Sunday, March 26, 2006

At the edges

I am inside the book now. For so long I feel like I've felt at the periphery of the story, the consummate spectator, voyeur. But lately, I like I am becoming a participant. Alive. Inside. I didn't write all weekend, but the scenes were turning over and over in my head. It's real now. Really, really, real.

This weekend was so easy. P planted a perennial garden in the winter-wasted spot of lawn in front of our living room window. The possibility of all of that blooming, that color is thrilling: roses, irises, black-eyed Susans, flox. The girls were so good, sweet. I went shopping: for little treats for the girls, a new gauzy blouse for myself. For food. I made buffalo chicken chili with bleu cheese and scallion corn pancakes. We watched movies, I stole moments while the girls were playing to read. I took about a half dozen photos of Esmee today because I couldn't stop looking at her. People are always saying how much she and Kicky look alike, but I am starting to love the beauty of their subtle differences: their mouths, their scowls, their furrowed eyebrows. And God, P is so happy with his new bike. I only wish that spring would finally arrive, instead of this awful teetering at the edge. Still cold.

I think there is a direct correlation between this anticipation of spring and the way I feel about my work right now. It's freezing in here...I am bundled up like an Eskimo, but I know that soon (soon, soon) spring will arrive. It's enough to sustain me through these last purgatorial weeks before the sun finally comes.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Working. Still.

I love Betsy Parker. God, how could I have ignored this element of the novel for so long? Sometimes the disparity between what's in my head and what's on the page is almost startling. Here, I've been thinking that Betsy is this luminous character, when she is, in fact, dead on the page long before she's dead on the page. I am meticulously combing every scene, reworking her character to show just how magical she is -- why Harper does what he does when he loses her.

My new agent suggested I read Endless Love. Now, I had no idea that the movie "Endless Love" was based on a novel, a National Book Award nominee no less. I remember being in the sixth grade when it was on HBO, sneaking a peek at it during a sleepover with one of my best friends. The novel is incredible so far. Scott Spencer has captured exactly the sort of crazy devotion and adolescent passion I want for Harper.

On the home front, we are about to start the next remodel project: the back sun porch. I have visions of a sunny, bug-free place to write while the girls romp around in the backyard.

Esmee said "butterfly" the other day. I almost cried.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Longing Itself

So we went to a Wizard's game last night with people from P's work. Our seats were court only about seven rows from the floor. It was fun; the Wizards won. But of course I can never enjoy an experience just for what it is, but find myself consumed by all of its underlying implications. So, the whole time I should have been drinking beer and cheering, I just kept thinking about how great it must be to be an NBA basketball player. You train, you play. You either win or lose. And you get paid. A lot. The results of your work are tangible, immediate. I think there's a part of me that longs for that. But then again, I remember somebody talking about desire once in a Philosophy class I took at UVM. How desire is what we really want. It's not the object of our desire at all, but the longing itself. What would I really do if my books were suddenly in every airport newstand? Probably start writing the next one, I guess.

Today I am going to dive back into the book...head first and flippers flipping.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

When it rains...

It must be my lucky week. After the whole agent thing yesterday, I got an e-mail from another agent who represents a screenwriter who is interested in the film rights to Nearer Than the Sky. She has done an indie film that looks terrific. I am going to talk to her more about it on Tuesday.

Back to work.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

At last.

I have an agent! I have an agent!!!!! He called today and was so happy with the changes I've made over the last three months. He does want one more revision, but I am ready to get back to work. He thinks Betsy needs more of an edge. I agree.

I am relieved and excited. SO excited!


Monday, March 13, 2006

Parsnips and Patience

OH MY GOD. So now I have to wait another day. He kindly e-mailed that he would have to call tomorrow (and I should just be grateful for the heads up, I know), so now I have one more excruciating, sleepless night to endure. I can't take this waiting.

I've been channeling all of my creativity into the new website and food. Tonight it's lamb and two potato stew with fresh rosemary and parsnips. I haven't had a parsnip since I was six years old. I started to peel it and was immediately transported to my first house in Concord, Vermont, where we had a garden as big as my current backyard.

Til tomorrow. AGH.


The agent is supposed to call this morning. Oh my. I am a bundle of nerves.

This weekend was so nice. I needed it. Saturday was such a loungey day...I even managed a nap on the couch. And yesterday we got up early to go to Patrick's race -- the St. Patrick's Day 8K downtown. The girls got a kick out of it, especially the Irish dancers. Afterwards, we went to The Diner for breakfast where we met a couple of our friends. I had a Monte Cristo sandwich for which I am almost certainly going to go to hell. Last night I made the most amazing biscuits with a shrimp and vegetable cream sauce (another sinful dinner), and then I read myself to sleep.

I am on spring break right now, which I think is really helping me feel more like a person and less like a teaching machine. I also finished the freelance project. I'm also still working diligently on my website, which I think is going to be really really cool.

Keep your fingers, toes, and other appendages crossed. Will update soon.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I don't know what's wrong with me, but I have had this prevailing sense of something since last night. I hardly slept, my heart was racing (though my mind was remarkably still). And the weird thing is, there is nothing tangible that I can use to explain it away. It's just this sick unease. I mean, I know what is making me feel stressed out, but it's more complicated than that. I feel on the verge of tears for no real reason. Last night, I went and looked at the girls while they slept, and I was so overwhelmed I had a hard time leaving their room. And it's not sadness. It's something larger. Like sadness and anticipation and joy and horror all mixed up together. I feel like some wires have gotten crossed in my brain. Not to worry. I'll snap out of it.

On a lighter note, I stayed up late watching the finale of Project Runway. I think Chloe's collection was incredible except for that godawful stick-of-hot-pink-cotton candy dress. What do I know? I haven't even bought a new dress in two years. I've got one pair of shoes I ever wear and all of my jeans are too big.

Maybe tomorrow I'll have some news. If it's good, I'll go buy myself some jeans that fit.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Spring Break!

The reading (Chris Abani) the other night was amazing. What an incredible story he has (a political prisoner in Nigeria, a novelist at the age of 16...) His writing was absolutely luminous as well. READ him.

I may have an answer from the agent in two days. TWO DAYS. This is excruciating. I feel like I keep getting turned down for things; his acceptance would disrupt the natural rhythm of my rejections. I even had to beg GW to give me two classes next semester yesterday after the director told me he only had one to offer.

I've been working on my's going to be really cool, I think. Each page is like a little treasure chest. I have 2 and a half pages done. A long, long way to go.

Nichelle Tramble is planning to post her interview with me this Friday. Keep your eye out. You should check out her blog, she gets all sorts of wonderful writers to talk about their creative processes.

The new babysitter was great. The girls adore him. At least that situation is resolved. And next week is spring break. It's off to Fort Lauderdale! Lots of beer drinking and reckless driving. Bikini contests etc... Just kidding. I'll be here. I figure the agent's news will either make or break my break.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Fun with Implosion

Now that my mental state is better, my body is falling apart. Actually, it feels more like my head is on the verge of implosion (is that possible?). This is the second sinus infection I've had in three months, and it is making my teeth ache and my cheeks throb. Good news is that the agent started reading the manuscript today and hopes to have an answer for me by the end of the week. I suspect that the sinus infection will either clear up at that point or mutate into the flesh-eating virus and find its way through my sinus cavities to my brain. So let's all hope for good news!

Kicky made me a bracelet yesterday with alphabet beads that spell F-U-N. I am going to wear it until it falls off. It's a reminder. Every time I check the place where my watch used to be.

Tonight is the dinner and reading. Tomorrow is the new sitter's first day. It's going to be a long week.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Demon Seed Myth

I am feeling much, much better. Yesterday, I taught my last Characterization class at The Writer's Center. It seemed like all of the students were really happy with what they accomplished over the last six weeks. Patrick started his Georgetown program this week, so we had to hire a sitter to watch the girls. Well, obviously the old one was out, so instead we had one of Kicky's teachers come over. All the way home from class, I had these terrible daydreams that her teacher would say what a nightmare Kicky was, that she was, indeed, a demon seed. But...

When I got home, Esmee, Kicky, and her teacher were all snuggled up on the couch watching a princess movie. The kitchen counter was covered with drying paintings. There were miniature fairies which they had made out of silk flowers and beads teetering on wire legs all over the house. Kicky's teacher said it was the easiest babysitting job she'd ever had. That the girls were a dream.

I love my merbabies.

Today I'll be working on an article about a new office opening in China. I will also start biting my nails again. The agent said he'd get to it by early next week. Does Sunday constitute "early next week"????

Tomorrow night I'm going out to dinner with a GW guest novelist/poet, Chris Abani, before his reading. Tayari Jones invited him to come, and I'm hoping she'll be at the dinner as well. I love that the faculty does this. It creates such a nice, intimate way to get to know the readers. I also love the restaurant, Cafe Lombardy.

Tonight we're having friends over to watch the Oscars. Of course I have seen only one or two of the movies nominated, but it's all about the dresses really, isn't it?? Speaking of which, I got SOOO sucked into the marathon of Project Runway yesterday. I had never seen it before, and I couldn't stop watching. I even skipped Curb Your Enthusiasm to watch them make dresses out of flowers and plants.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I have not had a worse day than this in awhile. I spent the entire day reading and responding to a series of nasty e-mails from our sitter who, at twenty (and childless), has deemed herself an expert on parenting, and has also deemed me to be the worst parent in history. (Note, her frustration stemming from the $32.50 she would have received had I not decided to stay home today.) For this reason, she felt compelled and justified in accusing me of never disciplining Kicky (little does she know of the time-outs, the toy confiscations, the screaming!). She also said some other cruel things having to do with old sippy cups and runny noses that, despite being way off base, still stung. I stuck to the high road. I didn't remind her that on more than one occasion I had to wake her up when I got home (at 11:00 a.m., no less) as Esmee napped, that my house was always trashed after she left, that she once put Esmee to bed with only a diaper and a bib (a bib!) on, and that she was always, always fifteen minutes late, but that I continued to pay her for those precious minutes. I didn't complain that she made Kicky feel like the ugly stepsister, that I never once saw her read them a book, or that I'm spending half of the money I make teaching to have her watch the girls (she's also underpaid, apparently). Sorry. I just had to let that out. It's been bubbling. A terrible stew.

Endangered Species

I woke up today with the worst pit in my stomach: an absolutely debilitating melancholy feeling. I think it mostly has to do with the sitter coming while I'm at school this afternoon. The idea of Kicky having to spend three more hours with her when things are so contentious makes me more than uneasy. Kicky had nightmares all night last night; I even crawled in with her for awhile because she kept crying out and talking in her sleep. So I cancelled class and told the sitter not to bother. And she had the nerve to e-mail back that I should have given her more notice, that she was counting on the money. Am I insane or does it seem like when you quit a job with one day's notice, the employer doesn't really owe you much of anything? Anyway, I'm feeling like a mama bear, and my claws are out.

I think that the weather is also messing with me. It's gray and cold and rainy. This morning there was a terrible accident on one of the freeways here; everything just seems so grim.

And our neighbor says that there's an adolescent bald eagle that is stalking his coi. He saw it this morning and took some photos. Something about a bald eagle circling around the top of New Hampshire Ave with its high rises and strip malls is really, really disturbing to me today.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My bad seed

Just when I think I couldn't be any more stressed out, I get home from teaching last night and my babysitter quits. She's threatened to do so on about a zillion occasions, and I finally had enough. So I pull a Johnny Cochrane and tell her she either needs to commit or to quit, and she quits. God, and poor Kicky (her reason for leaving) is trembling and teary at my side. And to top it off, it's the sitter's birthday, and Kicky has made her a lemon cake and a card covered with glitter glue and pom-pons, which the sitter ends up leaving behind. I have never felt so heartbroken for Kicky before. The truth is, every other sitter we've had has adored her. Her teachers love her. Maybe this is why this hurts so much. The idea that someone wouldn't fall head over heels with her...who would think she is a bad kid even, some sort of cherubic looking demon unbearable. I trust Kicky's instincts about people though, and she's never been thrilled with this set-up. I think it's basically a case of favoritism. When I got home, the sitter was feeding Esmee cake and Kicky was in a time-out. The sitter likes babies, and Esmee is the baby. What's a four year old to do but make messes and act out???

Anyway, this afternoon I'm interviewing a teenager from up the street. He's had CPR and sitter training, and is available for the hours I need. I just hate this. I don't like it when people come into my life and then exit abruptly. It upsets the entire equilibrium of things.

As for the agent, I wrote a neurotic note to which he responded SO kindly. He promises to get to it next week. He even says he's "inclined to want to work with me" and will give it "the most serious consideration." He also told me I don't need to start biting my nails yet (little does he know of the bloody stubs that remain).

Think happy thoughts. Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean...