Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I really hate getting lost

So, through my undergrad program and other writing life things, I've developed a liking to Creative Non Fiction, and I've decided I'll start posting them here. I've only got a few written, so if you have a prompt/quote/idea for me to write about, I'd LOVE to give it a try. Here's a piece from a class where the prompt was to write about being lost, in 20 minutes, with no parameters. This is what came out (with almost no revisions). It is one of the most fun pieces I've ever written and got me over the slump I had in the middle of my first novel! (my thanks to Dr. Franke, who literally laughed aloud in class while we read every one else's submissions on the computers) 

I really hate getting lost. It kind of sucks, a lot. It makes me frustrated and annoyed and I just can’t stand it. I used to call my mother while driving (without my earpiece) and then we’d growl back and forth at each other. Where are you? I don’t know, if I knew that, I wouldn’t be calling you. Well I can’t help you get where you need to be until I know where you are. Okay, the corner of Townsend and Salina. Ok going which way? Uh, I dunno. JOOOOO. MOOOOOOM.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (And yes, that was a blatant King & I reference).

And so then Lola was born. Lola was the second best present my parents ever got me (the first being Josephine, my 2003 white Hyundai Elantra with blue decals on the sides). Lola, my Garmin Nuvi 750 GPS is my closest companion (even when she’s PMSing and tells me to turn where there is not a road or takes me to some trailer park in the middle of Pennsylvania and tells me it’s the Watermark Salo[o]n or even says “Turn right,” when really her map says turn left! [but I suppose that’s a female for you, saying one thing, showing another]). At any rate, Lola and I are great pals.

Whenever I’m going somewhere knew I tell people, all I need is the address, and then they blather on about how if I pass the second Wawa on the right I’ve gone too far, and I have to patiently (or not so patiently) ignore them while twiddling my thumbs or painting my nails so that when they’re finally finished and they say “got that?” I can reply in the affirmative that Lola will not fail us.

And then there’s that adage that you never know where you’re going til you get there. And I kind of like that notion – the sense of adventure you get on a road trip when you’re not really sure what to expect. So over Spring Break, I went on such a road trip. I knew I was going to go southish and through Pennsylvania into Virginia, but that’s about all I knew. So every few hours when I’d be on the phone with my mom and she’d ask me that wonderfully irritating question, I’d reply “I don’t know, somewhere in (enter state here).”or if I wasn’t even sure what state I was in at the time the reply was more along the lines of “I have no idea, but Lola does, so it’s all good.” And so I wasn’t really sure what we were going to see along the way, or the exact route we were going to take. I didn’t care; I had my Lola, my Cracker Barrel map, my co-pilot and an ever-increasing pile of CD’s.

Somewhere between Gerri’s and Ambers (Virginia and North Carolina) Lola brought us into contact with some very large and obnoxious billboards promising everything from cheap cigars to perfume. I ignored them in favor of the giant peach on the horizon, until I saw the words Porcelain Dolls. Then I was hooked. Exit 50, the sign assured me. I told Chris we were detouring; Lola would find out soon enough.

Under protest, Chris was yanked off of the highway, our beaten path as it were, and into an enormous warehouse-style redneck-filled megastore filled with mostly useless crap where he got to watch me debate and hem and haw and call my mother to measure the doll cabinet and give me advice on which doll was unique and cool enough to fit into my collection, for a whole thirty minutes until I decided on a 24-inch goliath named Rosalie. Lola kept whining at me “recalculating”.

When we left one state or another to go to some other part of the state or another, we were faced with lanes upon lanes of backed-up bottle-necked traffic, and so, once again, Lola in hand, we detoured. “Recalculating” she admonished (sometimes she really does sound irritated with me). And away we went, bypassing the traffic jam, running parallel to the highway until we were finally re-routed back on track.

There was a time in my life – pre-Lola – (let’s call that PL, shall we?) when getting lost was a really big deal, when it meant that I was going to be late, or maybe shot in the middle of Woodstock, New York, or run out of gas on some back road in the middle of East Jesus nowhere only to be raped and murdered, chopped into little bits and shoved into the swampy depths of anonymity and missing persons (not necessarily in that order). During this PL time of my life, I was often distracted by being on time, by having to leave 20 minutes early to go anywhere because I knew that inevitably, I would be incapable of following paper directions and too smart to look at a map while driving, and too dumb (or smart depending on the state I was in) to pull off at a lonely gas station simply to ask where the fuck I was going (yes, the f word really was necessary here). I don’t know if I can explain to you how difficult it was for me, this idea of getting lost – not to mention the reality of it when it inevitably happened time and time again – often and without warning. It was a cause of great stress in my life for four years. Every time I embarked on a new adventure, my inner Indiana Jones was squelched with images of my poor broken Josephine lying discarded on the side of some road, gasless, passengerless, lonely, like some old hole-filled sock, or of being lost in the middle of West Bumfuck New York, nothing but trees and deer in sight, on some winding mountainous road with no cell phone reception, driving endlessly for hours and hours.

So now, wherever I go, Lola leads the way, and I follow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Post-Conference Bliss!

I just had the immense pleasure of focusing on nothing but writing for two solid weeks.... and now I'm back in the real world, and it sucks just a little bit! 

Week 1: Let the festivities begin...
I spent June 20-26 in PA at Seton Hill University with my Troublemakers and the rest of my SHU family. We had classes and critiques from Wednesday to Sunday. I met some interesting new people - the ones. And I learned a few things. Took a class on marketing and trends in the romance genre and wrote my pitch for the RWA Conference, also took classes on reading my own work, writing excellent fight scenes and upping the sense of wonder and sublime in the books. I went through critique and everyone seemed to really like my next piece - the sequel to Jaded Hope, though it definitely needs some work, and I only have the first ten pages done. But that project will have to wait. During some bonding with other students and an impromptu reading at the hotel, I was asked to submit some erotic romance to an e-publisher, which I will be doing at some point this summer! Overall, there was lots of caffeine, friends, family, food, and VERY little sleep! 

Week 2: A continuation of insanity...
Sunday, after graduation and dinner with my Troublemakers (most of them) Pris and Monica and I packed my car (no it didn't fit better sideways, creeper) and I drove about four hours from West to East in PA - My god it's a WIDE state! When I was too tired to drive any more, we stopped at a surprisingly clean hotel at 1 am in the middle of Lebanon, PA (which I didn't even know existed until then.) After getting some much-needed sleep, we continued on to NYC. After finding the hotel (no simple task) we got settled and spent Monday relaxing, visiting and seeing a show (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which was amazing). Tuesday-Friday are kind of a blur. I met a TON of new people, got autographs from some of my favorite authors, went to several workshops that will help me in revisions, met with an agent and an editor and got two full requests for my Romantic Suspense, which I am in the process of polishing to get ready to go out the door. I got lots of books by debut authors or authors I haven't read yet, and went to the RITA awards. Overall I had an amazing time and I learned a lot. Saturday my mom joined me in NY and we went to see Mamma Mia, and I introduced her to one of her favorite authors and she was just amazed! 

It was an exhausting but exhilarating two weeks and I have so much work to do - polishing a MS, submitting pages to my mentor and crit partners in a week, starting a new piece, starting my reading class list, preparing to leave for France, going back to work, and attempting to still have a semblance of a social life! Should make for a very interesting 2 months! I'll keep you all posted!