Wednesday, December 29, 2010

lost and found

Having not, as I mentioned in a recent post, read Lorrie Moore for many years, I find myself snowed in and feasting on her latest, A Gate at the Stairs. While it took me a while to really get into it (as will happen when one tries to start a book at Christmas time, I suppose), I'm already racking up a list of favorite lines. Among them:

"The January day was blue, sun sparkling off the evergreens, the air clear as a bell; it was state-of-the-art light, as noon in January sometimes could be: not rich but pale and cleansing as lemon wine." (p.78)

Later, in coming spring, a "hot lemony sun" makes an appearance - and there's a lot of classic, but somehow also more knowing Moore throughout, as if she's been there, done that and is still alive to tell the story. By the end of the novel? Well, frankly, I was getting too weepy to pick and choose favorite lines.

Frankly, it's like the return of an old friend who dropped off the map and was more or less given up for lost.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

gone egg noggin'

I'll be out and about, perusing the wide, mad world for the next...oh, ten days or so. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of the holiday season, and I'll catch you on the flip side of 2010. In the meantime, there's this:

"But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.

Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.

Put down the magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are."

~Steve Almond, The Rumpus

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

empty chairs, empty patches of sunlight

At this time of year it's so easy to think, talk and post about the food and the shopping and the get-togethers and the decorating - all of it seemingly required for the holidays to go smoothly. People are trying to stick to a budget, to manage their December calendars, to watch the calories and strategize travel plans all the while stressing out over the economy. It can get crazy and distracting, and it can wind us up for the big, post-holiday crash. Beyond that, it can make us forget about the pain some people are bearing at this "most wonderful time of the year."

I know, I know. I usually try to keep the blog light and optimistic. And I really do love Christmas - really, I do. So, don't think I'm trying to bring the blogosphere down or anything. But I have dear friends and family who have lost loved ones in just the past couple of days, and my heart is heavy for them. This goes both ways, since their hearts have been heavy on my behalf when I've endured my own losses as well.

And as much as we don't want it to be so, as much as we want the season to be pure Happy-Happy-Joy-Joy (that's a Ren & Stimpy reference for those of you who didn't know), that's not always the case, and Grief can be a most unwelcome holiday house guest for adults and kids alike. For some, Grief is an empty chair at the table. For others it's an empty patch of sunlight on the floor, the favorite spot of a furry friend now gone.

So, this is a reminder to myself as much as it is to anyone else: Give an extra hug when you have the chance. Lend your ear for an extra minute to listen. And, most of all, celebrate the people and the pets and the moments that bring you joy. We're all in this together.

Monday, December 13, 2010

book crush

Ever had one of these? Or maybe multiples? I heard somebody refer to Lorrie Moore last week, and it brought me right back to graduate school, when I read everything I could by her. My well-worn copy of Like Life still sits on my bookshelf, and I sometimes think of how one narrator described herself waiting for her lover as arranged on the bed like some ridiculous cake.

Anne Lamott’s books were major crushes for me, too. I’ve been reading her books since Rosie, Hard Laughter and All New People were new. And since I’m from Marin, it’s not at all unusual to see her around town when I’m visiting. When she came to the Northern Arizona Book Festival back in the ‘90s, I thoroughly embarrassed myself by giving her a big hug during the author meet-and-greet. I’m sure she thought I was a stalker or something.

I don’t have any current book crushes, but the history goes way back. What are some books you’ve crushed on, either recently or in the distant past?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

somebody told me that her name was jill

So, last winter was crazy here in Northern Arizona. On top of being all but snowed in for what seemed like forever, the roof of our local ice rink collapsed. Then, my favorite book store of all time - the place where REM's Michael Stipe walked up and started talking to me  - met with a similar fate.

This year, with the official start of winter just days away, locals are walking around in t-shirts, hanging laundry out on the line and doing Christmas shopping in flip-flops. It’s crazy again! But in a different way!

Yesterday, while feeding the horses, I heard a chirping and trilling overhead. When I looked up, I saw a decisively spring-looking songbird hanging out on a telephone wire. Get thee to Phoenix before the snow comes, Little Buddy! I found myself thinking. There’s even green grass on my property still, and bumblebees flitting around now and then. Seems nature herself is as befuddled as the rest of us.

I do love t-shirt weather in December, though it’s sad to see how thoroughly it has harshed the collective mellow of local skiers and snowboarders.

Oh! And speaking of t-shirts…I don’t know if I’ve just been watching too much Glee, or what, but I have songs in my heart lately. A lot of them are, um, interesting songs, too, like this Paul Anka classic sung by Finn. And it’s 70’s songs like these that get me in the mood to share one of my most treasured possessions with all of you. Now, I don’t want to, you know, brag or anything. I know the economy has been rough for a long time now, and not everyone can have something so...special.

But here it is anyway:

I have just four words for you: Da. Doo. Ron. Ron.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Just call me NaNoWreckMo Nicki. The woman whose NaNoWriMo dreams imploded at 31,000 feet words. It happened a little over a week before the end of NaNoWriMo. I just…stopped. And for some reason it’s totally okay. Normally I’d be awash in chagrin by now, pointing my finger at myself for not having finished something I set out to do. But, you know, life’s short. And it’s the holidays, and frankly, I decided I’d much rather spend time with friends and family and get my paying obligations met rather than chain myself to the keyboard to ensure my word count for the day was met. So, I let it go.

The good news? I got some solid material for the next project generated with those 30k words, material that now sits in the hopper fermenting until it’s ready to take on new life as a potential draft. I’ve had the “NaNoWriMo Winner!” badge on my blog before, a few years back. I have to say, I wish they’d come out with a “NaNoWriMo FAIL!” badge, as I would no doubt display it proudly. Or maybe it’s like the equestrian endurance racing folks say: To finish is to win. Maybe I’m a winner after all…but nah. Twenty thousand unwritten words tell a different story. Oh well!

In other news, I’m going to be redundant and link to a blog post Nathan Bransford has already linked to on his phenomenal blog. Kudos to Ms. Whipple for going where most authors don’t dare to go.

Happy Friday, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

little cat feet

A friend loaned me the Hilary Swank/Richard Gere movie Amelia the other day, and it was really good. I particularly liked the scene where Amelia Earhart is looking out through the window of her little plane and thinking in voiceover:

“The fog comes/on little cat feet…” she muses.

Then, the next day, I was looking over a book of poems my boy checked out from the school library. It’s an oldy, this book, and my first thought was that it would be a perfect submission for Awful Library Books.

 Then I opened the cover and completely cracked up.

Discarded Because of Obsolescence. Ouch. There’s one of the top ten worst fears of most people, am I right? I’m not sure why it made me laugh like it did. Clearly, The First Book of Poetry is on its second life at our little rural school.

Anyway, in thumbing through I realized it wasn’t bad at all. Robert Frost is in there (…and miles to go before I sleep…) as are A.A. Milne and Emily Dickinson (Wild Nights is one of my favorite poems ever). And then, there on page 72, was this:

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.

~Carl Sandburg

Weird coincidence. But, there you have it: I guess you really can't judge a book by its cover.