Thursday, April 30, 2009

Map your sin

What? You thought I was kidding? Would be kind of interesting to use that map in a book - 7 characters in the 7 main areas around the country or something like that. 

Looked at the calendar and freaked out - everything for school is due in a few weeks. I have to get busy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

up and running!

No, not me. Though I did go for a 4 mile hike first thing this morning. In another piece of synchronicity, I found this piece on close reading. Nice segue to:

It's the launch of Annotation Nation! (cue applause) Kate Maruyama and I are beginning to post annotations and will soon expand. We found annotating books, mostly novels, helpful for our writing. This is not close reading for literary criticism, but as a tool for writing. Hope you enjoy.
Want to feel better? First, turn off the news, then go here.

I took yesterday to go to a taping, then out to dinner with friends.  Back to work.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

L.A. Festival of Books

I vote for football. I concede it was perfect weather for the Festival of Books. Not hot, nice breeze, a little on the cool side. But I hate crowds and it was crowded. The first panel was fine, mostly thanks to David WroblewskiThey each read for a couple of minutes from their books - he also read the best, but I imagine he's also had the most practice. Here are a few of his nuggets: without an element of artifice, fiction doesn't feel real; he likes the narrative tool of a good observer; the elementary structure of the novel is a braid. Plot is a tool for taking stories apart, not creating them - if you use it to create it's like knitting with chainsaws (nice image). A novel = unnaturally long story. And from Joan Silber: plot is about how the writer thinks the world works. Bear in mind, this is a general public event, not one directed at writers.  
Wroblewski recommended So Long See you Tomorrow by William Maxwell. Joan Silber recommended Remembering Babylon by David Malouf.

The second panel was an interview and it was pretty dull. I won't name names. I sat there wondering why I was there listening to some mediocre questions on writing instead of going home to work on the novel. So I'm home now after getting jostled by crowds, eating a mediocre $7 cheeseburger and paying $3.75 for a bottle of water because I forgot mine at home.  I couldn't face two more panels, even if they were spectacular.

I guess it boils down to the fact that I get enough of writers talking about writing in grad school. Time to write.
p.s. The San Diego Chargers picked Larry English. Maybe this will finally be the year.


I seem to recall that this happens regularly: the NFL Draft and the L.A. Festival of Books are on the same weekend. This is a problem for me because I love both books and football. Yes, it's possible. Anyway, I'm going to the book fest. I have tickets for 4 of the panels. And I'll settle for the highlights on the NFL network

Lot of trouble with my right shoulder - a problem for a right-handed writer. Maybe it's dehydration. I had a quart last night and a couple of glasses of water this morning and it's easing up. That's when you just feel foolish. Oh, water. Okay.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

win win

Just got my free cone from Ben & Jerry's in Burbank - barely a line, chocolate fudge brownie ice cream and they were collecting for a charity. How outstanding is that? It gets better.... Have to admit I can't remember what I donated to (muscular dystrophy?) because the fireman who served my cone was HOT!  ;-)

Then I came home and finished my novel. 

Okay, kidding about the last bit, but the rest is all true. And I am writing... back to it.

And now for something completely different:

more books

Last Saturday, I went to a wonderful bbq with about a dozen writers and talk turned to books (I know, real shocker). Our post-grad "to read" pile is growing. Now I have even more to add. The Pulitzers were announced yesterday. Here's the list and the winner for fiction is Olive Kittridge, a collection of short stories. Plague of Doves was the runner-up. 

Shoot, I just got around to last year's winner

Have to admit, I've not been a big fan of short stories, but that is slowly changing. I still prefer the experience of getting lost in a novel.  As I wrote in a recent annotation on Johnston's Corpus Christi, I find short stories demanding, requiring concentration. They are not a relaxing art form. I have found that once I started reading books to see what authors were doing, the process moved - logically - from unconscious influence to purposeful learning. I no longer had to worry about my writing sounding like someone else's because I could look at the nuts and bolts of what they were up to and choose to use elements or not.

By the way, I want to start getting a commission on Kindle sales - just showed it off to the doctor who injected my sore shoulder (blessed relief) and he's getting one for his wife. This is probably the sixth one I've sold in the last 10 days. Pony up, Amazon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Better days

Received the nicest note this morning from my mentor, Gayle Brandeis. She was full of encouragement, something Dorothy Allison spoke about when she came to Antioch last winter. We writers, all artists, have to keep encouraging each other. It's daunting to keep creating when things take a dip as they inevitably do.

Just discovered Martin Levin's blog.  I had the pleasure of meeting him at Book Expo in DC a few years ago. He's a wonderful and kind man and knows more about the publishing business than just about anyone.

Okay, it's a very busy day, already finished two paragraphs and the outline of a scene by 8 am: I need to write something early on so that if I don't get back to it, I won't feel like the day has been a waste in terms of writing. Kind of like exercise - get it done early so excuses don't pile up. Speaking of which, I'm going for a walk in the hills.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Had a massage this afternoon and it was like receiving a new body. Felt a little weird walking around, as in 'welcome to planet Earth' weird. Before that, however, I worked on the new novel and had coffee with an artist.  Also working on a new project with another writer and when we're up and running, I'll give the details and link, so stay tuned. These are the things that help me after a disappointment. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


This is a hard post to write. I did not make the semifinals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards with GROWING CHOCOLATE. I thought I had a solid shot, but either the piece is not strong enough or it's not the right venue.

I just returned from a much needed break (little did I know how much I'd need it!). Onward and upward. I do have an idea for a scene in the book I'm working on now, so that's where my focus must stay.

But oh it does sting.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Had to rename one of my characters about 130 pages in and found it traumatic. I'd gotten used to thinking of him a certain way. I should backtrack and say that I take naming characters seriously. I look up names and their meaning, I look at family patterns in naming children, and so on. I think names affect the reader on a subconscious level. So, neurotic me, I took a week to come up with another satisfactory name. One small complication is that I had made the meaning of the name significant, in a minor way, and wanted to preserve that little scene.

Upcoming news: I'm starting another blog in partnership with a talented writer so stay tuned for details when we get that up and running. Should be fun if you love books as well as the nuts and bolts of narrative.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Amazon problems

Sorry I've been so quiet. First, I've heard about a lot of problems when you try to post reviews of GROWING CHOCOLATE (thanks for doing so) or download the excerpt. Please contact Amazon and let them know. There's nothing I can do and if I contact them, they just tell me to have to do it directly so there you are.

Received an email awhile ago that I was in the semi-finals of another contest, Summer Literary Seminars. First prize was a paid trip to one of their 2 week events in either Lithuania, Italy, or Kenya. Unfortunately, they dropped Italy. Anyway, even though I didn't win, as one of the top 20%, they just offered me a fellowship to attend Lithuania. Thinking about it. (feel free to hit the tip jar!)

That's it for now. Finishing an annotation then taking a break to go to Santa Barbara this afternoon. Enjoy your day.