11.19.2003

Wow!

I love this. Check out Freeway Blogger, my new hero. Thanks to Avocadola.

And here's my favorite: down with Hummers.
.Manuscript.

So what is it with posting only on Wednesdays? I don't know. Is it permanent? Resounding NO. I have been formulating little theories lately about November. I think it's the busiest month of the year. There's something about how Christmas looms, and the sale of books, toys, and Catholicism heats up. Semesters end. Anxiety rises. And that's not all. Winter is approaching, at least here in the Northeast, and everyone wants to batten down the hatches. Today I sent out my manuscript, finally, and I had a strong sense of it flying west not a moment too soon; after December 15 or so people are on vacation, or at least mentally so, and then it takes all of January for everyone to recover. In short, if I sent out my manuscript on December 7, then it probably wouldn't get read until February 15.

But instead I sent it out today. It went to North Carolina, Michigan, Washington state, Boston, MA, and three zipped to New York City. Seven children's book editors will get Priority Mail from me by Friday, and inside will be the product of the last eleven months. My eye is twitching. Really. Peaches says it's on account of the stress. God, it sure twitched up a storm today.

Not only did I go on a 20-mile bikeride yesterday in 32-degree weather and on black ice, but I also...and I'm totally fine, Mom, so don't worry...got hit by a car biking home on Monday night(!). Dark, rush hour traffic, I'm blinking up a storm over in the bike lane, and a woman decides she must make U-turn from the parking lane...immediately and without looking. I'm fine, but my back wheel wasn't; $60 later, my bike is working again. Good thing I live with a bike mechanic! And now I shall never bike that route again. There's a longer, lower-traffic way to get home, and that's where I'll be from now on.

Speaking of my bike mechanic, we're getting married over 4th of July weekend at an Audobon site. I envision lots of cute jokes about Independence Day, but I'm definitely going to resist having red, white and blue at the wedding. The theme I'm envisioning instead is, perhaps, 80s music? With some poems scattered around. I don't know how to "theme" things, but anyway, it should be a great party with 80s hits, songs off the James Bond soundtrack, vegetarian food, and plenty of Frank O'Hara. Well, for my half of things. The other 50% of the party may be about Science, my man's other passion. And bikes? Well, we'll see how it turns out.

Now that I've sent out my seven manuscripts, I'm not sure what to do with myself. I'm so superstitious about this process. I'm convinced seven is a good number. Should I send out seven queries, I wonder? And I had to leave "November 18" on as a date on my cover letter, instead of updating it to today, because I thought "November 18" sounded good. Better and more secure, somehow, than "November 19." The 18th is an even number, for one thing, and it marks three months of working here.

Look, my only point is that perhaps superstition crops up when you don't know what the hell is going on. It gives you some nice rules....rules that make sense to only you. Seven. We like it.

Great short interview with Stephen King on NPR this morning. He is definitely someone to emulate. He said his ideal audience was his wife. Man, she's someone I'd like to hear from.

Well, that ends this Wednesday's update. Hope all is well with you.


11.12.2003

On the Birthday of Roland Barthes.

My neighbors are all mysterious. Mysteriously happy? Next door they seem deliriously happy. My future mother-in-law swore she saw one of them leave one morning hiding a rifle under his coat, and I am mesmerized by this image. Our deposit on a wedding place is going to be sent in this week, and then it will be ours, a date, a time, and a place. I feel happy and light about it.

Wrestling, anyone? This is from Garrison Keillor's excellent Daily Writer's Almanac, about one of my favorite writers:

It's the birthday of philosopher and literary critic Roland Barthes, born in Cherbourg, France (1915). His father was killed in World War I, and his mother struggled to support the family, working as a bookbinder. Barthes did well in school and wanted to be a professor of literature and philosophy, but he came down with tuberculosis as a young man. Because of his frequent relapses, and the periods of time he had to spend in sanitariums, he couldn't hold down a teaching job. So instead of writing long books about great works of literature, he began to support himself by writing short essays about popular culture. He was one of the first literary critics to apply sophisticated literary theory to things like movies, stripteases, toys, and wrestling matches. He said, "I have tried to be as eclectic as I possibly can with my professional life, and . . . it's been pretty fun." He greatly expanded the scope of cultural studies, and it is partially thanks to him that college students can now take classes on subjects like Bugs Bunny. His essays are collected in books such as Mythologies (1957) and Empire of Signs (1970). Barthes said, "Literature is the question minus the answer."



11.05.2003

This week

This week is all about biking in the rain. Well, biking in the rain and trying to make myself cheerful about it. Like just now, for instance. I'm pedaling, pedaling, the street is flooding, flooding, and I'm thinking, these shoes are SO ruined. And then, from the spot on my shoulder where the devil is supposed to sit, a tiny voice pops up, "Great! Finally, an excuse for some new shoes!"

I am splashing through ankle-deep water and it's night, it's pitch-black, for god's sake, and with one hand I am steering my bike and with the other I am tugging at my poncho, which drifts up behind me as if to intentionally obscure the blinking red light on my helmet, the single, lone, brave barrier between me and oblivion, which seems to ride on the front of every bumper that comes splashing through the rush hour traffic. I catch my reflection in a wave on a pond---well, on a puddle---and something inside me thinks, "Look at the caped crusader!" I've got a death grip on my handlebars and drivers are trying to hit their brakes when they see me and not altogether succeeding, and from somewhere I hear, "Hey, this is fun! Like that time in Costa Rica, when you got caught in a rainstorm while standing in a field of sugarcane with your boyfriend!" But a more sane, rational part of me replies, "Except that there is no sugarcane, no boyfriend, and no heatwave within fifty feet of this bike! And it's rush hour and nighttime in November, and I'm on a damn bike!"

And that persisent cheery sound rings out: "So what! It's like an amusement park ride," as a pick-up truck speeds by me and through a deep puddle, which soon finds itself no longer on the street but instead, on a young woman, covered in a disobedient poncho that she bought for $2.99 at the hardware store. Still, it keeps her shoulders dry. And since that's where the happy mite sits, perhaps it explains the odd tone of cheer. Protect the small optimist inside, everyone: keep him dry. That's the moral.

Sure, I'm familiar with the definition of "schizophrenic." Hey, you'd be amusing yourself, too, if you had the week I did. From last Wednesday to this, I have had massive work crisis. I've had successful publishing ventures. I've had bad therapy experiences. I've had my parents meet his parents, I've had long car trips, oil changes, car washes, five hours of sleep, ten hours of sleep, huge successes at work. I've had a moment where I was poised to make a deposit on a wedding venue, but it got stalled for a week. I worked on a manuscript, decided to apply for a fellowship. We lost our fish Ella, only days after she had a dozen babies. I've found good authors I used to hope were bad, out of pure jealousy.

It was the kind of week where you honestly begin to consider taking up smoking. Now, mind you, I haven't had a cigarette in five years, and for the most part it is my utmost intention to never have one again. With that in mind, I did propose the idea to my fiance over breakfast one morning. "Just until the wedding," I said. "Then I'll stop." He wasn't so into the idea. Later on, as I sat in my bedroom and could smell the smoke from my future mother-in-law's cigarette slowly, invitingly, drifting up toward me, I figured I might have to start anyway. Look, these are the coping skills I learned in high school. And college. And they work fine. Especially since my coping skills now are more along the lines of: get stressed. eat chocolate. get guilty. work out. feel better. feel stressed. eat chocolate. gain weight. I mean, at least with my former method you didn't even have to work out.

But though I love the smell and adore standing next to someone who is smoking, I have to remind myself of how it actually feels to inhale smoke. Smoking is the best thing ever, but when it's the morning and you're coughing and smoking all at the same time, as I used to do, it's not really that fun. I mean, it's great to make fun of joggers, and I do, but the whole addicted-and-hacking thing has drawbacks.

Ah well. Time to find some chocolate.