May 3, Houston: The big one -- the Inprint reading -- occurs at the Alley Theatre on Monday, May 3. Do not miss it or you'll be sorry. I'm not kidding -- I'm going to say the craziest, most intellectual yet hilarious stuff I can think of, and I'll be sharing the stage with the ultra sexy Oscar Casares, too.
June 24, Houston: I'm one of the peeps scheduled to read at Poison Pen, at Houston's famous Poison Girl bar. Besides me, everyone there will be ultra, *super* sexy. Come see me and drink!
June 26, Washington, DC: I'll be reading at the American Library Association conference. Come on down.
My other blog: Go read my the Houston Chronicle parenting blog (or my ChronMomBlog, as I like to call it) and make sure my kids won't resent me more than other kids resent their own parents.
Buy my new novel, Lone Star Legend. Already did? Well, buy a few more for your friends, then. :)
Sunday, April 04, 2010Hi, y'all.
Guess where I've been. Give up? I've been home working on my next novel, or at a coffee shop working on my next novel, or at my friend Ashley's house, working on my next novel while she paints her next painting.
Or, more likely than that, I've been procrastinating and making excuses for not working on my next novel. Other than that -- including that, actually -- life is pretty great here. Hope yours is, too.
Come see me at the Inprint reading in Houston, at the Alley Theater on May 3, if you want to see me. They let you submit questions, so someone submit a hilarious one. Don't submit something like, "How did you become a writer?" or "What advice do you have for people who want to be writers?" because someone else already submitted those. Also, don't submit, "How are you Hispanic if you look white to me and I don't know you or anything about you and I've never read your writing but you look white to me so is that your husband's last name and why are there Hispanic people around you saying they're your dad and your cousins, I mean you look white to me so why are people saying that you're Hispanic?" because someone will undoubtedly stand up and ask that at the reading without submitting it beforehand. It's pre-ordained.
(My answer is always, "Meet me outside after the reading for a Taco-Off and we'll find out who's Hispanic, then, motherfucker." Then, after the reading, I just leave. But I do usually have a couple of tacos at Taqueria Laredo on Washington Avenue the following morning. They make the best picadillo -- reminds me of my Aunt Sylvia's.)
Pop Culture Obsessions
I was going to ask y'all if you knew of a DJ/electronica/hip-hop person named Dabrye, and if you liked him as much as I'm starting to, but then I refrained because I'm starting to realize that i have sort of unusual taste in music.
I used to think that I had excellent taste in music and that most other people didn't, but now I'm just accepting the fact that there are different kinds of tastes in music and everyone has whatever works best with the active nerves in their brain. See, I'm reading Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia right now, and all the stuff he's saying fits in with my newly hatched theory that the brain of any given human who likes music must like it in a certain range of frequencies. A lot of people enjoy a higher frequency range than my brain enjoys. Like Passion Pit, Fleet Foxes, the Raveonettes, the Whatever-Os, and the Whosits... all those people sound too high and tooth-grindy to me. I like stuff that I can only describe as lower, but which my husband might describe as too minimal, too repetitive, too subtle, too depressing, or just too. Just too not-Passion-Pit, he means.
And that's okay. Our brains are different. Why would you want to be married to the same kind of brain as your own? Wouldn't that be boring?
We had this raging argument about taste in music the other day -- it's one of the few things we really argue loudly about -- and it lasted us all the way home and ended up concluding in front of the kids. But we took little breaks to add footnotes for the kids' edification, and each of our footnotes had the same gist, which was that we'd rather argue about who has better taste in music than live with someone who doesn't care about music at all.
Oliver Sacks says that people whose brains keep them from loving music have "amusia." The very idea makes me feel sad and sick -- it'd be like losing my peripheral vision or something.
Not to be an asshole. I'm just saying. Well, and maybe saying that makes me an asshole, anyway. But I can't help it -- I'm just telling y'all that it freaks me out when people say they don't care about music, and I can't even imagine.
Um... I subtitled this part "Pop Culture Obsessions" and not "Raging Music and Neuro-Type Snobbery" because I wanted to also ask who else out there is watching RuPaul's Drag Race and letting it eat their insides apart, like I am. Anybody? Anyone? Crickets in the back? No? Well, whatever.
Oliver Sacks instructs Dallas and me.
I hardly get to see my son Dallas anymore, because as long-time readers know, he lives with his dad while his two brothers live with me. And all three of them are teenagers now, so they have weekend stuff going on all the time, just like little adults, and we're all at the post-divorce phase, thank-God-fully, where we can be flexible and miss a weekend visitation here or there for the sake of the kids' scholastic and social obligations.
But, so, the other day...
[I'm about to say something to do with Dallas having Aspergers, and you might wonder why I'm saying it here and not on my ChronMomBlog, and I will tell you that it's because the Chronicle now has two mom blogs about moms with kids with autism, so I feel like talking about my kid's autism there would, at this point, look like horning in on other writers' territory.]
So Dallas was here the other day, and I was reading him little bits from Oliver Sacks, because Dallas has synesthesia and absolute pitch (which I used to refer to, incorrectly, as perfect pitch) and Mr. Sacks talks about each of those.
Synesthesia is when someone mixes the senses a little bit. In Dallas's case, he sees a different color for each note on the musical scale. Some people might see different colors for each letter of the alphabet, or different shapes for each number, but Dallas has the color/music variety, which we're interested in because he's a musician.
So I'm reading aloud to him that, "Composer John Doe sees D minor as a bright yellow."
And Dallas interjects, "Well, he's wrong."
I say, "Hold on, baby," and read that John Doe, furthermore, sees D major as blue.
"That guy's totally wrong," says Dallas.
I read from the next paragraph: "When I told this to composer Joe Blow, he said, 'That seems all wrong to me.'"
"Yeah. Because it is," says Dallas. "What colors does that guy see?"
"He says D minor is light green."
Dallas snorts. "At first I thought that guy might have some sense, but now I see he doesn't, either."
It cracks me up, his confidence. His arrogance, you can go ahead and call it. It took me forever to convince Dallas that not everyone can see what he does, and not everyone can tell what note a rubber band makes when it snaps against a wrist. He would not believe me -- he couldn't imagine a mind that didn't work like his. But eventually I managed to convince him, and he finally said, "That explains a lot, actually." It explains the infuriating confusion caused by certain band teachers, apparently. He wondered if they were lying or purposely tuning the instruments wrong, maybe because they didn't like him and wanted an excuse to give him bad conduct grades when he argued or covered his ears in annoyance.
I read in Mr. Sacks book that synesthesia occurs in one of every 2,000 people and absolute pitch (the ability to identify a note on its own) is more like one in 10,000. That surprised Dallas and me.
Mr. Sacks said that having very fine absolute pitch can be a nuisance for some people -- that hearing very slightly off-tune notes can irritate them while the rest of us can't even tell the difference.
"Does it ever bother you when I sing a tiny bit flat?" I asked Dallas. Because I know that he knows that I sometimes do. Not flat enough to lower my score on Rock Band, but flat enough that he'll very honestly tell me if I ask.
"My pitch isn't that good," he says.
And I see that he's learned, finally, how to tell white lies to spare feelings. And I'm glad that I'm one of the people for whom he'll commit that sin -- number one on the list of Asperger commandments: "Thou shalt not lie," followed by "Thou shalt not not make sense."
But I see, also, that I'll never understand the way he sees the world, or how much it bothers him to put up with the rest of us. No matter how hard I listen. No matter how much I love him and want to understand.
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? That's what I have to tell myself, to keep from crying when he gets on the bus to go back home. 9:33 PM # (4) comments
Thursday, January 21, 2010Etiquette for Friends and Relatives of Authors that I'm Making up off the Top of my Head Right Now
1. It's okay if you can't attend your friend or relative's book launch party. You don't have to write the author a long email explaining your excuse for not attending. "Hey, I can't go to your thing because I have to clean the gutters on my house that day. But good luck with the whole writing business!" See, if you're close enough to an author to receive free copies of all her books, and she sends you an invitation to her reading, it's not because she actually expects you to go there and buy more books and act like she's some kind of celebrity. It's because she's hoping you'll pass the invitation to 50 of your own friends in an email that says, "Hey, this is my cousin I was telling you about - the author who writes super awesome books. You should totally go to this event and buy 20 copies of her book and tell all your friends to do the same." Because, that way, she makes more money and springs for the better tequila at family get-togethers. Get it?
2. It's okay if you can't attend your author friend's reading or don't want to help publicize her books or don't even like her work. But it would be nice if, after all that, you refrain from telling your author friend how much you love the Twilight books and how you've bought two copies of each one and how you're telling 50 of your friends to buy them, too.
You know what I mean? It's okay to like Twilight and not your friend's work, but try to be sensitive about it, is all I'm saying.
For example: If you were an insurance salesman, your author friend wouldn't email you and say "OMG, I just met the AWESOMEST insurance agent and I bought 6 policies from him and then I told my friends and now we're gonna have a little insurance party where we all meet up with this guy and buy his policies! I thought you'd like to know that, since you do something involved with insurance, don't you? Hey, maybe you could meet this guy and learn how to sell policies like he does! Then you could have a corner office downtown and drive a BMW convertible like he does!"
At least, I hope your author friend wouldn't do that to you. I know it's not exactly the same thing, since you can own books by more than one author but you generally only have one insurance guy. But I'm just saying: sensitivity, people. Your author friend has feelings that can be hurt by book-related comments, so be careful.
3. You know what? Don't worry about it. Go ahead and do everything in the two items above. Your author friend is just a crybaby who needs to toughen up if she wants to make it. But, if you are going to do the stuff described above, please don't follow it up by referring the aspiring writers you meet to your author friend for free advice, free editing, and free co-authoring... not unless you plan to start giving your author friend free insurance policies.
Right now I'm doing 3 things.
1. Publicity for my new novel, Lone Star Legend, in stores any second so buy your copy now (or next weekend, probably). I'm happy to report that it's getting enthusiastic reviews from professionals and real people, alike, so you'll probably enjoy it. Download it on your book reader. Show up at one of my upcoming readings and get a real copy.
2. Working like a crazy person on my next novel. What? No, I didn't say "sitting here avoiding working on my next novel because I'm terrified about the way it's coming out and that it won't come out well and that all the success I've ever had has been a complete fluke." Why would you think I'd said that? Jeez, guys.
3. Being happy that I'm meeting a lot of awesome people in Houston, now that I have a tiny bit of time to do so. Because Houston has so many freaking awesome people, as some of y'all might be starting to suspect now that we've got our gay mayor and a special Web site boycotting our whole city and all. The combo of going part-time at my day job and my kids being old enough to completely ignore me means that I'm attending a lot more local events lately, and I love that shit. But I probably need to buy more dresses. But that's okay... don't think about that right now.
Important Job Tools
I bought a giant paper calendar for my home office. It happens to be the same as the giant paper calendar they ordered me at my day job office, except that I drove to Office Max myself for this one so it cost half as much as the one Office Max shipped to my job.
I have my Outlook calendar at work, my iCalendar at home, my calendar app on my phone, and my brain. But none of those work as well as paper calendars on a wall. Don't know why that is.
All right. Back to work, peeps. Talk to y'all later. 1:12 PM # (9) comments
Thursday, December 10, 2009Authoring Update
Everything is good, which means everything is boring. I mean, too boring for me to describe to y’all here, or to my cousins or my hairdresser when they ask me how everything’s going. Who wants to hear "Hey, another awesome thing happened in my career," or "Yeah, I’m working on another few projects" all the time? No one. I don’t even want to hear myself say it, you know? So I don’t say anything. I just go home and do work. Or do emails about work. Thankgodfully, I have a lot of projects going on now. I’m working like a mad man and am, in fact, about to go part-time at my day job in order to get more work done. If y’all know me in real life or have read this blog for a long time, you can probably imagine what a big deal that is to me and how happy I secretly am.
All that said... Let's talk about the next project you'll see. I have a new, real live novel, Lone Star Legend, coming out in January. Launch party is here in Houston, on January 28 at Brazos Bookstore. With wine -– they said I could bring some wine, and I definitely will.
I’ll also do a signing in Austin (at BookPeople) on February 5, I think the date is. And one in San Antonio, don’t know when yet. And I want to try to go to Dallas and then Los Angeles later in the year. But that’s about it, I think. As you’ve probably read by now, publishers have figured out that book tours don’t make as much money as they cost, and that’s why I never do them. So don’t hold out for signed copies, anybody. Instead, buy my book in January. Then, email me and tell me you bought it. Then, I will email you back, making the email say the words I would have written in your book if I’d flown to your town and met you at a bookstore table. And then you can print that email and Scotch-tape it to the inside cover of your book! Or, you know… you could always order a signed copy from Brazos Bookstore, and they’ll ship it to you. They're nice like that.)
(It kills me to write all that, all presumptuous about the possibility of people screaming for signed copies. But I kind of obsess over signed copies, myself, so I’m typing all that for my fellow OCD’ers.)
What is the book about? you might ask, because I’ve never yet told you. Is it about lone star legends? A little, yes, but that’s not the only thing.
It’s about a woman named Sandy Saavedra who lives in Austin and is super happy and proud of herself because she’s putting her journalism degree to work for a site called LatinoNow. And she’s scored a handsome grad-school-poet boyfriend. And even though her mom doesn’t understand anything Sandy writes, or even what she does for a living, it’s okay because they still have a pretty decent relationship, considering, relatively, since her mom drove Sandy’s dad away.
And then… bom bom BOM… a gossip-blog conglomerate buys LatinoNow. And they ask Sandy to stay on, but as a gossip blogger of the “bitch, pleeeeease” sort and not a Real Journalist.
All that’s in, like, Chapter One. So what do you think Sandy does, at that moment and for the rest of the book? Oh, and also, what do you think would happen if Sandy had a blog on the side, all along, into which she spilled all her uncharitable, secret, anonymous thoughts? And also, what do you think professional bloggers think of their fans and the people who comment on their sites? And how does it feel to make fun of people online for money? You know that I know, because I used to do that years and years ago, back when people were first learning how. And what happens when people don’t want to expose themselves on the Internet, but suddenly find themselves there, exposed? And what’s up with people who don’t even have Internet connections, or even want them – how do they live? How is that fathomable? That part I had to imagine, since I’ve been on the Internet since cavemen first drew cybersex hieroglyphics on Usenet walls, and now I only eat e-food and drink virtual gin with virtual diet cranberry juice.
That’s what my next novel is about, and Publishers Weekly says Sandy is a smart, funny heroine that y’all will root for. So I hope y’all will consider picking it up in January, maybe with the gift certificates y’all will receive this month from people who love you.
Did y’all see how Heidi Klum took my grackle costume idea, before I could even get the chance to implement? My costume was going to be better than that, and I wasn’t going to paint my face black.
I said this on Twitter a while back, so I’m recycling it here, but it’s important and bears repeating. Y’all will be relieved to know that, whenever I get the time, I continue my grackle research on patios throughout Houston. And recent studies at La Madeleine on West Gray have yielded important results:
1. Female grackles will eat butter, not just bread. They dip their beaks into it and it stays on them for a while afterwards.
2. Even if you put the bread near the butter, though, they will not dip the bread into the butter. They do not instinctively know that it tastes best that way, like I do.
3. Some female grackles like La Madeleine’s red jam, and some don’t.
Future research will focus on grackles’ (of both sexes) reactions to La Madeleine purple jam and orange jam. I suspect that they might like the purple, since it contains seeds.
In Lieu of a Christmas Newsletter
My family is doing well, despite my semi-regular bitching at them. Dat is steadily composing music and has about an EP’s worth of synth pop completed now.
Rory is studying multiple musical instruments and has been collaborating with his stepdad (aka “Pep-Pep,” for you fans of Tim and Erik). Rory has also remained on the Almost Honor Roll all year.
Dallas, who still lives with his dad, made First Chair in his instrument, which is pretty good considering that his high school’s band is super hardcore and competitive. They subsequently demoted him to Second Chair as punishment for losing his sheet music, but I’m content to ignore that completely. Dallas is also on Almost Honor Roll, in all advanced-level academic classes, which is pretty freaking good, considering that he spent half of junior high in “alternative” classes because of “distractions” caused by his Asperger’s.
Josh is about to get his first car, y’all. First car! And a nicer one than I’ve ever owned (but not new), due to a rare collaboration of his dad’s campaigning and my fiscal cooperation. Josh is very good and quiet and tall in general, although he did rebel against me mightily this year by shaving his head. I was upset and took to my bed, yes. But, in the end, I came back into the living room with newfound respect for my child. Josh is not on Almost Honor Roll and never really has been, but he passed Physics last year, when he was a junior, and I never even took it, so I’m satisfied with his academic achievements. Send him good vibes for his SATs next month, y’all. He wants to go to the University of Houston or University of Texas.
Toby has moved into his own little apartment. You might think it's just a bunch of moving-box lids that we brought home from my work, thrown on the floor in my office, but rest assured that it's his apartment, with different rooms (lids) for different purposes. He has his Resting Room, his Brooding Room, his Watching Room and his Room of Violence. You can tell the difference by the way he's marked up the corrugated cardboard in each.
Starbuck rapes our Christmas tree and steals its water.
See? Life is good. In the words of the immortal Joe Walsh: “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.”
I hope y’all have the best December holidays you’ve ever had, peeps. I hope y’all are happy and warm. 6:09 AM # (11) comments
Thursday, October 22, 2009Win free books!
In celebration of
Look at these sexy titles:
Zumba by Beto Perez , Maggie Greenwood-Robinson
Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta
Tell Me Something True by Leila Cobo
Amigoland by Oscar Casares
Monday, October 19, 2009Lately
I’ve been working like crazy, trying to write decent stuff and not hacky stuff. Like every other fall and every other time I’m under deadline to write a book, I have a lot of good ideas for other projects but NO TIME to do them.
Here’s my deal right now… let’s get it straight real quick, because it gets so confusing that not even my husband knows what’s going on:
1. You have seen, so far, in print in real life, my first short-story collection, my first novel, and two children’s books.
2. You will see, in January, my second novel. Also, pretty soon you’ll see my third children’s book. Both of these books, I wrote almost a year ago.
3. Right now I’m working on my third novel and my fourth and fifth children’s books. You will see those a little over a year from now.
See how it goes? Everything takes a year (at least) to get from me to you. So it’s like I’m working in a time machine, here. Kind of. People ask what I’m working on and I say “My next novel” and they say, “The one coming out in January?” and I say, “Um... what year is it right now?”
And I’m not high or drunk, either.
So it’s come to pass that, also, that next month, on November 20, you can see me on PBS in an interview I did a year ago. I can’t wait to see it, myself, because I remember enjoying the interview at the time, and it’ll be interesting to see what parts the editors and producers thought y’all might like.
Stuff keeps coming up like that: Time-machine stuff I do now that pays off later, or stuff I did a long time ago that’s showing results right about now. And all that is good. It’s like planting seeds.
Right now, between bouts of writing the books that you’ll see a year and a half from now, I’m trying to think up what I want to create for the year after that. Assuming, of course, that anyone wants to pay me to do anything by then. Because that’s always an assumption or a hope, but not a guarantee. I’m super glad, so far, that people are still paying me to do stuff for the future.
Do you like art? Do you like artists?
If you do... If you live in Houston and want to:
- See local artists and listen to them detail their artist processes in a laid-back setting
- Network with artists and arts community peeps in a decidedly non-network-y atmosphere
- Eat pizza and drink beer,
then you should come to the Spacetaker Speakeasy on Wednesday, October 21st, at around 6:30 PM.
Telling y’all this because Spacetaker is a local arts org that’s near/dear to my heart for the reasons described in the bulleted list above. I’m telling y’all this quietly, though, because the Speakeasy events are still kind of secret and cozy, and I’d hate for them to get too big too fast. So only show up if you really like art and artists, and only invite people you consider special and awesome, okay?
Admission is free and I don’t get paid to shill for Spacetaker. (I am a member of the Artist Advisory Board, though, so I want to see it achieve its mission, because that’s how I roll. There -- full disclosure made.)
I’m supposed to be the “Events Coordinator” for our department at work, which means, basically, that I’m in charge of thinking up reasons for people to bring cake to the office.
So we’re having a floor-wide, multi-department “trick-or-treat potluck” on October 30. No, it is not related to Halloween and therefore it cannot be deemed insensitive to hardcore Christians. It’s treating ourselves in celebration of coping with all the tricks we’ve been dealt during the last quarter. Get it? Trick, treat? See?
Anyway, so I made the invitation for this event, along with a sign-up sheet that contains a lot of cheesy industry-related puns. (“It’s a mutual food platform!” HA!!)
After I sent the invitation, this guy Tom from one of our neighboring departments told me, "Thanks for doing that. It's been so dreary here lately." And that made me happy, that I could help lift dreariness a little, for one person at least.
And it’s kind of pathetic, maybe... kind of Office Space... that something like that could make me momentarily happy. But it did. I make fun of Corporate America a lot, y'all know, but I’d rather work for Corporate America than, say, Privately Owned Firm America, or Retail America, or Food Service America, or Construction Work America...
So, life is good. That’s what I’m trying to tell y’all. Hey, maybe I can just repost pertinent bits of this entry on Thanksgiving Day…
Later, taters. Talk to y’all again soon.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009Here's a YouTube for y'all YouTubers.
I've been super AWOL, busy at the day job and the night job, but guess what I have for y'all three people still checking this site:
An interview, of me, by author Alisa Valdes, on YouTube.
Enjoy! If you're into that sort of thing!
I want to come back soon and tell y'all little stories about strangers I see at my workplace every weekday of my life. Let's make an appointment to do that later...
Gwen 7:01 PM # (2) comments
Thursday, September 10, 2009Where I Be
Hola, peeps. Have y’all missed me? If so, you should check out my Houston Chronicle blog, because I post a little more often over there.
Alternately, if you’ve been wondering how sexy, nasal, gravelly, or flat-aspect-y my speaking voice is in real life, how I waste my time on the weekends when I’m supposed to be writing, what the secret is to my goat whispering, or exactly how fast my husband cuts up tuna for spicy tuna sushi roll filling… you can check out the home movies I’ve been posting to Qik.
In other self-promoting news: I’ll be reading at the Houston Public Library, downtown, on Saturday morning, September 26, at 11 AM., for Banned Books Week. I’m gonna read from my fave banned book of all time and then ask attendees to tell me their secrets in exchange, so come on down for that, if you live in town.
Right after that, I’m going to do a Scype interview for my very good peep Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s new site, Las BMW. If you’re interested, you might want to run over there and register right now, while it’s free.
We bought the Beatles edition of Rock Band last night and played all the songs I liked, which didn’t take long, and then that was it. I was kind of annoyed by the fact that you can’t work your way through Story Mode without playing each and every song, as opposed to 3 out of 4 or 4 out of 5, like you do on the older editions. Basically, I didn’t appreciate Harmonix forcing me to sing yet another 1963 Beatles song with the same chords as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and that other one.
Not trying to be mean. I’m just saying. I mean, I really love “Dear Prudence” and “Get Back” and some of the other stuff. But don’t force me to sing everything else in order to unlock additional songs, is all I’m saying. We gave up Story Mode after two venues and switched to Quickplay. Oh, but the new vocal harmony functionality was cool. I did appreciate that.
I would dearly love a Rolling Stones edition or a Led Zeppelin one. I’d also like a few Heart and Van Halen songs. Do you hear me, Harmonix? I know they have a suggestion box on their site now. I need to get on that. That’s on my to-do list.
My Pop Culture Recommendations for This Quarter
I saw District 9 twice and loved it even better the second time and can’t wait for the sequel.
We also saw Extract over the weekend. It had its moments, but I’m not gonna see it twice.
I’ve been listening to this one album a lot lately: “In Ghost Colors” by the Australian band known as Cut Copy. My favorite songs on it are numbers 6 and 14.
Oh, and we’re totally obsessed with True Blood, that vampire soap opera on HBO. I’m calling it “a redneck-y, vampire-y Nip/Tuck.”
I’m not getting paid or gifted to say any of this, I swear.
Haven’t been reading anything lately. I read a lot of sad but beautiful books over the winter and spring, and now I’m supposed to be writing toward a deadline, so I won’t let myself read. Even though I just found and purchased an interesting-looking short-story collection and it’s sitting on my nightstand atop the mound of magazines. Even though my son really wants me to read The Lightning Thief and I’ve already read the first chapter of it and will probably download the rest this week. But serioiusly – no more reading until I’m done writing this next book. I mean it!
I just typed and deleted, twice, the list of books I read and enjoyed over the past year.
Sometimes I feel weird saying what books I read in a public forum because… I don’t know why. Like I worry that certain people will get upset that I’m not reading “enough” stuff in the genres that I write in, or enough stuff by authors who share certain demographics with me. Or that I suck for not reading and promoting all the books by people I know in real life. And I also worry that listing books now will tempt others to pressure me to mention certain books in the future.
Like a lot of you, I have a really long list of books I want to read – just not necessarily enough time to get to them all. And I don’t even feel like a list of what I read recently would be representative of what I value most as a reader. You know? Because sometimes I read something just because it catches my eye, or just because it was in the doctor’s office, or just because I accidentally downloaded a sample chapter of it on Kindle.
So I’m not gonna make any lists of books. Instead, y’all tell me what you’re reading and loving. At least two of the books I loved last year came from y’all’s suggestions, in the first place. And for that, I thank y’all kindly. Thanks, peeps.
Will write again when I can. 6:39 AM # (6) comments
Tuesday, August 25, 2009now entering Hyper Lockdown Mode
I’m about to go into Super Hyper Overdrive Lockdown in order to meet my writing deadlines. What does that mean? It means that if I don’t answer your call, respond to your Facebook quiz, or agree to participate in your latest entrepreneurial venture, it’s not (necessarily) because I don’t love you.
My next novel is due on May 1. Before that, I have one kids’ book draft due on November 1 and another kids’ book draft due on… March 1, I think? So it’s time to buckle down. Wonder Write Powers, activate! Form of: getting pages down!
Even the knitting’s on hold now.
In other writing news… I think it’s okay to tell y’all now that I’m going to do Inprint’s Margaret Root Brown reading, here in Houston, in May, along with author Oscar Casares. Exciting, is it not?
Before that there’s another thing, but I’m not supposed to talk about it yet. But let’s just say that I’ll be visiting Austin around Halloween. I don’t yet know if I’m going to wear a costume. If so, I might be Minnie Mouse. So much is still up in the air….
My sister-in-law gave birth to two awesome twin girls. Which is fabulous! But then, of course, it makes people ask Dat and me if we’re going to have a baby, too. My other sister-in-law had a baby girl a few months back. Her sister is pregnant right now. Two sets of our friends are announcing their plans to try to have additional babies.
I see babies. I think of babies. I dream I’m having babies. The other day I made the mistake of taking a nap and, in my nightmare, I had given birth to twins. They were dangling out of me, still attached to their cords, and I was juggling them as we made our way to the hospital, where they didn’t want to give me a wheelchair and they asked me to have the placentas removed in a slummy housing project so as to score the hospital some kind of grant.
In this dream, my twins were boys. I don’t think I’d even know how to have a girl in my uterus, at this point.
Which is not to say that we’re thinking about having a baby. Because we’re not. I’m just telling you that the babies are all around us.
My real kids started school this week. Aside from some special State of Texas Vaccination Drama, everything ran smoothly. The kids have plenty of nice new skull- and electric-guitar-emblazoned t-shirts to wear, you’ll be happy to know.
My oldest is a senior this year. That brings up, to me, a lot of questions that are way more pertinent than the “Are y’all going to have a baby, maybe?” one. There are questions about college, after-school jobs, driver’s licensing and insurance, freaking prom, freaking class rings and yearbooks, girlfriends, curfews, Facebooks, the future…
You know. You know where I’m at with this, right?
That’s literally all I have time to say right now.
Isn’t that sad, kinda? More when I can. 7:02 PM # (1) comments
Wednesday, August 12, 2009I don’t know what Buddhist monks do, but maybe this is similar. (Or maybe it’s only Level 1 in their lifelong video game.)
Lately I’m starting to believe that all anger and all violence is rooted in hurt feelings and fear. And I’m on a continual quest to control my temper. (My temper is roughly 400% better than it used to be, but there’s still room for improvement.) So this means my latest and greatest technique for temper-tempering is stopping to examine why I’m angry, and if the reason is another, underlying emotion (like fear or hurt feelings), then I force myself to admit that and express it in a reasonable way.
That’s not easy. And you know what’s even less easy? Seeing someone else act like an angry jerk and then trying to figure out if they’re hurt or scared and then forcing myself to have compassion for that person and to find a way to deal with him/her without resorting to reciprocal anger. That’s so difficult that I hardly ever get it right. But I keep trying.
It’s like a detective show. It’s like a puzzle. Only some things in this world make me feel angry. So which ones are they, and why? No, honestly. What is the real reason why? And how can I use that to relate to others and to quit being such a bitch all the time?
I’m working on that. That’s my hobby now. That, and the knitting.
different kinds of crafty
I recently went to all the libraries near me and checked out every knitting book they had. In one of the Stitch ‘n Bitch books, author Debbie Stoller lays out the four types of knitters, with equal fun-poking and discussion of the pros and cons of each. The first type was knitters who are really into the technical aspect of knitting and choose to make things that are challenging and show off their skillz. Okay, got it.
The second type was dubbed “She’s Gotta Have It” knitters, and they’re the ones who see something they want to wear/own and then figure out how to knit it. And that, for the most part, is me. Even though I’m a noob, I know I’m that kind of knitter because I’m that kind of seamstress, crocheter and beader, too. Debbie went on to say that those types rarely learn skills outside of their comfort zone, which made me bristle for about three seconds before I realized that I didn’t mind that being true, as long as I knew enough knitting to knit what I like.
Then there were two other kinds of knitters that I can’t remember. Sorry. But it’s there in her book, if you want to go read it for yourself.
Anyhow. This categorization of crafters made the wheels in my mind turn. Yes, the number-one consideration for me is how the finished piece looks, and whether I want to wear it or see it being worn by someone else. Of course it is. But could there really be other kinds of knitters on Earth? And, if so, would I be able to identify them in the future?
So then, the other day, I was skimming through the forums on Ravelry.com and saw peeps talking about Vogue Knitting magazine. That interested me because Vogue Knitting is a big part of why I learned to knit. Every season of my adult life, I’ve browsed through that mag at the racks and wished that I could knit. So it was with extreme rapture that, after taking the knitting lessons last month, I was finally able to justify my very own subscription to Vogue Knitting, whose Fall ’09 issue was so beautiful, it made me sick. Every orange sweater in it, I wanted. And now I can have them. NOW I CAN KNIT THEM!!!!!1!!!1!!!! I HAVE THE POWER!! JUST LIKE HE-MAN DID, WHEN HE HAD THAT SWORD FROM CASTLE GREYSKULL!! EXCEPT THAT I DON’T THINK HE DID CRAFTS – HE JUST KILLED PEOPLE OR WHATEVER!!
So I’m on Ravelry, and they’re talking about the Vogue, and some of them are hating on it. They’re like “Oh, the sweaters are weird” and “The models are posed so weirdly” and “They’re all skinny and I’m not! Eff Vogue!”
And I became confused. Because, one, how could people not see that Vogue Knitting is the perfect blend of crafty magazine and fashion magazine?? Of course the models are going to be skinny and bent at weird angles. But the sweaters aren’t weird, they’re beautiful. They’re fashionable.
Second: Are we not knitters? We are Devo! (In this sentence, Devo means crafty.) Hence, we can take the Vogue sweater patterns and make them whatever size we want. Can’t we? Hope so, because I’m wearing at least one orange Vogue sweater this winter, y’all, even if I have to do quantum physics on the pattern, first.
Then, after all that thoughtage, I realized that people who dislike Vogue might be those other kind of knitters – the first kind Deb Stoller talked about. The kind who really, really like the process of knitting and don’t see it as a means to an end.
And, for those people, there is Interweave knitting magazine.
Right? Am I right? I mean, I like Interweave, too, but I can see that it’s a little hardcore for me. But, at the same time, I love and respect the people who like that magazine better, and all the other kinds of knitters. Because we’re all sisters here, aren’t we? (Yes. Guys, too.) We’re all fellow witches in the coven of craft.
And right now I’m having a flashback to the mid-‘90s, when I used to read the sewing newsgroups on Usenet and be amazed at the vicious arguments that broke out there, among crafters, on a forum that was meant to unite us. Good times, good times, as they say.
the sister-witch site in the coven of me
I finally got my Official Author Site, gwendolynzepeda.com, redesigned. If you look at it right after I’ve posted this entry, you’ll see that it needs a content update, too. But still, it’s kind of new and kind of fresh, and I feel like we should celebrate. So, pretty soon, I’m gonna have some sort of contest and give away an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of my novel that’s coming out in January. To one of y’all, for free, with free shipping. Signed, too, maybe.
I just have to think up a tortuous, narcissistic contest quiz, first. (One that will probably be easily winnable using Google, though.) That’ll be next entry. Also next entry, I’ll tell y’all my favorite easy summer recipes, most of which involve liquor and/or Mexican chili powder.
Take care until then.
Gwen 6:37 PM # (13) comments
Saturday, August 01, 2009writing stuff
Right now I'm working on my third novel, which doesn't have a title yet. It's Saturday night and I'm writing the seventh or eight chapter, out of order, because I haven't written Chapters 2 through 6 yet. But I have a good feeling about this one, already. I'm excited, and I think y'all are gonna like it.
In January, y'all will be able to buy my second novel, Lone Star Legend. Actually, I have ARCs (Advance Reading Copies, for reviewers) right now, so email me if you're any sort of book reviewer and would like a copy to review sometime in December or January. Just know that the ARCs have some wonky formatting issues that affect my OCD, but will be fixed in the real books, in January. :)
Aside from the very temporary wonky formatting issues, I think y'all are gonna like that one, too. Especially y'all who are familiar with the Internets and the things that go on there.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting for someone to re-design my author site so I can update with the events I'll be doing later this year.
And, um... Also, I have another kids' book coming out, called I Kick the Ball, but I'm not sure when, exactly. They said 2011 but I think it's actually going to be 2010. I'm super-excited about that one, because it has a little boy for a protagonist, and as y'all can imagine, I have an affinity for little boys, seeing as how I gave birth to three of them. Also, they hired a really awesome illustrator for it, so I'm looking forward to seeing how it all comes out.
There are also a zillion other things going on, all good, that I'm not supposed to talk about yet. So I feel like I can't ever really update y'all in a real way.
But... there is a moral to the story. The moral = hard work pays off. Hard work snowballs and makes you glad you started it.
I've taken a few knitting classes over the past three or four weeks, so now I know how to knit, and I'm super-glad because I've wanted to knit all my adult life but never managed to teach myself....
and now I know how, and I'm making a scarf out of cheap acrylic, and next I'm going to make a more complex scarf out of expensive acrylic, and after that we'll see what happens, but I have dreams, y'all.
I'm on this knitting social networky thing called Ravelry.com, and my name there is Gwentown, in case you want to friend me so I can look through your projects and steal your ideas.
Other stuff is going really well, all considered. I have no complaints, y'all.
I started to type a big old status report on my three kids, but then I felt weird and deleted it. I always feel weird telling details of their lives, but especially so now that they're teenagers. I mean, I have the mom blog on the Houston Chronicle, now, too... So I'll angst about the privacy issues there, and tell y'all here that my kids are doing really well. :)
I keep saying "my husband this" and "my husband that," and people think I'm trying to remind everyone that I'm a newlywed, but really it's just that I'm used to saying "my boyfriend" and I'm trying to train myself out of it.
My husband is out at a concert with his friend right now. I'm at home working. Well, I'm supposed to be working, but instead I'm typing this blog entry. Shhhh....
this little girl
Today I was knitting in public (which I've heard people say is tacky, but I don't understand how it's tackier than, say, shopping for clothes in public, but I think it's mostly British people who say it's tacky, and I'm in America, so whatever). I was knitting in public -- at the hair salon, actually, while my husband got his hair trimmed -- and there was this little girl.
Not to be judgmental, but then again why not, so this little girl and her brother were getting simultaneously bitched at and ignored by their parents, if you can imagine that. You know how I mean? Their dad was feverishly typing on his phone, but keeping up a steady stream of "Chloe*, be good. Steven*, be quiet. Chloe, shut up. Steven, I'm gonna spank you if you don't behave." (*Not their real names.) He wasn't even making eye contact with them -- just telling them to shut up and behave. Then he'd haul them outside and buy them ice cream, then haul them back in and bitch at them, without looking at them, for eating the ice cream like children instead of like adults. All while reading his phone.
So I was thinking, "Wow, this dude really doesn't enjoy having kids." But I kept my eyes on my knitting.
At one point, the discontent dad hauled little Steven outside to spank him or buy him a candy, and little Chloe started circling me like a hawk, staring at my knitting. It cracked me up on the inside, the way she literally circled me to see the process from all angles, then walked up really, really close. She was maybe seven or eight years old.
"You ever seen anyone knit before?" I asked her, finally, when I could feel her breath on my hands.
She shook her head.
"That's what I'm doing. Knitting," I told her.
She ran around to my other side and sat next to me on the salon's sofa. She said, "Are you sewing a blanket?"
I told her I was knitting a scarf. I unrolled the scarf for her to see, and showed her the knitting needles.
Her dad came back in and bitched at her to sit on the other side of the room.
Later, little Steven won his dad's attention by emptying the water cooler onto the floor, and Chloe took the opportunity to squeeze onto the sofa between her dad and me.
"Knitting a scarf," she said slowly, to no one.
I smiled in her direction.
She sidled over and asked, "Does the yarn break?"
"Chloe," her dad said warningly. But I ignored him and answered her question. Tried to. It took a while to figure out that she thought the width of the scarf was due to me secretly cutting the yarn. So I showed her how the yarn folded into rows. While I did this, her dad took Steven and left again, apparently deciding I couldn't kidnap a kid with knitting needles in my hands.
Chloe asked more questions and I tried to answer. I wished, then, that I had one of those little knitting kits for children, because she was so fascinated and so clever, I felt like she'd be a natural at it. You know? But I didn't have one, and I stopped short of telling her to ask her father for one.
Then my husband's hair was done and we got up to go. I turned to say goodbye to Chloe, but she was busy getting nagged at by her dad.
Maybe it'll occur to him to buy her a knitting kit on his own. She can knit, then, while he plays with his phone.
Or maybe she'll take a knitting class when she grows up.
fish in hot bean sauce
When I first met my husband, I didn't think that people ate fish fins.
Now I know that it's the best part of the fish to eat.
We went looking for this restaurant that my coworker Jennifer Y recommended. It didn't have an English name, she'd told me. The Mandarin name was, phonetically in my mind, "Lao Di Fun." She wrote down the characters for me and I put the piece of paper in my purse.
But today, after the haircut, I realized that I was carrying a different purse and had neglected to transfer the Mandarin-inscribed paper to it.
We decided to look for the restaurant, anyway. We went to the shopping center where we knew it to be. It was full of restaurants with Chinese characters all over the windows and glass doors. We found parking near the most likely looking one and went in. My husband, who is Chinese but doesn't speak Mandarin, made me do the talking. (I'm not Chinese, and I don't speak Mandarin, either, but I was the one who'd gotten the name first-hand from Jennifer Y.)
"What's the name of y'all's restaurant?" I asked the hostesses.
"Spicy Szechwuan," they said, in heavily accented English.
"Um... What's the real name, though? Does it have a Mandarin name?" I asked.
They told me. It wasn't Lao Di Fun. A waiter joined them. He asked what I was looking for. I said, "Lao Di Fun?"
They said, "What?"
I said, more carefully, "Lao... Di... Fun."
They couldn't understand me. Then, after like fifteen minutes, one of them goes, "Wait -- do you mean Lao Di Fun?"
I said yes. They said, "Oh, it's next door."
Next door, the same basic thing happened.
What's the name of this place?
The real name?
[Something in Chinese.]
Do you know where Lao Di Fun is?
What? What'd you call my mama?
Lao... Di... Fun?
Oh! Lao Di Fun! It's over there.
Next restaurant over, same thing happened.
Hello. Bamboo Dumpling House.
Lao Di Fun?
What in God's name did you just say, Caucasian Woman?
Lao... Di... Fun?
Oh! Lao Di Fun is over there.
And again, and again, and by now y'all are realizing that Jennifer Y must have given this place a very strong recommendation, and that we must trust her opinion. Well, yes. That, plus my husband believed that a place without an American name on the door must be very authentic and therefore worth trying.
We went in a big circle, with the last waitress pointing back across the parking lot to the first restaurant we'd entered, before giving up and deciding to eat at Alias Spicy Szechwuan.
(I suspect that Alias Classic Kitchen was the real Lao Di Fun, but that they literally could not recognize their own restaurant's name coming from my mouth.)
We got menus with several pages, but my husband suggested we focus on the House Specialties section. In that way, we ordered "Fish in hot bean sauce," (but one-star mild, please), plus fried string beans with ground pork. The waitress directed us to the "appetizer bar," where we selected marinated cucumber, marinated seaweed, and pan-fried pork rind for our three-appetizer plate.
While we waited, I ate all the seaweed and most of the cucumber. We each tried a piece of pork rind but didn't try more than that. I looked around at the restaurant's decor. It was nicer than the average hole-in-the-wall in that neighborhood, with a semi-typical red and black color scheme. They also had the requisite aquarium full of fish, all of them flat and pinkish and happy-looking. A group of Chinese women came in with one white guy, who talked very loudly about the girl among them who was his girlfriend and the fact that she spoke Chinese and Vietnamese and therefore "spied" for him at Vietnamese restaurants, and then said loud Cantonese words to the waitress, who smiled very politely as she walked away. Behind us, a baby ate rice from a yellow baby bowl her parents had presumably brought from home. When she was done, she proudly flung the bowl on the floor.
Then, finally, they brought our fish to us. Whole, on a giant plate, in a pool of spicy, oily red sauce. Damn, y'all, it looked good.
"Look at his little head," I said. "It's so round." His face was all covered with sauce, and they'd been good enough to remove his eye, so I didn't feel as bad as I otherwise might have.
My husband, who is very gentlemanly, filled my rice bowl with rice and put a piece of fish on top. I tasted it. "This is really freaking good," I said.
"Yeah. It's fresh," my husband said.
"Yeah, it tastes fresh," I said. "It's all like, soft and stuff. Like it was never frozen."
"It's one of the ones from that tank, baby," he told me.
I looked over at the tank full of pinkish fish. "Aw."
I felt bad for, like, three seconds. Then I remembered that all those fish were going to die, anyway, so they could at least die making people happy. Right?
First we ate the flesh that didn't have bones. Then we ate the flesh that did have bones, putting it in our mouths whole, eating around the bones and removing them with chopsticks. Then, we sucked the fins. Then, we spooned the fish-speckled sauce onto rice and ate that.
This is gonna sound crass, maybe, but one of the things I like about eating at Asian places is that I can relax my table manners a little and no one minds.
At one point, I was sucking on my fish fin and staring into space, experiencing the chili flakes and oil and vinegar and something mysteriously sweet, and the waitress walked by and caught my eye. "Good?" she asked.
I nodded. "It's very good."
We'll find Lao Di Fun next time, maybe. I was glad we found this place this time, though, whatever its real name is. 11:06 PM # (5) comments
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Since my fiance and I started carpooling to work, I pushed my 8-hour work day back an hour, so that it now coincides with the busiest part of the morning commute, and also with our HOV lane’s 3 Rider Rule. For a certain portion of the morning, you have to have 3 people in the vehicle in order to get into the High Occupancy Vehicle lane. Therefore, even though we’re carpooling, we still have to pick up a stranger from the Slug Line each morning in order to make it to work in less than 90 minutes.
The Slug Line forms at the park ‘n’ ride bus stop. The bus at that stop goes into downtown on Smith Street. It goes all the way down Smith, then turns around and comes back to the park ‘n’ ride. The Slug Line is formed by people who don’t want to ride the bus – who stand in line and wait for drivers who need extra riders to meet the HOV requirements. See how it works? See the mutually beneficial symbiotic parasite relationship that’s sprung up?
We don’t work downtown. We work near downtown. So we pick up a stranger, haul them downtown, then turn around and hurry back out west, to our workplace in Houston’s beautiful Montrose.
If we drop off our passenger on Smith Street, we can easily make it to our workplace in time to enjoy breakfast at its cafeteria. If, however, we drop off our passenger anywhere past Smith, we fall into a time warp whereby each red light adds an exponential amount of minutes to our drive, and then we get to work late and can’t eat breakfast, and then we’re hungry, cranky, and sad. You see? Every minute counts on this morning commute, for us.
Some slug line drivers will take riders wherever they want to go downtown. I used to do that, before I started carpooling with my fiance. But some drivers don’t. Some drivers say “Bus route only.” Smith Street only, they mean. So we decided to start doing that, too. Before a rider gets into our car, we roll down the window and say, “We’re only going down Smith.”
Before I say anything else, let me say that this is America, and I was born here, and I believe that we all have the unalienable right to pursue happiness. If it makes you happy to wait in line at the bus stop for a free ride that’s going to take you directly to your place of work, like a hired chaffeur, that’s totally cool with me. I support your right to do that. Rock on.
You should, in turn, support my right to offer strangers rides to Smith Street only. Or to Milam only. Or to the Sam Houston Tollway, or to the moon, or to whatever point I choose. If you don’t want to accept a free ride from me, that’s fine. But don’t argue with me about it. When I say, “We’re going down Smith only,” don’t stand there and say, “I’m just going a few blocks away, to Fannin and Dallas. Why can’t you go to Fannin? It’s only going to take you a few minutes longer. Where are you trying to go?”
It’s none of your business where I’m “trying to go,” or why I might need the few minutes that dropping you off on Smith would save me. Step away from my car so that the next person in line can get into it. Wait for the next driver to come along, and see if she wants to play chaffeur.
When I very politely tell you, before you get into my car, “We’re doing the bus route only,” don’t stand there in the way and tell me, “What? Why? I don’t see what difference it makes.”
Yes, that’s right. You don’t see what difference it makes. And I don’t have to explain it to you. Just like I don’t see what difference it makes if I drop you off on Smith and you have to walk a block or two, the way you’d be obligated to do if you were riding the bus. I don’t think walking a block or two is going to kill you. And I wonder, if you can’t walk a block or two, why you don’t drive yourself to work, instead of putting yourself at the mercy of strangers on a daily basis. But I wouldn’t block traffic to tell you that, and I wouldn’t ask you to explain it to me. Especially when there’s a whole line of people behind you who understand the social contract of the slug line and who exhibit manners and common decency.
Most people in the slug line are perfectly polite. But some of them are so bizarrely entitled and rude. It would be funny to me, if it weren’t so early in the morning.
I don’t want to go on and on about bad behavior on the carpool. (Well, I do, but I won’t.) I’ll just say that, if you get into my car and I turn the air conditioning too high, it’s probably in a vain attempt to blow your cologne cloud out of my face.
Also: If you’re a blonde woman who lost a pair of glasses two months ago, or if you’re someone else who lost a pink mitten three months ago, email me. You might have left them in our car.
Weddings are like tumors.
Because they grow, you see. No matter how small you think you can keep it, it grows. But this one’s a benign tumor, so far, and I believe we’re strong enough to keep it that way.
We realized that Harris County doesn’t do real courthouse weddings. You pay for the judge’s or JP’s time, and it costs the same whether y’all meet at the courthouse or he drives to the location of your choosing. So we’re having Judge Yeoman come out to the house in the evening, right before our
The cake-and-champagne has become a dinner. Dat looked it up in his list of Cultural Heritage Statutes and realized that he’d been contractually obligated, at birth, to serve catered fried rice at any wedding in which he might eventually become entangled. So we’re doing that. (I love Asian parties because, along with the fried rice and egg rolls, they always have goi, which is vinegar-y salad with shrimp and peanuts. So we’re having that, too, of course.)
I’m relieved, because I felt a little uncomfortable about having a party and not serving a meal (Chicano Cultural Statute, Clause 57.03), and I was already planning to sneak in a brisket (Clause 57.92) next to the wedding cake… and now I can put the brisket on a nice plate, right next to the fried rice, and it’ll be beautiful.
You can’t have a dinner without extra seating, and you can’t have extra seating without building a gazebo in the back yard, and you can’t build back yard structures with remodeling the bathroom, first, and you can’t go through the trouble of remodeling if you aren’t going to wear a nicer dress than you’d initially planned. So you may as well have a photographer or three, and printed invitations.
And you can’t have relatives without opinions, and they can’t show up empty handed. So someone’s bringing flowers, and someone’s bringing lights to string through the trees, and someone’s bringing special crunk champagne flutes with our initials engraved in emeralds or something. And (more than one) someone has volunteered to do our family planning for us and tell us when we should have babies, and how many babies we should have, and what they should look like, and what we should name them. But that comes later… we told them to wait to the day after the wedding for that, if possible.
And… let me say right here, right now that I’m sorry that we can’t invite everyone we know. We wish we could, but we can’t. This was supposed to be a quick courthouse wedding because we couldn’t justify the expense of a lavish 300-guest fantasy wedding. But weddings are like tumors, so it’s gone from a practical elopement to a tiny version – a 1/10 scale model – of a real wedding. But our house is pretty small, as is our budget… so please understand that, and don’t be upset if you haven’t been invited. It wasn’t because we didn’t wish we could see you there. We wanted to invite you, but we had to invite our immediate family, first. We wanted to invite everyone we know, but there was literally no room.
Now, between books (assuming I write another book soon), I’m going through a mid-life assessment. Trying to assess where I am and decide where I want to go.
Every time I’m between books, I think up a lot of crazy ideas. But now that I’m in my mid-40s (i.e., 37), the crazy ideas seem not only more plausible, but almost obligatory. Like: “Do I want to spend the rest of my life [x thing]? No.” Like, “If I have to spend the rest of my life [x thing], shouldn’t I at least [y and z things]? Yes.”
I’m sure y’all know what I mean. Don’t you go through the same phases? Aren’t we all getting older, but also smarter and more efficient and better at making ourselves happy?
Hope so. 6:07 AM # (8) comments
Wednesday, March 18, 2009Guess what? 25 Random Facts About Me!
because I have been inspired.
Now, all I have to do is think of 25 new things to tell y'all, apart from the stuff divulged in the 100 things meme I did back in 2005, and apart from all the other stuff I've told y'all over the past 12 years.
1. I'm going to do a reading/event tonight in which I'm supposed to talk about my creative process(es). For that, I've decided to give a 5-minute history of my writing career. It's my first time doing anything like that, so I'm kind of nervous. But I'm always kind of nervous about all the events I do, no matter how new or old the material. Unless they're readings for little kids, that is.
2. I feel that the best Easter candy is Russel Stover's creme eggs, in coconut-in-dark-chocolate flavor.
3. I like to go to the grocery store with my fiance. That's, like, a serious date night activity for us. Sometimes I think it's because we both experienced hard times in our youth. But usually I don't try to analyze it.
4. I'm getting married on May 23rd. (THIS NEXT PART IS SECRET - SHH:) At first I was a little bit sad because my future in-laws didn't think I was the right person to marry their son. Not sad enough to let it stop us, or to dwell on it on a daily basis, but kind of disappointed. But, recently, my fiance talked to them about it, and they voiced their concerns... and now they're coming to the wedding. And I'm happier/more relieved about that than I would have expected.
5. I'm actually a really good daughter-in-law. No one here knows that, because last time I served in that capacity, it was in a tiny town that no one cared to visit. And then I left my husband, effectively removing the possibility of further communication with my parents-in-law. But I know that they loved me, because they told me so, more than once. And I loved them. And I spent jillions of hours with them, and I did what I could to make their lives easier. And I enjoyed doing so, because that's just the kind of crazy I am. And, I have to say here that my ex-mother-in-law was way, way, WAY more opposed to that marriage (and more vocal about it) than my current future in-laws have been. So, in general, I'm optimistic about the new in-law relationships I'm starting. I can rebuild them. I have the technology. I am... the $6 Million Daughter-in-Law. I've just been waiting for the paperwork to go through so I can begin.
6. I didn't realize, until recently, how much I missed being a daughter-in-law.
7. If it were up to me, and no one's judgment had any effect on my life, I'd cut my hair short and never wear makeup. It is up to me, I know, but I live in this world. In this world, prettiness can be a kind of armor. So I put on eyeliner every morning, just like a knight of old.
8. I turned 37 in December. A while back, something made me think that I was "almost in my forties." So, since then, I keep thinking that. "I'm almost in my forties -- I don't have to deal with that." "I'm practically 40 -- I should know better." "I'm in my forties now -- shouldn't I be doing [x] by now?" So now, in my mind, I'm in my mid-40s. I completely, mentally bypassed the last three years of my 30s. Weirdest part: I don't mind. I like being in my 40s. It's giving me an excuse to break old habits and try new things.
9. My favorite thing I've ever written is what I believe the fewest people have read: the very last story in my very first book. Every time I think about that, I imagine musicians I admire whose own favorite songs probably don't match up with my favorites. And I have no sympathy for them, because I wouldn't change my favorite Pavement songs, even if Stephen Malkmus hated those ones the most. And then, in turn, I have no sympathy for myself. So what if I like the ant story best? That doesn't mean it's the best one or the one that resonates with anyone else.
10. Sometimes I worry about Norm MacDonald. I was watching SNL, live, the night he accidentally said fuck and then immediately realized he'd get fired for it. He was fired. Then, after that, his career did a long, slow slide. I saw him on the Comedy Central Bob Saget roast, and he still looked sad, but you could also tell that his colleagues loved him. They joked about his gambling addiction. That made me worry about him more than before. I don't know why I worry about him, in particular. But that happens to a lot of people, right? You feel some weird connection/intuition for a certain celebrity or stranger, and you carry them around in your mind, right? Like a lot of people worry about Jennifer Anniston, or like Ben Folds worried about Muhammad Ali. I worry about Norm MacDonald. I hope that he's okay.
11. I fantasize about speaking every language.
12. I fantasize about having the psychic power to answer any question truthfully, and charging people (anyone) $500 a pop to answer their questions. Scientists' questions would be answered during weekly press conferences, though.
13. I fantasize... not about having the power to heal people, but about having the power to prescribe the perfect diets for them. I mean the diets that would make them healthy and happy.
14. I fantasize about having the power to perform telekinetic, painless, instant platic surgery on people. Because, you know how you'll see someone, and they're obviously self-conscious about some aspect of their appearance? Like a mole or their teeth or something? Well, I fantasize about having the power to fix that for people, without them even knowing it's being done.
15. All those fantasies mean that I'm a narcissist. Every time I take the personality disorder profile quiz thing, it says I'm mostly a narcissist. Which kind of annoys me, because I don't believe that I am. But then, people I admire score high on narcissism, too, so at least I'm in good company. Second-highest scoring for me is OCD. So what? I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Unless you're a clean-freak OCD'er, like our friend Cathy, because then it's just too much stress. (I like to converse with Cathy about various compulsions, but then I feel bad for her when she stresses about the cleanliness and germs.)
16. The score I don't get, and the personality disorder for which I have the lowest tolerance? Is histrionic-ness.
That means "attention whores." I especially hate being around attention whores who are boring -- that's the absolute worst. Second worst is catty attention whores who, for some reason, believe that I have something they want. Then they start trying to compete, and I never want to engage in that. I just want to get away. Actually... I've had histrionic friends, but they have to be interesting, and they have to have different taste in men, so that there's no competitiveness. In that case, I'm okay with them.
17. Really, this isn't 25 Random Things About Me. It's 25 Things That Have Been on My Mind a LOT Lately, Because I'm Slightly OCD and Think About the Same Topics Over and Over Until I'm Sick of Them. Thank you for reading, if you're still reading along.
18. I used to think that I'd hold my old grudges forever -- you know, like "She'll be sorry when I'm published and then I see her in public and she has to feel stupid about that time she said my writing was trite!" -- but it turns out that I don't. I work as hard as I can, and I forget about the old petty stuff because I feel like I've grown so far away from it. You know?
19. I worry about my kids way more than I let on. Sometimes I lie in bed at night having long, long strings of worries about them. But I choke it down because I don't want to be like Nemo's dad on that movie Finding Nemo. When I saw that movie, I cried super hard whenever his dad was on the screen. Because I totally empathized with that (fish) man, and I've never even had kids who were eaten by sharks. But, yeah, I don't want to bum out my kids like that. So I keep that stuff to myself, as much as possible.
20. I'm proud of the way my kids have turned out, but don't like to say that to people too often because it seems like a compliment to myself. But it's (mostly) not -- my kids are good kids. They were born good and worked to get better, independently of me or my parenting skillz.
21. Sometimes I want to post more pictures of my family online, but then I worry. Worry, worry, irrational worry....
22. I'm simultaneously excited and anxious about writing my next book.
23. I'm waiting to see if the last kids' book I submitted will get published. Trying not to be anxious about that. The kids' books get rejected way more often than you might imagine. Which doesn't feel too fabulous, but it toughens me up. It's all a business, you know. This writing stuff, I mean.
24. I feel bad/guilty/annoyed when I write an entry here and people feel compelled to reassure me about whatever I complained about. I always feel like I'm just venting/ranting/babbling, but then, if it comes off like whining or needing comfort, that bugs the crap out of me and I feel like I somehow betrayed myself. (But if it doesn't sound like whining, but people just want to offer comfort/reassurance, anyway, then that's okay.)
25. I don't like to need anyone. I like to be independent.
Whew. I did it!
The end. 5:58 PM # (9) comments
Wednesday, March 11, 2009the students of Rockdale, Texas
Last weekend I visited Rockdale Elementary School and, as I’ve told y’all before, visiting students is one of the highlights of my writing career. Not to mimic the d-bags of the ‘50s and ‘60s by comparing myself to Holden Caulfield, but I have to say that I understood what he meant when he said that little kids knocked him out.
Those little kids knocked me out. They were so smart, and they had such good manners, and they said such funny things. And, as I’ve said before, little kids make a good audience because they usually don’t yet know how to mask their reactions, so you can see their minds working and opening up as you talk with them, just as if their foreheads were made of Saran Wrap. “OMG,” you can see them thinking for the very first time, “Writing is a viable potential career option for me… although maybe not the most profitable one, if this lady’s outfit is anything to go by….”
I always want to tell y’all little anecdotes about the various kids, but then I stop myself, because it kind of feels like violating their privacy. You know? It’s not like when I meet other writers or artists, and they obviously have work to promote. Little kids are private citizens in every sense of the phrase, aren’t they?
So I’ll just say, with all names changed to protect the innocent, that we talked about possible careers, including writing, illustrating, translating and publishing. Because my kids’ book is written in English and Spanish, and was therefore translated, and these kids were a little young to know the definition of translate. So we defined the jobs and then talked about what skills you’d have to have to do each of them. And it was obvious to me that some of the bilingual kids in the class hadn’t yet realized what an asset it was to be bilingual. And just seeing the realization dawn on their faces was a beautiful thing. In one class, one of the girls called out, “Johnny speaks Spanish, I think. So Johnny could be a translator right now!” And the other kids were like, “Oh, yeah. That’s true!” And they turned and looked at Johnny, and he said nothing in response and modestly pretending to be deep in thought. But he sat up straighter. That was all – he sat up straighter. Seeing him do that cracked me up, and made my eyes mist up a little, too.
One little girl noted, before the reading even started, that the book was bilingual. She told me she wanted to learn Spanish and other languages, too, if possible. Her eyes lit up at the definition of translate, and I totally saw her future flash before my eyes. She was wearing a set of headphones and a classic navy suit that complimented her freckles, and she was translating for the United Nations. I could see it clear as day.
I have little mini-lessons that I go through as we read the book – phrase repetition, counting by twos, cause and effect – and sometimes it takes the kids a while to catch on. But sometimes the kids will say the lesson before we even start reading (“Can I see the book we’re gonna read? Oh, her sister’s two years older than her. So she gets older on every page, but her sister’s always older and gets to do better stuff,”) and that always cracks me up. I’m like, “Man, y’all are some smart whippersnappers.” Then I say, “Get off my lawn!”
No, just kidding. I never say that, because we’re always in the library.
But, yeah. It’s fun. It’s good, reading to the children. 6:19 AM # (1) comments
Wednesday, February 25, 2009holas
I keep wanting to write stuff here but haven't had time. Meanwhile, I know all too well how the lack of updating causes readers to slip away. But that's life, right? Hope y'all who've slipped away are doing it temporarily and finding awesome substitutes until you return.
I shouldn't be writing this right now because I have so much "work stuff" to do, instead, but oh, well. Right now I'm going through this phase where I've planned a bunch of publicity events - traveling and all - months in the past, and then these dates come up on me and I've almost forgotten, and it scares the crap out of me. But then I see that the Me of the Past has taken care of everything. I click the starred document on my email and out pops everything - maps, itineraries, tickets, packing lists.... It's still a little scary, though. The Me of the Past is way more organized than the Me in the Present, and I'm starting to worry that the Me of the Future will be a total flake.
I just read a good/sad book and now I'm all enmeshed in that. You know how that goes. I'm gonna be sad for a couple of days, but I don't regret it.
My work (day job) is all insane right now, as anyone who watches the news and knows the name of my workplace could tell you. The news is bad, and yet somehow that doesn't translate into less work for me, personally. I hate to say this, but I'm kinda just counting the days 'til they lay us off, because uncertainty bugs me. Plus, I need more time to write. But I don't want to be poor. But I haven't been poor for years, because I really dislike that. So things should work out okay, if they want to lay us off. Plus, I'll get more writing done.
I recently finished my next novel. Well, in my mind, it's the "last novel," but for you, it looks like the "next novel." That one comes out in 2010. The next novel, in my mind, hasn't been started yet. But I already know what it's about, and I'm excited, which is good. I hope to stay excited until I'm 97% through writing it, at which point I will of course be sick to death of it. That's how it always happens - no way to avoid it.
I'm hyper-conscious, right now, of writing all these sentences with the word I in them. Like that's a big bad thing. But I'm trying to tell y'all what's going on with me, real fast, without time for fancy faux-un-self-centered metaphors, so there you go. What else can I say?
I really want to tell y'all about:
1. this laminating machine that used to be at an old workplace
2. my current unusual living arrangement and why I think more people should try it
3. the cats' misadventures
4. the truths about Twitter
5. annoying entitled people on the carpool
6. people I've met and why they're awesome
7. awesome books I read recently
8. Indian condiments and the bloat-causing, frightfully addictive sodium within them
Also, I updated the other site, gwendolynzepeda.com, by hand, by myself, which was difficult because I'm not a good coder but I know too much coding to justify paying someone else to do it... So, yeah. I've been doing that, in addition to everything else.
And... Salome! I saw this show called Tim and Eric's Awesome Show - Good Job! - just one episode of it, twice - and it semi-traumatized me, but in the good way, when something makes you laugh and creeps you out at the same time. And I've been watching Flight of the Concords, a little, and I'm resisting having a crush on Jemaine because I think that would be a cliche, but the whole thing with them loathing/fearing Australians is killing me. If you know what I'm talking about, hollah. If not -- um, go ahead and holler, anyway, if you feel like it.
And, ble-e-e-e-e-e-e-eh. I hate writing entries like this, but it's better than nothing for the 8 dedicated readers who are still checking back for updates once a month. Right? Not really? Oh, man....
Gwen 9:54 PM # (16) comments
Friday, February 06, 2009Want to win a copy of my newest novel?
Then go to Loida Ruiz's skirt! blog and enter her contest. She's worried that the contest questions are too difficult and that's why no one's entered.
Let me know if you agree and I'll post the answers here. :)
Having finished and submitted revisions on my second novel, I'm now just waiting for my editor to read the whole book and write back and say, "Oh my god, Gwen, we have never before received a perfect manuscript... until now!!!1!!! ZOMG!!! You don't have to do any more revising or editing, please just lie back and have a cocktail! Good work!"
I'm pretty sure that's what she's going to say.
There are 7 or 3 billion other projects I need to start right now. But I think I'll take a weekend to myself, first.
I admitted to my fiance today, "I don't think I feel comfortable unless I have a project to stress over."
He just made this face, like "Why are you telling me stuff I realized years ago?"
You know when I'm happiest? Don't laugh at how cheesy/hipster/ironic/cheesy this is, but it's when me and my brats are playing Rockband together, and we get to a song that all of us like enough to sing out loud.
I can't explain how awesome that is, but it is.
My fiance's a musician, and he's been writing a bunch of new songs lately. He won't let me sing on them because I sing too well to mimic like a pop vocalist (or something), but sometimes I help out with the lyrics and melodies. Last night I ad-libbed a new melody to one of his own songs, and he said he liked it better...
and I don't even care if he ends up using my melody, but I liked making it up. It brought back all the good memories of making up harmonies with my friend Tania in the church choir, nine billion years ago, and writing songs with my high-school rock band 8 billion years ago, and working as the receptionist for a local arts org (7 billion years ago) and being allowed to sing in its halls with the student musicians.
And I don't know what my point is, because you either know what I mean already, because you do music, yourself, or else you don't know because you don't.
But, hey, if I were to stop and ask myself what the point is to everything that gets posted here, maybe nothing would get posted, so....
I have a lot more to tell y'all but
not enough time yet. So, more later, while I'm on break. More in a couple of days. Because I missed writing to y'all, here, too. It's another something that makes me happy. 6:01 PM # (3) comments
Wednesday, January 21, 2009Being a writer.
A couple of weeks ago, I reached that point in a writer’s career where the writer stops reading reviews and stops searching for her own name on the Internet. Not a moment too soon – it was killing me. Every time I did it, I’d get anxious. What if some stranger – some person I’d never met and whose impressions I couldn’t control or even affect – said something bad? The fear of that eventuality was making me feel sick, every time I opened a new review, no matter how favorable the review was or how many times I found favorable ones.
Then, it finally happened – I read an unfavorable review. (A real review by someone who didn’t care for my book, I mean. Not a “How dare this woman write such a thing! I have issues!!!” review.) And, after reading it, I thought, “Yeah, I guess I can see why that person didn’t like it. Oh, well. Not everyone’s gonna like it.” And then I stopped worrying. And then I stopped searching.
I’m very glad when people like my writing – especially when they identify with my characters and feel less alone in the world after reading about them. But I no longer need to read about people’s opinions of my work (or me) in great detail anymore. I’ll do my work, put my work out there, and do more work for as long as they ask me to. I’ll continue enjoying the work of others. And that’s enough for right now.
Are you an artist? Did you or will you reach that point in regards to critiques about your work?
Here’s a conversation I have often:
Other person: Hello. I am obligated to interview you, speak to you, or otherwise interact with you because of my job.
[We conduct the interaction. Then, afterwards….]
Other person: You know, I’m a writer, too.
Me: You are?
Other person: Yes. I write [poems or plays or a novel or librettos for operettas about mimes]. But, unlike most writers, my goal isn’t to get published.
Me: Oh, really?
Other person: That’s right. See, my goal is to create art, for myself. I don’t care if anyone ever reads it. I don’t need other people to read my work in order to feel fulfilled as an artist.
Me: Well, that’s good. Congratulations.
Other person: [Voice gets louder and faster.] That’s right. Because I write for my love of the craft. Not for money. I think so many writers these days are writing for the wrong reasons. Don’t you agree?
Other person: Sure, I could submit my work to an agent and probably get a two-book deal… if I were needy like that. But I’m not! I’m confident. Therefore, I don’t need the quote-unquote approval of being published, like some people. Do you know what I mean?
[Half an hour later…]
Other person: … and then I said to my friend who was debasing himself by sending his sonnets to all the journals, “Why do you hate yourself? Why are you so insecure? You must not be secure about yourself as an artist.” And he said, “I just signed a three-book deal.” And I felt sorry for him. You know why? Because….
Me: Right. Yeah. No, I know. Um, listen, are you going to email me the interview, when it’s done, so I can make revisions? Or are you just –
Other person: … because I’m a real writer! I’m the only kind of legitimate writer there is!! Anyone who seeks to be published is a lap-dog of popular culture and the lowest common denominator! Anyone who kisses ass in order to get published is….
Me: Okay. I have to go now. My kids are waiting for me. [Turns to go.]
Other person: What? Oh, okay. Hey, well, I’ll email you, okay? Take my card. Oh, and… Will you let me know if your agent’s looking for anyone? Hmm? Oh, okay. All right. Good talking to you! :) Bye!!!
(I’ll regret typing this half an hour after I post it. Then I may or may not take it down. But, then again, what am I risking? Being alienated from people like that? I’m too nice most of the time. See, people are rude to me and I just stand there and smile, because I want to be “nice.” Then, I worry about even describing the rudeness, because I’m *nice.* My friends tell me all the time – quit being nice to rude people and psychos, Gwen. Hell, I tell that to other women. (Except I don’t call them Gwen. I call them by their own first names.) ‘Cause it’s mainly a woman thing, right? No, it isn’t. Now that I think about it, I know men who are “too nice,” too, who put up with crap from people. Especially from interviewers or “connections.” You know why? Because, sometimes, unhappy people seek to have power over happy people. Like, if the “other person” described above put his/her energy into trying to get published, instead of putting it into trying in vain to make writers feel bad about being published, then this other person would probably succeed. But for some people, it’s way easier to put the energy into being negative. And then, for other people, like me, it’s easiest to just be “nice.” I hate being around the negative, unhappy people. But fighting them on their own terms would expel too much energy. My Nice Muscles are well developed. My Trying-to-Make-People-Feel-Bad Muscles are lax. Work to your strengths, I guess. That’s what I try to do.)
While I’m ranting…
let me just say something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time, which is this:
Homophobic parents, please stop encouraging your gay children to closet themselves.
I don’t know what the deal is, lately – maybe it’s just because I live in a conservative state? – but there have been quite a few closeted gay people in my life lately. And they are the most miserable, effed-up people I’ve ever met.
Seriously as hell, there have been at least four miserable closeted gay people in my life in the past year. And this is how my friends and I all talk about them:
“Joe just needs to come out.”
“He would be so much happier.”
“It’s, like, so lame – the way he’s always lying to us about all the women he sleeps with and whatever. It’s so uncomfortable to listen to him and know that he’s lying right to our faces and thinking that we’re dumb enough to believe him.”
“Or thinking that he has to lie to us, because he assumes we’re homophobes.”
“Right. I don’t know what the big deal is. Like, are his parents going to disown him if he comes out?”
“I guess. He never talks to them, anyway. They live in Hoboken.”
“It makes me think that he lies about other stuff, too. It makes me not trust him.”
“Really? I just feel sorry for him. He's young and handsome, and he could be happy dating guys, but he's not. He's throwing away his youth and he's gonna end up like Larry Craig, married to some woman and tapping his foot at a cop in the bathroom.”
“Really? I just lose respect for him. He’s so chickenshit.”
“You think so? He makes me sick, because I’m gay, and it’s like he’s saying that it’s shameful that I’m gay, and that you all must secretly be ashamed of my gayness.”
“Really? I just don’t care. I just ignore him as much as possible, because I can't deal with his closeted gayness.”
Then Joe walks in and says, “Oh, hi guys! Guess what! I just met a total blonde hottie with a nice ass and nice tits in the coffee shop today! And I’m going to screw her brains out! Ew, Bob, your shirt looks gay – watch out for the gays with that shirt on – they might gay you! Just kidding – your shirt’s fabulous, Bob! Let me feel the material…. Okay, well, I’m going upstairs to jerk off to this Victoria’s Secret catalog now! Because I’m straight! Toodles!”
And none of us say anything. And I imagine Joe’s parents, and I want to shake them until their teeth rattle. Just like they probably used to shake Joe.
If you have a son or daughter you suspect (know) is gay, and you're directly or indirectly asking that child to pretend not to be gay because you're worried about what others will think, then you are weak. You're not a good parent.
I'm on the phone with AT&T Uverse now, and I have to save some ranty-ness for them.
:) 8:53 PM # (14) comments
Tuesday, December 09, 2008this weekend
I’m going to be at the Edward James Olmos 6th Annual Houston Latino Book and Family Festival on Sunday, at noon, on their children’s stage in the George R. Brown Convention Center, reading my first book for kids, Growing Up with Tamales. Last chance to get a signed copy before Christmas. It’s a free event. Not only will I be there, but they’ll most likely have lowriders, food samples, and people dressed as Clifford, the Poky Puppy, or other characters. You should check it out. It’s Saturday and Sunday, and it’s fun. Oh, and sometimes Edward James Olmos, AKA Commander Adama, shows up, too. I’ve met him three times now, at various points in my life, but he never remembers me. However, I like that, every time I meet him, I’m more successful than I was the time before. Hopefully I’ll see him Sunday, then, and I’ll be like, “Hi, Commander Adama! I have five books now! Last time you met me I only had one! The time before that, I had zero but I was playing Anita in West Side Story! I loved you in Blade Runner!” and he’ll be like “Hello, nice to see you,” and he’ll smile while my boyfriend snaps a photo of us, and the photo will come out with me in mid-blink, so that I look high or developmentally delayed, and I won’t be able to post the photo on my Flickr and no one will believe that I ever met Edward James Olmos at all, much less three times.
So you should come to the festival and see me. This Sunday.
Welcome to the (Publicity) Machine.
I had a meeting with my publishing peeps the other day and we wrote a bunch of dates on a bunch of pieces of paper, and now I have to do a lot of work to make the dates come true. I have to research stuff and email people and ask my publisher to mail books to people and write press releases and coordinate schedules. It doesn’t sound like hard work, and it’s not, but it is a lot of little details to manage.
Doing publicity for yourself is like a whole other job, in addition to your writing and to your day job, if you have one. And in addition to your parenting and your household-running and your girlfriend-being.
Most writers don’t like that part of the job very much. (I think it’s because most writers are introverts. Do you agree?) I’m not complaining, because I’d rather have something to publicize than not. But the publicizing isn’t my fave part, either.
Things I like about publicizing my work:
- Doing readings, making people laugh during the readings
- Meeting readers
- Exercising my creativity by thinking up new ways to describe my own work
- When they have free cheese and wine
Things I don’t like about publicizing my work:
- Needing to remind people about my work constantly, which makes me feel gauche
- Feeling like I’m bragging about myself
- Feeling frustrated that I could do more/better if I had more time
- Receptions where I feel pressured to “mingle,” instead of just eating free cheese and drinking free wine and chilling
- Putting my work and myself out there (like, say, on a Web application for sharing and rating books), inviting random strangers to criticize my stuff at will, as opposed to simply writing my stuff (like, say, on a blog) and letting interested people read or ignore it as they choose
But I’m getting over those petty peeves, with the help of self-directed cognitive therapy and the daily horoscopes of Mr. Rick Levine. Like I said, I’m not complaining. I’m just telling y’all how I feel so that you authors can empathize, and you aspiring authors can know what you’re in for. Some of you are reading my list of publicity dislikes and saying “What? That sounds like fun!” And to y’all I say, boogie on, reggae extroverts.
(That’s a take on a song by Stevie Wonder. “Boogie on, reggae woman.” Sorry – I’m kind of obsessed with that song ever since I saw a drunk guy try and fail to sing it at karaoke three or four years ago. So he danced, instead. Drunkenly and heartfelt. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I wrote about it, here on this blog, back when it happened, but I think that entry’s been deleted. But I still think about that guy and that song all the time, especially when I think about people doing what they want to do, despite the laughter of friends and strangers.)
(The subtitle of these paragraphs is my take on a Pink Floyd song. Yes, half my blog entries are actually just classic rock song lyrics, altered slightly.)
There are these birds migrating through Houston right now.
Andrew told me that the grackles are very smart, for birds, which I already knew. I know this because they steal sugar packets from local restaurant patios, forcing restaurants to think harder. They take the Sweet n Low first, a waitress told me. The pink packets are their faves, basically. Even if they’re generic, I imagine.
Andrew told me that grackles go under parked cars and climb into the radiators to eat the bugs that gather there. Can you imagine?
People here have been commenting on how awesome the birds are for lining up on the electric lines, all spaced two bird-widths apart. I agree that it’s beautiful, and not just because I wish humans would keep two people-widths from me at all times, either.
Male grackles are iridescent black, kind of like black Infiniti G35s in the sun. Female grackles are dark dove-brown and always defer to the male grackles when it comes to food. No matter how many times you throw ciabatta pieces at female crackles, they’ll have to let the male grackle have them, if he shows up and wants them. Even if you yell at the male grackle, “Hey, you get out of here! Those are for her!” They have entrenched patriarchal inequality. But, besides that, they’re awesome.
One of my winning-the-lottery fantasies is that I’ll throw a masquerade ball on New Year’s Eve. For my costume, I’ll fly to Venice and have them custom sew me a (male) grackle costume. It sounds weird, but I have it all planned out, and it’ll be better than you’re thinking.
Don’t tell anyone I told y’all that, though. It’s kind of private, my grackle masquerade fantasy.
I wish PBS would do a show about city birds and their behavior. Maybe there’s one already? I wish someone would do a whole documentary about city birds in Houston. No, I wish someone would fund me and a team of ornithologists to do a documentary about the birds at three or four Houston establishments. Probably Empire, La Madeleine on Shepherd and West Gray, the zoo, and any random Jack in the Box. I wish it was my job, to make that documentary.
I’ve never understood elderly bird-watching hobbyists, but now I’m obsessed with grackles. I still don’t understand them, though, because they travel around, seeking out various species in the wild. I wouldn’t do that. When I’m too old to do anything else, I’ll totally go to different restaurants and name the grackles, pigeons and wrens. I’ll be like, “Here, Julio and Veronica, I bought you an almond croissant. But you have to share it.” And people will be like, “Oh, that’s so sad. Look at that old lady with ‘90s hair. She thinks those animals are people.”
I wonder if I’d even like grackles so much if they weren’t named grackles. If they were just crows or ravens or blackbirds.
Yes. I would.
Okay, don’t tell anybody anything I said about birds today. I’m starting to think it’s a little crazier than I knew. 6:13 AM # (14) comments