October 22, 2009

The Week of Living Pajamerously

I’m trying to make SRS progress on the new book while at the same time doing final page proofs for Rose. Which I keep calling Rose, even though the title is BACKSEAT SAINTS and I love that title. But I think of the book as Rose because she owns it so completely. It’s a different kind of book for me --- I usually have a Broadway cast of thousands mucking around and making problems. Rose mucks around enough to carry what is, in a lot of ways, a one-woman show. There’s a supporting cast, of course, but it’s not a true ensemble piece like Between or TGWSS. (WOW, how was THAT for an immediate digression?)

To continue to digress with fluffy abandon, gamboling like a feckless rabbit through the mind meadows when REALLY, Beloveds, I should be working on one of these two books...it’s interesting doing these proofs with my head SO deep into THE OTHER MOSEY SLOCUMB. Usually when proofs come I ABANDON the new book and try to get my head all the way back into the old book. But Rose was VERY close to me---maybe too close some days--- so it seemed smarter to stay in MOSEY. I like having the distance here as I try to make absolutely sure of every line. A lot hinges on VOICE in Rose’s book, and I want every word to be right.

I think I am calling it Rose’s book because it feels less mine and more hers now, even though, yes, FINE, I suppose technically, she doesn’t exist---hey, THANKS for pointing that out, mentally well person in the back row, and please do not let the door hit you in the butt as you exit.

I always try to personally release a book before the pub date comes and publicly releases it for me, but this is an early break-up. I mean that figuratively; I DO try to think of books as boyfriends. I always worry about novelists who call their book their “babies.” Novels are not offspring. You do not SELL your offspring.

I want to say to them, My friend, that is not your baby. I would lie down on a railroad track for either of my babies, but heck, if the only paper copy of a fresh book of mine was tied down to the rails with Casey Jones steamrolling toward it, and I was offered the opportunity to take its place, I think I would wipe away an errant tear and wave a fond goodbye. I can’t open a bottle of shiraz, hook up with my best fella, and re-grow the magic animals that are Exactly-Sam and Exactly-Maisy. But I can, after all, always write another novel. If you truly think of a novel is your baby, I suggest you learn to love it less.

To write a novel, then, for me, is less like pro-creating and more like engaging in a moderately self-destructive yet extremely passionate relationship. Me and my Book-in-progress, we fight and weep and make up and forge onward. When it is good between us, oh, when it is good, it is so very very good. And when it is bad? Horridhorridhorrid.

I have been known to foam and scream and disappear so thoroughly chasing the pretend people that I can wreck my actual interpersonal relationships. Mir once told me she spent the first half of our friendship being absolutely positive I was on-and-off secretly furious with her, as a month would go by without me calling, and when she called me, I would sound distant and pre-occupied. It wasn’t madatherness. (Totally a word.) It was just that thing high school girls do when they have their first boyfriend----they kinda ditch their friends. I realized I never LIKED those girls in high school, so I try not to be that girl anymore, and I make sure I am keeping in touch even in the throes of deepest over-involvement with imaginary people.

But those imaginary relationships are SO absorbing, more delicious and yet less physically destructive than the most delicious drug. While in the deeps of it, I have been known to obnoxiously crow one hour and flail and bite the earth in a violent rage the next. To weep and stamp on myself for pitifully failing to capture an image one day and be unendurably smug as I exult in my obvious genius at capturing it so perfectly the next. I have also been known, on the bad days, to eat whole crowds of comforting Cheetos and bitterly repent of them when the Salt Bloat comes and I see how long my fingers retain that unnatural orange taint.

And then I finish. Completely. Then it is time to have an amicable break-up, and let the book go. And I mean TRULY amicable. If you are proud of the book, if you like it, this is easier. I am VIOLENTLY proud of Rose’s book, so this may be why I have let go slightly early. It’s like an ex-boyfriend that you will always feel love and admiration for, but it was just TIME, you know? You hope that boyfriend will go on to have a long and successful relationship with someone else, say, the New York Times bestseller list. But you will never be with him in that same way again.

Part of letting go is being open to fresh love. I have to get deeply involved with my new book, accepting that the published ones are never going to be “mine” again in quite the same way --- no longer mutable, no longer under my control, out in the world talking back to readers instead of talking back to me.

Mosey and Raymond Knotwood and Big and Liza are becoming VERY real to me – especially Mosey and Raymond. Reading Rose with this amount of distance and release-of-ownership already at work, it/she feels separate from me. At the same time, we are not quite done with each other, Rose and I. She is still real enough in my head to be allowed to own the book.

Doing both these things at once (drafting TOMS and page proofing BACKSEAT SAINTS) also means I have been in my fantasy pants---huge balloon shaped Indian print draw-string monstrosities, most with holes in the seams---for days and days and days. When I MUST leave the house, I do it quickly, in carefully planned and sharply executed sprints. And HERE at last I stop digressing and we come to pajamas----what I THOUGHT the blog was going to be about before I decided to do an interior landscape painting instead that clearly shows my mental illness number hovering highhighhigh above the flatlands of my brain like a full moon.

SO! PAJAMAS! And not leaving the house except in sprints. Some of these sprints don’t require me to change into actual pants. Yesterday I did bank/pick-up-kids/drive-through-liquor-store-window-for-Shiraz-and-Diet-Coke without anyone but a few seen-much-worse, high-perched professional truckers ever seeing anything below my shoulders through the Vue’s window. If my little uber-mammal children didn’t require another gallon of milk every other minute I might not put on pants again this month.

For the record? The drive-through window liquor store only has Milk Chugs. No actual gallons or even quarts. REALLY, Liquor store? REALLY? Okay then, why bother carrying chocolate infused Vodka if you do not have MILK so people can make grown up rabbit-free Quik? Silly people.

Posted by joshilyn at October 22, 2009 8:01 AM

I love the new title!

Posted by: JulieB at October 22, 2009 8:43 AM

Drive though liqour stores? Is that a good idea?

Posted by: Em at October 22, 2009 9:17 AM


Posted by: Joshilyn at October 22, 2009 9:24 AM

OKAY to revise that yes...

Drinking drinking and driving: Bad idea.

Being able to buy wine and milk chugs to take home while not wearing pants: exceptionally great idea.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 22, 2009 9:25 AM

Seriously, drive through liquor stores? Where do you live? Can I move into the neighbourhood?

Posted by: edj at October 22, 2009 9:59 AM

Non-Us reader here. Drive through banks? Surely the word bank must mean something other than I thought. Or do you actually have drive through banks?

Posted by: Åsa at October 22, 2009 10:44 AM

Finally our first preview of TOMS. The character names sound very interesting. I couldn't imagine where you were when you developed the title but I think I have a clue...

Posted by: Linda J at October 22, 2009 10:56 AM

You're mad at me, aren't you?? *sob*

And Asa, yes, we have drive-through banks. You stay in the car, put your stuff in a tube and then into a contraption that shoots the tube inside to the folks there, and then they send it back out to you. It's like magic, especially when the teller inside notices your kids are in the car and sends your receipt back with lollipops.

Posted by: Mir at October 22, 2009 10:56 AM

You said: "and I make sure I am keeping in touch even in the throws of deepest over-involvement with imaginary people."

Can't believe you said "throws". Nope. Can't.

You meant "throes", didn't you? Please tell me you did.

Sorry, but it just jumped off the screen and slapped me square in the eyeballs. :)

Posted by: AngelMay at October 22, 2009 11:14 AM

I am irrationally excited about the fact that you are working on another book. And I'm also sorta jealous that you have drive-thru liquor stores. That is pure genius.

Posted by: Anna Marie at October 22, 2009 1:56 PM

Pajama clad errands are great as long as you stash a pair of jeans in your car for emergency use...like when your car battery dies...and you find yourself wearing pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers after dropping your kids off at school...

Posted by: JeanEva at October 22, 2009 2:40 PM

JeanEva - That's the exact nightmare I have when I take my kids to school in my pajamas.

I'm so glad you did the interior landscape painting of your mind, because that was quite an interesting view. I mean that sincerely, not in a judgy way - that was a really interesting glimpse, for this non-writer, of the internal life of writer. You rock.

Posted by: Carrie (in MN) at October 22, 2009 2:52 PM

In Louisiana, we do not have drive through liquor stores where you could by closed and sealed bottles of liquor to consume at home. We do however have drive thru daiquiri stores where you can pick up a big gulp sized cocktail with a straw. Scary.

Posted by: Jill W. at October 22, 2009 4:42 PM

Yes. I made a homophone error... I spend NO MORE than 20 minutes on a blog entry, or else I start to use up my actual writing energy I need for the books. Errors happen. I can either not blog perfectly or blog imperfectly in 20 minutes...If you spent anough time in the archives I bet a there and their or a too and to error would rear up and slap you in the eyes as well.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 22, 2009 4:52 PM

I love the mind-scamperingness of your blog and would embrace a thousand homophone errors an entry.

Posted by: Melissa at October 22, 2009 8:03 PM

I so appreciated your vivid descriptions of your particular crazy. They make me feel ever so slightly more sane ;)

Posted by: Heather at October 22, 2009 9:44 PM

You know how you are talking about some obscure movie or book and then a day later that same obscure subject reappears in a totally different place? I call it a "weird thing" (sorry for the terribly un-clever name, but I'm not the genius author here). Well here's my weird thing. Yesterday we were talking about the incredible awfulness of the new NCIS:Los Angeles, and a friend raved over "the little woman." I mentioned that she won a Academy award for playing a male character in (here's the weird thing) The Year of Living Dangerously. I haven't heard the movie mentioned in twenty years, and then it popped up twice in two days. Just had to share.

Posted by: Sandi at October 22, 2009 9:48 PM

Thank you for the professional writerly advice. I shall go right now and change into my pajamas. I had forgotten the importance of clothing. In university, I had what I called my Che Guevara pants. I wore them when I was either studying for exams or writing essays. I wonder if I could find another pair of those. They were the most comfortable things I've ever worn.

And by the way, I'll bet your Rose doesn't have her own blog. My Marie does. ;>) And you thought you were crazy!

Posted by: Sandra Leigh at October 22, 2009 9:52 PM

Joshilyn, I hope you saw the smiley face on my comment. I often complain that my fingers type whatever they please - regardless of what my brain is telling them. It's nice to know that someone else has that problem as well. I quite enjoy your blog and hope that you did not take offense.

Posted by: AngelMay at October 23, 2009 12:28 AM

Nope, no offense, just explaining why there will always be an error or two in my blog entries. I do not proof 'em and spellcheck does not catch homophone errors.

Posted by: Joshilyn at October 23, 2009 6:34 AM

Not to mention what an entire bag of Cheetos does to the color of your . . . never mind. Too gross.

I am envious of the drive-through liquor stores as well. There WAS a drive-through convenience store for milk, bread, etc. here, which was a great concept, but I (and I guess nobody else, as it's now gone) would go because who's to say the clerk won't give you the just-expired stuff?

Posted by: Brigitte at October 23, 2009 7:07 AM

Reminds me of the day when one of our fellow moms was in a minor fender bender on the way to school. Other moms saw and stopped to help and bring the kids to school. At one point, the responding officer looked around and said, "Where are you all going and why are you in your pajamas?"
He must not have kids yet! ;o)

Posted by: Jen at October 23, 2009 8:55 AM

I think the drive-through liquor stores is a stellar idea. We don't have those in California, or at least I haven't been fortunate enough to find one if we do - no drive-through convenience stores either - another stellar idea. I'm never letting my underage daughter go to Lousiana - those liquor laws are frighteningly lax.

Posted by: Gina at October 23, 2009 5:02 PM

I think the drive-through liquor stores is a stellar idea. We don't have those in California, or at least I haven't been fortunate enough to find one if we do - no drive-through convenience stores either - another stellar idea. Lousiana's liquor laws are frighteningly lax.

Posted by: Gina at October 23, 2009 5:03 PM

Jill, are you in NOLA? is the drive through Jello-shots place on Veterans still there?

Posted by: elizabeth at October 24, 2009 5:20 PM

Up in Ouachita Parish, LA where I grew up and my Momma still lives, there is not only a drive through daiquiri stand (they get around the open container laws by taping the straw to the lid) but across the street LITERALLY is the drive through liquor store. When I was a kid, the laws were so lax that if you could carry the beer to the counter and pay for it, they pretty much let you buy it. And even up North in LA the open container laws are pretty much ignored during the Mardi Gras parade. I think it is partially why us Louisianians are so "colorful".

Posted by: Pandoravox at October 25, 2009 10:39 AM

I abuse the pharmacy drive through when I have sick kids. I feel like anything having to do with making them feel better is game, Tylenol, Sprite, cough medicine, popscicles.

BTW, my favorite homophonish (totally a word) typo error happened to me in a journalism class when I was too lazy to proofread which happens when you finish things at 4 am. I had written that my mother had tried to raise me to be a "gentile Southern lady." My professor said to me with a mildly patronizing tone, "I believe you mean genteel, as in elegant or graceful, not Gentile, as in a non-jew." I so wish I would have looked him right in the eye with a straight face and said, "Oh yeah, that too."

Posted by: Lori B. at October 25, 2009 8:45 PM