That Was Awkward

As I mentioned earlier this week, we were up in northern Wyoming with David’s family, laying his mother to rest. Despite the circumstances, wintery weather in Wyoming, and the extensive miles put in over a short time – about 1,600 miles in four days – it was a good trip.

We stopped in Denver on the way and picked up my stepdaughter, Lauren, and her kids, our grandchildren. They rode with us there and back again. Of course, #kidsthesedays have all sorts of electronic devices to keep them entertained in the car on long road trips. So, Aerro and Tobiah had their games and tablets – and also borrowed my phone, my tablet, and their mother’s phone.

Yes, they overran my data usage and I don’t even care. I’m totally a sucker.

I also brought along some books to read to them – some of my very favorites that I’ve kept all this time. One of them was Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. I’d always loved that one, for the wiliness of the fox and how he outwitted everyone. Aerro picked that out for me to read, because foxes. 

So, I’m reading along – and Tobiah was totally drawn into the story, too, despite initial grumpiness – and we get to this scene near the end. Mr. Badger expresses reservations about what they’re doing.

Suddenly Badger said, “Doesn’t this worry you just a tiny bit, Foxy?”

“Worry me?” said Mr. Fox. “What?”

“All this … this stealing.”

And Mr. Fox goes on to explain that they’re taking food they need to live from the farmers who tried to kill them. The animals are just trying to live. On the page below, Mr. Fox explains:

“If they want to be horrible, let them,” said Mr. Fox. “We down here are decent peace-loving creatures.”

Badger laid his head on one side, and smiled at Mr. Fox. “Foxy,” he said, “I love you.”

I might have paused a little at that, I’m not sure. It did kind of read funny. But Aerro spoke right up and said, “Well, that was awkward.”

Which totally cracked me up. I don’t remember ever noticing that before, but Aerro sure knew her boundaries there. I confess it bothered me more that Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Badger were the first to become weak from hunger, while the men folk remained strong and resolute, and even the small badgers and foxes could keep digging. And then Mrs. Fox, so weak from starvation and dehydration that she can’t help dig is still able to muster the energy to cook a feast with all the food the others acquire.

I nearly caustically commented that the females were no doubt weak from popping out so many babies, but I do try not to editorialize. At any rate, so are our expectations and assumptions laid in, yes?

I might not be saving this book any longer, alas. 

Waiting for Godot

Here’s a pic of grandson Tobiah with my mom and Stepdad Dave, who is helping Tobiah open his birthday presents. A little catch-up here, since I posted a pic of granddaughter Aerro last week.

So, I was at a bit of a loss on what to write about this morning. It’s kind of that tip-of-the-tongue feeling, like I had a topic in mind, but can’t quite recall what it was. Tomorrow is all about Feeding the Vampire’s book birthday. But I had *thought* I had a plan for today.

Then I remembered.

Oh yeah, I totally thought I’d talk about my agent and my new book deal today.

But you know what? She promised to get back to me by Monday (yesterday) and she hasn’t. Everyone keeps telling me to give her more time, but it’s been officially one week now. I’m not necessarily in a hurry. Still, I don’t see much reason to sit on my hands any longer. Publishing is absolutely about patience panties and waiting for people to get back to you. When the ball is in my court, however, I don’t see much reason to wait.

It was kind of amazing, really, how people popped out of the woodwork with advice when I announced that I had a contract offer. Everyone was full of the advice to contact every agent I’ve ever kibbitzed with and let them know I have an offer on the table. This is the moment, they urge me, to hook an agent.

I feel vaguely like the girl who’s gotten pregnant and is looking to bag her man with it.

The thing is, like that knocked-up girl, I’m feeling a bit like, if they didn’t want me for myself and my work before, then I’m not sure I want them just because I’ve got a bun in the oven. Frankly, I’m not convinced I want an agent at all. Kristine Rusch, who posts the very insightful Rusch Reports on the publishing business from the writer’s point of view, recently laid out really good reasons why unagented writers not sign with agents. (The post contains a fascinating history of how literary agents came to be in the first place – well worth reading.)

Her post came at just the right time for me, because she echoed what I’ve been thinking, from all the reading I do about the huge changes in publishing.

Now, I’m not so concerned about the agency clause. The gal I’ve been talking to has a boutique agency, so I imagine she doesn’t have anything really bearish like that. But, more and more, I’m wondering what agents can do for writers that we can’t do for ourselves. A bunch of agencies are now announcing that they’re assisting their authors with self-publishing, or even developing epublishing branches. They’re clearly doing this because their traditional revenue streams are drying up. Indeed, several of my friends who have long-standing relationships with agents are not seeing new sales to publishers right now. Except maybe in Young Adult.

It’s a difficult time for agents. I totally get that.

So, right now I’m not convinced having an agent would really make a huge difference for me.

I’m still the awkward girl at the prom. My work is still the kind that the big publishers frown at, with worry on their faces, unable to clearly envision where they’d put me on the bookshelf. I truly believe the key for me lies in building readership. (Thank you, all you lovely readers who read and say nice things to me!) People out there do want to read my books, but no one will know it until I have some numbers.

I’m at peace with that.

What I’m not at peace with is waiting. I don’t want to be like Vladimir and Estragon, eternally distracting myself while I wait for something I might not even recognize when it arrives.

No point in reaching for that brass ring if they’re dismantling the Carousel and converting it into the Zooming Horses Racetrack.

(Wouldn’t that be a cool ride?)

So: no announcement today. See? Here you are, waiting along with me. I may yet sign with this agent or another, on a future project.

But, on this, I’m ready to move forward.

Let’s do this thing!

Writer’s Life

This weekend wasn’t about writing, so neither is today’s blog.

I’m still tagging it as writer’s life, because this is life, too. When we returned from our whirlwind party weekend last night, I caught up on blog reading. I noticed several people bemoaning that they weren’t recovering from the holidays fast enough. Here we are, ove two weeks into 2011 and they haven’t ramped up like they thought they would. People have flus and colds. It’s dark and cold. Day jobs have no trouble ramping up.

It’s easy to think that only actual typing away is writing. Of course, the big trap for writers is only talking and thinking about writing and not doing it. We’ve all encountered people who say they always thought they’d like to write a book. Many of them never will.

We know that. We used to be those people. Until we finally got our acts together and starting WRITING instead of talking about it.

So the fear eternally chases us, that we’ll revert. That we’ll lose the oomph to stick it out in the chair.

But there’s also life.

We celebrated belated Christmas in Denver on Friday night, with our 2 1/2 year old grandson, Tobiah (that’s powdered sugar from Donettes on his mouth), and our new 2 1/2 month old granddaughter, Aerro.

She looks like an Anne Geddes baby. Alas that I am no Anne Geddes.

Saturday was my colleague Val’s wedding. Our widely scattered work team flew in from New Hampshire, Florida and Nebraska, to stay at my mom’s house in Denver. We went out for brunch on Saturday morning (there, Laurie, it’s documented!) and met up with another colleague who lives in Castle Rock. With six of us, brunch took a long time. We had a few hours to kill and they wanted to see some sights.

So we tooled around my old neighborhood. I showed them my favorite art and architecture around the Denver Tech Center, like Harlequin Plaza, where I’d hang with my very first love. Places even David had never seen, because we never seem to have time to burn when we’re visiting. We drove around Cherry Creek State Park and over the top of the reservoir, to prove to them there really is a big lake there. I told them how, when I was a kid, the only road across was that little two-lane along the top of the dam. My mom used to hate driving it, with so much traffic on such a narrow road. Now six to eight lanes of I-225 bustle below.

No one else was on the reservoir road.

We hung by the fire a bit, then piled into the car to head to Loveland for Val’s wedding. There was a baby, there, too.

We stayed up late, drank a lot of wine and laughed until our sides were splitting.

Sunday morning we bustled everyone out for pick-ups and airport appointments.

David and I drove back to Santa Fe and I reflected on how fun it was to have a weekend party with my friends in my mom’s house. Those who’ve followed this blog for a while know that my mom has been prepping the house to sell it, after nearly 40 years. Our last couple of visits have been melancholy, full of sorting through things and memories. Lots of letting go.

So there’s a synchronicity to how this happened. I revisited some places I wouldn’t have thought to. I have memories full of joy, babies and friends.

The writer’s life doesn’t get better than this.


I’ve mentioned before, my life lately is all about the cutting away.

I spent the weekend getting rid of stuff. If you haven’t been following along, we have to clear out the house by August 13. Next Thursday, for the calendar-challenged among you. Yes, we have time. But I can tell you, this particular stone has accumulated a serious amount of moss over the past 21 years. In an arid climate, too.

My moves before this were either as a young woman who owned practically nothing (18-22) or within the same small town over a few blocks. I’ve lived a lot of places within Laramie, but only two in the last 16 years.

When David and I moved out of the (much smaller) house we’d shared for 11 years, it went okay until we hit the basement. Time slowed as we dug out the sedimentary layers of toys and obsolete computer parts. Things we’d moved into the house and never used were in the far back corners, whispering quietly to themselves in the dank dark.

In this house, it’s the attic.

My (wonderful) Aunt Karen drove up from Montrose, Colo. (read: a long way) to help for two days and drive home again. She felt like she didn’t make much of a dent, but she helped me clear the attic spaces. Even though she had to ask for a flashlight to get back into the dark, “scary parts.” Dark, scary parts filled with decades of obnoxious roofing dust from when they ripped off the roof last fall to replace it. Second only in sinus-yuck factor to coal dust from when David and I remodeled the old coal bin in the previous house. Blew black snot for days. Looking into the blackened tissues, I thought of my Kennedy grandfather who died of black lung.

The attic is now clear. I rid myself of a thirty-year collection of fabric. I know. It’s a disease. I even had fabric I took from my other aunt when she had to build a separate shed to house HER fabric collection. You’d think it would have been a cautionary tale. No no no.

But I’m free now.

Gone is the sewing machine and all the fabric. No more quilting until I’m making a living as a writer. Tobiah’s baby quilt was the last, which is somehow fitting.

Gone are the Breyer model horses I’ve saved from childhood. Into the arms of a little girl in a sparkly purple body suit, who spun around and carried the box back to her mother’s Suburban, where her brothers impatiently waited.

I’m good with that. Gone also are the old bean bag chairs, the boom box with tape-to-tape record, the four-drawer filing cabinet and the boxes of overhead transparencies. All via Freecycle. I love Freecycle. You send an email to the loop with an offer and people respond. They come and take it away with happy smiles.

One of my friends who left Laramie a year ago asked how I’m managing the good-byes, since we completely blew having a going-away party. She did it well, arranging carefully sequenced farewell drinks and meals.

No such grace from me.

I’m using the serendipity method. Which is a nice way of saying I’m not arranging it at all. People have stopped by, knowing we’re packing. With all the fraught-ness that word entails. Ann offered to bring us sandwiches, which was one of the nicest things anyone could offer.

And I’m meeting the new arrivals in Laramie. The ones who are moving in for the new semester and love to have our ratty old sunroom couch. The girls from Texas, filling up their five-room house in Tie Siding with Freecycle finds while their boyfriends go to school at Wyo Tech. After that, they’ll go back to Texas, they assure us. We don’t know what they’ll do with all the stuff. And the mother of the little girl in the sparkly purple top, who asked me where to buy plants that would thrive so well in Laramie.

Blessings and good fortune in this little town to them all.

The Longest Day

Yesterday was a kind of harmonic convergence of events. Summer solstice, Father’s Day and our grandson’s first birthday.

Here’s Tobiah, with his paternal grandfather, Miguel.

Normally Tobiah is quite a bit more jovial than this, but my step-daughter, Lauren, reported that he’d been cranky that day. Not everyone loves a party.

I got to stop by for a few minutes, on the drive to Santa Fe, to drop off some presents from David and me. I asked Lauren if the year had gone fast for her, too. She said it had flown by. She even looked a little dizzy, thinking about it.

A year ago, David and I were in Victoria, when Lauren’s boyfriend, Damion called us in the early morning to say Tobiah had been born. We lay there watching the morning light over the Japanese gardens at Laurel Point Inn and the Inner Harbor beyond. We’d visited acupuncture schools the day before and David had clicked with the one in Victoria. Our world had shifted, in several profound ways. Now David thought about teaching Tobiah to fish in the lovely, gentle seascape of Vancouver Island.

I admire what Lauren has accomplished. She has a challenging career and a new baby. She and Damion are learning to build their lives together. Juggling all the families can’t be easy. But Lauren cheerfully makes room for everyone who wants to be part of Tobiah’s life. It takes an openness of heart for that, along with a stern resolve.

So Happy Father’s Day to the fathers: Damion, Miguel, David. Happy First Day of Summer to us all — may we have some now, for all of us who’ve had such a cold and rainy June. Hopefully the light of the longest day shone with radiance for you.

And Happy First Birthday, little Mowgli-baby!

We’ve Got a Thing Going On

David and I called Lauren this morning, to sing her happy birthday over the speaker on his cell. She’s 25 today, sleeping in after a night of sushi and dancing with her guy. His folks took baby Tobiah last night, so it was a rare free night for them.

And we asked her if she’d gotten the card we sent. There’s a gift certificate inside for a hefty chunk to squander at a salon — David’s idea, to pamper the young mother. The man knows what women like, I can attest. Lauren said she’d have to check the mailbox. Which they usually don’t. For days or weeks at a time.

How can you not check your mailbox, I asked her.

Well, all her bills come online. All messages are emailed. All they get in the mailbox is junk and it makes them mad to look at it. So they don’t. I told her there was probably a “save the date” notice from her cousin in there, for his summer wedding and she sounded bemused by the possibility. This is so Gen X to me.

You may have noticed the impassioned comments on my last two posts from Politico08, exhorting me to use the term “Generation Jones” instead of Cuspers. The article he/she (I’m betting on “he”) cites, Jonathan Pontell, is compelling, in a thrilling political-rally kind of way. Though I view anything in USA Today with a bit of a jaundiced eye.

I must confess, I don’t like “Generation Jones” much. (Not only because I’ve got a “Me and Mrs. Jones” ear worm going now.) I never loved the term “jonesing” either, having heard it WAY too much in high school. There was nothing my cohorts didn’t jones for. Which is, I suppose, the point.

But I do feel swept up in the idea. The last line of the article says, “We’re not late Boomers; we’re late bloomers.” There’s something to it, the feeling that we’re coming into our own. After spending most of our lives thus far in the Boomers’ deep shadow, that we’re emerging into the sun. I began hearing when I was in middle school that my generation was cynical and selfish. I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. I do believe that there’s a middle ground between socialism and free-market pillaging. I believe that we’ve caused a drastic shift in the global climate balance and that we can do something about it. I’ll pay some bills online, but I prefer to mail checks for others.

It’s exciting to feel that maybe we are our own group after all. And more, that we can be effective. “Yes we can” might have sounded like a political line at first. But it does embody my approach to life. It’s certainly how I answer clients — even if it means I’ll figure out later how I’ll do it. It’s how I approach all of my problems — with the belief that an answer can be found. Maybe that is what our generation has to offer.

So, I’ll hop on the wagon, for solidarity’s sake. I won’t give up my fondness for the grey area. But I love feeling like we’re finally out there doing something. If you all want to call it Generation Jones, fine by me.

We’ll see who’s the greatest.