BOUCHERCON | A Tale of Yearning from the Land of “If”

Who knows, maybe this guy will make it to Bouchercon someday.

Last year I attended Bouchercon, the mystery convention. But not this year. I thought I was okay with my decision until I popped into annoying Facebook — why oh why did I bother? — and noted how much fun everyone was having. I don’t know many of the publishing novelists having all the fun, yet I regressed to the mindset of a ten-year-old not invited to the popular girl’s sleepover.

This, even though I wasn’t a girl who pined for sleepovers. So I ask you, what the hell was my angst all about anyhow? Could I have been more immature, more childish, more silly?

The truth is that I yearn to be a member of the wider community of crime writers and known by at least a few of them for my writing. “Oh, Lisa Alber, yes,” Deborah Crombie might say. “Her debut novel is excellent.” Or from, say, Laura Lippman, “She got some buzz at BEA.” Or, from Louise Penny, “Haven’t read her novel yet, but it’s on my nightstand.”

That I don’t feel part of the larger community says too much about me, I guess. (Maybe I should look into therapy?) I’ve always strived for “As” — which is to say, external acknowledgment in return for my efforts. I don’t need much, but a few gnawed-on bones thrown in my direction would be nice; writing to the accolades of my inner critic and my friends and family isn’t enough.

Yesterday, I attended a lecture given by The Oregonian‘s book critic. On the return drive, a writer friend and I spoke about our futures in terms of “when,” not “if.” When we sell our first novels, when we have to start promoting ourselves…when, when, when…I felt fine (no Facebook!), and then…

My childishness resurfaced this morning as I peeked at a few fictionista blogs. There I went, bobbing back into the land of “if.” As in, “if only I went to the sleepover…,” as in “if only the damn novel would sell already…” One and all, the novelists who posted and who had attended Bouchercon professed to post-conference exhaustion. A good kind of exhausted, I’m sure. I remember boozing it up in the bar along with everyone else last year, watching the well-known authors greet each other with hugs. I eavesdropped on many a conversation about book tours, publication dates, agents, and publishers. Oh the fun! Even for me, the authorial voyeur. And man, I was exhausted just from absorbing it all.

I do love the writing process, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that my ten-year-old girl self won’t shut up. She still wants to be invited to the popular-girl sleepover (with boys, always with boys). This yearning of mine helps keep me motivated on the worst days. I don’t banish my ten-year-old self; I say to her, Hey, you, let’s keep chugging.

You never know, maybe next year I’ll show up  at Bouchercon with a book sale under my belt. A girl can yearn.

INSANITY | My Poor Thesaurus

I murdered my thesaurus.

I just sent a message to a few friends. What I want, of course, is for them to reply that I’m not really insane. That this kind of thing is normal and happens to the best of us. I won’t believe them.

Thought I’d share it with you too, because, hey, this is my life as a writer at the moment. The other side of the coin when the writing’s not going well, when indeed you’re wondering: What’s the point of my life?

What I wrote:

I think I’m going insane. Yesterday, I accidentally overwrote all my work on a course module, then started it again, then watched myself (in a fog of something) click NO to saving the changes, and lost it again. I had a complete and total meltdown – the kind in which you pace and cry and scream and want to kill something and you even look at the dog for a millesecond before you throw your beloved thesaurus (not the pocket-sized kind) across the room hard enough to break it in half down the spine. I think in psychiatry they call this “devolving.”

And then today, I couldn’t get stuff on the laptop to work right (or maybe myself to work right) while in a coffeehouse for my supposed lunch hour, and I turned into one of those crazies you sometimes see muttering to themselves and swearing under their breaths and making loony-tune faces.

AND THEN: I somehow forgot that I was on a teleconference call, UNmuted, and proceeded to throw a fit at my computer complete with the f-bomb, and I was pretty darned audible. And it was a childish fit – completely mortifying and I can’t stop obsessing about my mortification. My cheeks are still burning up two hours later.

Something’s seriously wrong with me these days.

So maybe you’re thinking that my subconsious is telling me something. As if I didn’t already know that I’m veering off my best path! Yesterday as I was coming off my meltdown I ruminated as follows: I need money, and I’m only technical-writing for the money. Well then, if I’m going to work for the money, why don’t I attempt to write a romance or a paranormal or a suspense novel? I mean, if I’m working for money wouldn’t writing any type of fiction be better than what I’m currently doing?

Last night, I had to laugh (maybe there’s hope for me yet), however. I’m reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, and I happened to read this passage: …and I’ll spend my declining years in a grimy bed-sit, with my teeth falling out one by one. Oh, I can see it all now: No one will buy my books, and I’ll ply Sidney (read: editor/agent) with tattered, illegible manuscripts, which he’ll pretend to publish out of pity. Doddering and muttering, I’ll wander the streets carrying my pathetic turnips in a string bag (picture my beloved thesaurus), with newspaper tucked into my shoes…Oh God. This way lies insanity.

That’s exactly how I felt, how I have been feeling.

P.S. Later: Just discovered the teleconference session was recorded, and my fit of pique — to put it quaintly — is out there for all the muckety-mucks to hear — again.

Free-For-All Friday

(What is this? My very own meme, which could take the form of other Friday memes out there — random five or ‘fessing up — or non-Friday memes, or anything! Point being to have a little fun and get a little interactive. Feel free to snitch my logo at left and do your Friday thing!)


Today for my meme I get to respond to another meme. This one is a commenter’s meme. I ask you, who thinks these up? People have good imaginations out there. I was tagged by Charlotte over at Charlotte’s Web.

(Addendum: Forgot to post this and now it’s outdated! I’m too lazy to update for Pete over at Couch Trip who left a nice comment today. Also, Caroline left a comment but doesn’t have a blog (yet?) –“hi” to you!)

The rules:

1. List the last 10 people to comment on your blog.

2. If you’re on the list, you’re tagged.

My last 10 commenters:

1. Terry at Mr. Wandering Writer

2. Sandi Kahn Shelton

3. mari at cha no ma-ri

4. Charlotte at Charlotte’s Web  (What’s the rule on this? She tagged me!)

5. oh at Oh! Books…Paper…Real Life…

6. Becca at Bookstack

7. DeAnna at Writely So

8. tracer at Twilight Spy

9. Lane at Lane Scheideman’s Photography

10. The Girl In The Cafe

Here are the questions:

1. What’s your favourite post from number 5’s blog?

oh’s a great photographer. I always like her Six-Word Saturdays with an image and a caption. This one was especially nice.

2. Has number 2 taken any pictures that moved you?

I remember one photograph that had me drooling. This was Sandi’s idyllic summer writing spot. Also, check out the cover of her latest novel, Kissing Games of the World. Talk about moving.

3. Does number 8 reply to comments on her blog?

I can’t say that tracer replies. However, I know this blogger in the flesh (not just virtually) and I know it’s not personal!

4. Which part of blogland is number 4 from?

Charlotte is from the part of blogland that speaks to any of us. She’s a writer, sure, but I don’t consider her blog just about writing. Also, because she’s a South African living in Germany, she adds a nice international flavor to my blog experience.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to number 5, what would it be?

Personally, I would love it if Lane added some text around his photos. (Everyone: another wonderful photographer.) Some of the technical or inspirational context. What was going on with him during the shoot…You know, just commentary.

6. Have you ever tried something from number 1’s blog?

Terry drops in every once in awhile, which is great. I can’t say that I’ve tried anything from his blog, but then, he doesn’t have that kind of blog. He shares his short fiction, which is far more brave than I have been so far.

7. Has number 3 blogged something that inspired you?

mari bakes the most delicious-looking cookies, and her photos look too good. Her series of VOTE cookies before the election put a smile on my face and kept me hopeful.

8. How often do you comment on number 6’s blog?

Not often enough! But only because I haven’t read most of the books that Becca has so have nothing to add to her reviews. (Get lots of reading ideas from her!)

9. Do you wait for number 10 to post excitedly?

Personally, I like it when The Girl In The Cafe posts madly or sadly. Just kidding — that’s an oddly worded question. Currenly, TGITC is working on a film so I look forward to her updates. I also like her commentary on film in general.

10. How did number 7’s blog change your life?

DeAnna Cameron’s blog? I gotta tell you, when I land a book-publishing contract, I’ll be reading every one of her posts again because her novelist interviews include TONS of tips about publicity and marketing. They’re very insightful.

At a Literary Salon, Drinking Absinthe

Last night, Mysterious Mr. M invited me on a little adventure. In heat rare for spring in Portland — 90 degrees — we arrived at the home of a fledgling literary promoter who hosts a regular salon inside her converted garage and under her covered car deck.

Though inspired by Gertrude Stein, the Lost Generation, and Paris back in the day, this is Portland, the city with citizens proud to sport “Keep Portland Weird!” bumper stickers on their Suburus. I had to wonder what awaited us.

In truth, the gathering was hipster, heavily 20-something, and a tad full of itself. However, I also sensed friendliness and sincerity beneath the swagger. Our hostess created a relaxed and open environment where even a non-hipster, mainstream kind of girl like me felt at home. 

Absinthe helped. I like absinthe. A lot.

I’ve imbibed the real stuff that’s illegal in the States. Chartreuse, practically lit from within, sweetened with sugar, tasting of licorice: yum. I remember going giggly and light. I remember sipping the concoction and being transported back to my childhood in Marin, to the anise-scented hills above my home.

Last night’s absinthe-lite wasn’t bad either (bought legally). In fact, not bad at all. I felt relaxed in a pleasantly heavy way. That tune “I Want to be Sedated” by the Ramones kept flitting through my head.

Mostly, I was content to chat with Mr. M about the complexities of short-story writing, the University of Iowa’s summer writing festival, and other literary arcana. And, of course, to companionably engage in what we writers often do in the midst of a crowd: observe.

The heat was as much a presence as the artists and writers. We sweated to the words of various readers. Tapped our feet to a band that I can only describe as traditional French cabaret with Romany gypsy undertones. Accordions, clarinet, harmonica, flute, and so on. Happy music.

Fodder for a story? Potentially helpful connections made? Who knows. I had fun, and I might have to show up again.

(Our absinthe purveyor, ensuring the two drink max. –> )