Travel weary

I’m tempted to say I failed.

I certainly didn’t succeed in following my intentions, so that amounts to the same thing, doesn’t it?

I really wanted to be able to continue to post to the blog while I was on work travel. Clearly I didn’t. You can see my pleased, self-satisfied (a number of people have used that phrase to describe me lately and I’m wondering how to take it) post from the plane on Monday. Then nothing nothing nothing for the next four days. I got home at about 1 o’clock in the morning Thursday night, slept in and worked all day catching up. No 1K words, no blog posts. So much for resolutions.

I really thought I might post pithy observations about being in Dover, Delaware. About their coastal farmlands and abandoned malls. But I didn’t. Penelope Trunk says your day job can’t suck away your creative energy, but I’m not sure I agree. When I’m on my work trips, they drain me dry. I get back to the hotel in the evening with nothing left. Often I can’t even summon the energy just to read. Only inane television can hold my attention until I fall asleep. I don’t understand why.

But, as I’ve broken into this new schedule gradually, so I’ll try with this. I’m home this week, then off to Raleigh/Durham the week after. Cross your fingers and look for the daily blogs!

A Wing and a Blog

I’m posting from the airplane today.

Well, more precisely, I’m drafting this on the airplane. I believe, though, that the day is not far off that we will be able to post to our blogs and continue our internet connectedness from the air. Yes, I’ve become one of those business travelers you see, who pull out their laptops as soon as they give the go ahead to use electronic devices that don’t broadcast a signal. Have you noticed that some of the newer airplanes have a little light for electronic device use now? The light-up icons for seatbelts and our symbiotic technology now displayed where the cigarette emblem used to be.

I have no idea what the implications of that may be. Perhaps we’ve only traded one kind of encroaching cancer for another. Feeding our lives into just another bad habit.
But it makes a difference to me, as much as I travel for the day job, to keep up with my connectedness. I wrote my 1K first, cozied into my cocoon of Bose headphones playing the very same writing music as I play in my skylit studio at home. (There’s a bit of my ritual, replicated there.) It feels good to have that done. My numbers safely recorded for the day. Then I replied to a few emails, set aside because other things had been on fire. They can leisurely wend their way over the ‘net when I land.

Now for this. As much as I ranted about computers disrupting my ritual, here the technology allows me to bring pieces of my life with me. Everything I accomplish here in 5C is one less thing I’ll have to sandwich elsewhere into my life.

Not a bad deal at all.

On the Market

So, there’s a For Sale sign in front of our house now.

I really hate to see it there. A glowing orange invasion of my privacy. A beacon that declares my home somehow isn’t quite my own anymore.

Which is all really silly because I’m doing this of my own accord. Well, I’m doing this for David and for our future. We’re moving to Victoria in August so he can go back to school and start a second career. One that he really loves.

I’m excited to do it. We’ve been in Laramie for 20 years and it’s time for a change. In May we’ll fly out there to house hunt, which will be fun.

Meanwhile, I have to deal with this ending. Though we’ll live in our beautiful, beloved house for six more months, right now I have to open it up to the evaluating eyes of strangers.

We signed the contracts. I like our realtor. I believe her that this is the right time to do this, that the market is hot. We want all the money we can get, to start our new life.

But I still want to go yank that sign out of the lawn.

Stranger Danger

We’re at an interesting point in techno-history. The internet has become a huge part of our lives, intertwined with our daily communications. As someone who works in a home office in Wyoming, the internet IS my place of business. I’m on the ‘net all day long with my colleagues in Boston, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Virginia. We email. We IM. The internet allows us to shout over the virtual cubicle wall.

And my writing network is pretty much all virtual now. No one else in my small, remote town is writing the kind of thing that I am. The gals who are part of my online network form a daily, intimate part of my life also. We blog. We exchange Facebook comments.

It all feels very natural to me. But it’s easy to forget that ten years ago, I didn’t have this kind of virtual network. We had to fight the corporate policy to let us IM each other. Twenty years ago, I was using A-1 Mail on the university system in a DOS environment. I also have to remember that many people aren’t as comfortable online as the rest.

Uncomfortable and new mean scary. And sure, there are bizarre stories of stalking on the internet. Crazies meeting up. Perverts luring young girls and boys to bad ends. But I wonder what the real stats on that are?

My friend, Allison, is rooming with Liz and me at the RT Convention. In her post yesterday she called us strangers. Okay, her husband is in law enforcement, so he’s paranoid. He only sees the worst of humanity. But it’s so funny to me, because I hadn’t thought of her as a stranger. I suppose I could be someone other than who I appear to be online. Or she could. Liz, I’ve met in person, but did that really tell me anything more about her than I knew before? Liz has a sister — maybe she sent the sister to meet me, to masquerade for some kind of nefarious purpose. Maybe “Liz” is really some perverted male serial killer hoping to lure me to a hotel in Orlando, where I’ll meet my terrible fate.

Or Liz, Allison and I are all exactly who we say we are and we’ll have a great time in Florida. Which is more likely?

One More Fraught Thing

And then I’ll get off this rant for a while. RoseMarie took fraught further still with a couple of very interesting bits from the writing modern world and that of what sure seems like a better time. This nugget has Stephen King expounding on the relative success of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. What really caught our attention was King’s assertion that “the real difference is that Jo Rowling is a terrific writer and Stephenie Meyer can’t write worth a darn. She’s not very good.”

Wow. Who knew we’d see the day that Stephen King would slam another enormously popular genre writer as not being able to “write worth a darn.” Way to forget the slings and arrows tossed your way, Steve.

I’m speaking here as someone who’s read all three authors. I’m also reliably informed that I’m a picky reader. Between King, Rowling and Meyer, I’d have to say that Meyer is the only one I really enjoyed. The only one who lit me up. Yes, I read a few of the Harry Potters and I believe when people said they got better, darker, more complex. But I found them derivative and not particularly magical. I’ve read some of Steve’s stuff, too. He writes a decent story, but he’s never been an author I sought out or passed on. Frankly, I like the movies they make of his books better than the books themselves – which is almost never true of any other book, so that says something, I think.

So why does King disdain Meyer’s books? He says:

“…it’s very clear that she’s writing to a whole generation of girls and opening up kind of a safe joining of love and sex in those books. It’s exciting and it’s thrilling and it’s not particularly threatening because they’re not overtly sexual. A lot of the physical side of it is conveyed in things like the vampire will touch her forearm or run a hand over skin, and she just flushes all hot and cold. And for girls, that’s a shorthand for all the feelings that they’re not ready to deal with yet.”

Makes me wonder what Tabitha’s sex life is like. Speaking as a woman, not a girl, there’s a hell of a lot to say for flushing hot and cold at the touch of a hand on my skin. And believe me, I’m ready to deal with the overtly sexual feelings that go right along with that. Nothing wrong with extended foreplay. Take note, Stephen.

It all comes down to what we love to read, doesn’t it? That’s the primary parameter. The verdicts of sales and of the artists follow behind that. I probably like Meyer best because I’m a fan of sexual tension.

Speaking of artistry, here’s the nugget from the past, that RoseMarie found in the Davidson archives:

The Willa Cather Creative Writing Award was created by William C. Doub Kerr in 1937. Doub Kerr, a member of the class of 1915, helped found the Blue Pencil Club, which later became a chapter of Sigma Upsilon, a literary honor society. The prize for the award was a copy of one of Cather’s novels. The first recipient was Gibson Smith, Class of 1937 for his work “Satan Snake.” The award was suspended after two years and returned briefly from 1955-1958. In the spring of 1937, Doub Kerr wrote Willa Cather seeking her approval of the award. She replied with wit and caution:

“My Dear Mr. Kerr;
Thank you most for your friendly letter. But, honestly, I think the “new sails” have a better chance of making port when they are not taught “creative writing.” It can’t be taught, for one thing!*

Sincerely yours, Willa Cather.
*Perhaps it can be guided a little, modestly? I don’t like to be too sure.”

Somehow, I don’t see Willa lining up to lambast those ships that do make it to port, especially the ones that sell their cargo for a pretty penny. But then, maybe it was a kinder, less fraught world then.

Further to Fraught

Title credit today goes to my friend, writer/photographer/renaissance woman RoseMarie London. (Fair warning, she has an unnatural thing for cowboys and NASCAR.) She used this title as a subject line in an email to me, where she said some really interesting things about how fraught it is being a writer. She’s been on both sides of the game, both with Little, Brown and as an author. RM sent me this:

I just read this quote from Molly Jong-Fast (Erica Jong’s daughter) about her not wanting to be a writer anymore: “And I just don’t have the emotional constitution,” she added, recalling how her grandfather, Howard Fast, had laid in his deathbed worrying aloud about why the NY Times Book Review didn’t like him.

If you read the article, you’ll find that Molly quit writing to become an agent. Which isn’t a new story. In some ways to me, it’s like quitting being the cotton-picker to become the plantation owner. Is that too dramatic? Maybe the agent is the foreman and the publishers are the plantation owners. The point is, I’m back to the power here. (Refer to blog title.) Being a writer is fraught because, though you are the one creating, you’re not the one with the power. Not the one selling, to hearken to my refrain of late. Yet, I think most writers would agree — the ones still in the fields under the hot sun of disregard — that going over to the other side is an abdication.

What’s fascinating to me is, how many agents now are ALSO writers. Check out the website for the Deirdre Knight Agency, if you don’t believe me.

The other thing RM sent me was this link to an article about the Amazon Breakthrough contest. Take the time to read it, really. Or just look at the photo of the fairytale ending. The contest just recommenced this week, taking 10,000 initial entries now. I know quite a few people who plan to do it. (Alert readers may notice a connection to yesterday’s post.) Even if you only skim the first few paragraphs, you will notice a recurring theme. That’s right: power. Who wants it, who has it, who is willing to put themselves through emotional hell to get a piece of it.

What’s love got to do with it?

"Keep your temper," said the Caterpillar

Advice is a funny thing. You have to be careful who you get it from. Or perhaps, it doesn’t really matter who you get it from, as long as you know which advice to pay attention to and which to jettison. Of course, the advice givers all seem to whole-heartedly believe their advice is the best. They’d like you to think so. As I grow more cynical over the years, I’ve come to believe that some people deliberately give bad advice. Maybe it would be kinder to say: advice that they’ve tailored to match what they think you should be doing.

There’s an art to knowing who to listen to. Maybe an art to knowing who to ask and a craft to knowing who to listen to. On a writers loop I receive, one gal asked for advice from pubbed authors on a contest she was considering entering for unpubbed authors. It was clear she’d mistaken the rules and several other unpubbed authors chimed in helpfully, because they also intended to enter the contest and pointed out her misunderstanding. The original questioner came back that she had asked only the pubbed authors and would only listen to their advice.

The best part of this is that “pubbed” in this context refers only to romance novels. RWA recognizes you as a published author only if you’ve published in the genre. So my university press essay collection aside, my years of short stories, essays and articles in magazines, journals and anthologies aside, within the genre halls of RWA I am once again unpubbed. Or, as the more unkind say, a wannabe.

This is ironic to me, because I can only imagine a scene in which a “literary” writer informs a romance author that she’s unpubbed because she has only published genre fiction. While many may believe that, it seems unlikely they’d take a snobbish enough stance to make it a rule. Which makes this a form of reverse-snobbery.

All of this is by-the-by. It is what it is and I really don’t mind. But I do think the newbies (on the kindness scale, this falls somewhere between unpubbed and wannabe — never mind the ghastly euphemism “pre-pubbed”) should take advice with a grain of salt and a hunk of magic mushroom.

Just because someone is willing to give you advice doesn’t mean they want you to succeed.

Now THERE is some good advice for you!

Buy the Sky and Sell the Sky

It’s funny how the things I want get tangled up in my head.

Some of it comes of wearing several different hats, with each role based on buying and selling. I’ve come to feel like my whole life is about buying and selling, who holds the power and who is the supplicant.

As a writer, I am the eternal supplicant. Sending out queries and submissions (see? submissive). Yesterday I received a glowing rejection from an editor on my novel, suggesting more people who might want it. Now I have more people to think about, that I want to want me. To buy what I have to offer.

And we’re getting ready to sell our house and buy a new one. Because we’re moving to Victoria. So I have two real estate agents to talk to about buying and selling. I want to have maximum power and probably do. Where we live is still a seller’s market and we have a valuable house. Where we’re buying is a real buyer’s market. I think we’ll be able to make a great deal. Somehow I keep feeling like I should put this in my query letters. Exquisite manuscript with hand-crafted details. Will fit in with best bookshelf neighborhoods. Make an offer now – a beauty like this won’t last!

For work, I’ve been heavy into marketing lately. Taking training on how to sell work. They have the money, we have the expertise. I’m learning how to approach a client with hands out. Confident that I have what they want to buy. I keep wanting to approach agents and editors this way. You know from our track record that we can offer what you need to solve your problem. What can we do to win this contract? We’re willing to do whatever it takes!

As trite as it sounds, it’s only when I’m actually writing that I don’t think about the buying and selling. (Except for periodic moments on my current novel-in-progress when I surface and wonder WHERE on earth I can sell this. But then I go back into the happy dream.)

It’s enough to make one long for the garrett after all…