Friday, December 31, 2010

Out With The Old, In With The New

I’ve always considered New Year’s Eve an arbitrary holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I like having the day off work (yea, I have the day off…public sector employee, remember), and I’m a sucker for all things sparkly and bubbly and filled with shredded bits of colored paper . . . but dressing to the nines and drinking ‘til you drop merely because 365 (or 366) days have passed seems so random. Kind of like the publishing industry. (Seriously, people, what lands one girl-in-love-triangle-solving-work/identity/body-image-crisis-with-the-help-of-quirky-gay/bawdy-sex-addict-best-friend story on bookstore shelves while another languishes in manuscript limbo, mocking you every time you fire up the ol’ laptop?) Despite my existential misgivings (Because, yea, I go there…why even have a calendar year? Isn’t every day essentially the same? Why even have days? If a blog is posted and nobody reads it, was it ever written?), I kinda like the idea of a New Year. Of giving in to the illogical notion that the act of opening a fresh calendar has real meaning. That the slate is wiped clean come midnight. It’s a Jedi mind trick, to be sure, but one I’m embracing with gusto this year. Rather than dwell on my anemic daily word count and the fact that I’m still not published (and all the other personal failings I won’t bore you with…you should see the refrigerator still sitting in the middle of my kitchen after 6 months), I’m choosing to let it go. To exhale fully when the clock chimes 12. Because only then can I breathe in the fresh, creative, hopeful air of 2011. I’m guessing it smells like rainbows and unicorns. Wishing you a year filled with your own brand of awesome. Catch ya in the double-ones.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All We Want For Christmas

When I was but a wee girl, my mom would bring home the big fat JCPenney catalog each year lo around early November. (Check out some sweet shots from the 1976 catalog. I was a fetus, of course.) I’d spend hours flipping through the pages while drinking fresh-pressed apple cider and eating homemade spice cake in front of the fire. Okay, so maybe I actually sprawled on our green shag carpet drinking store-bought egg nog and eating Vienna sausages from the can (don’t judge me–we all did it), but the catalog part is true. I’d make my Christmas wish list by marking items with one, two or three stars (depending on their desirability) in between sneaking peeks at the lingerie section when my mom wasn’t looking.

Like most adults, I stopped making a Christmas wish list at some point—probably around the time I realized my three star items included a washing machine I didn’t have to start with a screwdriver and a holiday without one of my kids on antibiotics. But I miss those days spent with the JCPenney catalog—when you couldn’t simply click a mouse and have anything delivered overnight, when a dickie was a perfectly viable clothing option, when the Carpenters ruled the Christmas airwaves and that offensive Christmas Shoes song didn’t exist. So, in honor of those times, we are making a Christmas wish list this year—a writer’s Christmas wish list. This is what Kris and I would like to find under the tree Christmas morning:

1. A sequel to One Day by David Nicholls titled The Next Day: J/K, It Wasn't Emma On The Bike; It Was Really That Asshat Dexter

2. Some sort of device that allows us to go to the bathroom without leaving the computer. A Stadium Pal for women, if you will. Because you always have to pee just about the time you finally get into a writing groove. It's a law of nature.

3. A computer program that reads our otherwise brilliant sentences and fills in the brackets.

4. You know the Deluminator? That thing that Dumbledore gave to Ron Weasley? It looks like a pen and when Ron clicks it, he can extinguish or create light? I want one of those. But for apostrophes. (I’m coming for you, first, Sacramento International Airport. What do you mean “Shuttle Drivers’ may not assist passengers with their bag’s?”)

5. A kit that takes all the words we write each day on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, IMs, and e-mails, and converts them to useful prose for our various novels. Can you imagine the boost in daily word count?

6. For the various Dictionary Powers-That-Be to stop (for the love of all that is good and beautiful in the world, stop) adding made-up words to the dictionary. Turducken?! Really?! And don't tell me to chillax.

7. Pat Conroy's South of Broad rewritten with a modicum of meangingful character development and without the sociopath father/serial killer/rapist/pedophile/foreboding nail polish-graffiti artist. (Yea, you read that right...nail polish-graffiti artist) Still love you Pat, but that was wrong.

8. A Mucinex-like pill for writer's block. Literally hacking up the block seems like a great solution.

9. Grammar Girl as my new next door neighbor. We'll drink wine, she'll mentor me, and under the dark cover of night we'll enact vigilante justice on rogue apostrophes everywhere. (And because, really, any girl who calls grammar tips "quick and dirty" is okay in my book!)

10. An audio recording of 6-8 Black Men by David Sedaris. If you know it, ‘nuff said. If you don’t, Merry Christmas. (It's in three parts, but TOTALLY WORTH YOUR TIME . . . though I can't vouch for the homemade video images)

Happy Holidays to you and yours!!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Art and Craft and Ass in Chair

Stephen King (or Oliver Stone, depending on your source) said writing equals ass-in-chair.

Its been months since my last post. Life has been working its insidious black magic, taking over with work and school and PTA, baseball and laundry and family crises, leaving little time or energy for writing. At long last, this morning, my hindquarters are planted firmly in a chair. And I'm learning, in a way I never have, that writing is not like riding. A bike, that is. Case in point: I just spent thirty minutes doing internet research for this post. Back in the heady days of weekly blog posts, Done Fell Out, and various short stories, I would grab a cup of tea, curl up on the couch, and wax at least somewhat poetic (humor me people) about some relatively engaging topic. And I did it with ease and in short order. I suppose, back then, I fancied myself a writer, an artist.

Laura is an artist. I've always known this. In the way she crafts story, thinks about characters, examines the novel from seventeen scenes ahead. And now she's embarked on a solo writing venture that is original and exciting and brilliant, not only sentence by sentence, but also for its creativity, on both a macro and micro level. Not only does it make me wonder if (a.k.a. feel terrified) she's been carrying the laboring oar on all of our collaborative projects, it has started me thinking about art versus craft. Folks much smarter than I have opined on this subject at length. I just read an essay by Susan Sontag, purportedly examining this topic, but it made my eyes cross and cramped my brain. Suffice to say, I don't expect to add much to the marketplace of ideas on art versus craft, but I do know this: I can craft a sentence with the best of them. I can both persuade a federal court judge and bring you to tears with words that, strung together, sound like song. Sure, I can do that. But that doesn't make me an artist; it makes me - to my mind - a craftsman, craftswoman. And there's pride in that, certainly. But it's not art.

Did I ever have art in me? I tend to think I did. The question is whether there's any left and, if so, where it went. Did it disappear into the seventeen loads of laundry I did last week, did I lose it on my fifth business trip in four weeks, is it caught in the family crises that takes up so much space in my house? I don't know. I guess I'll just have to start by looking for it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's in a Name?

Seventh Grade was a good year. I was allowed to wear a little bit of make-up (iridescent blue eye-shadow, naturally), I graduated from a plaid jumper to a plaid skirt (yes, I’m a Catholic school girl), and I had my first kiss (in the school library . . . he tasted like mustard). I also had one of the best teachers ever—Mrs. Light. She wore bright red lipstick, had a dog named Liesl (named after the character in The Sound of Music), and used long, skinny chalk-holders that looked as if they’d been plucked from the manicured fingers of elegant smoking baronesses in black-and-white films. Mrs. Light taught me something about writing I remember to this day—the importance of finding just the right name for a character. Think about it. Would Severus Snape or Lucius Malfoy seem quite as sinister, at first blush, were they named Sanford Smith and Lucas Melfry? What if Mark Twain had switched Tom Sawyer’s and Huckleberry Finn’s names? Could you relate to Bridget Jones if she had an exotic name, like Alexandria DuPont?

Kris and I took this notion regarding the importance of names to its extreme in The Pecking Order, with character monikers like the Pecker and the Blowhard. But we also spent a great deal of time considering the real names in the book. Adam, for example, was chosen as Abby’s husband because we wanted an “everyman,” and what better name than that given the first man?

You only need to attend a little league baseball game to see the significant thought given to name choice in real life. A few of the more unique names from my son’s recent game: Jasten, Cooper, Chase, Atticus, P.J., Jackson, Carson, Colton, and Houston (that’s my son). I also have nephews aptly named Drake (the dragon) and Stryder (ranger, elf-lover, and future king). I believe mothers and fathers pick names they hope will “fit” their children . . . names that sound good rolling off your tongue, maybe have personal meaning, and present well in the world. If we take the time to pick a fitting name for a child whose actions we cannot control and whose destiny we cannot determine, shouldn’t we take care to find the right name for our characters, whose very existence we hold in the tips of our pens?

Nineteen Cents

A man sat next to me at church on Sunday. I’d had a hard week, and I begrudgingly made room for him, rearranging the emotional baggage I’d carried in. He had baggage, too: a worn, heavy coat smelling of asphalt and nicotine; a filthy backpack; a bedroll. His hands, clasped in his lap, were cracked and caked with dirt. Every line in his face etched a tale of heartbreak and bad luck. He needed a haircut, a shave, and a good scrub. When he reached into his pocket, the air shifted and I struggled not to wince or wrinkle my nose. He pulled out a coarse, brown napkin—the thin kind used at establishments specializing in fried potato products—and dabbed tears from his eyes while the choir sang. His hand plunged into that pocket again when the collection plate came around. He dropped a dime, a nickel, and four pennies into the golden dish before passing it to me. I tucked my check on the side, hoping to bury with it the mild resentment I’d felt when filling it out.

He fell asleep in the middle of the sermon. I watched his chin fall to his chest and his shoulders melt away from his ears; I prayed he felt safe and secure enough to rest well. When the service ended, we filed out and I lost sight of him. I have no canned conclusions for you, no literary tie-in or moral imperative. I simply wanted to share that a man sat next to me at church on Sunday.

Friday, April 16, 2010


You know what word I like? (And no, it' s not "published." I mean a real word.) Eclectic. It sounds like a bunch of spare parts crashing against one another in a burlap bag. Say it with me. See what I mean? Another one of my favorites? Supine. I feel the need to yawn and stretch at the mere sight of the word. I suspect we all have favorite words. My son is currently partial to "idiot" and "crud." (Yes, in case you're wondering, I am mother of the year.) I recently attended a legal training seminar where we engaged in that groan-inducing ice-breaker where you interview someone you don't know and then introduce them to the group. We had to find out something about our interviewees that most people don't know. (I thought about telling my interviewer I had buried my family under the Magnolia tree, but chickened out.) Guess what I found out? Lawyers really like the word "aficionado." You could say they are aficionados of the word aficionado. Not one person was a lover of art or a collector of wine or a horseback rider. They were all aficionados. Either the group didn't notice the blatant overuse of the word, or didn't care, because they kept using it. To the point where I was giggling to myself.

As writers, we need to be aware of this potential problem, especially when we craft an elegant sentence using one of our favorite words. In Pat Conroy's latest book, South of Broad, he used the word "repose" so beautifully that I reread the passage and then marked the page. Of course, then I noticed when he pulled out the same word in the next few pages. And again later in the book. The overuse not only lent a sense of commonality to a luminously crafted sentence, but it also took me out of the story. I doubt he even knew he'd done that. (Though, what do I know? He might have done it on purpose and I totally missed the point. I am the person who didn't realize The Story of Edgar Sawtelle was a retelling of Hamlet, so you should probably take my literary observations with a boulder of salt. That said, I'm sad to admit I didn't love South of Broad--a first for me, with respect to Conroy.) I doubt most of us know we use certain words more than we should. Not me, though. Nope. I have an eclectic vocabulary.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Excavating the Ancient and Discovering Gold a.k.a Listening to the Genius in the Corner

Laura and I have been busy (although not busy enough, which is why I will adopt and reincorporate by reference Perfect Games and Perfect Prose re: self flagellation. It will save us all another post on the topic of writing and discipline) with a new writing endeavor; one that's not quite flushed out, but does indeed, we assure you, have a plot. The devil and those details.

We've written often about our challenges writing The Pecking Order-the numerous iterations, the amazingly inconspicuous absence of a plot, the obscene overuse of introductory phrases, 90,000 words that were eventually whittled down to something just short of 60,000. And while we are both tremendously proud of The Pecking Order it its final iteration, we loved those 90,000 words - every last one of them. More than once we likened writing a paragraph to giving birth. We cried, sweat, and laughed over every last syllable. And well we should have. There was beauty and brilliance in those words - the 30,000 words that, at the end of the editing process, lay undignified, inert, debilitated in some forgotten word document for discarded prose. Scenes we cut, phrases we red-lined, characters we killed, all relegated to this document entitled "Ancient Pecking Order". And we let go of those things in the interest of marketing, following our heads, not our hearts, so even though it hurt, and even though our collective writing soul, the genius in the corner, that internal voice that makes Jayne Lynne, Jayne Lynne, told us differently (even screamed at us at times), we let go because we considered it necessary. As our agent told us, the minute we knocked on the publisher's door, The Pecking Order became not about us, but about the publishers, not about art, but about money. And who doesn't like a little money?

Fast forward a year - give or take - and Laura and I found ourselves on one of our lovely and too infrequent writing retreats. If you're thinking Walden Pond or the English countryside circa Jane Austen, try a roadside Ramada a stone's throw from I-5. (Did I mention the money for art thing hasn't quite yet come to fruition?) Still, there was WiFi in the room, Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar almonds (do yourself a favor and buy them), and perfect company. And in pursuit of this new project, we returned to what we knew, back when we were baby authors, full of hope and promise and high class problems like thinking we needed a nome de plume to hide our identity from the firm. We opened "Ancient Pecking Order" and, over the course of the evening, fell back in love with those deleted scenes, lost characters, and quirky turns of phrase. We remembered their humor, their beauty, their divine flaws. We remembered how and why we wrote them in the first place. So much so they have found their way - quite easily and fittingly - into our new work. And, this time, writing soul or genius in the corner or creative fairy or whoever you are, this time, we promise, we're listening.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Art and the Divine

One of the pastors at my church has this running joke about how he can't make it through a sermon without mentioning C.S. Lewis. One of the other pastors has the same running joke, but about Bono. (Yea, in case you were wondering, my church is kind of really totally awesome. A few weeks ago, we thanked God for beer. ) Here's my bit--I have a hard time writing a blog post without gushing about Elizabeth Gilbert. She's just so . . . present and real and self-deprecating and witty and brilliant and radiant and whole. And she's a damn good speaker, too. If you haven't seen her speech about the role of the divine in the creative process, I implore you to take a break and watch this. It's not just for writers, but for anyone engaged in any act of creativity, be it modeling or singing or sewing or lunch packing or lego building. So, yes, it's for all of us.
Happy Weekend! May the genius find you (watch the clip . . . you'll get it)!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Perfect Games and Perfect Prose

Back in the day (oh yeah, we're going there) I played collegiate softball. Several times a week, for four of the best months of the year, I would walk into that chalk-rendered circle, pick up the ball and represent my school for seven innings - 90 pitches, give or take, depending how the drop ball was breaking. My stats were solid (an ERA that hovered around 1), but inevitably there were times when the girl at the plate would connect. And sometimes she would really connect. And I'd curse myself for not getting the pitch far enough off the plate, or for trying, for the zillionth time, to finish the at-bat with a rise ball, which I refused to acknowledge was a misnomer in my pitching repertoire. But, ultimately, it didn't matter if it was a home run or a dribbler down the line that my third baseman booted or even a passed ball on a strike out. I always blamed myself. I could have done better. I could have chosen a better pitch, I could have placed it better, I could have thrown more pitches in practice, I could have, I should have, I could have, I should have.

I'll speak collectively now about me and Laura and how we put a good deal of pressure on ourselves. As writers, as mothers, as wives, as lawyers. Pressure is a little generous, in fact. It might be more accurate here to invoke the DaVinci Code and its charming monk, Silas. And while I can't give you anecdotes from Laura's college days to prove my point (although I'm sure there's a college theatre story in there somewhere), I can say that the woman graduated with the grades and LSAT scores to land her at the best law school in the country.

So now here we are, time on the stage and time on the mound a mere speck in the rear view mirror of our lives, trying to make our way as writers. And old habits die hard. At least once a day, one of us self-flagellates about how much we've written, or not written, or how poorly we've written it, or how terrible our ideas have been, or how we're too metaphor happy, or that we don't so much have a plot. (That, as it turns out was true, and a good thing to note.) And the last time I saw my dear friend and writing partner, she noted something she'd read declaring that people who don't write everyday, can't call themselves writers. So, of course, we started imposing daily word counts and time lines and generally agreed that if we didn't meet them that, well, we sucked. And, more importantly, we weren't writers.

Several days later, I was writing Laura a 7 paragraph e-mail about, among other things, how much we sucked. And while I was writing, I realized that we didn't. That we are writers. We do write everyday. To one another. My day almost always begins with writing or receiving an electronic missive that's full of raw feeling, insightful observations, and humor, always humor. And its these missives that have now become our muse. Our inspiration. Sure, it might not be flowing prose with precisely crafted plot turns, but its writing. And every good ball player knows, you can't throw a perfect game every time.

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Girl Crush

This isn’t going to be one of those long, meandering posts in which I invite you to wander around my cranial cavity, viewing my memories, fantasies, and dreams through the prism of writing. (So, you know, it’s nothing like my usual posts.) You’re in luck, because it’s ugly up in there these days – memories like a child’s security blanket, worn thin from overuse; fantasies bleeding off the canvas, mixing with reality in unnatural ways; dreams recoiling and shrinking into the darkness at the mere glimpse of my outstretched hand. Oh yea, and melodrama abounds. It’s the techno-beat to which my brain dances. Like I said, you’re in luck.

Instead, I want to take a couple of moments to talk about Elizabeth Gilbert and her new book, Committed. When I read Eat, Pray, Love (and then reread it and then forced everyone I know to read it and then listened to it on CD and then read it again) I felt as if Liz was speaking directly to me. Like she’d come over for a cup of tea, which turned into an empty bottle of red, and by the time she left my eyes were puffy from crying and my stomach hurt from laughing and I felt, much like I do after a good yoga practice, complete. I put off Committed for a few weeks, because I was afraid I wouldn’t feel that way again; afraid it would disappoint in the way The Mermaid Chair bore not even a passing resemblance to The Secret Life of Bees.
But this was Lizzie G . . . I should have known better. My mom gave me the CD of Committed, with Liz reading, for Valentine’s Day. And, again, Liz speaks directly to me. Somehow, while weaving in marital statistics and history lessons on property acquisition and her views on same-sex marriage, Liz manages to sit right beside me, pull up her knees, and chat. She can do this because the book is, in effect, a conversation. She acknowledges as much in the forward, telling us she wrote the book for a group of specific women, whom she names. As a result, she has once again written something intimate. Words that are whispered tenderly. A book that feels less like an escape and more like an embrace. And an approach to writing that is both genuine and extraordinary.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Good Stuff

I've had one of those long weeks, involving trips to the hospital, on a plane, to the past, you name it. A good deal of wine has gone in and a good number of tears have come out. Some of it is just stage of life stuff, where you stop, look around, unsure of how you managed to get to this place, this unfamiliar place that is more properly inhabited by your parents. But then you do the math, look at your child, your mortgage statement, your wedding band, and realize you are your parents. There are people looking up for help and people looking down for help and they are all looking at you. And that's okay because you were once the person looking up and will soon enough be the person looking down and you love these people, but it doesn't mean its easy or fun. And doesn't mean you won't cry or feel like you might crumble under the weight of it all.

And just when you think your knees might actually give out, if you're blessed and loved and fortunate enough, the right person comes along and gives you a hug. The right kind of hug. And they make you laugh. And they make you remember what makes life worth living. They don't tell you its going to be okay or not to worry about it and they might not even indulge you in what are really the banal problems of your life, but their presence is enough to remind you of the good stuff. It may not look like what you expected, it may not present itself the way you want, but the good stuff is there in spades. I promise it is.

I'm trying desperately to end this blog without writing some kind of Hello Kitty or Blue Mountain greeting card-ish (see earlier post If You Love Something Set It Free and Other Bad Cliches) inanity about the benefits of hugging. But its hard. So instead I'll reference our book, The Pecking Order, where Abby talks about her best friend from college, saying "Racquel wraps her arms around me just as she did the first time we met. She gives me an extra squeeze, as if trying to leave a little piece of her with me, and the shaking subsides. " Never underestimate the right kind of hug.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nature and Nurture and Gratitude

My mom recently came upon one of my first stories, written when I was about six or seven. I’ve copied it here, complete with grammatical errors and misspellings(indulge me – it’s short, I promise):

Minnegan and her brother and her cousin.
Once upon a time there was a little white seal named Minnegan. One day a soft gray seal came along with a white seal by its side. The gray one was Minny’s brother and white one was Minny’s cousin. The’re names were Finny (short for Finnegan) and cutey. They dived together and slid on the ice. The had lots of fun
The end

So, there’s not really a plot, and my description leaves something to be desired, and what’s with the name Cutey? I mean, Minnegan and Finnegan, those are interesting names. But . . .Cutey? And the title is basically a rehash of the story. Let’s face it, if you added the word “playing” to the end of the title, you don’t even really need the story. (Although I wonder if the reiteration of “her brother and her cousin” had something to do with me being an only child?) But, that’s not the point. The point is, I wrote the story when I was missing my front teeth and could barely tie my shoes and brought potato bugs home in the pockets of my corduroys, and yet my mom saved it. She always encouraged me to write, save maybe for that unfortunate phase in high school when I wrote a collection of depressing suicide poetry titled My Wishing Well of Clear Blue Thoughts (and if the title isn’t enough to make you gag, nibble on this little sample: But will you mend my life/Or offer a quick stab/Maybe you’ll respect my name/When written on a marble slab. Oh yea, that’s the stuff.) For the most part, my mom has been incredibly supportive of my creative endeavors and, thus, I’ve always associated my writing, somewhat, with my mother.

Little did I know that my dad is a writer, too. He visited over Christmas, and brought me a box of blessings. A treasure. My dad was in the Navy from 1966-1970. He spend 2 ½ years of that time in Vietnam. You know those riverboats from Apocalypse Now? My dad was on one of those . . . when he was but a child. Turns out my dad, this boy, this boy at war, wrote home. And wrote home often. And my grandmother saved every letter. And now the letters are mine. These letters – they are witty and descriptive and full of subtext and emotion and powerful observation. They put Minnegan (and her brother and her cousin) to shame. He even wrote a poem. And it’s raw and real and good. It’s too long and too personal to post in its entirety, but these two stanzas capture the feel of the piece:

Someday military power will be nil
An “all volunteer force?” I wonder still.

Will love of country be enough to make it survive?
I think NO, not as long as personal freedom is alive.

I never knew my dad was a writer. A voracious reader, yes, but not a writer. And now I wonder – did his gift shape me in any way? Did he have a “writer’s view” of the world that, unbeknownst to the two of us, informed my world view? I like to think so. In that same way, I like to think that my devotion to the craft, the way I approach life, maybe my very blood, influenced this gem from my seven year old son:

Once upon a time there was a penguin. His name was Frosty . He was not like the other penguins . He is smaller and he is more shy than the other penguins. He eats minnows instead of salmon. Instead of jumping in the water he does cannonballs. He makes lots of splashes.

It’s a work in progress – he hasn’t titled it yet. Me, I’d go with Frosty the Penguin Who Was Not Like The Others.

I love writing. And I love my family. And I am blessed beyond measure to have the two intersect.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Seymour Finkelstein and Other Elusive Dreams . .

As a girl, I read the same books over and over again. All the Nancy Drews at least 3 times, my favorite titles (The Password to Larkspur Lane, anyone?) perhaps dozens. Go Ask Alice and Are You There God, its Me Margaret (forget the iPad, remember the pad belt?!) occupied space on my night stand for months. But the book I most remember reading was a somewhat less patrician title called I Saw Him First in which two hormonal teenage girls fight over the new class hunk, Seymour Finklestein. I don't recall the ever so important details, but I'm sure you'll be shocked to find out the narrator, who fought to woo that tall drink of water, Seymour, finally realized the water, tall as it was, didn't run very deep. I don't remember if the girls became friends again, if the narrator ended up going to the prom with the nice kid from her side of the tracks who loved her from the beginning--oh, wait, I've ventured into film. Old Molly Ringwald movies aside (are there any new Molly Ringwald movies?), the righteous indignation that inspired the title of I Saw Him First reared its ugly head in my home this week, in a very non-fictional way.

Laura, the more media savvy of us, sent me several links to several Twitter feeds this week. (So un-savvy am I that I'm not even sure its called a Twitter feed, but I think that's right). If you're interested, they are as follows:

If you're not that interested, don't worry I'll summarize. The first is a tweet from Jennifer Weiner, she of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, noting that ABC is reading her pilot about a smart, sassy lady lawyer. The second is an article from the Huffington Post written by two female co-authors waxing poetic on the benefits of co-authoring a novel.

By way of reminder, Laura and I wrote a novel about a smart, sassy lady lawyer. Five years ago we wrote it. And its good. We've been talking to groups for some time now about the benefits of writing together. And we're charming. I promise we are. For the moment, however, I'm abandoning that charm and instead of understanding that sometimes it really is about who you know, or just a matter of timing, or even wondering whether we gave up on The Pecking Order too soon, I'm opting to stomp my feet and grab for Seymour. Laura and I, after all, saw him first.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Square Peg

We've been told our book, The Pecking Order (available now, online, for free!), doesn't quite fit into an established literary genre. It's like the offspring of chick lit and literary fiction, although every now and then one might whisper behind closed doors that it resembles the mailman (his name is Romance). Our agent called it upscale commercial women's fiction . . . whatever that means . . . but, still, even with a name, it hasn't found a comfortable home. I was beginning to wonder if, perhaps, it was destined to be a loner forever. But then I read Love Walked In and Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. And I gotta tell you . . . The Pecking Order is in good company. It does not (unlike that stinky cheese we're all so fond of singing about) stand alone. The review "blurbs" for Love Walked In describe the book alternately as chick lit and romance, and praise the author's literary skills. As for me, I define her books as riveting, with characters I want to tuck in my pocket and carry around, conversations I want to jump into, and language that lingers long after I've closed the back cover. Marisa de Los Santos's books are filled with humor and self-deprecation . . . with a literary slant but a pop culture, relatable feel. And though Ms. de los Santos writes in a way I only aspire to, sometimes, every now and then, it seems that one of her sentences could have bled from my (and Kris's) very pen. So maybe "not fitting in" can be a good thing.
P.S. I just read that Sarah Jessica Parker is slated to star in the film version of Love Walked In. I titled this blog post "A Square Peg" before I knew that. Maybe I need my own psychic hotline?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Relentless Forward Progress

Its been a little more than a year now since my last marathon. I'm still smarting. And it wasn't my first. It was my fifth. That doesn't exactly qualify me as a "marathoner", but I also shrug off the label of "runner" like its an 80's ensemble. I just don't consider myself properly in that category. Yes, I've put one foot after another for 26.2 miles on several occasions and for 13.1 miles on even more occasions, not to mention the scads of 3, 6, and 10 milers I have under my belt. Yet still, in my mind, I am not a runner.

Almost a decade ago, I ran the most difficult race I've ever done, the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, rated one of the hardest marathons in the country. And you know what, I didn't train. And no I don't mean, oops, I only did a couple of long runs. I mean my hardest training run was a 40 minute hill workout on the treadmill. I will save the unimportant and uninteresting details related to why I didn't train, but suffice to say I was being obstinate in a way that only hurt me. And as I looked ahead at 26.2 miles and a 1000 foot climb, I told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and I took to heart something my husband said as I watched him leave me in his dust at mile 3 - "relentless forward progress".

I (Laura and I) have written a novel. A good novel. Not to mention several short stories, countless legal briefs, and more than a hundred pages of a second novel. Yet I still have difficulties considering myself a writer. But as I look ahead at another 200 pages of that second novel, with callous-free fingertips and a word processing program that hasn't received a creative words in months, I remember what my husband said at the Grandfather Mountain Marathon - relentless forward progress. It took me across the finish line at Grandfather Mountain and I can't help but believe it will take us to the final chapter here.