Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy halloween!

Everyone reading this dresses up tonight, right, and goes trick or treating? Or stays home to treat the tricksters--in costume?

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was a kid, I convinced my mother that we had to begin three days early so we could visit all the houses in our somewhat rural neighborhood. I had three costumes, one for each night. Rather than stocking up on candy, I just wanted to be able to celebrate for longer than just one day.

Three nights prior to Halloween, my mother would drive me to the far reaches of the neighborhood. A typical scenario went like this:

I knock on a door. The light goes on and someone answers. They see me, alone, in costume, at their doorstep.

"Trick or treat!" I say, and hold out my bag.

The homeowner (nobody rented back then, not in our neighborhood) looks confused. "Is it Halloween?" he or she says.

"I begin early so I can visit everyone," I say.

"Oh...well....let me see what I can find." Inevitably, they throw change or a piece of fruit into my bag. Few are ready, yet, with candy.


My mother had no idea, and I suppose I didn't either, that trick or treating was only done on Halloween. My mother was raised with eight siblings by parents who were from Italy, who never even learned English, and couldn't have known the ins and outs of the American custom of Halloween.

These days I only dress up on the 31st, instead of two and three days prior, and so does Bry. We accompany Travis trick or treating. My costume tonight: a plastic surgeon. I bought an emergency room doctor's costume and plastic wrap to wrap about my body, here and there.

Should you dress up but stay home, try writing while in costume. See how it affects your writing. Or become the character you are dressed up as and write from that character's point of view.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Richard Ford in today's New York Times

Richard Ford talks about his new book, The Lay of the Land in this New York Times story.

Also...I've been thinking a lot about why authors live where they live and how you find writers in certain areas more than in other areas.

For instance, where I live, in Orange County, California, there are few authors. UC-Irvine is here, with the MFA program that most writers would kill to get into and when they don't, no matter how talented they are, it scars them for years, it seems. But when writers graduate from UCI, most leave the area. They go to Los Angeles, Northern California or far away. Is it just the cost of real estate in these parts, or is it something else?

A friend from ASJA said there are some 500 writers, agents and editors who belong to a group in Montclair, NJ, who get together and do events. 500? There was a piece in the New York Times a while ago about how Brooklyn is overrun with writers.

I've been wanting to leave the O.C. for some time, but I doubt it's for the same reasons that other writers don't stay.

Just mulling.....if you have any thoughts, let them fly. I want to hear.

Friday, October 20, 2006

What I see from where I sit

A map of Vermont hangs above my desk. (One is behind it, too.)

A glass of wine, a framed photograph of Travis.

A birthday plant from Elle.

Our cats, doing what they do best.

The mini-waterfall we bought at Ace Hardware that constantly runs and whispers to me that what I long for is the sound of a creek just outside my window. The aqua toaster burns toast but reminds me of a different time. So we keep it.

I want to see what is on and around your desk, what you see from where you sit. If you have a blog, take some pictures and post a link.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Raining cats and dogs

You know how I feel about contests. Still, I saw this in Publisher's Weekly and thought I'd pass this on to you. If you have a dog or a cat and you're so inclined....

(This is our Rosie, who loves boxes, bags and, well, empty water bottle cases.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anne Tyler's Digging to America

You know how when you read a book that you love, you are elated and then when it's over, you're sort of depressed, because you think there will never be another book that you'll love as much--and then there is, and you're elated all over again?

I'm reading Anne Tyler's newest novel and I will say, I love it as much as I loved Accidental Tourist, which was not only a great book, but a great movie adaptation.

This book also interests me because I sense Tyler infusing the book with her life, and I'm always interested in how we translate bits of our lives into fiction.

(Actually, I'm listening to it on CD, with Blair Brown--Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, with the wonder David Strathairn--doing a stellar job reading.)

What are you reading that you love?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life simulates art ....

...or TV, in any case. Ever see the Showtime TV show, Weeds? More specifically, the intro in which a line of SUVs (Range Rovers, I think) are exiting subdivision? I saw this this morning, the Corona del Mar version, that is.

I went for a walk and on my way home I was coming down the alley and at opposite ends of the alley, black SUVs were pulling out of their garages at the same exact moment, same angle, everything. Then they passed one another. One guy was on a cell phone. Of course.

Remember that old Animals' song with the lines: We gotta get out of this place / If its the last thing we ever do / We gotta get out of this place / 'Cause girl, there's a better life / For me and you ...

Uh, yeah.....the song is very much on my mind. The show is interesting, but I don't want to be living it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stayin' alive, stayin' alive...

In today's Los Angeles Times, there's a story about how independent bookstores that want to stay alive pretty much need to do more than just sell books. They need to sell food, hold performances, form membership programs, and hire employees who can talk books--imagine!

Interestingly, the piece also talks about how there's been a turnaround, that indie bookstores are opening at a rate of "60, 70, 80 stores" each year.

Sounds great to me.

What do you think about bookstores needing to take on additional roles, other than just selling books?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

When you no longer care so much.....

....it happens. Or seems to. Your story, essay, book sells. The other night Melissa Bank came on my show and talked about how she worked on The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing for 10 years and endured a ton of rejections and it wasn't until she had given up, until she just didn't care anymore, in a deep way, about being published, that her book sold. She was as committed to writing as ever--it was what she did--but she no longer had that deep, longing need to be published. Everyone who has been published and who hasn't been published, but wants to be, knows what this is. It's horrible.

I was at that point with Pen on Fire, too. I had been making jewelry and my web designer was putting together a web site because I was no longer banking on getting a book out there. We were thinking of moving back to Vermont and planned a trip to New England right after I sent my proposal off to my agent. Not long after we returned to California, with thoughts to move and with my designer putting together a web site, my book went to auction and sold.

When we are feeling needy for anything, whatever that thing is, it seems to elude us. When you're not in a relationship, and you just have to have a relationship, there are no relationships to be had. It's when you say, Screw it, I'm through with men/women, that someone seems to magically appear.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Books to help you along the way

I just heard from a writer who was dealing with a rejection and the discouragement it brings. And I thought, as writers, we so need to keep the faith. Of course hearing authors' tales of woe and ultimate success help. So do writing books. So here's my short list on writing books that will help you keep the faith. And help you with craft and all that, too.

Actually, here's a picture of them. First, an almost toppling stack, then closeups so you can see titles. I regularly recommend all of these titles.