26 August 2012

The Balancing Act

I strive to have balance between my work life and my personal life. It's part of why I've chosen the career I have. There are many skills I possess that could be translated into a career where I would make more money. But those jobs usually require 20-30 more hours/week.

I'd rather spend that time writing.

Lately, due to all the hullabaloo going on with work, I've felt work responsibilities creeping into my private time, starting with my last vacation. Sometimes it's a phone call (or two or three), sometimes it's a text (or ten), sometimes it's going in early, sometimes it's going home late.

Wednesday morning I got up and started working on my novel. Just when I was hitting a good groove I got a text and then another and soon I was leaving early to begin my work day and my writing time was lost. I guess I should have left my phone silenced in the other room.

The rest of the week I was just flat out too tired from physical therapy and work to even think about sitting down at the computer.

I don't think things are going to calm down much until the new year, with the exception of some vacation next week and a long weekend in October. I fear this year's NaNoWriMo will be the biggest challenge yet.

I think what I need to do is figure out some boundaries. Work out some time in my calendar that is strictly mine. No internet. No iPhone. Nothing but me and the words on the screen.

19 August 2012

An Argument in the Printed vs. Electronic Debate

There is a reason I will always treasure paper made books over their e counterparts. Like last April when I was working on my poetry project. I kept stumbling upon little treasures tucked away in the pages.

A ticket stub.
A handmade bookmark made by a friend 12 years ago.
A note written by my brother when he was just learning to write asking me if I want to play car store with him.
Old bus tickets.
An image cut out of a magazine.
The introduction I wrote for an author event I hosted.
There were so many clues left behind from yesterdays. I wonder what it would be like to tell a story not only about the books in a person's library, but also the treasures dwelling within those books.

And then there are stories like the one from last week, the ones that wouldn't be the same without the physical.

But first, a little history.

I had started back to college a bit earlier than most of my friends for RA training and was left with some free time on my hands. I went to the bookstore to pick up books for my classes, thinking I would read a few of my required novels early and give myself a break later in the semester. While I was there I stumbled upon a thin paperback. Non-fiction. A memoir. I remembered that a friend had recently been talking about it and how much she had enjoyed the book, so I bought it. I read it in one sitting and I loved it. I have carried it around with me (from state to state, home to home) for the past 15 years.

That book was Chelsea Cain's Dharma Girl. It has been out of print for quite a few years now.

In 2005 I picked up a new book that had just come into the bookstore. It was called Confessions of a Teen Sleuth and was a lovely story about how Nancy Drew was real and how that bitch, Carolyn Keene, had stolen her story. It was delightful, funny, and filled with references to childhood mysteries. It wasn't right away that I made the connection that this was the same author of the book I loved.

Two years later I was in the office at work when I spotted a white book with a red bloody hand print tucked inside an "evidence" bag. "Case # Heartsick, Item # Cain, Chelsea." I snagged it, read it, loved it.

Now it's five years later and it's the launch of the fifth Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell (the Beauty Killer) book at Powell's. I'd been meaning to have her sign Dharma Girl for a long time, but I either forgot to bring it or decided not to. I have this thing (a courtesy?) where I really only like to have the author sign one book or maybe two. Since I had decided to buy the e-book for her latest, Kill You Twice, I didn't have it for her to sign.

So I finally brought Dharma Girl and smiled when someone asked her if she had a favorite book she'd written and she told the story of Dharma Girl. We didn't have to wait in the signing line long (thanks to my professional training) and when it was my turn, I handed her the book and told her a bit of the story about finding it in my college bookstore all those years ago and following along ever since.

She seemed hesitant to sign it and seemed surprised when I told her I wanted it personalized. This is as rare book (she has declined the opportunities to have it reprinted) and I knew it would be worth more if it only had a signature and not my name.

But I don't buy books in the hopes that they'll be worth more some day. I don't have them signed because I hope to resell them. They aren't a monetary investment for me and I hope they never will be. I go to readings to support the authors I love, to listen to their stories, to renew whatever it is that drives me to write.

So I asked her to put my name in it. She hesitated, her daughter beside her, distracting, as she contemplated what to say. I watched the pen in her hand as she stalled on the start of what words to alter the title page of my pristine paperback. I imagined what was going through her head. I noticed her eyes get a little teary.

I think, in the end, what she wrote was perfect.

Ultimately, it is stories like these that break my heart when I think about e-books. It's why I still buy so many printed ones myself (or sometimes both). It's nice to have the physical reminders of the stories we read and the books that meant so much. It's nice to flip through the pages and find hidden reminders of the past. It's nice to hand the book to a friend and say, "Read this, I think you'll really like it."

A sampling of my Chelsea Cain Collection

Found in my copy of Naomi Shihab Nye's Words Under the Words

13 August 2012

The End of a Vacation

I wish all the mornings could begin in the shade of a sunny patio with a dog sitting at your feet, the neighbor's chickens clucking, and a gentle breeze freshening up the world. For now, I'll just be grateful this one does.

There is a certain sadness that comes from the last day of vacation. And this day, for me, is no exception. The last eight days have been exactly what I needed and I have no doubt today will be as well. The hammock is set up in the backyard and I've finally started reading Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. So far it is as brilliant as everyone says it is. I think I've a pretty good idea where this day is headed.

I don't think I left the city limits once on this vacation and I drove my car as little as possible, opting for my own two feet and my scooter. I slept in. I stayed up late. I watched Doctor Who and Dawson's Creek. I went out to eat. I went to physical therapy.

And I wrote.

Every single day.

I put many, many hours into my manuscript and enjoyed (almost) every one. I cut out words, sentences, paragraphs, pages. If it didn't work, it was gone. I wrote new words, new paragraphs, new pages. This new draft will probably be around a hundred pages shorter than the last and will be different in many ways, but at its heart it will be much truer to what I'd always intended.

It's a very good place to be.

This fall's calendar is already full of exciting and fun adventures. Amanda Palmer, David Levithan, trips to the beach, a new/old store and the chance to work with some wonderful new-to-me people as well as some brilliant old ones. I get to hang out with Libba Bray (for work! I'm beyond excited!). And so much more.

In but a blink, I have no doubt it will be November. By then I hope to put this current project to bed, where it can rest until the new year. Then, I hope SWHOT (or whatever it's called by then) will be ready to transition from the business of writing to the business of querying.

05 August 2012

Goals, Conferences, and Vacations...

The house is shuttered up. All the windows shielded from the sun as I watch the mercury ascend. Chores are nearly done and I have settled in the library with an iced coffee +*.  This is the first day of my staycation vacation. I love the lightness that comes from knowing I have an entire week to myself, this long string of days lined up before me, perched on such possibility.

This past week has been busy and filled with a great deal of running around. The last two days have been spent helping sell books at the Willamette Writers Conference. It was a fascinating time of people watching and eavesdropping. When an agent would stop by I'd google them to see more about who they were and what types of work they represent. I was annoyed by authors who didn't understand why we didn't have their book (because of course we should have had their book!) and I was delighted by the enthusiasm of people coming out of workshops and pitches, excited by the work ahead.

One of the highlights was when a woman in her 80's pitched her novel to us while we were eating lunch. Her assignment had been to find a dozen people to practice her pitch on and when she found us she thought she could get three out of the way at once (I didn't have the heart to tell her that she was kind of missing the point). I don't know if her novel is very good, her pitch was a bit rambling and convoluted and didn't exactly pique my interest, but I admired her spirit and her determination.

I have a lot of goals for this week for me and my manuscript. Last week I got to rewrite a really difficult scene (which I know still needs quite a bit of fine tuning...) and I got to write a brand new scene (which was very exciting to do and does so much for the story!). So if you're looking for me, odds are I'll be tucked away somewhere cool, staring at a back-lit screen as my fingers tap away at the keys.

Or at physical therapy.

*I mean alcohol.