Cue head exploding

Have you ever had so much go on within a short span of time that you feel like your head is just going to pop like a party balloon? That’s how I feel right now. Don’t worry, I’m self-medicating with some Chinese food. I’m on top of this.

Yesterday and this morning involved a lot of back and forth over jacket flap copy for AUT, which is exciting but also nerve-wracking. Has anyone else noticed that it’s really hard to describe your own book? As the person who spent six years writing it, I feel like everything is important, and I don’t know how to boil it down to the essentials without frying all my circuits. Thank God for agents and editors, right? I’m so tired.

That might have a little to do with being out so late last night, though. One of the reasons I’m super lucky to be living in New York is that I have so many good friends here, and they’re all cool and interesting and into a hundred different things. I’ve managed over the course of a few months to pick up several guy friends who are amateur stand-up comedians, but until last night I’d never seen any of them up on stage. Me, Cambria and Nikki headed over to Gotham after work (short pit stop at Dallas BBQ for margaritas and chicken fingers, OBVS, as it’s right there) and were able to see our friends David and Brian (both incredibly funny) perform. There were a lot of funny people, and it was nice to see some lady comics, because when Bri and I went to Gutbucket a few weeks ago there was only one and she was…fine.

Speaking of Gutbucket, one of my favorite comics from that show performed at Gotham last night. His name is Luke Cunningham and I think he’s hilarious, that’s all.

Afterwards we went to Trailer Park, which is just down the street. It’s a kitschy little bar made up to resemble (what else?) a trailer park. I personally think it’s a little too expensive to live up to its name ($5 PBR? That’s highway robbery, that is) but the atmosphere is pretty great and the tater tots are to die for. We hung around with David, Brian, and a bunch of other comedians after the show, including one of the ladies, who I’m pretty sure I gave some material to, although quite honestly it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before on Sex and the City, so whatevs. MD also joined us after her date, bringing the party as always.

I got home around midnight, but then of course stayed up until one to finish Wintergirls, which is so wonderful and traumatizing. Some people don’t like sad, emotionally eviscerating books, but those are my favorite kinds, and Wintergirls is the perfect example. In short, I loved it, Laurie Halse Anderson is a rock star.

Shout out!

I just wanted to give a quick shout-out to my very very very good friend Kim, who recently started a new blog and is looking for readers! (Yes, this is a blatant request for people to read her blog because I love her and she is awesome. So what?) Kim often talks about cooking and books and movies and television, so if that’s your thing, head on over. Like I said, she’s pretty awesome.

It’s my birthday!

(It is not my birthday.) (Anymore.)

So anyway, last night I saw my friend Nikki and she gave me a birthday present. Rather than tell you about it, first I’m just going to show it to you in the order in which I unwrapped it.

This was the card:

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To be sure. Inside it says “You’re growing up and getting older! Happy 25th, Nikki”. And then there’s a sweet little note about how awesome I am, but I won’t make you read that–I tell you how awesome I am enough as it is! But, seriously, look at this thing. It is a masterpiece unlike any that I have ever before laid eyes on. Truly beautiful. I think I might frame it.

Then I took off the wrapping paper and look what I found!

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And! Wait for it…

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Now, I believe I’ve yammered at length about how much I love the Gosselins. Oh, yup, there it is. But, while I might like watching them less, I am equally if not more fascinated by the Duggar family. Yeah, that’s their website I just linked you to. Welcome to a black hole of “WTF?” I got home sorta late last night so I wasn’t able to adequately peruse either of these two books, we did notice that the Duggar one contains recipes for things like tater tot casserole for TWENTY PEOPLE. Also, floor plans of their house, just in case I wanted to head on down to Arkansas and infiltrate the compound. (I have no current plans to do so.)

I’m pretty much the opposite of the Duggar family–I’m one person, who eats for one person and cooks for one person and lives in a room the size of…no, you know what, there’s no place in the Duggar house that isn’t ginormous, so I can’t even make a comparison there. Maybe the size of Jordyn-Grace Makiya’s crib. That’s their new infant, for people who don’t devote every waking second to thinking about whether “Jessica” is too normal a name to bet on in their New Duggar Naming Pool.

Bygones. The point is, Nikki is the best. Great friends are better than book deals. This is something I’ve learned.

Of course, book deals are nice, too. So are agents…and I get to have lunch with mine tomorrow! Although, “dangerous wind chills” are expected to approach -25 degrees F. This is bad news bears for my extremities. I’d better bundle up.

Revise, reassess, rearrange

I had a joint birthday party with my roommate this weekend and it was super fun but also super dramz at the end of the night, although thankfully nobody was around to witness it except for Cambria and Nikki and poor Jeff the bartender. Whatevs!

I’ve started to notice that I have this problem that isn’t really a problem except when it is, and that is that I’m constant (you know, like Blair Waldorf)–I just don’t give up on things and people very easily. I actually think being constant is a good quality, but it can veer over into self-destructive territory when the thing you can’t let go of is getting bigger and bigger (in your head, of course, not in real life, where none of this matters at all) until finally it explodes like a bomb and blows your head to smithereens. So! My idea is to cut the problem off at the source. It’s working pretty well so far.

Just like a book, a life sometimes needs to be revised, and since I’m such an expert now it makes sense that I’m changing some stuff. I joined a gym and am starting to swim regularly (okay, I’ve gone once, but I joined the gym on Saturday and it’s Monday so give me a break, I plan to swim regularly). I love the quiet of the pool and the feeling of muscle memory kicking in when I’m working on my strokes and the way you can be alone underwater in a way you can’t be alone anywhere else, especially New York.

I also invested in a soft, warm, green duvet that I can’t wait to cuddle up to every night. The experience of buying it was pretty interesting. The man at Pottery Barn Kids was either on drugs or not listening to me, but he did seem to be sincerely trying to help so I’m going to give him points. I might need to get a queen-sized comforter, though, because my full one doesn’t seem to be big enough–it makes the duvet look baggy.

Speaking of working, it’s been twelve days since I sent my revisions into my editor. I haven’t heard anything back yet, and the only way I can stave off impatience is to work on something else. Lucky for me, I have an almost-done manuscript just sitting there ready to be finished, and it’s something I really love and am proud of, so it’s back to MB for me for the time being. I don’t think there’s a lot to do on it, but I’m having fun just reading it again.

I’m also starting to think about the Next Book. I reread what I had of GR so far a couple of days ago and liked it, and tonight I’m going to check back in with SM and see how much I like the pages I have for that. (We’re talking, like, ten pages here. I do not have a cache of almost-finished novels…YET.) I also have this weird…trilogy? Maybe? That I’m thinking about trying to write. I don’t know. All the ideas I have are so odd to me, they’re not easy to explain or categorize, and I’m not even sure if this one will work. Hell, I’m not even sure GR will work–it’s pretty weird, too. A quasi-apocalyptic pseudo-mystery, as I’ve taken to calling it? WHAT IS THAT EVEN?

In more boring news, the DVD player on my new MacBook is, I don’t know, misprogrammed or something. The DVD player thinks it’s a different region than it is? I guess I have to take it to the Apple store. On the other hand, Cambria and I watched the Golden Globes last night and all four hours were worth it because of five things:

1. Drew Barrymore’s outfit

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Direct quote from Cambria: “It’s like Drew Barrymore came to the Golden Globes dressed as Katherine Heigl.”

2. Tracy Morgan’s acceptance speech for 30 Rock‘s Best Television Show (Comedy) included the phrase, “Deal with it, Cate Blanchett!” This is my new catchphrase. It’s super funny if you consider it proof that backstage at 30 Rock is no different than on stage at 30 Rock. Tracy’s just got a different last name. And Jane Krakowski was way more excited for Tina Fey than Jenna would’ve been for Liz.

3. Liz Lemon’s Tina Fey’s acceptance speech for her win for Best Actress (Comedy). “Babs from Lacrosse you can suck it, DianeFan you can suck it, CougarLetter you can really suck it, you’ve been after me all year.”

4. Kate Winslet. Just, all of her. Being awesome. She’s really the only actress in the world I care about.

5. Renee Zellweger’s outfit.

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Direct quote from Cambria: “She looks toe-UP. I don’t even use that phrase very often because I don’t know what it means, but I feel like it’s appropriate here.”

I’ll leave you with that.

Highlights from my trip to California

When my family first moved to California eight and a half (oh God, really?) years ago, I volleyed between despondent and massively pissed off. I was a senior in high school and had lived practically my entire life in one house in Chicago’s north suburbs, fifteen minutes away from my aunt and cousins and half an hour away from my grandmother. I had lots of friends at my giant, award-winning, nationally respected high school, I was on a very hardcore swim team and a State-winning water polo team, and I was taking all these advanced classes. Then we moved to the Tri-Valley, clear halfway across the country, where I was enrolled in a tiny (by my standards) public school with no water polo team and only a handful of AP classes. I basically resigned myself to just pushing through that last year; I didn’t really feel confident about making friends or forgiving my parents for depositing me unceremoniously in that hell hole, so I figured I’d just get through it as best I could and then go back to Chicago for college.

As with many preconceived notions, mine were dashed when I met probably the most important people in my life besides my family. I ended up making some amazing friends that year, and these girls are not only still my best friends in the whole wide universe, they’re pretty much my sisters. Anyway, usually my family goes to Chicago for Christmas for about two weeks, but this year my mother, who has been doing a lot of international traveling for her job, pretty much said “Enough planes already!’ and instead of all of us convening in Chicago, I flew out to the Bay Area for Christmas. Lucky for me, my best friends (whose families also still live in the Tri-Valley) were there as well, and we spent ten days hanging out, during which a lot of really fun stuff happened. Here is a partial list:

  • Christmas Eve brunch: I went out for breakfast with my friend Kim, her sister Jennifer, Jennifer’s boyfriend (of like five or six years who for some reason I’d never met) Steve, my friend Cambria, and my brother JJ. IHOP (I know, we so classy) was really crowded, so we went to this ancient breakfast place that I’d never actually been to and ate our fill of greasy food. The best part of that morning was going to our old high school (where my sister’s still a student), which is being razed to the ground and rebuilt. It was like exploring the ruins of Rome, except not as pretty–seriously, there were walls torn down and we saw a mural that we’d never seen before in our collective nine years of attending school there because it was in the teacher’s lounge. The new building was sleek and cool and we were all super jealous because we had to attend class in dark, cramped buildings from the seventies.
  • Christmas Eve: My mom cooked a full Wigilia dinner (delish!) and we opened presents. It was fun and low-key and I wore a kick-ass Blair Waldorf flower headband but I seem to have misplaced my camera and so the only pictures are on my parents’ ancient digital, good luck to me getting a hold of them. That’s actually the theme of this whole vacation–ten days and I have no pictures to show for it.
  • Town Dive Bars: We spent many of our nights exploring the limited number of bars in the valley, because we usually just go to one and, fun as it is, we thought we might have a better time at the others. Pretty much they were all let-downs, because let’s be honest: this is a suburb, and we all live in real cities. Still, the Bud Light is dirt cheap and the company was amazing.
  • Jenny’s birthday/mustache party: Jenny had been talking about having a mustache party for her birthday ever since she came to New York in October, probably, or at least since Th4nkSgiving. Anywiz, as luck would have it I received stylish mustaches in the office White Elephant game, so we wore them to one of the aforementioned dive bars one night. Let me tell you, it was amazing. Cambria’s mustache made her look just like her father, which pretty much creeped us all out. There were a couple of guys with us, but they were all clean-shaven, which made it all the funnier. These pictures are so hilarious, you guys, and if I ever get them I will defs share them on the blog (knowing Jenny and her current lack of any sort of computorial apparatus, it may be a while…possibly June). The best part of the whole night, though, happened before the party, at my parents’ house while my brother and I were getting ready to go out. My mother saw the mustaches on the kitchen table and asked, “What are those for?” I told her about the plan–wear the mustaches to the bar–and she gave me a huge hug and said, “I’m so glad I’m not young anymore.”
  • Harry Potter Clue: At the risk of sounding like a huge nerd here, Harry Potter Clue is THE MOST AMAZING GAME ON THE PLANET. It’s SO MUCH BETTER than regular Clue, which I find sort of boring. The board MOVES, with secret passages appearing and disappearing and doors opening and closing. Also, there are spells and Dark Marks and the whole thing is a Harry Potter fan’s dream. I even won once! I almost never win at games, and since Cambria has been playing Clue ever since she was a small child, and Kim is a veteran board gamer, I was pretty proud of myself to have beaten them. Oddly, we didn’t play Apples to Apples or Phase 10 this time, which are our staple games. (Someday I’ll blog about how Phase 10 is the answer to life, the universe and everything. It really is.)
  • Eating: Time at home with friends is usually our excuse to pig out. There’s a lot of great restaurants in the Yay* that we just don’t have in New York and even San Diego, so we try to do a nice sampler any time we’re home together. I went to Pasta Pomodoro, Jack in the Box, Red Robin, In ‘N Out, Zachary’s, and Fuzio, and the only reason that list isn’t longer is that I had of lot of dinners at home with my family, on purpose, because I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.
  • Santa Clara: While I was home I went out to Mountain View to visit Carmen, my best friend from college. We had dinner at this lovely Mexican restaurant in the Pruneyard, El Burro, where the service was terrible but the food was delicious, and I saw an old acquaintance from college, Celeste, who was the editor of our literary review, the Santa Clara Review, when I was the fiction editor.** On our way back to Carmen’s house, where my car was parked, I asked her to drive us past Santa Clara, and I oohed and ahhed at the new fancy business school (Carmen was an accounting major, so she’s impressed by/slightly bitter about it) and the BRAND! NEW! BIG! LIBRARY! Because even though there was a whole article about it in the alumni magazine I inexplicably receive at work, there were no pictures, which is the dumbest thing ever. Anyway, our old library was a HOLE, totally inconsistent with the gorgeous mission-style architecture of the school, dark and ugly and pretty useless. They destroyed that monstrosity and put up this stucco-and-glass beauty. Direct quote from me: “Maybe if that had been the library when we were going to school, I would’ve used it more than once or twice a year.” On the way home I got slightly lost and ended up going past Santa Clara again (because I knew how to get home from there, curse the badly marked 101/237 junction), taking the long way to gaze at it one more time. Nostalgia has such a powerful influence on me; I sort of miss that place, and I can’t believe that my life now isn’t one long summer vacation and that I’ll never go back for another year there. Sad.
  • New Year’s Eve: Actually, this was sort of a weird night for me. Not bad, really, but I did end up going to sleep on the floor, freezing cold***, stone sober, at around five thirty in the morning, far after everybody else went to sleep, so…weird.
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Kim and I went to see this film super late one night, and let me tell you, I thought it was great. Anyone who knows me knows I couldn’t care less about Brad Pitt, but I loved the movie. It was long, yes, but the pace was leisurely rather than plodding, which added to the supple Southern feel, the story was beautiful and heartbreaking, and the CGI was terrif (I don’t agree with some reviews that it veers into the territory of the Uncanny Valley, because these weren’t CGI people, they were live actors)–I mean, when Cate Blanchett was supposed to be eighteen, she looked eighteen. I really thought for the longest time that they’d found a young girl who looked exactly like Cate Blanchett before realizing they’d done fancy computer stuff to her face. I cried about eighty-five times. People are complaining about how the plot has very little to do with Fitzgerald’s short story, which, come ON! You really couldn’t film that short story; the premise is great, but it’s ripe for a tragic love story and you don’t get that from Fitzgerald.

I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but those are the highlights. I really wish I had pictures of that mustache party. I think y’all would really enjoy them. Sigh. Someday. Related: I should find my camera before my birthday party on Saturday night. That I’m sure I’ll want pictures of.

*You’ve got to check out the Urban Dictionary page for “Yay.” It’s fantastic.

**Actually, that day was what I’m calling the Day of Randoms. I went to the mall with my mom and sister and we ended up seeing the mother of one of my sister’s friends, a family that my sister used to carpool to school with, my friends Kim and Jenny, and a girl my sister goes to high school with. Then we went to another mall and we saw our dentist. Then I saw Celeste. It was so so weird. I didn’t run into a single other random person while I was there. Curious.

***Actually, I was cold the whole time I was home. I don’t think I was ever really warm once. I didn’t bring a coat because I’m an idiot and ended up having to wear my old high school letterman’s jacket just so I didn’t freeze to death outside. People, listen to me: Just because it’s California doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm in January. Take it from me. I should’ve known better, I’ve lived through those winters. I thought all I would need was a rain coat. I was dead wrong.

2008 wrap-up

2008 was, in many ways, the best year of my life so far. I guess it’s pretty apparent as to why. It didn’t start off so great, or at least it started off a little “meh” as far as my life was concerned. I’d just gotten a rejection on the full of AUT on Christmas Eve, and I was back in New York after spending the holidays with my family in Chicago, which always sort of depresses me, 1. because I love my family and miss them when we’re apart and B. because I only like living in New York, like, 30% of the time. So. I had a job, I had an apartment, I had my best friend right there with me in the city, but everything was new, cold, and a little bit “what now?”

Then Joanna emailed me and I told her about AUT and she asked for the full and then offered me representation. Boom! I remember walking to Cambria’s apartment with her from the train and saying, “If Joanna offers me representation, this could change my life.” And it did! Three much needed revisions of AUT later and we’d sold it in a two-book deal, in a pre-empt, to Francoise Bui at Delacorte! It was a very exciting moment for me, and when I think about how unmoored and listless I felt last year at this time, I’m so grateful for (and amazed by) what happened this year.

2008 held all kinds of wonderful surprises. I made way more awesome friends in New York, including most of my coworkers who are angels sent from the Lord above, I introduced one of my California best friends to one of my New York best friends and they started seriously dating, two of my good California friends got engaged (not to each other, to their respective boyfriends), Kim and Jenny came to visit (Jenny, the girl half of the aforementioned couple, came three times this year!), Carmen and Tim (one of the aforementioned engaged couples) came this year, my mother came several times, my sister was here for three weeks for a film camp and I got to see her a bunch, my aunt Kika and cousin Emma came, my aunt Irene and cousin Michelle came, and I’m sure I’m missing visitors and other fun things, but my brain is not capable of remembering how great this year was in one fell swoop. I have to do it in chunks.

I read 72 books. That’s 8 below my goal, but maybe next year.

Professionally (aside from the book deal), I finished MB (well, the first draft anyway) and joined the Tenners, which is such a great community I can’t even begin to tell you (holla!). In my day job, I got a little promotion, which was grand.
I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m proud of myself, I’m still excited about writing and reading, I’m still addicted to the Internet and Gossip Girl (and GG on the Internet). I think I only had the two fake boyfriends (Rob Pattinson and Ed Westwick) and one fake husband (That James McAvoy) this year, which means I’m starting to settle down!

You know how I celebrated the New Year? I mean, before going to Jenny’s NYE party? I SENT THE FINISHED AUT MANUSCRIPT TO MY EDITOR. Sure, it was New Year’s Eve and she wasn’t in the office, but it said December 31 on my contract, so I sent the manuscript in on December 31. I hope it’s finished. I won’t be upset to do more revisions, but I always like to make the best effort possible so I hope that at least the manuscript accomplishes what I wanted it to accomplish (it’s the new sections that make me a little bit nervous; other than that I think the MS is fine). We’ll see later in January. Until then, the rest of my MB revisions so I can send that manuscript to my editor. And THEN I can start working on new stuff! New stuff! I can’t believe it! I have a feeling it’ll involve proposals, but still!

I hope everybody’s having a great New Year’s Day morning (my brother’s had better, but I’m fine, if probably more tired than I feel). I think maybe later I’ll head back to Jenny’s to help clean up and then up to Cambria’s dad’s house to watch the Rose Bowl? We’ll see if I can tear myself away from my bed.

Charmin Bathrooms NYC: the full report

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That’s right ladies and germs, last night I made my first (of many, I hope, although it won’t be around much longer so I’d better take advantage while I have the opportunity) foray to the Charmin Bathrooms this year. If possible, it was actually better than last year. Yes! I know, how is that possible you ask. Well, it’s simple. The decorations were better, there was a Duracell station on the third level where I got to play Nintendo Wii for the first time, and there was a disco ball in my bathroom. Also, they took this picture and gave us a copy for free, and a website and code to download it onto our computers–again for free! The only thing that sucks about this picture is that there’s a spotlight above the sleigh and it makes Jenny, Cambria and I look like a trio of washed-out ghosts or something, and Eric is conspicuously in the shadows, which is just weird. Also, it’s hard to see the giant Charmin bear in the back of the sleigh behind our fatheads, but he’s there, trust me.

I wonder if Ryan started the fire

So, for a while my revisions have been stressing me out. I don’t know why, it’s probably a combination of exhaustion and time crunch, but whatever the reason I could feel my mind resisting the work. This is not an unusual feeling for me, but usually I’m able to worm my way through it more easily than now.

I almost never work during the week because I have a day job and by the time I get home it’s almost eight and I just want to have dinner and relax. But this week was different. This week, I sat down every night and worked. I’ve been going through the marked up manuscript my editor gave me, making small changes and flagging bigger questions or things I’ll have to fix with more than a tap of the delete key. I’ve been dreading the turn of every page, which I know is melodramatic, but it’s true.

Finally, I decided I needed a change of scenery. Writing in my tiny room in my tiny dark apartment is fine, but revising in a cave is not good for my spirit, so I decided I needed space and sunlight. Lucky for me, there’s a branch of the New York Public Library about fifteen blocks away from my apartment, so this morning I jumped on the bus with my laptop and manuscript in tow and settled down at a table in the adult books section (I wanted to sit in the YA section, thinking for some reason it would be more inspirational, but there’s a big sign that says THESE TABLES ARE FOR TEENS ONLY which, do they police that? I didn’t want to risk it) and got to work.

2798968914_3144b124831Exhibit A: my wee bedroom.

At first, I felt as resistant as always, but after inching along all week I was finally close to the end of the MS and I slipped into a groove eventually. Then I reached the last leg, Part Four of AUT, which my editor had noted needed some reorganization. And for some reason, I suddenly felt very good. It was like all week I’d been climbing up a long staircase to the top of a water slide, and now I had finally sat down on my inner tube, gotten the signal from the lifeguard, pushed off and was now coasting to the bottom. Pardon the weird simile, that’s really how it felt!

And then–THEN. As if the world doesn’t want this book to ever get done, THE FIRE ALARM WENT OFF. Are you kidding me? Ugh. I had to quickly gather up my stuff and leave the library with everybody else. The thing that really bugs me is that I think some confused lady opened a fire door, which is a good thing because that means there wasn’t an actual fire, but also? READ THE DOOR, LADY.

Anyway, they weren’t letting anybody in there until the fire department showed up and checked out the place, so I knew it was fruitless to wait around forever when I lived a few blocks away. But, being me, I was like, “This is the perfect time to buy Wanted on DVD!” So that’s what I did. Because I love That James McAvoy and Wanted was an awesome movie. On the Venn diagram of movies both my brother and I would enjoy, I think Wanted is the only overlap. And the reason for that, of course, is my fake husband TJM. (Not to be confused with my fake boyfriend, RPattz. They know about each other, it’s fine.)

gearcrave-interview_james-mcavoy_wantedYeeeeeeeah, that’s right.

I also bought The Last Unicorn because it was on sale for $5 and it was one of my favorite movies as a kid.

Despite the disruption, during which I appear to have made lemonade out of lemons anyway, I’m still feeling pretty good about these revisions now. What seemed insurmountable a couple of days ago I’m now looking forward to tackling, which is excellent. This is turning out to be a great weekend all around. I spent last night with my closest NY friends because Katie, who moved to Chicago a few months ago, was back in town for  a visit. Tonight one of my other friends is having a fondue party, so we’re going to that, and then tomorrow is brunch at Essex House (I’d better make sure someone made reservations…) and then back to writing for me.

Okay, I must go now–Mary’s foolishly promised to let me DJ tonight, so I have to update the Party playlist on my iPod. Gotta remember to include all the newest Hanson tunes!*

*Just kidding.

Late night ruminations

For the past couple of days I’ve been giving my little sister Fish* a hand by helping her revise her college application essay. She’s seventeen and applying to a bunch of different schools and programs, but what she most wants to do is go to film school. She spent several weeks this summer at the New York Film Academy, learning the mechanics of film making, and in the process she got to try her hand at writing, directing, editing, and camera work. There is a creative streak that runs through my family, and Fish has such a sharp mind–she is going to be a great film maker one day.

I’ve been editing my brother’s college essays for years, and as smart and educated as my brother is, writing is not necessarily his greatest strength. It’s funny, because I remember the way his essays read during his freshman year, and last quarter, four years later, I helped him out on several final papers. The changes in the execution of his compositions are staggering. He barely needs my help anymore, he’s in complete command of language as a way to exposit and argue and convince. I expected reading Fish’s essay would be like reading JJ’s freshman year papers, but that kid knows what she wants to say and she knows exactly how to say it. I made almost no changes, only smoothed out the language in places and pointed out a mixed metaphor. I’m super impressed with her, and I told her that she’s a very good writer, which is not a compliment I bestow frivolously. I’m really excited for the work she’s going to do in school, and afterwards, and as adorable as she was when she was little I’m so glad she’s finally grown up, that we can talk about things like art and writing and creativity, that we can help each other with our projects (she is always one of my first readers, and I value her opinion very highly).

It occurs to me now how incredibly lucky I am to have the family I do, to have been raised the way I was, to have the support of my parents and siblings. I’m somewhat of a strange person, so it’s no surprise that there is this theme flowing like an underground stream through of almost all of my fiction, this idea of how important it is to know and be known by others. To be seen for who you truly are, to be accepted for and because of who you are. It feels so absolutely necessary to happiness.

My friend Cambria has this theory about how some people are what she calls “specific,” that they are perhaps a bit too idiosyncratic to be understood, to be known in the sense that I just used it above, by most of the people they meet. For a long time, she used to label other people we knew this way and put us in the other category, the category of people that are more generally palatable.

But about two years ago we were having one of our typically bizarre conversations, who knows what about, and I turned to her and said, “You know what? I think we’re specific, too.” I don’t mean that in a condescending, angsty way–we’re so misunderstood, wah!–but my entire point was that when you have an outsized personality, you sometimes feel too weird for most people, like even though they’re laughing at your jokes and nodding along with what you’re saying they also secretly think you’re insane. And that’s cool in its own way, but it can also be pretty lonely. But then I think of my own life, and the fact that I need two hands to count the people who really know me, and I remember how lucky I am. Plus, I’m getting the chance to be heard by people outside my immediate circle of friends and family by having my books published, and writing a book, at least for me, is an act of reaching out. It’s pretty much the most awesome opportunity ever and boy am I grateful for it.

It’s important for me to remember all this, to write it down where somebody can read it, because tonight I finished my first revision of MB and I ended up feeling like a total hack, like I was just wasting my and everybody else’s time. This happens to all writers, I’m pretty sure–it’s our secret fear that we’re talentless frauds. But the truth is that there are hits and there are misses, that writing gets better over time if you work at it, and that if the things that you write are important and worthwhile and meaningful to you, if they’re honest, then it’s never a waste. I write for a lot of reasons, but I think at the very core of it I write so that people can know who I am as a person, how I feel and what I think. Fiction gives me the opportunity to do that in a way that is largely not deliberate, choreographed, or over thought. That’s why I love it so much.

*Not her real name, but one of a billion of her nicknames. Just in case you think my parents are monsters who would name their child “Fish.”

4S of July!

Whoa, where the hell have I been? The answer: right where you left me, in temperate (really! I have been far more comfortable walking the streets of this city recently than I was a few weeks ago) New York City. I was playing hostess to my super-best-friends Kim and Jenny, numerous photos of whom you can see on Flickr. We had tons o’ fun! To make it easily digestible, let me break it down for you:

  • Tuesday: The girls got into town. I met up with some former classmates from the University of Chicago at a place called Grassroots on St. Mark’s, where we caught up (our last get-together was in January–February? Whatever, a long time ago) and drank Brooklyn Lager (thumbs down, in case you care, but my taste in beer is pretty low-brow…I actually find Pabst Blue Ribbon palatable, and not ironically). I left around nine and went to Bri’s place in Williamsburg; the girls got in around 10:15, and since we were all starving and ready to drink we cruised around Lorimer for a while until we found a weird little joint called the Alligator Lounge where they comp you a personal-sized pizza when you order a drink! What a wonderful, not to mention delicious, way to lure booze hounds into your bar. After a drink and a pizza I went home because I had to work in the morning. The girls stayed with Bri in Williamsburg.
  • Wednesday: Kim and Jenny met me for lunch. We picked up food at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center, then went to the park to eat. I dragged them back to my office to fetch my subway map, where a fateful meeting occurred in the break room (more on that in a hot minute!). After work, Kim and Jenny met me and Bri and Katie and Eric, a coworker of mine, at Dempsey’s for trivia. We won…for something? We don’t know, but we ended up with the soundtrack to Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, which I put up on Muxtape for funs. Prepare to have your head blown open. Anyway, after trivia we went to National Underground, a fun cheap old man-type bar that has a nice jazz band on Wednesdays, where we contended with a couple of characters Bri met at Dempsey’s and invited out with us: Trevor, a really big douchebag of the “I’m a genius, I make lots of money, let me impress you with my arrogance and self-centeredness” variety, and his friend Mike, who tried to convince me that democracy is the same as mob rule, which it isn’t. Anyway, Mike was sweet enough but they were both pretty annoying, and Eric, as the only other guy in the group, was very, VERY irritated. He and my friend Jenny hit it off very well, to say the least. The girls went back to Brooklyn and I went home.
  • Thursday: I had a half-day of work, after which I headed down to Union Square for lunch with Katie, Bri, Jenny, and Kim at the Heartland Brewery. Eric and my boss met us afterwards, and we went to Petco to look at the kittens, Bri’s favorite activity, before hitting up a bar on University for happy hour and telling embarrassing stories about each other to my coworkers. The girls went to Brooklyn and I went home; we changed and ate separately, then met at Fat Black, in the Village. Oh, the characters we met there. Two older gentlemen, old enough to be our father’s most definitely, approached us and bought us drinks and talked to us for what seemed like hours, even going so far as to invite us to go sailing with them on the 4th. We had plans with Eric, plus none of us can sail, so we declined, but they were nice (and foreign!) and entertaining. I went home, the girls went back to Brooklyn, and we made plans for the morning
  • Friday (4th of July!): The girls took a car to my place on the Upper West Side and got settled. They went to the liquor store and grocery to get some snack food and, naturally, booze. Eric was supposed to join us in the city for the holiday, but then he texted me and asked if we wanted to go out to his friend Matt’s house in New Jersey, promising food and booze and fireworks (real ones, not, like, Roman candles in someone’s backyard, which Cambria was sure to make sure of before agreeing to go). So to New Jersey we went! It was really a foregone conclusion as soon as I got the TM, because it was so obvious that sparks were flying between Jenny and Eric that even though I told him I had to check with the girls before agreeing, I was all, “Damn, now we have to go to Jersey.” It was so fun, though! The trip out was a nightmare, and the trip home in a cab was expensive, but the food was great, Eric’s friends were so gracious and a genuine blast, and the fireworks were so close! Best line of the night: Eric picked us up from the PATH station in Newark, I get into the front seat and go, “Are you wearing madras shorts?” He was. (Oh, and not to overshare, but the 4th went very well for our lovebirds.)
  • Saturday: Saturday we woke up and went to Times Square to the TKTS booth to get half-priced theater tickets. It was so ridiculous. That place is super organized until you get to the actual place where you can buy the tickets–then it’s chaos. Somebody actually cut Kim in line, some seventeen-year-old blond touristy girl, and Kim was all, “I believe I was first.” She ignored Kim, so this obviously local woman behind Kim started going off on the girl. The girl’s grandmother stepped in and was all, “This is my granddaughter! I’m buying these tickets, this is my granddaughter!” It made little to no sense, and all of them (even though I really appreciated the local woman’s willingness to go to bat for Kim, although technically she was being cut, too, so…) were crazy. It didn’t matter, Jenny got to the front of her line and got us four tickets to Young Frankenstein. Wait, did I say four? I meant five. Yes, they gave us an extra ticket, which we didn’t pay for. Yes, it’s sort of unethical to keep it, but were we seriously going to get back in line and wait for four hours again just to give it back? No. We didn’t scalp it, though. We invited my roommate, who was putting up with having us all in our tiny two-bedroom apartment. Before the show we went to Dallas BBQ which, if you like to drink and you’ve never been, hie ye to the nearest one (there are five Manhattan locations and one in Brooklyn) as soon as you next come here. The drinks are enormous and frozen and delicious, and the food’s not half bad, although Nikki, who’s from Texas, claims it has nothing on real bbq–she’s probs right. Anyway, the show was so fun! Sure, Megan Mulally basically played Karen Walker, but she has an excellent voice and a brilliant stage presence and, as Bri put it, “That’s what the people want.” After the show we went to Carmine’s for a delicious, HUGE after-theater dinner. Then we went home and laid around like cobras.
  • Sunday: Sunday, Jenny and Eric had a date (squee!) so Kim and Bri and I went to Pinch and S’Mac, a really great pizza/gourmet mac and cheese place near the American Museum of Natural History, for lunch and then wandered down the Upper West Side buying things like typewriter-key-pendants and Russian wedding rings and chair earrings. Then we went down to Rockefeller Center; we’d planned to go to the Top of the Rock, but it was expensive and we’re lazy. Instead we perused the NBC Store where I found that they’d ripped off my t-shirt idea, then went to Dean & Deluca for confections and J.Crew, where I bought two skirts on sale for a grand total of less than $60! And to think, I’d been whining about going. Then we headed uptown back to my ‘hood to Jake’s Dilemma, where we met Jenny and Eric and drank like kings on very little cash (Jake’s has a really nice happy hour deal), and then up to my apartment where we drank some more. After Eric left, we played a TV trivia game (I couldn’t find my Phase 10 cards, sadly) and then went to bed.
  • Monday: I had to go back to work, but the girls met me and Eric for lunch. We had sushi, which I’d been craving for a while, at East, a chain with a restaurant near my work that’s never crowded at lunch. I ate there with Katie, Brigitte and the MN crew when they were in town for the City Breathing concert. After work, Eric and I met Cambria down on the LES; we had planned to go to Happy Ending, but they’re closed on Monday nights, as is EVERY SINGLE FUN BAR ON THE LES. So we ended up going to drag queen bingo night at Bowery Poetry Club, where Cambria won a tickety-tack wall clock and Kim and Jenny met us. I was one card away from winning the whole damn pot of money! Then we got a slice of pizza and went to the only open bar on the LES, apparently, Welcome to the Johnson’s, which is this really tacky (in a good way) dive bar that looks like a living room from the ’60s. $2 PBR, people! And a working jukebox. The cute couple said a sad good-bye, but they’ll see each other again soon so it’s okay, and we cabbed it up to my apartment (note to people who party on the LES but live on the UWS–have your cab driver take the FDR to 96th and the transverse across the park–it’s cheaper than having them take the West Side Highway, I have now learned this from experience). Then we crashed. It was a long weekend.
  • Tuesday: I woke up and said goodbye to the girls, then went to work. I think they went to the Met, then to LaGuardia for a nightmare flight home. I miss them so much already. Thanksgiving in SD!

And that’s what I’ve been doing that has prevented me from blogging, writing, reading, eating properly, drinking moderately, cleaning my apartment and doing laundry. Now it’s back to business as usual–I’m reading The Likeness, the follow-up to that Tana French novel, In the Woods, that I adored so much, trying to get back into the writing rhythm, sleeping (not enough, because I’m still bushed every single night), working, and cooking healthy meals for myself. It might be more productive and better for me, but it’s WAY less fun. (Except reading and writing–I like that.)

No new news on the book front as yet. I hope to hear something soon!