Apartment hunting

There’s nothing I’d rather do less than apartment hunt in New York City. It’s so hard! Everything’s always dirty, too small, overpriced, and it’s pretty obvious that the leasing agents/landlords are trying to screw you big time. The worst part is that once you find something decent you have to jump on it right away, with no time to comparison shop, because apartments here go in the blink of an eye.

I found the apartment my roommate and I live in now on my own, took care of the application and arranged things with the broker, and we lucked in to a pretty awesome place despite my complete naivite. We haven’t moved since, because we both felt like finding a new place as good as this one would be a total nightmare. And it will be! In November. When we move.

Two of my friends live in Brooklyn, and they’re desperate to move to Manhattan, so yesterday I went with them to look at a bunch of places in my neighborhood (generally speaking). FYI, it’s so much more fun to apartment hunt when you don’t have to make any decisions. The first one we saw was in South Harlem, 118th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. The apartment was gorgeous; big and full of light, with an open but large kitchen. It had been vacant since September the leasing agent told us, because of the economy of course.

They say that a lot these days, along with “The rent has been lowered three times this year,” as if you’re supposed to feel sorry for them. You were goudging people for years! This is the only good fallout of the economy, that non-investment bankers can afford to live in Manhattan again, but it helps me and my friends so I’m not at all sympathetic to the management companies that have been greedily jacking up rents for almost a decade.

The price was great, especially for the size of the apartment and the niceness of the building (it was clean and the tennants were friendly and everything seemed to have been freshly painted) and proximity to the train– less than I pay now for an apartment two thirds the size. But the neighborhood, while relatively safe, wasn’t really around stuff. The thing that bugs them both about their abodes in Brooklyn is how far they are from food and bars and the drug store (when you live in New York, it’s important to be close to two things: the subway, and a Duane Reade. Don’t ask why, that’s just how it is). So they stuck that place in their back pocket (another nice thing about this economy’s effect on New York real estate: you don’t have to decide THIS VERY MINUTE) and we went back to Broadway to check out a place on 108th.

LOL this experience. It was an open house, we didn’t have an appointment with a specific broker. We show up fifteen minutes late and there are a bunch of other people hanging out on the stoop, including some unfriendly girls who seemed to view us as enemies, I think because they were under the misapprehension that we, like them, were looking for a three-bedroom, but we weren’t, as I have an apartment already and was just around for moral support. So cut it out with the dirty looks, mean girls!

Finally the guy (I say “guy” because I have no idea what he was–leasing agent, owner/landlord, etc? It’s a mystery!) shows up and he’s like, “Okay, we’re going to see a bunch of apartments, ready, go.” I think we probably saw six, and all in different buildings. The apartments were all empty, but mostly dirty. Also, they were typical New York apartments. A lot of these old buildings used to have big family apartments that’ve been sloppily chopped up and made smaller (mine is an obvious example; it’s like a freakin’ fun house in there, with the slanted ceilings and bulging walls and doorways shaped like rhombuses). As a result, the apartments have radically different-sized bedrooms and strange layouts (nothing sends a chill up my spine like the words “railroad apartment”). That wasn’t going to work for my friends.

I was getting really frustrated with how little effort the guy was putting into selling these places to prospective tennants. We were just being herded in and out of each apartment (all fourth and fifth floor walk-ups, for the most part, except the last apartment, which was on the second floor but naturally there was an elevator), and every once in a while he would ask people, “So what are you looking for? What’s your price range?” like he was barely listening to the answers. It was very odd.

Happily, however, one of the apartments was pretty good–equal sized bedrooms with nice closets, a newly redone kitchen with granite countertops, half a block from the train, good neighborhood, lots of stuff nearby. Basically, it’s perfect for them, and for me, because they’ll only live 15 blocks away! Hopefully everything works out with their application and they get the place and don’t have to apartment hunt anymore OMG it sucks so much.

As for me, my reward for all those shenigans is that I came home last night to discover they were turning the abandoned storefronts across the street from my apartment (I live in a somewhat less classy part of the nabe than the girls are moving to) INTO A DUANE READE! Since I live 10 feet from the train, this fulfills the New York Dream for me. Now I kinda don’t want to move.

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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.

Jobiversary

Today is my one-year jobiversary, or, if you prefer not to use ridiculous portmanteaus for every single thing in your life, my one-year anniversary of being at my job. This is very exciting because it occurs to me, outside of the job I had in college, which I had for four years but doesn’t really count because it consisted of sitting at a residence hall reception desk for three hours at a time, that I’ve never been at a job for a year before. This isn’t because of fickleness, but rather my first job, as an editorial assistant at a textbook publisher, ended at eleven months because I was going to graduate school, and since then, before this job, I’ve only had internships, which have an obvious expiration date. So good for me, I’m finally an adult, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.

Last week (November 2, actually) also marked my one-year anniversary of living in New York. This is a much greater accomplishment than being at a job for a year. Living in New York is hard, yo.

Writinertia

I was talking to my roommate about my recent deluge of writing progress this morning and I told her something I’d just realized (or maybe realized again–my memory, it is not so good): I am the law of inertia personified. You know that old saw: an object at rest will stay at rest, whilst an object in motion (divorced from any outside forces like gravity and wind resistance, etc.) will stay in motion? Or, as Newton would have it, Corpus omne perseverare in statu suo quiescendi vel movendi uniformiter in directum, nisi quatenus a viribus impressis cogitur statum illum mutare? Yeah, that. I’m that, in writing form.

I say this because I think I’ve finished the last of my AUT revisions for Joanna, meaning that very soon, possibly now, the fate of it is no longer in my hands. First comes the submissions, then comes the inevitable rejections (I’m not even saying this negatively; I know that rejection is a part of this business and I think–although I’m probably wrong–that I’m amply prepared for it), and then hopefully comes the offer (or maybe more! Probs not, though) of acquisition. I’m jazzed for all this new exciting stuff, but I also know that I have to put my nose to the grindstone and work on my next novel, if for no other reason than I need something to occupy my thoughts as the publishing industry ticks along at its at-times-frustratingly slow pace.

Tentatively intialed MB, the next novel is another YA mystery that I actually started last summer (I think; at any rate, a while ago) when I had put AUT aside for many months to give it some time to percolate. I wrote a detailed Dramatis Personae list and summary, six chapters and a prologue, and then left it at that while I worked on revising AUT and concentrated on querying agents. That rather solid foundation has been sitting on my computer for almost a year now and as of Wednesday, when I sent J my most recent revisions, I started working on them again.

GOD, it is nice to have a summary. Writing a mystery is hard work, I don’t know how I did it the first time without one (I figured most of AUT out during the two years before I wrote it for my thesis, but a lot of the twists and turns didn’t come to me until I actually wrote it, which is simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking). I really do like to work everything out beforehand, to live with the story for months–ride the subway with it, listen to music related to it, talk to the characters and figure out who they are and what they want–before even putting a word on the page, and now writing MB is super easy because I have all the facts of the mystery figured out and every time I get to the end of a chapter or a scene or whatever and I’m all, “What comes next?” I can just refer to the summary and write that. It’s sort of like Wordsworth’s nun in her cloistered cell–the summary’s restrictions (a mystery is sort of like a choreographed dance–one misstep and everything changes, perhaps for the better, but still, it’s a rhythm breaker) allow me to be more creative with my dialogue (my favorite thing to write, especially with these two characters who I LOVE) and character development and introspective moments. Honestly, the summary takes a lot of the pressure off–instead of having to think up events (since I’ve already thought those up) I get to write jokes and fun emotional stuff.

(Side note: I wrote the funniest joke (well, I think it’s pretty amazing) on the subway yesterday on my way to the Village for dinner with my friends and we were going out afterwards (BTW, Sway is a very weird bar) so I only had a small purse for the essentials and no pen and no paper and I was like, “If I lose this, it will be a tragedy.” So I text messaged the joke to myself, and even though I got home at 3 AM I stayed up just to write the joke in my MS. If MB ever hits the shelves, I promise to reveal which joke this was, mostly because I’m a narcissist and I am SO DAMN PROUD OF IT.)

Anyway, I think I’ve strayed from my essential point, which is that I always have to keep writing because if I stop, it’s SO hard to get going again. Which is why I finished the majority of AUT the way it is now in one five-month spurt last year (also, I had a deadline, because it was my MA thesis and I wanted to, you know, graduate) because I just kept going and going and going. Getting back to work on MB was so difficult because I hadn’t worked on it for so long, but once I jump-started my creative impulse it’s been incredibly smooth sailing–I’ve written about thirty pages in the last few days, which is a nice steady pace and good output. But, living in New York means a flood of forces that can slow my progress, so it’s become important to me to squirrel away time enough to write a decent amount of stuff before venturing out into the real world full of friends and work and people trying to grope me on the subway (real story, happened yesterday, freaked me out, don’t really want to talk about it; yesterday was a super-weird-stranger day). Cross your fingers that I can keep it up long enough to bang out a first draft of MB by the end of August. I think I can do it!

An overabundance of shit to do

For the past several weeks now, I keep looking forward to each weekend and telling myself, “THIS weekend you’ll do laundry and go grocery shopping and maybe buy a new summer skirt and catch up on your sleep and your Netflix and read and WRITE, for God’s sake.” And, each week, foiled! This is actually a very good thing, because it means I have a ton of awesome people in my life who invite me to things and want to hang out with me, and I always end up having a blast, but, on the other hand, getting nothing done. This weekend I was psyched to go see the Pole-rific Piotr Ulanski exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, because today is its last day–I still might go to that actually–and to Book Culture, because I wanted to buy one of their snazzy new totes. And, you know, launder–and I don’t mean money, I am seriously low on clothes. But! Last night I went out to a Tumblr meet-up (yes, they exist, and yes, they are fun) and met a handful of really interesting, funny Tumblrs and it took me FOREVS to get home because the stupid F train was running on the V line and I ended up in Queens and then I had to take the E train back to Seventh Ave/53rd street and then get out of the station and walk to Columbus Circle, at least that was the plan until I COULD NOT GET OUT OF THE SEVENTH AVE STATION, but then I finally did get out of it and then I was so tired and it was SO late that I eventually took a cab. So, in other words, I slept in! And now I’m lazing around in my pajamas and trying to motivate myself to take a shower which probs won’t happen anytime soon and I might not actually get down to Chelsea in time to see the Ulanski exhibit, which closes at six. My life is hard! Also, Cambria is throwing a house party tonight in Brooklyn, so I’m going to have to schlep there, which will take forevs, and then of course I’ll have to stay the night because, well, who the fuck wants to be on a train at three in the morning two nights in a row? Not me!

This is all to say that in the midst of all this bejiggity, I have finished my revisions! I even sent them off to my agent today with my “Hollywood pitch” assignment (I settled on “Speak meets Special Topics in Calamity Physics” because…well, you’ll know when you read it, even though it’s not the ideal comparison, especially since Special Topics isn’t considered YA even though it’s pretty much got all teenagers in it, but they’re not real teenagers, they’re Ph.D. candidates in the guise of teenagers, which is one of that novel’s big flaws but whatevs, she went to Brown, it’s to be expected) because as much as I’ve grown to re-love AUT over the past two weeks (I did go through a period where I was like, “This is shit!”, which I know is natural and normal but it’s still not very good for the ego) I’m sick of looking at it for the moment. I’m just…really looking forward to moving on to the next thing, which is another YA mystery (WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!) that I’m calling “MB” for now.

Anyway, there’s my brain dump. Do with it what you will.

Revision shhedual*

Confession: I haven’t worked on AUT in, um, a few days. Maybe two? It’s Thursday, right? Yeah. And I don’t really see myself working on it a whole lot tonight. I just have a hard time working on weekdays. It’s like, I get home from work around 7:30 or 8:00 and either I consume something (usually pasta, because it’s cheap and I’m broke) and then head over to my friend Cambria’s because she has cable and I don’t (last night after I got my couch we watched America’s Next Top Model**), or I stay at home and watch Netflixed movies and read a little before bed. I work much better on the weekends, when I can get up late and then spend about 10 hours unshowered and in my pajamas, writing (or, in this case, revising) my little heart out. In other words, I make more progress in marathons rather than sprints, which doesn’t surprise me–I was a distance swimmer in high school, never had great times in the 50 or 100 yd events but kicked ASS during the 200 and 500 yd free events. Not that swimming has much to do with writing, but…just go with the analogy, mmmkay?

So. This weekend. Needs to be the big push. I’ve decided to extend my self-imposed deadline to Wednesday, April 9 (or, I guess, Tuesday, April 8, because I want to email the revised MS to Joanna on Wed. morning), which will give me time to let the edits percolate before I give the MS another once-over and then send it off. I don’t plan on working very much the weekend of March 31 because my friend Jack (!) is coming into town all the way from sunny Arizona. Jack and I went to college together and last year when I was getting my MA at the University of Chicago, he was here in town, living just a few blocks from where I live now, getting his MA from Columbia. I haven’t seen him in over a year and a half and I’m super excited to hang out with him. Also? To hang out somewhere nearer my apartment. I feel like I always end up going to the UES or LES which, while fun, is quite far from my house via PT and I can’t afford cabs.

To wit, I’m going out on the LES tomorrow night with my friends Katie and Cambria! We’re doing happy hour at Happy Ending, which is sort of a haunt of Cambria’s and mine because our friend Jessica’s boyfriend is a bar back there. I like it because the drinks are cheap-ish and usually strong, which is a very good combo if you are not so flush with cash. It used to be a spa and looks really trashy from the outside (very LES), but inside it’s sleek and red and downstairs there are refurbed showers where you can sit with your friends. Usually they’re reserved, but one time we went there and sort of commandeered a shower before anyone got there (before they’d even opened up the downstairs, but Jessica’s exalted status there got us in without major incident) and got to keep it the whole time (drunkards sort of filtered in and out, but whatever).

But after Friday, I am BUCKLING. DOWN. I’m around pg. 150 with my revisions, which means I’m a little less than halfway through (before revisions, I’d be more than halfway through, but I have somehow managed to add thirteen pages to the final count). I can get the rest done by Sunday, which means that I can use whatever downtime I have the NEXT weekend (when I’m not out with Jack and Cambria and his Columbia friends) to do the once-over. Sorry to bore you with all this, it’s really to keep myself accountable and give myself an actual schedule that I can follow. I work well that way.

Other random slices of my boring life:

  • I’m in the middle of Enchanted right now, and I have to admit that I’m simultaneously loving it and hating it. I got it because I really like Amy Adams (SO GOOD in Junebug, if you haven’t seen it please do), but I’m finding her character sort of irritating–I know she’s naive because she’s, like, a formerly animated Disney princess, but still, the bubbly personality and squeaky voice and omnipresent smile still grates–since I’m of the same mindset as Patrick Dempsey’s character, Robert–he doesn’t really believe in romance and neither do I. Of course, he’ll be converted by the end of the movie, but I’m pretty sure I won’t. James Marsden as Prince Edward is pretty hilarious, though. I know it’s a satire, and I’m trying to let that roll, but I’m losing patience.
  • We got our couch! We even managed to get it through our front door/hallway, though it was a bit of a tight squeeze. It is wonderful. I might have to name it, to show it how much I love it.
  • Still haven’t found our mail key. Apparently, our neighbors are never home. We talked to the girl who lives next door with her boyfriend and she hadn’t picked it up, but the other three apartments weren’t home. It was sort of strange. This was 8:00 PM-ish. Where were they? Do people actually live in those apartments?
  • My college BFF Carmen and her boyfriend Tim are coming to visit me this summer! She finally gave me the dates, and I’m very excited. My summer is pretty much going to be a revolving door of people visiting. It will be exhausting, I predict, but very very worth it.
  • Talked to my mom last night about my taxes and I’m getting money back from all three states (California, since it’s technically my permanent state of residence; Illinois, since I worked there over the summer for a wage; and New York, obvs.) and the federal government. It’ll be just enough to cover my outstanding credit card balance if I pay off the whole thing; I think I might pay off most of it and then get my iPod fixed. I decided a long time ago not to replace the headphone jack myself because I just don’t trust myself to open up my iPod and fiddle around with it myself. I’m handy, but not that handy.

So I think that’s it. If I don’t get a chance to blog tomorrow, happy weekend everybody!

*Pronounced as the Brits do. I’ve been watching far too much Shameless. My internal monologue has a Manchester accent at the moment. It is very disorienting.

**I was sad to see Aimee go, but, to be honest, every season we get a naive, vaguely religious girl on the show who’s uncomfortable being naked and similar and I just have about zero patience for it now. It’s like, do you even watch the show? Don’t you know that those type of girls ALWAYS go home? The job involves compromises; get over it. Also, I really like Lauren and Whitney, and conversely dislike Dominique, but I thought all that mean-girls stuff they were doing in last night’s episode, like talking shit about her while she’s trying to sleep IN THE SAME ROOM, is just being incendiary for no reason. Like, I get that they’re young and bored and they really don’t like her, but come on. It’s just not necessary, and Claire? You have a daughter and THIS is what you want her to take away from your ANTM experience? That you’re a bitch? Grow up.

ETA: Apparently, not all Brits say “shedule”. Thanks Trudi! Any writers out there should check out Trudi’s post on overcoming writer’s block, as well as her other craft-related posts. Spoiler: she compares writer’s block to erectile dysfunction. Very apt, I’d say.

Items of import

  • Item A: Last night, something sort of weird happened. After a couple episodes of Shameless, Series 2*, I went to bed because, frankly, I was tired (did get a few pages of AUT revised, though). I woke up to the doorbell ringing in what I thought was the morning, but clearly wasn’t because it was pitch dark outside (or as dark as it gets when your view overlooks a McDonald’s…it’s a swank little New York bistro, perhaps you’ve heard of it?). I glanced at my cell phone–1:02 AM. I had just fallen asleep at about 12:30 AM. WTF is with the doorbell at that hour? Possibilities ran through my head: either it’s an emergency, a mistake, or somebody is testing to see if we’re home because they’re planning to rob us. To reiterate: doorbell. Not buzzer; people do that all the time, buzz every apartment in order to get access to a building, but this was the doorbell. On our DOOR. Which meant that someone unknown to us had to stand outside our door to ring it. Which is, in and of itself, pretty creepy at that time of night, but also not good because our lock? She is flimsy. I know, I know, we should have a deadbolt. I want to see if I can get my management office to pay for it, because safety in New York is expensive. Consequently, I stayed up half the night afraid that whoever rang the doorbell would come back and murder/rob us. We put this ladder that we nicked from the building basement a while back in order to replace a light bulb in front of the door so that at least we’d hear it crash when the murderer/robber came in, but of course nothing happened. But I am very tired today.
  • Item B: My roommate and I finally got a couch–after nearly five months of living in our apartment! Now all we need is cable television, but one step at a time.
  • Item C: Revisions on AUT have slowed now that it’s no longer the weekend, and because the section I’m revising now needs some voice alteration to differentiate it better from the voice of Protag #1’s PoV sections (Protag #1 is an eighteen-year-old male and Protag #2 is an eighteen-year-old female). My agent said she didn’t really have a problem with this, but some of her other readers (interns, I’d imagine) did, and since just a few short months ago I was one of those interns, writing those reader reports, I respect that. But it’s much hard to fix that than, say, a clunky sentence on page 211 (or whatever). I’m sure I’ll finish next weekend, which gives me plenty of time to let it all sit and percolate before going over it once more and sending it off to Joanna to read on her way to the London Book Fair.

S’up with you?

*Did you know that you can actually CHANGE the Region settings on your DVD player if you have a Mac (iBook G4)? Except that you can only do it five times total, so when I put my Shameless, Series 2, first disc in just to test and see what Iphigenia Doubtfire would do (I expected her to spin it then spit it out, but no! She’s full of surprises), it prompted me to change the region (I tried to change it to Region 0, which would nullify this whole problem in the future, but it would only let me change it to Region 2). I figure I’ll watch the series on my Mac, then change it back to Region 1 and from then on only watch the DVDs on my region-free DVD player in the living room.