Thursday, June 29, 2006

Random Musings

A thick black electrical wire runs along the street and passes in front of my office window. This wire also runs through the trees on the block and while it is not uncommon to see the occasional hire-wire act by a deft squirrel, today there is clearly a squirrel event going on. Today I am witness to a squirrel highway. I think it must be a concert going on down at the end of the block, or maybe a parade. Perhaps squirrels celebrate fourth of july early, before all the humans pull out their exploding squirrel bombs (don't you imagine that squirrels see 4th of July fireworks as some kind of expression of war?)

* * *
This is my year of books! Well, next year is, really, but I can have the excitement now. My Writer's Digest book has been tangible for some time, but today it really hit me full on that Creating Space is going to be published and it's going to be beautiful. My writing partner, Rebecca Lawton and I just talked with our publisher about details like the cover, promotional postcards to hand out at the Sonoma County Book Festival in September, and pre-order brochures. This all made me very, very happy. Then of course there's my novel, which I have great confidence in. I know it's gauche to admit you feel good about your work, but damn it, I do.

* * *

As much as I like to separate myself out from the legacy of negativity that seems to be genetic on my father's side of the family I wonder if I don't suffer from a smidge of it. This morning, as I was swimming I caught myself wondering, 'I wonder what the long-term effects of chlorine on the body are? Cancer?'

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Have you asked yourself why you work so hard? Why you slave at a job that you probably find dissatisfying on some levels if not all. One that probably doesn't pay you enough money, has a miserable commute, or insufferable co-workers?

What's the answer you come up with? Do you work hard to buy stuff, to finance travel, to pay off debt?

Have you wondered what your life might be like if you worked less hard. If you didn't need as much stuff/vacations/have so much debt?

Lately I've been thinking about how many people I know work hard for a future outcome, sacrificing their current health/happiness/ability to be present. Oh, I include myself, too, though I'm really aiming to enjoy my life a lot more on all levels.

How much do you sacrifice now for the future? What if there was no future? If it ended tomorrow. Would your "today" life be worth it?

I'm working to ensure that I can answer "yes" to that.

In the spirit of this, I'm kicking my feet up and listening to my ipod when I should be working. Oh don't worry. I'll get it done. I always do. But I want ten minutes of bliss. Don't you?


Monday, June 26, 2006

I think I wrought some kind of weather curse on us by complaining that it wasn't hot enough. By the day we left Brooklyn and headed out to Long Island, it had been pouring rain for twenty-four hours. Apparently it still is raining.

We finally got a day or so of the nasty heat but for the most part we really enjoyed one of the milder week's of New York's summer weather, and all sarcasm aside, I preferred it that way. Still, there's nothing like the air of California, which greeted us like a crisp cucumber salad when we hit the Oakland airport. Though hot here, it's different. More like being enfolded in fleece than smothered in wet wool.

I know I wasn't a good traveler this time. I tired easily, I wanted to be home more than I wanted to be out. I don't blame myself. I left in the middle of a busy time for this freelance girl and at a time when I'd just found my way into a swimming routine. And don't worry, now that I'm back I don't hunger for NY. I mean, I really did enjoy myself, but I'm happy to be home.

I did have some memorable moments in NY. I loved embarassing my sister by going into the same health food store in Williamsburg many times a day, for breakfast, for lunch, for water while she slunk into the UPS store next door to avoid whatever level of embarrassment comes with being seen one time too many in the same physical location.

"What must they be thinking? You've been in here four times!" she proclaimed, tugging on my arm and shaking her head as if i had just told her I would now be parading down Madison Avenue naked.

"I know what they're thinking," I told her. "They're thinking, 'hey, here's that woman who keeps spending her money in our store. She rocks!"

I loved getting coffee at Verb cafesurrounded by retro-eighties hipsters wearing all the clothes I so desperately hoped would never come back into fashion, and having dinner with my cousin Tim, his wife, In, and their three year-old daughter Kai at the running park where we would eat while she ran a mile in her little pink sneakers.

I love that I got to hear my sister, who does not swear, make the most hilarious freudian slip ever, accidentally uttering the word "fucked" as a verb that ostensibly happened to a friend of hers in a "stridge" (if you think about it, you can probably figure it out). Then I took even greater pleasure at her mortification as I threatened to tell everyone about it. It's hard to get a rise out of her!

Or that over dinner in a loud restaurant she only heard two snippets of our conversation and thought my friend and I were discussing "octopus porn."

I love the fact that every night on the air mattress we shared, she would edge her body halfway over in the middle of the night so that she either elbowed or kicked me off the mattress; i used to do this to my mother. I loved that in the morning she looked like a five year old girl, not a fifteen year old, when she slept, and in her sleep I could gaze as tenderly at her as I liked without suffering her teenage embarrassment.

I love that I could get lost coming out of subways, and take her spinning in four different directions and she would just laugh, not get irritated with me.

I love that she has a good head on her shoulders and a kind heart, even if her love of shopping temporarily takes precedence.

I love that after a childhood of longing for a sister, I finally have one I can hang out with, even as different as we are.

When our dad picked us up at the airport, I couldn't help but wonder what he thought watching his two daughters, one half the age of the other, walking down that ramp together, laughing and ribbing each other.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Well this was more like it! Humidity levels are still shockingly low for June in NY, but we got heat! Still, despite wearing my little puma tennies with no socks, I have not yet gotten a single blister. Very unusual.

For some reason this trip New York feels faster and louder and more smoggy. Dirt cakes in between toes and lines the inside of my nose like some kind of black rubber cement. It seems smoggier and hazier. And I am just not a sound shopper like my sister. Albeit, she found Sak's Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor's a bit overwhelming, still, she has far more stamina than I do.

I remember the fascination with the "it brands" of my day. Esprit and Guess Jeans and such. I remember begging my father to buy me outfits he considered too pricy and feeling mortified when the popular, rich girls at school knew I shopped at the cheap stores and were happy to point it out. But that's so long behind me now. I wear what I like and what is comfortable. So what's "in fashion" rarely appeals to me, and more so, I see the machinery at work in a way that my sister can't...I really don't blame her--it's a strange pressure on kids to be cool and hip. She's all about brands that mean nothing to me, and which are not cheap to boot: Juicy Couture, Seven Jeans, Lacoste. The worst part is, the 80s really are coming back in fashion. I don't get it! Those dumb polo shirts and everything with thick cuffs and bad stripes and garish colors. Loafers and madras designs and little childish prints. It's awful.

I'm not doing a good job of being here now. I just crave California. There are moments throughout the day that are worthwhile, and the sheer pleasure of taking a trip with my sister the likes of which we've never done before and who knows if we will again, outweighs much of the bad.

But the truth is, I'm a homebody and home is where I want to be sharing with and loving on my husband and my kitty; fixing up my novel for my agent (those words are still strange in my head. "MY" agent...); finishing my Writer's Digest book, walking to the farmer's market behind my house, and gosh, most of all: swimming. I so desperately want to go back to swimming.

So though my change purse does say "I heart NY", I'm thinking maybe I heart CA right now a whole lot more.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

New York has disappointed me. The past two days it has been unreasonably temperate. Where are the formidable heat-sack clouds that hang like fresh cathether bags over the sidewalks? I may not like to chafe my armpits against my ribs, nor my thighs together, but damn it, what is my New York experience if it does not include such things? I walked fourteen blocks at a fast clip and I was barely even sweating. This is unreasonable, New York! I expect humidity that makes the difference between going outside and showering to be no more than the use of soap. Even worse, I hear that California is having a heat wave. Oh foul global warming!

Overall the trip has been good. In my cousin's Brooklyn apartment the Manhattan skyline beckons like a tide of those glowing jellyfish, and I like walking through bustle, and ogling the fashionistas, and going miles by simply stepping on a train and stepping off. I like my sister's obvious awe at the shopping and the people, and am a little weirded out by the attention a lovely fifteen year-old girl draws from men. I've come really close on a few occasions of saying, "You do realize you're staring at an underage child, right?" It reminds me of my own adolescent innocence. I wore short, tight skirts and tops and had NO CLUE what effect this had on the world of men. I see now how dangerous that beauty and innocence can be, or rather, how a certain kind of man would be willing to take advantage of the girl who bears it. It's a very odd feeling. I certainly don't feel old at nearly 32, but in her presence, I feel like my grandmother. And someone asked me today if I am her mother. I mean shoot me now. Maybe I WILL get those highlights after all.

I had a fantastic meeting with my new agent :) Things are looking up. Bless the muses for giving me this book, which is reverting to its original title, The Night Oracle, for submissions, to come toward the end of summer (near my birthday).


Sunday, June 18, 2006

If you are wondering where I am, haven't heard from me, or had a psychic flash of me wandering amongst tall buildings, the answer is: New York. Oh, no, not for the weather, I assure you, though I can tolerate being smothered in a wool-blanket of atmosphere for a week. I truly deserve one of those t-shirts with the "I heart New York" slogan on it, because I truly do. I spent every summer of my childhood there, and many more visits as an adult. I love the thrum and bustle of activity, that something is always going on, no matter the time of day. I love that it is a cultural center, a place where celebrities and immigrant workers toil together. I love its stimulation and the smell and the palpable buzz of the city. The sound of the subway, the way people look just past you, but never quite at you, but you know they see you. I mostly love it because I have family and friends I dearly adore that live there.

I love it but I'm always glad to come home to California. I truly have the best of both words.

If you, too, are taking some kind of imperfect trip (the best kind!), cheers to you and we'll catch up when I return.


Friday, June 16, 2006

The classic rejection letter from a literary agent comes with the phrase, “I’m sorry but I just didn’t fall in love with your work,” prompting many writers to guffaw and say, “who was talking love, just cop a cheap feel and I’m yours!”

Perhaps this is gauche to write about, but I can’t help it. After having written five novels, two of which were represented and shopped to publishers with no success; after going through graduate school (MFA) which was as discouraging as it was sublime (so much competition!); after struggling to write something that other people would want to read and staying true to my own creative sensibilities, I can finally say: An agent is in love with my novel. Her words!

But you want to know something? I am in love with my novel too. This is the first novel I’ve written that I think about during the day the way I thought about my husband in the throes of first bliss (actually, I still think about him like that, but don’t tell). But don’t think me just narcissistic; we writers have to fall in love with our own work. The same way you fall in love with a mate, which is to say, you see all the flaws, potential, complications, and you STILL love it. Not because you think every word you write is a gem, or because you think you are somehow guaranteed happiness, wealth and admiration, but why would you spend every day slaving away at a creation that you hated? What would be the point in that? There will be plenty of other people to hate it for you.


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

As children we find bugs amusing, fellow creatures of the earth to play with and tuck into glass jars with grass (how many bugs have died this innocent death?). Unless we pursue entomoloy when we grow up--and so as not to insult you bug lovers, maybe I should just assume the first person here--bugs become icky and wierd.

I must learn to live with bugs again because they are here in our new place whether we like it or not, and this isn't even the country! We live beneath a very old oak tree, however, and in fact there are lots of trees on our street. At night we are treated to a shrill mosquito music festival; spiders creep, scurry and blip out of nowhere--particularly shocking when one is on the toilet. These are spiders in all sizes, some so small that it is only when I realize one of the periods on my page of text is moving that the spider makes himself known. Often I bump into a surprisingly thick strand of web, sometimes right across the staircase as if they are trying to claim my office for a spider village.

The other night we caught what at first we thought was a young centipede but upon closer inspection of its many-legged, yet worm-like form, we decided it was a larval stage of those creatures known as a Mosquito Hawk, of which there are also plenty--though they sure fall down on the job when it comes to eating mosquitos.

But wait there's more! Lady bugs and wasps regularly dance upon my window outside my desk, while silverfish scurry between books.

And this morning, something tiny and reddish was creeping towards the drain in my bathroom I helped it along with a nice cascade of sink water :)

I remember reading a story of a family that moved into their dream country home only to find it teeming with brown recluse spiders--the very poisonous kind. After discouraging words from exterminators (they lived in a meadow and there was no way to guarantee an extermination) and attempts to catch them in glass jars, eventually the family decided to try living there with the vow--the first time one of us gets bitten, we'll move. Twenty years later no one in the family had ever been bitten.

So this is the attitude I am taking with the bugs whose home I am clearly invading. As much as I consider them the pests, let's face it. It was their planet first and it will be theirs again after global warming does us humans in.

Saturday, June 10, 2006


I've been instructed by my monthly horoscope not to get down on myself for not having acheived enough. I tell you, that horoscope knows me better than I do myself and by jove, or jebus, or beezus, I am going to heed it!

This means not: comparing my writing to others; (cough *I'll never be as good as Lorrie Moore* cough); not measuring my success by that of others; not being hard on myself for my abominable lack of networking, my paltry submissions and my resistance to revising a single short story written during my two years of graduate school.

This means: feeling proud that I'm writing a book under contract about writing and staying confident that I can do the work to get Night Oracles published. This means some writing for pleasure time in my schedule and patting myself on the back for every achievement, even if it's just the act of writing this tiny post.

Self: you are the bees knees. Good on ya!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

My cat threw up four times in my office today. Fortunately nothing, um, chunky...but still. I mean, come on! Then a spider dropped on my head while I was on the toilet. Do you think these are omens, signs? Am I being blessed or cursed? Should I call in a psychic? An exterminator?

While I figure that out, I invite you to join me in playing a game. I like to play games (the fun kind, not the mind kind). I've participated (read: invited myself in) to a game I found on my friend Joy's blog. Rules for playing are at bottom of the post. The game is basically a series of interview questions. Sorry, no soccer ball or frisbees involved. Joy made up the questions, and I answered them. Or some part of me did at any rate.

If the current you were going to give your 21-year-old-self advice, what would it be and why?

Cry a lot in private so that when you do it in front of others it isn’t like the first time you’ve ever cried—which can be a bit terrifying. Relax and have faith. Release your choke hold on people you love! Do spontaneous things; lord knows you won’t do them much later on. You’re NOT fat; worrying about it is a waste of time. Your thighs are more perfect now than they will ever be again. Take people up on invitations to do new things; you’ll be plenty set in your ways before long.

You have a choice between: a. Being a super artist who writes masterpieces that live on after your death, but although you have dramatic love affairs and a kick-ass intellectual life, you are also miserable/crazy/a drunk (your choice) and likely to die an untimely death OR b. Laboring in obscurity, never achieving anything significant in your career, but otherwise you are a generally fulfilled and happy person. Which do you choose and why?

I’ve actually thought a lot about this one. The truth is, all I really want is happiness. If that meant writing for mere pleasure and never publishing, I’d take the happiness. I used to think I wanted fame and success first, but now I realize that I want happiness first, and success if it falls in line with happiness. I hate to be trite, but this is it, my one life so far as I know. I’ll be dead, so I won’t car if anyone remembers me. But I know every moment if I’m happy or not. Besides, I don’t handle liquor well and misery is overrated.

After interviewing all those authors for your radio show Word-by-Word, what have you learned about writing? You can name one big thing or mention some of the individual lessons you learned.

That talent is born, not taught? No…um. I learned that persistence and authenticity pay off. Meaning—if you really are a writer, which is to say you write because you must, and you happen to write decently, don’t let other people or the industry or critics ruin your hope. Persist. Follow that path because nobody is going to hand it to you and it takes a lot of faith and sweat and endurance to get a book published. Unless you’re Paris Hilton.

Which means more to you: justice or mercy? Why?

Hmm. At first I thought justice, because I like to see people get what’s coming to them, but then I realized that justice often excludes mercy, and in the long run I think mercy is more important. Justice puts people on trial and sentences them to jail, but its mercy that allows parents of a murdered child to forgive a murderer and other more amazing stories of forgiveness. Justice points that long finger of judgment at a person for their crimes and flaws, makes sure they “make good” and “do it right.” But mercy helps people see how their actions affect others. What really makes me choke up in a movie or book or in real life is when one person forgives another person, truly, deeply, for something hard and painful and rough. Because it’s hard being human. Even when we try to self-improve and perfect ourselves, it’s still hard. We need mercy, we need tenderness.

What is your biggest obsession and why does it obsess you?

I would have to say my obsessions change from time to time, but are usually nerdy or geeky hobbies. Usually I get obsessed by serial things, such as television shows or series of books. In high school it was Twin Peaks and anything written by Louise Erdrich. In college it was the whole Mists of Avalon deal, Later it was the X-Files, Robin Hobb’s nine-part series about the characters of the Six Duchies, Phillip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials, and most recently probably the show Six Feet Under. (Oh wait, how could I forget my obsession with Harry Potter?? I even have a wand!).What all of these have in common is powerful emotional content—yes, even the X-Files. I get very engaged with “quests” and “epics” where the characters are deeply driven, where there is potent loss, and lots of soul-searching. It makes sense according to my enneagram type (4), and probably my sign (Virgo), as my father who is also a Virgo seems to have the same propensity.

So that happened.

Interview Guidelines
1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me” ONLY IF: I have either met you or exchanged emails with you before, AND if you have a blog.
2. I will respond with five questions (found in the comments section). I pick the Q’s.
3. You will update your blog with the answers
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else
5. When others ask to be interviewed

Or great fire will rain from the heavens upon you or so I've been told.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Check it out:

Rebecca Lawton and I are teaching a series of online classes based on our forthcoming book: Creating Space: The Law of Attraction for Writers & Other Inspired Souls (Summer, 2007). The first 4-week session begins in September, but we are taking sign-ups now through the Creating Space blog.

People who participate in the online classes will also receive a discount on our annual Creating Space Retreat, TBA.

Hope you'll join us!


Monday, June 05, 2006

Screw the Gym; I'll swim!

Today's post has absolutely nothing to do with writing.

I have always had problems with gyms, making it very difficult for me to keep going to them, even when actual hard-earned money is being actively deducted from my checking account every month. For one, they are generally joyless, mechanical places. This is a direct product of the fact that there is no nature in a gym, save for two unique species of animals I find there: the wooly male beasts huffing and primping in front of mirrors with muscles so enormous they seem good for only one thing—destruction, and the long-legged, large busted gazelle like females who move gracefully yet aloof, never to cast so much as a glance at the wooly beasts who try so hard.

Then there’s the rest of us. But at the gyms I’ve attended “the rest of us” is usually me and the pregnant woman. Or me and the recovering-from-a-stroke old guy who can barely stay seated on the recumbent bicycle. I’ve wondered for a long time where the real people go to exercise.

Then I started swimming. The real people swim! This is because they understand the beauty of buoyancy. The unparalleled feel of water beneath you and open sky above you. Sure, we may be more prone to skin cancer and chlorine poisoning, but in the pool, we are free. Our limbs are unencumbered by any piece of equipment than ends in the suffix “ex” or “tron.” We need not run like rats on a wheel. We can splash and giggle and dive and back-stroke if we please.

And we have bodies. Real bodies. Neither paid for nor perfected. True thighs, the kind that gave Caravaggio wet dreams and without which Boticelli would have been a very sad man. I have always been self-conscious of the fact that I am an easy bruiser. But guess what? At the pool I see similarly mottled knees and angry elbows. When we ladies are in the changing room, none of us are checking each other out to see whose breasts are firmer—I promise you there are very few firm breasts among us. The pool is where women go when they have just had babies and when they’re ready to take care of themselves again and when the driving pressure of the gym, parallels the nasty pressure of the workplace, is just too soul-sucking.

It’s amazing how different the world seems without all the weight-bearing troubles of gravity. And you know, in the pool, I can’t strap on an ipod or stare at Oprah while I drool on the elliptical machine. In the pool I can only hear the sound of my own breathing and the lashing of waves against the lane-dividers. It’s quiet inside my head when I swim.

Oh don’t get me wrong. I’ll go back to the gym (with the same attitude as I take my fiber). When it’s raining. But right now it’s nearly summer and all around me green-topped golden hills are beckoning, and the water is just too nice to stay inside.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Since moving two months ago, I make a two hour drive both ways about twice a month to my old stomping grounds for a writing group that I can't bear to part with. So, thanks to an incredible selection at my library, I've gained a whole new level of appreciation for books on tape/CD.

So, if it isn't cool enough that my friend Ellen Meister's first novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, is coming out in August (William/Morrow), her book will also be released on CD, recorded by the inimitable Lisa Kudrow.

Listen to a teaser audio clip here HERE. I know I'll be listening to it again on one of my drives.