Nothing like a 90 degree day in New York! But then there’s nothing like a day in New York anyway–doubly so when it’s BookExpo America. They’ll be in Chicago next year, so after five years running, I wasn’t about to miss my chance to catch it one more time while it’s on the East Coast. This year, me and and my sister, Gretchen Weerheim, went, trolling the aisles and generally looking for hot trends, dealmakers, and free tote bags, finding a lot of the first two, but precious few of the last. Didn’t help we were trolling a bit too late in the day, but it was fun nonetheless, and try to keep us away when it comes back to NYC!
This is what happens when you spend life with your face either shoved in a book or a screen–you end up getting cataracts when at a (relatively) young age. It doesn’t help you’re born really near-sighted either, which, I’ve been told, is a contributing factor. In any event, yesterday I got the one in my left eye removed, and had a high-tech intraocular multi-focal lens implanted which will allow me to see at multiple distances. Right now, the day after, my eye is still dilated so the vision is still a bit off, not to mention stepping outside this morning was like–whoa! the sun!–but for the first time in my life I was able to see out of my left eye without correction. It was truly bizarre. As was the operation.
Let me say right from the onset–the fact that I was to have my eye sliced open and had to be awake during the procedure left me nothing less than…may I speak bluntly? FREAKED THE FUCK OUT. Yes, it scared the crap out of me just to think of it. Not the pain–as I’ve had root canals where I’ve nearly fallen asleep in the chair. It was the fact I do not like anesthesia. I don’t like that feeling of being there but…not. Knock me out and I’m fine, but I don’t like that semi-conscious state where you can’t react. But this wasn’t like that at all. In fact, it was even kind of pleasant (for a medical procedure, let’s get real). Let me elaborate.
It’s Tax Day, and although I’ve already done mine (phew!), it’s made me think of the summer that’s fast approaching, and how I’ll spend it. Being in academia, that also means I have a month left of classes, and this year, I actually have part of the summer off before I’ll have to return after the Fourth for a sincerely easy summer class.
But before I do, I’ll have some time to write full-time, which is always nice. Up at dawn and nigh until the night I’m at the keyboard, and it really is the most marvelous feeling, the freedom to just have plot on the mind. Maybe one day I’ll hit that New York Times list and be able to do it full-time all year round, but until then, this slice of summer is pure bliss.
For those that follow this writer (I mean me, in case you’re wondering), I’m working on a new series. Don’t really want to say what it’s about yet, as I first want to see if it’ll fly, but I’ll say it’s based in Jersey like my other books, and, well, it’s got a mystery attached to it, and maybe even a bit of the paranormal. It’s not so much new for me as it’s returning to an earlier style. In any case, it’s keeping my interest, so I must be doing something right.
Oh, and as far as the picture above? It’s got nothing to do with anything that I’m writing about. If you’ve read me, than you know I’ve a thing for anything Parisian, though these two look like they’ve been living on Tic Tacs and cigarettes. Someone give them some French Fries–please.
I’m one of those poor academics who has to work most of the year except for a few weeks between semesters and in that venerable time called Spring Break, which for me was last week. The hind end of it was spent at the Liberty State Fiction Writers annual conference, where the Keynote speaker was bestselling author, Sylvia Day. (She actually was much closer than this when I snapped the picture at left. It sure didn’t look this far away!)This year it expanded into a two-day conference, and I got to attend some great workshops and talks, as well as hook up with several writer friends, my agent, who also sat on the Agents Panel at right, and a bunch of other publishing professionals. But mostly–and here’s the really important part–I got to spent a goodly amount of time imbibing in all things theoretically Bad For Me, the absolute BEST part of any conference.
For example, here’s my glamorous agent, Marisa Corvisiero and I lunching on the de rigueur plate of institutional chicken atop a mish-mash of rice and what I believe were vegetables scraped from the previous day’s soup pot. That’s Marisa laughing at another of my uproarious bon mots. It was probably something like, “You gonna eat that?” (Yes, I’m that funny.) The iced tea was incredible, at least.
Conferences are also prime places for getting embarrassingly shitty cell phone pix taken of you. Consider the Edvard Munch study below. Don’t ask me what the impetus was for that. I have no idea.
Juxtapose that against what I call “A Composition in Light and Dark” at the right. There’s me looking all shady and ironic (and beat-up; it’d been a rough night) against the beatific figure in the background beaming like a Botticelli. Truth be told, I never knew I possessed such a talent for artistic expression. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I swear, these are absolutely improv-ed. I’m also that talented.
Ultimately, the conference comes down to hanging out with good friends, drinking some good wine (or at least priced accordingly), and demolishing a honkin’ big dish of Brownie Sundae. Between all of this I got to make some really good plans for the future, some of which you will be privy to shortly. If the best business is done in the off-hours, then I’ll take this office space any time. It truly is where the best people are.
Some watch for robins, some for crocuses, some even say marshmallow peeps, but for me the real harbinger of spring are potholes, I’m telling you, those pervasive little asphalt assailants never fail to creep up on us, around every bend and over every hillock, disguised like shimmering little macadam birdbaths until you hit one and bam! there goes the hub cap, spinning away like a frisbee.
I live fifteen miles from work, and on my way home last week I counted no less than 25 of the replicating little suckers. And that didn’t include the ever-widening fissures in the middle of the road, and the winter erosion of the softer shoulders, due to the dig and drag of the snow plows. And then there’s those inevitable frost heaves that pitch up and crack the roads, always on whatever side of the road I’m driving. Which, of course, quickly becomes your side when you swerve into my lane to avoid them.
But if all this isn’t bad enough, the cure isn’t much better. How many of you have driven smack into a fresh pancake of cold patch, that municipal quick-fix of asphalt the town boys tamp down with shovels and their own boots, to shut up the one irate taxpayer that doesn’t quit calling until it’s fixed. Ahh…the lovely ping-ping-ping of loose tar as it plies itself to the undercarriage of your car. You’ll be scrubbing that off until nigh on August. Soon those road patch patties will be as ubiquitous as dandelions, and just as hard to get rid of. Because if you’re betting on highway dollars on high to get them gone, you can just forget it. The bank is broke in New Jersey come June 30, and staying that way for a while.
For the meantime, take your comfort where you can get it. After the winter we’ve had here in Jersey, just seeing the road means it’s only a matter of time until we’re burning our bare feet crossing it. And that, my dears, could only mean a day at the beach.
Counting the days.
I’ve been in academia for fifteen years now and teaching college for five, and one thing the profession has never been is boring. I’ve met my share of interesting people, from Candace Bushnell to Maya Angelou to Robert Kennedy, Jr., to Francine Prose, and just today, in my Media Writing class, I met a former police beat reporter for the Asbury Park Press, Margaret F. Bonafide. She talked to my class of budding journalists about life as a beat reporter, and how one of your stories could even catch the eye of a film maker and turn into a documentary. It was all very fascinating and inspiring, and although my students were rapt as they listened, asking intelligent questions and offering her a rousing applause when she was through, she barely left the podium before they were out of there like a shot. Why, you may ask?
Next week is Spring Break baby! And it’s not even next week yet! You see, it’s the wise student that gets a jump on.
Today is Wednesday, and I still have two more days of classes, but already, my attendance roster is falling short. Just the other day I had a student in one of my English classes tell me he would be in Cancun over the break, so could he have extra time for this week’s assignment? “Might I suggest you do it before you go?” I may have well asked him to hand over his spleen. Hey, you only have to write that three-page essay. I have to grade over thirty of them. And that’s just for one class. I’m wisely staggering them for the others. They’re not the only ones on Spring Break, you know.
So what will I be doing? Funny you should ask. I do have a book I’ve just started, so I’ll get in some extra writing time. Get my taxes done. Sleep. (Ah, yes, I fit it somewhere in before my 7:30 class.) Not shovel snow (It was a blissful 60 degrees here today in Jersey.) AND go to a writers conference next weekend! (See last week’s post.) That in itself constitutes my own Spring Break, a break from the ordinary, a chance to reinvigorate, reconnect, and renew. With chips and dip, of course, And wine. Lots and lots of wine, yessir.
In vino veritas, ah yes.
I’ll have the house to myself all day, so I’ll get up at the crack of dawn and hit my desk by 6:00 AM. I’ll mute my phone, ignore my email, and do nothing but write. Oooh! I love it when I can work in my jammies.
5:30 – Alarm rings. Roll over, hit snooze.
5:31 – Cat finds ball. Ignore tinkly bell and fall back asleep.
5:40 – Alarm rings again. Cat jumps on face. Swat at cat. Miss cat. Knock over alarm. Alarm stops by default. Pull pillow over head. Fall back to sleep.
5:44 – Dream of jingle bells.
5:49:58 – Cat pulls curtain and curtain rod from window, knocks alarm from night table.
5:50 – Alarm rings. Give up, get up and go to bathroom. Tinkly sound emanates from bedroom.
5:55 – Feed cat.
5:58 – Bowl of Cheerios and sliced banana. Get newspaper while cereal soggies.
6:03 – 6:14 – Front page, editorials, comics, horoscope. Take vitamins.
6:15 – 6:19 – “Morning Joe.”
6:20 – 6:47 – Switch to TCM while “Joe” is on a commercial break and become embroiled in pre-code Jean Harlow/Clark Gable rom-com until cat leaps into window at neighbor’s cat reminding you to look toward wall clock.
6:48 – Make cup of tea; visit bathroom while waiting for water to boil, turning on laptop en route. Brush teeth. Spy book on dresser on the way out. Finish reading chapter started the night before.
6: 54 – Return book to dresser.
6:55 – Retrieve tea and head toward office.
6:56 – Visit several email accounts and return email, re: 3 student crises, web course designer, critique partner. Email agent. Sneak peek at Facebook, Twitter, tweet, favorite. Check website.
7: 18 – Bring up work-in-progress. Shrink work-in-progress. Bring up FreeCell. One therapeutic game to get brain functioning. Or two. Three. Four at the most.
7:39 – Bring up work-in-progress. Remember need to look up legal term first. Shrink WIP; go online, homepage, CNN. Check if world blew up the night before. Switch to Google. Find term. Tweet. Check email. Answer email. One more FreeCell. Return to WIP.
8:07 – Emergency email from critique partner. Forestall imminent artistic self-thrashing and proceed to email buck-up. Email is replied to in less than a minute. Send another buck-up complete with happy emoticons. Check Twitter.
8:47 – Return to WIP. Stomach growls. Go to kitchen and make toast, toss cat teeth crunchy treats. Stare out window at trash truck across the lake as toast toasts. Remember forgot to put out trash. Run out door in robe. Return to smoke alarm blaring from toast stuck in toaster. Open windows. Toss toast. Fan.
9:05 – Return to office. Email from agent. Needs immediate proposal for prospective editor. Panic but produce passable proposal in less than ten minutes. Return to WIP, but first retreat to kitchen for cube of 72% cacao dark chocolate while entertaining visions of NYT Bestseller Glory. Return to office and WIP. See cat had jumped on keyboard and now there’s kmsadslvy]e0-vn’aey9-3 rya2932f all over page 78. 79. 80. 81———————
9:16 – 9:19 – Clean up WIP. Phone rings. Seems forgot to mute phone.
9:20 – 9:51 – Chat and play solitaire.
9:52 – Return to WIP. Take sip of tea, notice it’s cold. Go to kitchen to reheat tea. While heating eat forkful of cold spaghetti from fridge. One more. Another. Mmmm….
9:58 – Return to office. Pick up hand weights. Lift. Throw out back. Lay on floor to stretch. Cat jumps on stomach. Yelp. Swat at cat. Miss. Cat circles head, purring. Melt.
10:10 – Remember forgot tea in microwave. Go to kitchen to retrieve. Spy calendar and see it’s wrong day for trash on my street. Go to street to retrieve trash can so don’t look like an idiot. Return to kitchen and retrieve tea. Cold again. Check MSNBC on TV as tea reheats. Go to HBO during commercial break.
Noon – Get up to retrieve tea as credits roll for “Get Him to the Greek.” Dump tea; go to fridge and retrieve pot of spaghetti from fridge. Take to office, shrink WIP and go to Slate.com and read “Dear Prudence” while eating cold pasta with fingers. Phone rings. Still forgot to mute. Chat while licking fingers.
12:49 – Find Lindt Dark Chocolate Truffle from old Christmas stash in desk while rearranging desk tray while still on the phone. Eat, toss wrapper at trash. Miss.
12:50 – Cat finds missed wrapper. Grabs in mouth. Runs from room.
12:51 – Hear a crashing sound from bedroom. Ring off phone. Go to bedroom. Jewelry box and entire contents is now on floor, truffle wrapper on top. Scoop contents, return to box, return box to dresser. Toss wrapper. Cat missing. Eye bed, still unmade.
12:52 – Call day a wash. Return to bed. Bed never so comfortable…
12: 59 – Cat finds ball.