Author perks exist. They are a true thing. Most of the time they are just little niceties, such as, you go to a lit conference, and they have a hospitality suite, and it is stocked with FREE FOOD and FREE WINE (free is my favorite vintage) and they often have BROWNIES, sometimes the amazing fudgy two bite ones that you have to eat nine of because they are so good they deserve your undivided attention for a solid eighteen bites.
My fave author perk is that whenever your publishing house flies you somewhere to work, you get to keep the frequent flier miles, and if you save them up, you can fly your whole family to Orlando for THIRTEEN DOLLARS A PERSON. This is a good, good perk. (Scott works in the trade show industry, and so he racks up MAAAAAAD hotel reward points—we stayed free. Lord that was the cheapest trip in the history of vacationing.)
I am not knocking the perks, ya’ll. I am just saying that author perks are not, like, say, politician perks, which often include hookers, blow, and fat cat trips to golf resorts for different hookers and more blow.
But then every now and again, the stars align, and you get some huge unbelievable author perk that feels like a MISTAKE, it is so nice. Like when gods in Alabama came out, and my SUPER COOL PUBLICIST really liked me, so he slipped my name in the hat when New Yorker Magazine was picking a couple of debut authors to send on a transatlantic cruise on the QE2, London to New York.
I dumped Beautiful Maisy Who Was Barely Two and seven year old Sam at my mom and dad’s house, and Scott and I went to London for a few days, then rode home on a boat so nice it had art auctions with real Picasso sketches and AN ACTUAL PLANETARIUM. Staffed by Oxford dons.
That boat was chock full of Belgians with SO MUCH MONEY, smoking Gauloises (which I can’t even PRONOUNCE) and gambling, losing enough chips to pay off my mortgage with TOTAL insouciance. It felt less like a visit to another country as to another PLANET.
It was on that trip that we realized: We do not PICK to take vacations.
Because of our jobs. We both travel SO much. We do not think of travel as a leisure activity.
When we have days off, we think, HEY YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE FUN? TO WEAR PAJAMAS AND EAT WAFFLES IN OUR OWN BED WHILE WATCHING AN 80’s SCI FI MOVIE MARATHON!
Our family vacation every year is a week with the grandparents in the beach town where Scott and I grew up, and we once went to Disney World because it was so very very FREE it would have been stupid not to go.
Yikes. I want to see this exhibit. Except without having to travel. So really I want the Texas Prison Museum to bring this exhibit to my hammock.
We have never all piled into a car and traced a route to the Grand Canyon that included a stop off to see the Contraband Exhibit at the Texas Prison Museum. (Even though I would really like to see that. FLIP FLOP SHIV, ya’ll!)
After Scott and I got home from London, I wondered if we weren’t cheating our kids, a little. Cheating them out of some really great memories. And yet my desire to NEVER NEVER rent an RV and sing about how many bottles of beer are currently on some wall for 19 straight hours, all the way to Big Sky country, remained flatline level dead. My idea of the perfect vacay is a hammock, my cat, no shoes, and a fantastic book.
SO we compromised. We decided that instead of the yearly trip, we would save up, and in ten years, when the kid were old enough, we would take them on ONE ten-vacations-worth of trip. A trip they would remember FOREVER.
I cleverly hid money for it. Hid it from MYSELF even, because I REALLY like shoes. Every time a significant amount accrued in my secret pot, I put it into short term revolving CDs, so I couldn’t get at it easily. When THINGS HAPPENED like, oh the roof caved in, the van died, the air conditioning system began bellowing black smoke and making a screaming whine sound like a dying rhino, we pretended that money was already spent.
I remember when one particularly challenging financial thing happened, I caught Scott EYEBALLING the SECRET TRIP money. I was like, NO WAY, BUDDY. GO SELL YOUR PLASMA.
The trip ten years in the making starts a week from today.
We are going to France, ya’ll. To Paris and Provence. I won’t be blogging much for the first half of June, but I will post pics if I can figure out how—- if you follow me on Twitter, I will absolutely be posting all kinds of blurry, crazy cell phone photos of whatever they have in France.
I am not sure, really, what all they have because my LORD, Google translator is an odd duck. Look here – here is a village we are visiting on a day trip because I HAVE TO SEE WHATEVER TERRIFYING THING THIS IS HAPPEN TO THE FRUITS:
Ever been to PROVENCE or PARIS? Tell us the thing to NOT miss. Also, recs for any good CHEAP authentic local places to eat near Avignon or in Paris are deeply appreciated.
If you have not been to Paris, what is your dream trip? (Or what was it, if you already went)
HEY! Remember 3Q’s? Where a writer would drop by for a visit, answer 3 questions, and if the book sounded like something up your alley, you could leave a comment to be entered in a contest to win a FREE SIGNED COPY?
Well—looks like we are doing that again. Cool, eh?
I first met Trisha Slay 3 or 4 years ago. Maybe more. I am not all that grounded in time and space….but I DO know Where. We were at a writer’s conference in Dahlonega. I’ve been to that conference twice now, and I hung out with her and her then-boyfriend-now-fiance both times. She’s just cool.
I remember her telling me about this book then—it was nowhere near finished, but her eyes lit up when she talked about it, and now, look, here it is a real and actual thing, out in the world…Congrats, Trisha!
Her publisher has set up a blog tour, and we are her first stop. Huzzah!
What’s it about, you ask.
It’s a terrible thing to live under a question mark…. When Erika’s best friend, teen beauty queen Cassandra Abbott, disappears during the early hours of Memorial Day 1977, Erika isn’t exactly surprised. After all, they’ve been plotting and planning Cassie’s escape for months. But then Cassie’s departure unleashes a whirlwind of questions, suspicions and accusations that Erika never expected. She’s lying to the police. She’s being bullied by older students. Worst of all, she’s starting to doubt she ever REALLY knew Cassie Abbott at all.
Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe…until a strange new movie transforms her summer with A New Hope. For Erika, Star Wars changes EVERYTHING. So she volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality.
At the Bixby Theater-a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era-Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making…but she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.
As the summer wears on, tensions escalate over the unsolved mystery surrounding Cassie’s disappearance. Someone seems to think Erika knows too many of Cassie’s secrets. Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed only with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she’s learned from Star Wars, fight to save herself and the theater that has become her second home. Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away is a quirky, contemporary, coming-of-age novel set during the earliest days of the Star Wars fan phenomenon.
JJ: What do you think of the cover and how does it compare to the cover you imagined when you were writing the book?
TL: Thank the Maker for Mark Babcock and Matt King! They saved this cover from my delusions of grandeur. I absolutely love the cover they created…even though it is not what I suggested at all.
This is a book about 1977 STAR WARS geekery, so I had a magnificent vision of my main character poised like Luke Skywalker in the original movie posters. Instead of a lightsaber, Erika would be holding a Super 8 camera above her head with the power of the Force emanating from the lens. In the starry sky around her would be the shadow of a “Missing” poster for Cassie Abbott (instead of Darth Vader). Oh, in my imagination, it was glorious! In reality, the art I commissioned to realize my vision was cute…but not really marketable as a YA novel cover.
When Mark told me they were going to work with photographic images, I thought he was crazy. But look at what they created! I could not be happier with my cover.
TS: I used to be four-square against blogging. Now I have two blogs. How did that happen? It’s a funny story, and I swear I am not trying to pander to you in any way. This is just the plain, ugly truth.
Back in 2005, I decided to get really serious about writing for publication, so I enrolled in classes and went to very expensive conferences and took a lot of notes. Between 2005 – 2008, I attended more writing seminars and conferences than I care to admit. All of the speakers preached the same message…over and over and over: “Blogging is a useful tool if you do it perfectly and follow all of the rules, but do not venture into these scary, shark-infested blogging waters unless you are really, truly committed to the blogging gospel. It is better not to blog, than to blog imperfectly.”
So…never interested in the PERFECT way of doing anything, I did not blog. I did not follow blogs. I did not understand the whole concept of blogs. To me, it was a frightening, weird, over-sharing world. Then, in 2010, I attended a writer’s conference where every publishing expert in attendance agreed that blogging was absolutely ESSENTIAL for every author – published or unpublished. Huh? Panic ensued. One brave writerly soul stood up at a Q & A session and asked, “Can you give me an example of a published author’s blog that really works?”
After much hemming and hawing and naming of names, every publishing professional on the stage agreed that Faster Than Kudzu was a terrific example of what works. Well, I already knew that I loved GODS IN ALABAMA and BETWEEN, GEORGIA, so I came here to read and read and read and laugh and learn. Then I took a Blogging 101 class. Finally, In March 2011, I felt brave enough to launch my own blog. To my everlasting surprise, launching a wanna-be writerly blog was not a terrible experience. However, most of the people who truly knew me and had been reading my writing for years, told me that they wanted me to post more about emotional eating, healthy recipes &/or weighty issues…or they wanted me to launch a separate blog.
So I launched my Creativity Diet blog…and promptly failed to live up to my own expectations. I keep stumbling with that experiment, but I keep getting up and trying again. Isn’t that the definition of success?
I blog because I am a weird, geeky, imperfect human and want to connect with other imperfect humans who might feel some empathy with my struggles. Creativity and connection is EVERYTHING to me. Sometimes blogging feeds my creative spirit and sometimes it sucks me dry. Either way, the act of blogging is better than sitting home alone with all of these fantastical dreams of writing buried under a mound of coulda, shoulda, woulda shame.
JJ: Tell us about being a closet Star Wars geek for over 30 years.
I STILL FREAKING LOVE THIS MOVIE!
TS: This is where I admit that I went to a movie theater and watched the original release of STAR WARS in 1977, but I was NOT truly moved at all. It was fun. It was two hours of pure fantasy. Then I moved on.
Let’s get real. I was six-years-old in 1977. THE RESCUERS, CANDLESHOE, and CHARLIE’S ANGELS made a much bigger impression on me that summer. That said, I owned the original Kenner action figures and the Princess Leia Bubble Bath. I dreamed of owning my own R2-D2 to clean my room. Every empty cardboard wrapping paper roll would forever and always be a lightsaber to me. Perhaps that is the true power of the Force. But I am NOT an original 1977 STAR WARS geek.
Then, in March of 1980, my most perfectly comfortable world crumbled. Grandpa Eldon – my best friend, the light of my life and the man I knew as “Daddy” from my earliest memories – suffered a massive heart attack. He died a week later in the hospital, leaving a terrible, jagged hole in my soul. Three months later, stumbling around in a fog of grief and pretending everything was “fine, fine, just fine,” my grandmother and I went to see THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Now that is the point where everything changed for me. Yoda changed everything. “I love you” and “I know” changed everything. “I am your father” changed EVERYTHING. For a few blissful years, I was comfortable and happy being a complete and total STAR WARS geek to the core.
But…that was the 80′s. Eventually, STAR WARS was a cliche. I got addicted to MTV, fell in love with Duran Duran, sprayed my hair into preposterous shapes and pretended that my heart was not yearning for a galaxy far, far away. Even in the early 90′s, when Timothy Zahn published his incredible Thrawn Trilogy, I read the novels while keeping my fangirl persona a secret. There were a few times when I would let my closest friends get a peek at my inner geek. I’ll never forget the time I simultaneously delighted and horrified my best friends by achieving national ranking in a Star Wars trivia contest (just before the release of the new trilogy).
I still remember the moment when the basic concept for this novel came knocking on my brain. I did not want to write it. I shoved it aside and continued to write silly little short stories about Egyptian Gods toying with modern teens. And yet, despite by best intentions, I found myself pitching this unformed, unwritten concept to an editor at an SCBWI writing conference in Los Angeles. Her reaction was electric. I knew immediately that I had to write this book. And as I was writing, I fell in love with my inner Star Wars fangirl all over again. So now I am out of the closet, proudly flying my geek flag. I dig droids. I really do believe that anger, fear and aggression lead to the Dark Side. But I won’t camp out in front of movie theaters and I will never wear a metal bikini. There are limits to my devotion.
REMEMBER toleave a comment…preferably your best STAR WARS MEMORY, but you can just say BEEP BOP BOOP, R2D2 style, and that will count too! Post it before FRIDAY at Midnight, EST, and you could win a SIGNED COPY.
Is the orange girl supposed to be the titular pal?
I’ve been using MyFitnessPal as I work myself back into some kind of reasonable shape, post all that boring stuff where I got really sick and went to bed for a year and emerged ALIVE (yay) but also substantially fatter (alas).
Remember that? When I ALMOST DIED? I certainly remember it. It looms OH SO VERY large in my personal history. I ALMOST DIED is the reason I now love Yoga, and is also the reason I sometimes engage in both INTROSPECTION and GROWING AS A PERSON. Right here in terrible public.
I cannot recommend it, the ALMOST DYING. Better to be feckless and immortal, as long, as long, as ever one can. But anyway, for a long time after the surgeries, my body simply did not want to lose weight and I guess my mind was not able to be grinding and it is not something you can do until you CAN DO IT. People who have never struggled with their weight do not get this. That you can’t lose weight sometimes. That you just…can’t. Not because you are lazy or dumb or bad, but…you cannot, right then, the end. Then at some point, sometimes, you can.
I think it is like quitting smoking. I had to quit smoking 1,000 times before one time it worked. I had a hard time with it, and I have had a very hard time with my body these last couple fo years. A war. Yoga has been my detente. Can you relate? But now I am on my thousandth quit-being-fat and it is working…at a grindingly slow pace. I can take off half a pound or so a week, if I eat a LOT more fruit than I think is reasonable, given that I hate fruit.
Not ALL fruit. Just most of it. I actively love blackberries, which cost the earth, and I love those pears that come in gold foil and cost the same as a new Buick
If you have ever used MFP (or “MMFFP” as My Favorite Fitness Pal Friend calls it on days that she finds challenging…think about it) you track all your exercisery and eatering, and if you boringly plod along like a virtuous little bore-plodder, results happen. You get back into old jeans. Your face begins to look like it has bones again. I’m not done, but I am more than half done. Slow progress is happening. It feels pretty dern good.
AND YET! I am unmotivated to work out today which…I am NEVER unmotivated to exercise. I LOVE to exercise and I take maybe 2 days off a month…But today. It is gonna be one of them.
I think I am just TIRED. Yesterday I did a really BRUTAL hour at the YMCA,—I pushed myself right to my edge and then bought furniture and LIVED there. Then, the second I got home Scott and I suited up the dogs and went walking.
IN SEARCH OF CAKE, may I say, so not exactly a virtue soaked walk of HEALTH, but every place we walked, the cake displeased me. There was NO CAKE I would waste the calories on. Cakes and Ale was getting ready to close, and they had hardly anything in the case, Green’s candies were categorically NOT cake, TED’s MONTANA GRILL was out of those snickerdoodle cookies that I SWEAR have cocaine in them because once you HAVE one you want more and more and get hyper and run around in circles. But they were out…so we kept walking.
This image is a link to the piece of cake website, because YUM
Finally at the last second I remember a store called PIECE OF CAKE exists allll the way over by Agnes Scott COllege, so we went there, and THEY HAD THE EXACT CAKE I WANTED but my LORD!!!! It took us LITERALLY more than 2 hours of hiking around peering at FAILCAKE to get it. SO I had walked off ALL the calories in the cake by the time it was found.
ANYWAY, if you are MY FITNESS PALLING, we can be friends, if you want the same kind of friend I want.
I am looking for 2 or 3 friends who—-1) Use MFP every day. 2) Have your food diary set so your friends can see your food. 3) Interact with your friends every day. 4) Have a VERY small number of friends, so that you can actually keep up with their stuff.
I do all of these 4 things, so I will be a GOOD friend to you. I promise to be HUGELY overinterested in your business. I will never cupcake shame you. Sometimes you HAVE to eat a cupcake. Some days? You may have to eat 6. IT HAPPENS. I won;t be mean about it, but I will TOTALLY look at your food, and my food diary is open.
The first 2 or 3 people who E-Mail me, let’s chat — maybe we can friend up. I will tell you my SECRET MFP NAME, which is Very French and Mysterious!
SO! I am turning in THE SECRET WRITING PROJECT this week. Last night I borrowed a whole writing group from Susan Rebecca White (Lookit her fancy new website!) to get fresh eyes on this thing before I turn it in.
I have FIVE FULL SETS of notes on TSWP, and this morning was all about reading and rereading them, and then sorting the marked up MSes into piles as I decided which threads I needed to follow up on and integrate.
Let me show you what is NOT HELPFUL when one is trying to sort and integrate the valuable input of five disparate readers into piles that will allow one to tighten up one’s MS in a single intense revision instead of five separate whole MS pass-throughs. THIS! THIS IS NOT HELPFUL:
He moved from pile to pile, too, sitting on whatever one would be the least convenient for me in the coming moment with the kind of catly prescience that makes you understand why the Egyptians thought of them as divine.
He made the job take a good half hour longer than it should have, and I am pretty sure I LOST a page I really need in the wrong pile. I will either have to dig and find that page or I will have to MANUALLY REMEMBER exactly what it said, which is like saying “I will either have to dig and find that page or I will have to shoot a moon rocket out of my butt and colonize Luna.”
SPEAKING OF BUTTS, note that MangoCat was not SIDE-LOLLING or LOUNGING on his belly. He SAT on the piles. SAT! Still speaking of butts, he was effectively placing HIS all over the pages of my MS. Like a pink and disapproving STAMP!
It reminds me of that scene in Impromptu—one of my ALL TIME favorite movies. Did you ever see that? It’s Judy Davis as the writer George Sands, all about her mad affair with Chopin, played by a VERY young Hugh Grant…
OH it is an EXCELLENT scene – do you remember it? I can’t find it to embed, BUT here it is. If you have never seen Impromptu, RUN to Netflix. It is a rompy delight, start to finish.
ANYWAY, even though Mango seemed to be doing a milder version of HORSE-CRITIQUE with his back end, did I unceremoniously DUMP HIM off and work on in relative peace? No. I did not.
Did I so much as gently pick his MEASLY ELEVEN POUND SELF up and kiss his dear-dear-dearest nose and set him aside on a clear part of the table? No, I did not.
As he sat on a pile, I ear scratched him and crooned at him and buried my face in his luxurious mane to smell all the GOODNESS of him until he was ready to shift to whatever pile I might need next.
I have it SO bad for this cat. I have only loved an animal with this kind of consuming PASSION once. That was Gompers, also a yellow Tom, and after Gompers died… Well.
That was more than fifteen years ago and it still hurts. If you have read SHINE SHINE SHINE (Have you not? GOOD GRIEF, go GET IT NOW!) you may have noticed the excellent stalwart Captain is named Gompers, because Lydia is the most beautiful human on the planet, and she GETS how much he mattered to me. She had an animal of her deepest heart, too, a horse. So she put Gompers in space for me, hung him up like a star, and he is there forever.
I have had many, many animal friends, and I have loved them in a petly way and liked them all SO much and deeply enjoyed their silly company. But MANGO! OH MANGO! OH! This cat. OH this cat.
Sometimes I call him Mangompers. Not because I believe in Feline Reincarnation, but Mango and Gompers were both born in metro Atlanta, both long haired yellow toms with the same kind of lion face, the same kind of small, pert ear. Not too big a stretch to think they MUST share some genes, mayhap even a common ancestor. I like to think so.
I have developed the habit of singing to him, a song I think of as OUR SONG, and whenever I do, Scott cocks an eyebrow and shakes his head and has to LOOK AWAY in shame for me. And yet I am shameless, I am shameless in my love! HERE IT IS! THE LOVE SONG OF ME AND MANGO! You may think it is someone else’s love song, but you are very silly. And wrong. My love is more epic.
I especially like the lines about “All my life, I believed, I WOULD FIND YOU, time has brought your heart to me” because it is TRUE that I have been looking for HIM, the exact right right rightful cat. I saw Mango on the internet while surfing cat pRon in an ongoing MANY YEARS WORTH of hunt for him. I saw three little pictures, and I began yelling for Scott because I KNEW. I knew the second I saw him.
He was in a kill shelter and I called immediately and they said he was gone. I thought they meant “GONE!” So I hung up and got oddly WEEPY. Then I could barely sleep all night because I KNEW he was not gone. I KNEW. I felt so strongly that he was my cat. I called again the next day and asked for clarity. They said GONE meant only that a lady from a no kill shelter had come by with room to save seven cats. Mango, slated for doom, was the only non kitten she took with her.
WE IMMEDIATELY leaped in the car and went after him at the no kill place. The lady there told us he had kept putting his foot out of the cage to get her arm, ASKING her to please take him. He knew, too, of course, is how I interpret this. BECAUSE I AM DANIEL DAY LEWIS AND HE IS MADELINE STOWE!
When we went to the rescue to get him, he had just had dental surgery and he was logy and dispirited and unprepossessing, and yet I INSISTED. IT WAS HIM! I KNEW. SO we took him home, and he hid behind the clothes drier for a week, terrified and exhausted from being in shelters.
I just lay down on the tile floor and put my hand behind the drier and sang to him multiple times every day, until one day he took a little step forward and rubbed his face into my hand and then he came out from behind the drier, and he is in my lap right now, hampering me as I type this. He pretty much lives here, on me, and his default setting is purr. Me and Mango, we are an US.
Have you ever had an animal who was THE ANIMAL OF YOUR DEEPEST HEART? Who was it—or, if you are very lucky, who IS it?
This is an ocelot. Apparently. When I said we had them living in our hair, I was picturing a type of weasel. I chose Ocelots because the weasel is an inherently amusing animal---even the WORD Weasel is an inherently amusing word. But no, ocelots are a darling thing you get when a house cat has sex with a big-eyed anime cuteness deity. ADORABLE! I WISH I had one in my hair.
I am not DEAD. Let’s be clear—NO ONE is dead. I am just crazy with pounds of WRITERY GOINGS ON.
I haven’t been blogging much, but not because I am dead and not because I am BUSY.
I mean, I AM busy. Of course I am. So are you. You’re not even sure when you last washed your hair, are you? Me neither. There could be whole herds of transient ocelots constructing whatever kind of thing an ocelot would live in all up in our head-nests, and we would be too busy to know.
Everyone in this freakin’ country is SO ridiculously over-busy they are probably ALL ocelot infested. We cannot all move to Greece, but maybe we should stop working for two every afternoon and eat little plates of Mediterranean cheese and olives and drink ouzo. Yes? Yes.
But I have always, since you have known me, been BUSY, and so have you. Good grief. And yet I and You have both found time to watch the first two seasons of Game of Thrones or ________, respectively. (Put your own current unhealthy obsession in the blank.)
DIGRESSION: Scott’s sister Allison—WHOM I LOVE—who is wonderful and kind and dear and smart and funny – decided to move to Stone Mountain, Georgia, about 25 minutes away from us. When she told me, to my ABIDING SHAME, the first thing I said to her was… “OH YAY! YOU HAVE HBO, DON’T YOU!” Nice.
SO obsessed am I that I just watched THE STATION AGENT because I have yet to see any of GoT Season 3 and I am in DEEP, DEEP TERRIBLE DINKLAGE DEFICIT, which is a real true medical condition that causes over-bourboning and sulkage. You should watch The Station Agent. It has the feel of a really good PLAY more than a movie. I wanted it to be 12 hours long as I could have watched and watched and watched those people forever:
DIGRESSION: I love Joe in that film. Halfway in, I turned to Scott and said, “Joe is the human incarnation of Doug the Dog from Pizxar’s UP.” Scott, when he could stop laughing and breathe again, said, “It’s funny because it’s TRUE.”
SO! It’s not that I couldn’t find the TIME to blog.
It is a writing/room/brain/space problem. I have been doing so much WRITING. I have been writing like SUPERCRAZY and using up all the droplets of writer-juice even down in the very most bottom of my brainpan.
SO! I haven’t had any of that very specific and particular kind of energy left over for any other kind of writing. I have even been very short in EMAILS because I can’t stand the extra TYPING OF WORDS.
I have sent emails to people I LOVE that have said things like “Yes. –JJ” And “THANK YOU THAT IS SO NICE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It was all I could type.
What I have been writing is a SECRET SURPRISE THING the likes of which I have not written before. I will tell you about it As Soon As Ever I Can, but it was challenging and new for me. I am done with it now, done with a DRAFT anyway. I have a WHOLE draft I like, and I am revising – always my favorite part. I feel like I have all this room in my head now.
But here I am now. HI! I MISSED YOU! I AM SORRY I WAS GONE after I specifically told you that my absence likely meant tragedy.
I think I need to decide to blog like 2 or 3 days a week, all the same days, and then just actually do it. I don’t want to take blogging breaks this long because this blog is a weird, alive hub of small relationships.
HI! I remember you! Do you REMEMBER ME? I am the one with the very fine bushy red mustache.
After a break of this long, I feel weird and shy, which is DUMB, as we have known each other, you and I, for MORE THAN DECADE NOW. (Can you believe? We should get each other something. Wine, or the kind of gentle nit comb that can pick out all our ocelots without harming them.)
While I have been submerged in THE SECRET PROJECT, what might possibly be my favorite comment EVER to grace FTK happened—and, oh Beloveds, there have been some DOOZIES. SO you know this one had to be CRAZY good.
Anonymous said: I used to lick the church pews– when I was four or five. The flavor– it repulsed and delighted, simultaneously.
I am repulsed and delighted, myself. I love this SO much. I want to write about a person who was a pew licker as a child. An insubordinate, incorrigible pew licker.
I love people. We all have whole universes tucked away inside of us. No one, looking at Anonymous today as he or she does her job and goes to Kroger for some apples, NO ONE would know, would they? Anonymous could be your very own sister, who sat by you and stole tiny, secets laps of pew-flavor while you were doodling on the Order of Worship flier.
OH, How I love us, all us people. How endlessly interesting we are.
SO CATCH ME UP. What secret thing have YOU been doing, all this first third of May?
ADVICE NUMBER ONE: You should read Richard Russo on the toilet.
No, but, you really should. I was recently found by an old and very very very odd college acquaintance on the Facebook (OH! INTERNET! WHAT DID WE DO BEFORE YOU???), and when I asked him what he was up to these days, that was his answer.
“I am reading Richard Russo on the toilet.”
Well, there was more to it than that, because as you can imagine I questioned him about this …phenomenon (or should I call it a Lifestyle Decision?) quite extensively because it was such an odd answer and I am apparently not very good at boundaries. HEH.
We wrote back and forth quite a bit on this topic, and I have no idea if he ever married or had kids or what kind of work he does or where he gets his preaching or even what state or country he has settled into, but BY ZEUS! I know what the man is reading when he sits upon the porcelain throne.
It doesn’t HAVE to be Richard Russo, actually. But some great, and I mean GREAT, book. A book you LOVED. You put it in the bathroom. It’s just THERE, erm, should, um, you have need of it.
When choosing your literature for the toilet, here are his guidelines for the best experience.
1) Choose a book you read before, so you don’t have to follow the plot. You KNOW all the characters, but you don’t remember how gloriously each sentence and image is crafted. You have forgotten the EXACTNESS of it, but you remember the sense of it.
2) Never allow yourself to be so caught up that you take Richard Russo out of the bathroom. Read it in tiny bites, just appreciating the two pages or three paragraphs you get to before it is time to leave the bathroom and continue with your day. You read it word by word, just to love each word in turn. Consider the pieces, not the whole gulped thing.
3) HAVE A BOOMMARK. Lest you use your entire window of read-portunity to find your place.
He says that based on his current rate of reading, it will take him three years to finish Empire Falls. He fully expects to be a better person at the end of this time.
I have two bathrooms, ready to be loaded up with literature. I am thinking Jane Smiley upstairs, and the letters of Flannery O’Connor down?
ADVICE NUMBER TWO (see what I did there?? HA! I said number two after I was…oh Never mind. Here it is): Don’t give people advice. 90% of all people HATE to get advice more than 70% of the time. I made that statistic up, and I really feel that I have underestimated. Julie over at A Little Pregnant calls it Ass-vice. For a reason. Having to do with what one makes of oneself when one gives it.
Right now TONS of people reading this are making grumpy mouths as I intrude upon their most private moments and try to FORCE them to read Richard Russo on the toilet. EVEN RICHARD RUSSO WOULD PROBABLY FEEL INSULTED, told to take his own book into the toilet and CHERISH THE WORDS. As if he was some Philistine! As if he was not already reading PROUST in there!
Like most people, I have a very clear picture of how easily your whole life could be thoroughly fixed, if only you would LISTEN and DO WHAT I SAY.
At the same time, in MY life, I peer through a murky landscaped using a cardboard paper towel roll tube to narrow my vision to a pinhole. And I am not listening to you burble about all the parts that I am missing.
I am SURE you could fix my life, if I listened to you.
AND YET! I likely won’t. Even if you are right. Even if you have only my best interests at heart.
This is the human condition.
I have learned that when people ask for advice, what they really mean is, I WANT TO WHINE ABOUT A PROBLEM THAT I AM UNWILLING TO FIX BECAUSE IT WILL COST TOO MUCH TIME OR MONEY OR EFFORT BUT IT IS BUGGING ME SO I NEED TO HOLLER SO GAHHHH PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME HOW TO FIX IT BECAUSE THEN I MIGHT HAVE TO AND IT SEEMS HARD AND BORING.
I learned this by realizing that it is what *I* mean, much of the time. *grin*
I am trying to stop asking for advice when I don’t actually want it. These days, I just say, “I want to whine. Can you listen for five minutes while I whine and cry?” and people will totally do that. I am blessed with excellent friends.
OUT OF TIME! GAH! I will share the third REALLY HELPFUL piece of advice on FRIDAY, NO REALLY. This is not a pink sock. I WILL share it. Because I ADORE YOU, oh my best beloveds, and this advice… It could SAVE YOUR LIFE.
Meanwhile, perhaps, I AM HAVING A CYNICAL WEDNESDAY. Is my made up statistic wrong? Do people listen to advice? Have you ever had anyone TAKE your advice and go fix their life or has anyone ever fixed yours with advice? When do you listen, and when do you have to come to it on your own?
The last time I saw Jurassic Park, I was living in Oak Park Illinois, just outside of Chicago. Scott and I were SO freaking poor, I can’t even tell you. Scott had just completed seven years of higher education… in THEATRE. We were both just ecstatic he had a job.
It was a lower-than-entry level position, but it was a foot in the door in an industry that was related to his first love, Stage Management. His salary paid our rent and our electricity and that was about it. But it gave us HEALTH INSURANCE, which was SO awesome it felt like MAGIC; I was gestating the little wad of whatnot that would become the amazing Sam Winn.
We hadn't finished making even ONE of these yet.
I had just finished grad school with a degree in…Creative Writing, and that plus the pregnancy made me nigh-on unemployable. In order for us to afford little luxuries like, you know, food and underpants, I was babysitting 30 hours a week for a friend with 2 boys who was getting her PhD.
Poor, poor, poor—in our to-the-penny budget, we set aside 25 dollars a month for entertainment. We took a lot of walks to the frozen custard stand and shared a small. Or we got a 5 dollar pizza from the take out place. We rented older movies for a dollar. Maybe I never cut my hair to give him a watch chain, and he never sold his watch to buy me combs, but God, we would have…We were young and crazy in love; it was a pretty great time in our lives.
Every Friday in the warmer months, we had a standing date at a nearby drive-in. It was a flat five bucks a car to get in, and they let you stay for both the films. We would pack a picnic and stay there until they shut it down. I fell into a different kind of love with my still newish husband during this time— Long Haul Love. We created it with our feet up on the dashboard, eating leftover meatloaf sandwiches and talking through the movies.
One week, the second show was Jurassic Park. By then, I was hugely, massively, OUTRAGEOUSLY pregnant. Sam was almost a week late—when he was born, ten days later, he would weigh 11 pounds, 13 ounces. As it was, I barely fit in our little second-hand Saturn. I lolled in the fully reclined seat, huge and unwieldy, with a SERIOUS case of pregnancy brain.
We watched Nedry drive for the docks through sheets of rain, clutching that can of shaving cream with the false bottom. OH I hated Nedry. I was glad when he ran off the road, crashed, and slipped around in mud, trying to winch his jeep out of the stream with that CUTE, small, inquisitive, cooing dino following him. BAM! Out came those shaking head frills and SPLAT! The purple goo covered his face. The cute dino was a poison spitty! Nedry screamed, clawed at his face, ran blindly for his car….and died.
I smiled all dreamy, turned to Scott, and said in the dopiest, most sincere voice I have ever heard come out of me, “I like dinosaurs.”
Those words have become a touchstone for DUMB behavior. If we see someone doing something particularly brainless, we will turn to each other and one of us will say, “He likes dinosaurs.” The other will nod and say, “Oh yes. He likes dinosaurs a LOT.”
Yesterday, Scott and I took Sam Winn to see Jurassic Park again. This time in 3D, at IMAX. He didn’t remember it from the first time, of course, because of all the “being a fetus” he was doing during the first showing.
We took Maisy as well, after careful coaching. She’s a wreck in tense movies. In order to let her ENJOY IT, I figured out which characters were likely to be her favorites, and promised her that none of those four would die.(Even so, she spent the WHOLE movie UP MY NOSE, screaming and clutching at me! But in a fun rollercoaster way, so it was all good.)
Man, but Jurassic Park holds up! Laura Dern is so great at REACTING TO THINGS THAT DO NOT EXIST. What an actor. Jeff Goldblum is that Spock-cific kind of geek-sexy that I find SO attractive. The kids are cute, and the ancient special effects, polished up a bit for this IMAX edition, looked really, really good.
Twice I screamed and climbed up SCOTT’S nose.
Oooooh! Floppy Disk! Gone so long from earth!
The computer stuff was fun – at one point, Scott poked me and pointed at Nedry’s desk. “Look!” he whispered in the same near reverent tones Sam Neil had just used to point out a Triceratops, “FLOPPY DISKS!”
Weird how a silly, super-fun family movie can make me so nostalgic, remembering Sam so small and as yet unknown, Maisy Jane just a dream, and Scott so young and good to me, rubbing my poor swollen pregnant feet at night.
Did you go? Then? Or now? Were you even alive then? What do you remember?
1) My new life motto is green and to the left. I am doing it right now. YOU SHOULD DO THIS MOTTO. It is delicious.
2) Because you, Oh Best of All Possible Beloveds, are beautiful, I got SO MANY OFFERS TO BE MY NEW BEST FRIEND. Fully thirty human beings offered via comments and emails and the Tweeters to let me come over and watch Game of Thrones at your house.
Most of you were perfectly safe in applying because you could be all, “Of course, I live in Alaska and I raise wolves specifically trained to eat novelists, but I DO have HBO and by the way the season premier was AWESOME, sorry you missed it.” But you DID invite me, and it made me feel good. Because I am a weirdo.
I did actually get a really GREAT NBF offer from a fellow Decaturite whose dog is NOT scary or a wolf. Whose dog is, in fact, A Boston Terrier, which, I LOVE THOSE SILLY SMASHED IN FACE DOGS!
DIGRESSION: Lydia Netzer has one named Leroy who NURSES On people’s arms. Last book tour, I stayed at her house and she gave me Leroy as a loaner dog to sleep with. He relentlessly suckled my forearms, and I relentlessly allowed it; by the time I went home I had DOG HICKEYS the size of salad plates on both arms.
It was an absolutely sincere and kindly and welcoming NBF offer (VERY Decatur) and I was going to take her up on it but when I told Scott he said it was fine and I could go and it was FINE, I should GO. He said it a lot of times, reiterating exactly how FINE it was, and how happy for me he was, and I thought to my dim self, “OH! If the situation was reversed and he went and watched GoT without me, would I divorce him?”
But I might kill him in his sleep.
So in order to not be justifiably homicided in my bed I decided not to watch GoT until Scott can watch it, too. Perhaps I can swap the NBF HBO offer over to a dog walking sort of NBF, so I can glom on her black and white smashy faced thing.
This is Leroy. Whatever he just did, he feels BAD about it.
Scott and I, meanwhile, are solacing ourselves with catching up on WALKIGN DEAD (Which, after a VERY slow start to Season 2 has gotten suddenly good again) and JUSTIFIED (Which makes us talk to each other in Elmore Leanardese, calling each other Raylon, and saying things like, “Well, Raylon, Imma cook this meth, I surely am,” and here we all understand that “meth” is organic apple chicken sausage from Trader Joe’s, right?
It’s fun. It’s all fun, but OH! OH! None of them have Peter Dinklage…
3) On Easter day, I went to a Yoga class, and it was very heart openy: Shoulders back and down. Chest lifting. My yoga teacher kept saying, Peel your heart OPEN. Lift up, turn it to the light, turn it up to the sun and to all that is good, to renewal and resurrection, twist and open and let the light in.
SO I did. And as I did, an organ started plating over the chant songs with bells. An ORGAN. In my head.
And I realized that at church that day, we sung one of the oldest and most CLASSIC hymns, ODE TO JOY, which is BEETHOVEN ya’ll. Not some dirty-footed hippie with a sitar, okay? FREAKING BEETHOVAN, with lyrics penned in 1907 by Henry van Dyke, a Princeton man known for writing the Presbyterian BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER so, one can assume, not a frequenter of LuluLemon, and yet! AND YET! here is what he wrote and here is what I sang:
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, God of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to sun above.
There was an internal melding, kinda like what is happening below, except assume Jesus is chocolate, assume yoga is peanut butter, and assume no one is wearing such blasphemously UGLY pants.
It was a neat Easter, letting go of any separation of church of yoga, and Yoga, for me, this last year especially, has become decidedly SO MUCH MORE than a work-out. It is about learning to “be still and know that I am God,” about the kind of prayer that has less to do with me opening my BIG YAP AND WHINING AND ASKING AND RAGING AND DEMANDING, and more about trying to hear that still, small voice…
One step farther. If I have Jesus getting in all my Yoga, and my Yoga teacher telling me to take my Yoga off the mat and into every moment of my life…
Expressly against the wishes of myself and all here, I seem to be relentlessly, relentlessly growing as a person—soon I will have to have a GaaP CATAGORY! MADNESS!—trying to learn to let that that chocolate and that peanut butter get all up into everything, trying to be kinder and quieter and more accepting, things so not in my PETTY JEALOUS LOOKATME wheelhouse, letting go, and all the while, and all the while, keeping calm, and eating avocados.
Now, YOU tell me one true thing. Or tell me three, as you like. I’m easy, baby. Just like Sunday Morning.