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Archive for October, 2010

Ghosts and Pumpkin Beer

Happy Halloween! It doesn’t seem very Halloweeny today, and I’ve decided that Halloween on a Sunday blows.  Instead of staying up all night watching scary movies (a la last year), we’ll watch Sunday night football.  Instead of cooking up Halloweeny food (idk, pumpkin soup?), we’ll have a normal dinner.  Because, yanno, it’s Sunday. 

I spent the morning writing — it’s almost NaNoWriMo time! — and then I went to Giant and stocked up on all sorts of G foods.  I leave on Tuesday for (gahhh) 9 nights, and I’m not looking forward to it. But the house is stocked with soups, chili, meatloaf, potatoes, pumpkin pie, and other ‘can be prepared by microwave’ foods.  I also got dog food (looking out for the little guys this week).

Now we’re watching football with pumpkin beer and bison burgers, and it occurred to me I hadn’t shared pictures from the El’s first road trip. I never got my Petsmart gift card in the mail — maybe it will come soon, since it’s been like 6 weeks?? — so I had to get creative with my doggy-proofing.

A step by step guide to making your car three-lab-proof:

1. cover head rests of front seats

2. cover rest of front seats with old t-shirts, and cut slit in front for seatbelts — bonus points for shirts with writing

3. fold up back seats

4. cover back seats with trash bags

5. position baby gate vertically in the center between front and back seats to prevent dogs from getting into the front

6. stack up luggage on either side of baby gate to reinforce it and further protect front seats

7. jam the back area with dog pillows and blankets to create one giant, comfy, three-dog crate

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Fall 2010 in the Poconos

Every October we head to the Pocs.  The canoe has to be brought in by the end of the month, and it forces us up there during the peak of fall’s colorful foliage, in the midst of G’s crazy fall work schedule, and just when we both really need a vacation.  We owe a lot to the canoe, actually.

I have a lot to write — about the trip, about the puppies, about writing, about the El’s first doggy road trip (best.decision.ever) — but we didn’t get home until late Sunday evening, and last night was a late night at work, so I am a bit behind.  I need to do some major catch-up because I am only one week away from a long bout of travel — to Halifax for a week, then straight to Nashville for half a week.  But it is late again, and we’ve just finished dinner.  So tonight will be a picture post, and I will add the words later.  The photos we got this weekend are too gorgeous not to share.

As always, we were very sad to leave.

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October Sunday

Ravens, puppies, long sleeves, and pumpkin beer.

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Gold Cup

Today was the 73rd running of the International Gold Cup Races in The Plains, VA. Unlike last year, which was wet, drippy, and soooo cold, this year’s weather was amazing. Low 60s and lots of sunshine, though just a tad too much wind for my hair to handle. We got there earlier than normal (even traffic cooperated this year) and enjoyed champagne, front row ‘seats’ for the jack russel races, crab cakes in the sponsor tent, access passes to the sponsor’s viewing deck for the first race, and some pretty nice parting gifts. It was a perfect day for the races!

Viewing deck for the first race

The Chairman’s Race

Outside the sponsor tent

The Plains, VA

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October Monday

“I wish we had all night,” said the moderator of the gubernatorial debate. All night for what? Bitter vitriol? It’s brutal to watch.  Come on Maryland, we can do better than this.

I wish I could take the whole week off and write. Write, write, drink hot chocolate.

I wish every night could be rustic tomato soup and havarti-gouda panini night.

I wish I could find the cap of my thumb drive. Why do they make clear thumb drives?

I wish G didn’t have jury duty tomorrow and he could go to work with me.

I wish Drew Brees had scored one more point so my fantasy team would not have lost this week.

I wish I could skip Halifax, do not pass go, and go straight to Nashville.

I wish my book was finished and I could move on to the next project. A year is a long time for inspiration.

I wish it were Friday night.

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Writing Renewed

I want to do little else but write. Write and write furiously. Write and write well. I want to take the tips, the comments, the inspiration, and everything else I brought back from the conference and pull it into my novel.

The conference was a really great experience. Some of the panels were better than others, but there were so many different opportunities for value — much more than just through the panels. My resolve was renewed when I talked to authors who spent five years reworking their first novel with failed agent relationships and more than a hundred rejection letters, now successfully touring and on the brink of their second major novel. I got to speak at length with a top mystery series writer about his process, his method, and the writers he thinks are a’holes. I didn’t actually ask about that but he seemed really intent on telling me who the big meanies of the genre are.

I met a couple writers my own age (I should say that there were only a handful of writers my age at the conference, Full Stop), including one girl who lives locally in Nova. I’m excited to have a couple writer acquaintances I can talk to about writing and editing and hating writing and hating editing.

I sat down with an agent and had a somewhat strange experience. She was neither upbeat nor negative about my book. In fact, she said it sounded like something she worked with, it depended on how good the writing was (duh), and I should send her pages. I dont know if she really wanted to see pages or not. I guess my presentation wasn’t that compelling, though I did nail the entire pitch in about three minutes. Although most other people got wide-eyed stares and stammers, so maybe I did have a successful pitch.

No matter. I’m rewriting my whole book anyway.

Even if I learned nothing (but actually I learned quite a bit), the conference achieved a few things:

– Renewed my faith that good writers do get published eventually
– Reversed my thinking that I am behind in the game — holy retired folks batman
– Reminded me that the best writing is never lazy (and them reminded me of everything that makes writing lazy)

One of the most worthwhile sessions was first pages critiques where agents commented on real first pages submitted by participants. I didn’t submit mine — I’m not a fool. The point of that session is not to heap praise. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’m not the best at taking criticism. I’m definitely not the best at taking criticism in front of 400 people. That said, hearing the other first pages and recognizing instantly what mistakes were made (plus hearing what the agents liked and disliked) was immensely helpful. I could easily say, Oops, I did that. And, that sounds familiar.

Needless to say, my first page has been scrubbed clean (stripped and repainted would be a closer analogy), and my first chapter rewritten. Only 9 pages and 339 to go. Luckily I plan on changing the major plot points in only about 1/2 of the chapters. Time to see how fast I can work!

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Back to Writing

This summer has really imposed a writing hiatus on my life. Work has been so busy that any spare hours in the early morning have been consumed with emails and proposals, and any spare hours in the evening have been…well, exhausting. But with my writers conference coming up (didn’t that sound like a good idea months ago when I was writing daily and full of inspiration and energy?), I need to get my butt into gear.

I need to remember what I love about my book, so I can talk with passion about the characvters and their dilemmas. I need to memorize my summaries and my hook lines and those things I plan to tell an agent when she gives me five minutes of her time. I need to put myself into the writer mindset because, for two days this weekend, I write. I don’t do fundraising or corporate relations or international partnerships or chalet rentals or anything else. I write. And the business cards I hand out this weekend will say ‘writer’ and they will list my iPhone number instead of my Blackberry number.

What a change!

I really am looking forward to the conference. I’m eager to connect with local writers (southern MD or DC anyone?) who are in the same ‘place’ as I am. I’m excited to talk with other people who compartmentalize writing into their lives the way I do. And of course I want to tell everyone how great I am and how wonderful my book can be with some love and, of course, a contract.

I still have so much to do before I leave on Thursday that it’s a bit overwhelming. I need to print out my summaries and my queries and my first ten pages and organize them into some neat folder-thingy so I look organized. I need to relearn my story and how to talk about it with thoughtful exuberance. I need to organize my agenda and the sessions I want to attend. I need to figure out how to get to Richmond and to my hotel and to nearby restaurants and points of interest (in case I, gasp, get some time to look around). I need to pack!!

But I have already gotten one thing taken care of: I know where the closest Starbucks to my hotel is located.

After all, one should always be prepared.

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