Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mood Swings

Best of times...worst of times...who needs artificial hormones when you've got publishing?

The two weeks since my last post have been a wild, wild ride. The signing at Powell's? Good times. And honestly, my favorite part was getting to see people I hadn't seen in a long time. Did not sell many books, but I sold some, a couple to total strangers. But we got to hang out, chat, and catch up while in a bookstore.

I love bookstores.

Funny highlights: on shelves behind where I sat, there were stacks of books from a previous signing, and the title was something suggestive, like, "How to Be a Bad Girl." I really don't remember. My mom probably does, though, because it really, really bugged her. The experiencing of publishing has given me a certain capacity for zen, but my mom took matters into her own hands and covered each Dirty Girl book with a copy of Plain Jayne, thus preserving the photo op.

Also, my friend Janell came, bearing mini pies (one lemon meringue, one apricot raspeberry, ala Jayne). Mind you, we were at the Beaverton Powell's, so she had to walk though quite a lot of mall before reaching the bookstore, and got lots of terrific looks carrying miniature pies through the mall.

But that's what friends do for each other. They carry pies through malls.

Oh, and getting the pies home, Danny went into uber-engineer mode. I saw the look on his face and knew the situation was well in hand. True enough, he stuck one pie under the chocolate bowl, and other some other was all very clever.

I regret I have no pictures of any of this for you. I charged up my camera battery and everything, only to leave the battery in the charger. Problem.

Anyway, signing over, we've been watching a lot of Olympics. More on that later.

Once the signing was done, I got to (briefly) focus on writing, then move on to final preparations for teaching a class at OCW about writing ensemble casts in fiction. The conference was tons of fun - loved seeing friends and meeting new people. Loved hearing from Robin Gunn (I've decided her voice reminds me of Shelley Long. I mean that in a good way. Shelley's very happy to listen to, and so is Robin.) Enjoyed teaching, though I really could have used a microphone - I wound up having to pretty much yell my material. Honestly came home hoarse. But it was fun, and I'd do it over again in a heartbeat.

With a microphone.

That was Saturday. Sunday, we taught 18 four-year-olds, attended service, and came home. At around 4pm, Danny turned in his graduate project. Like, the one that's taken over our lives. It looks like this.

And this:

For the second shot, I layered the bridge into a photo Danny took while doing the planning. Yes, that's me in the black coat.

Anyway, things stayed busy until Monday afternoon, at which point I found myself dead tired and frustrated with the amount of book left to write and an overall feeling of hopelessness...

...which is usually indicative of needing to do more synopsis work. Amazingly enough. I got on the phone with a friend to ask her about concussions, and at her suggestion we got a couple other of my process-readers together and had a planning party.

I don't know if anyone else does this in fiction - in the film and TV industry, it would be referred to as a spit-balling session. Basically, you sit around and throw around ideas. Great fun. In my head I'd decided to use 3x5 cards. Now, I've never used 3x5 cards, but I knew that I needed to get plot points out and then organize them. I came home with a stack dictating the next quarter, easily, of the book, with one random card waiting to find its place.

Wherever I do my writing (be it the couch, desk, or chair), the cards come to. And while, sure, I could write them out onto a computer file, I like the freedom of physical cards and the fact that if I wanted to write words in a circle, I could without some kind of word-processor gymnastics.

If you're stuck, try the note cards. They're great for sequencing. For big-picture stuff, I like sketchbooks without lines. I have a great sketchpad left over from art school with good, heavy paper that I probably shouldn't use for this sort of thing, but I love it. I can map out a plot structure or timeline, or write little snippets and connect them with squiggly arrows.

I love squiggly arrows.

And the great thing is that it's totally non-linear. I've tried to do that kind of work on a computer, but it just doesn't work for me. There's a lot of freedom to be found in a notebook. We took mine out to dinner, Danny and I, and worked at some of the big questions over Red Robin.

So between that and the planning session, things are looking good. I've moved from some very Anne-like depths of despair to complete elation over colored note cards.

A phrase that Robin said last week resonated with me - "fly, little heart." I think I start to feel trapped. I feel like I've lost all courage and hope. It's a scary place to be. But after investing the time away from writing and doing the planning work, I'm hopeful.

Looking forward to flight.

P.S. Hoping to post the cover of Simply Sara soon!

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