Monday, December 31, 2012

Flying on Ink

Sometimes living on ink also means flying on it, too. I find myself in the Chicago airport on New Year's Eve, and God willing, I'll land at my final destination in enough time to sing that damn song that I can't spell about old acquaintances. I'm not big on flying. For me, it's all about the right shoes.

By no one's standard am I a fashionista. I choose comfort about 85 percent of the time over style. That doesn't mean I wear sweats five out of seven days. I actually don't like sweats, but I want to feel good in what I wear, and if the possibility exists that I'll have to run with luggage from point X to point Y, then, I go for tennis shoes. For the most part, women don't wear tennis shoes out in public unless they are working out. Or, if they are young women. Or very old women. Today, I am neither; I'm being practical. Tennis shoes it is.

An airport is a funny sociological study, if you have time to contemplate it (which I do because I have a massive layover). I just deboarded a plane that couldn't be more than a few months old (I overheard a steward say so; it was a flight with all male stewards. No explanation.) Now I sit in an area where the vinyl seating is ripped, the carpet has obviously not been swept in a few days, and a chair next to me is broken. Wobbly. Afixed with a sign that reads Broken seat: Don't Use. The tape on the sign is not sticking anymore. I've walked all of a half mile and gone from big city glitz to Podunkville (check my spelling on that).

What does this have to do with the writing life? Not much, other than I wanted to send the year off with a wave and a nice kick in the pants. 2012 could have been better. I could have written more. I could have published something. But, I keep trying. New Year's Day is for regrouping. Shaking things up. I don't make resolutions, but I do reflect, and I'd like to reflect less in 2013. I want to DO. Good thing I don't mind wearing tennis shoes out in public.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Self-Publishing, Out of the Closet

It's official. Self-publishing has gone viral. Mainstream, in fact. When both Time magazine and NPR write articles within nine days of each other about the growing legitimization of self-publishing, I'd say that seals it. It's okay to self-publish. Not only is it okay, it has become the method whereby frustrated writers can find an audience before they find a good agent or publisher. But by the time they have a following, the authors may not need the latter. Nonetheless, we have a semi-affordable ground to prove ourselves, albeit one with many pitfalls, not the least of which is trying to find our audience. (BTW, I've become a pseudo-expert at building author websites and Facebook pages in the process.)

Time's article, The 99 Cent Best Seller, is a more comprehensive look at how some writers are successful at self-publishing their work. WARNING: Most are not. The article cites a graph (though doesn't publish it) analyzing the top 50,000 Smashwords titles. "It looks like a nearly perfect L, with only the tiniest sliver selling more than a handful of copies."

The NPR piece, Self-Publishing: No Longer Just a Vanity Project, focuses on two writers who self-publish, both with varying results. Like the Time article, one of the writers tallies how much it cost to put out his first book. His total: $2,500. It can be more. That's because writers end up doing everything or hiring out the things they can't do. At this point, I've already spent, out of pocket, $1,100 for my first novel, half of which went to an editor (whom I highly recommend, Novel Doctor). I've also bartered for other services. But that doesn't account for the untold hours I've worked and worked on writing, revising and "platform-building" on the web and social media. Granted, I haven't self-published a book yet because I'm still trying the traditional route first. Conclusion: I'll probably spend more money before it's over.

I sympathized this week with a fellow Twitter user, who tweeted about receiving his 111th rejection. I suppose once I get to 200, I may call it quits on the old way (I've got a long way to go, but my tolerance is weakening). As for my Twitter interaction, here's a nuance worth mentioning. After I replied sympathetically to the tweet, the writer apparently deleted his original. It's no longer in his feed. We writers are still sensitive to rejection. No need to publicize it.

The steam behind the self-publishing train has been growing for years. I'd like to think I scooped the national media with my regional article about self-publishing, which appeared in nwaonline.com a year ago. The world is flying by. Get onboard.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Poetry with Judith Pulman: Literary Arts at Multnomah Arts Center

Tomorrow is the last session for a revision class I'm attending at the Multnomah Arts Center in SW Portland. Four poets (including myself) and a woman writing a memoir for her grandchildren have been sharing work and revising pieces with our facilitator Judith Pulman. Judith is a force, a new person I've connected with in the Portland writing community. She is also a poet, having graduated recently from Pacific Lutheran University's MFA program. I haven't read much of Judith's work and the class doesn't revolve around her aggrandizement, which is refreshing, but she has been a good guide for us novices. She's titled the class "Revision: Getting Beyond 'I Like It'".

So we each read a piece (or two) and then sit quietly as the others in the group express what works for them and what doesn't. We go about the process in a somewhat methodical way by first giving a one- or two-sentence statement about what we believe the writer means, in essence, the poem's story or conflict. Afterwhich, the critique (and I use that word loosely because so far, it hasn't felt like critique) takes shape depending on what surfaces from the readers' impressions -- some readers express confusion, or desires for a different direction, or deep connection. As part of the process, the writer reads the work, then another person reads it a second time. I struggled to read aloud a piece for another writer last week because it touched a soft spot. 

Nevertheless, the class is teaching me that even if we think a piece is DONE, it has room to grow, to change and possibly to become something brand new and more powerful. Judith encouraged us to bring in pieces which we believed needed work, which I have. And, the discussions have led me to see poetry in a new light. Poems are translation. I'm not a person who holds tightly to first drafts (or second or third drafts), but this has made rewriting a vaster place, where many doors are ajar.

Judith provided a concrete example last week -- the "process" drafts of an Elizabeth Bishop poem (CLICK HERE). Bishop's first runs at "One Art" read like rambling laundry lists with mental asides. Then, over time and contemplation and tightening, the finished piece comes alive. But, our motto for the class is Paul Valery's statement: "A work of art is never finished, only abandoned."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Writing Scene in Portland, Ore.

Burnt Tongue 2 reading at Crush
Portland writers give readings in dark places. Writers here call themselves dangerous. What they write is edgy and alternately ordinary. Writers here spend years in weekly critique groups working on novels. Newbies covet spots on the outer rings of said groups, knowing they are pond scum. If they shun the scum spots, there's no shortage of other groups to join, albeit less prestigious. Writers in Portland create their own support groups. They moon each other to express thanks. They break up and get back together. They break up and don't get back together. They write about breaking up and getting back together. They use the F word. A lot. Successful Portland writer still have to teach to make ends meet. Some start their own presses to publish work they know warrants attention. Some win the Pulitzer Prize. Some do guerrilla marketing. Some get movie options. They know movie stars and directors. Most are approachable. Many are very serious. Even the serious ones need inspiration and reasons to keep on writing. Because writing is a bitch as a living, but they can't quit it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Portland Bloggers Learn SEO (RE: I've Come a Long Way, Baby)

I could have posted a new poem today, but I'm going to give you the shorter-than-short version of key points I learned at the SEO workshop organized by Portland Bloggers. Though I'm not going to give a play-by-play, be assured Google continues to change the world.

So, how do you optimize your blog? First, google (verb: to look up online) Authorship to find the steps to verify yourself as a real, live Google author (and I'm not talking about telling the big G you are a novelist). Once you've done that, blog smarter by linking out, promoting others and being unique. Offer GOOD CONTENT. I'm being lame today with BAD CONTENT because I want to skip the blogging and go on to the real writing, but GOOD CONTENT is essential.

The two Js: me (L)
and Jenni Bost, Portland bloggers.

SEO and Google

But SEO is a game. Making Google like you is the trick. (See my heading trick? You've got to use the <h2> HTML code for that one.) To be exact, you must be liked by the Google algorithm geeks. You need to be obvious about your content's message, but not too obvious. So if I'm writing about Fifty Shades of Gray, I need to mention Fifty Shades about Fifty times. (Can you hear my sarcasm through the computer?) More accurately, you should only mention key words about 3-5x, otherwise the Google spiders don't likey you very much and think you're mooching for clicks. Hey, if I were mooching for clicks I'd start writing a fan fiction thread that's an erotic takeoff on Katniss and Peeta. Don't kid yourself, it's probably already been done. Granted, I have no room to talk, except that my characters are older.

Thanks to SwellPath.com for the workshop. It made me take a hard look at a few things, and by doing so, I reflected on where I've been over the course of two years of blogging. Whew, some of those first posts are scary. I'm moving on.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Makings of a Manuscript

At least my book project looks fairly organized. I move parts of it around the house from place to place, and one day last week it all ended up on the corner of my dresser. The double-decker story.

THE TOPPER: Two dictionaries. It's odd how different definitions can be from book to book.
THE BREAD: The light blue binder is the query collection. I started off printing pages from agents' websites and making notations directly on the hardcopy submission guidelines when I heard back. I've abandoned that method because I realize it will waste a lot of paper. I use an Excel spreadsheet now.
THE MAYO: The first stack of white paper is from my critique group. I submit chapters weekly, and three other writers make comments. I'm waaaaay behind making changes from their suggestions.
THE SANDWICH MEAT: The manila envelope is Part One of the book with proofreading marks (grammar, spelling, etc.) from a professional editor. Part Two is filed away for now. I bartered with the editor. I'm waaaaaay behind making ... you get the picture.
THE LETTUCE: There's a green folder in the stack which contains copies of my synopsis, rewritten ad naseum.
THE BIG CHEESE: The largest stack of white paper is the book itself, one version of it. At the time, it was probably about 400 pages. I've shortened it considerably since then, but I often use the hardcopy as a reference. That's about $25 of paper and ink from Kinko's. So far, Kinko's has made more money on my book than I have.
THE HEEL: At the very bottom, a yellow legal pad sits on top of a few copies of a magazine that actually pays me to write real stuff. No make-believe. For cash. I like cash. Wish I had more of it.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Philosophical Questions for A Writer

A question a writer asks is: Why write? I told someone the other day, "I would never encourage someone to become a writer." My cynicism for pursuing a career as a writer was running high. Believe me, there are easier ways to make money and feel validated.

Then I focused a little on that last part: validation. Such a loaded word. We all need it. We all attempt to get more of it. We have egos, and anyone with blood pumping has a brain wired to seek it. But, I have had to let the desire for validation go. In essence, life isn't a gift to me that comes wrapped in a silken bow of validation. Neither is it guaranteed or promised by the divine or the mortal (e.g. anyone who loves you unconditionally). It is a human construct tied to our need to feel like we are somebody.

So have I really let "it" go? Validation? I'm practicing. I am writing and pursuing publication while trying to hold on less to the outcome. For the record, I'm not writing that much fiction. I'm actually writing more non-fiction these days for pay. And yes, the pay is validation. And when my editor, when I hand in a solid story or two, writes back immediately, "I want to marry you," that is validation. But I am not writing for the pay or the nice comments. I'm writing because I like to write. Because when I am in the middle of crafting a sentence, any sentence, I am in the middle of a creative process that takes me out of my troubles and the mundane flow. It is good to be in the words. There, there, is where I choose to place my life.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing is Eating Ice Cream Out of the Tub

Writing fiction = Staring at blank screen wondering which word to use next. Seriously, is it any wonder there are writers groups? We need support. We need pats on the head. We need ice cream out of the carton and the biggest spoon in the drawer.

I'm not a nervous, overwrought writer. The opposite. I get antsy when I haven't written in a while. Makes me agitated. I haven't the slightest clue how I got that way. When people ask me why I started writing a book, I say, 'I just felt like writing.' (remember the line from Forest Gump?) I got a bee in my bonnet. More like, I got a beehive in my britches.

But, I have had writer's block recently. I'm not sure I would diagnose it as a true case of writer's block. I want to write, but ... Not going to elaborate much on the dot, dot, dot except to say that if you have been there before, you know exactly what the dot, dot, dot could mean. Fatigue, negativity, real work. Bah, real work! I challenge the notion that writing is not real work. It'll lay you flat. Take every bit of energy you have, and leave you with an unfinished project. There's no tidy ending to a piece of writing. It might get published, but there's always something you'll want to make better or change.

So, rather than run the risk of neurosis, check out one of these. In Portland, there's no shortage of people to shore up the crazed inkhead. There are more than this. Let me know if you want to add one.

The Attic
Willamette Writers
Oregon Writers Colony
Dangerous Writers/Tom Spanbauer (also Google it)
Multnomah Arts Center
LitReactor (somewhat connected to Portland)
Rose City Romance Writers (RWA)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fifty Shades of a Shooting Star

Today is my two-year blogging anniversary. Hip, hip, hoorah. Confetti, horns, balloons, assorted snorts and giggles. What better to write about on an anniversary than sex?

This is not a usual topic for me. But I had to write a blogpost with the word Shades in the title. SEO, you know. No, seriously, are you surprised that sex still sells? How does the quip go? "Even bad sex is good sex."

I'm not suggesting Fifty Shades of Grey is bad. I haven't read it. I may or may not get around to it. I'll likely not pay for it if I do read it. From what I've read in reviews, I'd be better off borrowing a copy. I'm not knocking the topic of sex or S&M here. It's just not high on my reading list. But, apparently, it's on many others'. Fifty Shades is listed 1, 2, and 3 on the NYT bestsellers list along with two or three other books written by romance writers. I don't have a leg to stand on if I want to stand against the tide.

Still. My sensibilities, as a woman and a writer, tread a little less salaciously. I found Edgy Mama's review of Shades more my speed. But, Edgy is writing books about beer -- not romance.

Shades is erotica, and there are plenty of good erotic writers on the planet. Shades won the lottery. I occasionally will read erotica for ideas (I'm not blushing; see The Erotic Writer or find your own source). It's true. Sex makes money. Romance novels hold a significant market share (somewhere between 10-13 percent of book sales).

I've written sex scenes. My first novel is basically a romance, although I break with genre conventions more than not. But I wanted my sex scenes to read like poetry. I tell friends: I don't name parts (of the body; at least, the most conspicuously sexual ones). Try it. It's harder than it sounds. Romance writers I've bummed around with admit that sex scenes can be tough to write. Even the NYT Book Review wrote a piece once about the big literary giants falling flat in that arena (no pun intended; see The Naked and the Conflicted, 01/03/2010).

So, let Fifty Shades have its day in the sun. If it burns a few asses (oops, I broke my parts rule), chalk it up to the shooting-star syndrome. A book phenomenon that's bright but brief.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Am

For I am the finite.
For I am the wonder.
For I am the cloud in the corner
                    the trembling sky
                    the cluster of gray.

For I am the roiling.
For I am the thunder.
For I am the flash of filament
                   the spark of comets
                   the stardust way.

For I am the mystery.
For I am the unconquerable.
For I am bled of patience
                    the shard of nothing
                    the vast blank.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Between a Blank Page and a Hard Place

My blogging habits lately reflect my writing habits. Pathetic. Ideas have been slow to surface, and all my words seem a bit ... off. I've been thinking about where to find inspiration, and my web surfing on the subject of writing trends toward the inspirational, when I can find uplifting content. I generally bounce off snarky sites, and if you are a wannabe writer or professional, you know there's plenty of sarcasm online. Avoid it like the bird flu. It's foul and catching.

A recent thought wanting to surface for me is: write because there is no better place to live. Am I being deep? Not much. There are intangibles worth living for, I believe. Family. A warm sun. A satisfying meal. The support of a good friend. Time with quality people. Smiles. Have I degenerated to warm fuzzies? Maybe. But I'd add writing to my list of intangibles. Writing is a way of knowing and weaving through the struggle. Because life is struggle. Maybe not now, or before now, or your personal struggle, but it is an ongoing human experience. Our pain and those of others. I'm thankful I can use a computer and write down my thoughts, share them with you, and learn about myself in the process.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Write, Submit, Commit

Rather than regurgitate my notes from the Willamette Writers Conference, here are the distilled lessons I took away:

If you want to write for a career, then write as often as possible.

To make a living at it, you must submit. And submit. And submit.

The only one holding you accountable is you.

Of course, I left the three-day conference fired up. I even filled out the Take Twenty-Five Actions grid from writer Christina Katz to keep me on track. Except I only came up with 15 of 25 actions. And this post is step #1. Step #2 I can't do because I waited too long. Not doing so hot. Ho hum.

But all is well. I'm thankful that two agents and an editor have asked to see samples of my work. The pitching went smoothly, so smoothly that I stopped being nervous about it. I also squirreled away names and contacts to send more queries. That is step #12.

Besides my plan, I met some great people. I must praise a couple, number one being Jennifer Lauck, who gave two presentations for non-fiction writers, specifically those writing memoir. She was engaging and funny and an all-around good gal. Because she's a Buddhist, she's also generous with her knowledge. Check out www.jenniferlauckmemoirwriting.com. Although I'd never thought about writing a memoir before, I was convinced I should try after a session with her.

Some great quotes from Jennifer: "Memoir is spiritual practice. It's higher consciousness." Also, "Just keep asking the question: 'What am I trying to say?'" She says to be a master, you have to write copious amounts of work; be prolific. Don't ever stop. Wonderful stuff. She knows what she's talking about because she's written best-selling memoirs.

I also enjoyed hearing Melissa Hart talk about travel writing. This is one well-traveled lady. It sounded as if she had just gotten off a plane and swept into the conference before hitching a ride to another exotic locale. She emphasized taking any travel event and shaping it into something unique for magazine or newspaper publication. She joked (not really) that bad vacations can be great stories. For example, she showed us a picture of a truly frightening spider she encountered recently, much too closely. She also teaches and blogs.

A down-to-earth agent also was memorable. Andy Ross gave a session on how to negotiate a book deal. He's a funny guy who knows the business from all sides. He's a writer and formerly a bookstore owner. he was approachable, entertaining and admitted when he didn't always know the answer, and he got stumped by a few questions at his session, which he handled with aplomb.

And lastly, I give a shoutout (I hate that word) to a new friend and Oregon writer Marjorie Thelen, who writes and self-publishes mysteries. I struck up a conversation with her after a session on self-publishing where she mentioned her satisfaction using BookBaby.com, which is a Portland-based company that publishes ebooks for a minimal fee, no royalties. Although the panel didn't endorse BookBaby and Marjorie was not a panelist, she said her experience was positive and affordable. She and I have enjoyed exchanging emails since then.

Now, Sharpie in hand, I may X out Step #1. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pitch Fever at Willamette Writers Conference

It's put-yourself-out-there week if you are a Portland writer. The Willamette Writers Conference starts tomorrow, and it is full of opportunities for rejection.

Okay, so I'm being a tad negative. Let me screw on my happy face and get a better attitude (I'm on my second cup of tea for fortitude). The entire weekend pairs would-be and working writers with agents who could change their lives. That sounds too overwhelming, but it's true. One of last year's attendees pitched her book in 2011 and made good. Book deal, movie option, etc., etc. She's been given a coveted lunchtime speaker slot. The reality is her story is the exception. Most of us will walk away with (hopefully) a nice pat on the head and a "try harder next time" glance.

Inspirational aside: My book is ready! I will do it! I will walk away with a few requests for a full MS. 

Notwithstanding, the conference is a wonderful chance to hone skills at selling yourself and your work.It starts Thursday night with the nerve-rattling "Pitch Practice with the Pros." From what I gather, it can be a humiliating experience in front of professionals and a large crowd. My anxiety spikes at the thought, but I have been crafting a pitch for it anyway. My crit group says it's too long and not enticing enough. My eraser is toast.

I will also see three other agents over the course of the weekend to pitch my book, Blood, Love & Steel. I've opted for group "consults," which is basically sitting around a hotel roundtable with seven other nervous writers who get three minutes each to grab a tired agent's attention for the coveted response, "Send me the full. Next." Oh, agents! I love you! You have to endure tedium and harassment by insecure egos for days on end.

Frankly, I haven't tried very hard to put my book out there. I queried about 10 agents a year ago. Got one to read it. Twice. She passed on my project but with such grace and timeliness that I couldn't hate her. She wrote plainspoken, helpful suggestions and got back to me when she said she would. Thank you for making my book better and my skin thicker.

For more info about the conference, click here. If you recognize me, stop and say hello. I'll be roaming the halls half-dazed with the rest of the wannabes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Books Are Not Dead

December, they say, is a tough month for noveling. That makes sense. But July is a tough month for blogging.  It's summer, for Pete's sake. No one wants to waste the daylight by staying indoors, especially not in Portland. 

I'm feeling a little rusty. Words have been slow to come lately. I haven't been reading much fiction either, but I still take time via email to look at several feeds about books and book selling. The latest news is that ebooks made huge gains in the last year. Sales for adult fiction jumped by a double-digit percentage. And writers are fighting for their digital royalties. Maybe I'll weigh in on the fight when I actually have digital royalties (chortle, snort).

Every writer seems to have an opinion about whether the book is dead. It's not. Won't be. Not in hardcopy or electronic form. People are reading. Am I blowing you away with my intellect? I'm basically a realist and not a futurist or naysayer. People want to be entertained, and increasingly, books are about the cheapest way to break away from bills and bad headlines. When an ebook is 99 cents or zero (granted, you have to own a pricey ereader first) or a nice paperback in a used bookstore is priced at a couple of bucks, people are still going to read.

I happened into a used bookstore recently with my daughter in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland and was happy to find a 2012 Portland Area Booksellers Directory. I snapped it up. I've been to several nice bookstores in the city, and here, by golly, was my ticket to more. I thought it would be nice to share the list online, and you can also check out the Portland Area Used Booksellers Association listing by browsing to www.pauba.org.

Downtown
Carmon's Books & Magazines on Third Ave., www.cameronbooks.com
CounterMedia on Oak St., on Twitter @CounterMedia
Daedalus Books on Flanders St., www.abebooks.com/home/daedalus
Old Oregon Bookstore on Morrison
Powell's City of Books on Burnside, www.powells.com

SE Portland
Bingo Used Books on Powell, www.bingousedbooks.com
Future Dreams on East Burnside
Hawthorne Boulevard Books on Hawthorne
Longfello's Bookstore on Division, www.longfellowspdx.com
Mother Foucault's Bookshop on SE Morrison
Murder by the Book on SE Hawthorne, www.mbtb.com
Paper Moon Books on Belmont
Powell's on Hawthorne, www.powells.com
Wallace Books on SE Milwaukie

North and NE Portland
Monograph Bookwerks near Alberta, www.monographbookwerks.com
Second Glance Books on Sandy, www.secondglancebooks.com
St. Johns Booksellers on Lombard
The Title Wave Used Bookstore on Knott, www.multcolib.org/titlewave/

Beaverton
Book Corner on 5th, www.thebookcorner.org
Powell's at Cedar Hills Crossing

Vancouver, WA
Cover to Cover Books on St. James Road, www.covertocoverbooks.net
Vintage Books on Mill Plain Blvd, www.Vintage-Books.com
Zephyr Used & Rare Books on Main St., www.abebooks.com/home/zephyrbooks/

Lake Oswego
Booktique on Mercantile Dr.

Several booksellers associated with PAUBA operate without a storefront. And this obviously isn't a comprehensive list. Portland is jammed with books and readers. If you'd like me to add your bookstore to the list, just ask. Happy browsing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Shifty Wicket

The wick on her candle
    dances on vowels,
 
Tumbles on syllables
    'til finally she growls.
 
She stares for a couplet,
    sublime and serene,
 
Begs of the wax
    to show her a scene.
 
Where lithe gods of words
    come out to play,
 
And sprinkle out stardust
    of black lead in sprays,
 
Upon her white journal,
    the lines empty now.
 
She's humbled by flame
    and brittle from drought.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Orbiting Writer's Planet

After sifting through my notes and thoughts, nothing seems blog-worthy. Some of you might call it writer's block. I prefer to call it orbiting writer's planet. I used to live on writer's planet. It was a place full of words and wonderful ideas, sheer excitement for great couplets of plot tied to poetic phrases. Except, I was jettisoned and find myself floating around the planet like a lost moon. The woman on the face of the moon has a pale face and wanting eyes and no arms for reaching. The moon can be a good place to observe the planet where the words flowed, because it demands of the moon lady some perspective. Was the planet beautiful, as beautiful as it seemed when she was living on it? If it was, how does she get back? She lives in a foreign atmosphere and waits for the air to become familiar.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bull Dog in a Zippered Fleece

It causes me to saunter,
rock on my haunch and pawnder.
A frightful parade, I wander,
         in a zipper and a collar.
Bought on sale for just a dollar.
       My dignity surely squandered.

*Written last winter after seeing a bulldog come out of a neighbor's house wearing a fleece of many colors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Little (Blue) Book

Indulge the scribbles from my pocket notebook. I've been carrying it around for about a year or more. I reread it the other day, and here are a few of the passages I'll throw out into the electronic ether, ideas I wrote to weave into novels:

Hate and prejudice are human characteristics but not a path to the divine.

pale yellow dress. the cream on top. sweet + smooth + flavorful.

What's the most important rule?

Hopeful, Inherent beings of joy and truth, arisen from mystery and bound to return to it.

This is good stuff -- reject it. Say good-bye and be thankful you are whole.

If you soften in the middle, have you gone bad? Push on the center and it stays indented--meaning the ideas and very core of you have somehow compressed and become lesser of importance and weight.

It was not her that I wanted, but the idea of her. The entrance into another place other than my own.

rumbles them into synchronicity

after death: compressed, lesser, lost, nodding in tout, pass-thru point, lament + lament + lament; a day, a month, a year, into howls and hollows of existence, a month or six.

Pendant stuck in the hollow of his throat.

Bowl-fill and spill, sometimes the sweet stuff, hopefully just the bitters.

The sun cast a thin shadow on his heart.

nudity, love juice, thrusting

And who will learn my wisdom, if not now?

His bones screamed the thousand deaths of a flooded world.

Hafiz: (paraphrased) The sun never turns to the earth and says: "You owe me." And such a love lights up the world.

Each of us holds a bit of truth that we can all take from.

I carry sorrow in the cup of my hands.

Who writes letters anymore for love--a soldier, a missionary, the incarcerated? (I read this in a newspaper)

The letter: the purest form of one-on-one communication.

Anonymous presence--an offering

Grief is on the other side of love. There is no grief without love.

The life within you is greater than the darkness. Hope is always available.

From my daughter: Your (sic) not alone when you got your phone.

Brine-black blood

slush, melodious, off-key, starlit eyes, bell-like voice, poetic, tranquility, reticent, eagerly, earthy, equilibrium, owlish, levitate

Pascal--the heart has its reasons, whereas reason knows nothing. 

I cannot claim all of these are my own unadulterated thoughts, and I've tried to include an attribution when I noted it in the book or remember the prompt. I hear and read things and write down an impression. My last entry was around the end of March. I need a new little (blue) book.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Phooey on Moby Dick

Visualize this: a log chipper and my copy of Moby Dick. In she goes. Halleluiah, I've given it up. No more rereading paragraphs that put me to sleep. No more fretting over my lack of enthusiasm. I officially will not, ever, in my lifetime, or within the span of eternity, finish Moby Dick.

Right now, it's sitting at the bottom of a stack of much better books (including Julian Barnes' Pulse, a collection of stories). It languishes alongside several others that I've read or am excited to read. I even added to that stack several self-help titles (which I hardly ever read *yawn*), and they were more exciting than Moby Dick.

I wasn't expecting excitement. I wasn't expecting it to be a page-turner. Heck, I didn't know what to expect, but whatever it didn't deliver, it didn't deliver. I understand everyone has an opinion. Share it if you want. I may go to literary hell for publicly pronouncing my blase attitude about Melville's classic work. It just didn't speak to me. It was self-torture to continue. I give myself permission not to go forth. Ah, that feels better.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

#Portlandbloggers, A Fashionable Set


My toes ache looking at these.

Shoe sample. Tights are important.
Sensible shoes? Oh please. When Portland Bloggers go out on a Saturday night, comfort is not in the cards. This group of gals is probably one of the better dressed crowds in the city. I can make that declaration because, frankly, walk the streets and you'll see the fashion in Portland is un-fashion. On purpose. Women make a calculated effort here not to look pretentious while pairing together layers, vintage accessories, outrageous fabrics and knits for a hint-of-hip look. Tweed? Got it. Tank in January? Slap on a scarf. Patterns on posies? Perfect. The outfits are so counter-intuitive, they work.
Olga, ever the blogging documentarian.
But Portland Bloggers dress better, with a definitive nod to NY coupled with an Oregon sensibility.

This has nothing to do with my regular topic, writing, you might argue. But I went to the Portland Blogger Meet-Up party Saturday night and had fun hanging with about 25 other women bloggers, despite feeling my age. I was probably the matron of the group, but hey, I got out my hippest shoes and babydoll dress and drank a really sweet cocktail, thanks to Jenni Bost, a Portland blogger who masterminded every detail.

She made us blog-gals feel special, complete with complimentary gifts, my first for writing this blog! I won a gift certificate to Nuvrei, a patisserie and cafe, and went home with beauty and home products from Blue Strawberry Scents, Radiant Cosmetics and meme & saysay. I guess that means I'm officially a lapdog for commerce. Soon, a personal assistant will be serving me latte. Now, if I could just get someone to buy my books.

Enjoy perusing the other ladies' blogs while I get back to the novels.
A Well-Crafted Party
Samantha Rosen
Garden of Edlen
Mandi Makes
The Confessions of a Product Junkie
Teenie Tiny Blog
Charmed in PDX
Vintage Glamorous
The Paper Mama
The Whim Wham Life
Adventures in Dressmaking
Grace and Stella
Vintage Pretty Pearl
One Stylish Day at a Time
Justine Elizabeth
Peony Sweet
Cosmopolitan Gem
The Portland Pretty
It's the Simple Moments that Stick



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Even Poets Suffer Typos

Darn the needles, crack the peanuts,
I blame my lot on screwy syntax,
scary prospects for the untested,
a faux-et whom no one's invested.

So I can't spell or use a colon,
semi- awful full of run-ons.
Find a hat trick in my spell check.
Erase the offense with a quick click.

Lick a stamp and send it somewhere
where the editors laugh and slumber
atop piles of other verses
drooling o'er the novice's curses:

Did I send it with a typo!?
Damn the jitters and the pinot.

A complete joker, need a smoke now.
I don't smoke, just hand me choco-
covered raisins, nuts and pretzels
until I climb out of this hell hole.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An Afternoon Scene

A sleeping dog and reading children,
the quiet hum of a heater.
The clock ticks.
My eyes ache and blink from the story underneath.
The four corners of the room fill with shadow.
And I am its chronicler.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Crossing Over

When does a writer start being a writer? From the minute she drafts a few lines? From the minute she is finished with a novel? When she decides she isn't quitting? When she is published? I have no professional test to take, no sweating out the LSAT, no intense medical board interview. I simply must show up. Press keys on an instrument or scrawl pen across paper and create a story/poem/essay to read. Oh, that makes it sound so easy. The real hurdles are everywhere, especially in my mind.

I've resisted calling myself a writer; I've been a journalist. Up until a few months ago, I didn't answer "I'm a writer" when people asked my occupation. But then I sent a revised/revised/revised manuscript to an agent, and seeing it stacked on my dining room table, a heap several inches thick, the visual struck me. Then I sent another manuscript to readers; again, the weight of the pages was proof. Yes, I am a writer.

Still. Am I a writer? Do I have to make money at it? The writing gurus say I need to write and persevere. And I do write. A lot.

Today, I spoke with David Biespiel of The Attic, an adviser at an educational center for writers in Portland. I took advantage of a free one-on-one consultation. I hadn't sent David any background on what kind of writing I do, so he let me prattle on. Basically, after I told him the projects I'd started and the progress I'd made and the groups I'd hooked into, he said, "Sounds like you're doing everything you're supposed to." And, he's right.

I study; I practice; I practice some more. I read work in front of friends and send it to editors; I critique and get critiqued. I read books of all kinds. I lower my expectation. I shoot for higher ones. I fall flat on rejections and get back up and retool. The hardest part is convincing myself to keep on--that it'll all pay off.

Or not. But that's business. I've felt like I started this writing life in a haze of delirium, excited about a daydream, and I just kept paddling. I've been in fog and still waters. Now, I see the other side, and over there, onshore is the treasure that got me in the boat in the first place. The words. They keep coming, and the bank is closer than ever.


Monday, March 19, 2012

The Self-Publishing Debate and the Clock

One of my chief principles is never to make a serious decision without giving it three days of consideration. It's the Three Day Rule. I'm making an exception concerning my decision of how to publish. Instead of three days, it's three years.

The flux in the publishing industry is maddening. The speed of change has everyone on edge. I ran across this great transcript of four hardcore insiders talking about traditional publication. If you decide to read it, better to do so with: a) alcohol handy; b) an hour set aside for vigorous exercise afterward; or c) a baseball bat. What struck me the most is how subjective the traditional route to publication can be. Of course I knew that, but I didn't want it to be true. (BTW, I chose b, but c was a close second.)

Then there is the ever-raging conversation among writers about going indie. Why and who and when and what for, on every blog (now this one, too.) Trish Gentry posted a recent essay of her thinking behind the self-release of her work. The piece also opens a dialogue about whether Amazon should charge indie authors upfront to upload books.

Gentry's post made me want to assess my own feelings about this issue. My emotions are mixed. Every writer wants validation somehow, whether by attracting an agent, publisher or readers. How I become published may boil down to why I write. In my better moments, when I write for joy, then my ideas about how to publish lead me in one direction (let it live, I don't care how). If I want outside validation and the potential for greater commercial success, I stay the traditional course.

But time is becoming more of a critical deciding factor. There’s a point of diminishing return, both financially (how long can I take myself and my family down this path) and emotionally (how long can I take myself and my family down this path).

I believe traditional routes to publication suffer because the process takes much too long to discover, edit and publish books. The decision-making is also highly subjective (again, see baseball bat post), and although many high-quality books come out of it, traditional publication is by no means the stamp of quality 100% of the time.

For me, it's boiling down to a question of tolerance. How long do I keep pursuing the brass ring? I have to ask myself: "Why not self-publish if I believe in my work, have vetted it thoroughly (at my own expense) and take responsibility for good/bad reviews/sales?" At times, the alternative route doesn't seem so distasteful. Quite the opposite, self-publishing looks idyllic.

How much longer should I wait it out? That's complicated, too. If I use the Three Year Rule, is it three years from the point I began querying or the point I began writing? Either way, the clock is ticking.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Smallpressapalooza #PDX

It's a rare occurrence to be able to hear the work of a dozen outstanding writers for free in one night. Smallpressapalooza, held Monday at Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland, kept a nice-sized crowd happy for four hours. Poets, memoirists and novelists traveled from as far as Kansas, Illinois and NYC to celebrate Small Press Month, a loosely promoted awareness campaign by the nation's tiny publishers.

Kevin Sampsell, the avowed "small press champion" at Powell's, organized the fifth annual event, to promote small presses and their talent. He works double time, no, make that triple time, by running his own small press, Future Tense Publishing, and by writing. His lineup of writers was noteworthy, at times hilariously odd and often, moving.

Although a champion for the little guy, Sampsell has earned success as a writer with a memoir published by Harper Perennial, A Common Pornography. He's working something else up while he juggles his duties at Powell's and Future Tense. He says Future Tense tries to put out about 3-4 works a year, and he is actually discouraging submissions right now. But, he does find good stuff in the slush still. (I recommend checking the website. It's cool even if you aren't submitting.)

The lineup of readers offered a lot of variety. It included several who began their publishing debuts in zines, including Elly Blue, who publishes palm-sized chapbooks and writes a blog about bicycling with a feminist twist. A little flushed, she read a section of one of her books about how women should care for their vulvas as cyclists. It left very little to the imagination. But, hey, where else can a female biker find guidance like that?

I'll mention three others who stood out for me during the evening. I attended with a friend and didn't know whether we'd stay all evening but ended up revved to the last reader. My friend had different favorites, but here are the ones I'm still thinking about four days out:

Diana Salier is a poet who just moved from San Fran to Portland two weeks ago. She read from a book of poetry called wikipedia says it will pass and a new one, which was delayed at the printer. I'll admit, I flipped through the royal-blue chapbook before she read and didn't get the same hit as when she spoke. She was very powerful. Blunt and chunky poetry. Her brief bio on her webpage gives the flavor: "diana salier is a musician // person who writes. she wrote wikipedia says it will pass and letters from robots. she is wearing striped pajamas."

The next author, Zach, published under the name Anonymous, read from his book called Love is Not Constantly Wondering If You're Not Making the Biggest Mistake of Your Life. It is a pick-your-own-adventure book, whereby the reader is offered choices at the end of each section to progress. Its subject matter is a relationship crumbling because of a girlfriend's alcoholism. I approached Zach after his reading because the work was so moving, I wanted to tell him. He didn't want his name on the book because he was afraid his mom (he's from NY) would find out and be disappointed in his own choices. But the work is good and nothing to be ashamed of (Zach's mom: If you ever find out, don't worry. Your son's got talent). He's sold 500 books so far and is working on something else. Don't let the cover of the book under-represent the contents.

Finally, Randy Blazak rounds out my top three, partly because his reading was pretty hilarious and he looked like he had probably been a hair-band groupie at one point. Needless to say, his novel, released last November, Mission to the Sacred Heart a Rock Novel, is about an obsession with ELO, Electric Light Orchestra, and the churnings of a young Portland sophisticate. ELO is cool, so I could relate. He was animated and disarming, as was his writing. Nothing like the dry persona his bio suggests, a PhD in sociology who teaches at Portland State.

I feel fortunate to live in a place that nurtures and celebrates talent in all corners. I'm looking forward to next year.



Thursday, March 8, 2012

Writers Write Here, There, Everywhere

Writers write. But how much and how often are questions new writers want answered by the pros.

I've absorbed many stories of writers' "practices." Looking for the one that fits you? Well, you'll have to figure that out solo. Here are some of the more interesting ones I know (I usually forget which writers they apply to):

At a conference, one author, who was writing before a panel, said that he wrote whenever he had 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes, that's all. Whenever the opportunity popped up. Add the minutes over the course of a day, and bah-boom, a book is drafted in a few months.

I heard a novelist speak recently who is a "marathon" writer. Sits and writes for 16 hours straight then takes a few days off. She's finished with a book in about three months.

Stephen King, I've heard tell (could be specified in his book about writing), is a 4/4: four hours of writing paired with four hours of reading each day. He took years (something akin to a decade or longer) to write his newest book, 11/22/63: A Novel. On again, off again, and the job eventually gets done.

One of the biggie names in romance closets herself off from fall to spring, not even bothering with the clock. She takes the summers off. Another biggie writes every day, eight hours a day, and never takes a day off.

Then there is the writes-rather-than-sleeps crowd. Up at 2, write until 5, 6, 7. Or something to that effect. Do it over again in the morning. Honestly, I'd bust a blood vessel and forget my name.

Yesterday, I saw a post about Jonathan Franzen. He hasn't written in 26 months. Ouch. But, he can afford it.

Me? I write when I get the urge and can't set it aside. It comes pretty often. I'm glad for the gift. Long-hand or computer, either will work. I wish I had more time, but bills, kids, life in general, has an insideous way of distracting me.

What about you?

(psst--Any errors of fact are my own. Corrections are appreciated.)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My Convo with the Devil

He showed up on the screen a second time in a bowling shirt.

"Where's the Armani?" I typed an asterisk in my Word doc and enlarged the Skype screen to full view. "And Skype? What happened to the hologram?"

"I like to stay current." He grinned, the Grinch kind. He began tossing the keys in front of the camera. "Looking for these?"

"It'd be nice to have them back, but I thought, you know, at least you'd give me a year or two, maybe even five before you exercised the clause. Huh?"

His laugh shook my computer and made the screen sizzle. "You didn't specify. Aren't you still writing? Feeling it? Pouring out the words? I read them every day."

"No fair. That wasn't part of the deal."

"But no one's harshing your word count."

Harshing my word count? Bowling shirt? Skype? A lot had changed in a year. "Very hipster of you." I blanked on more chit-chat to stall.

He kept tossing. "Now, the way I see it," (was there any other way with him?), "you still owe me."

"But you've got the keys. What else of mine could you possibly want?"

"It's more complicated than spending a few eons here later," he said. picking a tooth with a long fingernail. "When you get published, you'll need to give me a token while you're still alive. Freebies aren't my style."

Hell (no pun intended), he could read my work, steal my soul and waltz into my computer at any time. What else did he need? A pinkie finger? A roll in the sack? Weird. I preferred neither. "I've already promised you my afterlife."

"I want recognition."

"Come again?" Footnote in Word doc: Devil = slithery egotist + persuasive + able to damn for eternity. Divide by self-esteem issues. Subtotal = leverage for the crafty negotiator.

"Then I get an exit clause."

"You do?" He grinned, again with a wide, creepy glint. "Name it."

I had to be quick or his sudden good graces would vanish.

"If you maintain my output, AND I get a six-figure advance, AND I sell 200,000 in my first run, AND I am reviewed decently in the NYT Book Review, I'll let you write your own dedication for the second run and the follow-up books. All of them. But, I get the keys back after book three."

He stopped tossing and tapped on the screen, making my bones cringe. He nodded: Certainly.

"Do we need to sign that in blood or something?" Sweat soaked my armpits.

"You watch too much YouTube."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Rules to Break

Romance novels are designed for a specific audience. Namely, my mom, who reads romance. She'll read a book a week. She wants a story that's easy to get in to, isn't too complicated, is full of steamy scenes and promises a good plot. She doesn't care much for details or strong writing or getting caught up in the heads of the characters. She likes the bad guys to be bad, the good guys to be sexy and the women to end up with them.

To reach Mom and the many other readers like her, writers are expected to adhere to certain expectations:

The boy and girl must meet ASAP.
They can't be married/attached to someone else. Read: no infidelity.
They must spend most of the book together.
Heavy themes, like suicide, are better left out.
The women must be overwhelmingly strong.
And, a Happily Ever After ending is imperative.

I didn't write such a book. I wrote something more akin to Historical Fan Fiction, if there is such a genre, with a strong romantic element. I wrote a book with fewer fairy-tale qualities than "ever after." Swashbuckling, yes. Pumpkin carriages, not so much. I want men to read my book. Definitely. The sex is not gratuitous but a crucial part of the storyline. I'm told my rule-breaking will make selling the story more difficult.

Will it? Hmm, once it's published, readers can decide if it is satisfying. Did my mom read it? Of course. And that's a therapy session in the works.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It Came in the Night

The dishes will toast.
The dust bunnies will mingle.
The socks will eat their young.
The beds will make whoopie.
The laundry will pucker.
The vacuum will sulk.
Let them.
The words are hungry.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Words to Write By

From writer Gary Lutz:

"...there needs to be an intimacy between the words, a togetherness that has nothing to do with grammar or syntax but instead has to do with the very shapes and sounds, the forms and contours, of the gathered words. This intimacy is what we mean when we say of a piece of writing that it has a felicity—a fitness, an aptness, a rightness about the phrasing. The words in the sentence must bear some physical and sonic resemblance to each other—the way people and their dogs are said to come to resemble each other, the way children take after their parents, the way pairs and groups of friends evolve their own manner of dress and gesture and speech. A pausing, enraptured reader should be able to look deeply into the sentence and discern among the words all of the traits and characteristics they share. The impression to be given is that the words in the sentence have lived with each other for quite some time, decisive time, and have deepened and grown and matured in each other’s company—and that they cannot live without each other."

See full text of his speech to Columbia University, The Sentence is a Lonely Place.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feeling Feisty

My tools.
Nice word: Feisty. Mix a decent mood with a shaker of belligerence, a tablespoon of cat-scratch and a dollop of uppity, and Tah Dah, FEISTY.

Can't say why I feel feisty today, except that: 1) I've found a Portland critique group to join after months of searching; 2) I've discovered a friendly local writer who has a webpage full of resources to help others; and 3) I generally want to quash all negativity. I wish I had the kind of personality that prevents bad thoughts from seeping under the ball cap (wearing mine now. GO UB!). I've got a psychobabble friend who says it's okay to have an open mind. Generally, staying open to ideas is a positive attribute. But, she says, be careful who you let come in and sit on your mind couch and eat chips.

"Hey, you prickly, devil-horned editor who says my writing is graduate-school dribble. Take a hike!" Whew, that was easy. Better yet, treat the couch hog like a blood-sucking vampire (no, I don't write about vampires), and refuse them welcome in the first place.

Okay, time for a little self-assessment of why I want to continue clawing (see, cat-scratching comes in handy) for a career as a writer:

--I've written some books. Hey, that was fun.
--I have way too many ideas for several more. Whoa, Silver. (I loved the Lone Ranger as much as parenthetical material).
--I could actually get paid to do this someday.
--I almost care less if I get paid to do this someday. Emphasis on the almost.
--I love filling up spiral notebooks and reading things I like in them later.
--Writing makes me happy.

So, on with the feisty show, and maybe a few words worth a few cents. This one's gratis.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Keep Writing

Quotes to keep the pen on paper, pads on keyboard:

Write what horrifies you, write what charms you, write what repels you, write what you love, write, to be aphoristic, what you cannot stop yourself from writing.

Yes, you will have to find “your voice,” and yes, you will have to learn the craft of writing, which is endlessly demanding and so varied that you will probably never feel you are more than a clumsy student. And don’t limit yourself to study only the craft necessary to produce your particular kind of writing ...
But all of those necessary skills are servants to your Lord and Master: write what you cannot stop yourself from thinking about, even if it disgusts everyone you know. Readers read to subsume their consciousness, for a profound but limited time, into another’s. Some want reassurance, some want challenge. Some want pleasant lies, some painful realities. You may be unlucky and be fated to have a small audience. That’s too bad. (By the way, it is the fate of almost every writer.)  

Over time, if you work hard and write what obsesses you, there will be readers who will want to live in your peculiar universe, and precisely because what you have provided is rare they will be all the more grateful for your creation. -- Rafael Yglesias, American novelist

What I try to do with myself is just avoid the success or failure thing. Because there is so much about writing that is out of the writer's control. Not the action of doing it, but whether it comes alive or not. If I begin thinking in terms of failure, what happens is I get really depressed, and the game is over, because I've already decided. -- David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008, author of Infinite Jest

We both have a passionate and joyfully reckless belief that a simple act of creativity can better the world in wildly unexpected ways. -- Grant Faulkner, new executive director of NaNoWriMo, speaking of his predecessor, Chris Baty


Monday, January 23, 2012

Poets are Riff-Raff

I don't like the poets I don't get.
The BS is thick, so the common folk won't take the time to understand.

The tidy anti-intellectual class wants burgers and guns and idols like us
who make the TV a place we could take over,
on the way to moneydom.

Who gives a flip if I write a poem worth a blog,
or an anthology book,
or a coffeehouse nook.

Just give me the coffee, for Christ's sake,
and I'll read the New Yorker, page 52,
and snivel. That one, I got.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

goD/doG is My Co-Pilot

This universe is small enough to contact the creator.

I'll ask s/he/Id/ohm if dog is a benevolent stand-in, a nuzzle, a lick,
a padded paw on the emergency stick
when we spiral into the ravine.

Or is dog a metaphor for 'You're on your own.'
'Hug 'em if you got 'em.'
'Fur is cheap and so is this bumper sticker.'

My first take on goD/doG was silliness*
scribbled on the back of a scrap from the recycling bin
in the postage place/weigh station/point-of-all-outgoing light.**

The piece of paper was a letter from another writer,
Two lines of which read:***
So leave the worldly thoughts behind
and find the truth that is for you within yourself at this time.
You're all messengers the same as I.

I did not contact the creator.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My Ubiquitous Year-End List of the Inane

After such a multi-syllabic headline, of course you're burning to know what's top on my mind as we enter 2012. My intention was to avoid the list. The tube (the namesake, not the You version) mucked up my brain. Here goes:

Top 10 Useless Things I Learned From Cable TV Over Christmas

10. Shaq retired in 2011. He's got a dry sense of humor and an ego that doesn't get in the way of a ride on a pink plastic toddler's car for gags.

9. People are still trying to jump motorcycles (and snowmobiles) Evel Knievel-style. I think they drank too much Red Bull.

8. Most newscasters on local TV news stations are 20 years younger than me. Yikes.

7. Move over American Chopper. Hello, Sons of Guns.

6. A program called Live Sex is available on pay per view. In the Midwest. The rural Midwest. I'm talking at Grandma's. (Here's the address to write your congressman ... oh, who's kidding who?)

5. The New York Times was right. Lady Gaga can't dance.

4. The more reality TV shows are on the air, the less--I want to write believable, but they were never believable--they are.

3. Dick Clark is alive and almost looks younger than me. But he's not on local TV news.

2. David Letterman is married, has a child and continues to do the Top 10 every night on his show.

1. Cable TV still isn't worth watching.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On Writing and Being Selfish

Writing is a selfish act. Maybe not the most selfish but pretty darn close. (Did I actually write darn?) Of the occupations which could be considered selfish (and un-lucrative), I'd place writing up there with narcissism and politics. Oh, right. Narcissism isn't an occupation; it's more a pre-occupation. True, too, most members of Congress are millionaires.That confirms it. Writing is the most selfish and un-lucrative.

It's selfish because I get to daydream and not care about whether I shower. Or clean the kitchen. Or swab the toilets. I'm too busy chasing plot lines and figuring out ways to make my characters a little bit more interesting. I love them. In deeply complex ways. They are people I think about only a fraction less than real flesh-and-blood types.

I snap out of it a little during the holidays, hence my lack of posts in December. But I'm still writing in my head. Thinking about words and phrases for later. Scribbling notes to myself to change a scene or to add a line of dialogue. Writers talk about the "glaze" they get when they're doing this. "Are you listening?" is a question I get frequently when I have trouble turning off the spin cycle upstairs, and I'm not talking about laundry. (Can you tell I'm past the honeymoon with my dirty socks?)

Another comment I hear is "Oh, you're gonna make a million bucks." I nod. And laugh. Then cry a little on the inside because those chances are about as good as me becoming president. Wait. I think I could actually become president. A published author? Mmm, maybe. I'll keep you posted.