Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Seven Years To Publication

My pub date is looming! One week from today! I have moved through the tremendous anxiety I have been feeling to sheer excitement. Why have I been so focused on "sales" and what stores are or are not stocking the book? Edges will find it's audience and will be the first of many novels. I've already proven to myself through these seven years of gestation that I can suffer through my impatience, I can write and rewrite, and rewrite again, and that practicing any craft makes you better. Period.

So all ye writers out there - do not give up hope! If I can do it, you can!

Seven years. Much has been made of this number in every religion. The sum of the spiritual three + the material four is seven. Seven comes from the Hebrew word, shen-ban, meaning to be complete, or full. For a more complete breakdown of the symbolic meaning of seven, here is a good place to start. It's my new favorite number!

The giveaway on Goodreads ended this morning, and there were 953 entries! I like to think that is a good, healthy number. I grabbed my only copy of Edges and tried to come up with something pithy to write along with my autograph, but ended up pith-less but personal. (An "edge" has multiple meanings, and I hope the book encompasses all of them! Do you guys have any ideas? I can think of several, but they are all cheesy . . .) Then I went to the post office where I sent it off all the way to Kalispell Montana! It should get there on Friday.

Seven years to publication. Seven years to completion. It's almost here!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Birthday Gran

Dear Gran,

You would have been 92 years old today. This holiday season wouldn't be the same without commemorating your birth in some way - it was always part of the end of the year line-up: Halloween, Thanksgiving, your birthday party, Advent with lots of singing, more parties, Christmas, New Year's Eve. As we are both writers, I am sure that you would be tickled by a blog post as well as the white candles I am lighting in your honor.

(Because you would blog. Oh yes, you would. I know of no other writer as devoted to communicating with people as much as you. You answered every single letter, and made deep friendships over the years through people reaching out to you. Of course you would blog)!

I am reading A Wrinkle in Time out loud right now to your youngest granddaughter, Scarlett L'Engle. I have read it out loud to the boys too, and I am moved every time, not only by the text, but by my memories of you: reading Wrinkle aloud to me the summer when I was 9 and in a hospital with broken bones and fractured mind; identifying and commiserating with me whenever I got dramatic or emotional as a teenager; writing stories with me, as I do now with some of my own students and my children; taking me to museums, the opera, ballet; giving me glimpses of light in the world so that I may find my own light.

You generously shared your love of literature and language, your love of story as truth. You taught me about love, hope and possibility in a world that is at times impossibly cruel. You taught me that our faults and our virtues are on a double-edge sword. How wonderful that Mrs. Whatsit gives Meg her faults to conquer IT with! You taught me that I could be and do anything, as long as I didn't let fear get the best of me. Well Gran, as you know, I always have to learn the hard way!

Remember when I put everything in storage and moved to Moab for a year? You were not happy that I was going to be far away from you, yet you knew that I must follow my own path.  My time in Moab fourteen years ago inspired my first novel! I started writing Edges seven years ago, and now it will finally be published next week, December 7th. I almost gave up several times. Thank you for showing me that writing is a discipline and a practice. You never gave up through all of the lean years and rejections. You kept going, because that was who you were. There wasn't anything else to do!

Having you as my Gran in this business has been a mixed blessing - on the one hand, your influence has been my inspiration, on the other, I have been so afraid to dare to follow in your footsteps. If people are expecting you, they will be disappointed. Nobody can be you.

Many of us spend much of our youth folding ourselves up into pretzels, trying to please others and to conform to our ideas of what our family, friends, society want us to be. We are afraid of not being loved. Finding and owning my voice as a writer has been a hard won process.


“On Camazotz we are all happy because we are all alike. Differences create problems. You know that, don’t you, dear sister?”
            “No,” Meg said.
            “Oh, yes, you do. You’ve seen at home how true it is. You know that’s the reason you’re not happy at school. Because you’re different.”
            “I’m different, and I’m happy.” Calvin said.
            “But you pretend that you aren’t different.”
            “I’m different, and I like being different.” Calvin’s voice was unnaturally loud.
            “Maybe I don’t like being different,” Meg said, “but I don’t want to be like everybody else either.” P.155

This is part of what inspires me to mentor young writers, to show them that "originality" is finding their own authentic voice.

Thank you for always being my guide and mentor, in heart, mind and spirit. For continuing to kythe with me, even now, three years after your death. Happy Birthday Gran, you are always with me.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanks and Giving

A Turkey.Image via Wikipedia
There is a new kitchen in my house. Which means, a working oven to put a 13 pound turkey with stuffing in, and a refrigerator to chill the Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. We are keeping things very simple this year, wanting to celebrate this holiday in our new house and create new rituals.

When my Gran was alive, the extended family all gravitated towards her and we would have a big shin-dig wherever she needed to be, whether it was in the city or the homestead in Northwestern Connecticut. But since she passed, we have all been trying to find our center, and  I can't think of Thanksgiving without thinking of her, as her birthday is also just around the corner. So, without further ado, let me give her a shout out: we love you and miss you Gran! You are always in our hearts . . .

My first Thanksgiving with my husband was in 1996 and we had just shacked up together in Moab, Utah. My parents were getting divorced, and this was one of the first times I wouldn't be with my family. What to do for the holiday? My future husband was all about action, so it became about joy, rather than loss. Neither of us had been to Las Vegas, so we drove to the dust bowl of neon and celebrated there, thoroughly enjoying the culture shock and cognitive dissonance that comes with going from one extreme environment to another, and having a turkey dinner in a fancy hotel restaurant and seeing a show.

I am grateful for my years with my husband, the three children we have together, the life we have built and continue to build. I am grateful to have this chance at being a published author, for the work I do with kids as we all strive together to find our own unique voice. I am grateful for wonderful friends, new and old. I am grateful that I continue to learn and grow. I am grateful to have a kitchen in which to finally cook a Thanksgiving feast for the first time on my own.

The kids and I made chocolate chip pumpkin bread yesterday (and are having friends over this morning to share it with us), my eldest son made two pumpkin pies, we had good friends over for dinner on their way to Cape Cod. This morning as I write this I am half watching Scooby Doo, we have a new puzzle to do and a gingerbread house to make, and of course, the art project - making the Thanksgiving Tree. Uh. Don't forget about the FOOD!

And look at the time! I'd better get crack-a-lackin' on the bird! But I want to hear from you too! (There's always so much to write, and not enough time!) What are you thankful for this year? What are some of your stranger Thanksgiving rituals? AND . . . wish me luck with the turkey!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Let's Have Tea!

A teacup on a saucer.Image via Wikipedia
I want to have a Tea Party as I write this post. (As in have a cup o' tea dearie? and not the political movement. )

Unfortunately, it will have to be virtual and one-sided, but I feel oh so very chatty, and long to get cozy with you all and talk for hours. However, a warning is in order -  I have a tendency to take conversations in a few different directions! (My husband is forever catching me stopping in mid-sentence and then starting to talk about something else.)

It's almost Thanksgiving, and two weeks until my pub date, (!!!!) and I have to confess that I have let the whole NaNoWriMo frenzy fall by the wayside: indeed, it is hanging limp. But you knew that. However,  going into the realm of fantasy for a few days gave me an AHA! moment and I realized how to fix the problem I was perseverating on in my WIP, giving me fresh energy. Yay! Has anybody else had that experience? It's quite invigorating, let me tell you! (Another confession - this is the WIP I sent to my agent. I realized the problem and asked him NOT to read it! It should be really ready in another two weeks.)

The God Box is awesome.  (See post Mod Podge and God) I'm writing letters every morning, folding them up and letting go. This concrete ritual is just what I need right now.

I have tea and spirituality on the brain probably because I finally shared a pot of tea and scones yesterday in the city at Alice's Tea Cup with Donna Freitas, author of The Possibilities of Sainthood and This Gorgeous Game, also published by FSG. We have been trying to find a time to get together ever since our mutual friend Daphne Grab introduced us, and I found out that she was a Phillip Pullman scholar. I am a Pullman geek. Well, we didn't even get the chance to talk about Pullman yesterday, finding so much else that we have in common - growing up religious, but finding our own ways to God as adults (albeit in different ways), a fascination with religion and spirituality.

Now, enough about me. What kind of tea are you having? (I'm sipping sapchan oolong, with a hint of jasmine.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mod Podge and God

"Can you make slots in the top of these?" I asked my husband late this morning, handing him two Starbucks boxes that were only big enough to fit large mugs, excited for my arts and crafts project.

"Sure," he said, looking at them. "How big do you want them?" I have been talking about this particular idea for weeks, and had just come back from discovering Katonah's local art store, Janet's Planet, flourishing a bag laden with Mod Podge and tissue paper.

"Big enough to put a folded piece of paper in. You know - like a mailbox." Yesterday I had cut up some magazines in preparation for some collage work. I wanted to make a God Box.

In my early 20's I used to make collages as a form of meditation. I kept a folder full of cut outs from magazines and would glue pictures onto cardboard, seeing what I would come up with. Almost like Play Therapy. And then I was at NYU studying Drama Therapy, and my Masters thesis was a performance art piece, called Pandora's Hot Box, Lost in a Spiritual Supermarket. I dare you not to call that a collage.

But. I have never used Mod Podge. How can a girl have never used Mod Podge? I've fantasized about it of course. Imagined a house full of creatively découpaged objects. (Mod Podge is this amazing glue that looks white, but dries clear and glossy.) My excuse was always that my NYC apartment was too small. No space, no time. I need to write after all. Take care of some kids. Let them do all the arts and crafts.

Today was the day Mod Podge and I finally met and married - pictures and tissue paper with the impervious glue. The cut openings are for letters or notes to God (or the Universe, or Higher Self, Higher Power - whatever works for you.) A concrete prayer of letting go or of thanks. Another tool to help me get out of my own way.

I took my supplies up to my bedroom and laid everything out on my purple velvet comforter. Tissue paper, rip! Mod Podge, a picture of a palm tree and a hammock on the beach. God. This first one has to be for my BFF. She's a total beach bunny, while I am. Not. Images, shapes, patterns came to me with her in mind. Mod Podge. I just love those sounds together. God Mod Podge. Mod God Podge. Hmmmm.

Writing has always been the strongest form of prayer for me. Writing things down gives my words weight, makes them real. My journals are full of these types of prayers and my writing is between God and me anyway. This will be a constant, loving reminder.


Of course I made one for myself but it's not quite finished yet - I had to share my supplies with my children when they came home from school. Still, I hope to start out each day with a letter that I can tuck safely away in the God Box, beginning tomorrow. Maybe it will be the simple Serenity Prayer.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 15, 2010

Beside Myself

Beside MyselfImage by Danielle Scott via Flickr
Three weeks from tomorrow, peeps. Yes, I know we will remember Pearl Harbor, but it's also the publication date for EDGES. You must be beside yourself with excitement! People say encouragingly. Well, I am certainly beside myself, and excitement is merely one of the ways in which that phenomenon manifests itself.

So what does it mean when I am beside myself? Am I  literally out of my body, not myself anymore?  Or are there two of me, both unable to look in the mirror to see what's what. If I am beside myself, where exactly am I? Who am I?

I am a mother, writer, teacher, wife, friend. I am.

I am. Beside myself with excitement: this is truly a dream come true but it's also very much like being near the end of my first pregnancy, where I wanted my son so very badly and I couldn't wait to meet him, but I am  just so huge and can't sleep and can't walk, and I have heartburn on top of everything else.

I am. Beside myself with marketing: On Friday night I went to a party with a lot of other writers from the kid-lit world, where I heard about a couple of things that are NOT in my overall marketing plan. Evidently, blogs are out and podcasts are in. Facebook is okay, but Twitter reigns supreme. I left a little scared. I mean, I am on the internet PLENTY. Too much already. I was told to send invitations out for EDGES launch party ASAP. This was advice from the experts and I am the new-kid-on-the-block, so yes, you can guess how I spent my weekend, posting invites to Facebook and doing a fancy-pants evite with disco balls and everything.

Side note: If you didn't get an invitation, don't worry, please come if you are in the NYC area. It will be at Books of Wonder on December 9th from 6PM until 8PM. (Food will be involved, but of the cupcake, snack and soda variety, and not heftier fare.)

I am. Beside myself with anxiety: Will people like my book? Is "like" what I'm going for anyway? I want EDGES to spark discussions, and "like" may not even be a factor. Will people judge me as a debut novelist, or have different expectations because of my lineage? And when I'm anxious, I envision "people" out there as one entity, which is ludicrous, because a book is a relationship between it and an individual reader. Sara Zarr writes in her blog about having to read 230 books as a judge for the National Book Award and how daunting that was because of the subjective nature of reading.  She writes:  Richard Rodriguez says that the reader re-creates the book when he reads it. If that’s true, and I think it probably is, that means 100 readers could have 100 different experiences of the same book. Which can be frustrating, but is also kind of magical and also tells you something about what it is to be a person, an individual.

I love that!







Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What I Learned About Writing From The NYC Marathon

And no, I didn't run in it. (I run in the opposite direction from marathons.) But this year, my dear friends Ginger and Greg both pulled out all the stops to enter themselves and I became their unwitting cheerleader, watching from the sidelines. A marathon is a race, yes, but it's so much more than that. (This is a pic of Greg as we watch him pass mile 19 on 116th Street and First Avenue.)

A metaphor for life, but specifically, the writing life.

"It's a marathon, not a race," my agent, Edward Necarsulmer has told me about my career.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," I've said, understanding the words intellectually, but not really getting it until now.

I started the NaNoWriMo thang last week, hoping to get my mind off of EDGES' looming pub date, but it has only served to get me in "race" mode, and worrying about things I don't normally worry about. Like word count. I already write every day, but I can't be in, what my writer friend Deborah calls "the bubble" for long periods of time right now. I am still adjusting to my new life out here in Northern Westchester, developing new relationships and making new friends, building Writopia out here and of course I have my husband, 3 munchkins, and a kitchen that is finally being put in.

But all of us have our distractions.

I watched Ginger and Greg not only run the marathon, but train for it, negotiating time for and with each other. Both work full-time - Greg is an actor and Ginger is a psychotherapist, AND they also have three kids. In training, they built up they're endurance over time to run the 26 mile race-that's-not-a-race. Writing is a practice, a training of sorts, needing determination, perseverance, and negotiation. NaNoWriMo is an intense training period, but it doesn't just end there.

"Once I got past the first five miles," Ginger told me "it got easier: it became about something else." That runner's high? (I'm past the first five miles with my writing career. After YEARS, my first novel is coming out in 27 days! I'm in the marathon-that's-not-a-race.) Greg got some leg cramps towards the end and thought he might not make it, but his coach jumped in and started running with him, egging him on. "You can do it!" He did it.

I have had some leg cramps and will certainly have more, but I've got a team around me and running with me to keep me going through the growing pains.

In a marathon, you're running with other people, working on your personal best. The goal for most people isn't to "win" - they win by trying and completing the 26 miles.

In the writing life, I'm developing my own voice and my personal best with each book, with each story that begs to be told. Sure, it would be nice to "win", but I want all of the other writers who are in the marathon with me to win too. We're in it together, some of us running fast, others limping, but we're all in it.

And books need to marinate in our heads and on the page - they take a long time to become real. Writing isn't a race. I used to be desperate to have a second contract already, but I still don't have one. That doesn't change my worth as a writer. It just makes me all the more determined to put my best work out there.

And I'm failing spectacularly at this NaNoWriMo thing. Only 6000 words! (Look who is counting?) But that doesn't mean I call it a day and give up, oh no! I'm just taking the pressure off, with a new understanding that life is a marathon, and as long as I keep moving, I'm good. It's when I stop and feel paralyzed that there is a problem. I allow myself to get trampled. And if I feel kicked - I ask for help and support as soon as I can.

After the NYC marathon on Sunday, we regrouped at Ginger and Greg's place for a debriefing and a pizza party. Amidst the chaos and soreness, G & G were glowing with exhilaration, pride, and relief. And most of all, this experience has woven itself into the fabric of their lives, love for each other, and has become part of who they are. Deliciously inspiring.

So, to myself and other writers out there: just keep moving forward, and don't worry about speed! Celebrate the little accomplishments along the way, pat yourself and your friends on the back and lower your expectations of word count and publishing, and allow yourself to feel the luxurious sensuality of words, and why we love to write in the first place.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 4, 2010

EDGES Excerpt

The classic view of Canyonlands National Park ...Image via Wikipedia
This excerpt a couple of pages into the book and introduces life at the Moonflower Motel Youth Hostel. We begin with Luke, who left New York City seven months prior and at 17 has just become manager of the hostel and has moved into his own trailer . . .

Luke felt something like excitement for the first time in almost a year, and he welcomed it. He could hear the murmur of voices and laughter outside. Guests were returning from their day trips to nearby parks— Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley— and he needed to get back to the hostel. He stashed his stuff and put on a clean shirt, then jumped out the door and locked it, pocketing the key. He looked to the La Sal Mountains in the distance. He felt both contained and free in this valley, surrounded by the red sandstone of the Moab Rim. Moab was named after the Promised Land, he remembered Jim saying during one of their many conversations that winter, a twinkle in his eye. The first Mormons had given the town its biblical name in 1880.

It had certainly been that for Jim and Clare, discovering Moab last summer on a meandering road trip through the Southwest, after taking their daughter, Ava, to New York following her high school graduation in May.

“Where in New York?” Luke had asked.

“She goes to Barnard College, on the Upper West Side,” Jim
had told him.

“She must be crazy smart,” Luke had said, not mentioning that
he’d lived around the corner from the school.

“Well, she was smart enough to want to get a job right away, rather than tour the country with her parents.” Jim and Clare had burned rubber in a straight line west from New York to Denver and started their wanderings there. At first they just enjoyed the sights, but when they got to Moab, they were amazed by their visceral response to the place, and their willingness to jump into another life.
Some would call it impulsive, but Luke knew exactly how Jim and Clare felt, although he didn’t consider it a “spiritual conversion” the way they did. Well, the way Jim did.

A cherry red Jeep was idling in front of the hostel. The main parking lot must be full.

“Can I help you?” Luke asked, approaching it.

“Yeah.” There were two college- age kids in the Jeep. “We just got here. Where can we park?” Luke directed them to the alternate parking area behind his trailer.

He nodded to a few travelers congregating out front by the pic-nic tables as he opened the door to the hostel, knowing he would find Tangerine inside. She had jumped at the chance to fill in for him at the front desk because she was looking for more hours to work so that she could afford to stay longer. It was toward the end of the season, and businesses weren’t hiring anymore. She was talking to Brigitte from Chicago, who also had started living at the hostel earlier this summer and was thinking about quitting law school. Brigitte had patched together a full- time work schedule by cleaning at the hostel and making mochas at the coffee house on Center Street.

Luke stopped, mesmerized by Tangerine’s Australian twang. She had very bright red hair in two braids down her back, green eyes, a nose ring, a tongue stud, and several earrings. For all of that outer adornment, she didn’t wear any makeup, and Luke thought she was stunning. Of course, she also made him ner vous. Luke grabbed the guest book from the desk, wanting to finish the paperwork from his
busy shift.

“I’m broke and my mum wants me to come home, but I’m not ready to leave.” Tangerine sounded unusually glum, and the intimacy in her sadness made Luke feel like an intruder, so he turned and went back outside.

The sun was finally behind the building, and guests were milling about, wondering what to do for dinner. One family was firing up one of the grills, and two of the three picnic tables were full. It was virtually impossible to be alone at the hostel, and Luke had to zigzag between three children playing tag to get to the empty picnic table to finish his work. He saw the guys from the cherry red Jeep and motioned them toward the door, knowing that Tangerine would get them settled.

Hal sat down next to him. Hal had been hanging around the hos- tel for years, so when Jim bought the place and took over, he sort of adopted Hal with it, giving him the glorified title of “maintenance manager,” which was a nice way of saying that Hal was willing to do the dirty work but needed some management himself. Hal lived in a trailer on the grounds, even though he had family in town. Luke had never gotten the whole story, but he knew that Hal had been born and raised in the area, that his geologic knowledge was impressive, and that he believed in the inherent evil of extraterrestrials and Big- foot. He was also a diagnosed schizophrenic, but Georgia, who had been an art therapist specializing in adult psychosis, would have called Hal “high- functioning.”

Luke raised his chin briefl y. “How’re ya doin’?” he asked. Luke noticed that Hal had food stuck in his drooping mustache, but it never did any good to call attention to that. His graying hair was also constantly a bird’s nest, adding to his permanent look of confusion.

“Hangin’ in there,” Hal said as he turned away from Luke to greet the two new guys, who sat down at the other end of the table, opening cans of beer. Hal started talking to them. “You know the Zettians come in and just explode your world, man. It’s a totally mind- blowing experience!” The Zettians again. Luke smiled weakly at the new guys. He needed to do some damage control.

“That’s cool, man,” Luke said, knowing from experience that the best way to deal with Hal was to agree with him.

“No, man, it’s not cool.” Oops, wrong. “It’s not cool to have aliens invade your head and take you away with them. Those negative vortexes, man, stay away from them.”

“Wait,” one of the guys said, trying not to laugh. “What’s a negative vortex?”

Hal’s eyes bugged out. “You don’t know about vortexes? There’s electric and magnetic, positive and negative. You’ve got to watch out for the negative. You don’t know what can come through. Bigfoot,
the Zettians. They take over your mind and you can’t think for yourself, and the Zettians do what ever they want with you . . . They pick your brain, they just pick, pick, pick . . .”

“Hal,” Luke said gently, putting his hand on Hal’s arm. It always made him a little nervous when Hal was in one of his moods. “Sorry, man, that is rough. Hey, could you make sure there’s enough
toilet paper in the bathrooms? Somebody mentioned something about it this afternoon, but I forgot which one . . .” The look of panic was beginning to fade from Hal’s face, and he nodded.

“I’ll get right to it,” he said, and went inside the hostel.

“Was he for real?” came the inevitable question, and the two guys laughed. Luke laughed too, and he relaxed. Some people thought Hal was scary, but he wasn’t dangerous, just part of the wacky charm of the hostel. And he was defi nitely for real. At the Moonfl ower, Luke didn’t have to question his reality, the way he’d been forced to last year in New York. He shook his head slightly. Home in New York
with his father, Frank. That was another lifetime ago. Home could be anywhere. Home was right here. He loved this makeshift community.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Reading Recap with Excerpt from Edges

Well folks, I've gone over one more hurdle in this becoming-author-like process, sitting up on a platform with six very distinguished writers, with me being the-new-kid-on-the-block. Despite my nerves, I really had a good time! Judy Blundell played the role of my fairy-godsister, picking me up and taking me to the train, weaving around Grand Central to the S, through the labyrinth of subways to the A train to get downtown. We had a bit of time, so we walked down Greenwhich Avenue to find a place to get a light supper - Judy knew of an Italian wine bar that served tapas-like meals. It was called Bottino, and with the first sip of cappuccino I was transported to Italy and forgot about why I was in the city in the first place. Good food and coffee will do that for me!

And when we made it to the Library, a small crowd was already there. Beth Potter, the assistant editor on Edges, Michael (the girl) Dobbs (who was interning at FSG when Edges was going through edits), my sister/writer/friends Daphne Grab, Deborah Heiligman, and Rebecca Stead were in the second row, rooting for me.

I sat between Rachel Cohn and Barry Lyga, and it felt like we were all in a wedding party, sitting up in a row on the small platform. Everybody's books were so different! Rachel and David read first from Dash and Lily, making me laugh out loud, and then I flustered a little bit reading second, but quickly found my groove. (The excerpt I read is pasted below!) I muffed up Tangerine's Australian accent which normally wouldn't be embarrassing, except for that Scott Westerfeld was sitting next to Barry and he lives in Australia six months out of the year!

All of the writers were awesome, and I want to read their books! They all seem to have an edge on sequels and series, a world that seems almost impossible to break into. (For a list of who and what, look at previous post!) I'm still pinching myself, that I was part of it all! (You can tell by my abuse of exclamation points!!!!!!)

The scene I chose is only a couple of pages into the book and intoduces life at the Moonflower Motel Youth Hostel. We begin with Luke, who at 17 has just vecome manager of the hostel and has moved into his own trailer.

Luke felt something like excitement for the first time in almost a year, and he welcomed it. He could hear the murmur of voices and laughter outside. Guests  were returning from their day trips to nearby parks— Arches, Canyonlands, Monument Valley— and he needed to get back to the hostel. He stashed his stuff and put on a clean shirt, then jumped out the door and locked it, pocketing the key. He looked to the La Sal Mountains in the distance. He felt both contained and free in this valley, surrounded by the red sandstone of the Moab Rim. Moab was named after the Promised Land, he remembered Jim saying during one of their many conversations that winter, a twinkle in his eye. The first Mormons had given the town its biblical name in 1880.

It had certainly been that for Jim and Clare, discovering Moab last summer on a meandering road trip through the Southwest,  after taking their daughter, Ava, to New York following her high school graduation in May.

“Where in New York?” Luke had asked.

“She goes to Barnard College, on the Upper West Side,” Jim
had told him.

“She must be crazy smart,” Luke had said, not mentioning that
he’d lived around the corner from the school.

“Well, she was smart enough to want to get a job right away, rather than tour the country with her parents.” Jim and Clare had burned rubber in a straight line west from New York to Denver and started their wanderings there. At first they just enjoyed the sights, but when they got to Moab, they  were amazed by their visceral response to the place, and their willingness to jump into another life.
Some would call it impulsive, but Luke knew exactly how Jim and Clare felt, although he didn’t consider it a “spiritual conversion” the way they did. Well, the way Jim did.

A cherry red Jeep was idling in front of the hostel. The main parking lot must be full.

“Can I help you?” Luke asked, approaching it.

“Yeah.” There  were two college- age kids in the Jeep. “We just got  here. Where can we park?” Luke directed them to the alternate parking area behind his trailer.

He nodded to a few travelers congregating out front by the pic-nic tables as he opened the door to the hostel, knowing he would find Tangerine inside. She had jumped at the chance to fill in for him at the front desk because she was looking for more hours to work so that she could afford to stay longer. It was toward the end of the season, and businesses  weren’t hiring anymore. She was talking to Brigitte from Chicago, who also had started living at the hostel earlier this summer and was thinking about quitting law school. Brigitte had patched together a full- time work schedule by cleaning at the hostel and making mochas at the coffee house on Center Street.

Luke stopped, mesmerized by Tangerine’s Australian twang. She had very bright red hair in two braids down her back, green eyes, a nose ring, a tongue stud, and several earrings. For all of that outer adornment, she didn’t wear any makeup, and Luke thought she was stunning. Of course, she also made him ner vous. Luke grabbed the guest book from the desk, wanting to finish the paperwork from his
busy shift.

“I’m broke and my mum wants me to come home, but I’m not ready to leave.” Tangerine sounded unusually glum, and the intimacy in her sadness made Luke feel like an intruder, so he turned and went back outside.

The sun was finally behind the building, and guests  were milling about, wondering what to do for dinner. One family was firing up one of the grills, and two of the three picnic tables  were full. It was virtually impossible to be alone at the hostel, and Luke had to zigzag between three children playing tag to get to the empty picnic table to finish his work. He saw the guys from the cherry red Jeep and  motioned them toward the door, knowing that Tangerine would get them settled.

Hal sat down next to him. Hal had been hanging around the hos- tel for years, so when Jim bought the place and took over, he sort of adopted Hal with it, giving him the glorified title of “maintenance manager,” which was a nice way of saying that Hal was willing to do the dirty work but needed some management himself. Hal lived in a trailer on the grounds, even though he had family in town. Luke had never gotten the  whole story, but he knew that Hal had been born and raised in the area, that his geologic knowledge was impressive, and that he believed in the inherent evil of extraterrestrials and Big- foot. He was also a diagnosed schizophrenic, but Georgia, who had been an art therapist specializing in adult psychosis, would have called Hal “high- functioning.”

Luke raised his chin briefl y. “How’re ya doin’?” he asked. Luke noticed that Hal had food stuck in his drooping mustache, but it never did any good to call attention to that. His graying hair was also constantly a bird’s nest, adding to his permanent look of confusion.

“Hangin’ in there,” Hal said as he turned away from Luke to greet the two new guys, who sat down at the other end of the table, opening cans of beer. Hal started talking to them. “You know the Zettians come in and just explode your world, man. It’s a totally mind- blowing experience!” The Zettians again. Luke smiled weakly at the new guys. He needed to do some damage control.

“That’s cool, man,” Luke said, knowing from experience that the best way to deal with Hal was to agree with him.

“No, man, it’s not cool.” Oops, wrong. “It’s not cool to have aliens invade your head and take you away with them. Those negative vortexes, man, stay away from them.”

“Wait,” one of the guys said, trying not to laugh. “What’s a negative vortex?”

Hal’s eyes bugged out. “You don’t know about vortexes? There’s electric and magnetic, positive and negative. You’ve got to watch out for the negative. You don’t know what can come through. Bigfoot,
the Zettians. They take over your mind and you  can’t think for yourself, and the Zettians do what ever they want with you . . .  They pick your brain, they just pick, pick, pick . . .”

“Hal,” Luke said gently, putting his hand on Hal’s arm. It always made him a little nervous when Hal was in one of his moods. “Sorry, man, that is rough. Hey, could you make sure there’s enough
toilet paper in the bathrooms? Somebody mentioned something about it this afternoon, but I forgot which one . . .” The look of panic was beginning to fade from Hal’s face, and he nodded.

“I’ll get right to it,” he said, and went inside the hostel.

“Was he for real?” came the inevitable question, and the two guys laughed. Luke laughed too, and he relaxed. Some people thought Hal was scary, but he  wasn’t dangerous, just part of the wacky charm of the hostel. And he was defi nitely for real. At the Moonfl ower, Luke didn’t have to question his reality, the way he’d been forced to last year in New York. He shook his head slightly. Home in New York
with his father, Frank. That was another lifetime ago. Home could be anywhere. Home was right  here. He loved this makeshift community.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teen Author Reading Night

It's November 3rd and day 3 of the NaNoWriMo challenge. So far I am on schedule, with over 5000 words to my fantasy with the (working) title of The Fog and I am having fun - surprising even myself.

But I couldn't possibly write another word at this point, because now all I can think about is the Teen Author Reading tonight, in which I get to participate as an author for the very first time! Just look who is in the line-up: (And the answer is: of course I didn't get a wink of sleep last night!)


Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares
Sarah Beth Durst, Enchanted Ivy
Lauren Henderson, Kiss in the Dark
Barry Lyga, Archvillain
Lena Roy, Edges
Kieran Scott, She’s So Dead to Us


It's at the Jefferson Market Branch of the New York Public Library downtown from 6 until 7:30. I'll have my support: Judy Blundell will be coming with me from Katonah (figuratively holding my hand), and Rebecca Stead, Deborah Heiligman, and Daphne Grab will be heading down from the Upper West Side. I need to put on my own suit of armor and rely on my friends and my own writing as we begin to count down the days to publication.

Another nice omen is that Ryan Gesell, (the gentleman who read Luke's narrative in the forthcoming audio for Edges and had the generosity to get in touch with me and let me know how much he loved my book - we writers love that, don't we?), just facebooked me to let me know that he also just finished narrating David and Rachel's new book,  Dash and Lily's Book of Dares which they will also be reading from!

So . . . no more NaNoWriMo or blog for the rest of the day . . . I best be pulling out Edges right now and practicing my four minute excerpt . . . I'm picking something from near the beginning, in Luke's narrative. Maybe I'll post that excerpt tomorrow - at the very least I'll let you all know how the evening went!







Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1: NaNoWriMo

How to enjoy a successful NaNoWriMoImage by nuanc via Flickr
It's November first. You know what that means, don't you? Let me join the legions of blogs today about National Novel Writing Month and how us writer peeps are challenging ourselves to churn out 50,000 words by November 30th. Who qualifies? Everybody. You are a writer if you write. Period. (No publishing experience necessary - in fact, it's probably better.) I think that we all owe at the very least a perfunctory nod to Anne LaMott who writes about the importance of the "the shitty first draft" in her Writer's Handbook, Bird by Bird. (It's a handbook for me at any rate.)

The goal is quantity and not necessarily quality, a difficult thing for people so enamored of words.  We have to blindly jump in, and be fearless in our "shittiness".  I have never done this before, but have always been intrigued. Last year I signed up, but then was too worried about taking too much time away from my WIP. This year, I need a break from two WIP's and I also need the freedom to write something completely different as I wait for EDGES to be released into the world. I've always wanted to write fantasy, so why not use this month long event as an excuse to try, to take a risk?

Thank you, NaNoWriMo: my challenge is to write 50,000 words of a fantasy, or something fantastical at the very least. My husband gave me a prompt last night, so I put down the first half of a sentence in Scrivener to await me in the morning . . . and what fun I had! This was what I needed, to feel the thrill of the creative ride again.

Although right now I am frustrated, because I want to log my word count onto my profile page on the website, but it's not loading. So I'm forced to kvetch about that here and brag about the 2500 words I managed to bang out on my laptop this morning. If I can write 2500 words a day for 20 days, then I'm golden - my kids will still have a mother on the weekends! All joking aside, even if I'm only able to log in 25000 words it will be an accomplishment, because it will be a different genre. Whether it's any good is another question, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT! The point is that I'm doing it. Who's with me? (And is anybody else having problems with the website?)
Enhanced by Zemanta