Saturday, October 29, 2005

Even More Talking

I just added two more things to the Talking Books page: "Finding the Perfect Publisher for Your Manuscript," an early version of the "Falling in Love" talk with a little more practical information; and "Useful Quotations," which has some of my favorite thoughts on writing.

Voila. But now I am shutting up my computer and getting out of my apartment.

Link or Treat!

Catching up on my posts after a busy week:

You are a RAVENCLAW!
As a Ravenclaw and as an NFP, you value imagination, ideas and intelligence. You are
probably somewhat of an individualist and avoid conforming just for its own sake. You are
insightful and perceptive, and since you are empathetic and value harmony, you usually try
to avoid conflict. Of course, you may enjoy participating in heated debates, but only as
long as they remain on an intellectual level and not a personal level. In general, you are
open-minded and curious, and set high standards for yourself.

Enjoy your All Hallows' Eve, everyone!

Farewell, My Lovely

Earlier this week I was having lunch with an adult novelist who recently moved to New York. We were chatting about Park Slope, and she said, “I met this writer who lives in Brooklyn at a reading not too long ago. They just made a movie of his book, with that guy who played Frodo in the 'Lord of the Rings' films . . .”

Jonathan Safran Foer?” I said.

“Yes! That’s it. He owns a whole townhouse with his wife, who was there too. . . . Have you read any of his books?"

"Everything Is Illuminated. It's wonderful."

"Really? I haven't read it. But there were all these people buzzing around him, especially all these young women making up to him, saying ‘Oh, I just loved your book, oh, Jonathan, you’re so great,’—with his wife right there!"

"I've heard some women do that," I said.

"Hmm. Maybe it's because he's so famous, but he seemed very unconnected, very distant--he looked past you when he was talking. I couldn’t really see the attraction."

“Well,” I said, turning bright pink. “I haven’t read his new book, but Everything Is Illuminated kind of ends up being about love--it gets pretty nakedly emotional. And I can see how women in their twenties might think ‘Wow, a guy our age who’s not afraid to talk about his feelings—and he’s a smart millionaire writer too?’ Kind of hard to pass up.”

She nodded but looked unconvinced. And I went away amused but sweetly melancholy: Between this and Katy’s report on his height (there isn't much of it), another literary crush bites the dust.

Happy trails, JSF.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Book Randomness Tag!

"Our profound sympathy to Jack." -- Lobscouse and Spotted Dog, p. 123, fifth sentence

Ha! You've been tagged to bring a little more book randomness into the world! Right now you must:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence and the title of the book in the comments or your blog (along with these instructions, if the latter).
5. Don't search around for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

[I'm sitting in my wing chair (a.k.a. my work chair, because I'm supposed to be writing an editorial letter), so my Patrick O'Brian collection provides the most proximate books at the moment. Men-of-War: Life in Nelson's Navy was actually closer than Lobscouse, but it has only ninety-four pages. The sentence above is from a recipe for terrible wine called "Under False Colors."

FWIW, I have my hair pinned up with a binder clip right now, so I look all editorial even if I'm not acting like it.]

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Announcing: Talking Books!

I have collected a few things I've written about writing and publishing and put them on a web page here: Talking Books. They include:

Yay! Finally got all that up. But now I suppose I have to get out of bed and be productive . . .

Things I Have Been Thinking about This Week

(a partial list)

  • Hedgehogs
  • Cheese
  • My New Year's Resolutions for 2006
  • The Elements of Style, now illustrated by Maira Kalman. (I bought a copy at the opera on Wednesday night, and it's a gorgeous example of both creative illustration and fine bookmaking.)
  • The most beautiful indoor space in New York City: the Tiffany-colonnade room in the American Wing of the Metropolitan? the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library? Other nominations?
  • A novel and a picture book I want to acquire
  • The fact (and the excitement!) that Lisa's first draft of "Emily Ebers, Starting Over" is due on Monday
  • My lovely tall black boots, which I wore for the first time this fall this week
  • New clothes and makeup, and the uses of fashion in general
  • How to crash the New York City Marathon, just long enough to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
  • The excellent, funny, sexy, smart novels of Jennifer Crusie
  • The equally excellent, funny, and smart essays on her website about writing and romance, particularly "The Five Things I've Learned about Writing Romance from TV"
  • Alan Rickman's voice
  • Rachel's birthday present
  • My next Scrabble play
  • Vegetable love
  • Zits
  • Purling
  • Friendship
  • Which of two novels I'm going to write for NaNoWriMo, and whether the hell I can actually write one
  • Literalism vs. imaginism, for lack of better terms -- living within certain rules of thought and action laid forth by an ancient text or leader, versus living unbounded -- and the consolations and perils of each
  • Better terms than "literalism" and "imaginism"
  • Marketing books with nonwhite characters to white people
  • Writers who are brilliant plotters and mystery-builders -- Joss Whedon, J. K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, others? (I would include J. J. Abrams, but I think he's actually more of a tease than a qualified mystery-builder, because he either doesn't know where he's going or he refuses to pay off.)
  • "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," posters for which have started to appear in NYC subway stations
  • "Elizabethtown," which I want to see, despite it's likely being incredibly frustrating
  • How having lots of money shapes (and especially warps) one's thinking
  • My bridesmaid's dress for my sister's wedding
  • "Entertainment Weekly"
  • Ted Kennedy's head

Your thoughts on any of these items or questions more than welcome.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Excellent Word of the Day: enchiridion

I was going over the first pass of The Valley of the Wolves last week, which Rachel had already reviewed, and she queried the use of the word "manual" to describe one of Dana's books of magic -- "Perhaps a bit technical?" she wrote. This seemed like a good point, so I went to and searched for "manual," and one of the words it offered me was this:

Pronunciation: "en-"kI-'ri-dE-&n,
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural en·chi·rid·ia /-dE-&/
Etymology: Late Latin, from Greek encheiridion, from en in + cheir hand -- more at IN, CHIR-: HANDBOOK, MANUAL (definition from Merriam-Webster online)

Such an inspiring, flavorful word! I decided in the end not to bestow an enchiridion upon Dana -- it was just a bit too flavorful for this particular story/voice -- but here are some other suggested uses for it:

  • "Honey, the blender's broken. Do you know where I can find the enchiridion?"
  • Ancient Greek for Dummies: An Enchiridion for the Rest of Us
  • "Yes, Officer, the registration is in the glove compartment, right next to the enchiridion."


Monday, October 17, 2005

Knit One, Cast Two, Rock On

I am going to write this in a very small font so I don't attract and displease the Needlework Gods, but: I seem to have conquered knitting! I have ten and a half inches of more-or-less decent knitwork, more-or-less twenty-two stitches all the way up and down. I got all the way up to twenty-four at one point, but then Rachel showed me how to drop stitches, so I've been at twenty-two for about the last six inches. (For the first couple inches, I would very nearly hold my breath as I counted the stitches on the needle, releasing it only with the lovely tiny rush of pleasure and relief that I'd gotten twenty-two -- but now I almost take it for granted. How quickly the small pleasures pass.) These last nine inches took me through one episode of "Veronica Mars," two of season-three "Buffy" on DVD, and fifteen minutes of "Desperate Housewives," which I enjoyed right along with the handiwork. And the stitches may still be tight, I suppose, but they seem competently tight to me rather than obscenely so. We will see if my knitting instructor agrees. I'll finish the last inch and a half on the subway and at lunch tomorrow, and then . . . purl, baby, purl!

Hope you all have wonderful Mondays!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"A Color of the Sky," by Tony Hoagland

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn't make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I'd rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it's spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer's song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She's like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I'm glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Serendipity: Four Pictures

(for Ted)

Taken from a fourth-floor window at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, looking down at 53rd St., December 18, 2004.

Taken one minute, six seconds after that: OOF by Ed Ruscha, 1962-63, oil on canvas.

Taken on 10th St. between Sixth and Seventh Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn, December 19, 2004.

Taken eight seconds after that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Present / Perfect / Tense

It has long been suspected, whispered, nay, occasionally even said aloud, that I have a little problem with perfectionism. I don't know what gives people this idea, of course. All right, so maybe I'm a Virgo copyeditor who enjoys ironing -- but I make mistakes all the time! And I live with them! Okay, so perhaps I grind my teeth a bit over them, but I live with them! Things happen! I'm human! I tend to hate this fact, but it's true! And it's okay. Really. Yes. Deep breath.

(True story: Once I printed out a document at work, made twenty copies of it, and only then noticed an extremely minor typo -- forgetting to cap all the letters in a job title or something like that. I took the copies and walked back to my desk, but once I got there I realized I was saying to myself in my head, "I will not be anal, I will not be anal." Sigh.)

But all that is about to change. I am going to learn to live with my mistakes and love them and go on despite them. And what has worked this miracle, you ask?

I have taken up knitting.

Learning how to knit was one of my New Year's Resolutions. I love to cross-stitch, but there are only so many decorative pillows and wall hangings that one can make, and the appreciative audience for such items among my friends-and-relations was dwindling fast. So I signed up for classes at the Point, a neat little knitting cafe on Bedford Street in the West Village. Last night was the first class. We talked about and felt different varieties of yarn; we discussed weight, gauge, how to hold the needles, casting on, and knitting itself. The instructor (a nice gay man in his 30s) showed us the basic techniques and got us started.

Is anyone surprised that my casting on was held up as an example of extreme tightness? (Note for non-knitters: This is a bad thing.)

** sound of crickets tweetering on a summer night **

I sort of loosened up, or my stitches did anyway, by the end of the evening, when we were assigned to have twelve inches ready for next Monday, twenty-two stitches per row. I continued working on it tonight while I watched "Gilmore Girls," and I'm loving the easy slip-swoop-slide rhythm of the knitting and the smooth scrape of the needles as I pull off a stitch.

But I make mistakes. A row will have twenty-one stitches, but somehow the row after that has twenty-four. The result looks far more rumpled and curlicued than it ought to -- Dale Chihuly as opposed to plate glass. I've unpicked the whole thing and started over four times already. And try as I might, my stitches are still locked up tighter than Fort Knox; I think that's just going to be my personality as a knitter, and I have to live with it.

Because I am not starting over again. I decided that after the fourth time unravelling the damn thing. The fact that my stitches are so small means it will take quite a lot of knitting to make twelve inches, and I need to keep going, not worry over every little error. So that is what I am going to do.

I admit I have to convince myself that this is all right, partly by repeating mantras like "You're only a beginner, it's natural to make mistakes" and "It's okay, it's just a dropped stitch." I admit I don't really believe this. But whether I believe it or not, this is how the knitting -- and life -- goes forward, with letting it be and moving on. So it's okay, really, yes, deep breath.

And I pick up the needles again.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Recipe for Eyeliner

Women in Palestine use this formulation to make their eyes stand out. Not New York women, though; New York women use chemicals.

  1. Catch a certain bird that can be found running about the mountains of Palestine. This bird is about the size of a grown man's hands cupped into a globe, smaller than a chicken and much like a pigeon, and yet not actually a pigeon. (If New York pigeons lived in Palestine, however, they would apparently be in great danger.) You can catch the bird with a wire trap or noose, though the trap is preferable, as it will keep the bird alive for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Kill the bird, prepare it, and roast the meat. It is delicious cooked over a wood fire in the mountains, especially with lemon, but it would not be so good here in New York, because you can't make fires in the park and everyone uses chemicals in their barbecues. There is a place near Paterson, New Jersey, where you're allowed to make wood fires, but it's hard to get out there more than two or three times a year. It is very good then, though.
  3. Take the kidney and liver from the bird and put them in a hollowed-out lemon.
  4. Set the lemon near a low but steady source of heat and leave it there until the organs are fully charred.
  5. Mash up the charred materials with a finger or small stick.
  6. Apply to eyes.

This recipe and commentary courtesy of my very kind car-service driver from LaGuardia to Park Slope, October 9, 2005. I can also provide recipes for fish cooked in wine, chicken-rice casserole, and an easy cure for itching, on request.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Excellent Word of the Day

autochthonous: au·toch·tho·nous (ô-t?k'thuh-nus) also au·toch·tho·nal (-thuh-null) or au·toch·thon·ic (ô't?k-th?n'?k) adj.

1. Originating where found; indigenous: autochthonous rocks; an autochthonous people; autochthonous folktales. See synonyms at native.

2. Biology. Originating or formed in the place where found: an autochthonous blood clot.

au·toch'thon·ism or au·toch'tho·ny n.

au·toch'tho·nous·ly adv. (definition courtesy of

Your assignment, children, is to use this word in a sentence at least once in the next 24 hours. And if you're at the SCBWI conference this weekend and you use it in my presence, I will give you a (chocolate) Kiss.

Back to editing my presentation.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Writing is exciting / And baseball is like writing: / You can never tell with either how it will go. -- Marianne Moore

I'm not posting much this week as all of my writing energy is going toward finishing up my "Rules of Engagement" presentation for the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference this weekend. Even though my job consists mostly of reading and writing, I forget sometimes how lovely writing can be -- really digging into a subject, making connections, thinking it through in words, then going back, revising, digging deeper again and again -- and I'm rediscovering that now. I'm about four-fifths done with the talk, I think; I have to finish up the third section, read the whole thing aloud to be sure it comes in under an hour, and give it one last shine. It's not quite as much fun as my "Finding a Publisher and Falling in Love" speech, but I have a great time analyzing the beginnings of some of my favorite novels and listing off my writing pet peeves. If I can figure out how to link to a Microsoft Word doc, maybe I'll post it here.

In the meantime:

  • The Not-to-Do List
  • I am honored (though mostly amused) to think that one of my rejection letters may someday end up on toilet paper. (from Maud Newton blog)
  • I get quoted in a Publishers Weekly Religion Bookline article: Religion Is the New (YA) Black
  • To my titles of (1) Editor, (2) New York Carleton Club co-chair, and (3) Nutmeg of Consolation, I can now add (4) Sunday School teacher, Park Slope United Methodist Church. We sang "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir" and finger-painted.
  • For fellow Patrick O'Brian fans: the WikiPOBia.
  • Funky Words Awards winners: Your prizes have been mailed.
  • I was feeling okay about the Harriet Miers nomination until I learned James Dobson approves of her because of something President Bush told him privately.
  • In that spirit: I especially like the "Jesus was a liberal" stickers.
  • I saw "Serenity" over the weekend and enjoyed it enormously, but we need Joss more on TV than we do in the movies, I think.
  • Finished Riders, on to V for Vendetta; listening to David Bowie's "Changes" and Dar Williams's "The End of the Summer."
  • Go Red Sox! Die Yankees!
  • Just desperately procrastinating now. Have a good week, everyone!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Sparkly Shoes

You have now been touched by the power of the magic shoes.
Go forth and conquer.