I Heart My Agent


Last week, I finally had a chance to breathe from a whirlwind summer I hadn’t forecasted. (This summer was going to be the relaxing one, I told myself last May. Ha! Joke’s on you @jamieweil the Universe tweeted back in July.)

In that minute, I thought, “Hey. What happened to my manuscript? I sent it to Rachael (that darling under the umbrella) after she sent it to me and I fixed it and she said good and then I sent it back and…where is it again?”

I know the power of thoughts. I try to interrupt those sessions that take place around the conference table in my mind. I fail. Anne Lamott writes about it in Bird by Bird. It’s that part of every writer that likes to have multiple discussions in their head, usually flavored with self-doubt.

Immediately, I did that thing. Crap. She hates it. She threw it away. In the spam folder. Then, my cheerleader voice. Don’t be ridiculous. She loved it. She said you brought it up to a whole new level before. Why would she suddenly hate it? Then, my zen buddhist. All things in perfect time. Then, my hysteria voice, which may or may not be in menopause. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. (No place else can you get away with that many “thens.” Let’s hear it for blogging.)

I sent her a note, “Not to bug. Just checking on the timeline…” More word ingredients. Same flavor.

This is why I love her. “NO–BUG! I’m so insanely busy…there’s no better time to be an advocate for yourself. If I don’t contact you with a list by next Wednesday, BUG! Please!”

VOICES in unison: See. We told you. (What? Hunh?)

Just knowing I’m not the only one whirling around like the Tasmanian Devil relaxes me. The candor, the kindness–knowing someone else is in it with me and in a bunch of other places at the same time relaxes me somehow and let’s the zen buddhist voice sound through: all in perfect time.

Thanks, Rachael Dugas, for being in it.

My Fantasy

This is a little how I look at bedtime. Just ask my husband who has to navigate through my nightly inspirational magazine, my angel cards, my poetry book, my current personal development book, and whatever novel I may be reading. They’re like my stuffed animals I need to say goodnight to before I can enter into my dream world respectfully.

Truth be told, I get sleepy in less than 30 minutes. I’m lucky if I get to the novel. But this is my fantasy. To lock myself in a chair in a meadow, with flowers all around me, white puffy clouds breezing by, a stream babbling behind me–and My Pile of Books I haven’t gotten to yet.

I marvel at friends who read a book a week. My mom’s like that. She tells me about the characters and storylines in her books. She reads several hours a day consistently. I love that. I want to be like that when I grow up.

When my husband’s dad, Len,  died, I remember going to the rabbi to discuss ceremonial details. He told us stories. One was about Len, who was on the board of the temple at the time the rabbi was interviewing for a job. Len asked him this question: “If money wasn’t an issue, and you could do anything in the world, what would you do?”

The rabbi thought and he said, “First, I would pile up all the books and magazines I never get to and I would sail to this remote island (can’t remember the name) and I would sit underneath a palm tree for a year until they were all read. Then I would come back and help people.”

When I heard that, I thought, “Me, too! I want to go to that island with my stack then come back armed to serve.”

For now, I dream. I nibble away at it each night before bed, each moment I can steal here and there, and hold gratitude for each treasured word, knowing that one day me and my Pile of Books will find an island or a meadow somewhere to be together.

The Best Writing

writingbestI was at my youngest son’s swim meet today having a conversation with his buddy, Kyale, between races. Kyale said he liked to write. Called himself a “good writer.” This isn’t extremely common for a 14-year-old boy so I was intrigued. When I asked him what he liked to write, he said his favorite projects were when his teacher gave prompts that took them into writing about parts of their lives autobiography-style.

Thinking back, this was what I liked best, too. It still is. It’s not because I love talking about myself, just like I imagine that’s difficult for Kyale. It’s because this is a topic I know inside and out. I can access the dark parts and the sunny sides if I’m honest. I can feel it in my body if I’m off. Every single teacher from Kindergarten through my graduate work said my writing was tops when I could pull from those emotions. The same goes for agents, editors, mentors, writing groups, etc.  With that positive reinforcement, writing confidence builds and it becomes easy to announce like Kyale, “I’m a good writer.” I’ve heard him say it more than once and I love that he feels that way because so many young writers feel they are not.

Kyale’s source content is going to be his 14 years as mine was when I was that age. However, because I was a young single parent (had my first son at 23 and was still breastfeeding when the divorce ink was dry), my strongest emotion has come through my experience as parent. I pull on my experiences some, but mainly, my perceptions of my children’s experience. I’ve often recognized that I use writing as therapy to work through overwhelming emotion and help others benefit from my stress and God knows, single parenting while working full-time, traveling the globe, and dealing with a difficult ex had its challenges.

However, recently that layer has cleared. Because my first novel hammered through the emotional challenges I dealt with as a young parent, I am now finding I’m able to go back further and access emotions I had as a 14-year-old where there just wasn’t time before. Just picking up my son and his buddies at a popular teen spot this weekend flashed me back. I had frequented the spot at the same age, and wrote a scene about it some 5 months ago. Being there, I was able to test the scene against what I’d remembered. The smells, the sounds, the tastes. How it felt to be kissed in the corner by the pinball machine. The drama that went down when Janet put her head against the locker in a wad of gum and had to have her waist long hair cut into a bob.

I’ve been told over and over just because something is true doesn’t mean that’s how it should be written. In fact, anything that gets in the reader’s way should be let go. That’s why I love novels–they give me the room to access the emotion and insert it in  my choice of scenarios. Over and over I see the best writing show up when a writer is able to access those deepest emotions that he has felt and share them in vulnerable ink.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Star light, Star bright

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

starblogI spent the fourth of July weekend on Lake Shasta with family this year. We found an isolated cove with a breathtaking view of granite cliffs nestled amongst pines. The natural beauty was intoxicating. The thing that really got me, though, was the sky.

By day, it seemed to stretch on forever, a canopy of violet blue stretched across an infinity frame. By dusk, a soft pink backdrop for bats diving down close to where we lay on the top of the houseboat watching Mother Nature’s previews. The main attraction, though, came at night.

Do you have any idea what goes on in a wide open sky sheltered from city light? It had been years since I’d seen it. Living in LA for 30 years near the beach, we hardly ever saw stars. The city lights and coastal fog swallowed them up. I had grown up with these stars, but I had forgotten their power.

We sat and waited, watching for the first star while playing marshmallow Olympics. (The fish weren’t biting, so we had to find other uses for our mini-friends.) As each star dropped into place, it looked unique, like it had its own purpose on that tapestry. Eventually, the sky was covered. As we all watched the sky from our sleeping bag lookouts on top of the boat, my husband had an idea.

Husband: Hey! I’ll go get the IPAD and we can look at the galaxies through that app.

Me: Oh. Hmmmm. Okay. (Technology can’t make this better, I thought. Why does he want to ruin this with technology?)

Cousins: Oh. What? (On the fence. Not sure about what he’s talking about.)

Me: Are you going to get it?

Husband: No. Not enough enthusiasm to go down the ladder.

Me: (Not wanting to break his techno-spirit) Oh, come on. It’ll be cool.

Husband: Nope.

All of us: DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!

Husband: Okay. If you really want me to.

He pads down the treacherous houseboat ladder and returns armed with the IPAD telescope. Holding the IPAD up to the sky we could not only see the names of all the stars, we could see the overlays of zodiac images. It was fascinating on so many levels. We loved it. It added a whole new layer to what we were seeing. After everybody had a chance to play with it, we put it away and stared back at sky original.

As each person faded off one by one, faint snoring sounds filling the night air, I laid there wide awake. How could there be so much up in that sky? One after another satellite passed by. I had no idea how many were up there. Shooting star after shooting star streaked the black. Most amazing to me was how different the night sky was from the day. How unique. And how so many layers performed in a night time drama I’ll never forget.

And while you ask yourself “What does this have to do with writing?,” I’ll tell you what I got from the whole thing. Each artist, each creator, shines uniquely like those individual stars. They have a unique body of work inside them that they have been sent here to do, and though many factors may pull them away from it, if they listen to their intuition, they will find their True North. The compilation of those works create life’s night sky, so captivating it can keep the world up at night if it looks closely.

What’s going on with the Movies?

writing2.jpbI’m not hard to please. Really, I’m not. It doesn’t take an Academy Award winning film to capture my interest.

What’s going on out there this summer in Movie-Makinig Land, though, is beyond me. Did the film editors all quit? Go on strike? Develop a new philosophy no longer based on “Casablanca” as perfect film?

We see a lot of films and we live in a rural area so we don’t have access to many indie-artsy films. This is hard for me as I was known to shoot out 45 minutes across town by myself to catch a good indie at some random theater when we lived in the LA area. My sample, then, must be taken into consideration. The films we’re seeing are the national screening blockbusters.

Here are the last few: “World War Z,” (shockingly, not horrible), “This is the End,” (pretty darn horrible–James Franco, what were you thinking?), “Man of Steel” (aka Superman backwards with lots and lots of smashing things), “Into Darkness,” (same-same),  “Mud” (loved that), “The Heat,” (funny and a relief after the others), “The Lone Ranger” (ehhhh) and so on. But here’s what stands out most: THEY’RE ALL SO STINKING LONG.

When did the running time decide to take on a life of its own and dominate an evening? Even the formulaic ones go on forever, like a novel that just refuses to end even though it was over three quarters of the way through. There’s a special place in hell for those story writers. These film writers need to visit there.

It’s not that I don’t have the attention span (some may argue, but they’re not writing this.) It’s just so freaking unnecessary. Do we really need to see Superman and the gang from his home planet, Krypton, battle for 40 minutes? Or Tonto and The Lone Ranger walk on top of a train (or crawl beneath it) for what seems like hours?

Let’s bring back the story part. On a recent viewing of “Casablanca” on the big screen, we were captivated. No color, no General Zod, just a good-old fashioned story straight up. I’m ready for more of that. And if we can pull that off, Hollywood, I won’t even complain when you try and sneak an extra 20 minutes on a two-hour running time.