travel

Tin House / Electric Literature Reading at Powerhouse Arena Bookstore – A Recap

Yesterday afternoon I saw a post by Small Beer Press (on Facebook) mentioning that Kelly Link would be reading at a bookstore in Brooklyn and right about there I decided that I wanted to go – no, NEEDED to go – and then suddenly had to figure out how I was going to do that.

I currently live in New Jersey, towards the middle, next to Trenton, which is just over the river from Philadelphia. The bookstore is in New York, the city (and the state) making it a whole other state away from me.

The problem is, though, that I had to go. Not only was it Kelly Link, whose work I adore, but Tin House and Electric Literature (warning, current cover art – posted on their home page – is NSFW), both great markets that are nearly impossible to get into, and it was a chance to adventure into Brooklyn, where I’d never been. It was also possible, thanks to a combination of trains and subway rides, and since I’m due to leave NJ for upstate NY in a few months (where there are no trains) it was a trip I won’t always be able to make. This particular event would never actually happen again. Add to that my feeling that as writers we’re not just supposed to write but also to read, to listen, and to learn from the writers we admire. To not attend these kinds of events is to sit alone in our apartments, only learning from ourselves. (more…)

Readercon 2011 Recap: Saturday / Sunday (and we’re done)

I’ve previously talked about the books I brought home from Readercon, some Readercon advice on writing an author blurb, and recapped Thursday/Friday.

Saturday morning was breakfast at Panera, then panels:

11 AM Book Design and Typography in the Digital Era Neil Clarke, Erin Kissane, Ken Liu, David G. Shaw (leader), Alicia Verlager. From this I found out that Ken knows quite a bit about the history of the book and its evolution from scroll to codex to ebook, making him officially one of my favorite people ever. This was one of the most informed panels I attended, and I felt that all of the panelists had useful things to add to the discussion. I only wished it were longer.

12:00 PM Daughters of the Female Man Matthew Cheney, Gwendolyn Clare, Elizabeth Hand (leader), Barbara Krasnoff, Chris Moriarty. I tend to avoid panels on women’s issues in fiction, honestly. I’m of the school that we should promote damn fine writers who happen to be women as opposed to promoting women writers and hoping they’re good. I come from an academic background and am particularly informed by the discussion about women’s place in art history, and the (absurd) question which always gets asked, “Why are there no good women artists?” However this panel was excellent both for it’s suggestions for further reader and for the way it didn’t focus on anything other than good writing by women. Notable for this panel was the absurd statement from the audience about how the panel should have done “a little more work” and created an annotated bibliography to hand out (you know, so we wouldn’t have to read anything on our own).

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Readercon 2011 Recap: Thursday / Friday

The drive up to Boston was easy and uneventful save for the sudden realization that I was actually driving through the Bronx. That wasn’t clear from the directions, which essentially said take 95N from NJ to Connecticut, so you can understand why the first time I drove over the George Washington bridge and into the Bronx I was a little surprised. I stopped in Orange, CT, for breakfast at a place called Chip’s Diner, home to some pretty good buttermilk pancakes. That was my halfway point, and the rest of the drive was pretty but boring. I found the hotel with little trouble, got checked into my room, unpacked my suitcase, fell onto the big, fluffy bed, relaxed in the air conditioning, and very nearly fell asleep.

That would have been bad because I was due to pick Don Pizarro up from the airport an hour later. Logan Airport was only 12 miles from the hotel, but I wanted to be early if possible so he didn’t have to wait. Plus, Bart Lieb needed Don to read at the Broken Slate/Crossed Genres reading Friday night, so he insisted that I get up. I shared the elevator back down to the lobby with another woman – we looked at each other, said, “Readercon?” and both nodded. “I’m going to the gym to try to bike off this headache,” she said. “You?” I told her I was off to the airport. “Oh, at this time? I’m sorry,” she said, as the doors opened, and we waved our goodbyes. I wondered at that, got into my car, and for the first few miles I made good time. Switching onto 93 for the other 9 miles of the trip left me in dead-stop traffic. It ultimately took me 50 minutes to travel those 9 miles, by which time, Don’s plane was due to have landed. I finally pulled in, and called – no answer. I got into the terminal, since I had his flight info I knew where I was supposed to be, called again and … no answer. I checked the Starbucks (we’re writers, of course we gravitate toward coffee and wifi) but no luck. Called again and found his plane had arrived late; he was just getting off it now. Perfect! I wasn’t late after all. We found each other easily after that, got back to the hotel faster than I’d made it out to the airport, and after dropping his stuff off, made our way to the hotel bar.

My room was near the Con Suite, which was not, as directions would suggest, out the 6th floor window.

I did mention that we were writers, right?

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Road Trip

The last few months have been hard for me. I’ve had drama both personally and professionally, a two-month bout of unemployment, and a really nasty case of strep throat (which I am just barely recovered from *cough*). I have writing that needs to be done and editing projects I’ve been ignoring and a few opportunities I’m certain I’ve lost at this point. I have moments where I think it’s all coming together and then some other exciting* thing happens and I’m back at “now what?”

This weekend was supposed to be good. I had a couple of road trips planned – for a total of 20 hrs on the road and a little over 1000 miles driven – which I love because I get to sit in my car and listen to music and not have a lot of other responsibilities beyond arriving safely at my destination. I was supposed to meet up with some very good friends, talk writing, drink, laugh, and forget about life for a while. It didn’t happen, because of things which were beyond my control. Again. Again! Too much has been happening in my life which isn’t my fault and I can’t stop and which spirals out of control around me. Which, I realized, was precisely the problem. Not the fact that life happens, often in nasty ways, because I still prefer living over the alternative. No, my problem is that I’ve been trying desperately to hold on to the facets of my life which matter to me, and to try to make decisions without having all of the facts in. I can’t have any control over the big things in my life right now.

Me, give up control and let life happen? Oh, I’m not good at that. Waiting for other people to decide if I’m worth something to them, or trusting that someone else will keep my best interests at heart? That’s scary, and I’d rather not, thanks. But trying things my way hasn’t exactly gotten me what I wanted either. Saturday night, plans cancelled, I got in my car, and drove away.

About 45 minutes later I ended up in Asbury Park, home to the Stone Pony and the Wonderbar and the ocean and a which was a place I’ve never actually been before. It was something new. I walked around the strip, looked out at the sea, and let go of – everything, really. Stress. Worry. Control. I just breathed in and breathed out.

Afterwards I stopped off and got a donut.

Driving home I knew I had to start over. I considered my options and realized that there are some very real, very solid things in my life, which often get overlooked when everything else comes crashing down:

1) I have a child. He’s my responsibility, he’s not going anywhere, and I quite like him. Whatever else I do next, he’s coming with me. (I discovered his usefulness Saturday afternoon when, in a fit of ennui, I was lying on the livingroom floor, like you do, and he decided we were going to play “airplane” whether I liked it or not. Five minutes of him trying to push my legs into the right position to support his weight was absolutely hilarious, and I cheered right up.)

2) I like writing. I like editing. I like taking an idea and turning it into a finished product, and having that change people’s life in some way. Dagan Books started out as a way to print one book, and I’ve been unsure if I truly have what it takes to turn that into a publishing company with a consistent print schedule and a staff and, frankly, responsibilities. A lot of my lost momentum the last few months, where DB is concerned anyway, has been because of that uncertainty. I’m not unsure anymore.

And the biggest one …

3) I know what I want. I can see in my head what I want my life to look like, the kind of person/people I want to share it with, what makes me happy. I may not definitely positively for-sure have those things, but I know now what it looks like, and that makes finding it so much easier.

Some times you have to stop thinking, breathe deep, and start with what you know. Drop the things you’re unsure of, let go of holding onto the past or the possibilities of something that isn’t working for you, and find the things that you’re so certain of you don’t even think about whether you’ll have them – you know you do.

Yesterday, I started editing IN SITU again. This week will see new blog posts about writing, and my #cook365 project. I may not know where I’m going to be living in 6 months, but I know what I want right now.

Thanks for being patient while I sorted it out.

* In the worst sense of the word.

Getting Back in the Swing of Things

After losing myself to the first few weeks of a new day job, I’m finding myself settled enough to get back to the parts of my life I can’t live without. Reading, editing, and (of course!) writing, have been gnawing at me, begging for my attention. Projects were due, emails needed answering, and people I care about had started wondering where I’d gone off to.

I started the weekend by getting out of town. My “real life” has distractions, many annoying ones and a few beautiful ones, but all things that give me an excuse to not write. Distancing myself gave me a chance to breathe as well as a chance to think. 5 hours in a car, alone, works to solve that problem as well. Once I arrived in my home-away-from-home, I knew I’d get to spend the weekend with one of my favorite people, who was not only going to show me around town but who was going to have serious writer talks with me, and help me sort my brain out. The night before I was due to leave, however, I started coming down with a cold … Since finding a weekend that would work for both of us was hard enough without having to rescedule and find a second one, we talked and decided I should come up anyway. I am so glad that I did! My cold managed to hang on but not be serious enough to keep me from anything we had planned, and neither did the snow that fell Saturday (sandwiched between two perfectly blue days which made driving there and back easy). Since “showing me around town” included a stop at two bookstores and a comic book shop, this meant I left with loot: three new anthologies and the same number of new graphic novels. Also, there was bowling. We talked out a project we’re both currently working on as well as one we’re in the nascent stages of, and I left there incredibly happy.

I woke up Monday morning feeling like I might die. A quick trip to the doctor’s revealed my little cold had turned into strep (Sorry, Don!) and I’m off work til at least Thursday. Antibiotics in hand, I retired to my couch, nested under a pile of blankets, and started reading. If I’m going to be off work, I might as well be productive, right? (more…)