Anne hit it dead on in comments -- the place with the fantastic grits was INDEED Highlands, and I PACKED myself with appetizers and had to take most of my fabulous duck home. There were these OYSTERS, fried oysters. The folks who had eaten aty Highlands before ordered an array of appetizers at the start, and they ordered TWO platters of these things. Between you and me, oh my best beloveds, I was unimpressed with fried oysters as a choice. Fried oysters, to me, are what my son always wanted when he was two and we took him to his FAVORITE eatery, "The Red Lopper."
I WAS A FOOL. These oysters... It was as if they were not shellfish at all, but rather supremely talented young acting students in a hard-to-get-into workshop led by a tiny little woman in a dirndle and thick glasses who had them all on the floor with their eyes closed as she chanted, "BE VELVETY! YOU MUST PERSONIFY VELVETNESS AND SILKEN FLAVORFUL BURSTING" at them, and every single oyster was doing the exercise like Kevin Spacey on a good day. Like Meryl Streep on ANY day. Each little acting oyster was a FUTURE STAR destined for Oscars and Tony Awards and Celebrity Roasts, or in this case, celebrity Deep Friers and garlic mayonnaise.
My cold had abated a little by evening so I was able to appreciate them. I was breathing on two cylinders, but I was ---and I know you will find this hard to believe ---I was the TEENIEST bit spastic. I claim "High on Echinacea." And also Theraflu Cold Formula which they say is NON-DROWSY by which they mean, "SO non-drowsy you might as well snort crank." (ASIDE: The service at Highlands was fantastic, considering I marched in buzzing on these meds and crippled half their staff by first falling off my predictably ridiculous strappy BUT SO PRETTY black sandals and landing on a waiter and then I threw open the door to the bar and the door swung A LOT MORE EASILY then I thought it would, very fast, very hard, and took out the host. *sigh* Grace in motion!)
ANYWAY like I said, I was a little buzzy-quick-like-a-bunny on my over-counter-cold-crank, and there were these Warner Tote bags at everyone's chair with a copy of the book and a little bottle of Jack (because Jack Daniel's IS undisputably one of the gods in Alabama, and also if you challenged my narrator to an old fashioned duel---and in such cases the challenged gentleperson has the choice of weapon and other details---she would undoubtably pick 'liquor bottles at midnight") AND also a copy of the BOOKPAGE MAGAZINE that contains the FABULOUS interview and review of gods that Jay MacDonald (who is a very good writer in his own right) wrote. (Hey it's a very funny, smart article. If you want to read it, Books-A-Million has it up in the EDITOREAL REVIEW section on the gods in Alabama page I would link to it if I could get links to work. GRRR. But THERE IS A LINK TO IT RIGHT HERE ON THIS PAGE! All you have to do is hit that link to Books-A-Million that is to your left, under the teeny little cover image.)
LORD BUT I AM GOING TO DIGRESS US ALL TO AN EARLY GRAVE WITH THE CEASELESS DEATH MARCH OF PARENTHETICAL ASIDES.
The point being, I was VERY excited to see the paper copy of that review (my Mom REALLY wanted a copy. Um yeah. My mom. That's my story and I am sticking with it) so I...I hesitate to say "SQUEALED," not because it isn't true (because, LORD HELP ME I DID, I SQUEALED) but I hesitate to say so because every now and again I get the urge to try to retain a teeny scraplike, lacy, besmirched tatter of personal dignity, but, okay well, if we consider that a lost cause, then the ugly, plucked bald, pink truth is... I squealed. Like a delighted piglet. And everyone kinda LOOKED AT ME for a second and the echinacea granted me the power of MIND READING and I saw some variation of the exact same thought in every brain: "Ooooooooooooookay. She must have REALLY been jonesing for a FREE TOTE BAG."
So I explained the squeal, the magazine, the review blah blah, and then the tote bag sort of became a joke and I had a great time. REALLY a great time. I had such a good time that even if the oysters had not been there to act as a life-altering religious experience, I STILL would have given the whole evening two thumbs up. YAY.
By the way, for those keeping score? T minus 13 days. I'm just saying.
I have a little cold. No big deal---nothing to write home (or a blog) about, except.... My tastebuds are dead.
This would be fine, I mean, its starve a cold anyway, isn't it? Or do you feed it? I never can remember, but I am choosing to starve mine because everything tastes like wallpaper paste and---DIGRESSION: THAT'S GOOD because I found out I am going to be doing a TV interview (more on this later) at some point and the camera adds ten pounds and they are sure to have THREE OR FOUR of the dern things pointed at me which means I need to lose 40 pounds in the next 2 weeks so I need to starve the CRAP out of my cold (and here "cold" is a euphemism meaning "butt"), but even then, I doubt I will make it into a size 2 (which is what EVERY FREAKING PERSON ON TV WEARS and which is APPROXIMATELY THE SIZE OF MY CALF) by the fourteenth unless I call in a flensor and give up all my skin and most of my internal organs SO and I am thinking the easiest way to drop that much weight fast might be to hack off my HEAD because it has at LEAST 40 pounds of mucus in right now. *DEEP BREATH*
I said all that to say, I HAVE NO TASTEBUDS, and I am meeting with some booksellers tonight, and we are going to eat at one of the NICEST RESTAURANTS ON THE PLANET. It's southern cuisine with a heavy French influence. THIS PLACE HAS THE BEST GRITS EVEREVEREVER, and thanks to my cold, I fear they will be as ashes in my mouth. If you are thinking, "Yick! Grits are always as ashes in my mouth!" then 1) no matter WHAT you scored on that Dixie-Yankee quiz, you AIN'T southern, and 2) even if you are so far north you have never left CANADA, these grits would convert you. I do solemnly swear it. Stone ground to a buttery softness, rich with thyme and wild mushrooms and parmesan cheese and reaching out to the common man with chunks of tender HAM....ooooooh. One bite would have alla y'all Canadians saying, "That dog won't hunt," and putting MONSTROUS wheels on your trucks. Hoo-whee!
On the side of righteousness, I CLEANED OUT MY OFFICE. It's carpetted! WHO KNEW! And I found Jimmy Hoffa, too, way back under my desk, right beside the entrance to the city of Atlantis. This is a BEFORE picture of the corner of my desk, and this was probably the NEATEST thing in the office:
This is the desk I cleaned off to glean prizes for people who found the literary references in a former entry. HEY, one cool thing. My copy of Dallas Hudgens EXCELLENT debut novel Drive Like Hell was on the desk somewhere under that pile, AND my friend WENDI alerted me that Dallas was IN TOWN on tour, so I took the book to a signing and got it autographed for one of the winners. Dallas turned out to be a cool guy with a sense of humor---and he kinda looks like a MOVIE STAR. He is TV level pretty, and COME ON, barring Michael Chabon that almost never happens. We writers tend to live under rocks and be very pale and shriek THE LIGHT! THE LIGHT! I AM BLIIIIIIIIIND! when dragged beneath a 40 watt bulb...Okay that might be a slight exaggeration. Most writers don't frighten children, but it's not a profession like, say, SPOKESMODEL, where everyone of us is preternaturally beautiful AND YET THEY ARE APPARENTLY PUTTING US ON TV ANYWAY, and can someone please grab the other end of this cross-cut saw and lets have a go at GETTING THIS SNOT-FILLED FORTY-POUND HEAD OFF... Not that I am feeling insecure about going on local morning shows or anythign like that. I'm just saying DALLAS is made for TV. But don't get too all up ons over it---his WIFE was cute too and he really likes her. Anyway, I told him about the contest and he wrote in the book "This is really the copy from Joshilyn's messy desk." I bought another copy for myself that night, that book is a keeper and is currently living on my READ AGAIN shelf.
ALSO here are the kids at EASTER for those who wanted to see what THREE and EIGHT look like. Good Lord, who signed the permission slip to allow my BABIES to become giant CHILDREN???
What's that? Looming up on the dawn horizon, glowing and golden and warm, turning the sky and clouds into 100 different shades of roseate glory...the sun you say? I think not. It is my BOOK, which releases in two and half weeks.
I hate writer blogs that are all about bookbookbook, every day, YOU KNOW THE ONES, where the blog seems to exist not to entertain me, the person visiting it, or even the writer who is writing it. It's more like an endless running loop of a single commercial---the internet's answer to the infomercial.
The writer blogs I like are funny and personal, like Jennifer Weiner's ADORABLE BLOG (note: this should be a link---MT is THWARTING ME!). Or they are industry centered and either keep me up to date on what good books are coming up or talk about marketing and promo. Or --- and these are some of my favorites --- they talk about craft and how to be a better writer. Or they are gossipy and smart and behind-the-scene-sy like beatrice. I like all the ones I have linked to on my BLinks page.
THAT SAID! LET'S FREAKIN' TALK ABOUT MY BOOK! FOR A LONG TIME!!!! Bookbookbookbookbookbook.
gods in Alabama is close to ALL I THINK ABOUT. Really, to get my mind off of my book, you have to be my baby and you have to put yourself in mortal peril. (AND FOR THE RECORD, allow me to categorically state to any of my babies who might be reading this, I feel MORTAL PERIL is an extreme reaction to your mama's book-obsession and I ask that for you now you ROLL WITH IT instead of CEASING TO BREATH or skidding sideways off a bike jump and peeling half the skin off your legs ETC ETC.)
It's bad. It's very bad. If I saw a naked man walking down the street, COMPLETELY NAKED with NO CLOTHES on at all, I bet the FIRST thing I would think would be, "Hey! A naked man! I have one of those in MY BOOK WHICH RELEASES IN TWO AND HALF WEEKS. I wonder if he is cold. Or if he READS. Maybe I should tell him about my BOOK WHICH RELEASES IN 16 DAYS and loan him my sweater... he could wrap it about his loins while he reads my book which is JUST ABOUT TO ACTUALLY RELEASE!"
I am going to try to get it together and talk about something else, but UNFORTUNATELY nothing else exists right now.
EXCEPT Easter candy, which I am eating in great nerve-wracked fistfuls. And Maisy's birthday. SHE IS THREE TODAY! And I am making her a princess cake. You know the kind---you bake it in a batter bowl and it is a HUGE DOME decorated like a skirt, and then you send your husband to the Craft Supply Shop to buy half a Barbie who is nothing but a LONG POINTY STICK below the waist and you poke her into the top of the SKIRT cake.
Scott went and bought the half a Barbie yesterday, and I took her out to dress her (the half a Barbie comes NAKED and you have to fashion her a little top out of ribbon or else you have a different sort of party entirely....) and she was black. He had bought half an African American Barbie. I said, "Is there any reason why you got the black half a Barbie?" and Scott said, "Oh, is she black?" And he came and looked at her as if he had never seen her before and said, "Huh, look. She IS black."
So we are having a very politically correct party with multi-cultural princess cake. I got tickled that he could go and buy a black half-Barbie and NOT NOTICE that she did not very much resemble his BLONDE daughter who is so melanin-challenged the whiteness of her bare legs has been known to BLIND unsuspecting passers-by if they look at them directly in the sunlight. I have giggled on the phone about it with every one of my girlfriends. I think he is getting a LEETLE TIRED of my relentless mockery. Whenever the topic comes up, he starts SIGHING great MARTYRED sighs and saying, "I guess SOME PEOPLE do not see the world in BLACK AND WHITE like YOU. Maybe ONE DAY you will be TRULY COLORBLIND like ME. I will be in the yard praying LOUDLY and PUBLICLY for you to GROW AS A PERSON if you need me."
But I am too busy to grow as a person. I have to ice the skirt and then I have a lot of BOOK OBSESSING to do.
Sorry. Things have been spooky on the home front. Remember when Maisy got to take that FUN Ambulance ride for her febrile seizure? Well. She apparently gave up "Breathing Properly" for Lent and didn't tell anyone. Instead she saved her little secret for Wednesday night near midnight, when she woke up screaming whenever she could get enough air to scream. Which wasn't often. Scott heard her by SOME MIRACLE STRAIGHT FROM GOD. We tried to get her airways open, failed, and called 911 while she thrashed and struggled and gasped and wheezed and reddened and faded in and out. Once again fire trucks and ambulances decended, oxygen and albuterol were supplied, and I in my pajama top sat weeping and singing LITTLE BUNNY FOO FOO over and over again in the back of an ambulance as it wailed and sped to the hospital.
SHE IS FINE. Of course she is fine. Or I wouldn't be here telling you about it. It was a bad, sudden onset of evil croup, and once again we followed up with the pediatrician and once again he assured us this is a healthy little girl and an isolated incident which is no one's fault except mine for being a terrible mother. Then he hit me.
Okay no, that didn't happen. BUT, I am having BAD CAVEMAN MAGICAL JINX thoughts. Do you have that suspicious VOODOO gland in your brain? The one which, no matter what happens, can find a way where it is absolutely YOUR fault and clearly the result of your actions? This can work directly, in an ALMOST RATIONAL cause and effect way, as in: "This is my fault because I didn't have a humidifier going in the baby's room,"even though the REASON you didn't have a humidifier in the baby's room is because you just read this LONG LONG THREAD on your mom-writers e-mail list about how humidifiers can actually CAUSE terrible illness because they get MOLDY and DISEASEY and disseminate illness into the air, AND you know DARN WELL that if you HAD had the humidifier going on the room you would now be saying, "Oh this is because I had the humidifier going and I might as well have taken a BAGGY FULL OF CROUP AND MUCUS AND DEATH and stuffed it by hand right into her throat and lungs!"
And that's not even the worst of it, because at least that MAKES RATIONAL SENSE. The worst is the late at night when the baby is in your bed because you are too scared that she will suddenly STOP BREATHING for no reason (now that there is precedent) and at first you can't sleep because her feet are stuffed into spleen and her exploring fingers keep creeping up your nostrils, but then she falls asleep and you lie there STILL not sleeping. You listen to her lungs processing air, in and out perfectly, her whole little body the walking definition of miraculous as all her little parts pump and heave and digest and burble.
She is so lovely, smooth skin gleaming in the light of the Glow Worm bedtime pal you are squeezing so his head lights up to let you see the rise and fall of her small, sturdy chest and you think, "The humidifier had nothing to do with it. This is YOUR FAULT---COSMICALLY. You are self-involved and awful and all you think about is YOUR BOOK and you just left town for a month to do book promo and you are leaving for another 6 weeks and this is the UNIVERSE saying YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS CHILD you TOWN-LEAVER, you BOOK-OBSESSOR. You did this, and you DESERVE THIS FEAR and what you should do is STOP EVERYTHING, your writing, your friends, your work, your sleeping, your marriage, JUST STOP and you should stand over her and her brother every moment, vigilent, you must live to watch their lungs work, because this was a wake-up call to make you understand NOTHING else matters but that those two small hearts keep pumping, the four lungs pulling air in and out, and PS you are a BAD BAD MOTHER and YOU LET THIS HAPPEN because YOU. LOOKED. AWAY.
Here in the daylight, I know that's not true. Its croup, not karma, not judgement, it's a meaningless blip of malfunction in an otherwise healthy little growing body. But my love for her, my huge and paralyzing love for her, makes me search so hard for meaning. If I can make it MY FAULT, then I can control it. I can then do whatever must be done to propitiate the croup gods and keep her safe, keep her breathing, keep her happy and unharmed in a cheerful pink world where I can control all the elements and my baby is never at the mercy of that which is random.
1) Regarding the new yellow virtual book signing button: If you poke it, it takes you to a page with a form you can fill out to order a signed (and inscribed, if you so desire) copy of gods in Alabama. BUT! DO NOT WORRY! The form doesn't come to me. I am not selling my author copies (my mother would KILL ME as she has plans for 7 of the 10 I got the other day). All the information you put in the slots goes to an actual bookstore, one that sells books and has been in the business of selling books ad infinitum and one run by professional business runners who have NEVER ONCE collected people's credit card numbers and then snuck off to buy villas in Mexico. IN OTHER WORDS, you are not sending your personal credit card information to me, a girl with a KNOWN shoe problem.
(Facetiousness aside---THANK YOU, you folks who actually ORDERED BOOKS the very first day the button went up. Jake --the owner of the Alabama Booksmith--- DOES CC me on the names/inscriptions (not the CC#'s) so we can each have a master list and make sure all the copies get correctly inscribed on the event day. I was EXTREMELY THRILLED that actual orders started happening yesterday. After the first one came, I had a hard time not pressing my GET EMAIL button every six minutes to see if there were more, and then as they began to trickle in, I started hyperventilating and it upset the cat ... I feel like the YELLOW BUTTON orders are going to replace RELENTLESS AMAZON RANK CHECKING as my new preferred method of driving up my mental illness number.)
2) I AM SORRY IF I AM NOT COMING TO YOUR TOWN. If Warner would buy me an airline ticket and book me a hotel room and feed me on fruit plates, I would come. Please stop yelling at me and saying I do not love you, or that I do not love UTAH. You are hurting both my feelings and UTAH's. YOU ARE KILLING MY HEART WITH YOUR KNIVES. I already asked Scott if I could sell his car and raise the money to tour myself some more, and he said NO, so that's that. Plus it's a 98 Honda Civic with a hundred thousand miles on it. I doubt the resulting funds would GET me all the way to Utah. PLUS? If you really loved ME? You would sell YOUR Honda Civic and COME SEE ME IN VERMONT!
(Facetiousness aside---It is kinda making me sniffly that y'all are nice enough and interested enough to CARE that I'm not coming to your state/city. Thanks.)
3) YES, VIRGINIA, there IS a rest of sock story. I WILL tell it. It's just NOT THAT GOOD A STORY, okay. And it's getting to the point where even if the story featured a GUEST APPEARENCE by Paris Hilton's ugliest pants, it would STILL be a disappointment after all the SOCK HYPE that's being built up in the comments. I even got a LONG e-mail yesterday from Deb, SPECULATING on the rest of the sock story, and her mental version involved pink spangle lip-gloss and mad-cap dogs and MEETING JOYCE CAROL OATES. The really REAL sock story can't live up to it, okay? BECAUSE IT IS A STORY ABOUT SOCKS. I mean, COME ON. Socks.
(Facetiousness aside---The part about the sock story not being that great is a big fat lie. In fact, it is SO great, it is going to CHANGE YOUR LIFE. No, really. It's going to be like a TONY ROBBINS seminar except with more inspiration. AND COOKIES. You will be SO TRANSFORMED by it that you will eschew your personal possessions and head to the airport wearing nothing but pink socks---you will have to arrange them rather strategically in order to avoid arrest---where you will spend the rest of your days in a state of NEAR ECSTACY, selling mini gerbera daisies and chanting!... Oh, wait, THIS is the facetious part. Never mind.)
See the yellow button over there on your left, just under the thumbnail image of gods in Alabama? If you can't make it to an actual tour event because you WILFULLY chose to prance off and live in MONTANA, even though YOUR MOTHER TOLD YOU NOT TO, never fear. It doesn't mean you are destined to die alone on a rickety Montanian cot, weeping as you slip this mortal coil because you never got a signed, inscribed first edition hardback of gods in Alabama. You can thank The Alabama Booksmith, a fantastical indy, who has set up a VIRTUAL SIGNING...just poke that yellow button and you can order a copy of gods that I'll sign and inscribe this April when the tour plops me smack into the middle of the Booksmith.
IF I AM NOT COMING NEAR YOUR HOUSE I AM SORRY. Please stop yelling at me in e-mail. *grin* I don't get to pick, you know. I mostly go where they point me, and the tour is shaping up to be very SOUTH-focused. (With a few exceptions---I need to update the tour page because I am going to Northshire in Vermont and a couple of stops at cool Chicago indies are in the works but not dead set yet. I am wildly excited about the Vermont thing, I have to say. I have never been, Manchester is sposed to be gorgeous, and I get to meet Robert Gray.)
And SPEAKING of weeping and clutching first editions....my book came. My real, alive, actual book came from the printers, and I will have you skeptics know it SMELLS AMAZING. I thought it would be this DIFFUSED experience---See I was in Nashville when it arrived at my house, and so I KNEW it was there. I came home to it, mentally prepped to see my book for the first time, and I thought I would be PLEASED and all, but you know, I've seen the ARCs and blah blah. So I was expecting a wash of pleasure and hope and to say, "OH! THIS IS NEAT! HERE IT IS! YAY." But there was a lot more melting into a waxy puddle and blubbering than I had prepped myself for. It was so amazing to TOUCH ALL OVER IT. Between you and me? I STILL can't help stopping and picking it up and touching all over it and sniffing at it's clean, papery edges whenever I pass it.
Right after I got it, I left a long, long, long, weepy, incoherent, LONG message on my editor's voice mail. That message -- Oh how I cringe. I was babbling and WRACKED by snuffling --- I strongly considered doing the whole sit com cliche "I MUST GO TO NEW YORK AND BREAK INTO THE TIME WARNER BUILDING AND STEAL HER ANSWERING MACHINE" thing. But I comforted myself that, what with all the gasping and snorking and whimpery noises, she probably assumed that it was just a random obscene phone call and deleted.
SPEAKING OF NASHVILLE (Which we were a paragraph or so ago) A couple of people from the SIGNING at the trade show have SHOWED UP IN THE COMMENTS. (Hey, Ya'll! Welcome!) I sometimes forget this blog is just sitting out there on google. It feels like a closed room, you know? It feels like a secret. I have Faster Than Kudzu separate from the book, and I have the book separate from me.
This blog is personal. Yeah, I talk about book stuff, but mostly I yammer about the cat's weight problem and whether or not he has slimmed down enough to groom his own butt and what happened when I wore the wrong socks to the skate-trail (I swear I will one day finish that story). In other words, this blog is a big cog in the wheel of things that entertain me and keep me out of bars. It's not A NOVELIST talking, it's just me the dork. Because to me a NOVELIST is a fictional person who lives in New York and has BETTER SHOES THAN I DO, not a person in my house who burned up the salmon croquettes last night. But... with the book being a PHYSICAL OBJECT and some actual alive people I met in another state at a BOOK EVENT showing up here, things are changing.
ME THE DORK goes wandering around my house thinking, "Should I have a waffle? Did I remember to tape MEDIUM last night?," and yet I am FLECKED with little bits of this other world where I am a novelist, where this thing I have worked for and wanted for so long is actually coming true, and as the release approaches, it is as if the edges of all these little speckles of book-world things are expanding, and it seems possible that the edges may one day TOUCH each other and blend into my skin and be not flecks of unreality, but just...how my life is.
I talk about a LOT of books on this site, because, you know, I READ. All the freaking time. Sometimes I talk about books I LOVED, sometimes I talk about books I LOATHED, and sometimes I talk about books that aren't even out yet or that I haven't read or even ones that I probably will not read because, I don't know, they have SPIES in them. Spies leave me so cold I get practically clammy. I hate gadgets and international intrigue and I think the FILTHIEST word in the English language is POLITICS.
If a book or writer is getting buzz, I may link to it so you can scope it out and see if it is your cuppa, but I won't say I READ THIS AND LOVED IT, unless, you know, I've read it. And loved it. THAT SAID:
This is not a book I ever would have danced out and purchased on my own initiative because, you know, I am not fourteen. I am reading a lot of YA these days because my son is a voracious book-eater who reads WAY above grade level. I SCREEN some of the more advanced books that pique his interest---Sam may be capable of READING the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, but I don't think he is philosophically ready to take on what is essentially the secular humanist answer to Narnia. I've also tucked TITHE by Holly Black and CORALINE by Neil Gaimon away for a few years---both are ASTOUNDING books but the CREEP and CRUELTY factors would cause nightmares like you've never seen. Sam is, like me, an excrutiatingly VIVID dreamer. BUT ANYWAY, Sam is a manling, so most of the books I screen for him are about TIME TRAVEL and NINJAS and TALKING ROACHES and TRICKSY HOBBITSES.
The Boyfriend List skews older than Sam, and it's way GIRL-er than Sam. So, like I said, it's not a book I would have ever run across in my daily prancings. It is, however, a book I wish *I* had had when I was 13 or so...Seriously. It's funny and clever and an entertaining read -- BUT. It's also a SMART book to give a girl who is on the CUSP of that moment when the world SHIFTS and suddenly BOYS, those nasty, scab-encrusted creatures, become VIABLE HUMANS and our female friendships get completely rearranged. There's nothing easy-solution ala After-School-Special or pat about it, but it does VERY SUBTLEY and in a PREACH-FREE way offer girls ways to THINK about their choices. I'm giving my copy to my niece and buying another copy for Beautiful Caroline, a friend's fast-blossoming daughter.
After I finished the book, I snagged Miss E. and hit her up with my usual three questions:
Me: I usually ask how the author came up with the title, but given back jacket copy, I think that's a no brainer. SO I'll ask this instead: How did you come with the idea of having Roo (your main character) make a Boyfriend List? Did you ever have to make one?
E.: I had a list. I've lost it now. It was a list of every boy I had ever kissed, though. Not every boy I "ever had any little any kind of anything with" -- which is what Roo's is, in the book. And Roo's list is an assignment given to her by her shrink, as a way of getting her to talk about her life. Mine was just the a little personal record, kept in a pretty notebook.
Me: This is a funny, funny book that reads lightly---just a pleasure---but it's not an EASY book. I loved that there was no pure villian in this book, that Roo is flawed, that not every relationship gets healed and not every problem gets resolved, and that Roo asks more questions about her own behavior than she answers in the footnotes. Sometimes she has no idea if she made the right choices or not, and she asks the reader what they think, directly, and asks what they would do in her place. Did you start out with the idea of this book as a dialogue with the reader, or did that grow as you wrote?
E.: Thank you! There is a sequel -- The Boy Book -- which will come out in Spring 2006. But it'll be just as messy as the first one, no doubt (I'm in the middle of it, now). Life is messy.
And romance in high school -- well, the happy endings are nearly always short-lived.
I think the dialog with the reader came about organically when I wrote a passage near the beginning in which Roo decides not to explain what she looks like. It pisses her off (as it pisses me off) that heroines so often exhibit either radiant beauty (Bergdorf Blondes, for example) or self-loathing (She's Come Undone), with little in between. I had written descriptions of Roo's friends, but I balked at having her describe herself. So instead I wrote this whole footnote about all the reasons she refused to do it -- and before I knew it I was writing a whole 'nother footnote saying, Okay, if you're really jonesing for a description, I don't want to deprive you: I have waxy ears and cute teeth and long eyelashes and my tummy sticks out after I eat. Happy, now?
And once that kind of forum was open, it was natural to continue it into more important moments in her life.
Me: Part of what this book does is take a good, hard look at what happens to female friendships when young women reach the age where BOYS become a huge factor. Did you ever lose a friend over a boy?
E.: I most certainly did lose a friend over a boy. More than once.
All the circumstances in The Boyfriend List -- in particular, what happens between Roo and her friend Kim, and the reverberations of that through the rest of their high school -- all those are imaginary and escalated to extremes for comic effect. But I was writing about emotions and situations that I'm sad to say I continued to feel all the way through my twenties. The problem of friends dating ex-boyfriends, or boyfriends flirting with friends, or ex-girlfriends calling up my boyfriends and wanting to go to coffee.
All that painful weirdness-- that's what I was trying to write about in The Boyfriend List.
HEY! I got a bunch of the tour dates up----THESE dates are pretty much SET, but I will be adding the later stops as soon as they are confirmed. GO LOOK and see if I am COMING SOON to a TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU. And then my lawyer (father of the fantastic AYEX THE MIGHTY) has told me I have to include the following paragraph:
By reading the word "DINOFLAGELLATE" (which you just read) the READEE (this is you) agrees that he/she is morally, ethically, and contractually obligated to come and see THE DINOFLAGELLATE INVOKER (this is me) should said invoker's book tour bring her within a 30 mile radius of READEE's house, job, or regular hang-out spot. This contract is legal and binding and READEE agrees that he/she has committed his/her IMMORTAL SOUL to show up, even if on the way to the bookstore he/she crossing the street and a truck knocks him/her down and runs over his/her legs. He/she must suck it up and DRAG him/herself the last few feet.
(Not that I am worried about throwing a party and having no one COME just because this is my first novel and NO ONE in AMERICA knows me from Adam's off-ox and the book will have been out for fifteen minutes so it's unlikely great herds of people in, say, ARKANSAS where I have NEVER BEEN EVEN ONCE IN MY LIFE will have read it yet. NO NO, not worried at ALL! But by the way, my lawyer says to mention also that READEEs who no-show will have their forfeited souls fed to THE FOOT ATTACK CAT DEMON who tore open my instep as I was sleeping because I moved my feet under the covers and IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?)
When last we spoke, I was prepping to leave town and go speak at a book trade show luncheon in Nashville. I was nervous, but... I DID NOT VOMIT. Point for the home team! The event was held in two-winged GINORMOUS event tent set up by the hosts (a big Nashville book distributor). In one wing there was a huge lunchroom (they fed us and the 300 or so booksellers and librarians who had gathered) and then the other side was a trade show floor where the three writers who spoke did signings and where all the publishing houses had little booths set up with reps and their spring line on display.
I sat through lunch picking all the cheese out of my salad, feeling too nervous to EAT CHOCOLATE CARAMEL MOUSSE CAKE, and worrying about when I should pee so that
1) I would NOT be in the bathroom when they went up to introduce me and hear my name and have to come leaping out with my skirt tucked into my stockings and a long toilet paper streamer waving jauntily from the back like a tail.
2) I would not be dying to go pee the whole time I was talking.
You will be MIGHTILY RELIEVED TO KNOW that I peed at the perfect, optimal moment, and it was smooth sailing after that. IF I CAN STOP WITH THE HEART PALPITATIONS, I think I may end up being good at this! I really do! THANK GOD. The bad part was, I was up FIRST, so there went my clever plan to see what the first person did. And I didn't want to sound REHEARSED and STIFF and READ-ALOUD-Y so I basically thought of the SHAPE of what I wanted to say, wrote seven PROMPT sentence fragments on a sheet of a paper, and took that up there with me to look at if my brain went dead.
But it was all FINE. People were laughing at all the parts where I hoped people would laugh, and in the between-laugh pauses, it got quiet in there, you know? That kind of UN-RUSTLE-Y and COUGH-FREE quiet you get when a large group of folks are engaged and listening. I talked about the book, about my beloved narrator, Arlene, I read a couple of short, funny scenes and basically tried to get the FEEL of the book across to people, so they could see if it was the sort of thing they liked. (When I got back, I immediately hoovered up BOTH my neglected dessert AND the dessert of a Warner VP who had to leave right after I spoke to catch her plane.)
After, at the trade-show, TONS of people came up to my little booth wanting a copy and being REALLY interested in reading the book etc etc. WE RAN OUT!!! The rep had to put down sheets of paper for people to order more copies to be sent to them.
People were saying. "I BET YOU'RE SICK OF THIS, HUH? I BET YOUR HAND IS TIRED." And I would LAUGH because it was my first book signing, and the books were FLYING off the table and people were excited about reading them and um, NO, I WAS NOT SICK OF IT. If I ever DO get sick of it, if I ever DARE to NOT THRILL at the AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to talk to and sign for people who have read and loved and are supporting my book, or who are interested and engaged and eager to read my book, then I will have OFFICALLY become a BUTTHOLE.
My lawyer says to tell you, "Ms. Jackson is not actively pursuing plans to become a butthole at this time."
I am off to Nashville, but I have to tell you this JUST REALLY FAST:
Beautiful Maisy who is only two goes to a playschool two mornings a week. Yesterday, she was walking down the hall with her little friend Alex. I love Alex. He is the sweetest boy. Just sweet straight through. He is even tempered and smart with an engaging smattering of freckles. There is an odd DELIBERATENESS to Alex. He thinks things all the way through before deciding on a course of action, and he is doing this AT THREE.
I like his FOLKS, too. His dad is my lawyer, and his mom is an an astronomer---both biiiiiiiiiiiiig smarties. (His dad won 50,000 dollars and change on Jeopardy.) So Alex has great genes, and Maisy ADORES him. She will come home from playschool and say, "Ayex is my favowite fend!" If this was 1,000 years ago, Scott and I would be sending Alex's parents unblemished goats and fruit baskets and trying to work out the marriage contract.
SO anyway, Alex and Maisy were walking down the hall toward the playroom together, and Maisy was carrying her little frog backpack.
Maisy: This backpack is too heavy fow me!
Scott: Hand it here, princess.
Maisy: No, fank you.
Alex: I can carry it!
Maisy passed the backpack over, and marched on. She tossed her dad a little COY look over her shoulder.
Maisy: Ayex is MIGHTY!
Alex: *chest swells, stride lengthens, commences VISIBLE PREENING activity*
I do NOT know where she gets it. Does anyone know ANYTHING about the care and feeding of belles? Because I think I may have birthed one...
Tomorrow I am flying to Nashville to speak at a lunch thrown by a big book distributor. It's a very different kind of book promotion than what I have been doing. BEFORE, on the pre-sell tour, I was sitting down and "talking like folks" over drinks with small groups of people about the book. I generally LIKE people, I ALWAYS like drinks, and I adore talking about my book, so it's been a case of, "DUCK? MEET WATER!"
This is more like...public speaking. 300 people, most with two eyes, will be POINTING THEM at me while I cower behind a podium. That's close to SIX HUNDRED EYES. People always think public speaking comes easily to me because of my acting background, but it's two TOTALLY different things. I have decided that the way to combat my nerves is MICROPLAN every moment of my presentation. I have a broad outline already and will work on it some more as the day progresses. So far it looks like this:
1) Introduce myself in a quavering, nervous voice
2) Throw up in my shoes
3) Flee in tears
I have to find a place in the above outline where I can sandwich, "Talk about gods in Alabama."
In the spirit of OH LOOK! SOMETHING SHINY! LET'S USE IT TO DISTRACT OURSELEVS FROM OUR IMPENDING DOOM! I have to tell you the sad, sad news that my friend Julie has contracted a rare mental illness called "CANINE MUNCHAUSENS BY PROXY FAT." She has a perfectly nice, normal looking dog and she will eat cheese in front of him and say, BUT ROCKY YOU ARE SO FAT. NO CHEESE FOR YOU.
I think it is because she is pregnant and she has managed to grow herself into my DREAM PREGNANCY shape, which is where you are tall and thin with a round pregnancy in front. She looks like ILLUSTRATIONS of pregnant women, slim and pretty with single, large ball stapled on, front and center. Me, I got pregnant with my whole BODY. Even my HEAD got bloaty. SO since she is unable to be fat, she is projecting the pregnancy fat she should be experiencing onto her DOG, see? And he is MALE. And NEUTERED. It's very ill.
In other dog news, my hairdresser, Amanda, got a little puff-ball of black and white fur that I thought was a guinea pig, but she SWEARS it is a puppy. She was doing a nice older lady's hair when I arrived to get my highlights freshened (so that the light will glint attractively off my stripey hair as I bend over to puke on my shoes in Nashville tomorrow.) This lady having her hair fluffed before me introduced herself, and we were chatting. Turns out, she is a pastor's wife. A BAPTIST pastor's wife. And as I was sitting down waiting and chatting, I was playing with the puppy. He had a pink, jingly stuffed bear to play with, It was just about his size, maybe a little bigger. It was one of those long-armed, big bottomed bear dolls with narrow shoulders that sit up on their butts with their legs pointing in different directions. Looks a lot like this:
Anyway, he got tired (he is a very young puppy) and he dragged the pink bear over to his bed. Where it fell down on its back. And where he MOUNTED it. And where he proceeded to hump it. VIGOROUSLY. In a PERFECT SIMULACRUM of missionary position. For TEN SOLID MINUTES.
Amanda and the pastor's wife and I sat there watching the puppy pepetrate untoward acts upon the bear's person. The conversation just...DIED. I cleared my throat. The clock ticked. The puppy humped.
Amanda: (after several eons) He's a boy dog.
Pastor's Wife: Yes.
Oh well. Perhaps I can picture the puppy humping tomorrow in lieu of making the entire audience be in their underpants. We who are about to stroke out salute you, and promise to tell the rest of the SOCK STORY if we survive public speaking.
My friend Wendi Kaufman pointed out that long-established blogger C. Max Magee was talking about gods in Alabama (and KUDZU!!!) over at THE MILLIONS. See the March 15th entry and join me in a rousing HUZZAH! MAN, I MISSED IT! See what happens when you decide its too repugnant and self-involved to keep relentlessly GOOGLING yourself??? I have learned my lesson!
Number of 24 hour Stomach Flus before gods releases: One. PLEASE GOD, just the one. And just to be perfectly clear, Lord, the flu that laid me low yesterday definately counts.
I am still a little weak-n-trembly today, but busy. I am working on a BACK STORY for gods in Alabama. (It'll be up the week book releases--I'll link to it---and I was VERY EXCITED to be asked!)
Today, I am trying to decide if I should write 1) the external series of events that led me to sit down and start writing this particular book, or 2) a more internal, mystical, muse-infested, warty-fingering-of-feelings and twanging of psychological trip-wires that made these characters bother me about this story until I wrote it. I think the FIRST one, because I have NO FREAKING IDEA about the second one and it kinda gives me the screaming creeps to even consider it. I am the girl who, as you may recall, thinks that the examined life is not worth living, and if I thought about what IT ALL MEANS, what it says about me, where it is coming from, if I kept revolving it all, it all, in my poor mind, I'd have to go sit down somewhere very quiet where I would give up novels in order to write on the soft walls in crayon using only my toes.
(The above paragraph contains an obscure pop-culture reference and an EVEN MORE obscure literary one. Find both, be the first to identify them in comments, and I will say with deep sincerity, 'YOU ARE MY HERO,' and then I will send you a a very small and dorky prize pack containing AT LEAST two things I have sitting on my desk right now. My desk is a HORRORSHOW. I have NO IDEA what I will find on it when I clean it off, but TWO things will be sent to YOU, oh intrepid identifier of references. Heck even if you have to resort to google, you will STILL be my hero -- it's pretty dern obscure. I run in this contest in the hope that I will be forced to clean off my desk. I make it so hard in the equally sincere hope that no one will win and I can leave my desk to fester in peace.)
SO the first one. I think a lot of other writers read Back Story, and the more PROCESS oriented, external story might be interesting to them. AND I have a bee in my drawers about it today: My friend and fellow GCC'er Martha O’Connor was talking about the fires she walked through to find an agent and a publisher for her first novel, and I was surprised by ...how much it surprised writers who are just beginning their agent/publisher search.
I think 95% of the writers who find homes for their novels have taken a long and winding and rocky road to get there. The other 5% were in the right place at the right time and lightening struck, but the vast majority of us will be in therapy for YEARS recovering from the process of getting that first teeny toe hold on a writing career. I think it's REALLY GOOD to be up front about that when talking to other writers who haven't found their agent or their editor/publishing house yet--who are just now gearing themselves up to try.
Some successful writers seem to have forgotten---or maybe they just DOWNPLAY---the ugliness of the road once they get the book contract because most of us artsy fartsy types have a little (or medium, or large, or YAWPINGLY HUGE CHASM-Y GAPING) pocket of insecurity sewn into our guts, and maybe we think, "OH, if I admit how hard it was to get here, if I admit that I had to struggle and toil and I have a packet of rejection letters so thick it's the understudy for the part of "EARTH'S CRUST", then isn't that like admitting I am NOT good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, special enough???"
Well, that's CRAP, and it makes OTHER good writers creep away bleeding after one round of rejections, thinking they aren't good, pretty, smart, special enough. I never want to stop saying, "This IS a tough business, and one in which being a talented writer is NOT where it ends. That is where it starts. People always say that if the book is good, it will find a home, but I think there are PLENTY of books that can compete that will NEVER see the light of day. Because once you are writing really good books, you have to ALSO be crazy-cakes driven to find a publisher, congenitally unable to hear the word no, and you have to dig under that yawping pocket of fear and self-loathing and find your little crystaline core that believes, if not in yourself, at least in your work, and IT IS THERE or you wouldn't have shoved at the boundaries of your busy life and MADE the space and the time to write the book in the first place. Be the kind of writer who, when a publishing house tells you NO THANKS, goes all CHUMBA WUMBA on their buttocks, singing I GET KNOCKED DOWN! BUT I GET UP AGAIN ETC ETC LA LA LA."
*cough* Um, Scuse me. *creeps down off soapbox* So. I better go write that back story.
ADDENDUM: Danielle just GOT the pop culture reference AND she did find a lit ref although not the one I meant. Another one that snuck in there when I wasn't looking. Socrates is tricksy that way, the little philosophical weasel. SO, She wins. BUT I bet I can find MORE stuff on my desk, so if anyone gets the MORE obscure reference, I will send THEM a prize too. Why the heck NOT. My desk is cluttered enough to provide prizes for any ten contests...
ADOUBLEDENDUM: Deb Richardson gets it:
"Footfalls", by Samuel Beckett: reference to May "revolving it all, it all in my poor mind." I thought I woudl have to wait for Waylon and his Yolanda Reed trained theatre brain, but Deb has skunked him! CONGRATS!
gods in Alabama hits bookstores in exactly thirty days. One short month. I am having suspension of disbelief problems. Scott and I have been counting that time off all morning long, trying to find a way that makes it seem REAL.
Scott: Your book comes out in one lunar cycle.
Me: In thirty bowls of cereal.
Scott: Four waking ups and stepping immediately in a slithery hairball.
Me: Ew. You count those off yourself, please. I will count by Gilmore Girls. My book comes out in five more episodes.
Scott: Unless you keep watching the reruns on the family channel. Then it's more like sixty episodes of Gilmore Girls.
Me: I'm not counting reruns.
Scott: Two tanks of gas.
Me: Is that all the gas I use? Really?
Him: Oh, no you are going to Birmingham a couple of times this month---so, four tanks of gas?
Me: Okay, What about nervous breakdowns? I am thinking maybe twelve nervous breakdowns.
Scott: A conservative estimate.
THE WHAT: Now is the winter of my discombobulation and discomfort, if not discontent. I am not QUITE READY to hurl my tender body beneath the certain-death-wheels of a semi truck. Heck, I am not even ready to hitchhike up to Amish country and try the good-survival-odds-wheels of a horse drawn milk cart. I'm only having a break from giddy anticipation and thrill, pausing for a long dark tea-time of the soul.
THE WHY: Pre-sell stuff has made life was a whirligig on speed. BUT NOW, nothing is happening after so many things happened so fast all in a row.
MY EDITOR SAYS: "Got quiet on you, didn't it? The pre-sale and ad campaign stuff is over, the industry reviews are in, the regular reviews and features won't come until the book comes out---it gets quiet. This is the time when statistically most debut authors DO end up mysteriously dead in small South American countries and their blood chemistry comes back glowingly positive for absinthe and cocaine and existential angst in equal parts. It's perfectly normalnormalnormal to be certifiable at this stage of the game.
DID SHE REALLY SAY THAT PART ABOUT YOUR IMPENDING DEATH IN SOUTH AMERICA?: No.
THE WHAT: I gave up WORRY for Lent.
THE WHY: My closet Anglicanism is showing. I observe Lent every year. This year, unable to imagine going the weeks right before my first novel comes out without the lovely crutch of CHOCOLATE, I decided my most pervasive vice was WORRY and gave it up, or rather, whenever I CATCH myself worrying (about four times a second) I have to STOP and turn my scampering hamster of a mind toward virtue. Which (in my PRE-DEFENSE) let me say has kept my mind turned toward virtue a lot more often than abstaining from chocolate, as I only want chocolate TWICE a second.
MY EDITOR SAYS: "This is your Jewish friend talking here, so maybe I am missing the point, but for Lent, aren't you supposed to give up something you actually enjoy? As a Sacrifice? Instead of using it as an excuse to obsessively finger your warty little little feelings some more?"
DID YOUR JEWISH EDITOR JUST SLAM DUNK YOUR HEAD, DOCTRINALLY SPEAKING, AND AS A CLOSET ANGLICAN ARE YOU HEARTILY ASHAMED: Shut up.
DID SHE REALLY SAY THAT PART ABOUT FINGERING YOUR WARTY LITTLE FEELINGS?: No.
SO SHOULD YOU SWITCH MID-STREAM AND MAYBE GO AHEAD AND GIVE UP CHOCOLATE?: Shut. Up.
I SAY: *wail panic sniffle wail sniffle*
MY EDITOR SAYS: *patpatpatpatpatpatpat*
I love my editor.
OKAY rilly rilly soon I will get back to my LONG INTERRUPTED sock skating epic (be still, your beating heart) but today I have a lot of linky business to settle (and CODE).
FIRST UP, just for FUN...my father (who scored a 96% Dixie!!!!) sent me this quiz that will tell you HOW SOUTHERN (or HOW YANKEE) you are. SO, for example, my friend Amy, exiled lo these many months to Kansas, can see just how much Kansas is sticking to her pointy-toed shoes.
I scored an 89% Dixie (making me a B+ southerner. Who is apparently addicted to parenthetical asides.) I blame my almost 7 years in Chicago for missing the Southern Dean's list by one lousy percentage point. In the interests of SCIENCE, please tell me your score (and how accurate you think it is) in the comments. While in comments, try to put something in parentheses. ALL THE COOL KIDS ARE DOING IT. Here's a LINK to TAKE THE QUIZ NOW.
SECOND UP, my friend Wendi Kaufman (who is NOT southern, who is, in fact, an actual New Yorker ---and whose short fiction has BEEN in The New Yorker) has started blogging over at The Happy Booker. She gave me, as she put it, MAD PROPZ the other day, and linked to THIS PAGE oh TRA LA! This GLORIOUS PAGE that makes my heart go pitter-pitter-pat-pat with illicit pleasure.
THIRD UP, and SPEAKING of illicit pleasure, I got an email titled, "DO YOU WANT TO TALK TO A MAN???" and then when I opened it, it said the following, and I QUOTE, EXACTLY:
"nineteenth boatswainalgol avery fuchsiacyanic sportsman qalbacore emphases gaillardiacockatoo bedraggle drinkwiretapper burden sacrosanctcoven driven apprehensionchinchilla lordosis fatefuladjourn mukden rowlandbondage"
Which um, I guess at the BOTTOM they need a disclaimer that reads: "We never invited you to speak to an ARTICULATE man, now did we? A man is TYPING THINGS to you, what the hell else do you want from us? And if he irrevocably damaged his brain by horking down 50 or 60 tabs of acid at Woodstock and then wrapped his loins in a towel, and, otherwise naked, went prancing and gibbering off into the woods never to be seen again until he showed up to type this message to you which includes words like "ApprehensionChinchilla" (and here I interrupt the disclaimer at ask, "as opposed to WHAT? TranscendentalCalmnessHedgehog??") then you should shut yer pie-hole and just be GRATEFUL a man is talking to YOU AT ALL...I mean, all WE asked was DO YOU WANT TO TALK TO A MAN and YOU opened the e-mail, signaling your willingness, NAY, your DESPERATION to talk to a man, and there he is, already opening the conversation with something that might be, oh we don't know, slam poetry or a coded death threat, whatever, WE DELIVERED, so GET OFF US, LADY, GEEZ, And if you are ALWAYS SO CRITICAL no WONDER the only man who will talk to you is this sad, drug-racked specimen we dug up in a New Mexico mental health facility."
Faster Than Kudzu turns ONE today. Look, here is the VERY FIRST NON-TEST ENTRY, and it is an infomercial, Lord help me, pratically a diet TESTIMONIAL except with illicit cabana-boy gropings, typed in lo these 365 days ago...
I am going to celebrate by squatting in my closet and hoovering up a box of Samoas in toto (Samoas are NOT on the South Beach Dieet, btw) where my kids can't see me and ask me to role-model SHARING. In my opinion, Samoas come in a single serving box...Right now, already regretting the sin of gluttony which I am about to commit, I kinda I HATE those chocolate-crack-peddling Girl Scouts. They are very bad for my BUTT. And my MANNERS. And hardly anything ever makes me use BAD MANNERS because...I am southern.
I am SOUTHERN means...many things. I remember once, before my editor knew me very well, she complimented me on handling an awkward social situation with a modicum of grace. Perhaps it surprised her a little, because I think she already suspected me of dorkhood (I have cheerfully confirmed her suspicion by now. I am an inveterate and unapologetic El Dorko Supreme) and klutziness (which I confirm for anyone in passing by tripping over dust motes. I SWEAR TO THE LORD one day you will be reading my obituary and the cause of death will be something like "she broke her fool neck when she fell off her RIDICULOUS TOTTERY SHOES that she had NO BUSINESS WEARING when Lord knows she can barely cross a level room in FLATS with the WIND AT HER BACK)
Whoops I just digressed all the way to California. ANYWAY, my editor complimented me on, essentially, my manners, and my response was to laugh and say, "I can't help it because, Oh my LORD, I am SOUTHERN." She didn't know me very well then, and I THINK she thought I meant, "I probably have better manners than you *superior sniff*" but a more accurate translation of "OH MY LORD, I AM SOUTHERN" is "I am extremely mentally ill, but at least I can be depended upon to do the socially correct thing."
For example, if one southerner is in a crowded theatre and someone yells FIRE and a panic ensues and people rush the exits and other people get knocked down and trampled and killed, it would be very easy to pick out the southerner. Oh, he'll be trampling folks to death along with the rest of them, but he will be the only one saying, "Scuse me, ya'll" while he does it. Even at the least and most extreme levels of mental illness, you can spot the southerner: The southern party drunk will hang your lampshade on the hat rack before he vomits into your umbrella stand, and you can spot the southerner in the crowd of cannibal cultists by looking for the guy who is using the correct fork.
In other words, "OH MY LORD I AM SOUTHERN," means good manners tied to a specific set of shortcomings and faults, including but not AT ALL limited to:
1) I am incapable of approaching a topic of importance directly, but instead dance around it and skate near it and then make Significant Eyebrows at the other person in the conversation in the hopes that they are either psychic or savant level eyebrow-expression-readers.
2) Being a participant in ANY sort of confrontation makes me panic -- I try to simultaneously try to serve cookies and crawl under the bed. I can't help it -- I do it even though experience has taught me that that way lies excessive vacuuming and cookies with cat hair on them.
3) Not only can I not stand to be a PARTICIPANT in confrontation, but I can't stand to WITNESS it, and will peacemake relentlessly until the original confrontators are making out with each other and thinking up ways to murder me.
4) The sight of someone crying raises in my bosom a physical, almost irresistable compunction to leave the room and make pie. I believe pie will fix it.
5) When it comes down to doing what is right and doing what is polite, I have to struggle mightily to have a HOPE of choosing to do what is right, and I often fail miserably.
Five is the CORKER. Five is the truth inherent in "OH MY LORD, I AM SOUTHERN" that I hate most, and I fight five like hell. I still remember with burning shame being 19 and allowing a young man I met at a party to say in my presence the MOST OFFENSIVE THING I have EVER heard out loud in public and I did not challenge him or tell him not to talk like that in front of me or even just make a loud, rude farty noise with my lips---NOTHING. I sat there with all my nice, Raised Right southern girl friends, complicit, not responding, allowing him to INCLUDE us in his DISGUSTING opinions by our silence. Wrong. Wrongwrongwrong. But good manners. *spits*
Whoops! I just got serious. AND AT A BIRTHDAY PARTY! That is ALSO bad manners---for shame. Lift a glass (or a cookie...or a BOX of cookies) to Kudzu today, and THANK YOU, seriously, THANK YOU, all you regulars, you commenters, you e-mailers, my fellow readers and my fellow writers, you who surf in by whatever means or links and get comfy and come back and keep me company. Alla ya'll---Thank you for coming.
I am not going to finish my breathlessly anticipated thrilling sock epic today -- PUT DOWN THE KNIFE! IT IS OKAY! THERE ARE OTHER PERFECTLY GOOD REASONS TO LIVE! --- As I was saying, I shall defer the rest of the story about my SOCKS (what is WRONG with me???) because a Merciful God has declared it is time for 3 questions with Johanna Edwards. You may thank either the Merciful God or Karin Gillespie, fellow novelist and blogger, marketing whiz-bang-smarty-pants, and brain-mother of the GCC, for saving you from having Sock-Fest 2006 become a TWO DAY EVENT.
THIS is a pretty cool three questions I have to say because Johanna is just...neat. From where I sit (which is smack-dab in the middle of quasi-rural Georgia writing LONG LONG MULTI-PART ANECDOTAL ESSAYS ABOUT MY FREAKING SOCKS --and what is WRONG with me???--with masticated-toddler-breakfast stuck to my pajamas) she looks like one of those people who bounce around doing thrilling things with glamorous people and having all manner of dream careers, one after another after another. She's worked as an award-winning journalist, covering arts and entertainment, so she got to hang out with all manner of TV and Music and Movie celebs, and now she is in Radio and meeting ALL MY FREAKING FAVORITE AUTHORS and PRODUCING SHOWS WHERE THEY GET INTERVIEWED and TOUCHING THE HEMS OF THEIR GARMENTS. Which should SO CLEARLY be MY job if there was any justice in the universe and if I had, like, any SKILLS in that area or even enough understanding of what "producing" means to be able to make a LIST of skills one would need.
So ANYWAY, one day, Johanna got a WILD HAIR and decided to frisk over to her computer and write a novel which was so good she sold it -- A FIRST NOVEL -- before it was even FINISHED, just on the strength of the first chapters and the rest of the outline. That does not happen unless you have something pretty amazing going on. The novel is called THE NEXT BIG THING and now by all accounts she is going to BE it. So. NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT. I either want to DROWN her or be her when I grow up, except, oh wait, she is YEARS younger than me. (Did the guy in the back row who was offing himself because the sock story was deferred get finished with that big KNIFE? Could someone sitting near him who is still living pass it to me? K, thanx.)
Me: How did you come up with the title?
JE: I went through a lot of titles. I was so stumped. Initially, I had narrowed it down to three titles: SUCH A PRETTY FACE, HEIGHT/WEIGHT DISPROPORTIONATE, and BIG GIRLS DO CRY (yeah, I know how bad that last one is). None of them seemed quite right. I supposed I liked SUCH A PRETTY FACE the best, but I didn't feel like it fit the overall tone of my novel. I wanted something a bit more upbeat and fun. So I settled on THE NEXT BIG THING. I figured it would work since it was catchy and since it had a double meaning.
Me: Your book is set in part on a reality TV show---What RTV show would you like to be on (if any) and why? Would you win?
JE: I would LOVE to go on The Amazing Race because I'm a total travel junkie. I think it would be so fun to travel with my best friend, or boyfriend, or sister, or dad around the world. I probably wouldn't win, but I'd have one heck of a good time.
Me: You work in radio, so tell us a little about your job. I know you've met some pretty famous authors---got any dish?
JE: My radio job is awesome. I produce a nationally syndicated show called "Book Talk" and every week we have a different author in studio. I've met so many amazing people, from Walter Mosley to Billie Letts to Mitch Albom. Here's some fun dish -- Dennis Lehane is very sexy in person.
You DON'T say! Good to know, because as you may remember, I have a little Dennis Lehane problem.
I woke up yesterday with cold feet. I rolled blearily out of bed, rummaged around in my sock drawer, and came up with The Toddler Socks in my hand. The Toddler Socks are PINK. Not, like, soft petal pink or a lovely dusky rose, I'm talkin' REAL for true-true pinketty-pink. They began their exciting career in the world of "Being Socks" over a decade ago, at which point they were FUZZY, like cheerful caterpillars, but as the years passed, they shriveled and lost their figures and their fuzz is matted and pilled in places. The Toddler Socks look like hair-balls that the cat yacked up right after he got dosed with Pepto-Bismol. BUT MAN THEY ARE STILL THE WARMEST SOFTEST MOST COMFY SOCKS EVER EVER.
I am not a morning person. I poured a bunch of coffee and cereal down my gullet, pulled on black shorts and a gray T-shirt, stuffed my feet into backless tennies from Target, and drove over to the trail for a good, long skate. Still wearing...The Toddler Socks. I didn't notice until I had occasion to look at my feet, which one must do in order to strap skates on. I said a bad word. Now, maybe had I been wearing some COLORS it wouldn't have looked so odd, but I almost never do. My friend Julie says my favorite color is, "Drab." I AM TRYING TO CHANGE THAT! Over the last I have been buying prettier things in COLORS for book tour events and such, but left to my own devices, I'll roll myself neck to knees in charcoal and call it a day. Against the clear canvas of my outfit and my black and gray skates, the toddler socks were a little...noticeable.
Driving home to change would have eaten into my skate-time, so I sucked it up, and took off down the bike trail hoping that no one would be AROUND this early. ALAS, it was loaded; you've never SEEN a prettier morning---March in TOTAL LAMB MODE. Sunny and warm with a nice crisp wind...EVERYONE was on the bike path, EVERYONE and everyone's hateful mother and everyone's hateful mother's JUDGMENTAL DOG, all the dogs trotting along on SOCK LEVEL thinking ill of my shins, in one case BARKING HYSTERICALLY to see shins encased in Flamingo pink fronded tubes. I tried to concentrate on all the scenic nature that I am sure would have lifted the heart of anyone who a) wasn't dead inside and b) wasn't experiencing extreme sock mortification.
OKAY, I know rationally that not everyone I passed was RIVETED by my socks and laughing their butts off at me. BUT I was so CONSCIOUS of my glaring feet that IT FELT LIKE THEY ALL WERE. You know? You know. And it doesn't help that I am SUCH A DORK anyway. I always feel a little bit...mock-worthy because my skates are REALLY skates, not BLADES like the cool kids wear. Why? you ask? Because...well here I really want to say that because blades are so EXPENSIVE and I got these skates for 6 bucks at the goodwill...but truthfully it's because I have all the innate grace of a drunken stork, a drunken, flailing, lunatic, off-kilter stork who has a cowboy shooting at his feet and screaming, "DANCE, BIRD!" So I would absolutely KILL myself if I had rollerblades. I would dead within hours of purchase. But on REGULAR skates you cannot work up the kind of speed you need for a truly spectacular bloody explosion into death.
GAH I AM OUT OF TIME! I cannot believe I am going to have do a TO BE CONTINUED on a story...ABOUT SOCKS. It's hard to do a cliffhanger ending that will call people back when the topic is SOCKS. You really need to send Flash Gordon hurtling off a cliff in a welded-shut car that has been wired with explosives to justify continuing until next day...oh well. Let's pretend I got welded to my skates and wired with explosives and pushed off a cliff, okay? Come back tomorrow.
PS I know I said that Faster than Kudzu would be ONE on MARCH 6th, and OH LOOK, it is MARCH SIXTH, but I decided not to count THIS ENTRY as the start of Kudzu. SO. Coupla DAYS til we turn ONE! TRA LA!
There is a sandwich I love at a sub shop near my house -- I call it Salad Sandwich, and it makes me really really happy. It's just chicken in a wrap with spinach and lettuce and tomato and onion and carrot and olive and green pepper and Southwestern dressing. I could eat it every day. I used to eat it a couple of times a week... until the salad trolls came.
The salad trolls were two new employees that seemed to become the Sub Shop's Default Setting -- they were ALWAYS there. They didn't have anything in common. The blonde girl with Architectural Digest-Worthy bangs had porcelain nails so aggressively long and blade-like that they threatened to poink through there protective gloves and bury themselves deep in the jugular of some hapless bun. She worked the sandwich line in Cruel Shoes and turquoise eyeliner. The other was 1986-level androgynous ---baggy, gender-neutral clothing, a mullet, milky-skinned, make-up free, every visible orifice pierced---I could not tell if if was a boy or a girl until it opened its mouth and spoke, at which point I realized it had either just sucked up a giant lung full of helium or it was female.
Do I sound bitter? I AM SURE THEY ARE NICE KIDS OR WHATEVER and when I think of the hair-do I sported in college (it often had a rat in it-- not a TEASED rat, I mean an actual ALIVE MAMMAL type rat-- for one thing... more on this later) I think Bangs and Mullet are both light-years ahead of where I was in my Hair Evolution at the same age, and, you know, I have to admit that no one ever DIED of the High Bang and a little androgyny never hurt anyone and I was perfectly willing to live and let live....but.
They were absolutely incapable of making Salad Sandwich.
Could. Not. Do. It.
And it wasn't JUST that they were careless and slopped the ingredients on higgledy-piggledy so that half the sandwich would be Bones-of-the-Ancients-level Dry and then all of a sudden I would encounter a bite that was 90% dressing, a cool wad of gelid, spicy fat leaping out from behind a spinach leaf to coat my mouth in unadulterated oily repugnance, it was ALSO that while I was trying to not throw up in my mouth, the back of the wrap would unravel and the rest of the sandwich's guts would plop moistly into my lap.
And the more miserable my once pleasant sandwich experience become, the higher the bangs seemed to loom, and the more pink-rimmed and infected the multiple piercing holes looked. And they started hating me back, because I began to try to MICRO MANAGE the building of my sandwich from behind the glass, you know, instructing whichever of them was mauling it on exactly how many pieces of onion and how to lay them out like TILE so that there would be a modicum of onion in every bite.
I should have just stopped going, but its like that PLEASURE CENTER RAT EXPERIMENT. You know, the one where they cut off the top of the rat's skull and plog the hole with a big pink rubber brain cap that sticks up half an inch like a rubbery Mohawk with wires coming out the top, and the cap has a little sockety thing that let's you plug his BRAIN into a machine and send signals that target his pleasure center, and every time he presses a button, he has an orgasm, and, if it is a male rat, I know for a FACT he will sit there PRESSING AND PRESSING AND PRESSING that button with a water dish four steps away, he will press and press and press until he DIES OF DEHYDRATION. <---absolutely true.
(DIGRESSION: I had a pet rat like in college. Named Simon. White with pink eyes. He was an Ex-lab rat and he had the big brain cap I have already described permanently fused to his head. Simon was a VERY sweet rat who would make a NEST in my long hair and go to sleep there, riding around on my shoulder, tangled in my black-died Morgana Goth-locks, and if I had ever worn hom to work at, say, the Taco Bell, and some nice, 30-something PTA mom had come in to get a spot of lunch, I am sure she would have freaked out about the tropical-fish eye-make-up and the hair with Frankenstein's Rat in it, but, on the other hand, she would have gotten a DERN FINE BURRITO, crafted with PRIDE and LOVE, with CHEESE equally distributed into every bite. OOPS that wasn't a digression, that was my exact point. ANYWAY.)
Back to this sub shop, I kept going back there for Salad Sandwich just like a lab-rat whose machine has been unhooked. He will keep going back and CHECKING to see if the magic-happy-button has started working again.
I didn't give up until a week ago last Tuesday. THAT was the fateful Tuesday upon which I saw Androgynous Girl making out with her equally androgynous boyfriend (Body by Victoria, Hair by Flock of Seagulls). They were back in the kitchen, but in PLAIN SIGHT of anyone (like, say, me) who was at the beginning of the sandwich line, their tongues slithering together so that their matching tongue studs clacked, which, EW, but OKAY, it's not like she was going to spread the dressing on the wrap by LICKING IT ON, in fact its not like she was going to spread the dressing on AT ALL she was just going to BLOP one very LARGE cold DOLLOP OF IT somewhere in the middle, so whatever, BUT THEN! I noticed that she had her protectively gloved hands CLUTCHING HIS BUTTOCKS, yes you heard me, CLUTCHING his jeans clad, androgynous buttocks, the same buttocks he had no doubt been using to SIT ON FILTHY STONE BENCHES, benches CAKED in bird poo, she was clutching the VERY buttocks that he had SEVERAL DAYS AGO clothed in the shredded remains of PLAGUE INFESTED thrift store jeans that had not seen the inside of a washing machine since the last time he was home and his mom did his laundry which was probably Spring Break of 2002, and then she released his filthy buttocks and came DIRECTLY BACK TO THE SALAD SANDWICH MAKING LINE! Without changing her BUTTOCKY GLOVES!
And the pleasure-machine spell was broken and I pulled my Salad Sandwich brain cap off and I am DONE.
It's been a week and two days. Lordy, but I miss that sandwich.
Tomorrow I am going to finish a VERY LONG BLOG ENTRY I started today about THE EVIL SALAD TROLLS, but I just can't get it done today because I have to go RIGHT NOW and play computer games with my gamer geek husband, who blew his Birthday Moo on WoW. HE is making me play, using brute force and cruelty, because I am a certainly NOT a big geek too or anything. It's all him! *nods vigorously*
(I am going to make a little arrow shooter person and name her Fruitopia!)
But tomorrow, SALAD TROLLS. I swear.
FOR NOW I will just tell you HOW TO BE A REALLY REAL FOR TRUE SCIENTIST.
First, you have to come up with a PRIMARY QUESTION.
Then you say what you THINK is the answer---this is your HYPOTHESIS.
Then you need to do scientific TESTS to see if your hypothesis is correct.
For example, last week my nephew asked the very important scientific question, "What happens if you spray Silly String up into the big tree by the house and then light it on fire."
His hypothesis escapes me.
The scientifically certified and proven answer is, "You set the lawn ablaze."
My scientific question is, "WHAT THE BLEEPITTY BLESS-MY-BOOTS WAS HE THINKING?"
And my hypothesis is that he wasn't. He is a 14 year old nascent manling. They do not THINK. They go forth mightily and DO.
Bright side, he both kept a cool head in a crisis and proved himself to be a MECHANICAL GENIUS. As the fire raced up the hill toward the house, Daniel ran inside and looked under the sink where my sis-in-law keeps the TINY TINY TINY fire extinguisher ---
(DIGRESSION: The one that she bought from a mentally handicapped door-to-door salesman who was - it turns out- being hideously exploited by an EVIL CON MAN who was paying him about a buck an hour to sell 10 dollar Target mini fire-extinguers for SEVENTY DOLLARS to sweet people like my sister-in-law who believed that the money actually went to support a GROUP HOME and not buy cadillacs for a rotten man who I sincerely hope is now in PRISON getting intimately aquainted with the merciless fists of a redneck cell-mate named Bubba who just happens to have grown up with a developmentally delayed and much-beloved younger brother, and probably this is exactly where he is because, oh my best beloveds, KARMA WORKS.)
---and took it out there and actually got it to spray an impressive amount of foam. HERDS of foam, whole CROWDS of it, Daniel coaxed out of this tiny, ten buck fire extinguisher that was over a decade old...and Daniel QUELLED THE FIRE! Which actually does prove my hypothesis, because he didn't think and panic himself, he went forth mightily and did, and saved the house. Of course, he was the one who almost lit it on fire in the FIRST place, but I think we should just focus on the positive outcome, don't you? PLUS! That section of lawn is going to grow in so green and lush they'll be able to PUTT on it, betcha.
Maisy has Miscellaneous Low-Grade Toddler Fever and is languishing in my bed, breathing germs deep deep deep into the woof and weave of my pillow, watching Dee-Dee-Dora the Susplora, and suffering. I am a nervous wreck. I do not want to give her motrin for a mild case of the viral whatnots---if I give her motrin she will buck up and prance all over the house unstoppably cheerful and not let her body have ANY down time and she won't get well.
If I withhold the motrin, she will stay in bed and actually let her little body fight of the infection and be FINE in the morning...BUT. I am gun shy. That seizure, remember?? Happened because of mild viral whatnot, and I can't keep my brain from going down BAD PATHS, saying, what if what if what if...what if it spikes and she against ALL odds has another one and ends up in the emergency all day having brain scans and chest X-rays, thus sowing the seeds for a future doctor-hospital-phobia which means she will catch a double dose of my homeopathic fringe lunacy which will lead to her giving birth to my grandchildren in a water tank in an ashram while her scraggly bearded life-mate squats nearby, snorting echinacea and doing tantric pain chants to help her with the "discomfort" which will so enrage her that she'll climb out dripping and in stage three labor to kill him with the ceremonial hatchet the doula stuck under the water tank to "cut the pain in half." AND WHO COULD BLAME HER?
I better just give her the motrin.