Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do You Believe in Fairy Tales?

Last night I watched the Democratic National Convention in the most perfect way. I sat on the floor, my back resting against the couch and my laptop on a little stool in front of me, working on a new short story (first draft complete at 2700 words, unlike my puny little 750 word homework assignment that was due today).

I watched Ted Kennedy's speech, then, later, Michelle Obama's. I didn't stick around for the political commentary between or after, I just watched and listened to the speeches, then turned off the TV and kept writing.

I really liked Michelle Obama's suggestion that we vote our hopes this year, not our fears. That was beautiful.

And I think that Teddy Kennedy did a wonderful job. I saw his wife redirect him as he started to walk the wrong way to the podium, I saw his shaking hands, I saw the looks of concern and anxiety on the faces of his family.

But he gave a great speech, and my heart ached a little when he promised to be there in January to see Barack Obama inaugurated.

It reminded me of a few months ago when I was thinking about the Kennedy political legacy, and how here is this family that has so much money and history but is so focused on giving back, helping others. And the whole Camelot fairy tale, and about how we want so badly for it all to be real, for our political leaders to be perfect. For these rich, privileged people who are so dedicated public service, who have this large sense of the responsibility they bear to the rest of society, to be strong and perfect in all ways. To not have affairs, drive drunk, abuse alcohol and drugs, lie.

That night, months ago, I spent some time on Wikipedia, looking up JFK's family: his siblings and their children and grandchildren, searching for someone with that magical Kennedy name who had the right biography. Someone with the moral fortitude to stand comfortably in the extremely bright spotlight in which we bathe our politicians, but who also has the charisma to lead us, to inspire us to believe.

I don't believe in fairy tales, but I want to. And if I am faithful to my own husband, is it too much to expect that he's faithful to me? If I don't drive drunk, if I've never done drugs or abused alcohol, is it too much to expect others in my community to do the same? Is all this too much to ask that of our role models and public figures? And is it ever OK to expect a higher standard?

When they fall short of their promises and our hopes, we feel disillusioned. So I am afraid to believe in Barack Obama. But I want to believe that, yes, we can.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Move On Dot Org

The Olympics are over and now it's time to move on.

For example, I need to clean my bathrooms again.

Hopefully, over time, my children will stop their annoying refrains of, "No volleyball, no!" and "No more 'lympics, Mommy!"

And, sigh, it's now time to move my focus from fun international rivalries in sport to domestic politics.

To help ease my way down that path, we all piled into the Cool Cool Car on Saturday afternoon and headed up to Springfield for the first public appearance of Obama and Biden. We didn't want to make Ellie skip gymnastics, so we didn't get there in time to actually see the speeches. But we heard them in the car while driving around Springfield. And then we loaded the girls into the stroller and walked around the old courthouse area, buying a t-shirt and enjoying the energy of the crowd.

It's also time to get back on track with other things. Tomorrow I start writing morning pages.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Writers Fest 2008

On September 6, the Greater St. Louis Sisters in Crime chapter presents Writers Fest 2008. I hope to be there. Come and join me!

Do you want to be published? Do you want your book to sell? Then join us for a powerful one-day seminar featuring Todd Stone and P.M. Terrell on Saturday, September 6, 2008, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Steinway Piano Gallery Recital Hall, 12033 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights.

In the morning, Todd Stone will present a new set of drills designed to make your progress on your book greater, faster and more rewarding. He'll help you complete your manuscript by offering practical instruction in plot, characterization, setting, drafting and revision.

We'll break for lunch--continental breakfast, snacks, beverages and lunch are included in your registration fee. We'll also have frequent comfort breaks and opportunities for you to network and have books signed by local authors.

After we eat, Patricia (P.M.) Terrell will help you get media attention for your books and get people into the stores to buy your work. If you are currently writing your book, Patricia will discuss tie-ins that will boost your sales. She'll also show you a geographic approach to touring to maximize your budget--and she'll introduce you to Virtual Touring.

Then Todd will wrap up the day by presenting Real World Revision. If agents or publishers have shown interest in your book, but not offered you a contract, this is exactly what you need. (If your book isn't finished, this will save you the agony of rejection!)

And of course, at the end of the day, you'll be taking home these precious resources: a copy of Novelist's Boot Camp in book or live presentation CD form (to be mailed to you after we duplicate it), a copy of Take the Mystery Out of Promoting Your Book, and great handouts.

Print out the form below, enclose your check or credit card payment, and make plans to be a successful author!

Name___________________________
Address_________________________
City____________________________
State & Zip______________________
Phone__________________________

□ I am a member of Sisters in Crime or Chesterfield Arts. (You pay $75.)
□ I’m not a member of either--yet. (You pay $85.)

After Sept. 1, a $10 walk-in fee will be added.

I prefer Todd Stone’s Novelist’s Boot Camp in this form:
□ Book □ CD—live presentation

Method of Payment:
□ Check (enclose & make out to Greater St. Louis Sisters in Crime)
□ Credit card
Circle one: Mastercard/Visa
Number:________________________
Expiration date:__________________

Mail to: Chesterfield Arts, 444 Chesterfield Ctr. #130, Chesterfield MO 63017 or call 636-519-1955

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pastoralis

Alas! It's late again. I've finally finished my homework (one day late) so you get a piece of that instead of insightful political commentary (who has Obama chosen?!) or adorable anecdotes about my children (they are both still perfect).

And, as always, a note or two about the Olympics:
  1. If you missed this morning's women's volleyball quarter final between Italia and the USA, you missed a great show. USA! USA! USA! Bump-Set-Spike!
  2. Obama's feel-good campaign ads almost don't bother me. (I like my Olympics without election year politics.) But McCain's incessant attack ads are really starting to tick me off.

Now on to a brief except from my 3-page description of a farm. I'm using my weekly homework assignments to write a short story. It's coming together out of order, all in little 2-3 page snippets, but it's been a fun new way to write. (For this excerpt, remember how much I love nature, and realize that my main character in this story shares an exaggerated version of that trait):

Steph turned the Volvo off the interstate onto a lettered highway, then a double-lettered blacktop liberally sprinkled with potholes, and finally onto an unpaved road that didn’t seem to have a name at all. Each road got noticeably windier and narrower, until Clara’s sense of being a speck in the middle of a big, open state was replaced by claustrophobia; the trees crowding in on the car limited visibility more than skyscrapers downtown.

They bumped along the gravel road for a while, stirring up such a trail of dust that Steph stopped the car in the middle of the road long enough to raise the retractable hardtop and ensure that everyone had their windows closed. Clara removed the blanket from baby Carrie’s face and took a deep breath of air conditioning.

For several miles, Clara had been noticing periodic columns of something along the side of the road. Bugs, she realized just before Steph accelerated again. There were swarming columns of bugs every few feet. She shuddered.

A large, white mailbox appeared on their right, hidden by the trees until they were almost upon it. The mailbox marked a dirt track leading up a small hill and into a thicket. Disregarding her shiny, green paint job, Steph turned onto the narrow path and plowed ahead. After only a hundred feet or so, they topped the rise and popped out of the undergrowth, finding themselves in an open area of closely mown prairie.

“Oh!” Clara said, surprised.

“Dad likes to mow before people come out here,” Steph said. “It keeps the bugs down.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Autumn Is Coming!

Thursday was Ellie's first day of school. On the way home after dropping her off, Ada fell asleep in the car and made the transfer to her crib for a long nap.

I had two hours to myself, two hours to write.

And I had so much to say. All at once, the doubts of the last few months were shoved aside by the next scene in my novel-in-progress, one I'd been afraid to start for so long. It just seemed to overwhelming, until, suddenly, it wasn't.

After getting nearly 700 words into that scene, I opened a new document and sketched out the main character and seed of an idea for the novel I want to write this November, for National Novel Writing Month.

Now I just need to finish my current novel within the next month or two, so that I have time to work out an outline for the NaNoWriMo novel before November 1st. And maybe have time for a little break in there somewhere, to finish up a few essays and short stories I've got banging around in drafts.

Fall is in the air! In only 2 weeks, Ada will be in "preschool" two mornings a week and Starbucks will start selling pumpkin spice lattes. I'm poised to break out my new brown twinset and my creative energy, which somehow begins to peak as the year wanes.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm Behind

I went to the Central West End tonight for a book launch party.

My fellow Sister in Crime, Angie Fox, just published her first novel: The Accidental Demon Slayer.


It's a great concept, a catchy title, an attention-grabbing cover . . . and is stocked at Wal*Mart and Target. I'm thinking Angie's gonna do very well her first time out of the gate! I mean, a gang of geriatric biker witches? What could go wrong?

And she did all of this with very young children. Wow.

I didn't stay very long at the party, though it was a great party. The venue is one of my CWE favorites, Brennan's, and the pineapple-habanero chutney served with triple cream brie was to die for. But the room was very very hot and crowded . . .

And I had work to do at home.

I'm working on a homework assignment that's due tomorrow, and am a little stymied because the assignment is uncharacteristically vague. I enjoy getting specific writing assignments and then figuring out how I can fit them into my WIP, which is sort of like working with a puzzle. I'm given the shape, but need to color it in. In this way, slowly but surely, I've taken lots of little pictures and created something much larger.

Anyway, this annoyingly imprecise assignment gave my mind free reign. And, sadly, my mind took off. It traveled so far afield that I came up with a better(?) mystery for the title/shell of my current WIP and another title/shell for the mystery I've actually been writing.

This might explain the problems I've been having with the writing - I've been trying to force a mystery into the wrong casing. And both stories might end up better in the end. But the route from here to to better is daunting.