Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wanna Buy Some Stuff?

I have discovered a great way to ride out the recession AND clean out my basement: sell all my crap on Craigslist! It's absolutely brilliant. I don't know why I didn't think of it before. Maybe because there wasn't a recession and I wasn't unemployed and I used to be the kind of person to hold onto stuff I haven't used in 25 years but no longer!

Here's a list of stuff I've recently sold and plan to sell:
  • An overpriced nightstand I bought with my icky ex-boyfriend who had tons of money and in fact I think he paid for it and guess what, I made the $85 profit!
  • A bike trailer I haven't used in nine years
  • Pots that haven't seen a plant in them since the new millenium
  • The flute that last saw tongue action in the 80s
  • My "classic" Canon cameras

    Etc etc.

    Of course it would help if I could actually find my flute but I'm sure it's down there somewhere with all the letters from the 80s that I'll probably never read again and my journals from 7th grade that I'm keeping because they'll definitely be worth tons of money someday. Unless I get REALLY broke in which case I'll try to sell them to unsuspecting sucker as collectible literary memorabilia, haha.

  • Monday, February 23, 2009

    Crazed Fan Harasses Jane Smiley Lookalike

    I totally forgot to mention a fun story from the San Francisco Writer’s Conference…and that would be how I kissed up to Jane Smiley, heaping praise on her like a lovesick fan, only to find out that…

    She wasn’t Jane Smiley.

    No, she was someone who looked very much like Jane Smiley – tall, blonde, willowy, with an infectious smile -- minus about 10 years and the gigantic glasses that Smiley is always sporting in her author photos. (Photo courtesy of the Seattle Times)

    But who was I to know? The other conference volunteers that I was having coffee with at the time told me she was Jane Smiley. Since she had been a keynote speaker at the conference earlier that day, I assumed they had seen her speak and knew what they were talking about.

    We were hanging out in the Peet’s Coffee in Grace Cathedral, on the top of Nob Hill when I made my sycophantic overture to the Ms Smiley lookalike.

    (And yes there’s a Peet’s Coffee in Grace Cathedral, only it’s under the cathedral, next to the gift shop, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. At least it's not a Starbucks.)

    My companions had just assured me that it was Ms. Smiley herself who was ordering coffee and so I marched right up to her and started telling her how much I wished I had seen her speech earlier that morning; how good and “inspiring” I heard it was; working my way up to how I loved her novels A Thousand Acres: A Novel and Horse Heaven
    and how one day I hoped to be as brilliant (and maybe as rich) as her, when she gave me a blank look.

    “What speech?” she said. She had been smiling and nodding at me up til then and I was thinking gee, Jane Smiley is so nice. “Do you mean…my pitch to the agents?” The tall blonde woman looked confused. At which point I realized it wasn’t Jane Smiley at all but a conference attendee who had been pitching her heart out to agents all morning, hoping, just like me to be a brilliant, best-selling novelist like Jane Smiley one day.

    Then I told her about the confusion and we had a good laugh.

    I still wish I had heard Jane Smiley's speech, however!

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Fun Facts from the San Francisco Writer's Conference and More...

    Greetings all from me and Snuffy! Hope your February is looking springlike like it is here in Seattle, WA, where the bitter cold and snows have momentarily receded.

    I was just down in the Bay Area volunteering for the San Francisco Writer’s Conference, and wouldn’t you know, the weather was worse there than it is here. Which was fine because mostly I was indoors for the conference and then suffering from a horrible cold so had little use for the outdoors anyway.

    I learned a lot of interesting things and met some great people at this conference, as well as getting a few of my burning questions answered. Here are some fun and not-so-fun facts I picked up:

    • Only about 50% of books are actually sold in bookstores today; the rest are sold through alternative channels

    • Most fiction manuscripts submitted to agents are boring and predictable because they don’t have enough FAILURE in them

    • Your “numbers” (that is, how many copies you’ve sold) stick to you like “toilet paper on your shoe”

    My favorite speaker was agent Donald Maas; his wife Lisa Rector kindly gave me some advice as did agent Kimberly Cameron. I also met the author of the book Surviving Five Daughters, who was charming and fun, and refers to his daughters in conversation as D1, D2, D3, etc.

    I did think there was an overemphasis on the business side of writing and publishing, and would have liked to see more talks devoted to good old-fashioned craft. That’s why I liked Maas’s talk – even though he was talking through one of the chapters in his excellent book Writing the Breakout Novel - and the material was familiar to me already. I liked his talk because it actually made me focus on my story instead of stressing about my "web presence" or how I can get my "numbers" up before I'm entirely wrapped in toilet paper.

    His theory about breaking out as an author is that it’s not about how big your publicity budget is that makes your book a bestseller, but word-of-mouth generated by readers--and that you get that word-of-mouth by writing a book with larger-than-life characters going through conflict where the stakes are very high and where unexpected twists ensue.

    Sounds easy, right? Especially when you read his book and he lays it all out for you. Then you try to actually start constructing a high-stakes plot with larger-than-life characters. And it's so effing hard! It’s like my piano lessons when I listen to my teacher play all kinds of cool honky-tonk riffs than even shows me exactly how to do them and I go home inspired and excited. But when I try to do them myself they don’t come out right at all and I feel even clumsier and more unskilled than before, especially when the more I practice, the worse I seem to do them.

    But if I have faith (or even if I don’t) and I persist even just 15 minutes a day I eventually get better. And that’s how it is with writing too. If you’re feeling discouraged, just trick yourself into writing 15 minutes a day. Because the hardest part is sitting down at your computer. Once you actually start, you’ll want to write much longer than 15 minutes. And once you get in the habit of sitting down every day to do it, it gets harder not to do it than to do it.

    Anyway. I digress.

    In BreakupBabe news, for those of you Seattleites who would like to support your local businesses, you can find a copy of my novel at Balderdash Books in Greenwood! And soon at Lemon Meringue Boutique, also in Greenwood.

    You’ll also be able to see me read at Cheap Wine and Poetry at Richard Hugo House on March 26. And no I’m not actually reading poetry! I *hope* to read something from the new novel! You know the one that’s full of colorful characters that you can’t stop reading and won’t be able to stop talking about – once it, er, finally gets written.

    Finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. You can read my Alaska Airlines article about paddling in Glacier Bay here (warning: this is a PDF file). Remind me to tell you the real story behind this trip sometime -- you know, about how we got stranded, almost drowned, feared for our lives 80% of the time, etc etc. Plus, don't miss an update about my upcoming blogging class!

    (Wait - I forgot one little thing. Recently I met someone who had downloaded my book onto a Kindle. It was a very cool thing to see; the Kindle was super-sleek, felt good in my hands, and the text was easy to read. And that's all I have to say about that. Except that I would love to have a Kindle and maybe one day I will actually be able to afford one.)