Monday, November 28, 2011

I want to thank you

I meant to write this post last week.

I meant to tell you all the things I'm thankful for on the designated day of Being Thankful. But instead I helped my mother make dinner for thirty of my friends on Wednesday and ten or so of my family members on Thursday. I cooked and ate and drank. I danced and drank some more and broke some glassware. I ate as much pie as I could bare without a thought for my waistline and then put on a bathing suit. I watched three of my crazy friends jump in the ice cold lake and then got in the hot tub with them and others where we drank some more. I stayed up nearly till sunrise to spend just a little more time with the people I'm so lucky to have had show up in my life just when I needed them most. As though it all might disappear tomorrow.

Which, of course, it might.

I tried to focus on who was there, on who sat beside me. My heart ached for some missing faces: some simply far away, others unreachable for much more difficult reasons. I tried to appreciate the strength of those around me and forgive the weakness of those who couldn't find their way to me when I'd needed them. I tried to take it all in. I tried to let it all go.

And I was thankful.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

self-publishing's new frontier

I admire Sherry Jones' work and that I think that she made some salient points in her October 11th piece on the Huffington Post: Self-Publishing: The Elephant in the Room. However, I also think she missed some major ones by a mile.
Since the creation of “vanity” presses, there has been a discomfort associated with self-publishing, the notion this is the last-ditch realm of those not good enough to get published the traditional way. Dealing with the waves of rejection before getting your work published was an important right of passage and a way to hone your work, as it was for Jones. There were many good reasons to dismiss self-publishing back in 2006, as she said; it meant an arduous and expensive process that had little hope of doing anything but draining an author's pockets.
But things have changed.
In her dismissal of today's self-publishing possibilities, Jones seems to be taking for granted the idea that good-quality, worthy writing is what makes it through the tortuous publishing process, and bad writing (however you'd like to define it) gets culled along the way. Does anyone actually believe this? If they do, they haven't worked for a publishing house that has spent mind-bending amounts of advance money on  bad knock-offs of whatever vampire/ Nazi/ cozy mystery is currently setting the trend, and they have not lived amongst writers and seen some of the most loathsome get book deals while immensely talented and worthy ones are ignored for being 'too niche' or what have you.
What I imagine Jones is partly responding to here is the common fear that as the structure of traditional publishing crumbles further there will no one to gate-keep, no one to curate the experience and help shape novels through the editing process, no one to perform all the very vital functions that happen between author and reader.  
As you might have guessed, I have a dog in this fight. I used to work as a publicist for one of the Big Six and now am with a freelancer's collective in Seattle called Girl Friday Productions. One of the areas in which we are focusing our efforts is on how best to help our author clients take advantage of the dazzling and dizzying new options available in a way that ensures that they're putting the best work possible out into the world.  We also fill in the gaps for authors whose publishers aren't  able to give them the support they need to make the book a success, which is more and more frequently the case.
I'm also a novelist. I came to the game a bit later than Jones, in late 2008, just as the economy was beginning to tank. I had a fabulous agent from Writers House and we shopped my novel to lots of good feedback, one very close call, and, ultimately, no offers. I went back to the drawing board and wrote another novel. My agent had left the business by the time I was finished with it. I started searching for a new one, but found things had gotten even worse. One big reputable agent told me that she liked my novel a lot and thought I had a perfect voice for women's fiction but that it was just so hard to sell any fiction that didn't have an historical or magical element these days. I knew it was time for a break when I briefly considered working a warlock into the story.    
This past fall, I decided to dust off my first novel and run it in serial on the women's website I write for and publish it as an eBook. Because of the low cost and ease of this, I could do it without the pressure of having to put up a bunch of money or knowing a publishing house had done the same. I wanted to see what this new world of publishing was all about and figure that the worst that can happen is I will learn a lot that will be useful both to me and to my clients down the road. I didn't bypass the editorial or copyediting processes; I got help with those, as I think any author who is self-publishing should.
Do I think traditional publishing is obsolete? Absolutely not. I just think it needs to get with the program, and fast. The talent within these houses is immense and their usefulness to authors is incontrovertible, but the system itself is broken. Between the Vegas-style gambles with huge advances, the insane retail model, and overhead costs, how anyone could think it has a sound future is beyond me.
Because of the system of returns (wherein retailers send back books that don't sell) in publishing, publishers have to focus on pushing a book as hard as they can after the on-sale date to make it work.  And the overhead for publishing a book, between printing and shipping costs, staffing costs, office space in Manhattan in most cases, is immense. It's a pressure cooker in which publishers only really make money from break-out bestsellers and lose money on most books. So they're stuck trying to predict what might be a huge seller and take accordingly Vegas-style gamble with advance payments--most of which are never earned through.
I think its incumbent on all of us who love books to think up new and better ways to find and nurture great talent and help bring it to readers, however that happens in publishing's brave new digital world. And people are innovating: from Seth Godin's domino project to Red Lemonade to Emily Books to self-published authors like John Locke and Amanda Hocking who are making huge waves.
Like Jones, I learned a lot from going through traditional channels, just as I learned a lot from my time working for a big New York house. But this would all be useless to me if I wasn't willing to embrace the new frontier of book publishing. Because it is coming, whether we like it or not. 
The old system worked well for Jones; it did what it was meant to by keeping her out when she wasn't ready and giving her a leg up when she was. But to pretend that the chief function of people who work in publishing is to help authors reach their potential is to disregard all of the real financial concerns that hang over the heads of publishers. But now, books can be shared and read inexpensively and if an author works hard enough to find an audience, they can become a success with or without the gatekeepers. And I think this can only be a good thing for writers and readers. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

bury that horse in the ground

I met with a memoirist who used to be in army last week. I liked her immediately, she was spunky and had military discipline written all over her. Among other things, we talked about the elbow grease of self-promotion, of building the kind of platform it takes to make it these days. She was hip to it, she was unafraid of the internet, the twitter. She talked about meeting other writers at a recent conference who wanted nothing to do with all of that. We both shook our heads. 

On the one hand, we live in an exciting time when authors are more empowered than ever before with tools like blogging (he-ey), Twitter, Facebook etc at their disposal. I spend no small amount of energy using these myself and/ or drilling the authors I work with on the importance of them.

But secretly? I get it. I understand why you don't want to do any of it. I do! You want to go to your quiet room and do the important writer-ly writing and all the other stuff distracts from that. And you need to spend time on your writing or you'll have nothing to promote.

Lately, I've found myself getting nostalgic about the days before I ever even tried to get published, when novels were the only things getting my love and attention. Back then I didn't have to worry about being realistic, which is a nice place to be as a writer. 

So how do you find time for both? Early mornings? No television? Interns chained to the radiator? 

Monday, October 31, 2011

I had a dream last night

Happy Halloween friends. I hope those of you who celebrate it had a blast this weekend: ate just enough candy, made the perfect number of bad decisions. I love Halloween and I tend to get really into it (more about that here) so naturally I went big.

For my costume this year I was half black swan, half white swan. It seemed like the way to go since I've spent so much time either dancing or feeling insane this year (not homicidal though, don't worry).  The costume was a hit.

I kept in character by keeping my toes turned out and oscillating between being sweet and evil on Saturday night. I had a little Black Swan moment when some nice man asked me what my novel is about.

'Ugh," I said, shutting it down 'can we talk about something else?'

Now if those aren't good self-promotional skills, I don't know what.

Does anyone like discussing their book at parties? I'm fine writing about the book, or talking about it when I'm prepared but off the cuff at a party with a stranger? I'd rather read him my teenage diary.

How do you feel when people ask you that question?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

owner of a lonely heart

Everyone who has worked in publishing knows what authors really want. 

To be loved. 

Writing is an incredibly lonely business. You don't need to necessarily be a loner to be a writer, lots of writers I've known have been fantastically social, the very life of the party. But there must be a side of you that loves solitude, the relishes the thought of retreating into your own mind for hours at time, with only your own voice and perhaps those of your characters echoing in your ears. 

Then one day you find you want to share what you have done with the world, to release into the wild what you have been laboring on in secret. You hope people will be moved or inspired, worry they will horrified or scandalized by your words. But God dammit, one way or another you want them to care. 

One thing the old model of publishing was great at (in the best cases) was making a writer feel loved. At least in the beginning when everything was shiny and hopeful. Publishing would bring you in and introduce you to a kindly editor with an office full of beautiful hardcovers, a publisher whose good suit hid his protruding belly, a sleek, hard-eyed, enthusiastic publicity director perhaps. All of these people were going to be there for you in this vulnerable time. But unless your book became enough of a success to keep the party going, the bloom faded fast. And then just like that, the you would themselves back where they started. Alone with your words and your thoughts and God forbid, your awful sales track. 

And if there's anything lonelier than a published author, it's a self-published author. 

Are we all alone out there? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

the mother of all role models

Are we all destined to become our mothers? Readers, I should be so lucky.

My mother turns sixty today and since lists are a little tradition of mine around here; here are five things that make my mom the best woman I know.

Her Beauty 

My mom is stunning. Regularly admired by my girlfriends (and hers) for her amazing skin and long legs, she's something of a dead ringer for Jamie Lee Curtis. I'm proud of the fact that my mom has stayed so fit all her life and though I'm not one to judge anyone for indulging in a little plastic surgery, that she's aged naturally and beautifully. But what I admire more than her looks themselves and what has benefited me more directly as her daughter, is her attitude about beauty. She's one of the most elegant dressers I know but has never put an undue importance on clothes; she appreciates the fact that looking good can be important to one's confidence but she always made it clear to my sister and me growing up that other things like being smart and kind, were much more important. I never once heard her complain about her looks or call herself fat and so I have always been appalled at that ugly habit some women have of talking smack with each other about their bodies. She's never once criticized my looks either (some outrageously inappropriate preteen fashion choices notwithstanding), understanding that the world is hard enough on a girl about that stuff without her mother adding to the chorus.

Her Passion

One of the traits I share with my mother is that neither of us are capable of doing anything halfway. If we're going to bother to do something, we're going to want to be good at it. My mother and I don't really do hobbies in the lighthearted way that others do. From her tennis game to her cooking to her dogs (she does agility and nose work trials with their two German Shepherds), she goes full force at everything she does. I can always tell when my mom has set her eye on a goal and I always know she'll get it.

Her Grace

My mom has excellent manners. Not the white glove kind that make everyone else feel a little guilty about their lack of manners but the authentic kind that put everyone around her at ease. I don't know that I've ever seen her be genuinely rude to someone and she's always made the innumerable friends, boyfriends and stray acquaintances my sister and I brought around feel welcome (no matter how dubious those choices). She's an engaged listener and thoughtful conversationalist. You know how some people listen only insofar as their planning their rebuttal? My mom never does that.

Her Strength and Compassion

I group these last two together because after a very difficult year, I have come to understand that the one ultimately means nothing without the other; and my mother has more of both than anyone I know. It's only in the last few years that I've really come to see this clearly. In watching her support her father through his last painful year of life and support her sister and the rest of our family through his death, I saw not a new side to my mother (in my heart I suppose I always knew it was there) but a perhaps under-appreciated side of her. My mother with her calm nature is a wonderful balance to my father and I, but beneath her gentleness she's made of steel. My mother, like her affable but formidable father, has a strength that is quiet but runs deep. She has the strength to do what's right, even if it will cost her dearly. My family has been dealt some serious blows in this past year and sometimes I worry that my mother bears the brunt of it, shoring up the rest of us the way she does. It is a lucky thing to admire the character of one's parents the way I do. And when I think of what it means to be a mother, to be at the very center of a family with all of the courage and inevitable sacrifice that that entails, I can't think of anyone who could do it better.

I could go on but I'll end here by saying that if I can only hope to turn out like my mom. If everyone had a mom like mine, surely it wouldn't cure all the world's ills but I'm pretty sure it would cut them in half at least. I'll end with a poem that both my mom and her father loved and one that speaks to the rare kind of strength so present in them both.

Abou Ben Adhem

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:— 
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Monday, October 10, 2011

revisionist history

I'm smack in the middle of reading The Paris Wife. I'm enjoying it so far, the premise is intriguing and the author's voice is quite easy to cozy up to which is just what one needs on a rainy Seattle night (see: all of them). For those who don't know, The Paris Wife is told from the (imagined) perspective of Earnest Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson. It takes place in 1920s Paris which is not a hard sell for this reader, regardless of the subject matter.

The genre is extremely popular but I'm of two minds on historical fiction. On the one hand, being a person who doesn't love doing research, I admire the lengths these authors go to get the details right and it seems like a brave thing to take such a well known figure as Earnest Hemingway and start putting words in his mouth. On the other hand, I can't help but feeling like it's taking a bit of shortcut (albeit a clever one) to write a novel based on an existing story, especially one which will automatically have a big audience as this one does. I think this particular book could stand well enough on its own merits but I find I get most excited reading it when I think oh, there's Gertrude Stein! There's Ezra Pound! Did it really happen that way? All a function of the genre.

So is historical fiction cheating or is it raising the bar on the already daunting task of creating a compelling novel?

revisionist history

I'm smack in the middle of reading The Paris Wife. I'm enjoying it so far, the premise is intriguing and the author's voice is quite easy to cozy up to which is just what one needs on a rainy Seattle night (see: all of them). For those who don't know, The Paris Wife is told from the (imagined) perspective of Earnest Hemingway's first wife Hadley Richardson. It takes place in 1920s Paris which is not a hard sell for this reader, regardless of the subject matter.

The genre is extremely popular but I'm of two minds on historical fiction. On the one hand, being a person who doesn't love doing research, I admire the lengths these authors go to get the details right and it seems like a brave thing to take such a well known figure as Earnest Hemingway and start putting words in his mouth. On the other hand, I can't help but feeling like it's taking a bit of shortcut (albeit a clever one) to write a novel based on an existing story, especially one which will automatically have a big audience as this one does. I think this particular book could stand well enough on its own merits but I find I get most excited reading it when I think oh, there's Gertrude Stein! There's Ezra Pound! Did it really happen that way? All a function of the genre.

So is historical fiction cheating or is it raising the bar on the already daunting task of creating a compelling novel?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

every day I'm...

Friday was an exciting day for me. My book went out into the world on its merry digital way and I did a guest post for Betsy Lerner, which would be cause for celebration all by itself. Hers is one of my very favorite writer/ publishing blogs and the commenters were very supportive and asked me some pretty entertaining questions about publicity. 

I fet a little spent by the end of the day. It took me years to write the book and polishing it and pulling together for ebook and internet publication has been a lot of work. The whole thing makes me want to take a nap. This is something I have seen with many authors I've worked with over the years, their book goes on sale and they feel like they've just finished running a marathon and don't they deserve a break? This is of course compounded by the fact that most writers (even the ones with enviable three books deals and movie tie-ins) still hold down day jobs, have families etc. Even for traditionally published authors who have the support of an entire staff, it's never been more incumbent upon them to push their own work. Gone are the days when authors could send their work out into the world and then return to the cave to continue writing. 

Now there is aways something you could be doing to promote your book, writing op-eds and blog posts and tweeting and Facebooking. Is it overwhelming? Hell yes but at least it gives you something to do with all of that 'oh my God what if no one buys my book?!' energy. Something other than calling your publicist five times a day. 

Do you feel empowered or overwhelmed by the hustle? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Big news today! I've been dancing around it over at the Gloss: talking about how disappointments can work in your favor and about how I 'm halfway through my list and it's time to go big or go home.

So what is this all about? Well, as I had the immense pleasure of announcing in a guest post on one of my favorite blogs today and on my second home the Gloss, I am publishing my first novel as an ebook and running it in serial on the Gloss each Friday.

It's an idea I had a couple of months ago when I was brushing my teeth. I remember thinking 'wait that's a great idea! No, wait. That's a terrible idea, it will never work.' But then I caught myself, I know that voice of doubt too well by now. I went straight to work and told three of my publishing buddies before I could talk myself out of it.

After many years of writerly solitude penning novels I loved very much but shared with almost no one, I've discovered through blogging just how good it feels to actually have my work reach readers. Every single time that someone comments on one of my posts or tells me in real life how much they like my work, it makes my day.

Is this how I imagined the publication of my first book? No. I imagined frenzied phone calls between my agent and an editor to strike a deal, making the rounds at the publishing house to which my book had been sold, giving the eager young publicists a knowing smile. Instead it's been a quiet process: an editor friend did my copy-editing, a tech-savvy pal helped me format it and a half dozen industry buddies helped serve as a mini think tank for decisions on the cover and the title.

It's been nice to watch it come together and mostly I think it just feels good to do something other than wait, wait and wait some more.

So, no more waiting. You can follow it on the Gloss or you can buy it here.

I'm feeling good dear readers, like maybe I'm the master of my fate after all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I am the captain of my soul

I finally got around to watching Invictus tonight. If you haven't seen it, go rent it immediately. I'm a sucker for any movie where sports serve as a metaphor for life and there are myriad reasons why this movie is amazing that I won't go into here, Matt Damon's thighs are the least of it.

The movie is named after the poem Invictus, a favorite of my father's and a piece of writing that gives me chills every time I read it, let alone hear it spoken in Morgan Freeman's unmistakably mellifluous voice. The movie depicts both Mandela and the rugby captain drawing strength from the poem in their time of need.

I was reminded of something essential about my craft that is easy to lose sight of in this fast-paced digital world of ours: that the right words, said in the right way can inspire greatness.

Was there a poem that carried you through?

Monday, September 26, 2011

someone like you

I spent Saturday at the Red Pencil in the Woods Conference nerding out with a a bunch of people who wanted to talk about the future of e-books as I much I do. I was there with Lam, one of my fabulous new colleagues from Girl Friday to lead a discussion group about our group business model. Chatting with all those lonely freelancers made me appreciate anew my good luck at finding the Girls Friday.

A couple of years ago, I worked with the fabulous Pulitzer Prize Winning music critic and writer Tim Page on his memoir Parallel Play about growing up with Asperger's Syndrom. He spoke in an interview about how people sometimes assumed that you could put two Aspies (his term) together and they would be on the same wave length but that this could easily misfire because if you had one person who was obsessed with say, silent films and another who was obsessed with automobile engines they would be speaking completely different languages.

I think nerds are this way too. We need people we can go off on tangents with without worrying we're boring them and while a book nerd can surely befriend a computer nerd, sometimes you just need to be with your own kind. I think that book people can find this especially difficult given what solitary tasks writing and editing are.

How do you find your people?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

living by the list

One of my projects this week was to do a digital clip file for myself of all my Gloss columns. By the by, I wrote for them today about my before thirty fitness goals and last week in case you missed it about reuniting with an old friend

Looking back over the past six months of columns put me in a reflective mood about my progress with the list so far and how it's become something much more than what it began as, a simple laundry list of items I wanted to check off while my age still stated with a '2'. As I come up on the halfway point, I realize that it's changed the way I looked at my life in that I stopped asking why and started asking why not. Whether it's going abroad by myself or dancing in the street or finding some way, any way to get my novels out into the world, I've put myself in a position where I have to justify to myself why I wouldn't go after something rather than why I would. 

I’ll be thirty in the blink of an eye, and I hope I’ll have done everything I set out to do. But moreover I hope I can hold onto this feeling that I can do anything. 

Amazing what taking a few chances can do. 

the fall reset

                   you can be overwhelmed and you can underwhelmed but can you ever just be...whelmed? 

I have a pattern that I realized I am once again cycling through. Periodically, I'll decide for whatever reason: birthday, fall, new year, breakup, Tuesday morning, that it's time to hit the reset button. I spend some time reevaluating what I really want out of life and then recommit myself to work, writing, fitness, tennis, dancing, having a super awesome social life or what have you. Usually it's some combination of all of the above and before I know it my calendar is packed with all kinds of things and my long list of goals looks a little less inspiring and a little more just plain terrifying. I also forget to allot time for things I need like sleep, bad reality television and staring off into space.

Too often, I'm either feeling listless or fired up to do everything at once. Does this happen to you? How do find balance? When is enough enough?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

the first time ever I saw your face

I've been going to a lot of weddings lately. People who are getting married talk a lot about the first moment they saw their partner and oftentimes they recall a feeling that they just...knew. There's something comforting about this, the idea that you could be going about your business and out of the blue you see someone and it's game over. But what I find more intriguing than what you think you knew at the time of first contact is everything you didn't know. The idea that you lay eyes on someone without knowing that that stranger is about to crash into your life and turn it upside down, that there will be no going back from this moment. 

This is true with books as well. You pick something up because a friend recommended it or because you read a good review or maybe just because you like the cover. Your expectations vary depending on the situation but the ones you really fall in love with, the ones you end up talking about for years, they always catch you by surprise. 

I remember where I was when I started and finished Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go the way that people remember where they were when they first met the person they fell in love with or when they first head about a life altering event. 

When I think about what being successful as a novelist means to me, I think it's that above all things. That feeling. That impact. That lasting love. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the summer of 29

I have this certain laugh that only comes out when I find something something so unbearably funny that I lose control. First I start laughing so hard that my laugh becomes silent and then BAM, the snort. It's embarrassing but if you hear the snort-laugh you can rest assured that you've probably just made my day. I might muster up a little chuckle when I'm trying to be polite but never the snort-laugh.

Laughing really hard at something is one of the most healing things I can think of and fortunately I have many friends who have come into my life, and some who have been in my life a long time (you know who you are, queen of cartwheels) that brought me much needed bursts of joy and gave me a great summer after all, which I wrote about today on the Gloss.

What makes you laugh your most embarrassing laugh?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I just called to say

I wrote for the Gloss today about missing the old school telephone. I complained endlessly about Smart Phones before at last giving in and getting an iPhone. You can fight the tide of technology for only so long before you just become the irritating person who refuses to get with the program already. And mostly I just hate how people whip them out in the middle of a conversation or play games on them instead of doing something wild like reading a book. Lately I find it hard to focus and miss the days of simpler technologies.

In a world where digital distractions are omnipresent, how do you unplug long enough to think straight?

Monday, August 29, 2011

a change gonna come

                                                                             you are here 

Oh goodness have I been a delinquent blogger. Can you ever forgive me readers? Perhaps you were on the beach these last couple of weeks instead of perusing the internets and didn't even notice my absence. If so welcome back, nice tan. I hope the only light you've seen during these dog days of summer hasn't been the sickly glow of your computer monitor but if it has fear not for I am about to inundate you with material for your internet reading and work procrastination needs shortly.

In the meantime, in case you missed it, I wrote for the Gloss last week about the Saturn Return and the massive transition I am in the middle of. Whether or not the supposed astrological phenomenon is a self-fulfilling prophecy doesn't really matter in the end I've decided. You have to take advantage of whatever momentum life gives you. 

Hope you're all feeling the wind in your sails with fall on the way, I have a feeling it's gong to be a good one.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

hello old friend

This past weekend I read through an old manuscript (more on why I did this soon). This experience is something like a combination of reading an old journal and meeting for drinks with an ex boyfriend you suspect you might still be in love with. Exciting, illuminating and all kinds of uncomfortable.

The question of when to let go is one that has probably plagued every writer ever. I know I was ready to let go of this one once before because my agent and I already shopped it to publishers three years ago. So now the question is, do I still trust my twenty six year old self to make that decision on the behalf of my twenty nine year old self?

How do you know when it's time to let go?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I wrote for the Gloss today about trying to conquer my fears. I had an epiphany while brushing my teeth on Monday morning and then just as quickly started trying to talk myself out it. More to come on what that epiphany entailed but it seemed like either the thing I'd been waiting for or a totally harebrained idea. I told two friends about it right away before my fear could chase it away and they agreed it was the former.

What have you talked yourself out of doing lately?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

the FOMO

                                               you wouldn't want to miss the chinchillas in party hats 

You know the FOMO. The FOMO keeps you from your sleep, makes you get into heels and mini-dress (or whatever the male equivalent of that get-up is) when you feel like being on the couch in you pajamas. It makes you drive all the way out there for that one party everyone is going to, it makes you stay for one more dance or worse one more drink (which never turns out to be one, does it?). But however many bad nights and bad decisions the FOMO leads to, it's always justified by those times it led to the best.night.ever.

The Fear Of Missing Out is a formidable foe and I've got a bad case this summer.

Many a night recently has found me pouring myself into bed shortly before dawn, wondering what I am doing up at such an hour. Novel writing and gym going are summarily abandoned the next day because I could not force myself to leave when I probably should have: I was either having too much fun or was certain the additional fun was right around the corner. Let's go eat at the diner, dance in the street or have one more drink at your place. Why? Why NOT? What's sleep compared to good times and good company?

If the FOMO has a natural habitat its New York City and when I was living there the FOMO was pretty much my spirit animal. If you went home early or worse, stayed in completely, you might miss a night that would become legend among your friends: a sighting of a reclusive artist, tequila shots with a movie star, a famous band popping up on a street corner to play a surprise show or simply one of those 'only in New York' nights that are the reason you moved there. And since New York is on all the time, you can never escape the FOMO, you can never honestly say 'I'll just stay in tonight, there's nothing going on.'

It was exhausting; sometimes a girl just needs Tivo and a glass of wine.

The FOMO and I have had some good times together but I can't let it run the show forever. Maybe just until Labor Day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

career path

I wrote for the Gloss today about a conversation I had with my youngest cousin who just graduated college about work, namely how to find something to do with your time that pays the bills and is reasonably fulfilling. My own career path since college has been a windy one and I haven't moved around half as much as some people my age. It used to be that people got a job after school and stayed in it until retirement. I can't say I know a single person over the age of twenty-six who has only worked for only one company. Is all this moving around a good thing? Does it help us value our own skills more or just value loyalty less?

Do you change it up or stay put?

Monday, August 1, 2011

talkin' bout freedom

                                                                          has cake whilst eating it

I'm starting a new job in September. Sort of. I am actually joining a collective of freelancers made up of four awesome book ladies who I know originally through the late, great Kim Ricketts. I'll have an office to go to, super fun co-workers to collaborate with, bitch to and brainstorm with and the semblance of structure and community I'd been missing since I've been working along these past months. BUT since I'm still a freelancer I get to keep my freedom.

And that's what's really been at the heart of it for me. I like work just fine, what I don't like is working on other people's terms and having to be in an office all day. For the most part, I've had fabulous bosses who have served as wonderful mentors. These ladies were essential to getting my career started and I am grateful to have so many places to go for good work advice, which I will never be so arrogant to think I don't need. But in the long run, life is too short to let someone else call the shots. I want to say where, when, who and how much; that's worth its weight in gold and 401ks.

What's most important to you at work?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

phantom ache

I had a tooth out last week. I spent a day on the good meds and a day hungover from the good meds; and now it just aches. Amazing how when one part of you is hurting, it stops much mattering what's going on with the rest. That pain is all you can think about.

The tooth had been in my life for a long time, all of my life that I can remember really. We'd had a difficult relationship over the past few years. Measures had been taken to salvage things: a root canal, a couple of round of antibiotics but as time went on, things only got worse and eventually I had to accept that there was no saving the tooth. The tooth was bad news and was never going to cause me anything but grief. Now it's gone and I'm aching.

Because when that which is a part of us is ripped brutally away, it hurts no matter what kind of palliatives we use. The tooth causes me more pain now that it's gone than it ever did when it was still around. It wasn't the ideal tooth but it was my tooth and now the space where it was aches from its absence.

Isn't that just life though?

Monday, July 18, 2011

like a gypsy

Shakira - Gypsy (Official Music Video). Watch more top selected videos about: Shakira

I post this video mostly for the shirtless Rafa. You're welcome. 

During a dinner tonight, the subject of moving came up: both what a pain it was to do and how cleansing the process of winnowing down of one's possessions could be.

Since graduating from college, I've moved seven times in as many years. My attachment to any place I've lived in has been passing. This is both good and bad I suppose; good because it's led to a certain leanness of lifestyle, bad because I never just have things like bandaids around.

The idea of actually owning property is downright alien but it's more than that. As much as New York City was my heart's desire in my early twenties, I suppose I was never really in it for the long haul. I came back to Seattle with every intention of leaving again for grad school some eight months later. And then I found myself with a life here the way one does: back in Seattle with friends and work and family and things I didn't want to leave.

Will I stay forever? I would never tempt fate by claiming to know the future (despite recent attempts). Love, work and adventure can always show up to carry you away in a way that one can't refuse. But I don't see that for myself. I see being here in Seattle, my home. With all its bad dressers and rainy days; with its passive drivers and brooding baristas. I'll always feel a little New York with my edge and my closet full of high heels but underneath that I'm Seattle. Underneath, I'm a deep thinking, tree climbing Northwesterner who wants a good book and good cup of coffee.

Who are you underneath it all?

Monday, July 11, 2011

nothing like the real thing

Upon returning home to my apartment last night, parched and weary from a long bachelorette weekend, I discovered a letter from Poets & Writers magazine. I was inexplicably excited for a moment thinking that I had somehow blacked out and submitted something for consideration that they were writing to inform me had been accepted (I hadn't). Instead I opened it to find that they were offering me a subscription at a special discounted rate for professional writers. The letter talked about how I was part of an elite community of writers that was receiving this special offer and it was so charmingly earnest that I'm almost wanted to take them up on it. After all, isn't that what we really want as writers, to be accepted? Even more than fame and fortune (ha), we want to be told that we're part of the club, that we're the real thing.

I think I applied to grad school in part because when my publication dreams slipped through my fingers with my first novel, I felt desperate for validation, for someone to tell that I had what it took to be a novelist. But the truth is being a 'real' writer doesn't come with an MFA or even publication, it's a pact you make over and again with yourself, reinforced every time you sit down at your laptop to work. I still might start reading Poets & Writers though.

What makes you feel like the real deal?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

the scary age

I wrote for the Gloss today about my 'scary' age; i.e. the age at which I will officially panic if I'm not where I want to be in life. I'm not sure the exact number but it's somewhere between 38 and 45.

Do you have a scary age or do you take birthdays in stride?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

summertime and the livin' is...

                                         where can a girl find a nice scientologist these days?

I had a blast in school but I can't say I really miss being in college overall. But there is one this I really miss: summer vacation.

It wasn't just that you had less responsibility, it was that you had different responsibilities in the summer (the concept of responsibility being relative here). My college summers were completely distinct from each other, each with a different job, a different (overly dramatic) romance, different friends. Where other seasons just alternated for me between 'tennis season' and 'off season', summer had its own unique rhythm and different setting. I spent one of my summers living in Whistler working as a hostess and partying every night with a bunch of kids who'd skipped out on the whole college thing and were traveling around the world, picking up work in resort towns where they could. God that was fun.

The idea that summer should be different lives on in my mind. So this summer I just want to write in the mornings, dance every night until I collapse and spend the afternoons drinking rose on my porch reading Carlos Hijuelos and dreaming about Cuba. Maybe just maybe I'll even fit in a wildly inappropriate romance with a shelf-life of eight weeks or so.

What are your plans for the summer?

blog on blog

                                                              beach blanket blogger bunny

Oh irony. I wrote about blogging for the Gloss this week since starting this blog was a list item and so in that I blogged about the blog I've been neglecting all week.

The daily writing isn't so much an issue as it is the daily sharing. I've been at work on a new novel these past few weeks and you know what? Lots of days what I write in a given day is garbage that will never be read by anyone because it won't make it past my own first draft edits. But these wasted words are the foundation, the thing that gets me to the real stuff, so I just let fly and don't worry if it sounds good or even makes sense.  I'd forgotten how freeing that is.

And then there is the question of the overshare. At times I write something and then freeze in horror with my finger over the PUBLISH button and think oh my God, I can't send that into the world with my real name on it; I will embarass myself, hurt someone's feelings, horrify my parents/ clients/ third grade teacher. I admire memorists but I don't have the stomach for it. What's here is not and will never be the most raw of truths but rather a glossy, still-somewhat-reperesentative-of-my-life truth. For the whole truth? You'll have to wait for the ficional account.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

get your geek on

Yesterday I wrote for the Gloss about why I'm having so much fun as of late being a dance geek and it got me thinking about that word geek and its many iterations.

Way back when I was a kid, you didn't want to be called a geek, it had negative connotations of loserdom. Being a geek was the antithesis of cool.

But this word has become transformed in our pop culture conception and colloquial use of it. The show Glee has spawned a cavalcade of fan declaring themselves 'Gleeks' and a couple of weeks ago the mighty Anna Wintour descended from her throne to accept a webby award and decreed that 'sometimes geeks can be chic'. 

In adult life we use the words 'geek' or 'nerd' not to describe some shameful state of ostracism but rather to illustrate how passionate we are about something: I'm a book nerd, a wine geek etc. When we're with kindred spirits who are similarly passionate about something, we 'geek' out about it. This usage is sort of fitting because in a way it did mean the same thing in childhood. When you're a kid and especially when you're a teenager, being too into anything besides a sport (and not every sport at that, badminton wouldn't really have cut it) made you automatically seem too earnest to ever be cool. But adults who are really into something are well-rounded and interesting, the kind of people you want to be around.

So go on, geek out. You know you want to.

Monday, June 20, 2011

we don't need no water

I saw a friend tonight who has had a really rough Spring. I asked her how things were going and she said, 'you know when something huge happens in your life and you just have the urge to burn the rest of it to the ground?'

Boy do I.

A life crisis, not quarter and certainly not mid, just a crisis of life coming at you harsher and faster than what you could ever have anticipated. And then when the smoke clears, you're left standing there wondering 'what now'?

You don't just burn your bridge, you throw a molotov cocktail at that sucker and then you walk away while you're still young enough, still hopeful enough to build a new one. You make a new plan. Find a new job, a new man, new friends, a new city. Something, anything.

How do you know when it's time to change something? Moreover, how do you know when it's time to change everything?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

all the young dudes

Ah, Summer. When the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the populations of this nation's fine universities are released back into the wilds with the rest of the unsuspecting adult population.

Dealing with these young adults-in-training is odd when you're thirty-ish; it wasn't so many years ago that you were in their shoes but it's a shock sometimes that there are all these people around who can vote and drink and work a professional job who just seem so young. 

Last week I went out to local place that plays blues music on Tuesday nights.When I walked in the door someone carded me and slapped a green wristband on me to show I was twenty-one; I'm at that point now where I beam and sometimes let out an embarrassing little giggle when someone is asking me for my ID in earnest.

Later in the night a guy who was cute despite some rather questionable facial hair asked me to dance. He was really into the local lindy-hop scene, he told me with no discernible trace of irony, which was how he found this place. He told me about another club he liked out in Kirkland.

'Oh do you live on the eastside?' I asked.

'During the summers yes,' he said. And just as I was conjuring some sort of summer cottage situation in my head he added, 'the rest of the year I'm at WSU in eastern Washington.'

I bit my tongue, remembering how much I hated at that age the way people were always reminding me how young I was, as if I wasn't aware  (and to be fair, I did think I was rather grown up at that age but this delusion is a right of passage).

The day before I had spent about an hour talking to a recent graduate who was newly living in New York and looking to break into book publishing. I shared what wisdom I could and reminisced a bit about my days there. It was eerie how familiar she sounded, my own self coming back to me across the line. I recognized her excitement, her fear and most of all that sheer edge of determination in her voice. I told her lots of people wished they had the guts to do what she'd done, that I heard that from people all the time. 'I know. People always say they wish they could move here,' she said, 'but I did it.'

All at once I recognize in myself the exact mix of pity, generosity and wariness that I was once on the other side of when I was fresh out of college.

God. Were we ever that young?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

on deadline

I wrote for the Gloss today about my number one list item: getting published. I've been questioning the wisdom of giving myself an arbitrary deadline for such a big life goal; what is the purpose of it? If it was to make myself write? Done. If it was to make myself pursue publication? Done. All done. TWICE! It's in the hands of fate now, deadlines be damned.

At what age did you think you'd have made it big?

Monday, June 13, 2011

girl meets muse

Last week I wrote about my first love; as I mentioned in the piece, I wrote an entire first draft of a novel in my ensuing heartbrokeness (word? spellcheck says no, I say yes!). One of the great silver linings of life as a writer is that horrible situations and their concurrent mess of emotions can make for excellent fodder for your work and serve a purpose greater than just making you miserable. Indeed, many of the worst experiences serves as the most inspirational. It also made me think about how I have traditionally begun the process of working on a novel (I can say traditionally now since I am at number four); in each case, it's been sparked by a close encounter with a muse.

I've led an interesting life and met lots of fascinating people--no small number of whom have influenced my characters. But a muse is something more; a muse is a person who not only serves as inspiration for this other world of mine but who seems to have actually come from it. Someone who, for whatever reason, so fascinates and mystifies me that they seem not quite real and I can't shake the feeling that I'm making them up, that the madness is finally setting in. A telltale sign is when I can't imagine them grocery shopping. The way to any writer's heart is through their imagination--you captivate this and you've got us.

A muse is not necessarily a person of the opposite sex but mine often are. What could be more mysterious than the opposite sex? They are human just like you and yet not like you at all. The sexes will never figure each other out--we were designed to mystify one another. An attraction is possible, even likely. But to ever act on it is dicey not only because you necessarily idealize this person but because any relationship that so closely treads the border between your imagined world and your actual one is dangerous territory. And to see a muse's all too human side is to break the spell and risk losing the inspiration they've brought you. Simply put, some things are just better left to the imagination.

Who inspires you?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

summer reading

                                                       another mojito please, I tire of this water 

The days are long, work is slow, there are stretches of time when you wish to sit outside doing nothing but still want something to occupy your mind; summer means catching up on all of those books I've been meaning to read as well as working on writing a new one. I'm thinking about getting a hanging chair or a hammock for my back deck expressly for these two activities. It seems more natural that I'd want to write and read in the darker months when there's nothing much else to do but I find summer is always my season of books.

I'm starting my summer off with Father of the Rain, then finishing up the canons of Jennifer Egan, Kate Christiansen and my beloved mentor Pat Geary. This means The Invisible Circus, In the Drink and Strange Toys among others. I'm also going to read some Jane Austen, Persuasion at least and maybe Pride and Prejudice.

What's on your list for summer?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Deja lu

Oh yes, I speak French. Pas grand chose mes amis!

The sneaking feeling you've read something before-- in this case my own work. I finally got back to working on a new novel last week, that delightful exercise in futility which so consumes my life, and I noticed that it all felt rather familiar. Haven't I written this all before a couple of times? I had to check in with faithful and trusted reader C to make sure I wasn't actually repeating myself. She assures me that I'm not, even though I carry on writing young-ish female protagonists. Maybe it's my tendency to obsess over the same tropes--unrequited love, adventure, travel, beautiful, byronic, untouchable men--that makes me feel I've been down this road before. But those are my themes at this moment in my life, those things bring me to the page. Perhaps I will move on to writing about motherhood or divorce or warlocks or something later but for now--I write what bubbles up.

Maybe it's just the routine that feels so familiar, waking up in the morning and sitting down with my coffee, procrastinating on Facebook.  I'm happy to be writing a first draft again--back at the beginning with all things about my new characters yet undiscovered. You never know if they'll go where you want them to, fall in love as they're meant to, or even live to see the last page. If I knew all of this at the outset, it would take away the fun. Ask any writer what's better than the moment that the novel they're writing take a turn they didn't see coming? Nothing. When the characters take the reins, that's when you know they're real, that they've developed minds of their own--and you dear writer, are onto something.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

let the music play

Today started off as a clunker. I didn't get to write in the morning, my early phone meeting was a downer and I couldn't seem to genuinely focus on a damn thing for more than a few minutes at a time. I dragged my inert behind to the gym but my performance there was lackluster. The weight of the world hung right over me all day, the future looming in all its uncertainty.

But then somehow it started to turn. Lots of people visited the blog, I had some nice emails and my roommate made a delicious dinner just because. Then I went out dancing and all of my friends showed up; I danced with all of my favorite people and gossiped with my girlfriends between songs. It was one of those nights were no one seemed to want to leave. As I was driving home, I saw the bright orange moon hanging right over the space needle and remembered that I live in the city of my dreams.

Maybe things are looking up. If not, they'll always be another song, another chance to turn it all around.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

when you were young

                                                                    young chicks be crazy

I wrote about my first love for The Gloss today. Specifically I wrote about taking planes, train and automobiles to find him when we lost touch and how that was really the sort of thing I would do without a second thought when I was eighteen but wouldn't do now.

When I hear people talking about how they do something brave/crazy/desperate in the name of their love or their life's passion, I tend to have two feelings simultaneously: one of pity and one of envy. You gotta admit that when someone feels enough conviction about something to go outside the boundaries of normal conventional behavior and even make an ass of themselves, it's oddly admirable even when it's a little pathetic.

Women are always worried they're going to be 'that' girl; that crazy girl who calls too much, is too eager, wants a boyfriend/ marriage/ babies too much. But that girl doesn't worry about being 'that girl' just like that writer who mass emails every agent in town isn't worried about being 'that writer' even as the rest of us stress out endlessly about sending even one follow up email. Those people just RUN with it.

When was the last time you ran with something?

Monday, June 6, 2011

what do you write about?

I get this question a lot (see also: 'what kind of books do you write?'). This comes almost exclusively from people who are not writers is asked, I'm certain, without malice. For the purposes of my writing for the Gloss or this bog, it's easy to answer. I'd assume for any non-fiction it'd be simple enough because you're writing about civil war reenactors or deranged lepidopterists or what have you; that is to say, concrete things. But for fiction? It's difficult to answer without a) rambling off your entire plot or b) sounding ridiculous. Examples below:

Q: 'You're a writer? Cool! What is you book about?'

A: 'Um, so it's about this girl who moves to New York. But it's not chick lit or whatever, it's literary. I'm not saying literary in a self-congratulatory way, I just mean it's not genre fiction you know? (they don't) Anyway so she rents an apartment from this one guy and she falls in love with him even though he lives in Paris and then in the meantime she start sleeping with a gay guy. And um, she has a sassy best friend. And also a crazy rich friend. And they talk about life and love, and um, being in your twenties.'


--'You should write about my life, it would make a great novel.'


Q: 'Oh, you're a writer. I bet I'd be a great writer but I can never find the time with my investment banking job. What do you write about?'

A: 'I write about unrequited love and longing and how it makes us act unlike ourselves.

--'So like, romance?'

--'No, not romance. There's other stuff--like the bonds between women. How they flex and fray and how they can be even more powerful than the other loves in our lives.'

--'So...lesbian stuff?'

--(resigned sigh) 'yes, I write lesbian romances. Tell me about your job!'

I long to be able to answer this question in one sentence the way I do with my non-fiction.

Fellow fiction writers, how do you respond?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

cause life is going, going gone

The good news is I started working on my new novel this week, the bad news is I neglected this blog. The internets were not completely Andrea-free as I did manage to get a column out to theGloss (along with a fabulous pic of me on a mechanical bull, natch) but I'd feel better about things if I were keeping with all of it. It's like having three great parties on the same night, I want to go to all of them damnit!

I told myself I'd give myself some time off from fiction to do some other writing but I can't stick to it. I like blogging and writing about my adventures for the Gloss and it's nice that a couple of hundred or occaionally a thousand people read what I put out there as opposed to my novels which remain in obscurity for the time-being. But it's not the same as writing fiction. I need to spend that time catering to my imagination or it starts messing with my personal life. I try to avoid pondering the masochistic question of whether I'd keep at it if I never got published. Besides, I already know the answer.

I get annoyed when people talk about 'needing' to write as though it's on par with breathing or eating or personal safety. I just think it smacks of privledge if that's your idea of a 'need'; like Paris Hilton saying 'Everything bad that could happen to a person has happened to me.' But it is a compulsion; it's one I could choose to deny I suppose but it will would still be there.

In the meantime I have to do work that you know, involves being paid. Where do you find the time? Under the couch? Over the rainbow?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

fortune favors the brave

                                                         this lion will carpe the hell of the diem 

I have a friend whose a really good salsa dancer. Like really good; easily one of the best in town. We were chatting outside the studio on Friday night about dating and I started weaving a simile about how you didn't want your love life to be like one of those nights out salsa dancing where you waited on the sidelines hoping the men you want to dance with would ask you only to get stuck dancing with the sweaty guy who can't find the beat to save his life. She stopped me short and informed me that she usually does the asking exactly to avoid that problem. In essence, she proved my point about why a girl has to occasionally break with convention and ask a guy out if he's not getting around to it (it also makes me wonder why it's easier for me to break with convention off the dance floor and on but that's another matter).  

The point is, almost all of the people who get what they want in love, dance and otherwise are the people who go after it: the more tenaciously the better. Most of us don't just get things dropped in our laps and those of you who do, kindly STFU. Thanks. 

So write the book. Quit the job you hate and find one you love. Find out what that cute barista is doing this weekend. Ask him to dance. 

What are you waiting for? 

Friday, May 20, 2011

let's hear it for New York

I spoke to a former colleague yesterday and she asked me if I missed New York. I told her I didn't. I said I was very nostalgic about my time there but I was glad to be living here. Today I spoke to a friend who was thinking seriously about leaving New York and did I have any wisdom to share? I told her that making the decision was the hardest part; when you live in New York, it becomes a big part of your identity. I remember wondering who I would even be if I didn't live in the city I had built my entire post-college existence. Where would I work? Who would I spend my time with? What would I DO if I left? But I did leave and I gradually figured out the answers to all of those questions.

I was burnt out by the time I left. I remember being in the cab to the airport with my one-way ticket back to Seattle; just as we were hurtling out of the Holland Tunnel, I looked over my shoulder and saw the city behind me. I felt nothing, just relief to be moving on.

On a day like this, when it finally breaks 70 in Seattle and the water and mountains are so dazzling, it's hard to imagine wanting to live anywhere else. And yet...once in while I have a pang of longing for New York. I don't miss the place so much as I miss a certain feeling I had when I lived there: a feeling that something amazing could happen on any given day, that a night could lead just about anywhere. Everything was so exhaustingly extreme in New York; most of the time Seattle feels refreshingly normal, but every once in a while, the part of me that is still 23 finds it a little dull. The 29 year old part of me knows that I traded in the thrills for a more consistent sort of happiness and that adult life consists of many of the these bargains and the trick is knowing when to shift the balance.

But just because I don't want to get back together doesn't mean I don't still heart you NY, probably always will.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

body politics

I wrote for the Gloss's Hunger Games week today about ways to love your body. Spoiler alert: none of these include diets or punitive pilates training (unless that's what you're into). I always try to come from a positive angle when discussing body stuff because there will sadly, never be a dearth of negative feedback for women about their bodies. This was especially evident this week; the Gloss collected myriad first person accounts and almost all of them were incredibly depressing stories of body loathing in the extreme. Who knew that women and their bodies were such a necessarily dark subject matter? I suppose I should have known, but it still pisses me off.

People who know me in real life know I'm always crusading to stop the body hate. And now I take it to the internets, hooray! So maybe I can help, even just a little.

Has it always been this way? Will it ever change?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

this magic moment

The small but significant silver lining of dealing with a crisis is that it forces you to live in the moment. You lose the option to dwell too much on all of the things that led you to that situation and all of the possible ways it might go forward because it's too overwhelming. You have no option but to live by the hackneyed maxim of 'one day at a time' and in doing so, you realize that that is the manner in which your life has always been happening, regardless of how caught up in your head you were ruminating on the past or trying to plan for the future. 

Writers are natural dreamers, given to living in the imagination, a place that can feel more at home than the disorderly real world. But as much as it's a refuge in troubled times, so can it be a danger zone with all its chimeras. So I try now to concentrate on taking my physical self somewhere it wants to be: the dance floor, bed, a warm shower, the occasional patch of Spring sun and remembering my coporeal self. 

As someone who moves through life with a lot of momentum, sometimes the hardest thing is to just let it be.