Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blog Drought and a Dearth of Intriguing Novels

I apologize for my notable absence. I wish I could say that all my writing prowess is being spent on my amazing (shitty) first draft of my novel. But, alas. I have learned that I am a good every other day writer. I can write 2,000 to 3,000 words, every other day. So my average is good. I want to blame my lack of writing on my amazing fitness schedule. I have been very good on that score. I have been running or swimming every day, with the requiste two days off. And my clothes fit better, though I am sticking with my goal to never step on a scale (except for those yearly visits to the dr). I am tan and fit looking. But I can't seem to give up french fries (for this I blame Middlebrow) or chocolate (no one to blame for this but myself). So I realize I will never look like those women who look like they do nothing all day but lift weights, run and eat protein. But then again, I get to eat chocolate, so screw those health club women. (I feel better now).
In other news, I keep picking up books, wanting desperately to get sucked into a book I can't put down. Then I don't get sucked in and I set the book down, disappointed again. Recently I have started The Corrections (what's up with that first chapter? If I had to read anymore descriptions of the stacks of magazines in various locations around the house, I was going to scream!), The Ten Thousand Things (our book club selection. yawn. I admit it, I am shallow. I don't like books that start with ten page descriptions of the setting. I just don't.), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (this I liked, but I was at B&N and I didn't want to buy it. But I saw the trailer for the movie and now I want to read it because I want to see the movie), and Summer in the Land of Skin.
Ahem. Just a word about this last one: I am sucked in. Against my will. This book was written by a woman I went to school with at WWU. Middlebrow claims she was "weird" and she did have this weird eye thing. But to me she was just overly sexual. When I first met her we were both teaching intro to writing and we were writing ice breaker lists for our students (you know, find someone who grew up in Idaho, etc.) and the one she wrote is "Find someone who knows what Keigel exercises are." I mean, is this appropriate for Freshman Composition? Then she went on to write a paper about "Sexual Tension in the Classroom." I think sexual tension exists in the classroom, but you don't have to wear see-through white billowy shirts and make it worse. Enough said.
Anyway, the book is actually pretty good. I'm not sure someone who never lived in Bellingham (where it is set) would like it as much. Also: it is "based on" real events. I know that the main character "Arlan" is actually this guy named Arlan. I was friends with him and Middlebrow used to go on benders with him once in awhile. The way he is described in the book: exactly how he looks. And the book is dedicated "To Kathryn" Arlan's girlfriend. Except in the book she's named Lucy and she's kind of a psycho bitch. Anyway, there's lots of sexual tension in the book and I'm only about sixty pages in, and there's already been a masturbation scene. So, I guess I'll read on. Plus, it's like reading someone's diary. Someone you know, who dishes about who slept with whom, and why, all while describing drinks and parts of Bellingham that I miss. Also, I respect her for actually sitting down and writing a book. I mean, she finished it. Who the hell am I to criticize?
The book has made me a bit nostalgic for my time in Bellingham, when I thought I was sexier than I probably was (much like the narrator, Anna), and I spent a little too much time in dark bars (when a bartender, Richard Buckner actually, offered me a free Guiness before noon, I knew I had to stop going there), and when I was a little too self assured about the longevity of said sexiness and my ability to surf that into infinity, and when I drank a little too much (but I also lifted weights and rode my bike everywhere, so it was probably okay), and I lived in a studio apartment and drank coffee from a stovetop espresso maker. Oh, hipness, Where hast thou gone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Word Count and Pocatello goes Newsweek!

Today's word count: 11,229 (which means I wrote 3,000 words today, but am still behind)

In the Newsweek that arrived today, there was an entire article devoted to people who are buying investment property in my hometown of Pocatello, Idaho. The article said that prices are going up there, and that the University provides a steady pool of renters. Most of the investors had not even visited Pocatello, but had bought their properties through local agents. A few of the real estate agents cautioned that people should actually visit the town before buying there. Granted, housing prices there have languished until recently. When I was in high school, my mom bought a house for $60,000. I think she made a small profit when she sold it, but I drove by it last year and it looked like crap. Whoever bought it had painted the trim green. Anyway, I'm sure it would still sell for much more that $60,000. Pocatello might have below average housing costs, but it lacks one thing that makes sure that houses increase in value: jobs. Since I lived there, it seems like jobs have been leaving the area in a steady stream. Another thing: there are maybe two decent restaurants in the whole town. Sometimes good restaurants open, but just as quickly they close.
On the bright side, Poky does have a good, independent bookstore: The Walrus and Carpenter, downtown. But the downtown is so pitiful and has been for so long, that I'm not sure it can be saved. My best friend's mom once owned a funky toy shop downtown, but it closed. She also owned one of those good restaurants, with amazing soup, but it also closed. The one consistent good source of food: Buddy's. Salad and pizza. I am also pleased to note that on our last pass through Pocatello, I stopped (for nostalgic reasons) for a Space Burger at the Tastee Freeze. It wasn't as good as I remembered, but it was about the same, so maybe I've changed. (At least I hope so. The 80's hair is gone, at least).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Live from the Salt Lake City Library!

I am having one of those "urban moments." I came here to our lovely downtown library to work on my (somewhat failing) novel month adventure. I did okay, writing the requisite 2,000 words to make up for my three slacker days. So now I'm up to 8,591 words. And my character, Kate, actually left the house and had a conversation with another person. So that's good.

Middlebrow and I (okay, most Middlebrow) have been cleaning in anticipation of City Clean Up. We put our old swamp cooler out on the curb yesterday. In what must be some kind of Clean Up record, it was promptly picked up by a man with two children in a Suzuki SUV of some kind. I think the elapsed time between setting it out and him taking it was maybe 20 seconds. Maybe.

That's my update from Novel/Library headquarters. I must run now, so I do not receive a ticket on the car.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Park City Writers' Retreat

I have just returned from my 24 hour writers' retreat with two friends from Writers at Work. The retreat was at a board member's house. We sat on her deck and wrote; went to a coffee shop for lunch and "writing" (I talked to Sylvia and browsed for books); went back to the house for writing & reading; went for a 2 hour hike; drank wine at another writer/friends house; went back to Retreat Central; took showers while our hostess made Pork Loin stuffed with feta, apricots and spinach!; ate "dinner" around 9:30 on the patio while we drank wine. I read a chapter of Angle of Repose before going to sleep. Got up around 7:30 this morning for a bit of yoga, coffee, fruit salad, and toast on the patio while we watched a few hot air balloons pass overhead. All in all, it was like going on vacation, even though I was only half-an-hour away. It was nice. I did miss Son and Middle-brow. I wished, for a few minutes, that we had our own cabin/retreat, but one that was far, far away from other people. It could be my writing cabin/summer home. Sounds good, doesn't it?
I think I am behind now on my word count. I didn't write at all on Thursday (I was trying to give Middlebrow the whole day since I left on Friday). Yesterday I wrote by hand, so I probably only wrote a thousand words. So I have to catch up today and tomorrow.
Middlebrow is urging me to finish. He wants to go furniture shopping. We really want to put the old couch out on the curb for City Clean Up.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Writing the Novel AND Why I Hate The Historian

I started my attempt at National Novel Writing Month (known as NaNoWriMo). On the first day the word count goal is 1,667 words (or something). I wrote 2, 450. I think it's the only day I will be ahead, so I'm bragging. Don't ask me next week when I'm behind by 5,000 or so words. Shall I share one line from my new version of the novel I've been working on? Okay, I just looked at what I wrote and I can't bear to reveal any of it here. Which must mean I am taking NaNoWriMo to heart and have kenneled my Inner Editor. So you'll just have to wait until August 12 (the day after I finish my novel!) to see if I can bear to reveal any of it here, to you, my faithful readers.

In other news, I am incredibly irritated by the release and instant Best Seller status of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. First, Random House paid two million dollars for the book, so of course they are going to promote the hell out of it (articles in Time and Newsweek; full page ads in The New York Times and New Yorker, etc, etc, etc.). Second, it's getting press for no other reason than. . . Random House paid two million for it. "It's the next DaVinci Code!" As if we all needed another reason NOT to read it. But at least the New York Times didn't fall in line and praise it. Henry Alford (the reviewer) didn't hate it, but he hated the tricks it employed and the many references in the book to "writing" or "scrivenings." He said it makes him feel "ready to skin a small animal." Ha!
But the most irritating thing, to me, is that BookSense (the consortium of small book sellers) has chosen The Historian as it's top pick for this month. Why? Does this book need any more support? To me, the point of small bookstores is to tell me about the books I wouldn't normally hear about, the small, quiet book that might never make the Best Seller list, but should; the book that will quietly continue to sell decades after the DaVinci Codes and Historians are taking up space in used book stores. Every time I look at the Fiction Best Seller list I want to weep. There is no book on the hardback Fiction list that I even want to read! On paperback, I am happy that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is there. It redeems the otherwise lowbrow selection. On the paperback NonFiction, I'm happy to see David Sedaris maintaining his reign. Actually, the nonfiction list is suprisingly good: Malcom Gladwell's book is there, as is The Devil in the White City, and Guns, Germs, and Steel, and Under the Banner of Heaven. So the nonfiction list gives us reason for hope. I should switch to nonfiction?
Well. Please join with me in not reading The Historian (or at least check it out of the library rather than buying it). Instead, visit your local small bookstore and ask them to recommend a book you've never heard of by a writer you've never heard of but will love. Middlebrow has promised to argue with people who insist that The Historian is a good book, even though he refuses to read it. Can you get more Middlebrow than that?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Mosquito Bites, Cowboy Boots, Alcohol

Here's my postcard from Island Park: we were beset by mosquitos, due to the incredibly wet spring, everyone got way too many bites. The highlight of the trip, for me, was the purchase of Son's new cowboy boots in West Yellowstone. We had looked at boots in Park City, where the cost was beyond prohibitive ($50). But we found a pair on sale in West Yellowstone. Son put them on immediately, with his shorts, and walked around town with his hands in his pockets, a decided swagger in his step. We had seen Old Faithful earlier, waded into the Madison, seen an eagle, a moose and some elk, but the trip was all about the boots. Son was disappointed that he didn't get to see a Real Cowboy, but I promised him that some live around Salt Lake and that we would go on an expedition to find one. I also told him we might see a cowboy or two at the Fair, when it comes to town (last year the highlight for him was the Butter Cow).
Aside from the mosquito bites, the trip was really marked by excessive consumption of beer, and the best margaritas I've had for awhile (it was the fresh limes and the company, I'm guessing).
Oh, did I mention that someone forgot to put my bag in the car? That's okay. I purchased a Supergirl T-shirt (selected by Middlebrow) at the K-Mart in Rexburg along with a pair of shorts. So I had two outfits for the trip.
The mosquito bites hardly even itch anymore. Did I mention how much I love showers? I love showers. Just when I think I am reviving my brief stint as a Nature Girl, I run smack into the brick wall of my own love of Modern Conveniences, such as showers and indoor plumbing and the refrigeration that gives us ice to be the rocks in our margaritas. Sigh. I should just let Middlebrow convince me of the sanity of car camping. It's true that ice does not do well with the whole backpacking ethos.
Ahh, it's good to be back home!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Not Drowning, But Waving

No, I have not abandoned the bloggerhood. I have been consumed with family visits and some other things, only I can't remember what they are. My mother and her husband visited from Phoenix. They got a condo in Park City and we all went up and stayed there. It was much cooler and this visit was the best yet to PC, I think because I went for a run each day on the Rail Trail. Despite how great PC is, it is also terribly depressing. Evidence: art galleries. There are too many on Main Street and what they sell can only loosely be called "art." I'd call it western kitch or it-will-match-your-color-scheme. We did find one cool gallery, Coda, with amazing paintings and some cool handmade furniture and interesting metal work. In my opinion, it was the only art there.
The other depressing thing about PC is the incredible development. We drove up to Guardsman Pass (?), and there is so much building going on up there, it made me sick. Tons of houses. PC is going to become just like Estes Park or Aspen or Sun Valley. It will be killed by too much development and then the reason it was so interesting in the first place will cease to exist and what will be left? Lots of fancy hotels and resorts and condos for people who don't really like the outdoors (because they've destroyed it with their Hummers and "cabins"), but who like to look at "nature" from their million dollar decks. But soon they will just be looking at other million dollar decks. sigh.
So that's my rant for the day.
We're off to Island Park for a few days to stay with my dad and his wife. My sister will be in from Michigan with her two kids. Son is very excited about playing catch with lone boy cousin. Much bonding will happen, I'm sure, especially over Smores.