31 August 2011

Homes Away From Home

Roughly a year ago, my favorite of all the neighborhood coffee establishments (of which there are several...this is Portland after all) went out of business. I was devastated. They made incredible espresso drinks and wonderful food. It was the best place to sit and write and I loved going there when I needed to get out of the house.

While I can write at home (most of my novels have been written there), sometimes it's good to get out of your most familiar surroundings to shake things up. If I'm experiencing what is most commonly known as Writer's Block, I find it helpful to go for a walk, get some exercise, or just change venues. It's nice to have a place close to home so you don't spend too much time traveling back and forth. My cafe was all that and more. A great table to work at with plenty of windows to watch the people on the street passing by and handy outlets to recharge.

Since then, I've been feeling homeless. There are plenty of great places within 1-4 miles of my home, but no single place that I've felt like settling. It's been a difficult quest.

Today I'm working from "home" on employee reviews. I tried to work in the store yesterday, but in the two hours I set aside I got virtually nothing done due to all the interruptions...the phone calls, the visitors, the questions. I decided I could be much more productive anywhere else and so I've taken advantage of the freedom to work elsewhere. In the same period of time I've managed to accomplish 4 times the amount of work.

I left the house with no clear direction of where I was going to end up, just that I wanted to try something different. There is one neighborhood place I hadn't tried yet, mainly because they close up at 2pm and that's not always the most convenient. I decided to give them a try.

I can't decide if this is home or not. The coffee is Stumptown, one of my absolute favorites, and the food was good, though rather on the pricey side of the spectrum. The table is wobbly, but the staff is pleasant. The ceilings are high and the outlets are plentiful. I don't dislike it, but at the same time, it hasn't been head over heels.

Which makes me think about my husband, the truest of all my homes. I knew my husband for years before I ever dreamed that we would get married. Some loves take longer than others.

Maybe I just need to give it some time.

29 August 2011

On Reading and Writing

Over the past two or three weeks I've been reading Stephen King's book On Writing. I know I've mentioned at one time or another (in some place or another) that I've had a copy of this book since before it was published. I got an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) at work and since I considered myself a curious writer, I snagged the copy and allowed it to gather dust on my bookcase for over eleven years and through 2 apartments and 2 houses until I finally picked it up. Several writers (whose opinions I respect) mentioned this book and it just got to the point where I couldn't ignore it any longer, especially when the hardest thing I had to do to read it was pull it off from the shelf where my writing books live.

Side note: I DO organize my books at home in a way similar to how books are organized at work. My husband has kept me from buying a labeling machine so that I can also label the shelves. I think this is probably for the best.

I've never been a huge Stephen King fan. For awhile, I think I may have been a bit snobby in my attitude. He's not exactly an author who came up as required reading in any of my Literature (with a capital "L") classes in college. As I've been exposed to more than the academic world of books I've come to realize that really, it's just that I'm not a fan of reading books that have the possibility to scare the shit out of me. It's just not the kind of stories that appeal to me. Now, having said all that, reading this book on writing that Stephen King has written, I am finding myself with a genuine interest in reading one of his novels other than The Eyes of the Dragon which was given to me as a gift.

I am honestly finding that this book is coming to me at just the right time in my writerly life. There are things that are really good for me to read and think about right now as I begin the editing process in earnest. There are things that are encouraging to read as I think about what my next book is going to be about (and I think I actually may have started writing it!). There are moments where I can't help but grab my pencil and underline a sentence or two, draw a smiley face, or an exclamation point.

I've long held the feeling that books often find you at a time when you're meant to read them. Maybe this is just my way of not feeling guilty over the years for the books that I've taken home and not read because something more interesting came along and distracted me.  But more likely, I do believe it's true. There have been books I've picked up that held no interest for me at one time and then later have turned out to be one of my favorites. And vice versa, there have been books that I've absolutely adored at one point, but when I've picked them up for a second read have had no idea why I even liked them in the first place.

I feel grateful that I have found Mr. King's book in this place and this time. I have too many passages I'd like to share, things that I feel are on the right track for my writing style and my thoughts on writing. For this post, I'll try to limit myself to just one...

"If there is any one thing I love about writing more than the rest, it's that sudden flash of insight when you see how everything connects."

I too, love those moments. It's when the momentum starts building and you can barely get the words out fast enough that writing really gets to be exciting. Who knew sitting alone in a room with a keyboard could be such a thrill?

24 August 2011


Back in the late winter/early spring of 2004 I went to my first Josh Ritter show. It was a joint venture with Nellie McKay and it was at my absolute favorite venue for live music in PDX, the Aladdin Theater. The show was quite a ways off from being sold out, the seats half empty or half full, depending on your perspective. Hello Starling had recently been released and I had listened to a few samples at work and purchased the cd in anticipation of the concert.

I had no idea what I was in for. It was one of those wonderful concert attending moments when the actual experience blows away any expectations you may have had. When he played "Harrisburg"  for the first time, I got goosebumps. Literally and figuratively. I was mesmerized by this musician. I was in awe of his smile, the way he genuinely seemed to enjoy what he was doing, the music. I felt joy and inspiration rise up within me. All I wanted to do was go home and write.

A good concert always does this to me, fills me with a surge of inspiration. It's probably why I prefer to listen to music when I write. Writing is at once a very lonely profession and one filled with companions. When I am full on into a story, when my characters are alive and telling me their tales, I feel far from alone.

Sometimes I'll use the music to guide my emotions. If I have an incredibly emotional scene that I'm working on, I know how to pull myself into that mood by choosing the right album. The same is true if I'm working on something happy, silly, or romantic.

I have seen Josh Ritter perform more times than I can keep track of and have had the pleasure of meeting such a truly kind human being on several of those occasions.  I buy every new album sound unheard and purchased his recent novel the day it was released. I adore and admire the way he plays with words, the way he captures stories, the way he smiles. It's artists like him that keep me feeling both motivated and inspired to keep on trying, to find that joy in what I do.

23 August 2011

The Blank Page

I have been experimenting with different blog sites and different blog options. I am still uncertain where and when I'll settle into one particular blog home, but for now, I can't stand the thought of having this site out there, representing me, without a little something on it.

This morning is a gray, cool, late summer morning and I have a list of things to do as long as my elbow to my wrist. Zelda, my dog, is sleeping behind me, my husband asleep in the bedroom, the Neighbors Who Shall Not Be Named are up making noise before 8am simply because they wish to annoy me. I'm pretty sure that's true.

Instead I try to listen to the sounds of the birds in the backyard trees, the tapping of the keys on the keyboard as I type, the fan in the other room. I love the way the breeze slips in through the open window. I love that this day, even with its list of things to do is still filled with opportunity. There are books to be read, words to be written, good meals and great conversations to be had.

Right now this blog is in its infancy, A blank page looking to be filled with thoughts, ideas, images, words. Right now, you and I are the only ones who know this.  I haven't told anyone else. Sometimes it's nice having secrets. Some things are nice to savor quietly, discreetly.