Friday, July 31, 2009

A room of one's own

So here's what I did today. I rented myself some office space. Sara said I could rent right next door to her AND I PROMISE NOT TO BUG HER. Sort of. She in turn promises NOT TO LET ME HAVE THE WI-FI PASSWORD to the chez so I will write when I'm there instead of getting online and reading crap about Brad and Angelina.

Anyway. I'm excited. I have a room here at the house, but I am too easily diverted by the jobs I have when I'm home. I love being able to open a door, step inside an office . . . and walk inside my own head. I rented an office to finish my first book CAL CAMERON (written shortly after man discovered fire). I also rented an office to finish up CHARLOTTE'S ROSE. Hopefully, I can be productive.

On the eating front: it was just hog American roadside diner heaven yesterday. If you haven't been to Maddox, go. It's a slice of history on highway 89. I had a filet mignon done medium rare, a baked potato soaked in butter and sour cream, corn on the cob and cornbread with raspberry butter. And because I was feeling fancy, I started it all off with a seafood cocktail.

I love America.

That is all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


I'm sitting here waiting for my mom. We're going to drive to Brigham City so we can eat lunch at Maddox. That's how much she and I care about these things. We'll get in a car and drive far distances to eat fried chicken, whereas I really cannot be bothered to go to a life-saving doctor's appointment if it's south of 21st South here in Salt Lake. There's something kinda sick about this, I think.

Anyway, I'm also thinking about a conversation I had last night with the luminous Carol Williams. Carol made the observation that most people who've been successful in the world of kid lit have tended to focus on a genre rather than being all over the place. There are notable exceptions, of course. But even people like Cynthia Rylant have focused on one genre at a time during their careers, even if they write everything from picture books to YA.

This has made me wonder about my own career. I've tried a lot of different things--sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I don't regret it, and really part of the reason I've tried different things is that I couldn't sell a YA novel for awhile, even though that was my first love.

I have to say I think Carol's right, though. Most people with splendid careers seem to have an identifiable focus. Am I right about this? Are there obvious exceptions I'm forgetting? Your thoughts, please.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And here's another embarrassing thing

That I would use a restaurant in NEW YORK CITY (Sylvia's) as my standard for good southern cooking.

Column idea

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to do a column on the things we're secretly embarrassed about when it comes to ourselves. But okay. That would be TOO EMBARRASSING, because then I would have to write a column about how I somehow have three cats living at my house now.

Three cats isn't exactly over the top. Yet. But it's an alarming trend.

On the food front . . . if you love southern barbeque, then grab a loved one (or me) and go to Pat's Barbeque at 155 West Commonwealth in Salt Lake City. Commonwealth is one of those little city side streets where people take their cars to have body work done. But don't be put off. I have never had better southern soul food--not even at Sylvia's in New York. Plus they had a video of a Black Crowes concert going on the whole time, which gave me ample opportunity to point and tell my son that the lead singer used to be married to Kate Hudson. Which he would already know if only he read STAR Magazine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bree Despain

So one of the pleasures of teaching creative writing is that you can get out your pom-poms and CHEER!!!! when a former student makes good.

Last summer lovely Bree "Divine" Despain signed up for my class at BYU's Writing and illustrating for Children's Workshop (best conference in America btw) and shared a thrilling paranormal romance along the lines of TWILIGHT with us. Anyway, I was impressed and had a feeling Bree would sell it. Which she did. And people THE DARK DIVINE comes out in December. Yay for our Bree!

I want to make two points here. The first point is that I didn't teach Bree a thing. She was already an experienced writer and workshopper when she showed up to my class. But I'm delighted to claim her as a former student.

Second thing. I said THE DARK DIVINE is similiar to TWILIGHT, which it is, because there's romance! And creatures of the night! But without taking anything away from Stephenie Meyer's achievements, which are considerable and I do feel like she gets picked on unfairly, I think THE DARK DIVINE is more tightly constructed from the sentence level on up.

I'm so proud of Bree and I wish her all the luck in the world.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dreaming redux

So I'm still trying to capture my dreams in the belief that remembering them will somehow help me as a writer EVEN THOUGH I HAVE SUCH STUPID DREAMS. The good news is I dreamed last night that Gwyneth Paltrow e-mailed me because she likes my column! The bad news is I forgot to answer her!

This dream started out well--but turned grubby quickly.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hello again

I don't know why I didn't blog at all this week. Apparently I lost my will to blog. Also live. Also eat cupcakes. It was a bad week in some ways, but I'm better now.

I was listening to (cliche alert!) NPR this morning on my way to (cliche alert!) the Farmer's Market this morning to watch fellow Salt Lakers (cliche alert!) sip coffee and parade their rescue dogs around Pioneer Park. ANYWAY. I was interested in the interview with a writer whose name I missed (but his British-type accent was dead sexy) who called the reading and writing of poetry a Slow Word Movement--not unlike the Slow Food Movement. His point, of course, was that to read poems, you have to slow down and savor what's there in order to have a meaningful experience.

I loved this little analogy and wanted to say one of the pleasures of this otherwise disappointing week was to read some poems by my friend Lisa Bickmore, who often posts here. She's all about the Slow Word Movement, and I feel nourished because she shared her work with me. She used to be my second favorite poet after W. B. Yeats. But now she is officially my favorite poet.

And actually now that I think about it--I saw and heard from several friends this past week and that was all good, too. Thank you, friends.

Yes. In my happy place now.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Randi!

You know how I try to keep this blog about writing. Also food. BUT! I have to divert here for a moment.

Almost three summers ago, my two oldest boys grew up and got themselves married to a pair of extremely awesome girls whom I could NOT adore more. One of them has a birthday today, and I just wanted to give her a big shoutout with the following list:

1. She has a great laugh
2. She's a dynamite school teacher
3. She's put my son in touch with his outdoorsy self
4. She has a flair for interior design
5. She's a good dog mama to her pug Leila
6. She's always game for new experiences
7. She taught me how to crochet a scarf
8. She's a wonderful daughter, sister, friend, daughter-in-law, aunt and wife
9. She has excellent taste in earrings
10. The world is a nicer place because she's in it

Friday, July 17, 2009

My writing plan at the moment

I'm gong to sit here and write TWENTY MINUTES without getting up to do laundry or go the bathroom or try on a pair of new earrings or grab another can of Dr. Pepper out of the fridge or change the radio station or (YOU FILL IN THE BLANK).

This is always what I tell people to do at conferences. Set aside a few minutes every day--a few super FOCUSED minutes--and go for it. SUCH FREAKING EASY ADVICE TO GIVE.

And then after I write, I'm going to do physical therapy on my wrist and hand, i.e. play solitaire with actual cards. I devised this bit of therapy myself and yes. I think I'm pretty much a genius.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An attempt to restore my credibility as a serious writer and blogger

So really I'm just sitting here thinking about the cupcake I didn't get this morning (Backer's does a faux Hostess thing with filling and white squiggle on the top). But just to prove to you all that I awesomely care about the craft of writing, I want to share with you a list of mine I recently found in some of my notes. It's called MISTAKES I HAVE MADE.

1. Not having a plot.
2. Not being in-scene.
3. Not being specific.
4. Not reading something aloud.
5. Not giving a piece a cooling-down period.
6. Not reading widely and regularly enough.

Those are mistakes of craft. I have made (also) mistakes of the spirit. They include the following:

1. Waiting for inspiration.
2. Waiting for the right time of life to write.
3. Backing off a project too soon.
4. Letting my fear get the best of me.

I'm thinking of writing an article about this all and offering some solutions. The best one being DO NOT TAKE UP WRITING.
I feel that way sometimes . . . but mostly I'm glad I get to do this.

I've done this more than once this week . . .

. . . driven to Backer's Bakery to buy a cupcake. And remembered as soon as I got there that they've "gone fishin'" until the end of this month. So then I have to say dammit and drive away u.n.s.a.t.i.s.f.i.e.d.

The concept of Groundhog's Day is more entertaining when it's not your actual life.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


So I spent part of the day yesterday at the Alpine School District main office, meeting with a group of fabulous writing teachers, including my funny friend Chris Crowe. Chris (author of the amazing book MISSISSIPPI TRIAL, 1955) is currently into Zombie Haiku. He tossed this bit of verse off yesterday:

fresh tiramisu
a zombie delicacy
real ladies' fingers

Here's another:

"Let me pick your brain"
not a metaphorical
request from zombies

This was written by Claudia, one of the teachers in the group:

So much alike, both
Zombies and psychologists
Want inside your head.

I came up with this:

For you my dear love,
I'd give an arm and a leg,
Then watch you eat them.

Okay. Time to wrap this up. Now that I've ruined my dinner . . .

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Maybe Doug would have me on his show if I spelled his name right

Yeah. I spelled Fabrizio wrong in my labels (see previous blog entry). Anyway, our Carol did a grand job--when I could hear her. The sound on the 11:30 show today went in and out. V. annoying, especially since no one was on call up there to hear me whine about it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Carol Williams on TV tonight

So one of my fave authors (and people!), Carol Lynch Williams, is being interviewed tonight on Channel 7 at 7:30. The interview will be re-broadcast on Sunday at 11:00. Carol will be talking about her breakout book THE CHOSEN ONE, as well as about her life as a writer. Not that anybody told me for sure. But I'm guessing.

Anyway. Tune in if you're in the area as opposed to being in China. Is there anybody in China reading my blog? if so, please identify yourself.

I ate a cupcake yesterday for the first time in many weeks and it didn't send me in spite of the intense mocha-ness of it all. Who knows why? Maybe cupcakes are too dense a food for summer?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Advice for beginning writers by P. D. James . . .

. . . as reported in the Authors Guild Bulletin (Spring 2009):

"You must WRITE, not just think you're going to. It doesn't really matter what you tackle first, novel, short story or diary. And you must widen your vocabulary, enjoy words. You must read widely, not in order to copy, but to find your own voice. A student of architecture has to work at other buildings, see what other architects have done and ask why they were so good. It's a matter of going through life with all one's senses alive, to be responsive to experience, to other people."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The answer is yes

The question? "Do you ever run out of ideas for your column?" I'm asked this whenever I speak, and while I usually have something bubbling on the backburner when I sit down to do the column every Monday, there are times when suddenly! It's Tuesday! And still no column!


In this case I'll just have to find something, anything, and noodle around with it for awhile until I can turn it into 500 halfway decent words. I've done it before so it's easier to have a little faith in the process. Still. Light a candle for me.

Meanwhile I bought a raisin-filled cookie from Parson's Bakery in Bountiful this afternoon and snarfed it down in a single sitting. I think I've mentioned before that raisin-filled cookies are one of my benchmark foods, along with potato salad, coleslaw, chili rellanos and key lime pie. Not many folks make them anymore. Parson's does a nice job.

And finally--I was in Bountiful to have my wrist checked. The brace came off today. SO YAY for that. I have limited motion, though, so it looks like lots of p.t. ahead.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Checking in

So I started reading a book in a new series by the divine M. C. Beaton, author of my beloved Hamish Macbeth series. This one's called OUR LADY OF PAIN and it's set in Edwardian England. Sadly, I am feeling disappointed. Beaton's weaknesses--her tendency to underdevelop and fall back on too much exposition--are really apparent in this one. I'll finish it but I probably won't read another in the series.

Okay. Since this is a literary blog, I felt obliged to throw in something about books or whatever. Hence the above bit. But what I REALLY want to say is that I had many helpings of potato salad to celebrate the Fourth yesterday. My mother-in-law makes the BEST potato salad known to mankind. She doesn't mess it up with pickles or too much mustard. it's just a smooth potato-y, mayonnaise-y delight.

I was groggy with potato salad-induced happiness.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Watch out what you wish for

So way back last winter, I posted about dreams and how I wasn't having them anymore and also how SAD this made me because I think writers should dream vigorously and pay attention while they're doing it. And many of you offered suggestions about how I could up my dream quotient, including Kerry who suggested I break something because pain helps trigger dreams. Apparently that's why I broke MY WRIST. Thank you very much for the suggestion, Kerry!

Anyhoo! I did dream twice last night. Here's what I dreamed:

1) I dreamed I was telling a really long story to a group of people and realized halfway into it that I was being comletely boring.

2) I dreamed that I noticed a boy in a cast whose upper arm was as flabby as mine because his muscles had atrophied, too.

These are the kind of dreams I put into a category called GRUBBY LITTLE DREAMS. Included (for me) in this category are dreams where I try on swimsuits and the sales clerks laugh at me or where I step into sprinkler holes and trip in front of my old junior high school.

Meanwhile, Stephenie Meyer dreams about golden, glistening vampires swirling about in meadows.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What the well-dressed writer is wearing

It's my 35th high school reunion on Friday, and the only goal I made for myself was NOT to buy something at Chico's, because I know a whole boatload of people who make fun of middle aged ladies who buy their clothes at Chico's. Except somehow it was the first place I ended up. Also the last place. Read between the lines.

Dude. Pass me the estrogen and turn on the Oprah Show because. I. Am. There.

Did I mention I had an excellent turkey/cranberry sandwich at Hires the other day? WHO KNEW?