Thursday, January 28, 2010

A non-Monday post

In my last entry, I mentioned "The Rejectionist" as one of my faves. Today The Rejectionist (I'm not sure if it's he or she, since it is written in a mysterious "we") has an interview with Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. I'll let you read the whole interview here. But I will transcribe my two favorite questions (questions in quotes, his answers in italics, my responses in parentheses):

"Living as a broke fiction writer in New York: totally overrated, or deeply formative?"
Both, absolutely. I only survived those years by convincing myself that they would look glamorous and bohemian in retrospect. Sometimes they do but not often enough. (Definitely....not...often...enough...)

"Your first novel was rejected thirty-seven times, according to your Wikipedia entry (in retrospect, the idea that The Basic Eight is "too dark" seems almost quaint). We wouldn't have rejected it, because it's awesome. Anyway, what kept you going before your unexpected success as Lemony Snicket? Were you ever tempted to throw in the towel as a writer?"
I was sorely tempted but could not think up anything else to do. This is how it is for most writers I know - they soldiered on simply because there was no Plan B.
(how many times have I said to friends, "I just can't think of anything else I want to do"?? How many times????!! And I go to Craigslist or Monster or job search websites or headhunters--I have a Master's, for crying out loud--and think, but would I want to spend the rest of my life doing that? Is that better than writing? Would I like it? and inevitably, the NO. Sigh. It's commitment, baby, with a touch of narcissism and a soupcon of insanity. And it's good to know I'm not alone.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book blogs!

A gray, rainy, windy day. I really prefer days like this to be Fridays; that way, it’s a depressing day but you can go home and take a nap and watch TV without that oppressive “school night” feeling—especially the “It’s a Monday and the whole week is ahead of me” school night feeling. Sigh.

I need to amend my earlier resolution, that about blogging every week. I will hereby state that I will blog every Monday except holidays. If I’m off, I’m not online. I have dial-up on my home computer for the specific purpose of keeping me off the internet when I should be writing. I figure, I have Ethernet at work, and that’s plenty. Of course, when I need to email my manuscripts to people, it’s annoying. But it keeps me off the internet. Therefore I can find my distraction with magazines, recipes, staring out the window, deciding that I have to find my old glowing pen right now, and all kinds of cleaning that won’t get done otherwise.
However, the internet has a whole lot of writing resources. I think today is going to be an ode to the best, the sites that I can’t live without, the sites that have taught me what it’s like to be a working writer and yet haven’t persuaded me to change my focus.

Query Shark:
This is first because, once you’ve written the book, the query is the first step. Janet Reid is a literary agent for Fine Print Literary Management, and she knows her stuff. She also has a non-query-oriented blog, in which she discusses conferences and some of her clients. Both are definitely worth checking out.

Nathan Bransford:
A San Francisco-based agent who also gives a lot of inside scoops on the state of the industry. He’s a writer himself, with a YA book, JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, due out in 2011. Unfailingly encouraging, not snarky (though I do love me some snark; I wouldn’t like Query Shark if I couldn’t handle snark), and, judging from his picture, rather handsome.

Kristin Nelson:
She blogs from (and works in) Denver. She has been very educational lately, posting *successful* query letters (and why they worked) and good opening pages from queries. She talks about the ins and outs of contracts, tiny details you might not think you need to worry about. But worry you should. She’ll tell you why.

The Rejectionist:
My current favorite. Sarcastic? Sure. Hilarious? Always.

Editorial Anonymous:

On the marketing side: Market My Words, at -- a writer and marketing consultant combines her two fields and blogs about them for your benefit!
(even if she does give time and space to one of The Hills’ vacuous stars—I won’t say her name so she won’t get the Google Alert)

Pimp My Novel: The same theme as Market My Words, but a different style altogether. Has a handy weekly roundup thing on Fridays if you can manage to check only once a week.

These are my go-to sites; I check them early and often. It helps a lot to be well-versed not only in what publishing professionals like, but what they’re seeing, what they do. Reading blogs can be misinterpreted as a waste of time (fie! And that doesn’t apply to this one!) but, if you find your overly active conscience reprimanding you for that, try to internalize the idea that knowing about this industry is just as important as writing.

Not as important as writing/a definite waste of time (but oh-so-enjoyable): Crazy Days and Nights. Try it, get sucked in. My apologies.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Small victories

This is not me. In case you were wondering.

It's a new year, as everyone knows. In fact, it's 11 days into the new year. What have you accomplished?? How many goals are you still adhering to?

I'm still in the process of deciding mine. As I mentioned before, I don't necessarily like setting firm goals; I'd rather just decide I'd like to do smoething and do it. I'd like more to decide that in the middle of the year, instead of on January 1 and becoming one of the masses. Let me set my goals on a random day in April and be unusual. Or at least, someone who thinks of herself as unusual.

January is not a good time at the gym. Every January since Ih ave been a member (10 years now!) January is inevitably SLAMMED. I don't like waiting for machines; I'm impatient by nature, I guess, and I don't want people waiting for me to get off and thus pressuring me to leave before I want to. Harrumph.

Gymgoing is a pretty necessary party of writing. Writing, as you may have guessed, is SEDENTARY. Sit at a desk, working your wrists hard, unfortunately does nothing for toned muscles or a slim waist. And if you're genetically predisposed to, uh, girth...this is something you ought to take seriously.

I joined my first gym in January 2000 (NOT as a New Year's resolution; I had awakened very late, like eleven, and wandered from my bed to the couch with a book, and I thought, "I'll be dead of inaction before I'm thirty" and marched to New York Sports Club and joined.) and, but for an eight-month period in 2005, have been a somewhat-regular goer since then. I am somewhat poor (I'm a writer!), and as a result of that, I'm cheap, and for me, paying a large sum of money to a gym every month, automatic withdrawal or not, pretty much ensures I will be at that gym, calculator in hand. New York gyms are expensive. when I joined NYSC, I think it was $67 a month, so I would say to myself, okay, if I go twice a week for four weeks, that makes it a little more than $8 each time I go. And I would picture handing over $8 every time I walked in that door. The idea was abhorrent. So, okay, if I go four times a week for four weeks, that's $4 each time I go. That was more palatable. Going five times a week was better, because that was $3. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was the the entirety of my motivation.

I kept going regularly until 2003, when I started grad school. Then I was faced with a dilemma: go to NYU's (free) gym or keep my gym membership? And quickly that dilemma was subsumed with reality: I had no time! Argh. My membership fee had gone up to about $77 a month, and I made it to NYSC once a week, thereby bringing my per-visit total to just under $20. Ridiculous. And yet I continued.

One of my prouder moments was wearing the same skirt to an end-of-program party that I wore to a beginning-of-program party. I will tell you why this is at all remarkable: I had only gone once a week, but that was once a week more than many of my classmates. I loved them, and I don't want to make fun, but...let's just say a lot of them were not wearing the same clothes at the end.

Okay, so the program ended and my dreams of graduating and landing a primo writing gig were not realized. I was quite sure that I would sell something right away, however, so I decided just to temp for a while. Temping is not great fun. When it works well, it's great (a salary but no commitment) but there are huge down sides: no benefits, no stability, occasional involuntary dry spells. And the salary is pretty low. NYSC kept raising its rates, and I kept getting more irritated at them, and in one involuntary dry spell I got annoyed to quit.

This was mid-summer, 2005. I didn't know if it would be forever, but I thought that might be a possibility. And I stayed out of the gym world until December. What prompted me to go back? Well, I had gone to Brazil with my family the previous summer, and my dad took pictures. He showed them to us at Christmas. There were some with all of us at the beach. Among them...was a picture of me, taken from the back... in a swimming suit.

Oh boy.

I joined Crunch the next week.

This was 2006. I lost a lot of weight going to Crunch, gained it back, have lost a lot of it again. Crunch promised me they would never, ever raise their prices, and that lasted for 2 years; now they raise them every January. I still pay less than I paid at the end of my NYSC run.

Why am I regaling you with this, dear reader? Why, for the simple reason that I have made a new resolution. It's been increasingly difficult to get to the gym at night; I return home from a day at work and I want to write and go to the gym, adn most nights I can't get in both. I always have the best of intentions, but if I'm writing well and on a roll, I don't want to break free; and if I decide to go to the gym, often it's a *process* that takes at least as much time convincing myself to go as it would take me at the gym. And then I decide, no, I'll go tomorrow. It won't be so cold tomorrow. I'll write tonight. No, I'll take it easy tonight. I'll read. No, I'll...I'll...something else.

It's been incredibly wasteful and frustrating, and the cheap side of me realizes that going twice a week makes it more than $10 every visit! Three times a week, it's still $8-plus! I need to go five times a week!

So I'm going at my lunch hour. I have a gym 3 blocks away from the office, so I just hustle over, change, run on the treadmill for 35 minutes, quickly stretch, quickly shower, and hustle back. It's been great so far. Then I get home and I have no excuse: I have to write. And I got a great laptop for Christmas, which is new enough and enough of a shiny toy that I actually want to!

Victory all 'round!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blizzards and security breaches

Okay, my bad blogger thing continues. Last week I was on vacation; yesterday I was in transit. I did start an entry last week, and it was irredeemably boring. Consider last week’s inaction a “save” from a boring post.

I am now back into the swing of things after my Christmas holiday. I always try to bank up my vacation days so that I can take a couple of weeks at the end of the year. Happily we have a fairly liberal vacation policy at the office, so that doesn’t mean I’m chained to my desk for the rest of the year; I can still take a few days off here and there. But the big trip is always at Christmas.

Travel karma totally went my way this year. I was scheduled to fly out on a 5 pm flight on December 19. Now, I normally don’t book pm flights in the wintertime; I always try for the first flight out. However, there simply wasn’t one available this year, so I reluctantly took the 5 pm. I wanted it to be that Saturday, rather than wait for Monday, because the closer you get to Christmas the worse the travel conditions become. So, 5 pm the 18th it was. And everything looked completely fine until the Wednesday before, when they started hinting around about snow. I still wasn’t worried. “We may get a flurry or two,” they said. “It depends on how closely it hews to the coast.” Thursday: “Well, we’re probably going to get a bit of a snowstorm.” Friday: “Buy food and blankets and batteries! We’re in for a Nor’Easter!”
I decided, at 1 am Saturday, to see if I could rebook. Delta had helpfully canceled my 5 pm flight and put me on a 1 pm. (though somehow the idea that SOMEHOW THEY SHOULD LET ME KNOW didn’t occur to them.) But the 1 pm went from Newark to Atlanta to Nashville to Salt Lake, which didn’t seem to be the most practical route. So I rebooked online to go, at 8 am, JFK to Chicago to Salt Lake, with a two-hour layover. It was the best we could do, and I was happy to take it. The thing is, by this time it was 2:30 am and I still had crap to do. And by “crap” I mean “pack.” (This does not mean I was procrastinating. Remember, I had thought I had until 5 pm. I was not procrastinating! I was doing other things! And by "other things" I mean "watching Mad Men.") I rushed around and finished everything by 3:30 and got to sleep around 4:15, with the alarm set for 6:00. Yah-hoo. I didn’t sleep much on the first flight (on which they booked me first class, for some reason) and I was just trashed in Chicago. (I expect that by this I join an illustrious list of people who have been trashed in Chicago.) There was a gate area they had cleared of seats, and a few people were flat on the floor there. I walked by a couple of times, staring longingly at prostrate (sleeping) people, and then said, “I have no pride” and joined them, and I slept for an hour and a half on the dirty floor of the Chicago airport. And I would do it again.

I came back yesterday and flew into Newark. My boss was scheduled to return from his vacation, flying into Newark, on Sunday, but they didn’t arrive until 3 am Monday because of the crazy security breach. I had almost scheduled my return flight for Sunday, but didn’t; I figured that Sunday might be one of those awful “everyone’s coming back at the same time” days and Monday might be better. Now, the Good Worker part of me (whether it’s a big or small part of me, I haven’t yet determined) said, Monday is the first day of the work week; I should be back on Monday! I should arrive at the office at 9 am, ready to retackle my job and my life! But I didn’t. On a whim, I decided to give myself that one extra day and fly back on Monday. Oh, how the whim paid off! Thank you, Travel Gods; and Good Worker, go sit in a corner and eat cherry pie with Early To Bed and Regular Gym Goer while I figure out what to do with you.

Of course, this could mean nothing. But I’m taking it as an auspicious sign…a good 2010. How often do Travel Gods rule in your favor? Almost never, I tell you. I should also play the lottery, play in the road and take up smoking, because at the moment odds are in my favor.