Sunday, September 29, 2013

bad weather, good books

pic from
Today marks the start of the big lit week here in Portland. With perfect synchronicity, our first typhoon o' the fall is swirling around me as I type. Water, wind, falling tree limbs and flooded basements heralding the beginning of curl-up-by-the-fire-and-read season. At the moment, the sideways rain has abated, but those nasty bands of radar on my phone's weather app promise more misery. That's why I plan on staying inside with my arsenal of reading material until it's time for the Breaking Bad finale--when I'll crawl downstairs and snuggle up on the tv-room sofa with a hot toddy. All that's missing are the bon-bons,(because I've already eaten them).

But, I've gotten a jump on book fever this year. I've been devouring novels and chain-toasting bread like crazy - the two go hand-in-hand. I'm feeding the carb-craving winter girl that surfaces right about the time pumpkins replace petunias outside the grocery stores. The crappier the weather, the more I read and the more I eat (usually necessitating some sort of fanatic cleanse come January).

I just picked up the new Lahiri after reading today's review in the Oregonian. I don't know what Knopf is thinking with the white-paper-wrapper cover. Is it a form of hubris? Or is it simply confidence that even if the book came with a little bag of shit stapled to the front, since Jhumpa Lahiri wrote it, it'll sell? Well, I have to admit, even at the princely sum of $27.95, I marched quickly to my favorite indie bookstore this morning and forked over the cash. I love Lahiri's writing, and the quandary described in the jacket "Two brothers bound by tragedy. A fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past..." are the perfect ingredients to stoke my seasonal lust for books. And really, covers are only important if you've never heard of the author (so I'm hoping mine will be amazing!)

The other book on my desk is called "Writing in Community" put out by WriteLife earlier this year. It's a book on writing that encourages a deeper relationship with creativity and the act of writing in the spirit of Brenda Ueland's "If You Want to Write," and Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones."

Although I'm all for working on craft (I better be, I'm teaching one of my boot camp dialogue classes at LitReactor this week), I can't stress how important "generative" writing encouragement is in the process of producing work. WIC begins as a prescriptive - there are exercises and optional assignments, and ideas on how to start a generative writing group - but the book goes beyond "how to." It taps into that magical space. You know the one I'm talking about, right? Where you look up from your desk and the day is gone? Where you've immersed yourself so completely in your work that you cross over - the words on the page seem to have come from someone else entirely?

The book is a sort of love story. It's about self-investment as much as investment in a community of others. It champions the idea of peer-generated encouragement as a way to crystallize authenticity.

It's this sort of encouragement (for sustained, deep thought and time with the page), that we all too often talk ourselves out of. I'm going on record here - I'm for it. Words. Lots of them.

So, is it raining where you live? Do you write more or read more when the weather sucks?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

smokin' hot news

Hi guys. Been quiet here, yes? Well, I've been busy. I have some milestones to report.Wait, milestones sounds too sanded down. Too grab and go. This last week? Let's just say that if a calendar had a heat sensor to measure bad and good news (freezing to burning), we'd be calling on those wildfire experts. There'd be helicopters dropping fire retardant all over our house.

To start: my son got married to his college sweetheart last weekend. It was an absolutely phenomenal event that included family and old friends-many of whom flew in from various cities around the country. The bride's extended family arrived from Brazil and Japan. Up at the altar, the couple was flanked by formally-attired attendants (including my younger kids). For many of their friends, this was a "first" peer wedding, and so there was this joy surrounding them, like the first time you take your kid to Disneyland? Before they're all jaded and have figured out Fast Pass and are "over it"? My son and his bride were completely present and elated--not to mention adorable. Love was in the air. Faces contorted in hours-long grins. We wore out the dance floor. There was branded cocktails:
  • Sammy: Firefly sweet tea vodka and lemonade
  • Tammy: Prosecco with a splash of elderflower syrup
Yes, their names really are Sammy and Tammy. Well, their nicknames, anyway.

And meanwhile, a couple of days before the wedding, a quick glance at my iPhone announced an unexpected email from my agent. It seems the pub deal with Diversion Books was changing. Turns out they want to put out a physical paperback as well as the ebook. Would that be okay with me? It means that the pub date would be pushed back...was I available to hop on the phone and discuss ASAP?

Now, there is only one circumstance (other than death) that would cause me to suggest "next week" for such a call. And that would be the wedding of my first born.

But we did have that call early last week, and I am pleased - no, thrilled - to announce that RAISING CHEER will be published January, 2014 as an ebook and an original paperback.

So, after all these years as a bridesmaid, I finally get to wear white. Literarily speaking.

Stay tuned for more specifics - they'll be coming soon.