Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Really a tweet

I hate when I have that feeling of wanting to finish a book I was reading, and then realize that it's the book that I'm writing that I want to finish reading, and I can't finish reading it until I finish writing it.


I should write faster.

Friday, January 20, 2012


I have to write about practicum. Have to, have to, have to. I guess this is the writer in me, unable to not use words to process an experience.

All the angst, all the anxiety, all the stress, all the uncertainty--and in the moment, when talking to the client, it all fell away and I knew that I could happily spend the next two decades in the room, head tilted to one side, trying to see how the pieces of the puzzle of a life fit together and what twist we could give to the kaleidoscope to make them really sparkle.

And then, watching on camera, while co-worker X worked with client Y (who was supposed to be mine) and supervisor Z said, "Oh, no, this is not good," and calmly leaned into the microphone, saying "Ask her if she's hearing the voices now," and everyone knew at the same time that this was not a client that we were going to be able to help, not now, not ever. X just got sweeter and gentler and milder while she followed Z's instructions and that...I don't want to have that experience. I think I could do it. I could stay calm. But X is not going to sleep tonight while she worries about Y. She sat two feet away from Y knowing that these problems were way beyond our scope, way beyond anything an hour of conversation once a week could help with, and she had to know in the minutes when Y told her that X was a lovely name and that she was a nice girl that she was probably not going to ever be allowed to see Y again, both a good and a bad. But ugh. I had the jitters afterwards and I wasn't even in the room.

At the end of the day, simultaneously jazzed and terrified. Pretty much how I've felt about it all along. But a little more tilted to the jazzed side. We'll see how the next weeks go. But today I got so reminded of why I wanted to do this job. End of the day, I feel good.

The Versatile Blogger

JC Piech left a comment on my last post that she had nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. I thought, pretty much simultaneously, 'cool' and 'um, what is that?'

Turns out it's basically a meme, the internet version of a chain letter, but an awfully nice one as these things go. The rules are:
  •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

I marked that bullet list to quote, but it sure doesn't look any different than normal text to me. Well, note, please that the bulleted list is cut-and-pasted from the VBA website--I didn't write it.

So thank you, JC, it's very nice of you!

I use Google reader to follow blogs, so creating a list of links might be sort of arduous. We'll see if I can do fifteen. And I suppose it would be good to pick both versatile blogs, ones with a mix of content, and blogs that are less visited. But hmm, I'm not sure I can figure that out easily either. Well, I'll just start and see how it goes.

Bumblebee nation This is my friend Suzanne's blog and she is not going to be grateful that I gave her this award. But I'm doing it anyway because when she blogs (very rarely, alas) she almost always makes me smile and she should blog more often.

Problem Girl I've been following this blog for a really long time, although I hardly ever comment so she probably doesn't know that. But the blog owner is a surrogate mom and her stories open my eyes to a world I know nothing about.

Patricia C. Wrede's blog probably doesn't need such an award; she's a much-published author and I'm sure reaches plenty of people. But hands down, this is the best writing blog I've ever found. She's not blogging about the writing business, she's blogging about the craft of writing and it's wonderful, useful information.

I'm going to utterly fail at avoiding well-trafficked blogs, because honestly, I don't know who gets traffic and who doesn't. I read in Google reader and I don't usually check the comments. I suppose I could check all their most recent posts and rule out anyone who's received twenty or more comments, but that's starting to seem like a lot of work when I should be writing. And this versatility thing is killing me, too--most of the blogs I read are fairly focused on one thing or another. *sigh* It'd be nice if I wasn't so obsessive.

All right, I'm just going to quickly list a bunch of blogs that I like, and maybe you'll find something you like, too.

An Olive Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Yummy, yummy, yummy food.

Kindle-aholic's Book Pile. We don't share 100% taste in books (I am over vampires, just done, done, done with them) but she's definitely pointed out some titles that I've added to my wish list. 

Smitten Kitchen. Definitely tons of traffic, because everyone I know loves the recipes from this site. In fact, pretty often when someone I know has a recipe that's so good they have to share, it's come from Smitten Kitchen. If you like to cook, or even if you just like to eat, you should read this one.

Geek Mom This is actually lots of moms, not just one, but their chosen topics are probably obvious from the title. I actually can't keep up with this blog: it gets a folder of its own in my RSS feed so I can read it when I have time, because they post a lot. But when I have time to look at it, I often find something interesting.

Stellar Four is actually in that Geek Mom folder, too, and again, there's more than one blogger posting. For a while, they were kind of heavy on stuff posts--gadgets and crafts and objects to buy--which is mostly not my thing (unemployed graduate student = not spending money on anything non-essential, and my chosen craft is writing), but I've found some interesting links through their site.

Moody Muses is another group blog. I guess I notice these the most because group blogs are able to post more often than singular blogs. But this is a group of four writers, blogging about writing and about life, and I like reading what they have to say. 

Artisan Bread I bought their cookbook and then I created their Facebook fan group and then I stopped reading because somehow, overnight, I was ten pounds heavier. Eating bread every day, lots of bread, was not good for  me. But if you want to bake interesting kinds of bread, the recipes on this blog make it simple.

Cocktail Party Physics This is a Scientific American blog, so maybe it misses the point? But it's such well-written science and so entertaining.

Julia If you type Julia and hippo into Google, you wind up here, which I think probably means she's doing just fine on traffic. (I have not made much of an effort to find out how to measure this kind of thing. My blog has been happily invisible for all the years of its existence.) But I think this is the only mommy blog that I still read regularly because Julia is an incredibly talented writer who could probably make doing laundry seem like an adventure. Okay, maybe not laundry. But definitely cooking dinner.

Am I at fifteen yet? This is quite the time-consuming little project...Nope, three more to go.

Momastery is a brilliant blog. I only recently found her, so you're probably going to say um, slow on the uptake, aren't you? But I guess this means that I have two mommy blogs that I read. (I have nothing against mommy blogs, I used to read a lot of them. I just sort of stopped over time as I moved out of that stage of my life.)

You've read Hyperbole and a Half, right? I'm not counting her as one of my fifteen, although I'll certainly nominate her for any award that there is, but to the best of my knowledge, every single solitary person I know adores her blog, so it's not like I can introduce her to anyone. I'm just including the link in case...(and if you don't know her, click on the link, add her to your RSS feed, you won't see her again for weeks, maybe months, but when you do, it will be oh, so worth it.)

Aha, Glenn Bullion has a nice writerly blog.He's an indie writer, and doesn't post a lot, but when he does, it's interesting.(To me, at least. But he's got a good writing style, so you should at least give him a try.)

One more...you know, I think the hardest thing about writing this post was discovering how many blogs in my RSS feed haven't posted anything new in six months or more. I found one that hadn't posted anything new since 2009. I've been deleting them, but it feels sad. Okay, that's the wrong emotion, though -- one last blog for the Versatile Blogger Award, and I think I'll give it to:

Kristin Cashore, This Is My Secret. She is the author of Graceling and Fire and the upcoming Bitterblue. She's an award-winning author, so probably doesn't need me nominating her for any new awards, but her blog is as versatile as they come: she posts about trapezes and Indian musicals and writing and Bank of America and really, just about anything. And she's always fun to read. You should definitely check it out!

Whew...wow, that was exhausting.

So. Seven things about me:

1) I tend to be obsessive about doing things "right". I might have obsessive personality disorder, or I might just be the kind of hypochondriacal student who diagnoses herself with everything that comes along. Speaking of which...
2) I meet the clinical criteria for agoraphobia.
3) This annoys me and I think the clinical criteria are way too general and should be made more restrictive.
4) My favorite event of the year is Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. (<-See? Not really agoraphobic.)
5) If I win the lottery/become a best-selling author, I might like to live on a sailboat.
6) But only if I could bring my dog.

7) I don't actually believe in ghosts. But I wish I did.

I think this might be the longest post I've ever written. I might have to go take a nap. Except my poor heroine is in the police station, waiting to find out whether she's going to be charged with a crime. Probably I should get back to her and help out of her jam!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Month

Tonight's email from OhLife reminded me that one month ago today I published A Gift of Ghosts. It surprised me. Wow, a lot has happened since then and yet it also feels as if  no time at all has passed. I guess a lot of living has happened: the Christmas Dr. Who marathon and Korean food, the solo sixteenth birthday, the trip to Boston that both lasted forever and was far too short. In book terms, though, it's been a month.

And a good month, too. Not for writing. I'd be dismayed if I tried to figure out how few words I managed to generate, so I'm not going to try. But the book sales certainly exceeded my wildest expectations. Of course, then I started to imagine even wilder scenarios, which was fun for a few days, too. Still, even once the daydreaming stopped, I'm pleased with month one

So, onto the numbers. It's a little confusing because of the giveaway, and because some sales were from other Amazon sites, but I think that as of the end of the day today, I have given away 2073 copies of Ghost, sold 221, and "lent" 44 through the Kindle lending library.

And right now, I have 30 reviews on Amazon. Six are from people I've met in RL, although that said, two of those were quite unexpected to me (and really nice). Three other people from my RL have read the book, said they loved it and that they would write reviews, but I'm not holding my breath. (Nor naming names, obviously.) It's an interesting phenomenon, the review promise, and I'm not sure I understand it, but I've definitely decided that all statements about people's prospective behavior when it comes to books should be taken with a grain of salt. And/or a mental deadline of infinity. Many of the others, understandably, are from people that I know in some context online: either fanfiction, critique circle, or the mom's board, with one review from my WOW guild. But there are also several from people I don't know at all, and that's pretty darn exciting.

A little digression about reviews: the self-publishing community seems to have (IMO) a very strange attitude about reviews. To me it seems really obvious that all of the first readers of your book are going to be connected to you in some way. How else would they find the book? It's almost impossible to stumble across a book on Amazon in amongst the millions of other books and who would ever decide to read it if there were no reviews? I truly do not understand the people who think that there's something unethical about letting your friends and family write reviews. I basically assume--and I would expect that most other readers do likewise--that the first five reviews have to be by friends, family, or acquaintances of the author when a book is self-published. A self-published author doesn't have the network of reviewers, the promotional budget, and the PR experience that a mainstream publishing house has. But getting friends and family to leave reviews is not planting reviews unless they haven't read the book and are lying in their review. That's obviously a bad idea because it's going to mislead the reader and then you're going to get annoyed readers writing reviews. But it's ridiculous to not make the most of what you have available to you. Anyway, in my case, I've mostly asked people to mention if and how they know me, but I am definitely not going to discourage people from writing reviews.I wouldn't write a dishonest review and I don't assume that the people I know would either, so the more reviews the better, as far as I'm concerned. (And yes, I have basically decided that since the whole point of self-publishing is not following other people's arbitrary rules, I don't intend to start following the self-publishing community's arbitrary rules, either!)

Wow, that turned into a rant. Not intentional!

I intend to use two more of my free days on Friday and Saturday of this week. I scheduled it at the beginning of the month: Friday is my first day of practicum and Saturday I'll be hanging out with the visiting niece and nephew, possibly at Universal Studios, so I figured it's a good time to do it, I won't be paying any attention. I've already given it away to all the people I know, so I expect it'd reach a smaller number, but we'll see, I guess.

Leaving Boston

On the plane, headed home.

When I pictured yesterday as one of the worst days of my life, I was forgetting something I learned last summer; the midst of the dying isn't actually that bad a place to be. There's so much to do there: food and movement and holding hands, trying to distract and making sure the kids are busy and checking on the laundry. When a trip to the bathroom is a twenty minute plus expedition and a meal takes a hour and people are coming and going, there's not a lot of room for grief.

It's only in the cracks in between, in the small spaces when folding clothes fresh and warm from the dryer and the thought strikes that the socks will never be worn again, that's when it's bad.

We took Michelle to Gloucester. I was purely scared about the garage steps, steep and wooden with gaps, but it worked. We ate pastrami sandwiches and while Michelle slept and Chris and Linda tried to work out a schedule for her care, I took Finn and his friend Brennan to the "big sandbox" and then the beach.

I found a perfect sand dollar, unbroken, with the five-petaled flower clear and beautiful,
and I left it there in the sand.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January One

R assures me that the world is going to end in 2012 and therefore we should spend the year with an "eat, drink, and be merry" mentality. I think this must come from his chosen philosphy of epicureanism because it seems to me that it's just as logical to suggest spending the year repenting of our sins or meditating to try to reach some state of spiritual purity.

The one certainty is that the year won't be what I expect it to be. I imagine it as a lovely block of time spent writing and going to school, a smooth balance of both for another 16 months or so before I have to get a real job. The reality, though, is that on Wednesday, I go up to Boston to say goodbye to Michelle. I'll be there until Monday, so five days. I don't want to imagine it, but I do anyway because I can't help myself, so I picture it being like Marcia's visit to my mom. Mostly lovely, but oh, that last day is going to be hard. It's weird to sit here and think that a week from today will be one of the worst days of my life and there is nothing I can do about it. Stranger still to know that my behavior this fall has been a bad friend guilt spiral cliche that therapists are taught to help people forgive themselves for. I don't think I'm forgiving myself yet, but mostly I'm trying hard not to think about it.

So, moving on...I dug in the closet to find old journals to bring and read to her. Our last two phone calls have been mostly me talking; I'm not sure how much she talks at this stage. But I know from my mom that there's listening happening all the way to the end, so I told her I would bring journals from college. I couldn't find the journal from the semester we spent in England together, which was really frustrating. I can almost picture it--I think it's a brown book. But the only brown book I found was from when we lived in Chicago together and that one I don't want to read, either to her or to myself. I did skim through it and get reminded of some events: making dandelion wine; the time I cut her hair while drunk after first making her sign a pledge that she would never hold the haircut against me, and then cut my finger and dripped blood gaudily all over the paper making it unreadable; a dinner party of philosophy majors where I felt completely alone until we started playing the silverware game we used to play . . . but mostly that journal, no. So no England, no Chicago, the Wes journals are too filled with boring boy trauma. Fortunately that leaves our months in Europe, so I'll bring that book along.

In January of 1988, we were in Scotland. We went to the island of Iona. If you go there once, you're supposed to go back three times before you die. I don't think Michelle's ever been back, and I don't think I'll ever go there again either. But it was a beautiful place. Funnily enough, there are also things in the journal that I flat out do not remember. In February, we were in Parma and let ourselves get picked up by a "Tunisian boy" who bought us drinks and took us to play video games. Not a single memory comes to mind to match up with that description. I wouldn't even have remembered ever being in Parma. I don't even remember where Parma is. (Italy, obviously, but how did we wind up there?)

It's strange to look at journals from so very long ago. Any time someone online mentions old journals, it's with self-mockery for the adolescent angst and trite descriptions. I'm sure there's some of that, but I've been much more surprised by the vividness of some of my descriptions. "Sitting on a bed. In Paris, three flights of dark curving stairs up, a sink and a bidet in the room with their own little corner and shower curtain, French doors that open onto a little balcony fronting the street, with the fluorescent HOTEL sign right next to it. Even noisy downstairs neighbors arguing in an unknown language. I feel like I've accidentally walked onto a stage set -- not part of the play, just a casual observer." I wish I'd written down the name of the hotel somewhere so that I could go back there someday.

Two days after I get back from Boston, school starts and then W&M and the kids come to visit and I will play and go to Universal Studios and hang out with Maddie in the toy stores while everyone else goes on the Harry Potter ride. And the one thing this year won't be--or at least these first two weeks of it--is a nice sedate balance of writing and school.