the thermostat. It's all a chance to start your brain cycling again on how to make this happen, or how this character isn't mean enough, or who would believe a seventeen year old boy would say that? Once the questions start coming, I can't let them go. I lay in my bed dressing and undressing my characters, making them perform. I give them lines and make them stand up, sit down. I make a mental note to look at the tense of the entire WIP because I think it wavers. I think that the villainous Caleb is too cardboard. I do lots of things. But I don't sleep.

I know the old saw about keeping a pen and a paper by your bedside, and I have typed notes into my iphone when inspiration hits. But I'm not waking up because I've had a flash of inspiration. I'm working. I'm doing my writing work in the middle of the night. Basic, workaday problem solving. Three AM is not the time to do it.

So, with apologies to my friends for being a douche bag in the past and not understanding the true hideousness of not being able to sleep - how do you get yourself past insomnia? Tips, tricks? And don't say 'Tylenol PM' because that stuff makes me wired. Cruel world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


My sister hated me the moment I was born. She was five and I was premature, quite ugly and needed lots of attention - all of which used to be hers alone. When I was still a baby she tipped my carriage over and I went flying out and sliding onto the frozen lake in Hudson County Park where my family was skating. Mom says she can't remember details. My sister alternates between saying it was an accident and that it never happened.

Our childhood was one long, exhausting battle for supremacy. She could be a bully, bossy and mean. I could be sneaky, thieving, and manipulative. Often we split our room in two, using masking tape. I'd always get the side of the room with the door and the bathroom, but she'd always get the toys and the clothes on her side. It was the equivalent of tic tac toe in War Games - the only winning move was not to play. It's a miracle we didn't kill each other.

Then a real miracle did happen. We suddenly didn't hate each other. It was sometime around 1988. I was fifteen, she was twenty. Suddenly, we started to go out clubbing together. (Note to self: Don't tell Rowan this story until she is 40) I'd use her passport and she'd use her license and we'd go dancing in alphabet city's new wave and goth clubs wearing enough black eyeliner and patchouli to choke a horse. If I close my eyes I can almost smell the clove cigarettes.

It's been that good, and better ever since. We've had some fights, but generally we don't because we realize that a) most fights are bullshit b) it's a waste of time that we don't have. We get to speak to each other like humans about once a season, and we sneak out on our families to do it. We did that today. We just went to a random mall, equidistant from where we both live now and wandered around gossiping and eating like old cackling witches. I cackled A LOT. She made me laugh more than I have in a very long time. Who else but a sister would bring up a vagacial and, when I asked what in the hell that could be, patiently explain it, in detail, while the coffee guy at the Gloria Jeans looked on, slack jawed. I swear I snorted some butter rum latte on accident, I was laughing so hard.

So, in honor of how awesome my sister is, and how almighty fucking lucky I am to have her, I ask: Who are your favorite sisters in fiction? Little Women? Bennet Sisters? My favorite pair are Nora and Dora Chance from Wise Children by Angela Carter.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fan or Fiction

I went to art school. All the way up to graduate school. For those of you who went to a regular school, one that didn't smell like turpentine or teach arc welding sculpting, that meant no papers, no dissertation. None. I can't even remember writing a paper in Art History class - pretty sure there was a multiple choice exam with an essay. The only other word based assignment I remember having was about James Joyce. Instead of writing a paper, I illustrated and hand bound a picture book. I did get an A in that class, but I think the teacher, who must have daily beat his head into the blackboard dealing with us, just wanted me to shut up.

So I often think about what it would have been like to go to normal school. I admit, I've fantasized about writing a dissertation (though I don't know exactly what that means). And one of the topics I'd tackle is Fan Fiction. Wikipedia defines fan fiction as follows:

"Fan fiction (alternately referred to as fanfictionfanficFF, or fic) is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters (or simply fictional characters) or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator."

I love fanfic. I don't read a lot of it, but I love that it exists.  I love that there's terrible, badly written fan fiction, fan fiction that is better than the original work and erotic fan fiction that makes beloved characters do nasty things to each other. It's so democratic, I love it.

But does fan fiction have to be written by an amateur to be fan fiction? It seems like that's the logical definition, but what do terms like 'pro' and 'amateur' mean in these cases? Tons of pros have tried their hands at extending the worlds of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet (usually with some hot sex thrown in amongst the curtsies). Lots of the pros have done awful jobs.

Laurie R. King, a writer who I admire very much, writes a series of novels about Sherlock Holmes but her Holmes is almost (to me) unrecognizable to the original, in that he's much more developed, three dimensional and interesting- is that fan fiction? What about  Dracula: The Undead - written by Bram Stokers great-grand nephew? Not sure if he's a 'pro' but he's got name cred. Okay, what about the bible? Lots of folks say that parts of it were written 'in the style of' years after an original author - does that count? Not to mention (okay, I'm mentioning) comic books/graphic novels etc?

Fan fiction is irresistible because it allows us to go on with characters we love. My fan fiction catnip revolves around Lord Peter Wimsey. I've read all of Jill Paton Walsh's books, even the one I didn't like, just to spend more time with Harriet. I hunted down a fragment that Stephen King wrote, a depressing couple of paragraphs where Peter and Bunter are old, Peter's lost Harriet and everything is shit. God I wish he'd finished it. And I just found out JP Walsh has written another LPW book called the Attenbury Emeralds. You know I've already ordered it, in hardback, which is contrary to my thriftiness. I'm addicted.

So, questions: What fanfiction are you addicted to? And would you ever write fanfiction yourself? If so, what about?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spoiler! the PIG ate the NECKLACE!

The first book I can remember was read to me by Sister Anne in first grade. She read it, then we muddled through it many times on our own. Sister Anne was short, like a gnome with a long dark blue habit. She had facial hair, sprouting out of strategically placed moles on her chin. She said she had a baby in the closet, so we had to be quiet not to wake the baby. She also said that Paul Anka was her boyfriend. The facial hair, even at six, I thought was odd, but the baby and the Paul Anka, I was down with that.

I remember The Necklace so well because it was a mystery. There was a seriously funny twist at the end. See, Mrs. Pig wants to have a picnic to show off her fancy marshmallow necklace. She lays out a plush spread and invites all the other animals. I don't remember the other animals except for Chipmunk, who is the detective. When it's discovered that Mrs. Pig's necklace is gone, well, tears and recriminations, my friends. Everyone is a suspect. Everyone is subjected to Chipmunk's cunning and good cop/bad cop routine. I thought it was the duck (or chicken, can't remember exactly what kind of fowl it was.)

In the end, Chipmunk says 'J'accuse!' to Mrs. Pig herself, who in her nervousness, as she is waiting for her guests to arrive, has scarfed down the necklace, then forgot all about it. I sympathize. I've done similar things to marshmallows in times of anxiety. In the end, all is forgiven and the rest of the lovely picnic is ransacked by what are essentially farm animals in waistcoats.

I remember the sensation of seeing the squiggly black lines under the pictures and, suddenly having them bloom into words. One second they're smudges, the next they mean something. I'm sure it was a lot more prosaic than that, a lot of repetitive and boring drills. I put my daughter through the same boring drills every night. But I also see the fire, the leap of understanding as she gets it, and the whole city, every billboard, gas station and Target sign opens up to her. It's awesome

What was the first book you remember reading on your own?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lamest Post Ever (tm)

It's bedtime in writer land and I forgot to write a post - fuckity!
Here are some random links that I was going to weave into a fascinating narrative, a story about the youth of today and new writing formats - iphone novels from Japan! Fiction written cooperatively online! The continuing evolution of fan fiction!!!

It's a whole new world...that will have to wait until tomorrow. I hope it's worth it, I mean it will totally blow you away with its insight and depth of human emotion. See? I'm trying to 'sell myself' more. Phew, I'm exhausted.

Cell phone novels 

Fan Fiction

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

First e-books, now e-art

I don't know how I feel about e-books. Actually, I do know. I don't feel anything about them. Granted, I don't have an e-reader, so maybe that would change the experience for me, but I do have kindle for the iphone. And that app sits idle, still on chapter one of Dracula, which I downloaded (free) in the spirit of the holiday. Yes, the Halloween holiday, two months ago. I'm just not motivated to read it, though I've probably read five or six physical books in the same time. So I find it hard to rouse any kind of interest or emotion, even a very negative one, in e-books. If it comes to the Gutenberg Armageddon where I either read an e-book or don't read, then I'll e-book, of course. But I can't help think that the ephemeral quality of e-books diminishes the quality of the experience.

Strong reactions are not a problem when I think about the new David Hockney exhibit currently on at the Pierre Berge-Yves St. Laurent Foundation in Paris. The exhibit consists of 20 iphones and 20 ipads mounted on walls and showing work that David Hockney has created, with an app called 'Brushes' on the devices. While the exhibit is going on, he will occasionally send in a new piece and it will be displayed on one of the devices. The devices are on 24 hours a day until the end of January when they are turned off - The images wont be saved. They'll just be gone.

Ephemera in art is nothing new - performance art, installation art etc. Some art is not about being an object, but about the experience of the viewer and about the fleeting and un-ownable nature of that art. I get it, I went to art school. It just leaves me so cold. This isn't the kind of art I want to be close to. To me, it speaks of the general gesture of Art rather than the personal experience, either of the artist or of the viewer. Cold, cold cold... BUT.

I want to get Brushes. I want to see what it can do. If Angry Birds can keep me up until one in the morning, even knowing Lyra will be up before dawn then, dagnabbit, I bet Brushes can keep me up all night. The ease of use, bestowing of technical prowess, I'll admit, I want a piece of that action. So, in the e-art revolution am I (and are you), skipping down the steps of eventual conversion, are you a stalwart hold out, or are you already there?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Do It Yourself Critique Group

Everyone says I need a critique group. Which I guess is a passive aggressive way of saying, your work sucks, you need help. But I agree, I do need a critique group (and sometimes my work does suck. But I have awesome hair and yours is thinning out). I need someone other than my husband who believes too much in what I write and dear friends (or faithless hussies) who say they’ll read my book but never have the time – you know who you are.

So, when NaNoWriMo rolled around, I actually went to the weekly write-ins. I’d never done that before because I’m not a joiner (imagine that said with a sneer and maybe a pack of Lucky Strikes rolled up in the sleeve of my white t-shirt.) The write-ins were great. I wrote tons and liked the people who showed up too, all local writers.  

In the spirit of ‘Gee, we could put on a show right here, in the barn!’ I decided to start a Bucks County Writers Group. Sounds impressive, right? Especially when I capitalize each word – we don’t respect capitals as much as we should. I digress. The problem is that I don’t know anything about critiquing. I gave one person a critique once, one that I thought was really kindly and encouraging. They’ve never spoken to me again. I don’t think it was because of what I said, exactly, because I wasn’t in any way mean. But because of what I didn’t say, ie. YOU ARE AWESOME! WHY AREN’T YOU PUBLISHED ALREADY!!

That’s what we all want to hear, really and when we don’t hear it, knickers get knotted. But here’s what’s worse. Someone does tell you that. It’s happened to me. Someone intelligent and lovely told me exactly that when reading one of my ms. I kept asking her if she was yanking my chain. She proceeded to tell me that indeed, no, she was not blowing smoke up my skirt. I declaimed, ‘Are you shitting me?’ It went on like this for a while. She still stands by her statement and I think she took smack, just the one time, and hallucinated someone else’s book when she was reading mine.

So, what’s the right mix of critique? How can you be helpful and encouraging while helping the writer weed out the garbage? Are there steps? Ground rules? Any suggestions on giving and getting critique?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

I was wondering, with this daily blog thing, when my weekend would be. It's Friday and Saturday nights, I realize, that I can't post. Friday I hit a wall of torpitude unequaled in writerly circles. Wanted to move but was too busy drooling into my glass of wine, staring sightless into the near distance. Saturday was better and I recovered by looking at the twitter and other blogs I like. I also knit a very uneven scarf for my goddaughter, made chicken stock and wrote 2000 words. Yay me, torpidity over.

The hardest thing about this writer thing is going to be not to psych myself out. Witness it's been less than a week that I've been declaring myself and I already have Evil Inner Editor whispering "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot do you think you are doing?"

So I was simultaneously attracted and appalled by the post last week on Natalie Whipple's Between Fact and Fiction blog. It's a painfully honest reveal about her experience being on submission. I admit, I'm a newbie and I had to read through the blog  before completely understanding what 'on submission' means. In a nutshell, you finish, revise, polish your ms. You query agents. You find an agent that wants to represent you. Champagne corks pop and you think you've made it (I would) and then that same agent shops your ms around. And around and around. For Natalie that's a wait, with major ups and downs of fifteen months. I can't even imagine the agony, especially after you've gotten so far. And it is far, she's obviously got talent and an agency that believes in her. She's done everything right, wrote another ms, polished that, kept positive - and kept the fact of being on submission secret.

While I can't imagine what she's been through I can definitely sympathize. Being a writer, like being an artist (which I've done, too) is so subjective, it's hard to get a handle on how to 'see' yourself. Are you successful? What does that even mean? What validates the often back breaking (at least, how I sit while I write it is) work, the constant doubt of your skill and the monetary sacrifices you make to give your dream it's head. By the way, I hate that last sentence I wrote. It's fairly awful, and using 'dream' in that context is so hokey it's making me a little nauseous. But it's the right word. Writers dream of being able to write - of getting away with doing the thing that seems so easy anyone can do it, yet its so hard to do well.

Writers need to be like those bird-with-top-hat perpetual motion machines, constantly feeding themselves the encouragement they need to go on - while shoveling in the criticism they also need to stay grounded - when no one else can or will do it. Seems to me that writers walk a fine line between being egomaniacs and having egos so fragile they can barely make themselves a cup of coffee without slitting their wrists - often on the same afternoon.

I'm hoping I'm stable enough just to get on with it. Just keep going. That's what Natalie's blog post ultimately made me realize. Keeping going is the only answer to the void.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Store Closing - Nothing Held Back!

The Borders Books & Music  in Princeton is closing, one of 17 across the country to close. Not to be a hypocrite, because I also feel psyched that I can finally afford to buy some of the hardbacks I've been holding off on (30-40% off, come on down), but  ultimately it makes me feel so melancholy, seeing the books stacked higgledy piggledy, genres mixed, kids books and self help heaped together. The fixtures are for sale, shelves and displays I've perused over the years are banged up and ransacked as people pick through the remains of bestsellers, calendars and tons of Eclipse merchandise ordered, I assume, to coincide with the DVD that's about to come out, but that won't come to this Borders since they're not getting any new stock. By the way, you can buy Bella's engagement ring, a replica, I presume, for a song.

I love bookstores, not just the cute independent ones but these big chain ones too. Any book store that's a physical place where I can run my hands over paper, feel the heft of a book as I lift it, read back cover, front and back flaps, assess the cover design, look at the author photo, it all thrills me. Libraries are great, don't get me wrong. But they're marred by the fact that you have to give the book back. Bookstores are, obviously, about ownership and ownership of the physical presence of books is one of my few vices.

Books are everywhere in our house. In places they don't really belong, the bathroom, the kitchen, on the steps, in the entry way, in the TV room, screen room, garage. Any place I might need to stop, pick up  a book and read a few pages - like on my way to take out the garbage. I don't even have to open the book for it to say something to me. Sometimes it's "everyone has told you I'm an awesome book, when will you read me?"  other books say "you read me whenever you're feeling wistful and its raining, don't you?" Books are the nearest thing I can think of to sentient objects because they contain possibilities.

I'm not a luddite, but when I hear the chatter about e-books vs. books, positioned like a David and Goliath-sized mano a mano combat, I don't just get it. An e-reader, and the e-books you read on them, seem flat to me. They don't have the space for me to get lost in. 

Nathan Bransford, on his blog, recently had a poll on the coming domination of e-books  - the results show that people are more welcoming of e-books, but still prefer books. For now.

But I have to echo what Patti Smith said when she won her National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids : "Please, no matter how we advance technologically, please don't abandon the book. There's nothing in our material world more beautiful than a book." 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Victory

After several years of trying and failing (good practice for being a writer, no?) I have made it to NaNoWriMo Victory. It was totally worth every anguished moment and proves Salon co-founder Laura Miller is wrong.

Yes, it feels pretty sweet right now. The hangover will set in tomorrow morning when I realize that I have two works in progress, one that is finished at 80K but still needs extensive revision and the other, just over 50K that I'm pretty sure has a plot I took from one of my daughter's cartoon shows. Maybe Spongebob, maybe Las Tres Mellizas. But for now, it's a frigging party over here. Okay, it's laundry day, but it's PARTY LAUNDRY DAY.

So, question - how do you celebrate your achievements, or do you, like me, have trouble even acknowledging them without a sarcastic aside? (yeah, right.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rowan's Two Mommies

I help out on Tuesday afternoons at my daughter's school. I do 'kidwriting' with them, helping first graders figure out how to spell 'Legos Star Wars', 'Pillow Pets', 'play date' and whatever else they want to write about in their journals. I do this because I feel guilty about all the school activities I will inevitably miss (I'm looking at you, Oktoberfest and Talent Show Gala).

Today I was surprised to learn that everyone has two mommies. One of Ro's classmates revealed this startling news as she was getting me to help her spell 'christmas'. "Everyone's got two mommies. They've got their own mommies and they've got Mary." I looked at little Mary P, who was coloring on the rug. She's very cute and maybe has unknown depths of mommy-ness. "Not that Mary. Mary. Upstairs Mary," she says, pointing up. I swear to you it was not for comedic effect when I looked up at the ceiling wondering what the heck the daft child was on about.

Then the religious penny dropped.

When I told my mom in law this story tonight over pizza and wine she laughed. Especially when I told her that I went on to explain to the whole table of tots that not everyone believed in Christ, that there were lots of different people in the world who believed lots of things. Many blank faces provoked me into mentioning Hanukkah, driedels and, I might have mentioned Hinduism, not sure. "What's a Jew?" asked one little boy.

Where the hell am I living?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will Write for Botox

My mother pulled out her mash-up Deepak Chopra when I told her I was really, seriously (for reals now) a writer. She mentioned, in order of no importance, following your dreams, being true to yourself and how Mrs. Garluski (psychic, Basking Ridge, NJ) told her I'd be a writer one day. Mom may have also mentioned past lives and the karmic wheel, not sure as I'd glazed over by then.

But what she didn't ask was, why do you want to be a writer? Sometimes I think if I sell something, making just enough for a years supply of botox, well then, that's success. I've never had botox but I think about it. Am I a botox type person? The late thirties are an absolute bitch on my face.

I think I write because I don't actually believe I can be a writer and I'm trying to prove myself wrong. That's the twisty way I work, a double, triple fake out. Yes, someone married me, miracle.

So, why do you write?
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