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?